"Okay, may I make a suggestion?" Dom said, dropping the jacket he was carrying on the sofa a moment after Tim let him into his apartment.
Tim nodded hesitantly.
"Do you own jeans?" Dom inquired. "And maybe a T-shirt?"
Tim looked at Dom and saw why he'd asked. He was wearing tight jeans, and a T that fit him like a second skin under a half unbuttoned blue shirt. "I think… I mean… I've got jeans, yes—and T-shirts, but they're more like undershirts, if that makes sense."
"It does. What about tank tops?"
"In the middle of winter?"
Dom smiled. "Trust me. Bars tend to be too warm, not too cool. You'll be fine if you have one and a shirt that doesn't look like something you'd wear to work."
"I… Okay, give me a minute." Tim went into his bedroom. Opening his closet door, he looked at the pants he had hanging there. Jeans were in short supply, meaning he had two pair, both of them fairly well-worn. And not at all tight, but…
He chose the newer pair, which still looked like he'd owned them for quite a while, and changed. Then he checked his dresser drawer, digging through it to find the only tanks he owned. Color would probably be better than white. That meant either blue or black. He opted for the latter and put it on then checked what he looked like in the mirror. Blowing out a frustrated breath, he grumbled, "Next to Dom, I'll look like a wimp trying not to look like… a wimp."
Shirts weren't quite as much of a problem. He actually did own some that weren't basic blue or white. Since he was wearing the black tank, he thought maybe the dark green shirt he'd bought on an impulse and only worn once would work. He put it on then returned to the living room to ask shyly, "Is this okay?"
"More than okay," Dom said enthusiastically. "You look pretty sexy but… undo a couple more buttons." When Tim did, Dom said "Perfect." He grinned. "Next step in your makeover is letting your hair grow some. Why do you keep it so short?"
"Well, easier doesn't catch fair lady—or handsome man, I think, in your case."
Tim gulped. "How did you know?"
"I'm not as dumb as I look," Dom replied, chuckling. "Now grab your coat and let's get moving."
* * * *
Dom watched the look of panic on Tim's face with a bit of amusement. While the bar wasn't gay per se, there seemed to be an equal mix of gays and straights. It was also loud, with music and voices fighting for ascendency.
"It's awfully busy," Tim said, veering toward an empty table at the back of the main room.
Dom laughed, catching Tim's arm to steer him to two vacant seats at the bar. "It's Thursday night, almost the weekend. People are gearing up." When they were seated, he asked what Tim wanted to drink.
"A beer." Tim smiled weakly. "That is what you said last night... that we should go out for a beer."
"That's fine with me, but if you'd like something else..."
"No, no. Just a beer."
Dom ordered two, insisting on paying for them, since this had been his idea. "Besides which, I owe you for all your help."
"No you don't," Tim protested.
"I think I do, so don't argue." When the beers arrived, Dom took a couple of swallows then said, "I take it you've never been here before."
Tim shook his head. "I tried the bar I pass on the way home from work—twice. I felt like a fish out of water."
"I bet you sat in a corner, watching, but not doing anything."
"Yeah. So?" Tim replied defensively.
"So you're not going to meet people that way."
"Who says I want to meet people?" Tim asked, still sounding defensive.
"That's right," Dom replied. "You're not a people person, according to you."
Tim grimaced. "Not really. Besides I'm… Did you ever see 'Chicago'?"
"The city or the movie?"
"The movie. There's a song, 'Mr Cellophane'. That's me. People look right through me, as if I'm not there."
"Is that how you want it?" Dom asked, pitching his voice just loudly enough for Tim, but not the people around them, to hear.
"But do you like being invisible?"
"No," Tim whispered. If he hadn't shaken his head at the same time, Dom wouldn't have known what his answer was.