Lucky Stars

by Cowboy Rider

There’s something about barbeque that makes coke taste better, Amadeus thought as he stared into the dwindling remains in his cup. It was something Pepaw had always said with an exaggerated belch that had scandalized his childhood self. He smiled slightly at the memory, glancing around. The basket, once containing four sauce-slathered ribs and a heaping portion of still-hot fries, now utterly decimated and heaped with used paper napkins, sat patiently on the table, pushed back to wait until Amadeus decided to retrieve it. The soda could be refilled. The self-service station was probably as old as he was, only six slots and the quiet hum of the refrigerant. It accompanied the subdued clanging from the kitchen, the only other sound in the unassuming establishment. He could, but he shouldn’t. Not with how much of the drive he’d yet to go. The drink, what remained of it, fizzed at him uncertainly. 

Amadeus glanced over at the counter. He was still there. The large man at the counter was not movie-star gorgeous. He had a definite paunch, his hair was unkempt, and he had the look of a man who got misty-eyed during the national anthem. Not Amadeus’s normal type, to be sure. On a dating app, the few times Amadeus’d tried before giving up, he’d be a no without a shred of regret. 

But there was… something. Maybe it was the way the man’s smile had illuminated his entire face. Maybe it was the way he’d laughed at Amadeus’s shirt, a puntastic number made to elicit exactly such a reaction. Maybe it was the way his eyebrows had made a dash towards his hairline as Amadeus had rattled off his order with barely a confirming glance at the menu that hung overhead. And now he was standing there, muscles making themselves known under the simple black tee he wore, writing something in a notebook, as though he didn’t have a care in the world. 

He looked up. Amadeus glanced away, cheeks heating with embarrassment and something more urgent, underneath. Most men, he knew logically, were straight. Or at least professed to be. And while attitudes had improved over the last few years, this was the rural area on the border of Alabama and Georgia, and chances were the man would not take kindly to being ogled by a nerd in dark purple skinny jeans. And Amadeus had deleted those dating apps on purpose. He wasn’t looking right now. Except for how apparently he was. 

Amadeus returned his gaze back to his soda, mostly ice, the little kind that made a swish sound when the cup was full and moved. It seemed the safest option. The ice shifted and gave way around his straw.

“You need anything, darlin’?” The voice was dark and sweet but bubbling with some kind of levity. Amusement? 

Amadeus tried not to jump, then tried not to flinch, then tried not to blush, in that order. The man’s voice wasn’t loud, but in the otherwise empty room, it had startled him, especially from so close when the man had been across the room only moments before. The flinch was harder to stop. He “passed” most of the time these days (which was an uncomfortable thought to even have, as he knew he was a man regardless of what the rest of the world thought, but it was a convenient shorthand for what the rest of the world thought, and how safe Amadeus was in it). Enough so that dark purple skinny jeans and other such flamboyances were generally safe. Did he not, here? The blush was because of the tone in that voice. If Amadeus didn’t know any better he’d swear it was interest.

He should answer, he knew. Words. He didn’t do them often, the reason for this excursion, in fact, but he did know them. He could eke out a few. 

He peeked up at the man hesitantly. Surveyed his face. What couldn’t be interest, and a glint of fading… humor? Oh, it’d been a joke. Right. He could do that, could be good at that.

He put on his best drawl – those summers in Mississippi hadn’t been for nothing after all – and said, “Nah, I’m just fine” –he hesitated for the barest instant, the war between humor and safety waging in his gut with the smoked meat and fries and soda as ammunition; oh well, if I get beaten up for the bit, at least Casey will be proud of me– “sweetheart.” 

The man chuckled and threw a glance at the not-empty empty basket. “You want me to take that?” 

Heat climbed up Amadeus’s face further. Had the man taken his glances as impatience? That could explain the humor, trying to placate a potentially upset customer. “No,” he said too quickly. “I’ve got it. Thank you, though.” 

“With the size of the tip you left, I can afford to throw away some dirty paper towels.” The man leaned a hip against the chipped faux-wood tabletop and studied him, but obligingly left the basket be. 

Amadeus suppressed a wince. He tried to leave a nice tip, nice enough to make someone’s day brighter, or life a little easier, but he didn’t like drawing attention. “No, really, I’ve got it. I didn’t mean to cause you any more trouble. It’s a habit, you see. Back home, housing prices are rising and I know I can’t actually personally subsidize the pittance that tipped minimum wage is in the state, but I can sure as hell—” He shut his mouth with a Herculean force of will and a click of teeth. No talking politics with strangers. Especially not strangers that looked like every church deacon he’d ever had. 

Amadeus busied himself with taking a too-loud pull from the straw near his mouth, the rattle of emptiness doing absolutely nothing to drive away the awkwardness. 

He glanced up. The man was smiling at him again, softer this time. Amadeus had to be imagining the interest he saw there. Didn’t he? 

After another beat, the man held out a hand. “I’m Jack.” 

Amadeus, not having had many hand-shaking opportunities and aware of the cleansing limitations of dry paper on sauce-sticky fingers, carefully took the man’s hand for a shake. “The eponymous owner? Or does your hiring manager have a sense of humor?” 

Jack quirked an eyebrow and did not release Amadeus’s hand. “Yes, I’m the owner. Half owner. Other half’s Gary, my cook, but he said—” 

“If you named the damn place after me, nobody in fifty miles would touch this place with a ten foot pole,” groused an unembodied voice from the kitchen, the same direction as the sounds of cooking, proving that they were not, in fact, alone. 

Amadeus gingerly retrieved his hand to take another mostly-dry sip of his soda. 

The man – Jack – chuckled good-naturedly. “Yes, that.” 

“I have to say,” Amadeus said carefully, “that the name was not a significant consideration in my choosing of this establishment.” 

“But you ain’t from fifty miles of here, are you?” Gary continued, still not appearing. “I’d bet my last ice cube in the depths of Hades on that.” 

Amadeus glanced at Jack, who seemed content to let Amadeus speak for himself. “Ah, no,” he said, “not from around here.” Not from anywhere, he didn’t say. Never stayed anywhere long enough to really call it home, didn’t go enough places to really be a wanderer. A patchwork of places and contexts. It didn’t seem relevant. He cleared his throat. “It was excellent, Gary, thank you.” 

The man that popped through the door made Jack look positively debonair. He was scrawny, his hair flying out from his head and odd angles, and Amadeus had the distinct impression he was missing several teeth. He carried a large bucket of ice, hooked a step stool with his other hand, and carted it over to the soda machine, saying, “Thank you kindly.” 

Amadeus watched the elderly man climb up the steps and dump the surprisingly clean bucket of ice into the top of the machine, as it seemed like the thing to do. 

Task complete, Gary climbed down from his perch and straightened. When his eyes landed on Amadeus, he did an actual double take. 

“Now…” he said, all long and drawn out like a dawning realization. He darted a glance between Amadeus and Jack, and Jack found a spot of grease on the floor that consumed his attention. “You are a pretty little thing, aren’t you?” 

Amadeus didn’t think that was misgendering, not really, just purple pants and big vintage glasses and the scourge of transmasc baby face. He glanced significantly at his thighs conquering the edges of the chair he was seated on in rebuttal.

Gary waved a negligent hand at that. His eyes twinkled with mischief. “If you’d’ve just told me, Jack, I would’ve made myself scarce. Didn’t realize you had a gentleman caller.” Before either of them could levy a complaint at that assertion, he turned his gaze to Amadeus. “Couldn’t help but notice you didn’t give him your name, sweet thing. You making him work for it?” He, again, did not wait for a response. “That’s good. Ol’ Jack here needs to work for something every now and again.” His gaze turned back to a narrow-eyed Jack. “I’m gonna go take a smoke break, ‘cept I don’t smoke, so I’m just going to go take myself a nice long siesta in the car. Plenty of time for whatever two youngins might fancy themselves to get up to.” That pronouncement made, Gary left the room, whistling tunelessly and letting a squeaky back door close with a clang.

The room held its breath, uncertain like the moment before a storm. Amadeus wished he’d filled up his soda so he could at least have the pretense of drinking out of it as his face flamed. He studiously did not look at Jack, afraid of what he might find there. Disgust? Ridicule? He rearranged the napkins in the basket just for something to do. 

Jack sighed heavily. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. 

Amadeus looked up and couldn’t decipher the look on his face. 

