David was alone when he woke up, and the other side of the bed was cold. He watched the curtains flutter in the slight breeze. He never opened the window in here.
The robe Jazz had abandoned last night lay across the foot of the bed. He slipped it on. There was coffee in the kitchen and piano music coming from the living room. He poured himself a cup and went to stand in the doorway and listen. And watch.
Jazz was wearing jeans and nothing else, and he was paying no attention to the sheet music open in front of him. He played in wild bursts and phrases that seemed to curl back on themselves and warp and expand. David gave up trying to follow the complexities and just let it wash over him.
"C'mere," Jazz said. He reached out with one hand, the other still busy on the keys and seeming to do the work of two. David shook his head. "Just come here," Jazz insisted. "I want to show you something."
David approached warily and let himself be pulled down to sit on the bench. "What?"
"Yeah, that was a lie. Just wanted you over here. Gonna stay if I let go? I need both hands to play."
"You seem to be doing all right."
Jazz laughed and let go of his arm. "I can do better."
He did. David really didn't know much about music, but he was happy to sit there and listen, coffee warm in his hand and Jazz's body warm against his side.
Last night seemed very far away, despite the ache in his ass, his raw throat, the bruises from the stairs. He touched his neck, feeling the rough patches where Jazz's teeth had abraded the skin.
Jazz leaned over in the middle of a cascade of notes to press his lips to the corner of David's mouth. David jerked away, actually touched his mouth and left his hand there, unsure what else to do with it.
"Who doesn't kiss?" Jazz said. He was frowning, clearly puzzled. "Hookers. Strippers, maybe. I don't know. You got some kind of weird mouth thing? I knew a girl with like a mole thing on her tongue."
David let his hand drop and stared at him. "I do not have any kind of mole thing on my tongue. Dear god."
"Then what's your deal?"
"It sets up certain expectations."
"So does throwing my date out of the house, genius. It's a little late to pretend you don't care."
Jazz snorted. "Hell, so was I."
"I'm going to get ready for work," David said stiffly.
"Is that all you do, work and fuck?"
David paused, watching Jazz play chopsticks with little added on bits around the original tune.
"Yes," he said. It was true. What else was there? Hobbies? He should suddenly take up scrapbooking or cross-stitching or run some idiotic fantasy football team?
He stood and tied the robe more tightly around him.
"I got a better job," Jazz said. "At a club. People actually listen when I play now."
"How nice," David said. His tone of voice said 'you bore me to tears.' It was habit. He wasn't expecting the hunched, unhappy set of Jazz's shoulders. He cleared his throat. "Ah. Where, if I may ask?"
"Las Cruces, on Jane Street. South side." He played the opening bars of something crashingly dramatic and classical. "You could come. If you wanted."
"I'm very busy," David snapped.
Jazz shrugged, still looking down at the keys.
"I'll think about it." David walked away quickly and went to shower.
At seven that evening, David was still at his desk, and still thinking about it. He'd looked Las Cruces up online and found it served some sort of avant garde tapas as well as alcohol, so he could conceivably eat dinner there. He could sit at the back. He was, despite himself, interested to see how Jazz was doing.
Angie poked her head around the door. "Hey."
"I told you two to take the day off."
"I did. It's not day. It is night, and here you are still working. Gosh, I'm shocked. You want to get dinner?"
"Mm." He looked down at the file in front of him. He could invite her along. It wouldn't hurt. Jazz wouldn't see them, and Angie likely wouldn't even recognize him out of context.
She touched his neck, and he managed not to jump too badly. "Wow," she said. "You must've had some night."
He batted her hand away. "Yes, yes. Look, there's a club I want to go to. They serve food, in a way. What do you think?"
"Sure. In a way, huh? Guess I can always order pizza when I get home."
"Being a lazy bastard."
"Too bad. It's very flashy, he'd like it." He stood and offered her his arm.
Las Cruces was large and dark and full of people. There were Day of the Dead skulls painted on the walls, bright and gaudy and clearly not made of sugar. Large aluminum kinetic sculptures hung from the ceiling, and there were alcoves along the curved back wall that could be closed off with purple velvet curtains.
David and Angie sat at a table in one of the alcoves. They ordered red cabbage gazpacho, which came in little shot glasses; bacon-and-egg potstickers with a maple-soy glaze; white truffle mousse with shaved fennel on toast points; and pigeon medallions under aspic. The last was Angie's choice. David refused to even look at it.
"You're being ridiculous," she said, as he stood a menu on end to act as a barricade.
"You're eating a winged rat smothered in beef jello. Who's being ridiculous?"
"Mmm, winged rat. Yummy."
David stole her gazpacho.
She was still bitching idly at him for that when Jazz's set started. The house lights lowered, and amber and red gels lit the stage and the murals, giving the club an air of festive damnation. Jazz was wearing David's silver-grey Armani and seemed almost to glow under the lights.
The base level of noise dropped, but not as far as David thought would be polite. One idiot at a nearby table broke into a braying laugh halfway through. David frowned at him.
Angie kicked him lightly under the table.
"Don't do anything stupid. That's your you-fools-will-pay face."
"It is not. Hush, I'm trying to listen."
Some time later, as Jazz left the stage, Angie said, "You're not a music lover, David. I think you've bought all of five CDs in the ten years I've known you.
"That's your piano player from Kiwi, isn't it?"
David shifted in his seat and didn't answer, which he knew was as good as a yes.
"Have you got some kind of crush?" Angie said, leaning closer, eyes narrowed.
"I'm not sure I believe you. And I'd like to, because you're wrecking my whole world view here."
"Can't you just be grateful he's not playing at Kiwi now and let it go?"
"I don't know, I could get used to this place too. Especially the flying rat. Delicious. Your boy toy's not bad either."
