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You Don't Have To Know The Language

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Joe's second month in Paris, the woman upstairs who claims to be a dancer but sounds like a fucking construction worker clomping around in steel-toed boots whenever she practices gets herself a boyfriend. At least Joe guesses it's a boy; he only ever sees him from the back and he's got one of those Princess Di blond feather cuts, a cloud of hair enveloping his skull, making it appear twice as big as it probably is.

The boyfriend is living with her about a week when she throws a party (and of course doesn't invite l'Américain, even though her too-precise, insufficiently nasal accent is proof she's not French either) that practically lifts the roof off the hundred-and-fifty year old building. It's not like he's never been kept up by her parties before, but this one seems to irritate him more, maybe because she's obviously getting laid and he's not. He's been so busy researching, making daily trips to the archives to pore over dusty old records for his paper on French colonial history, that he's barely had time to sit in a café along the Seine, let alone go out clubbing and find himself someone warm and willing. Even though he knows he's fully bilingual, he's still self-conscious about his own accent; the locals seem to be able to smell an American a mile off, and they make him stumble over words he knows as well as their English equivalents.

He wakes up later than usual, having finally dropped off to sleep near dawn, and he's pissed off from the moment his feet hit the cold floor to the time he pours his first blessed espresso of the day. The coffee is one thing about Paris he's going to have a hell of a time giving up; even the most select American brands – and he's tasted a few – couldn't hold a candle to a basic French roast made fresh. This one is disappointing, though – beans a little burnt – and he manages to blame that on his neighbor, too.

The next thing he knows he's banging on her door, and it occurs to him that this is out of character for him – he likes confrontation about as much as he likes having his nuts crushed in a vise – but he can't seem to help himself. Maybe there's some kind of mold spore in those old records that's affected his brain.

He hears a muffled thump and a crash, and then the sound of footsteps, softer than Martha Graham's usual elephant tread. The door opens a crack, and a wisp of blond hair with a startlingly blue eye underneath it appears in the gap.

"Bonjour," Joe says, feeling stupid. "Comment ça va? Je suis votre – ah, votre voisin – en dessous – " He points down.

The eye narrows. "And what? You want to borrow a cup of sugar?" The accent is featureless, either American or Canadian.

"N-no," stammers Joe, hating the fact that his cheeks are turning pink, "I just – "

Thankfully, the guy shuts the door at that point, because Joe didn't have anything to say after that. I hate that you're having regular sex doesn't sound like a very good reason for disturbing a perfect stranger at – he checks his watch – eleven o'clock in the morning.

There's the sound of a chain being rattled, and then the door's opening wide. "C'mon in," the guy says. He's already walking away from Joe toward the small kitchen, and Joe notes that he's wearing a threadbare gray t-shirt with one arm ripped off and a pair of pyjama bottoms that mold perfectly to his skinny ass as he walks. As Joe watches, he plucks at his ear and pulls out a cigarette that must have been tucked behind it. Joe couldn't see it for all the hair.

The guy gestures vaguely at the fridge. "Want a beer?"

Before noon? Joe shudders. "No, thanks," he says, his feet taking him in the direction of the kitchen without his conscious consent. He really should go, and he opens his mouth to say so, then shuts it again.

Unaware of Joe's inner turmoil, the guy plunks down in one of the metal chairs by the window and gestures at a pack of du Mauriers on the small round table. Canadian, then, Joe observes absently. "Cigarette?" he asks, as he reaches for an orange plastic lighter and flicks it with his thumb.

"No, thanks. I don't smoke."

The guy takes a drag and bares his teeth around the cigarette. "No vices, huh?"

Joe can't think of anything to say to that, so he keeps his mouth shut.

"You a friend of Terry's?" the guy asks.

"Not exactly," Joe says, glancing nervously in the direction of what he imagines must be the bedroom. He can just imagine his dancer neighbor wandering out of the bedroom buck naked and seeing him there. "Well, I – should go – "

The guy shakes his head as though he's read Joe's mind. "She's gone. Went off to the Côte D'Azur for a few days with some friends." He takes another drag, blows smoke out the window. "Thank Christ."

Joe's eyes widen. "You – uh – you didn't go with her?"

The guy rolls his eyes. "Are you kidding me? I could barely put up with her for this long. What?"

Joe shuts his gaping mouth. "I thought you – uh. Liked her."

The guy waves his cigarette in a very Gallic fashion. "Well, I suppose I don't hate her, but I'm not exactly enamored of her. But she's putting me up for free for two weeks in Paris, so I can't complain."

