A text came through as he was walking home from work, the buzzing alerting him of an incoming message. It was Riley and it read simply Drinks? Josie’s? Ehren stepped into his apartment, covered in grease and replied.
Right now? What’s going on? and he waited for a reply. Normally, Riley didn’t demand him to show up places so something had to have been up. He usually took a shower after work but he’d forgo it by using some baby wipes and wetting down his hair. When he didn’t get a reply he sighed and made his way to Josie’s.
It was a bit crowded since it was the weekend but he found a solitary booth in the corner, away from the noise of the crowd and nursed a scotch neat while he waited for Riley.
Usually he was a lot better at communicating with his friends than an ominous text but in his excitement - not just to hang out but also to share his news - he had forgotten all of the manners his mama had taught him. Eager to shout from the rooftops, or risk climbing up to the lighthouse, he had set his device aside to complete the task of readiness. There was no taming the wild, dark curls, so he left them down to frame his face.
Comfortable with his clothing choices and grinning like a fool Riley left their apartment and nearly ran to Josie’s.
He was used to the weekend crowd. Eyes went to the bar and he smiled, waving at the person behind the counter who was filling in for Tess, before finding his friend in the booth.
A graceful plop into the vacant seat and Riley was grins and smiles, “Hey man! Thanks for coming to meet me! How are things going with you?”
It did seem a bit unusual for Riley not to respond, ever the southern gentleman but Ehren had learned that it usually meant it was excited about something. “I’m good, I guess. I met a girl.” He gingerly took a sip of his scotch and looked back at Riley.
“Somethings going on with you. Why are you so chipper?” Not that he wasn’t always chipper but it seemed different this time, he seemed to glow from the inside out. He knew that things had been going well with him and Finn for some time, maybe he was just continuing to be happy with him? It couldn’t be something bad, Ehren would have probably seen it and there were no new visions this week.
“Whaaaat?” Riley nearly choked on air, eyes widening at the admission. He was beaming radiantly. “Tell me about her, man! That’s fantastic!” Riley was usually excited about something - the Marketplace having green apples, or finding a quarter on the sidewalk, up to the more important things.
When one of the waitresses stopped by to check on them Riley politely ordered a beer and then his attention was back on his friend.
His left hand was offered, fingers wiggling as if to silently show off the ring wound around his finger. “Guess who is changing his last name?” An eyebrow wiggle was offered and Riley laughed.
“Finn asked me to marry him. I’m over the moon, Ehren. Like, nothing in the world could overshadow this feeling. Even getting beaten up by the guards again. I’ve never been so happy in my whole life.” He left out the part where he’d cried like a baby.
A giant smile came to his face. He could tell Riley about Meg in a little bit, but now was the time for celebration. He stood from the table and grabbed Riley by the arm to pull him into a hug. “Holy fucking shit, Riley congratulations!!! I’m so happy for you.” When he pulled back he held his friend by the shoulders and squeezed them a bit before returning to his seat.
“When did this happen? How did he propose?” He should have known it was going to happen, the two of them seemed really good together and while it brought him joy it also made him painfully aware of how single he was. If everything worked out, maybe things would go well with Meg and he’d be the one telling Riley about his proposal. Until that he was going to do whatever he could to help their wedding along.
Being tugged from the table earned a laugh and he threw his arms around his friend, squeezing Ehren in a strong embrace. “Thank you! I’m still in a daze from it, man. Like, I’m getting fucking married, bro.” Pulling back, he let his friend go and bounced into the empty seat.
“Oh, on the eighth,” Riley explained, setting his palms on the tabletop. “It’s the day we met, like five years ago. Sweetest thing ever. He took me to the lighthouse. You know that little strip of land there where you can see the water? View to die for. Anyway, he got down on one knee and gave me this thing.”
The ring was repurposed piano wire, handmade by Finn to symbolize their first meeting together. Five years later they were preparing to exchange vows. Riley would be taking Finn’s last name, as well, putting an end to the Kip line for good.
“You gotta be there man. When we set a date and stuff. It won’t be anything fancy, at least not here. If we ever get the hell off of this rock maybe we can do something bigger but you know, we just want our friends there.” He’d asked Tess to be his best man but Ehren was just as important to him.
After a moment, the waitress brought Riley’s beer and he took a sip, watching his friend. “So, tell me about this girl. Who is the lucky lady who caught your eye?” An eyebrow wiggle would ensue in a playful manner.
The smile that had been gracing his face as he listened to the story began to turn into a slight frown. Now the attention was back on him. He looked down at his glass, swirling the amber liquid around in it. “Oh uh, you know I think she was just being nice or whatever.” He looked back up at Fin and realized that that answer wasn’t going to cut. He sighed and finished off his scotch, signaling the waitress to be another round for both of them.