"He is not--anything of the sort. I do not have boy toys."
"More like the other way around," a voice said. The voice was low and deep, and its owner loomed over their table in jeans and a black leather blazer. "Hi, David. Remember me?"
David studied the man's face; dark stubble, sharp blue eyes, hair professionally styled to give the impression he'd stumbled out of bed only moments ago.
"Ian," David said. Ian off the inevitable party invitations. Lovely.
Ian smiled. "One night two years ago, and you even remember my name. I'm glad I made an impression."
He had, in a manner of speaking. The gag had been a nice touch. Most people wouldn't take it that far. Mainly, though, David remembered Ian for his offer--five grand to stay the weekend. Who knew where he'd gotten the idea that David was hard up for cash, but it had been mildly amusing. He'd almost taken him up on it.
"I have a good memory for faces," David said.
"And for other things, I'm sure." Ian smiled in a way he had to have practiced in the mirror. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your lovely friend?"
"No. She doesn't want to know you."
Ian raised his eyebrows at that, but held out his hand to Angie anyway. She shook her head. "Sorry," she said. "I've learned to trust his judgement in these situations."
Ian let his hand drop. "I imagine you've met a number of David's...friends. But I--"
David stood abruptly and towed Ian a few steps away. "She works for me, Ian. She is my employee. She does not want to hear about my sex life. Is it actually possible for you to have less tact?"
Ian flushed slightly. "I didn't realize. I'm sorry. Is there anything I can--"
"No, I think you've done enough."
"I was surprised to see you." Ian put a hand on the wall by David's head, casually boxing him in. He really was quite good. "I wasn't thinking. Or rather, I was only thinking about you. Stripped naked, on your knees for me." He put a hand on David's neck, firm, not too tight. "Think we could work that out?"
"Later," Ian said. "You can take her home first. Or this weekend, even. I could give you my number. If you're not otherwise occupied." His fingers brushed over the marks Jazz had left on David's neck.
It was tempting. Whatever he did with Ian, it wouldn't involve thinking, and he had a lot to not think about.
The major thing he had to not think about dropped a heavy hand onto Ian's shoulder and yanked him back a step.
"Don't touch him," Jazz said.
David closed his eye briefly in the hope that this confluence of bad luck would evaporate. It did not. Jazz and Ian were squaring off, so obviously hostile that people were turning to stare.
"Excuse me," Ian said, with a raised eyebrow. "Do I know you? Does anyone here know you?"
Jazz looked ready to start throwing punches, and David stepped forward quickly to put a hand on his chest.
"Don't," David said. He nodded to the table, where Angie was watching all three of them with speculation. "Go and sit down. I'll be there in just a moment."
"No," Jazz said flatly. "I ain't leaving you alone with this douche."
"This is what you're pulling these days, David?" Ian said. "You could do so much better."
Jazz was glaring at him, all but growling. David pushed his hand a little harder into his chest, a warning.
"Both of you, stop it," David said quietly. "Ian, this is not a good time. Please excuse us."
But Ian didn't back off. He was watching Jazz like David wasn't even there. "You have no idea what you're doing, do you?" he said.
"I know what you're doing, and you can just fuck off. He said he don't want you here."
"And you think he wants you?" Ian said.
"Not another word," David said. "From either of you. You're behaving like children. Ian, let me be clear. Go. If you don't, there's going to be a scene, and I'm not having that."
"You're not telling him to go," Ian said.
So much for politeness. David gave him a sweet smile. "Yes, well, you're so much older than he is. I expect you to be able to control yourself better."
To his credit, Ian did control himself. He walked away without another word.
"What the hell were you thinking?" David said.
Jazz looked smug enough that David wanted to smack him. "You didn't send me away."
"Only because you wouldn't have gone."
Jazz stepped in close, just as Ian had, touched the side of his neck too, but more roughly, pressing against the bruises. He didn't give David a chance to say anything else, just kissed him, which Ian would never have done. Ian knew better. Jazz's mouth was hot and tasted sharply of alcohol. There was something warmly spicy on his lips. David licked and sucked at it and found he was holding Jazz close instead of pushing him away. Jazz was grinning when they parted.
"Do I get to meet your friend now?" he said.
David sighed. "Yes. All right. If you must." Capitulation was apparently the order of the day.
"That looked interesting," Angie said, when they got close enough. Her eyebrows seemed to be attached to her hairline.
"It wasn't," David said. "Jasper White, Angelina Mendez. He won't be staying. I'm sure he has another set to play."
Jazz shook Angie's offered hand like he might accidentally break it. "Hi. Uh. Nice to meet you, ma'am. Ms. Mendez. Um."
"Angie," Angie said firmly. "I'm very happy to meet you, finally. You play beautifully."
He smiled at that, like he was really happy. It occurred to David that he didn't see that expression often. "Hey, thanks," Jazz said. "That's really cool of you to say."
"Why don't you sit down? Can we get a drink for you? Maybe some pigeon?"
David rolled his eyes.
"Pigeon?" Jazz said. "Seriously, you can eat that?" He slid into the booth, and Angie pushed the other portion of pigeon over. "Why's it in jello?" Jazz said.
"Because the chef at this place is a sick, sick man," David said.
"He's too chicken to try it," Angie said. "Go on."
It was small enough to be bite-sized, barely, and Jazz forked it into his mouth all at once. He chewed for a long time, face going through various expressions as he did. He swallowed, and then swallowed again and drank the rest of David's wine.
"Okay, no, seriously," he said. "Why did they put it in jello?"
"I win," David said, and then, as Jazz pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, "What are you-- You don't smoke! Do you smoke? Oh my god, tell me you haven't been smoking in my house."
"'Course not, I knew you'd freak. Anyway, they're only cloves."
