Mark’s brows flew further up his forehead as Beau downed another shot, slamming his glass down on the table with a satisfying clunk. He let out a sharp exhale, eyes squeezed shut as he processed the line of three tequila shots he had just barrelled through. When he opened his eyes and reached for the water, Mark’s brows were still raised, and he lifted his hands to give him a slow, incredulous applause.
‘That’s right,’ Beau remembered. He’d held back during their party on the bus, so this was the manager’s first time really seeing Beau go for it.
But in all honesty, Beau didn’t usually drink this hard. He gulped down his glass of water then waved Adelaide towards him, a silent request for her to refill his glass from their pitcher of beer once she’d finished pouring some for herself.
He felt Mark’s eyes following him as he lifted his newly filled pint and sipped it. His filter had been discarded on the floor somewhere alongside his sixth shot of the night, so he immediately turned to meet Mark’s eye.
“Hello,” he grinned, questioning Mark’s gaze.
Mark ran his tongue along his teeth as he smiled back at him carefully. “Hi... Is everything alright with you?”
Beau shut his eyes as he hummed, brow furrowed like he’d tasted a sweet delicacy or remembered the tune of his favourite song. “I’m amazing,” he slurred, then gulped another mouthful of beer down.
He set his glass down suddenly, squinting at Mark. “What about you? You’re suspiciously sober tonight.”
Mark raised his hands in front of himself defensively, brows raised again. “Sober? I’m plenty drunk!” he announced proudly, but Beau wasn’t having it.
“No, too slow,” he mumbled, then pushed his glass in front of their manager. A small part of him knew he was being too much, that this wasn’t how he usually liked to act. But that part was small and muffled under the confidence and arrogance the alcohol instilled in him.
Thankfully for both of them, Adelaide swooped over and wrapped her arms around one of his thick biceps. “Okay, big guy,” she laughed, then laid her head on his shoulder to glance at Mark. “Everyone looks sober compared to you right now, so lay off him.”
Beau considered her words for a minute, then nodded solemnly. He reached out and scooped his glass back up before Mark could even address it, then gulped down a little more.
“Let’s leave the big producer alone for a bit,” she suggested, shouting into his ear over the thumping music. “Come dance!”
Mark’s eyes squinted shut from the size of his grin as he watched the two dancing unabashedly in front of the DJ’s booth, whilst he swayed in his seat and helped himself to more of their pitcher. Beau and Adelaide were past the point of caring how well they danced or who was watching them, but they blended well enough into the thick crowd of drunken dancers that no one was paying attention anyway.
He’d almost completely distracted himself from his strange, confusing day. It had only taken three jugs of beer, a handful of cocktails, and too many shots to keep count of. He chalked it up to wanting to make the most of the states’ cheap alcohol, and gave little thought to the conversation on his bed hours earlier.
But, the keyword was ‘almost’. When he stepped aside to stop and rest, he pulled his phone out of his pocket for something to do with his hands. As soon as the screen lit up and he saw Isaac’s name on a new text message, his emotions from earlier in the evening all came flooding back to him. Now, the alcohol in his system amplified every thought.
Beau’s face fell as he tapped the message and considered the satisfying curve of the letters in Isaac’s name. The text said something about him sleeping, and something about the motel door. Beau couldn’t quite read it, but he processed enough of it to know it was nothing he had to reply to right now.
He put his phone away, but Isaac clung to his mind.
Adelaide soon leapt off the dance floor, joining him on the sideline to catch her breath. She smiled up at him, opening her mouth to make some comment about the song that was playing, but it fell when she saw Beau’s crestfallen expression.
“Beau, baby, what’s wrong?” She cooed, rubbing a sympathetic hand up and down his arm.
Beau exhaled a long, slow sigh. He shook his head.
Adelaide rocked on her heels, jumping up to place her hands on one of Beau’s shoulders. He took the hint and bent down so she could reach his ear and talk to him more clearly.
“What’s on your mind, bubba?”
Beau’s eyes fell shut and his brows knitted together with worry. Even her sweet drunken pet names weren’t cheering him up.
“I can’t go back to that room,” he choked out like it was the end of the world, the words spilling out of him the second they appeared in his mind. His filter was long gone now, covered in spilled shots and trampled by the dancing feet in front of the DJ booth.
Adelaide frowned and removed her hands from his shoulder to pull his face towards hers. “Why not? What’s wrong with the motel?”
Beau’s mind was tripping over itself, barrelling towards a breakdown as the tequila stuck its claws into him. He tried to process her question, tried to pick his next words, but the mere thought of them tightened his chest in a red hot grip. “I like him so much it hurts, Addy,” he all but whimpered, eyes squeezing shut.
That small, muffled part of him that worried he was being too brash with Mark raised its hands and screamed at the thought of him saying those words aloud. It screamed and thrashed, but it was deafened by the sound of his heavy heartbeat in his ears as they stood quietly for a long minute. The bar continued to bump and sway around them, but Beau only heard the silence between them, only felt Adelaide’s hands around his wrist as she tugged him back towards their table.
