Jean has played, at minimum, 150 gigs during his thus-far-brief stint as a professional (in the loosest sense of the word) musician. But out of all the cities he’s been to, out of all the clubs he’s played, not once has he set inside a speakeasy. Until today, that is.
Ymir’s managed to swing them a gig at some under-the-table club called The Wings of Freedom . Given Ymir’s overall secrecy about the place, and how she procured the showing, Jean can only assume the club must be a speakeasy of sorts. He has to wonder how she even knows about the place, but he figures if anyone in their raggedy band would know how to find a speakeasy, it would be Ymir. Frankly, if you’d asked Jean to just go out, find a speakeasy, and book a gig, he probably couldn’t have done it. But that’s kind of the point of clubs like those, ain’t it?
From what his mama used to tell them, a speakeasy was nothin’ more than a den of hooch and sin, where the wretches and the junkyard curs would go to wine and dine and dance until their feet were burnt up from the hellfire beneath them.
His mother was always a bit dramatic, though.
The hoity-toity folks of high society love jazz just as much as the degenerates do, Ymir tells him. They just refuse to have any fun (eg, booze and dancing) while they listen to it.
Jean had never even seen a speakeasy before - so when Ymir leads them to an old, nondescript, brick building he’s more than a little confused. He isn’t sure what he was expecting, but this isn’t it. The place doesn't look like nothin’. There’s no signage on the exterior of the building. No folks lingering outside and chatting. It’s just… a building. If you’d asked him, he might’ve said it was cheap apartment building, but it’s far too dead to even be that, let alone a club.
He supposes that, in that regard, the club does what it's supposed to. It hides in plain sight, appears nondescript and unremarkable, and doesn't draw attention. If anything, Jean feels exposed standing outside of this place, as though his very presence might draw attention to a secret that's been thus far well-kept.
They mozy around to the side of the building and approach an old wooden door that's lined with cracks and stains, a victim of time and use. At the top right corner of the door, a tiny emblem is engraved into the aged wood - a pair of wings.
Sasha leans in close to the door and knocks a rhythmic beat into the wood and steps away to wait. Jean grips the black handle of his trumpet case, clenching it tightly as he waits. His gaze flits from the door, to the upper floors of the building, then to his surroundings. The street around them is dead, and he still feels more than a little exposed. What if a copper comes by? It's an unnecessary worry, Jean's sure, but it sits in the back of his head nonetheless. Licking his lips, Jean turns his attention back to the upper levels. Every window across the side of the building is dark and quiet - an illusion of normality to cover what Jean can only assume is the calamity inside. He wonders if anyone even lives here. It might be better if someone did; a lived-in building seems mighty less suspicious than an empty one.
But what does he know about any of this anyway?
He’s dragged out of his thoughts when a few clunks and clangs sound off from the other side of the door - the sound of the locks unlatching, followed by a tired creak as the door eases open a smidgen. Sasha ushers Ymir towards the door to address whomever has opened it.
Jean can’t see the person standing in the open sliver of the club’s entrance, but he can hear his low voice. It just barely rumbles over the dull sound of music flitting from the interior of the building.
“Yeah, We’re the 104th. We’re here for the Scouting Excursion,” Ymir tells the person in the doorway. Jean cocks an eyebrow and wonders what the hell that’s supposed to mean. A code’s a code, he supposes.
“Who sent you?” The man in the doorway asks.
“The Commander,” Ymir responds with confidence.
The man grunts and flings the door halfway open and ushers the group inside quickly. Jean squeezes through the tight opening as gracefully as he can manage, but he still manages to bump into the diminutive, dark-haired bouncer. Jean definitely has a good five inches on the guy, but something about this man tells Jean he absolutely does not want to fuck with him.
“I’m Levi,” the man says as he gestures for them to follow him. “First band’ll be finished soon, you can drop your stuff behind the stage. I’ll let Erwin know you’re here. Mean time, have a drink or something.”
