Zero was a sociopathic beast wrapped up in a handsome package that’s tall and muscular with a charm that could probably rival Ted Bundy’s if Zero was inclined to end any relationships violently.
However, words often proved more dangerous and had long-lasting effects than just a sudden end. Sometimes, seeing his enemies suffer from being forced to humility in their pride was the greatest reward Zero could ever experience.
He had always planned several moves ahead of anyone in his social circle, always coming onto someone at an angle and armed with a secret that could be devastating.
Very rarely his plans go awry. Jelena was one of them but he had to admit that it was because of Jude that his head wasn’t fully in the game. It was Jude who warned him that Jelena was a strong player and no one gets out of a fight with her without bearing some scars.
Even during the sexual encounters with the equally dangerous dancer, his thought would always be somewhere else, on someone else. Sure, Jelena was sexy and had deadly ambitions that rivaled his. While he was quite shocked at being outplayed by Jelena, a small part of him clapped in congratulations. Here was someone who beat him at his own game. However, the darker side of Zero wanted revenge and the anger helped him refocus his efforts on just screwing her over as best and as frequently as he could. After all, karma was a bitch.
Jude though was an entirely different matter.
Tall, dark and tortured, the Kincade heir was the complete opposite of his father.
He was quiet and reserved. Hazel eyes were calculating but not in a cold way like his father’s or Jelena’s. They hid an intelligence that few people recognized and boy did Zero see it in their first meeting together in Ohio.
“A land of opportunity for a man who wants to rise to the top.”
That’s what Jude had said during the first round of negotiations. It wasn’t the empty promises of Jude’s immediate superiors that drew him to Los Angeles. Neither was it the ridiculous amount of dollars Oscar Kincade was throwing in his contract.
It was quiet and calculating Jude, who shared the same drive to be top dog and had the shrewdness and the patience to match.
Jude’s flustered face in their first bout of drinks and the way his eyes darted to Zero’s lips, of course, only convinced Zero, even more, to agree in coming to the west coast, to his original homeland.
He’d put so much effort into escaping LA and the hellhole it represented to him – the abuse of his foster parents, the endless fights, and mockery by the world. You’re nothing. You’ll be zero always. That’s what the lazy son of a bitch, Leo, had spat at him after a bout of drinks. Now, all it took for him to return to that same hellhole was a slight smile and the genuine brightness in those hazel eyes.
And so, he created masks of himself, to prevent the world from ever hurting his real self. For some reason though, with Jude, he never had to make bullshit statements. Jude’s eyes never looked at him like he was some hotshot to be used for nefarious means. Instead, they looked right through him. Jude wasn’t the only one who saw through the masks. Jelena had the same calculating mind as well.
However, it was Jude who made him not want to draw up the walls. It was Jude and his ridiculous loyalty to the people who mattered to him, Lionel and Zero, that had Zero do a mental double-take and make him feel stupid, even though words and well-crafted lies came easy to him when dealing with other people.
“Hey,” a sleepy voice murmured to him. The deep tone pulled Zero from his thoughts and his blue eyes took in the waking form that shifted closer to him as if missing the body heat already.
“Hey, you,” Zero’s lips tugged into a smile at the dopey look in Jude’s eyes. Soft and almost hazy looking, with hair sticking at all ends, Jude looked every bit as the lover who got thoroughly fucked the night before.
Which was technically true.
The proposal that was left unsaid at Derek’s wedding yesterday left something smoldering in Zero’s heart. The way Jude’s eyes just looked hopeful and wistful as they glanced from the bouquet to him made his heartache in the best possible way.
As an answer to that, he whispered ‘yes’ in Jude’s ear, pressing the larger frame easily into the door of Zero’s home. Security guards kept watch of the perimeter and Zero paid them well enough to turn a blind eye and ear to what they do in his own home. He didn’t have to tell them of the consequences if they did otherwise.
He proceeded to show Jude how important he was to Zero, regardless if it took all night.
Hence, the well-fucked look on Jude’s tanned face.
“Hey, you alright?” Jude’s eyes became more alert as minutes ticked by and a large hand cupped the side of his face.
