the pearl

A Steak Dinner, A Few Beers

Clay does it every time he's on the rebound.

Usually after he gets out of the hospital. Sure, volatile women are fantastic in the sack, but the inevitable hospital stay does make Clay start thinking about finding someone quieter, easier, normal.

Which is why after every particularly bad breakup, he heads out to one of the bars. Out of the way, kind of an older, quieter clientéle, unlikely to run into anyone from the base or, God forbid, one of his team mates. Just him and a few other guys, eyeing each other up, watching the game, drinking beers slowly, maybe thinking about finding something a little more.

This time, after spending two weeks in the hospital with a cracked sternum thanks to Emma's little "present" in his car, he's checking out this guy in a slightly rumpled business suit, the kind that you get off the rack and don't really pay attention to. There's a battered briefcase by his bar stool, and he's drinking a bottle of beer slowly.

He's also been checking out Clay when he thinks Clay isn't noticing, so Clay sidles over and orders another beer before looking up at the game on the small TV above the bar. "Good game," Clay says.

The man looks up at the TV and nods. "Yeah. They've really got a good defense this year. Strong line-up."

Clay nods and, when his beer is handed to him, points at the man's bottle. "Want another?" he asks.

The man looks down at his bottle, then finishes it quickly, handing it to the bartender with a nod. "Thanks," he says.

There's a brief pause, then Clay holds out his hand. "Clay."

The man smiles and shakes his hand. "Andy."


Andy, as Clay finds out over the rest of the game and a few more slow beers, is a purchasing manager at a local factory that imports office supplies. He likes football, and beer, and barbecuing, which he seems to really love, because he can't stop talking about it. 

Clay likes that, though, because even though he doesn't think he can stand to be around anything propane-fuelled after Emma's practical example of the latest in car bombs, he does like a good charcoal-grilled steak. He makes sure to mention this to Andy, and the other man's eyes light up.

"Oh, totally. You get the best kind of flavour on a steak with a charcoal grill — add a bit of mesquite to the charcoal, get that smoke slowly working its way through..." Andy pauses for a second. "Y'know, I've got a couple of steaks sitting in my fridge at home. If you're not doing anything, I could show you my grill..."

Clay gives him a look and smiles — slow, dangerous, delicious. "Really?" he asks, his voice low.

Andy is actually blushing, just a bit, but looks at Clay levelly. "Yeah."


Andy drives them to his house — an average suburban single-story house with a patio that is just perfect for long summer barbecues. Andy lights up the grill while Clay grabs a couple more beers, and they sit in two lawn chairs, Andy keeping an eye on the grill while Clay keeps an eye on Andy.

Andy looks up and blushes again. "I don't normally do things like this," he says, looking over Clay with a sheepish grin.

Clay's grin is easy, disarming. "What, grill steaks?" he asks jokingly.

Andy chuckles. "No, y'know, pick up guys. And bring them home." He looks down at his beer. "I mean, hell, I don't even know what you do. You could be a serial killer, or a con artist, or..." He trails off, shrugging half-heartedly.

Clay looks at him. "You think I look like a serial killer?" he asks. He points his finger at himself and raises his eyebrows. "Me?"

Andy actually laughs this time and shakes his head. "No, no," he says cheerfully. He pokes at the charcoal in the grill for a few minutes, then looks up at Clay again. "So what do you do?"

Clay looks down at his beer, then back up. "Private security," he says after a few seconds.

Andy's eyes widen for a second, then he looks up and down Clay's body. "Is that so?" he says softly.

Clay just grins and drinks his beer.


The steak is fantastic, of course. Cooked to just the right level, with a hint of mesquite smoke and pepper to make it utterly fantastic. The beers go down easy, the conversation's soothing, and Clay's feeling the tension around his shoulders just start to fade away in the warm bath of banality.

He stretches out on the lawn chair, putting his beer bottle between his legs in a fairly obvious display, and looks at Andy. "You make a damn fine steak," he says, his voice low.

Andy smiles. "Thanks," he says. "The secret's in the rub, y'know. The right blend of herbs and spices..."

Clay raises his eyebrows and there's a hint of a leer in his returning smile. "So...what you're telling me is that you're good at rubbing meat?"

Andy splutters a bit on his beer, his last swallow catching in his throat. He's coughing as he looks back up at Clay. "Jesus," he finally says. "You're really something else, aren't you?"

Clay grins. "Am I?" he says softly.

Andy looks at him, suddenly serious. "You wanna take this upstairs?" he asks, his voice just as soft. He continues before Clay can answer. "If you don't, I'd understand — I'm just this guy with a boring house and a boring life, and you..." He waves his hand towards Clay and sighs. "You're like all my fantasies come true, y'know?"

Clay looks down at his feet, then looks back up at Andy. "If you're having second thoughts..." he says.

"No!" Andy blushes furiously at how loud he says that. "God, no," he says, quieter.

"Good." And Clay leans over to kiss him.


They make their way up to Andy's bedroom, occasionally stopping to kiss, and they fall on the bed with an audible "oof". Andy kisses tenderly, sweetly, so different from the vicious rough kisses Clay's used to, and it feels so good that he matches him kiss for kiss, gentle and loving.

Andy starts unbuttoning his shirt, pulling it away, and Clay winces, just for a second.

"What?" Andy says, pulling away, eyes wide. "What is it?" He looks at Clay, and sees the faint bruises, the still-red scars. "Jeez," he says softly. 

