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my soul is wicked for you

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William Schofield is on thin fucking ice.

The last time Joe felt enough rage to cease all contact aside from passive-aggressive texts was back in September, when Will took his second-hand Tesla for a spin and came back two hours later with a dent in the right corner of the boot. He’d been saving a significant portion of his already very pathetic paycheck every month towards his fund for over a year, and after he finally, finally scrounged up the low, low amount of 35,000 pounds that a local bloke was asking for, in addition to some free engineering work, he marched directly up to the guy’s front door before the guy could promise the car to anybody else.

Thankfully, Joe was referred to the guy by someone he worked with in the company, so he had it on good faith that the car wouldn’t be sold. Still, one could never be too careful. It was an old model, released all the way back in 2015, but he didn’t care—the car was his to own, and it didn’t matter that he had to design twenty machinery components to get it. It was all worth it.

So, William Schofield, texting him at near midnight with a you should probably come downstairs along with a sweat drop emoji? It did not bode well. And the minute he saw the scratched black paint shimmering underneath the yellow light of the lamppost, he nearly blew his stacks and lost his shit.

The next day, he actually did lose his shit, and he stopped talking to Will for two weeks straight. He eventually got over it, after Will apologized profusely over text, over phone, over FaceTime, and finally in person, when Will hunted him down at work, begging forgiveness like some scene out of a soap opera, and he had to get Will off his knees before his co-workers got the wrong idea about the whole situation, and—yeah, in retrospect, maybe he could’ve been less petty and handled the situation better. As much as he adores his Tesla, it’s just, at the end of the day, a hunk of metal. It’s replaceable.

What isn’t replaceable, however, is one Thomas Blake, and in particular, Thomas Blake’s innocent, gentle, and loving heart, the one that patiently plays with every single kid at the clinic so nobody would feel left out, the one that helps elderly folk carry their bags of groceries into their homes, the one that makes a driver stop just so a bird can cross the street even though birds have wings and can, obviously, fucking fly.

Thomas Blake’s innocent, gentle, and loving heart is irreplaceable, and it is the very one that Will managed to shatter beyond repair on New Year’s Eve with five panicked words when Joe confronted him about what the hell his intentions were with Tom—He’s like a younger brother, Will had stammered out.

What a load of bullshit. Yeah, sure—if Tom is like a younger brother to Will, then Joe is a millionaire. Which he isn’t. He would know. Because otherwise, he wouldn’t have had to live on salad and protein shakes until he thought he was going to go fucking crazy, all to save up for a car that ended up being dented by his arse of a friend.

His arse of a friend, who also broke his brother’s heart.

Anyway, all of this is to reiterate that, William Schofield is on thin fucking ice, and Joe will be damned if he’s not going to make Will work for his forgiveness. Will’s going to have to beg on his knees, write a hundred novel-length apology letters, all by hand, and repent at the church every Sunday.

And then, after all of that’s said and done, Will’s going to have to work twice as hard for Tom’s forgiveness.




“What do you have going on tonight?” Joe asks the minute Tom enters the flat. He had the day off, and he spent the extra twelve hours—yes, he works overtime and isn’t paid enough, okay?—putting together a plan.

“Uh, nothing?” Tom shrugs off his jacket, lets it slide to the floor, and tilts his head slightly, a motion that indicates he’s curious but also slightly wary of what’s to come next. “Did I forget to do the dishes again?”

“No—well, yes, actually, you did,” Joe says, glancing at the small pile that’s making a home in the right sink. Tom always crawls to bed with a I’ll do them tomorrow hanging off his lips after he yawns, but Joe knows by now that Tom never, in actuality, remembers to stay true to his word unless he’s given a kick in the morning.

“I’ll do them now,” Tom says, dropping his bag on the sofa and rolling up his sleeves.

“No, it’s okay.” Joe catches Tom by the arm and guides him back over to the sofa, then throws Tom’s bag onto the nearby table before sitting them both down.

“Hey, careful, got my stuff in there,” Tom complains, reaching out to sit the bag right-side up. He pats down the front flap before turning back around, the wariness in his eyes returning slowly. “Alright, what’s wrong with you today?”

“Shut it, or I’m not gonna take you to Cig & Swig.”

“Cig & Swig?” Tom sits up. “The club that’s so hard to get into?”

“That’s the one.”

“But how?” Tom furrows his eyebrows out of concern. “Who’d you have to sleep with to make this happen?”

That’s what Tom’s first thought is? Not thank you or you’re incredible or you’re the best big brother in the world? Maybe he should just leave Tom to nurse his broken heart on his own, after all.

But, no. He’s got to rise above. He’s got to set an example. He’s got to show Tom that he can’t just let any bloke come along and fuck with his feelings, even if that bloke is William Schofield. It’s always the princely, mild-mannered ones that cut the deepest, especially when they don’t mean it.

“I don’t need to sleep with anyone to get what I want, you shit.” Joe pulls up the invitation that Rossi forwarded him and turns the screen towards Tom. “Not when you’re mates with a literal superstar.”

“Oh, thank God.” Tom settles back against the sofa with a loud, exaggerated plop. “I was thinking I was gonna have to, like, fight someone in the name of your honor, or something.”

“It’s gonna be fifty years before I need you to defend my honor, Tommy.” Joe grins despite himself—Tom’s head has always been filled with these dramatic, romantic notions of honor and duty and love, and it doesn’t help that Tom spends too much time watching all those k-dramas until past midnight. “Just behave like a normal person and let your big brother treat you, yeah?”

Tom crosses his arms with a pout. “I feel like you’re laughing at me.”

“I’m not.”

“You absolutely are.” Tom kicks him in the ankle. “You arse.”

“You twat.” Joe rolls onto his feet and stands back up. “Let’s leave after you get those dishes in the machine, yeah?”

“What?!” Tom collapses onto the arm of the sofa when Joe moves out of the way. “You said you were gonna do them!”

“I did not. I said it was okay you didn’t do them yet, at that moment.” He picks Tom’s jacket off the floor and throws it over Tom’s head. “It’s now ten minutes later, and it’s no longer okay.”

“You’re the worst!” Tom’s muffled voice garbles out, his words distorted by the cloth covering his mouth. Joe escapes to the bathroom before Tom can throw the jacket back in his direction.




