After staring at the red billiard ball for what felt like an eternity now, Tyler Lockwood realised that he could not make it move with his thoughts – and trying bored him.
The noise of footsteps caught his attention and he straightened, searching for the source. "Hey, Matt! Do you want to play with me?"
"Sorry, Ty. I've got work to do." Matt lifted the box he carried up as if he thought Tyler was too stupid to see it before. "Why don't you ask someone else?"
Tyler let his eyes pointedly take in the sight of the deserted Mystic Grill. He scowled at Matt.
Matt seemed amused and the longer he looked at Tyler the harder it was for him to suppress his grin. "Looks like they all ran away from you. Except…" He looked around, then nodded towards a dark corner in the back of the Grill. "Ask him."
Tyler put the cue away, hesitated, and looked to the entrance. He remembered that staring at it would most likely not fulfil his wish of someone coming in now, and tore his gaze away. Then he walked over to the table in the darkest, loneliest corner of the Grill. He slumped onto the seat opposite of Jeremy Gilbert.
"Hey, where is everyone?" he asked.
Jeremy looked up from his glass. He had been staring into the emptiness as if it was the most interesting thing in the universe. The same focused expression wrinkled his forehead when he looked at Tyler now.
"I don't know," he said slowly. "What do you want?"
Tyler pointed to the billiard table. "You're going to play with me, Gilbert."
"That wasn't even a question," Jeremy said.
"Because you don't have an option." Tyler looked at the empty glass. "And nothing better to do… except being emo."
"I was just thinking."
"Emo, like I said." Tyler rose to his feet. "Hurry up, Gilbert. I already wasted enough time doing nothing."
Jeremy followed him, but didn't seem happy when Tyler passed him the cue. His face darkened even more while Tyler prepared the balls.
"Lady's first," Tyler said with a smirk, motioning for Jeremy to begin.
Jeremy just rolled his eyes, then moved to stroke. He seemed to think this would be faster over if he remained silent. Tyler would have played online billiard if he wanted that.
"So… How was your day?" he asked.
Jeremy flashed him a short glance, but was distracted enough by Tyler's question to miss the ball. He cursed under his breath and stepped away from the table, making room for Tyler.
"You did this on purpose, Lockwood," he hissed as Tyler brushed his side.
"No," Tyler said with a laugh. "I just like making conversation during a good game." He turned away from the table after he successfully sank the aimed ball. "At least the game will be good. Every game I win is a good one."
"No surprise that no one wants to play with you anymore," Jeremy said with a smirk that served its purpose to provoke Tyler. He was a second away from grabbing the younger boy's collar and slamming him onto the billiard table to punch that annoying smirk out of his face.
"Says the one, who spends every afternoon alone in the corner," Tyler said instead of giving into the urge to fight. The words seemed to be nearly as painful for Jeremy. Tyler avoided looking into the brown eyes, finding too much sadness in them.
"It's not like I want to, okay? No one's here!" Jeremy stepped beside him and leant with his hip against the billiard table. Together they took in the sight of the Grill. Matt was talking to the bored bartender. They seemed to have more fun than the couple that had entered the Grill still totally in love and left half an hour later separated.
Tyler shrugged. "Maybe this place has turned into the Mystery Grill."
"And what? Everyone entering it gets sucked into limbo?"
"Enough weird stuff going on in this town," Tyler said. Jeremy nodded, not that he had any other option left. There truly was some weird stuff going on here. Tyler nudging Jeremy with his elbow was just one example.
"So… what makes you so special that you're playing the supporting role here, Gilbert?"
Jeremy snorted. "What makes you think you're special enough to be the hero?"
"What makes you two think it's just the tiniest bit special to hang out in a deserted bar?" Damon Salvatore appeared in the doorway, seemingly out of nowhere, and wearing a disgustingly knowing smile.
Tyler's first reaction was to take a step away from Jeremy.
