"Why do you want this job?"
"Um." Leslie stutters, smiles, purses his eyebrows in an approximation of 'deep thought' as he tries to come up with anything to say that isn't it'll pay the bills or I'm not trained for anything else. He settles on a half-truth. "I grew up in theater, and all I've ever wanted to do is make someone's day. I think I could do that at the Hyatt."
She nods appreciatively and recites "we care for people so they can be their best" as if it's been tattooed on her tongue. Which, well, her LinkedIn profile says she was accepted into the Hyatt's training program right out of college, so she's been raised in the warmth of the Hyatt's corporate bosom. Their motto might as well be tattooed across her forehead.
"Um?" He asks, trying to smile genuinely.
"Hyatt's motto. I know a lot of companies say things like that, but here at the Hyatt we actually live by it." Her long, plastic nails tap rhythmically against the table, asking Leslie if he, too, is of strong enough stuff to live by such a progressive motto.
"Right, of course." Leslie swallows, forces himself to add, "I wouldn't expect anything less."
Her brows are furrowed, like she's still not quite sure he can cut it, but she closes his file and stands, holding out her hand. "We'll be in touch."
He scrambles to his feet, slips into his coat, and shakes her hand. "I look forward to it."
"We care for people so they can be their best, like zombies with satin sheets and scones with blueberry zest." Daveed kicks his feet against the fire escape so the metal clangs on the downbeat as he freestyle's his rendition of Leslie's interview.
"I can keep going. In fact, I can do this all night."
Leslie sighs, taking a long draw from his beer. "Please don’t."
"Oh, come on." Daveed picks up the beat again. "Zombie businessmen in their best, dressed to the nines in cumberbuns and pocket squares and a pin-striped vest."
The window two stories below them bangs open. "Keep that racquet down, the babies are trying to sleep," their neighbor yells, shaking her fist at the bottoms of their shoes.
"Sorry Mrs. Rose," Leslie calls, as Daveed blows bubbles in his beer with gales of laughter. The window slams shut and Leslie holds back his own laughter. "She’s right, you know. That was terrible."
"Freestyling’s only as good as the source material."
"You gave me The Hyatt. Not much I can do with that."
Leslie feels a tightening deep in his stomach, the same spot that’s been growling for the three days since his bank account reached zero. "I don’t know, I mean, it’s a job?"
"Are you asking or are you telling me?" Daveed reaches behind him for a couple more beers and hands one to Leslie. It's all that's left in their fridge, and will be for at least another day. "Cause if you’re asking, man, then, no, I don’t think it’s a job. Not one worth taking, anyway."
Leslie holds up the beer. "This is the first thing I’ve had to eat all day, and we’re two months behind in rent. A job is a job."
"Not if they’re asking for your soul."
Leslie kicks his shin. "Don’t be dramatic. It’s a doorman’s job, not a cult."
"That's what you think now, but no one ever knows it's a cult when they get into it." Daveed shakes his head, scooting around to lean his back against the railing so he can look at Leslie. "We’ve been in this position before and we’ve always made it work. You don’t need to do this."
Leslie shrugs, looking out over the city with its lights and its relentless promise that he could make it someday, if he just worked a little harder, if he bumped into the right person, if he were just a little more talented. Maybe, maybe then he could make it. Leslie’s tired of the promises.
"I think I do, actually." Leslie still refuses to look at him. "You know it’s been a decade? Ten years ago last week I turned down that CSI job for the prospect of something great here in New York."
"And you think that, what? If you had moved to LA then you’d be some big movie star now?"
"I don’t know, maybe? At least I’d have had more than a handful of bit parts in ten years. Probably."
"Maybe," Daveed corrects. "Or maybe you’d be applying for a job at the LA Hyatt instead, having a conversation with your perfect LA roommate. Except he’d have coiffed hair and wear boating shoes. Unironically." Daveed shivers.
Leslie finally looks over. "So, just like you then?"
Leslie sighs, leaning against Daveed’s bent knees, his voice dropping against the cool New York wind that threatens to take his secrets, just like the city's taken everything else from him. "And you know the worst part?"
"The parts I’ve had? They’ve been awful. White parts written for white actors, pretentious and whiny. None of them have been right for me, and I haven't been very good in any of them."
"At least what you’re doing is something special. It’s what you’re meant to be doing."
"Still doesn’t make any money." Daveed kicks softly at Leslie’s hip. "Offer’s always open, anytime. Clipping would be lucky to have you."
"The boys would laugh me out of the room."
"Never. With talent like yours? Never."
Daveed sounds so sure, so sincere, like Leslie’s talent has never been a question for him, not the way it is for Leslie. Leslie worries about it all the time. He worries about his pitch when he’s riding the subway. He bemoans the smoothness of his voice, the way it doesn’t crack or growl, as he watches his Carnegie Mellon classmates get parts and album deals and TV guest spots. He rails against institutionalized racism as he sits at auditions surrounded by pretty white actors with grungy jeans and perfectly manicured nails. Leslie’s never been half as sure of himself as Daveed is of both of them.
It used to feel liberating, now it just feels suffocating.
"I need a break." Leslie drops his head to Daveed’s knees, lets his roommate support him as a siren sounds below them and a cat screams down the block. He breathes deeply against Daveed’s sweatpants and doesn’t straighten as he comes to a decision. "I’m gonna take the job."
Daveed rests his hand on the top of Leslie’s head and doesn’t say anything.
"Come on, Leslie."
"Mr. Odom, could you please help these kind folks with their luggage?"
