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On a short list ranking the dingiest dive bars or taverns in the city of Seattle, the Revenge Tavern wouldn’t be the worst, but it would certainly be on the list. Within walking distance of King Street Station, the tavern was sandwiched in the center of Pioneer Square, a district where many a techbro and hipster would take public transit to on Friday and Saturday nights to play-act living paycheck to paycheck, while the working poor filled their glasses with micro-brews and served them deconstructed burgers that were, in reality, just cheap steak tartare, wheat toast, and bamboo shoots.

The Emerald City was unlike most other metropolises in the country; other cities looked as if God themselves had slammed their hand down upon the land, flattening it, and smashed high-rise after high-rise into the dirt like a toddler mashing their Legos into their Play-Doh. Seattle, like Rome, was built upon seven hills and—as Rome fell—in the approximately 170 years since its founding, had sank almost 2 floors into the mud. Despite the near-constant odor of weed, piss, and bus exhaust, the city itself was beautiful; shiny office buildings abutted old growth from the Gilded Age, the dichotomy of the architecture almost its own tourist trap (though most tourists still came for the market or the Space Needle). Douglas firs and western hemlocks stood in defiance to the new construction in the less traveled neighborhoods, reminders that nature had existed since time immemorial and would do so long after humanity had faded.

Edward Teach had stumbled into the city by happenstance some fifteen years ago in an attempt to escape a long story with too many fucked up bullet points and had never left. The sea air agreed with him, and the overcast provided a welcome change to the blistering sun of New Zealand. He tended to go on walks when he needed time to himself, and Seattle was the perfect walking city; by the time his mind cleared, his lungs would be ready to give out on him from hiking up hill after ridiculously steep hill.

He had called last call some 20 minutes ago, and the final group of what he only assumed were Amazon employees had finally stumbled out into the cool summer night. Thursdays weren’t usually that busy, but new layoffs at all the major tech companies had resulted in many a teary-eyed person drowning their sorrows in whatever liquor they could get their hands on. Ed would sympathize with them if their former employers hadn’t caused the rent to skyrocket as they had.

The tavern’s walls were plastered with poster after poster of local bands, and at the front of the space, a giant red cursive R for the hometown favorite Rainier Beer (an affectionately sarcastic name, due to the beer tasting like it had only ever been in a room with hops for about 20 minutes before being canned and shipped). Scale models of hydroplanes from Seafairs past hung from the ceiling, interspersed with the tacky pirate decor the regulars had sourced from Torchlight Parades past. The tavern was Seattle concentrate, and Ed loved every square inch of the musty, sticky place. He had come into possession of the bar after the previous owner, a bastard named Hornigold, keeled over, and Ed had moved into the apartment above it. It was his home.

“Ed?” Izzy called out, standing by one of the small booths in the back corner of the room. “We’ve got a Rip Van Winkle over here.”

Izzy Hands was a short man, roughly his age, with a salt-and-pepper goatee and a mean streak in him. Despite being on the shorter side, Ed had no need for a bouncer with Izzy around; he had seen the man knock multiple linebackers on their asses in the decade he had worked at the tavern, and he could drink nearly anyone under the table and still work the bar with ease.

Ed walked over to where Izzy stood and looked down into the booth. A man laid curled up on one side, his golden hair fanned across his closed eyes. He was dressed in a fine navy blue suit, now crumpled from laying there so long, and the table was littered in glass tumblers full of half-melted ice. The man’s chest rose and fell rhythmically; he was asleep.

“What’d he have?” Ed asked, hands on his hips.

“Captain and Coke’s, mostly.” Izzy replied. “The last few were Shirley Temples and he never noticed.”

Ed chuckled. “Right, then. Come on, mate!” Ed grabbed the blond man’s arm and gently shook it. “Up ya get. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

The blond slurred something and wrenched his arm free from Ed’s grasp.

“Come again?” Ed asked.

