There is a club in Shiloh. Or—no—there are many clubs in Shiloh. The city is a warren of doors down to what would have been luxury basement rooms, except the carpet has been pulled up to make room for a bar, wires pulled out of the walls to set up spotlights. The skyscrapers are a maze of stairs up to penthouse suites with crates of booze instead of bookshelves and twenty foot dance floors instead of ten foot water beds.
Every dream from the spark of the new city that got lost by the wayside. Every dream stalled by war, or lack of funding, or just everything going to hell in a motherfucking hand basket. Every dream from the birth of Shiloh has turned into a small door in a smaller alcove off the beaten track. A bar peddling cheap booze smuggled in from Gath or Simeon, anywhere it's sold by the barrel. A dance floor with more broken lights than lit ones, so many cigarettes dripping from ringed fingers they create a haze of smoke thicker than any fog machine.
The people are faceless, genderless, half-seen shades of bodies that shift amongst the curling shadows, too close for comfort. You could be dancing with a stranger, a best friend, a king.
So this is where they come. Your saviours.
Jack sees David first. It's not much, a flash of blue light caught on the edge of a face. He's taller than the two girls in short black dresses pulsing to the music next to him, taller even than the pretty boy with spikes of hair and words twisting across his body like fresh-poured ink. Next to those three, the stranger in loose jeans with untamed hair should barely register at all.
Jack's not even sure it's him to begin with. Jack's half a club away—leaning against the wall until he's far enough out of his head to join the crowd. He's drunk off the tab of a girl with a dot-to-dot of facial piercings connected by silver chains and he snorted something white off the breasts of a man with blue hair but it's not enough. There's a girl on the dance floor who looks almost like Lucinda—left asleep in their bedroom-cum-prison-cell after Jack slipped his nightly concoction of pills into her drink. No matter how much Jack drinks he can't seem to get the taste of the fish he'd been given for dinner—served in small bite size pieces so they wouldn't have to give him a knife—out of his mouth.
He's been breathing smoke all night and he's blown three strangers in the back bathroom—only one of which tried to pay him for it. His throat is fucked and his mouth is chapped but, when he licks his lips, they still taste of his mother's cheap foundation where he kissed her cheek and Lucinda's strawberry lipgloss where she kissed him.
Or maybe he's just imagining things. Maybe he's crazy, and wouldn't that be a relief. He looks over at the dance floor again, the figures sliding in and out of each other like ink in water, and thinks he could have hallucinated David too. That's the kind of thing he does these days.
Except that even with whatever concoction of prescription drugs, nameless drugs and spirits that burn all the way down Jack is fucked up on tonight, there is no way he could hallucinate David's face looking that naively baffled by his own surroundings. It has to be him. No one else could stand there bouncing out of time and not even looking at the girl one step away from giving him a handjob right there on the dance floor.
Just looking at the expression of earnest puzzlement as David takes a polite step back from the girl and moves her hand back to her own stomach makes Jack's lip curl.
It's sickening, is what it is. In the crowd of ink swimming and lines dancing through Jack's mind, David has become a fixed point. He sticks out, tall and broad alongside the slight and beautiful dancers all around him.
Now Jack's noticed him, he can't look away, like all the lights are purposefully turning and seeking David out. He's a little thinner in the face, his hair is a little longer and Jack shouldn't know this.
But he does, because he's never been good at 'shouldn't' or 'wrong' or 'we give up what we want'. Particularly now, when everything else has been fucked up so spectacularly, what's the harm? Who is left to give a fuck that Jack Benjamin, Prince of Gilboa, had a stupid fucked up crush on the fucking saviour?
There is no one to know and no one to care and Jack's lips curve into a teeth-baring smile as David politely removes a hand from his ass, returning it to it's original owner.
There's a card on the bar with a list of cocktails and Jack laughs so low that not even he can hear it over the music at the first one. The waiter has been checking out his ass all night and he comes over directly when Jack waves a lazy hand in his direction.
Jack orders two of the first cocktail on the list, charging them both to the same tab he's been charging all night. He doesn't even know where the girl is anymore, but if she wants to complain to him tomorrow she'll have to break him back out of the nicest jail cell the king's palace has to offer first.