“Back before..” he didn’t know what to call it. Was it prison? Was it safety? None of those seemed to accurately describe this place so he opted with the simplest descriptor. “...this, I used to go see her band. I’ve been kind of, I don’t know, creeping on her for a while and I finally said hi.” God he sounded pathetic but it was who he was.
“We talked, she tried to give me her toy dinosaur and I walked her home, which is incidentally the same place we all live.” Not really incidentally since there were only a few different places they could live here on this island.
“Riley, I asked her to come to my birthday party here next weekend. Why did I do that? I’m going to completely embarrass myself.” As the waitress brought over their next round he allowed himself a sip of his drink before burying his head in his arms with a groan.
Listening was something he was good at even though it didn’t seem that way. He was known to be a talker and could yammer on with the best of them but when a friend really needed for him to lend an ear he was all in.
Eyebrows arched at the comment about the woman seemingly being nice. Riley tipped his head as if waiting for more detail. And then the flood which followed clued him in on the rest. It seems his friend had been crushing on this girl since back in the day and now that she was here he didn’t know how to go about the next part.
An endearing smile was offered. “She must be real important for you to go through all of that.” It was the honest truth. In the years they’d known each other Riley had never seen his friend so crazy about a girl before.
“Hey, it’s not creepy to try to find the courage to talk to a girl, Kay? If she thinks it is, she’s got a problem. Some girls are just real intimidating to approach. I’ve been there.” He’d been in a lot of short relationships, especially after leaving home. “Did you take the dinosaur? If she’s givin’ you the dinosaur it’s probably a good sign.”
He doubted Ehren did, but maybe that would be a lesson learned for later considering he didn’t know the context behind the gesture. Though any woman who carried around plastic dinosaurs was a winner in his book.
“Aw, you have to relax, man. I’ll be here, Tess’ll be here, all your friends will be here. You’ll have plenty of people to talk to, if she shows up, and nobody is gonna let you get embarrassed. I make a real good wingman. Seriously, I’m excited for you. What’s she look like? Is she hot? You said she’s in a band? Or was…?”
One of his favorite things about Riley was his enthusiasm, it often balanced out his broodiness. He had to remember all the questions he’d asked so he searched his brain for the answer before he spoke again. “I didn’t take the dinosaur, I thought it was just a gesture. In retrospect I realize I should have taken it.” He shrugged his shoulders, supposing there was nothing he could do about it now.
“She’s got pink hair, a nose ring..” he pointed to the septum since he couldn’t remember what it was called. “She bakes at the marketplace. She is definitely pretty.” Ehren, as a rule, didn’t use words like hot or sexy if only because he thought he sounded like a moron saying it. He also didn’t want to think about her too objectively because that seemed shallow.
“I don’t even really know her, I just remembered seeing her band and it turns out she’s very friendly.” He wanted to get to know her better but these days getting close to anyone was a risk. “They were called Playing Mantis and she played bass, I used to drive for hours to go see them.” Washington was as a big state after all. He thought he’d covered everything but Riley would remind him if he didn’t answer anything.
Hadn’t taken the dinosaur. Well that was alright. Riley trusted Ehren’s instincts to allow the man the comfort of accepting whatever gifts he chose and not scolding him for childish faux pas he himself could get snagged up in. “Hey, what’s done is done. Just remember, man, it’s the little things.” One day a dinosaur would be context for a heart. Would Ehren take it then? Only time would tell.
Riley’s eyebrows arched at the description, eyes widening a touch. “Yeah? That’s cool, dude. I’d be careful with girls like that, though.”
“You being happy is what matters. But here’s a little bit of advice and warning from a friend, Kay? I’ve never dated a chick with pink hair but I have a friend who dated a girl with a teal Mohawk. Those types of girls tend to be outspoken, and have big personalities. I know that your anxiety doesn’t always allow for those things, so just be careful. There will probably be some arguments in your future. But those types of girls are also hella loyal, dude. If she understands that being social isn’t always your bread and butter or not to push you too far, you’ll be fine.”
Opposites had a way of attracting but you didn’t want those things to be too polar and make the relationship tumultuous. “I’m really glad she’s nice. That’s a good place to start.” He had seen that woman around at the bakery, but he’d get a better look at her next time he went for a donut. “I was expecting you to have a mad crush on that hot waitress at the diner. The brunette with the eyes?” Riley swooned and laughed.
“So are you talking to this girl or what? You get her number? Got a date planned or something?”
Ehren respected Riley’s advice. So many of his female friends expected him to just get over himself and do whatever the other person wanted, but Riley understood the level of discomfort that gave him. When the waitress at the diner was mentioned he gave Riley a confused look. “You mean the one that spilled hot coffee on me? I think I’m still too traumatized from that.” Besides she wasn’t really his type to be completely honest, but Ehren always buried that honesty since I didn’t help anyone.