Alright, he’s gotta admit—the place looks pretty cool. He’d been suspicious of it ever since he first heard that Cig & Swig was only open to those with exclusive entry rights (just another way of saying “the rich and wealthy”), but after the guard gives them their VIP tags and they enter through the glass door, he’s immediately caught up in the laid-back atmosphere that’s somehow there despite the large crowd gathered inside. The decorations aren’t gaudy, the lighting is tasteful, and most importantly, the music isn’t too bad, either.

“Joe.” Tom tugs at the hem of his shirt, then eyes a file of people walking by. “Why’re there so many…”

“So many what?”

Tom glances around nervously before flushing and saying, very lowly, “Uh, you know. People who look…look like that.”

Joe follows Tom’s eyes to a group of men—boys? Surely, they can’t be over eighteen, but who can tell in this day and age—and nearly snorts. “You mean twinks?”

Joe, what the hell, you can’t just say that,” Tom scolds, dragging him over to a corner in the room.

“Why not?” Joe rediverts them towards the bar, and after ordering two scotches and shoving one in Tom’s hand, adds, “Besides, that’s great, isn’t it?”

Tom takes a tentative sip out of the glass, then wrinkles his nose before taking a larger gulp. “Why?”

Joe shrugs and downs his drink in one go, savoring the burn at the back of his throat. “Because it means you’ll fit right in.”

The beats roaring through the speakers ring loudly in his eardrums as he takes in Tom’s shocked look, and this time, he lets the grin overtake his face before bursting out laughing.

“Who are you?” Tom asks, backing away carefully. He looks into his glass, swivels the liquid around, then abandons it on the countertop. “And what have you done with my brother?”

“Oh, Tommy.” Joe pulls him back and drapes his free arm over Tom’s shoulder, then gestures to the bartender to fix him another drink. “There is so much you don’t know about me, it could fill a book. C’mon, let’s stop talking and enjoy ourselves.”

It takes another two or three songs for Joe to coax the tension out of Tom before Tom finally lets go and starts behaving like he wants to be here. Thank the Lord, because he doesn’t know what his next option would’ve been if this didn’t work—the goal is to make Tom forget about all the shit that’s happened to him recently, and if getting pissed on a Friday night wasn’t going to do it, he has no clue what would.

Tom shrieks when the introductory chords of Fleshlight’s newest single begins, and Joe laughs, feeling his heart squeeze at how utterly fucking ridiculous Tom looks right now, swinging his arms in the air and twisting around like one of those floppy air-filled mascots. It reminds him of the impromptu dance-offs they had with each other while growing up. One day, Tom ran into his room with “Under Pressure” blaring through a cheap boombox—Tom had become addicted ever since he discovered one of his Queen tapes buried underneath his collection of CDs and records—and began bouncing on his bed like there was no tomorrow, and they’d been trying to one-up each other ever since. It stopped after Joe moved out to attend college in the city, but for some reason, even though Tom joined him six years later, they never resumed the competition. A shame, because it was what he’d found himself missing the most with Tom not around.

The song is a long one, and Tom is still dancing. Joe takes out his phone and begins recording, intending to use the footage as blackmail for whenever Tom weasels out of his dish-washing duties again. A few seconds later, he notices two people hovering nearby, giving Tom a very obvious and appreciative look-over.

At first, his instinct is to tell them to watch themselves, but instead, he marches over to the blokes and centers their faces in the middle of his screen.

“Hey there,” Joe begins. “What do you think of my brother Tom, there? Cute, isn’t he?”

One of the blokes, a guy with a backwards hat and an oversized shirt—Joe never understood why this was ever a trending look, but he supposes that’s not the point here—backs away briefly before answering, “Uh.”

Joe turns the camera to the bloke’s companion. He’s significantly more well-dressed than his friend, and, now that Joe is taking a closer look, is good-looking enough that he’d entertain fucking him—that is, if he was into the preppy type, and if the bloke was a little older. The bloke is definitely Tom’s type, though—decent height, lanky, blonde hair, soft eyes, and probably hiding lots of dark, brooding secrets. “And you? What do you think?”

Preppy smiles tentatively, but not maliciously. “What’s the deal?”

“Nothing, just wanted to get your honest opinion.” Joe nods his head at where Tom is in the middle of the dance floor, a few paces away. “Would you dance with my brother if he asked?”

Preppy looks over at Tom, then says, “Yeah, probably.”

“Right on. Wait just a second, would you?”

Joe shuffles over to Tom and whisper-yells in his ear, “There’s somebody who wants to dance with you.”

“What?” Tom replies absentmindedly, clearly still lost in the music. “Who?”

“Over there, there’s a bloke, seems nice.” Joe spins Tom around. “He’s your type, isn’t he?”

Tom flushes. “Piss off.”

“That’s not a no.”

“He’s—He’s not bad.”

“That’s good enough for me.” Joe nudges him gently. “C’mon, we’re here to have fun. It’s just a dance. Doesn’t mean you’re getting married to the bloke.”

Tom looks up at him with uncertain eyes, then sets his jaw and steels himself. “Right. It’s just a dance. Nothing wrong with a dance.”

“Nothing wrong at all,” Joe agrees, then nudges Tom again. “Be free, little bird.”

Tom goes, and after a short exchange that’s out of earshot, pulls Preppy under the neon lights. Joe snaps a picture and sends it to Will along with a caption that reads, You prick.




Tom is really getting into it, if the number of people he’s danced with is anything to go by. He dances with Preppy twice, floats off to attach himself to a few other people, then comes back to dance with Preppy again. Joe’s got to admit—Tom can really work that charm when he commits to it.

He’s enjoying the view and on his third scotch of the night when the music transforms—and it’s not just a change in tempo, or key, or even genre. It’s like the entire soul of the notes changes, and he finds himself blinking the haze out of his eyes and looking up to figure out what could possibly be the impetus for this paradigm shift.

Instead of the woman that was dropping tunes onstage earlier, there’s a man there. A man, that’s wearing nothing but a grey t-shirt and a beanie. Well, and, presumably, some trousers, but Joe can’t see the man’s bottom half from where he’s standing, so—a grey t-shirt and a beanie. Who the fuck wears a beanie indoors, let alone in a club? Must be a total arse.

And yet, the man chooses this miraculous moment to look up, and, before Joe can turn his head back down, meets his gaze through the full capacity of the dance floor.

The man isn’t looking away. Joe feels the heat of the man’s stare inching up his neck, into his cheeks. Maybe he’s had too much to drink. He sets the glass down onto the nearest table and pushes himself off of the railing. The man is still tracking his every movement, as if he’s the hunter and Joe is the prey.

