I won’t go to a bar again. Will made this promise to himself every few months. The most recent occasion had been just six weeks before, after his previous visit to the The Peel. Every time he picked up a bloke, he would feel guilty the next day. He knew his inability to keep away showed how weak he was, what a pathetic failure. No matter how much he enjoyed the sex, he had no easy way to deal with the toxic mix of guilt and desire he experienced.
Yet when he had caught sight of Sean, he had immediately forgotten his doubts. He had guessed from the stiff way Sean was standing that he had never been in a gay pub before. The mixture of toughness and vulnerability in Sean’s face intrigued him. The draw wasn’t just physical, though there was no denying that Sean was handsome, slim and muscular.
Will had a weakness for rough trade. Perhaps it was because he felt that what he did was unworthy, that he wasn't a real man. Real men didn't have sex with other men. Real men were heterosexual. But if you weren't a real man, you could compensate by being tough, by showing a macho front to the world. He never felt that he himself did it convincingly. It always felt to him that he was playing a game, that it was some kind of façade, that he was a fake and a fraud, and that everybody knew it or would discover it one day.
He knew that others probably played these rôles too. But with them, the illusion seemed more convincing. Sean looked like a real man. Tough. Manly. Together. Self-sufficient. To Will it seemed that if he could persuade such a paragon to love him, he would enjoy a vicarious sense of manliness, of validation and self-worth. When a masculine man was screwing him, Will could pretend that he was loved, and that his partner’s masculinity validated his own. Taking a dick deep inside him made him feel manlier, more real. He was far too intelligent not to see the irony in this—but it made no difference to how he behaved. It merely made him despise himself the more thoroughly.
He had almost given up with Sean right after he’d started talking to him. Sean had seemed distant and hostile. Even though this was part of the fantasy, part of what turned him on, Sean had seemed so antagonistic that Will had wondered why the other man was even in a gay pub. For a moment, a cold wash of fear had made his hair stand on end. Was Sean the kind of man who would let himself be picked up only to beat you up later? But when Will had looked into Sean’s eyes, he had seen a need and a vulnerability mirroring his own, and his fears had faded. He had sensed at once Sean's attraction to him, an attraction he seemed to feel despite himself. Sean’s latent aggression became a thrilling spice enhancing their rapport. The sexual thirst and restrained belligerence in Sean made him overwhelmingly desirable.
The surprise came only later, after Sean had fucked him and had gotten up to leave, wordlessly, his face sullen. Bitter at yet another heartless encounter, angry at Sean and sickened by his own needs, Will had rebuked him, and had been startled and touched by Sean's response.
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