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Tipping The Scale

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“Welcome to No Bones,” Peter says, giving the first-time patrons his best smile. “My name is Peter and I have the pleasure of serving you today.”

The four guests – wealthy tourists from out-of-state, he thinks – all give curt nods.

Okay, that won’t do.

“As a sign of our hospitality,” Peter continues, handing out menus, “would you like a glass of Dom Perignon while you consider?”

Now he has everyone’s attention.

“Oh yes, how wonderful,” says the apparent leader of the group, a voluptuous lady in her 50s with what Peter has learned to recognize as a $75,000 Hermes bag casually slung over her chair.

“These are exquisite,” the man across from her says, eyes on the small booklets that house the No Bones’ food options.

“Our menus are hand-bound in bamboo and hemp jackets,” Peter explains. “You can find information on the artist behind the design inside. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

He’s dismissed with another nod, friendlier this time, and Peter breathes a sigh of relief as he winds his way through the tables towards the bar.

Every single one of them is either taken or reserved – status quo since the No Bones received a gushing review in The New York Times.

The restaurant is exclusively vegan, branding itself as sustainable and eco-friendly, and draws an eclectic crowd of corporate types on business dinners, wealthy environmentalists and curious tourists who want to be able to post pictures of the restaurant’s pine wood tableware on Instagram.

Peter is thrilled they’re constantly booked-out; more guests means a higher chance of tips, and over the course of the past two years Peter has figured out what he needs to do to maximize his income.

Inside the restaurant, and beyond.

“Business or pleasure?”

It takes Peter a moment to make sense of Bucky’s question. The bartender is pouring champagne without looking, waiting for his response.

“Uh, pleasure, I think? Their accent’s sort of West Coast.”

Bucky grins at him. “Then be sure to talk up my specials, alright? They don’t wanna miss out on vegan Prohibition era drinks.”

Peter promises to do so, then takes the champagne to what’s so far only his second table. He answers all their questions and eventually takes their orders.

On the way back to the kitchen, he stops by table five to clear their entrée plates. The elderly couple comes here quite often, even though the husband can’t stop complaining about the lack of meat.

“One meal is fine, but I truly couldn’t go an entire day like this. I don’t know how you do it, Helen. Me, I need a bit of flesh between my teeth.”

The wife laughs, like always.

And like always, Peter makes sure to lean in a little closer when he picks up the man’s plate. He smiles at Helen even as he feels her husband’s hand slide up the back of his thigh.

Once he’s back in the kitchen, he gives table two’s orders to the line cooks, alerting their pastry chef Steve to the nut allergy and ensuring he relates all special wishes.

“Parker!”

Thankfully the next course for table five is still being plated, otherwise his startling might have messed up the arrangement.

“Yes, Chef?” he says.

Brock Rumlow looks more like he just stepped off a prison bus than a star cook, but according to MJ that’s part of what made him famous. He refused to cover up his tattoos and scars when he was on Top Chef, and while he’s written books about gourmet vegan food on a budget he never answers questions about how he got the money to start No Bones.

A cut-throat business man with a heart for the environment is a strange combination and Peter still hasn’t completely figured him out.

Rumlow grabs Peter’s shoulder and steers him into the doorway to his office. Everyone will think it’s so they’re out of the way, but Peter knows his boss wouldn’t want anyone to overhear this.

“Adrian is bringing a prospective business partner,” Rumlow whispers. “He requested you explicitly. Their table is your first priority tonight, understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yuri Kirilenko. He’s in town for two nights,” Rumlow adds, his tone clear.

Peter holds his gaze and nods. Rumlow smiles, pats his cheek, and returns to check on his line cooks and sous chef.

*

Adrian Toomes and his guests arrive just as Peter is advising the tourists (definitely tourists, in town to see Hamilton and do some shopping, they explained) on dessert.

“Our pastry chef is Steve Rogers, you might have heard about his legendary pop-up cupcake shop Stars and Stripes. With us, he’s taking vegan pastries to a new level. I can literally recommend every single option,” Peter explains, trying to rein in his excited gesturing.

Half of it is because Steve’s creations truly warrant it… Peter blames the other half on the adrenaline coursing through his veins.