He’d fallen into a bit of a daze, replaying those words in his head, as Adelaide bumped into Mark as he stood from their table. Beau just caught a murmur of her asking their manager for another drink, asking for some alone time, before suddenly he was hit with cool fresh air.
He blinked the blur from his eyes as a glass was pressed into his hand and Adelaide led him to a small stone bench in an outdoor area of the bar. The music followed them out, but softened considerably when it spilled into the open air, making it much easier to hear his own thoughts and Adelaide’s slurred responses.
Adelaide slowly sat beside him as Beau gazed around, taking in the outdoor decor and small groups of people chatting around cocktail tables.
“Beau,” she said quietly, leaning close so he would really hear her. “What do you mean, honey?”
“What did I say?” he whispered, lips bumped against the edge of his glass. It was water.
“You said… You like him. What do you mean by that?” Her smile was gone and her tone was serious, but there was a kind, sympathetic glint in her eye.
Beau swallowed the heat in his throat and simply repeated, “I like Isaac,” but wasn’t able to look her in the eye when he did. “I like him so much.”
The weight of his own confession hit them both at the same time. Adelaide sat quietly, watching as her fingers gently pried at a thread on the seam of Beau’s jeans, while Beau stared into the starless sky and willed back hot tears. When he managed to blink back the last of it, Adelaide’s hand turned so it rested on his thigh, palm facing up.
“I don’t mean to sound shocked,” she said quietly, as Beau crept his hand forward and curled his pinky around her thumb. “I mean – thank you for telling me. I just thought you were…”
Beau exhaled shakily. “Straight?” he finished for her, and for some reason those tears were glistening over his eyes again. “Me too.”
He felt her gently squeeze his hand. The affection only made his emotions swell higher in his chest, so he pulled away and disguised it by switching his glass to his other hand.
“Maybe I still am,” he thought aloud. “Isaac’s the only guy I’ve ever…” Loved? Lusted for? He kept his words vague, not even sure of the specifics himself. “But I know he’s straight, and I–” his voice threatened to break if he continued, so he swallowed his words and dropped his head back down.
Adelaide flipped her hand over and rubbed his knee soothingly. “Hey, it’s okay,” she implored, clearly grounded enough to notice his drastic shift in demeanour. “It’s alright, it’ll… pass.”
Beau shut his eyes again.
He didn’t have the heart, or the courage, to tell her that this was not a new development. This wasn’t a fleeting thought.
Isaac had a grip on him. A grip that must have been at least ten years strong.
He had been waiting, trying, desperately urging for it to pass all that time.
Beau didn’t realise the tears had spilled out of him until Adelaide’s hands had left his knee and were rubbing soft circles against his back instead. “My Beau,” she cooed again, tipping her head against his shoulder. “What’s got you so upset?”
He squeezed his free hand into a fist, his patience with himself waning. He was frustrated; he didn’t know why he was overflowing like this, or how to explain it. But she sat there silently, giving him as much time as he needed to comb through his brain and try to figure out the words. To try and figure out where the streaks down his cheeks were coming from.
“I’m just…” he started, not sure exactly where he was going. But his blurred brain, his blurred tongue – they had gotten him this far, so maybe they could carry him over the finish line.
“I’m upset that I… I can’t ever tell him. He won’t ever know how he makes me feel. How warm in here,” he held his glass tightly against his chest, secretly hoping that it would cool and soothe the burning that was triggered by his tears. But the water was lukewarm, and it only added to the pressure behind his ribs.
“What’s a guy meant to do with that information? What’s any friend meant to do with that kind of confession? Nothing good comes from telling him, so I just have to live with it, forever.” He took another deep, shaky breath. “Because they say, what’s the worst that can happen? W-well, I’ll tell you. He’s disgusted, he boots me from the show, and you and I drift apart as well. I never work in TV again. I lose everything.”
His voice broke as he rambled, a pained sob spilling out of him before Adelaide quickly cut him off by wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him close. He shut his eyes and leaned into it, needing her assurance, her warmth that was soft and light and not at all burning like the stabbing in his chest.
“It’s okay,” she just repeated, her forehead tipped against his cheek. It didn’t feel like it was okay; Beau didn’t feel like he’d ever be okay again. But she stayed there, holding him close, until his breathing slowed and his cheeks dried. She stayed with him until the pain of his words had faded, and all he felt was a dehydrated throb behind his temples.
His memory blurred after his outburst. He recalled briefly seeing Mark again, and walking down an uneven pavement towards their motel with Adelaide wrapped around his arm. The happy buzz from his shots was long gone, but at least he didn’t feel sad. He was just blank now, his dam emptied, his bones heavy.
He fell into bed fully dressed, without once looking over at where Isaac slept across from him.