A shiver ripples through Joe’s shoulders, and he tries to smile back, hoping that’ll make the man drop his—whatever this is. What do you want? Joe emotes with his eyes.

Then, the man flips some switches on his…contraption. Board. Thing. Whatever, he doesn’t know anything about DJ-ing. The man flips some switches, turns some knobs, presses some buttons, then whispers something to the guards standing next to the backstage entrance before hopping onto the dance floor. Maybe the man’s shift is over? No, he only just got here. Maybe he’s going to the loo?

Then, Joe realizes the true trajectory of the man’s path, and he breathes in sharply. Okay, seriously—what the fuck?

That’s what he wants to ask, when the man pushes past the last of the crowd barricading him and plants his feet in front of him. He’s a little shorter than Joe expected—in fact, he’s got a few centimeters on the man, which is, to his surprise, very endearing. He doesn’t know why that’s his first thought, but it comes nonetheless. The second thought that immediately follows is that the man is quite attractive, in a rugged, bohemian sort of way, even though the man is wearing nothing but a grey t-shirt and a beanie—and a pair of slacks, now that Joe can see the bottom half—but once again, it’s the beanie that’s grabbing his attention. It inexplicably suits the man. Maybe that’s why he can afford to wear it, even if it still means, most likely, that he’s a total arse.

Joe kind of, sort of, maybe, perhaps, wants to kiss the man and see what he’s like in bed.

Instead of vocalizing any of that, Joe says, “I like your music.”

The man doesn’t move, doesn’t behave in any way that indicates he heard what Joe said, merely keeps still like a hawk awaiting the right moment to strike.

So, Joe gives the man a target, and tries again. “I said I like your music. Cool stuff.”

“Thanks.” The man looks as if he wants to ask something but can’t bring himself to do it out of either embarrassment or pride. It might be both.

“I’m Joe,” Joe offers, after the previous track ends and another one takes its place. This is getting a bit weird. As clichéd as it is, he’s considering pretending to take a call as an excuse to leave, but then—

“Leslie,” the man finally says.

Leslie. Huh. Not the name Joe would’ve thought up for the guy, but, like the beanie, it inexplicably suits him. “That a first or last name?”

Leslie shrugs. “I could ask the same of you.”

“Touché,” Joe says, though he feels a smile pulling at his lips. “Come here often?”

It’s a cheap line, but Leslie doesn’t leave, so it’s still got some use left in it.

“I play here occasionally. It’s an occupational hazard.” Leslie takes a cigarette out from where it was lodged between his beanie and his ear but doesn’t light it, merely taps it against his thigh. “I feel like I know you.”

Now, that’s a cheap line.

“It’s possible.” Joe reclaims the scotch he left earlier and peers at Leslie from over the top. “This used to be more of my scene, when I was young and naïve.”

“Why’d you stop?”

Joe eyes Leslie as he steps closer. “Grew up. Went to college. Got a job.”

Another step closer. “Pity. Would’ve liked to see you around more.”

“I really doubt our paths would’ve actually crossed.”

Leslie stops. “Why’s that?”

Joe finishes off the scotch and gestures between them. “No way you get to play at a club like this without having connections.”

“Is that why you’re here, then?” Leslie traps Joe with one arm leaned against the railing behind him. “Through connections?”

Leslie’s tone is absolutely not lost on him, all tease and jeer but with none of the animosity or snark. It burns a hole in Joe’s gut, and it makes him want to fill it with more of the same, but with the dial cranked up to the highest volume, the highest voltage.

“And what would you do if I said yes?” Joe asks, and the last consonant of his sentence is cut off, forever lost to the oblivion by the pressure of Leslie’s lips on his. His back hits the cold metal railing, at odds with the heat surrounding him, and he moans just from the contact.

“Sorry. Hell.” Leslie leans back, but only enough to murmur out the words. His lips are still pressed to Joe’s, as if ready to steal another kiss. “Was that—Was that alright—”

“Yes, fuck, that was—” Joe closes the distance and tastes the mint on Leslie’s lips again, drinks in Leslie’s cologne with a deep breath. Is that the new Hugo Boss line he smelled at the department the other day? For some reason, he expected Leslie to smell like smoke and old paper, not this complete contradiction that’s threatening to turn his mind upside down with a daze. It makes him wonder what other surprises Leslie might have tucked away like prizes waiting to be won. “That was more than alright. That was—”

Leslie surges forward with another kiss that nearly knocks Joe over. Joe grabs blindly at the railing behind himself, just to prop himself up, but his back hits drywall—when did they shift to this part of the club?—and suddenly, warm, coarse hands are bracketing his jaw. He smells Leslie’s aftershave, a musk that’s slightly less aggressive than the cologne but nonetheless there, nonetheless present, and he almost faints from the dizzying swirl of fragrances. It feels like he’s kissing a supermodel, which is ridiculous considering Leslie’s attire and Leslie’s entire demeanor, but his gut twists at the thought anyway. How the fuck is Leslie not turned off by the stench of alcohol that’s certainly radiating off of his own shirt, his hands, his mouth—everywhere? Does Leslie do this a lot? Kiss people with scotch running in their veins?

Then, Leslie pushes him down on the bench—again, where did it come from, and how did they even get here?—and his brain short-circuits. Flat surface. They’re on a flat surface. They’re on a flat surface, and Leslie’s hands are underneath his shirt, palming at his abdomen, and Leslie’s chest is firm and strong against his, and Leslie’s cologne, aftershave, scent, whatever, is hanging in the air around them, and Leslie is still kissing him, and there’s tongue now, Christ—

Joe, agonizingly, with all the strength he can muster, commits to the most difficult thing he’s had to do since giving his promotion talk, places both hands on Leslie’s stupidly firm, strong chest, and pushes Leslie back.

“What’s wrong?” Leslie’s pupils are blown, noticeable even under the rapidly fluctuating neon lights, and his voice is wrecked despite his effort to keep steady. “Did I hurt you?”

Yes, you’ve hurt my soul and my future prospects of wanting to kiss anybody else aside from you, you prick, is probably a smite too dramatic and revealing to blurt out, so Joe goes with a simple shake of his head. “I just—ah, this is—”

“Moving too fast?” Leslie begins to sit back up. “Of course, I understand, let me—”

Well, that’s not quite what he wanted. Joe grabs a fistful of Leslie’s plain grey T, immediately recognizing the feel of incredibly well-spun cotton on his fingertips, and wrinkles the damn thing that probably costs more than he makes in an entire year, holding Leslie in place.