You’d think that, after two years, the nerves would fade yet he’s had his share of bad experiences so that every time fills him with nervous anticipation.

“I think we need another moment,” Hermes Lady says.

Peter slides away, picks up three menus, and swoops in a few moments after their Maître has pulled out the chair for Doris, Toomes’s wife and CFO of his billion-dollar recycling company.

“Ah, Peter, quick as ever,” Toomes says.

He’s wearing his best suit, Doris has donned Channel. That alone would have told Peter that this is serious, even if he hadn’t noticed that Mr. Kirilenko’s suit is in another league entirely. Peter even spots a Patek Phillip watch on his wrist.

And if anyone had told him back when he took his first waitressing job at a seedy diner in Queens that six years later he’s be able to tell if someone is wealthy or just rich off a single look, Peter would have thrown their Lego Death Star at them.

“Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. Toomes,” Peter says, then introduces himself to Mr. Kirilenko.

“This is the server I told you about, Yuri,” Toomes explains. “He truly goes above and beyond for his guests.”

“Is that so?” Mr. Kirilenko arches an eyebrow.

He has a British accent and a deep voice with a rough edge to it, maybe from smoking. He’s not bad-looking, per se, but he’s not attractive either. He wears his age well, though, and appears quite fit underneath his clothes.

“Oh, yes,” Doris agrees, her tone heavy with innuendo.

Peter feels himself blush under their gazes but looks Mr. Kirilenko straight in the eye as he gives a nod. His experience tells him the man might prefer silent deference…

.. and indeed, his eyes darken before gliding down Peter’s body.

Rumlow puts his all-male staff in tight, charcoal pants, white shirts and figure-hugging waistcoats with the restaurant’s logo on the chest. Peter has found that styling his hair back earns him more tips than parting it on a side or letting it fall into his face (cause it lets them imagine messing it up themselves, one regular explained once), and he’s allowed to leave the upper two buttons undone.

Mr. Kirilenko’s gaze, however, skips right past that on the way up and lingers on Peter’s lips instead.

Oh, he can work with that.

*

By 10:30 pm, Peter is in high spirits.

He already made $250 in tips, was able to get the tourists addicted to Bucky’s drinks and impressed the producers at table four with his knowledge of the wine list which is currently earning him another hundred bucks.

Plus, Toomes is grinning like he did back when he secured that government contract, so whatever deal he’s proposing must be developing well.

Yet when Peter delivers their bill with a complimentary shot of Grey Goose, Mr. Kirilenko surprises him by keeping his hands to himself. If it weren’t for the subtle leers and stares that have been following Peter throughout the evening, he’d be wondering if he heard his boss correctly.

As such, it’s Mr. Toomes who slips something into the breast pocket of his vest while Mr. Kirilenko helps Doris back into her summer coat.

When Peter checks, after the cleanup is done and he’s changing into street clothes along with Azim, Jordan, Cisco and Neil, he finds four folded fifty dollar bills along with a keycard.

He’s sure Rumlow demands a lot more from Toomes than two hundred bucks, though after what happened the only time he asked, he’s accepted that he has no leverage in this. At least he gets to keep every penny of any tips he’s given at the end of his time with the clients, or any additional payment, should they decide to extend Peter’s services beyond what was agreed.

“You coming with us?” Azim asks once they’re heading down the quiet side street towards the subway station.

“Uh, no, you go ahead. See ya tomorrow,” Peter calls after them.

At first he hated the icy atmosphere among the service staff. He’s heard of restaurants that feel like a family, but No Bones is not one of them. Rumlow is quick to fire anyone who underperforms, can’t keep up, or complains about his way of doing things.

He also kicks out the waiter who brings in the least revenue at the end of each quarter, which has created a pretty shitty work environment cause they’re all competing with each other.

It works in Peter’s favor on nights like these. He’s a bad liar and coming up with excuses for why he’s walking to the Mandarin Oriental after his shift instead of heading back to student housing would have ended in disaster.

Unless any of the others have similar arrangements with Rumlow… but Peter never found the courage to ask. Part of him – the one that’s in a constant state of panic about how May, Ben and he will ever pay off their debts – hopes he’s special cause it would mean job security.

