Gin Joints and Rick Blaine

Chapter 1: There’s No Place Like Home
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Picking up some of the empty shot glasses littering the bar top, Zoë loaded them into the tray before turning to her boss.

“Rick Blaine, Casablanca,” she answered while mixing a fruity drink for some barely legal on the other side of the bar before taking the younger woman’s money, “I take it she walked in again?”

The tall, well built man, didn’t even turn around to face his employee as he shrugged his shoulders, sliding a few beers down the bar into waiting hands. Continuing on, as if he wasn’t purposely avoiding looking at the door, and Zoë’s teasing jabs at his apparent “shyness” in the face of a pretty young woman that looked so out of place in the strip joint she had entered for the third time that week.

Scanning the crowd for the woman in question, Zoë ignored her boss’s warning and called her over.

“Etta! Yo Etta!”

Turning around, the tall, Russian woman made her way to the bar, stumbling through the crowds she had yet to get used to.

“Zoë! Sorry to be early. The UST at the store was just too much.”

Laughing, the shorter blonde assured her friend that it was okay before handing the woman a water.

“I take it my brother forget he was supposed to pick me up again?”

“I wouldn’t say he forgot this time. He and my Uncle were in a debate about classic movies and modern adaptations. He asked this time, if I could get you.”

Listening in on the conversation, Zoë’s boss turned around to put in his opinion.

“I swear you need to lock those two in the store room with a box of condoms and lube. Let nature take its course after that.”

Zoë started choking on air, trying to contain her incredulous laughter. Turning to her boss, she smacked his arm before turning back to their customers.

“I do not want to help my brother get laid. At least not in the store room! Those poor books, and the people who they get sold too!”

“No one has to know.”

Rolling her eyes, and trying to not imagine having to shelve those books, Zoë turned back to her friend at the bar.

“Odette, please tell the ass that I work for that you do not want to have to shelve those books if your Uncle and brother were to get down and dirty on them.”

The tall blonde muffled her laughter by taking a sip of water before turning to the male bartender.

“Duncan, I do not under an circumstance want to clean up and shelve the books in the storeroom If Uncle Vlad and Bas decide to fuck in there.”

“Eh, that’s your issue. You want the sexual tension to go away, then they need to get it in.”

The women started laughing as Duncan started pelvic thrusting to get his point across.

“I’m clocking out! Summer just walked in.”

“Just close out the register first.”

Zoë followed her boss’s orders, collected her tips and clocked out as Summer clocked in. Walking around the bar towards Odette, Duncan called out to her.

“Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain’t heard nothing yet!”

Turning around, walking backwards with Odette leading her, Zoë yelled back.

“Jack Robin, The Jazz Singer!”

With a two finger salute, Zoë turned back around and walked straight through the exit with a quick good bye to the bouncer as she passed.
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Outside of the bar the two woman laughed as they made their way to an old beat up pick-up truck. Tripping over the gravel outside of the strip club, the two blondes complained over the owner being to cheap to pave the parking lot.

“It would be so much easier to get the drunks into taxis or the designated driver’s cars if the lot was paved!”

“Hell, we can barely walk it without tripping while we’re sober!”

“Damn straight!”

Zoë opened the door of the truck and climbed into the passenger side as Odette turned it on. The engine sputtered for a moment before purring to life. The old thing was being held together by duct tape and miracles, but Odette’s uncle had a had time letting go of his first car.

“I swear this thing is gonna crap out one day and we’ll be stuck on the side of the road in bumblefuck nowhere.” Odette stated as she pulled the truck out onto the highway.

“Are we going back to the store?”

“Unless you want to see those two eye-fucking all night, I’d suggest not.”

Zoë laughed, agreeing that, that would not be an ideal way to spend her night. She got enough of that during the day when everyone was together hanging out.

“We could go to the diner?”

“Nah. Chandler isn’t working tonight and the other waitresses aren’t exactly welcoming to us.”

“True. Your place?”

“Why not? Booker shouldn’t be too much of a pain tonight. Hell, if we get him drunk, we can get him into my clothes again. He still is trying to find where all of the pictures from last time are hidden.”

“Sounds like a plan. Your poor roommate. We torture him so.”

