It was busier than normal for a Monday in Chapel Chase. Ten minutes after the five o’clock whistle blew, several uptight looking gentlemen, dressed in the latest designer men’s fashion, strolled into the restaurant to continue discussing their business deals over an early dinner. They filled the far corner of the dining room while Michael Waters broke away from the group and headed towards the bar.
Asher tried not to smile as Michael approached. Instead, he ducked his head and started preparing Michael’s usual drink. “Rum and Coke,” Asher said while setting it on the counter in front of the bar stool Michael climbed onto.
Michael blew out a sigh as he nodded his head. “Dude, you’re a life saver.” He happily turned up the bottom and emptied the glass.
“So,” Michael gave Asher a sideways glance. The intense scrutiny made Asher’s hands tremble and a crimson flush peppered his cheeks. Seconds ticked by. It wasn’t until Asher looked up at Michael, finally making eye contact, then he continued. “Where did you learn all of that stuff yesterday? Were you in the military, like a medic or something?”
Asher shook his head and chuckled. “Nope, I’m not a medic. I learned it in school--”
“Shit, they teach that kind of stuff in bartending school?” If it wasn’t for the playful tone in Michael’s voice, Asher would have been offended by the remark. He kept his eyes fixed on Michael wanting to see his reaction when he told him, “Wrong again! I learned that stuff at Hamilton University, where I was working on my degree in physical therapy.”
Michael looked confused. “If you’re a physical therapist, then why the hell are you working here?”
Ziggy’s head shot up from the other end of the bar at Michael’s thoughtless jab, “Hey, watch it, Waters!”
“Sorry dude,” Michael flashed one of his million dollar smiles. The man knew that he could be a total jerk, but he also knew how to turn on the charm and smooth things over. In the dog eat dog world of business, Michael had mastered the rules of survival.
“That, good sir, is a very long story,” Asher said as he took one of the waitress’s orders for a round of drinks, “A story better left for another day.” He quickly filled the whiskey tumblers and had the girl returning to the table with half a dozen geezer drinks.
Asher glanced over at Michael and grinned. “You know what, Mr. Waters? I’m going show you something else I learned in school.”
“Oh dear lord,” Ziggy’s eyes rounded with fear at the possibility of what Asher had up his sleeve.
Grabbing several bottles off the shelf behind the bar, Asher started mixing up a strange cocktail.
“What’s he doing?” Michael asked Ziggy when he grabbed the empty glass off the counter top. They both watched Asher’s hands fly over the bottles, pouring countless liquids into the stainless steel drink shaker.
Asher heard them talking about him, but he didn’t stop what he was doing. “I’m making you something to drink that’s a lot more interesting that those plain old Rum and Cokes that you’re always slamming back. I’m tired of making boring drinks.” He replaced the lid and started shaking the concoction.
“I’m worried,” Michael mumbled.
“You should be,” Ziggy teased him for good measure.
“Both of you shut up.” Asher stuck his tongue out at the two of them before turning his attention back to the drink. He placed a glass on the counter in front of Michael and poured the mixture inside. Michael and Ziggy both stared at the pink concoction.
Asher crossed his arms. “Just try it.”
Michael eyed the glass. “You expect me to put something in my mouth without knowing what’s in it?”
“That’s exactly what Ash wants you to do!” Ziggy burst out laughing while Asher shot an angry look at his co-worker.
“It’s called a Cupid’s Arrow.” Asher rolled his eyes at both of them. When he reached out to take the drink back, Michael reached for it at the same time. Their fingers overlapped on the glass. Neither of them pulled their hand away immediately.
“Do you trust me?” Asher softly asked Michael.
Michael nibbled on his lower lip before nodding his head.
“Then try it.” Asher grinned when Michael lifted the glass to his nose and smelled the contents. He took a small sip at first before smiling and taking a larger gulp. “See, it’s not bad, is it?”
Asher bumped his hip against Ziggy, forcing the man to move out of his way as he pulled down more bottles from the shelf to make a new concoction.
The night passed quickly as Asher balanced his time between making drinks for the dwindling customers and whipping up exotic new drinks for Michael to taste. Some of the mixes needed substitutes when he didn’t have all of the ingredients, but Asher quickly found out that Michael was fonder of the sweeter drinks over the sour ones.
“Hey, Ashy, what’s this called again?” Michael asked, holding up the remaining purple liquid in his glass.
“That’s a Purple Dragon.” Asher smiled. Michael’s eyes were slightly glassy. His speech was still good, but tomorrow was a work day, and Asher knew it was time to cut him off.
“Pour me another.”