“We exchanged numbers…” he said, trailing off as his mind began to race. “...but I don’t think I can do it Riley.” He leaned close over the table so his dirty laundry didn’t get aired in public. “I haven’t had sex in years, I am probably not very good at it anymore.” He admitted, leaning back in his chair again to blush at the thought. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a sex drive, he just managed to sabotage every chance he had. And of course he had no way to tell if he was any good until he actually did it but his anxiety got in the way.
“She’s…” he sighed, “...she’s really beautiful but when she gets to know me she’s going to find out how much of a mess I am.” And that was always his fear. Men, women, it didn’t really make a difference to him, he always seemed to scare them off.
Another blink would come at the reply, coupled with a wince. “Yep, that’s the one.” He’d forgotten about that. The girl was sweet and always nice but she was really quiet. Riley figured she was probably often overshadowed by just about everyone. But it didn’t matter, he wasn’t in hot pursuit of anyone who wasn’t his fiancé.
Leaning forward instinctively he listened to the admission. “You think she has?” It was an honest question. And it was also natural to think about hitting the sheets with someone you were attracted to, so his friend’s fears and doubts were valid and realistic.
“I never thought I would be any good at sex either,” he admitted, honestly. “Most of the time trying to get me to settle down is like trying to get a hyperactive toddler to take a nap. But I’ve had to learn to trust not just myself but Finn, or whoever at the time, and see what happened. The worst thing you can do is let doubt steal an opportunity. I’ve heard that doubt is the leading cause of failure and regret than actual failure. You don’t know if you don’t try. And while I want to believe this girl is trying her hardest to tie you down to the bedpost in reality you don’t know each other, man. Take that fresh start to lay down groundwork. Set boundaries for yourself. If she can’t respect that then I’d kick her to the curb.”
Riley leaned back in his seat and laughed softly, “Ehren, you aren’t the only gorgeous, hot mess on this island. I promise you. I am as much of a mess as you are. Everyone is a mess sometimes. It’s how we learn to balance each other’s messes that make it work.” He smiled warmly at his friend. “Give her a chance to get to know you for who you are. Let her decide for herself. You don’t have to take her out on a date, go for a walk. Hit the beach, ride your bicycles if she has one. Bring her lunch at work. See how she reacts. Then, if you’re feeling comfortable take her out on a real date. The movies or something. Plan a picnic, and then give her the deep stuff. You’ve got the rest of your life to figure stuff out. Baby steps.”
Within the span of Riley’s speech, Ehren’s smile slowly bloomed on his face, a bubble of laughter threatening to explode from his chest. “Come on now, don’t do anything that’ll make your fiancé jealous.” Not that there has ever been anything between them, not in this lifetime but it didn’t elude him that Riley was attractive. If the circumstances had been different, he might have been having this same conversation with someone else about him.
Riley was right, he was thinking too far ahead, that was his curse always, thinking about the possibilities of the future. “I know I’m working myself up over nothing, that’s what I do I just, I’d really like this to go well. I’m tired of scaring people off.” The truth was he didn’t scare them off as much they scared him off. Most of the people he’d made connections with were actually probably thought he was flaky since he never called anyone back.
“Thank you.” He said finally which was what he meant to say in the first place. Riley was a good ear for him and while they came here for Rileys news, they still ended up e about Ehren.
Riley giggled, the end of his nose wrinkled and he offered Ehren his signature double eyed wink. “Don’t flatter yourself, okay?” The words were playful. It was alright to find other people attractive but not alright to act on that. He was comfortable with his relationship and knew Finn trusted him. He sipped from his drink and did his best to catch up with Ehren, who was a drink ahead by now.
“Hey man, the future is so bright you gotta wear shades. There is nothing wrong with the what-ifs, and maybe coulds. But you never really know what will come into play. I just take things a day at a time and it’s worked out alright for me.” The idea that he would have been married to Finn was something he’d thought a lot about the last few years - even when they’d first gotten together Riley had imagined his life being married to him. Five years later they actually were getting married.
“You’re a good dude. Anyone would be lucky to have you. I’m lucky to have you as a friend!” A smile and he nodded, “You’re welcome. It’s what friends are for.”
He laughed loudly at Riley’s double wink. He couldn’t believe that he had such a hard time with something so simple. One of the many things that endeared Riley to Ehren. He looked back at a pool table which had been recently unoccupied and tiled his head toward the table. “Want to shoot a little pool? I promise it’ll be fun, I’ll even let you win once or twice.” He teased.
There was nothing like a few sips of scotch to loosen Ehren up, even to the point where he became a bit more competitive. Pool wasn’t exactly his best sport but he’d grown to get pretty good at it over the last couple of years. “What do you say? Loser has to the others laundry for a month.” Which was ridiculous and he would never even want to try and wash Riley’s dirty clothes but if the competitive spirit was there, then he’d accomplished his goal.
A gasp would be offered - a noise of over exaggeration and filled with theatrics. “How rude.” Riley couldn’t help but laugh, nodding at his friend. “Pool sounds great. I’ll have you know that I am the sharkiest pool shark on this side of the island.” He knew he was full of crap, and he knew Ehren knew it too.