Even though Joe wouldn't shed a tear if he found out his neighbor had disappeared off the face of the planet, he can't help drawing himself up at that, his father having instilled in him a sense of old-fashioned chivalry that's hard to shake. "Listen, I don't know if you should be saying something like that."

The guy stares at him, and then bursts out laughing; smoke puffs out his nose. "Oh, my God," he wheezes, "you think I'm fucking her."

"I – "

"She's my cousin," the guy elaborates, "and before you get on your white horse and gore me with your lance in defense of wronged womanhood, may I say that she's one of the most pretentious people in Paris, which is really saying something, and she can't dance for shit."

Joe can't help himself; a smile tugs at his lips, then breaks free. He's not quite sure why he's so happy at this news, but he is. "Oh. I – well." He takes a step forward and sticks out his hand. "My name's Joe, by the way. Joe Flanigan."

The guy smiles back and rises to his feet. "David Hewlett." His handshake is warm and strong, and Joe gets a whiff of something through the smoke that might be Hai Karate, but he's not sure. If he stuck his nose against the pale column of David's neck, he's sure he could figure it out, and what the fuck is he thinking?

"Listen, you hungry?"

Joe blinks. "Hm?"

Another smile, this one with teeth, and Joe's cheeks warm as he realizes he's still clinging to David's hand. "I'm starving," David says. "What do you say we go out to lunch somewhere overpriced with snotty waiters?"

"So basically anywhere in France, then," Joe says easily, and David laughs again. It's a nice sound, deep and genuine, nothing like Joe's weird cackle. He hates his own laugh, which is why he tries not to do it very much.

"Let me get changed and I'll be right with you," David says, winking.

Joe watches his skinny ass walking away encased in those clingy pajamas and thinks, don't change on my account.




Not surprisingly, it isn't hard to find a place that treats them like crap, and it's made even better when the waiter actually says, "Please stop speaking that trash" to David in French.

"I'll quit speaking it if you quit serving it, how's that?" David shoots back, and Joe bites his tongue to keep from laughing. The waiter turns up his nose and flounces off in a snit, and David turns to Joe with a grin as he lights up another cigarette.

"I thought French-Canadian was French," Joe says.

David tugs at his earlobe. "Not exactly. It's kind of better and worse than France French. It pisses them off both ways." He shrugs. "That's what I get for preparing for this trip by watching les Pierrafeu." At Joe's quizzical expression, he shakes his head. "Never mind."

"So why did you come to Paris?" Joe asks.

"I have some time off before my next movie, and I've never been here." He blows smoke. "Too bad it doesn't live up to the hype."

"Your next movie?"

David nods. "I'm an actor."

"Oh." Joe doesn't add that he's done a little acting in university, because it would sound stupid to a pro. "I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you."

David snorts again. "Don't feel bad; you wouldn't have. I've only worked in Canada and on the Friday the 13th show. We're not exactly talking big budget stuff here."

Joe takes a sip of his coffee, which is a lot better than the cup he had this morning. "What role would you like to play most of all?"

"Doctor Who," David says immediately. Joe tries to smile, but it must look as forced as it is, because David barks, "What?"

"Nothing. I just – it's that cheesy SF show, right?"

David crosses his arms and leans back in his chair. "And what's wrong with cheesy SF shows?" he demands.

Joe holds up his hands. "Nothing, nothing. I'm just not a big science fiction fan, sorry."

David arches an eyebrow, and Joe definitely does not find that attractive. "Hm," David says finally. "Well, all I can say is, it's a good thing you're pretty."

Joe feels his face flush bright red. "And it's a good thing you've got a great ass," he shoots back.

David stares at him for a moment, open-mouthed, and then his laughter dances through the air, turning heads at the neighboring tables.




They end up buying a bottle of beaujolais and drinking it under one of the bridges over the Seine. David murmurs pithy comments on the passersby in his ear while Joe tries not to laugh, until he feels a bite to his earlobe.

"Ow!" Joe exclaims, hand going to his ear. It's damp and tingling, and he half wishes David would do it again.

"Come on, this is some of my funniest shit," David whines. "You're gonna give me a complex."

"I'm laughing on the inside," Joe insists. "Really."

"Why aren't you laughing on the outside, you freak?" David demands, poking him in the side.

Joe squirms and wriggles. "I don't laugh a lot."

David's still poking. "Why not?"

Against his will, a braying laugh bursts out of Joe, and he shoves David sideways. "Because I sound like that!" he yells, startling an older couple walking along under the bridge.