“Just want to say that, well, we’re still kind of in a public place, but also that if this is—if this is heading in the direction that I think it is, I don’t mind being a one-night conquest if that’s what you’re into.”

That’s a lie, but it’s better than anything else he could think of. Leslie probably fucks a new person, a new fan every night, and it’s not like Joe’s expecting a heartfelt confession that’ll lead to marriage and kids and a shared flat in the Bahamas or anything, but—yeah, he’s not sure where this thought process is going, either. It’s just that, he’s a bit tipsy, and he doesn’t have work tomorrow, and all he wants is to let Leslie take him to bed and forget about the rest of the world.

Wait, fuck. He totally just ditched Tom on the dance floor. Focus, he tells himself. Focus.

“So, yeah,” he continues, “I get that this is just gonna be a one-time thing, I’m not delusional, just wanted to put that out there so you don’t, I don’t know, think I’m trying to land you or anything ridiculous like that—”

Before he can finish his sentence with so take me to bed and fuck me until my body is sore and I can’t walk, please, Leslie cuts him off and pins both of his wrists above his head.

“You need to stop talking before I fuck you on this big but very uncomfortable bench.”

Joe gulps and tries to shift his hips to adjust to the new position, but he accidentally bumps his crotch against Leslie’s, and—yeah, wow, they’re both hard. Fuck.

“It’s only uncomfortable because my jeans are too tight and your crushing me with your very nicely shaped thighs isn’t helping,” Joe quips back. That earns him a hungry scowl, a tighter grip around his wrists, and another searing kiss, deep and bruising and wet.

“You’ve got quite a mouth on you.” Leslie licks his lips and Joe follows every movement, committing them to memory for after this fever dream is over. “If you let me take you home, I’d rather fancy plugging it up.”

Fuck. Joe tries to remember how to breathe, but they’re so close to each other, and Leslie is stealing all the air away. He shifts again, relishing the flicker of lust that passes through Leslie’s face when he presses their pelvises together once more. He wasn’t sure before, because it happened so quickly, but now that he’s doing it again—yeah. Leslie is fucking huge. Bloody hell. He’s not sure what he wants more, to suck Leslie off and swallow every last drop that Leslie spills into his mouth, or for Leslie to stick that cock deep into his arse, all the way to the hilt, and make him feel the stretch until he feels it no more.

Both. He wants both. The only way to get that is to—

“Yes,” Joe says, after kissing Leslie once more. “Take me home and I’ll let you do more than just plug my mouth up.”

He doesn’t mean to say that last part, and he’s about to blush out of embarrassment when Leslie lets out a breathy laugh and his cheeks go pink. It’s mesmerizing, and Joe accepts it as one of those prizes that Leslie tries to hide away.

“You are just full of surprises, aren’t you?” Leslie asks.

“I aim to please.” Joe mirrors Leslie’s smile with his own. “So, Mr. DJ? What’ll it be?”

“I need to play out this gig first, but—” Leslie drops his head onto Joe’s chest with a light thump. “I really don’t want to, not after I know what you look like all—all—like this.”

Something like a flutter erupts in Joe’s stomach. No. Do not go there.

“I’ll be here,” Joe says. “Me and my mouth.”

Leslie looks back up with such tenderness and longing that Joe is certain he must be projecting. “You promise?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Joe says, though he doesn’t plan on dying before he’s come at least once or twice (or, if he’s allowed to dream a little, thrice) in the same room as Leslie.

Leslie lets out a pained groan. “Alright. It’ll be hard, but for you, I’ll endure.”

“Get through the gig and that won’t be the only thing that’ll be hard tonight.”

“Stop.” Leslie lets go of his wrists and cups his face instead, like he’s about to swear an oath. “Or I’m never gonna leave.”

Joe rakes his freed hands under Leslie’s beanie and through Leslie’s hair as he feels the blood rush back into his arms. “Didn’t realize you were such an easy lay. This how you win over all of your fans?”

He meant it as a joke, obviously—he was just continuing with the next logical strand of their banter, but Leslie suddenly looks serious. Did he overstep? Say something wrong?

“Not all of them,” Leslie says, pupils still blown but with something else hidden behind the lust. “Just you, I hope.”

Joe feels his heart skip another beat, and he forces it back down, bottles it back into the jar it sprang out of. Leslie uses this line on everyone. He has to. He must.

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

And then—he didn’t think it was possible, but Leslie’s eyes turn even more serious, as if Leslie is gearing up for battle, or preparing to lay down his life, or drafting a resolution in his heart, and Joe has no idea what to do with that, with any of that.

“Give me an hour and I’ll show you,” Leslie says, with none of the wit or sarcasm that was leaking through earlier. With that, he unhooks himself like a magnet forcing itself against polarity, then offers a hand. Joe takes it before he can think twice, before he can think through what it means.

As Joe watches Leslie fade back onto the dance floor, he keeps running over what Leslie just promised. Show him? Show him what?

Then, his phone buzzes, and he remembers again—shit. Tom.

where’d you go???

Still here, he texts back. Sorry, got caught up with something. God, he is the worst. How could he just ditch Tom like that?

that sounds awfully suspicious

you only say sorry when you’ve got something to hide



oh my god

oh my god did you fuck someone???

Joe sighs. And he was doing so well, too, keeping himself free of anything that Tom could potentially bribe him with.


holy christ. you go, joe!

I’ll explain later.

uh huh. this’ll be good.

Shut it, you twat. Where are you?

you’re the one who fucked off with a new boy toy, you come find me

Jesus Christ. He’s never going to live this down.




Tom is sitting at the bar with two glasses and a shit-eating smirk. “So? Where’s your boy toy?”

“He’s not my—” Joe grabs both drinks away and sets them far out of Tom’s reach. “What about you? Where’s Preppy?”

“Preppy?” Tom twists his lips in confusion before raising his eyebrows. “Oh, you mean Baumer? Yeah, no, turns out he came here with that other bloke, the one with the hat. Kilgour, I think was his name?” Tom checks his phone—of course he’s made friends with them already—and nods. “Yeah, Kilgour. Nice lad. Wasn’t even jealous I stole his boyfriend.”

Joe finds that hard to believe. “So, what, you’re all mates now?”

“Yep.” Tom grins. “Isn’t that great?”

“You’re not...” Joe trails off, wondering how to put the next part into words. “You’re alright?”

