Fix You - Part One
Tonight was not like Erik's usual trip to the bar.
Tonight, it was for means of celebration, rather than just a way to pass the time. In just over a year working at the Shaw Law Firm in upstate New York, Erik had proven himself to be a valuable asset to the company - going above and beyond his other colleagues, who had been employed by Shaw for well over three years. After their most recent successful trial, Shaw came to the decision that Erik's current position in the business was just unacceptable. Considering all of Erik's accomplishments over the past year, Shaw didn't know why he hadn't promoted him sooner, because it was clear his work ethic far exceeded that of anyone else in his department.
The first person he thought to deliver the news to was Charles, his best friend since college. Over the phone, no matter how hushed Charles tone was, Erik could tell he was ecstatic for him. However, a celebration was no celebration at all if one had to do it alone. He insisted that Charles join him - even if just for an hour or so. He used to see Charles every single day, but now, that had been reduced to every other - if that. So, when Charles agreed to come, he couldn't have been more thrilled at the prospect of spending the rest of the evening with him.
Erik slid onto one of the few vacant seats at the bar and smiled broadly at the bartender, who knew him by name since he was here at least three times a week.
"What'll it be tonight, Erik?" Azazel asked as he set down one of the mugs he'd been cleaning. Most of the time, he and Azazel managed to carry on a rather enlightening conversation. There were other times when a couple of his friends from the firm would show up and converse with him until the extremely late hours of the evening. Tonight was different. Charles was coming - and Erik couldn't be antsier; getting hit by a train wouldn't have knocked the smile from his face.
"A beer for me and a mojito for my friend." Erik replied, and then reached into his back pocket to fish out his wallet. He knew it was Charles preferred, if not favorite, drink.
Azazel's brows shot up in surprise. Least to say, he hadn't quite expected Erik to not show up alone. He usually always did. "You got it." Turning his back, the slightly older man grabbed a beer from behind the bar, set it down atop a coaster in front of Erik, and then proceeded to mix Erik's 'friends' drink.
Erik glanced at his watch. It was nearly eight and he noted that he called Charles a little over a half hour ago. He'd wondered what was keeping him and contemplated calling him again, but decided against it.
It was kind of like Charles to arrive fashionably late.
He was halfway to the door when Logan stopped him.
"Where ya goin'?"
Behind him in the living room, Charles could hear the low murmur of the television - some sort of hockey game, probably, it was that time of year - and smell the lingering fumes of one of those terrible cigars - he'd told him, time and time again, not to smoke in the apartment, especially when there was a perfectly good fire escape just outside the window that was meant for such a purpose. He glanced over his shoulder and continued to shrug into his jacket, checking the inside pocket to make sure he had his wallet and keys before he left. Erik was no doubt waiting, already sitting at the bar alone with a drink in front of him, and he still had to catch the train that would take him toward the place they'd agreed to meet.
"Raven needs some help with a few things." The lie was easy, a well-told tale that leapt to mind too often these days. It wasn't that he wanted to keep Erik a secret, especially with a friendship that spanned far more years than the amount of time he'd been involved with Logan, but he did want to avoid another argument. Lying was easier, especially when the truth encompassed the tiny fact that he would be meeting the other man at a bar on the other side of the city for drinks as a celebration of his new job promotion. He'd accepted the invitation when Erik had called him without a moment's hesitation, overjoyed at the potential success and opportunity it meant for his friend, and there was no way that he would choose not to go now.
In the other room, Logan snorted and grumbled something under his breath. "How long are ya gonna be gone?"
His hand was on the door now; he could have walked out without another word, leaving Logan to his beer and hockey game. There was no need for him to place a time on his arrival back home, really, but he could feel Logan's eyes on his back, waiting for an answer.
"Not terribly long." Charles said, another lie. He would have stayed out all night if Erik had wanted him to - they were celebrating, after all, and no matter how many years had passed, their celebrations hadn't become much more tame since their college days. "I'll be home before it gets too late."
He shut the door before Logan could say anything else and set off down the staircase, his steps quick.
The train, of course, had been overly crowded and what should have been a short trip took longer than expected. By the time he pushed himself (as politely as possible, of course) through the crowds of people milling about the underground station and up the stairs, a glance at his watch informed him that almost an hour had passed in between the time Erik had called him and now. He'd considered sending his friend a text while on the train, promising that he was still coming, but he'd been wedged in between two sour-faced men in business suits for the duration of the trip and retrieving his phone from the pocket of his trench coat was impossible. Thankfully, the walk from the station to the bar was short, and he was tugging open the door and stepping inside just a few minutes later.
