Sebastian doesn’t want to work his fingers to the bone on shitty pen sketches that he hopes to sell for a few bucks, but the tuition fees from university in his mailbox tell him that he has to.
He doesn’t want to be out on the corner of Broad Street with his suitcase of sketches and signs offering to take commissions for money, but the fact that his parents opted out of their financial responsibilities a year ago tells him that he has to.
He doesn’t want to try and attract attention to himself, ripped jeans and holey Converse a startling contrast amongst the sleek pressed suits of the New Yorkers bustling to get to their very important destinations, but the water cut-off and lack of electricity in his apartment at the moment tells him that he has to do it too. Even if he doesn’t want to.
And he really…really doesn’t want to.
“How much?” someone calls out to him, apparently morally swayed by his homemade BROKE ASS COLLEGE KID - PLS HELP ME NOT DIE sign propped up against the open suitcase.
“Ten for regular, twenty for large,” Sebastian drones for what feels like the fifteenth time that day. He’d write it somewhere, but the prices tend to fluctuate depending on how desperate he is for cash on that given day. Which prompts him to tack on an unabashed: “Also shamelessly accepting donations of any kind.”
The woman glances over the sketches laid in the suitcase before snatching one and tossing a bill into the red Solo cup in front of him.
“Thanks, ma’am,” he says, presenting his best appreciative grin to her, a tiny shred of optimism blooming in his chest.
That is…until a particularly hurried businessman flies quickly through Sebastian’s path not a second later, knocking Sebastian gracelessly onto his ass for a perfect view of his sketches scattering across the sidewalk and into the street.
And oh…the irritation that curls up in his gut is out of this world.
“Yeah don’t worry about me, bro – you’re busy!” he calls out after him as he gets to his feet and brushes his palms against his jeans. “Go home and eat your fuckin’ steak, I’ll just be firing up the stove for some ramen. Oh wait…no I won’t because I don’t have any FUCKING ELECTRICITY YOU FUCKING DICK.”
It draws a lot of attention. He knows it. It’s clear in the way people keep a wide berth around him as they walk by now. It’s clear in how parents are bringing their kids across the street instead of crossing paths with the psycho college kid. It’s clear in the line of concern etched firmly between this man’s brows – the man who must’ve rescued Sebastian’s sketches from the street because he’s carefully brushing dirt off of the white paper and handing them to him with a frown.
“Y’alright?” the man asks, and Sebastian has to take a moment to cool down because no he’s obviously not fucking alright. But this guy was nice enough to go save his sketches and he actually seems like he cares (and as a side-note, he’s definitely nice to look at for an older-ish dude, but that’s beside the point).
“Fine,” Sebastian kind of grumbles out, taking the papers from him and checking out the damage. One is completely ruined. Three have smudges that he could probably fix over but it’ll be a pain in the ass. “Great…”
The man is squatting down to pick up a discarded one at his feet, his suit jacket billowing in the wind as he does so. Sebastian catches himself staring before glancing away and doing the same.
“Do you really not have electricity?”
It’s not in that judgey tone that Sebastian’s so used to hearing – that wow your life sucks ass what the hell are you even doing with it thing – and frankly it throws him off.
So he glances up at him, blue meeting blue, and he’s not sure why his voice sounds so fucking weak when he says: “I really don’t have electricity…” but it makes that look of concern come right back on this guy’s face. “Pretty close to no water too.”
And oh, how that concern just fucking explodes into something beautifully horrified. “What? I didn’t think the city could just cut someone’s water off.”
It makes Sebastian laugh – a wry, cynical huff of a chuckle. “Oh trust me, they can.” He has experience. He knows.
“And how do you—… I mean…living without that shit can’t be easy.”
Sebastian’s smile disappears, fading from the corners of his mouth as he glances back down at his sketches. If only this guy knew. Really knew. But judging by the cut of his suit and the watch on his wrist and the privileged air that he seems to carry around with him, it’s doubtful that he’s spent even a single night out of sorts.
“Sorry…” his voice pulls Sebastian back from that place inside his head where he can’t help but linger sometimes. “Didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I’m sure the last thing you need is some idiot like me coming up to you and assuming shit about your life.”
Sebastian watches him carefully, swallowing the lump that sneaks up in his throat. When he’s certain he can pull off speaking without sounding like a whiny baby, he clears his throat and says plainly: “I get by.”
