It burns when Jeff thinks about it. Hot and thick like lava. An itch under his skin that he can't scratch. But he deals with it. There's nothing else he can do.
Matt has picked up a rat. Some wiry, lithe body that Jeff can barely see in the shadows, but he's certain it's a male body he's looking at. Hovering somewhere around the six foot mark and Jeff thinks there might be the soft flick of hair, but that could just be the light fucking with him. He keeps his eyes on the rat when Matt leans in, voice a deep rumble in his ear, telling Jeff to wait a few hours as he hands over his wallet that's filled with twenties. The drinks are on Matt and Ethan tonight, or so Matt tells him.
Jeff takes the wallet and nods, slipping it into his pocket as he sees Matt straighten up from the corner of his eye. He doesn't like knowing their names, but Matt tells him anyway. Jasmine, Caroline, Samuel, Dave. Jeff knows about them all.
Jeff watches the ra- Ethan, catalogues the way he leans against the wall in the dark alcove by the door. He's waiting for Matt to get back there, waiting for the warmth of Matt's hand on the small of his back, Jeff knows.
Jeff's seen his type. Strong and masculine with the soft edges women tend to have. He'll worship Matt when Matt takes him. He'll moan and writhe, loud voice shouting obscenities that will make Matt fuck him harder. Ethan pushes away from the wall when Matt reaches him, cheek curving into a smile that Jeff can only half see, and when he leans forward, whispering something in Matt's ear that Jeff will never get to hear, he looks at Jeff, and smiles like he's in on the secret that only Jeff knows.
Jeff doesn't blink. He just keeps on staring as Matt's hand cups Ethan's hip, strong blunt fingers taking possession of something Matt wants. Ethan's eyes flutter closed for a moment, breaking the silent, barely there game he and Jeff are playing, and when they open again, they fill to the brim with Matt and nothing else.
They leave pressed close, wind picking at Matt's hair when the door opens, and then they're gone.
The noise of the bar rushes back to fill the cold space the outside world had occupied and Jeff's eyes slip back to the table. He'd come out only because Matt had asked him to, and now he's alone. Longnecks clutter the table, a small army of drinks that were mostly Matt's. Jeff reaches out, picks up the half empty bottle Matt drank from last and lifts it to his mouth. He flicks his tongue out, tracing the cold glass like he can taste Matt, then drinks it down. Gulps until the bottle is empty and he's a little short of breath.
Matt's taste doesn't linger on his tongue, there's just the sharp tang of beer and a burn in his chest that has nothing to do with alcohol.
Jeff's fingers tap out a rhythm on the table for a moment, then he stands and heads for the bar. It's a small, smoky dive about five minutes walk from the motel he and Matt are staying at. There's a mirror behind the bar. Jack and Jim and Jose all look back at him, stacked on the shelves or standing steady in the dispenser, ready to dutifully measure out shot after shot. Bottles of liquor Jeff hasn't seen before mix in with brands he knows well. His reflection is impassive.
When the bartender comes up to greet him with a gruff, "What'll it be?" Jeff doesn't pause. He orders three shots of vodka and drinks them down, one by one, as the bartender lays them out. He closes his eyes at the rush of heat in his chest, nodding like the harsh sting of vodka can chase away the memory of seeing Matt with someone else.
When he opens his eyes, the bartender is still there, waiting for Jeff to pay up or ask for something else. Jeff orders a shot of Jack, digging his own wallet from his back pocket and handing over a twenty, telling the bartender to keep the change. The weight of Matt's wallet is heavy in his pocket, lying low against his hip like the ghost of Matt's hand.
Jeff gets back to his table and sits. He digs out his pack of cigarettes and lights a cancer stick with steady hands. He inhales deeply, nicotine filling his lungs and making him a little dizzy when he exhales, blue smoke billowing into the air to mix with the stale haze that hangs over the bar. He watches the swirls and eddies dance, new shapes rising and falling with every puff of smoke.