“Course I am.” Tom’s tone loses its mischievous lilt. “You don’t need to worry about me all the time. Don’t think I didn’t catch on to what you were doing tonight.”

“I just want you to be okay.”

“I am. How could I not?” Tom bumps his shoulder against Joe’s. “I’ve got you for a big brother, haven’t I? Made some new friends, too. I’d say it was a success.”

Joe sighs. Well, as long as Tom’s happy.

“I’m still sorry for leaving you. That was an arse move.”

“Well,” Tom says, and the glint returns to his eyes. “You can make it up to me by telling me who you almost fucked.” He begins scanning the room, starting from the left and filtering to the right.

“You’re not gonna find him like that.”

“Hey, my vision’s better than yours, Mr. Two-Point-Five-O-Astigmatism.” Tom sweeps his eyes back across the dance floor, this time in reverse from right to left. “Still, nobody seems hot enough to catch your fancy.”

Joe considers staying quiet, but Tom is trying so hard, and he still feels bad about ditching. So, just for tonight, he’ll take the punishment. “Look up.”

Tom shoots him an inquisitive look before darting his eyes towards the stage. Joe counts the seconds slowly, waiting for Tom to put two and two together. The realization comes painfully, as Tom’s nostrils flare out of disbelief and his hairline nearly shoots off, and Joe considers running away to the restroom before deciding to stand his ground and face this like a proper man.

“No.” Tom points a finger. “Him? The bloody DJ?”

Joe nods, then buries his mouth into a palm as he props himself up on the counter.

“For real? You aren’t shitting me?”

Joe shakes his head. He is truly never, ever going to live this down.

“Oh my God.” Tom collapses against Joe’s chest as he attempts to muffle his laughter. “Oh my God. Oh my God.

“It’s really not that funny,” Joe says, flicking Tom on the forehead.

“But how—how’d you even—” Tom wheezes, then sits back up, hair disheveled and cheeks running red from the lack of air. “I knew you always liked the weird ones, but—bloody Christ.”

“He’s not that weird,” Joe mumbles, feeling the strange urge to defend Leslie, even though he only met the man maybe thirty minutes ago. Besides, Tom dated Cooke in Year 11, and that was a disaster—thank the Lord they figured it out and realized they were better off as friends.

Oh my God,” Tom repeats, eyes widening. “You actually like him. Why? Why do you like him?”

“I don’t know, alright? I wasn’t planning on doing anything, but he walked over and then we—we—” Joe cuts off. Why does he need to justify this? It’s not like he hasn’t had one-night stands before. He tells Tom as much. “It’s not gonna go anywhere after today, anyway.”

Tom looks concerned, all of a sudden. “How do you know?”

“Look at him,” Joe says, gesturing to Leslie on the stage. A ripple of cheers echoes out when Leslie begins another song, one that’s more upbeat than the last. “He plays here every night. He’s probably got groupies.”

Not all of them, Leslie’s voice rings out. Just you, I hope.

Joe shakes it off. “There’s no way he’s taking me seriously, and that’s fine.”

Tom doesn’t appear to be convinced. “You don’t sound fine.”

That’s the problem with going to clubs with a younger brother who’s been with you through thick and thin, through all the high and the lows—Tom automatically picks up on the slightest indication of not fine.

“I will be fine.” Joe squishes Tom’s nose, a motion guaranteed to make Tom yelp. “Because—”

“Because it’s gonna be fifty years before you need me to defend your honor?” Tom asks reluctantly.

Joe grins. “Exactly. So, just let me go fuck this ridiculous man and I’ll tell you everything later, okay? Deal?”

Tom taps his foot against the stool, then props his feet up onto Joe’s lap. “Deal, but you’ve gotta send an SOS if he turns out to be a creep or a murderer, okay?”

“I don’t think it’ll come to that,” Joe says, pushing Tom’s feet back down. “But if it makes you feel better, I’ll text you in case it does.”

“You’d better.” Tom reaches past him and grabs the two glasses. “Otherwise, I’ll never let you take me anywhere again. You’d be setting a bad example.”

Joe pries one of the glasses out of Tom’s hand and dumps the scotch over Tom’s head.




Leslie didn’t tell him where to meet him afterward, so Joe decides to go back to the bench. If Leslie comes, great—if he doesn’t, then it’ll be easy to slip away so nobody’ll notice how pathetic he is.

Tom texts him during the interim. Well…they’re more like little reports.

he’s still onstage

still onstage

oh I think this is the last song

nope jk there’s one more





ok I can’t see him anymore but good luck

remember to text me if he’s a murderer

He should feel grateful that Tom cares so much, but honestly, he’s a tad sad that Tom has so little faith in him.

is he there yet?

god he better not stand you up

I’ll kick his ass if he does

I don’t care if he has groupies

TOM, is all Joe manages to send back, before Leslie appears in front of him, just like earlier in the night.

“You’re still here,” Leslie says, the surprise evident in his voice. He’s wearing a collared jacket over the grey t-shirt now, along with a scarf and—are those fingerless mittens?

Joe redirects his eyes back to Leslie’s face. “I said I’d be, didn’t I?”

Leslie glances at the phone in Joe’s hand. “Popular, are we?”

Joe peers at the screen and can’t help the groan of annoyance that slips out.

is he there?

is he there?

oh my god he’s there isn’t he

“Could you—Could you just—Give me a second.” Joe dashes off yes he’s here and he looks completely normal, now please piss off before shutting his phone completely off.

“Someone important?” Leslie asks.

“My brother. He thinks you’re going to murder me.” Joe stuffs the phone deep into his back pocket. “Are you?”

“You never know. Gotta be careful with strangers, after all.”

For some reason, that reply only manages to make Joe like Leslie even more. What is wrong with his head? He must be completely pissed even though he doesn’t feel it.

“I’ll take my chances,” Joe says. “So, what now?”

Leslie tilts his head, then drapes his scarf around Joe’s neck. “So, you follow me home and hope I don’t murder you.”

Then, Leslie turns his heel, and Joe follows, cheeks heated (from the scotch? From the scarf? From the cologne, aftershave, scent, whatever, radiating from it?), and tries to keep up.




Leslie owns a studio space. It’s the kind with a glass wall and a terrace overlooking the rest of London city.

