AT THE END OF THE NIGHT
Original fiction, POV, NC17
Note: this was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend once, and although I doubt he'll ever read this, I would like to say that I hope it doesn't offend, that I 'borrowed' and fictionalised a thread of a tale he told me.
I don’t know how the hell he ended up sitting next to me. I sat in my usual place, out of the way. Clubs aren’t really my thing, but after the pubs close, that’s the only place I can get some company with my drinking. Not that I want something one-on-one; not even conversation. Just company in the background; noise; babble; bodies. I don’t know what you’d call me. Observer, maybe – not participant.
He landed himself on the bench seat beside me, an invasion of gangly limbs and impatient breath, his dark hair falling over his face. Tall as me but very thin. Obviously much younger. No-one shows that kind of energy and enthusiasm when they get older. Especially not in a dive like this.
“Got a match?”
It was a familiar line and I should have announced that - despite the club’s lurid advertising - I wasn’t here for that. But it was the end of the night and I’d worn out my discouraging grimace around midnight. Besides, he clutched a spliff and looked like he genuinely needed a light. Silently, I offered him my lighter.
He lit the joint and took a long, grateful draw. I sat in one of the darker corners of an already murky club, and watched the ring of burning tobacco light up his angular face for a second or two. Young, yes. Enthusiastic, no. His eyes were bright but artificially so – the lines round his mouth were deeper than they should have been at that age. Perhaps he saw me looking at him, because he grinned. It made him look young again and I knew he was attractive.
We shared the joint for a while. He seemed settled there and I didn’t feel inclined to move him on. When I passed it back over to him each time, he took hold of my wrist to steady himself. It wasn’t a come-on, it was just rather touching. He gradually relaxed but his eyes were still alert, continuously darting over the bar and the handkerchief-sized dance floor. Patrons were peeling away from the place by now, only a couple of hours before closing time, and the company I’d sought was sparse. But the guy he was watching for was still around, and I knew who that was.
I knew most people here.
“I’m with G, y’know?”
I didn’t answer him at first. It wasn’t any business of mine, and I didn’t intend to make it so. Everyone to their own.
“He’s OK.” The boy chatted on as if I’d asked him to. His voice was quite deep for a youngster. Now that he’d relaxed, his movements were less coltish, a little more graceful. I always admired the way that youth were so careless of their bodies and yet so artlessly sensual. Jealousy, maybe. I didn’t give it that much thought.
He gestured towards the bar. “Been in the city a couple of weeks. He’s looked after me. Shown me the ropes. Y’know?”
His question was rhetorical and we both knew it. There’d been plenty of boys like him; that was one of G’s hobbies, as was common knowledge. I watched another couple of club members weaving their way across the beer-soaked carpet towards the exit, arms round each other’s torsos, on their way to find another place to tryst. I could only hope for their sake it was more salubrious, though the odds were against it.
And then the boy turned directly to me and stared. I was startled. His hand waved the last dregs of the joint at a point in the unidentified distance; his look was stark. “You got anything else? I’ve got money. Some.”
I stared back into rich, brown pools of frightened awareness. It was like all of his humanity had parked up in his eyes, leaving the rest of his body a shell that drove on automatic under the buzzing neon lights. He was very attractive in a pale, gamine kind of way. He was no girl, I’d give him that. But he had a vulnerability that seemed to have soaked right through him to the core, not just a look that was put on with low-slung trousers and a fashionably cropped tee shirt.
“I don’t have anything,” I said, which was true.
He frowned slightly under my scrutiny, his gaze shifting away. “Maybe I don’t have the money, either. I could do other stuff to pay for it, if you had something. Whatever you like.”
I just shook my head. He didn’t make the bargain sound very enticing, but for one, I wasn’t in the market tonight and secondly, I knew that the weariness wasn’t his fault. I’d seen his slender form arrive with G’s much bulkier body earlier in the evening: I’d also seen them together later, though the circumstance didn’t allow me to see the boy properly. I’d quickly realised what was going on and I didn’t particularly want to watch it, but my attention was caught.
Three of G’s group had taken up position shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the dance floor, facing it yet backing on to one of the darker corners of the club. They were a kind of human wall and it was bizarre enough for me to notice. There were other guys moving behind them; I could see some shadowy movement and the occasional flash of a white shirt or a luminous watch face. Two slim hands snaked their way around the middle guy’s neck, as if embracing him from behind. He reached up and grasped them. Even at that stage, it looked more like capture than caress.
The middle man then leant forward as if taking the strain of the body on his back. The guy beside him was grinning. There was more movement behind them and from my vantage point at the side of the dance floor I saw the glint of a belt buckle or two. The middle guy’s body began to jerk in a rhythm that owed nothing to the dance music.
I’d been surprised at G’s nerve, though he was infamous for taking what he wanted, exactly when he wanted it. They were fucking the boy, up against the guy’s back. It went on for some while, so I guess most of them took a turn, but no-one seemed to notice or care. The group huddled up in the corner of this squalid club, where a few guys danced listlessly to ‘80s hits and the barman wiped beer glasses that would always remain smeared. I saw the top of the boy’s head a few times but never more than the pale ghost of his face moving in and out of the fitful light.
I mean, there were booths for it, if G had the decency to be more discreet.
I thought about doing something; about stopping it. To be honest, from what little I could see and hear, the kid didn’t look unwilling. But there are a hell of a lot of stages between rape and relationship, and I knew that better than most. The decision was finally made for me when the group broke up and melted back into the shadows. G appeared at the bar again soon after, laughing and buying more drinks. I’d looked over once more but had seen no casualties. Not obvious ones, anyway.
Now I caught the boy’s eyes on me again and knew that he knew what I was thinking. All of it. I wasn’t used to such connection.
“I’m OK,” he said, with some of that defensive swagger that’s also innate in youth. “It’s my choice. He doesn’t own me.” Neither of us said any more but ‘yet’ was both implied and inferred. I sighed.
“Sure,” I said, no judgement in my tone.
His eyes flickered over me and he yawned widely. “Just want to rest for a bit now. That OK?”
I nodded. Even so, it was a surprise when he slid a little closer to me on the seat and rested his head on my shoulder, like a pillow. He didn’t ask for anything else but when I felt his body begin to sag against me, I slid an arm round behind him and held him securely while he slept.
I looked around the emptying club but I knew that no-one would bother us. I was known here. I was known in a lot of places. There might be trouble about it tomorrow, but the boy wouldn’t be going home with G tonight.
I looked at my empty glass on the table in front of us and settled back into my seat, the boy gently snoring in the crook of my arm.