He doesn't think about what Matt will be doing. Doesn't think about how Matt will look when he comes undone. Jeff isn't supposed to think about Matt like that. He shouldn't want Matt like he does, but that doesn't matter. Jeff has dealt with how things are.
It's sharp and stinging sometimes, low and throbbing others, but Jeff gets by. He doesn't look at Matt like he used to; barely held need marring his face, begging Matt to take notice. Jeff never liked himself then. Emotions too close to the surface, too close to breaking free and ruining what Jeff already has. Matt is his brother, and sometimes, that's all Jeff needs.
There are other times though, times when the want is so thick and raw, it's almost tangible. Those are the times Jeff is at his most reckless. Jumping off ladders or back flipping into fires are nothing compared to the heavy weight in his belly that sometimes wants out.
Jeff takes a sip of whiskey, follows it down with a sharp drag off his cigarette and tries to will his thoughts away from his brother.
It works for a little while. He sinks low in his chair, watches the other patrons, listens to the music flowing from a jukebox he can't see. Some sort of country track, guitar twanging, fiddle playing fast. Jeff has no idea who is singing, but it vaguely reminds him of home and Dad and how much better Pearl Jam is. His cigarette is stubbed out and replaced with another and another as he nurses his drink. Slow, shallow sips taken often enough to keep the slow burn in his chest dampened.
The hours slink by, mixing with the soft murmur of people who can't see him and wouldn't care if they could. Snatches of conversation reach Jeff's ears, and he finishes the rest of his drink with his eyes closed, listening to the sound of the bar.
Eventually, he stands. His nearly empty pack of Camels are put back into his pocket and he leaves.
It's warm outside, his thin jacket more than enough to ward off the weak chill of the night as he heads back to the motel. The walk is slow. Not because he's drunk, no, but because he wanders and idles. Looking at things he has no real interest in, and trying to ignore the press of Matt's wallet through the thin material of his pants.
When he reaches the motel, there's a dim light coming from the room he's sharing with Matt. There's also a small Do Not Disturb sign on the door and Jeff feels like sighing. Matt is still occupied, and the burn in Jeff's chest flares, hot and bright. He thinks about his options. Thinks about going back to the bar, or maybe driving around for a while - the keys to the rental are in his jacket pocket - when the handle twists on the door and the rat comes out backwards.
Jeff is barely noticeable as he quietly backs up and blends into the shadows. The thought of turning away doesn't cross his mind. He shouldn't be watching Matt. But then, there's a lot of things Jeff shouldn't do. None of them mean he won't.
There's a muffled conversation that Jeff can't make out and then the rat (Ethan, his mind says) leans in for a kiss. Jeff feels his mouth thin for a second. Feels his hands wanting to curl into fists, the muscles pulling tight across his shoulders, then everything relaxes when Matt pulls back out of reach, shakes his head, and Jeff watches Ethan's shoulders fall. Jeff knows what he's looking at. It's a brush off in the completely tactless way that only Matt possesses. He's taken what he wants, and that's all he needs.
Jeff watches the rat leave, but he doesn't smile. It's not a victory.
Matt glances around, but he doesn't find what he's looking for, so he removes the sign from the door handle and goes back into the room, leaving Jeff alone again. A moment later, Jeff's phone buzzes in his pocket. He digs it out and sees Matt's name on the caller ID. He doesn't answer. Instead, he lets the call flick over to the voice mail as he pulls out the keys to the rental and heads for the car. By the time he gets there, his phone is beeping at him, letting him know there's a message waiting.
Jeff climbs into the car, closes the door and locks it before he opens his cell. He hits the buttons to get his voice mail, and then Matt is talking to him. "Hey Jeff. The coast is clear, dude. Call me when you get this."
Jeff stares at the phone for a moment, then deletes the message. He slides the seat back as far as it will go and lowers the back rest. When he's still, he sends Matt a text message (hit pay dirt. c u 2moro), then he takes off his jacket, kicks off his boots and sleeps.