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Jude’s got a pretty good body and it’s been a few days since Zero last fucked Jelena, so why not?

That’s all this is, anyway. A quick fuck.

-

“Please,” he says into his phone, hating himself a little bit for getting to this point already. “Jude, pick up your phone. Call me back.”

He sighs, frustrated, clenching the phone in his hand and saying nothing, letting the voicemail go on silently. He glares up at the driver, knows they’re speeding through traffic but wills the guy to go faster anyway.

Fucking L.A. traffic.

“Please don’t get on that plane,” he says, just before the voicemail cuts off.

-

He gets Jude’s pants open and then shoves a hand down beneath the waistband of his boxers and Jude’s breath stutters against his mouth. Zero pulls back just a fraction so that he can see Jude’s reaction when he goes right for it, cups his hand over Jude’s dick and squeezes him gently.

Jude doesn’t disappoint. His eyes go wide, shocked, pupils blown, and he lets out a noise like he can’t stop himself when Zero gives him another stroke. Zero smirks at that and leans back in to kiss him again, can’t quite get enough of the taste of Jude’s mouth and the feel of his tongue.

“Close your eyes,” he tells Jude, turning his voice low and husky and reveling in the feel of Jude’s responding shudder.

Jude does as he’s told and Zero kisses him again as he shuts his eyes and leans back into the mantle behind him. Zero presses his mouth against Jude’s cheek and then his chin and then runs his tongue over Jude’s neck to his jawbone, stroking his dick gently all the while.

“God,” Jude breathes out, making Zero smile again. He’s good at this and he knows it; he’s always known just how to touch people, where to stroke, where to press his mouth and just how slowly to drag his tongue, and it’s with no small amount of pride that he gets down to his knees and takes in Jude’s surprised gasp as he presses a kiss to Jude’s stomach.

-

He buys a one-way ticket to Miami, the first thing he sees on the Departures board leaving from the same general area as Jude’s red-eye to New York, and grumbles his way through security, antsy and desperate for the slow-ass line in front of him to move a little fucking quicker.

“Do you know who I am?” he says angrily, desperately, when the TSA guy stops him and makes him take off the silver chain he’s wearing around his neck and go through the scanner thing again.

“No,” the guy replies blandly. “Please step back into the machine and raise your arms.”

“Fucking bullshit,” Zero grumbles and does as he’s told.

He sprints down the hall when he’s finally allowed to go on. It’s like a goddamn movie; he’s dodging people left and right, heading up the escalator two, three steps at a time, heart pounding all the way, trying not to glance at his watch because he knows it’s bad, he knows it’s close, but he’s got to make it before Jude leaves, has to tell him… he’s not even sure yet what, but something. Something to make him stay.

Skirting around a couple of people like he’s on the court heading for the basket, he makes the last dash down the hall to the gate for the New York flight, ready to talk his way onto it if necessary, ready to throw however much money at them as it takes to pause it, to get Jude to just stay long enough to listen to him…

His feet slow to a trot as he approaches the gate. It’s closed up. Glancing out the window behind, he can see the plane backing away already.

He’s too late.

-

Despite what he said the other day about Jude barking up the wrong tree, if Zero’s really honest with himself, he’s thought about this… kind of a lot. Of having Jude like this, half-naked and panting and desperate, his cock on Zero’s tongue and his fingers digging into Zero’s hair.

Maybe not that much, maybe not that seriously, just in a few idle moments here and there in that abstract way he tends to consider every hot body that crosses in front of his gaze. And Jude definitely has a body that Zero’s into. And knowing that Jude’s wanted him to…

It definitely does something to him. When Jude breathes out, “fuck, yeah, there,” and squirms against him, Zero has to reach down and squeeze himself, just stroke a couple of times as keeps sucking Jude and breathes in Jude’s scent, licks again over the shaft and pulls off to go down to Jude’s balls.

“Fuck,” Jude says again, kind of strangled and desperate and Zero loves hearing the normally tight-assed, buttoned-up guy coming unraveled.

And suddenly he really, really needs to know just how tight-assed Jude actually is.

-

“I need a plane.”

Lionel doesn’t look up from the papers stacked in front of her, even when Zero comes all the way up to her desk and leans his hands down on it in front of her.

“Yes, yes, just come right in why don’t you,” she deadpans and flicks the page in front of her over.