Asher shook his head, tossing a lock of hair across his forehead with the action. “Sorry buddy, not tonight. I think you’ve had enough.” He waited for Michael’s outburst that never came.
Michael got off his stool, but didn’t make a move towards the door. “This was fun.”
“Do you need me to call you a cab?” Ziggy asked from the far end of the bar.
“No, I think I’ll take the subway. That always gives me time to think things over. See ya later.” Michael smiled as he headed out of the bar.
Asher could smell Ziggy’s cologne before he felt the heat coming off his body as he stepped closer to where Asher was wiping down the bar. “What are you doing?”
Faking an innocent stare, Asher glanced up, “Cleaning so we can go home.”
“Not that,” Ziggy hitched his thumb and pointed over his shoulder towards the door. “What’s going on between you and Michael-Fucking-Waters?” Ziggy demanded. His tone was hard yet protective.
“Look, Zig, we’re just friends--”
“In case you haven’t noticed, Michael Waters is as straight as they come. I’d have a better chance of seducing you into my bed than him.”
Ziggy’s eyes glancing up and down Asher’s tight frame, before he cocked an eyebrow and grinned, “In your dreams boyfriend.” He said, popping a hand on his hip.
Asher threw his head back and laughed. “Dude, you have no idea how many times I’ve thought about your juicy, round bubble butt while lying in bed jacking off--”
“Jesus Christ, Asher!”
Shooting Ziggy a mischievous grin, Asher shrugged his shoulders and giggled, “You started it!”
Michael avoided Chapel Chase the next two days. Asher found himself wondering about the man. Was it more than a hangover keeping him away? Twice, Asher had to bite his tongue to refrain from asking one of the guys from Johnson & Ashcroft if Michael was okay, but how would that look? Instead, Asher kept himself busy and when the evening crowd grew slower, he gave the waitstaff a hand to help keep his mind occupied.
Thursday evening, Michael strolled into the bar. His dark brown hair looked glossy and freshly washed and his business suit didn’t have the normal wrinkles after sitting in an office for hours on end. Ziggy watched the man glance around looking for Asher. Victoria was standing behind the counter at the end of the bar where Asher normally worked.
“He’s not here.” Ziggy told Michael before he settled onto a stool at the bar.
Disappointment clouded Michael’s eyes. Ziggy watched the man absently push a napkin around the wooden bar top.
“Asher called in sick to work tonight--”
“He’s sick?” Michael’s voice was suddenly filled with concern.
Shaking his head, Ziggy chuckled, “Not quite, the little shit called in sick so he could stay home to watch a baseball game on television.”
“Baseball?” Michael questioned him.
“Yeah, Ash is a huge Springfield Sabers fan.”
Victoria joined in the conversation. “It’s not just baseball. Asher is a total sports fanatic.”
Unable to resist, Ziggy added, “Yeah, if there are balls involved, Asher’s into it,” which earned him a punch to his arm from the petite waitress. Michael glanced between the two of them, before thanking them and heading back into the warm summer night.
The Sabers were two strikes into the third inning when a loud knock shook the front door. Asher immediately wondered who that could be. Not wanting to miss any of the action, he rolled his eyes and hit the button to pause the game before dashing to the door.
Worried that it would be Mrs. Nguyen from down the hall needing his assistance with another ‘emergency,’ Asher took a deep breath before swinging open the door. Ready to tell the old lady her cat climbing the drapes and getting stuck on the china hutch didn’t qualify as life or death, his protest was suddenly stuck in his mouth…Michael!
Michael Waters was standing in the hallway outside Asher’s door. He looked gorgeous in his faded blue jeans and t-shirt, which was the perfect attire for lounging on the couch watching a baseball game. Asher was so caught up inspecting Michael’s sexy body that he didn’t notice the large pizza box he was balancing with one hand while holding a six-pack of beer in the other.
“Can I come in?” Michael asked.
Stumbling out of the way, Asher’s face flushed red with embarrassment. What was it about the man that had him acting like a fool whenever he was around? Yes, the guy was incredibly handsome, but Asher saw good looking guys every day. Michael was straight; there was no way that this could develop into anything more than just friendship, so why did he get butterflies in his stomach whenever he thought about this man?
“Oh shit, man, sorry about that.” Asher clambered to wave Michael inside. “Hell yes, come in.”
Michael set the pizza down on the coffee table while Asher took the beer from his hand. Leaving two bottles out for them to drink with their food, Asher placed the rest in the refrigerator and grabbed some plates before heading back to the living room. He stopped for a moment when he noticed that Michael had already settled onto the couch and was drooling over steamy pepperoni and melted cheese.