There’s only one more sketch still left on the ground, and Sebastian scoops it up before crouching to tuck them all away in his suitcase, ready for another crack at it tomorrow. The buckles shut with a tight snap, and when Sebastian straightens himself to start his journey back home, those blue eyes are on him again.
“Listen, I was actually on my way to lunch. Did you maybe wanna come?”
His brows are furrowing in the middle again like he might be concerned about something, but Sebastian is too caught up in the current proposition to notice.
“Huh?” It’s a really smooth thing to say. Even gets the guy to laugh.
“You look like you could use a burger,” he explains, smile small and playful as he nods toward the suitcase in Sebastian’s hand. “Or would you rather go home and have uncooked ramen?”
Sebastian glances around them, some weird stray thought in his mind making him wonder if he’s on some kinda hidden camera show or something. “I uh…don’t go out to eat a lot,” he mumbles, but what he’s hoping comes across clear is I have zero money to be dicking around and spending on burgers.
And the man must get that – must speak his fucked up little language – because he waves it off and says: “Don’t worry about it.”
And that’s how Sebastian finds himself in a restaurant a few blocks over, ripped skinny jeans and holey Converse covered by the white tablecloth draped way too elegantly for a place that serves fucking burgers and fries.
But…it’s New York, so… (Which brings Sebastian to his next beef with the situation. )
Thirteen dollars for a burger? Thirteen fucking dollars? Shit, it better dance on his plate and suck him off under the table for thirteen fucking dollars.
And this guy – Chris, he had told him on the walk over – Chris is discreetly glancing up at him from the other side of the table – probably has been ever since Sebastian opened the menu and that really quiet Jesus Christ slipped out under his breath when he saw the prices.
“We’re not worrying about it, right?” Chris reminds him gently, eyebrows rising as he speaks.
But that’s not enough for Sebastian. He needs concrete words. A statement that he can hear and trust and— “I don’t—… Maybe I can just—“
“I’ve got it covered. Just get something that sounds good.”
And that’s… That’s pretty damn concrete. “…okay…” He eyes the menu again, a sour mixture of guilt and selfish excitement swirling in his stomach. “Are you sure—“
“Sebastian,” he says, and it sounds so startlingly good in his voice that Sebastian has to look up at him to ground himself. “If you don’t pick something, I’ll pick something for you.” There’s a telling authority in his words, but they’re softened by the smile they’re spoken through. “And I don’t think you want that.”
Their eyes are fixed on each other, the rest of the people in the restaurant floating by on a different plane entirely. Then Chris takes a sip of his water and Sebastian blinks and everything is normal again, the menu suddenly heavy in his hands.
He orders a bacon avocado cheeseburger and nearly orgasms in his seat from how good it is (but it’s still not worth thirteen dollars, thanks). He tries not to scarf it all down in five seconds – tries to put across at least some level of decent sanity as Chris chomps away on the other side of the table, seemingly pleased with the outcome.
He’s just finishing his last fry when Chris eyes his empty plate and says: “Want something else?”
And Sebastian thinks he could cry because no, he doesn’t want anything else, but Jesus Christ is this guy some sort of saint or something? What the hell did Sebastian even do to deserve this?
“No thanks,” he answers as politely as possible, tearing at the napkin in his lap under the table. “This is really way more than…like…” and why is talking so fucking difficult all of the sudden? Is it because Sebastian’s always been shit at knowing how to properly show his gratitude in situations like this? Is it because when he gets help, it’s usually from Mackie or Chace and not some random dude he just met? Is it because Chris is probably the handsomest fuckin’ thing Seb’s ever laid his eyes on in all his twenty years of living, and now he’s watching Seb from across the table like a gift from God and it kind of stirs something in his gut?
He doesn’t know. He really doesn’t. But Chris is making a point to nonchalantly pay the bill now, which means the eye contact is gone and Sebastian has momentarily regained control of his brain enough to stop shredding the napkin in his lap like a fucking hamster.
“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Chris asks after clicking the pen shut and handing the server the bill. “Anything important?”
Sebastian stalls, caught off guard by the question. “Uh…homework,” he finally answers, flicking the napkin shreds onto the floor before placing the intact remains delicately on the table. “I have to go to the library. For the computers.” His answer prompts a flash of slight confusion on Chris’s face, so he figures he should elaborate. “Graphic design class. Don’t exactly have my own laptop to do projects on, so…library…”
It’s a stroke of luck, really, that Sebastian’s apartment is so close to both the Art and Design building on campus and the city library, because he doesn’t have a car and God knows Mackie gets sick of driving him around everywhere.
