“ If I wanted to know who you were hanging with
While I was gone I would have asked you”
The first time Henry sees Alex again is on the cover of a magazine. His face is blurred, the quality of the photo too poor to tell if it’s really him. But it is. Henry knows that face better than his own. He could recognise those curls, now partially hidden under a baseball cap, even blind. He can tell the shape of those shoulders, can trace the lines of those legs; he’s seen them flex in countless situations, has analyzed and observed them closely.
What he doesn’t recognise is the girl at Alex’s side, the headline reads:
“Who’s Alex Claremont-Diaz’s new brunette?”
“Find out in page 15”
He does not fly over page fifteen, so fast he nearly tears apart the pages leading to it. He finds the picture from the cover, Alex and a girl seemingly holding hands as they leave a restaurant. He finds a name, Melanie Jones, and the letters sink into his heart. Another picture; a beautiful young woman, tanned skin and wavy dark brown hair. She's smiling at the camera on a beach somewhere, it seems it was taken from her instagram.
The next thing he knows he’s read the whole article and, as expected from a tabloid, it doesn’t say much. Alex is supposedly dating this Australian model, she’s a year younger than him, they met at a charity gala, etc.
The last picture is Alex with a person in front of him at a café, the photo was taken from the outside and you can barely recognise him, except from the wide smile on his face. It doesn't break Henry’s heart at all.
“Time flies, messy as the mud on your truck tires”
The second time he sees Alex is two months later, at a state dinner. He’s standing across the room, talking to a girl he vaguely remembers as one of the daughters of the prime minister of Sweden, and a tall lean guy, well into his forties that Henry doesn't recognise.
Bea’s hand tightens over his, but Henry chugs what’s left of his champagne and moves to someplace where he can't see Alex anymore.
He spends the night trying and failing to ignore Alex, they end up sitting close enough that he can hear anything he says, his warm voice warming him from the inside. He remembers the state dinner in the USA, after he spent a month ignoring Alex, and their make out session in the red room, the first time they were together. This time he’s ignoring Alex the same way, but it won’t end on blowjobs and handjobs on a soft bed. It will end in a couple of hours with awkward handshakes at the front door.
“ I won't ask you to wait if you don't ask me to stay”
The first time they fuck again is that very same night, and it’s fast and hard and dirty. Henry’s hands gripping the edge of the bathroom sink as Alex thrusts into him. The methodical slap of his balls against Henry's ass doesn't bring back any memories at all.
When Henry comes, a soft cry spills out of his lips, and he feels Alex's grip on his hips tighten as he follows right after. Henry looks up and their eyes meet on the reflection of the mirror, Alex’s face slightly blurred from the tears on Henry’s eyes. He looks like he’s about to say something, and for a second Henry fears he will.
Nothing comes out of Alex’s mouth but a sigh, and Henry doesn't know if he’s relieved or devastated. Alex comes out of him, and ties the condom, throwing it in the bin. Then he does his trousers up and tucks his dress shirt back inside them. He doesn’t look at Henry once.
When he’s finally ready, crumpled shirt tucked and blazer over one arm, he lifts his head and looks at Henry dead in the eye. A soft private smile takes the corner of his mouth but doesn’t reach his eyes. Henry tries not to think about the girl in the magazine but he fails, and he sees her perfect face smiling in one of her instagram posts, probably ignoring that her boyfriend just fucked his ex in a bathroom at a state dinner.
“Take care, Hen” Alex says, and he disappears outside of the bathroom, leaving Henry feeling empty deep inside.
“To leave the warmest bed I've ever known”
The next time they fuck is a year later and it’s nothing like the last one. Henry takes his time taking Alex apart, with his fingers, with his mouth. Licking and biting every inch of skin, he doesn’t kiss, it’s too intimate. When he finally sinks into Alex’s body, he is already a quivering mess, on the verge of tears or coming, or both.
This time Alex is on his back over the fancy bed of the hotel room they’re in, June’s and Pez’s engagement party still going on in the ball down stairs. Alex’s warm brown eyes and soft pliant body are inviting him in. Henry can tell he hasn't taken a dick up his ass in a long time, judged by the tight grip he’s feeling on his own cock. He doesn’t want to think of having been the last one, but he doesn't want to imagine Alex like this with someone else either. He goes particularly slow, dragging in and out, trying to make this good for Alex and trying to make it last, because he doesn’t know when, if , he’ll be able to do this again.
Once he’s finished he brings Alex off again, this time with his fingers deep inside him and his mouth on his cock. Alex grips his hair and keeps him in place as he thrusts between Henry’s hand and his mouth, until he comes with a pained groan. His fingers tangle in the soft golden locks until he seems to remember who he’s with and takes his hand away. Henry takes his fingers out slowly, and traces them up Alex’s abdomen, drawing a line on the mess he’s covered with. He takes them into his mouth then, savoring their mixed cums like they are some exotic fruit.
This time it’s Henry who leaves after fucking, after all, this isn’t even his room. He fishes up his clothes from the floor and gets dressed slowly. He can feel Alex’s eyes fixed on his back as he puts on and laces his expensive leather shoes. Once he’s ready he turns back to Alex, still naked and dirty and Henry feels an ache deep inside his chest. They look at each other for a long minute, and before he can stop himself Henry leans into Alex’s face. He doesn’t kiss him, but diverts his lips just in time and brushes his forehead instead.
“Sleep well, love” he says, because he can’t help it, because he’s weak, because Alex smells of sex and something that is just Alex, and Henry can almost remember how things used to be. He can almost feel how love was supposed to feel.
