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i.


slip and slide my way through this charade
I know all the players and I must say
do this long enough
you get a taste for it


Joe keeps the pages in his desk, an unruly pile of paper covered in handwriting that sprawls across the lines. He’s always preferred to write longhand, hating the way his fingers become stubbornly clumsy as soon as they hover over a keyboard.

David’s fingers are quick and sure and clever, coaxing brilliant words into being in an endless soft click and press that Joe never tires of hearing. My next script, he says when Joe peers over his shoulder at the laptop screen. David saves the world. A sly grin, then, And gets laid a lot.

Joe smiles back, even as his fingers curl tight enough to press bright half-moons into his palms. Write me some of that action, he says, only because it’s far less dangerous than everything else that suddenly threatens to spill from his tongue.


*

Here you go, the note says in the narrow looping slant of David's handwriting, but the pages beneath it are typed; lines of straight, unhesitating words that Joe doesn't read until he gets back to his hotel room. He's tired of the way David soaks up the praise so graciously, so offhandedly, as though it wouldn't mean anything if everyone didn't love every idea he'd ever committed to paper.

And with that in mind, he has no idea what to think about the pages that he unfolds after he crawls onto his unmade bed and locates his reading glasses. It's a joke, of course. He'd asked for action, and ha ha, here it is, only he doesn't know what to make of David's description of him, the carefully chosen adjectives that draw a picture of some sensual tease, not the guy David routinely breezes past on his way toward something more interesting.

Maybe it’s not even me, he thinks, endlessly rationalizing, while words like dark and quiet and slouch – words he’s heard David use in countless interviews – tell another story altogether. He tucks his legs beneath him, getting more comfortable, strangely bewitched by this person who is slowly unfolding beneath his fingertips, a glimpse from the corner of someone else’s eye.

David’s eye, and Joe’s face floods with sudden heat, wondering just how closely he’s been watching, and just how much he’s seen. Not me, he thinks again, then says it out loud, as if that can make it true somehow. Not me, even as he recognizes the way his tshirt rides up to show his stomach, his unruly laugh, the way he shapes his vowels. It’s all there in black and white, 10pt Times New Roman type, and when Joe finally puts down the stack of paper, he can still feel David’s close, careful gaze all over his skin.

*

Joe spends all the next day waiting for David to ask what he thinks, composing a thousand answers in his head, until all of them are tangled hopelessly in the back of his throat. He’s all too aware of every line he has to speak in the scenes they have together, of someone else choosing his every word, and it’s never once been something he’s even given a second thought.

Until now. Until right now, with David suddenly way too close, his face infuriatingly smooth and betraying nothing. Joe self-consciously lifts his fingers to brush the pieces of hair from his forehead, and belatedly remembers how it had felt to see that gesture spelled out on the page.

He drops his hand and ducks into the privacy of his trailer.

*

There are more the next day, and then the day after. Joe wears his paranoia as a hot flush on his skin that only subsides when he discovers the newest page tucked into his pocket, his lunch bag, the seat of his car, and he never reads them until he’s back in his hotel room, chain latched and shoes off.

Only once, he skims the page before leaving the lot, and the entire drive back to his hotel is an unsettling obsession over the word showoff only to find later that it has much more to do with David than it does with him.

Showoff, because the Joe on the page is as unselfconscious as Joe used to be before David started writing these vignettes where Joe has everything figured out, where he says the right thing to the bagel girl and makes her laugh, makes her notice his smile and his arms until Joe wonders when David has time to come up with all these ideas.

David is a busy guy. He’s always working on a handful of projects in addition to his day job, so it’s surprising that he makes room to play this game with Joe. Maybe it’s his idea of a hobby, a midday diversion, but this feels more deliberate than that, and David is gregarious by nature, too kind to do anything without heart, so when Joe reads too smart to give himself away on the page, he knows that David means it.