“Lionel,” Zero starts, frustrated already. She looks up at him at that, gives him an even stare, and he feels himself shrink back a bit, relenting mostly because he needs her right now. “Ms. Davenport. Or is it Kincaid?”

She glares at him and he glares right back until she says, “Davenport is fine. And what exactly makes you think I care about what you want?”

“Because I need to get to New York. All of the commercial flights are either sold out or don’t leave until the morning and I couldn’t find an available charter out of LAX.”

“Uh huh. And what’s in New York that’s so important?”

“Jude,” he answers before he can think better of it.

Her eyes narrow.

“He left tonight, he said - he said he was moving out there,” Zero tells her, rambling a bit in a way that’s completely unlike himself, because this is what Jude has done to him. Turned him into this fucking mess, and he needs Jude back here.

“Yes,” Lionel says with a raised eyebrow as she goes back to her paperwork, looking bored. “I know, we talked about it. He’s got clients out there, he thought the East Coast would be a more convenient area to work out of. And, with nothing really tying him down here...” She looks back up at him, gives him another one of those discerning stares. “But I’m guessing you know all of this already. So what I’d like to know is why you’re so desperate to go see him five minutes after he’s left.”

“Because.” In truth, he doesn’t really have much of a reason - at least not one that he can give to her. He didn’t want to come here, he’s frustrated and getting desperate and all of these things that he hates feeling. “He’s - he’s my agent.”

Was your agent,” she replies, leaning her chin down on her fist. “So why exactly do you need to see him so badly now, hmm?”

His jaw is clenched shut.

“You know what I think?” She gives a cursory pause, raising her head from where she’d been resting it to wave her hand through the air vaguely. “Jude told me he’d been seeing someone a while back. A man.”

Zero’s stomach tightens into a tense knot. His legs twitch with the instinct to bolt but he knows that would just make it all the more obvious.

“He tried to play it off as nothing serious at first,” Lionel goes on, rising from her seat to pace around the side of the desk. “But I like to think that I’m a pretty discerning person; I could tell it was more than that for him. And then he said he’d broken it off, said it got too hard - that he wanted too much that this guy couldn’t give him. He never would tell me the guy’s name, who he was.”

Zero’s struck with a feeling of - of something he can’t quite articulate. It’s like he’s overcome; he doesn’t know what to say, because it’s true. He doesn’t do regrets - he marches forward through his life, goes after what he wants, and if it doesn’t work out it’s usually not his fault so he might be pissed, but he doesn’t regret. It’s an unfamiliar feeling that he doesn’t know what to do with, needs to get rid of, desperately. He needs Jude back.

Lionel comes around to stand in front of Zero so that they’re level, eye-to-eye, and leans back to rest against the desk with her arms folded in front of her and the hint of a smile on her face.

“It was you, wasn’t it? You were his guy that he wouldn’t tell me the name of.”

He doesn’t answer her, still, which is as good an answer as anything he could say out loud, and her smile spreads as she shakes her head and lets out a surprised breath of laughter.

“Can’t say I was expecting that,” she tells him, looking away, quiet now and a little less cocky than a moment ago.

This could be it. This could be the end of his career. Of all the people to find out - or figure it out - the fucking owner of the team. He’s not even sure how much it matters at this point; Jude is still somewhere between him and New York.

She turns back to her desk, reaching for the phone at its corner. “I’ll call and get you a pilot. Take the plane.”

-

“Can you walk?” Zero asks, feeling smug, as he gets to his feet. He gives Jude a cocky, half-mouthed smile when Jude’s eyes blink open.

He looks dopey, ruffled up and he hasn’t even come yet, and Zero has to lean in and kiss him again. Jude moans into the kiss and before Zero really thinks about it, he’s moaning back and then Jude’s clutching at his back and leaning into him and Zero’s touching him everywhere, hands on Jude’s back and his shoulders and his ass, which feels just as fucking good as it looks. And Zero doesn’t go all the way to where he wants just yet, but he squeezes his hands and bites down on Jude’s lower lip and then just as Jude’s moaning again Zero pulls back and lets Jude chase his mouth a bit before Jude seems to realize that Zero’s pulling away and he opens his eyes.

“C’mon,” Zero says, low and rumbling, and nods over his shoulder towards Jude’s bedroom.

