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 Worried about you, Tag Bruce | May 21st
Murad Hassan
 Posted: May 20 2018, 12:31 PM
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It had not been his most fun week. First, he’d been put on the case. Then, when he’d started to have a relevant opinion that disagreed with the department’s and his lieutenant’s, he’d gotten pulled from the case. And what was worse was that he didn’t agree with the choice. And the case was still bugging him.

The mere thought of another bender so close after the first made him shudder, but Jane had informed him that he should ”try to get some.” She knew him well, and knew his spirals, and was worried that the confluence of all these events was going to lead him to another…episode. Murad would’ve pointed that the situations were completely different. He’d never really been a depressive. Dramatic, yes, and inclined to mope in a showy fashion, but actually depressive, no. But a night out and not at his apartment, staring at the case wall, was something he could agree on. So here he was, out in Haven—because it was the kind of area that wasn’t going to put him back on duty. And because he was out, in theory, to “get some,” Jane had pushed him to shave and get himself back in his usual order. And he had. For some reason, it made him feel better.

He didn’t think he was actually going to meet someone tonight to take home. And with Leo still ringing in his head, he was pretty sure he didn’t want to. But he could enjoy the press of humanity for a bit, a drink, and distractions from everyone who was bothering him.

Even if he couldn’t help but hear a couple of conversations about the flashy murder of the judge. Nope, focus on the drinks, that was the goal.

Except there was someone else in this bar who looked pretty…familiar.

Murad blinked and took his drink—he didn’t care today and no one knew who he was here, so he’d gotten the most frilly cocktail he could find on the menu—and walked over to tap the other man on the shoulder.

“Bruce?” He tilted his head. “Didn’t think you hung out in…this crowd.”

Some might’ve found it awkward meeting your therapist out of the office. And it was. But Murad was two drinks in on a bad day and in situations like that, his curiosity always won. Plus, he’d heard some of the press announcements, and he suspected Bruce being here was not for positive reasons.

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 20 2018, 07:34 PM
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45 YEARS
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758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
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Another Saturday night
And I ain't got nobody
I got some money 'cause I just got paid
Now, how I wish I had someone to talk to
I'm in an awful way…


It had been nearly three weeks since the news had broken, and in that time, Bruce had settled into a not-quite comfortable habit, one marked by too many hours at Shangri-La and then a costume change into more casual clothing for his evening plans – touring the club scene, meeting up with old acquaintances or making new ones. He made the rounds of Ark, demonstrating few preferences between women and men or Evolute and Typic, with the only strict criteria that his company for the night was within the right age range (no more than five years on either side), was either single or in an open relationship, didn’t believe the worst of him, and was interested of their own volition. An additional restriction for his own emotional stability – that he didn’t trawl the Scene because he was in no condition to take that much responsibility unto himself during his off-hours.

Tonight brought him to a club in Haven that catered almost exclusively to men seeking the company of other men – the sole exception were male/female couples who sought a male third for the night. Bruce had arrived half an hour ago, settled himself at the bar, ordered a cocktail, tipped the bartender excessively, and then settled in to watch couples dance or disappear discreetly into back rooms.

Lacking both telepathy and precognition, he had no more expected to run into Murad than the younger man expected to see him here, only realized when Murad drew his attention away from the middle-aged brunet sipping a martini in the corner. It was always far less strange for a therapist to run into a patient than vice versa, since by the nature of the relationship, he was placed in a specific context – and his outside reputation lent itself to different expectations – while he heard the minutia of his patients’ full lives outside of his office. He knew that Murad was gay; by contrast, Bruce said nothing about his sexual orientation as it had no role in the services rendered.

He feigned a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, before gesturing with his elbow at the broader club around him. “Nearly every crowd is my crowd.”

Not the too young set. Not lesbians. Not TU or sports bars or people who fought for pleasure. But otherwise, one should never be too surprised that Bruce Vaughan sought home in some club or another.

“How are you tonight?”