But he loved a good competition and an easy challenge. “Laundry eh? Deal.” Grabbing up his drinks Riley slid out of the chair and rushed over to the vacant expanse of wood and green felt to claim it.
Drinks set aside Riley grabbed up a pool cue, set it where he could reach it, and began to rack the balls.
Ehren finished up his glass of scotch and ordered another before joining Riley at the pool table. He really should slow down but the way his anxiety softened when he was drinking always made him want to drink even more. It was an unfortunate thing but without medication it was the best he could do.
“Best out of three?” He asked as he grabbed a pool cue and began to chalk it. It was nice to hang out with Riley since most of his good friends were women. Of course they were wonderful and helped him through a lot but he couldn’t identify with them as much as he could with his male friends.
“How’s the summer treating you?” Working helped to occupy his mind and he didn’t know what he’d do if he had an extended amount of time off like that.
Best of three worked. Riley nodded in approval. A moment was taken to snatch up three of the pool balls and he proceeded to juggle them comically. He couldn’t help himself. Laughing he returned the smooth orbs to the felt and finished the task of setting the balls.
Once they were set he removed the triangle and hung it up, swiping up the cue and the chalk in kind.
“So far so good,” he breathed, shrugging. “I wish I had something else to do to take up the time but it’s sort of nice just being at home.” Honestly he didn’t know of anything he wanted to do. He had offered to take a few shifts at Josie’s for Tess while she recovered, but this was not one of those nights.
“How’s your stuff been?”
Ehren chuckled at the juggling but he hoped the more Riley drank he’d maybe realize that pool balls were a little bit too dangerous to juggle with. He found himself placing the cue ball on the table and positioning himself in front of it to break it. As the balls slid around the table he watched a striped ball go into the pocket and walked around the table to look at where his next shot would be.
“It’s, well it’s work I guess. I miss working on cars though.” Which he never thought he’d say with the considerable amount of hours he’d spent underneath cars. Something about their mechanics soothes him. “I think I’d probably go crazy if I had to stay at home. What do you even do all day?” He asked as he knelt to see what the best angle for his next shot would be. It was tricky because there were a few solids in his way but he’d try nonetheless. Sadly his next shot barely missed and he stepped away from the table for Riley to make his shot.
Solids. Of course!
“Yeah? You know Tess does some work with the government vehicles,” he offered. He didn’t know how anyone got into that line of work or how anyone would want to be that close to the guards, but she loved it.
“You know. The regular stuff. Like laundry, and lay around waiting for reruns of Oprah.”
When Ehren failed to make the next shot he stepped up to look at the layout of the table, assessing the best geometrical solution for the shot.
Leaning over the table he lined up a shot, taking a moment to peer through one closed eye and one open, before he pushed the cue forward. The ball rolled and can within a tenth of an inch to the pocket stopping short.
“Cheese and crackers,” he sighed, leaning up. A spot of green from the felt had made it onto his skin and he didn’t realize it.
Teaching had definitely rubbed off on his language and Ehren shook his head as the other man missed his shot. He took a quick sip of his scotch which was going down smoother than before and walked back to the table with his stick. An audible tisk came from his mouth as he used his pool stick to calculate the trajectory. “Well when I beat you, you’ll have more laundry to do then.” He joked as he hit another striped ball into the corner pocket of the pool table.
Ehren definitely wouldn’t want to be involved in government vehicles because he was trying to stay as far away from them as he could. No point in putting himself in a vulnerable position like that. “I don’t think there are any jobs, besides, at least I still get to work with machines and that’s all I really need.” He offered as a rebuttal.
A raspberry would be blown at his friend with sass. A drink would be taken from his beer and he watched his friend take the next planned shot. “Ugh, how are you good at this?” It was a rhetorical question, teasing as always. The beer was set aside.
A shrug of his shoulders, “Hey, you gotta do what makes you happy, right?”
Lining up his next shot he focused on the balls in front of him and knocked another stripe in. “Well,” He began, giving himself a minute to speak before he went for his next shot. “..if you ever want to get good you just have to be single and have a lot of alone time on your hands.” It was sad but true and he leaned forward to look at the shot again before missing and sinking one of the solids in. With an exaggerated sigh he stepped back again, sipping on the scotch neat he was trying to drink slowly.
“But even when you’re good, you can make mistakes.” He wished he could think like that about his life but that wasn’t how his brain worked.
With a bit of glee he watched the mistake happen. Riley waiter a bit to take his next shot, lining up the ball with one of his for an easy pocket. The shot was taken and he was on cloud nine as it went into the intended pocket.
“That’s true. Wise words, my friend.” He lined up another shot and took it, tapping the ball only enough to cause it to shift forward an inch or so.
“Aw man. Your shot.”
