When Sebastian goes to the main lodge one wet and rainy December day, there's a note waiting for him in the form of a post-it on his todo list. 'Jack Jones - call back'.
Bastian sighs at the note, fearing the worst. He would, though; it was a rough couple of years losing both his parents. Maybe it's not Jack's wife or kid, though. Maybe it's something mundane, even something good. He tries to convince himself that's the case as he settles in a side office and dials up Jack's number from memory. One of the few things he *doesn't* mind remembering.
Ring, ring! Jack picks up with, "This is Jones," familiar from all those years. He always answered the exact same way. He doesn't sound devastated, so maybe everything is okay? He does sound brisk and neutral, but he pretty much always sounds like that.
Bastian allows himself to feel a little relief that Jack sounds like Jack. If it was something serious Bastian likes to think he'd be able to hear it in his friend's voice. "Jack. It's Bastian. How're things?" He congratulates himself on not sounding worried, just tired. (Because the downspot on the west side of the boathouse was clogged again, and he was going to have to go up there and clear it if he couldn't bludgeon Drake into doing it, and he *hated* getting up on the roof.)
"Bastian," Jack says, tone warming a little. "Good to hear from you. Hope I'm not interrupting your day. I told the girl to write down that it isn't an emergency, I don't know if she did." Yep, he saw right through that one. "Do you have a minute to talk?"
Bastian smiles to himself, the kind of smile almost no one he works with ever sees. "She did not," he admits, because it's Jack. "And you're not. It's raining like hell out there and we don't have hardly anyone right now." He leans back in the office chair, relaxing for the first time in hours. "For you I have several minutes. What's up?"
Jack relaxes some too; it comes through in the way his voice goes from neutral to layered with nuance, the way he lets his accent get away from him and he sounds as Texan as a longhorn bull. "Well, you remember my son, Eustace. He doesn't let anybody call him that anymore, by the way. Calls himself Colorado now." Affectionate bemusement colors Jack's voice.
Bastian cannot forget Eustace, the gold-haired, blue eyed kid who's all about showmanship, even if that gets him a concussion from trying to ride his bike standing up or sliding down the bannister.
Though he'd like to say 'Finally' and 'Jack, can you blame the kid', he's not going to mock Eustace as a name when his is Einar. Not directly; he figures Jack understands this implicitly, given Bastian always goes by 'Bastian'.
"Colorado," he repeats, trying it out. A pause, then he asks, "Has he ever actually *been* to Colorado, or did he just like how it sounded?"
Jack laughs, not loud. "He was born there when I was stationed in El Paso. Guess he figured it's close enough." There's a creak as he sits. "Well." He pauses, considering something. "He's still the same show off. Still trying to impress people with his stunts. Now it's bartending, but it's a wild kind of bartending. They call it 'flair'. Involves a lot of juggling, like mixing an old fashioned is a circus act. Stace--Colorado," he corrects himself, "well, I've got to say, he's pretty good at it. Puts on a hell of a display."
Another pause. It's not like Jack to not get to the point. He's talking around something.
"He got into some trouble," he goes on, feeling his way, choosing each word deliberately. "Not...exactly on his own. This has never been his kind of trouble."
Bastian has at least a passing familiarity with flair bartending thanks to college, though he can't call himself well-versed in it. The crowd he hung out with preferred what they would have called classier bars and what Bastian thought of as quieter and more reserved. About the only kind he could get himself into, when he even could. But he'd heard of flair bartending, seen a few people at it through windows on the rare occasions Rafael could talk him into going out.
"Well the bartending sounds just like him," he says, because if there was ever someone born to toss bottles while making Manhattans it was E...Colorado. But Jack isn't getting to the point, and he's one of the most direct men Bastian knows. He frowns, lets it carry into his voice. "Trouble? What sort?" He reminds himself Jack said it wasn't an emergency.
A sigh, a low grunt as Jack chews 'er over. "He's...a kind of boy that....other boys can label as a ...as a victim. You know he's never had problems making friends. That's not what this is." Jack sighs again, gustily, and it's almost visible the way he's sliding his glasses off to rub his eyes.
"He's like you, Bastian. And he's never seen fit to hide it all that well. It's somewhat in fashion these days," he says, blithely as only a straight man can, "with these rock stars dressing up like women. Well, I suppose I'll just say it. There's a group of boys he's always clashed with, bloody noses and such. These boys ran him off the road last week. He's fine, just bruised up. Car's a write-off.