@Murad Hassan
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Murad Hassan
 Posted: May 20 2018, 09:38 PM
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In truth, Murad didn’t have the first clue what Bruce’s orientation was. He’d guessed that, by the flexibility of Shangri-la, the man was in the LGBTQ group or at least very supportive, leaning towards the former. But he hadn’t asked. Bruce had kept boundaries in therapy. For Murad, who went to try to keep one thing in his life as an anchor, it didn’t matter as much. But he respected it. He could work with clear rules. It made everything easier.

So he wasn’t exactly surprised to see Bruce in a club for gay men. He was more surprised because he assumed, if Bruce wanted partners, there would be an easier way for the man to get them.

Then again, in thinking about it, he didn’t know what that was.

But he suspected that was what Bruce was doing. He was dressed casually, drinking, and was perusing the company in a way that was what Murad would’ve called “predatory.”

Not in a bad way, mind. Just…assertive.

He made a small “hmpf!” noise at Bruce’s comment, noting the way the smile seemed ever-so-slightly strained. What had his relationship been with Reese anyways, that he’d been forced to disavow the man? Perhaps he was the mysterious friend that Reese kept going on about. If so, yikes.

“Fine,” he said, which was a lie. He wasn’t having an episode, he wasn’t on a bender, and aside from the exhaustion of digging into things even in his off hours, he was in relatively sound health. But he wasn't "fine" by a long stretch. However, they weren’t on the clock and Murad generally defaulted to masculine levels of emotion when he wasn’t actually in the therapy chair.

“You don’t want that one,” he added, with a slight head nod to the brunet that Bruce had been watching. “Probably married or very recently separated, in total denial of his sexuality, and probably infected with something catching. I might recommend him instead.” He tilted his head to the other direction, at a blond man who was laughing in a group. “Seen him around before. Divorced but really over it, nice smile, not inclined to cling. Good for a lot of things, depending on what you’re looking for.” He blinked innocently at the man. “Not that I’m implying anything.”

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 24 2018, 04:14 PM
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Evolute
45 YEARS
Citizen
Tier 3
758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
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On the one hand, on couldn’t go broke assuming that Bruce possessed an outlook that created empathy and acceptance for other people’s orientations and proclivities. On the other hand, the gap between that and his own proclivities was a wider chasm than the popular imagination of Ark assumed. For instance, he put little stock in traditional definitions of masculinity but remained gender-conforming, not believing his bisexuality inherently transgressive (or even superior to those who were wired with attraction to only one gender). At the same time, he had been active in the Scene for two and a half decades, but his kinks tended towards the traditional – leather, BDSM, role play – more than any of the more extreme or outré behavior wrongly ascribed to him by virtue of Shangri-La’s existence.

Yikes was an understatement. Of course, Bruce remained unaware that Murad knew Reese or as recently as a few days prior had been visited in the middle of the night by the other man to share a sober lament and to vomit his regrets over Murad’s apartment, staining the detective’s soul rather than his furniture. If he knew, he would politely excuse himself, set down his drink, and leave the club for one without reminders of his ex-friend.

Bruce turned towards the man that Murad had indicated, his lips curling as he shook his head. “I couldn’t.”

Not that he disagreed with Murad’s assessment. In fact, he was well-acquainted with the blond man’s divorce and some of his other habits, including his sense of humor and accommodating tendencies. Like many Haven denizens, the blond had passed through the doors of Shangri-La in recent months which set him strictly off-limits under Bruce’s code of ethics. Were he not the sole owner and proprietor of Shangri-La, it would be a firing offense for him to be receptive to an advance, let alone to pursue the man, even for a no-strings attached one-night fling, and he held himself to even stricter standards than applied to his employees.

Lifting his drink, he took a long sip of the cocktail. “Are we here for the same reason tonight? Or did you want a change of scenery?”

@Murad Hassan
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Murad Hassan
 Posted: May 26 2018, 10:39 PM
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On that particular front, Murad had no assumptions. For one, assumptions were somewhat dangerous in his line of work. That was what could lead to issues. For another, he generally did his best not to imagine Bruce in situations like that. It interfered with their, uh, “professional” relationship and the last thing that had intruded into his mind in that respect had put them on rocky footing that they had not quite recovered from.