"Only, as if that prevents them from coating your lungs with tar." It explained the spice on his lips. David wondered how he'd never noticed before, which led to the inevitable thought that he didn't know Jazz, not at all. That he'd let a stranger move in with him. He pulled the cigarette away from Jazz's lips and stubbed it out. "If they're only cloves, then it should be easy enough for you to quit."
Jazz made a face at him but didn't really object. "I do actually have another set soon," he said. "I oughta go, I guess. You gonna stick around?"
"Well. If not, I guess I'll see you at home." He scooted out of the booth and walked away. David absolutely didn't watch his ass as he did.
"Is he living with you?" Angie burst out.
"No!" David said automatically, and then had to take it back. "In a way."
"In what way?"
"The way where he's sleeping in my spare room and borrowing my suits."
"Borrowing your suits?"
"For work," David said, aware that it didn't really explain anything.
"He's living with you and wearing your clothes," Angie said. She shook her head. "Wow."
David shrugged. "It's a very long story."
"I'm sure." She grinned. "Bet you're glad Kevin didn't come along now."
She disemboweled a potsticker with her chopsticks. "So. This must be kind of serious?"
"It's not like that. He just--needed somewhere to stay."
"David. If Brad Pitt showed up at your door half naked, you'd tell him to go to a hotel. You wouldn't let me stay with you."
"I barely knew you then."
"Oh, yeah, I'd only been working for you for two years."
"Two years is hardly anything. I paid for your hotel room, didn't I?"
She touched his hand briefly. "Yes, you did."
"Even room service."
"I think I've explained before that when someone shows up at your door at midnight and tells you their apartment just burned down, there are more sensitive courses of action than putting them in a cab and sending them to a hotel."
"It was the Plaza!"
She smiled a little and shook her head. "How long have you known Jasper?"
"Month and a half," David mumbled.
She stared. "We were in Argentina for a month. You've known this man two weeks? When did he move in?"
"Before we left. A week before."
She kept staring.
"It's nothing," he said. "I told you that. It's nothing."
She cleared her throat. "Well. He seems very nice. You must like him."
David looked down at the table and wished he had more wine. "I barely know him."
"Then why... You don't want to talk about this, do you?"
"I don't have any answers. It was raining. He rang my bell and said he didn't have anywhere else to go."
"I like him. If that helps at all."
It did, in a way. She was a good judge of character, unlike David, who tended simply to dislike everyone he met on sight because it saved time.
"I don't see him that much." David shifted in his seat. "We should leave."
"If you like."
She didn't ask him any more questions on the cab ride, didn't even go for a parting shot before she got out. She just kissed his cheek and left. David went home to bed.
He woke up two hours later when Jazz climbed in next to him and pushed his cold nose against David's neck. David pulled him closer instead of pushing him away. Stupid, he thought to himself.
Jazz hummed, a small happy sound. "I like touching you." His hands spread out over David's back, and his body relaxed into sleep.
David lay awake and thought about what Ian had said. You have no idea what you're doing, do you? Jazz didn't, not at all. The men David was used to might play the game hard and rough, but they knew it was a game. They knew there were rules, limits, lines that didn't get crossed. Jazz wasn't playing. Everything he did was for real, as real as a knife to David's throat. Or, more accurately, to his own. It wasn't David who'd end up getting hurt. It never was.
Either he'd have to end this, or he and Jazz would have to talk. For once, he wasn't sure which was the more painful option.
David was waiting for Jazz the next morning in the kitchen, dressed for battle right down to his cuff links. Jazz wandered down in David's sweatpants, squinty-eyed against the halogen lights.
"Why are you here?" David asked him.
"What? I want breakfast."
"Here in my house."
Jazz rubbed his eyes and made a vain effort to push his hair out of his face. "Your. Uh. What?" he said again. "Because you let me stay?"
"So rent-free living is the extent of your investment in this--" David stopped abruptly. He'd been about to use the R word. "That's your only interest here?"
Jazz rubbed at his face and looked at David helplessly. "I just wanted some Eggos, man. It's really early."
"Right. I don't know what I was thinking. Why should I expect any sort of--"
"Oh, fuck, stop. Okay. You want to talk?"
"I want some answers."
"Let's go out somewhere, okay? Just let me get dressed, stay there."
David did stay there, though the temptation to escape to work while he still could was strong. Jazz came back down in jeans and one of David's white undershirts. It fit closely against his body, thin enough to show the curve of his muscles and a hint of the darker skin around his nipples. David wanted to take it off him.
"Morning," Jazz said. He leaned against David's side and smudged a kiss against the corner of his mouth. "Where do you wanna go?"
"I don't care."
"Okay. Come on."
They went to a place down the street, a fake-French cafe. David sat at a window table, and Jazz bought them both cafe au lait and croissants. Jazz inhaled half his coffee in one go.
"So you wanna talk?"
"You're living with me."
"Yeah, I kinda noticed."
Jazz frowned and tore strips off his croissant. "I didn't think you'd let me in that night. Thought you'd tell me to go fuck myself. I mean. I really didn't have anywhere else to go or I wouldn't have... But you let me stay." Jazz looked up at him. "Why?"
"I asked you first," David snapped.
"That's a seriously lame comeback."
"I don't care, just answer the question."
"I don't know! I never met anyone like you, and you're such a jerk, but." He slurped at his coffee. "But you act like you like me. Sometimes. You let me stay and wear your clothes and you came to see me play and--I don't know why you'd do all that. If you didn't like me."
"Let me get this straight," David said slowly. "You think I like you. You're not sure. But nonetheless you've moved in with me, apparently changed your sexual preferences for me, and let me verbally assault your girlfriend. Do any of those sound like wise choices to you?"