So they do have booze , Jean thinks to himself as he lets his gaze wander across the room.
The place is pretty lively - certainly rowdier than you’d assume from the building’s exterior. There’s a little bar across the room from the stage, a small dance floor in the middle, with a few chairs and tables around the open space’s perimeter. It isn’t packed out, but there’s still a sizable group of people in the joint. Some are smoking, some are dancing to the first band’s set, and a good number are drinking with gusto. There’s all the illicit activity his mama had told him about - people bent and blotto, laughing and flinging their feet in all directions… But it certainly don’t look evil.
It almost looks fun.
Jean follows his bandmates behind the stage and drops his trumpet case alongside the rest of the instruments. He strips his hat off and nudges Connie and gestures towards the bar.
“We still got some time, I’m gunna try a drink.”
“Ya ever even drank before, Kirschstein?”
“Psh, first time for everything.”
Connie nods and bumps his shoulder.
“Just don’t get too zozzled, we still need ya to play.”
Jean makes his way through the crowd and squeezes himself into an open spot at the bar. There are two bartenders working the counter. One is a dark-haired woman with a pair of eyes that tell ya she could take you down in a fight without even trying. The other is a trim young man with sun-tanned skin and toned arms; he's wearing loose suspenders, well-fitted slacks, and a white tank top. The young man turns towards Jean and catches his gaze; Jean almost chokes at the sight of him. He’s got a lithe but angular jaw and a damn handsome face that's littered with so many freckles it looks like someone splattered him with paint. The man doesn’t wait a moment before coming over to stand in front of Jean. He sets down a small glass in front of him, and leans on the bar.
“Hey, hun, what can I do you for?”
“I, uh,” Jean clears his throat, “Dunno.”
Great. First sight of a cute face, and you’ve gone all tongue-tied. Real great, kid.
The bartender sucks a breath in through his teeth and makes a slight grimace.
“Ah shucks, we are fresh outta “ Dunno ”, sugar.” He punctuates the ‘sugar’ with a wink, and Jean’s stomach twists, mouth falling open for a split second. Jean shakes his head just to snap himself out of it.
Put the lid on that kettle, Jean. You don’t how he is. He’s just being friendly. Better to not let those butterflies get the best of you.
“I just mean-”
“Nah, I get ya. You ever had hooch before?”
Jean shakes his head.
“Well then you, mister, are in for a treat. How ‘bout I get ya a little gin and tonic?”
Within a second, the bartender has two bottles in hand and is pouring his drink over some ice. He pushes it over to him like it’s an offering of gold.
“There ya go, sug, enjoy.”
“Is it uh, is it strong?” Jean asks as he picks the drink up. The bartender furrows his brow, and Jean is quick to gesture towards the stage, “I gotta play.”
“Oh shoot, you the next act? Bully. Nah, hun, it’ll be fine. Just enjoy it. Might loosen ya up.”
Jean nods and takes a tentative sip. The choking cough that slips past his lips almost immediately is… less than flattering, and the Very Handsome Bartender doesn’t hesitate to giggle at his reaction.
“Sorry, that stuff can take ya by surprise,” the bartender says, grabbing another bottle and topping the drink off. “There’s a little more tonic for ya, thin it out.”
Jean takes another sip, and notes that it isn’t quite as bad the second time around. Could be the extra tonic, or just that he’s getting used to it. Either way, he’s beginning not to mind the burn that slithers down his throat with each taste.
The bartender grabs another, smaller glass, and fills it up with what Jean can only assume is the gin he’d made Jean’s drink with. The bartender leans on the bar and picks up the glass, raising it in Jean’s general direction. Jean takes the cue and raises his own glass to clink against the other.
“Cheers,” the bartender tells him before downing the shot in one-fell-swoop. He plops the glass back down with a thunk and leans against the bar. “I’m Marco, by the way.”
“Jean,” he replies around the lip of his drink.
