“One drink.” Eli grabbed his fedora, glaring at Geoff vehemently. “One drink and then I’m going home.”
Grinning wickedly, Geoff grabbed Eli’s wrist and dragged him outside, where the other three guys were waiting for them by the car.
“He said yes!” Geoff yelled victoriously, pushing Eli towards the car. Stumbling, Eli would have fallen if not for the arms that caught and steadied him. He looked up and saw Tony regarding him with an amused expression. Quickly scurrying backwards, Eli mouthed an apology to Tony, who simply shrugged it off.
“I said I’ll stay for one drink,” Eli clarified, clambering into the car after the others. Layne and Geoff exchanged knowing looks from the front seats, as if they knew better. Eli huffed, slumping into the seat tiredly. Tony sat between him and Earl, the three of them squished into the backseat like sardines in a can. Layne turned up the radio, humming along to the music cheerfully as he drove. Staring out the window at the buildings passing by, Eli ignored the light chatter between Geoff and Earl.
“Bad day?” Tony asked.
“Understatement,” Eli replied, removing his glasses to rub at his eyes. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Tony just made a noise of understanding, thankfully dropping the subject. The collar of his red dress shirt wasn’t folded correctly, and Eli had to fight the urge to fix it for him. Instead, he turned back towards the window, pretending not to notice the sharp green eyes watching him carefully.
The neon lights of the city blurred by, and Eli watched them with disinterest. He wanted nothing more than to be at home mindlessly watching some movie and loafing on the couch. Anything would be better than getting packed along with the rest of Geoff’s prisoners and shipped off to whatever pseudo club Geoff had in mind.
“We’re here! Everyone get your sexy asses out of the car,” Geoff announced, parking the car with a jolt. As everyone unbuckled and exited the vehicle in an orderly fashion, Eli found that there was a small part of him that was actually looking forward to spending the evening with his friends.
“I can be the designated driver, I don’t plan on drinking tonight.” Tony spoke up unexpectedly, his eyes decidedly not meeting anyone’s gaze.
Earl raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. Layne shot Tony a knowing look, which he responded to with a blush and a glance at the ground. Tony made a beeline for the club with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his black jeans, playfully knocking into Layne’s shoulder as he walked by.
“Well, that’s his problem. I plan on getting wasted,” Geoff said. They all followed Tony into the club, smoothing their hair and straightening their clothing as various people in the club caught their eyes.
“Eli, can you grab us a booth?” Earl suggested, pushing Geoff’s face away when he tried to shove himself between them. Eli nodded, smiling appreciatively as Earl ushered Geoff towards the bar, making a shooing motion to Eli.
Sliding into a booth big enough for the five of them, Eli observed the club from his own little corner of solitude.
Colourful lights flashed sharply, saturated blue and purple hues swimming across the shiny wooden floors. The bar itself was tucked away in the far corner across from the booths, and Eli could just make out the familiar outlines of his friends through the heavy throng of people writhing on the dance floor. Earl was ordering drinks, while Tony and Layne attempted to stop Geoff from hitting on every other person he saw. He was currently vying for a tall brunette dressed in crimson, who was showing absolutely zero interest in him, until Earl procured their drinks and signalled for Layne and Tony to each grab one of Geoff’s arms and relocate him to the booth.
“If you’re only having one drink, you might as well make it count,” Earl said, placing a glass filled to the brim in front of Eli. He reluctantly picked it up and took a sip, resolving to keep true to his promise and make the one drink last him all night.
Only Tony didn’t have alcohol in his glass, contentedly nursing water while the rest of the guys brandished a variety of strong drinks of all shapes and sizes. Earl and Geoff lead the conversation, with Eli and Layne commenting every so often as they saw fit. Tony seemed happy enough to listen, laughing along and reacting appropriately, but also keeping count of how many drinks each of them had.
As tired and miserable as he had been, Eli had to admit that he was having a good time. No one was being particularly rowdy, and these were four of his best friends, so he let himself relax and enjoy his drink a bit more.
Halfway through a truly rousing tale being spun by Geoff, Tony perked up and smiled in the direction of the dance floor.