“I also added mushrooms and black olives to half since I didn’t know if you liked them or not.” The man called over his shoulder.
Asher grinned while watching Michael pick at hot toppings. His cute face looked sweet and childlike. “So, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Asher asked handing him a napkin. He considered taking a seat on the couch beside him, but opted for the big blue lounge chair instead. Asher wanted to be close to Michael, yet that felt like a dangerous move.
Plopping a gooey slice onto each of their plates, Michael got comfortable on the tattered sofa. He shrugged his broad shoulders and blew on his pizza. “I thought you could use some company tonight, am I right?”
Contemplating his answer, Asher watched the guy take a bite. He was thrilled to be spending time with Michael, however brief their time together may turn out to be. Michael was a heartbreaker to the opposite sex, what damage could he do to a guy like Asher, who didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at escaping this infatuation with anything less than his disillusioned heart shattered into a million pieces. “Sure, I could use some company. I’m glad you came by.”
“So, what about this game,” Michael asked between bites. “Why is it so important?”
Asher had forgotten about the baseball game paused on his television. “It’s the Springfield Sabers.”
Michael took a sip of beer to wash his pizza down. “They’re doing good this year.” He threw out a few stats to Asher’s surprise.
“I told you I’m a baseball fan--”
“Fans don’t call in sick to work just to stay home and watch a game.” Michael’s gaze made Asher’s face flush red again.
Picking up the remote control, Asher clicked the play button bringing the action immediately back to life.
“Paul Ryman, number fifteen is making his way from the dugout to warm up for the bat,” the sportscaster announced.
Asher paused the screen. His face was hard as he stared at the television set, “He’s what’s so important about this game.” His voice was barely a whisper as the truth tumbled from his lips.
Michael’s eyes grew wide with recognition. “You know that guy?”
Biting his bottom lip, Asher nodded his head.
“Dude, that’s so cool! Did you go to school together or something?” Michael asked then took another long draw from his beer. “Springfield is only a two hour flight from here, why didn’t you just go to the game instead of sitting home and watching it on T.V.?”
Asher shrugged. “A couple of our friends actually went to the game. Paul said he could get us all tickets. They invited me to tag along with them, but I’ve been saving all of my money for something else…a trip.” Asher’s eyes darted over to the surfboard in the corner of his apartment.
“You’d pass up Saber tickets for a beach vacation?” Michael snorted.
Asher’s face grew pale. “Paul Ryman was engaged to my sister.”
Michael glanced back and forth from the frozen television set to the polished long board in the corner. “It’s more than just a vacation, isn’t it?” Michael whispered. The game was suddenly forgotten.
The smile that appeared on Asher’s lips didn’t reach his eyes. “That was my sister’s surfboard. Allison had always dreamed of taking a trip to surf the waves on Turtle Island…” His words just trailed off as his eyes couldn’t break away from the overpowering presence of his sister’s most prized possession.
Michael got up and walked over to the board. He ran his fingers along the woodgrain and down the thick edges. “It’s beautiful.”
A shiver shot down Asher’s spine. For a second he swore that he could feel Michael’s touch on his skin when he gently caressed Allison’s surfboard. Even after three years, the pain of his sister’s death still stung like a fresh wound. It was a struggle to speak about her.
“When Allison got sick, the doctor’s didn’t diagnose her with Leukemia until it was too late.” The muscles flexed in Asher’s jaw, his handsome face set in a furious scowl.
“I’m so sorry, Ash.” Michael softly expressed his sympathy.
Asher’s hands trembled as he turned up the bottle and downed the rest of his beer. “Thanks,” he muttered under his breath as went to the kitchen to get them both another drink.
While Asher took his time in the kitchen, Michael checked out the photos displayed on the bookcase. One frame was a close up of two smiling faces. Asher was pressed cheek to cheek with a gorgeous woman with a remarkable resemblance to Asher.
Michael gently sighed staring at the picture of Allison. Beside the picture with his sister, there was also a family photo and a childhood picture of three young boys posing with baseball bats wearing identical team jerseys.
“C’mon, dude, what are we waiting for? There’s a ballgame to watch!” The sudden change in Asher’s demeanor was evident. He wasn’t ready to explore the painful memories of losing his only sibling. Handing Michael a cold bottle of beer and pressing play on the remote had them immersed in a nail-biting ballgame that went into it's second extra-inning.
Sooooo You like? I think we are starting to see more of Michael's personality, but he does have some demons that he is still dealing with. We also got to see more of Asher's background, too.
Thanks so much for reading and encouraging me! You guys are awesome!