It’s the night before Pride and the Four Crowns Martini Bar and Grill is packed to bursting. Eliot doesn’t necessarily enjoy celebrating Pride himself, but it’s one of his favorite nights to be working—at least in the top three. There’s a pulse that runs through the bar that’s just different from a regular Saturday night; the revelry in the air is more lively, more familial.
His signature cocktails for the evening are certainly helping, judging by how many they’ve sold.
For how busy they are, he’s thought more than once that he’s glad the bar crew is him, Margo, Fen, and Josh. They run smooth as Swayze when it’s the four of them behind the bar, and he knows Henry planned it this way when he was making up the schedule. Between drinks, he’s even spotted Henry bussing tables himself, which never happens.
Josh is back with their restock of citrus, and once their fruit basket is full again, Eliot notices him whispering something to Margo. Eliot can read her lips saying are you kidding me back to him, and then she grins wickedly. As soon as she’s handed off the drinks she had been making for Victoria’s table, she slides up to Eliot’s side, looking supremely pleased with herself.
“El, you know mama loves a good ‘I told you so,’” she starts, licking her lips.
“And what, pray tell, have you told me this time?” Eliot wipes his hands on the towel he has tucked into his back pocket before he adds the orange peel garnishes to two L’Orange martinis and hands them over to Poppy.
“Call for Jane is playing tonight.” Call for Jane is one of the house bands. They’re primarily a rock cover band, but they have a few originals Eliot enjoys from the EP he bought from them a few months ago. For absolutely no reason in particular, they are Eliot’s personal favorite band the Four Crowns hosts regularly. It’s probably just that he happens to always work every other Saturday, which happens to be when Henry schedules them.
“Yes, I can hear them. I can see them.”
“Apparently they’ve all got these cute matching armbands for Pride.” Her smile keeps getting bigger and bigger the longer she drags the conversation out. Eliot huffs and snatches the next ticket up. “And guess what colors your cute, little, nerd drummer is wearing?”
“He’s not my cute, little, nerd drummer.”
“Pink, purple, and blue, sweetheart.” Margo traces a finger over her bi pride hairband. “Told you so.”
With that, she takes the next ticket from the line-up of drink orders and flounces away without another word.
Right at that moment, he can hear the lead singer, Kady, shouting over the crowd, “Let’s give it up for our amazing bartenders! Workin’ hard to keep us in the right frame of mind.”
He can hear the drumbeat starting up for “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac and he very carefully keeps his attention focused on the lime he’s juicing for another signature martini. He can’t bring himself to glance over the crowd to the small stage in the corner where Kady, Julia, Alice, and Quentin are playing. He most certainly isn’t going to look over at Margo—no doubt smirking at him still over CFJ playing one of his favorite songs.
Never mind that it’s barely been a few weeks since Quentin started staying past closing, just talking with Eliot about music and food and whatever else Eliot can pull out of his ass to keep Quentin smiling and laughing. He has the most adorable laugh. His dimples are obscene. Eliot counts back in his head and his gut starts churning as he realizes it’s actually been months since Quentin started staying late.
Eliot shakes his head, trying to focus on the next drink on the ticket.
Never mind that Quentin had lit up when Eliot had mentioned “Dreams” was his favorite song. As far as he’s aware, Margo doesn’t know that’s a conversation he and Quentin had the last time Call for Jane had been in. She doesn’t need to know. As far as Margo knows, it is a complete coincidence. It probably is a complete coincidence. Fleetwood Mac fits perfectly in their aesthetic and Kady’s voice fits the melody beautifully. They’d probably already been planning this for their setlist and Quentin had probably just been excited about it because it had already been planned.
Never mind that Eliot could make a whiskey sour in his sleep. Never mind that he can’t keep his eyes averted for anything. Never mind that as he looks up at Quentin, it feels like his heart is going to leap out of his chest and across the room and right into Quentin Coldwater’s hands, permitting him to do whatever he pleases with it.
Eliot lets out a long breath as he hands Victoria her customers’ drinks. He glances sideways at Margo and notices her watching him. Her smile is less terrorizing and more encouraging as she shakes whatever drink she’s preparing.
Eliot has the band’s drinks ready for them when it’s time for their first break: ice water with strawberries for Kady and Alice, dirty martini for Julia, and “surprise me” for Quentin. Tonight’s “surprise me” is a huckleberry lemon drop, with raspberries for garnish. Quentin smacks his lips and grins at Eliot, before passing his drink to Julia for a taste, as always. She nods approvingly and winks at Eliot.
Just as Josh reported, they all have pride scarves tied around their arms except for Kady—who has her rainbow scarf tied around her thigh. Sure enough, Quentin is sporting the bi pride colors wrapped around his wrist.
At least Eliot got a warning, so he could prepare for this moment of panic.
There’s only one open stool at the bar, so Julia pulls Kady by the waist to a table a little off to the side. Alice moves to the other end of the bar with a small wave, no doubt on her way to chat with Margo. Eliot tries to calm his pulse as it suddenly feels as though he and Quentin are the only two people in the bar, even though Quentin is squeezed between a busty blonde woman flirting with an equally busty redhead and a pair of men entirely engrossed in each other.