“Izzedd,” the blond slurred, “go suck eggs in Hell.” The man rolled onto his other side and covered his face, trying to fall back asleep.

Ed and Izzy shared a look and bit back their laughter. “I’ll just dump him outside and close up shop.” Izzy said, grabbing the blond’s arm. “You can go, Ed.”

“Nah, let’s just drop him on my couch.” Ed said, grabbing the man’s other arm and heaving him to his feet. “He’s too pretty to be any real trouble, and I’m not worried about any man who tells me to ‘suck eggs in Hell’.”

“You’re gonna be a wet nurse for a man you just met?” Izzy asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Ed rolled his eyes. “I’m not a fuckin’ wet nurse, Iz. I’m not gonna call the cops on a drunk, and the only cars available right now are those fuckin’ rideshare ones. I’ll let him sleep it off and ban him in the morning when he’s sobered up.” The shorter man shook his head but said nothing, and the three men stumbled toward the narrow staircase that led to Ed’s apartment.
Ed closed the door to the staircase after bidding Izzy goodnight, and padded into his kitchenette. He grabbed two glasses from the cabinet and filled them with water from the tap, then walked back over to the family space and placed a glass on the coffee table in front of the couch, directly in front of the drunk man. He eased himself into the well-loved recliner near the couch and sipped from his own glass, his eyes on the man in front of him.

He was handsome even when shitfaced, a trait that Ed hadn’t often come across. A light flush laid across the man’s cheeks and nose, and his lips were parted and slightly squished resting against his palm. His hair was feathered and fine, and Ed almost felt a need to run his hand through it. From here, Ed could see his suit jacket was lined with a powder blue silk, and his tie poked out from the inner pocket, a crumpled mess.

The man inhaled deeply, waking up, and pushed himself upright. He squinted around the dimly lit room, eyes unfocused, and tried but failed to take his suit jacket off.

“Here, mate,” Ed said, placing his glass on the coffee table and rising from his chair. “Lemme help you.” Ed pushed the jacket down the drunk man’s shoulders and slipped his arms out of the sleeves, folding it and draping over the back of the couch. The blond watched Ed as the bearded man knelt and slipped his dress shoes from his feet, his vision clearing. Ed tossed the shoes under the coffee table, then turned back to face the blond.

The blond’s lips were moving against his before Ed had registered what was going on. He could taste the rum and cherries on his tongue, and the man grasped at the back of his neck, his fingers warm and soft and gentle. Ed’s nose was flooded with the scent of the alcohol and lavender, exquisitely smokey and light. There was desperation in the blond’s movements, his fingers tightening in Ed’s long hair and holding Ed to him.

It had been years since someone had touched Ed like this. He had fucked plenty of people, sure, but their touch felt hollow; Ed was a means to an end for them. Most lovers were rough with him, too-tight grip in his beard and hair, and Ed had just become accustomed to it. He knew he gave off the vibe of someone who only enjoyed it rough (the tattoos, piercings, and mostly leather wardrobe spoke for themselves), but the man sometimes wanted to just have slow, passionate sex that didn’t make him worry he was going to deal with traction alopecia in the coming months.

The blond turned and laid back, pulling Ed on top of him. It was good—God, better than just “good”, but that’s all Ed’s brain could muster right now—and the other man moaned against him. He finally let go of Ed’s hair and moved his hands to Ed’s waistband, fumbling with his belt. A part of Ed’s brain, larger than he’d care to admit, roared for more, but Ed knew better.

“Whoa, wait a minute,” Ed said, breaking the kiss and quickly getting up, “we’re not doing this. Not right now.”

“Please…” the man murmured as he sat up, his hand returning to Ed’s waistband, hazel eyes glittering, “you’re so beautiful… I want to…”

Ed carefully removed the blond’s hand from his waistband and laid it across the man’s chest. “We aren’t doing anything until you’re sober, mate. Get some sleep.” The man grumbled something in response, but laid back down and drifted quickly off to sleep.