He followed suit to the table and looked at the shot. With the way that Riley had tapped it lightly on the table it was going to be a tough shot. He only had three more stripes to get in but it didn’t look like this one would make it. He could at least knock a few balls in the right direction. Lifting the stick ass end up he knocked the ball loose and it knocked a few of the balls out of the way.
“Do you remember that time we were playing pool and some drunk girl walked behind me while I was trying to line up the 8 ball shot and I nearly poked her eye out?” He said. At the time he’d been mortified, he apologized profusely and offered to walk her to the medical center. He’d never heard someone scream so loudly before.
When it was his turn Riley leaned down to take his shot only to laugh at the memory. He hated himself for it but it’d been funny after the fact. “Yeah I remember that.” Riley winced. He missed the shot, distracted.
“She was super into you though. I felt bad for her.” And then he laughed, “Hey! No fair, you distracted me!”
He shook his head and finished off his scotch. He looked around for the waitress to signal another and smiled at her. “A set of jingling keys could distract you.” He teased, using his pool cue to line up his next shot. Riley had made it easy for him to shoot two of his stripes into a corner pocket and he gracefully tapped the cue ball, watching as the two slid seamlessly into the pocket.
A giant smirk came to his face when he did, a smug arrogance in it. “Well, honestly, she wasn’t really my type. She kept telling me that I’d look better if I shaved.” He touched his beard which was neatly trimmed just that morning. “I think if we ended up dating that I’d wake up one morning with a baby face.”
Sadly he missed the next shot and scratched all in the same move.
Riley’s jaw dropped and he pretended to look offended by the comment, “How dare you say such a thing!” But then he laughed, “Actually, you’re probably right.” He did have a soft spot for keys. With dismay he watched Ehren sink the shot.
Then his eyes lifted to his friend, hands around the cue as he stood there. “Yeah? She seemed pretty into you until you smacked her in the face by accident, and what’s wrong with a little bitty baby face?”
Same with Riley, he liked his facial hair and knew that if he shaved it the years would be falling into the sink, too.
The cue ball would be plucked up from the pocket and moved accordingly. Riley lined up a shot and took it, sinking the ball. A proud smile overcame him. “Yes!” His hips wiggled as he danced in place to signal victory (a small one) before lining the next shot up again. His cue stick smacked the white ball, sending it rolling into the target only to have the purple ball scatter the opposite direction.
Ehren chuckled again at his missed shot. All he had left now was the 8 ball and that was always the most important shot. Since he played by the rules he had to call the shot. So, to gain a little more confidence, Ehren took a sip of the scotch the waitress had brought and began to line up his shot. “8 ball, corner pocket.” He said, positioning his shot to finally win against Riley.
It wasn’t hard really, Riley wasn’t as good as Ehren and the shot was fairly clear so he punched the ball with his cue stick and sunk the 8 ball into said hole. He raised his hands in the air for his victory and smiled at Riley. Sometimes this was just what he needed, to forget about all the stuff going on in his brain and just enjoy his life.
An eye roll coupled with a soft ’ugh’ was issued in reply but it was all in good fun. “Not fair. You’re a cheater!” He laughed, setting the stick aside to gather the balls up again. They went into the triangle shaped rack after he finally finished off his first beer. The second was started accordingly.
When the game was reset Riley lifted the triangle, set it aside and nodded at his friend to break the balls while he chalked up the end of his cue.
“Alright, Alright. No cheating this time, Kay?”
A smirk came across his face as Riley swore up and down that Ehren was a cheater. “Scouts honor, I did not cheat, I’m really just that good.” He knew he was drinking too fast but the easy confidence that came off of him when he drank soothed his anxiety and besides it was just Riley. Ehren chalked his cue again and nodded toward the table to indicate that Riley should break this time.
“If you want any pointers I might be able to help you be a better pool player.” Not that Riley probably wanted that but the easy quips back and forth were enjoyable and he had to take them while he could. In a place like this it was always possible to lose the people closest to you and while Ehren could see into the future, he couldn’t tell anyone when exactly things were going to happen.
Another raspberry would be blown playfully at Ehren. “I don’t take help from cheaters,” he huffed, then laughed. Any help was good help if he was being honest with himself but then again Riley knew he wasn’t going to impress anyone. Nor did he need to.
“Nah, I’ll just keep losing and probably end up doing your laundry. It’s fine.” A hand would be waved dismissively and he waited for his friend to take the next turn once the balls broke apart.
Ehren approached the table and found a good shot to the corner pocket with a solid and took the shot he’d lined up. “Well you’re in luck then, because I don’t have very much in terms of clothing.” He offered. Every once in a while he’d get a new shirt or new pants but not until he’s exhausted his clothing he already owned.
