Songs You Know by Heart

by Dr. Noh

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/90404.html)

Author’s note: Many thanks to Flower of Carnage, not just for betaing, but also for letting me use her character, Daniel, and for writing the bit of this story in which he appears.

ONE

David detached himself from a woman dressed as a drooping rose. Her costume wasn’t the only thing past its prime. The party should’ve been put out of its misery hours ago. The room swam slightly as he looked around, and his throat felt raw from the truly awful “authentic” vodka he’d been drinking all night. He went to say his goodbyes to Pierre.

Pierre’s costume was Apollo, done in a lot of gold body paint, feathers, and very little else. It made him easy to spot, sprawled among his admirers in front of the immensely tasteless gold-leafed fireplace.

The fireplace was a good compass for the rest of Pierre’s penthouse, and, indeed, life. The main reason David still went to his parties, apart from the business contacts he made, was to see what Pierre had bought since last time. Previous purchases, on the better end of the scale, included a minor Picasso and, on the worse, a rug made out of the pelt of some recently extinct animal. All in all, David was glad they’d never actually had sex, despite one or two close calls.

“I’m leaving,” David told him.

“Not until you try this!” Pierre held aloft a glass of wine with a giggle and a look of triumph.

“That gulag vodka of yours was more than enough.”

“Come on. Ten thousand, for only one bottle! That must make it good, yes? And they tell me it was a theft at that price.”

“A steal,” David corrected. This must be tonight’s extravagance. “What’s it meant to be?”

“Forty-seven Cheval Blanc.”

David took the glass and inhaled. He didn’t need to taste. “If it is, which I doubt, it’s worthless now. Just as a general guideline, wine shouldn’t smell like cat piss.” He handed the glass back and left Pierre’s protestations behind him.

The night air was a delicate coolness that wrapped around him, washing away the heat, mental and physical, of the party. He’d take the shortcut through the park and be home in five minutes.

The cherries were in bloom, white and thick as snow along the boughs. David passed into their shadows and stopped a moment. They seemed almost to glow.

“Don’t move.”

David started to turn at once. A hand in the middle of his back shoved him forward. He stumbled, fell, and then turned quickly. Bits of gravel dug into his ass and palms.

A knife sliced cleanly through his cravat. Several shots of vodka swam through his bloodstream, and the man over him swam in and out of focus. He was a dark shape in tight jeans, long hair and poor light obscuring his face.

“Money,” the man said. “Where are the pockets in those damn pants?”

“Breeches don’t have pockets,” David said, with careful enunciation. “That is why I don’t have money.”

“What the hell, no one goes out with nothing! Cough it up or I’ll fucking cut you.”

The knife was very cold against his neck and so sharp he could barely feel the edge. He tipped his head back and licked his lips. “You could search me.”

The man hesitated. “Don’t try anything funny.”

“Oh, I promise.”

The knife point hovered at the hollow of his throat, and he felt he should be more worried about that. His mugger’s free hand patted down his jacket and slid a little too slowly over his hips and thighs.

He’d spent all night dancing too closely with men and women who tended to let their hands wander, none of whom he’d considered taking home. All night and into the morning; the sky was a dull, pearled grey now. David shifted and stretched his legs out.

“I could give you something else,” he said.

The man stopped, warm hand spread out across David’s thigh. He swallowed visibly, and David hoped he hadn’t read things wrong. Inept as the man seemed, he did have a weapon.

“Yeah, you could,” the man said, at last. He yanked David’s arms down by his sides and knelt over his chest, pinning them there. “Dressed in tights, walking through here this late. You’re fucking asking for it.”

He pulled his zipper down and got his cock out, thick and hardening already. A few jerks, and it was standing up in his hand. He stuck his knife in the dirt and grabbed David’s hair. “Open up.”

David leaned up and licked the head before he opened wide. The man grunted and shoved into his mouth. His dick was hot and incredibly smooth, wide enough to stretch David’s lips. David felt the head against the inside of his cheek, pushing against the skin there and then skidding over his tongue, easing back towards his throat. He closed his eyes and couldn’t help the sound he made, a soft, muffled moan. This was what he’d wanted all night.

“Jesus, fuck, good,” the man panted. His hand hit the dirt over David’s head, and he bent low, hips jerking sharply forward.

It was going faster than David would’ve preferred. The thrusts rammed down his throat didn’t give him enough time to taste and feel. He pushed his tongue tight against the cock in his mouth and sucked. The man groaned louder and pulled at David’s hair.

“Fuck, fuck, yeah, that’s it. Oh, god. You like it. You like that dick.”

David hummed in agreement, feeling his own cock harden in his breeches, stretchy fabric tight around it. He thrust up and got shoved back down flat for his trouble.

“You’re not going nowhere,” the man said. “You stay right there and take my cock.”

David moaned again at that, and then had to concentrate on getting enough air as the guy curled over him and started to thrust hard and fast. He was muttering under his breath. “Yeah, you love it, bitch, gonna fuck your throat, oh Jesus.” His hand in David’s hair was trembling just a little.

His breath got harsher, and he started to come, hot spurts down David’s throat, holding David tight and close, lips pushed right to the base of his dick so there wasn’t a choice but to swallow. David shuddered and groaned and hoped he could make himself wait till he got home to jerk off.

The guy stayed still a long second, and then pulled out and grabbed his knife. He was still panting as he zipped up and got to his feet. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said. “Or, or I’ll kill you!” David saw his face clearly for the first time in the onrushing dawn, young and flushed, with eyes the color of the lightening sky.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” David purred. He wiped the back of his hand slowly across his mouth. “Tell me, if I happened to be so unwary as to take this way home again, should I expect the same sort of rough treatment?”

His mugger stared at him a second, took a step back and then another, and then he turned and ran.

David picked himself up and walked home, whistling.

***

David smiled at the feel of the cool metal against his throat. The rough voice in his ear was the same, too.

“You’re really asking for it this time,” his mugger said.

David tipped his head back onto the man’s shoulder, baring his neck. His heartbeat was picking up, cock stiffening in his jeans.

“Come to a party with me,” David murmured. He did have an invitation at home for one of Ian’s parties, not that he was more likely to attend this one than any of its predecessors.

The man froze. “What?”

“A party. Drinks, vaguely obscene hors d’oeuvres, young men in gold shorts passing out condoms and lube. You’ll love it.”