Or, at least, they hadn’t in Murad’s mind.

If Murad had his way, Bruce would never find out that Murad knew Reese or knew that the man considered Bruce to be his only friend. For one, it was none of his business. For another, if Bruce shared any reciprocal feelings towards Reese, he could imagine that the man was feeling a bit down. And Murad was more than happy to help people through some good ol’ rebound fun. It might even help him through his post-Leo blues.

Yeah right.. But he shook that off for now, merely frowning a bit as Bruce rejected the blond. “Huh. Okay. Well, night’s still young and you picked a good spot for it.” Although he wished Bruce had given him some other reasons. He didn’t even know if it was because the blond wasn’t Bruce’s type or that it was something else entirely.

“In theory, yeah.” Interesting that Bruce wasn’t denying it. He would’ve expected something different although, once again, he wasn’t sure why. But like the other things, this one wasn’t really worth worrying about. “In reality, not so much. Figured I’d take in the scene, maybe enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.” He offered a wry smile. “So, anything in particular you’re looking for? Aside from, y’know, the obvious.”

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 28 2018, 01:27 PM
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45 YEARS
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758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
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Bruce had explained at the time that what had incensed him had been the implication that he would sleep with a barely-legal subordinate, particularly one as trusting as Irving Coley, Jr., rather than the notion that he possessed the same sexual urges as other non-asexual adults. However, that exchange had occurred two months prior, and rehashing it would cast an unpleasant shadow over an otherwise promising evening.

His fingers traced the cool exterior of his cocktail glass as he tore his attention away from the group of men to settle squarely on Murad, waiting for the younger man to expound on his reasons for braving the crowds this evening.

The mental manipulator had no reason to deny that he had come to a club to flirt. Three weeks prior, he would have, but that came not from shame or propriety; instead, it reflected where he had been and the change in circumstances. Three weeks ago, life had been stable, and, as a man halfway finished with his fifth decade of life, one-night stands and casual sex held little appeal. He had desired stability, but his busy social calendar, poor work-life balance, and political campaign left little room for serious dating; his pool further reduced by the tendency of his age group towards preexisting long-term commitments, as well as the persistent rumors that accompanied his name and his reputation. Now…he desired a distraction because he was in no condition to offer stability in return, and the same self-awareness ensured that he recognized this about himself.

“The music is a bit more tolerable here than some of the circuit scene,” he agreed, latching onto the younger man’s remark about quiet. This certainly was a safer bet for that than the dance floor at Noc with the DJ and Larissa’s penchant for techno music.

Bruce brought his glass to his lips to mask a self-deprecating smile before answering the question. “Someone close to my age who likes classical music and hasn’t been a client for at least eighteen months.”

@Murad Hassan
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Murad Hassan
 Posted: May 31 2018, 02:37 AM
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Murad would admit, seeing Bruce here did concern him a bit. While he’d always assumed that Bruce was a bit more…open in his sex life than Murad himself was, he had always gotten the stable impression of Bruce. The man seemed to know what he wanted in his life. He seemed to know how to get it, too. And Murad had never gotten the impression that casual one-night stands fit into that worldview. But hey, maybe he was wrong. And everyone needed to blow off steam.

He personally didn’t want to do it this way, but hey, he was down to help his therapist get into a bit of trouble. Why not. It wasn’t like the rest of his life wasn’t already upside-down. Might as well just make sure that nothing made sense right now.

However, he couldn’t help a low whistle at Bruce’s list of requirements. “Yeah, I can see why you might be having issues there. No offense, it’s just that’s a list of requirements that’s hard to find in a bar.” And one night stands. “Is the classical music a must? And how about someone in a—uh, open relationship?” He nodded to another man, taller, who was leaning in the corner. “That one’s a friend of my cousin. Married to a lovely woman, asexual. They have a very understanding relationship. Or I know nothing about that one—” this was to a black-haired man who seemed to be studying the drinks menu far too intently “—but no one who isn’t here for something would be taking that long to find a drink, you know?”