Another part of him…

Well, that part doesn’t matter.

The fifteen minutes it takes to get from No Bones to the luxury hotel near Columbus Circle are enough to clear his mind and get himself into the right headspace for whatever awaits him inside the suite.

Rumlow noticed Peter’s effect on a certain segment of his clientele within the first month of hiring him. Two months later, Peter had regulars who repaid his attention and indulging their touches with hefty tips.

Another month after that, Peter gave his first blow job in the accessible toilet.

Today, he nods at the receptionist as he crosses the lobby, chats amicably with the bellboy on the elevator ride up to the fifty-fourth floor, and steps up to the door with much less trepidation than he would have a year ago.

He lets himself in. Hangs his jacket into the wardrobe. Takes off his shoes.

He leaves his backpack outside since he never knows if he’ll need his own supplies. Usually these kinds of hotels are willing to cater to every whim of their guests, and most men are considerate enough to plan ahead.

Most, but not all.

That’s a lesson he’ll never forget.

He finds Mr. Kirilenko in the living room, standing at one of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River with a tumbler in his hand.

Peter spots the man’s jacket on one of the sofas and wonders if he should say something – but if the time at the restaurant was any indication, Mr. Kirilenko isn’t interested in conversation.

So he waits.

When Mr. Kirilenko turns, he’s clearly amused by Peter’s fidgeting.

Peter bites down his apology and averts his gaze, only to look up again at the sound of a glass hitting a table.

Mr. Kirilenko is standing over a selection of expensive liquor, considering him. Probably weighing politeness against how much he wants Peter’s mouth on his cock.

Politeness wins.

“Have you ever had Yamazaki?” he asks, already pouring a second glass. “Matured in rare mizunara Japanese oak for at least eighteen years. Here, taste it.”

Peter obeys, doing his best to make it a show. At first he felt weird in his attempts to lasciviously do anything, really, but by now he knows to look up to other men through his lashes as he takes a slow sip, knows how to gather up spare drops with his tongue, knows how to fake relishing the taste of whatever expensive nonsense they offer him.

“Incredible, isn’t it?”

Mr. Kirilenko is suddenly right in front of Peter, his voice more like a breath. Peter nods and sets down the glass, letting his hand rest on the side table. In this position, the twist of his spine will stretch his shirt across his chest and stomach as well as tease how great his ass looks in the snug cotton pants.

The first time he did this, he had gone to work in jeans and a zip hoodie and suffered a great deal of mortification on his way to the hotel bar where some entrepreneur was waiting for him. Luckily, the guy had laughed and handed Peter a thousand bucks with the order to go shopping.

It’s easier this way – Peter never wears his fancy clothes to class or when he’s visiting Ben with May. They’re just a different kind of uniform.

A uniform that Mr. Kirilenko appreciates, judging by the amount of attention he pays to Peter’s movements.

He lifts a hand to Peter’s cheek, fingertips ghosting over his skin and sending a shiver down his spine. He anticipates the move, so when Mr. Kirilenko brushes his thumb against Peter’s mouth, he’s ready, pressing his lips against the pad and sucking lightly.

Mr. Kirilenko’s hum is the only sign he needs before he drops to his knees. The guy’s growing erection makes lowering the pants and underwear a bit of a challenge, but Peter’s nothing if not resourceful and soon enough, he’s mouthing at the man’s slit.

“Look at me,” he orders when Peter closes his eyes. He quickly opens them again, just as he wraps his lips around the man’s glans. “Damn, you’re gorgeous.”

It’s about control, Peter quickly realizes. Kirilenko buries both his hands in Peter’s hair to guide the rhythm, which is slower than anything he’s ever experienced. It makes him glad the man showered before this, and hope his lips won’t be too obviously bruised tomorrow.

After what feels like an eternity, Kirilenko hits the back of Peter’s throat… and stays there. A moment of panic, then Peter’s brain reroutes his breathing through his nose, but his eyes are watering anyway.

With a groan, the other man pulls out and waves at Peter to get to his feet.