"I've tried his whole life," Jack goes on, voice intensifying. "Tried to get him to toe the line. To get him to not be so damn flamboyant, always shoving it in everyone's face. That military high school didn't help a whit, he came out of that worse than ever. I--dammit, Bastian, I've done everything I can, and those young thugs still went after him."
About six reactions hit Bastian at once; he has to sit up in the office chair as a wave of vertigo threatens to send him right to the floor. He clenches his teeth and grips the phone with one hand and the edge of the desk with another until it passes.
It takes him longer than it should to come up with a response, because he's trying to sort out which one is correct. Definitely not something about finding these kids and teaching them some fucking manners (the war hadn't been good for anything *except* showing him how to make anyone looking to make trouble with him for being queer regret it dearly); nothing about 'he's not fine, those assholes wanted to kill him'; probably not 'hiding it doesn't help and he's obviously figured that out'; also not 'have you talked to him about AIDS yet'.
He takes a steadying breath. This is why he doesn't live in the city anymore. Shit like this, and his inability to not lose his cool over it. He'll be in jail for assault or worse if something like this happens anywhere near him.
"Christ, Jack--I'm just glad he's okay." That's truthful enough. "I can talk to him, if that's what you want, but I'm not sure how well he'll remember me."
Jack must know Bastian's struggling. He waits patiently for him. He doesn't try to reassure him or fill the silence with noise. Jack's always been good at that kind of thing. Except, it seems, when it comes to his son.
He knows Bastian is struggling, but not exactly with *what*. He's never made any secret that he finds that aspect of Bastian entirely baffling. Jack has been willing to take his word for it, over time. They'd had a few hard conversations, early on.
"I was hoping you might take him on, for a while," he says. "I'm pressing charges, but frankly, I don't know how well they'll stick. Everyone around here seems to have an opinion. If he could get out of town, maybe until the fall, I'd feel a hell of a lot better. Now, I can't claim he's a hard worker. He's not. I think the thing that military school taught him best was how to skate. But he's good at what he's chosen to do. I'd...consider it a favor."
Hearing that Jack intends to press charges goes a long way to soothing a few of Bastian's concerns (chiefest among them that despite what Jack doesn't understand about Bastian or his own son, he still has Colorado's back). He sighs, doesn't bother trying to not sound immensely relieved. "That's probably a good idea--getting him out of town, I mean, at least so things don't escalate." They'll escalate when Colorado comes back, of course, but that's a conversation for after Jack tries to get the law to do literally anything. Hopefully the pricks responsible don't have parents with any kind of pull.
"You don't have to consider me getting your kid out of this kind of trouble a favor, you know that, right?" But maybe that's also something Jack won't quite understand; that for people like Bastian and Colorado, this kind of help has to be freely available. It's the only way they'll survive.
He doesn't wait for a response. "Not being a hard worker means he'd fit in just fine around here," he admits, "but, we're in luck. We're gonna need a new bartender in short order, our current one gave her notice and the manager's ripping out what little hair he has left trying to find someone willing to stay up here full time, not just for a month here and there." He can't help a small laugh. "Think Colorado can handle living out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of other bored twenty-somethings?"
"You might feel differently about that favor when you're supervising him," Jack says, dry. His voice picks up in interest when Bastian says they need a bartender. "His bartending style might be a little flashy for the wilderness lodge crowd, but drinks will get made. As long as you ride him, you can get work out of him." Yyyyyeah Jack is completely ignorant of the connotation there in gay parlance. "The kid's a natural at raking in the tips." *Still* completely ignorant of how Colorado might be boosting those tips.
He laughs again, low and chagrined. "Frankly, Bastian, I'd be worried about the other twenty-somethings. If he decides he wants to impress them, things might get a little wild."
Bastian sure is glad he's having this conversation over the phone, because the look on his face when Jack talks about 'riding' Colorado would have said more than Jack wanted to know. Much, much more. He puts some effort into keeping the amusement out of his voice. "You'd be surprised--we get a lot of college kids and bachelor parties out here lately, folks wanting to party out where they can get away with cutting loose. They might appreciate a bartender like Colorado."
It's difficult to imagine anyone being wilder than Drake and Lucas, but Bastian remembs his twenties well enough to know that sort of thing is multiplicative, not additive. It could easily turn into a madhouse if they all got along. Maybe even if they didn't. Just the same, he says, "I'm sure I can keep them under control." And since more than a couple of those same twenty-somethings working at the lodge were also queer, it wouldn't be a half bad work environment from that standpoint either.