David laughs. "That's what you're worried about? Do it again."

"No!" Joe exclaims, but he laughs again anyway because somehow David's made his self-consciousness disappear.

David cocks his head. "I like it. It's kind of dirty old man meets Francis the talking mule."

"You are such an asshole," Joe says, but he's laughing full out now. He's not sure if he'll be able to stop, but he manages it when David leans in and kisses him, quickly, on the lips.

"C'mon," David says, grinning at Joe's dumbstruck expression. "My great ass is going numb." He scrambles to his feet and reaches a hand down to Joe. When Joe is yanked to his feet, he wobbles a bit, feeling lightheaded, and he knows he can't blame it all on the wine.




Joe follows David up the four flights of stairs to his cousin's apartment. As David fumbles with the key, Joe feels the blood pound in his veins, making the tips of his fingers feel swollen and heavy. He's aching to get his hands on David's pale skin, but he's not sure what to do beyond that. It feels a lot like stepping out on a stage for the first time: simultaneously terrifying and liberating.

"So, you want a beer?" David asks once they're inside, his back turned to Joe.

Joe reaches out and places his hands on David's shoulders; they're more solid than they look, but he turns easily enough with a little prompting. "You asked me that already," Joe says.

"Yeah, eight hours ago. Thought you might have changed your mind."

"I did," Joe admits, leaning in, "but not about that."

To Joe's surprise, David's mouth isn't as cocky as the rest of him. It takes its time learning him, outlining the shape of his lips with gentle caresses of lip, teeth and tongue, invading slowly, inexorably, until Joe's shuddering just from a damned kiss and the pressure of David's fingers curled around the back of his neck. When they finally pull back, David's cheeks are rosy and he looks slightly wrecked. Joe's cock surges in his jeans.

"Do you want to – " Joe begins, derailing when he feels David's other hand land on his chest and start on his shirt buttons. "Oh. Guess that's a yes."

"That's a most emphatic yes," David says, grinning, and Joe kisses it off him before grabbing his hips and yanking him close. He's not an expert in this guy-on-guy stuff, but he's pretty sure he recognizes an erection when he feels one, and wow, his own dick is telling him it really wants some of that.

David pushes back, bumping their hips together, and Joe makes a sound that could be construed as a whimper. "You ever done this with a guy?" David asks, nipping at Joe's chin, his jugular, his collarbone as he bares it.

Joe considers lying, then admits, "No."

"Mmmm," David hums, licking his collarbone. "You're gonna love it."

That's what I'm afraid of, Joe thinks but doesn't say. David kisses him again, dirtier than the first time, tongue insistent and possessive, and Joe groans and starts on David's buttons. David shoves Joe's shirt off his shoulders and bends to lick at a nipple, and Joe's knees actually go weak. He thought that shit only happened in movies.

"God, you're so amazing," David breathes against Joe's chest. Joe feels David's warm fingers at his belt buckle, and then oh, oh boy –

"Wait, hang on – " Joe says weakly, but it's too late; David's got Joe's cock out of his boxers and he's licking a hot, wet stripe up the underside. "Jesus Christ!" Desperately, Joe grabs a handful of David's hair and wraps the other hand around his cock.

"You got something against blowjobs?" David asks, sounding a little pissy. Joe lets go of his hair and pats his head apologetically.

"No, I just – what's the rush?" Joe shoots back.

David looks up at him, then smiles wickedly. "You were that close, huh?"

Joe lets go of his cock, feeling stupid again. He grabs at his jeans, trying to hike them back up his legs, but David's leapt to his feet and stills Joe's hands with his own. "Hey, hey, wait a minute," he protests. "Can't you let a guy be smug for five seconds?"

"I don't like – " Joe bites his lip " – being out of control."

"Yeah, I kind of got that already," David says gently. His hand rises to Joe's shoulder, where he slides a thumb soothingly up and down Joe's neck. "Some things you just can't control, because you can't predict the future."

"Name one."

David chuckles, but there's no mockery in it. "How about life?"

Joe shakes his head, and David leans in. "No? You think you know what you're going to be doing in twenty years?"

"Maybe," Joe says defensively, but they both know it's a lie. Hell, he hasn't even figured out a way to tell his dad he doesn't want to go into investment banking.

"Okay," David concedes softly. He steps back and spreads his arms, and in the fading evening light, his pale skin looks golden, molten, too hot to touch. "So be in control."