Jude glances at the open bedroom door beckoning them and then back at Zero. He doesn’t move for a moment, just stares at Zero and runs one hand down Zero’s arm until he gets close enough to grab Zero’s hand, grasp awkwardly at his fingers, and he’s still staring at Zero and it’s all so unnerving that Zero has to look away.

He drops Jude’s hand and turns to head towards the bedroom, shedding his pants as he goes and leaving them in a heap by the kitchen island. He stops on the other side of the threshold and waits for a moment before he hears Jude’s footsteps following behind him.

Jude’s naked as well by the time he gets to Zero in the bedroom, and Zero has a moment of regret that he didn’t get to see the shirt falling from Jude’s shoulders or his boxers coming down, but then the man himself is there in front of him, all of him exposed and there for Zero’s taking and all Zero can do for a moment is kiss him.

But only for a moment, because he wants more, so keyed up and ready to go that it’s a struggle not to push Jude to his knees, or to just grab a condom and shove Jude back on the bed and -

He closes his eyes for a moment, breathes deep to get himself under control, breathes in Jude’s scent, his skin, feels almost dizzy with how good Jude smells, and opens his eyes to find Jude staring heavy-lidded back at him.

Zero does push him back against the bed then, but tries to do it gently, and Jude shifts around a bit, looking suddenly uncomfortable and unsure as Zero follows after him. Even without his earlier protestations that he’s totally not gay, it would be clear that Jude really has no experience with dudes, and Zero tries not to be thrilled by that. It makes him want to do everything, and he can’t help kissing down Jude’s throat and then nudging him to turn over.

He’s pretty sure Jude thinks Zero’s just gonna get right to it, just gonna wrap it up and stick it in him, so when Zero instead kisses carefully down Jude’s spine until he reaches the curve of Jude’s ass and bites down gently on the flesh there, Jude lets out a soft gasp and shifts against him.

Zero smiles against Jude’s ass and takes his time running his tongue along Jude’s hip before he leans down and presses himself against Jude’s ass, presses his face against Jude’s skin and snakes his tongue out to swipe his tongue over Jude’s asshole.

“Shit!” Jude exclaims, head shooting up from where it had been resting on the bed and his whole body tensing up.

Zero smiles to himself and repeats the motion, then circles around Jude’s hole with his tongue as Jude makes a fantastic noise, something he’d probably be mortified to hear from himself at any other time, this whining pitch that Zero wants to hear again.

“Like that, huh?” Zero asks unnecessarily.

Jude sighs heavily in response and drops his head back down to rest against the bed.

“C’mon, Jude,” Zero presses him. “You had all this talk earlier tonight; don’t hold back on me now. Tell me to do it again.”

“Yes, okay, do it again,” Jude pants out in a rush, then adds, “God, Zero,” when Zero dives back in to press his tongue against Jude’s hole again, lick a stripe up to the small of his back.

Jude moans and thrusts awkwardly against the bed, then jostles Zero a bit as he turns over and flops on his back, staring up at Zero hovering above him. He looks like he wants to say something, something over the top like I’ve wanted this for so long or some shit, so Zero puts on a cocky smile and smacks him lightly on the hip with the back of his hand, gets up and saunters into the bathroom to put some distance between them. This isn’t something serious.

-

Five hours is a long time to think about things, and he didn’t bother to grab a magazine on his way back through the airport. He’s got a few games on his phone, a couple of movies, but he’s too antsy to sit and watch something, too keyed up with anticipation and stomach-churning nervousness like he’s never had in his life before.

He’d expected a speech when Lionel sent him on his way; some sort of “if you break his heart…” bullshit, because Jude’s not really someone who needs protecting, but she cares about him and she seems the type. And Zero would never admit it out loud, but she has a lot of power to do him a lot of damage if she wants to. Who knows if Oscar’ll ever get out of prison, so the Devils are effectively her’s, and she’s got the ear of a lot of media on top of that. He’s a key piece of the team, but he doesn’t doubt that she’d be willing to toss future championship hopes away along with him if he fucks up.

And now that she knows about him and Jude, there’s a lot she could expose. Even without hard evidence, in pro sports all it would really take is a hard rumor, which would just be fantastic after the hooker bullshit.

