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this ain't a purchase, it's a rental (and it's purgatory)

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Carlton Drake, the not-so-poor man's version of Tony Stark, wowed most folks last week with his stunning Guo Pei-designed "tuxedo" at the Met Gala, but what wowed us was the revelation that his date, Veronique Guerrero, the normally outspoken supermodel who's accompanied him to several red carpet events this year, is bound by an NDA not to talk about their relationship! We got even more polite refusals and curiously similar statements from his previous hookups, including actresses Elizabeth Shannon and Diane Cummings. So what do you think he doesn't want anyone to talk about? Is Drake a real life Christian Grey or just boringly Kind of Gay? Either way, Veronique can't tell us— but maybe somewhere out there someone can.

Eddie's so used to no one taking his calls that when April Maye picks up, it takes him a couple of seconds to remember to say hello.

"You sound a little funny. Did you like the article?" asks April.

Eddie hunkers down between a couple of racks of chips, scoping out the store to make sure he hasn't been followed. "You said it was going to be a blind item," he hisses out in a whisper.

On the other end of the line, April chuckles. "That was before we got identical refusals from five of his other dates. Don't have to do blind items when we've got that many sources— and we did have a lot of sources on this, Eddie, don't be so paranoid."

Eddie scrubs his face with his hand, letting it fall to a rest on the back of his neck. "You don't— anything to do with him is worth being paranoid about, do you know how long it's been since I've had a proper paycheck?" he says, giving Mrs. Chen a friendly wave when she casts a baleful look in his direction.

"It's not that big a deal, Eddie— you obviously weren't following our series on Justin Hammer a few months back. It's the price these tech billionaires pay for trying to hobnob with more interesting celebrities, it's like a game for all of us," says April, her keyboard clacking loudly. "Besides, it's not like there's any other way left for him to screw you over. My editor said 'no' on that celebrity snake oil story pitch, by the way, sorry about that. Maybe you could get the Daily Globe to pick up on it— I thought it sounded great."

Eddie suppresses a whimper. "Barney wasn't taking my phone calls before everything went down," he mutters. "Listen— just be careful, April. You don't— I don't want you to be put in the same position as me," he says, grabbing a package of mini-chocolate doughnuts.

"Your concern is touching, but don't worry about me. You just get yourself back on your feet, Eddie," says April, the line clicking off a few moments later.

Eddie just has to hope that she's right.

He pays for his doughnuts, hands over a twenty to get the local swapsheet from Maria, and after peering at it half-heartedly, wraps it around the burner phone he's been using to talk to April since he'd given her the tip about Drake and his NDAs, dropping phone and paper into the trashcan by one of the food vendors in the park before picking a nearby bench to sit on. He hasn't seen Evil Billy Corgan lurking around lately, but then he didn't see him before getting slammed up against the wall any of the other times either.

Eddie pulls his hood a little tighter around his head, takes out his phone, and eats his doughnuts. It's only a couple of hours of playing Kwazy Kupcakes, but eventually a park employee shows up to empty the trash.

After that's taken care of, Eddie waits another twenty minutes and then heads over to Anne's street. He knows it's kind of creepy, but he's been missing her, and he's not entirely certain he's going to survive the night. And when he finally catches a glimpse of her heading into her apartment, she… she looks good. She looks happy, which is sort of reassuring and also sort of a knife to the heart.

But now the only place left to go is home. And it's a Thursday, so the chances that Drake isn't already on his way— well, may as well get this all over with.

When he sees the lights already on in the apartment, Eddie's heart sinks even further, but somehow he manages to get up the stairs. He takes a deep breath and opens the door—

Drake's sitting at the kitchen table, a couple of Chinese takeout containers in front of him and a pair of chopsticks in his hand. "You have a nice day out? I was hungry, so I started without you," he adds, popping another piece of almond chicken into his mouth while gesturing to the containers still inside the bag as he chews. "Got you moo shu chicken."

Eddie blinks a couple of times, then heads over to the fridge to grab a beer. "Thanks— and it was— was a long day," he says, keeping his eyes on the food— he really prefers moo shu pork, but at least he's not going to get reamed out and probably thrown out on an empty stomach.

"I hear that," says Drake, taking a sip of his kombucha, and Eddie feels his spine stiffen. "I missed far too much work last week, and I'm still catching up. Still— it's important to take some time for myself," he muses, before turning his tablet back on.

Eddie manages a small smile. "Yeah— all work and no play, that whole thing," he says, finishing rolling his pancakes and remembering to breathe before digging in.

They eat in their customary near-silence, though it's not nearly as comfortable as it usually is for Eddie. But if Drake's feeling anywhere near as uncomfortable, he's not letting it show at all.

Does he know? He has to know. There's no way he doesn't know. Does he know it was me? Why the hell isn't he saying anything? Should I say something? No, saying something would be suicide.