Joe frowns and shakes his head again. "What – "

"Do whatever you want," David clarifies. "You're in charge."

At an offer like that, about a hundred ideas pop into Joe's head and clamor for attention. He licks his lips and takes a step forward. "Where's the bedroom?" he rasps.

David's eyes widen and he points; Joe takes him by the hand and leads him inside, then strips him slowly out of the rest of his clothes, kissing him over and over as he removes shirt, pants, briefs, socks. He was right, David's ass is skinny, but it's the perfect shape, rounded and beautiful. He sits on the bed and watches his tanned hands slide over the smooth skin for a couple of minutes until David begs him for more, then turns him around and before he can tell himself this is a dumb idea, he opens his mouth and sucks David's cock in as far as it'll go.

David groans and his hips jerk, and Joe gags as the head hits the back of his throat. "Sorry, sorry," David murmurs, stroking his hair, and Joe pulls off, coughing.

"Lie down on the bed," Joe orders. David scrambles to obey, and that's much better, because now Joe can get a grip on David's hips with both hands and hold him down. David spreads his legs and lets Joe in, and Joe's cock swells at the sight. "Let me know if I'm doing this wrong," he says, bending his head.

"You'll be the first to know – oh, oh, oh..." David's voice trails off into incoherent, breathy babble. Joe's not an expert, but he can tell his second attempt is much more successful than the first, if David's sighs and moans are anything to go by. He's not quite sure if the noises are a compliment or not – he's known David less than a day and he knows he likes to hear the sound of his own voice – but whatever the reason, these sounds are doing great things for Joe. Thank God he's soon coordinated enough to blow David and grind his hips into the mattress at the same time.

"Okay, okay, I'm getting close," David breathes after a few minutes, tugging at Joe's shoulder. Joe slides his mouth off of him, bestowing a final kiss to the head before shimmying up David's body and bracing himself over David's sweat-sheened body. Christ, he's gorgeous, and if somebody had told Joe this morning that he'd be doing this by nightfall, he would have called them nuts.

Some things you can't predict. His inner voice sounds suspiciously like David's, and it should piss him off but it doesn't.

"I don't want to seem all bossy," David says, almost conversationally, "but I'd really appreciate it if you would get the fuck down here right now."

Joe laughs. "I think I can do that," he says amicably, lowering himself and covering David's body with his own. David groans and shoves a hand between their bodies, and Joe feels him take ahold of his cock and line it up against David's own. Joe's cut and David isn't, but the sweat and precome on their bellies helps ease the way for both of them.

"Oh, God," David breathes, "this is – oh, God – "

Joe shifts, grabbing ahold of David's wrists and pinning them to the bed as he rocks against him, making David groan and beg him to go faster. He leans down and bites at David's moving lips, stilling them.

"Don't forget who's in charge, Hewlett," he growls, and David arches his neck and comes all over both of them.




"So what movie are you going to be in?"

"Hunh?" David's gaze is glassy. After the first round they cleaned up, showered and ate leftovers straight from the fridge, and then David blew Joe – slowly this time, with lots of wet licks and tonguing kisses that drove Joe out of his fucking mind – as they lay together on the couch watching France's answer to game shows. They fell into bed around ten, and now it's just after dawn and Joe's ready for round three.

Joe pushes himself up on an elbow. "What movie are you going to be in? I want to be able to watch it when it comes out."

David blinks, then smiles up at him. "Oh. I don't remember the title, but it's a Boorman film."

"Who's he?"

"The director, John Boorman? Hope and Glory, Deliverance?"

"Oh, God, don't tell me you're going to be in Deliverance II," Joe groans.

That earns him another poke. "Arsehole."

Joe kisses him again, letting his lips linger over David's lopsided ones. "I'll just watch for your name. I don't pay attention to directors."

David snorts. "I'll be lucky if my name even makes it onto the poster. Look for Dabney Coleman, then."

"Dabney Coleman?" Joe asks, incredulous.

"I'll have you know that Dabney Coleman is going to play my dad," David intones solemnly, only a faint twinkle in his eye betraying him.

Joe laughs. "Wow. That's – good. I guess. Though not as good as Doctor Who."

"Nothing's as good as Doctor Who," David says wistfully.

"Well, cheer up," Joe says, stroking his hair fondly. "I'm sure you'll save the galaxy someday."

"Thanks," David says. "And what about you? Any galaxy-saving in your future, Flanigan?"

Joe opens his mouth to answer, then closes it again. "You know," he says finally, "I'm not sure I know the answer to that one."