“Guys, let’s go dance!” Tony said, gesturing to the mass of bodies shifting and swaying under the swirling lights. “I love this song!”
Eli shrugged and slipped out of the booth after Tony, glancing behind him to see that the other three were following suit. They squeezed their way into the crowd, but when Eli looked back once more he found that he had lost sight of the others. It was a lost cause to try and see over the heads of the people surrounding him, and he wasn’t sure the others were coherent enough to find him on their own.
Before he could try and worm his way back to the booth, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Twisting around, he sighed in relief when he saw that it was Tony, a comfortable smile on his face and an air of confidence making him seem taller, eyes darker, face ruggedly handsome against the swirls of coloured lights painting his jaw.
Eli blinked. In any other instance he would have blamed such a thought on the booze, but he had purposefully only had one, and it was still waiting half-full on the table they had abandoned.
Tony offered his hand to Eli, mischief flashing in his eyes. Eli narrowed his eyes jokingly but took it anyways, not wanting to say no when they had this rare moment to themselves.
Well, mostly to themselves. Eli didn't think that the wall of people encircling them were paying any attention, nor would they care about anything that wasn’t alcohol or a warm body.
“We should find the guys.” Eli had to shout to be heard over the din, but Tony just shook his head and pulled him closer.
“We can find them later, for now you’re mine,” Tony all but growled, winking at Eli with a devilish grin. Feeling his face burn a bright pink, Eli just stuttered out some incoherent reply and let Tony lead him in a quick-step that was far too complex for a sleazy night club.
The points of contact where Tony’s fingers clasped Eli’s hand felt like ice, like wherever Tony touched there would be frost blooming over his skin, chills washing over Eli despite the heat radiating from the sheer number of people in the room. It was intoxicating, messing with his head more than the alcohol ever could.
A few seconds of silence broke the noise as the songs switched, and Eli took the opportunity to scan the crowd for the others once more. His heart skipped a beat when Tony’s hand grasped his chin gently but firmly, redirecting his gaze back to the piercing eyes that were trained on him possessively. The seconds drew out, the odd quietness extending longer than it reasonably should have, giving Eli time to just look at Tony.
It was more than just the immaculately styled black hair, the button-up that was a fraction too tight, the green eyes that were more precious than jade. No, Eli realized that it was a feeling of affection lodged deep in his chest, one that had been there for too long without acknowledgment. Tony was staring right back at him with the same expression of adoration, a gentleness in his features that Eli was certain he wouldn’t be able to find in anybody else.
Music washed over them in the next instant, drawing both of them out of their shared reverie. The song was peppy, bordering on bubble-gum pop, and Eli yanked Tony towards him with a delighted smile. Tony stumbled forwards, quickly regaining his balance and delicately placing a hand on Eli’s waist as they moved together. It was far from romantic, as they were still just dancing at a hole-in-the-wall club where people went to get drunk and get laid, but for Eli he was okay with anything as long as Tony was next to him.
Neither spoke, knowing that the words would get lost in the din, yet their feelings were clear. It had been a calculated risk on Tony’s part, one that Eli had wanted but didn’t realize he needed. Maybe fate, maybe destiny, maybe pure coincidence, but somehow they were together right then and there, and it was enough.
Eli shivered from the icy touch of Tony’s hand against his waist as they continued to dance, savouring the cold that stung like tiny snowflakes peppering his skin. Suddenly, Tony took a step back, concern evident in his expression. The song ended and another beat of silence sobered the club momentarily, just long enough for Tony to remove his hand from where it rested on Eli’s hip and raise his voice to be heard.
“I’m sorry, are you okay?” Tony searched Eli’s face anxiously, the commanding façade gone. “I should have asked first, I get it if this isn’t what you want. We can stop.”
Tony didn’t move when the music started up again, this time a fast-paced song that sounded the way lime cordial tasted. Distantly, Eli wondered how such an intelligent man could be so dense. He had to admit, it was endearing seeing Tony being nervous out of consideration for his own feelings, but he didn’t want to waste the night on second thoughts and regret.
Rising onto his tip-toes, Eli leaned in, close enough to Tony’s rose-dusted face to whisper in his ear.
“Shut up and dance with me.”