Leslie glares at Daveed before he pastes on his best smile and turns towards the older couple in their bright yellow airport taxi. Daveed follows him to the back of the taxi, leaning against it as Leslie starts unloading the luggage.
"I could really use your support on this. It’s more your thing than mine."
"A low-paid workshop destined for failure? That’s true." Leslie grunts as he lifts a 70-pound suitcase onto the luggage cart. "Wanna help?"
Daveed shrugs. "Nah, I’m good."
"Wasn’t really asking."
"Hey," Daveed holds up his palms, "this isn’t my soul-sucking minimum wage job."
Leslie glares at him and manages to drop the second piece of luggage on his toes. "Shit."
"Language," Daveed tuts. "You wouldn’t want the high-priced clientele to hear that mouth of yours. Then they'll know you don't belong here."
Leslie gives him a finger through his grimace.
"Really, though. It’s a week in Vassar, we can take the train up on Saturday and you can share my dorm room. It’ll be just like old times."
Leslie gets the second piece of luggage onto the cart and turns his full glare on Daveed. "Unlike how we are now?"
"Roommates and dorm mates are completely different." Now that the taxi is empty, the driver honks his horn and Daveed slowly pushes himself away from the car and onto the sidewalk. "It’s a whole week of music. I know you miss it."
"I don’t miss the theatre scene."
"This isn't the theatre scene. I promise."
"It's a one week workshop at Vassar. It's the most theatre-scene scene I've ever heard of."
Daveed sighs, his shoulders softening. "If you’d just meet Lin, I know you’d love him. This thing he’s writing- Lez, it’s everything you’ve ever wanted from the theatre."
Leslie pauses, just for a moment, just long enough for the luggage cart to roll backwards over his already-sore foot. He swears and finishes pushing the cart into the lobby. "No, I already told you, I’m done with that world. I can’t go back."
"Just for a week."
"A week’s work will pay our rent next month. Besides, I’m up for a promotion. If I put in a couple more months-"
Daveed throws up his hands. "Fine, whatever. I’ll go have all the fun without you."
A throat clears behind them. "Mr. Odom, the Whites are in 811. They’re expecting their luggage promptly. And, for heaven’s sake, fix your hat before a guest can see you."
Leslie reaches up and straightens his bellhop hat.
Daveed mouths "all the fun" and Leslie waves him away.
He has a job to do.
Daveed comes back from Vassar more excited than Leslie's ever seen him.
He sings in the shower, raps as he gets ready in the morning, and talks about Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette through every meal.
He also leaves sheet music all over their apartment, in uneven piles that Leslie trips over every time he moves. Leslie's pretty sure he's doing it on purpose.
"I'm a mess," Daveed explains, raising his hands, palms up, when Leslie asks him to pick up after himself. "You knew that when you moved in."
"Who moved in with who?"
"I'm a joy to live with. You should be so lucky."
"Ah huh." Leslie moves a stack of music from the fabricated fireplace mantel so he can tie his bowtie in the mirror. "Keep telling yourself that, and it might just become true."
"That's my philosophy."
"Good luck with that." Leslie grabs his bag, throws it over his shoulder. "I'm gonna be late for work."
"Have a good day, honey," Daveed calls.
Leslie throws him middle finger behind him as he closes the door.
The thing is that Daveed really does believe that if he says it enough, sings it enough, gives Leslie just one more tidbit about Jefferson's feminism, he may just wear Leslie down.
Leslie wishes that Daveed didn't know him so well.
But as he's picking up after Daveed, he can't help but read some of the music. The lyrics, the chords, the progressions- Leslie recognizes them like he's sung them before. Like he's always been singing them.
"I'm going out," Daveed calls, scaring Leslie out of the song he's choreographing in his head.
Leslie throws the second page of Wait for It back onto the top of the pile.
"Don't wait up."
"Wasn't planning on it."
"Ahh." Daveed steps closer, eyes darting to the pile under the guise of kissing Leslie's cheek. "Doth protest too much."
Leslie pushes him towards the door. "Go. Away. Be someone else's problem for a while."
Daveed blows a kiss and the door closes with a loud click behind him.
Leslie steps away, intent on opening a bottle of wine and enjoying his first free night in what feels like months. He calls his parents, takes an extra-long shower, water bill be damned, and finishes off two-thirds of the bottle before he circles back to the stack.
It's a perfect song.
It's written for him.
It would be sacrilege not to sing it. Just once.
Leslie sings it through the small, tinny speakers of his ancient laptop. It's rough and he trips over lyrics in more than a couple of places, but he feels more at home than he has since he quit so many months ago.
When he's done, he plays it back. It sounds good. Not perfect but maybe, possibly, the start of something.
Something he gave up, for good reasons, and hasn't so far looked back on. He doesn't have it in him to start tonight.
He closes his laptop and takes the rest of the bottle to bed.
"Mr. Odom, please sit down."
Leslie sits gingerly in front of his boss’s desk, folding his hands properly in his lap. "If this is about my roommate, I can explain-"
" - He’s a little invasive, but he’s harmless, really."
"Mr. Odom, your big-haired 'roommate,'" he elongates the word, twisting his lips around it so it can't infect his mouth on the way out, "not withstanding, you’re not here to be fired."
Leslie opens his mouth to defend Daveed or to explain that Daveed is his roommate, no quotations needed, but this is more of a one-way conversation and his boss carries on without giving him space to rebut.
"I’ve been very impressed with your work so far. You’ve proven yourself as true Hyatt material."
"Well," Leslie clears his throat, swallowing all his instincts and biting his tongue. "Thank you, sir."