“Gary’s been trying to play matchmaker with me my whole life, but it was no excuse to make you uncomfortable.” He smiled crookedly, self-deprecating. “You’ll have to forgive us country boys for assuming. Not many straight men ‘round these parts dressed like you.”

The oh Amadeus let out was soft and astonished. “No, ah, you assumed correctly. I just didn’t think—” He ran a hand through his hair and gave a short laugh. “I’m not from around here.”


Amadeus hadn’t realized Jack’s expression had been open until it suddenly wasn’t. Shut tight against some unseen storm. 

“Right, well, I’d best let you be on your way, then.” He pushed off the table and was behind the register in an instant. 

Amadeus scrambled over, his gut tightening. “No, I mean— I’ll leave whenever you like it’s just— Where I’m from, that’d be teasing. You’re not supposed to respond positively. But you can’t reject it too firmly either, or that’s suspicious too. Not that I’d want to—” Amadeus cut himself off and ran unsteady fingers through his hair. He took a breath. “I thought, you know, you were playing the game. That made me uncomfortable because I was never very good at it.”

Jack studied him for a long moment. “No games here,” he vowed, his eyes holding every fairytale of knights and princes and solemn devotion. 

Amadeus could do nothing but stare back with a barely voiced oh. He and Jack stared at each other but Amadeus really didn’t know where he went from here. Despite what Gary might think, Amadeus wasn’t going to climb the man like a tree in the middle of a restaurant, even an otherwise empty one. Jack seemed similarly flummoxed. Or maybe he’d just never imagined someone could have so little charisma. 

“I’m Amadeus,” he said finally. He offered a half smile. “Don’t suppose it’d mean much to offer to buy you a drink?”

Jack barked out a laugh and rounded the counter once more to lean heavily against it, only just outside of Amadeus’s personal bubble. “No, don’t suppose it would. Nor I you.” He sighed heavily and ran a hand along his face. “Gary, you can stop hiding now,” he called at a louder volume.

“Wasn’t hiding, Jack,” came the muttered reply. “Think I saw a mountain lion and I’m not fool enough to try to face one of ‘em. You ought to walk your young man to his vehicle, for safety, you know. City boy like him wouldn’t know how to handle himself.”

Amadeus opened his mouth to argue, despite the fact that it was true. Jack was likely looking to get rid of him, and he was pretty sure the mountain lion was fake, besides. 

But Jack nodded and jerked his head towards the door. “About time for me to close up, anyway. Won’t be any trouble.”

Amadeus nodded and artlessly scooped up the remains of his meal, dumping the refuse and depositing the basket in the indicated spot, heat clinging annoyingly to his cheeks. Of course Jack wanted to go home. It was late. He’d obviously overstayed his welcome. 

The night was balmy though not unbearable, a counterpoint to the crisp coolness of the building. The bell tied to the handle jangled suggestions at them as the door closed behind them. Amadeus peered up at the now-dark sky through the towering trees that surrounded the little clearing they were in, and sighed in disappointment.

“I’m nearly certain there isn’t anything more ferocious than Miss Judy’s elderly cat within ten miles of here,” Jack said in a low voice that served to preserve the quiet of the evening. 

Amadeus huffed in amusement and, in a moment of foolish daring, bumped Jack’s shoulder with his. Or he would’ve, were the man not in possession of improbable height. “Yeah, I caught that. We might not have much wildlife, but we do have lies up in the city, you know.” He aimed a teasing smile that way and nearly stopped in his tracks. In the low light coming out of the windows, Jack was unfairly handsome. Suddenly, Amadeus could just picture himself twining fingers into that hair and pulling him down for a searing kiss. He blinked. He didn’t do that. Wasn’t like that. Took men to bed after days of consideration and conversation. 

Jack, unaware of the havoc he’d wrought on Amadeus’s equilibrium, chuckled. “Figured. Why’d you look so put out, then, when we got out here?”

Amadeus gnawed on his bottom lip, a bad habit he could never seem to quite kick. “It’s nothing.”

Jack gave him a chastising smile. “I look like I’ve got a lot of something to talk about? Humor me. Least it’ll give us something to talk about besides Gary’s meddling.”

He looked like he would be the type of man who could sit in silence for long stretches without it being uncomfortable, and a queer man in the middle of nowhere must have some story behind it, but Amadeus obliged. 

“It’s silly, but… it’s cloudy. I haven’t always been a city boy, and I missed the stars. I thought I might be able to see them from here.”

When he dared a look back up, Jack was smiling softly at him. “Don’t think it’s silly at all. ‘Course, we don’t have the best views here, but what we’ve got is likely a sight better than you’re used to. Perhaps next time you’re through, it’ll be a clear night.”

“Yeah,” Amadeus agreed, his voice softer than he’d meant it to be, “maybe next time.” 

They stood next to the driver’s side door of Amadeus’s car. It hadn’t been much of a walk, after all, even at the crawl they’d slowed to. They gazed at each other for another long moment, Amadeus fiddling with his keys as his eyes never strayed from Jack’s. 

“Can I kiss you?” Jack breathed, towering over Amadeus.

“Out here? In the open?” Amadeus asked on a hushed breath. 

Jack made a show of looking around. “Not like we’ve got an audience. If you don’t want me to, you only need say so.”

Amadeus’s throat struggled to work for a scant second, but it was enough for the look in Jack’s eyes to begin to change. “No. Yes.” He huffed in frustration. “Yes, I want to kiss you. No, I’m not trying to say no.”

Jack grinned toothily then swooped close, his hand coming up to cup Amadeus’s cheek. He paused, his eyes searching, his lips just a moment apart from Amadeus’s. Amadeus gave as much of a nod as he could without risking dislodging the hand, and Jack pulled him in for a gentle kiss.

It wasn’t much. Chaste, as far as kisses went. A simple press of soft lips. But a shiver ran down Amadeus’s spine at the contact, and he hummed contentedly into it. It made everything within him loosen with a languid comfort and tighten with an insistent want simultaneously. 

Jack pulled back. Amadeus blinked up at him. He didn’t know what he was thinking. What he was feeling. This all felt like some wonderful dream. Jack’s hand rested warm and solid against his cheek. 

“Reckon you’ve got a long drive ahead,” Jack murmured. His voice was mellow as the lights that spilled from the nearby window. 

Amadeus swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah.” His throat was scratchy with the words. He cleared it. “I’ll probably be back by this way next week.” 

A pleased smile curved Jack’s mouth and Amadeus tried to distract himself from the fact that he knew the feel of that plushness against his. “Good. That’s good. Well, I’ll be here.” Jack took an oversized step back. “You drive safe.”

Amadeus nodded. “Of course. Have a good rest of your week.”

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He came back the next weekend. And the weekend after. Amadeus found himself barely registering his ostensible destination in his impatience to see Jack again. After one trip found him visiting a gas station, browsing for a few minutes, then deciding he was rather in the mood for some barbeque, he stopped kidding himself. Jack’s was around halfway to the other city from home, so heading straight there meant less gas and more time. His weeks were spent reminiscing over the feeling of Jack’s kisses, bestowed upon him in the parking lot, just like the first, or researching increasingly ridiculous terms of endearment to call him next time. 

It was usually empty when Amadeus came in, which had him mildly concerned for Jack’s business prospects, but mostly grateful that he didn’t have an audience to his stilted attempts at flirting. This time, though, when he stepped through the door, a man with low-slung jeans leaned on his elbows at the counter in front of an unimpressed looking Jack. 

Jack’s face split into a grin when he spotted Amadeus. The other man at the counter turned at the sound and Jack’s change in demeanor. 

“Afternoon, sugarlips,” Jack greeted jovially. 

Amadeus felt his cheeks heat but couldn’t back down from the glint of challenge in Jack’s eyes. “How’s it going, hot stuff?”

The man turned more fully at that and gave Amadeus a sneering once-over. He flicked a knowing look at Jack. “Oh, I get it now, Jack, you don’t want a real man, you want—”

“Albert Greenrich,” Jack interrupted, voice sounding harder than Amadeus had ever heard it. “If I were you I’d be real careful about the next words out of your mouth. Miss Judy still plays bridge with Mama on every third Tuesday and I’d hate for any nastiness to get back to her.”

Amadeus froze. The man was still glaring shotgun shells at him, but Jack’s warning seemed to have stopped his tirade in its tracks. 