“I’m not some queer.”

“You want to fuck me, don’t you?”

The knife pushed against his throat. “I can do that right here.”

“Mmm. Yes, you can, because I thought to prepare myself before I came out here. But wouldn’t you rather do it somewhere warm and reasonably soft? A bed even?”

“You came out here to– Fuck, are you crazy?”

“At least tell me your name.”

Some insomniac bird tootled quietly in the tree nearby. The body behind David shifted, pressed more firmly against his. David could feel the hard bulge of his cock, hot through his jeans.

“Jasper,” the man said. “Jazz. People call me Jazz. And I don’t want to go to no party.”

“Too bad. I would love to show you off.”

“You are fucked in the head.”

“I’d rather be fucked in the ass.”

Jazz shoved him away a step. “Then get your pants down.”

“Are you sure? I live very close, and I promise to let you steal my silver.”

“You can’t be for real.”

“Don’t you want to get me alone so you can have your way with me? I have handcuffs if that would help.”

Jazz stared at him for a wide-eyed second. “Yeah. Show me.”

He twisted David’s arm up behind his back, and pushed the knife against his side. David caught his breath and nearly moaned.

“The Green Street side of the park, and then left onto Bower. Keys in my pocket.”

In less than five minutes, Jazz was stabbing the key into the lock and pushing open the door of David’s townhouse. The mirrors in the front hall glittered at them, reflecting the dull gold streetlights before Jazz kicked the door shut.

David shook him off and ran for the stairs. There was a moment of stillness, and then footsteps pounding after him. He smiled and slowed enough to let Jazz catch up with him at the door to his bedroom.

The knife was gone, but hard hands caught his shoulders and shoved him face-first into the wall. “Don’t run away from me,” Jazz said, low and rough.

“If I don’t run away, how are you supposed to catch me?” His own voice was breathy and excited, and he was so hard he pushed his hips forward and rubbed himself against the wall.

“Guess I’m gonna need those cuffs.”

“Bedside table.”

The weight left his back. He heard the open and slam of a drawer, and the rattle of metal on metal. One cold circle cinched in around his right wrist.

“Are you,” Jazz started. “You shouldn’t– Jesus, dude, I tried to mug you.”

David thought Jazz’s concern was pretty strong evidence that he didn’t need to worry at all, but he only shrugged. “Do you want to do this or not?”

There was a long stretch of heavy breathing in his ear, and then Jazz yanked him around and pushed the other cuff through the bed frame before snapping it onto David’s left wrist. It left him perforce bent over, elbows resting awkwardly on the mattress. He straightened his legs and pushed his ass out and up.

Jazz cursed and nearly tore David’s pants open, pulling them first down and then all the way off, right over his shoes. He palmed David’s cheeks roughly and spread them. “Shit. You did. You got yourself all slicked up like a chick.”

One finger touched David’s hole, and David made a high sound in his throat. “Please,” he said, almost needy enough to be embarrassed by it. “Put it in.”

“Yeah,” Jazz breathed.

And then there was the blunt head of that thick cock forcing its way inside him in short little stabs, no time to adjust or do anything but moan and hump back against it. Jazz grabbed his hips and slammed in the rest of the way, hips and balls right up against David’s and so deep that David’s cock jerked and spat pre-come across his belly.

“Tight,” Jazz whispered. “Jesus. Didn’t know it could be so tight.”

David squeezed down around him and heard his breath catch. The next second, Jazz was fucking him flat out, so hard David’s cock was bouncing in the air and his feet were slipping on the floor.

David bent his head to press against his cuffed hands and braced himself against the bed. Jazz’s fingertips ground into the blades of David’s hipbones as he yanked David back against him. His elbows slipped off the bed, and he clung to the bed frame. A sharp kick spread his legs still wider.

“Christ, shit, gonna fuck your ass so hard,” Jazz mumbled, and he was, hard and wild, and David let his head hang down between his arms and panted. He could feel every inch, slicked barely enough, and that hot touch of friction was making him sweat.

Jazz paused inside him, screwed his hips forward so hard and slow that it made David whine helplessly and turn his face against his arm.

“Hot,” Jazz whispered. “You want it bad, huh?”

Yes, fuck, yes. Move.”

Jazz moved, fast and deep, pounding him hard with quick strokes that nearly knocked the breath out of him. David’s fingers slipped on the bed frame, and he bent further, Jazz’s hand sliding up his spine to the back of his neck. His other hand slipped down across David’s stomach, tipping his hips back and up still more so he could sink deeper.

David closed his eyes and bit at his own arm. His cock jerked and pulsed, so close, and then Jazz’s hand closed tentatively around it. David moaned and shoved into his hand, and that was all it took. He came hard, knees shaking and feeling like they might dump him on the floor at any second.

Jazz shoved into him still faster, low sounds muffled against David’s back, and stilled as he came. His nails dug into the back of David’s neck, and his panting was the only sound in the room.

By stages, they sank to the floor. Jazz unlocked the cuffs, and David rubbed at his wrists. They hurt now, had probably hurt before, though he hadn’t felt it. Irregular red circles ringed them like bracelets. He smoothed his hands down his thighs and drew a deep breath.

“The silver’s downstairs if you want it.”

“I don’t.”

David looked over his shoulder. “Is there something you do want?”

Jazz gnawed at his lip and came nowhere close to meeting David’s eyes. “A guy like you– You must have a bunch of suits, right? You look like sorta my size.”

David blinked at him. “Yes. Certainly.” He waved at the closet. “Take whatever you like.”

Jazz zipped up and stood, unsteady and gripping the bed frame. He opened the closet door and flipped through David’s stuff. A lot of it was suits, unfortunately. One had to look respectable.

David crawled onto the bed and wiped himself clean with a handful of tissues. He kicked his shoes off and lay back against the pile of pillows, watching. He’d half-expected Jazz to grab what he could and run, which was why the spare key to the cuffs was on a chain around his neck. He definitely hadn’t expected the reach-around, let alone the odd sartorial request.

Jazz turned around holding the grey Hugo Boss to his chest and probably wrinkling it irretrievably in the process. “This one?”

“Told you, any one you like.” He rolled off the bed and found Jazz a light blue shirt and a dark silver tie.

“They’re expensive,” Jazz said, with the hint of a question in his voice.

“I wouldn’t wear anything cheap.”

“Right. And these all go together, yeah?”

