There was a boy reading at the end of the bar. "Boy" was probably an exaggeration; he looked young, certainly, but he was old enough to order a drink and read his book without anyone bothering him. He had a distinct profile: a prominent nose and full mouth, and eyes, when he looked up, that were wide, bright, and lively.
It wasn't unusual for people to read in bars, as this was a college town, and people were always studying anywhere they could find a place to sit. The Granby was a well-lit gay bar modeled after a traditional English pub, not too noisy even with the jukebox playing, and most nights there'd be a few students studying alone or couples holding hands while they quizzed each other on biology or American history.
There shouldn't be any more students around, though. The term was over and everyone should have gone home. What this boy was doing here was a mystery.
J.T. Fogarty could not keep his eyes off the boy, as much he tried. He wasn't the only one: the boy had been approached by three other men as J.T. watched, but had sent all three away--gently, with that amazing smile, so that none of them left looking angry or dejected.
As he watched, the boy looked up again and gave the bar a sweeping glance, and the boy's eyes landed on him. J.T. meant to look away but couldn't, and for a moment too long they only stared at each other.
The boy smiled. It was beautiful.
J.T. looked away. He picked up his drink and moved to a booth, where he could watch the parade of humanity--most of them known to him, this town was too small and he'd lived here too long for many surprises in the gay community--and drink in peace, and not think about mysterious boys and their reading. If he were younger, J.T. thought, if he were someone other than this scruffy, tired, hollow-eyed fellow in a raincoat, he'd smile back, maybe even try to talk to the boy himself.
But he wasn't: he was older by twenty years or more than the students, and he'd never been considered particularly handsome, and most nights he left the Granby on his own. And even when he didn't it was just a way of ignoring the obvious, and in the morning he was still alone.
He doubted he would be good company to anyone tonight, anyway. Dilys Tate Bly, his cousin and sometime employer, had requested a favor from him, and doing favors for Dilys never left him in a good mood. Today it was persuading Sophie Travers Tate, wife of city councilman Philip Tate, to end her affair so Philip wasn't disgraced by a divorce before the election. If Dilys wanted her cousin to divorce Sophie after the election, he would. Dilys always got what she wanted.
Today it was breaking a woman's heart. Tomorrow it would be persuading another cousin to marry the girl he'd knocked up, next week it would be convincing a potential blackmailer that he really ought to choose another family to profit from, and on and on it would go. The Tates were passionate but foolish as a tribe, but Dilys made sure their faults were not made public and J.T. did the cleaning up. This was the cost of family loyalty.
He'd stopped watching the people around him as he mulled over his day, but looked up when someone paused in front of him. It was the boy, his thick textbook held against his hip. He was even more handsome up close, his ruddy cheeks darkened with end-of-the-day stubble, his jeans and white T-shirt looking temptingly soft. J.T. felt his breath escape him. Sometimes beauty was too much to bear.
The boy smiled again, just as brightly as before. "I'm sorry. I'm sure you want to be alone, but I wanted to say hello. I--I know who you are."
"Oh," J.T. said, disappointed. So it had been only working up the courage to speak to his landlord that had made the boy hesitate. "You must live in one of my buildings. What is it? You want an extension on your rent? Your secret puppy dog was found by the manager and you've come to plead your case? Your heat doesn't work? Though in this weather I'd be more concerned with your air conditioning."
The boy tilted his head ever so slightly. "No. I don't live in one of your buildings. I wasn't aware you owned any buildings. You are John Fogarty, aren't you?" His voice was pleasant and soft, burring a little over the Rs.
"J.T. Fogarty, yes. You're not from around here, are you?" J.T. said.
"I was born here. I lived here when I was small. May I sit with you?" He sat before J.T. could respond, taking his satchel from his shoulder and setting the textbook carefully to the side.
"And now that you're no longer small you're back home." J.T. said, "Studying..." he turned the book so he could see the title, "Elaw."
"I have family here," the boy said. "I want to set up a practice in my home town. First I have to pass the bar, though."
"Everybody here is family," J.T. said gloomily. "If that's so, we are probably related somehow, but I don't recognize you. So, who are you? Some Bly cousin? A Hoyt? You're not a Fogarty, I know all of them."
The boy was quiet a moment. "You're nothing like what I imagined."
"Get used to disappointment," said J.T., and drank.
"I'm not disappointed. In fact, I think I like it. When I was told I'd find you here I didn't know what to think, but now I'm glad."
"Who told you about me?" J.T. said, frowning. Being known was one thing--being discussed was something else.
"All will be revealed in time. I find I rather like to keep a secret." The boy smiled, natural and mischievous. "Come out with me for a cigarette."
"I don't smoke," J.T. said, starting to smile back.
"Neither do I," the boy said. He scooted out of the booth and slung his satchel over his shoulder.
J.T. hesitated only a moment before he followed the boy out of the bar, to the alley outside. It had seen plenty of action in its day, even from J.T. more than once, and J.T. knew just the place to push the boy against the bricks and kiss him. The boy laughed against J.T.'s mouth and moved the satchel from behind his back. He gripped J.T.'s hips under his raincoat.
Why he was the chosen one when the boy had sent away men much younger, much more handsome and must less rumpled than himself, J.T. had no idea, but he was not going to spurn this gift just because he didn't understand it. A beautiful man who wanted him didn't come along every happy hour.
And to be perfectly honest, it had been far too long since J.T. had been kissed so unselfishly. He had to return the favor--and return and return it.
There was a crack of thunder and the sky opened, pelting them with warm summer rain. "Damn it," J.T. muttered and started to move to go inside, but the boy grabbed his collar and pulled him back.
"Don't go. I like it." He gave J.T. a fierce kiss.
"You're an odd boy," J.T. whispered and kissed his neck. "I hate the rain."
"Why?" the boy whispered, letting his head fall back.
"It feels..." He stopped, rubbing his nose along the boy's slender throat. "It feels like despair, when it rains."
The boy held J.T.'s jaw in his palm and kissed him, much more sweetly than the kisses usually given in this alley, and J.T. leaned into him with a sigh. After dozens of rough, fumbling fucks this felt amazing, just to kiss someone, just to kiss this boy's sweet mouth and touch his face. Even the rain felt friendlier than usual, standing here like this.
His cell phone rang, and J.T. groaned with frustration.
"Ignore it," the boy whispered.
"Can't. It's my boss." He pulled away to get his phone out of his inner coat pocket, keeping his arm around the boy's neck. The boy kissed and nuzzled his neck as J.T. flipped open his phone. "Yes."
"You're late," Dilys said in her cool voice.
"I know. Sorry."
"Do you need more time? Is Sophie being stubborn? I would imagine it of her."
"No, I don't need more time. I'll be there in ten minutes." Dilys hung up without saying goodbye, which was usual, and J.T. turned off his phone and put it back. "I have to go."
The boy slanted a look at him, as if he was going to protest, but instead he held J.T.'s face and gave him a kiss that felt closing, but not final. "Go, then. I'll see you again."
"Maybe. It's a small town. Good night, J.T. Fogarty." The boy adjusted his satchel and trotted down the alley, his hands in his pockets, and his head bowed to the rain.
Cursing Dilys' sense of timing, J.T. turned and went the other direction.