There’s an opposite wall that looks as if someone’s taken a dozen paintbrushes and flicked haphazardly onto it, creating a stylized calligraphy with none of the letters, more like a sounding board that one throws ideas at without any of them bouncing back. Joe also sees a beat-up upholstered sofa with a green and yellow floral pattern that belongs in the cottage of some 18th century spinster, a wooden table that’s more akin to a wrongly assembled puzzle, and a braided rug with glittering gold stars lining the edges that runs the length of the hallway leading to a separate space that’s tucked away like a badly kept secret. It splits into a small bathroom (neatly minimalistic), a kitchen (containing many jars of spices), and a bedroom (with a very comfortable looking bed).

“To be honest,” Joe says, tearing his eyes away from the unkempt sheets on the mattress, “I was expecting someplace a lot more obnoxious.”

Leslie eyes him as he tosses his jacket, beanie, and mittens onto a pile of other garments and accessories atop a stool that looks as if it’s been doubling as a makeshift laundry basket for a while. “You look like you have a lot of questions.”

“This doesn’t look like the place of someone who plays clubs for a living, is all.” Joe’s mind is still caught on the wall in the first room, abstract patterns and impossible colors thrown down like they’re remnants of a star gone supernova. Like they were once whole and are trying to figure out how to exist as individual sentient beings. Like they’re fragments of Leslie’s own soul, waiting for the miracle that’ll give them purpose again.

But, it’s not as if Joe’s an artist himself. What does he know? The abstract patterns could just be shapes, the impossible colors just random hues.

And yet, the vibrancy of the bloody reds and the brilliant yellows and the cerulean blues are at odds with the guarded look in Leslie’s dark eyes, as Leslie closes their distance and stops one breath short of a kiss. Something tells Joe that if he ignored courtesy and leaned in right now, it would be the wrong thing to do, the wrong move to make. Why is that? Isn’t that the reason he let Leslie bring him here? For...For that?

Or, maybe he didn’t let Leslie do anything. Maybe he’s the one in charge, and Leslie is the one that’s following.

Give me one hour and I’ll show you, Leslie said, but what did he mean?

It’s all very confusing. Even more so, now that Leslie places another foot between them, a small step back like he only just realized he miscalculated and is attempting to readjust for the error.

He should probably stop trying to figure this out with math. Tom always complains that he values numbers too much, and now that he’s here, in this glass house that looks like it could be shattered with one touch of a feather, he’s thinking that perhaps Tom might have a point.

“Are you going to say anything?” Joe asks. He doesn’t particularly like how his voice sounds in the cold tiled space of the kitchen. It reverberates noisily and takes too long to travel over to Leslie. So, he steps closer, letting the error grow, letting the uncertainty take over. “Or are we gonna be stuck like this for the rest of the night?” Like two lines in running parallel but never meeting?

Leslie almost steps back again, likely out of reflex, but Joe reaches out to grab hold of him before he spirals away into the darkness.

“Please say something,” Joe whispers. “Or have you changed your mind?”

That draws a reluctant and surprised laugh out of Leslie. “It might come as a surprise, but I’ve never…”

“Fucked a fan before?”

“Liked anybody enough to want to take a chance on what might come after.”

It sounds like something straight out of the dramas that Tom is always trying to get him to watch. He should probably tread forward carefully, but truthfully, he’s tired of careful—besides, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be risking all that much anyway, not if Leslie keeps looking at him like that, with honesty on one shoulder and clarity perched on the other.

“Well,” Joe says, hooking a finger onto the front of Leslie’s shirt collar and pulling him closer, “you haven’t actually fucked me yet, so we won’t know what’ll come after if that doesn’t happen first, yeah?”

He’s a centimeter away from bringing Leslie’s lips flush against his when Leslie leans back again.

“But, you—you said this is a one-night thing, so—hell, if that’s what you want it to be, I don’t—fuck, I won’t—”

“Leslie.” Joe curls his other hand behind Leslie’s head, at the base of Leslie’s neck, and grins when Leslie shivers. “Shut your bloody trap and kiss me before the sun rises, please.”




He was right. The bed is incredibly comfortable, and Leslie is pushing him into the mattress with a reserved urgency that’s only made obvious by the slow trail of touches that Leslie is mapping up his right thigh, up his waist, and eventually up his chest and dipping into the curve of his neck.

He almost forgets about Leslie’s other hand, lost in the heat of Leslie’s mouth over his throat, when he feels his head sink deeper into the pillow underneath, guided there by an external force.

“Did you—” Joe reaches up to grab at Leslie’s fingers that are tangled in his hair. “Did you just pull my—”

Leslie stills, and Joe feels the hand at his neck grow warmer, along with a puff of air that tickles his collarbone. “…ry.”

“What’d you say?” Joe tries to sit up, but Leslie rolls off of him the exact moment he does, and he nearly tumbles forward onto the ground before catching himself. He looks down at where Leslie is splayed beside him, legs intertwined with his, hands retreated, and eyes fixed on the ceiling.

“Hey.” Joe pokes Leslie lightly on the cheek.

“I said sorry, alright? Bloody hell.” Leslie swats his hand away, and Joe circles his fingers around Leslie’s wrist before Leslie can retreat all the way again. Joe keeps their position and slowly slots their hands together, letting himself acclimate to the roughness of Leslie’s palm in his own, to the arhythmic pattern of Leslie’s breathing, to the unspoken words left unclaimed in the space between them. At that moment, his eyes finally finish adjusting to the darkness of the room, and he sees Leslie staring back with a question and an apology.

Joe doesn’t really feel like accepting the apology, but he can try to answer the question. So, he leads both of their hands back to where they were before, and curls his fingers when he manages to grab a fistful of his own hair in between all the bone and skin.

“I didn’t say I wanted you to stop,” he says quietly, and when he’s certain that Leslie isn’t going to let go this time, he withdraws his own hand and centers it over Leslie’s heart. “You said you were going to show me something. So, show me, then.”

This time, when Leslie pulls again, it’s a little harder, just a brief flutter of pain that settles dangerously in his gut.

“Come on,” Joe says, a little breathless even though they’ve barely done anything—they both still have all of their clothes on, for fuck’s sake. “Show me.”

Leslie pulls a third time, and it’s accompanied by a soft, deep kiss that swallows the moan coming out of his mouth, and Joe feels absolutely elated, as if his voice is no longer his own.

He would gladly give it up, give all of it up, but it doesn’t seem nearly enough. Before can Leslie can do anything else, Joe rolls onto him and brackets Leslie’s thighs, Leslie’s arms, Leslie’s heartbeat with his own.