“I like that name,” Marco tells him with a quiet smile.
Heat flares up in Jean’s cheeks, and he’s sure that if it weren’t so dark in this joint, he’d look like a perfectly ripened tomato. But despite it, he manages to reply with a shy thank you.
He tells Marco he likes his name too.
“So what do you play, Mr. Jean?”
“Ah, that’s my favorite . I dance a lot too when the boss'll let me, and I tell ya nothin’ gets me movin’ lik-”
“Marco!” A feminine voice interrupts from the other side of the bar, “Need ya down here, bud.”
“Shit,” Marco huffs. “Sorry, love, gotta dart. But I’ll see ya on stage. Enjoy that gin - on the house.”
Marco pats Jean’s shoulder with a warm and firm hand. He lets it linger for a moment longer than it needs to, and Jean feels a shiver run up his shoulder and down his spine.
Could he be? Jean thinks as Marco throws him another smile and saunters towards the other end of the bar to help out his coworker. Jean takes a quick gulp of his drink and watches Marco pouring and serving, seductive sinew of his biceps flexing and relaxing with every movement.
Best not to wonder.
Jean glances around the room and takes in the crowd around him. The casual intimacy between the patrons, the dancing, the smiles… the freedom . Across the room, in one of the far corners, two women are leaning into each other across the small table between them, big grins on their faces as they steal a quiet kiss.
But if there ever were a place…
Jean looks back towards the other side of the bar at Marco. As if Marco sensed his stare, Marco cocks his head to look at Jean and throws a quirky little smile his way, before turning his attention back to the customer he’s serving.
If there ever were a place, this would be the spot , Jean thinks.
Jean is barely halfway through his drink before Connie taps his shoulder and tells him they’re on in five. Even from half a glass, Jean is already feeling loose and warm, and he’s caught himself eyeing Marco as he works the counter more times than one. But he’s got to go and, against his better judgment, he stands and downs the rest of the gin and tonic in one large gulp. He clacks the glass against the bartop and grabs his hat - the relaxing heat of the booze rushes through him. He dares one more glance to Marco, who seems to notice him quickly. Jean lifts his hat to Marco and Marco grins and nods before mouthing:
Jean nods back and barely contains the smile that’s tugging at the corner of his lips. He makes his way backstage and joins his bandmates, just as the first band is leaving. A tall, blonde man takes the stage - there’s an air to his stance and stature that tells Jean he’s the one in charge. The Commander, as Ymir had called him.
“That’s Erwin,” Sasha whispers into Jean’s ear. “He owns the whole joint - him and Levi. They’re, ya know, partners.”
“Yeah, Ymir said they started this place together.”
“How the hell does Ymir know them??”
“Historia - their families know each other or something.”
Erwin’s presence on stage is met with a round of cheers and applause, to which he responds by raising his hands to quiet them.
“Everyone having a good time? Feelin’ loose, feelin’ good?” He asks into the microphone.
The crowd roars.
“Our next band should keep all them good feelins goin’ - please welcome The 104th.”
A round of applause rings through the place louder than any welcome Jean and this shoddy little band has ever gotten before. His stomach twists and flutters at the sound of it. As they take the stage, a whistle howls out from across the room. Jean’s eye is drawn immediately to the bar where Marco is standing, two fingers in his mouth, whistling as Jean and his bandmates take their places. Jean’s cheeks flare up in heat, and he just hopes Marco is far enough away that he can’t see the red on his face under the bright stage lights.
Must be the hooch, Jean tells himself, even though he knows it isn't true.
Historia takes her place on the stage, front and center, and lowers the microphone - still up high from when Erwin had been on stage. The crowd lets out a few lighthearted laughs, and Historia giggles in kind, but clears her throat and thanks the room for having them.
She turns back to the band.