“Dude, he’s my brother’s best friend. He had to have figured this would happen when he agreed to room with us.”
_______________________
Books opened, papers spread out over every available surface in his room, Booker sat, putting together the final touches for his manuscript. It was the single most important thing in his life at the moment. He had barely slept or ate in the last week, trying to make his deadline. It wasn’t every day that an Indie film director holds a contest for a student film writer. He wanted this; it was his dream.

Hearing the front door slam shut, accompanied by giggling, he knew that he wasn’t going to get anymore work done for the night. He started to carefully put all of his work away in the order they needed to be. He knew that Zoë was going to drag him out to drink in the living room. It happened every time Odette picked her up from work because Sebastian was too busy flirting with a man twice his age.

It only took a few minutes before his door was being shoved open, the two blondes, alcohol in hand, waltzing in like they weren’t invading his personal space. Zoë sat cross legged at the foot of his bed, taking a swig from the bottle of Jack in her hands. Next to her, Odette was doing the same with a bottle vodka. Both were looking at Booker expectantly as Zoë held out a bottle of Rum.

“You two are going to kill me before I make my deadline.”

“Nah. You work too hard! Gotta loosen you up dude!”

“I don’t need to loosen up. I need to get my work done.”

“Well I just finished my shift and I want to play. You’re here, you don’t go out, so we’re bringing play time to you!”

“Play time!”

He shook his head, watching on as Odette tipped over, trying not to spill her alcohol. She was a lightweight beyond comparison.

“Etta, you bring shame to your Russian heritage. You are such a lightweight! Vlad can drink that shit like water.”

“Whelp, I’m not my Uncle. He’s busy having eye sex with your best friend~!”

“God knows they need to do more.”

“Ugh! Mental images!”

Booker took the rum, sitting back as his friends got drunk and debated on how the get rid of Vlad and Sebastian’s unresolved sexual tension. It was a common topic within their group of friends. Everyone saw that the two of them were hopelessly infatuated with each other, but neither would make the first move.

The giggling died down, and it got quiet, the three thinking and taking sips from their respective bottles. Booker’s mind on his manuscript, Odette’s on her Uncle’s love life, and Zoe’s on someone she ran into the day before.

“So… I ran into Professor Serrano at the bookstore yesterday.”

“Your Ancient History professor?

“He taught mythology too. Anyways, I graduated. He isn’t my professor anymore.”

“Okay? And?”

Zoë didn’t answer. The only sounds were of their breathing and the alcohol swishing in the bottles as they took sips. After a few minutes, Booker thought that she either fell asleep or forgot what they were talking about. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’s done that. When she did speak again, it startled him; her voice seemingly louder in the quiet of his bedroom.

“He asked me out for coffee.”

That got both Booker and Odette’s attention.

“Did you say yes?” The taller blonde asked in excitement.

“Of course I did.”

“So is it a date, or just him seeing how you’re doing after graduating?”

“It’s a date, I think.”

“Does he know you work in a strip club?”

“Why would that matter? Besides, I’m a bartender. Not one of the dancer. Though there is nothing wrong with that.”

“Of course not. I’m just saying that he is a college professor. He might expect you to have a job that requires more brainpower and less revealing tops.”

Zoë sat up, not even remembering when she decided to lie down in the first place. She fixed her roommate with a hard glare, surprisingly intimidating for someone as inebriated as she was. With a deep breath and measured words, she answered his unspoken question.

“He isn’t going to look down on me or think I’m an idiot. A job is a job, especially for someone with a major in ancient history that has no desire to become a teacher.”

If he hadn’t seen how much she had drank, he never would have guessed she was three sheets to the wind, pissed, and about to topple over if she were to attempt getting up.

“Okay, okay,” he put his hands up in a placating gesture, “He isn’t going to look down on you. It’ll be fine. You’ll have a great date.”

Zoë nodded her head in agreement before curling her body around the bottle of whiskey, closing her eyes. Odette was already asleep at the head of the bed, drooling over Booker’s pillows once again. Lifting himself off of the floor, Booker picked up the bottles of alcohol, leaving his room to put them back into the kitchen.

He grabbed two glasses and filled them with water before getting out the Advil. He placed them on the nightstand in Zoë’s room. Walking back into his room, he prepared himself to lift the dead weight Zoë and Odette both became when they passed out drunk.

