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Selfishness Must Always Be Forgiven

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Lotta dropped a plate of toast in front of Jean and sat down, propping her chin up on her hand. "You're moping," she said.

"Hmm?" Jean asked. His mouth was full of toast and jam, but he was mostly just confused.

"Moping!" Lotta said. "Every time you're home from a district lately, you spend all your time sighing and staring out the windows."

Jean chewed and swallowed and put down his toast. "I'm not moping," he said, and tried to smile. "I'm just tired. Anyone would be tired visiting a new district almost every week."

Lotta clucked her tongue, and Jean was suddenly so reminded of their mother that his heart clenched in his chest. "You work too hard," she said. She wagged her finger at him. "And you smoke too much. Maybe you just need to go out and have fun! Is Nino still busy?"

Jean hastily crammed more toast into his mouth. "Mmm," he said.

*

The first time Jean climbed onto their roof, he nearly gave his parents a heart attack. They thought he was playing alone in his room, but he'd quietly left their top floor apartment to climb higher. When his mom found him, she told him when she was a kid she always wanted to grow wings and fly away. Then she hugged him tight and told him to just tell her next time. Jean really hadn't meant to scare her. It was just that he always liked looking out over Badon, and as a kid, he always liked being alone best. Though, he supposed, he'd never been alone. Not really. Not even now.

Jean took a drag of his cigarette and exhaled, staring out at the horizon. He couldn't feel anyone's eyes watching him; Nino had been serious about not getting caught again, but Jean knew that if he just asked, Nino would reveal himself. Nino would probably do anything Jean asked. That was the problem.

He dropped his cigarette onto the ground and stubbed it out with his shoe. Before he headed back inside, he looked over his shoulder.

*

Headquarters was bustling that morning, inspection reports from every district clogging their systems all at once. The rest of his office was worked up more than usual by the time morning snack rolled around. Atori brought the box over to Jean's desk, so he could have a look.

He smiled up at her. "What's good today?"

"Everything!" Atori gushed. "It's from this chocolate shop in the north district, where you can buy by weight. I definitely bought too much, but it's so worth it."

Jean stared down at the little squares of chocolate, delicately decorated and lined up in neat rows. "I know the place," he said, and picked one with a little frosting strawberry piped on top and took a bite. Jean wasn't as addicted to chocolate as some people, but he knew what was good, and this was good. "My friend loves that shop."

"I didn't even know you had friends," Atori said.

"Atori!" Keri admonished, but Jean didn't mind.

"I have friends," he assured them all. Well. He had friend. Maybe.

*

Jean kept replaying the story in his head, wondering how things could have played out if he'd just known. He couldn't blame Nino for keeping everything secret. It was hard to blame him for upholding his father's wishes and fulfilling his lifelong duty. But Nino had helped him so much after his parents were killed, had been the glue that kept Jean from shattering into a million pieces and had kept Jean and Lotta stuck together. Jean just wished he could travel back in time and comfort Nino, too.

Nino lost his dad when Jean lost his parents, and couldn't talk about it. He'd lost the only family he'd ever known, and kept Jean's family from falling apart. Looking back, it kind of made sense that the first time Nino took Jean drinking was after the accident. Jean had been wasted that night, and he knew he talked too much. Nino was so good at getting Jean to drink.

What had Nino done while Jean lost himself in his cups? Jean thought about it. Nino probably listened. Nino always listened.

"Sir?" the man behind the counter at Mugimaki said, so tentative and unsure that Jean knew this wasn't the first time he'd tried getting Jean's attention.

Jean shook his head, clearing it. "Sorry. I'll start with four centimeters of the tomato, cut into three slices."

*

"Okay," Jean announced as he left the shop, holding his full bag in one arm and fumbling for his lighter with his free hand. "I'm ready now."

Awareness came in steps. First, Jean was walking by himself down the side streets and he had a moment of worry where he thought maybe he'd been talking to nobody. Then, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, the way they always did when he knew someone was watching him. Next, Jean heard soft footsteps on the sidewalk that weren't his own, but when he looked behind him, no one was there. The steps grew louder, but stopped when Jean paused to grind out his cigarette. They picked back up again when Jean started walking again.

When Jean got out onto the main drag, Nino's motorcycle was parked on the corner, two helmets hanging from the handlebars. Jean looked behind him, but he couldn't see anyone yet. He stored the bread in the side compartment and strapped on a helmet, leaning against the bike to wait. Nino emerged from a direction Jean hadn't expected, but that was kind of his way, proving he could always stay hidden just because he wanted to hide. Maybe Nino was still trying to prove to himself the time Jean spotted him was just a fluke.