"I’d like to promote you to concierge. The job comes with a small pay bump, better hours. I think you have a bright future here, and this is the first step."
Leslie thinks about the paycheck, about a full refrigerator and the new coat that Daveed’s been eyeing for months. He thinks about his parents, good, practical people who put food on the table every night and never flinched when he asked for ballet class or piano lessons. They wanted more for him than they had.
He isn’t sure this is it, but it's got to be better than the floundering he was doing before. "When do I start?"
"I'm tired," Leslie protests, even as he does up the pair of dark, tight jeans that he's squeezed into. "I should have a say in how we're celebrating my promotion."
"Celebrations aren't about you." Daveed watches Leslie pull on a jacket and reaches out to straighten the collar. "They're about the people who got you there."
"Sure. You've been super helpful."
Daveed points to himself, mouth open in mock-outrage. "I'm the most helpful."
"Besides, if we did your thing we'd be in bed by 9."
"You are not the man I married," he sighs dramatically. "What happened to that man?"
Leslie scoffs, "good thing I didn't marry you, then," but lets himself be pushed out the door anyway.
It's getting cold outside as summer slips into fall, and Leslie pulls his jacket closer around him, wishing he had thought to bring a scarf.
"Where are we going?"
Daveed hums distractedly, only looking up from his phone so he can push through the subway turnstile and lead Leslie in the right direction.
"Daveed?" Leslie sighs, then tries, "new girl?"
"Huh?" Daveed looks up from his phone, his eyes wide. "No, what? I'm checking to make sure our plans are going as planned."
"That sounds suspicious."
Daveed ignores him in favor of indignation. "You think I could hide a gf from you? You underestimate your awareness of my every action."
"I'm honestly not sure that was English, but, point taken."
Their train pulls into the next station and Daveed hops up, pushing Leslie's shoulder toward the door. "This is our stop."
"Obviously," Leslie grouses, shivering as they come out of the subway into the dark, chill night.
Daveed wraps his arm around Leslie's shoulder, pulling him close against the wind. Leslie drops his head, lets Daveed lead until he pulls Leslie to a stop.
Leslie raises his head and is greeted by a royal blue blinking 'KARAOKE' sign.
"C-Jack." Daveed pulls away to grab the man's hand in a complicated handshake. "Meet my roommate. We're celebrating his promotion tonight."
"Congrats, man, the Hyatt's a great place."
Leslie narrows his eyes, pretty sure he knows where this is going. "How do you know where I work?"
Chris's eyes widen, and he flicks them to Daveed. "Diggs and I are in a show together. He talks a lot. Come on, the rest of the cast is excited to meet you."
"This is a set-up," Leslie hisses as Chris leads the way inside.
"A well-intentioned set-up," Daveed argues.
"I should go home."
Daveed grins and holds the door open, "The cast's inside. I know you want to meet them."
Daveed says them but means Lin.
Leslie thinks about the sheet music all over their apartment. He thinks about the way it felt to sing just that one song.
He thinks that he should really prove Daveed wrong. He should turn on his heel, get back on the subway, and be in bed well before 9, like all good-meaning corporate men.
He follows Daveed into the bar.
"Philippa. It's so nice to finally meet you."
"John. I hear a congrats shot is in order. Bartender!"
"Ignore him, he just likes making mischief. And showing off. I'm Jasmine and you should sit, you look a little overwhelmed."
Leslie's overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, this beautiful group of actors who look like him, sound like him, sing from the same places he sings from. He's overwhelmed by their kindness, by how much Daveed has told them and how much they've cared to remember. He's overwhelmed by the rounds of shots passing through his fingers.
This is what he's always wanted, but he's still standing on the outside, looking in.
He wishes it wasn't too late.
"Here" Jasmine pushes a lemon drop and a glass of water into his hands. "I think you've met everyone. They're a little much, I know."
"Yeah," Leslie agrees. "A little wonderful, though."
She laughs. "Don't let them hear you say that. We've got enough egos in here to fill ten theatres."
He laughs with her, and tips back the shot when she does.
"Oh!" Her eyes light up. "There's still someone- you have to meet Lin. Where is-?" She turns, and rolls her eyes indulgently. "Of course."
Lin's sitting at a back table, his laptop open in front of him. His hair's in a messy half-bun, held together with a pen. As Leslie watches, Lin snaps his fingers, feeling around frantically in the papers in front of him before reaching up and pulling out the pen. His hair falls in a curtain around his face.
Jasmine grabs Leslie's wrist and pulls him towards the table. She hovers over Lin, her voice light, singsong, a little tipsy. "Work's over, we're celebrating."
"I know, I know, but I just had an idea for your song. Listen, listen." Lin holds up the paper so Jasmine can see in, and starts singing a verse. It trails off a bit at the end, and Lin frowns. "Well, something like that. Lac'll work on the music a bit."
Jasmine smiles indulgently. "I'll try it in rehearsal tomorrow."
"Good, good, I-"
"There's someone you should meet. This is Leslie, Daveed's roommate."
Lin looks up. His eyes are dark brown and shining and Leslie can see him struggling to pull himself mentally back to the bar. Then he smiles, bright and a little surprised as he stands, showering papers onto the floor. "Right, hi, I'm Lin-Manuel."
"You wanna sit? I mean-" He pulls a stack of papers from the seat next to him and shoves them into his messenger bag. "Sorry about the crazy. We have previews opening in a couple months."
Jasmine nods her head encouragingly at Leslie. "You look very trustworthy, so I'm going to leave him in your capable hands. Philippa wants to do a song."