"She wasn't my girlfriend," Jazz muttered.
"That's the part you choose to take issue with? If you don't want me calling you stupid, perhaps you could try to behave with the basic intelligence gifted to the average doorknob. You're basing all of this on some fleeting emotion that I may or may not feel for you? On me?"
"Nobody else ever really..." Jazz trailed off and shook his head. He looked down at his now empty plate.
"That's not a reason for anything. If you're so lonely you're willing to make do with someone who treats you like-- Christ, get a damn dog. Idiot."
David shoved his chair back and stalked out of the cafe. Jazz caught up with him halfway down the block and grabbed his arm.
"Only reason I'm not hitting you right now is 'cause you might enjoy it," he said flatly.
"Lovely. The ideal cheap shot. I presume you'll leave me alone now?"
"Fuck you, asshole." But Jazz didn't leave. He didn't even let go of David's arm, and when David started walking again, Jazz followed. "It's your turn now. I ain't going anywhere."
"My turn for what? I don't see that there's anything left to say."
"You asked why I stayed. Tell me why you let me."
"I don't have to explain myself to you."
"Like hell. You owe me."
"I owe you? How does that work exactly? What with you staying in my--"
Jazz shoved him up against the nearest wall, next to the dry cleaner's door. "You owe me for being a pissy little bitch, okay? You--" He shook his head, face shifting from angry to thoroughly confused. "You changed my whole life. Just tell me."
Something in his voice made David's stomach flip over, made him want to run. He might have if not for the policeman who strolled up just then and put a hand on Jazz's shoulder.
"This kid bothering you, sir?"
David drew himself up straighter. "This is a private conversation."
"If you could just back off," the cop said to Jazz.
David put himself between the two of them. "Private. As in outside participants are not welcome."
The cop sighed. "Right. You want to have your private conversations somewhere else, sir? Maybe a hotel room?" He walked away, shaking his head.
Jazz punched David's shoulder lightly. "And then you do shit like that."
"Walk," David said stiffly. "People are staring."
They were already across the street and into the park before David realized. He stopped short, thinking there, yes, right there. The scene of the crime, as it were.
Jazz shifted next to him. He obviously recognized the spot, too. "I don't know," he said quietly. "I don't know if I would've stopped. If you'd told me to."
"Don't be ridiculous. It was my idea."
"Shut up." David touched his hand and found himself caught, Jazz's fingers curled through his. "It wouldn't even have occurred to you. You were only thinking about the money."
"I needed twenty bucks for a suit at Goodwill. Wow, this is so fucked up."
"I don't know. I think it's about standard for my life."
David snorted. "You saw Ian last night. That wasn't an entirely uncommon occurrence. I have a lot of very rough sex with a lot of men. It's gotten me in worse trouble than you before."
There was a thick silence and then the sound of Jazz's teeth grinding. "You just tell me who. I'll make them sorry."
"Don't be foolish," David said, more gently than he'd meant to.
There was something more than a little absurd about the two of them standing in silence and staring at the paving stones.
"Can we go home?" Jazz said quietly.
David just nodded. He was worried about how his voice would come out if he tried to speak. Home. The dust cloths had disappeared at some point. He hadn't been the one to remove them. He never did. It always seemed like too much trouble.
Jazz draped an arm around his shoulders as they walked, clearly striving for casual, settling into proprietary.
When they got home, Jazz stopped him in the hall and shuffled him backwards until he was leaning against the door. He took David's face in his hands and pressed their lips together softly.
"You let me kiss you in public too," he said.
"As if I was offered a choice?"
"Like you wouldn't knee me right in the nuts if you really wanted me to stop."
"You may have a point," David admitted, and then Jazz was kissing him again, mouth wet and hot against his, licking in, opening wider. Jazz's hands smoothed over his cheeks and neck and came up again to brush his hair back from his face. For once, David didn't need it to be anything other than this, gentle and slow, at least for now.
"Hey. Would you play something for me?" Jazz said, still close enough that his lips touched David's when he spoke.
"On the piano."
"Oh." David pulled him in until they stood chest to chest and Jazz's thigh slid warmly between his. "I can't play."
"What, not at all?"
"I had lessons when I was a child. Nothing since then."
"You have a grand piano," Jazz said, a note of outrage creeping into his voice. "It's a really good one. It just sits there? No one ever plays it?"
"Well, now I do! Fuck, no wonder it was out of tune. You can't even play, like, Hot Cross Buns?"
"Maybe." David paused, one hand curled into the waistband of Jazz's jeans. "I could try, but you shouldn't expect much."
Jazz promptly dragged him into the living room and sat him down on the bench. David looked doubtfully at the keys. "Do you have music for it?"
"You don't need music, it's the easiest tune ever."
David tried, he really did, but it had been more than twenty years. He stopped in frustration after a minute or two. Jazz, already hovering behind him, leaned in and positioned his fingers on the keys, guiding him note by painfully slow note through the whole song.
"Wow, you suck," Jazz said into the silence afterward.
"I know that. I told you that."
"Don't get all sulky." Jazz rubbed his shoulders and kissed the side of his neck. David turned his head away. "Hey," Jazz said. "You mad? Don't be mad, baby."
David elbowed him sharply. "Don't call me that."
"Ow. Jesus." He rubbed his ribs. "You never minded before."
"It doesn't count during sex."
"That's not what you mean." Jazz slid his hands down David's chest and started unbuttoning his shirt.
"Oh, please do tell me what I mean." He didn't hit the acid tone he was aiming for, not even close. Having fallen so far short anyway, he leaned back against Jazz's stomach, letting him do what he liked with buttons and cufflinks. He closed his eyes as Jazz's hands spread out across his bared chest. Jazz's breath was just audible, soft and steady, and Jazz bent low to kiss him upside down, chin brushing his nose.