He sipped his drink, as if reminded, and thought for a bit longer. “On second thought, this might be faster if you point out all the candidates who won’t work for you.”


@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 31 2018, 09:32 AM
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Evolute
45 YEARS
Citizen
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758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Offline


Bruce carefully raised both eyebrows, subtly prompting Murad to elaborate on the little whistle, more used to hearing that in the context of an employee offering feedback about an event idea. When the younger man explained, the mental manipulator stifled a life, shook his head a single time, and lifted one hand to flag down the bartender for a glass of water.

For all the spectacle of his life, for all of his ambitions, Bruce had never been a braggart. When required, he made a compelling case for himself, whether that took the form of convincing Nocht to admit a boy from Evesdown or the bank to extend his credit line. Yet his parents had raised him well, instilled the middle class values and sufficient humility that he never shouted his bank balance or carved notches in his bed post as compensation for foul moods or insecurity. As such, he didn’t point out that applying the same criteria and without contemplating his powers, he had found unpaid company nearly every night since his press conference.

Instead, he interrupted upon the arrival of the bartender, ordered his glass of water, and offered to buy Murad a drink.

Only when they were left alone again did he return his attention to the conversation at hand. “Classical music is a metaphor.”

A one-night stand held few expectations, but the mental manipulator did not initiate even casual sex with people he couldn’t respect, or people with whom he shared so few commonalities that they couldn’t converse over breakfast the next morning.

“Open relationships are fine, but I have to check on them.” Such were the obligations of ethical non-monogamy. Bruce firmly believed that each couple or poly unit could set the rules and priorities that worked best for them; he never passed judgment on the forms those took. However, as the interloper, he held himself to high standards, which included never accepting the word of a man he met at a bar as proof positive. People lied. They lied to themselves to spare their egos, and they lied to others in the most self-serving manner. He owed it to the city at large not to believe such lies, no matter how convenient they might be. No matter what he passed up as a result.

An extension of the self-denial that ruled his life in every sphere.

His gaze followed Murad’s first to his cousin’s friend with the open relationship and the asexual wife. Then to the dark-haired man with the menu. After another sip of his cocktail, and with the invitation to explain himself, he deliberately pointed at a man who appeared a year or two older than Murad. “He’s too young.”

That was the last reference to the detective’s insinuations about Junior that would pass Bruce’s lips tonight.

@Murad Hassan
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Murad Hassan
 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 10:59 PM
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Murad watched Bruce out of the corner of his eye. The man didn’t give much away, but he’d guess that his luck was not quite as dire as Murad suspected. Well then. He could work with that. He’d never personally had that great of luck with one night stands—it was hard to hook up with someone when you were always looking for their flaws and trying to spot what was wrong with them.

Really, he supposed he should apply those kinds of standards to the people wanted in a relationship. Especially right now.

He shook his head when Bruce offered him a drink, tapping a finger against his still half-full (and quite girly) drink. “Oh, I see.” He blinked, then chuckled softly. “Sometimes I can tell we grew up on different sides of the tracks.” Murad’s family had been solidly middle class, but outside of that, no one in his life had. Classical music wouldn’t have been a metaphor for anything aside from sleep in Murad’s circles.

Murad nodded. “Fair enough. Hard to check unless both are there, so we can knock that one off the list.”

He laughed at Bruce’s insinuation, choosing to take it with some levity rather than take offense. “Point taken and match. And how often do you want me to apologize for that anyways?” He tilted his head to the side. “So now that we’ve determined that I’m an ass, who is your type? I can make introductions.” He shrugged. “I’m halfway decent at that.”

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Jun 4 2018, 09:13 PM
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Evolute
45 YEARS
Citizen
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758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Offline


“Everyone is better off in Evesdown.” A sentiment that the mental manipulator had shared before regarding the benefits of the Evolute enclave in the middle of Jacks. Yet, today his words held an additional edge, the implication that he spoke beyond the benefits of childhood surrounded by peers. That a man who had voluntarily lived in Haven for more than a third of his life, who had carved out space for himself until his establishment (with him playing the role of front man) was as much an institution as the Malachite Temple or Nocht University could prefer to retreat back to his former home. That he had come to doubt the benefits of upward mobility (such as it existed in a world where mandatory ID cards listed one’s district and socioeconomic class at birth).