The thing is, though, he’s not really sure anymore that people knowing about him, about what he wants and who he wants, is really the worst thing. He still doesn’t really want people seeing more than the surface of him, more than what he carefully allows to be seen and known, especially when Jude seeing him was enough.

But he gets it now. And if he has to choose, he will.

Losing Jude is worse than having people know who he is. Especially when Jude was the only one who realy does know him.

-

He comes back into the bedroom after a few minutes, giving himself some breathing room, but he’s struck when he sees Jude stretched out on his back, head pillowed on one arm stretched above him, the other running idly over his stomach. There’s nothing really special or particularly alluring about the pose, but something about Jude is just doing things to Zero, making him nervous or jittery or something, brimming with desperation to touch him, be on top of him, be under him, surrounding him, against him…

His mouth is watering by the time he climbs back on the bed and straddles Jude’s waist, leans down to kiss him deep and dirty and full of tongue. He strokes Jude’s neck as they kiss, brushes his thumb over the mole there and comes up to cup the back of Jude’s head and press their lips more fully together.

With one hand on Jude’s head, buried in his hair, Zero snakes the other down and around to Jude’s ass, squeezing bruskly as Jude moans into his mouth.

Zero pulls back a fraction to ask huskily, “You ever had something in here?” and runs one finger over Jude’s hole.

Jude’s breath stutters and his eyes fall shut for a moment before he shakes his head.

Zero’s not sure if it’s nerves or excitement or that he’s just so turned on or what, but he leans down and says, low and breathy, into Jude’s mouth, “You want to?”

Jude swallows hard and opens his eyes, stares hard at Zero with this look full of something Zero can’t quite identify, something like confidence all of a sudden, and replies steadily, “Yeah.”

Which is such a fucking turnon that Zero has to kiss him again, and he can feel Jude smiling against his mouth. This fucking guy. Zero doesn’t know what Jude’s doing to him.

-

They didn’t leave too much after Jude’s flight, took off almost as soon as Zero got back to the airport, so they shouldn’t be too far behind, and with taxying and getting off and waiting for baggage, there’s a chance that Jude’s still here. So Zero heads for baggage claim, hoping desperately that Jude really is here because he doesn’t actually know where Jude’s headed after the airport and has no fucking idea what to do next if Jude isn’t here. All of this is uncharted territory for him. He really doesn’t want to have to call Lionel and ask her for more tips.

He trots hurriedly along, once again darting around people piled up on the escalators looking sleepy and haggard after their flights and he just keeps running through his head be here, be here, be here…

When he rounds the corner into the baggage claim area and stops, scanning the room for brown hair and dark eyes, his heart just about stops when he actually sees Jude standing there, messenger bag slung over one shoulder and his hand on his hip, tie undone and suit jacket tucked under one arm - only Jude would wear a fucking suit on an overnight flight - and he looks fucking beautiful and Zero needs him.

-

Cunt or ass, there’s nothing like being inside someone like this, being so close and being able to just take what he wants.

He did go slow getting Jude ready and then getting inside him - slicked himself up, used his fingers to slick Jude up and ease him open, stroked his cock and teased his balls all the while, and now that he’s buried in Jude’s ass and he’s got Jude panting and moaning against him, life is fucking perfect.

“God, you feel good,” Zero pants, eyes closed and feeling blissful. He opens them then, looks down at Jude looking up at him, asks, “You feel good?”

Jude laughs at that and Zero can’t help his answering smile.

“Really good,” Jude replies, then grunts and breathes out, “Mmm. Full. Really… god, I’ve never…”

He shakes his head and closes his eyes, tips his head back against the bed as Zero leans down again to press a sloppy kiss to his chin. He thrusts again, and again, and Jude’s hands are all over his back and his ass and he’s moaning into Zero’s ear, he’s moving against Zero just right.

There’s really nothing like being inside someone like this.

-

He can’t really think of anything appropriate to say - Miss me? or You know you can’t live without me or something equally self-assured would probably be best, but when he’s there, standing next to Jude close enough to reach out and touch him, what he ends up blurting out is simply, “Hi.”

Jude turns to him, startled, and his eyes go wide, mouth dropping open. His messenger bag falls to the floor with a dull thud.

“What the hell are you - ”

“I need to talk to you,” Zero cuts him off, trying to keep his voice low so they don’t make too much of a scene in the middle of the crowd of people milling around waiting for their bags.