Eddie glances up at Drake, still perusing his tablet while idly eating steamed green beans. Maybe if he— he could admit that he had a moment of jealous pique while shopping out stories, that he had regretted it the moment after he'd told April to see if Veronique had an NDA. That would be true. And Drake— he's capable of kindness, at times. He's been kind to Eddie lately, other than the whole Veronique thing.

Eddie chokes down his food and sips his beer, resolved to his fate. When Drake brings it up, he'll just do it, he'll just confess— he hadn't violated their agreement, maybe a little bit of the spirit of it— and then he won't have to worry about it any more.

Except Drake doesn't bring it up.

He helps clean up the food, brushes his teeth, and then heads towards the bedroom, shedding his clothes as he goes. It's just… Thursday. The only offhand comment he makes is that Eddie's a little eager to suck his cock, which isn't even that out of character for him. Practically their normal banter.

Maybe he accepts it as the apology that it is?

Eddie even gets his customary goodbye kiss in the morning and the reminder that he'll be by on Sunday, which is— it's almost terrifyingly normal. This is what his life has been for the last three months: everything according to Drake's needs, Drake's schedule, but on the whole, not the worst life imaginable.

Eddie's dreams for the next two days are easily capable of coming up with far worse outcomes.

Sunday morning arrives and Eddie's feeling… well, he's still a little bit nervous, and his nervousness only grows when Drake's an hour later than normal. But Drake's smile is quick and earnest when he opens the door. "Sorry— fucking catch up, it's killing me," he says, pulling Eddie into a rough, hungry kiss. "Didn't mean to keep you waiting," he purrs when the kiss breaks, pushing Eddie back towards the bedroom.

Maybe he already knows and he's not even mad. Maybe April's right, and it's all just a game to him.

It's possible.

At least the sex is still pretty fucking amazing, and if Drake's a little stressed from work the only ways it shows are in a brief catnap he takes after the first round— usually on Sundays he gets a little more work done while Eddie's napping, but when Eddie stirs awake, he's pleasantly surprised to find Drake draped over him, tablet still sitting on the nightstand. Eddie sighs and settles back, daring to stroke his hand along the smooth, muscled planes of Drake's back.

He's really kind of all right, when he's unconscious.

And Drake's tiny smile, when he wakes up and his hair is still mussed up from sex, is genuine, and kind of blinding in its own way. "Sometimes I think this is the only place I get to relax any more," he murmurs, letting out a long yawn before pulling away. "Need to— to use the bathroom," he says as he gets to his feet, unashamedly naked and physically beautiful.

Eddie can't help but wonder, with a painful twinge in his chest, whether Veronique gets to see Drake like this too.

Drake stops at the doorway and leans on the jamb. "So, you want to fuck me?" he asks.

Eddie sits up in the bed. "What?" he asks, heart suddenly racing, because he should have known better, he shouldn't have let himself get so comfortable—

"When I get back from the bathroom? Sometimes I do just like to get fucked," says Drake with a soft snort, gaze straying towards Eddie's lap. "Unless you're not feeling up to it," he adds with a sideways smile before disappearing into the bathroom. "Your call," he calls out, as Eddie hears the bathroom door shut.

By the time Drake's returned, Eddie's calmed himself down enough to put up what he thinks is a damned admirable effort. Judging by Drake's cries and moans, he thinks Drake agrees. He cleans Drake up, Drake gets dressed, and then leaves with a reminder that he'll be by on Tuesday.

No muss, no fuss: just Sunday.

By Tuesday, Eddie's developed just the tiniest sliver of optimism. After all, the last time he'd incurred Drake's wrath, the hammer had fallen immediately. Job and Anne gone within a day. Drake's still entirely capable of crushing him like a bug, he's in an even better position to do it now than he had been five months ago, so… if he's mad, wouldn't he have done it already?

Not that Eddie's gonna be any less careful about things…

… but it stands to reason, doesn't it?

He tries emailing the Daily Globe on the celebrity snake oil concept; the idea’s been niggling in his brain all weekend. Something about magical healing vaginal eggs screams 'Barney Bushkin' to him— and to his surprise, Barney doesn't turn him down outright or just reply back with a one-liner about the police commissioner's mistress. The request for a sample eight hundred words is easily the most headway Eddie's made in months.

So when Drake shows up with groceries, Eddie's up straight away to help unpack them, an almost hopeful feeling in his chest, not that he's going to tell Drake about that. He does frown when the last thing in the grocery sack is— "Is this rope?" he asks, holding up the curiously soft cord.

Drake bites on his lower lip and takes it out of Eddie's hands. "Again, your powers of observation never cease to amaze," he says, taking a step closer and running a knuckle along the side of Eddie's face. "You have any objections to me bringing a little silk rope into the bedroom?" His lips are quirked to the side, and he’s practically batting those absurd lashes of his.

Eddie's mouth is suddenly very dry and he's not proud of the way his voice squeaks. "Uh— no, no objections to, uh— to that," he says, though he knows he's blushing and he rubs the back of his neck with his hand as he goes to hang up the grocery bags. He's tried a bit of bondage with partners before, and it can be a fun little thrill. "Been waiting for you to pull out that kinky shit since I signed that damn contract," he says blithely, almost out of habit, because it's not like he's ever let Drake talk about sex without a snappy, dumbass comeback before.

He immediately realizes his mistake and freezes.

But Drake's chuckling, albeit almost humorlessly. "Thought you might have seen that article. It's okay— consequence of being a public figure. But one of my least favorite things about you reporters is your lack of imagination. They missed a couple of options: me being 'bi on the sly' and also, why can't I be a little kinky and private about my orientation," he says, and when Eddie turns around he's shaking his head. "April Maye— she used to work with you at the Daily Globe, didn't she? Should tell her to expand her horizons," he adds, running the rope through his hands.

Eddie manages a weak smile. "We don't talk much these days," he says.

Drake nods. "Sorry to hear that. You could use more friends, Eddie," he says, shedding his jacket and draping it over the back of one of the chairs before heading into the bedroom.

After briefly considering bolting out the front door, Eddie follows him.

"How are we, uh— I mean— how do you want me?" Eddie asks, pulling off his hoodie and his shirt, gaze drifting to the rope on the nightstand

Drake's pulling his socks off and tilting his head. "Well, naked, for one— are you sure you're fine with this? You seem a little nervous," he says, getting to his feet to drop his pants. "I don't want to do anything you don't feel safe about."

Eddie swallows roughly— Drake seems sincere. And if he were going to hurt Eddie, then that's what he's got Evil— Treece for. He wouldn't do it personally— not like this. Maybe April had been right after all. "No, no— it's fine. I trust you," he says, finishing stripping and sitting on the bed.

Drake's smile makes the corners of his eyes crinkle and he leans over to give Eddie an almost tender kiss. "I'm glad to hear that, Eddie. On your back then, hands by the headboard," he says and there's an extra… tone to the last part that sends a shiver up Eddie's spine, but he obeys all the same.

Drake grabs the rope and straddles his chest as he starts to bind Eddie's wrists to the headboard. His cock is hard and right there, so Eddie ventures an exploratory lick— and stops when he feels Drake's knees squeezing his ribs. "Didn't say you could do that, did I?" he says, dark eyes flashing with… something, maybe humor, as he finishes the last knot.

Eddie chews on his lower lip. "Sorry," he says, pulling lightly at his bonds— he could maybe, just maybe pull out of them if he absolutely had to, but he's not confident he wouldn't break something while doing it.

"Not too tight? No tingles in your hands? You need to tell me if your hands start to tingle, okay, Eddie?" says Drake, shimmying back on his knees and seeming to take a moment to appreciate his work.

Eddie nods. "Yeah— I'll let you know— but nothing yet," he says, voice breaking again.

Drake grins as he reaches for the lube and a condom. "Little excited, Eddie? Nothing wrong with that. It's always nice, to make things a little exciting, a little more fun," he says, pushing Eddie's thighs apart so he can kneel between them and push a slick finger inside of Eddie. "But I do need you to relax for me, at least a little."

Eddie whimpers softly. "Yeah— I can— I can do that," he says, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, just focusing on the feeling of the finger sliding around, hissing lightly when Drake adds another and scissors them gently, one finger tip grazing his prostate.

"There you are," says Drake, sounding entirely too pleased with… himself? Eddie's not sure, he's not sure about anything that's happening right now, though it does feel kind of good. It's just— different, feeling even more vulnerable with Drake than he normally does.

His eyes snap open and tugs at his wrists after Drake's hand pulls away and wraps around his ankle. "I— I'm not really that flexible," he says as Drake pushes his leg up even as Eddie feels the blunt head of his cock teasing at his entrance.

He's actually kind of impressed at how far back he's able to go.

"You seem pretty flexible to me," says Drake with a knowing smile, and then he's pushing inside of Eddie and looking him in the eye— and Eddie's not sure Drake's ever looked at him like this during sex.

It's… different. Still good— but different. Having his hands tied up is pretty exciting, and so is seeing the single-minded intensity in Drake's eyes as he fucks him in increasingly fast and deep strokes.

But something about that tone Drake had used with him— he doesn't dare try his usual dirty talk that Drake hates, instead hissing out meaningless 'oh fucks' or just moaning and crying out wordlessly.

Eddie winds up a little bit frustrated that he can't rake his nails over Drake's back like this. He's normally on his hands and knees, and he likes to give as good as he takes when he's in the position to do so. But at least when he pulls against the rope Drake grins and picks up the pace a bit more, pushing Eddie's leg a bit higher, which is right on the border of painful. But this new angle is the one that Drake's been searching for, and Eddie starts to see stars on damn near every thrust.

"That's right," says Drake, barely audible over the sound of the headboard rattling and thumping against the wall. He somehow manages to lean in for a harsh, biting kiss that Eddie's too overstimulated to really properly return because— fuck— he can't even think with Drake fucking him like this, desperately pushing up against Drake to get any kind of friction against his own cock, he thinks it’s gone on for an hour by now and he's so fucking close—

"I've got you," whispers Drake, reaching between them to grab Eddie's cock—

Eddie whites out as he comes.

When he comes back to himself, his hands are already unbound, the usual glass of water is on the nightstand, and he thinks Drake must have already finished cleaning him up because he's busy massaging Eddie's wrist. "Hey there," says Drake, a slightly smug smile on his lips and sweat still shining on his forehead and temples. "Guess you liked that even more than I expected," he adds, dropping Eddie's hand so that he can massage the other.

Eddie huffs out an odd, exhausted laugh. "Guess I did," he says because he's not sure he's ever come so hard— and this feels different than his usual fucked out.

It's just the paranoia of the last week, making him wonder if he'd actually liked it all.

Eddie reaches for the glass of water when Drake releases his other wrist, and drinks the whole thing down in a few gulps. He lets the glass rest against his chin when it's gone, allowing Drake to take the glass and set it aside for him.

"Looks like I wore you right out tonight," says Drake as he pulls the covers up around them both.

Eddie lets out a sigh. "Yeah— there's a first time for everything, I guess," he says, shifting on the bed to get a little more comfortable— Drake does sleep over pretty regularly on Tuesdays, though usually he has his tablet out by now and reads while Eddie streams something. Right now Eddie feels fucking drained and if Drake just wants to go to bed now, then Eddie's all for it.

But Drake isn't going to sleep, he's laying on his side, head propped up on his hand, looking at Eddie with something close to longing in his expression.

"Got something on your mind?" Eddie asks after a few moments, pulling the covers a little tighter around himself— he'd really just rather go to sleep than ask, but Drake clearly does have something on his mind.

Drake smiles at him, no crinkles at the corners of his eyes. "Oh— just something I probably should have told you before the sex. It's— there's nothing wrong, just something that is going to be kind of a pain in the ass," he says, reaching out to stroke Eddie's arm under the sheets. "I told you that I primarily use the corporation that's renting this place out for you as a way to provide temporary housing for some of my workers? San Francisco housing market and all."

Eddie nods. "I mean— yeah, I remember you telling me something like that, back before— when you first put me up," he says, his voice sounding a little small.

Drake hums affirmatively and yawns, though he doesn't let up on the soothing caresses. "Well— we were inspecting a couple of the units before moving some of my latest hires in— I know I'm taking responsibility for their well-being, and we— there must have been a plumbing disaster of some kind that didn't get properly cleaned up, and I've had to cancel the lease on them because my teams found black mold all over the damn place. And now I've got three engineers, two of whom have small children, coming in this week and I don't have any real place to put them." He shakes his head. "So, while we sort this out, I'm going to have to move you to a different place."

Eddie blinks a couple of times. "A different place?" he repeats a little dumbly, chest feeling suddenly tight.

Drake nods, his hand sliding up Eddie's chest so that he's stroking the side of Eddie's face instead. "Yeah— this short of notice, we found two more apartments, but they're both studios, so— I can't have one of the families stuck in a studio apartment. So sadly, we're gonna have to give up this bedroom," he murmurs, sliding down so that his head is resting on Eddie's shoulder, hand falling to Eddie's chest. "And right when I'd gotten so comfortable."

"Did I—"

— and the words 'do something wrong?' stall out on Eddie's tongue.

He knows he did, and if Drake knows about— Drake knows everything about him, he must know that Eddie's responsible for that story. And this feels like he's being punished— but he can't— he could ask, he should ask why Drake isn't just throwing him out outright.

… but then Drake might just throw him out.

Fuck, he doesn't even have five hundred in the bank any more.

Drake's looking up at him, eyes dark and inscrutable, not quite curious but seemingly only with a passing interest in what's going on inside Eddie's head. "Did you?" he echoes.

Eddie shakes his head. "Sorry— do I— am I going to have to move everything myself?" he asks softly.

Drake shakes his head and gives Eddie a quick, chaste kiss on the lips. "No, no— I've got people for that. But thank you, for not throwing a fit about this. It's not ideal, but still: things could be worse, couldn't they?" He reaches over to turn off the lamp.

Eddie nods in the dark.

Drake might not have elevated Eddie during all of this, but Eddie's never been quite so acutely aware of just how much further he could fall.

"Yeah. Things could be worse."