Jack came around the counter and put a casual arm around Amadeus’s shoulders. “I’m pretty sure Gary’s got the sound of your car memorized. Heard him fixing up your usual before you even came in.” 

His voice had regained that good humor Amadeus was used to, and he relaxed into the bulk of the larger man’s body slightly. He hadn’t had a chance to do this before, as their kisses over these last weeks had been fairly chaste. It was nice. He smiled up at Jack – gratitude, shared humor, enjoying the closeness. He wasn’t sure he managed all that in one glance, but it seemed Jack got it regardless. 

Jack turned his attention back to the other man. “Are you going to behave yourself long enough for me to introduce you?”

The man propped a scrawny hip against the counter and scuffed a well-worn boot against the floor. “Shoot, Jack. You don’t gotta be like that. I didn’t mean nothing by it.” Amadeus did him the favor of not pointing out that it was clear his intent had been rather more than nothing. The man held out a terse hand. “Bert Greenrich.” He glanced over at Jack with a smile flirting over his lips. “I’m only Albert when I’m in trouble or a man’s bed.”

Left with little other choice, Amadeus gave the man’s offered hand a perfunctory shake. “Amadeus Miller. It’s a pleasure.”

The man whistled, low and impressed. “Now that’s a name right there.” He pushed off the counter and sauntered to the door. “I’ll leave you to your little mouthful, Jack,” Bert threw out as he let the door swing closed behind him.

Jack’s muttered curse was drowned out by the jingling of the door’s bell. Amadeus huffed out a laugh. 

Jack took a step away from him and removed his arm. Amadeus immediately missed his closeness. He stopped himself from frowning by sheer force of will and contented himself with enjoying the play of Jack’s muscles under his shirt.

“Sorry about that,” Jack said, moving back behind the counter. His face was a mask of genuine contrition. 

Amadeus did not think he would appreciate hearing that he’d heard much worse with much less protection. Instead, he waved him off and passed him the card he’d pulled from his wallet. “It’s fine. I just hope I didn’t cause any problems for you. Can I ask what that was about, though?”

Jack smiled ruefully. He was unfairly handsome when he smiled. “I wish you wouldn’t.”

“I’m sure you do.” 

Jack blew out a tired breath. “Old ex. Really old ex. He’s not a bad guy, really. Just kind of an asshole.” 

Amadeus could feel the furrow form in his brows at the assertion. 

Jack chuffed a laugh. “Not everything is so simple as good and bad, sweetheart. Bert’s got a temper on him hotter than a Thanksgiving grease fire, but he’d also help out anybody who needed it. Given a choice between him and somebody who’d stab you in the back with a smile on their face, I’d take him any day.”

Amadeus nodded slowly, digesting this. “And did you?” his mouth asked without his permission. It quirked up at the corner. “Take him?”

Jack barked out a surprised laugh, his eyes twinkling with mirth. He leaned farther over the counter, an almost perfect imitation of Albert’s pose when he’d come in, but Amadeus found himself leaning forward too. Jack crooked a warm, work-roughened finger under his chin, nudging it up unnecessarily.

There was a glint in his eyes as he trapped Amadeus in his intense stare. “Is that really what you’d like to know? What me and Bert did a decade ago?”

Amadeus swallowed hard. “No.” They were so close, even with the counter separating them. 

“What, then?” His voice was the wind at the edge of a cliff, toneless, rushing, and filled with potential.

“Can I kiss you?” Amadeus breathed. It broke the pattern, he knew, kissing in the restaurant. A change. A gamble. He tried not to hold his breath. 

Jack looked pleased at the question, at the words he’d asked all those months ago being returned to him. “Yes.”

Amadeus had to stretch onto his tiptoes to reach, but he managed, putting out a hand to steady himself on Jack’s shoulder. He pressed forward, forgoing their careful parking lot kisses for something deeper. Jack’s answering moan was at least half surprise, but Amadeus wasn’t holding him there, he reasoned. He could pull back if he didn’t want this. 

He didn’t. Instead, he deepened the kiss further, sweeping his tongue into Amadeus’s mouth and moving his hand to cup Amadeus’s cheek. 

Amadeus had just moved his hand to grasp the back of Jack’s neck when the sound of the door to the kitchen opening had them both jumping apart like guilty teenagers. Not, Amadeus reflected, like his adolescence had ever held such an experience. 

Gary’s face broke into a toothy grin. “Didn’t see a sock on the door,” he said, only pausing briefly in his stride to place the tray at what had become Amadeus’s normal spot. 

Amadeus could feel his face heat impossibly further. 

A glance in Jack’s direction showed he didn’t fare much better. “You should eat,” he scraped out. He studied the chipped formica countertop with an undue attentiveness.

Amadeus nodded quickly and moved to do as he was bid. He’d taken it too far, probably. 

“Hey,” Jack’s hand snaked out and caught his own, then brought it up to brush soft lips over his knuckles. “You’re hungry and it’s better fresh. All right?” He held Amadeus’s gaze intensely waiting for a reply. 

Amadeus felt his blush surge to life again even as some of the tension left him. “Yeah,” he said, his voice hoarser than it ought to be. 

Gary’s low impressed whistle broke into the intimate bubble. “That’s good,” he said, a smaller, pleased smile on his face. “Jack needs somebody to treat all sweet-like. You ought to let the man eat though, Jack.”

Jack nodded and released Amadeus’s hand. 

Amadeus settled into his seat and began to eat. He had not, he mused somewhat hysterically, previously considered the sensual nature of eating ribs. He tried to ignore the way he could feel Jack’s gaze tracking his every movement, every time he bit into the tender flesh, every time he licked a bit of sauce off of his fingers, every time he wrapped his lips around his straw for a drink.  About halfway through, he decided to change tactics. Instead of ignoring Jack’s gaze, he held it. Bad idea. A terrible, awful, brilliant idea. 

Jack’s eyes darkened, clouds gathering ominously before a downpour, as the really very good taste of sweet sauce and grilled meat burst on his tongue. A bit escaped, clinging to his upper lip, and without thinking his tongue darted out to swipe at it. He should look away, he knew, but he couldn’t. His gaze was trapped by Jack’s by the intensity building there. 

He didn’t stop to savor like he usually did. He wasn’t in any hurry to get home, but he wanted to see what would come of the promise in Jack’s eyes. It hung heavy in the air and as Amadeus deposited the remains of his meal in the trash, Jack silently led the way outside. 

The air was almost wet with humid heat, but Amadeus couldn’t find it in himself to care, watching the strong lines of Jack’s body move under his simple tee. 

That promise shone as bright as ever, singing in Amadeus’s veins as Jack stepped aside to allow him to stand next to his car door and Amadeus turned to him, a carefully choreographed dance composed with long practice. 

Jack leaned down and kissed him. And it was just that, a careful, chaste kiss that had confusion and disappointment churning in his gut. He couldn’t keep the small despondent oh from crossing his lips as he blinked up at Jack. 

With that, lightning struck. Jack swooped back in, crushing his lips to Amadeus’s and fitting their bodies tight together against the side of the car. 

Amadeus nearly purred with pleasure, his hands coming up to hold Jack right where he was, in case the man had any foolish notions about ending the kiss far too soon. Amadeus was hit with the realization that any time in the future would be too soon. He shoved the thought away and focused his attention on returning Jack’s kiss, curling his tongue around Jack’s in a way that elicited a growl from the taller man.

A sound from nearby broke them apart again, and Jack pulled back only far enough to break the kiss before resting his forehead against Amadeus’s, huffing his amusement across kiss-swollen lips. 

“What’d I tell you,” he murmured, pulling back further and nodding his head off to the side. 

Amadeus followed his gesture with his eyes as he tried to catch his breath and keep himself from pressing forward into Jack’s warmth. There, under a street light, sat an ancient looking cat, staring at the both of them. It meowed again as though to prove a point, before loping away into the night. 

“You’ve got to go,” Jack said, stepping back and leaving Amadeus leaning against his dusty Prius. “You’re welcome to stay for as long as you like, I hope you know that, but you’ve surely got responsibilities and the like back at home.”

Amadeus nodded. “I do. I’d like to stay but—” He bit his lip, brain sliding over possibilities, favors, preparations. “I can’t.”

Jack nodded, resigned. “Right, well, safe travels, darlin’.”

Amadeus opened his door on cue, but couldn’t help smiling at Jack one final time. “I’ll see you next week.”