The bartender slides both glasses and his number across the bar. Jack takes the card, but drops it the moment he's turned away from the bar. He'll be searched before they let him back into the palace, the card will go one way or another.
And anyway, it's been a long while since he was allowed a phone.
Before, when he went out to the kind of clubs with names and lights on the door. The kind he had to go to with friends and bouncers and hit every tabloid the morning after, where Jack only had to walk through the front door for the crowds to clear a path before him like the fucking red sea.
Places like this wouldn't part for Moses himself. The cloud of smoke tastes like tobacco and weed and other, sweeter tastes that he can't name. Inside it, any sense of place fades into the occasional flash of light on contorted black shapes. It's like a constantly moving Rorschach test and he's caught inside it, pushing through with elbows and knees driven into anything soft. The two cocktails slosh on his fingers and drops of whatever fall down his back and arms from the glasses of those around him. He licks tequila and lime off his top lip from the glass of a man in a full length black trench coat. The beat of the music is thrumming up from the floor and the liquid in the glasses trembles like it's caught in an earthquake.
He's caught momentarily between a boy with a lip ring that tastes like winter and a girl who presses up against his back like a lover. Her breasts are soft against his spine and—woke up like that this morning, rolled over to see Lucinda smiling in her sleep—he pushes aside, letting the girl fall forward into the boy's arms and then they're kissing like he was never there. Jack could almost believe he wasn't.
He's almost at the other end of the dance floor—he can see the point where the thick shadowed shapes fade out replaced by tables and the far wall—when he sees a flash of ink on skin and in a flash of spotlight he's standing in front of the spike-haired boy with tattoos up the lines of his throat and down twisting past his wrists into the palms of his hands. In the flash of light, Jack catches words—You shall be as Gods—on a pale wrist and when he turns David is standing in front of him.
For the first time, Jack finds himself resenting the darkness and the smoke that has kept him hidden on all his visits. David's face is all shadows and a halo of blonde hair, no expression or hint at how this game should be played. He hesitates for a moment, as the inked boy turns away from the two of them like they're nobody.
And they're not, not really. Not here in the underbelly of Shiloh. Neither of them have any right to be here, and this could still be a fucked up hallucination of his overly drugged mind so why not do whatever the hell he wants?
Jack steps in closer, and he's bigger and stronger than the girls. When David moves back, Jack follows, pushing forward with him until they hit the barriers at the edge of the dance floor. There's a little more light here, enough that Jack can see David's eyes darting for the exit. The lights are still behind them, throwing Jack's face in shadows.
The music lulls a little and Jack leans closer. "Protocol says I ask if you come here often." He still has to shout, and his voice comes out coarse from the smoke. "And offer to buy you a drink."
The tension in David's body eases a little as he squints. "Jack?"
Jack smiles just in time for a light to catch his face and sees David relax, like he's glad to finally see a familiar face. "But I know you don't," Jack finishes. "And I already have." The glasses have suffered a little for the distance they've travelled, but David takes one, like it doesn't even occur to him to refuse it.
"What is this?" he shouts back, his voice far too pure for him to have been here long.
"Oh," Jack shrugs, leaning against the barrier beside David. "This and that. Galliano, mixer, ice." He raises his glass in something like a toast and knocks it back, the alcohol burning its way down his throat.
David doesn't look at all convinced, but he does the same and pretends it doesn't make his eyes water. "Mixer?" he says, far hoarser than before.
Jack smiles, turning the glass in his hand. "He may have erred on the side of the spirit. Another?"
"I-" David looks over the dance floor for a long moment. The lights are elsewhere, catching two girls kissing while a third, crouched on the floor, licks one of them out. "Okay," David says. "Another."
Another turns into three which turns into eight and Jack is starting to feel almost human again while David is stumbling and leaning against the bar and saying stupid shit like, "Do you think we should talk?"
Jack laughs because it's something he's practiced so much for the cameras, it doesn't take any thought. "The fact that I can talk is proof that I am not drunk enough." He lifts his—tenth? Fifteenth?—empty glass up to the light to make sure there aren't some dregs of alcohol at the bottom that he's been missing. There's nothing, and the crowd at the bar is five bodies deep. "We could dance," he says, catching Shepherd's hand and knocking both glasses to the floor. They shatter, which is enough to make him laugh for real.
