As usual, this came about from a call for prompt words, blah-blah-blah. 🙂 This was written November 24 and continues the story of Bergen and Dan. Enjoy!
* * *
The Irregular Regular, part 3
Dan was still floating the day after his date with Berg. Not in the literal sense, of course, but on the inside? Oh, yeah, he was definitely floating. Just the memory of the kiss Berg had laid on him was enough to cause the huge grin Dan knew he was wearing. Add in the fact that Berg had said— in simple words, with no possibility of misunderstanding— that Dan wasn’t someone Berg wanted as just a fuck, and… Well, not even Ryan’s snarky little comments could wipe the grin from his face.
Dan smiled through even the most difficult post-dinner customers, agreed repeatedly that he’d gotten their orders wrong, though Dan knew he hadn’t, and all the while he was really just waiting. Berg would be coming in, after all. The man had said so, and while Dan hadn’t had the best of luck with guys, Berg wasn’t anything like the bad boys Dan had gone for in the past.
No, Berg was nice, and smart, and damned hot with those dark gray eyes and red hair and… and if Dan didn’t stop thinking about Berg, there was a chance that his body might embarrass him, damn it. Even so, Dan couldn’t suppress the urge to relive it all. Couldn’t quite manage to keep his mind from straying to the memory of Berg’s hands, tight on his hips while the man’s tongue pushed deep into his mouth, opening Dan and devouring him as much as was possible on a public street.
God, Berg had been hard. Dan had felt it. Long, firm ridge under Berg’s slacks, pushing against Dan’s jeans and the equally hard shaft there. Hell, Dan had jerked off three times since then, just to the remembered sensation, and each time, he’d blown like a damned geyser.
He adjusted the short apron he wore, thankful for the extra layers of fabric as he made his way between the tables, delivering coffee here, latte there, dragon tea and assorted pastries, and when business slowed down, around nine thirty, Dan was glad. He wasn’t sure of exactly when Berg finished work, but it couldn’t be too much longer.
And then, Dan told himself with a smile, Berg would be coming to Sparks, and maybe they’d even be able to make another date. Preferably one that ended in something a little more than a kiss.
Bussing the dirty tables wasn’t the easiest thing in the world with his sprained wrist, but it definitely helped the time go by, as did exchanging sly little digs with Ryan. Ryan seemed fixated on how impatient Dan was to see Berg and in return, Dan pointed out the many, many personality flaws Ryan seemed so proud of.
It wasn’t exactly a friendship they had, Dan knew, because he and Ryan never spent any time together away from work— mostly because Dan didn’t much like the club scene and didn’t see the point of the nameless, faceless sex Ryan claimed to enjoy— but they got along well enough. Hell, there was a reason that he and Ryan were scheduled together so often. Dan was one of two people Ryan had never made cry with snide, borderline cruel comments and insinuations. So, no. Not a friendship, exactly, but close enough for the workplace. Not really anywhere else, though.
Still, when Berg didn’t show by the time he and Ryan finished their six p.m. to two a.m. shift, Ryan was at least enough of a friend not to rub it in. That was something, at least. It didn’t make up for the fact that Berg had obviously changed his mind, but at least it was something.
* * *
Bergen was still sore, even two days after he’d headed home from his date with Dan and found Carl Black waiting for him. Still sore and still completely in the dark with regards to how Carl had found him. Still pissed off, too, because Bergen figured that was a perfectly reasonable reaction to being drugged against his will then fucked repeatedly in his own bed.
He didn’t remember much about that part, and while Bergen was sort of glad, he also just wasn’t. Close to a year without touching K and even the small amount Carl had injected him with had hit like a ton of bricks. He hadn’t been able to resist or even react much, once the drug had taken effect, just a few minutes after he’d been dosed.
It was his own fault, Bergen knew. He should have just run as soon as he’d realized Carl was there. He hadn’t, though. Instead, he’d tried to bullshit his way through. Tried to send Carl away. He’d let Carl get close enough to grab him. To drug him. To get Bergen’s keys once the special K hit.
Berg had a vague recollection of trying to struggle while Carl hauled him up the stairs to the second floor apartment above the new age shop Bergen worked in. Seemed to recall cursing Carl, the world, and whatever veterinarian was possibly supplying Carl with the Ketamine because Bergen didn’t really know where Carl got his supply. He remembered doing his best to make a fist and strike.
“Yeah, that worked really well,” Bergen grunted to himself as he stood in the shower, hot water pouring down over his bruise-marked skin, one eye swelled mostly shut. Carl was still rough, damn it, though that much wasn’t really a surprise. “I look like a train wreck. At least the vile fucker used rubbers.” Berg knew that much for sure. The discarded wrappers used prophylactics had still been on the floor when he’d woken up, purple and red marks darkening on his skin.