“I promise,” David said solemnly.

“Right.” Jazz let his eyes sink below the level of David’s shirt hem, presumably checking out his cock. He looked quickly away. “I’m going now.”

David walked him down and locked the door behind him. An interesting night indeed. Ian’s party could only have been anticlimactic by comparison.

TWO

Dinner Friday next was at Kiwi. It was a bit boring for David’s taste, but Kevin liked it and so did Angie, and it was popular enough that David didn’t feel a hundred years old eating there. He thought their new trend of naming desserts after fashion designers was questionable, but that wasn’t stopping him from eating Betsey Johnson and licking the fork clean.

“Pierre’s after the goddamn Cheval Blanc again,” David said. “He was waving around some counterfeit he paid a mint for.”

“If you’d just get it for him, he’d stop bothering you,” Angie said.

“It’s overrated.”

“You’ve never had it,” Kevin said, in what David considered an unnecessarily loud voice.

David waved a hand. “It makes a good story. The little wine that could, throwing off the stench of the Nazi occupation, excelling under difficult conditions. That’s the only reason the media’s latched onto it.”

“Media,” Angie said. “A couple of online articles.”

“Enough so Pierre’s heard of it, and that is more than enough.”

“You could just try it,” Angie said. “It wouldn’t kill you. Or you could buy some and let me try it. You know, take one for the team.”

“One of our clients offered to sell me some. He’s docked in Argentina right now.”

“He has a wine cellar on his boat?” Kevin said.

“I think when it gets that large, you’re meant to call it a ship.”

“Are you sure about Argentina?” Angie said. “Do we really need it after the Casa Mafalda stuff?”

“It’ll sell. Argentina is the new big thing in organics,” David said. The piano music was a bit loud, he thought. He scraped more pink frosting off his plate.

“If people will trust anything that comes from South America,” Angie said.

“They will. A few banner ads, hard working farmers and donkeys, et cetera. No problem.”

“Hey, yeah. Nice.” Kevin sounded faintly admiring. He was in advertising.

Angie gave both of them a look.

“It is not my fault people are easily manipulated,” David said. “Anyway, Argentina’s organic safeguards are very good. It’s not like we’d be lying to them. Except about the donkeys.”

“Wouldn’t count on that. That biodynamic vineyard in California uses mules and oxes.”

“Oxen,” Kevin corrected.

“They bury oxen horns under their vines at the full moon,” Angie said. “Filled with cow shit I think.”

David half-listened to the ensuing conversation about what kind of crack the state of California was on, but the piano music kept poking at him like a polite but insistent panhandler. It was loud because it was live, he realized, and who had live music these days? Kiwi did, apparently, and now that he was actually listening, David thought he might see why. It really wasn’t bad.

It took him a few seconds to locate the piano in the room’s glittering labyrinth of mirrored walls and Venetian chandeliers. When he did, he looked away again immediately. That was his suit over there, and presumably the young man inside it was Jazz. He looked astonishingly respectable out of his jeans and grubby hoodie and with his hair tied back in a short ponytail.

“–check, David?” Kevin was saying.

“Hm?”

“I said, should I get the check?”

“I’ll get it.” He nodded to the waiter and thought about Jazz’s hands on him, rough and utterly lacking in subtlety. Weren’t musicians meant to take care of their hands?

“I can get it this time, honestly.” Kevin was usually as smooth as an oil slick, but when he was groping for his wallet in these situations, he always managed to look like he was touching himself inappropriately.

David sighed. “Why do you bother? You always lose.”

He lost this time, too. When David handed over his card, he slipped the waiter a folded-up hundred as well. “For your piano player. What’s his name, Jasper something?”

“Yes, sir. Jasper White. Thank you, sir. I’m sure he’ll appreciate your generosity.”

David watched to make sure the waiter actually handed over his generosity, and then turned away. He didn’t particularly want to see Jazz’s reaction.

“Suddenly a patron of the lounge singer arts?” Kevin said.

“He’s not singing,” Angie said. “And really, he is quite good.”

“If I wanted live music, I’d go to a damn concert. People are here to eat and blab, and here’s this poor sucker stuck in the background, cramping up his fingers for five bucks an hour. It’s so nineteenth century.”

Angie clasped a hand to her heart. “Oh, Cutthroat Kevin, man of the people!”

They were off again; dinner and a show.

David signed the bill, tipping the waiter equally as absurdly. On the way out, he mentioned to the maitre d’ that they had a good thing in their piano player.

“Jasper White, isn’t it?” he said, and watched Marcel get that shifty look common to all social climbers who fear they might be unfamiliar with the next rung on the ladder.

“You’ve heard of him?”

“Mm. Talented, I’m told. Of course, I’m not musical myself.”

“Nor me,” Marcel agreed, glancing at Jazz with newfound respect. “But you can hear he’s got something, yes?”

“Indeed,” David murmured. He let himself look back once before they left. Jazz was focused entirely on the sheet music in front of him.

Angie and Kevin watched him warily as they left Kiwi, questions in their eyes they weren’t quite asking. Even David would admit that his romantic history was something short of ideal, but he did wish they wouldn’t automatically assume he was going to jump every innocent young thing in sight.

“Who’s coming with me to Argentina?” he said, to head them off.

“Not it!” Kevin said immediately.

Angie rolled her eyes at him. “My god, are you five?”

They were still bitching at each other twenty blocks later when the cab pulled up in front of David’s townhouse. David wondered if Angie even knew her hand was on Kevin’s thigh.

“You’re both coming,” David said as he got out. “Let’s say Thursday. I’ll have Miss Forbes make the arrangements. Clear your schedules.” He slammed the door before Kevin could make the inevitable crack about Montezuma’s revenge.

***

It started raining around midnight. David was sitting in his kitchen, reading over profit reports and eating ice cream out of the carton with a teaspoon. The sound of his doorbell was almost drowned by thunder.

When he opened the door, he was somehow unsurprised to see Jazz on the other side. His clothes–the hoodie and jeans, not David’s suit, thankfully–were sodden and dripping.

“What do you want?” David said. “If you offer me my money back, I’m going to shut the door in your face, incidentally.”

“No. Uh.” Jazz looked at him through the wet streaks of hair pasted across his face. “Thought maybe I could stay here tonight? Ain’t got anywhere else. It’s cold.”

