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It Started Out Badly

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“I don’t know Sypha,” Adrian said. “I’ve heard things about him and believe me, they are uh, interesting.”

His best friend leaned across the cafeteria table and grinned, blue eyes sparkling. “He’s hot Adrian. Unless you’ve heard that he’s a total asshole, as far as I am concerned, it’s alllll good.”

Adrian rolled his eyes, “Not everything is about muscles and dick you know.” When Sypha arched her brow, he had the grace to flush. “Okay, I have been known to enjoy viewing those things too, but that’s why I haven’t… you know! I want them attached to someone I can actually respect.”

Sypha wiggled her blonde brows and looked at him, “He’s tall, he’s hairy and he has a cool scar on his face. He even has a cool accent! Addy, he’s totally your type. Hell, he’s my type! In fact, fuck it, never mind, I am making a pass at him!”

Adrian clucked, “Well I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that so by all means.” But he was curious, “How tall?” Adrian was used to being the tallest one in the room and while he didn’t mind per say, sometimes it would nice not to stoop. Wearing his gorgeous boot collection had been impossible with any of the people he’d dated.

Slyly, Sypha picked up her bean and avocado burrito, tossed her hair and nudged her nose in the direction of the door behind him.

“Take a look for yourself,” she said smugly. Carefully, Adrian casually reached behind him and unhooked his messenger bag from the chair. Rummaging around in it, he nonchalantly looked up toward the door. He froze. Piercing blue eyes met Adrian’s golden ones and he felt a little thrill. The man standing in the door, and looking right at him, was hot. He was tall. And if Adrian wasn’t mistaken, he just reeked of asshole.

'The Belmont,' the other students in his drawing class had called him. It seemed to fit, as the man somehow dripped arrogance and a complete air of ‘I don’t give a shit.’ Adrian wasn’t sure how he did that; one suggested pride, and the other suggested utter indifference. The Belmont really didn’t fit into the tiny artist’s college. Everyone here cultivated their image carefully and this man clearly hadn’t looked in a mirror in a while.

Unshaved in at least a week, and probably unwashed for the same amount of time, it only added to the overall impression of bad boy. Unless Adrian was completely off his guess, he’d cut his brown hair with dull scissors and no mirror. It was annoying, because somehow it looked rugged and dangerous instead of hilarious.

If I tried to do that, I would have to leave town forever, he thought. Sure enough, Belmont had a faded, puckered scar over one eye that looked menacing, and completely lick-able. Whatever, you’re just weak for scars, he thought. Yeah, I am, they are so competent and real and I… stop it.

Scuffed, ancient boots that might have been tan at some point, with low-slung cargo pants tucked into them. Poorly sewn and mis-matched plaid patches replaced blown out knees. How did he make one of those cowboy rodeo shirts look good? He should look ridiculous. It was unbuttoned at the collar, and rolled up to his elbows.

Sypha was right, he was hairy, and it was gorgeous.

He was tanned, even though it was late spring, and Adrian wondered if he used a tanning bed. He discarded the idea as hilarious. This man couldn’t be bothered to wash, why would he tan?

Belmont had a three-tiered wallet chain that looked like it might kill someone if he used it. It was hanging off a leather belt so weathered and worn that it looked like it was clinging to his hips by prayer alone. Bizarrely, there were some intricate crosses dangling from it and the painter was pretty sure this man would burst into flames if he ever stepped into the campus chapel.

Adrian felt his mouth water and resisted it. He didn’t like assholes, and besides, it was clear Sypha liked him. He wouldn’t cockblock his bestie, never going to happen. Abruptly, he realized he was still staring and broke the glance. Turning back to Sypha, he said, “He looks like an asshole.”

“Yeah, right Adrian. You held your breath, don't think I didn't notice. More like you want him to fuck your as—” Sypha abruptly broke off, and her eyes widened.

Adrian could smell something nutty and slightly like a bakery. Actually, it sort of smelled like malted barley, something he was only familiar with because he’d designed the logo for a friend’s start-up brewery. He’d gotten a tour of the tiny set-up and a case of their IPA as thanks.

“What’s your name?” Came the low, rough voice. Sypha was looking behind him, and Adrian tensed.

Oh shit, it’s him, Adrian thought and realized he was holding his breath again. That was annoying, there was no reason to be like this for an unwashed cowboy. Gangster. Person. Thing.