Twenty minutes later, and minimal struggling, Booker had both women in Zoë’s room. He was pretty sure only Odette would have a hangover; Zoë having the freakishly lucky ability to be one of those few people to never get a hangover. She’ll be the one to wake up first thing in the morning to make an apology breakfast for him having to take care of her once again.

She was twenty-one and fresh out of college. Drinking all the time and getting black out drunk is what people their age are supposed to be doing, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that she had a problem. Getting pissed after work every night, when you work at a bar…it seemed like a lot. If it was him, seeing and dealing with drunk people all night, it would turn him off from becoming one of them. He worried about her. They grew up together; she was like his own sister. Just like Sebastian was like his brother.

Sighing, Booker sat himself in the living room and turned on the TV. It was just after midnight, For the life of him, he couldn’t understand how Sebastian and Vlad spent so much time together, especially late at night, and not hook up. It wasn’t like Sebastian at all.

Growing up with Sebastian and Zoë, Booker learned three things. One, the twins would always get him into trouble. Two, both of them had gotten lucky with their gene pool, and could/would pick up anyone who caught their eye. Three, Sebastian never went a week without some random coming home with him for a long, loud night of fun that would be keeping the entire floor up at night.

In the last six months, Sebastian has only had a total of six hook ups; something that hadn’t happened since they hit puberty. They had all happened after Vlad had had a few dates with a frequent customer of his bookstore. Sebastian had been a wreck. He didn’t come out of his room for four days, and when he finally did, he looked like death. It took a week after that to get him to leave the apartment, and when he did finally leave the apartment, he went out to bar after bar to get drunk and pick up randoms. Only six of the randoms made it back to the apartment, but he knew that there were more bathroom and car hook ups that Sebastian barely remembered. It wasn’t until Odette told Sebastian that her Uncle broke it off with the guy that Sebastian stopped with the random hook ups. That was the worst month the group had gone through. Seeing their friend self destruct was not something any of them wanted to see again.

Booker had never seen his best friend in love before. If he were to mention it to Sebastian, the man would deny that he is in love with the older bookstore owner until his dying breath. He was too stubborn for his own well being. It was something that he and his sister both had in common. They were stubborn to a fault, tried to handle everything their own way, and denied anyone else’s help until it was forced upon them. Sometimes, even then, they’d do their best to resist it. It was frustrating to be friends with them more than half the time but he would never change being friends with them. They were loyal to those they cared about.

It had become a ritual for Booker to stay up late on the nights that Odette picked Zoë up from work. He would sit in the living room, put some random show on the TV, and wait for Sebastian to come back home. He was just waiting for the night when something finally happened between he and Vlad. He wanted to be the first person to find out when the endless pining was over.

It wasn’t until around 2 a.m. that the front door opened again. Sebastian tried to quietly sneak in, but Booker wasn’t going to let him.

“So you’re home late.”

The teasing edge to Booker’s voice had Sebastian go from startled to irked.

“Don’t you even start with me. We were just talking and fell asleep on the couch. That’s it, not that I owe you any explanation.”

“Jeez, so defensive, man. I’m gonna take that as you haven’t gotten laid by Vlad yet.”

“Fuck you.”

“Sorry bro, but I don’t swing that way. If you really want it, you could always go back to Vlad’s and beg for it.”

Sebastian just looked at Booker before laughing. He took note of the liqueur bottles on the counter, and decided to get the pans from the top shelf down now. It would be better to set them out for Zoë now, otherwise he’d have to hear her banging around trying to reach them early in the morning, when no normal human being that spent the night getting hammered should be up at.

“So when are you going to admit your undying love for Vlad?”

“I’m not in love with him.”

“People in space can see that you are in love with the man.”

“There are no people in space right now so your statement has been proven redundant.”

“I think you misused redundant.”

“It’s two in the morning and I have to be up in five hours for work. I don’t care if I’m using the wrong words.”

“So touchy. Yo really need to get laid man. Maybe we’ll just lock and Vlad in a bathroom or something until you guys fuck already.”

“You’re an idiot and don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m going to bed.”

Sebastian walked out of the kitchen towards his bedroom.

“I may be an idiot, but at least I’m not blind to the fact that Vlad loves you back!”

