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Orpheus's Heart

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Jack, despite his profession of love to life and all her wonders, often pointedly chose not to imbibe of them. When Neal and Bill and Allen were in the forefront, seeing who could get the most out of one moment, Jack hung back, watching with a smile and a hungry jealousy on his face. Neal felt the starving gaze on the meat of his bones and so later that night or right then and there depending on Jack’s mood, Neal would wipe it off his face by kissing him and trailing a hand down the front of his shirt.

Tonight, Jack grabbed Neal’s hand in his own, entangling their fingers together. Neal glanced up in surprise and saw a flush on Jack’s cheekbones, traveling down his neck and a suspicious, unfocused glitter in his eyes.

He didn’t ask where they were going, just allowed Jack to pull him towards the back alley behind the bar. Night had settled in and was making herself comfortable, and the only light that glimpsed back here filtered in from the door and the very edge of the circles under street lights. A few shards of glass caught the stray beams and winked at him prettily. A behemoth Dumpster, brown with rusty patches, sat by the brick wall of the building and a bottle clanked noisily when Neal inadvertently kicked it.

Jack turned to face him and put his hands on either side of Neal’s face, drawing him into a deep kiss. Neal went along passively for a moment before placing his hands on the knobs of Jack’s hips and backing him up until his shirt scraped against the rough edges of the brick. When they paused for breath, Neal leaned his forehead against Jack’s, letting his eyes fall shut contentedly. The air felt warm against his skin and under his clothes, with just the hint of a breeze to flap his shirt and ruffle Jack’s hair. He opened his eyes and noticed one piece of glass on the ground gleam a pale green, fresh as spring, and he watched it for a moment until Jack captured his lips again, an urgency underneath and against him.

In between intense kisses, he pulled back and gasped lightly, trailing his lips across the corner of Jack’s jaw and mouth, feeling his lips drag against the skin there.

“What do you want?” he asked.

Jack’s breathing hitched unsteadily and he let his head fall back. “Fuck me.”

Neal started; not from the words, which he heard often, and under much shadier circumstances, but from Jack saying them. Jack kicked up a fuss if Neal even hinted in front of close friends that they regularly shared a bed, and not just to sleep in. Here, in public, fucking was not just scandalous, but illegal.

“Please,” Jack said, planting small, artist’s brush kisses on Neal’s face, “Please, I need something, something--" His voice was jittery, slithering snake-like and then jumping at odd intervals, in the middle of a word and cascading back down again to crawl along some more against the flat of the sentence.

Neal leaned against him and traced Jack’s even teeth with his tongue and tilted Jack until he was half-laying on the top crate of a stack near the backdoor. Their pants came off quickly, and Neal used a bottle of hand oil he kept handy to embarrass prudes with to help things along. Jack moaned and arched under his attentions, tossing his head back and forth and panting so Neal could hardly take his eyes off him to see what he was doing. Each new stroke and trace of his fingers produced a new note, until Jack let out a keening, needy wail that Neal had never heard before.

“Please,” Jack slurred quietly, and Neal obeyed, hiking Jack’s legs up over his shoulders and thanking several deities that Jack had been an athlete once upon a time.

“Burning pouring soul lights,” Jack panted suddenly. Neal bent forward at an awkward angle to catch the words as they broke out of him. “Pushing, punishing farther land, fighting beautiful wars, beautiful chaos and gore, carnage in Carthage, for love, kindness seeking—“ He rambled on as Neal fucked him, mashing words together and cutting them and pasting new pieces on until they fit, a bird’s nest of words and images. Suddenly Jack arched up again, stretching one hand to the sky and the other grabbing Neal’s back and sliding down the slickness of his spine.

Neal shushed him, doing up his pants with one hand while he used the other to gather Jack up in his arms to hold and comfort him. Jack’s own hands spasmed against his back and neck like he was playing a harp, and he continued to mutter under his breath frantically. Neal recognized a trip when he saw one, and he sat down on the ground against the wall, Jack curled up beside him as he rode out the worst of the frenetic pace whatever drug he had taken had sent him on. A few times Jack arced and his eyes widened with panic, but Neal would quietly say whatever quotes of literature, history, or random thought came into his head, stroking through Jack’s hair and pulling him in closer. The warm, tan sweater he had on calmed Jack, and Neal let him bury his nose into his stomach, even held him there casually with one hand.

Dawn began airing out her apron when Jack finally came down enough for Neal to take him home, depositing him under the covers. Jack allowed himself to be put to bed without fuss, watching Neal with sluggish eyes.

“Neal?” Jack’s voice came, exhausted, from under the sheets.

Neal knelt by the side of the bed to look Jack in the face.


“Not again,” Jack murmured, a flicker of pain and hurt in his eyes. “I don’t want to do that again.”

Neal rested his hand on Jack’s hair, a priest giving his favored son a blessing.

“No,” he agreed. “Not again. I promise.”

Jack’s face smoothed in relief and his eyes drifted shut. Neal remained there, playing with the ends of his hair idly until he was sure Jack was asleep.

There was always an again, because Jack couldn’t live unless something showed him how. Neal never claimed to be an intellectual, but he had a grasp of human nature that most members of the race either noticeably did not acknowledge, or outright disdained under the influence of vanity. He knew there would always be an again, and no promising by him could change that. He could, however, promise to be around when it happened, to hold Jack and whisper things in his ear until he came down from it, and put him in his bed when it all ended.