"Look at that…" Damon walked around the billiard table like a lion circling his prey. He stopped right in front of them and leant down, hands hidden deep in his pockets. "You honestly don't have a clue. Wow. I almost feel sorry."
Tyler glared angrily up into these blue eyes that sparkled too amused when they looked back at him. He swallowed the growl that tried to escape his throat and let Jeremy speak:
"Why would you hang out here if it's so pathetic?"
Damon frowned, then crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Interesting question. Probably because I'm too mature to give a damn about what's cool and what's not. I just like the drinks here. Not this lame Starbucks coffee."
Tyler blinked. "Starbucks?" He looked at Jeremy, trusting him more than this Salvatore-guy, but he found only confusion in the other face.
Damon apparently found Jeremy's face equally interesting in the moment. "Elena didn't tell you?"
"Elena is always talking, and I'm not always listening," Jeremy said defensively.
"There's no Starbucks in Mystic Falls," Tyler said.
Closing his eyes in annoyance, Damon said, "It's opening today. All the cool kids are there." His expression changed as fast as lightening, and now he was grinning at Tyler almost diabolically. "And the Mayor. You know… talking nonsense, cutting the ribbon, all that stuff. His wife was there, too. Maybe I should go back? She has a thing for me, sober or not."
Tyler jumped forward, ready to break every bone in that arrogant face, but an arm blocked his way. Jeremy shoved him back against the table.
Tyler struggled against the tight grip. "Let me –"
"I don't think so," Jeremy said between clenched teeth. He had trouble holding Tyler in place. Just one hard push would be enough to get free…
"Oh, don't worry. I'm too mature for this…" Damon raised his fists, jokingly punching the air. He grinned at Jeremy. "You should take your boyfriend home and give him a massage to calm him down. He looks really tensed."
Tyler had stopped struggling, but Jeremy's hands were still on his shoulders. He shoved them away and headed for the door.
A harsh wind blew his jacket up and sent a shiver over his whole body, almost like it tried to force him back inside. He was close to grant the wind's wish when footsteps changed his mind.
"What do you want, Gilbert?" Tyler barked over his shoulder.
Jeremy caught up to him. "You're going to that Starbucks-thing, right?"
"No," Tyler rasped. "Definitely not giving him that satisfaction."
Jeremy stared at him silently. "Well, but No isn't an option. I want to go to that Starbucks-thing and you're going with me, Lockwood."
"Oh, some old-fashioned foreplay before you give me that massage, Gilbert? That is so romantic."
Jeremy gave him such a surprising shove that Tyler stumbled to the side. "You're such a jerk, Lockwood. Just admit that you're not storming away like a girl because you're offended."
"Well, I am offended!" Tyler had just regained his equilibrium and almost lost it again as Jeremy touched his arm. He jerked away at once. "Don't touch me. Show me where that Starbucks-thing is."
Jeremy smiled, something Tyler didn't anticipated or ever thought about as being worth a second glance. That he gave the quirked lips this second glance was ridiculous, and it made him hurry forwards quickly.
Jeremy laughed and touched Tyler's arm again. "Wrong way, Lockwood." He pulled him around and they walked down the streets side by side. Jeremy was still touching his arm.
Tyler frowned as the words seated in his brain. "Why do you know where it is? You said you didn't know about it."
Jeremy withdrew his hand, and Tyler wasn't entirely sure if that was what he wanted to achieve. It had been a nice, comforting gesture. Something he had needed right now. Not that he would ever admit that.
"Elena told me," Jeremy said. They walked around a corner and down the street, crossing it eventually. "She even reminded me of this huge opening today, but… it… I guess I'm done with big parties."
And the party was big. After they crossed another street music and drowned voices reached their ears. Behind a wall of houses rays of lights spread perpendicular into the sky and destroyed the certainly beautiful sunset.