For a hundred dollars, he could get a fairly decent hotel room, even in this city. He might well steal David’s silver, or at least his electronics. He was a thug, regardless of how well he played.

David hesitated for far too short a time. “Get in here then. Towels and dry clothes upstairs, and don’t bother me, I’m working.”

Jazz pushed past him, disappearing upstairs.

“And don’t throw those on the floor, the hamper’s there for a reason!” David called, just as he heard the first wet splat. He sighed and went back to the kitchen.

He meant to put the ice cream away, or at least put it in a bowl. Eating it out of the carton wasn’t a habit he indulged in front of–well, anyone. But Angie’s summary of organic cacao plantation proved oddly engrossing, and he was sucking absently on his spoon when Jazz came back down.

Jazz was wearing David’s Harvard sweatpants and nothing else. His still-damp hair spotted beads of water down his chest. His exceptionally well muscled chest. Perhaps letting him in hadn’t been a mistake after all. David wondered if he were wearing underwear.

“What’s that?” Jazz said.

“The work you’re interrupting.”

“What are you, like, a lawyer?”

“God, no.”

“Shrink? Stockbroker?”

“I buy and sell wine.”

“Your thing says chocolate.”

“My research division is trying to convince me that single-estate organic chocolate would be a good addition to our investments.” That should sound sufficiently obscure to head off any more questions. Calling Angie his research division was overstating things a little, but Vinique.com was still a small company.

“Huh. Makes sense, I guess.”

Well, now he had to ask. “Oh?”

“Chocolate and wine go together, right? And single-estate, that just means not mixed in with other chocolates, like wine doesn’t get mixed in with other wines, yeah? Unless it’s really crappy wine. That’s what the wine guy at the restaurant said. You could match them up and sell them in pairs, like, the perfect combination. For people to get fat and drunk on.”

That was a disturbingly good idea. David frowned. “Organically fat and drunk. Stop hovering. Why don’t you eat something?”

“Like what?”

“There’s meatloaf in the fridge.”

“Rather have ice cream.” He stole David’s spoon and dug it into the carton of Rocky Road.

It was difficult not to watch him. His lips. His hands. David still had bruises from those hands, faded and yellowing. Jazz sucked on the spoon and dripped spots of ice cream onto David’s clean counter top.

“How come there’s sheets on all your furniture?” Jazz said.

“I’m not here much. I was in South Australia for a month, and I’m leaving for Argentina on Thursday. It’s hardly worth it.”

“So you just sit in your kitchen and eat ice cream?”

“And occasionally get molested in the park by musical muggers, yes.”

“You liked it. Both times.”

David shrugged and looked down at the report again. It was mysteriously less interesting that it had been a few minutes ago.

“You did,” Jazz said, sliding off the counter to stand behind him. “Even in the park when I was fucking your mouth, you had a boner like fucking Texas. You really get off on the rough shit.”

David ignored him, as much as was possible when he could feel Jazz’s heat just behind him and see one large hand resting on the granite beside his. He wondered again how it was possible for those hands to play as they did. Jazz’s knuckles were skinned, like he’d been fighting.

“So if I just shoved you down over the counter and–”

“I’m working,” David said, as severely as he could while all the blood in his brain was rushing south. “There’s a piano in the living room. Go and entertain yourself.”

There was a long, tense moment where David thought Jazz might do it anyway, just push him down and take him, and he closed his eyes as his cock grew stupidly harder. When he opened them again, Jazz was gone.

A few jangled notes came from the living room, and then a shout. “This fucking thing needs to be tuned!” But Jazz played anyway, something faster than the classical music at Kiwi.

David listened and looked at his reports and utterly failed to read them. Eventually, he got up and closed the door to the living room so he could concentrate.

In the morning, he called someone to tune the piano.

***

The week before Argentina went quickly, and David saw little of Jazz. His spare key had disappeared from the hook by the door, and he heard music at odd hours of the morning. The Hugo Boss suit he discovered draped over the kitchen island in sad need of cleaning, so he sent it out with his other things. He should change the locks, he thought.

Tuesday night, they had dinner at Kiwi again because Angie wanted to irritate Kevin further with their nineteenth century live music. David got up to use the men’s room while he was waiting for his Dolce and Gabbana tart. Jazz joined him as he finished washing his hands.

“You keep looking at me,” Jazz said.

“No, I don’t,” said David, who had been careful not to let himself do any such thing.

“Well, then you keep not looking at me!”

“I can hardly help that.”

Jazz shoved him back against the wall, where he was hemmed in by two small tables piled high with fluffy, kiwi-colored hand towels. Jazz smelled like his aftershave.

“I ain’t giving you your keys back,” Jazz said. He sounded uncertain, and his hands pressed harder into David’s chest as if to compensate.

“I don’t believe I asked you to.” It would be foolish to ask, anyway. He might’ve had copies made. Getting the locks changed was clearly the way to go. Perhaps tomorrow.

“I could steal all your shit.”

“You haven’t so far.” He eyed the suit Jazz was wearing tonight; not the Hugo Boss, but definitely one of David’s. “I assume I’ll get that back when it needs to be cleaned.”

Jazz clenched his teeth and shoved at David again, though David was already flat against the wall with nowhere else to go. Jazz stepped in close, and David could feel the ridge of his cock against his hip. He was wondering if it would be a bad idea to blow Jazz in one of the stalls when Jazz planted one hand on the wall beside his head and kissed him.

Jazz kissed like he fucked, rough and unsubtle. His teeth clicked against David’s, and he bit at David’s lip before shoving his tongue into David’s mouth. He wouldn’t have gotten that far if David hadn’t been caught in a little bubble of shock.

David grabbed his shirt and pushed hard, swinging him to the right with all his body weight. Jazz crashed into the counter and stayed there. His mouth was open and wet, and the front of his suit was wrinkled. His hard-on was incredibly obvious through his pants.

“I thought you said you weren’t queer,” David snapped, and then he was out the door, his back to the wall. He forced his breathing back to normal and wished he could do the same for his heartbeat.

It’d been a stupid thing to say. Hurtful, which was why he’d said it. Jazz would likely be gone by morning, or at least by the time David got back from his trip. For the best, he thought. He went back to the table.

Angie punched Kevin in the shoulder as David sat down. “David,” she said, “Just tell this idiot I’m right. You know it’s true–” She stopped and looked at his face.

