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A Stranger on the Street

Chapter Text

David turned the corner, almost bumping into someone as his eyes were turned up towards the street name on the building opposite. Calling out an apology to the guy who had already moved on, David frowned at the sign. Duane Street, he was pretty sure this one had been mentioned in the directions but he had lost track of how far along he was, did he go left or right next? He turned back onto West Broadway and glanced around. Approaching an older man standing looking at his paper, he began to ask for directions. At that moment a busker nearby kicked up the sound on his guitar and burst into his chorus.

Don’t walk away, baby
You got so much on your mind
I’ve got something to say baby-

Although the musician had a pretty good voice and David might otherwise have stopped to listen, now he just raised his voice to catch the man’s attention.

“Excuse me, sir? Could you help me out, see I’m trying to get to –”

“Can’t help you kid, I’m in a hurry.” He said, turning away and strolling in a very unhurried fashion down the street.

“Yeah, thanks, I can tell.” David called after him anyway. There just wasn’t any need to be rude like that. He heard a chuckle.

“Where you trying to go?” A voice called from close by and David turned around, expecting to see someone looking at him. When movement caught his eye he looked down to see the busker waving slightly from his stool. “Hi.” He said with a smirk once David had identified him.

“Oh. Hi. That’s okay, I’m-” David was a little flustered that this guy had stopped his playing to talk to him. This guy, with the endearing smirk, and okay, a very good voice and guitar player’s hands and nope. Wasn’t this his job or something that he was stopping? Was he losing potential income for David to ask directions?

“No worries, I can help. Ain’t no one knows this part of town like I do.” The musician continued, apparently unfazed by David’s stumbled refusal of his help.

“If you’re su- I mean, okay, I need to be on Elk and Chambers Street and I thought this was the street but I don’t think it looks right.”

“Chambers? You’re almost right, just carry on 2 blocks down West Broadway, turn left and keep going 3 blocks more. It’s a little street but you’ll spot the buildings before you’re there.” He rattled off confidently and David smiled and nodded appreciatively, thinking how this guy’s broad New York accent made him surprisingly seem more, rather than less, amiable.

“3 blocks?” He repeated, when he registered it was his turn to say something.

“3 blocks.” The musician confirmed with a bemused smile, then looked Davey up and down appraisingly. “So, you’re either going to the Dance school, or the courts, and that jacket don’t look like it’s made for dancing.”

David looked back at the musician with what he hoped was a cool stare. “Why do you care? I just asked for directions.”

“Hey no offense meant. I only like to know a little something about the people I talk to. Best part of New York is the folks in it.”

“Hmph, debatable.” David gestured over his shoulder in the direction of the man who had refused to help before. Jack laughed and tipped his head in acknowledgement.

“Then, how ‘bout a name? I’m Jack Kelly.” He held out his hand in greeting and David felt himself drawn forward to take it.

“David. Jacobs. I’ve got a job interview.” He said, and okay, maybe the way he blurted it out was not the calm, collected look he was going for, but he was already stressed about the interview, and had not been prepared to deal with cute, helpful guys this morning on top of that.

“Well in that case Davey, you look great, the new boss will sure be impressed.”

Scratch that, a friendly, cute and complimentary guy. David didn’t know if this was his best or worst day.

“Thanks, I uh, I should get going.” David managed to get out, pointing over his shoulder in the direction Jack had shown him. “Don’t wanna be late.”

“Good luck. Show ‘em they deserve you.” Jack smiled, something genuinely encouraging, and David noticed.

“Thanks, thanks for your help.” He replied and turned to walk down the street, not quite sure what had just happened to his voice or his brain. As he walked away, he heard the guitar strumming pick up again on the same song he had interrupted before.

The corner of Duane he had started on was just a couple of buildings away, and as he approached David struggled to remember what Jack had said. This is why he didn’t stop to ask for directions from distractingly attractive people. He started to turn the corner, not paying attention when he heard Jack reach the chorus of his song again.

Don’t walk that way Davey

David glanced back over his shoulder in surprise to see Jack looking straight at him with an amused, but not mocking, grin, while singing the unamended next line of his song. He gestured with a nod of his head, reminding David to walk straight on. David replied with a wave of his hand and quickly looked away, hoping to hide the blush he felt rising on his cheeks.

Good luck today Davey
Take a breath and you’ll do fine

Though he stopped hearing the lyrics after crossing the road, Davey could still pick out the sound of Jack’s voice until he turned, correctly, onto Chambers Street.

And if he started humming Jack’s song while waiting, alone and nervous, in the reception before being called through for the interview, well he couldn’t deny it gave him a little boost of confidence that he needed.

Chapter Text

David hurried back to the corner of West Broadway and Duane after the interview. He felt a lot better than he had in his stress to get there, except for a small feeling of guilt that he couldn't shake. So as he turned the corner back onto West Broadway, he allowed himself a small smile when he heard the sounds of guitar still filtering through the street noise. He reached for the wallet in his bag and pulled out a few dollars, identifying the Sam Smith cover as he drew closer. Jack was nearing quite an impressive ending to the song.