And he knows it should seem strange for David to slip him scenes from his own life—a wildly speculative version of his life—but the longer they go without talking about it, the more it begins to seem perfectly normal that David would be able to write the line of Joe’s hip and the hidden ungenerous thoughts that sometimes slide through the back of his mind, all the things Joe might do with the handgun he carries around set if it were real, if he were a hero, if he were the type to take what isn’t his.

David’s talents are wasted on screenplays, Joe thinks, as he sits on the edge of his bed and folds the latest sheet into a neat square, because no one will ever get to see the sentences David puts together, ribbons of words that fit together in ways Joe hadn’t even known he was able. For some reason, David churns out humor like he's a one-trick pony, and he excels at it, but Joe wonders if anyone else knows that David can slide just as easily into this creative space that’s narrow and intimate and as engaging as any joke David has ever told.

And he’d been writing Joe some of that action just like he’d said he would: Joe the hero, the dark handsome stranger—sometimes he can imagine David snickering his way through the page—and then, just often enough to keep it interesting, a glimpse of what David must think gets him wound up, a glimpse of himself getting hot and bothered over some random prompt.

At first it’s the predictable curve of a breast, a glimpse of creamy thigh that gets him—the Joe on the page—hard in his jeans, and God, David’s either been on a family oriented show for too long or he’s got a cruel streak, because there’s never any relief, just this mortifyingly detailed swell of arousal and then nothing, but then, on a late evening when they’re finally getting out after a day that wouldn’t end, David starts to pass Joe a page...and hesitates.

By now, he’s handed off a dozen pages to Joe, and he’s sometimes casual, sometimes smug, and sometimes Joe has to find them on his own. But he’s never hesitated, so when he pauses with Joe’s upturned fingers just a bare inch from the paper, Joe’s pulse throbs hard through his throat, and he grabs the paper before David can do something stupid, like change his mind.

He’d been tired, but anticipation is a thrum of energy sparking right along all the parts of him that David has committed to paper. He wants to know what had made David hesitate, because if David can write the drag of Joe’s palm over his zipper and then look him in the eye the next day, then he can’t even imagine what kind of thing he would second-guess.

Except he can imagine it, and the shapes that roll through his mind are a thousand times more perverse than anywhere David would ever go—except that he doesn’t know how far David would go, never knows what’s going on behind that easy smile.

It’s not saving the world and getting laid all the time, David has written at the top of the page: an afterthought in his own hand, while the rest is typed. Joe sits down at the desk, and he doesn’t know if he’s got a guilt complex or is has turned into some type of exhibitionist, but the sense of being watched tickles at the back of his neck even alone in his hotel room, curtains drawn and the chain latched tight.

He scans the paper first, just to check for key words, and even though he doesn’t know what words he’s looking for, he does know that he finds none of them, so he starts back up at the top and reads.

He’d been wrong to assume that David would go further than titillation, than the few vague glimpses of skin he’s seen over the past few weeks, and with that realization, the anticipation that had been warming in Joe’s belly abruptly cools.

It’s for the best, anyhow, he tells himself, worrying the edge of the paper between his fingers. They have to work together, after all; it’s not like David’s going to…

Going to what? Joe doesn’t even know, but he can’t make sense of this page, not when David had hesitated as though there had been something at stake.

He skims the page again, the short exchange between himself and David as they sit in the hotel bar. They’re talking about the weather, for fuck’s sake, and it should be boring, but somehow, it’s not. Somehow, it’s more interesting than any of the pieces that had stroked his ego or walked him down that nervous line, and that doesn’t make sense, but none of what they’re doing makes sense, and he’s almost given up trying.

*

The next day finds them in a field, leaning against the side of the jumper while they wait for Rachel and Jason to finish their combat scene on the other side. David, in his full tac gear, is furiously texting someone, his thumbs jabbing into the keys, eyes narrowed in the late afternoon sun, focused entirely on what he’s doing until his blackberry slips out of his hands and into the long grass.

As they both crouch down, hands rifling through the brush, Joe glances up at David. “So, I read that page,” he says, and immediately ducks his head, searching with renewed zeal, because of course he’d read it. He always reads them, and they don’t talk about it.