Warm and comforting, Zero relished moments like these, when Jude would take his face into his hands tenderly as if the man was a godsend. He always looked forward to pressing his lips against the knuckles and then lightly brushing Jude’s fingertips. The hazel in those gorgeous eyes darkened as Zero slipped his lips over one of them and then the second one.
“Zero” Jude said in breathless tone and Zero’s groin tightened at the way Jude said his name like that. In adoration, in awe as if Jude was the lucky one to have him when it was the other way around.
He swallowed down the burgeoning emotions that threatened to rise and spill out. He couldn’t describe how Jude made him feel so wanted as if the very presence of him would bring out that look of worship and tenderness in those warm hazel eyes.
“We’ve got time,” Jude’s lips brushed against his own, and Zero was a bit startled at how he missed a few seconds. Jude had been laying down at first and now Zero found himself leaning over a half-leaning Jude, his lips dangerously close to the others.
A hint of mint and chocolate from last night’s dessert still lingered in Jude’s breath and Zero unwittingly let out a moan at the fresh memory of Jude licking the chocolate smears from his body, like a devil sent from the carnal pits of hell to torment him.
Jude smiled at Zero’s moan and then wrapped his arms around the baller’s neck, all the while slanting his lips against Zero’s.
It was supposed to be a chaste kiss but anything with Zero was fiery and passionate, sending Jude into a maelstrom of need and desire.
Before Jude could say anything, not that he particularly wanted to, Zero’s tongue had lightly brushed against his lips, asking for permission, which Jude didn’t hesitate to give.
Someone moaned and Zero wasn’t sure who it was but he wanted to hear more sounds from Jude. A soft brush of tongue underneath an ear elicited a light gasp. A sharp nip at that sensitive junction between the neck and shoulder had Jude moaning deep in his chest.
Jude wasn’t an idle lover. He gave as good as he got but in his way. While Zero was aggressive and pushing Jude to the edge, his taller partner would soothe his wants, making him feel even hotter and want more.
Jude’s hands skirted along the lean flanks, with a hand finally landing on a bare buttock and squeezing it before trailing fingers along the cleft.
Before Jude, Zero had never bottomed for anyone. His need for control seeped into bedroom affairs and he always controlled his partners to his sway. Even in past threesomes, he ensured he wasn’t the one sandwiched between two people.
Now, though, as Jude’s fingers trailed teasingly between his buttocks, Zero found himself wanting more and thus spread his legs to allow for easier access.
“Zero,” he heard Jude whisper, and in it was silent permission for the brunette to fuck him.
“Yeah,” Zero replied as he kissed Jude on the area between the pectorals. Above the heart.
A deep rumble could be heard below his lips and Zero chuckled to himself.
“For such a baller, you sure are a closeted romantic,” Jude teased.
Whatever retort Zero had in mind, it was lost in a soft groan as Jude dragged a finger across his hole. While Zero was all about finger fucking, Jude’s was dry and it would sting like a bitch and not in a good way.
“Open up,” Jude commanded and it caused a surge of arousal to spike through him at how hot he sounded. Fingers outlined his lips and, while the dark side of Zero balked at how easily he submitted to another person, the Gideon side reveled in the attention Jude was giving him.
And so, as he pushed himself to lean over the man, with his hands holding his weight against the headboard, he did open his mouth to let in Jude’s three fingers. They were smaller than Jude’s cock but it would help open him up for more teasing.
Jude mouthed at one of his nipples and Zero groaned at the slight sting of teeth that was then soothed by a tender caress of Jude’s tongue.
“Keep your hands up,” Jude breathed hotly in his ear, and Zero shuddered at how Jude’s warm brown eyes just darkened, till there’s nothing but a sliver of brown.
“Or?” Zero always pushed Jude’s buttons and the bedroom was not immune to the playful, sexual banter that the pair were involved in.
“Or I leave you, here, alone, with your cock hard,” One of Jude’s hands palmed the heavy shaft and Zero couldn’t help but release a shaky sound.
“Just remember…nngg…that payback’s a bitch,” Zero managed to say without his voice squeaking as those deft fingers entered him swiftly without preamble.
The shock of the entrance caused Zero to shiver and his head bowed, eyes squeezing shut as Jude played inside him as skillfully as the EVP would play others to his tune. Light touches along his cock had him gasping for more and he rolled his hips, trying to bring their hips together in a sensual dance.