Two slow blinks banished his melancholy. The darkness receded so quickly one might doubt it had appeared in the first place. Firmly in the present, surrounded by men who preferred one another’s company, and one of his clients who had taken it upon himself to become his wingman for the evening.

What could go wrong?

“I wanted to make a point; I don’t require another apology.” Bruce had not mentioned this to Junior both because it had been spoken during a confidential therapy session, and because it would upset his protégé to hear. This was the last that the mental manipulator would speak of it at all. Thoughts turned towards the minefield of type. He didn’t have one as such.

Not a wanton, these past few weeks notwithstanding. Even for these excursions, he desired more than a symmetrical face and a particular body type or hair color. Men or women or non-binary people. Gay, straight, or bisexual. Blonde, redhead, or brunette. Tall, short, or average. Rail thin or muscular or built like a bear. The appropriate age range – though he considered that an obvious requirement rather than a type, just as he required consent and honest availability and nobody self-loathing or filled with genophobia.

His thoughts turned towards Reese so briefly, and he frowned into his glass. No, he wouldn’t make that mistake again.

“I don’t have one in the classical sense,” he admitted. After a quick sip, he explained, “I like a sharp mind and someone who won’t be offended by the absence of bacon the next morning.”

Unlike physical traits, he required conversation first to discern these attributes in a potential paramour.

@Murad Hassan
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Murad Hassan
 Posted: Jun 5 2018, 10:59 PM
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Murad slid a glance at the man out of the corner of his eye, wondering at some of the subtext of that. Despite being an Evo living in Jacks, Murad had spent very little time in Evesdown. For one, he was the only evolute in his family. For another, his mother, while solidly middle class, mostly associated with family, and did not have many evolute friends – or, if he was honest, many friends at all. But Murad’s upbringing had not been all that bad. He’d had money and support to get to college. He’d had good influences in his life. For a kid from Jacks, he’d been extremely lucky.

“Well, you might not require one, but it does’nt hurt to offer one, right?” Murad flashed him another wry smile, then turned back to perusing the crowd.

If he was honest, most of these guys weren’t his type. Either too old, too young—

Or not sarcastic and educated and blue eyed. Be real, Murad. You’re stuck carrying a torch for something that’s never gonna happen.

But he wasn’t there to focus on that. Instead, for now, he was just inclined to help Bruce out. After all, why not?

“Sharp.” Murad nodded thoughtfully. “Might be able to do that.” He pondered his frilly drink, then smiled. “I have an idea. Be right back.”

In the space of about fifteen minutes, Murad talked to five different guys. Mostly this involved bumping into them, chatting idly and making a couple jokes, and then moving on. When he returned, he wore an oddly satisfied smirk.

“I’ve got two for you,” he said. “Redhead at nine o’clock, and grey hair at 11. Both made a comment at me that were not flirty but also didn’t gender my drink choice.” He flashed him a grin. “They even made a pretty good joke. No pass. I sense potential, if you’d like to give it a go with one of them. I’ll make introductions.”

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Jun 6 2018, 06:35 AM
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Evolute
45 YEARS
Citizen
Tier 3
758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Offline


Bruce could hardly turn away decent manners or judge for

He carefully lifted one eyebrow when Murad announced without explanation his idea. With the slightest nod, let the other man go about it, no questions asked.

He remained behind, thanking the bartender when he arrived with the glass of water and Murad’s chaser, slipping him payment wrapped around a generous tip. Leaning against the bar, he sipped his water to clear is system, watched Murad approach an assortment of men roughly Bruce’s age, and mused. What was it about his younger therapy clients that compelled them to play wingman for him?