David sits back on his heels. “Oh yeah?”

Joe knows he’s being watched—isn’t he always, these days?—so he slides his hand through the grass until he hits a cool metal corner with his knuckle. “Yeah,” he says, rubbing David’s blackberry on his knee, cleaning off dirt and dry grass until it’s polished. “Yeah.”

Neither of them moves. In the background he can hear the bang of Rachel’s sticks, the sound of Jason’s gunfire. In a minute, someone will yell cut! and it’ll start all over.

“Is there a reason you’re mentioning this?”

Joe’s shoulders lift in a half-shrug, his eyes on the blackberry, still on his lap. David’s right; there must be a reason he brought it up. “Not really. Here you go,” he says, and brushes off his knees as he stands, handing over the blackberry. His eyes jump to David’s face, and he’s nearly knocked sideways by the surge of relief that comes from the familiar slant of David’s mouth, soft and expressive and at the moment, full of amusement.

“It makes sense that I’d show up eventually, right?” David says, and Joe thinks he agrees, but he’s glad when Martin bellows for them both and he doesn’t have to answer.

*

They don’t talk about it anymore. Joe goes back to the hotel like always, kicks a pile of dirty clothes out of the way, and puts his keys on the desk. Housekeeping hasn’t come, so his bed is still unmade, covers thrown back to expose inviting white sheets. He’s tired in a way that has more to do with being fed up than actual fatigue, and that’s reason enough for him to get undressed and climbs in.

He really needs to step up his social life if this is what Friday night has come to. But Jason hadn’t mentioned making plans, and David is probably working on his show. Or something else.

Joe slides his bare feet against the sheets and looks at the ceiling, sorting through his options. He could go down to the pool and have a swim, or…the gym isn’t going to be crowded this time of day. Why had he thought living in a hotel would be a good idea? It had sounded good at the time, but he’s sick of his room, of these blue walls and the clutter everywhere, suitcases spilling out all the clothes that won’t fit in the armoire.

It feels good to blame something for the dissatisfaction that’s been crawling under his skin for the past few weeks—claustrophobia, that’s got to be it, so he gets dressed again, leaves his shirt untucked and slips on a pair of worn loafers without socks.

He gets edgy halfway down in the elevator, and he’d honestly thought that he’d come down to get some fresh air, but as soon as the doors open he heads for the bar. It’s to the back of the hotel, done in dark oak with red and gold lighting, and when he walks in, it’s a mild kind of relief, a place where he doesn’t have to keep circling the same endless train of thought.

David, he thinks as he climbs onto a stool at the island bar, only he can’t really muster the bitterness he’d been going for. No bitterness, just affection and a wary sense of expectation, because something is happening there, and he’s not sure exactly what it is, but he knows that David doesn’t slip smooth folded pages into anyone else’s pockets.

“Crown and cola,” he tells the bartender, and is grateful when the guy just serves it up and goes to stack glasses on the other side of the bar. He isn’t in the mood for small talk, even though he’s not sure what’s got him in such a funk—everything is going pretty good, for the most part…and he’s not going to think about it, he’s going to shove it all off to the side, except when he glances up across the bar, his heart stutters with shock because David is right there on the other side of the island, his face bent to his notebook as though he’s been here for hours. Judging by the spread of bottles near his elbow, maybe he has been.

Oh. Heat creeps up his throat; he can feel it in his cheeks, too, because it seems pretty obvious, now. That last page, he was supposed to come down here.

When David looks up, Joe lifts his hand in a half wave, and David smiles like the devil, nods and picks up his pen. Oh. This is why they’re here.

He drinks because he doesn’t know what else to do. He drinks until the burn is gone from his belly and his head is just blurred enough that he can settle back onto his seat and think about what’s happening, while David writes at a steady pace.

