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Rules of Engagement

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Fletcher sets some ground rules with Andrew.

He has to. The boy needs guidance and a heavy hand to instill it, and Fletcher is more than happy oblige for both.

“You will do everything that I say,” Fletcher tells Andrew. “And if you slack or fuck up or disappointment me in any way, I’m done with you.” He looks at Andrew, forcing him to maintain eye contact. “Understand?”

There is no hesitation in Andrew’s hurried response of, “Yes, sir.”

Perfect.

 

He has to admit — Andrew has exceeded his expectations.

He tells himself that he never really doubted Andrew, that he knew from the start that Andrew has what it takes. Many times, Fletcher has used that seductive phrase to string wanna-be musicians along to try and provoke them to greatness, but he never expected anything — it was just a way to weed out the useless from the marginally okay (because at a point, he began to believe that maybe he would never find his Charlie Parker, so why bother getting his hopes up).

But with Andrew, there was a spark of something there, a retaliating push that Fletcher found so intriguing that he couldn’t let go. It would have been easy to let Andrew fade into obscurity and never play the drums again, but Fletcher set his final challenge, and Andrew—

—okay, maybe Andrew may have proved from wrong. Just a bit.

Fletcher won’t hold it against him too much.

 

Andrew is eager for praise. Or any kind of attention, really. He drums relentlessly, non-stop, until his hands get so hardened with callouses that he rarely even bleeds (Fletcher misses that, in a way). After a song, Andrew will look up, face slick with sweat and chest heaving to try and supply his body with much needed oxygen, and then there’s a grin with that hopeful idyllic expression that Fletcher recognizes as a desire to be judged.

The odd thing, however, is that a scathing yelled insult has almost the same result as a compliment thrown his way. The criticism makes Andrew’s eyes light up and his grin turn wild, and he rolls into another song — because it just means that it’s a new opportunity for him to give something to Fletcher.

And when Andrew is praised — well, it just makes him work for more.

Fletcher reminds himself to not praise him too often, so that he won’t get satiated with it. Or start demanding it from Fletcher. Andrew has started to develop a selfish streak — Fletcher needs to knock him down a few pegs every so often to remind him that he is in fact not God’s gift to mankind, even though secretly, they both think that he is something special (although Fletcher will die before he admits it).

And if criticism is an effective enough reinforcer, why offer any other encouragement?

 

Fletcher forces himself into Andrew’s life, making himself an irreplaceable aspect that Andrew becomes so dependent on, that he cannot do without. He becomes his stability, his litmus test for life, and soon Andrew seeks Fletcher’s counsel for things not related to jazz or drumming at all, like: what to wear, what to eat, who to talk to, what to say.

(but everything relates back to Andrew’s music, somehow)

It’s the plan, it’s the rules. For Fletcher to be so deep-rooted into Andrew’s being that Andrew cannot survive without him. To be so necessary, that if Andrew were to remove him, his entire structure would crumble.

“I’m not going to change,” Fletcher reminds Andrew. That’s one of the rules that Fletcher had established in the beginning — if this was going to happen, it was going to happen his way, he will be the one changing Andrew. It is not a mutual arrangement.  Not reciprocal.

Andrew looks at him with horror.

“I don’t want you to change,” Andrew says, and it is so very convincing that Fletcher believes him, instantly. Andrew is not skilled enough for lies or deceit. He’s simplistic.

Fletcher knows that he’s doing the right thing, imposing his rules and conducting Andrew’s life — both for his talent, and otherwise. Otherwise, Andrew would go to waste, and it would be a crying shame to squander such a commodity.

He doesn’t need Andrew to validate him. He knows his method works. Will work.

 

Andrew manages to surprise him, however.

They’re in a hotel in a city where Andrew had performed earlier that night — an opportunity for both of them to ascend the social ladder — and Fletcher is woken from a dead sleep by Andrew crawling into his bed.

“Get the fuck out,” Fletcher mumbles.

“No,” Andrew says, and just when Fletcher is about to beat the shit out of him for disobedience, he straddles Fletcher’s hips and then oh

Fletcher realizes that Andrew has an agenda of his own.

Andrew peels off his shirt and tosses it to other bed in the dark hotel room, and he braces his hands on Fletcher’s chest and rocks his hips forward in a sharp, quick motion.