Okay, so the guy could really sing and David happened to notice that he wasn't the only one who dropped some notes into the guitar case as he passed. He meant to just catch Jack's eye and smile, showing his gratitude for the help earlier but as soon as Jack saw him he grinned widely and flipped the guitar onto his back, standing once more to greet him.

He stepped around the case hurriedly and drew level with David, who found himself struggling to just say the simple thanks he had come for.

"For earlier, you know? You helped me out a lot."

Jack gestured at the change in the case, a suddenly apprehensive look on his face. "I didn't help you just to get some extra cash."

David looked up in surprise at his almost disappointed tone. "No, no I didn't mean it like that. It was supposed to be thanks. You really helped me out of a whole lot of stress this morning."

Jack reached up a hand to rub his neck, still smiling at David. "Ahh well, I wouldn't go that far. It was just a few directions." David might have been surprised by how the guy never seemed to drop eye contact, even with a stranger he met just that morning, but he couldn’t seem to care when he met the genuine warmth there.

“Well, thanks. I wanted to return the favour. Not that that’s why you did it! But I thought I should. I mean…thanks.” David could have kicked himself, mouth running away from him as it ever did.

“How did it go, anyway?” Jack said, and David hoped he wasn’t turning too pink from the way the musician was smiling at him, amused.

“Oh, er, I don’t really like to guess. I think fine?” David shrugged, he wasn’t superstitious about jinxing it, his problem was more that he didn’t want to risk getting his own hopes up. Though he regretted it when his lacklustre answer seemed to give the wrong message to Jack, who looked down, a little less brightly, and let one of his hands fiddle with the neck of his guitar, hanging down by his side. “Well, anyway, I should let you get back to…playing.” David gestured and took a step back, immediately getting into the path of someone else on the sidewalk.

When he had finished apologising and dared turn back to Jack, the way the musician was looking to the side was almost certainly to hide a laugh. David tried to bite down his embarrassment, and made a mental note to never walk this street again, ever. Just in case.

Then Jack looked up and gave a little, self-conscious and adorable wave through the stream of people that had managed to come between them as he had fumbled and David scrapped that thought. He would definitely come back down this street. “See you around, Davey.” He went back to his stool, and propped the guitar back on his knee, striking up a fast paced strumming pattern, while never taking his eyes from David until he turned away.

My head is stuck in the clouds
He begs me to come down
Says ‘Boy, quit fooling around’

David turned back as he registered that this song had almost certainly not been written about two boys in the first place and Jack spotted him looking. He gave a quick wink and continued singing with a smirk.

I told him
I love the view from up here
Warm sun and wind in my ear
We’ll watch the world from above
As it turns to the rhythm of love

David listened to the song lyrics as he walked away, and once his back was safely turned, he was able to look down at the pavement and feel his ears burning red. Jack was bold, that was one word for it. And David was going to see him again, he would make sure of it.

Chapter Text

It was almost two weeks before David heard back from the interview and had to restrain himself from whooping down the phone when they told him he had been given the internship. And that they had been very impressed by his interview. He was asked to start the following Monday, since he didn’t have anywhere that needed him to hand in a notice.

His first thought, after hanging the phone up and jumping giddily around his bedroom for a moment because he had finally got a job, was of Jack, the busker, who he might even see on his way to work every day this spring.

With that thought, David felt like a wander down the street might be just the way to celebrate. He grabbed his scarf on the way out, hoping to keep back the chill air of the day.

It was half an hour later, as he stood just around the corner of West Broadway listening to a Jason Mraz song on the guitar that David asked himself if he could really do this. He had walked along the main street until he spotted Jack up ahead, then he’d immediately turned onto a different street to avoid being spotted. Now, he came bearing what he hoped was a suitable thank you gift, since he didn’t want Jack to think he was just going to pay him and walk off again.

But moving forwards onto the street was proving difficult. Maybe Jack was bold, but David certainly wasn’t and this was the most spontaneous thing he had ever planned to do. He took a deep breath, listened until it sounded like near the end of the song, and walked around the corner.

Jack’s eyes caught David before he finished the last chorus and somehow the smile he gave spread to his voice, making the last few words sound impossibly warmer and richer. Or maybe David was letting his imagination get away from him.

“Davey! Nice to see you around my neighbourhood again.”

“You remember me.” David said in relief, though he realised it sounded dumb even as the words came out. Jack just laughed, immediately waving off the possible awkwardness David was imagining.

“I told you, learn a little bit about a person and they become more than just a face on the street.” He then cocked his head at the two takeout coffee mugs in David’s hands.

“Oh right. I wanted to thank you - again. But without giving you money, in case you got the wrong impression. And well, it’s a cold day, so I thought something hot to warm you up might help.”

“Woah, thanks.” Jack seemed genuinely taken aback, and David couldn’t help but feel a little pleased at his choice of gift when he saw how Jack was digging his hands into his hoody pockets, trying to keep his fingers from going numb, which would make playing difficult. David started to extend one of the cups but just as Jack reached out for it, he pulled it back.

"See, I was going to bring you a coffee but then I thought that wouldn't help your singing very much. And pineapple juice is good for that but that’s kind of the exact opposite of bringing you something to warm up with, so I hope you like it?"