When Jude obliged him by mimicking his thrusts, Zero panted heavily and his hand almost moved till everything stopped – the fingers stilled inside him, deliberately missing his prostate while Jude just smirked at him.
“One more shot,” was all the warning Jude gave him before continuing his ministrations, before driving Zero closer and closer to the edge.
And Jude took him there in no time.
Zero’s body grew taut above Jude, the blonde’s head thrown back in ecstasy as warm liquid spilled onto both of their stomachs. A hoarse cry of Jude’s name escaped Zero’s lips and Jude huffed out his sound, reveling at the trust Zero gave him in moments such as these.
He gentled his lover through the throes of Zero’s orgasm, brushing his lips against Zero’s throat and dragging his hands across the smaller man’s back.
“Fuck me,” Zero panted and his response caused Jude to chuckle warmly underneath him.
“Not yet,” Jude teased him. “Do you-?”
Zero threw Jude a look of ‘really?’ but inwardly, he preened at the kindness of his lover, who always asked and never assumed. Consent between them was a big topic, given Zero’s sordid past, and Zero’s heart swelled when Jude smiled at him, all soft and full of affection for him.
“You think you can keep your hands on me?”
“Hmm, you know I love a challenge,” the cockiness in Zero’s voice caused Jude to snort.
“Yeah,” Jude breathed against his warm skin. “And I love you either way.” I love you whether you are up to the challenge or not.
Minutes later, Zero found it challenging to keep his hands on Jude’s shoulders and not attend to his throbbing cock. The sting of being entered, despite having come and then slicked up again, always made the air punch out of his lungs before stilling. He hunched over Jude’s chest, his mouth open, and eyes scrunched close as he allowed his body to adjust the fullness that was inside of him.
Jude was whispering something in his ear, telling Zero of how proud he was in trusting enough for this.
"You’re so good to me. Thank you…Gideon."
Jude saying his name like that, with absolute reverence, had him clench uncontrollably around Jude’s cock and Zero’s fingers dug into the meat of Jude’s shoulders. The clench made Jude moan deeply in between his praises. No one has ever said his name and Zero discovered that he may have found a new kink. Name kink. Who’d have known? Leave it to Jude to be the first of many things – deep friendship, then love that just sent him reeling from the emotional rollercoaster that Jude had sent him on.
“Gideon…fuck…I need to move…please…” It was Jude’s turn to release soft sounds of pleasure as Zero tightened momentarily before finally relaxing.
Zero tested it by slowly pulling himself off enough to where only the head still resided inside of him before gingerly descending.
Jude had unexpectedly lifted his hips upwards, to meet Zero in the middle, and dark eyes narrowed at the sight of the lean figure arching his back, at how Zero’s cock bobbed in front of him.
Zero hissed when a thrust was hard and unforgiving before his jaw slackened in growing pleasure. He was tempted to lift his hand and move it downward but Jude’s eyes sharpened and then the stupid man smirked at him as if daring him to break the challenge.
“Fucking hell,” Zero cursed and his face twisted in pleasure as pressure built up from the steady rhythm of their push and pull.
“You can do it,” Jude praised him but his voice was strained. Zero wasn’t the only one affected by this. As much as Jude liked challenging Zero like this, he didn’t like to cause pain and, seeing the reddening shaft that moved so tantalizingly in front of him proved quite a challenge for Jude not to touch him.
Instead, Jude nuzzled at a sensitive spot, where it was guaranteed to make Zero shiver and gasp. Sharp teeth nipped at the tendon that stretched from the bottom of his ear and down to where the neck met the beginnings of the shoulder.
The world brightened around Zero and there was an answering groan from Jude before Zero felt an explosive heat spread inside him.
Boneless from their coupling, Zero fell limply against Jude’s chest, not minding at all at the sweat that covered their bodies.
“Man, I love morning sex,” Zero panted against Jude’s neck, and the baller planted kisses from the Adam’s apple to that sinful mouth. He rolled his hips and the motion forced a heartfelt whimper from the both of them, oversensitive from their joining.
“Well, as much as I love to go another round, we do have to go the grand re-opening of the Devils’ Arena,” Jude said and the blonde let out a frustrated huff.
“Do we?” Zero’s hips never stopped thrusting until Jude’s hands clamped on his hips to still his movements.