"Did you want to go for a ride?" Jean asked.

"I want to take you home," Nino said. Jean blinked. "Lotta will worry."

Nino was right; she probably would. It was weird that Jean was the older one, but Lotta did so much of the fretting. But, he supposed, there had been so many years where things had been the other way around.

Jean tossed Nino the other helmet. "Let's get going then."

*

Jean had been on the back of Nino's motorcycle plenty of times, but he never felt so aware of it before: the way he wrapped his arms around Nino's middle, the way Nino straightened in his seat just a little every time Jean tightened them, the inside of his legs pressed against the outside of Nino's, the smell of Nino's leather jacket and the way Jean could actually feel Nino's breath catch when he leaned his cheek against Nino's back. Had it always been like this and Jean just hadn't noticed? Thirty years of missing everything was a hell of a way to live.

The streets of Badon went by in a rush as Nino ducked and weaved through traffic, and before Jean knew it, Nino had him home.

"You should come up," Jean said, unstrapping his helmet and placing it on the seat. "Lotta worries about you, too, you know."

Nino looked up and up at the high-rise. "Do you want me to come up or does Lotta?"

"Me," Jean said. He glanced sidelong at Nino until Nino finally looked back. Jean smiled. "I wanted you to take me home."

"God," Nino muttered under his breath, but he didn't seem unhappy. And he walked right through the front entrance and into the lobby without waiting for Jean.

*

"Nino!"

Lotta's smile lit up her whole face. Jean felt the corners of his own mouth going up at the sight; there were only a few people in Dowa who could make him smile so easily and most of them were standing in his front hall.

Nino looked at Jean, asking a silent question, and Jean shook his head just a little. No, he hadn't told her. Yes, he wanted to and he would, but he was looking for the right time. Yes, he understood how hard keeping this secret must have been for Nino.

"You look beautiful," Nino said, leaning down to kiss Lotta on the cheek. She was dressed to go out, her hair down, reminding Jean of their mother again. They looked so much alike that Jean didn't know how he hadn't noticed it earlier, and now that the veil had been lifted, that was all he thought about every time he looked at his sister. "Very grown-up," Nino added.

Lotta hit Nino in the arm. "Of course I look grown-up. I'm an adult now, or did you forget?"

"Sorry, sorry," Nino said, putting up his hands defensively. He was smiling now, and Jean felt a pang in his chest, some mix of feelings he couldn't quite describe. "Did you miss me?"

"Of course I missed you," Lotta said. She reached up and patted his cheek. "You work too hard, just like this one." She glared at Jean briefly. "And of course you show up just as I'm on my way out. I left dinner for Jean, but there's plenty for both of you if you're hungry."

"Where are you going?" Jean asked.

"I have a date," Lotta said loftily. "One of the local ACCA guys saw me eating by myself at the cafe downstairs, and just asked. He's cute and has good hair," she added. "Don't wait up."

Jean opened his mouth to say something, brotherly duty getting a rise of indignation out of him, but Nino clapped his hand against Jean's back and he shut it again. "Have fun," Jean said.

After Lotta left, Nino burst into laughter, doubling over like he did any time something really delighted him. "She's got you wrapped around her little finger," Nino said, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. "I didn't realize how much."

"You did, though," Jean said, and stared at Nino long enough that the smile slowly faded from his face and turned into something else. Something more intense. "Is there anything about me that you don't know?"

Nino shrugged. "Let's find out."

*

They ate the food that Lotta left them, then got into the bread Jean brought home and all the wine Nino had brought over the last time he'd been there, before Jean knew everything and his life suddenly made no sense and all the sense at once.

"I think the chocolate one is my favorite," Nino said, ripping his bread into chunks before popping them into his mouth. Jean watched his hands as he did it.

"Of course you do," Jean said. "I get that one for you, you know."

Nino looked up at him, but didn't say anything, just took another bite.

"Do you like that better than Dowa's district bread?" Jean asked.

"I was very young when we left Dowa," Nino said. "It's not really home anymore. Nothing about that life is my life now." He ate more of the bread Jean bought for him. Jean poured a glass of wine for himself. He downed the whole thing in a gulp, way too fast for someone with his tolerance.

