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Steady On the Grind

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Adam lifts his hand and knocks on the door, noting a small imperfection in the wood beneath his knuckles. He leans forward and strains his ears for any sounds of life inside; he's almost given up when the door opens to reveal Reece wearing nothing but a pair of tattered sleep pants and a surly look.

"How did you get in here?"

"One of your neighbors let me in. Older woman with a tiny dog." Adam smiles and leans against the door frame. "She seemed friendly."

"She's really not."

"Maybe you just need to work on being more charming." Adam waits for Reece to slam the door in his face, but instead he sighs impatiently and opens the door wider.

"Come in before you wake up my neighbors."

Adam steps around him and slips off his shoes, taking the opportunity to look around. "This is different than your place in Paris."

Reece huffs, half laughter and half irritation, and locks the door behind them. "You mean liveable? Yes, that was the point."

Adam wanders out of the entryway and into the main living area. It's open and light and sparsely furnished, strangely pristine, like a photo from a magazine. He misses the clutter and dingy windows of Reece's apartment in Paris, the smell of the neighbors' cooking that used to wake him in the morning after he crashed on Reece's couch. Back when Reece still let him do things like that. "I liked your old place better."

"Your taste is as impeccable as ever." Reece crosses his arms over his chest and watches Adam examine the coffee table. "Why are you here?"

"I can't drop in to say hi?"

"Have you ever?" Reece doesn't wait for him to answer. "How much have you had to drink?"

"Nothing." Adam holds his hands up in front of him, cutting off the response he can tell is coming. "I started going to meetings. After last time. I'd apologize for that, but I don't think that's what you want to hear."

Reece watches him, face thoughtful but not entirely convinced.

Adam drops his hands and looks away, but he can still feel all the things that Reece isn't saying. It makes his skin itch. "I wanted a drink. I left thinking I might get one."

"And?"

"I came here instead." Adam turns his head and meets Reece's eyes again briefly, shrugging.

"And you think that was a good idea?"

"When are any of my ideas ever good?"

Reece makes a sound that might pass for a laugh in other circumstances and uncrosses his arms. "Sit down. I'll get you a coffee."

Adam takes a seat on one end of the couch, the leather creaking beneath his weight. He tries to imagine crashing on this couch like he did on the one in Paris. Just the thought is enough to make his neck ache.

Reece disappears into the kitchen and reappears a few minutes later with two mugs. He hands Adam one and takes the other for himself before he sits down on the opposite end of the couch, the space between them an invisible barrier that Adam knows neither one of them will acknowledge.

"You drink coffee now?"

"What do you think?" Reece watches Adam lift his cup to take a sip and then does the same.

"Nevermind." Adam pulls a face. "I think this is even worse than the shit you used to have. Only a non-coffee drinker would waste money on this."

Reece's face is unapologetic. "Anything in particular that you wanted to talk about?"

"Not really."

"Then drink your coffee and stop complaining."

Adam smiles a little and takes another drink. He thinks about saying something to fill the silence, but he finds it doesn't really bother him, so he drinks his shitty coffee and looks around Reece's living room instead. He still hates everything about it, but he thinks maybe it could be tolerable with enough exposure.

When he's done, Reece reaches out and takes the empty mug from him. "Better?"

Adam thinks about it. "Yeah, I think so."

"Good," Reece says, and it sounds genuine. "Now get out so I can get some fucking sleep."

--

Reece looks slightly less surprised—but no less surly—the next time that he opens his door to find Adam out in the hallway. "I hope this isn't going to become a habit."

"Me, too. I don't really have a good track record with those."

Reece walks away without comment, but he leaves the door open behind him.

Adam can smell coffee by the time he finishes taking off his shoes; this time he bypasses the living room and Reece's uncomfortable, overpriced couch and heads for the kitchen instead. It matches the rest of the apartment but looks more lived-in, softer-edged and scuffed up and less like it's come straight out of a box.

Adam leans a hip against the counter and takes the mug that Reece offers him. "At least it smells like coffee."

"It always has." Reece looks more comfortable leaning against the counter than he had perched on the end of his awful couch. Or maybe Adam's so used to seeing him in kitchens that anything else seems wrong.

Adam drinks his coffee and Reece waits, probably more patient than Adam deserves.

"Michel always hated your coffee."

"I remember him being less loud about it than you were."

"Yeah." Adam stares down at the shitty coffee and focuses on the feel of the cup cooling against his fingers. "Have you talked to him?"

Reece is quiet for a moment, then he nods. "He's going back to Paris."

"That's good," Adam says, and he means it. "He won't have to drink your shitty coffee there."

Reece's expression is knowing, but there's a surprising lack of judgment there. "You got your third star."