"Just, you know," Jazz said, at length, between soft brushes of lips on David's mouth and chin. "It's fine as long as it's not nice, right?"
David nipped at his lip. "'Don't be mad, baby' isn't nice, it's condescending."
"Didn't mean it that way."
"Do you even know what condescending means?"
"I know if I took a picture of you right now, it could go in the dictionary next to the definition."
David fought against a smile. "All right. Fair point."
"See? Fine as long as I'm not nice."
There seemed to be no safe answer to that. David said nothing and let Jazz pet his chest and ease his shirt off.
"At least fold that."
"Whatever, Mr. Mom."
"I am not anyone's mother, and that movie was an appalling waste of film."
"I liked it," Jazz said, and threw David's shirt over the back of the couch, where it slithered down to huddle on the cushions, spawning new and exciting wrinkles. The cufflinks clinked together sadly as it settled.
Instead of snapping back at him, Jazz ran his fingers through David's hair and nipped at his ear. "So what's your favorite movie?"
"What do you care?"
"C'mon, baby," Jazz whispered, and between his hands and his voice and his chest against David's bare back, it was difficult to get angry about that.
"I don't have one."
"Everyone has a favorite movie. Mine's Tremors."
"Tremors." David pulled away to look at him properly. "With Kevin Bacon and the giant worms? Your favorite movie is a hick rip off of Dune? With Kevin Bacon?"
"I have it on DVD. We could watch it right now." His tone made it a threat. "Or you can tell me what you like."
David sighed. "I like Pi, I suppose. I don't know about favorites."
"Good god, no. It's an independent film, black and white, I'm sure you'd hate it."
"You got it here?"
"So we could watch it."
A flutter of disquiet gripped David's stomach. "No."
Because they didn't do things together. They fucked. David lifted one shoulder and let it fall again. He couldn't imagine trying to explain that, or how Jazz would take it.
"I have to work."
Jazz straddled the piano bench beside him. "You could call in sick. This once? You're already way late, right?"
He wound an arm around David's waist, pulled him in tight and breathed against his neck. His teeth scraped lightly down to David's shoulder and back, and he pressed soft kisses behind David's ear.
"Yes, all right," David found himself saying. He never skipped work. Even when he actually was sick.
He called in all the same and talked to Miss Forbes, who was as blessedly unquestioning as always. Jazz unbuckled his belt, and he hung up just as he heard his zipper go and felt warm fingers plucking at the waistband of his boxers.
Jazz tossed the phone after David's shirt. "You're so easy," he murmured.
"Most people tell me I'm extremely difficult."
Jazz just laughed and pulled David against him, David's back to his chest, and plunged his hand down the front of David's boxers. He stroked David's cock once and then stopped. "Take these off too. I wanna see."
David struggled out of the rest of his clothes without argument. He was fairly sure it was an argument he'd lose. Jazz scooted in closer behind him and hooked his chin over David's shoulder.
"You look good," Jazz said. "Nice dick." He wrapped his hand around it and stroked roughly.
"I don't know why you ever--ah-- thought you were straight."
"Yeah, about that." Jazz bit lightly at his neck, weighed David's cock in his palm and rubbed a finger around the head. "I had kinda thought about it. A little."
"And I presented you with a once in a lifetime opportunity. I see."
"Don't make it sound like that," Jazz grumbled.
"Like what? Like anything other than assault?"
Jazz froze behind him. "You said--"
"Yes, yes, I know." David sighed. "I meant it. It was my idea, I do not think of it as assault, or... anything like that. Calm down."
Jazz ducked his head, and David could feel the feather brush of Jazz's lashes on his shoulder. "Then why'd you say it?"
"Because I'm not a nice person, as you have pointed out more than once. That's not going to change."
He felt Jazz's completely illogical smile and the kisses dusted along his shoulder. Jazz's hand started moving again; long, easy pulls. His other arm folded diagonally across David's chest, and his hard-on nudged at the base of David's spine, hot and obvious even through his jeans.
David planted his feet on the floor and ground back against him. "Are you going to do anything with that?"
"Nah. Not right now. You can blow me later. While we're watching Tremors." His smirk was audible.
"I absolutely refuse to--" David didn't even bother to finish. Jazz was stroking him faster, sucking hard at his neck until his skin tingled and his breath came short.
"Totally easy," Jazz whispered.
His hand twisted on David's cock, and David closed his eyes and shuddered. He let his head tip back to rest on Jazz's shoulder. No handcuffs this time, no anger, no orgasm for Jazz, and that was just bizarre. Jazz slid his palm over David's nipple, rubbed and pinched, and David gasped.
"You like that?" Jazz said. He pinched harder, a sharp flair of pain that settled into the same hot glow as the bites on David's neck.
"You could say please for once." Jazz did it again anyway, one nipple and then the other, mouth fastened on his throat and sucking hard.
"Please," David murmured. "Oh, please."
"Fuck." Jazz thrust forward against his ass and jerked him faster. "That's hot."
"Nngh," was all David could manage in response. He shoved up into Jazz's hand, hips lifted right off the bench. His breath was burning his throat, and his head felt heavy, dizzy.
"C'mon," Jazz said. He pinched again, tugged at David's nipple. "Say it again."
"Please," David said, breathless. He pushed up into Jazz's tight grip once more, and then he was coming hard, shuddering, and finally collapsing back against Jazz's chest.
Jazz rubbed his fingers together for a second and then wiped them on David's stomach. David grunted. He couldn't even think about moving, or protesting.
"S'kinda gross when it's not yours," Jazz said. He paused. "Hot too, though."
"Mm," David said. He kept his eyes closed as Jazz wrapped both arms around him and kissed his temple.
"Where's your TV?" Jazz said.