Jude gapes at him. “What? Here? You couldn’t use the phone?”

“You weren’t picking up,” Zero hisses in response. Jude looks a bit chastised by that, but not much, still too defiant, too confused, and the combination of it all makes Zero desperate to kiss him.

“So you followed me across the fucking country? Are you crazy?”

“I need to talk to you,” Zero says again, shrugging mildly like this isn’t all completely nuts. “I need… I have to tell you…” He fumbles then, and Jude’s hard expression eases a little.

“What?”

Zero stares down at the floor, raises a hand to rub the back of his neck as he sighs and struggles to put into words what he’s been going over and over for hours and what he’s been feeling for days - or longer, really, for months.

“Y’know, now that I’m here,” he says, looking back up at Jude. “I’m not really sure what to say.”

Jude lets out a sigh and turns back to the baggage carousel. “Why are you here?” he asks with his back turned to Zero, shoulders slumped in that way that Zero knows means he’s upset, stressed.

Even so, “Look, y’know, this isn’t easy,” Zero tells him, a little biting. “You could maybe cut me a little bit of slack here.”

Jude pulls a bag off of the carousel and drops it heavily to the floor between them before turning to look back at Zero.

“Okay,” he sighs. “Okay, fine, I’m listening. Even though, you know, you’ve had months to talk and you’ve spent months pushing me away or teasing me or - ”

“Don’t move out here,” Zero interrupts, unable to keep it in any longer. “Don’t stay here. Come back with me.”

Jude looks struck dumb for a moment, mouth hanging open again, before he snaps it shut and shakes his head, huffing out a sardonic laugh. “You don’t know what you’re saying right now.”

“I do,” Zero replies, more strong and serious than he’s felt all night. “I want you to come back. With me.”

“Zero…”

“You can call me Gideon,” Zero replies in hurry. The name still feels heavy and unfamiliar on his tongue, but he’ll give it to Jude if that’s what he needs. He’ll give Jude just about anything to come back with him. “Fuck, you can call me whatever you want, just stay with me.”

“It’s not about that,” Jude replies softly, kind of sad. “That’s just a piece of it all. You and I, we just want different things, and I can’t keep fooling myself that someday you might want me like I want you. Or that you’ll want what I want. It’s too hard.”

It hurts to hear that, especially because he’s wrong, Zero’s pretty sure, but he’s also not completely certain that he really does want this, want the relationship and monogamy and this life because he’s never, ever wanted those things with anyone before and he’s not quite sure how to recognize his feelings sometimes.

“I want you,” he tells Jude, lowering his voice a bit. Jude’s eyes dart around, glancing at the people around them who still aren’t paying them any attention.

“Yeah,” Jude replies, voice soft to match Zero’s. “I know the sex was good - ”

“It’s not just about sex!” Zero hisses, quiet but harsh. “I just…” He can’t finish. He doesn’t know how, doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say, and this is why he hates this “being himself” crap. It’s so much easier to put up a front, to put on a show, to speak like there’s a script laid out for him that he knows by heart with which can say all of the things that the people around him want to hear and bend them to his will that way.

So he never has to risk this, never has to face this kind of confusion and unknown and fear that he might not get exactly what he wants.

“I have to go,” Jude tells him quietly, voice quiet and pained, as he gathers up his bags.

Don’t,” Zero pleads, damn near begging.

Jude gives him a last look and turns away, heads out the door and towards a guy in the waiting area holding a sign with Jude’s name on it. He gives one of his bags to the driver and follows him out the doors, and Zero takes off after them.

He refuses to give up this easily.

He catches up with them at the black towncar stopped by the curb just outside, and calls Jude’s name, thinks about reaching out to grab him and turn him around just because he wants so much to touch Jude right now.

Jude sighs heavily and hands his other back off to the driver to drop in the trunk. “You should go back to L.A.,” he says with that sad, resigned tone, the one he had that night he sat on the floor of his living room and asked for Zero to reach back for him (if not in those exact words, Zero’s come to realize).

And before he really realizes what he’s doing, what he’s saying, he reaches back.

“I love you!” he says, louder than he’d think wise if he was really giving it any thought.

Jude turns to him slowly. Zero’s heart has just about stopped.

“What - what was that?”