"I did."

"Congratulations," Reece says and sounds sincere. "I guess you didn't fuck things up too badly, then."

"No, I did. I just got lucky this time." Adam places his now-empty cup on the counter and straightens. This time, he doesn't wait for Reece to kick him out. "Thanks for the shitty coffee."

"Only the best for Adam Jones." Reece tips his cup to him. "Now get out."

--

This time when Reece opens the door, Adam has a box of tea in his hand. "Peace offering."

Reece's eyes narrow in suspicion. "Is there a particular reason you need to make peace with me?"

"I figure I've got about a decade worth of apologies to make, so I thought I should get started sooner rather than later." Adam watches Reece eye the tea and smiles. "And I was kind of sick of watching you drink that cheap shit. I thought maybe you deserved something nice for a change."

Reece holds the door open for him, looking only slightly less suspicious. "Maybe I like the cheap shit."

"And you say I have bad taste." Adam trails Reece into the kitchen and places the box on the counter, watching as he flips on the kettle and takes two mugs out of the cabinet, moving around the space with a practiced ease. Even when things were at their worst, when Reece couldn't seem to look at Adam with anything but contempt and Adam's hatred for Reece was almost as strong as his need for another hit, Adam had always loved watching the way Reece moved around a kitchen. There's a sureness to it, like he just knows it's where he belongs.

"And I never said I didn't." Reece turns and catches him staring. "So, to what do I owe the honor of having Adam Jones in my kitchen, watching me make tea when I could be sleeping?"

"Would you really be sleeping if I wasn't here?"

"That's beside the point." The kettle clicks off, but Reece ignores it and keeps watching Adam.

"I went out last night with Max and Helene and David."

"And?"

"It was good. I had fun, and I didn't drink." Adam looks down at his feet and laughs. "But I couldn't stop thinking about when we all used to go out when we worked for Jean-Luc. How different it was."

"I think it being different is probably a good thing."

"I know." Adam runs a hand over his face and looks up again, not quite meeting Reece's eyes. "One of the people at group thinks I'm using you as a substitute for drugs and booze."

"Are you?"

"I don't know. Would it bother you if I was?"

Reece looks thoughtful. "Maybe, but I don't think that's what this is."

"You don't?"

"I don't think the Adam Jones that I used to know would have been happy with coffee and late night conversation with someone he hates as a substitute for anything." Reece's voice has that part concerned, part disappointed, mostly condescending tone that Adam used to despise with all of his being. Reece had always liked to use it when he was trying to give Adam advice that he probably didn't deserve. Something about hearing it now is almost comforting.

"I don't hate you."

Reece's smile is so brief and barely-there that Adam almost misses it. "I'd say I could finally sleep soundly at night knowing that, but you always seem to be here, keeping me awake."

Adam feels some of the strange tightness that's been running beneath his skin since his last group meeting dissolve. "You should probably finish making my coffee if you ever want to get rid of me."

"I suppose I should." Reece stares at him for a moment before turning his attention back to the waiting kettle.

--

Reece looks half-asleep the next time he opens the door to Adam, his hair sticking up at odd angles as he motions him inside without so much as a word.

Adam follows him to the kitchen and watches as he turns on the kettle and pulls a pair of mugs down from the cabinet, his movements mechanical. The coffee comes out and Adam's suspicions that Reece still buys the same brand of shitty instant are confirmed.

"Long day?"

Reece finishes with Adam's cup and pushes it toward him, then pulls a familiar-looking box of tea down from the cabinet. He's pleasantly surprised when he gets a peek inside and sees that it's at least half-empty.

"You could say that."

"You wanna talk about it?"

"No." Reece keeps his back to him. "Do you want to talk about the reason you keep showing up here?"

"And let my coffee get cold?" Adam takes a sip and stares at the scar he can see disappearing beneath the waistband of Reece's pants. He lets the silence hang heavy in the air between them for a moment before he asks, "Where'd you get the scar?"

Reece tenses and turns to give him an annoyed look. "Are you drunk?"

"Not even a little."

"Then why are you here?"

"I heard about your mom." Adam watches Reece's shoulders tense. "I'm sorry. Which always seems like such a bullshit thing to say, but I am."

"It is, but I appreciate it." Reece turns his face away again. "She always liked you, you know. I have no idea why."

"Better taste than her son." Adam stares at the scar on Reece's back and wonders just how strange it would be if he reached out to touch it. He imagines pressing his hand against the small of his back or his shoulders, and then shoves the thought away again just as quickly. "I bet she had better taste in coffee, too."