He passed his tongue over his bottom lip and could feel the heat and swelling there from Jazz’s bite. His hair was no doubt disheveled, and he felt too warm.

Kevin and Angie looked in unison toward the piano just as Jazz stalked back to his place.

“I like this restaurant,” Angie said grimly.

Kevin looked down and shook his head, exiting the conversation as thoroughly as he could without physically leaving the room.

“I want to be able to keep coming here.”

“I’m not–” David started.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten the incident at El Paradiso.”

“Oh, dear god,” Kevin muttered.

“It’s nothing,” David said quickly. “He’s nothing. There won’t be a problem.”

There was no way Jazz could’ve heard, but David couldn’t help glancing his way. Jazz was staring right back at him. There was too much distance between them for David to read his expression.

Much later that night, David lay in bed, listening to the faint creaks and groans in his otherwise dead-quiet house. He was listening for Jazz, he realized. Not unreasonably; Jazz usually got home about this time. Not tonight, David imagined.

His lips were dry. He groped for lip balm on the bedside table and came up empty. He thought of Jazz’s lips on his, wet and slippery. He let himself imagine, only briefly, how things might’ve gone if he’d allowed the kiss.

It was better not to set up unrealistic expectations. The waiter at El Paradiso was a case in point. Kiwi was looking to be Angie’s favorite restaurant for the next few months, and her snark level would skyrocket if they had to abandon it. David preferred her snark directed at Kevin, where it belonged. At least Kevin was getting sex out of it.

There had been no sex with Jazz since that one hot fuck cuffed to the bed. He’d expected at least once more after Jazz had shown up at his door dripping wet.

David closed his eyes. Enough. He had things to do in the morning, things he should be well rested for. It was much less messy this way than it might’ve been.

THREE

David woke to warm breath on his cheek and cold metal pressed to his throat.

“This is how you like it, right?” Jazz said.

If he hadn’t been woken from a dead sleep, if he hadn’t pictured exactly this scenario at least a dozen times since Jazz started sleeping his spare room, he might’ve managed a sensible answer. What came out was: “Oh, god, yes.”

The knife clattered on the bedside table, and Jazz ripped the covers back. “Damn,” he said, palming David’s ass, fingers digging into his flesh, “you always sleep naked?”

“Usually.”

“Good to know.”

That wasn’t the sort of statement that suggested an end to their arrangement, whatever their arrangement was. David couldn’t worry about it, not with Jazz pushing his legs apart to kneel between them and pushing cold fingers between his cheeks.

“Lube,” David gasped. “In the drawer.”

“I know what I’m doing, shut up.” There was the sound of a cap flipped open, and a glob of cool slick landed on David’s skin. “I looked it up online.”

“God bless the internet,” David muttered into his pillow. Something made him add, “Condoms, too. Did you look those up?”

Jazz paused. “Didn’t use one last time.”

“This isn’t last time.”

“I always used them before, couldn’t we just–”

“And I haven’t, which is why you should,” David said shortly.

There was a brief silence, and then a hand reaching forward into his line of sight to open the drawer. The usual noises of crinkling plastic followed. David hoped they weren’t past their expiration date.

“You haven’t, like, got anything, right?”

“Nothing I’m aware of.”

“Okay,” Jazz said. “Do I have to, you know, do the stretching thing?”

“Not if you go slowly.”

“Good. Up.” Jazz pulled at David’s hips until David got his knees under him. “Fuck,” he muttered. “Can’t believe I’m doing this again.”

“Nobody asked you to,” David snapped.

Jazz smacked his ass hard, sting fading into lingering heat. “You shut up,” he said. “Just can’t believe I want to, that’s all.” His fingers slid over David’s hole, warmer now, and slippery-wet. “Never did a girl up the ass.”

“I would imagine not.”

Jazz smacked him again, almost casually. David closed his hands on the sheets and shuddered.

“Gonna fuck you now,” Jazz said, and the head of his cock was already pushing at David’s hole, hot and stiff, nudging forward in short, hard stabs. It hurt, and David didn’t care, or rather only cared that it not stop.

Jazz forced his cock in, inch by inch. David heard his soft grunts, and the wet sound as he added more lube. Jazz was muttering under his breath, hips twisting and rocking, hands heavy on David’s skin to hold him, pull him closer.

“Yeah, Jesus,” Jazz said. “You want it, right? Tell me you want my dick.”

He shoved forward sharply, and David gasped. “I want it,” he whispered.

Jazz moaned and shoved in all the way. The tips of his hair brushed along David’s back, moving with his heavy breath. “I gotta move. Enough of this slow crap. I gotta.”

“Do it.”

More lube spilled down between their joined bodies, and Jazz grabbed David’s shoulder. His nails sank in. He pulled David’s body back to meet every thrust. “Yes, yes, yes,” he hissed, bearing David down into the mattress, pounding him hard.

David pushed the pillow away before he smothered in it, chest and cheek flat against the bed. His brain was still sluggish with sleep, thoughts winding through it like snakes uncoiling in the sun. Stupid thoughts, like come to Argentina with me, thoughts that had no place in the real world.

Jazz’s hand groped down his stomach until it found his cock and squeezed, not hard enough to hurt, but close. David groaned and spread his knees wider, back arching hard.

“The fuck is wrong with you,” Jazz panted, braced over him, bent down to bite at his shoulder. “Can’t kiss you, but I can slap you around and fuck your ass and call you names?”

David pushed a hand over his eyes until he saw red. “Do you always talk this much during sex?”

“You don’t mind it when I’m calling you a whore and telling how deep I’m gonna stick my cock in you.” He thrust in so deep on the last word that David moaned. “See?”

“Don’t fucking psychoanalyze me,” David snarled. “You’re not equipped. Just–move.”

“Okay, okay,” Jazz muttered. He ran a hand down David’s back. It was probably meant to be soothing, but only made David want to hit things.

And then Jazz was thrusting again, deep and steady, and jacking David’s cock while he did it. David closed his eyes and let his thoughts scatter gratefully. “Harder,” he said. “Harder.”

Jazz did it harder, and harder still, until every thrust was slamming David towards the headboard and Jazz was grunting behind him. His hand slipped from David’s cock and rubbed restlessly over David’s stomach.

“Fuck, fuck, yeah. Gonna shoot inside you, baby, fill you right up,” he muttered, low and quiet against David’s skin, and then he was coming, nails scraping over David’s stomach, breathing short and fast.