“Not that this isn’t lovely,” Joe says, “but you did mention something about—ah, what was it, plugging my mouth up?”

Leslie lifts a knee and Joe meets the action with a deliberate grind down. He stifles a smirk when a groan escapes from Leslie’s throat, reserved and profane.

“How’s it that you’re still managing to run your mouth?” Leslie asks, though the heat behind his words is fueled more by lust than by annoyance or anger.

At least, that’s what Joe hopes. He pops the button holding Leslie’s stupid slacks—they’re made of silk, he’s only now noticing, what the fuck—in place and shoves a hand down the front.

“It’s my mouth that got me here in the first place, isn’t it?” The knot in his gut twists when he feels Leslie already hard, and already leaking. “Let me put it to good use.”

“If you—” Leslie’s voice cracks. “Bloody hell. If you do that, I won’t last long enough to—”

“To properly stick this in me and fuck me?” Joe strokes once, just a light squeeze, more of a caress than anything, drawing another muffled expletive out of Leslie. “We’ve got all night. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

With only the thin sliver of moonlight trickling in through the closed blinds acting as illumination, cast onto Leslie’s eyes like a judgment from above, Joe pushes Leslie’s slacks further down until they pool at Leslie’s knees. Leslie is quiet, exuding none of the faux charm from their earlier encounter in the club, and Joe wonders if this Leslie, the one that’s tentatively letting one secret slip at a time, is another one of Leslie’s personas, another one of his masks, or if, perhaps, it’s just Leslie himself, as he truly is.

He wants to find out. So, he takes Leslie into his hands, one circling the base and the other pressed to the tip, and licks a stripe from bottom to top. Leslie lets out a moan perfectly timed to a thrust up, and Joe grins before repeating the motion, at half the speed.

“Fuck,” Leslie says, this time resisting the thrust. Leslie’s hands automatically latch onto the bedsheets, his fists twisted into the cloth, and—well, that’s not where Joe wants them, because he knows for a fact that Leslie’s hands are very warm, very good at spinning out magic in the form of notes and beats, and it would be a shame to not discover what other talents lie dormant in those hands.

As gently as he can, Joe coaxes Leslie’s hands free of the sheets and gives them a new home in the curls just above his own forehead. Then, he lowers his head until his mouth is hovering over the tip of Leslie’s cock, and waits.

The room is silent, with the faint ticking of the clock hanging above the bedframe being the only indication of time passing. That, along with the sliver of moonlight that has shifted ever so slightly over the bridge of Leslie’s nose, ending at the dip of Leslie’s bottom lip. Even so, Leslie’s eyes burn as brightly as before—no, even brighter, and Leslie’s pupils waver, suddenly, and Joe feels his head being pushed down by those warm hands, and then he finally, finally takes Leslie into his mouth.

It’s when the tip of Leslie’s cock hits the back of his throat that he faintly realizes he hasn’t done this in a while. He tries to remember what to do—he backs up to the tip and swirls his tongue around the slit before going all the way down again. When he sucks, that’s when he feels another burst of dull pain around his scalp, when Leslie pulls him forward and off his cock, and—yeah, he can work with this.

He strokes Leslie’s cock once before taking it into his mouth again, and after two, three, four, five more times of the same motions with Leslie’s increasingly erratic breathing pacing him, he sucks once, hard, and has a brief millisecond to register Leslie’s pained ah before Leslie spills into his throat.

It might’ve been awhile, but he hasn’t forgotten about this, his favorite part. He takes it all and only releases Leslie’s cock when Leslie pulls his head up again.

“What’re you doing?” Leslie’s voice is gravelly, hoarse, and uneven despite Leslie’s attempt to smooth it out, sounding every bit like he’d just been the one to suck someone off and not the other way around.

For some mystifying reason, this is what makes Joe decide to stare Leslie in the eye, his blue reflected against Leslie’s dark black, and swallow, as slowly as he can manage.

He doesn’t get the chance to feel properly smug about it before Leslie is hauling him over with both arms wrapped around his waist, growl low and deep in his chest as he licks along Joe’s bottom lip and kisses him, mouth scorching as hotly as the desire that Joe feels in his own gut.

“So—” is all Joe manages to get out, because Leslie spins them with one swift roll, and just like that, they’re back to the way they were before, Joe’s back against the sheets, and Leslie suspended above him.

“So,” Joe tries again, trying not to quiver when Leslie sneaks both hands under his shirt and up his abdomen, “you finally ready to make good on your promise and show me what you’ve got?”

“I’m beginning to think that if I don’t, that you’ll never shut up,” Leslie responds gravely, his tone clashing with the playful glint in his eyes.

“Well, thank God for that,” Joe says, arching up when Leslie rubs both thumbs over his nipples. Fuck. He kisses Leslie again in an attempt to stop the next string of moans from escaping. “I thought we’d never get to the good part.”




Joe wakes up the next morning with a throbbing pain in his skull—is it from his hangover, from having his hair pulled, or from coming not once, twice, or thrice, but four times during the night?

If he was a betting man, he’d bet on all of the above, just to even his odds.

Leslie isn’t in bed when Joe rolls over. He does, however, finally see that the walls of this room are painted a faint baby blue, and that there’s a photograph of a cat sitting on the desk in the corner. He snaps a few photos, stares at them, then deletes them.

Tom sent him a grand total of one message since Joe shut off his phone, which is a record low.

need me to fight for your honor yet?

Where is Leslie, anyway? Does he have a morning job aside from the DJ gig? It’s Saturday, though, so whatever the job is, it must suck.

Verdict not in yet, Joe texts back. Will let you know after I leave.

There’s also a text from Will, and Joe squints his eyes before tapping on it.

Ah…he looks happy. He deserves it.

That dense motherfucker. Joe is about to throw his phone across the room when Leslie appears at the doorway in an apron.

“Woah.” Leslie holds up the cloth in his right hand and blocks his face with his left. “All I wanted was to ask if you were hungry.”

Hungry? Maybe it’s because he’s still a bit fucked out, but—

“Think I had enough to eat last night.”

Leslie doesn’t rise to the taunt, merely scoffs in a bored tone. “Okay. Breakfast for one, then.”

“Kidding, hey, I was kidding.” Joe dangles his legs off the edge of the bed and starts shuffling the sheets around to try and find his jeans. Leslie picks them up off the ground on the other side of the bed and tosses them over.

“See you in a bit, then,” Leslie says, before tapping on the doorframe twice and disappearing.