He could see Erik sitting alone at the bar, talking amiably to the man behind the counter. There was a bottle of beer in his hand, but another drink (one that came in a glass, and he knew from experience that Erik very rarely drank anything out of a glass unless it was a martini) in front of the seat to his right that was obviously meant for him, and suddenly, Charles felt terrible for keeping him waiting so long.
"I'm sorry I'm so late." he said as soon as he was close enough to be heard over the music thrumming from the radio and the conversations of the other patrons. "The underground was an absolute disaster and I didn't think to take a taxi until it was far too late."
Charles smiled and shrugged out of his coat, draping it across the back of his chair as he took a seat next to Erik.
"Congratulations again, by the way. I knew you'd be promoted sooner than later."
Erik flashed his usual trademark shark-like grin over in Charles direction upon seeing that he'd finally arrived. He would have made a joke or two on how he "thought Charles wasn't going to show up", but decided against it. He didn't doubt that the train was busy - it was Friday evening after all.
"Don't worry about it." Erik smiled as he raised the beer to his lips once again. "And thanks." He added, speaking around the rim of the bottle before he took another swig. His behavior around Charles was questionable; his heart was beating fast and he almost felt like he was absent of anything intelligent to say. It was never like that at the beginning of their friendship - Charles had been someone he enjoyed spending time with. He never thought that he would have been able to befriend someone who liked to party quite as much as he did, but Charles thoroughly surprised him. Over time, Erik felt those initial, harmless feelings develop into something far more dangerous.
Of course, it would not have been dangerous had Charles not been currently involved with someone else. He disliked Logan for a variety of reasons - and not just because he was dating his best friend. Erik knew for a fact that they fought quite often, because there were times where he would be having dinner or something of the latter with Charles, and he would be in a less than desirable mood. As desperately as he wanted to, he didn't question it, knowing he would be treading on delicate territory.
Erik flashed him a broad grin and Charles couldn't help but smile back, his heart beating just the tiniest bit faster. Getting to see the other man was a very welcome occurrence - he saw him far less than he ever would have liked to, especially in recent months, and he missed him. Through their college years and even afterward, Charles had quickly grown accustomed to having Erik as a very constant presence in his life, and their lack of daily interaction on a regular basis left an empty feeling in his chest. There were dinners and coffees and plenty of dropping by's, but as much as he didn't want to admit it at times, his relationship with Logan really had come between them.
The fact that Erik wasn't exactly a fan of the other man certainly wasn't a secret, and Charles couldn't necessarily blame him for it - though he tried to keep his relationship problems to himself, there were certain things that he needed to get off his chest at times, and Erik had always been rather gifted when it came to knowing that something was wrong.
But tonight wasn't the time to bring up any of his personal issues; he was here for Erik to help him celebrate. Though he'd kept his voice down on the phone and tried to remain at least somewhat calm, he was impossibly happy for his friend and more proud than he'd even been at graduation, when he'd clapped the loudest as soon as Erik's name was called and even, much to his own personal horror later, teared up at the prospect that that had been it. He knew that Erik deserved the promotion, that he'd really deserved it from the very beginning, even.
"You're welcome." he finally said, taking a sip of the drink that Erik had no doubt ordered for him.
"So what about you," Erik arched a curious brow as he set his beer down atop the counter. In order to keep Charles from having to repeat himself, he leaned in a bit closer (it was nearly impossible to have a normal conversation with the mixture of banter and music around them). "How's your book coming along?"
Erik didn't want this night to be entirely about him. To him, Charles was much more interesting to talk about (so long as Logan didn't somehow enter or interfere in the discussion). Erik wasn't much of a reader, but he found himself visiting the bookstore that Charles worked at every other day - purchasing a book that he would more than likely never read. Oftentimes, Charles would rant and rave about a novel he'd read recently, and then highly recommend that Erik check it out. That was his excuse for going. It had crossed his mind that maybe he was trying to impress Charles to a degree, but then it also occurred to him that his actions were quite hopeless. He knew it was impossible, but somehow, he still found himself trying.
He should have known the book would come up in conversation somehow; just as he could have spent the entire evening asking about Erik's latest tribulations at the firm, Erik always seemed to prefer to turn the conversation around on him. Not that he necessarily minded having someone ask about the progress of his novel - he hadn't yet allowed anyone other than Erik to actually read the manuscript, and that had only been by chance, on a day when the other man had been visiting the apartment and happened to pick it up from beside his typewriter. And though he told him not to and attempted, very valiantly, to snatch the pages out of Erik's hands, he hadn't been able to say no when Erik had asked if he could read it, just this once.