Quentin looks good. He always looks good, but he looks especially jaw-droppingly gorgeous tonight. Quentin’s eyeliner is artfully smudged out around his eyes. His hair is pulled back into a messy half-bun that Eliot can’t even begin to deny that he would give anything to undo, just to run his fingers through his hair. The sleeves on Quentin’s tight black t-shirt hit his biceps just right to make his arms look more than worthy of pure, unadulterated worship.
Eliot doesn’t say much as Quentin finishes his drink. He sets the empty glass down and leans over the bar, so he can ask, “Any chance you’ve got time for a smoke break?”
He’s been waiting for it—not holding his breath for it, that would be far too gauche—but his skin has been tingling and his heart has been racing, knowing the invitation was coming. Quentin asks every night when CFJ takes a break. Eliot licks his lips and stops himself from glancing down at the scarf wrapped around Quentin’s wrist again, just to double-check it’s still there.
“Always time for you, baby,” Eliot says, with a more sensual purr than he normally uses whenever Quentin asks.
Eliot looks good tonight, too, and he knows it. He’s got his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, showing off his forearms. He left the top two buttons of his shirt undone, flirting with the boundary between indecent and tasteful with just enough plausible deniability that Henry won’t tell him to fix it. His vest is loose and unbuttoned, just to give his shamelessly sexy vibe that last little splash of oomph. His long lashes and his dark green eyeliner seem to have successfully drawn Quentin’s attention to his eyes. Eliot has every intention to keep him there as long as he can.
He raises a hand to get the team’s attention that he’s going on break, and Fen makes a completely obvious cheering motion when she notices Quentin’s going with him, too.
Eliot doesn’t think he’s ever felt nervous talking with Quentin before. The way Quentin keeps looking up at him as they smoke together against the side of the Four Crowns, though, reminds him more of how it felt to flirt with boys as a tentative baby gay in high school, rather than as a sure, cool, well-practiced adult man. He can barely keep track of what they’re saying. All he knows is that he’s obsessed with the way Quentin’s long, masculine fingers handle his cigarette, and the way his beautiful, kissable, fuckable lips curl around the cigarette, his words, Eliot’s psyche.
Stubbing his cigarette out against the brick wall, Eliot considers all the possible ways he could fuck things up between them. Inside, surrounded by loud people and music and work, Eliot had maybe thought that he could make a move. Now that it’s just the two of them, he’s reminded why he hasn’t yet.
The thing is, he genuinely enjoys Quentin’s company. He genuinely enjoys Quentin’s music. He doesn’t want to lose that.
Eliot opens his mouth to suggest they should head back inside when Quentin stubs his cigarette out under his shoe and blurts out, “Hey...um.”
Then Quentin pushes into Eliot’s space, grabs the edge of his vest, and stands up on his tiptoes to give Eliot a quick, chaste kiss. Quentin rocks back on his heels and looks up at Eliot, a question in his eyes. Eliot knows the answer without thinking. He slides a hand around Quentin’s jawline to cradle the back of his head in his hand. He pulls Quentin close with his hand on his waist. Quentin tilts his head back into Eliot’s palm and Eliot leans in.
Their mouths slide together as a perfect fit. Quentin makes an intensely erotic sound as he parts his lips for Eliot, inviting him in, rising to meet him. They’re ravenous—both of them. Quentin moves against Eliot like he wants to climb him. Eliot pins Quentin against the wall. They’re crashing against each other with barely any air between them. Quentin tugs Eliot’s bottom lip between his teeth; runs his hands under Eliot’s vest, over Eliot’s chest. Eliot moans into Quentin’s mouth like he’s never tasted anything better; twists his tongue around Quentin’s like he wants to eat him up.
He does—he wants nothing more than to devour Quentin whole.
Eliot doesn’t notice the door open until he hears Julia shouting. “Q! We’re up in—Five. Sorry.”
Quentin groans as he breaks away. He rolls his head to the side and gives Julia a look of death that only best friends could exchange. Eliot steps back and lets go of Quentin’s waist. He tries not to laugh too hard at the self-satisfied look Julia is giving right back to Quentin. He knows full well it is an identical match for how Margo would be looking at him if she had been the one to catch them.
Quentin glances up at Eliot with an apologetic half-smile as Julia ducks back inside. “I guess I should get ready for the next set.” He starts to turn towards the door. “I’ll...um. Yeah. I’ll see you...in a bit, I guess?”
Eliot grabs his hand before he gets too far. “Hey, before we start overthinking this between now and closing time.” He hopes he sounds less desperate than he feels. “Dinner tomorrow night? Afternoon coffee? Hell...brunch?”
Quentin’s face splits open in a brilliant smile, dimples and all, and Eliot forgets everything except Quentin’s name. Eliot’s surprised he doesn’t start melting into the asphalt beneath their feet from how thoroughly one man—one kiss, one smile—has dismantled him.
“I’d like that. Dinner. Um. Sounds nice.”
A few stray hairs have fallen out of Quentin’s bun and across his forehead. Eliot gently brushes them behind his ear. “Happy Pride, Quentin.”
Quentin steps close again, and Eliot doesn’t hesitate to give him another short, sweet kiss when he tilts his lips up, asking.
“Happy Pride, Eliot.”