“Just so we’re clear,” Andrew says, “this isn’t me trying to beg for favors.” He rolls his hips forward again, and a soft gasping noise escapes. “I want you to want me for my talent.”

Fletcher hums. Interesting.

He slides a hand around Andrew’s hip, and thrusts against Andrew ever-so-slightly, just enough to give him a taste. Fletcher laughs when he hears Andrew’s breath hitch.

“This will be how I want it, too,” Fletcher says, before he even realizes what he’s saying. “I’ll have you how I want.”

“Of course.” It sounds like Andrew is relieved.

Fletcher cups his hand to Andrew’s crotch, and finds him hard. At his touch, Andrew jerks forward into his hand and makes such a fucked-out sound that it’s a wonder he doesn’t come right then.

This is unexpected, but good.

 

Another rule: never be the one who likes the other person more.

Fletcher has maintained that rule. Although, both are working to make the other more necessary to the other. Fletcher has to applaud Andrew for his efforts — he has learned well.

And Andrew is amenable, compliant, and manageable in bed as he is on stage.

It’s a delight.

Fletcher thrusts into Andrew hard, sliding out slightly before pushing himself back in all the way to the base. The sound of the slap of their skin together makes him want to do it again, and he does, and each time he shoves in Andrew jolts and writhes beneath him.

Fletcher can see Andrew’s hands grasping at the sheets. He knows that Andrew must by dying to be touched — his cock is straining up and red and leaking precome from the tip, but Andrew does not touch himself or even ask for it. He knows the rules.

Andrew throws his head back into the pillow, arching his neck and putting the expanse of skin that’s marked by scars that Fletcher did not put there on full display.

It’s Andrew’s way of asking, so Fletcher responds — he wraps a hand around Andrew’s neck and lightly squeezes. Andrew moans and Fletcher feels the reverberations of it against his palm, and it drives Fletcher on — he tightens his grip, digging his thumb between the fleshy place between Andrew’s jaw and neck and pressing his fingers into his skin so hard that there will be marks of black and blue tomorrow. Andrew takes in a deep shuttering inhale, knowing he has to take in air while he can, and lets his eyes flutter shut and that’s the finest part of this whole thing to Fletcher — having Andrew totally and entirely submit to him, unbidden.

It’s a give and take between them, although in unequal measures.

Fletcher continues to pound into Andrew, although at a slower pace than before because he’s concentrating on the hand around Andrew’s neck. Andrew jerks up in erratic movements, trying to fuck himself harder on Fletcher’s cock. He keeps up as best he can until he can’t, and he’s starts to struggle for air, taking in short gasps and letting out whines from the back of his throat. Fletcher can feel Andrew’s rapid pulse begin to slow against his fingertips — going thudthudthud to thud...thud...thud. thud. and Andrew’s body starts to lull, going slack into the mattress.

There’s a point where to stop — it’s become well practiced between the two of them. Fletcher goes to finish him off, leaning forward and pressing his mouth against Andrew’s parted lips that are begging for air, while increasing the pressure of the heel of his hand that's at his throat. He knows that Andrew is close, especially now with his cock trapped between their stomachs and finally getting some friction, and because the tiny, choked sounds Andrew makes are dwindling to nothing — and just when Fletcher is starting to worry, Andrew comes, shooting wet between their stomachs.

Fletcher releases his hold on Andrew’s neck immediately, and Andrew takes in a loud, desperate inhale, so deep that Fletcher can feel Andrew’s entire body shudder against him. Fletcher moves his hand to tangle it in Andrew’s hair, and he continues to thrust into him as Andrew rides out his orgasm. The cacophony of Andrew’s panting out of greedy gulps of air booms in his ears, and that with the feeling of Andrew clenching around him makes him come with a shout.

“You okay?” Fletcher asks.

Andrew never answers.

 

Fletcher comes to realize that power is not necessarily the ability to influence the behavior of others. No — the true power lies in breaking an untamed subject and watching as every bit of their resistance fades away, until only blind obedience remains. The process is the powerful part.

“Are you happy?” Fletcher asks Andrew one day, apropos of nothing (except for his curiosity, his need to know).

Andrew turns to him, looking slightly taken aback. “Of course,” Andrew says, but the way his brows furrow and the moment of hesitation before he speaks suggests otherwise.

Fletcher leaves it at that, and does not ask again.

Perhaps he is happy, in a way.

But then again, a side effect of happiness is naivety.