It was nice, after all, to have someone other than himself to share the story with. Charles shrugged and took another sip of his drink. He hadn't had much time to write lately, truth be told, but there was still hope for finishing by the end of the year. "It's coming." he said with a somewhat sheepish smile. "Slowly, you know, but I'm nearing the end."
Erik motioned for another beer - deciding that he would stick with just two this evening. He wasn't too fond of waking up with a hangover (plus, he still had to drive home). "Nearing the end, huh?" His brows shot up in surprise. He understood that writing a book was a lengthy process, but recently, Erik suspected a particular someone was hindering his ability to write. The novel was something that was extremely important to Charles. If it wasn't, there was no way in hell Charles would have put so much time into it. "Weren't you nearing the end a month ago?"
Charles dropped his gaze and gave another shrug, tracing the ring of moisture his now empty glass had left behind on the bar top. He had been nearing the end of the novel weeks ago, after a particularly productive weekend when Logan had been away on business, but after that, his work had come to a complete stop. He was lucky to finish a few pages every week, and it frustrated him beyond belief; the better part of two years had been devoted to the novel, and he wasn't fond of the fact that his progress had been hindered so heavily. Erik had surely caught on by now, even without him mentioning it.
"...Things, you know, got in the way." he said quietly, falling silent for a moment before he looked back up to Erik, attempting a small smile. "But don't worry, it'll be worth it. I have a feeling you're going to love the ending."
Erik scrutinized Charles uneasy expression, then clenched his jaw when he managed a small smile. He would be an idiot to think that Logan didn't have something to do with it. "I'm sure that I will."
"...and I'm almost positive that I'm going to receive a call one day saying that I need to pick Raven up from the police station downtown, because according to her, Sean's been sleeping on her couch for the past two weeks and subsequently eating all of the food in her kitchen while she's at work. It's only a matter of time before the inevitable Armageddon."
One hour had quickly turned into three, and even though they'd long since abandoned their drinks on the bar top, they'd remained in their seats, talking about dozens of different things. Charles had almost forgotten how much time had passed since he and Erik had really had a lengthy conversation face-to-face and how much could actually happen in that period; though he tried to text or email Erik every other day at the least, there was still plenty that they didn't have a chance to share. It was nice, catching up like this, and he barely realized that they'd been sitting there so long at all.
"Which is unfortunate, really -"
In the pocket of his coat, his cell phone blared loudly, demanding his attention. It had remained silent for most of the evening, but in the past hour or so, he'd ignored the handful of chimes that signaled a new text message. Now, as he made an apologetic face at Erik and pulled it from his pocket, he saw that the screen was filled with missed messages from Logan.
*Where r u?*
The latest one, sent just a moment earlier, was short, but Charles knew that the other man was undoubtedly angry - a glance at the clock at the top of the screen told him that the time was much later than when he'd originally planned to be home. He was in the middle of typing a reply when his phone beeped again, another message that was far less neutral than the last popping up on his screen.
*It's been 3 fuckin hours, where the hell r u?*
He could sense the argument brewing, and he knew it was only a matter of time before Logan called him. He hoped, at least, that his story about being with Raven would remain believable, and he racked his brain for an excuse to explain the huge passage of time - *it's Friday night, we thought we'd get dinner and go see a movie, too* - once he returned to the apartment. With a sigh, Charles tucked the phone into the pocket of his jeans and looked at Erik, remorse plastered all over his face.
"I'm afraid I've got to go."
Just as much as he hoped Logan wouldn't ask for too much of an explanation, he didn't want Erik to ask for one either, though he could see the doubt in the other's expression. Before Erik could say anything, he stood from the bar stool and slipped into his coat, looking anywhere but at his friend.
"I'm sorry, Erik." Charles said once he was in his coat and ready to leave. He put a handful of bills on the bar top for their last round of drinks and ran a hand through his hair. "I really do hate to run out on you, but I've got to get home."
He knew that Erik wanted to say something, but Charles, for once, didn't want to give him the chance. Erik didn't need any other reason to dislike Logan more than he already did, and Charles didn't want to be the one to provide him with one.
"I'll call you later, I promise."
With that, he gave a half-wave to Azazel and left the bar.
-End of Part One-