"In my bedroom."
"Is not. I would've seen it."
"I think I know where my television is, thank you."
Jazz nudged. "Fine, show me."
"We are not watching Tremors."
"We can watch yours then. Come on, get moving." Jazz nudged him again. "Or I'll carry you."
He sounded like he meant it, and that got David up off the piano bench and onto his shaky legs. He started to gather up his clothes, but Jazz caught his wrist and towed him away.
"Just leave it, jeez. Neat freak."
David looked down at Jazz's hand on his wrist, and then at his pants on the floor. It would be easy to twist free, yes. But maybe it wasn't that important.
"All right. If you insist."
He let Jazz pull him upstairs, with a brief stop for the box of Froot Loops on top of the fridge.
"So where is it?" Jazz said, looking around the bedroom.
David pressed a button on his remote control, and a painting on the wall slid down, leaving the frame surrounding his TV and recessed DVD player. "Voila. Or as Kevin says, viola."
"Kevin?" Jazz was poking at the DVD player, not looking at him.
"You haven't met him." David had to stop himself adding 'yet'. "The man with Angie and I at Kiwi."
"You and him ever, you know." Jazz gestured obscenely and went back to putting the movie in.
"None of your business."
Jazz turned around and stared at him. "You did. Fuck, who haven't you screwed?"
David hadn't, and wouldn't, under any circumstances, up to and including Armageddon and the resultant extinction of every other man on Earth. He suspected Kevin felt the same way.
"Brad Pitt," David said. "Matt Damon. Clinton, Putin, Prince Charles. Neither of my next door neighbors, Tom Cruise, Paul Bettany. The list is endless, really."
"People you know, no, men you know." Jazz crossed his arms over his chest. "What's that do to your list?"
"It cuts it down considerably. The movie is on that shelf. And if you think you're going to get away with this pretense of jealousy, you're mistaken."
"Pretense! Whatever, asshole, like you're the only one who--" Jazz stopped abruptly and kicked at the wall. "Pretense means you think I'm faking it, right?"
"Yeah, fuck you." He put the movie in. "You do not."
David sat on the edge of the bed and watched the bow of his spine and the set of his shoulders. "No, I don't," he admitted. "But you need to stop this right now. You're right, it is a long list. If you're going to get all worked up every time you meet someone I've fucked, you'll be on blood pressure medication before your thirtieth birthday. So just stop."
"It's different. You spend time with him, like, on purpose."
"I work with him."
"You work with Angie too, and you actually like her."
"I don't like Kevin, if that helps."
Oh, hell. David rolled his eyes. "And I haven't slept with him, all right?"
"Do you have a bible you'd like me to swear on?"
Jazz shuffled across the rug and sat next to him. After a second of silence, he poked David's neck lightly and zapped him with the static charge his socks had apparently built up.
"Ow!" David smacked him, and Jazz smiled and pushed at his shoulder. David pushed back, harder, and then he was on his back on the bed with Jazz on top of him.
"That hurt," David told him, glaring.
Jazz smiled. "Sorry. Don't be such a wimp." His hand drifted down to the bruises on David's hips and thighs. His fingers pressed softly into them. "These hurt?"
David shook his head and tried not to react too obviously. His breath came out as a shaky sigh anyway when Jazz pressed harder. Jazz kissed him and rolled off him.
"You're not going to like it."
"Shut up and come here."
Jazz pulled David up to sit between his legs and lean back against his chest. He wrapped both arms around David's stomach and held him there. David thought about pulling away, but in the end, he just let it happen. He dragged a blanket up to cover both their legs.
The movie, fucked in the head as it was, was familiar enough to be comforting. He was more aware of Jazz's body behind him and Jazz's fingers in his hair, breath on his cheek, than what was happening onscreen. Jazz ate Froot Loops out of the box. David might've dozed.
What woke him, or drew his mind back to the real world, was Jazz's increasingly vise-like grip on his arm. David glanced at the screen.
"Is he really gonna--?" Jazz said.
"Drill a hole in his head? Yes."
"Shit," Jazz said, in a small voice.
Time passed. Jazz ducked his head and hid his face against David's neck. David frowned.
"It's really not that bad. Look, he's... He's happier this way."
"With all his talent drilled out of his brain?"
"It was driving him insane."
"But now he's not anything! He's just some--some jackass with a hole in his skull! What, he's gotta be stupid to be happy? That's the moral here?"
"I hadn't really thought of it like that," said David slowly.
"How else can you think about it? Talent ruins your life, be a fucking sheep, you'll never make shit out of your life anyway!"
A large and heavy silence descended.
David cleared his throat. "You could see it that way. You could also see it as a statement on the infinite nature of truth and the necessarily limited capacity of the human mind."
"...Oh." Jazz let out a shaky breath. "I still don't like it."
"You're not required to."
"Can we watch Tremors now?"
They watched Tremors. It wasn't quite as bad as David remembered, but maybe that was because he had other things to occupy his mind.
As one of the giant worms menaced a young girl on a pogo stick, David said, "Music lessons," rather abruptly into a brief silence.
"Is that--something you would want? You can go to school for that sort of thing. Juilliard, or, or somewhere like that."
"Can't afford lessons. Definitely can't afford music school."
"I'm offering to pay," David said.
Jazz leaned forward to get a look at his face. "What, for Juilliard?"
"If you can get in."
There was a moment of silence--or actually, screaming, due to the giant worms--and then Jazz shook his head. "I don't want your money."
"Just my house and--"
"I'll pay fucking rent!"
"That's not necessary," David said.
"I'll pay rent and I'll get my own damn suits and I'll have lessons when I can fucking afford them myself."