“If It Ain’t Got That Swing, fellas,” she tells them, “One, two, three, four, dah-dah-dooo”
Their set goes without a hitch and the crowd eats them up. As they draw near their close, Jean knows it’s almost time for his and Sasha’s. Once they finish their last song, Historia waits for the audience’s applause to settle before lilting her smooth voice through the microphone.
“Thank you guys so much, I’d like to showcase our fantastic trumpeter, Mr. Jean Kirschstein, and our lovely clarinetist, Sasha Braus. Come on up, you two.”
Jean smiles and obliges, joining Historia at the microphone. Once again, the crowd begins to clap, and a loud whistle sounds out from the bar. Jean knows immediately it must be Marco - he certainly hopes it is.
“Thank you,” Jean mumbles into the microphone. Speaking’s never been his strong suit - least of all in front of a crowd - but with the trumpet in his hand and Marco cheering him on, he feels plenty confident.
“What do you two think we should play?”
“LIttle bit of If I Had You, I think. You wanna start us off, Connie?”
“You know it.”
Connie starts playing a soft piano rift, leading Jean and Sasha into the piece’s gentle melody.
Jean certainly doesn’t mean to, but as he plays, he can’t help but keep his eyes focused on Marco. The boy seems totally enraptured as Jean begins to play. He serves up a customer here and there, but for the most part, his eyes are fixated on the stage, a smile plastered across his face as he stares. Something soft flutters somewhere deep inside Jean’s gut at the very sight of him. A few seconds into the song, Marco checks his pocket watch and then leans over to whisper something to his coworker, who nods her approval. Marco tosses his towel on the counter and steps out from behind the bar, migrating towards the dance floor. Tightness builds in Jean’s chest as Marco draws nearer, and it takes everything inside him to keep himself focused on his solo sections in the song.
Marco finds a spot close to the stage, in the middle of the dancing crowd, and begins to sway back and forth to the music. Jean watches him, and Marco stares up at him in wonder. With every passing moment, with every note the melody sings on, Marco begins to move more, unconcerned with the fact that he’s dancing alone in a crowd of partnered people.
Like he’s dancing just for Jean.
He isn’t - Jean is sure of that - but what if…
It’s best not to wonder … Jean reminds himself again.
But if there ever were a place.
Jean and Sasha continue their solos, and Marco keeps on dancing, but it doesn’t take long before someone approaches Marco. Jean furrows his brow, but keeps playing, as a tall, debonair lookin’ fellow in a waistcoat taps on Marco’s shoulder. His hair is styled much like Marco’s, but his build is different. He’s tall with dark hair and a jaw with angles you could cut yourself on.
He’s a handsome belle - more attractive than Jean could hope to be, he’s sure of it.
The man taps Marco’s shoulder, and offers him a hand. Marco pauses for a second and glances back up at the stage. He smiles at Jean and mouths what Jean thinks is “Keep going”, before turning back to take the young man’s hand.
Something in Jean’s chest deflates at the sight of Marco dancing with this handsome stranger.
But something else inside him flares.
So he does like men…
The song draws to its close, and with it, so does their set. The second the song is over and the crowd erupts in applause. Jean watches as Marco puts a little distance between himself and his dance partner, thanks him, and turns his attention pointedly back to the stage to stare up at Jean. Jean meets his gaze and suddenly, whatever it was that had deflated inside his chest just a few moments before has filled back up to the brim. Jean leans into the mic and thanks the crowd, and Marco’s hands fling up above his head and clap, gusto behind each slap of his hands.
Jean and the rest of his band bow and wave, before exiting the stage. Erwin takes his place front and center, and begins to address the crowd again. As he introduces the third and final act of the night, Jean and the others begin to clean their instruments and pack up for the night. Behind him, his bandmates are talking about how good the set was, how much fun the club is, and how exciting it was to play here.