Sebastian ignored Booker in favor of stepping on his friends foot as he walked by to get into his own room. In retaliation, Booker threw one of the throw pillows at his friend right before the bedroom door shut. He counted it as a success before getting up to stretch. He had to wake up early to finish getting his manuscript done. It was time for him to get some sleep. He turned off the TV, tossing the remote back onto the couch before walking back into his own room.
________________________
The smell of pancakes filled the air in the apartment, stirring the ones still sleeping from their slumber. Zoë

bustled around the small kitchen, preparing breakfast for her roommates and friend. She knew that Sebastian and Booker would be up soon, the smell of food too much for them to ignore. Growing up with them, she knew that they were virtually bottomless pits that could eat anyone out of house and home. She could never figure out how they didn’t gain any weight with the amount of food that they ate regularly.

She had just finished getting everything done when Sebastian stumbled out of his room, dressed for the day and looking like he was run over by a bus.

“Someone looks tired. Late night?”

Her brother just grunted in response before pouring himself a cup of coffee and chugging it back. Zoë scrunched her nose in distaste. She never understood how her brother could drink coffee black. It always tasted too bitter to her. It left a bad taste in her mouth and set her up for a day long migraine.

“Don’t start. Too early.”

“Awe, poor baby. Looks like someone didn’t get any loving from his sugar daddy~.”

“Vlad is not a sugar daddy. I hate it when he tries to pay for me. Makes me feel like a little kid.”

“Of course. You want him to see you as someone to drag to bed and have his wicked way with.”

Sebastian groaned and lowered his head into his arms, as his sister loaded up a plate of food for him. The standard run around debate for the mornings she makes breakfast for everyone.

“Can we not do this? Too early to deal with this.”

“To deal with what? Your denial? River in Egypt and all that.”

“Not happening. He and I do not feel that way towards each other.”

“Keep telling yourself that.”

Before Sebastian could retort, Booker came out of his room, yawning and nearly walking into the end table before making his way into the kitchen. Sitting down at the counter next to his best friend, Booker dropped his head and made a grabbing motion at the coffee pot. Without even questioning him, Zoë fixed Booker his coffee, exactly how he liked it before setting it down in front of him, along with a plate of food.

“So what’s Seb telling himself?”

“The usual. Ya know, denying his feelings for Vlad, and the fact that they are totally dating each other, just without the sex.”

“Well, they could be having sex if they just admitted their feelings.”

“I really hate you guys sometimes.”

Booker and Zoë looked at each other and laughed. Zoë patting her brother’s arm before putting a plate in the microwave for Odette.

“We love you too, Sebby.”

“I hate it when you call me Sebby.”

“Would Bassy be better, bro?”

Sebastian smacked Booker upside the back of his head. Zoë watched on as Booker smacked him back. Eating her own breakfast, while sitting on the counter, she watched the smacking quickly deteriorate into a full out wrestling match as Booker and Sebastian fell out of their chairs. It was entertaining to watch the two grown men acting like they were still thirteen year old boys getting into an all out brawl over comic books in her parent’s backyard.

After a few minutes Sebastian’s phone started to go off. Zoë jumped off the counter to answer it.

“Oh, hey Vlad! No Seb isn’t available at the moment. He’s wrestling with Booker over a little debate.”

Hearing his sister on his phone, Sebastian tried getting up to get to her, but Booker pinned him down and sat on his back, wanting to see where Zoë was going to take this.

“Pretty sure you’d be a better match for him though,” Zoë laughed at whatever Vlad had said, “I’ll let him know. Don’t worry, he’ll be there. Sounds like a perfect date! I’ll make sure he’s dressed up. Talk to you later, and take care of my brother!”

Hanging up the phone, Zoë looked over the counter and down at her brother on the floor.

“So you have dinner with Vlad tonight at black tie restaurant. He needed a date for his friend’s engagement dinner. Be ready by five. He’ll be here to pick you up.”

Sebastian bucked up, catching Booker off guard and dislodging the man off of him. Booker just sat there laughing at the blush covering his best friend’s face. Zoë just sat on the counter waving Sebastian’s phone in front of her and covering her giggles with her other hand.

Getting up, Sebastian grabbed his phone and shoved his sister’s arm. This just made her laugh harder.

“I don’t know whether to hate you or hug you right now.”