Zero shakes his head, no idea what to say or do now or how to move forward. This is what Jude has done to him, and he wishes Jude could get it.

“I do want what you want,” he tells Jude fiercely, desperately. He glances over at the driver who looks back at them curiously before turning to climb into the front seat of the car.

“I want you. I want a relationship with you, I want you so fucking much, and I never meant to make you think that I didn’t. It’s just, this shit is - I’m not used to this. I don’t tell people I love them and mean it. But you’re… god, I just fucking love you.”

Jude’s eyes are wide and deep and he looks like a deer in headlights. “You know there are other people around here who are hearing this, right?”

It actually hadn’t really occurred to him until now, and he takes a second to glance around and notice the passersby who are looking their way, clearly eavesdropping, who may have realized who he is…

It can’t be helped, though. He needs to say this, needs Jude to hear it, needs Jude to understand that his career, his life, none of it matters if Jude’s not in it.

“Yeah, I know,” he replies, shoulders tensing a bit as he feels the gaze of several people around him. “I’m not really thrilled about it, but. And you know, I really kind of hate you sometimes too, always pushing me to do this shit." "I didn't push you to do anything!" Jude shoots back angrily, pointing a finger at Zero's chest. "I left." "Yeah, you left and you forced me to follow you because now I need you in my life, and I’m here and I’m not going away this time.”

Jude huffs, maybe a bit of a laugh, and shakes his head. “Why are you saying all of this now? We ended things months ago.”

“Because. Because you’re trying to leave and it’s made me realize how much I - you’re the most important person to me, you’re it, and you were right, sometimes I kind of lose myself. But with you - when I’m with you I know who I am.”

“Zero…” Jude says, like he’s now the one lost for words and unable to figure out what he’s even feeling.

Zero steps forward, crowds into Jude’s space, ignores the eyes on them. He takes Jude’s face in his hands and shakes Jude’s head a little as he stares at him, clenches his fingers against Jude’s skin, hoping he’ll understand.

“I love you,” he says again, and it’s getting easier each time he says it. “And I know you feel the same way about me and we could have this.”

Jude swallows and closes his eyes, leans into Zero’s hands. “I do. Yeah. I love you too, I do.”

There’s such a rush of relief that all Zero can do is lean his forehead heavily against Jude’s and breathe out a long sigh. Jude’s hands come up to rest for a moment on Zero’s hips, and then his arms, and then fist in his jacket, and they breathe against each other, take in one another’s breaths for the first time in what feels like forever. Jude’s breath feels the same, his skin feels the same, his hair… Zero needs to kiss him, wants to so badly, but he knows that would be a step too far out in the open like this, so he tries to find his voice.

“We should go somewhere.”

Jude nods against him and doesn’t say anything, just grasps his hand and then moves away, pulls him into the car still waiting idly nearby.

As soon as Zero gets the door closed, he’s on Jude, grabbing at him and tugging him closer, closer, closer, until they’re practically in each other’s laps and then Jude’s mouth is on him and it’s fucking perfect.

The driver must know the address of wherever it is Jude’s supposed to go because he puts the car in gear and pulls away from the curb and it occurs to Zero, vaguely, that no, they need to go back to the airport, back to L.A., but it’s a struggle to pull himself away from Jude’s mouth long enough to say something about it.

When they do break apart Zero leans his forehead against Jude’s cheek and wraps his arms around Jude’s back, can’t stop touching even for a moment. Jude laughs into his hair and runs his thumbs back and forth over Zero’s jaw.

They sit like that for a while, letting the minutes pass and pieces of the city go by outside and just rest against each other. Zero’s heart calms, beats back to its normal, steady rhythm as he takes this all in, terrifying and amazing and all his.

“We should go back,” Zero says after a while, and lets Jude pull away far enough to look at him. “I mean, you’re coming back with me, right?”

Jude laughs and raises a hand to his forehead, rubs at the lines there and leans his elbow against the back of the seat behind them.

“I’ve still got clients here,” he says. “I’ve got an apartment set up and waiting for me.”

Zero’s stomach drops. “But, we just…”

“I’m not saying that,” Jude tells him, puts a reassuring hand on Zero’s arm and leans into him again, giving his weight as comfort. “I don’t know where the best place is for me. Other than you, I don’t really know where it is I belong. I wasn’t just trying to run away from you; it’s also my dad, and the job, and this seemed like a good place to get my head together, get myself on track.”