"I didn't mean to imply--"
"You keep bringing it up," Jazz said more quietly. "You sound like my dad when you do that. Eat my food, live under my roof, do what I say. It's not gonna be like that. I don't want your money."
"All right," David said. "All right."
"Don't-- There's no point. The mortgage is paid off anyway. It's not costing me anything."
"Yeah, and then you wouldn't have anything to hold over me, right? No thanks. Just pick a number."
"I'm not-- I wouldn't do that."
Jazz didn't say anything. Quite rightly, too; he would do that. He had done that. He'd likely do it again, regardless of how much rent money Jazz scraped up.
Onscreen, the father from Family Ties shot a giant worm with an elephant gun.
"You're not my roommate," David said carefully. "I don't want you paying rent."
There was a pause before Jazz answered. "You promise not to do that anymore? 'Cause not only does it seriously irritate the shit out of me, but also I really hate it when you remind me of my dad. Like, a lot. It's creepy."
"I don't much care for comparison myself. I'll try," he said. "I will try."
"Guess I can always smack you down if you get out of line, right?" Jazz said, soft and low, lips against David's ear. His hand slid down David's chest.
David stayed quiet, mostly trying not to say yes. It was a dangerous line of thought to encourage, no matter how appealing it seemed at the moment. Jazz must've misinterpreted his silence and tensed up behind him.
"I didn't mean, like, hit you-- I wouldn't-- Oh, shit."
"I should go to work," David said, the words rising up automatically. This time, he knew, Jazz wouldn't argue.
He didn't. He sat there and looked at his hands while David dressed and didn't say a word when David walked out.
David paused downstairs to fix his hair in the mirror. "You are such a fucking asshole," he told his reflection softly. Jazz had hit him--that slap across the face-- and it was obviously weighing more heavily on him than on David.
Hand on the doorknob, David hesitated. He should go back and apologize, or at least explain.
He stepped out into the street.
At work, Miss Forbes greeted him with her usual nod. She was in her sixties; tall, slim, and severe, with a widow's peak as sharp as her suit.
"Messages on your desk, sir."
"Thank you." He hesitated, on the verge of telling her not to put through any calls from his home number-- but that was stupid. Jazz didn't know his office number and why the hell would he call even if he did?
David was used to getting out of uncomfortable situations. He wasn't used to feeling guilty about it afterwards.
His office seemed too dry, too cold. His chair was suddenly uncomfortable; his reports, boring. Time passed at a crawl. Around two, Miss Forbes sent Kevin in. David was almost glad to see him.
"Well?" David said, after Kevin had stood in front of his desk for nearly a full minute in silence.
"I want to marry Angie," Kevin said, so fast that the words ran together.
David folded his hands on top of his desk and kept his face blank. "And?"
"I... haven't asked her yet."
"I'm sorry. Are you seriously asking my permission?"
"No! Just. Don't be horrible about it, all right? I know how you are sometimes, and." He shook his head and looked away. "I really love her, okay? And if you could not be an asshole, more than usual, at any point in the process, I-- I'd really appreciate it, that's all. Please."
This day just got better and better. Months of wedding preparations loomed up before him, culminating in the inevitable honeymoon and loss of both his best employees for at least a month, going by the vacation time they had saved up. And that wasn't the worst of it; he knew Angie was only half joking when she threatened, as she had more than once, to make him her maid of honor.
But there was no real choice here. He couldn't wreck this for her. Maybe he needed some practice biting his tongue anyway.
He sighed and went around to shake Kevin's hand. "You have my word," he said.
"And if you ever do anything to purposely make her unhappy, I will destroy your life."
"Yeah, sorta guessed that."
"Right. Do you have enough money for a decent ring?"
"I'll just leave then."
David nodded. Kevin left.
David sat on the edge of his desk and rubbed at his jaw, which suddenly ached with tension. The only bright spot was how much Kevin would suffer when Angie found out he'd asked David before he asked her.
David had introduced them.
He stabbed the intercom button on his phone. "Miss Forbes! The Caldi report, I asked for it an hour ago. I don't care to wait this long for--"
"It's on your desk, sir. And you keep on like that, I shall go home."
"Sorry," he muttered, and hung up. The phone rang a moment later. "Yes?"
"An Ian Halderman on the phone for you, sir. Shall I put him through?"
And Ian was calling his office now. Great. His lack of tact had reached entirely new heights. "Yes, all right."
"David," Ian purred.
"What do you want? If this is intended as some form of harassment, I can make your life very unpleasant very quickly and before you answer take into account the fact that I have had a very bad day."
"Hey, hey, all right," Ian said. "You want me to hang up and get out of your life? I will. Just thought you might want to continue our conversation from last night. Without interruptions."
David leaned back in his chair and put a hand over his eyes. "You think it required clarification in some way?"
"I think I can make your bad day a little better if you'll let me."
There was greed in his voice, straightforward and easy to deal with. David made his decision before Ian had finished his sentence. Had made it, he realized, before he picked up the phone.
David left Ian's apartment around five. He was hungry, thirsty, bruised, and sore. While there was no such thing as a bad orgasm, Ian had somehow managed to make the whole experience curiously unsatisfying.
No, not Ian. Ian was just the same. It therefore followed that David was different.
He hailed a cab and stared out of the window as the disgustingly bright streets blurred by. The sun was strong, the leaves were green, and there were very likely birds singing nearby. Even nature had it in for him.
Going back to the house was an impossibility. He had the cab let him off by the park instead, bought a bottle of water from a hot dog cart, and sank onto a bench.
He sat up straight, took small sips, felt ridiculous for too many reasons even to catalogue. He couldn't relax. It was stupid to sit so straight in the warm sun, with children playing nearby and bees doing obscene things to flowers. The habit of uprightness (or uptightness, Jazz's voice suggested in his head) was too deeply ingrained in him. Like the habit of cruelty.