Leslie starts to protests, but she's already skipping across the room. He watches as she takes Philippa's hand, giggling into her shoulder as they head to the stage.
Leslie is somewhere in that awkward space between buzzed and blacked out, too drunk to mince his words and not drunk enough not to care. He sits, before he can fall.
"They're so good," Lin grins, watching his cast with the proudest smile on his face. They're singing the Spice Girls's Wannabe, giggling all the way through it, but Leslie can tell, under it all, that they're amazing. "Actually, I'm working on Philippa's song. It could use another opinion, if you don't mind-?"
He looks so hopeful, biting his lower lip and peering under his lashes. Leslie nods, reaching for the laptop.
He reads three lines and knows that it's good. It's so good.
"It reads like Beyoncé and Jay Z."
"Yes!" Lin's grin lights up his face, brightening his eyes and the deep, dark circles under them. "That was my inspiration. It comes through? I wasn't sure- I was thinking maybe I should use a more obvious sample."
"Nah, it's good like this. Anything more obviously would feel heavy handed. You're too good for that."
"Oh." Lin drops his eyes, looks somehow smaller, folded in on himself, like he's trying to contain his personality within the confines of his body.
Leslie reaches out, pressing his fingers to Lin's bare wrist, where he's pushed the sleeves of his Henley past his elbows. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"No, no, don't apologize." Lin flexes his wrist into Leslie's touch. "Just, that's one of the sweetest things anyone's ever said to me."
"Oh, well," Leslie shifts in his seat, pulling his hand back and wrapping his fingers around his drink. He throws his thoughts around, looking for a way, any way, to lighten the atmosphere. "You deserve it. This is brilliant, really. I tried to write a song based on Crazy in Love when I was in high school. It was an unqualified disaster."
"Really?" Leslie's grin is different this time, all mischief and intrigue. "I'd love to hear it sometime."
Leslie shakes his head, chuckling ruefully. "It's terrible. Truly."
“I don’t see how that could be true.” Lin’s grin softens and with it the atmosphere thickens again, something thrilling and electric filling the small space between their bodies.
“You don’t know anything about me,” Leslie murmurs, low and soft. It feels like a lie even as he's saying it.
“Maybe,” Lin purses his lips, like he’s weighing his words carefully before he charges ahead. “But I feel like I know everything about you.”
Leslie swallows. Lin’s gaze is intoxicating, the full force of it trained on him like Lin's a bull and he's a china shop.
“Daveed’s told us so much, I feel like I know your whole life story.”
“Oh.” Leslie’s stomach drops. He's an idiot. He had thought Lin meant- It doesn't matter what he thought. He’s done this his whole life, seen what he wanted and charged forward with no thought for reason or reality. It’s his worst trait, and he’s been so good, recently, at denying it. Leslie swallows, clears his throat until he feels like he can talk without croaking. “Don’t believe everything he’s told you.”
Lin laughs. “Of course not. Besides, it would take all the fun out of actually getting to know you. And I want to do that. I want to do that a lot.”
And Leslie is thrown right back into the deep end. He’s getting whiplash, his neck no longer strong enough to hold him above water. One look into Lin's eyes and he's drowning.
Lin leans forward, his hair brushing against Leslie’s shoulder as he drops his voice. “Look, the cast’s been begging me to sing all night. I’m supposed to be on vocal rest, but maybe, if you sang with me, it’d be alright? It’d get ‘em off my back, at least.”
“I don’t know-“
“They’ll come for you next. It’ll be better for both of us if we get it over with.”
Leslie can smell Lin’s aftershave and feel the heat of Lin's breath against his neck. He closes his eyes. “What do you want to sing?”
Lin pulls back, wrapping his fingers around Leslie’s and pulling. “There's only one possible answer to that.”
Leslie recognizes it from the opening bars.
Lin is radiating energy, shaking his limbs to wake himself up. He leans over to whisper “you sing Beyoncé's parts” in Leslie’s ear.
Leslie wants to want to argue, but it’s been so long since he’s been on stage and he’s been listening to this album since he was a kid. He steps forward, taking the mic Daveed holds up for him, and starts to sing.
I look and stare so deep in your eyes
I touch on you more and more every time
When you leave, I'm begging you not to go
Call your name two or three times in a row
Lin's grinning at him, and he doesn’t stop as he starts to rap.
A star like Ringo, roll like a green beret
Crazy bring ya whole set
Jay Z in the range, crazy and deranged
They can't figure him out; they like, "hey, is he insane?"
Yes, sir, I'm cut from a different cloth
My texture is the best fur, chinchilla
Leslie can't look away. He'd forget to sing his parts, if he wasn't so desperate to sing as many harmonies with Lin as he can before the song ends and this is all over.
When the song does end, as it inevitably has to, the crowd bursts into applause. Daveed is in the front row, his fingers in his mouth as he whistles his approval to shouts of “more, more” from the rest of his castmates.
Leslie feels more alive than he has in months. He’s sweating, his shirt sticking to the back of his neck, and his knees ache from dance moves he’s let go rusty. Next to him, Lin is breathing hard, his hair plastered to his neck. Leslie has never wanted anyone more.
Lin steps towards him and Leslie meets him halfway.
“Wanna get outta here?” Lin asks.
Leslie licks his lips. They’re dry, cracked, yearning. “The crowd wants another.”
“Better to leave them wanting.” Lin closes his eyes, his body swaying towards Leslie.
Leslie catches his waist, his palm finding the strip of bare skin where Lin’s shirt has ridden up. He can't let this go yet. He bites a groan into Lin’s ear. “Your place close?”