"You're drinking her favorite brand, actually." Reece makes a sound almost like a laugh and picks up his cup, finally turning to face Adam. "She used to bring it with her when she came to visit me in Paris. Started sending me extra when I complained about the American brat who refused to drink tea like a sensible person after he'd spent the night passed out on my couch."

"Seriously?"

Reece offers a one-shouldered shrug. "Why do you think I had some when you started coming around again? It's not like I drink it."

"Honestly? I kind of thought you brought it with you."

"I tried not to bring anything back with me that I thought I'd never use again."

Adam takes his usual tactic of trying not to wonder how things would have turned out if he'd made better decisions in the past. It's not really a game worth playing at this point, but there's part of him that remembers nights out with Michel and Reece and Max, and that part of him wants to wind its way down all the other paths he could have taken just to see where they'd end. He wonders if they would have brought him here, too, and if he would be willing to go back and change things if he knew that they didn't. "I guess this means you weren't waiting around for me, then?"

"I try very hard to be a realist."

Adam smiles a little. "You always were smarter than me."

"I still am." Reece holds his mug between them like he's using it as a shield. "I'd like to get back to sleeping, if we're done with whatever this is."

Adam doubts that Reece plans on sleeping anytime soon, but he puts his cup down anyway. He hesitates for a moment and then reaches out and gives Reece's shoulder a quick squeeze. "Feel free to return the favor and wake me up in the middle of the night sometime. You'll just have to bring the shitty coffee with you, since I have standards."

Beneath the exhaustion, Reece looks almost surprised. "I think you mean the hotel has standards and you benefit from them."

"I like to think I have something to do with it." Adam shoves his hand in his pocket and turns to leave before he does something stupid like reaching out to touch him again.

--

Adam is wearing nothing but the pair of boxers he slept in when he opens his door to find Reece standing on the other side, a to-go cup in each hand and an expectant look on his face.

"Is this a bad time?"

Adam rubs at his face and doesn't bother trying to stifle his yawn. "What time is it?"

"6 a.m. I thought it would annoy you more if I showed up now instead of in the middle of the night." Reece slowly raises one eyebrow. "Are you going to invite me in or are you going to continue giving everyone who walks down this hallway a free show?"

"It's too damn early for anyone to be in the hallway," Adam says, but he steps aside to let Reece inside. He shuts the door behind them and when he turns to look, Reece is looking around the room and not bothering to hide his interest. A small part of Adam wishes he'd called someone to take away the pile of laundry in the corner and the dishes stacked up on the nightstand, but a much larger part of him thinks that Reece can just deal with it. "Was it really worth getting up this early just so you could annoy me?"

"Do you really not know the answer to that question?"

"...okay, forget I asked." Adam takes a seat on the end of the bed and watches him, his brain still feeling sluggish. He's not sure he can handle trying to keep up their usual back-and-forth right now, so he doesn't even try. "Is that coffee?"

"Something like that." Reece hands him one of the cups he's holding and smiles slowly, like he's savoring the moment. "I think I like you like this."

"Half naked on a bed?"

"I meant almost quiet and actually at my mercy for once, but I suppose that works, too." Reece looks around, taking everything in again. "It looks like you've managed to adjust to living somewhere without twelve roommates sharing a single room."

Adam takes a sip of the coffee and regrets it almost immediately. "I only had three roommates."

"I was counting the rats," Reece says and takes a seat on the end of the bed, careful to keep a respectable distance between them.

"That only brings the count up to seven."

Reece laughs and the sincerity of it catches Adam off-guard. There's not a hint of his usual sarcasm or judgment or bitterness. Adam has trouble remembering the last time he heard him laugh like that. "My apologies, then."

Later, Adam will blame the early hour and the fuzziness of his thoughts and even the horrible coffee for the way he leans over and tries to kiss the smile off Reece's face, like it's natural and expected and something they do every day. The truth is, though, that there's a part of him that still wants to act without stopping to consider the consequences, and the way Reece laughs make this particular action almost seem like a good idea.

Kissing Reece is different than Adam would have thought it would be; there's no fight behind it, none of the mixture of frustration and fondness that's a constant undercurrent to their conversations and keeps him coming back for more. It's just their mouths touching and Reece's startled exhale against his lips. He's almost disappointed until he realizes that there's nothing there because Reece isn't kissing him back.

Reece puts a hand on his chest and pushes him away. Adam hates how gentle it is. "This isn't a good idea."

"Yeah. Shit." Adam runs a hand over his face and stands so he doesn't have to see the way Reece is looking at him. "I should get dressed."

"Adam—" There's a moment when Adam is afraid that Reece might want to talk about it, but he stands and takes a step towards the door instead. "I'll see you later."

"Yeah, later." Adam curses internally and doesn't turn to watch him go. "Thanks for the coffee."