“How about this,” Jude whispered as he kissed Zero. “The sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can fuck me into the mattress tonight.”
The tantalizing image of last night, of Jude’s body, trembling and shaking as Zero edged him for a time, made the blood pool again in his cock.
“In that case,” Zero cupped Jude’s face in his hands before slanting their lips together in a light kiss. “Let’s get to it.”
Jude rolled his eyes at the innuendo and released Zero from his grip. The baller smirked at Jude at the sight of their hardening erections and then threw a pillow at Jude’s face, provoking the reclining man to toss back a much larger pillow.
2 hours later, the pair found themselves standing in a ceremony, gazing at the speaker of the grand opening.
The other players were present, all impeccably dressed in red shirts and dark suits. A large crowd gathered around the front of the podium, eyes forward as the people listened with rapt attention to what Jelena had to say.
One of the players, Jackson, fidgeted next to Zero, who glanced at the tall basketball player.
“Not a morning person?” Zero asked warmly.
“Hadn’t had a chance to drink my coffee before my girlfriend yanked me here,” Jackson replied. The young dark-skinned man turned his head to a specific area in the audience and a slender arm waved in the air. He smiled at her before shifting his attention to Zero. Then, there was a sly smile on the handsome face as brown eyes darted between him and Jude, who sat on the opposite side, with the board members and a handful of high-profile investors.
“So, you did it?”
Zero tensed at the question. While it was clear that Zero and Jude were in a relationship, with the kiss being on national TV and still being replayed on some stations, the new players were still in the dark about how close Jude and Zero were. He knew that gossip ran rampant in the locker room and, while he can’t stop the players from joking around, Zero still rather not have their relationship be the butt-end of crude jokes.
Jackson must have seen something on Zero’s face before the blonde could school his features into something professional, for the taller player just clapped his shoulder in a friendly gesture.
“Don’t worry, man. We a family. We look out for each other. Besides, I remember the whole fiasco as if it had gone down yesterday.”
Jackson was chatty for him. Tall and quiet, just like Jude, the veteran observed more than talked, a trait Zero respected in the other player.
“Besides, with that ring on your finger,” Jackson continued though in a lower tone to avoid being overheard by other people. “I’m sure Jude said ‘yes’.”
Zero was about to respond with a polite, ‘thanks, man’ before everyone was suddenly standing up, clapping as Jelena moved to the ribbon to cut it.
Jude sought him out and then stood next to Zero, letting their shoulders brush amicably.
More people gathered around them as the paparazzi peppered the LA team and Jelena with bright flashes and questions.
However, as more and more reporters milled about them, Zero felt something was off and his eyes skimmed the crowd to find anything that was out of place.
He couldn’t see anything other than people jostling about. Some wore the right attire for the occasion – a dress shirt and semi-formal suit for the men while the women had on either a nice dress or dressy outfit.
Someone shouted his name from the crowd. A lot of people called out his name but the tone, the way the voice hissed his name caused a surge of panic ice through his veins. He recognized it and cursed inwardly at how the former Ohio dancer managed to find him.
His blue eyes darted at the crowd, trying to pinpoint where the voice had originated.
Suddenly voices started shrieking and the crowd parted, only to reveal a young blonde woman, holding a gun in her hand. Security officers were already scrambling to her but it was too late as a loud bang ripped through the cold air.
He flinched and was surprised to not feel any pain.
Zero opened his eyes and then he suddenly knew why.
Jude stood in front of him, his larger frame sheltering him from the crowds and the young assailant. At first, Zero thought that perhaps one of the security guards had fired first and ended her life.
Jude turned and asked if Zero was ok. Numbed and speechless for the second time in his entire life, Zero merely nodded and smiled at his partner.
The smile waned at the crimson stain that spread out alarmingly into the light brown blazer. Jude looked horrified and his hand touched the bleeding wound. Jude’s eyes snapped to his own.
“Jude,” Zero reached for his partner just as Jude’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and his lover stumbled forward, the long legs folding underneath the giant frame.
“Jude!” Zero shouted out and he caught his lover by the chest, using one arm to wrap around the chest and another to hold his back. He gently lowered the limp form and his eyes widened in shock at the blood that seeped through the light brown blazer.