“You could never hate me. I just got you a nice little date with your lover man.”

“I don’t love him!”

“Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

“Sorry, Booker. I already got the Egypt line in before you woke up.”

“Damn.”

Sebastian shook his head. No matter what he said, those two would keep insisting that he was in love with Vlad. Which he isn’t; it’s just a little crush, that has lasted over six months, shows no signs of stopping and keeps getting bigger and bigger. Oh, he was so floating down the river without a paddle in sight.
_______________________
Rubbing her eyes, Odette reached her hand out, feeling around for her buzzing cell phone. Her head was pounding, the light streaming in from the window, much too bright even through the drawn curtains. After a few moments of blindly feeling around, she found her phone inside the pillow case. She was too tired, too hung over, to even question how it got there in the first place.

“What?”

She heard a faint chuckle on the other line.

“Now is that any way to great your dear Uncle?”

Looking around, she noticed the pain killers and water. She quickly swallowed down the pills before lying back down. Odette waited until she pulled the covers over her head before she answered her Uncle.

“When I’m hung over, then yea.”

“Out drinking with Zoë again?”

“In drinking with her again. At the apartment. Since you and Bastian were eye fucking all night,”

There was a pause in the line. Odette was almost positive that her Uncle was going to hang up on her, but then she heard him snort in indignation.

“I would not call an intellectual conversation with someone as stimulating as him, ‘eye fucking.'”

“Stimulating, huh?”

“Don’t get smart with me young lady.”

“Ha. I’m too hung over for smart,” she paused for a moment to think over what she had just said before continuing with her thoughts, “That didn’t come out right. Anyways, you want in those 21 year old pants.”:

“I’m much too old to be thinking that way of someone my niece’s age.”

“Yeah right. You’re a fit man that looks like he’s in his early thirties. Even if I don’t want to think of you in any way remotely involving your love life, I can tell that Bastian doesn’t care how old you are.”

“I’m old enough to be his father.”

“His father is about ten years older than you are.”

“Moot point.”

Odette sighed as she rolled onto her stomach.

“Uncle Vlad, you are so obviously smitten with my sexy ass gay friend and he is just as moony-eyed over your old ass. Grow a pair, man up and do something already.”

“He’s coming with me to the engagement dinner tonight.”

This woke his right up. She shifted until she was sitting with her back against the headboard.

“Official date?”

“I’m hoping that it will be.”

“It’s about damn time!”

“Yes, well I have to start getting things ready for tonight. I’ll see you later at home.”

“Bye Uncle Vlad! Don’t be knocking Bastian up the duff tonight!”

Odette hung up before her Uncle could yell at her for her language. She was positively giddy from the exited/happy energy that was flowing through her at that moment. The best cure for a hangover was good news, and this was the best news she could have heard. After months of unresolved sexual tension and flirting ping pong, her uncle finally made the first move into being with Sebastian.

There was a tiny part of her that questioned how she was so completely okay with her forty-three year old uncle being head over heels in love with one of her twenty-one year old best friends. It wasn’t something that was exactly considered normal. Whether it was the age difference, or the stigma of an older gay male being with a young, fit, gay male that was barely legal to buy alcohol, she wasn’t particularly bothered by it. If she were to really sit down and think about it, she’s more happy that her uncle finally found someone that makes him happy, and if it just so happens to be her friend, then at least she knows that they will take care of each other. What more could she want for them, than to be happy and in love?
__________________________
It was absolute chaos in the apartment as Zoë kept trying to convince her brother that he looked stunning for his date. She had been running in circles with him for the last hour, and he didn’t seem to be calming down anytime soon. Booker had snuck out of the apartment as soon as his best friend started to have an anxiety attack over what he was supposed to wear. She couldn’t wait until he got home later so she could exact her revenge on him for leaving her alone to deal with her brother’s meltdown.

“Sebastian Elliot Carter, calm yourself down this instant!”

He paused in his frantic pacing to look at his sister in frightened awe.

“You sound just like mom.”

She rolled her eyes at Sebastian’s supposed shock over that.

“And you’re freaking out worse than I did on prom night.”

Sebastian’s face contorted as if he had tasted something entirely unpleasant.

“Am not! You cried over your shoes not being the exact color of your dress! And I couldn’t even tell the difference!”

“And you’re freaking out over a tie.”