He gets up and leaves the room in one swift motion, not stopping until he’s inside of his own. He strips himself again, trying not to think of Alex doing the same only a couple of hours ago. Once he’s on his bed he cries himself to sleep.
“We could call it even”
The next time Henry sees Alex they are at Pez and June’s wedding reception. Even with the both of them being best men, they managed to avoid each other up until now. Alex is looking beautiful with a light grey tux, afternoon light drapes over him making his curls look like liquid chocolate, Henry wants to drown in it. There's a pretty blond at his side, grabbing him by the arm and laughing at all his jokes. His date, Henry recalls, Michael something, twenty seven, works as one of those frontierless medics.
His train of thought get interrupted by a hand on the small of his back and he turns to look at his own date. Mark’s a good guy, the best one he’s dated in years. They met at a pub a few months ago, and strangely enough, he didn’t freak out by the paperwork after their first hook up. They’ve been on and off for some time now, and Henry is grateful for that, he can’t deal with feelings quite yet. But Mark gets that, and fucks Henry senseless when he needs it, and talks with Henry over a cup of tea afterwards, and sends Henry books from the library he works at that he thinks he’ll like. And it’s good, it’s enough.
“Everything alright?” asks Mark near his ear, a shiver running through Henry at the feeling of him so close.
“Yeah, just pining over my ex, I guess” answers Henry sincerely. He never had the ability to pretend in front of Mark, probably because they met at a low point in Henry's life (one of the many), and they've just been sincere to each other since then. It's a nice change from the faceless men he’s been with in his life, with the one exception of the very same man he’s talking about. “How about you? Are you having a good time?”
“Oh yeah, I’m having a great time, there’s free booze and I’ll get to dance with you later if I’m lucky. Can’t ask for more” Mark answers simply, then leans closer to Henry. “Wanna make your ex jealous? He’s watching us right now.”
Henry’s answer comes without even thinking, he grabs Mark by his tie and kisses him deeply. He can taste the vol au vents he ate earlier and the rosé he was sipping right now. Mark’s free hand brings him closer by his waist. They are exactly the same height, comfortable for kissing, Henry’s other hand on the back of Mark’s neck, stroking the buzz cut he wears.
They break apart and Henry does feel better, even if Alex isn’t watching, even if this didn't make him jealous. It felt nice, he needed that bit of physical comfort.
“Thanks” he whispers over Mark’s lips.
“ And the road not taken looks real good now”
The next time he and Alex fuck is at a gala for Pez’s non profit in New York. Henry hates New York, it reminds him of everything he’s lost, everything he gave up . So he does the next sensible thing, which is fuck with the person that represents all of that. Bloody brilliant Henry , he tells himself.
They bring each other off using only their hands, whispering each other’s names in the space between their parted lips, never letting them touch.Once it’s over, they try to get their breathing under control. Alex’s forehead on Henry’s shoulder, Henry’s head resting on the wall behind him. Cum cools down on his fingers, on their dicks and over their clothes. He lets out a soft laugh, then he cleans himself as well as he can and drops a kiss on Alex’s nest of curls.
“I needed that,” Alex says “thanks.”
“You’re welcome” Henry answers, and it’s the first time they have spoken to each other in private in over three years, and Henry’s heart feels so full he can barely think.
They both tuck themselves up again and an uncomfortable silence settles down, neither of them ready to leave the cleaning closet just yet. The first one to break the silence is Alex, of course.
“How is New York? Do you miss it?” Do you miss me? He doesn’t ask the last one, but Henry can still hear it in his head.
“Beautiful as always, I miss it every day” he answers, and they both know he could as well be talking about the city or about Alex.
“Then come more often” says Alex with a wink and a soft jab with his elbow between Henry’s ribs. And it’s weird how much this banter isn’t weird.
Henry leaves the supply closet first, with a feeling that’s different from the absolute despair he’s felt the other times he and Alex crossed paths. Maybe he’s finally starting to heal .
“You could call me babe for the weekend”
The first time they kiss again is under a tree on a cold NY winter night, and it doesn’t bring flashbacks of their first kiss at all. Alex’s nose is cold and his mouth is warm and soft and it tastes like hot chocolate instead of booze and it’s so good. And Henry knows if he were to die now, he would die happy.
When they part Henry takes a second to look at Alex's face, cheeks slightly red from the cold, snowflakes gathering on his thick long lashes. He puts a gloved hand on the left side of his face and rubs his thumb in small circles over his cheekbone. Alex closes his eyes and Henry feels so tempted to lean in and kiss him again.
“I can’t do this again Alex,” he finally whispers in his ear “I can’t fall in love with you again. It hurts too much, and I’m not strong enough.” he knows he’s lying. He never stopped being in love with Alex, not even for a second.
Not when they were so busy with their lives they barely saw each other despite living in the same house. Not when every second they spent together they were either fighting or fucking. Not when he packed his things, kissed him on the forehead with tears in his eyes and said goodbye to their life together. Not when he got drunk and hooked up with every tanned skinned, curly haired guy that crossed his path. Not when he saw Alex in that magazine with a model. Not every time they fucked after that. Not when he dated another guy for half a year. And definitely not now, after kissing him for the first time in forever on a cold winter night.
“Then don’t” Alex whispers back, and Henry can hear the smile on his voice, as he feels Alex leaning in, connecting their lips together again.
“I escaped it too, remember how you watched me leave
But if it's okay with you, it's okay with me”