“I’m gonna finish my drink. Do what you need in the bathroom, then wait for me on the bed.”

“Yes, sir.”

It was the right response since Kirilenko makes a noise in the back of his throat. He doesn’t stop Peter, though, when he rounds the corner to the only other door in the room and finds the bathroom to his left.

Peter cleans up, stretches himself with generous amounts of lube and relaxes slightly when he spots a few condoms on the nightstand.

He arranges himself on his stomach so he can both enjoy the view from the fifty-fourth floor over Manhattan at night and spot Kirilenko the moment he enters, yet the guy takes his time.

At least he didn’t blindfold Peter before he went off to answer some more emails. He’s nervous enough as it is.

Three minutes later, the sound of footsteps heralds Kirilenko’s arrival. Peter gets on his knees on the mattress, glad his erection hasn’t disappeared completely. While the men he’s with rarely care when or how he finds his own release, they do want to think that he’s getting off on it.

Not Kirilenko, though. He doesn’t spare Peter’s cock a single glance, merely stops at the edge of the bed so that Peter can undress him.

As he assumed, the man keeps in shape. There’s some greying hair on his chest and his paunch is modest. Peter could do worse, for sure.

Kirilenko runs a hand down Peter’s back and slips a finger between his cheeks, feeling his hole.

“Hm, good boy,” he murmurs, and slips the lube-slicked fingertip into Peter’s mouth. “Do you want to ride me?”

It’s not really a question but Peter treats it as such. He nods eagerly, eyes open and meeting Kirilenko’s dark gaze. The man gets on the bed and lies down in the middle, removing a condom from the nightstand and tossing it between his splayed legs.

Peter fumbles a bit, he always does, but as soon as he’s got the condom out of the foil he’s on safe shores again. He even taught himself (eventually) how to put it on with his mouth, which never fails to impress.

Based on the leisurely pace the man set during the blow job, Peter takes his time with this, too, rubbing the tip of Kirilenko’s cock against his entrance for a moment before lowering himself onto it. Kirilenko seems content to watch him at first, letting Peter adjust and loosen up, lift his hips and bear down again… though that all ends once he bottoms out.

Kirilenko doesn’t want Peter to ride him as much as he wants Peter to work his cock for him, taking all the pleasure he can get no matter how strenuous the position is for Peter. Strong hands hold Peter in place as Kirilenko pushes up in tiny increments, then keep him hovering a bit over his groin as he thrusts up with enough force to jostle Peter’s entire body.

The more Peter lets the strain show, the more aroused Kirilenko seems to become. He runs his hands over Peter’s chest and abs greedily, covering them as they twitch and tense, then does the same thing to his back when he sits up abruptly and presses Peter firmly against his front.

He’s gasping with every thrust, clutching Kirilenko’s shoulders and struggling to keep his eyes open cause every time he closes them there’s a hand pulling his hair, until finally, the other man stills, buried deep inside him.

The kiss takes him by surprise but he goes with it – not that he’d have the energy to do anything else.

“Do you want to stay the night?” Kirilenko murmurs between kisses. “Or do you work in the morning?”

“Not until one.”

The other man pulls back and smiles. “Perfect. You can shower first.”

*

Given his schedule, sleep is precious to Peter and he’s taught himself to find rest no matter what the circumstances.

Even if it’s with an older man’s fingers lazily fondling his genitals as they drift off.

Waking up, on the other hand, is more difficult. At his room at the student residence, he has three alarms to make sure he gets to classes on time.

Someone sliding a finger inside him turns out to be even more effective.

“Shh, relax, Peter,” Kirilenko whispers, stroking Peter’s back with his free hand. “It’s just me.”

Peter wills his body into submission. The pain makes him hiss regardless.

When Kirilenko pushes in, he knows he’s going to be sore all day, but at least this time Kirilenko sets a quicker pace. He isn’t holding himself up, though; all his weight rests on Peter who’s starting to feel a bit too confined by the body pressing him into the mattress.

Kirilenko pulls out soon enough that Peter doesn’t actually panic yet he has to blink a few times before turning around to school his expression. Kirilenko licks a path up his body, ending with a kiss.