“But it’s a fancy dinner with all his older friends! What if they think I’m just some little kid?!”

“You’re a journalist in some minor publications. You have a degree in philosophy, and you work as a waiter during the mornings and afternoons to help us pay the bills. You have more than enough grownup things to talk about that should impress them.”

Finally, he slumped down onto the couch, careful to not wrinkle his suit. His plain, black tie hung undone around his neck. Zoë couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him, even if he had been getting on her nerves for the better part of the day. He was her twin after all and he was terrified of messing up his first date with the man he was in love with. As far as she knew, and she knew just about everything when it came to her brother, Vlad was his first love. It had to be terrifying for him at the moment.

“Come here you idiot.” She motioned for her brother to join her by the kitchen counter.

Sebastian heaved himself off of the couch as if it was an impossibly hard task for him to complete. Zoë once again rolled her eyes at her brother. He had to be one of the most difficult people she had ever spent prolonged time with. She hoped that he knew how lucky he was that she loved him so much, otherwise she would not have had the patience to deal with him and his long over due first date jitters.

When he stood in front of her, she wordlessly reached out and knotted his tie for him. As skilled as he was with flirting and words, Sebastian was hopeless when it came to doing his own ties. It was something that she thought Vlad would find endearing. That thought made her smile. She knew how much Vlad treasured her brother.

No matter how many times Odette or her meddled and told the two men that their feelings were reciprocated, they just didn’t want to listen. It had been tedious and frustrating. They were too caught up in their doubts of what could go wrong, that they didn’t see what was literally right in front of them, especially with how much time they had spent together for the better part of a year.

“Tonight is going to go just fine. Stop worrying over nothing. He cares about you so much.”

“I just don’t want him to realize that I’m too young for him.”

“Want to know a secret? Odette told me that Vlad’s afraid you’ll start thinking he’s too old for you.”

Sebastian cocked hi head to the side as he stared at his sister; her words sinking in.

“But I would never think that!”

“Exactly. So what makes you think that he’ll find you too young?”

“Point taken.”

A knock at their door stopped the conversation short. Looking towards the clock, the twins realized that it was just a little passed five o’clock. Zoë walked to the door to let Vlad in.

Sebastian’s breath caught in his throat as he took in Vlad’s appearance. The older man had his long, silvering hair pulled back at the nape of his neck. His broad shoulders and muscled biceps, highlighted by the cut of his suit jacket. Vlad’s long legs were made to seem to go on forever in the tailored pants. It took every ounce of self control the younger had not to walk over, grab Vlad’s tie and tug him in for a hot and desperate kiss. Doing another sweep over, Sebastian saw that Vlad must be having the exact same problem, judging by the bulge he was now sporting in his slacks.

Standing off to the side, Zoë wasn’t even sure that the two men were going to make it to the dinner before jumping one another. She could feel the tension rolling off of them in waves; it was almost tangible, as if she could reach out and touch it. The looks they were sending each other were better left to the privacy of a bedroom, and not in front of sisters in the living room. The two were perfect for each other, and she was glad that they were finally coming to their senses.

“Alright you two, go have fun! Shoo-shoo!”

Both men laughed as she made shooing motions at them towards the open door. They took the not so subtle hint and made their way out.

“Good night, Zoë. I’ll see you at the store tomorrow.

“Night sis! I’ll see you when I get home.”

“Have fun guys! And that’s if you make it home tonight, Sebby!”

Zoë laughed as she saw the blush start to rise on her brother’s neck. She just laughed harder as he flipped her off right before he closed their door. She couldn’t wait to call Odette.
_________________________
The engagement party was a dull affair compared to the parties that he had been to with his friends. He was sure that Vlad’s friends were humoring his presence there. It felt like he was being looked at and judged by his age more than they were giving him a chance. It made him feel unsure of himself, which was not something that he was used to dealing with.

Sebastian always felt confident in who he was. He knew what he wanted and he went for it. If people decided not to like him before they knew him, then it was their problem, not his. He didn’t give a damn about anything like that on any given day, but this was different to him. Vlad was different to him. He wanted whatever it was that he had with Vlad to last for a long time. He wanted Vlad’s friends to like him. The older crowd however, seemed to be less inclined to accept Sebastian as a part of Vlad’s life, and that hurt. He didn’t want this relationship to be over before it had a chance to really start.