"I don't really—" David starts.
"Oh, believe me, I know." The smoke closes around them as Jack slides his hands around David's waist. "I saw you with my sister at your celebration party." A sharp tug brings David stumbling into him—his centre of gravity too fucked from the alcohol to stop him going wherever Jack wants him to go. "This is much easier." He presses against David, feeling the military-honed muscles against his chest. It's been too fucking long since he slept with someone built like this and David's hair is long enough that it's easy to catch a hand in, pulling his head around so Jack can breathe into his ear. "Just think about sex." Jack pushes his hips forward a little. "And move."
David glances over his shoulder, but no one's looking at them. The dance floor is more crowded than ever so there's really no room for the inch or so of space it would require for Jack to move away. David's hands are large and awkward resting more lightly than should be possible on Jack's hips, like he's still on that fucking dance floor with Michelle. "What are you doing?" he asks, in what would be a low scandalised voice if he didn't have to shout to be heard.
"Oh," Jack says, casually rolling his body against David's and tossing his head back so the light catches his jaw. "Seducing you."
David jolts a little, but he's too far gone to think of pulling away. "Why?"
Jack smiles just as a red light catches his cheek. "Because I can. Because you're hot. Because I want to fuck you and because I want to fuck you up." He leans in to kiss David's cheek where the lightest touch of stubble catches his lips. "How does that sound to start?"
"I—" David casts one last look around, like he's worried Silas, Rose and Michelle might all be standing on the balcony watching them. "Yes, good."
Jack has a moment to think—wait, what?—and then David's too-large hand is on his neck and David is kissing him Jesus fucking Christ. David has an arm locked around his waist and a hand on his cheek and Jack is still holding his hair but now he's tugging because—god fuck hell—David kisses hard.
Jack had been wondering vaguely how he was going to tell David that Michelle is married to a guy from Petra with two children, but when David bites into his lower lip with a stab of pain he feels right down to his toes, Jack thinks probably he already knows.
The music's still playing. Jack's aware of the beat rocking through him in a vague, distant sense that's not quite connected to the way his hand is trying to pull David's hair out and he's grinding against David's crotch like he's a teenager again. It would almost be embarrassing except David's hand is grabbing his ass and he's moaning, actually moaning in Jack's ear.
Jack's only human. He can't be expected to resist. He sinks his teeth into David's jawline and David tastes of sweat and smoke and the sickly sweetness of spilt drinks and his fingers dig almost painfully into Jack's side.
Jack remembers Lucinda's butterfly kisses and Joseph tracing gentle patterns on his cheek and laughs into David's skin as they grind together again. David is hard and Jack could fucking come in his pants as David bites his ear and his throat, muttering nonsense against his skin until Jack just has to use his grip on David's hair to tug him into another kiss.
"If we get off this dance floor," Jack says. "I'll blow you."
The hitch of breath is basically inaudible but the way David's fingers clench tighter on Jack's side—there'll be bruises, bruises that he'll have to explain away to Lucinda and the guards and everyone else but he doesn't care. "There are people—"
Jack laughs, pulling on David's hair to turn David's head to the shapes of the dance floor. "Them? They're nobody. Extras. Background scenery to the epic saga that is you and me."
There is a moment of stillness, when even the music seems to stall, then David tugs his head free. "They're people, Jack."
Jack lets his hands fall back to his sides as David steps away. "Sure, they're people. In the grand world where everybody counts and every soul matters they're people. Do you think they'll be so much as a footnote in your story?"
David hesitates, then reaches up to brush sweaty hair off his forehead. "I need a drink. What did you say it was; Galliano, ice and...?"
Jack raises one eyebrow, leaning back against the barrier at the edge of the dance floor. "Just ask for Adam's Apple."
There's a moment where David just looks at him, then he throws up his hands and pushes through the crowd to get off the dance floor. Jack sinks back against the barrier and closes his eyes as the world spins around him.
After a long moment, he swears loud enough to echo over the music and elbows his way away from the lights.