He wonders what David is writing. There’s no way to see from over here, so he kicks his toes lightly against the bar and slides his mouth along the rim of his glass. It tastes good, and when the bartender brings another, that one tastes even better. He doesn’t have anywhere to be.


ii.



a six pack of Coke and a bottle of Jack
"whatever you do" he said "look after that," yeah well
being trusted and lusted
it could be worse than that

The bartender slides another beer in front of David and wipes the condensation from the bar with a frayed dishcloth, while David looks around again, just in case. Maybe Joe’s not coming; maybe David was too subtle in his suggestion, and it just figures that the one time David actually goes for subtlety, the situation requires a more direct approach. He snorts into his drink at that thought—he’s already been far more direct with Joe than is appropriate, and even that knowledge hasn’t stopped him from coming here to Joe’s hotel with a leather-bound notebook, lifting a pen from the front desk, and planting himself on the far side of the bar’s sleek center island.

He’s just given up on him, when Joe wanders into the bar like it’s an accident, charmingly rumpled in unpressed clothes and looking so surprised that David snorts again. Is he supposed to actually believe that Joe is here by accident?

Mmm, maybe. A pleased glow of approval swells up in David’s chest as he realizes that Joe is as genuinely flummoxed as he appears. For an actor, he isn’t very good at pretense. He watches Joe hesitate, size up David for a good ten seconds, and then finally take a seat on the other side of the island.

He’s giving David the benefit of doubt, and David is starting to wonder if there’s any end to the leeway Joe will give him, because every time he writes something that makes him cackle with evil, evil glee, Joe takes it and then comes back for more, his eyes so knowing and expectant that it makes David only want to go further.

He’d been half-joking the first time he’d written the fit of Joe’s jeans across the narrow span of his ass—Joe was supposed to come back with some lazy smart-aleck response, or maybe wrestle David into submission, but that hadn’t happened at all. Instead, there had been an intriguing shift in the way he held himself around David; loose and interested and close, close in a way that says he likes being noticed, likes what David’s doing, and David has always been accused of taking a joke too far, of not knowing when to stop, and the fact that they’ve gotten to this point is more than proof enough.

It’s too weird to not acknowledge one another somehow, so he’s glad when Joe lifts a hand in greeting. He also receives close-mouthed smile with unreadable eyes, and that’s not what he’d like to see, but maybe it’s fair. Joe doesn’t know what they’re doing there any more than he does. David’s hand bumps the edge of the notebook, and without thinking, he flips the cover open, picks up the pen.

That gets a reaction. David can feel the rise of Joe’s attention even from across the bar, so with a thrill of accomplishment pulling at the corner of his mouth, he clicks the pen a few times with his thumb and puts it to the paper.

*

When Joe looks up, David is watching him, fingers rubbing idly over his broad jaw, thinking God knows what. Joe’s hand slips a little on his wet glass, self-consciousness settling over him like a tangled net he can’t shrug off.

If this is like the other times, then David is watching for inspiration, watching because he’s about to write the clutch of Joe’s hand on his glass, or the way his forearms are set so pale against the dark walnut surface. That thought joins the liquor in his belly with a slow spread of heat that eventually reaches down between his legs, and he shifts on the barstool the same way he would any other time he needed a little more room in his jeans, only belatedly remembering that David is seeing all of this, all of it.

He glances up, too pliant to attempt any kind of recovery, and yeah, David knows. It’s all right there in the way his eyes have gone dark and elusive under his eyebrows, which are drawn together not exactly in anger, but there’s a threat there that Joe hasn’t ever seen, and he has to look away, swallow a piece of half melted ice under all that scrutiny.

The crazy thing is that beneath David’s fuck me eyes—because that’s what this is, isn’t it? Oh God, he isn’t sure, and there’s no way to ask—and his big, capable hand moving against the paper like it knows exactly what it wants, he’s wearing the same goofy print shirt from earlier, a mismatched t-shirt underneath, his hair ruffled in every direction.

Joe likes it, likes David’s longer hair and his sudden interest in Joe—or maybe it’s not so sudden, because it’s been two years since he’d first noticed the impact of David’s attention on everyone who came into his path, and a year since he’d admitted he isn’t exactly immune.