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The next week Amadeus was running late. It wasn’t like he had said he’d be here at any particular time, but he’d shown up at around the same time every Saturday for months, and it was now several hours past then. And still, when he saw the parking lot, he nearly turned around and went back home. It was full. 

But he’d explicitly told Jack he’d be back, and even if he was a coward, he was also a man who kept his word, so with a white-knuckle grip on his resolve he marched himself through the jangling front door. He was greeted by the exuberant sounds of camaraderie. Families sat, children babbled, and people chatted amiably. 

As he stepped into the door and a momentarily despondent-looking Jack spotted him, though, those sounds dimmed, and Amadeus was nearly certain that wasn’t only his imagination as a smile lit on Jack’s face. He bounded around the counter and threw a companionable arm around Amadeus’s shoulders. 

“Evening, darlin’,” he said, clearly suppressing relief. 

Amadeus leaned into him and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Evening, sweetness. Sorry I’m late, the dog peed on the floor and then I stepped in it and needed to clean it up and my shoes and—” He stopped himself as awareness of about a dozen ears listening to him dawned. 

“Don’t worry about it.” Jack squeezed the hand on his arm. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

A middle-aged woman, deftly feeding a wiggling toddler, smiled over at them. “Who’ve you got there, Jack?”

“Oh, Amadeus here’s my boyfriend,” he said, tone joking but arm still in place. 

Amadeus froze. He and Jack were… something. Boyfriends would be nice, he thought, but didn’t know what to do with the teasing tone Jack had used. Fuck it. He threw an arm around Jack’s waist and batted overly flirtatious eyelashes up at Jack. “And you still haven’t kissed me yet today.” He threw in a phony pout and a wink at their captive audience. 

Jack turned him in the circle of his arms until their chests were pressed together. His smile held up the gauntlet of the challenge Amadeus had thrown down and his eyes said he was remembering exactly how their last kiss had gone. “That’s because I didn’t want to give these fine folks the wrong idea about the kind of establishment I run, sweetheart.”

The crowd around them was silent, but their reaction at the words was palpable regardless. If they hadn’t all been looking at the two of them embracing in the middle of the room before, they were now.

Amadeus’s heart thundered. He really hated all this attention. And yet. “I’m sure we can manage to behave ourselves this time, don’t you?” Amadeus said sweetly, making sure those listening knew exactly what this time implied. 

Jack only chuckled, still holding him close. The rest of the diners seemed to hold their breath, and Amadeus realized it had to be him, this time. He mentally squared his shoulders at the prospect. It seemed these people, the first other customers Amadeus had ever seen, were here to see who it was that had caught Jack’s interest. It wouldn’t do to make them think he didn’t find Jack desirable. 

Amadeus hooked an arm around Jack’s neck and pulled himself to tiptoes. He stood, balanced against Jack’s bulk, and met his eyes for a brief moment before diving into the kiss. It was not the lightning of their last kiss, but instead a slow simmering thing, building gently into a rolling passion. It wasn’t long before a wolf whistle came from their onlookers, and Amadeus pulled back with burning cheeks to see Jack grinning widely at him. 

Amadeus dropped himself down onto his heels and took a step back, briskly straightening his shirt, unable to meet the gazes of the people around him. Jack’s large fingers carefully righted his collar before grasping Amadeus’s hand and leading him to the slight seclusion of the register. 

When Amadeus chanced a glance at him, Jack still wore his pleased expression, and took his card from fingers that resolutely did not tremble. 

He forced himself not to fidget as the transaction processed, and took a moment to be grateful that his normal table was still empty. 

Gary bustled out, drawing nearly as much attention as Amadeus had, though his was of a particularly less friendly variety. “You’re late, sweet thing,” he groused as he slid a basket on the table. 

Amadeus wrinkled his nose, acutely aware of the attention still on him. “I know. An unfortunate run-in with a puddle of dog piss. Unavoidable, I’m afraid. Sorry, Gary. I’ll be on time next week.”

Gary’s frown deepened for a moment before he huffed and nudged Amadeus with a bony elbow. “I’ll be counting on it.”

Amadeus couldn’t be sure, but he thought the mood in the room lightened slightly, at that, and wondered about it idly as he began to dig into his food.

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“So am I?” Amadeus asked, wreathed in the wet heat, once more standing next to his car door.

“Are you what?” Jack asked, smiling down at him.

“Your boyfriend.” He suppressed any nervousness in his voice. He wasn’t sure he could manage “casual” but he hoped he could at least do that. 

“You want to be?” Shock suffused Jack’s tone.

“Yes.” The word was out of Amadeus’s mouth before he could carefully consider it. “I mean, if you want me to be.”

“If everybody’s reactions weren’t enough of a hint,” Jack said, backing Amadeus up against the car, “I don’t just go around kissing random men.” He nuzzled against Amadeus’s cheek, trimmed facial hair thrilling against the sensitive skin there, “Yes, I want you.”

“Oh.” Amadeus tilted his head to give Jack better access. “Yes, then. You should have my number, too, if I’m your boyfriend. So I can let you know if I’m going to be late.”

Jack chuckled against Amadeus’s ear and began leaving soft, teasing kisses there. “I’m just glad you didn’t ask me to download one of those damned apps.”

Amadeus intended to snicker but it came out more breathless than he intended as Jack continued his sensual assault. “Oh baby, talk dirty to me.”

Jack pulled back and raised an amused eyebrow in question.

Amadeus pointed at himself. “Certified app-hater. No, just texting is fine. You, ah, don’t have to. Just something in case, I don’t know, my car breaks down, or something.” He bit his lip, worrying over how this might change the dynamic of their relationship, whether he wanted it to. 

Jack let out a low noise, swooped back in, and took his mouth, liberating his sore lip from between teeth and soothing it with his tongue. “You drive me crazy,” he muttered against Amadeus’s lips. “Did you know that? Yes, I’ll want to text you. Yes, I want to be your boyfriend. Yes, I want to drag you behind the shed out back and have my way with you. I can see your pretty little head fretting and you can go on and stop it. I want you, Amadeus, whatever you’ll have me for.”

“Oh.” Amadeus blinked up at brown eyes fierce with determination. “Ah, you too? I mean—” He stumbled over words, what to say in the face of such forthright desire. “I spend much of my days thinking about you, or your kisses, or wondering after you. I might like to speak to you more than once a week. I only don’t want to jeopardize what we do have for the sake of my own eagerness.”

Jack slid a hand behind Amadeus’s neck. “So sweet.” He led him into another gentle kiss that spun outwards into the night. 

It was very late when Amadeus finally made it home. 

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“So, how’s your homework assignment going?” Casey’s face was slightly blurry due to the quality of his internet connection, but the youthful gleam managed to make it through. 

“Um.” Amadeus’s cheeks heated. “It’s good. I finally gave him my number and he introduced me to some more people from around town and kissed him in front of them. I didn’t really talk to them much but they seemed…nice? I nearly had a panic attack on the way there though because I was late, and we’re boyfriends now. We’ve been texting.”

Casey nodded thoughtfully, and Amadeus wondered when they taught that in therapist school. Casey must have passed that course with flying colors because he excelled at it, giving nothing away. “You were late? I thought you hadn’t set a time to keep that from being an issue.”

“Well…” Amadeus fidgeted with a stray thread on his couch. “We didn’t set a time, but I’ve ended up showing up at about the same time which is as good as an implicit arranged time. And I was several hours late.”

Another one of those considering nods. “And why was that? Were you afraid of another encounter like the one you had the week before?” Casey knew about his encounter with Albert. He’d helped Amadeus sort through his feelings the week before: anxiety from that initial hostility, jealousy at meeting Jack’s ex, worry that Amadeus’s social incompetence could cause Jack trouble. He knew that Amadeus had some anxiety about returning in the wake of all that, and that he’d wanted to anyway.

“No. Well, maybe.” He took a second to arrange his thoughts. “I took a long time to decide on what to wear, and so I was late taking Baxter out, and so he peed on the floor. And I stepped in it so I had to clean my shoes and then the floor had already been dirty so I cleaned kind of all of them and I knew I was going to be late but I kept seeing dirt and by the time I got everything swept and mopped I had to shower again and find another outfit… Yeah. I usually have a better handle on my compulsions than that, but with everything, this week, I just—didn’t.”

