Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, they belong to Hollyoaks!

Summary: Brendan isn't prepared to give Stephen up so easily…

A/N: This is a long term fic, not sure how long yet but I'll see where it takes me.

Come back to me

Brendan opened his eyes slowly to the early morning light drifting in through his bedroom curtains. He glanced blearily at his alarm clock. 7. 30 Am. He groaned and closed his eyes again, trying to work out why he felt so discouraged today. Truth be told, he knew exactly why but he wouldn't, couldn't, admit it to himself. The details were quite hazy as well. He heard a soft knock on the door.

"Bren, love? Are you awake? I've made us some toast"

Brendan raised himself in the bed, drawing the covers over his shirtless chest.

"Come in, Sis"

Cheryl walked in gingerly, holding a plate of toast and what Brendan recognised by the distinctive smell as a mug of coffee. She sat on the edge of the bed and placed the items in Brendan's hands. Brendan immediately tore off a large bite of the toast, feeling ravenous for some reason. Cheryl was fidgeting slightly on the bed and kept opening and closing her mouth as though she wanted to say something but couldn't quite get the courage to do so.

"Spit it out, Sis" Brendan ordered, taking a slurp of coffee.

Cheryl sighed and smiled weakly. "It's just last night…"

"Yeah? What about it?" Brendan could barely remember last night. He'd drank a lot of whiskey. It had numbed something inside of him, temporarily. He couldn't quite recall why he'd been drinking in the first place, or what had happened before he'd stumbled into bed in the early hours of the morning. He hadn't gotten much sleep. Something persistently woke him up, a dull ache in his chest had kept resurfacing and truthfully it was still present now.

"You were…" Cheryl attempted to search for the right words. "Upset" She finished lamely, seeming uncomfortable.

"Upset?" Brendan laughed shortly and took another bite of toast. "About what?"

"I don't know… You were fine most of the night; it was all pretty quiet until Ste came in with those new mates of his. Right bunch of lads" Cheryl smiled into the distance, oblivious to the fact that Brendan's toast now hung limply in his hand, his face an expression of horror and dawning comprehension.

"Right, yeah. I remember vaguely"

But of course Brendan remembered everything now. He remembered feeling in a reasonably good mood last night; Warren in contrast was irritable, and this pleased Brendan even more so. He remembered sitting behind the bar, whiskey in hand, thinking that he'd only have one tonight, he didn't need any more than that. But then Stephen had entered, and he wasn't alone.

Things had been…difficult between them lately. Stephen had insisted that things were over after the drama of Rae and the baby but Brendan hadn't been too concerned, he knew Stephen would come back to him eventually. He'd been surprisingly confident about it. He knew Stephen couldn't stay away from him anymore than he could stay away from Stephen. He'd partially accepted the whole thing now; he may not have wanted to shout it from the rooftops but he cared about Stephen, he enjoyed his company. He wasn't ready to admit anything further than that; he pushed some feelings aside, not ready to face them quite yet.

Stephen had entered with a few other men. Brendan recognised two of them; the work experience detective, Ethan Scott along with Riley Costello, some football player Brendan couldn't care less about. The other man Brendan didn't recognise. He was smiling, dressed quite appallingly in Brendan's opinion, even worse than Stephen. He was notably taller than Stephen, Brendan could see Stephen straining to look up at him, a mirroring smile on his face to the other man's. He had his hand on the small of Stephen's back, guiding him into the club.

Brendan suddenly wished he hadn't agreed to give Stephen the night off if this was how he planned on spending it. He planned to go tell him so but stopped himself when the four men took a seat on a nearby table. Brendan moved to the other side of the bar so he could see them more clearly and could hear snatches of their conversation.

"Who's getting the first round then?" The unknown man asked, grinning for no apparent reason. Brendan despised his teeth.

"It was your idea to come here, so I think you should" Riley answered, smirking.

"Or maybe the new boy should" Ethan added, his eyes twinkling with amusement at Stephen, who seemed completely out of place around these other men.

"Sure, I don't mind" Stephen said brightly, as though he was pleased to contribute in some way. Brendan frowned. He didn't like the idea of Stephen trying to prove anything to anyone.

"I won't hear of it. I insisted that I'd pay for our first date" The new guy smiled slyly at Stephen. Brendan gripped the bar tightly. Did he say date? What the fuck?

Brendan saw Stephen blush and murmur something that Brendan couldn't hear. He saw the new guy slip a twenty pound note into Stephen's hand. Brendan gritted his teeth. So he was trying to buy him was he? How blatant did he want to be?

Brendan pulled himself upright as Stephen made his way over to the bar. Stephen was smiling when he left the group of men but his smile faltered when he saw Brendan. He glanced uneasily over his shoulder. The others were laughing together. Brendan ignored them now, his only concern the young man in front of him.

"Hey" Stephen whispered softly. He managed a small smile which Brendan didn't return. "You alright?"

"Sure, sure" Brendan replied, his voice low and rough for some reason. His eyes bored into Stephen's. "Who's your new friend?" he nodded in the direction of the unknown man. Stephen's cheeks gained some colour.

"Oh, um. He's called Noah. He's uh, a friend"

"A friend, right" Brendan nodded dismissively.

Stephen looked uncomfortable. "Can I have a couple of ciders please?"

"Sure, whatever" Brendan moved to the fridges, snapping off bottle tops with unnecessary vehemence. He was tempted to spit in one of them but he knew there wasn't a guarantee that Noah would get that particular drink. He slammed them on the counter, making Stephen flinch and held out his hand for the money. His money. Stephen carefully put the money into Brendan's palm and Brendan, in what could only be described as pure lunacy, grabbed Stephen's hand and pulled him towards him, his mouth inches away from Stephen's ear.

"What are you playing at?" He growled. Stephen looked at him, wide-eyed, unsure. Not quite petrified. He was too used to Brendan's sudden mood swings.

"What do you mean?" Stephen squared his jaw and gritted his teeth, prepared to argue. The grip on his hand wasn't painful, just slightly tight.

Brendan suddenly realised his surroundings and let go of Stephen's hand. He glanced around them; no one seemed to have noticed anything.

"Office. Now" Brendan didn't leave room for negotiation.

"Aw, Bren. But I'm on a…" Stephen faltered. Brendan glared at him, his eyes popping dangerously.

"You're on a what, Stephen?" His voice was low and dangerous.

"Nothing" Stephen responded quickly, his eyes widening. Brendan didn't believe him.

"Ten minutes" he said shortly, his tone expressing the fact that arguing would be futile. He swept away and went into the office, slamming the door behind him.