"So go on then," Jack says when he's tracked David down again. David is sitting in the frame of what would be the exit to the smoking area if everyone wasn't smoking like a forest fire inside. There's a halogen light outside that frames his head like a halo, just in case no one had picked up on the whole God's favourite whipping boy thing earlier. Jack leans against the door on the other side, stealing the glass from David's loose hand to drain the last drops. "Why are you here?"
David shakes his head. His mouth is still faintly red, his hands twitching at his side. "I—you checked me out once. They told me you come here."
Jack laughs, then realises it's not real. He's just killing time. When did that become so ingrained that he doesn't even notice anymore. "Well this is brilliant. Here I am trying to fuck you and you only came to sleep with me."
David looks away from him, out over the stairs leading down into a courtyard Jack is willing to bet isn't on any city maps. "I came here to look for you. You're the one who decided to recreate the Fall of Man."
Jack's smile is almost genuine because—hell—it was fun while it lasted. "Why should God always get to choose what religious symbolism we get lumbered with?" He runs his fingers along the back of David's neck. "We didn't get to the good part."
David shakes him off. "Just don't."
Fuck him, anyway. There are plenty of people inside who would be only too willing to get off with Jack in the bathrooms. David is just the same sanctimonious asshole he's always been, just with the minor addition of being a cocktease. "What the fuck are you even here for?"
"I came here to find you because Cross is dead and Silas is ill and the two of us could save this nation, it's people. With your bloodline and my reputation we can oust Silas properly and get a true peace—"
"Oh God." Jack might actually kill him. "This nation is done, David. It can't be saved. Give up on these fucking people and save yourself, because I promise that is the only thing anybody else is doing."
"You're first in line, you and any child you may have. There's no one else, we can start again and do it right—"
"There's Silas's secret son, Michelle has a child with you and a second one with her husband in Petra—" Jack ticks them off on his fingers. "Andrew met a lovely girl who was very open to being paid to marry him. There will be heirs lined up all around the fucking block if I never have a son. Gilboa will fall into a fight over the succession that will tear it apart, we'll be overtaken by Gath and Simeon and maybe this time someone will have the decency to kill me." He laughs. "That's it, David. That's how this story ends."
David shakes his head. "How can you give up on them? On everyone?"
"They gave up on me first." Jack kicks David a little so he shifts up and Jack can sit down beside him. "You think they would accept me? You think they would accept either of us, if they saw what we just did?"
"I think Silas is leading this country into war after war after war. I think God has left him, and left it to us to save His people."
Jack shakes his head. "God gave up on me a long time ago." He uses the door to pull himself to his feet. "If you want sex, I'll be inside. If you want to save the great nation of Gilboa, you're on your own." He's pushing through the door when David's hand catches his arm.
Jack turns back slowly, twisting his wrist a little to make sure he could break the grip if he had to. "David."
"I'm not giving up on them," David says. "And I won't give up on you." His hand curves on Jack's jaw and the kiss is gentle, tender, soft and fleeting like a whisper. "I have a safe house in the city. You don't have to go back home."
Jack pulls back, breaking the grip on his wrist with barely a movement. "Fuck you and the high horse you rode in on."
David doesn't even try to block Jack's punch. It connects with a satisfying crunch and when David stumbles backwards, Jack disappears back inside.
He doesn't know how much later it is. It's easy to disappear in a place like this, if you know how. Easy to keep track of David drinking a glass of water like it's time to sober up, eyes fixed on the dance floor like he's waiting for Jack to step back into the lights.
Jack doesn't. He takes a handful of pills in five different colours and a whole rainbow of shots that burn his throat like lava. He trades handjobs with a boy who scratches five lines on each of his arms.
The toilets have no lights at all and he doesn't make it to the small cubicle so his vomit is added to the pool on the floor. He leans heavy against the wall when his legs tremble and stumbles over the vomit to the toilet bowl where he finishes emptying his stomach to the sound of thrusting and spanking from the next cubicle over.
The girl with the facial piercings and the bar tab tracks him down around three am. He's leaning against a wall where none of the lights reach, drinking something from a glass he found half full on an abandoned table. His vision is swimming and his eyes are scanning the crowd searching for the flash of a needle or the surreptitious movement of pills. He's too fucked up to move and not fucked up enough to think and soon he's going to have to stumble outside and into the arms of whichever guard has been sent to track him down this time.