He hurriedly took off his shirt, not caring that it was a $100 Armani top, and pressed it against the chest wound. Jelena was right next to him, already on the phone, and calling for the first responders.
“We need someone here now.”
Ironically, the bullet wound was in the same area as Jelena’s old wound and the irony of it had both Jelena and Zero grimace.
“Don’t fucking say it,” Zero hissed at the young owner. For her part, Jelena kept her face expressionless. For all the scheming and screw-ups, they bore mutual respect and for the man bleeding out.
The sirens blared not long after though those 10 minutes felt as if they stretched for hours.
Jude’s eyes blinked sleepily at Zero and the baller swallowed again – he’s going to lose him and there’s nothing Zero could do about it.
Jude’s hand, bloody and scrapped, clasped around Zero’s.
“Shh. Don’t talk,” Zero’s voice sounded harsher than he intended but Jude never flinched from him. It was what he loved about this man – unflinching but accepting of who Zero was.
Jude’s face was getting paler by the second and Zero’s heart leaped into his throat as Jude’s eyes fluttered closed.
“N-n-no, Jude, baby…”
He shook Jude’s shoulders, trying to keep the pressure on the wound that just wouldn’t stop bleeding. As he cupped Jude’s pale face, he realized that he was getting blood on his lover’s face. His Armani shirt was soaked in blood and heavy against his hand.
Jelena was shouting something at him, her sharp blue eyes penetrating through the haze of the shock that started to settle in.
The other players had crowded protectively around the pair, the red wall coming up around and blocking out the paparazzi. Words of thanks got stuck in Zero’s throat. For once, he didn’t have the smooth words to relay his thoughts. All that he saw was red. Red jerseys, the dark red on Jude’s white shirt that brought out a frightening contrast between the two colors and the dark crimson pool that stretched out below Jude’s limp body.
Someone attempted to push him aside and Zero stood firm, not willing to let go of Jude’s hand, which had slackened.
“-step aside, sir.”
“N-no, he needs me. I can’t leave him,” Zero managed to say to the tall blonde. A different set of blue eyes flashed at him, not angrily, but out of concern for him.
“-What’s your name?”
“Zero,” Zero’s true name was only known to Jude and the instinct to hide his true self from everyone else flared up. Gideon was only visible when Jude was around. Smiling Jude. Not bleeding Jude.
“Ok, Zero,” the blonde with the blue eyes gently gripped him on his bare shoulder. “You did a wonderful job slowing the bleeding. Now, let us take care of him.”
“Buck,” someone else called out and the fireman took his eyes away from Zero, only to glance at the man who was kneeling opposite of Buck.
“Ambulance is here. We need to take him, now.”
“Alright, thanks, Eddie.”
A soft smile graced Buck’s face and Zero recognized the smile for what it was. It spoke of something secret shared between two lovers and Zero had an idle thought that maybe these two would know how he feels in this moment.
“I want to go with him,” Zero said in a tone that brooked no argument. He didn’t even bother to ask Jelena for permission nor the other players.
For a quick second, the blonde stared at him, blue eyes boring into his. If Zero wasn’t in a relationship, he’d have flirted with the fireman. Tall and muscular, Zero wouldn’t have doubted that the fireman would have no trouble pressing him against the wall. However, that was neither here nor there. In fact, from the way the brunette’s eyes seemed to darken in jealously, Zero knew that the two hadn’t officially gotten together but they were getting there.
“Only if you keep calm and quiet,” was all Buck said before focusing on Jude.
And Zero did just that, no matter how much on the inside that he wanted to run and vomit.
A hand clapped him on his shoulder and Zero almost jumped out of his skin.
“Hey, man. We got it here. You go with boss man,” it was Jackson, one of the veterans who’d been there throughout the entirety of the drama of the LA Devils. He was also one of the few players who Zero grew to like as a friend.
He didn’t need anyone’s permission but the fact that someone other than Jude cared about his state of being warmed his heart.
Not really trusting himself to say the right words that conveyed thanks without looking weak, Zero just gave Jackson a small smile before hopping into the ambulance. As he held Jude’s hand, he saw that his partner was still wearing his St. Jude’s necklace, a Valentine’s Day gift from Zero. Patron of Lost Causes.
“Fuck,” Zero whispered and he clutched at Jude like a lifeline.