Jazz’s body settled over his, muscles relaxing, sheer weight holding him down. He got his hand around David’s cock again. “Go on, fuck my fist. Get yourself off. I ain’t gonna do it for you.”

David couldn’t have stopped himself. His hips moved by themselves, sharp and fast, with no kind of control. He moaned and panted and bit at his knuckles. His heart thudded against his ribs, and he came hard over his stomach and Jazz’s hand. His knees gave out a second later, and he slid down flat with Jazz spread out on top of him.

He couldn’t even work up a complaint when he felt Jazz’s hands on him, just touching him. It wasn’t so bad this time, or he was too fucked out for it to make him twitchy. He only wanted to be still and close his eyes.

When he woke, it was morning. He was alone and sticky. And sore. He stretched, smiling at the ceiling. There were thoughts lurking at the edges of his mind, but he pushed them back for now to enjoy the warmth of the sun falling across his bed and the ache of his body.

The sun caught on something and glinted in his eye. It was the knife Jazz had used: David’s letter opener. He stared at the tracery of his grandmother’s initials on the silver handle.

When he went down for breakfast, he found Jazz hunched over a bowl of Lucky Charms. He must’ve bought the cereal himself because it certainly wasn’t David’s. Jazz ignored him, which David was fine with, almost grateful for.

David made oatmeal on the stove and was pouring maple syrup on it when Jazz asked, “That chick at the restaurant, she your girlfriend?”

David stared at him and kept pouring maple syrup until he’d nearly flooded the bowl. He set the bottle down firmly. “No, she is not my girlfriend. Because I’m gay,” he said slowly, spelling the last sentence out in fake sign language. “And don’t call her a chick, she wouldn’t like it.”

“Whatever,” Jazz mumbled. “She was giving me dirty looks.”

“She was giving me dirty looks. She thought I was taking advantage of you.” He spooned his overabundance of syrup into the sink and washed it down the drain before stirring the remainder into his oatmeal.

“You haven’t told them? About–” Jazz frowned and gestured broadly, presumably meaning to indicate how he was living in David’s house and in fact taking advantage of him, or at least his suits and his internet.

“I haven’t told them anything. All they know is that I like your music.” He ate his oatmeal and watched Jazz’s expression waver.

Jazz blinked at him. “You do?”

“Well, yes, obviously. I did give you a hundred dollar tip.”

“I thought that was just because, you know…”

“No, I do not generally tip the men who fuck me.” David turned away and rubbed at his eyes. He had a headache blossoming in his right temple, and his jaw ached.

“Are there a lot of them?” Jazz asked, sounding like he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“None of your business.”

“Some music guy came to hear me play,” Jazz said, after a few seconds.

“How lovely for you.” David scraped the last of his oatmeal from the bottom of the bowl and turned to wash it out.

“Don’t you even care, man? It’s only because of what you said to the head waiter guy.”

“Please, enough with the ‘man’ and ‘dude.’ I do have a name, even if you’ve never bothered to ask it.”

“I know your name,” Jazz said, having the affront to sound faintly hurt. “I, uh. I read it off your mail.”

David turned around to tell him off–for any number of things–but Jazz was looking at him, so intent and still weirdly hurt. He shut his mouth again.

“David,” Jazz said. He got up and came around the island. “Hey, David. Are you gonna hit me if I try to kiss you again?”

Yes,” David said, and was careful to walk and not run as he got his coat and keys and fled onto the sidewalk.

He didn’t get home until after nine that night. Jazz was already at the restaurant, or maybe playing for his music man. David ate a pizza, packed, locked his bedroom door, and went to sleep.

Jazz wasn’t lurking in his kitchen the next morning, but had left David a note on the fridge, stuck under a magnet:

Hey, get some more ice cream while you’re out. I like chocolate.

There was also an empty carton of ice cream on the counter with a spoon welded to its bottom by a small, sticky pool of melted Rocky Road.

David was still staring at it when the phone rang to let him know his taxi was outside. He ripped the note down and crumpled it, meaning to toss it in the trash on his way out. He did trash the carton, but somehow, between getting his coat and the suitcase and his files, the note ended up in his pocket instead.

Somewhere over Brazil, he tucked it between the pages of The Plague to mark his place and closed his eyes. He dreamt of rats, a whole concert hall full of them, every beady eye intent on the stage, where Jazz was playing.

FOUR

The days were long, but the weeks went quickly, filled with tramping around hillside vineyards and learning more about the process of drying cacao beans than he’d ever wanted to know. He got a few good deals out of it, though, and a really good tan.

The day before they left for home, he went to see Daniel Kahn, the man with the 1947 Cheval Blanc and the yacht that was definitely too big to be called a boat. He got there at eleven and didn’t leave until the next morning. He hadn’t planned on the sex, but he didn’t regret it. Daniel was creative.

Afterwards, Daniel offered him a taste of the Cheval. David was unable to think of any logical reason to refuse.

It was quite horrible, in a way, to find out that everyone had been right. The wine was the real thing. The first sip filled his nose and mouth with a brilliant, clear flavor. This was a wine that no one would spit out, regardless of how many more they had to taste that day.

“You want to be alone with that?” Daniel said.

He did, sort of, but he wasn’t about to admit it.

They took their glasses up on deck as the sun rose. David hated to think of Pierre getting his hands on it.

“Call me if you change your mind,” Daniel said. He was sprawled in a deck chair, wearing only thin white cotton pants that showed off his flat brown stomach and finely muscled chest. In some ways he looked rather like Jazz.

“Why’re you selling the case?”

“I have two.”

“Most people wouldn’t consider that a valid reason.”

Daniel shrugged. He held his glass up so the rising sun shone through it. “Yeah, well. I value things more when they’re in short supply. I’d hate to take this for granted.”

David left while the sun was still touching the horizon. Back at the hotel, in the perfectly crisp, dead air of his room, he called his house. The phone rang nine times before his voice mail picked up.

He had a dozen reports to occupy him on the way home and didn’t think twice about loaning The Plague to Kevin. Halfway through the flight, Kevin passed him the note.

“Who are you buying ice cream for?”

“Don’t dog-ear my pages.” David stuffed the note back in his pocket where it had started out. All the way to Argentina and back and he still hadn’t tossed it. Christ.

He stared out the window and drummed his fingers on the arm rest. It wasn’t even as if it had any kind of sentimental value whatsoever. If it had, he definitely would’ve trashed it. And probably called a locksmith.