He watched as Vlad laughed at something one of his friend’s said, and smiled. He loved Vlad’s laugh; it always seemed to set him at ease, even in unfamiliar situations. Looking up, he caught the older man’s eyes. Vlad’s answering smile could have lit up the room, and Sebastian felt his heart flutter in his rib cage. His pulse picked up when Vlad waved Sebastian over to him. Without thinking, the younger male’s feet took him over to his date’s side.

“Sebastian, I’d like you to meet the groom, Gabe Kaiser. Gabe, this is my date, Sebastian.”

Sebastian stuck his hand out to shake Gabe’s.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.”

Gabe decided that it was the perfect time to question Vlad on his young date.

“So how did you meet Sebastian here, Vlad?”

The Russian man shook his had at his friend’s lack of tact, however expected it was.

“We met at my bookstore. His sister is a regular.”

“So you guys just hit it off or something?”

Sebastian decided to speak up instead of letting Vlad answer everything for him.

“Well my sister also happens to be very good friend’s with Vlad’s niece. With Zoë and I always hanging around, we were bound to start talking sooner or later.”

“Of course. Didn’t know Vlad here had it in him to pick someone so young.”

Gabe let out a little chuckle at his friend’s expense. Vlad felt Sebastian tense at Gabe’s teasing. He laid a soothing hand on Sebastian’s waist.

“Don’t listen to Gabe. He means no harm; he’s just lacking in the intelligence department. Lord knows how his soon-to-be wife deals with him.”

“I take offense to that!”

Gabe looked mock affronted at Vlad’s teasing jab at his intellect, before laughing again. Vlad just rolled his eyes. Sebastian guessed that was something Vlad did regularly around Gabe.

“Sebastian, disregard anything that this idiot says about your age. His fiancée is a twenty-four year old grad student. He’s turning fifty next month.”

“Jeez, you make it sound like a bad thing, there Vlad,” Gabe joked, then turned to face Sebastian, “Seriously though, don’t take it to heart. I have nothing against your age; I just didn’t think Vlad had it in him to actual ask you out. He’s been pining like a middle school girl with her first crush for the last six-something months.”

Sebastian couldn’t help but to laugh at the light pink dusting the normally put together bookstore owner’s face. He only laughed harder when Vlad scowled at his friend, not finding Gabe’s revelation as amusing as Sebastian did. The younger stepped in front of his date, looking the older man in the eyes.

“Six months, huh? That’s a long time,” Sebastian just grinned as Vlad’s blush started to get darker, “Want to hear a confession? I’ve wanted you to ask me out since the first time Odette introduced us.”

Vlad looked at Sebastian, surprise lighting up his features. It wasn’t an unwelcome surprise either. Taking the younger’s hand, Vlad excused them from the conversation before leading them to a more secluded area of the rental hall.

Curious, Sebastian was going to question Vlad, but he didn’t get the chance before lips were on his. His surprise only lasted for a second before he was kissing Vlad back. It wasn’t exactly like any of the numerous fantasies he’s had about their first kiss, but the feelings that Vlad ignited in him were better than anything he could have imagined. The older man had a very skilled tongue that left Sebastian breathless, and holding onto Vlad’s arms for support when they finally broke apart.

Zoë was going to have a field day with him tomorrow, but as they left the hall, Sebastian didn’t really care. He knew that sex wasn’t on the table for that night; they had too much to talk about first. That didn’t mean that they couldn’t have just as much fun making out like high school students, before turning in for the night. If he just so happened to not make it home that night, well that was really no one else’s business. Odette, Zoë and Booker would interrogate the two of them the next day, and they would be told the truth. It wasn’t easy to lie to them, and this was something that he couldn’t wait to share with them.

“Guess I’m not in Egypt anymore.”

Vlad looked at him quizzically.

“Egypt?”

“Just something that Zoë said to me earlier.”

“I will never understand your sister.”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t think she even understands half of what she says the majority of the time.”

Sebastian cut off whatever Vlad was going to say with another kiss. He hoped it would be enough to keep Vlad from questioning him about Zoë. Some things were better left for another story. Tonight was just about their story; their beginning as more than friends.

Contributor~ Amanda Zober

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