"You know, you could have told me earlier," Jean said. The wine hadn't gone to his head yet, but it was only a matter of time, and he might as well get a jump on his lowered inhibitions. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

Nino sighed and stared down at the table. "I wanted to. I wanted to very, very much, so many times that I lost count years ago. But my supervisor didn't want me to and I know my dad wouldn't have liked it, if he were still around. It would have been selfish to tell you, and I'm already selfish enough about you." He looked up again then and met Jean's eyes.

Jean's face heated up at that, and for the first time, he considered that maybe wine didn't go to his head quite as fast as he'd always thought. Maybe something else got the jump every time, and Jean had just been oblivious. For an inspector, he wasn't particularly good at inspecting his own life. "Drink more," Jean said eventually, lighting up a cigarette even though Lotta would be mad about him smoking inside. "I'm not getting drunk alone tonight."

Nino picked up the wine bottle and shook it from side to side. "I'll make you sorry you said that."

Jean smiled.

*

"Are you sorry yet?" Nino mumbled later on, resting his forehead against the table's surface.

Jean was slumped in his chair, looking at Nino with one eye open. "Nino on the left," Jean said, then looked at Nino with the other eye open. "Nino on the right." He opened both eyes. "Nino in the middle."

Nino groaned and sat up. "Great. Mission accomplished: we're both very drunk."

"Yes," Jean agreed. He gripped the edge of the table and pulled himself to his feet. He wobbled, but was very proud to stay upright. All the empty bottles on the table shook threateningly. "And Lotta will kill us if she comes home to a mess and the two of us asleep in the kitchen. Help me clean up."

"Have some mercy on an old man," Nino said, but when Jean offered his hands to help Nino up, he took them. They were very close together when Nino got to his feet, Nino's hands still in Jean's. Jean absentmindedly rubbed his thumb over Nino's knuckles, and Nino cleared his throat and pulled away. "After we clean up, I should go."

Jean shook his head. "Where will you go? You can't ride your motorcycle like this. Stay here."

"Fine," Nino said. "It wouldn't be the first time I spent the night on your couch."

Jean shook his head again. That wasn't right either. "Not that. Stay with me."

"You don't know what you're asking," Nino said.

"Who says I don't?" Jean demanded. "C'mon. Lotta will be mad if I'm not a proper host. You don't want her to be mad at me, do you?" Somewhere in the back of his fuzzy mind, Jean knew he was playing dirty.

"I don't, you're right," Nino agreed. "Okay." He slid his glasses off of his face and tossed them onto Jean's table, then he laughed. "I don't even need those, you know."

Jean laughed too. It was nice to hear Nino's laugh.

It took twice as long as it should have, but Jean and Nino finally finished cleaning up. Jean wandered off to the bathroom after, took a piss, brushed his teeth, and stripped down to his boxer shorts. He gathered up his laundry and dropped it into the bin, then wandered back out again. Nino was on Jean's bed, fully dressed with his arms crossed over his chest and his ankles crossed one over the other. Without Nino's glasses to obscure his eyes, Jean saw it — it was quick and Jean was drunk, but he saw it anyway, the way Nino's eyes flicked down and back up again as soon as Jean came into the room.

"Do you usually sleep like that?" Jean asked.

"Hmm?"

"Fully dressed." Jean gestured. "You're wearing skinny jeans."

"I've slept in my clothes," Nino said, sounding confused. "I've slept here in my clothes."

"I know. That's not what I asked," Jean said. He shut the door to his room and stumbled over to the bed, sinking into the mattress as soon as he could. His head was very happy about this change from vertical to horizontal.

Nino huffed. "No, I don't usually sleep like that."

Jean shrugged and waved a hand lazily in the air. "Well, do whatever it is you usually do then."

For a second, Jean thought Nino was going to argue with him some more, but he didn't. He got to his feet and pulled his black sweater up and over his head. Nino's body was turned away from Jean, and Jean felt a little bad watching the way the muscles in Nino's back moved, even through the drunken haze, even knowing how often Nino had watched him where Jean couldn't see. Jean swallowed when Nino's hands moved to unbutton his jeans and pushed them down past his thighs.

Nino climbed back into Jean's bed. "Happy?"

"Very," Jean said, and gave Nino a sleepy, drunk smile. Then he rolled over and turned off the light. "‘Night, Nino."

There was a long pause. "Good night, Jean."