He'd called Ian a one-trick pony before he left. It was true, of course, but maybe-- maybe it hadn't been entirely necessary to point it out.
A shadow slid up his legs and shaded his face. Jazz stood with his hands twisted together in front of him.
"Hey," Jazz said. "Uh. You're here."
David blinked up at him. "As are you."
"I was looking for you only I didn't know where to look, so I was sort of... wandering around."
"I was at work. Where I told you I was going."
"I was worried! Shit. I'm sorry. God, I'm really sorry. Do you want me to leave? I packed stuff. I don't have much anyway, but. I packed. Stuff." He stopped, throat muscles working visibly, eyes downcast.
"Sit down." He waited until Jazz was seated next to him. "Kiss me."
Jazz jerked his head up. "Uh. What?"
"No, never mind, I heard you."
Jazz's fingers brushed up David's neck and curled around his jaw, skin just a little rough. His mouth pressed softly against David's; light, chaste kisses before he licked along the seam of David's lips and inside. He didn't go much deeper than that, kept it soft and easy. David closed his eyes and slumped against his side.
"I wasn't upset. I think you'd have a hard time smacking me down if I wasn't willing to be smacked, but either way, the prospect doesn't bother me. I used the situation as an excuse to leave and I let you think it was your fault."
Jazz blinked at him. "Oh. Wow. You really are an asshole."
"Why'd you want to leave? I thought... we were having a pretty good time?" He paused. "Okay, up to the rent thing and comparing you to my dad. Hey, are you going to apologize?"
"No, you didn't. You just said you did all that. You didn't say you were sorry for it. And I said I was sorry like ten times."
"Ah." David cleared his throat. "I'm sorry."
"I think I am, yes."
Jazz took his hand, thumb rubbing over the inside of his wrist and the mark there from the rope. "So sorry you went out and fucked some other guy?"
"If it helps, I didn't enjoy it very much."
"It doesn't. You gonna keep doing that?"
David kept his eyes closed and listened to the buzz of the bees, very similar to the sudden rush of his own blood. Jazz must have felt his pulse pick up, thumb pressed as it was into the hollow cradle between fine bones and tendons just over the vein.
"No," David said. "I'm not. I won't."
There was a pause. David would've been happy to let it go on for hours, just like this, with the warmth of the sun and Jazz's body and the smell of his skin.
"Does that mean we can go out together like normal people?" Jazz said. "They're showing Blair Witch Project at that place on Fourth and I never got to see it in the theater."
"Because you were five years old."
"I was thirteen! They wouldn't let me in. Fuckers."
David carefully avoided doing the math in his head. He was fairly certain he wasn't actually twice Jazz's age, and that would have to do. They had worse strikes against them than a few years.
"I wonder why. Anyway, no. I don't like horror movies. Find someone else to go with."
"What, are you scared?"
"Only of the bad camera work."
Jazz peered at his face. "You are," he said, evil delight blooming in his eyes. "You totally are. Oooh, scary horror movies! Totally fake blood and guts, oooh!" He made wriggly ghost fingers at David, who smacked his hand away.
David looked down to hide a smile. "Stop that. You're being ridiculous."
"Come onnnn. I'll buy you popcorn. Gonna clutch my arm and scream like a girl?"
"You'd like that, I suppose."
"Maybe." Jazz smiled and brushed his thumb over David's lips. "Yeah. Kinda."
"Too bad. No horror movies. Would you like to go to Argentina instead?"
"Do what now? Why?"
"I need to pick something up. A case of wine."
"Long way to go to get a buzz."
"It's a wedding gift, for Angie. And Kevin. I want to make sure it's not mistreated."
"Must be some wine."
"It's... highly prized. Especially in recent years. It's the wine everyone wants."
"That means you hate it, right?"
David sighed. "No. I was expecting to, I admit. It's not perfect, but its flaws seem to work for it rather than against it."
"Gonna let me try it?"
"If you're lucky. Are you coming or not?"
"It'll be for less than a week. Surely they can spare you that long."
"Really Argentina?" Jazz shot him a look from under his lashes that was both hopeful and slightly awed.
"Really." He bit back the sarcastic rider that wanted to follow and watched Jazz's face bloom into a wide smile.
"Can we go to the beach?"
We can do anything you want. The words hovered on his tongue, but he bit them back, too. "Possibly. If there's enough time."
Jazz hugged him so hard that David felt a little breathless afterward.
"When are we going?"
"Next week, if you can get the time off." David sat up properly again, straightening his suit jacket. "And tonight, perhaps you'd like to go out somewhere."
Jazz grinned at him. "Hey, you asking me on a date?"
"If you must put it that way."
Jazz nudged him gently, shoulder bumping against his. "Ask me right."
David was expecting mockery, but Jazz looked so serious that it was a little frightening. Truthfully, there wasn't one part of this that wasn't at least a little frightening.
"Oh, fine. Would you care to accompany me to dinner tonight?" He couldn't quite keep the sarcasm out of his voice, but it didn't seem to matter.
"Yeah. I would." Jazz rested his forehead against David's for a moment. "Just not at Kiwi, okay?"
"That girl from the night you came home, she's a waitress there. I think she'd spit in your soup."
David had to smile. Well, Angie would likely be too distracted to worry about where they were eating for a while.
"Why's that funny?" Jazz said.
"Did you ever get the feeling that the universe is trying to tell you something?"
He'd meant it almost as a joke, but Jazz looked at him seriously, dawn-colored eyes and solemn mouth, turned down at the corners. David tried to shift away, but Jazz's arm curled around his shoulders.
"You mean like to stop being such a dick?" Jazz said.
David sighed and felt something in himself yielding, mostly against his will. "Something like that."