The girl slaps him hard across the face and tosses the bill from the bar down at his feet. He leaves it where it is, in a puddle of something on the floor, and sinks down against the wall, his knees up against his chest waiting for the moment when the club closes and he's forced back out onto the streets.
He can't even muster up the enthusiasm to care that he was spotted when David sits down next to him. The fact that David holding his nose straight and nursing a split lip that keeps reopening helps a little with that. "You beat up everyone you're trying to seduce?"
The music is quieter now—a clear sign that the patrons are being encouraged to go fuck their lives up elsewhere. "I feel like people should know what they're getting into," Jack says, wondering what time it is and why David hasn't left to save the god-damned world already. "The death rate for people who might actually like me is rather high at the moment."
There's a moment of stillness, and then David wraps one arm around his shoulder, pulling his closer so Jack's head rests against his neck. "I think I could take you." There's a light pressure on Jack's forehead that he realises a moment too late was probably David kissing it. How stupid. "I faced down a Goliath, you know."
Jack should probably punch him again. Punch him, kiss him, blow him against a wall. But he's tired, his throat tastes of vomit and his head is killing him with a hangover/drug withdrawal combo that may well involve someone actually taking a hammer to the inside of his brain. "So," he says, because why not? It's not like any of his plans have gone so well. "You think we can save the world."
"We can try." David is rubbing Jack's arm lightly with one hand. It's nice, in a stupid pointless way. "It'll be dangerous, though. We might die."
Jack nods. "That would be nice." David's shoulder is comfortable and he could definitely just sleep here. "Can we go back to your place before the bouncers find out how much money I owe them?"
The bartenders are definitely gathering behind the bar and squinting towards the corner where Jack and David are hiding. David has to help Jack up—his legs seem to have stopped working somewhere along the line. "What are you even on?" David mutters as Jack's feet slide in opposite directions for the sixth time.
Jack thinks about the powder and the coloured pills and the little cups of pills that they gave him three times a day at the palace for whatever reasons. "I have no fucking idea."
There's a moment where David just looks at him, then he's hoisted higher on David's shoulders. "Right. Tomorrow we save you, after that we save Gilboa."
It sounds so easy when he puts it like that. Almost as though somewhere beneath the drugs and the alcohol, there is still some trace of a human being who can be saved. Jack isn't entirely convinced, but David is warm and it seems a shame to tell him to just go now.
"Most people would do the easier one first." Jack closes his eyes for a moment, resting his head on David's shoulder. "But I guess I did promise you sex. I'm pretty great at that."
"So modest," David says, tugging Jack out of the club and onto the street where the wind catches in his hair.
"What can I say," Jack says, his words slurring a little as it gets harder to keep his eyes open. He's being carried more than he's walking but he hasn't been arrested yet. "I'm the crown prince, I'm not currently imprisoned and I just bagged Gilboa's most eligible bachelor. It's a good day to be me."
"Yeah," David says, and Jack is half asleep so that must be why David just sounds sad. "You're doing great."
Damn straight, Jack thinks and laughs because straight and he should tell David but it's easier to close his eyes for a moment.
It doesn't matter if he falls asleep. David's here and he's far too much of a gentleman to let anyone fall, even if they do ask nicely. And that's about the last thought Jack has before his eyes shut again and he stops thinking.
There are many clubs in Shiloh. Back rooms and basements where dreams have died, full of people with no homes and no hope and everything to fight for.
Rooms full of smoke and shadows and sex. Rooms where the easiest thing to do is disappear.
And this is where they come. Your saviours. They come to the worse places, to the darkest places. They fix the lights—he was a mechanic, you know. They stand on the stages and he speaks—the prince, he was the prince, this boy with shorn hair and more shadows than eyes, with a body that shakes and a voice that holds firm.
"Sometimes things have to reach their worst," he says and shrugs off his jacket so the dark marks on the insides of his elbows catch the light. "Before they can get better."
And you listen. You listen and you spread the words from club to club, from house to house, street to street. You listen and you remember and when the time comes you rise up. You follow a prince brought low and a mechanic raised high and you save yourselves.
In the end, this story was always about you.