And maybe David’s interest isn’t so sudden after all, he thinks, taking another drink and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Whatever the case, he’s pretty sure things are going David’s way, because it feels like every part of him is on display for David’s benefit, like he’s waiting for some approval, wanting it, and slowly unfolding into an invitation he doesn’t mean yet can’t seem to rescind. Even his mouth feels oversensitive, conspicuous and revealing to David’s gaze when he drags his teeth over his bottom lip.

David copies the gesture, his eyes narrowing as he returns to his paper. This time, he writes with quick, decisive strokes while Joe waits, because that’s all he can do. He wants to shift on his seat again, adjust himself after having David’s eyes all over him like that, but he won’t. He won’t give anything else away.

Instead, he ducks his head and lays low, because any more of this and David will have to finds words for the wet smear across the head of his cock, the whole mess of being swollen and aching inside his pants, the hot rush of blood to every sensitive place in his body—there’s no way David can’t see it on his face, in the hollow of his throat. Would David ever write that? Just the idea that David might know the right word for how badly Joe wants something tight around his cock right now makes it even worse, and he has to stop this because he’s breathing like a crazy person, while David just writes and writes and finally crosses his last t with a flourish.

*

David writes him as he is. It’s different to have a point of reference while he’s writing, but helpful, because it requires far less imagination to just write down what Joe’s doing.

Joe always changes when he’s aware of being watched, but tonight the difference seems more pronounced. The play of Joe’s fingers across the rim of his glass feels overtly suggestive, and even the way he’s spread out in his seat is worth noting in words like wide open and invitation.

He’s so obvious, David thinks as he finishes the first paragraph, which is all about how Joe wants to be written so badly that he’s come down here in search of more. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not—that’s what keeps this a harmless game, after all, the deniability of fiction—but there’s a part of David that hopes it holds some truth, that Joe’s really willing to do anything so long as it ends up with someone’s hand down his pants, especially his own, since that’s what he’s gotten used to.

David takes a long drink after he writes that. It’s one thing to contemplate Joe’s masturbatory habits, but another to put it down where Joe will see it, to almost gloat like that, when Joe can rightfully call him on it at any time. But at the moment, Joe doesn’t look like he’s going to call anyone on anything. In fact, David suspects he’s closer to the truth than he’d suspected, because Joe keeps sneaking surreptitious little glances toward David, a shocking readiness right there every line of his body, a flush all over his skin.

He can’t believe they’re doing this; can’t believe Joe is letting him. Or maybe it’s that he can’t believe he’s letting Joe. At this point, he’s not sure who’s leading this train. Joe is the one with his dark head bent over his drink, adjusting himself in his pants while he knows David is looking, and David feels the knowledge wash over him in a lapping surge of excitement that dampens all his reservations.

David writes quicker now, and maybe the words are more his own fantasy than what he’s seeing, but he doesn’t care anymore, not with Joe’s liquor-wet mouth goading him on and making him write things he has no business writing, but that he wants to see so badly that this thing they’re doing, this passing of paper from his hand to Joe’s, isn’t enough anymore.

He stops again, forgetting to guard his expression and staring openly at Joe for way too long before he remembers what he’s doing and scrawls out a whole page so dirty that he’d been putting off committing it to paper. Now, after five drinks, he can’t stop himself, and he needs to slow down before he does something stupid, like write slow, oh so slow and inside, somewhere he just knows Joe has never gone, but it’s good to think about, and even better to put into language that Joe will understand.

He probably looks as wrecked as Joe does right now, but he can’t stop yet; his knuckles begin to ache and he keeps moving his hand to the rhythm of what’s taking place in his imagination-- Joe, yeah, like that--until he’s not even sure if it’s making sense anymore.

For a while it’s just the impressions in his head and the black trail of his pen on paper. He doesn’t need to look to Joe for reference, because the Joe he’s writing isn’t at the bar anymore; he’s up in his big hotel bed with his legs open wide. His hands work between them to give himself the relief that David needs so badly, but David refuses to fidget on his seat the way Joe keeps doing, to give himself away like that.

What he’s written will give him away soon enough.


