Nathan hated the student union pub. The decor was a vomitous blend of 'Mystery Machine' colours and 'Wild West' furnishings with a bit of frat house odour thrown in for good measure. And the beer was usually stale. He wouldn't be here at all if he wasn't waiting for Jonathan to finish his shift behind the bar. He couldn't understand why a guy with an ass like that, and abs and pecs to match, wasn't working in a more suitable establishment.

He'd contacted Jonathan as soon as he'd returned to his dorm room and verified that Aaron hadn't changed his mind, and decided to stay. That would've been his preference, to spend winter break with Aaron; to have Aaron hold him while he slept; and wake up to Aaron's big goofy grin every morning. But it wasn't to be, and Jonathan made a damn fine substitute.

Jonathan and he had been practically inseparable all winter break, hanging out together at every opportunity. And with only three days left until the rest of the students returned, they'd been discussing how they were going to continue the practicalities of their relationship. Nathan's bed had become command central for all extra curricular activities, because Jonathan's roommate had stayed on campus as well, and he wasn't exactly same sex friendly. Truth be told; he would've beat the crap out of both of them if he'd found them fucking around in Jonathan's room.

Nathan swilled the last of the beer around in his glass and threw it back. A large hand shoved him in the shoulder, almost knocking him off his seat. "Watch yourself, you ignorant fucker!"

Aaron snorted with amusement as he helped settle Nathan back in his seat. "Sorry for sneaking up on you. Can I buy you another?"

"Christ, Aaron... ease up on the protein powder, would you? You're going to kill someone if you get any bigger." He grabbed Aaron's outstretched hand and pounded him affectionately on the back. "It's good to see you, and yes, you can buy me another."

"Can I talk to you first?"

"Sure... I wasn't expecting to see you back so soon." Nathan touched Aaron's arm, enjoying its warmth. "Is everything alright?"

"I broke things off with Sarah." He paused to study the response on Nathan's face. "That's why I'm back early."

What the fuck happened? Easy now. "What happened?"

"I found out she cheated on me."

Nathan's eyebrows creased and rose. "Seriously? You're going to break up with your girlfriend of... what, five years, over something you're guilty of doing yourself?" He crossed his arms. Double standards infuriated him. "That doesn't seem fair to me at all."

"It was with one of the guys from the team..."

Nathan shrugged his shoulders and pointed at himself. "So was yours... so what?" He dropped his hands down onto the table and began fiddling with one of the coasters, rolling and knocking it anxiously. He couldn't believe he was saying this. "You need to go back to her and patch things up." It hurt to push Aaron towards Sarah, but he wanted him to be happy.

"Nathan." Aaron reached forward and tapped nervously on Nathan's hand, and then brushed his fingers across it. "I've been doing a lot of thinking over winter break." An anxious sigh left Aaron's chest as he let his hand settle on top of Nathan's and curl the familiar warmth into his fingers, so he could cling to him.

Nathan's voice was barely a whisper. He was having trouble breathing. "Aaron, what are you doing?" The pub wasn't full, but it wasn't empty either. There were at least a dozen people, including two guys from their lacrosse team, milling around. But here was Aaron, holding his hand in the middle of it all, not caring who saw him doing it. And plenty of people were noticing.

"In the shower, you said, Sarah could give me the life I want."

"Yeah... wife, kids..."

"But what if that isn't the life I want. What if I met someone that completely changed things for me?" Aaron leaned in closer. "What if that someone was you?"

Nathan steadied his breathing and looked towards the bar. Jonathan was drying the inside of a beer mug with a ferocity that told Nathan he'd seen Aaron holding his hand.

"Aaron... I'm seeing someone."


"Jonathan. Remember... the guy I told you about?"

"Is it serious?"

Nathan looked over towards the bar. Jonathan was staring at him. He turned back to Aaron. Damn those eyes of his. "No."

"Would you be interested in starting something with me?"

"What kind of thing?" If Aaron was looking to set up an exclusive fuck buddy arrangement, he might have to punch him out.

"I don't know," Aaron looked around nervously. "Like boyfriends or something... that kind of thing." He gripped Nathan's hand tighter and brushed his thumb over the knuckles. "I really like you... and not just for the sex. We really get on well together."

Nathan could easily see himself with Aaron, and he'd considered the possibility many times before now. Then why was he hesitating? Maybe because, deep down, he knew if he agreed, this wasn't going to be a short term affair. And that frightened him. A lot. "If we do this thing, I don't want to hide, Aaron. I'm sick of sneaking around and being all hush, hush about my relationships." There. If Aaron wasn't up for that, it was an easy out.

"Nathan, I'm sitting in the middle of the pub holding your hand. What makes you think I was planning on hiding?"

"You do realize people are going to think you're gay. You'll become the butt of jokes, excuse the pun, and you'll be subjected to the same bullshit I have to put up with. And even if we break up you'll be forever labelled as gay."

"I realize that." Aaron dropped his eyes. "But I'm willing to go through that for you." He looked up again and lifted a hand to cup Nathan's face. "You're important to me... you have no idea how much. Please, just give me a chance to prove it."

Nathan felt certain the entire room could hear the thrumming beat of his heart. It was absolutely deafening. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves. "Kiss me."

"Here... now?"

Nathan raised his eyebrows, but didn't have to wait long for Aaron to push towards him and take his mouth. And it wasn't just a quick kiss. It was a 'let's get the fuck out of here' kind of kiss. And that's exactly what they did after Aaron released him.

** Check back for Part 2 of Chapter 4 (I haven't actually written it yet... suggestions are always welcome!)


Leigh Jarrett

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