He checked another shot and this one would be tricky, he had to try and jump the ball over and that was something he was still having a hard time with. Pushing his cue into the table to jump the ball it did jump but didn’t end up knocking any balls into any pockets. “Riley you really need to be able to distinguish someone whose better than you and someone who's a cheater. If you call people a cheater in poker you might get murdered.” A laugh followed to show he wasn’t actually serious. He took another sip of his third drink, feeling the buzz thrumming through his veins.
“So you’re admitting that you go around naked all the time, huh? Scandalous.” It was a total tease of a statement but he was alright with the fact that there would be less laundry to do. A Kip didn’t go back on a deal or a promise. Riley finished his own drink and got halfway through the next one in a few sips.
When the shot failed, as impressive as it was, Riley grinned like a greedy toddler. “Hah! Not so perfect after all!” His beer was then finished and he began to feel lighter, too, from the sensation of the drinks.
“Probably. You’re probably right,” he laughed, lining up the next shot. Finally he sank a ball into a hole. A victory dance would commence, a small wiggle of his hips and the throwing up of his hands into the air. “Woohoo! I’m awesome!”
After that shimmy had concluded he was back trying to line up another shot.
In one large gulp Ehren finished his third drink, signaling the bartender to give them another round. “Yes, you know me, no social anxiety whatsoever so I just roam around in the nude all the time.” It wasn’t that he didn’t wish he could do that but nudity was something he was barely comfortable with when he was with a partner, much less in public. He hissed when Riley made a shot followed by a large bout of laughter as the other man did a dance.
“You’re so awesome because you’re so modest.” He teased, already trying to line up his next shot. Obviously he wasn’t going to get in Riley’s way, the drunk girl he accidentally assaulted broke the golden rule around pool but not Ehren.
The end of Riley’s nose crinkled with amusement. A playful waggle of the eyebrows was offered to his friend and then the shot was taken. Another ball into the hole. “Boy howdy, I got the luck tonight.” It was probably the confidence from the drinks. But beer was tame, he didn’t want to get too wasted like Paul.
“That Megan gal has her work cut out for her with you, bro,” Riley teased. He lined up the next shot and it rolled toward the hole, bounced off of a corner and knocked into another ball, sinking that one. “Aww man. How is that even possible?”
At the mention of Meg Ehren got a little quiet. He didn’t like thinking too much about the future because it was constantly changing, and besides which he could see into it if he wanted to put himself through a state of panic. “Don’t jinx it man, I don’t even know if she’s going to like me.” He said and smiled as he watched one of his solids go in from Riley’s shot.
He found himself in viewpoint of the shot across the table and he held his stick over the table to see the angle in which he would shoot. From his spot on the cue ball he pointed to Riley. “Look at how the pool cue goes. If I want to make this shot I want to hit it…” he walked over to the ball he wanted to hit and pointed to the corner of it. “..there so that it ricochets off that corner over there and goes into the center pocket here.” He walked over to the cue ball. “So that’s where I’m going to hit it here.” He knew Riley hasn’t asked him but he thought he could give him some pointers. He did as he said and the ball went into the center hole. “See?”
“Psh, she’s going to love you, man. Don’t worry about it.” The waitress brought more drinks and Riley took his politely, offering a thanks. A sip was taken, and then another, as he watched his friend line up the shot.
He nearly spat beer out at the momentum of the balls and the reaction. “Holy shit, when’d you get good? We gotta go to Vegas with that!” Riley appreciated the pointers. Advice for advice. Who knew?
“You don’t know that.” He replied, about Meg. She was sweet but she was a punk and Ehren definitely was not. Who even knew if he was her type? Maybe by accident he’d get to see what things looked like for them in the future but he wasn’t going to prod at it because it ultimately it would just lead to heartache.
“I don’t know about Vegas, seems a bit risky.” Also, when would they even be able to go? It was nice to dream but not something that was possible in the foreseeable future. He lined up his next shot which was an impossible one and just barely missed a ball before returning to the small table next to them to take a sip off his drink. The buzzing in his veins were more apparent now and he felt the warmth spread through his belly as he unwound more and more.
Instead of responding, Riley only offered his friend a knowing smile. Anyone who didn’t find Ehren charming and delightful could go jump off of the lighthouse. He was a good person with a lot of good qualities though Riley knew that Ehren didn’t always see it that way. “Give her a chance.”
And then he was nodding, taking a swig from his drink. “Risky is part of life! You gotta have a bit of fun now and then. Plus I can get married in a little chapel on the strip. You know, with Elvis.”
Dreaming was good.
He watched his friend miss the shot and with a sharp grin he stepped up to take his turn. One ball sank. He realized then that he’d done a decent job so far. Ehren was still in the lead but Riley was catching up.
“You know I’m a dreamer,” he sang, laughing softly.
With the scotch filling his veins he was getting a bit more sloppy and so it was totally possible that Riley would win against him. He didn’t expect Riley to actually make him do his laundry but if he did, Ehren would probably not be able to look at his friend the same way again after washing his underwear. “Okay okay don’t get too cocky.” He teased, watching his friend sink another ball.