*

come on baby, I can drink you down
then I've a job to do and do well

Joe knows he’s come to the end of whatever it is he’s seeing from that side of the bar, because David looks up and catches his eye, holds his gaze for just a beat too long, a half-smile as he gathers up the papers, pocketing his pen.

There’s a moment of blind panic when he stands and rolls them into a neat tube, like he has no intention of handing them over, and Joe wonders if this, maybe, is the end of the line. There’s no time for regret, because suddenly David’s right there, leaning in to tuck the sheets into Joe’s shirt pocket, warm breath and a quick press of fingertips, so slight Joe thinks that maybe he imagined it.

“G’night,” David says, his voice betraying nothing, no indication at all that he has any idea of how aroused Joe is, or that they’ve spent the last hour or so caught up in some strange and brilliant dance where every movement could send them both freefalling off the edge of forever.

Joe’s tongue is whiskey-slow, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because David’s already halfway to the door without so much as a backward glance, and then he’s gone. Nothing left but the pages Joe’s unrolling with damp fingers, lines and lines of handwriting he knows as intimately as his own. He has to know what David’s written, what he’s seen from where he sat— if everything that Joe felt under his gaze is there, revealed on the page, spilling out in David’s words.

Joe starts to read even as he swallows the last of his drink, resisting the almost overwhelming temptation to skim ahead, to see how David’s written him flushed with alcohol, all-too aware of being scrutinised, and of—yes, liking it. He’s still reading as he makes his way back to his room, not really aware of anything other than the images slowly unfolding beneath his fingertips, of words like throat and skin and tongue, and when Joe reads damp and hard and watching, heat surges in his belly and he’s pressing the heel of his hand against the swell of his cock, biting back a soft moan.

The soft click of the door closing, and his pulse seems like the loudest thing in the room, a slow, steady blood-beat Joe can feel echoing in his throat, his chest. He toes off his shoes and stretches out on the bed, relaxing back onto pillows that feel sinfully soft after the unforgiving angles of the barstool. Words dance before his eyes and fill his head, things he hasn’t ever given voice to, spelled out in David’s hand, drawing him in deeper and deeper with every line.

David’s written about his mouth, the soft press of his tongue against glass as he’d swallowed the whiskey, and when Joe licks his lips he can still taste it there faintly. What would David taste of, he thinks, a shot of warmth deep in his belly, one hand slipping down to open the front of his pants as he reads on. Not much more than the careful glide of his thumb across the head of his cock every so often, enough to take the edge off the slow burn of arousal that sits just beneath his skin. Another wild rush of heat when Joe realises it doesn’t end there in the bar, but goes on: he reads himself leaving to go back to his room, flushed and damp and achingly hard.

It’s as if David has crawled inside his head and gathered up everything he’s feeling, then stripped him bare right there on the page. The spread of Joe’s hand, the curl of his fingers, the thick curve of his cock into his palm—it’s all there. It’s like looking into a mirror that reflects back words in a voice not his own, and Joe is helpless to look away, but more than that, he doesn’t want to.

He matches his pace to David’s words, slow, sure curls of pleasure that unfold gradually, prose peppered with words so deliciously filthy Joe has to draw a breath and let his head fall back against the pillow, try to catch his breath and not give himself over completely to someone else’s will.

He could finish it right now, three or four more strokes would be all it would take, and then he could fall into a dreamless sleep, no one and nothing else in his head. It’d be so easy, so uncomplicated, and he’s gliding his fingers over the tight skin of his cock even as he’s deciding, hissing softly at the sensation that’s gathering in his belly, his balls. It’d be so easy.

Easy, but not what he wants, because he knows that’s not how the story goes. Another deep breath, and after a few moments he continues to read. It’s barely any effort at all to imagine David still there, watching Joe’s every move, following the lines of his body as he shifts on the bed.