*

The next morning, Jean's first half-asleep thought was about how warm he was. It was on the verge of too much, like he'd thrown an extra blanket onto the bed last night but the early morning sunlight made it unnecessary. That was about the point when Jean also realized that the cause wasn't an extra blanket; Jean was pressed to Nino's back, his face against the back of Nino's neck, his arm thrown over his middle tightly enough that it was a little sore with the effort of keeping Nino in place. Maybe in his sleep Jean thought Nino might leave.

But Nino, still asleep, wasn't moving. The only way Jean knew that their night of drinking hadn't killed him was the soft even sound of his breathing. And since Jean also had survived the night, they were two for two. Jean's head was killing him, though, and he suspected that was one of the only reasons he wasn't having a low-key freakout right then. At that moment, Nino — still asleep — decided that was the best time to move, shifting back and pressing them together more fully.

Jean's eyes fluttered open and he exhaled hard. Brain dying, below the waist functional, check. The lizard part of his brain wasn't as hungover as the rest of him because it started up with a bunch of dream scenarios. What would Nino do if Jean just rubbed up against him for a while? Would he sleep through it, or maybe pretend to sleep through it until Jean was finished? Would he wake up and murmur Jean's name, push his hand under his own waistband and match up their timing? Would he turn around and help?

In his sleep, Nino groaned. Then he muttered, "My brain is trying to eject itself out through my eyes."

Jean froze, just for a second, then rolled onto his back so they weren't so close and threw his arm over his eyes. "Really?" Jean said. "I feel great."

"Really?"

"No."

Nino snorted. "Good."

*

Lotta was drinking tea when they stumbled into the kitchen a little while later, dressed and semi-human. Jean had gotten ready when Nino did, the two of them sitting on opposite sides of the bed. He felt a little guilty about it, but Jean had glanced over his shoulder while Nino pulled his clothes from the night before back on.

"You left your glasses on the table, Nino," Lotta said. "Aren't you blind right now?"

Nino grunted noncommittally and slipped them back on, the dark lenses obscuring his eyes. It struck Jean that Nino could have lost the glasses years ago, the need to conceal his age growing less important as Nino ingratiated himself more into their lives and Jean got old enough that they just naturally looked like contemporaries. Maybe it was a security blanket, maybe it was just habit. Jean didn't know. At any rate, they were probably helping him hide from all the awful natural light streaming in through Lotta and Jean's wide glass doors right now, and Jean wished he had a pair, too.

Lotta looked both of them up and down. "It's good you stayed last night," she told Nino, putting a piece of dry toast and a cup of tea in front of him. "Let us take care of you once in a while."

Jean threw Lotta a wobbly, grateful smile. She had such a way of boiling things down to the essentials. Then, she gave him his own tea and toast and a wave of fierce protectiveness rolled over him. It was strange that he knew that Lotta and Nino were now perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, but they were still the ones he wanted to make sure never got hurt. After losing his parents thirteen years ago, he didn't think he could do it again. For all of Nino's talk of being selfish, Jean wondered if he had any idea how selfish Jean was.

"I should go home," Nino said, after he'd eaten enough to satisfy Lotta. He started to stand up. Jean and Lotta both looked at him.

"Can I come with you?" Jean asked suddenly.

Nino was so caught by surprise by that that he couldn't even hide it. "Yeah," he said finally. "You should come over."

*

In the weeks Jean spent alone after the Nino thing came to light, Jean realized how bad he was at questioning anything. Nino never invited Jean over, but Jean just thought that meant Nino was embarrassed about his place in some way or just wanted his privacy. When Lotta was eight, she'd bodily blocked Jean from entering her room, saying she had the right to privacy; Jean thought that was okay reasoning and never went in again without an invitation. Everyone had the right to a little piece of themselves that was just for them, after all. Now, though, Jean was stuck wondering if Nino had ever had that at all.

"Can I smoke in there?" Jean asked, as they stood in front of Nino's door. Nino's apartment was at the top of three cramped flights of stairs and at the end of a dark hallway.

Nino turned his key in the lock and shrugged. "Do what you want," he said. "I think there's an ashtray here somewhere."

Jean opened up his silver case and had a cigarette halfway to his mouth as he stepped inside, but he didn't even have a chance to reach for his lighter before he stopped in his tracks. Nino's apartment was as small and cramped as the stairs led Jean to believe, but he hadn't been expecting the pictures. Line after line of photographs of Jean and Lotta, mostly Jean, stretched across Nino's small living room and kitchen. Jean slowly inspected them, and Nino let him. The earliest ones started while Jean was in high school; he specifically remembered when a lot of them were taken, in fact, the way he'd turn and find Nino behind him, already snapping away. For the Photography Club, he'd said, but how had Jean never asked why he was practically Nino's only subject?