He started to turn, and Belmont leaned over him to steal one of his French Onion Sunchips. Adrian was a little slow to react, because that great smell was overpowering now. It was edged in something like melting iron and leather. Wait, is he taking my chips?! What the fuck?!

“Hey! Those are mine!” Adrian said, and slapped the offending hand. The chip remained in the man’s hand and completed it’s journey up to lips that curved into a sardonic line. Adrian followed it all the way up, eyes outraged and lips parted.

“It was yours,” the uncouth man said smugly, “now it’s mine. Well, unless you want to come retrieve it?” The Belmont suggested with an edge of sensuality as he popped it into his mouth and puckered in a slight kiss.

Really? You are going to steal my food and then mock me?  Adrian thought with irritation.

“Listen, I don’t know who you think you are, but you—” Unbelievably, that tanned hand reached out again for his chips. “Seriously, stop!” Adrian growled, temper spiking. He wrapped one hand around that tanned wrist and squeezed.

People made the mistake of thinking he was a wimp because he was tall, slender and pretty. In high school he’d been cast as a woman twice in drama class. Those who decided to pick on him usually regretted it. Adrian never sought out conflict, but when it came to his door, he finished it.

The wrist flexed and moved slightly, as if testing his strength. Believe me, you don’t want to try it, Adrian thought. When Belmont stilled, he cautiously released him.

“Adrian, this is Trevor Bel—” Sypha started and quick as a snake, the Belmont snagged three chips from his plate. Adrian surged up and whirled, eyes blazing and his long blonde hair whipping out. Long and lean in his black, spiderweb leggings, black knee-high platform boots polished until they gleamed and loose black wrap tunic ironed and pressed just so, Adrian was pleased to discover he was still taller than Trevor. Maybe not as much as he would have liked, but enough to count. The man had no common sense whatsoever. He didn’t even look alarmed! He just stood, slouched to one side and munching on Adrian’s favorite chips.

“You will cease now, or I will…” Adrian hissed at him.

“No, you won’t,” Trevor said and smiled, “You don’t want to do that, and mess up that pretty hair. Trust me.”

“Listen, guys, I think you should just—” Sypha stood slowly and came around the corner of the table.

“Listen babe, you know I dig you, but I think your goth boyfriend and I need to work this out,” the Belmont drawled and Adrian was just done. Sypha was not Belmont’s babe and he was not a goth.

“Her name is Sypha,” Adrian hissed and barreled into Trevor. It was enormously satisfying to see the man’s eyes widen in surprise, but the realization he’d miscalculated came quickly after. Belmont was a lot sturdier than he looked and he didn’t go down.

So some of the stories might be true, he thought, and decided not to hold back. Just in case. He kicked at Belmont’s ankle and jabbed at his throat.

The man was fast, countering with his knee to block the kick and retorting with an elbow to Adrian’s chest. Pain bloomed in Adrian’s ribs but it just pissed him off. He landed a solid punch on a jaw that felt like granite and felt intense pleasure when blood leaked out of Trevor’s mouth. Dimly, he heard Sypha shouting and the general chaos of the cafeteria. Belatedly he remembered where they were.

I don’t want to be suspended for this piece of shit, Adrian thought and started to ease back. Then Belmont grabbed his hair and yanked hard enough that he saw stars and his teeth clacked.

“Really Belmont? Have you no pride? This isn’t an underground fight club,” he said, “have some dignity.” He was pleased to see a snarl of offense finally come over Trevor’s face.

So that was true, he thought, interesting.

“Be grateful it isn’t,” Belmont snarled, “or I wouldn’t hold back from smashing your face, pretty boy.”

Eyes narrowed; Adrian threw his good intentions to the wind. He wound his leg around Belmont’s and tripped him. They fell together and Adrian straddled his hips, one knee pinning Trevor’s arm, pushing one palm against his throat, and using his other hand to hold down Trevor’s remaining arm. He sat firmly, and pressed hard on the tanned throat under his palm.

“Apologize to Sypha!” Adrian commanded and Trevor’s brows shot up.

“Fuck you, Legs,” Trevor drawled, “I don’t apologize. Ever.” Adrian pressed harder, and Trevor’s breathing became labored. Trevor laughed, a short, cough of a thing, and Adrian felt something tickling his ribs. He looked down and Trevor had a small blade in his hand, pressed gently up against his ribs. It hooked around his thumb and speared out of his fist like a breaching shark. Adrian met his eyes.