He did finally throw it away when they got off the plane, and felt an odd sense of loss that he stamped down without mercy. It was a stupid piece of paper with an even stupider message, completely meaningless in every possible way.

“You’re in a foul mood,” Angie said, as they got in the cab.

He didn’t answer, or say another word between the airport and his place. He wasn’t going to take it out on her, or even Kevin. It would be unprofessional. And if he said anything at all, he might tell her what was bothering him, and that was not going to happen.

The taxi dropped him off first. When he unlocked his door, he didn’t even know what to hope for; that Jazz would be there, or not, or obviously long gone. What he didn’t expect was to find Jazz naked but for David’s robe and making out with some woman on the kitchen counter.

And by ‘making out with’ David actually meant ‘very nearly having sex with.’ Right there. In his kitchen.

He cleared his throat.

Jazz started and looked over the girl’s shoulder at him. “Oh. Uh. You didn’t say when you’d be home.”

“I see. And that’s some excuse for entertaining whores in my kitchen? I do eat off that counter. You may not mind sharing whatever microbes are running rampant through her bloodstream, but I do.”

“Hey!” the woman said. She scrambled off the counter and started pulling on the dress that lay crumpled on the floor, getting tangled with one of the arms inside out. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Yes, you’re right. What was I thinking? If you were selling your body, you’d be able to afford something better than that–article of clothing you’re attempting to wear.”

She didn’t deserve it. He knew she didn’t deserve it. He just didn’t seem to be able to stop himself. He wasn’t trying all that hard.

“The door’s that way.” He picked her purse up off the chair and smiled, not quite offering it to her. When she reached for it, he tossed down the hall towards the door. “Fetch.”

She looked more stunned than insulted, and after a moment’s silent gaping, shook her head and hurried out. “Fucking asshole!” she called back over her shoulder.

He couldn’t blame her. They’d all been cheap shots, both easy and unfair. He wasn’t even angry at her, not really. He wasn’t angry at Jazz. That would be stupid. He was just angry.

Her bra was still lying on the kitchen floor, flowers and yellow lace. He looked away.

She’d left the door standing open, and he went to close it. As he turned the deadbolt, he thought that now would be the time to tell Jazz to get out.

Jazz’s hand landed on his shoulder and yanked him back, shoved him up against the wall. He leaned in close, right in David’s face. His eyes were dark, and he didn’t look happy. “Since when do you care who I fuck?”

“You’re absolutely right. I don’t care. So take this unfortunate specimen,” and he paused to flick the head of Jazz’s cock with his forefinger, “to whatever dive you dragged her out of and find a replacement to stick it in. If I’ve given you a taste for ass, I apologize, but I don’t think you can afford the places I frequent.”

“What, parks? Dark alleys?” Jazz grabbed his hair and forced his head back, bare cock rubbing against David’s stomach.

David’s breath caught, and his heartbeat rocketed. He saw where this was going. It wasn’t what he’d intended at all. “You should go after her,” he said, but he couldn’t have sounded less like he meant it.

“After your jealous psycho boyfriend act? Nuh uh. Guess you’ll have to do.”

“Not jealous,” David gasped, as the hand in his hair tightened. “Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m pretty sick of you calling me stupid,” Jazz whispered, right up close so his lips touched David’s ear as he spoke. “I’m pretty sick of you talking, period. I think you better just get down on your knees and suck my dick.”

“Forget it,” David said, but what was stupid was expecting Jazz to believe him when he sounded like that. David wasn’t even sure he believed himself. And he was usually so careful to mean no on the rare occasions he said it.

“Can’t forget it,” Jazz said, voice low. He pushed his free hand between their bodies and rubbed over David’s cock through the light wool of his suit. “Hottest thing that ever happened to me, you down on the ground, mouth stuffed full and still moaning for more.”

David closed his eyes, feeling Jazz’s teeth on his neck, up high where the mark would show, and Jazz’s hand shoving down the front of his pants. He pushed his hips forward, rubbing his cock against Jazz’s palm.

“Yeah, you want it,” Jazz said. “Down. Now.” He pulled hard at David’s hair until David gave in and dropped to his knees. “Open up.”

David hesitated, still unsure about this, knowing it was a little late to be unsure. Jazz slapped him across the face. It stung, and his mouth fell open with the shock of it, and then he had Jazz’s cock pushing between his lips.

David tried to pull back, but he wasn’t trying hard enough, not with both of Jazz’s hands fisted in his hair now. He choked a little on the first thrust, more on the second, but Jazz didn’t stop or even slow down. His hips snapped forward again and again, and when David let his teeth scrape lightly along the shaft, Jazz only moaned.

“Yeah, that’s good, good,” he panted, and thrust again, forcing his cock down David’s throat.

He wasn’t going to stop, David realized. It made him feel too hot and almost sickly relieved. He clung to Jazz’s robe and let Jazz use his mouth. The thrusts didn’t get any easier, but they did get easier to take as he relaxed, leaned closer. Jazz’s hands unclenched and held his head more gently. David closed his eyes and sucked.

“Fuck,” Jazz muttered. He pulled out and leaned forward against the wall, still holding David close with a hand cupping the back of his skull. David breathed hard and mouthed at his stomach and the base of his cock.

“Get up here,” Jazz said, pulling at him, pressing him flat against the wall, and then Jazz’s tongue was fucking his mouth nearly as hard as his cock had been a second ago. Jazz pulled at his belt and pants until his cock was bared and started jacking him, hard.

David whined and tried to turn his head away. Jazz kissed him harder until his lips felt bruised, swollen, until he didn’t want it to stop anymore, until he was clutching at Jazz’s shoulders and coming in hot spurts across Jazz’s stomach and his own white dress shirt. He was panting and dizzy when Jazz broke the kiss.

“Stay,” Jazz told him quietly, and knelt. He stripped David from the waist down and grinned. “You look hot like that, with the jacket and tie and your dick hanging out.”

“I look absurd,” David said, or tried to say. It didn’t come out much above a whisper.

“Nah. Hot. Trust me. Turn around. I’m gonna fuck you.”

David pushed himself back against the wall and shook his head. “You– You don’t have lube.”

“You do. Right? In your bag, yeah?”