“The computers at the library have the program you need on them?” Chris asks, pulling Sebastian yet again from his thoughts.
“Are they Macs?” Sebastian must make some sort of face, because Chris suddenly seems like he feels the need to explain himself. “I’m just figuring… The Hyatt over here has Macs.”
Sebastian blinks…feels his brow furrowing… The Hyatt. That’s a fucking hotel. “Uh…”
A swirl of suspicion takes anchor inside him.
“Well it’d be easier for you to work and then sleep somewhere with electricity, right?” Chris explains with a nonchalance that contrasts startlingly with the slowly forming pit in Seb’s stomach.
“…yeah…” he answers slowly, trying to gauge where this is going. “But…” Now would be a really great time to get some words out. “Do you—are you saying you wanna pay for a hotel room for me?”
His tone must sound as stunned as Sebastian feels, because Chris does this little chuckle/eye roll thing that screams embarrassment. “I know,” he hums. “I know it’s weird, right? I just… I can’t sit here and listen to the kind of shit you go through and then send you home to an apartment without electricity.”
Sebastian stares at him. Dumbfounded. “Yeah you can. People do it every day.”
This makes Chris nod, a hitch in his momentum. “Well…” he’s quiet now, eyes scanning over the tablecloth before meeting with Sebastian’s again, “They may be able to, but I can’t.”
And Sebastian doesn’t really know what to do with that – how to cope with those eyes on him – so he just stares back and picks at his fingernail under the table until he hears him say:
“Is that okay?” with a tiny smile that lights his soul, “If I do that for you?”
And it feels like something warm and thick like lava is seeping out into his veins – an affection that he doesn’t deserve but is getting either way.
“Y-…” how is he supposed to handle this without sounding like he can’t fathom that it’s actually happening? “Yeah… I mean—… You don’t have to. But if you want to…”
“I want to,” Chris reassures with a calming grin. “I do.”
And that’s how Sebastian is not only fed a surprise meal, but also finds himself standing with his suitcase of sketches in the lobby of the Hyatt, holey Converse a laughable contrast against the marble floors beneath him that are so shiny that he can see his face as he glances down.
Chris is over by the check-in desk, speaking smoothly and confidently as he pulls his wallet out of his dark suit jacket. And as exciting as it is, there’s something about it all that’s just too shady for Sebastian to accept. Because he doesn’t even know this guy. And this guy doesn’t know him. And Sebastian sings his sob story for a couple of minutes and all of the sudden he’s getting a meal and a room for nothing in return? As much as he wants to believe that there are good, honest people out there, he’s starting to call bullshit. There’sgot to be something this guy wants, and Sebastian’s pretty sure he knows what it is.
“Alright, here we go.”
Sebastian snaps out of it in time to see Chris walking towards him, tucking his wallet back into his jacket and nodding for Sebastian to follow him to the elevator bank.
The entire ride up to the – Sebastian glances up…9th floor – is silent except for his pulse in his ears, climbing heavily with them until the doors slide open and Chris is leading him down the hall.
Each step brings with it a different level of confusing emotion that Sebastian doesn’t know what to do with. If this is actually happening – if he’s making it up to Chris the only way he can – well…Sebastian figures that it isn’t totally the end of the world. Because he’s been with guys before. He’s sucked enough of them off to know what he’s doing. And Chris is far far far from unattractive. So he supposes blowing him for food and a place to stay isn’t exactly a chore. Hell, he’d probably do it without getting anything in return if he asked him to. It’s just a little…daunting…
“Alright, I went a little overboard and held the room for a week,” Chris says once they stop in front of door 943. “Figured whatever needs to be sorted out can’t be sorted out in one night, right?”
It releases another wave of warmth in Sebastian’s chest, leaving him to stand there with his mouth open. “Are you fucking with me?”
Chris laughs – an amused chuckle that cuts through the quiet hallway as he holds out the room’s keycard for Sebastian to take. “Nope. Not fucking with you.”
Sebastian stares at the card, too many thoughts running through his head at once. Then he slowly reaches out to take it, fingers wrapping around the plastic before glancing up at Chris one last time – like maybe he’s on that hidden camera show after all.
But Chris just holds his gaze, half of his mouth curling up in a lopsided grin. So he takes the keycard, staring down at it before slowly sliding it through the reader and opening the door.
It’s like a punch to the stomach – the gigantic bed stacked with pillows, the windows that line the far wall and look out onto the city, the fucking electricity. It all soaks into Sebastian’s heart like a heavy hand and it doesn’t let go, pulling at him, and suddenly that lump is back in his throat.