Casey waited for a beat, ensuring Amadeus was finished with his rambling.“Did you get a chance to try out the techniques we’ve been working on?”

Amadeus winced. “Not while I was cleaning. I wasn’t really thinking clearly. But I did once I got on the road. They helped. I didn’t even need to pull over this time to do them.”

“And you stayed even though there were more unfamiliar people. That’s progress.” Casey paused to write something down and Amadeus took a moment to bask in the praise. He had stayed, even when he’d wanted to run away. And now he and Jack were boyfriends.

He shifted in his seat. Casey was still writing. Baxter, laying in his usual spot on the floor raised his head at the movement, but subsided when he realized Amadeus was not getting up to give him treats.

“Are you still planning on going to see him?” Casey asked finally. “Now that you have his number?”

On the heels of all that, Amadeus could already hear Casey’s gentle reproach if he answered to the negative. The purpose of his trips was to get him used to speaking to people other than his therapist. Texting didn’t count. 

“I am.” He could tell the smile on his face was sappy and telling, but he didn’t try to smother it. “I like being around him. He makes me feel…normal. Like I’m the type of man someone like him might look at and want and want to talk to. He tells me he does. We even sexted last night.” He made a face at himself at the word. Surely there was something he could call it that didn’t make him sound like a teenager? He shook his head and focused back on Casey. “It was fun. I’ve never done that before.”

“Good. It should be fun.” Casey looked genuinely happy for him. “Now, why don’t we talk more about recognizing compulsions and coping strategies.”

Amadeus, warmed by the memory of Jack’s sweet words, agreed.

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The trip to Jack’s was rote memory by now. He didn’t have to think about navigating his car through the twisting turns and pothole-pocked county roads, which was a shame because today he could really use the distraction. His nerves jangled in time with the zipper pulls on his backpack, reminding him of his plans. Jack had asked him to stay the night. He’d been, to his own frustration, noncommittal in his acceptance, but had nonetheless made arrangements for a friend to look in on the dog and packed an overnight bag. It wasn’t that he distrusted Jack. He did trust him, probably more than he ought. But kissing in a parking lot, no matter how toe-curling, was a long way from staying the night in an unfamiliar place. So he’d hedged and Jack had agreed that there’d be no hard feelings if he decided to drive home in the middle of the night. 

He parked in his normal spot, and noted with a relieved sigh that the parking lot was devoid of other cars. Ever since that week, the one Jack had introduced him to the town, the place had been occupied by at least a few other people. Not as full as that night, but not empty either. He was relieved that today there would be no one to witness the nerves stampeding across his face. His stride faltered as he spotted the sign on the door. It was flipped to “Closed”. Underneath there was a ticket with something unreadable scribbled on it. As he edged closer, he saw what it said. “He’s got a hot date.” Gary’s doing, no doubt. 

Jack spotted him from inside, and bounded out to meet him, a smile overflowing his face. He didn’t seem to be encumbered by the large cooler he lugged with him. “Hey, darlin’,” he murmured, cupping Amadeus’s cheek in the other large hand and giving him a gentle, lingering kiss. 

A breath. Almost despite himself, Amadeus found he was relaxing into Jack. “Hey, sweetness,” he replied, more dreamily than he’d intended to. He glanced back at the door. “You didn’t have to close for me. I didn’t expect you to.”

Jack’s smile was lopsided. “I wouldn’t’ve been worth anything if we’d stayed open. Gary kicked me out of the building twice this week already.” The sun filtered through curly wisps of hair in a halo. “But I know you like to know what to expect. So” –he looped his arm through Amadeus’s and steered them back towards the parking lot– “I’m going to take you on a picnic, and then we’re going to do some sightseeing, and then I’m going to take you home with me.” His voice was husky by the end, and Amadeus felt a shiver of anticipation at it. 

“Yeah,” he said, voice hoarse. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yes. That sounds lovely.”

Jack, pleased, bundled Amadeus into the passenger seat of an ancient pickup, settled the cooler in the bed, then took off in a direction Amadeus had never been. 

Amadeus had been worried before he’d given Jack his number that their entire relationship was barbeque-based sexual tension, that they’d have nothing to talk about given the opportunity. The last few weeks had proven otherwise. Jack was surprisingly well-read, though Amadeus could fully admit his surprise was patronizing and kept the thought to himself, and they chatted easily about everything from philosophy to potato chip flavors. He was pleased to find this to hold true as Jack took them on ever more dubious back roads. They didn’t agree on everything, of course. The important stuff, human rights, being basically decent to everyone, sure, but on everything else they could argue and discuss and that was good too. Jack was not an echo of him, but a harmony. When they came together they meshed and melded in a way that made his blood sing.

They were having one such argument over the merits of open source software as the crunch of tires over gravel slowed and the truck came to a stop. 

Jack’s eyes twinkled as he said, “Listen, all I’m saying is sometimes I just want something that works. I appreciate the beauty of humans coming together without a profit motive purely for the joy of being helpful. I do. And yet, when I have a line of impatient customers, I don’t have time to track down an obscure GitHub comment from half a decade ago to fix my receipt printer.”

Amadeus raised an eyebrow. “A line of customers? Isn’t that a tad optimistic? Before you very publicly claimed me, I was the only customer I saw for months.”

“Ah.” A flush creeped above Jack’s beard and he turned to take the key out of the ignition. 

Amadeus winced. “Sorry. Sore subject? I didn’t want to ask because I thought it might be. My bad.”

Jack shook his head and got out of the truck. He rounded the front and took Amadeus’s hand to help him out as he said, “No, no, it’s not that.” He dropped a kiss on Amadeus’s knuckles before grabbing the cooler and rubbing the back of his neck. His face was screwed up in painful embarrassment. 

Amadeus drew Jack’s already-bent head down further and kissed him gently. “You don’t have to tell me.”

Jack sighed, resigned. “Yes, I do.” He shook himself and started walking down the trail, Amadeus at his side. “We’re not open on Saturdays.”

Amadeus blinked and tried to keep up. “Wait, what?”

Jack smiled at him ruefully before turning his attention back to the trail. “We’re closed on Saturdays. I had forgotten I’d even put anything online until you came through the door. I don’t keep up with it.”

“But the sign on the door… I’m sure I checked.”

Another crooked smile. “First time I’ve ever thought to turn it around was today.”

As they walked, Jack explained. Everyone around knew when he was open. When he was younger he’d famously quit his well-paying job at the power plant because they’d made him work on Saturdays. He swore he’d never do that again, so no one even bothered. He suspected the hours listed online were a joke in reference to that. Since Bert spilled the beans – about him being open, about Amadeus – folks had come to see for themselves. He’d had to double his prices on Saturday just to keep their audience to a minimum. The difference, he said with a shrug, went to the food bank. Amadeus focused on the feel of his hand in Jack’s, the way the sunlight filtered through the trees, the sound of birds chirping around them instead of the way his cheeks burned with embarrassment. 

“I’d wondered,” he said, as Jack wound up his story. At Jack’s questioning look he continued. “You had hundreds of rave reviews. Five stars. It was why I chose it.”

Jack’s silence had a distinct stunned quality and Amadeus had to kiss him then. A tug on his hand brought them face to face and Amadeus put everything he felt into it. Pride, desire, and something he wasn’t quite ready to call love.

As he stepped back and tugged a dazed Jack further down the path he said, “You could’ve just told me, you know.”

“No,” Jack said, surprisingly firm, his fingers twitching around Amadeus’s, “I couldn’t.” He caught up to Amadeus and tucked him under an arm. “If I did that you wouldn’t’ve come back, and I’m smart enough to know that a man like you only comes around once.”

It was Amadeus’s turn to be quietly pleased. “I might’ve,” he said after a long pause, “if you asked.”

This time Jack pulled them to a stop to kiss him. They continued like that for a long while, strolling down the dirt path in the middle of nowhere, stopping every now and then to trade kisses. It was not a long way, but the sun had begun its descent towards the horizon by the time Jack pulled Amadeus off the path and up a ladder attached to the side of an ancient tree.

Amadeus knew enough to call it a deer blind and not a grownup treehouse, but his understanding ended there. A clever pulley system hauled up their cooler, and the next few minutes were occupied with the logistics of partitioning out food and beverages and chairs. He was so engrossed in it, in fact, that he was a few bites into his sandwich before he really took in the view. 