He hadn’t gone to see Dan. Not that night and not this one, either. He couldn’t, no matter how much he wanted to. Not until the bruises faded completely, and maybe not even then. There was too much of a chance that Carl might have someone watching him. Bergen couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like the kind of thing Carl would do. The man hadn’t taken Berg’s continued refusal to ‘stop this bullshit and get back to work’ well, which again? Not so surprising. Apparently some of the customers who paid very well for the privilege of watching Carl’s ‘boys’ fuck via live feed missed Berg, or Grady as he’d called himself then. It would be just like Carl to have someone keeping an eye on Berg and if so, and whoever it was found out about Dan?
No. Fuck that. Bergen couldn’t take the chance. He liked Dan, damn it. There was about zero chance that he could let Dan— tall, built, hot, blond… and oh, yeah, kind of submissive, in a way— even become a blip on Carl’s radar. Bergen still hated the fuck out of the bastard who’d eased him into Carl’s stable. He’d barely been able to hobble around after that first gang bang show. Dan was just too damned gentle to survive intact. If the drugs didn’t do him in, the casual cruelty would.
Berg really did want to see Dan, though. Wanted to explain, though he didn’t know what he would say. ‘The guy I used to work for wants me to come back and do more live porn, so he basically raped me a few times to remind me of what I’m missing’ sounded ridiculous. So did ‘I can’t go to the cops because what I was doing was illegal, too, and I don’t really feel like going to jail, and besides, Carl’s got all sorts of people on his payroll so he’d never be convicted of anything, but I for damned sure would, so what’s the point?’
“Fuck Carl,” Berg muttered as he turned off the water. “I wish he would just die.” He meant it, too. He wouldn’t shed a single tear if he woke up one day and heard that Carl had died. Preferably in a slow, messy and painful manner.
Bergen dried off and crawled into bed carefully, the brand new, clean sheets slightly scratchy against his tender skin. He had an early morning coming, after all. He needed to figure out some place to set up the assortment of snow globes Federer had ordered in. The man insisted they be put on display immediately, though winter was still months away.
Berg’s eyes closed and he frowned, determined to dream of something other than Carl… or the damned-near perfect kiss he’d shared with Dan. He should have just gone inside with Dan that night, damn it. Maybe then, Carl wouldn’t have found him.
Yeah… it was all his own fucking fault. Shit.
* * *
A week, damn it. An entire fucking week and Dan still didn’t know what he’d done so wrong that Berg would no only be staying away from the coffee shop but wasn’t even willing to call and say ‘sorry, changed my mind’ or even… well, anything.
He’d replayed every moment of their one and only date, relived it in memory, and Dan still didn’t know. It had been good, damn it. Then Berg left and…
“You need to stop with the dwelling,” Ryan announced as he pushed into the back of the shop through the swinging doors. “Seriously, Danny-boy. The pipes, the pipes, they’re not a-calling. So cheer up, slap a smile on that pretty face and move on! One date does not a marriage make, right? You’re still young… well, young enough, anyway, and while I really do sympathize with whatever girly sense of disappointment you’re going through? You’re totally depressing. I keep expecting you to burst into tears or something.”
Dan glared at the man but Ryan just smirked and reached past him, sliding open the door of the dairy case and pulling out a hard boiled egg. “You used to be fun,” Ryan added as he picked the shell apart, tossing the fragile white shards into the trash can. “Even while you were pining after Bert.”
“Berg. With a G,” Dan muttered, frowning.
“Whatever. Bert, Berg, Jerk. Don’t know, don’t care.” Ryan split the egg, tossing the yolk into the garbage with the shell. “My point is, you went on one date with the bastard and if he’s decided he doesn’t want you, well… there are plenty of guys out there who wouldn’t mind having a go at you. I mean, have you seen yourself? You’re all… built and stuff. Muscles, good bone structure. Even when you’re all… pouty and annoying, you’re a lovely adornment. You just need the right person to drape yourself over. Series of people. Whatever.”
Dan snorted. He couldn’t help it. “Please. You make me sound ornamental. Besides, Ry. I’ve done that, okay? Been the temporary arm candy, I mean. I don’t like it. I just…” He sighed. “I guess I thought Berg was different.”
And maybe it was because he wasn’t bolder, Dan decided for about the twentieth time, that day alone. Maybe Berg had left him after their date and realized that he wanted someone who didn’t need to be led by the hand, damn it.
Either way, though, Berg obviously wasn’t interested. He needed to accept it, just like Ryan said.
“You thought he was going to be, what?” Ryan scoffed around a mouthful of egg white. “Your happily ever after? That’s sweet, Danny-boy. Pathetic and delusional, but sweet. Now, get over it, smile, and get your tight little ass back out on the floor. Fuck if I’m going to do all the work myself.”
“I thought maybe he’d at least…” Dan whispered to Ryan’s retreating back. “I’m just so tired of being lonely.”
He tried to shake it off, even as he followed Ryan out into the shop, proper, but that didn’t make it any less true. He’d really hoped that maybe Berg and he would work out. That they’d not only have the attraction and heat Dan had felt from the start— which he’d thought their knee-weakening kiss had proven to be shared— but that they would also discover that they suited each other. He’d imagined nights spent indoors, with sex and more kisses, yes, but… Dan had also let himself dream that he and Berg would just enjoy each other’s company. Watch TV, cook dinner together, spend time just talking or playing Scrabble, or even Pictionary, if Berg didn’t like playing with words.
“God, I’m an idiot,” Dan told himself later that night as he got ready for bed. “Ryan’s right. It was one date. Just one. And so what if Berg and I seemed to get along? We don’t have whatever connection I thought was there. We just don’t.” And no matter how many times he’d watched Berg at the coffee shop, or Berg had watched him… well, Berg wasn’t interested.
The thought should have been freeing, Dan figured. It should have made it easier to let go and move on, and yet… he couldn’t seem to forget the day they’d spent together. Lunch, when Berg had been so nice. The way the man hadn’t made him feel stupid for being freaked out by horror movies. The long talk they’d had over ice cream, then running to dinner, having drinks, and that kiss.
It all kept coming back to that one long, deep kiss that had shaken Dan right to his core. Berg had been shaken, too. Dan was sure of it. Shaken and aroused. And he’d sounded so damned honest when he’d said that he wanted more than one night with Dan, too. So sincere. It seemed impossible that Berg would just up and change his mind over night, especially when Dan had seen how the sadness and small tinge of fear in Berg’s eyes had faded to nearly nothing during their date. He’d been good for Berg, damn it.
He finally fell asleep, both glad a depressed that he wasn’t working the next day. Glad because he really did need a day off— he hadn’t been to the dojo in ages and needed a good sparring session in the worst way— but depressed that there wasn’t anybody he wanted to spend the rest of that day with. Aside from the one person who didn’t want anything to do with him, anyway.
* * *
Well, apparently Federer had been right about the snow globes because after five days, there were only three left of the original twenty. Those three probably would have sold, too, if there weren’t something weird about each and every one. Berg had no idea about why anyone would make a snow globe with a peacock inside. It didn’t seem particularly winter-ish to him. The second, which held a penguin— yes, penguins were winter-like, but this penguin was a shade of orange usually reserved for cheese puffs— might still sell, but Berg doubted it.
The third one, on the other hand, just made him laugh. The rainbow colored goldfish inside had a perpetually surprised look on its face, probably because the structure behind it resembled nothing more than an erect golden cock, complete with balls. Berg was pretty sure it was supposed to be a castle or something, but then again, the fish was rainbow colors, so who knew?
If the fish globe was still there in a couple of days, Berg thought he would probably buy it himself. He could put it on his windowsill or something. Maybe it would cheer him up. God knew he needed it.
Carl hadn’t been back, but Bergen wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not. It depended on whether Carl had decided that fucking Bergen was punishment enough or if the guy was just biding his time. At least most of the bruises had healed, though the eye was taking longer than the rest, and Bergen could finally sit down without hissing.
He still felt guilty for completely ditching Dan, but it was for the best. It wasn’t as though he’d had much of a choice, really. The danger to Dan aside, Bergen still would have had to explain why he looked like he’d been on the wrong end of a hammer and that would have led to telling Dan about the past, and… yeah. It would have been over either way. Better that it ended with Dan safe and unaware of just how dirty Bergen had once been.
He straightened the shelves, arranging the crystal animals in the usual borderline-perverted ways he always did, though he found less amusement in it than he’d done before. He reorganized the herb packets, alphabetizing them for ease, while fully aware that they’d be a shambles again in just a few hours. Then Bergen lit some incense— not the purple variety Federer was allergic to, but the Egyptian Musk that sold so well.
Federer called out from the office, telling Berg to restock the beeswax candles, which had been next on Berg’s list, anyway, so he was in the stockroom behind the counter when the wind chimes tinkled, announcing a customer. “Be right with you,” Berg called out as he grabbed a few of each color and set them carefully in a hand basket liberated from the local grocery store.
“No hurry, take your time,” the customer answered a moment later and the voice seemed slightly familiar, but they did get the same people in, often enough.
Berg took the guy at his word. He took his time, emerging with the basket of candles a few minutes later. “Sorry about that,” he said, setting the basket down on the counter. “Welcome to The Dark Crescent. How can I help you?”
The man looked a little bit familiar, but not enough that Berg could remember his name. He couldn’t quite figure out why the guy’s eyes widened when he turned, but then Berg remembered about his eye. It was healing, yes, but still obviously bruised and a little bit swollen. Not usual for him. At all.
“Um.” The guy frowned. “I was looking for some incense, I guess. I mean, I was walking by and whatever you’re burning smells really good, so I thought I’d get some. I’m having this Arabian Nights thing next weekend and… well. So. Incense?”
Weird, but whatever. A sale was a sale, after all.
The next few hours went by in a blur as people got out of work and stopped in for this and that. Nobody bought any of the three snow globes, and Bergen was glad, about the fish one, anyway. He really was going to buy it, he decided during a lull. In fact, he was going to put it behind the counter and let Federer know. The man would probably laugh, but so what? There wasn’t much that had made Bergen smile in the last week, so the globe was worth it, damn it.
The last of the current customers made his way to the door and Bergen grabbed the fish globe, then crouched behind the counter to put his prize in the drawer there. He heard the door close behind the guy who’d just left, the chimes tinkling merrily.
He wasn’t expecting anyone to be there when he stood again, but damned if he didn’t find himself nose to nose with… “Oh, shit. Dan. Uh, hi.” God, Dan looked good. Even better than Bergen had remembered. And oddly enough, the guy didn’t look angry. Berg was pretty sure Dan should look angry. Berg would have been. “Uh, what are you… how did… shit.”
Dan frowned, just a little bit but Bergen saw it. “Ryan just told me you were here,” he said, as though Bergen knew who Ryan was. “He told me. I mean. What happened, Berg? It looks like somebody hit you. I. Are you okay? Is that why… Never mind, of course it’s why. Maybe, anyway. Just tell me what happened, okay? Because I’ve been sort of freaking out and stuff and then Ryan said you were hurt and I figured that would explain it, even though you could have called me at Sparks and I thought we were starting to, I don’t know, do something, and I understand if you didn’t want to tell me you got in a fight or something, but it’s okay and I just really, really want…”
Dan stopped and took a breath then blushed, one hand rising to brush careful fingers beside Bergen’s injured eye. “I really, really want… you, Berg. I can’t stop thinking about you, so if you’ve been staying away because you were fighting, it’s… well, it’s not cool, really, but I’d get it. Or if you just changed your mind, then say so and I’ll go away but… God, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say and I’m fucking babbling again so just tell me to shut up or something. Anything, okay?”
Bergen’s hand rose slowly, fingers resting against Dan’s where they touched his cheek. He swallowed hard, unable to pull his gaze from Dan’s soft blue eyes. “I. This was easier when. I could. Before. Now, it’s just…” Impossible, Bergen knew. Impossible to stay away when Dan was right there in front of him; when Dan had actually taken the initiative in a way Bergen knew made the man uncomfortable. Even more impossible to remember why he shouldn’t just lean across the counter and dig the fingers of his free hand into Dan’s hair, pulling those soft, sweet lips to his own. So impossible that Bergen didn’t even try.
Fuck Carl. Fuck being scared. He was going to date Dan, damn it.
Of course, he would have to tell Dan what was going on and even if the guy didn’t end up running as far away from Bergen as possible, he might still decide that Berg wasn’t good enough for him. But Bergen would worry about that later. After they finished kissing, which Bergen figured would be an hour or so.
As it turned out, it was more like a few minutes because the wind chimes rang as the front door opened and Dan pulled back, blushing. “Um, sorry,” Dan said, looking a bit worried, all of a sudden. “I forgot you’re at work and…”
“It’s fine,” Berg murmured, pulling Dan in for one soft brush of lips before releasing him. “I don’t know if… No. I mean that I’m working until ten tonight. I’d like it if you’d agree to see me then. I think… well, we need to talk, Dan. About our date and this past week and whether we’re going to go out again.”
Dan nodded quickly, a little smile quirking at his lips. “It’s almost eight-thirty. I’ll wait. Maybe I can finally figure out what it is that makes you smell so good.”
The next hour and a half dragged on and on, but Bergen was fine with that. He helped out various customers, finally selling the crystal platypus that had been on the shelf since before Bergen had even started working at the shop. He answered questions and made suggestions, all the while watching Dan from the corner of his eye and dreading the talk they needed to have, even while looking forward to spending even a little bit of time with the man.
God, he was screwed. He just hoped Carl actually didn’t have anyone watching him because Bergen knew for damned sure that they’d notice him and Dan leaving the store together. Shit.
* * *