He swallows. Don’t cry. Bites his bottom lip. Don’t cry. But it’s going to be the first time in almost a year that he isn’t falling asleep in his shithole of an apartment, wondering how he’s going to scrape up enough money for rent and hoping to God that the lock on his door holds up for another night and— Don’t fucking cry.
“Is it okay?”
Sebastian runs a sleeve over his eyes, sniffling quietly before turning around and trying his best to act like he didn’t just listen to his own advice.
But Chris sees it – can see the redness in his eyes and the way he’s still biting his bottom lip to hold it all back. “Shit…what’s—… Is it too much?”
Sebastian swallows again – wants to tell him to shut the fuck up because yes ofcourse it’s too fucking much but it’s also the kindest thing that anyone’s ever done for him. But he just shakes his head, a little harder than necessary probably, and walks back over to where Chris is leaning up against the open door. “No, this is fucking crazy. You don’t haveta—…” The lump in his throat is coming back again but he swallows it down. “Thank you. Seriously.”
He knows he’s straddling the line between being grateful and gushing, but Chris doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, his smile is back in full force, and it’s enough to remind Sebastian that he still needs to thank him.
“Um, did you want—…” he supposes he should have planned this before just launching into it headfirst, but Chris is still leaning against the doorframe, seeming like he doesn’t want to step over any boundaries. “Do you wanna come in and…I can…?”
He doesn’t sound nearly as confident as he had hoped, and it’s made worse by the abrupt look of confusion and concern that flashes across Chris’s face. “Oh. Uh…”
Sebastian watches him – watches how his brows knit together in silent unease – watches how suddenly clear it is that he’s not on the same page. At all. And now Sebastian feels so incredibly stupid that he has to bite his lip again, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. “Wow, uh—“
“What’s your number?” Chris cuts him off, not moving from his spot but pulling his phone out and tapping some buttons on it. “So I can check in on you tomorrow.”
Sebastian’s thankful for the distraction, even if it means he has a whole new thing to be embarrassed about now. “Don’t uh…don’t have one.”
Chris glances up at him, “You don’t have a phone?”
Sebastian shakes his head, not sure what else he can offer as an explanation. Phones are expensive. Even the shitty ones.
“Okay, no problem,” Chris says, tucking his own back into his pocket before one of those disarmingly fine smiles appears against his lips again. “I’ll just come around here at some point – make sure you’re still breathing.”
The thought of seeing Chris again is enough to light Sebastian right back up, whatever it was in his head that said he’d pay and run disappearing from view. “Really?”
It pulls a laugh from the older man, eyes shining. “Yes really.” Then he’s checking his watch and glancing back up at Sebastian. “Gotta head out now, though. And you’ve got homework to do, right?”
Sebastian nods, glancing around to see where he dropped his suitcase in his hazy zone-out from first seeing the room. “I do. Got a wild Saturday night ahead of me.”
His sarcasm soothes over any remaining awkwardness between them, making it much easier for him to accept it when Chris nods, says, “Alright. See you tomorrow, then,” and then slips out the door with a grin.
It makes it easier…but it doesn’t make it perfect.
“Wait!” Sebastian calls after him, bounding forward and through the door before it can even shut. It’s stupid and it’s needy and he doesn’t even really know this guy but he plows towards him and gloms onto him anyway, wrapping his arms around those broad, sturdy shoulders and burying his face in his chest andsomehow…it feels like home.
There’s a moment where nothing happens – where Seb’s about 99% sure that Chris knows how totally weird he’s being, but then those strong arms wrap around him and hold him tight, large hands fanning out over Sebastian’s back, and Sebastian has to let his eyes flutter shut and just forget about how weird it is because it feels so good – feels like this is where he’s supposed to be – feels like as long as he’s with Chris, the whole fucking world could go to shit but he’d be alright – feels like – “Thank you…” Seb mumbles against his chest, body relaxed and heart rate somehow going a thousand miles a second and lulling to a steady pace at the same time.
And Chris breathes out slowly – he can feel it – and then says: “You’re welcome.”
And at that moment, it doesn’t matter that Seb doesn’t have any electricity in his apartment.
It doesn’t matter that he has to figure out how he’s going to pay tuition for next month.
Doesn’t matter that:
“…did you just lock yourself out of the room?”
…because right now Sebastian knows that this is what he needs to hang onto. This is what will help him get through.
A week from now, he’ll realize just how true that is.