Jazz bent over to rummage through the pockets. David bolted for the stairs. He felt like an idiot, but it seemed impossible to stay still and let this happen. It didn’t matter anyway, because Jazz caught his wrist before he’d gotten two steps up. He fell, one knee on the third step, foot on the first, sharp edges digging into his thighs and stomach. A second later, Jazz was between his legs, cock rubbing up against his ass.

“Told you before not to run away from me,” Jazz said.

“You can’t just–not on the stairs.”

“Yeah? Wanna bet?”

Slicked fingers pushed between his cheeks and rubbed briefly over his hole before they started to press into him.

“Condom,” David said. It came out so harshly it hardly sounded like a word at all. His throat felt raw.

Jazz paused behind him. “David–”

Don’t. Do not argue with me. You don’t know where I’ve been.”

David stayed where he was while Jazz dug through his bag again, though it was a struggle. He closed his eyes and pushed his face against the crook of his arm. He’d never felt so confused about sex in his life. His touched his mouth, lips still hot and raw feeling from the pounding of Jazz’s cock and from that kiss.

Jazz’s lips touched the back of his neck. “You’re okay,” he said. “Don’t flip out on me.”

It wasn’t comfortable, but he’d gotten fucked in worse positions. Jazz slipped an arm under his chest to support him, and then his cock was pushing against David’s hole. It slipped in more easily this time than the last. Even the cursory stretching made a difference. David shivered and sucked in a fast breath when Jazz pushed in the last few inches.

Jazz stopped there and lay over him, hips rocking just a little like he couldn’t stay still. David could feel his heartbeat against his back.

“You’re so hot,” Jazz said softly. “Jesus. Don’t even know how you can be.” He ran a finger over David’s lip and moaned when David sucked it into his mouth. “You want it, right? You want it hard?”

“I don’t know,” David whispered, hopefully too quietly to be heard. He remembered saying the same thing to Daniel just last night. He’d asked if David had a man at home. David shook his head. “Don’t know.”

Thankfully, Jazz either didn’t hear or didn’t care. His hand pushed up under David’s shirt to stroke his skin, and he started to move. He held himself up, pulling David’s hips back toward him rather than crushing him against the steps, but the thrusts were still hard enough to make David moan.

He fell into it, braced himself so he could push back, take it deeper. Jazz’s balls smacked against his, and Jazz pinched at his nipples, twisted until they were standing up hard and throbbing. He sucked hard at Jazz’s finger and spread his legs.

“Yeah, baby,” Jazz muttered. He pushed at David’s shirt until it was up under his armpits, mouthed along his spine. “Fuck that hot ass of yours on my dick. Gonna get hard for me again? Get it up while I fuck you? Come on.”

Yes, he was, and quickly too, more it seemed with every sharp stab of Jazz’s cock inside him. It wasn’t quite fast enough, even so. Jazz’s teeth scraped along his skin, and Jazz groaned loudly and swore as he started to come. He shoved their bodies tight together and held David there. His hands slipped on David’s skin, faintly damp with sweat.

“Now you,” Jazz said. He pulled out and manhandled David around to sit sideways across his lap, leaning against his chest. He bit at David’s neck and rubbed over his chest and stomach and sides. “Go on. I wanna watch you.”

All David’s resistance had drained away, and he wrapped a fist around his cock without hesitating. Jazz’s mouth was working at his neck, licking, sucking hard. David let his head fall back and thought about going into work tomorrow with his skin all marked up. A small whimper escaped him, and he bit his lip. “Harder,” he said.

Jazz laughed a little. “You got it, baby.” He bit at the curve of David’s neck and shoulder, pulling at his collar. His hand wrapped around David’s tie and held tight, using it to keep David still as he leaned forward to kiss him.

The pressure of the tie against his throat and Jazz’s mouth somehow built, one on the other, and David felt it in his stomach and balls. One last twist of his hand on his cock, and he was coming, hard. It left him boneless, drained, and oddly chilled. Jazz’s arm around his shoulders was the only thing keeping him upright.

He looked up at the leaded glass fanlight above the door and the sliver of light coming through it from the streetlamp. It was late, must be nearly midnight. That made it three a.m. for him, and he was feeling it. His body seemed impossibly heavy.

“Up,” Jazz said. He more or less hauled David upright and left him swaying on his feet while he took off the rest of David’s clothes and dumped them on the floor, along with the used condom.

“That’s disgusting,” David said.

Jazz put an arm around his waist and started up the stairs. “What? I tied it off.”

For some reason, that made David want to laugh. He pressed his lips tight together.

Jazz pulled back the covers, tumbled David into bed, and followed him. He was stretched out along David’s back before there was any time to protest. And warm, he was very warm. He pulled the covers up and draped an arm over David’s waist.

“Just this once,” David mumbled, and then he was asleep.

FIVE

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.”

“I was–surprised.”

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.”

“Where’s Kevin?”

“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.

“What?”

“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.

“Your point?”

“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.

No.”

“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?”

“I don’t–”

“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.”

“Damn straight.”

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?”

“Maybe.”

“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.”

“Incredibly.”

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.

SIX

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.”

“Why?”

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.”

“But–”

“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.”

Really?

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.

“What?”

“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?”

“You do.”

“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.

“You would.”

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.”

“…American Pie?”

“Good god, no. It’s an independent film, black and white, I’m sure you’d hate it.”

“You got it here?”

“Yes.”

“So we could watch it.”

A flutter of disquiet gripped David’s stomach. “No.”

“Why not?”

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.

“Yes. More.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

Jazz shrugged.

Oh, hell. David rolled his eyes. “And I haven’t slept with him, all right?”

“You promise?”

“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.

“Movie time.”

“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.

“Huh?”

“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.”

“How much?”

“What?”

“For rent.”

“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.

SEVEN

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.

“Thanks.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

“All right.”

“Fine.”

“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.

Hell.

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?”

“I said–”

“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.”

“Yes.”

“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?”

“I did.”

“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.”

“You are?”

“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.”

“For real?”

“For real.”

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?”

“My job…”

“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.”

“Out?”

“For dinner.”

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?”

“Why not?”

“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.”

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One thought on “Songs You Know by Heart

  1. I always find myself coming back to this story, there is just something about it that I just love so dearly.

    It might be Jazz’s endearing youth or the way the smut is written, who knows! All I know is that this story is one of my favorites to come out of SBB and Im so glad to be able to come back to it again and again.

    Thank you!

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