It was gorgeous. From here, he could see out over the valley, trees stretched out as far as the eye could see. In the distance, mountains rose tall and proud over the countryside. As he moved closer, sandwich momentarily forgotten, he even spotted a glimmer of water running through the land, though it was impossible to tell from here whether it was a river or a stream.

“Oh wow,” he breathed. He slumped back into the folding chair and brought the sandwich to his mouth absently, unable to tear his gaze away from the sight. 

When he finally glanced over at Jack, he was beaming. 

“It’s beautiful,” Amadeus said, his voice still hushed with awe. “Thank you.”

Jack nodded, his eyes trained on Amadeus. “Beautiful,” he agreed. His eyes flicked back over to the view. “You never asked,” he said, his voice low to not disturb the odd quiet that had settled around him, “but I could tell you were wondering. Why I’m here. Why I haven’t left for the city. You met one half of the reason a few weeks ago. But this” –he swept his hand in an encompassing gesture– “this is the other half. I don’t want to cede this to bigots. Not if I don’t have to. Not if I can stay.”

Amadeus nodded slowly. “I can see why.”

They ate like that, in a reverent silence. Amadeus couldn’t decide whether to gaze at Jack or the view, so he switched between the two regularly. It was comfortable in a way he wasn’t used to being. He’d been right, Jack could sit in silence with the best of them, and Amadeus found himself drawn into it simply by the fact of his presence.

After the food had long since been demolished and the sun was about halfway in its trek from the top of the sky to the horizon, Jack got both the cooler and Amadeus packed back up and safely down the tree. They rode in comfortable silence down still more gravel roads until even that was subsumed by the sound of grass under tires. 

Not grass, Amadeus mentally amended as he stared out at their surroundings. Flowers. An honest-to-goodness field of flowers surrounded them. 

“I thought about getting you roses,” Jack said, turning off the truck, “but Mama reminded me about Uncle Bud’s land. C’mon.” 

Amadeus sat, stunned for a moment at the idea that Jack had discussed him with his mother. That she’d even had ideas about romantic gestures for him. He shook the thought loose as Jack opened his door and a hitch of emotion settled itself against his heart. The air was flirting with cooling slightly as Jack lowered the tailgate and gave Amadeus a hand into the bed. 

“I didn’t think spraying down with bug spray was the most romantic thing, so I figured this might be better. The grass has stickerburs too.” He pulled Amadeus back to rest between the V of his legs and wrapped firm arms around his middle. The brush of his lips against the shell of his ear had a shiver running down his spine.  

Amadeus snuggled in closer. “This is perfect.”

It was. They had an excellent view of the sunset, and the flowers around them perfumed the air and lended the whole experience an unreal quality. The air had decided to cool, so the heat of Jack’s form behind him was pleasant. After a long time like that, Jack’s hands began petting at Amadeus’s abdomen. Nothing sexual, or even really sensual, but the movement narrowed all of his focus to that point and he sucked in a breath. 

Jack froze.

“No, it’s okay,” Amadeus rushed to reassure him. “You can— yes. Touch me. Wherever you like. You said this is your uncle’s land?”

The petting hesitantly resumed. “He left it to me, so it’s mine now, I guess. But it was his. Why?”

Amadeus leaned his head back against Jack’s shoulder. “I don’t suppose I need to worry about being arrested for public indecency then.”

Jack’s chuckle rumbled against his back. “No. The only deputy the county sheriff has on duty tonight is busy getting shitfaced twenty miles from here.”


Amadeus grabbed one large, cautious hand and placed it on the inside of his thigh. He’d opted to wear shorts that were shorter than strictly necessary today, and with climbing in and out of trees and trucks they had ridden up more. Jack’s ring and pinky fingers landed on bare, sensitive flesh and it was all Amadeus could do not to arch into the touch or beg for more. 

It seemed Jack had stopped breathing. 

Doubts roared in with vengeance and Amadeus tried to turn to look at him. “Shit, sorry, is that too fast? I should have asked first but I thought that was—”

“No.” Callused fingers squeezed yielding softness. “It isn’t too fast. Or, not in the way you’re thinking.” Lips pressed kisses into the sensitive skin at Amadeus’s neck. The fingers on his leg gentled to whispers of sensation on the soft skin of his inner thigh. “But I promised myself I was going to let you watch the sunset. And now all I can think about is getting these shorts off you and making you scream my name.”

Amadeus’s breath came out as a moan. The hardness of Jack’s erection pressed promises of pleasure into his back. 

“Although…” Jack’s voice was dark and deep. Potential pooled between them. “I could do both. How does that sound, Amadeus?”

The deliberate use of his name in that voice made a whimper escape from Amadeus’s lips. Still: “I don’t scream,” he shot back. “Ever.” This point was somewhat undermined by the keening note in his voice and the way his legs spread even as he said it. 

Jack’s quiet, “We’ll see,” was followed by another string of open-mouthed kisses that focused the world down to that sensitive skin and pleasure. He hadn’t realized he’d closed his eyes until Jack’s other hand came up to settle, heavy and warm, at the base of his throat. “Eyes open,” he instructed. “Else we’ll have to stop until the sun finishes setting. I would hate to make you miss it.”

The groan that Amadeus let out would be embarrassing, later, but for now he couldn’t help it. “Jack,” he whispered, breathless. The hand on his neck wasn’t restricting, or even really holding. It was just there, solid and undeniable.

A comforting kiss to his cheek, then, and the hand on his thigh stopped for a breath. “Good?” Jack asked.

“So good,” Amadeus replied, half-dreamy. 

He felt Jack’s smile against his skin and was reminded all over again of the hardness pressing into his back. He wiggled against it a little just to feel the hitch in Jack’s breath. 

“Do you want me to get a hand on your dick and make you come while I make you keep your eyes open and on the sunset?” Jack asked low into his ear. 

“Yes,” Amadeus breathed. The forthright way Jack laid it out, that hand still resting against his collar bone, the image that question provoked, it all shot pleasure between Amadeus’s legs and sparked a pleasant floating sensation in his brain. “Yes, please, Jack.” 

Those might be the only three words he knew anymore. He wiggled some more against restricted hardness. Jack rumbled inarticulately at his back, and suddenly Amadeus remembered he had hands. He employed one of them in the task of reaching behind himself and putting a hand against Jack’s jean-covered cock. 

“Please?” he whimpered, scrambling at the fastenings there fruitlessly. He was certain he would struggle at this even at his best, and that struggle was magnified tenfold whilst floating in molten sweetness as he was. 

Jack groaned and sucked a bruise into the skin under Amadeus’s jaw. Amadeus preened at the contact but didn’t stop his futile maneuvering. 

“You want to feel me, baby? Want to feel my cock against you while I make you come with my hand on your dick?”

“Jack,” he moaned, low and loud and then nodded for good measure. “Yes. Please.”

“Mm, you ask so nicely baby. Okay. Like I could ever say no to you.” 

Jack shifted behind him and the hands on him left. It was in service of fulfilling his request, some logical part of his brain argued, but the rest of him, the part that was floating amongst clouds of liquid gold, cried out, bereft. 

“Shit, hold on a second baby. I’m still here. You can hear me, can’t you?” Jack pressed a bearded cheek against Amadeus’s clean-shaven one for good measure.

Amadeus nodded, only slightly mollified. “Jack.”

“That’s right baby, you’re being so good for me. All soft and sweet, just for me. Just give me one more second. Didn’t realize you’d go under that fast or I would’ve planned better. You look so good like this. Want you so bad.”

A zipper being relieved of its burden, Amadeus’s shirt being raised up in the back, and a rustle of movement as Jack slid forward again to press himself against Amadeus, and Jack’s bare, leaking cock pressed hot and insistent against the small of Amadeus’s back. It wasn’t anywhere near his hole, either of them, really, but the sensation had him bucking needily regardless. 

The hand settled back on his neck. Solid. Anchoring. Frantic whimpers became a contented hum as he melted back against Jack. 

“Shh, that’s right. You’re all right. I’ve got you.” 

The other hand settled comfortingly against his stomach, under his shirt. 

“Jack,” Amadeus breathed dreamily.

“I’m right here baby. Can you open your eyes for me? I want you to watch the sunset with me.”

Amadeus obediently blinked heavy eyes open. The sky was awash with gold, slipping into orange. It was beautiful. 

“Do you still want me to touch you? Your dick?” Jack continued leaving soft kisses everywhere he could reach, his voice gentle and soothing in Amadeus’s ear. 