"My dad wouldn't like this," Nino said, sounding almost embarrassed and startling Jean. "He always sent his favorites to your grandfather, never kept them for himself." Jean touched one of the pictures, one of Jean and Nino together, when Nino had put on a timer and jumped into the frame. In it, Jean wasn't looking at the camera, only at Nino, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Something odd thumped inside Jean's chest.

"I'm glad you kept them," Jean said finally. He lit his cigarette and took a drag. Nino opened a cabinet and rifled around until he found an ashtray. Jean was already by the table and there wasn't enough room for the two of them, so Nino leaned into Jean's space just as Jean exhaled. An apology was already on Jean's lips, but Nino inhaled automatically and anything Jean was going to say died in this throat.

Nino breathed out. "It's a terrible habit," he said, "but you look so good doing it."

Jean closed his eyes. A number of ways this could go flashed through his mind: he could wait for Nino to make a move because he'd deferred to Jean so often, or Jean should go for it because Nino was always too careful around him, or he could step away and let the moment pass. "That was unfair," he said eventually. He put the cigarette to his lips again, inhaling slowly and making sure Nino was watching him. Then he turned his head to the side and blew it out in a smoky cloud before stubbing out the cigarette in Nino's ashtray. It was a waste and Jean hated waste, but what he was about to say was more important. Jean wrapped his fingers around Nino's wrist and squeezed. "You know you're allowed to want things, right? Don't ever feel bad about that." He let go and pushed by Nino then, just taking in Nino's wide, surprised eyes as he went.

The last row of photos nearest to the window weren't of Jean or Lotta. At first, Jean thought they were of Nino himself because they were mostly taken inside this apartment, but then he realized in a couple of them, the man had a little boy with him, and in a couple more, the man was definitely older than Nino was now. "Is this your father?" Jean asked.

"Yes," Nino said. He was right behind Jean again, leaning down to talk directly into Jean's ear; Jean hadn't even heard him move. "He wouldn't like that I kept those, either." Then he pressed his lips to the side of Jean's neck. Jean shivered. "I'll try not to feel bad about the things I want. Is that good enough?"

Jean turned around. "What more could I ask for?"

He meant it rhetorically, of course, but Nino chuckled anyway. "Anything," he said. "I've been waiting for you to realize that for years."

Nino pushed Jean against the wall then, threading his fingers with Jean's as he leaned in to press their mouths together. Jean closed his eyes in an attempt to take the edge off the wave of feeling he was riding. It didn't work, especially not when Nino was so determined to overwhelm him. Jean opened his mouth and slumped against the wall, tilting his head up and to the side. He tugged his hands out of Nino's grip and wrapped his arms around Nino's waist, pulling him in closer. Nino let out a surprised little hum and steadied himself against the wall, both hands on either side of Jean's head and one leg between both of Jean's.

Jean pushed his hands up under Nino's shirt, moving his hands restlessly up and down. Nino broke away, and pressed his mouth to Jean's jaw, the lobe of his ear. Jean tilted his head up toward Nino's ceiling and Nino sucked on the side of his neck. Jean heard a moan distantly and realized it was just him. It was like he was having an out-of-body experience; he felt like he had no control over his hands either, as they ran over Nino's warm sides and then grabbed Nino's ass. Jean's fingers fumbled open the button and zipper on Nino's jeans just as Nino bit down on Jean's shoulder, and they both groaned at the same time.

Nino pulled away to look at Jean's face. "Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked breathlessly. Jean just raised and eyebrow and stared. His tongue darted out to wet his lips and he deliberately kept Nino's gaze as he pulled out Nino's dick and began to stroke. Nino started to move one of his hands from the wall, but Jean shook his head.

"Stay where you are," Jean pleaded, and his voice already sounded so wrecked that he barely recognized it. "We have time. Let me do this for you."

Jean pulled his hand away briefly, licking his palm and sucking each of his fingers into his mouth, before wrapping around Nino again. Nino closed his eyes and braced against the wall, his breath hitching in his throat every time Jean stroked up again. Jean turned his head and pressed a kiss to Nino's hand.

"Is this what you do to yourself?" Nino asked, and then moaned.

"Mostly," Jean admitted, rubbing his thumb over the head of Nino's dick.