David might have crawled inside his head, but he’s letting Joe inside his mind, too—the words on the page giving himself away when he lingers on the curve of Joe’s wrist, describes the wanton spread of Joe’s thighs, the way his teeth press into the swell of his lower lip. Almost like he’s in two places at once, the mirror and the reflection, and Joe lets it all wash over him, following David’s written cues, pushing every boundary he’s ever drawn, rewriting them in soft sounds of pleasure.

He shimmies his pants completely off and spreads out bare-assed against the cool sheets, a tiny shiver at how good it feels. Each and every sense is heightened, even the slightest touch sending tendrils of heat across his skin, tightening his nipples, thrumming in his belly. It’s taking all his concentration to read as he steadily jacks his cock, to keep David’s words in focus as he’s digging his heels into the mattress and starting to thrust up into every downward stroke.

Slow, he reads, oh so slow, and Joe groans low in frustration, but he slows for a moment, letting his hand slip lower to cup and roll his balls, to gently tug at them. Slow, then, and he focuses on steadying his breathing as he reads on, fingers loosely wrapped around the base of his cock, only barely moving.

He’s close, so very close, and Joe can’t help but wonder briefly just how much self-control David is crediting him with. If it were any other time, he’d be jerking off hard and fast with no thought of holding back or waiting. But it’s not any other time, he knows, and he’s playing by a new set of rules, unspoken but just as binding. Slow. Oh so slow. Such exquisite torture, and the tip of his dick is wet and swollen, almost obscene as it rests against his belly. He curves his palm over the slickness gathered there, and as he reads slips a finger inside, the heady implication of exactly what David means brings a sudden hot thrill that sparks along the length of his spine. Two more lines, spelling it all out in black and white, and his breath catches in his throat along with an almost overwhelming wave of desire that leaves him a little dizzy.

Fuck,” Joe breathes, all pretence of self-control abandoned as he crumples the paper in his fist and lets it drop to the floor soundlessly, because he doesn’t need it any longer, not for what he knows comes next. Two free hands now, one wrapped around his cock, the other reaching urgently between his legs, a slicked-up fingertip slowly slipping inside, only the slightest hesitation because he’s never, oh god, he’s never—but it doesn’t matter because this is what David’s seen and what Joe wants, even if he hasn’t known until this very moment. He rolls his hips, rocking up into his fist and then back onto his finger, tiny quicksilver pulses that are like nothing he’s ever felt before, and then he’s arching up helplessly in time with the words he can hear in his head, can feel thrumming under his skin. Not his own, but part of him all the same, and when he comes, it’s hard and fast, a hot mess all over his belly and hand and David’s name on his lips.

*

iii.



well sometimes he do and sometimes he don't
sometimes I love myself best alone
do this long enough
you get a taste for it


David can’t concentrate on anything for the rest of the weekend. He can’t tell if it had been exceptionally stupid or utterly brilliant to pull that stunt on a Friday, because it leaves two long days to obsess over every word he’s written. He’s always been prone to obsessing over things, which a lot of people have called him out on in the past, but this is definitely worth obsessing over—the fact that he wrote porn—porn!—about Joe, and then handed it over like he was asking a favor.

Part of him won’t stop with a frantic what if, what if, where the “what if” is a train wreck, a pissed off friend he can’t even work with anymore, but another part of him can’t stop revisiting that dark, trembling place where he’d practically had sex with Joe at the bar. Because as much as they’d kept their clothes on and hadn’t talked or touched, they’d gotten each other hard and had admitted it with their eyes—like that’ll stand up in the sexual harassment suit, he thinks in a moment of panic—and David has never been that undone beneath his clothes, never had that effect on anyone.

He opens a word file once, Saturday night, but closes it almost immediately when he realizes there’s nothing else to write, not until he sees Joe’s reaction to what he’d written at the bar. His stomach clenches in on itself the same way it does every time he thinks about how far out on a limb he’s gone this time, only it hadn’t seemed like such a precarious reach with Joe sitting there, warm and flushed, his hand in his lap because on some level he must have known what David was writing, and since he stayed, maybe he was okay with that, too. Okay with David wanting him.