Amadeus didn’t know how to answer that. He wanted, and he didn’t, and he mostly wanted to do whatever Jack wanted with him. The words expressing that couldn’t form in the space he was floating in, though, so he let out a low whine instead. 

“Hey, shh, shh, it’s okay. Why don’t I just hold it for you. And if you want more you can ask for it.” A hand hovered over the clasp of Amadeus’s shorts, waiting. 

Amadeus sighed contentedly and melted further into Jack’s bulk. “Yes,” he said, absently.

The hand descended on Amadeus’s button, but was unable to unfasten it. The hand at his neck twitched, then stilled. 

“Can you unbutton this for me baby? Don’t want to move that hand just yet.” 

Amadeus discovered his hands again. They were currently petting the nicely furred expanses of Jack’s arms. He rallied them to his cause and clumsily, but successfully, unbuttoned his shorts. On rote memory, he began pulling down the zipper, then froze. Jack hadn’t asked him to do that. 

“So good,” Jack whispered nearly to himself. “Go on, baby. You’re being so good for me. The zipper too. That’s right.”

Jack’s cock was still hard against his back, the place where the head rubbed against him growing slick with pre. He wanted. That was it. He wanted. Everything. Anything. Jack. He realized he might’ve said that last one. 

With the zipper disengaged, one large hand, the one not currently tethering Amadeus, delved into his briefs. Gentle fingers, rough with calluses, probed slick folds before grasping a small, needy cock. They stroked once, twice, before simply encircling the twitching length firmly. 

“Eyes open,” Jack murmured, a gentle reminder. 

Pinks had begun to streak through the orange. The sounds of the field seeped into his mind, and the contented floating space expanded to include the sensation of Jack’s fingers around his cock. He shifted slightly, against Jack’s hard dick, a whimper on his lips. He kept his eyes open, though, as the sunset painted the flowers, the grass, the truck, Jack’s arm disappearing into briefs, in its hues. 

The hand at his neck pressed just slightly more firmly into his sternum with the movement. “Shh,” Jack soothed. “You’re okay. You’re being so good for me. The prettiest thing in the whole field.”

Amadeus turned his head to blink surprised eyes at him. “Oh.” A new word, if it counted. He placed an uncoordinated kiss on Jack’s cheek. The springy hairs there were a riot of sensation against sensitive lips. He did it again. And again. On the fourth time, Jack turned his head and met clumsy lips with his own. He led Amadeus in a careful exploration before pulling back. 

“You’re supposed to be watching the sunset,” he said, but his voice held very little censure. 

“I can see it,” Amadeus surprised both of them by saying, “here.” He reached up a hand and traced the wash of pink over one cheekbone. 

Jack kissed him again for that. 

That kiss turned into more, hot and deep, until the angle of mouths and torsos became too uncomfortable to bear. Jack settled Amadeus into his lap, then, on his knees stradling Jack’s hips. The break had also allowed for blessed shorts removal, so Amadeus could feel the heat of Jack’s cock through his briefs as he ground down against it. Jack’s hand settled onto the back of his neck, less obviously dominant, but it echoed the weight of itself from earlier and Amadeus felt it anyway. 

Jack moaned into the kiss and got his hand between them again, on Amadeus’s cock, stroking and fondling while his kisses stole Amadeus’s breath. He stuck hands under the hem of Jack’s shirt, wanting to feel skin, wanting to be as close as possible. Jack’s attentions were sparking pleasure in his core. He broke the kiss on a whimper, leaving uncoordinated, open-mouthed kisses down his neck. 

The hand at his nape tightened slightly. “That’s it baby. That feel good? Love the way you touch me. Just like that. You can mark me, if you want.”

Amadeus discovered that he did want, with a fervency that surprised him. His kisses became more purposeful, then, searching for the places that made Jack’s breathing hitch. After a few passes he decided on the place where neck met shoulder, licked and teased at the spot with lips and tongue, then sucked, hard. 

Jack’s groan almost had him pulling back, but the hand at his neck kept him pressed in place, and he kept up his suction, wanting to be sure. He felt Jack’s cock pulse underneath him and, so reminded, ground his still-covered entrance against it. After he deemed a sufficient amount of time, he released his mouth from the spot then gave it a gentle little lick, soothing as best he could. He pulled back slightly to survey his handiwork. There was a definite dark spot visible in the fading light and Amadeus grinned, obscenely proud of this development. 

Jack’s hand on his cock did something glorious and decadent. It sent a ripple of pleasure through him and whimpers spilled from his lips as he mouthed inarticulately at Jack’s neck. 

“Like that, baby? You like that?” Jack’s breathing was labored now, too, as he stroked and teased. 

“Jack,” Amadeus pleaded, unable to stop his hips from bucking desperately against Jack’s hand and cock. 

Jack shushed him and did it again. And again. And Amadeus was there, perched at the peak as Jack’s hand worked magic on his dick, as the feel of springy beard hair brushed against the sensitized skin of his neck, as the crickets began to chirp. 

“Please,” he whispered, desperate. 

Jack rumbled against him. “Such pretty sounds. Such pretty begging. Do you need to come?”

Amadeus nodded fervently, hiding his face in Jack’s neck. He was trying so hard to stay still, to not unseat himself entirely from Jack’s lap, but the pleasure was threatening to drown him. 

“I’m going to mark that pretty little neck,” Jack said, his voice going husky, “and once I do, I want you to come for me.”

“Yes,” Amadeus panted, “please.” 

“Such good manners,” Jack murmured as he began to lick and nip at Amadeus’s neck. 

Amadeus could barely contain himself. The orgasm was roaring closer, and soon there wouldn’t be anything he could do about it. “Jack,” he pleaded. “Please.”

Jack hummed and redoubled the efforts on his neck, but did nothing that would leave a mark. 

Amadeus ground down hard, the silky fabric of his briefs providing a sensuous slide against Jack’s cock, their combined pre more than easing the way. 

“Jack,” he tried again. He wanted to come. He wanted Jack’s cock inside him. He wanted Jack’s mark on him.

Jack’s quiet, “Okay, baby,” was the only warning he got before pain, not unbearable but undeniable, bloomed in his shoulder. 

“Jack,” he cried out as the climax broke over him and he began to shake apart in pleasure. Only the hand at his neck kept him from dissolving into the sunset, he thought somewhat deliriously, as waves of pleasure trembled through his body. 

In the aftermath he leaned heavily against Jack’s torso, trying to catch his breath and clinging in a way that he thought he probably ought to be embarrassed about. Jack’s hand left his dick to steady his hip, and the one on his neck began rubbing slow circles on his back, soothing. His cock was still hard underneath Amadeus, but he didn’t seem in much of a hurry to rectify it. 

“All right?” Jack murmured. 

Amadeus nodded his head wordlessly. His arms still clutched at Jack’s waist under his shirt. After a few more breaths, he began tugging at the hem, lifting it for more contact. He wanted to be skin to skin with Jack. Now. Jack huffed out a breath but cooperated, shucking the shirt before wrapping Amadeus back up in firm arms. Amadeus shivered at the contact, leaving small kisses anywhere he could reach. His hands rested over the waistband of Amadeus’s briefs. 

“We don’t have to do anything else,” Jack said after a long moment. “You are… perfect. Everything. And I don’t want you to feel pressured to do anything you don’t want.” 

Amadeus raised his head and blinked dazedly at him. His head was still floating and content with pleasure, and it took him more long moments to understand. “Oh,” he said finally. “Yes.”

When Jack only looked at him more, Amadeus took the initiative. He unraveled himself from around Jack and shimmied down briefs. Jack finally snapped out of whatever daze he’d been in and helped, chuckling fondly as Amadeus had to awkwardly maneuver onto one leg and then the other to free himself. 

When he was mostly free, the garment still clinging to one ankle, Amadeus moaned and slid Jack’s cock between his dripping folds. He began lining Jack’s cock up to enter him, but Jack’s hand on his waist held him still. He let out a high whine as he was stopped so close to getting what he wanted. 

“Wait,” Jack commanded, voice hoarse. “We can’t— I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Jack,” Amadeus whined. “Please.” And meant, It won’t hurt me, I don’t remember the last time I was this wet, and even if it does hurt, I might like that too. It’d be worth it

“No,” Jack said, voice firm. “Be good. You can have my cock once I open you up.”