Lin swallows, loud enough to be a siren in Leslie’s ear. “Yeah.”
“Lead the way.”
“Hurry up,” Leslie murmurs, stepping close to Lin’s back and murmuring against his neck.
Lin pauses, leaning back into Leslie’s touch for a moment, before he goes back to digging through his messenger bag with renewed vigor.
Leslie's waited long enough. The Uber ride was torture. There was a pile of Lin’s writing supplies between them, but nothing could stop the effect of Lin’s nervous, bouncing knee and the smoldering looks he kept throwing in Leslie’s direction.
Their driver was nice, polite, but he barely waited for them to pile out of his car before he sped off. Leslie’s pretty sure he’s going to be docked stars for lewd behavior, no matter how many clothes he was still wearing. Is still wearing. Too many.
“You’re sure you live here, right?” He asks, dropping his lips to Lin’s ear.
Lin’s entire body freezes, and then he visibly shivers. “You’re not helping. Oh, there, see, I do live here.”
“Less talking,” Leslie orders, pushing Lin through his front door and pulling the bags from his hands. He drops them, carefully, into a heap by the door. “Less clothes.”
“I can do that.” Lin kicks off his shoes and starts walking backwards. “I can do that,” he repeats, as he grabs the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head.
“Careful,” Leslie laughs, reaching out to grasp Lin’s hip, saving him from a painful collision with a bookshelf. He meant just to be heroic, but Lin’s skin is warm and Leslie pulls him closer. “I’m going to kiss you.”
“Less talking,” Lin parrots, wrapping his hand around the back of Leslie’s neck and pulling him down.
Leslie doesn’t know how long he loses himself in the kiss. Lin is as passionate about kissing as he is about everything, frantic and beautiful and overwhelming. Everything he has, everything he is, is focused on Leslie, and if this is what drowning feels like, Leslie never wants to come up.
They kiss until Leslie can't stand the feel of Lin, half-naked under his hands, strong and beautiful, without being able to see him. To feel him, all of him.
Leslie wants to take him apart and put him back together, unravel him as thoroughly as he's unraveling Leslie.
He trails his fingers down Lin’s spine, relishes the way Lin moans and pushes closer. Leslie takes advantage, dropping his hand into the back of Lin’s waistband, trailing a finger into Lin’s cleft and pulling his mouth away.
Lin whimpers. “What-?”
“Bedroom,” Leslie asks – orders – and Lin’s eyes clear, just a little. He pulls at Leslie’s hips, walks them backwards until his knees hit the bed and he falls into it. His legs are spread, his pants strained between them, and he palms himself slowly, as if he’s just noticed how aroused he is.
Leslie groans, letting his eyes slip closed only briefly, before snapping open. He doesn’t want to miss a second of this.
Lin’s own eyes are dark and lidded. “You’re overdressed.”
“You’re gorgeous,” Leslie argues, as he slips out of his clothes and falls to the bed in just his briefs. Lin wraps his ankles around Leslie’s calves, thrusting upwards. Leslie bites his moan into Lin’s shoulder. “Fuck, you’re-“ Leslie shakes his head, pushing himself onto his hands so he can look at him. “You’re a lot.”
Lin tilts his head. “Is that-?” He’s derailed as Leslie traces lines down his stomach, stopping just above the clasp of his jeans. He blinks and valiantly continues. “Is that good or bad?”
“Good.” Leslie dips his head to kiss along Lin’s collarbone. “Definitely good.”
Leslie doesn’t say much after that. He occupies his mouth with Lin’s skin, kissing wet, worshipful paths down Lin’s chest until Lin is moaning, arching into Leslie’s mouth, urging him, asking him, desperate for him to go further.
Finally, Leslie flicks open the button on Lin’s jeans. He pushes until Lin raises his hips, then pulls his pants and boxers to the floor in one motion. Lin’s skin is flushed, his dark thighs quivering as Leslie lowers his mouth to the dripping tip of Lin’s erection.
“Shit, yes, Leslie, God, your mouth, your mouth, I love your mouth.” Lin doesn’t stop talking. He talks with his mouth, a stream of filthy words on every breath and moan. He talks with his hands, his fingers flexing against Leslie’s scalp as he holds Leslie in place. He talks with his body, his hips arching into Leslie’s hands, his knees rising and falling around Leslie’s head, his stomach shaking with the effort of holding back.
“Shit, Leslie, Leslie, I’m gonna- Fuck, I’m gonna-“
Leslie sucks in his cheeks, lowers his mouth, and eases Lin through it.
Lin comes back slowly, his breath evening out as he pulls at Leslie’s shoulders. “Come here, come here.”
Leslie rises to his knees and leans forward to kiss Lin, reading every word on Lin’s tongue.
He can’t remember a time where he’s been more turned on than he is now. Even with Lin’s body still recovering, even with the way he struggles to gain control of his hands as he fumbles with Leslie’s briefs, finally pushing them halfway down Leslie’s thighs, even with all of that, it doesn’t take more than a few strokes and a stream of “come on, yeah, beautiful, come for me, come for me, Leslie, come on,” and Leslie comes across their chests.
“Stay,” Lin whispers, desperately, between kisses.
Leslie kicks off his briefs and settles behind Lin, pulling the blankets over both their chests.
The bed dips and Leslie turns towards it, blinking at the sun streaming through the windows.
“Sorry to wake you, but I have coffee. And empanadas. They’re perfect hangover food.”
“Thanks.” Leslie’s throat is groggy, and he winces as he forces himself into a sitting position. “Did you make these?”