--

Reece is freshly showered, his hair still flat against his forehead and damp at the ends when he opens his door. He looks surprised to see him, which Adam would probably enjoy more under different circumstances.

"I'm out of coffee."

"I didn't come for coffee."

For a second, Adam thinks that Reece actually might shut the door in his face, but he motions him inside instead. "I still think this is a bad idea."

"Of course it is. All of my ideas are bad." Adam watches Reece push the door shut behind him. He can't help but notice that he doesn't lock it. "I thought about showing up drunk and trying to get you to fuck me."

"Why didn't you?"

"Because if I wanted to fuck things up, I would have tried that the first night I came here. I wouldn't have done whatever it is we've been doing."

"I'm pretty sure most people call it friendship," Reece says, the edge of sarcasm in his voice almost comforting. "Unless your visits have all been an elaborate form of foreplay."

"Not really my style. Unless you're into that kind of thing."

Reece almost smiles. "I'm not."

Adam nods and stands there awkwardly, not quite sure what to do.

Reece lets the silence hang there for a moment before he sighs and takes a step closer. "Did you have something else planned or are we just going to spend the rest of the night standing here in tense silence?"

"I was kind of hoping you'd take it from here."

"Oh, for the love of—" Reece grabs his shirt and pulls him forward. "I expect you to either kiss me or get the fuck out."

"When you put it like that, it sounds like an even worse idea." Adam smiles and backs Reece up against the wall, leaning in close enough that their lips are almost touching.

"Do not make me regret opening my door." Reece grips the back of Adam's neck and pulls him forward, kissing him roughly.

Adam lays his palms flat against the wall on either side of Reece's head and kisses him back. This time, kissing Reece is just like he'd imagined it would be, rough and wreckless and just a little bit needy. It gives him the same thrill that he gets when they bicker; he's not sure he knows what to do with that, but he thinks the not knowing might be part of the appeal.

Reece slides his hands down to Adam's ass and pulls him forward until their hips are flush, and Adam bites at Reece's lower lip in retaliation. Reece digs his fingers in and pulls away finally, a challenge in his eyes. "I'm not sure I want you to fuck me in my entryway."

"Well, I'm not fucking you on your awful couch," Adam says and pushes his hips forward for emphasis.

Reece lets his head fall back against the wall with a groan. "I do have a bed."

"Not as fun." Adam slides a hand between them and starts working open Reece's fly. Reece gives up his admittedly weak attempts at arguing when Adam slides a hand into his pants and wraps it around his dick.

They stay like that, Reece pressed against the wall while Adam jerks him off and Reece thrusts forward against his fingers. It doesn't take long for Reece to grip Adam's ass hard enough to bruise and come all over his shirt, then drops to his knees and uses his mouth to return the favor.

It's messy and imperfect and Adam is still pretty sure it's a bad idea, but standing in Reece's kitchen afterwards with a wet spot on his shirt and a cup of tea because Reece was actually telling the truth about being out of coffee, he's not sure he regrets it.

Reece takes the cup from him when he finishes and sets it in the sink, the air tense for just a moment before Reece finally speaks. "If you're staying, we're taking this to the bedroom."

"Okay," Adam says and leans in for another kiss.

--

Lying in Reece's bed and staring up at his ceiling is more normal than Adam would have imagined. He turns his head and watches as Reece walks in from the bathroom, naked, and crosses the room to retrieve his cigarettes from the top of his dresser. He catches Adam staring at his dick as he makes his way back to bed, unlit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, and arches an eyebrow.

"Not bad," Adam says.

Reece lights the cigarette and takes a long drag, exhaling slowly as he lays the lighter on the nightstand. The smoke curls in the air between them and Adam stops staring at his dick long enough to follow its path with his eyes. "That may be one of the least sexy compliments that anyone has ever given my dick."

"I guess it's a good thing we're already done for the night, then."

Reece rolls his eyes and offers the cigarette to Adam, waiting until he takes it to reach for the covers. "Move. You're on my side of the bed."

Adam takes a drag and slides over, watching as Reece climbs in beside him, pulling the covers up over them both. "I'm kicking you out if you snore."

"I don't." Adam hands the cigarette back and shifts close enough that he can feel Reece's heat.

Reece brushes his free hand against Adam's thigh and smokes in silence until he's finished. When he's done, he stubs it out and lays an arm against the pillow beside his head and waits for Adam to move closer. "I still won't have any coffee in the morning."

Adam drapes an arm over Reece's waist and closes his eyes. "Maybe I'll switch to tea instead."

"I doubt that," Reece says, running his fingers through Adam's hair. Adam lets the feel of them lull him to sleep.