In truth, he was happy to see Riley having fun and sinking a couple of shots. There was something to be said about seeing his friends happy, it made him think he could be like that someday too. “Just try to remember what I said, aim in the right direction and tap lightly if it’s close.” He added, emptying his glass and ordering another. “And don’t stick your ass out.” Which didn’t actually matter but he was officially a bit drunk so he didn’t care.
Cock was one of his favorite words but he kept that to himself to spare his friend the embarrassment. A giggle would suffice. Sighing with amusement the shot was analyzed with blurry vision. He felt on top of the world and suddenly he felt like the king of geometry.
“Gotcha.” Tongue would poke through lips as he concentrated. Leaning over he set the cue on the green and took the shot, somehow managing to land it.
Straightening up, Riley laughed, “But that’s my best feature! If I stick it out people know it,” he teased, laughing hard.
Riley was definitely going to win this one. He only had a few more balls to sink and Ehren’s coordination was waning. “Careful now, you’re about to be someone’s husband.” He teased, finishing off yet another glass of scotch and ordering another. He’d start slurring and talking very closely to people soon but for now he was just a bit more carefree.
If there wasn’t a physical attraction there he might have even playfully slapped him on the ass but it didn’t seem appropriate in any regard so he’d keep his hands to himself. “Also, I’ll have you know that I am still going to win, just you see.”
That was true. Riley laughed, nodding. He finished his own drink. “It’s my best feature, I can’t lie.” That was all he had going for him sometimes, big personality aside. They’d both be carrying each other home soon.
“Blasphemy!” Clutching his cue stick he shook his head, hair tossing here and there dramatically.
And then he took the next shot, missing the pocket utterly.
“Ha!” He screamed a little too loudly and a few people from the bar turned to look at him. Now Ehren took a deep breath and tried to maintain his focus so that he could sink the shots he needed. A laugh proceeded Riley flipping his hair about. He did seem to be very involved in the maintenance and styling of his hair, arguably one of his better features.
“Anyway I can’t be blasphemous if I don’t go to church anymore.” He said, the words getting closer and closer together. Unlucky for Riley, Ehren had a perfect shot to get three different balls into three different holes and as he lined it up, he took two deep breaths. It was almost seamless how they all landed in their respective holes and he shouted a triumphant “Yes!!” after they did.
An eyebrow wiggle. He didn’t need to look around to know that people were looking. Riley wished Ehren could be so comfortable all the time. But he never judged or protested.
“Your body is a church!” He shouted, not caring who looked. A sly, sideways grin was given. It was nearing time to leave. Beckoning the waitress over with the crook of a finger he gave the poor thing enough dough to cover all of their drinks and then some for the noise. He was glad Tess wasn’t there, she would’ve been out for blood.
“Shut the front door!” He blinked as the shots were fired and Ehren literally won the game.
Humbly Riley submitted, hanging his head.
Ehren clapped his friend on the back and finished off his last scotch. A chill ran through him as the alcohol made his spine tingle and he shook his head as it went down. Now was the time for slurring. “Itt s’alright buddy. I’ll bring my clothhhes by tomorrow and can you hand wash my delicats thank you very much.” He giggled at himself, feeling the free energy he got whenever he consumed alcohol.
Before, Ehren didn’t drink much, especially when he was on his medication, but they stifled his powers and he needed to help the faction still. Thankfully, even with his inhibitions down, he could manage to keep quiet about that. “I think I need to go home.” He concluded. Tomorrow was Monday and he would still have to go to work later in the day.
“Stick my hands on ya lacy things?” He teased, listening to the way his friend was slurring his speech. There wouldn’t be another game, he needed to get Ehren home before the guy did something embarrassing. A hand would go to his friend’s back, Riley rubbed gently in effort to be comforting.
That was a good idea that mirrored his own. A moment would be taken to set the cues aside and put everything where it belonged. Thankfully the bill was taken care of. Arms went around his friend and he began to guide Ehren to the door.
Once they were outside Riley could feel the breeze of the water greeting them. He inhaled it and smiled.
It wasn’t really terribly funny but with how drunk he was and Riley’s delivery, Ehren began to laugh almost uncontrollably. The weather was nice that night and he stumbled in Riley’s grasp through the streets. “She packed my bags last night pre-flighttt.” He began to sing, off key and perhaps a bit too loud.
“Zero hour nine AM.” He continued, the song already several seconds ahead in his mind. The next part came out more of a howl than anything “AND IM GONNA BE HIIIIIIGGGGHHHH as a kite by then.”
A wince and Riley waved at a few onlookers as if that was a normal, everyday occurrence for his friend to be belting Elton John tunes at the top of his lungs. Maybe it would’ve been easier had Ehren the capacity to hit the right notes but then again Riley was known to get down to Dolly Parton when he was that wasted.