Amadeus stopped straining towards his goal and blinked at Jack again. “Oh.” He melted against Jack’s chest. “Yes.” 

Jack’s chuckle was achingly fond as he pressed a kiss to Amadeus’s temple. “So good.” He kept one arm bracketed around Amadeus’s waist while he turned on a lantern and rummaged around in a bag nearby. 

He produced a tube of lube and slicked up large fingers. He circled Amadeus’s front hole lightly. “Here?” he asked.

They’d already discussed this, of course. Limits, fantasies, safety. But the confirmation warmed him. Too many people would simply assume. 

“Yes,” he breathed. He felt safe, wrapped in Jack’s arms, the soft glow of the light surrounding them. 

Jack eased a finger into him. It wasn’t the fullness of his cock, but it was better than the dull ache of emptiness that had enveloped him earlier. He canted his hips to sink the digit deeper and sighed contentedly. 

“Jack,” he said dreamily. He left more kisses along the expanse of skin spread before him. There was so much of Jack to kiss and touch now, and the finger that was inside him was beginning to slowly thrust, opening him up. “Yes.”

Jack moaned. “You’re so tight, baby. Would’ve hurt you. You feel so good.”

“Please.” The whimper was quiet, mostly stifled by Amadeus’s mouth pressing clumsy kisses over the expanse of Jack’s shoulder.

Another finger, then. Stretching him. It burned, just a bit, but Jack was careful, attentive. He gave Amadeus long moments to adjust before slowly thrusting in and out of him. 

“You’re going to feel so good on my cock, baby. Do you want to ride me like this? I kind of want to be over you, so I can make sure you don’t hurt yourself.”

Jack taking care of him sounded perfect. Jack getting what he wanted sounded even better. He strung together some combination of yes and please and Jack that he hoped conveyed that message. He was Jack’s to do with as he liked. 

Jack seemed to hear him loud and clear. He flipped them so that Amadeus was laying on a considerately-placed quilt in the bed of the truck with Jack bent over him. The change made him feel totally enveloped in Jack. His warmth, his scent, the murmurs of praise that flowed freely from his lips. It was all-encompassing. Perfect.

After long moments of careful ministrations, Jack finally deemed Amadeus ready, which was a relief because his impatience was starting to overpower the molten contentedness he’d slipped into. He wanted Jack inside him, even if he wanted to belong to Jack more.

When he pulled back to slick up his cock with ever more lube, all Amadeus could do was watch. Some rational part of his brain took a breath to be grateful Jack had stopped him from sinking onto it without any prep. His eyes were fixed on the movement of Jack’s hand, his excitement blooming at the knowledge that Jack would finally, finally take him. 

Jack lifted his legs and, to his credit, didn’t ask again. The pleas that were spilling from Amadeus’s lips must’ve been sufficient for him because, with a hand settling back at the base of Amadeus’s throat, he began a slow but incontrovertible thrust that drove every single thought from Amadeus’s mind. 

 The sound of Jack’s groan was the best sound Amadeus had ever heard. He lit up with it, with the knowledge that he’d caused this. That, combined with the sheer pleasure of being full, was enough to draw more whimpers from him. By the time Jack was fully seated within him, they were both breathing hard. The hand at his throat never constricted, but was solid and firm. Amadeus thought dazedly that he could do this forever. 

Jack set a slow, steady rhythm, leaning over Amadeus to leave more stinging marks around the collar of the shirt he still wore. One particularly well-placed thrust had Amadeus crying out in pleasure, clutching at Jack’s shoulders.

Jack paused in his movements to kiss him, nearly placating, his free hand coming down to smooth along his side. “Shh, you’re okay. I’ve got you.” 

Amadeus quieted then, rocking his hips in time with Jack’s thrilling as the length inside him pulsed with pleasure. 

“You feel so good, baby. Going to come soon. Do you want that?” Dominance and consent rolled into one question. If Amadeus had changed his mind since they’d discussed it, Jack wouldn’t. It only made him want him more.

“Yes,” he whimpered. More words then, begging. He didn’t just want Jack’s come. He needed it. 

He could feel Jack’s pleasure at his reaction smiled into his neck. “So good for me. I’m going to come. But when I do I want you to do something for me.” Jack nuzzled another marking kiss into his neck as he waited for Amadeus’s attention. “I want you to open your eyes for me.”

Surely Jack knew he’d do anything he asked of him by now. And this was such a simple request. He couldn’t nod quickly enough, the desire to be filled with Jack’s come overriding his ability to speak. 

The length within him thrust once, twice, and then the telltale pulse of orgasm along with Jack’s loud groan. 

Amadeus obeyed his instructions and opened his eyes. He nearly lost his breath. The feeling of Jack rocking through his release was highlighted by the sight spread out before him.

The stars.

Some time when he hadn’t been paying attention, night had well and truly fallen, and above him the universe stretched out, vast and nearly tangible in its vividness. 

“Jack,” he croaked, mortified to discover the threat of tears in his voice. He hadn’t even remembered that conversation, but Jack had. Jack had given him this, when he hadn’t ever thought to. 

Jack stilled, misunderstanding in the tensing of his shoulders. “You okay, baby? Did I hurt you at the end there?”

Amadeus shook his head and clutched Jack tighter. “Jack,” he whispered. He cupped Jack’s cheek and wrenched his gaze from the night sky to stare at him in wonder. 

Jack sighed in relief and rested their foreheads together. Amadeus shifted so he could look out at the sky again, transfixed. A huff of amused breath, the careful slide of sensitive flesh, and some delicate maneuvering, and Amadeus was wrapped in Jack’s arms, his breath ghosting against his neck, cuddling him fiercely. He hadn’t bothered to stop looking at the wonder laid out before them. 

“I know you said sometimes you don’t have words,” Jack murmured into the relative silence left after their lovemaking, “but if you have some to spare I would like them. Just to know if you’re doing okay, hurting anywhere, that you enjoyed that.”

“I did,” Amadeus said quickly. His voice was rusty. “And I’m not hurt. And okay doesn’t even begin to cover it. Jack…” He turned in Jack’s arms to look at him, wrapping his arms around the other man. “You remembered that I miss the stars. And then you gave them to me. While making love to me. After the best date ever.” I love you, he didn’t say. The words were there, on his tongue, but they’d just made themselves clear in his heart. He wasn’t ready to expose them to the elements yet. 

Jack’s smile was shyly pleased. “Good. I like making you happy.”

Amadeus kissed him. Slowly. Softly. “You do.”

They laid like that for a long time, trading lazy kisses as the dome of the sky turned slowly overhead.

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6 thoughts on “Lucky Stars

  1. Jack is a certified sweetheart!! The reveal that the place wasn’t open on Saturdays caught me totally off guard — I just kinda assumed Amadeus came in at slow times and, y’know, suspension of disbelief because it makes the story go smoother. That it was intentional is such a fantastic twist. Plus the stars. It’s too romantic, I’m dying. :’) Sex scene was also fantastic. The little mention that they’d talked about stuff in advance was a nice way to keep the focus on the fun stuff — plus Jack seems like the careful and considerate type, so of COURSE they would’ve hashed everything out in advance. Also shoutout to character actively having therapy! You love to see it. Also also, personal bias (I always do fancy ones), but the star dividers are great. Thanks for the awesome story!

  2. I think the reveal of Jack never working Saturdays was my favorite part here, since it plays off of so many parts of the story: the small-town setting where making ends meet isn’t a guarantee, him intentionally staying in a humbler place that treats him better than a better-paying job that wrings him out, the community he has with his neighbors, and how Amadeus showing up makes Jack willing to turn everything about himself on its head in pursuit of a good thing. I also liked how they had the opportunity to let things grow over time in spite of their many miles apart and Amadeus’ social anxieties! It felt sweet and natural. Pretty fitting for a barbecue joint, no?

  3. Like the other commenters I do love the reveal that the restaurant isn’t even open on Saturdays, that was really delightful. Jack’s such a sweetheart planned a perfect romantic date. This was a treat!!

  4. I love this story. It made me really happy to see someone use the same phrase I do when my brain is doing strange things – not having words. Thank you.

  5. I like how Jack made the time that was necessary for it all to work and Gary was a helpful wingman. How many slots do those drink machines usually have now?

  6. an adorable story! had a nice country spin on a classic love story :) Jack and Amadeus were cute but the side characters made it all feel vibrant. great job!

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