Larissa had claimed the mantle of friend long ago, straddling the line between professional obligations and personal preference. She had more of a right than Murad. Then again, she had also offered to pay Bruce with sexual favors during their first session, setting them on the course of her inordinate concern about his proclivities long before it became appropriate. Murad was coincidental.

Still, it wasn’t uncommon for Bruce to run into a client out and about who, upon seeing him, pretended that they had never met before. He could hardly have faulted the younger man for following suit. Instead, they had a round of matchmaker.

The older man had drained the last droplets in his glass and requested another chaser when Murad returned, a smile on his lips, and the pronouncement of not one but two prospects. Bruce glanced briefly at the redhead and then at the silver fox. After taking a few seconds for deliberation, he replied, “Let’s try eleven.”

As a starting proposition. Bruce had never shied from those older than him, as long as they adhered to the same basic age range. Refreshed glasses in hand, he gestured for Murad to take the lead before passing over his drink.

@Murad Hassan

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Murad Hassan
 Posted: Jun 8 2018, 12:56 AM
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For Murad, it was a combination of things. For one, he liked Bruce. He felt he owed him one for the whole Junior thing. For another, he didn’t really have anything else to do with his evening. And while Murad wasn’t very good at getting lucky himself, he was a pretty decent wingman, if he said so himself.

Which he did. Fairly frequently. It was yet to be proven, though, as Murad didn’t go out with friends all that often.

In truth, Murad didn’t know if the guy was older than Bruce or the same age or possibly even younger. The lights in the bar were dim and Murad was not the best judge of ages—the people he met tended to age prematurely from having a hard life.

“Eleven it is,” he said, and started over to the man, pausing a couple of times to let Bruce catch up to him before continuing. The man was not engaged when they came over, although he did turn at Murad’s light tap on the shoulder. He offered a puzzled smile to the man, then looked over at Bruce.

“You brought a friend this time, I see,” he said. “Hopefully he’s less clumsy than you.”

“Hard not to be,” Murad said with great cheer, even though he had never been considered clumsy in his life. It had worked, though—and knocking into the man and managing to not spill his drink on either of them had been an accomplishment in itself. “Bruce, Marcus. Marcus, Bruce. Bruce, I accidentally spilled Marcus’s drink but don’t have enough to get him a new one. I was wondering if you could help me out on that.”

Marcus shook his head, looking both amused and slightly puzzled. “It’s really fine, as I already told your friend,” he told Bruce with a calm smile. It’s probably better not to have too much.”

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Yesterday at 07:31 am
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Evolute
45 YEARS
Citizen
Tier 3
758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Offline


Bruce paused long enough to take each drink in hand before rising to his feet and following Murad as the younger man weaved through the throng of patrons towards their agreed-upon destination. With the grace of a dancer and the precision of a waiter, he managed not to spill a single drop during their journey. Coming to a halt, he passed Murad’s glass over; now Bruce held only the water glass, a model of restraint in a club setting.

A subtle sign that he was clear-headed enough for a conversation in the present, and whatever might follow should the other man desire more intense and private company. During the introductions, he shifted the glass to his left before offering his right for a handshake. “It’s delightful to meet you.”

He meant that in all sincerity, doubly so if the other man recognized him and had the kindness or patience not to the remark upon it.

His agreement about buying a replacement drink died before it left his lips as Marcus insisted he didn’t desire, or didn’t require, another. Bruce wasn’t in the habit of insisting that other people drink more than was comfortable for them, mindful of his own limitations (although he maintained those strict rules for the comfort of others rather than himself). Best to try a different tack for conversation then.

“I’m the same way.” He tapped the edge of his water glass for emphasis, drawing attention to the fact that he currently wasn’t consuming alcohol at all.

And now closer to the other man, he took the opportunity to appraise him for more than suitable age. Through the thick silver strands were flecks of darker brown, hints to his former hair color, and then his eyes…

Once, months ago, when discussing preferences in women with his former friend Reese, Bruce had admitted to his weakness for a pair of blue eyes. This extended to men as well, and a smile touched his lips during their brief eye contact.

“Could I get you something to eat instead?” He asked.

@Murad Hassan
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