Lin laughs. “Your belief in my cooking abilities is heartening. But, no, I ran down to the corner. Figured you could use them. I could.”
“Yeah,” Leslie agrees, accepting the coffee and the pastry. “Thank you. And thank you, for last night.”
Lin flushes all the way down his neck. “No need to thank me. I had a good time. A great time, actually.”
“Me too,” Leslie agrees, leaning forward for a quick, coffee-infused kiss.
Lin’s grinning when he pulls away. “I’ve gotta get to rehearsal, but there are clean towels in the bathroom and I’d like to see you again. If that’s okay?”
Leslie can see Lin’s phone sticking half-out of his back pocket and he reaches for it. He puts in his number and hands it back. Lin accepts it, his eyes wide with the hints of arousal that Leslie’s starting to recognize. “Call me, when you can take a break.”
“I’ll make time,” Lin promises, leaning forward for another kiss. Between them, his phone starts to ring. “I’m really sorry, and I’d love to stay, I really would, but, Lac wants me to finish two songs today and there’s still something wrong with Say No To This and-“
“Hey.” Leslie presses a kiss to Lin’s throat. “I’m not gonna get mad that you love your work, okay?”
Lin sighs, deep and happy. “Okay.”
Leslie pushes him off the bed. “Go, go, have a good rehearsal. Write fast. Call me.”
Lin blows a kiss, and leaves.
Leslie wasn’t being entirely selfless when he pushed Lin out the door. He’s running late himself, and he’s running even later after the subway shuts down halfway between stations.
“Mr. Odom, you’re late,” his boss calls, as he rushes in close to 45 minutes after his shift was supposed to start.
“I know, I’m really sorry. The subway shut down and-“
His boss holds up his hand. “Excuses won’t get this lovely couple’s luggage to their room, now will it?”
“No, sir. Of course not, sir.”
“And was there a change in the dress code that I am unaware of?”
Leslie looks down at the same jeans, loose shirt, and worse-for-wear blazer that he wore last night. “No, sir. There were, ahh, problems with the dry cleaner. It won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t. The Hyatt doesn’t promote just anyone.”
“I know, sir.” Leslie tries his best to look chastised. “I really appreciate the trust you’ve shown in me.”
His boss purses his lips. “Trust can be taken as quickly as it is given.”
“And so can promotions.”
Leslie can barely hear his own thoughts over the sound of his heart. “Yes, sir.”
“Well, carry on.” He snaps his fingers. “These bags won’t carry themselves.”
Leslie’s hangover pounds in his head.
Daveed has dinner and a wolf-whistle prepared when Leslie walks in the door.
“Don’t.” Leslie holds up his hand. “It’s been a long day.”
"Long night, too."
"What?" Leslie freezes, halfway out of his jacket. It's starting to smell rank after a full night and day of wear. "Did- What did you hear?"
Daveed dries his hands on a dishtowel and leans back against the sink, smug and self-satisfied. "Nothing, but I saw you leave. Lin was right behind you." He makes a big show of stretching his neck to peer into Leslie's room. "And you definitely didn't sleep in that bed. You, my friend, got laid."
"Congrats, Sherlock." Leslie rolls his eyes, but he can't hide the grin threatening to split across his face. "That was well-deducted."
Leslie shrugs, dropping his jacket to drape across a chair and heading towards the shower, but Daveed throws down the towel and reaches for Leslie's wrist. He pulls Leslie to their kitchen table.
"Don't you dare. Sit. Eat. Talk."
"Alright, alright, the manhandling is unnecessary." Leslie slips into his chair and reaches for the chicken. "Did you actually make dinner?"
"Who me?" Daveed hands over the salad. "Of course I did. I've been home for hours with all this nervous hangover energy, waiting for you. Took forever."
"Tell me about it." Leslie stabs his chicken forcefully. His eyes are starting to feel tired with the weight of how radically his life has changed in the last 24 hours. His promotion. Lin. Daveed cooking. "I was late. I was wearing this. My boss was not happy."
Daveed rolls his eyes. "You need a new job."
"I have a new job. That's the whole point – I literally just got a promotion."
Daveed ignores him. "To go with the new boyfriend."
"He's not-" Leslie thinks about the texts he received all day, snippets of music and off-center selfies of Lin looking happy and frazzled, and promises of dinner that weekend. "I don't know what he is. He's not like anyone I've ever met."
"And you didn't believe me." Daveed fakes all kinds of righteous indignation as he leans back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. "Knew you'd hit it off the minute I met him."
"You did not."
"Totally did, honest to god. The words he writes- Leslie, you were born to sing them."
Leslie narrows his eyes. There's something growing, hard and dark and suspect, in his gut. "Is this about my love life, or your ridiculous crusade to get me to join the play?"
Daveed spreads his hands on the table, self-satisfaction slipping easily into frustration. "It's not a ridiculous crusade."
"It is." Leslie's voice is rising, he can hear it echo across their cracking plaster walls. He knows he should get a wrap on his emotions, but he's tired, it's been a long day, he's already fought with his boss and his soul feels frayed and vulnerable. Anger is all he has left. "I've given it up, what don't you get about that? And you pushing me about it all the time, it just makes it more difficult. Why do you have to make this so much harder for me?"
"You're good," Daveed explodes, pushing back his chair and standing, meeting Leslie anger for anger. "You're so good, you're brilliant. You were born with the kind of talent I've had to work so damn hard for all my life, but you're willing to just throw it all away and that's- that's-"
"Practical. Smart. Adult." Leslie stands, too. He motions to the remnants of their dinner still sitting half-eaten on the table. "Who paid for this? Who paid rent this month? Who paid it last month?"