“I want to come in your mouth,” he says, then maneuvers them until he’s leaning against the headboard and Peter’s lying between his legs.

The fact that Peter’s brain isn’t fully online somehow makes this easier. He doesn’t think, just loses himself in the rhythm his partner sets, relaxes his throat as needed and barely closes his eyes.

Kirilenko comes down his throat with a curse and pulls Peter onto his chest afterwards. Peter traces formulas against the man’s skin until Kirilenko stretches, decides they need a shower and room service, calls to order the former and tugs Peter along for the latter.

Peter hates being fed like nothing else in the world but he indulges the man.

He also really wants to leave since the time he has for his course work is dwindling with every passing minute, yet he senses that speaking up would cost him in tips, which would make the entire night redundant.

When Kirilenko finally tells him to get dressed since he has a meeting to attend, Peter doesn’t hesitate. He remembers the key card and holds it out, but Kirilenko closes his palm around the plastic.

“I’m here for another night. Will you join me after your shift?”

Peter is glad Rumlow already told him, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to smile as convincingly as he does.

“I’d like that.”

“Good. There’s some cab money on the dresser for you. I’ll see you tonight.”

Peter doesn’t count it until he’s back in his dorm thirty minutes later.

His roommate is some soccer prodigy, and between his training schedule and Peter taking every shift he can legally get, they barely see each other.

One thousand bucks.

Peter collapses on his bed and stares at the ceiling.

With last night’s tips, he made $1,550 in one night, on top of the $80 he gets for the shift from the restaurant.

He’ll be able to give $300 or so to May tomorrow to help with her expenses, and will split the rest between his own account and the savings account he opened when Rumlow started sending him out to meet guests in hotels.

It’s not enough to settle their legal bills, not nearly enough… but it’s the best Peter can do.

*

“Partying or studying?”

Peter blinks at May, who’s smirking before she turns her attention back to the road.

“You look dead on your feet, sweetie. You could have said, I can go alone, you know.”

He’d rather miss essay deadlines than their weekly trip, but his aunt wouldn’t be happy to hear that.

“Uh, just, my shift ran long, and, um… I had some reading to catch up on for aerodynamics.”

“Maybe you should reduce your hours at the restaurant, sweetie, have you thought about that? We’ll be fine.”

“No, no, it’s okay, I promise – just got my time management mixed up this week, is all.”

Or rather, Kirilenko had wanted to celebrate the deal he reached, and Peter barely had time to change before meeting May for their trip to the correctional facility. It’s an hour each way, leaving maybe half an hour of actual time to spend with Ben depending on how quickly they’re called into the visiting room.

Today, fortunately, they’re allowed to go in right away.

They spot Ben about two-thirds down the counter that winds around the room and immediately see why he was so cagey on the phone, as May said – he has a split lip and a black eye.

“Who did this?” May hisses instead of a greeting.

“Wonderful day to you, too, my love. Hey, slugger.”

“Hi Ben,” Peter replies, tugging at his aunt’s sleeve to make her sit down cause the Correctional Officer at the head of the room is eying them.

“What happened?”

“It’s nothing, love. Heck, Peter here’s looking worse than I am.”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration but it’s clear Ben doesn’t want to talk about this, so Peter distracts his guardians with the latest crazy MIT story Ned told him about and how MJ is trying to rope him into joining Krav Maga at the university’s fitness center.

“But it’s Thursdays during my shift, so…” Peter trails off. He’d love to see MJ more often than the brief three times a week for their morning workout dates, but their schedules simply don’t allow for more.

Ben doesn’t suggest he reduce his hours, for which Peter is incredibly grateful. It took his uncle long enough to accept Peter’s help with bills and stuff, and he’s very aware that Peter is just as stubborn as Ben himself.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t be filing an appeal on State level.

Otherwise, they’d have rolled over and accepted that Ben was wrongly convicted for a murder he didn’t commit.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t have hunted down the best lawyer they could and be drowning in legal fees because of it.

Otherwise, Peter wouldn’t …

Well, that’s moot now. It’s not about Peter, it’s about saving Ben.

And Peter won’t let anything stop him.