They stopped in the shadows of an empty side street. Tyler watched the people in front of the new store. The glowing green letters of the coffee shop enveloped them in an unfavourable light, but even though they looked sick they seemed to have fun. Everyone carried a cup of coffee or maybe a Frappuccino, whatever they called frozen coffee these days. Tyler's eyes found his parents, not together though. His mother sat inside the coffee shop near the window and Tyler really hoped it was just a tea she was drinking. His father strutted down the street in front of the coffee shop, talking to everyone without really saying anything. He held a cup of coffee. A stupid cup of coffee. Tyler wanted to pour the coffee into the Mayor's face. Not because of the coffee. It was the fact that nobody told him about this that annoyed Tyler so much. That his father hadn't told him. Surely, he was too scared Tyler would embarrass him again.
Tyler was ready to cross the street and confront his father when he realised that Jeremy stayed behind.
"Come on, it doesn't look like any drug addicts hide in Starbucks."
Jeremy rolled his eyes, then leant back against the wall so that Tyler couldn't see his face anymore. "Just because they don't wear a sign doesn't mean no one there is… at least slightly high. It's a big event. That's always a reason to… you know."
Tyler stepped closer to Jeremy, searching the outlines of his face in the shadows. "You got to know. You're the drug pusher here."
Again, Jeremy rolled his eyes. He shook his head, but didn't even try to convince Tyler of the contrary.
"You're not doing that anymore, I know that," Tyler said. "Since Vicki disappeared you turned into this annoying emo boy that hangs out alone, mostly in the library to save his grades."
Jeremy shrugged. "I'm not really alone in the library. Some people like reading a good book once in a while."
"Yeah, that's a great thing to do together."
"Says the one whom nobody told that the new local hangout is opening today."
Tyler dove over and grabbed Jeremy's shirt, slamming him with full force against the wall. Then he realised that Jeremy was right. The anger in his chest didn't disappear though; he just couldn't take it out on Jeremy. He looked into the brown eyes and didn't find the usual challenge or aversion in them, just honest surprise.
Tyler balled his hands on Jeremy's chest to fists, then lifted one and punched the wall. It hurt more than Jeremy's face would have.
"Fuck!" Tyler let go of Jeremy and rubbed his knuckles, facing the people on the other side of the street. "Why didn't they tell me?"
"Because you're a dick," Jeremy stated.
"Thanks," Tyler replied dryly. His fist throbbed painfully, otherwise this comment would have gifted Jeremy the punch he deserved for quite a while now. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear." He tore his gaze from his father, who looked disgustingly happy without his son, and turned to leave.
Jeremy touched his arm. Again. And it wasn't the touching that concerned Tyler, but that it only needed a rather gentle gesture to stop him.
"I'm sorry, okay? I forgot you're easily offended."
Tyler looked at him. "Okay. Let me go now."
"What?" Jeremy tightened his grip. "Don't you want to go over there?"
"No, I don't want to give anyone this satisfaction."
Jeremy frowned in confusion.
"They didn't want me to come," Tyler explained. "None of them told me. I get the message, okay?" He jerked his arm free and quickly walked away. Jeremy followed him – again.
"Maybe it's just a stupid misunderstanding," he said, trying to look Tyler into the eyes. "You're closest to the source. Your father is the Mayor. Someone would've told you otherwise."
"You guess. I don't think so. I'm a jerk."
"You're not a jerk."
Tyler stopped abruptly. Jeremy made another step before he turned to discover the strange mixture of surprise and distrust in Tyler's face.
"I mean… you can be quite all right. Sometimes." Jeremy seemed to regret his words. His lips quirked into an embarrassed smile that almost looked cute. No, it did look cute and gave him a younger and more innocent look.
"My father didn't tell me."
"Your father is a jerk." Jeremy laughed, but it came out more like a breath. "Maybe it's in the blood."
Tyler gulped. He pulled his eyes away from Jeremy's slowly disappearing smile. The wall was easier to stare at.
"Do you think he did that on purpose?" Jeremy came closer. Out of the corner of his eye, Tyler noticed that Jeremy's hand twitched into his direction. This time he didn't touch him. "That he didn't say anything to punish you?"