Historia is already expressing interest in playing this club again, and frankly, Jean is in total agreement. Ymir mumbles something about how she’ll talk to Erwin and Levi and see if they would have the group back to play again. Sasha packs up her clarinet and mentions hanging around to tie on a few drinks. The band doesn’t have any more gigs booked yet, no schedule they need to keep, so it’s not like hanging around would inconvenience them, and Jean honestly isn’t ready to leave anyway.
He certainly wouldn’t mind another touch of the hooch - but only if Marco serves it up.
Jean sighs to himself as he packs his trumpet up and closes the case. He doesn’t know what to make of Marco. He was kind, and warm, and welcoming in a way Jean is not accustomed to. He had a spark so bright in his eyes when he spoke to Jean that it probably could’ve set the club afire like a powder keg. But maybe that’s just how Marco is.
Maybe Marco is just warm and, dare Jean say it, flirty with everyone…
The image of that chiseled young man, so suave, so handsome, taking Marco’s hand and leading him around the dance floor flashes through Jean’s mind again. A hot surge of jealousy pools up in the bottom of his gut.
At least Marco likes men… That’s something.
Better than nothin'.
Jean had never seen anyone dare to dance with or kiss on the same sex aside from here in this club. That’s just not something you talk about out in public. Hell, it’s not something you hear about except when the radio talks about how the townsfolk from the next town over had caught wind someone wasn’t on the Straight And Narrow, and had doled out a ‘punishment’ they’d seen fit… You just don't talk about those sorts of things - sexuality, bein' queer - not unless you were lookin' for trouble.
He had to give Ymir and Historia credit - they had a kind of bravery about them that Jean only wishes he possessed. They don’t advertise their relationship - they hide it when they must. But they’ve never been afraid to be themselves. He envies them, but he owes the two of them the world. Before he’d met those girls, he had done nothing but bury his sexuality, hiding it deep within the hollow recesses of his chest, so deep that even its echos couldn’t be heard.
But this place… this club... it’s so different from anything he’s ever seen before. The people here don’t care. The people here aren’t afraid to be themselves. Folks drink and sing and party and swear. Boys dance with boys, girls cozy up to girls, and no one gives a damn.
And Marco… Marco clearly swings for Jean’s team (a phrase Jean had learned from Ymir), but whether Jean is his type or not is up for debate. Marco is rugged and handsome, sultry and suave. He dances with charming young men with styled hair, fashionable waistcoasts, and high cheekbones - not with mangy trumpet players wearing torn up slacks and ill-fitted button-up shirts.
Jean latches his case closed and stands.
From somewhere behind him, Marco’s voice sounds out, cutting through his thoughts.
Jean startles at first, but calms as soon as he registers that it’s only Marco.
“That was some pretty slick playin’, Mr. Jean,” Marco tells him with a grin. He steps forward into Jean’s space and lets his hand rest atop Jean’s shoulder, just as he’d done at the bar.
Jean tries not to shudder at the lingering touch.
“Ya think so?”
“It was damn fine.” Marco punctuates the fine with a soft squeeze of Jean’s deltoid, and then drags his fingers down along Jean’s arm to rest against his bicep.
“Yeah, I-I saw you dancin’,” Jean stammers
“That right?” Marco drums his fingertips across Jean’s bicep - the touch is light and Jean would dare to even call it flirty, especially when Marco shuffles a half-an-inch further into Jean’s space. “I saw you watchin’ me dance. You seemed pretty focused… You like what you saw?”
Jean forces himself to swallow the lump that’s built up in his throat.
I liked you , he thinks to himself, just not that belle you were dancing with .
“Not really… Who was that guy you were with?” Jean tells him truthfully, and Marco’s face falls almost instantly.
Marco huffs out a nervous chuckle and withdraws his hand.
“Just a guy. Samuel. Comes here a lot.”
“Yeah… Don’t care for him.”
Marco’s brow furrows, not fully understanding what Jean is trying (poorly) to convey. Jean clears his throat and tries to recover.
“ You looked good though... Liked your half of things…”
The next band’s music begins to roar, and a small but knowing grin spreads across Marco’s lips.