Zero’s dubious, sighs as he pulls away to rest back against the seat and drop his hands to his lap.

“Don’t look so bummed,” Jude tells him, laughing. Zero turns to glare at him, stomach still in knots. Jude moves his hand down to Zero’s leg and squeezes gently. “Look, we’ll figure this out. The season’s almost over anyway; you can come back out here in a few weeks, and I’ll be back and forth all the time. We’ll make this work.”

He pauses for a long moment, then says quietly, just as fierce as the last time he said it, “I won’t leave you.”

And he’s probably right, because Jude often is; they can make this work. Whether they’re in the same city or on opposite ends of the country or on different planets, it’s less than what separated them before, and a whole country between them doesn’t seem quite so huge anymore.

“Yeah,” he says, leaning forward to rest his head against Jude’s once again. “Me too. I won’t ever leave you either.”

And the thing is, he’s never kept that kind of promise to anyone - he’s never even wanted to, in any relationship (or “relationship”) he’s had. But despite all that, and despite the distance, and despite the latent fears of commitment and of revealing too much of himself that are still lurking in him, despite everything else, he knows he means it this time.

-

“Fuck,” Zero breathes out as he collapses against Jude, spent and panting. He keeps stroking Jude, though, shifts a bit so that he’s lying half in Jude’s side and half on top of him as he jacks Jude’s cock and watches the intensity of it all play across Jude’s face.

Once again, Jude doesn’t disappoint - he hasn’t this whole night - as he clenches his eyes shut and runs his tongue over his lower lip, digs his fingers into Zero’s arm and his hair, lets out a groan before saying “Yes, yes, like that, I’m - I’m gonna - ” and Zero squeezes him lightly and runs a finger down over his balls and then strokes him again and he’s coming.

Zero watches him all through it, can’t get enough of Jude biting down on his lip, grunting and pressing up against Zero. He pulls Zero down and Zero indulges him, pressing their mouths together and licking against Jude’s lips, his tongue, kissing him through his orgasm and still stroking him until Jude pushes his hand away.

They lie quietly for a moment, both breathing heavily against one another, and it’s comfortable, resting against someone else like this, being naked together and just being, no deeper needs or plans for the first time in a while.

But when Jude starts running his hand up and down Zero’s back, shifts around so that he’s turned towards him and making moves like he’s going to wrap a leg around Zero’s waist and his arms around Zero’s back, Zero knows it’s time to go.

He gives Jude a last, quick kiss against his temple, because why not, and then pulls away, pushing himself up from the bed without looking back.

“You could stay,” Jude says quietly from behind him. “If you want.”

Zero tries to ignore the tone of his voice. “Nah, it’s cool, rather sleep in my own bed.” He picks his way through Jude’s bedroom to find his underwear and then out to grab his pants. “See you tomorrow, maybe,” he calls back towards the bedroom.

Jude doesn’t say anything else and Zero leaves him behind even as he’s thinking about going back. He doesn’t, though, because that’s not what this is, it’s not some relationship where they sleep together and wake up together in the morning and all of that other shit.

It was just a quick fuck, and maybe they’ll do it again because it was pretty good, but there’s nothing more to it than that.

-

“C’mon,” Jude tells him as the car comes to a stop in front of some tall, nondescript building in Midtown Manhattan. “I have a meeting this afternoon but I don’t have anywhere to be before then and I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really get any sleep on my flight.” He nudges Zero a bit to get him to open the car door so they can pile out onto the sidewalk. “Come take a nap with me.”

And that actually sounds awesome right now, and it’s still early enough in the morning that there’s not that many people around, so Zero leans forward to kiss him again, because he can, because he’s never wanted anyone like he wants Jude and he can have this; they can have this.

He ignores the couple of people walking past them and ignores the driver moving around them to carry Jude’s bags into the building’s lobby and just holds onto Jude.

They head up a few minutes later to Jude’s new place, crisp and tidy with unused furniture that someone’s mostly set up for him and kick of their shoes before falling into bed, both laughing at something indiscernible - maybe at the whole situation, their whole relationship - and it’s pretty much the first time in forever that Zero has been happy just to lie with someone without the promise of sex in the immediate future. They’ll get to that later, definitely. He’s not going anywhere.