"I don't care about any of that. I was just as happy eating ramen in a one-room studio with you. I don't need any of this."
"Well, maybe I do," Leslie spits back. It feels like this has been coming for months – no, years – of sleeping on warped floors, Daveed the only thing keeping them warm on cold winter nights and their friends' and family's generosity the only thing keeping them fed. "Maybe I couldn't take it anymore. The endless auditions with nothing to show for it but rejection after rejection after rejection. Directors telling me my voice was good but I was just missing that special something in the color of my skin."
He's breathing hard. His shirt is sticking to his chest with shame and exhaustion and sweat.
Daveed just looks sad, his shoulders folding in on themselves, resigned.
"I know. I know, okay? I was there with you every time, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah." Leslie looks down at his feet. He's still wearing his worn brown leather dress shoes from last night. His toes hurt. "I remember."
"But you know what Lin said? The first time he heard your voice?" Daveed steps closer. "He said you were perfect. The Burr he's been waiting for."
That thing in Leslie's gut grows larger, develops sharp, cutting edges and a dangerous twist.
"He said he'd do anything to have you in the show."
Leslie's eyes slip closed.
Daveed takes a step closer until he's close enough to reach out. Leslie flinches away. "That was a terrible of choice of words. I didn't mean-"
"No, no, you said exactly what you needed to say." Leslie slips out from between the counter and Daveed's reach. "I'm glad you told me."
"Leslie-" Daveed tries to follow, but Leslie closes his bedroom door behind him.
He leans back against the closed door, his eyes itching as he closes them.
He's glad he knows.
It's better to know now, before he gets in too deep.
His entire body is shaking.
He's exhausted. It's been a long, emotional day, that's all. That's why he's feeling like this.
It's stupid to feel anything but assured in his previous choices. There's a reason why he gave up this life, and all that goes with it. Lin is brilliant, talented, unique. Leslie is a failed actor-turned concierge. It never would have worked and it's stupid to mourn something he only had for a few hours. He hasn't lost anything he didn't have yesterday.
His phone beeps in his pocket and his heart rises into his throat as he pulls it out.
youve got it wrong
please call me
Leslie's eyes are wet and his entire body aches. He turns off his phone and crawls into bed.
Lin's waiting for him outside the hotel.
He's wearing a hoodie and a big wool scarf, his ratty gloves wrapped around two extra-large cups of coffee. He's shivering, with cold or nervous energy Leslie can't tell.
Leslie hadn't been expecting him.
He probably should have been.
"Hey," Lin greets, holding out a cup of coffee.
Leslie's exhausted, his entire body crusty with lack of sleep. He accepts the coffee. "Thanks."
Lin bounces on the balls of his sleep. "We're playing hookie."
The coffee is hot and sweeter than Leslie normally likes. He takes off the top so he can blow on it. "Why?"
Lin shrugs. "You're not feeling well."
"No, I mean, what are we doing?"
"Apologizing." Lin's eyes are so brown and loose, everything he's feeling written into the lines and bags. "For starters."
Leslie should say no. He should hand back the coffee, buy himself a cup that's black and thick, and start his day. And he should never look back. Now that Lin's here, though, looking so small and cold and vulnerable, looking like the future that Leslie's been searching for his whole life, he can't do anything but nod. "Okay."
Lin nods, his entire body flushing with relief. "Alright, good, I-" He shakes his head. "I didn't actually expect you to say yes."
Despite everything, Lin's nervousness makes Leslie want to smile. "I could say no, if that'll help you-"
"No, no, I'm good," Lin promises quickly, turning on his heel. "I have a plan."
Leslie falls into step next to him.
They walk in silence for long minutes in the chilly fall air. Leslie's not sure where they're headed – honestly, he's not sure they're headed anywhere in particular – but his coffee is cooling down and he's happy to sip at it and watch the leaves change and think about how different this walk could have been a mere twenty-four hours ago.
"I don't know where to start," Lin says, finally. He doesn't look at Leslie as he keeps his eyes trained on the sidewalk in front of them, careful to avoid the cracks. "I've handled this horribly from the beginning."
"Yeah," Leslie agrees, shaking his head. "And you know what's the worst of it?"
Lin steals a glance sideways, quick, almost-missable.
Leslie's voice crackles more than he thought that it would. "I really liked you and I really thought you felt the same." He clears his throat and shrugs. "You must think I'm such an idiot."
Lin trips over a crack and, despite himself, Leslie catches his elbow.
Lin leans into the touch and Leslie pulls away, quick enough to burn. Lin shivers.
"No, God, no, you're not an idiot." Lin speaks quickly, his coffee cup clasped tightly to his chest, his eyes so brown and wet. In another universe, Leslie could lose himself in them forever. "It's me- I- I fucked up. So badly."
Leslie shrugs. "At least I know now. Better now then-" He waves his hand, encompassing all the possible futures that, for one brilliant day, had laid before them. "-then later."
Lin bounces on the balls of his feet and Leslie's pretty sure that, if they weren't both adults, Lin would be stamping his foot. "You don't know. You don't know anything."
"Gee, thanks." Leslie steps away. This was stupid. He should be at work, proving to his boss that he's prepared for this promotion. The Hyatt, as drab and sad as it is, is his future. Not this. Not standing on street corners, believing again, hoping again. "I've gotta get to work. I've gotta-"
Lin races to stop him, planting himself bodily in front of Leslie. "Can I just- Please, wait-" He takes a deep breath. "Let me start at the beginning. Just, give me a chance to explain."