“You are a fucking disgrace,” the blonde hissed to Trevor, and eased off of him. He stood up and gave Belmont his back, the ultimate show of his distain. Turning to Sypha and the crowd, he saw shock, fascination, excitement and horror. Sypha’s grin was completely inappropriate, and he couldn’t figure out why she was so happy.

With a sinking heart, he saw the blue uniforms of campus security hustling through the gathered crowd.That motherfucker has probably gotten me expelled, he thought.

Sypha turned to the crowd, stood on the table and cried, “Performance art in a flash mob! Thank you for joining us in the moment! Please, give a round of applause to our actors!”

Startled, Adrian looked at her and felt a sense of disbelief. There seemed to be a click in the crowd though and he saw acceptance and amusement ripple over the faces of those present. Trevor moved behind him. A moment later, a calloused, hot hand took his and he smelled sweat, a bakery and hot metal. “We’d best play along and bow, don’t you think?” the Belmont murmured to him.

“Get your hands off me!” Adrian hissed but it was too late, Trevor was already starting to bow. Irritated, but not wanting to blow this chance to not get reprimanded, he bowed too. People clapped and cheered and when he stood up, several of his classmates came over to clap him on his back and tell him how terrifying he was. By the time he turned back to Sypha, he’d calmed down enough to wonder what just happened to him. He never lost his temper like that but it was like Belmont had known exactly how to piss him off.

Speak of the Devil, he thought sourly, noting that the man had sat down beside Sypha, and was eating her whole wheat bun. What a fucking leech. They were laughing, and Adrian gritted his teeth. He didn’t have another class for twenty more minutes but he was seriously considering leaving for it early.

Taking a deep breath, he walked slowly back to the table. Sypha looked up at him and smiled. “So that was an introduction. Now that you two have got it out of your systems, can we actually finish the introductions?"

“This is Trevor Asshole Belmont, of those Belmonts, but unsurprising to everyone present, he delights in the poor history of his family. Disowned by the few remaining, he’s a nobody now. A scrubby underground fighter who paid his way to get in here by bleeding out his opponents. Apparently he decided one day that he was ‘an artist,’" Adrian used air quotations and heavy sarcasm to show what he thought of that, "because fraudulently producing the works of true talent wasn’t enough for the Belmonts!” Adrian scoffed. “I’ve also heard that he’s a pie-fucker, so there is that too.”

Sypha’s face was horrified and Trevor’s easy smile had dropped into flashing eyes and a furious sneer. Muscular threat, he stood.

“And you are Alucard Tepes, of those Tepes,” Belmont tossed back through gritted teeth, “who couldn’t cut it in his Daddy’s empire, so he ran away to trace flowers and write shitty poems. Who doesn’t have a job because he wouldn’t know how to actually work a day in his bloody life. A nobody because he’s pathetically entitled and talentless. Apparently, he thinks he can define what makes someone an ‘artist,’ probably because the only art he understands is what the gallery owners sell to him. Oops, sorry, Daddy buys it for you, doesn’t he?”

Sypha moaned unhappily, and put her head in her hands.

Adrian’s temper was a formidable thing and it was screaming at him right now. He took a step forward, fists clenched and said, “All you have is insults, nothing else!”

Belmont growled at him. Sypha stood quickly, and put a hand on Trevor’s chest. Belmont looked down at her and Adrian saw it. The glint of interest, the warmth and affection. Fucking hell, the man liked her back. The impudent, infuriating, rude, crass, vulgar piece of shit liked Sypha and now Adrian was fucked. There would be no escaping this horrible person. He was royally screwed by this whole situation, and he just couldn’t handle it anymore.

“Trevor, please stop, let’s not do this,” Sypha pleaded, and Adrian grabbed his bag, abandoning his lunch.

“Wait, Adrian, just—!” Sypha started to turn to him but Adrian didn’t stop, and his long legs carried him out of the lunchroom. Once he knew they couldn’t see him, he ran.


Keep it all in place
Work your way
Right into my case

First you try to bed me
You make my backbone slide
But when you found you bled me
Skip on by, keep on

Stroke me, stroke me
Give me the business all night long

-"The Stroke," Billy Squier