“Ahhh, I see. Well, you looked good up on stage, too, sir.”
Jean smiles, but doesn’t at all know what to say. He and Marco are speaking a language Jean doesn’t fully know, but that he’s trying desperately to learn. Every word, every syllable, every ounce of tone and inflection is new and a little exciting, but he has no idea what to do with it all. He opts for rubbing his hand across the back of his neck, chuckling uncomfortably.
Real smooth, Jean .
Luckily Marco is there to pick up the disjointed pieces of their conversation where Jean has come up short. He slips another inch closer to Jean - he’s so close now - and puts his hand back on Jean’s bicep. His grip is more firm this time, more confident, fingers massaging Jean’s muscle ever so gently.
“Well, since you didn't care for that other fellow, how about you dance with me instead?”
Jean’s breath hitches. Quickly, he glances over his shoulder to his bandmates. They aren’t close enough to hear his and Marco’s conversation, but judging by the way Ymir and Historia are watching him, he’s sure that his friends know what’s happening. Ymir takes Historia’s hand in hers and shoots Jean a look that, in no uncertain terms, is telling him to go for whatever it is that Marco is offering. Jean turns his attention back to Marco, who’s still smiling at him with that knowing smile. Marco shoots his own brief glance towards Jean’s friends, but within a second, Marco’s eyes are back and locked with Jean's again.
Marco leans in close.
“I don’t think they’ll mind, darlin’,” Marco whispers into Jean's ear.
Jean knows he’s right - none of his friends would care. Hell, two of them are gay themselves. Marco dares to lean in even further, his chest almost flush against Jean’s. His lips are so close to Jean’s ear that Jean can feel his warm breath ghosting across his skin.
“No one here cares, love. Just be yourself. Somethin’ tells me you ain’t been able to be yourself in a long time.”
“Or ever…” Jean mumbles under his breath, but he knows Marco hears it.
Marco pulls back just a little and meets Jean’s eyes with a questioning expression. He offers his hand for Jean to take.
“Dance with me?”
Jean’s tongue is suddenly a bit too big for his mouth - so he nods instead and takes Marco’s hand, letting his new companion lead him towards the dance floor.
The crowd is still lively, undeterred by the change in musicians, and the group doesn’t look like it’s going to settle down until the music does. The vivacity of the place is almost infectious; a jolt of something new and exciting zings through Jean’s gut as Marco drags him by the hand through the throngs of people.
“I uh,” Jean stammers as Marco finds them a spot amongst the crowd and turns around so they’re facing each other, “I probably shoulda mentioned, I uh, don’t really dance… much… ever?”
Marco barks out a laugh.
“Oh, darlin’, you’re a musician. You’ll catch on fast enough, I promise. Plus, just trust me, I won’t let ya go astray.”
Lord, help me .
“Just follow me.”
Marco grips Jean’s hand tight and doesn’t waste a second before dragging Jean into an unfamiliar dance step. Luckily it isn’t fast-paced, but for Jean’s ill-trained feet, it’s certainly fast enough. Jean feels - and likely looks - like a baby horse that’s just discovered it had legs. Marco, for all his skill and smooth demeanor, doesn’t seem to mind Jean’s clumsiness at all. In fact, Jean would dare to say that he’s actually getting a small kick out of Jean’s bungled motions. With every misstep, Marco giggles, but he doesn’t stop the dance, and he doesn’t stop trying to guide Jean along.
He never lets go over Jean’s hand.
Occasionally he pulls Jean in close, hand on his hip, dragging their chests together as their feet tumble along the wooden dance floor beneath them.
Jean, despite how unskilled he is, could certainly get used to Marco holding him and leading him around.
Eventually, the song fades out, and the band starts up something a little slower. Jean recognizes it immediately. Cheek to Cheek - Fred Astaire - it’s big in the pictures right now. Historia has been waxing poetic about incorporating it into their act eventually. But Jean doesn’t have time to think about that right now, because Marco is pulling him close, pressing their chests together as he guides them in a slow, swaying step motion.
Marco wraps his left arm around Jean’s middle, his palm coming to rest on the small of Jean’s back as he ushers him along. He guides Jean’s left arm up to rest of his shoulder. He keeps Jean’s right hand gripped softly in his own. He leans in close and presses his cheek against Jean’s.
“This one’s easy to follow,” Marco whispers.
“So, have you had a good night?” Marco lilts into Jean’s ear.
Something clutches tight in Jean’s chest and wiggles its way into Jean’s throat.
“Ye-yeah. Definitely the most… interesting… gig I’ve played.”
Marco pauses for a moment, and Jean takes in the gentle huff of his breath ghosting across his cheek and ear.
“Do you… do you guys have to leave tonight or somethin’?” Marco asks him.
There’s something different about Marco's voice now - it’s softer. Almost shy. A far cry from Marco's usual cadence.
Jean shakes his head.
“No, no… We don’t have any other shows booked yet.”
“Oh.” Marco sounds almost relieved. “Y’all from here, or did you travel?”
Jean feels Marco’s cheek quirk a little, and he’s sure he must be smiling.
Jean gulps down the thick lump that’s built up in his throat. It’s been growing with every passing moment he’s spent with Marco. He dares to ask the question on the tip of his tongue.
“Why do you ask?”
“I dunno. Maybe I can talk to the big guy - see about gettin’ y’all to perform here regular-like, you know? Plus…” Marco pauses, “I dunno. I like your company. Like you.”
“You don't really know me…” Jean says before he can stop himself; if he could kick himself right now, he probably would.
He's flirting with you, you idiot.
Marco shrugs again.
“That could change.”
The music fades out, and Marco slows their steps to a stop, and detaches himself from Jean. He turns to the stage and applauds loudly, as Jean does the same. But as the crowd continues its praises, Marco turns his attention back to Jean.
“Listen, Jean, I’ll be honest with ya: I’d like to get to know you.”
Marco takes his hand as the band starts back up again.
Jean chuckles, but lets Marco wrap his arm back around his middle and lead him into yet another dance.
Can’t imagine I’m all that interesting.
“I dunno, there’s something about you. From the moment you plopped your butt down at the bar, I liked ya. I think there’s a lot to you. A lot I could get to know. Plus,” Marco says, leaning in close, “you play the trumpet real sexy.”
Jean laughs at that, dropping his eyes to the floor and lifting them back to Marco’s.
“And,” Marco continues, “I dunno, you look like you’ve been trying to find somewhere you belong for a long time.”
He has - and something inside him likes the prospect of belonging here. He likes the prospect of being here with Marco.
Jean lifts his arm and drapes it over Marco’s shoulder.
“So what do ya say?” Marco asks, tilting his head back, his eyes focused on Jean’s. “I live upstairs - I make some pretty good coffee, too. How about we get to know each other?”
Staring into Marco’s dark brown eyes, so warm and honest and welcoming, Jean can’t help but wonder what all this moment could lead to. What this club could become to him, what he could become, what he and Marco could discover in all the days to come. And there is something deep and visceral inside him telling him desperately to find out.
To find it all out.
And so he sucks in a deep breath and leans forward to plant a soft kiss against Marco’s cheek.
“Yeah, alright,” Jean tells Marco with a grin yanking at each corner of his mouth.
Marco smiles back, tilts his head forward, and claims a brief, chaste kiss from Jean’s lips. He chuckles when Jean sputters out a nervous laugh, but he nods, and slows their steps.
“Alright, then. Let’s go, Mr. Trumpeter.”
And this time, when Marco tugs on his hand, Jean follows him without question or hesitation. There's a lot he's yet to learn, and a lot he has to get to know; he's just happy he gets to start with Marco.