Leslie dumps his empty coffee cup into the nearest trashbin and crosses his arms across his chest.
"Daveed's been talking about you forever." Lin gives this little smile, throws it out into the world and hopes that Leslie will catch it. "You've been this brilliant, talented, unknown roommate for years. And then he played me your demo-"
"I didn't record any demo-" Leslie pauses, remembering the recording he stupidly recorded on his computer. "That motherfucker."
" – and suddenly you weren't unknown anymore. I heard your voice and I just- I knew you. Instantly. I've never been so inspired in my life. The tones, the nooks, the crannies, I felt like I belonged in them. I felt like your voice had been built for me."
Leslie can't look at him, but he can't look away either.
"Selfishly, I just wanted to be close to you, and getting you to sing my words- I don't know anything more intimate."
Leslie scoffs. "I can think of a few things."
Lin blushes. Leslie can see it travel down his skin, under the scarf and into his sweatshirt. "That was unexpected."
"What? You didn't expect to take me to bed? That wasn't part of yours and Daveed's seduction plan?"
Lin flinches. "It wasn't- It wasn't like that. Daveed wanted you to meet the cast. I wanted you to meet the cast. It was supposed to be a harmless bit of karaoke. In a perfect world, you'd sing with Chris or Renee and you'd give up this stupid retirement farce."
Leslie opens his mouth, but Lin barrels on.
"But then I met you and that perfect world went out the window. I wanted you. I wanted to be near you. And I know I'm not much of a catch but, somehow, you seemed to want me, too?"
"I did," Leslie breathes. It hurts, just saying it. "I do."
"I sacrificed this play I've worked so hard for, that I've spent years creating, because you smiled at me." Lin shakes his head, as if he's as astonished with his actions as Leslie is. "That's never happened before."
"And now I've lost you, as Burr, as- as mine."
Leslie closes his eyes. "I don't know what you want from me," he whispers.
"Come with me? Come see this brilliant cast, please?"
It's so much. Lin's asking so much from him, Lin's asking everything.
Leslie wants it, deep in his bones. Wants to be on stage, wants to play this brilliant character. Leslie wants Lin.
"Okay," he whispers, like it's a defeat. Like it's a beginning.
"I don't-" Lin's buzzing with energy, already sweating through his first-act clothes. "I don't know what to do with my hands. What do I do with my hands?" He looks frantically around him. "Where's Renee? I need to change that line – the one that's been driving me crazy all week, you know? I know what it needs to be."
Daveed slips into Leslie and Lin's shared dressing room and grabs Leslie's arm. "Please, for the love of God, do something with him."
Leslie laughs, focusing his attention on pulling on his britches. They're complicated, with lots of straps and fastenings. "I don't know what you think I can do."
Daveed wiggles his eyebrows. "Oh, I think you have ways of calming him down that none of us would dream of."
Leslie finishes with the pants and pulls his shirt over his head. "Paul is gonna have my head if I'm not ready on time."
"The whole cast is going to have your head if he changes another line 5 minutes before showtime."
"Okay, okay." Leslie pulls on his boots and buttons his shirt as he wades into the fray of actors behind the stage at the Public Theatre.
"Look at his." Chris motions for Leslie to join him behind the curtain. "Look at all these people." He pulls back the edge so that Leslie can see the sold out crowd taking their seats, all dressed in their best finery, carrying glasses of champagne and gold boxes of truffles.
Leslie hasn't performed in front of so many people since he was 17 years old.
He takes a deep breath, and steps back. "Have you seen Lin?"
"Yeah." Chris rolls his eyes. "Terrorizing Renee, last time I saw him."
"Thanks." Leslie pushes the curtain out of his mind and goes searching for Lin.
When he finds him, Lin is fully dressed, although he's looking a little worse for wear, the ruffle at his neck already falling apart and his shirt half-untucked.
"Leslie." Lin lights up when he catches sight of him. "Come here this." He points to Renee, who dutifully sings her new line.
"Perfect," Leslie nods at her, and she grins at him gratefully, taking the opportunity to slip away. "Hey," Leslie says, quietly, pulling at Lin's hips until there isn't more than an inch or so between them. "This play is the most amazing thing I've ever heard. You know that, right?"
Lin's eyes are wet. Leslie's internally adds himself to Sarah from make-up's shitlist, too, but oh well. Sacrifices have to be made. "You're the only reason I finished it."
"That's untrue, but it's nice to hear anyway. You were born to write this play. You were born to star in it." He pulls Lin closer. "But, it's opening night and you're scaring the cast."
"What?" Lin jerks back, but Leslie catches him, pulls him even closer. "I'm not scaring the cast."
"You are a little, yeah." He runs his hands up and down Lin's sides. "You've done something incredible here. You have to trust them to do their parts, now."
Lin's eyes slip closed. "I just want it to be perfect."
"It will be," Leslie promises, dropping his forehead to Lin's and lowering his voice. "Thank you, for saving me."
"Shit." Lin reaches up to wipe at his eyes. He's dripping tears, now, and Sarah is definitely going to kill Leslie now. "I didn't want to cry."
"Yeah." Lin laughs wetly. "It really was. I love you."
Leslie drops his chin, kisses Lin, long and sweet. Then he takes a step back, straightens Lin's collar and wipes at his cheeks. "Break a leg."
Lin straightens Leslie's costume. Their stage manager rushes by, whisper-screaming orders. The first chord plays, the audience goes quiet, and Lin pulls Leslie in for a quick, desperate kiss.
Then Leslie steps past the curtain.
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean, by providence impoverished, in squalor,
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar