“Can I get you something, Sir?” A pretty waitress in a short black skirt with her hair tied up in a glittery bow pauses by the booth tucked away in a far corner of the club. Her smile widens when she catches sight of the handsome customer as he looks up through dark slanted eyes at her from the plush red couch.
This section is reserved for VIPs and their guests so she is used to seeing the gorgeous, the glamourous, and the powerful that frequent this popular night spot but this guy makes everyone else seem dull or overdone in comparison. His short, dark brown hair is longer on the top, falling boyishly over one eye and accenting the angular curves of his face and full lips. A neatly cut black suit with a simple white shirt emphasizes his lean form. The only adornments to be seen are an expensive silver watch on his left wrist and a silver chain bracelet on his right. By rights, there is really nothing on him that makes him stand out except his striking looks and the aura of controlled power he gives off. It’s a combination the waitress doesn’t often see, even in this part of the club. There is an anger in his eyes that gives her the feeling that leaving this customer alone as much as possible would be a good idea, so she tries for a quick escape. “If you need anything, please let me know.”
“Bourbon, Four Roses, Black Label…” The rough deep voice stops her as she is about to turn away. “Bring the bottle.”
“A whole bottle of Black Label? I’ll have to check if we have that. Please wait a moment.” Confused, the waitress almost trips her way up to the small bar dedicated to the VIP section after the customer gives a curt nod.
“P’Pae, do we have Four Roses, Black Label?” She whispers her question to the only person standing behind the black mahogany bar.
“Boss imports it but he doesn’t share it with just anyone since it’s his favorite.” Setting down the crystal glass he is drying, the burly bartender looks over at the waitress. “Who wants it, Nina?”
She points over to the customer sitting alone in the nearly empty section. It’s still a little early so the club has yet to fill up making it easy to point him out among the patrons. When she looks back at Pae, she sees his eyes twitch.
“I’ll take care of it.” The bartender says and waves her off to help the other customers in the area. Grabbing the phone off the counter, he punches in a number and waits until an excitable male voice answers the phone. “Boss, the secretary is here.”
“What?!” The scream would have startled anyone else but Pae is used to his boss after all these years. “I’ll be right down! Don’t let him leave!”
“He’s not going anywhere.” With a gruff laugh, Pae leans his hip against the bar as he listens to the other person. “He just ordered a whole bottle of your Black Label… Seriously… Okay.”
In a matter of minutes, a discrete black door to the right of the bar opens revealing the owner of the club (and many other properties if we’re going to be accurate). His short square frame covered in a natty blue suit is quickly followed by a muscular guy with shaggy blonde hair dressed in black jeans and a stylishly knotted tank top. The odd duo walk over to where Pae is waiting.
“Where is that bastard?” The boss whines to his bartender as he sets down the bottle of bourbon on a round tray. “I haven’t seen or heard from him in months and he just decides to show up here out of the blue and wants a whole bottle of my bourbon.”
“It’s not like it’s THAT expensive and you have an entire stash of it upstairs and even more at home.” His blonde companion rolls his honey brown eyes.
“That’s beside the point… or not even the point…” Huffing at the other guy, the boss shakes his head. “Whatever. It doesn’t matter. The point is: Where is that Bastard?”
“Corner booth.” Pae answers as he gives a nod of his head in that direction and sets three tumblers on the tray with the bottle of bourbon. “And he’s not in a good mood.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” The boss grumbles staring at the bottle on the tray as he picks it up. “An entire bottle. He’s either celebrating or suffering.”
“I got it.” The blonde takes the tray out of his hands. “You go greet him.”
“Thanks.” With a small worried smile, the shorter man quickly walks to the back of the section with his companion following at a slower pace.
“Phun, you bastard! Where the hell have you been?” Plopping himself down on the couch across the table, he scoots over to make room for the guy holding the tray.
“Fi.” The handsome guy smiles warmly for the first time that day, though his eyes are anything but happy. Turning he nods to the other person who joins him. “Oil, it’s been a while. How are you guys doing?”
“We’re always good.” Oil gives a knowing grin to Fi, who blushes and stutters.
“W-w-we’re f-fine.” Clearing his throat, Fi brushes away the hand that is creeping onto his thigh. Shrugging, Oil grabs the decanter instead and hands out the glasses after pouring some of the caramel colored liquor into each. Taking a restoring sip, Fi faces Phun again. “What about you? What’s going on? What’s happening? Where the hell have you been? Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve heard from you? A phone call would be nice or a text or, hell, even a postcard! Give us…”
“Breathe, babe.” With his wide palm covering Fi’s mouth, Oil chuckles at his boyfriend, only releasing him after he stops struggling to talk. “Give Phun a chance to answer at least one of your questions.”
“I was busy handling business in Europe and it was even busier when my assistant quit without notice while we were in Paris.” Phun shakes his head and takes a long pull from his glass, welcoming the soft sting of the bourbon hitting his tongue and warming its way down his throat.
“You lost another one? How many does that make it now? Four? Five in the last year? Do you even know?” Fi’s voice is tinged with sarcasm.