Jack gave him a look and slowly reached out to take the offered cup this time, checking David wasn’t going to snatch it away once more. "So, what did you bring me?"

"Right, oh, it's hot spiced apple. Sorry, I think I was overthinking things." David tried to concentrate on not letting his ears burn bright red, it seemed to be becoming his specialty around Jack.

"Well look at you, knowing about what's good for the throat. You a singer too?" He asked then took a slightly hesitant sip from the cup. "Hell Davey, this is good!"

David let out a sigh of relief he didn't know he was holding and smiled self-consciously. “No, actually my mother is. At least, she does community theatre.”

“Aww, and I thought we could end up singing a duet.” Jack had wrapped his hands around the cup and was looking over the rim at David, who desperately tried not to picture that very possibility. “So, you waited two weeks to come back and thank me? Again.” The last word Jack added on with emphasis.

“No. Oh, no I came back because I just heard, I got the job!” At this, Jack’s eyes widened and he started forwards.

“Way to bury a headline, Davey. Lead with that next time, will ya?” He held up his hand and David quickly gave him the high five he was expecting, with almost no hesitation. “Congrats, man.”

“Thanks, I just thought I should thank the guy who actually got me there.” He said and was pleased with the guffaw of laughter he got from Jack.

“Should think so too.” He reached out and clapped David on the arm, brief enough that he didn’t mind it that much. “Nah, you’da got there and impressed them without me. Anyways, now that you’ve bought me coffee – sorry, spiced apple – I guess it’s alright for me to ask what job it is we’re celebrating?”

“An internship. At the law courts, you were right about that.” David said, before he wondered whether Jack had remembered their whole conversation just like he did, or had he been thinking over their encounter in the past couple of weeks a little more than most people might have. Maybe David was just one of many guys that Jack stopped to talk to in a day. “It’s not exactly well paid, and not the area I necessarily want to go into, but it’s experience. And a job. Which is more than I had before.”

Talking this much, especially about himself was very new and a little scary, or so he thought, except something about Jack’s willingness to listen just invited him to answer and dare to open up a little. “Tell me about it.” He laughed in response, and David had to think for a moment what he was responding to because there was a wonderful way Jack’s eyes crinkled up when he laughed and that was definitely not what David was supposed to be thinking at that moment.

Not knowing what to say exactly and feeling like he should get himself out of the situation where he kept getting distracted by the very attractive, very talented musician, David gestured at the cup in Jack’s hand. “Maybe some other time. Anyway, I should let you get back to…to it, hopefully that’ll help keep your fingers working.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jack’s smile faltered just a little as David announced he planned to leave but something made him perk up again. David took a moment before he realised that he’d suggested he come back to talk to Jack again. “Stick some caffeine in this and I may have just found my new favourite drink.”

For the first time, David realised Jack had the perfect showman’s smile. One he put on to charm anybody walking past, anybody who had eyes apparently. It shouldn’t have felt like such a blow that maybe it was just politeness that had caused Jack to speak to him in the first place.

For just a moment, he regretted coming today, maybe it was dumb to be stupidly bold and bring coffee to the cute flirty boy with the guitar. But with an effort he ignored it, because he’d got to talk to Jack once more. And that had been fun, that’s all he wanted.

“Glad to hear it. I should go call my parents, tell them the good news.” He said, looking at Jack’s hands, both still curled around the warm takeaway cup.

“Y- you told…” Jack started, lips pursed as if he had been caught off guard.

“Hmm?” David was already wondering whether it would be his Dad’s break time yet, if it was a good time to call and he didn’t quite follow Jack’s train of thought.

“Never mind. I’ll see you around, I’ll hold you to it. Hey, maybe more often if you’ll be here every day.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you. I know this is the way to go now.” He gestured down the street, and privately a part of him was dancing at the thought that Jack had also realised he would be here more often. That was something to quiet the doubts that Jack wouldn’t have remembered him.

Just as he was going to step away, this time checking the path behind him was clear as he changed direction, Jack called out once more.

“Hey, you got any requests?”

“Requests? You mean, to play?” He glanced from the guitar hung down Jack’s back, up to his face.

“Yeah, it’s kinda what I do?” Jack gestured to the instrument as well, smirking at the unnecessary explanation.

“Oh, umm. None that I can think of.” He wracked his brains, trying to think of a good answer, he wasn’t going to lie to himself and pretend he didn’t want to impress Jack. Unfortunately his brain had suddenly gone blank of any good songs he had ever heard.

“Ahh well, next time then.” Jack offered, taking another long drink of the spiced apple and looking down happily at the cup. “I owe you for this.”

“No, that’s not…” David started to protest, he did not mean to start an endless cycle of paying back favours, then realised Jack’s intention was to wind him up. It wasn’t fair that he could so easily read him like this. “I’ll see you.” He said instead, and with a last wave, turned into the moving crowd going back towards central Manhattan.

When he was still smiling at the end of his road, he tried to tell himself he was giddy from finally pinning down a job.

If he also thought that it was just perfect that his good news coincided with meeting a really cute guy, then who was he to argue?