"Will you show me?"

Jean sped up at that, just like he would if he was doing himself and pretending Nino's voice was whispering low into his ear. If he were alone and picturing a scene like this one, he wouldn't last long; he wondered if it was the same for Nino. "I'll show you," Jean said. "Haven't you figured out I'd do whatever you wanted, too?"

Nino surged forward then and kissed him again, his tongue fucking Jean's mouth at the same pace as Jean's hand. Nino's muffled gasps grew into moans loud enough that Jean could feel the vibrations running down his body. When Nino came, shuddering and warm in between them, Jean felt a sense of triumph, even though he already knew he'd need to borrow a shirt from Nino before he went back home. He wiped his hand against the front of his shirt and pulled it over his head, throwing it across the room. Nino slid to his knees in front of Jean, and Jean looked down.

"Show me," Nino said, gripping Jean's thighs and nuzzling his nose against Jean's zipper.

Jean's hands were shaking a little. He undid his pants and pulled himself out, feeling awkward doing it. He pushed his thumb into Nino's mouth, then each of his fingers in turn. Just a little push and Nino could be sucking him and probably happy to do it, but that wasn't what Nino had asked for. Jean started to jerk himself off inches from Nino's face, making sure Nino could see exactly how Jean liked being stroked, how tight he liked his grip.

"Nino," Jean murmured, and once he started, he found he couldn't stop. "Nino, Nino, please, Nino, god, I'm going to —" he warned, but Nino didn't move, so Jean came right there, painting a stripe across Nino's cheek and getting come in his hair. Jean closed his eyes and shuddered and laughed quietly, and he didn't fight it when Nino stood up and kissed him again, and again, and more, and after a while, Nino led him into his bedroom and Jean saw all the photographs there, too.

*

"That wasn't the shirt you were wearing," Lotta said later, after Jean came home. She was eating walnut bread he'd bought from Mugimaki the day before.

"Hello to you, too," Jean said, dropping his keys on the table. "I got something on the one I was wearing. Nino's washing it for me."

Lotta grinned. "I'm glad you two aren't fighting anymore. You're so much more relaxed when Nino's around."

"Fighting?" Jean said carefully. "We weren't fighting. Nino was busy with work. You know he travels even more than me."

"Sure," Lotta said, and waved her hand easily. "Whatever you say, bro. You should invite him over for dinner this week. Tell him to bring me chocolate, too, because our supply is criminally low!"

Jean hadn't realized he was such an easy read, but maybe he should have. At any rate, he was having a hard time feeling even a little annoyed right now. "What about you?" he asked, changing the subject. "You never told me how your date went last night."

Lotta's eyes lit up. "Oh, it was really great! He took me to a little out of the way cafe that he says all the district cops like, and they had the best gnocchi. It had a brown butter and sage sauce!"

Jean smiled. "Was your date as memorable as the food?"

"Almost," Lotta said. "He asked me out again, and I'll probably say yes. I think you even know him, his name is Rail?"

"Mushroomhead?" Jean said, without thinking. "I thought you said he had good hair."

Lotta laughed. "Like you're one to judge, Mr. Same Hair Since High School," she said. She smiled slyly. "Well, I'm sure it's fine as long as Nino still likes it."

Jean raised his eyebrows. "I'm going outside to smoke."

*

The lights of Badon seemed brighter tonight, Jean thought, as he flicked ash away. Jean usually wasn't one to give himself over to poetry, but he couldn't help it today.

He wondered if Nino was watching him now, silently from the shadows somewhere, or maybe just thinking about Jean while all of his photographs looked down on him. Either option made Jean happy.

When he was done, Jean slipped back inside and found Lotta watching the news. He flipped it off and Lotta looked up at him.

"Lotta, would you like to hear a story about Mom?"

*

"Assistant director, you've been in such a good mood all day!" Moz said to Jean at the end of the day on Monday.

"Of course he is," Knot said. "He didn't have to travel at all this week. It's always nice when you can relax at home."

Atori shook her head. "No, it's something else."

Jean smiled. "It is something else," he admitted. "I had a nice time with a friend."

When he left for the day, Jean threw his ACCA jacket over his shoulder and walked out to where Nino was waiting in front of his motorcycle. "I have to go to Peshi for a few days. Want to come with me? I'll let you take some pictures you could never show the king."

"Sure," Nino said, and smiled. "Want to get some dinner right now and come home with me after?"

"Sure," Jean said, and smiled back.