"Are you okay? What happened?"

Clay sighs. "Yeah, I'm fine..." he says softly. He looks down at his chest and shakes his head. "Just part of the job."

Andy stares at him in shock. "God," he says. "Are you sure? We don't have to...I don' know..."

Clay shakes his head again. "No, no," he says. "Please. I want to." He reaches out to stroke Andy's arm. "Just...probably not as athletic as you imagined."

Andy laughs and looks down, blushing again. "I don't think it'd be all that athletic anyway," he says. "I mean, look at me..."

And Clay looks at him, looks at the middle-aged man with the slowly-greying brown hair, the slight paunch around the middle, the deep brown eyes that look up at him with a kind of innocent hope that Clay hasn't seen in years. Clay sits up, despite the twinge of pain his ribs make, and kisses him again, gently, slowly, stroking his tongue delicately over Andy's lips even as his arms wrap around his shoulders, pulling him down on top of him.

"God," Andy whispers against his mouth. "You're amazing, you know that?"

Clay chuckles, low and deep in his chest. "I was gonna say the same thing about you."

Andy curls up next to Clay, still kissing him softly, sliding his hands down Clay's chest. "You'll tell me, right? If anything hurts?"

Clay murmurs his agreement and makes a noise in his throat as Andy reaches down to slowly undo his belt buckle. Andy dips his head and grins against Clay's neck, kissing and running his tongue over the muscle joining his neck and shoulder. He sucks, briefly, on Clay's clavicle, tracing over the faint bumps of long-healed fractures, all the while deftly undoing Clay's pants and feeling him through his boxers.

"Christ," Clay moans, wrapping one of his arms around Andy and pulling him closer, feeling Andy's erection slowly grinding against his thigh. "God, yeah..."

Andy pulls away for a second and laughs, burying his face against Clay's neck. "Look at me," he says, chuckling. "I'm still fully dressed."

Clay laughs as well, then rolls over on top of Andy, pressing his boxer-covered cock against Andy's pants. "Come on then," he says. "Take it all off."

Andy laughs again, rubbing up against Clay, getting as much of his body as possible against him. "You gotta get off me first," he says, a little breathless.

Clay smirks. "What, you want me to get off before you can get naked?"

Andy's entire body shakes with laughter then, and it takes a few seconds before he can breathe properly. "Jesus, you..." He falls into laughter again, even as Clay starts unbuttoning his shirt. He retaliates by fully removing Clay's shirt, and, with a bit of tumbling and a lot of laughter, they lie on the bed, bodies pressed together, naked.

"I don't know whether to..." Andy's words are punctuated by small kisses across Clay's chest. "Suck you off or just rub up all against you." He thrusts his hips against Clay's and moans. "God, you're so hot..."

Clay moans, arms wrapped around Andy's body, reaching down to cup his ass and pull him even closer, erection throbbing against erection. "Just keep doing this," he murmurs. "Feels so good."

Andy groans in assent and lifts his head up to kiss Clay, hot, heavy and sloppy, with just a hint of ferocity. Clay tries to get even closer, pulling Andy's thigh between his legs, and rubbing himself hard against it even as he feels Andy rub against his thigh.

They lie like that for what feels like hours, or maybe seconds, all wrapped up in the sweet friction and heat and each other's mouth, pushing and rocking and riding.

"God..." Andy murmurs against his skin. "God, Clay, I'm...I'm so goddamned close..."

Clay groans in response and thrusts faster against him, feeling his body tighten, the heat coiling from his spine. He grinds harder and harder against Andy, as Andy swears and stutters against his chest.

There's a sudden slowness, time stretching, and Clay can feel Andy coming against him, shuddering in his arms. Clay moans breathlessly, trembling against Andy's skin, jerking out his own orgasm in hot, sweet, thorough bliss.

They collapse on the bed, breathing hard, bodies slick with sweat and come.

Andy grins, turning towards Clay. "That was amazing," he says, reaching out to stroke Clay's face. "Thank you."

Clay stretches out, pulling Andy closer to him and kissing the top of his head. "No, thank you," he says.


It feels like only seconds since Clay fell asleep when he wakes up to the sound of his phone ringing. "Shit," he mumbles, reaching down to the floor to grab at his trousers.

He flicks his phone open, wincing at the bright light. "Yeah?" he says, keeping his voice low as Andy turns in the bed, murmuring to himself.

"The General called," Roque says. "Mission briefing at eleven hundred. You up?"

Clay sighs. "Yeah, I'll be there in an hour," he says, just before hanging up. He rubs his hand over his face and sighs before picking up his clothes.

"Work?" Andy says, looking up from his pillow at Clay.

"Yeah..." Clay sighs again. "Sorry."

Andy shakes his head. "No, it's all right." He points to a door on the left. "Bathroom's over there," he says. "Spare towels are in the cupboard."

Clay nods and goes to take a quick shower. The water's hot and the soap smells like Andy, so Clay emerges more relaxed and happier than he's been in months. 

Andy's sitting up in the bed, writing on a small pad of paper. As Clay gets dressed, Andy finishes writing and holds up the sheet of paper. "Um, you don't have to take it," he says. "But if you want it..."

Clay looks at the piece of paper and smiles at the phone number written on it. "Yeah," he says softly. "Yeah, I want it."

Andy smiles in return, and Clay can't help but kiss him tenderly.

This The Losers story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at