“Hey! This one left on her own.” Raising his hands in the air, Phun claims his innocence. “Said she found love while sitting by the Seine River. Before I could say anything, she waltzed out of the room and I haven’t seen her since.”
“How long did she work for you?” Oil asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Four months, give or take.” Shrugging his broad shoulders, Phun swirls the liquid around in his glass.
“She must have been something to last that long with you.” Shocked, Fi eyes the guy across from him. “Normally, you relocate them within two.”
“I don’t know why it’s so hard to find a decent assistant to work for me.” Phun shakes his head as he finishes off the glass and both of his friends burst into laughter. “What?”
“Nevermind, nevermind.” Waving off Phun’s confused stare, Fi pours him another drink and gives him a serious look. The loss of his assistant was clearly an inconvenience for him but was not something that would put the man in this foul of a mood. The underlying anger is still evident in his expressive eyes, even though it is not apparent with the rest of him. “Why don’t you tell me why you are trying to work your way through my private stock. What’s going on, Phun?”
Instead of answering, Phun downs the glass Fi hands him and returns it for a refill to which Fi complies. Taking the full glass back, he leans into the soft cushions of the couch and stares into his drink with frown. After a minute, he looks up with a wide fake smile and raises the glass for a silent toast. The others follow suit and clink the crystal together before taking a sip while Phun downs his again.
“I know you, Phun.” Setting down his empty glass, Fi rests his elbows on his knees as he studies the other man. “We’ve been friends since high school. We were on the student council together. We practically lived in each other’s pockets all the way through University. You may be able to the fool the rest of the world with your perfect smile, but not me, so spill it. Something has pissed you off royally.”
“Congratulate me, my friend.” A humorless laugh escapes from Phun and he raises his glass once more in a mock toast. “I’m getting engaged.”
“So, you’re celebrating?” Seriously confused, Fi looks over at Oil who shrugs his shoulders. “You don’t look like you’re celebrating though. You look like you’re going to a funeral… or to a war.”
“I am.” Phun says seriously without lowering his glass. “Probably both. Here’s to the end of my single life.” He downs the bourbon again.
“Is it really that bad?” Oil asks, a bit unnerved. Phun has always been more upbeat, not bubbly, but he’s always tried to make the best of any situation. The man in front of him was as far from that as a person can get. He sounds absolutely infuriated and extremely depressed.
“Pa arranged it and will be making the announcement in a couple months. It’s with one of his political friend’s daughters.” Displeasure is written plainly across Phun’s features as he pictures his future wife. She’s fresh, barely out of high school, with a coldly beautiful face and a stoney stare. If she has a voice, he’s never heard it and has little desire to at this point. He plasters a rueful smile on his face as he looks over at his friends. “A marriage of big business and even bigger politics that he thinks will set me up for the grand life he’s always imagined for me.”
“How well do you know her? Is she pretty? Nice?” At a glare from Phun, Fi gives up that line of questioning and tries the next with little enthusiasm. “What about talking to your father?
“Tried and failed.” Snorting, Phun fills his own glass this time, just barely avoiding sloshing the contents over the side. His father is too busy organizing Phun’s life to listen to his son. Phun tried more than once to express his opinions on the matter but the elder kept brushing him off, saying he knows what’s best and that Phun will thank him in the end. “Our families have gotten together several times in the last year, pushing us together. The parents couldn’t be happier as they make plans for my future.”
“And your sister?” Oil quietly asks, knowing Phun’s weakness for his pretty younger sibling. “What does she think?”
“Pang hates Aim but she won’t tell me why other than to say it’s a feeling only a girl can understand.” With a deep sigh, Phun slouches into his seat. “She will at least listen to me, not that she can help at all.”
“Don’t forget about us.” Fi waves a hand between Oil and himself. “I don’t really know everything that’s going on, but I will always stand with you and I know Oil agrees.”
“Of course.” Oil wraps an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulders. “We’ve got your back, Phun.”
“Thanks, guys.” Touched by their support, Phun finally gives them a genuine smile that reaches his eyes.
“Anytime, my friend.” Both of them stand up as Fi holds out his hand. “We promised to have dinner with Oil’s Ma this evening or we’d stay and keep you company. Let us know if you need anything or when you have some free time to get together.”
“Sure thing. Tell your ma that I said hello.” Shaking Fi’s hand and then Oil’s, Phun sits back down on the couch.
“Do you want to come with? I’m sure Ma would love to see you?” Oil offers after seeing Phun sink back into his previous state of ill emotions.
“Nah, I’m not fit company right now.” Shaking his head, Phun picks up his glass. “Don’t worry. I’m just going to sit here quietly enjoying the President’s bourbon.”
“Ha ha.” Fi rolls his eyes. “That bottle is on me. Anymore and you’re covering it. Have Pae call a driver for you, too, when you’re ready to head home.”
“Yes, Mr. President.” Phun salutes him sharply.
“Just listen to me, Mr. Secretary, so I don’t have to worry about your dumb ass getting into an accident.” Giving a warning glare to Phun, Fi waves a goodbye and walks back to the black door with Oil. After a last glance at his depressed friend, he whispers a few instructions to his bartender before leaving through the door.