"Why would he do that?" Tyler's voice was hoarse and even unable to convince himself.
"Because you didn't want to fight me, for example. Why didn't you just do it? I'm sure it would've saved you a lot of trouble."
"Because I…" Tyler stopped when he turned back to Jeremy and found them standing much too close to each other. He increased the distance with leaning against the wall. "Why do you care?"
"I think I like it that you stopped beating me up at any given opportunity," Jeremy said in a quiet voice and leant next to Tyler against the wall. They glanced at each other, and Tyler looked quickly away when Jeremy smiled at him. That smile created a weird, warm feeling in his chest. Not a desired emotion.
"Do you wanna try this Starbucks-stuff out?"
"With you?" Tyler dared to look at Jeremy again. The smile was still there. Just as the weird, warm feeling.
"Do you see anyone else here?" Jeremy lifted his hand, and Tyler found himself anticipating the touch, the firm but somehow still gentle grip that tried to pull him away from the wall. "Come on."
Tyler stayed where he was. "No. I'll never enter this coffee shop. It's a blind spot for me from now on."
Jeremy stood right in front of him, barely one foot between them, and his hand was lingering on Tyler's biceps. "Then let's go back to the Grill," he said, but without trying to make Tyler move.
Tyler shook his head. "This Salvatore-guy is only waiting for us to crawl back and prove that no one likes us."
"No one likes you," Jeremy corrected. "Which is why you want to stay here all alone."
"You were the one choosing to be alone," Tyler said. "I didn't. I don't like that! You want to get rid of me like everyone else, I get that. I understand that you don't want to be alone together with me. But I…" He paused, then sighed and finished to disgrace himself. "I guess, I would like that."
Jeremy blinked at him. One seemingly eternal moment later he smiled again, and then, far too suddenly, he brought that smile closer. Tyler risked a short glance at the slightly pursed lips before Jeremy was too close. They were breathing against each other, waiting for the other to do something, to pull the final trigger.
Tyler cleared his throat. "We shouldn't do this…"
That seemed to be the trigger.
Jeremy kissed him. "Too late," he breathed, and then leant in and pressed his mouth to Tyler's again.
Tyler kissed back, buried his hand in Jeremy's hair and pulled him roughly closer. Their mouths moved passionately against each other until Tyler deepened the kiss, devouring Jeremy's mouth almost violently. Tyler whirled him around and pressed Jeremy against the wall, framing the younger boy's face. Jeremy was taller than him and his jaw was strong; kissing him was a whole new experience. A wonderful experience. A thousand times better than a simple touch.
And Jeremy didn't stop touching him. His hands grabbed the sides of Tyler's jacket, soon slipped underneath the fabric and moved to his back. The touch felt as good as always, just different, not comforting, not gentle, but flatteringly tight, as though he wanted to work his way under Tyler's skin.
And maybe he was.
Tyler pulled away. Jeremy made a noise of discontent but let go of Tyler. His eyes stayed shut, punishing Tyler who wanted to see whatever emotion waited behind the closed eyelids.
"Uhm, yeah…" Tyler withdrew his hands from Jeremy's face. It was hard to suppress the urge to stroke over the kiss-bruised lips. "That wasn't a good idea."
Jeremy opened his eyes, annoyance darkening them. "You're a jerk, Tyler."
Tyler shrugged. "It's in the blood, right?"
The corners of Jeremy's mouth twitched. "What do you want to do now? Either you go to the opening and make your dad feel ashamed for having a brainless monster as son or you go back to the Grill and let Damon Salvatore annoy you."
"I think I choose option number three, which you unsuccessfully tried to hide between the lines." Tyler pressed a hand against the wall next to Jeremy's face, leaning over to his face. He smirked. "Everyone's at the opening. Countless deserted places. My house, for example."
The smile Jeremy gave him lacked any innocence.