After Joe lets the silence settle back in, he takes a deep breath. That was strange. And…

He hears drums echoing from somewhere in the room, and he looks around for a good while—maybe the tenant below is doing construction work?—before he figures it out and places a hand over his chest.


No. He’s just not used to waking up and having someone else waiting on him, rather than the other way around. Tom is a sweetheart, but he was never the most…skilled in the cooking department.

He pulls on his jeans after his heart calms down, putting his yoga training to good use, then pats down his hair before leaving the room.




It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes since Leslie left, so there is no way that he’s already done making two servings of corned hash.

“What would you have done if I didn’t want to eat?” Joe asks.

“Microwaves exist for a reason,” is all Leslie says. “You don’t have to eat it if it’s not your thing.”

“That is absolutely not what I meant.” What he meant was, Leslie clearly planned on making enough for both of them to begin with, so Leslie asking earlier was just a courtesy, and this realization is severely doing his heart no favors.

Leslie is looking at him funny, and Joe wonders if his thoughts are written as clearly on his face as he feels them. He used to be a lot better at being unreadable and mysterious, but he’s out of practice.

“So, you have any gigs today?” Joe asks, going for a neutral topic. Nothing sexy about work.

“No.” Leslie swirls a fork around his bowl. “Gonna use the time to work on some other things.”

Oh, so the DJ thing is part-time. “Like what?”

“Some compositions for the student exhibition that the college of arts is putting up in a month.”

“Cool.” Joe takes a bite of his corned hash and is about to wash it down with some grapefruit juice when he pauses. Student exhibition? College of arts?

Leslie continues looking down at his bowl, like he’s wondering how to dive into it and escape this conversation.

“Leslie?” Joe puts down his fork.


“What did you mean last night when you said you felt like you knew me?”

Leslie scratches his fork at the porcelain, pushing around a few potatoes before dropping it with a clunk. “I’ve seen you before, at the college.”

There are lots of colleges in the London area, but it’s obvious from the way Leslie says it that he’s talking about a very specific one.

“What are you saying?”

“I was philosophy and music composition, though I took some art,” Leslie says.

That…actually answers a lot of questions Joe had in his mind, but not the most important one. “The arts college is in a different area in the city than the engineering college.”

“I know.” Leslie fiddles with his cloth napkin, folding and unfolding the corner until it becomes creased. “Do you remember when the new building for agricultural engineering opened?”

Of course he does. He graduated from the college with a degree in agricultural engineering. Somehow, he knows that Leslie already knows this and is once again asking as a courtesy, so he stays quiet.

“There was a mixer, right?” Leslie continues. “Open to the public.”

“Were you there as a guest?”

Leslie shakes his head. “I was part of the committee that put together the thing.”

“But you—” Joe is really, really confused, because he was also part of the committee. Surely, he would’ve remembered… “If you weren’t part of the department—”

“They asked around for music people to figure out the entertainment, remember? You engineers always have shit taste in what makes for a good time.” Leslie runs a hand through his hair, then smiles. “I remember you suggested that we just play Beethoven to make it classy and formal.”

Beethoven is classy and formal. Joe’s about to rise to defend his choice when he suddenly recalls—

“Was it you who did those remixes? The—The—”

“Classipop?” Leslie asks, laughing in embarrassment. “Yeah, not my best nomenclature.”

“I—” Joe flushes. “I even asked you for—” He’d been so into the remixes that he’d asked the person responsible for a copy of the tracks, every single one, all twenty-five of them that were played on loop throughout the evening.

Leslie just nods.

I like your music, Joe had told Leslie back at the club, but now, he’s realizing that those four words carried a lot more to them than he’d intended.

“That’s why I was surprised to see you last night,” Leslie says. “Thought you were just a stuck-up prick. Still didn’t make me stop thinking about you, though.”

Leslie says it so casually. Meanwhile, Joe is still struggling to wrap his mind around the fact that he just fucked someone that he met in college. Someone that he’d totally forgotten about. Like a goddamn cliché.

“Is your name even Leslie?” Joe asks.

“It is. My last name, anyway.” Leslie pops a tomato into his mouth. “First name’s Ellis.”

Ellis. Also not the name Joe would’ve thought up for him, but once again, it inexplicably suits him.

“I’d say my last name is Blake, but somehow, I think you already know that,” Joe says. He feels like a clueless heroine in one of Tom’s dramas. He is absolutely never, ever, ever going to live this down.

“Never forgot it,” Leslie confesses. “Doesn’t change anything, though.”

“Change what?”

“I’m not—” Leslie picks up his dishes and carries them over to the sink, turning his back. “I’m not saying all of this because I’m trying to—to keep you here, or anything. Just wanted to set the record straight.”

Joe stares at Leslie’s toned muscles as Leslie remains standing, breathing shallowly. “Do you really mean that?”

“Of course I do.”

“It doesn’t sound like it.”

“I don’t care what it sounds like. It’s the truth.”

“That’s a load of bullshit.”

“Christ, Blake, what do you want?”


“Why’re you calling me that?”

Leslie’s fingers are gripped tightly on the kitchen counter. Joe knows Leslie intimately enough now to translate that touch to his own skin, to feel how it would feel on his back despite the distance between them.

Joe stands up, walks over, and stops behind Leslie. Behind… “Ellis.”

Ellis’s hold on the counter relents briefly, and Joe takes the chance to pry Ellis's hands from the smooth tile, as gently as he did last night from the sheets.

“Ellis,” Joe repeats, then circles his arms around Ellis’s waist. He smiles when Ellis relaxes all the way, settling his weight into his chest.


Joe hums into Ellis’s shoulder. “Good. Now we’re properly acquainted.”

“Is that what we are, now?” Ellis asks, with no trace of heat in his voice. “Acquaintances?”

Before he can reconsider it, Joe turns his head and presses a kiss into Ellis’s neck, just below his ear. “We’ll work our way up from there.”




Later, when Joe is sprawled out on the very ugly sofa, head propped up on the caved-in arm and both feet lounging on the table beside it, he sends Tom an update.

Can confirm that you don’t need to fight for my honor.

Tom’s reply comes immediately.

damn. a pity, that. was quite looking forward to it.

but good. I’m happy for you.

Joe looks up at Ellis sitting at the kitchen counter, headphones plugged in, eyebrows furrowed, fingers typing rapidly at the keyboard.

Yeah, Joe sends back with a grin. Me too.