Ed ran a hand through his hair and sighed a quiet “fuck me” to himself. Maybe Izzy had been right; leaving the drunk outside would’ve avoided being given blue balls by a man who was in no state for sex. Then again, leaving him outside would’ve put him at risk of being taken advantage of by some other dickhead, which would’ve made Ed feel like a complete asshole, and Ed couldn’t have that on his conscience.

The bearded man moved quietly down the hall and into the only bathroom, flipping the light on and closing the door behind him. He stared at his reflection in the small medicine cabinet mirror. His eye bags had gotten worse in the past few years, and his age showed in the growing amount of grey hairs on his face and head. His tawny skin had dulled slightly in the decade and a half he had been in the Pacific Northwest, and his face was permanently creased with frown lines. The only thing that hadn’t aged were his eyes.

Izzy had half-joked one night after a few drinks that Ed’s eyes sparkled. Ed had told him to fuck off and shoved his shoulder that night (he had never known how to take compliments well), but when he sobered up the next morning, he caught himself in the mirror. They were a rich, deep brown with the tiniest honey-colored flecks in them, and by God, they did actually sparkle a bit.

Ed tied his hair up into a messy bun—wash day wasn’t until tomorrow—and turned on the shower. Once he had stripped down, he stepped into the small stall, not caring if the water was warm enough or not. He scrubbed down slowly, biding his time and trying in vain to will his boner away. After a few minutes of standing under the scalding water and trying to focus on something, anything else that wasn’t the man dead to the world on his couch, he swore under his breath and took hold of his cock. He shut his eyes and let his mind wander wherever it wanted to go, reminding himself it was just to jerk off and that it’d mean nothing come morning.

The man would step into the shower with him and press him against the cool tile, those beautifully soft fingers kneading into his neck and back as he kissed him. Ed would groan against his lips, low and needy, and the man would wordlessly drop to his knees and take Ed into his mouth, never breaking eye contact. Once he was satisfied with how hard Ed was, they’d dry off quickly and move to Ed’s bed, a creaky mattress with a nest of blankets and two nearly flat pillows. The man would roll the condom onto Ed, his lips pressing warm, wet kisses to the bearded man’s chest and neck.

The blond would grab the lube from Ed’s beside table and prepare himself, sighing Ed’s name over and over as he worked himself open, that delicate pink flush spreading down his neck and chest, and it would take everything in Ed’s power to not cum from the sight of it. The blond man would lay back against the mattress, his hair fanning out in a near perfect halo around his head. Ed would pour a few drops of lube onto his cock and stroke himself a few times, then slowly ease into the man, his teeth digging into his lip to keep from moaning. God, the way the man would writhe under him would haunt Ed, but he couldn’t stop now.

The mattress beneath the pair would creak as Ed set the pace, and they’d both laugh breathlessly in spite of the circumstances (Ed had always said that if you can’t laugh while fucking someone, you’re likely fucking the wrong people). The man would throw an arm over his eyes, whimpering and panting, his free hand twisting into the bedsheets. “Look at me.” Ed would demand as he pushed the man’s knees to his chest, and the man would, eyes hazy and pupils blown wide but focused on him, only him—

Ed came hard, biting back a moan from behind his fist. He let his forehead rest against the cool tile as he came down from his high, heartbeat thudding in his ears. A part of him was surprised his bathroom drains hadn’t failed yet from the amount of shower wanks he had had over the years, but he chalked it up to the soap and hot water breaking down most of the mess before it would likely become a problem.

Once he felt clean again, he turned the shower off and stepped out, grabbing the single purple towel that hung from the rack and quickly drying himself. He brushed his teeth and let his hair out from the bun, then silently stepped out of the bathroom with the towel riding low on his hims, flipping the light off. He peeked down the hallway at the sleeping form on the couch and smiled to himself, then padded to his bedroom and shut the door.