Arm stayed around his friend and Riley held Ehren up, laughing. “Rocket maaannn,” He chimed in, singing along.
As they walked through the narrow streets the tune was interrupted by various chuckles. This was his favorite way to be, blindly elated, without all the thoughts in his head threatening to destroy him. His body didn’t agree most of the time though, and by the morning he’d remember why it was he didn’t drink every day. Until then he continued with the song as they got nearer to their complex. “And I think it’s gonna..” a hiccup “..be a long long time, touchdown brings me round again to find, I’m not the man they think I am at home OH NO NO.” He finished, tripping slightly over a small rock.
This was something he would worry about come morning. What if Meg showed up and he couldn’t even stand on his own two feet? He wasn’t an expert but he knew most girls didn’t appreciate intoxicated men too sloppy to do anything. “I’m a rocketman, rocketman burning out his fuse out here alone.” He sang along with Riley.
Riley echoed Ehren’s words in a softer tone, harmonizing with him as they walked together. He wasn’t obliterated, thank goodness, and was sober enough to be conscious of who was watching, and who they might or might not run into on the way back to the apartment.
“Oh man, you have to meet my friend Dorian,” he managed, thoughtfully. “Dude is gorgeous, quiet, loves to read, but yeah….” This island was filled with so many lovely people. And if things didn’t work out with Meg maybe opportunity wasn’t lost for his friend.
Letting the words fade back into song he yowled like an alley cat along with the tune.
“Who?” He asked but he doubted he’d remember at this point, he was having a hard time seeing straight. Ehren kept a close group of friends on the island so most of everyone else, besides the obvious government workers he gathered intel on, were all but strangers to him.
“Are you trying to set me up? Cause I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around one date, two is a little excessive.” He jokes, hiccuping a few times after. He’s all but given up on rocketman for now but the tune still plays in his head.
Riley laughed, wrinkling his nose, “I mean, it’s always good to have more than one option, right? Cause what if one doesn’t work? You have another one ready to go!” Ehren could date more than one person, he wasn’t exclusive with anyone else yet. “You know, see what works.”
Finally they reached the complex and Riley guided his friend to his apartment. “Alright, keys,” he breathed, hand held out for the key to Ehren’s apartment door.
Ehren wasn’t like that at all, he couldn’t play the field, or the sport in his opinion. “I think you’ve misjudged how many people actually want to be with me.” He mumbled as he grabbed his keys out of his pocket to clumsily hand over to Riley. They almost fell out of the other man's hands but luckily his reflexes were more attune than Ehren’s.
As they entered his apartment he began singing. “Rocketmaaaaannnn oooooohhaaa I’m a rocketmannnnn” seems he wasn’t quite done being an absolute ham now.
“I don’t think you even know the answer to that,” Riley teased. A nimble grasp and keys were kept in hand. They went to the door and after one, two attempts he landed the lock and twisted his wrist. With the door open and keys pulled from the lock he lead his friend inside.
Door closed behind with a foot, “Rocket maaan!” He sang, echoing his friend.
Riley put Ehren’s keys where he usually kept them, and then lead his friend where he knew the bedroom to be. “Alright bro, into bed you go. Gimmie your feet, I’ll get your shoes.”
Still singing he collapsed onto the bed and took out his phone, finding Meg’s number in his phone and writing out a text. Screw it. Want to get dinner Tuesday night? it said, considerate enough to himself to know he’d be too hungover tomorrow. This was a big mistake and by the time he looked at his phone tomorrow he’d curse his drunk self.
He lifted his feet in the air so that Riley could take off his shoes. They were his work boots so they required a bit more effort to remove. When he stopped signing his lifted his head up enough to look at Riley. “Tell Finn I’m..” a hiccup. “...sorry.”
Riley was too busy getting Ehren’s shoes off to notice that he was texting. Tongue poking out from the side of his lips as he worked on laces and finally one shoe came away from the foot. The next was unlaced and removed as well.
His eyebrows arched as Ehren’s phone buzzed with a reply text. “For what?” There was nothing to be sorry for in his opinion.
His eyes were closed now, feet dangling off the bed as he began to fall asleep. He didn’t bother looking at the reply because he hadn’t even heard it buzz. “For getting you drunk and probably waking him up.” He mumbled, trying to even out his breathing so he didn’t get the spins.
Riley wasn’t nearly as intoxicated as Ehren was but he thought it would be kind to extend his apologies anyway since he’d be undoubtedly tipsy when he got back to their shared apartment. “Congratulations.” He added as he slowly started to drift into a drunken sleep.
“Thanks man,” Riley whispered, watching his friend drift to sleep. A smile and a pat on the leg before he was moving to leave. It had been an adventurous night and Riley was bushed. He felt the exhaustion creeping up into his bones. Thankfully they lived in the same place just about, a few doors away and he would be home.
Through the small place, to the front door and it was closing behind him as he left his friend alone for the night.