Only, he hadn’t given that away, had he? He hadn’t been that stupid, would never write himself onto the page the way he’d considered at one point. Joe touching himself; that can be waved off as speculation, fantasy, but it’s still not an outright admission that David wants anything more than for Joe to have some kind of satisfaction. The rationalization sounds lame even as it washes through David’s head, but it’s soothing all the same, and settles him enough that he can tolerate the nervous energy, the heat in his limbs, and actually climb into his car and drive to the lot Monday morning.

*

It’s when he finds himself peering through the blinds on his trailer that he realizes how ridiculous he’s become, especially when Joe’s face appears on the other side of the window, huge and weird-looking through the glass. Joe draws back, his eyebrows drawn together as though he’s seen something that mystifies him, and then taps the glass with two fingers, a smile melting onto his lips. “You’re not hiding, are you,” he says, his voice small and tinny from David’s side, and David lets the blinds fall shut with a snap.

Of course not, he says, only he doesn’t, because he is.

*

“Found you,” Joe says later, his hand a loose clamp on David’s shoulder; his smile small and dangerous. David turns away from the water cooler and tugs his uniform jacket back into place, ready to play annoyance, indifference—he’s even ready to play it off as a joke, ha ha, I really had you going, right? But Joe’s hand slips into his own jacket and produces a single folded sheet of paper.

David’s gaze drags across the neat crease. “I hope you didn’t plagiarize me,” he says, and meets Joe’s eyes because it’s only fair, since Joe is somehow still playing along, after all David had written about him. His own words flash through his mind like a sudden dizzy spell, but he shoves them away, shocked by his carelessness all over again.

“That would be a little hard to prove, wouldn’t it?” Joe asks slowly. His posture is wary, but his mouth is soft and inclined to curve up at the corner, like there’s a joke he’s fairly certain he likes.

A flutter of relief spreads through David’s chest. “You’re probably right. Anyhow, contrary to popular opinion, I’m more than capable of sharing. And, uh. Oversharing, at times.”

“I know you are,” Joe says, and David just stands there blinking as Joe leans in, everything gone molasses-slow, and hands David the page.

He’s never been the type who could wait to open a gift; he opens the page even as Joe is walking away. There’s a plummet of disappointment when he sees the page is almost completely empty, followed by a burst of terrified exhilaration when he realizes what the neatly printed numbers mean: 512 - 10:00.

*

It’s a misty night, a constant warm drizzle that leaves David tugging at his damp t-shirt in the elevator, half nerves and half necessity, a way to wipe the moisture from his hands. He’s tried to keep his mind blank up until now, to just barrel ahead the way he always does when he’s going into an uncertain situation, and so far it’s worked.

But it’s different now that he’s standing in front of Joe’s door, his face a shifting fragmented reflection in the curving numbers. He can’t think of nothing; his mind is a frantic scurrying of Joe, holy crap . He’s pretty sure this might be an invitation to sex, which is why he’s optimistically put on his black boxer briefs, because he quite frankly can’t imagine anything he’d rather see Joe in, so there’s a chance it works both ways.

On the other hand, Joe might have invited him for some kind of intervention, the kind where you show up expecting a party—or sex, dirty sex with Joe—and instead there’s your mother clutching her pearls and saying how she loves you no matter what, while your boss glares disapprovingly in the background and your friends, the ones who just want you to stop writing pornography about your co-worker, can’t quite meet your eye.

Worrying about that one is far worse than the reality, so he curls his hand into a fist and knocks. The door swings open almost immediately, which is good, because maybe if Joe was already up he was pacing and equally anxious, but when David steps inside, the click of the deadbolt a faint sound behind him, he realizes that he’d been worrying about the wrong thing.

“Hi,” he says, unable to keep his eyes off of Joe’s naked torso, bare skin all the way down to the waistband of his jeans.

“Hi,” Joe says, drawing the word out in that way he has of being utterly charming and putting David on edge all at once, as though he’s not going to quite measure up to whatever Joe wants from him. Joe, unlike David, seems comfortable and relaxed as he comes around to sit down on his bed. Comfortable, but there’s a serious set to his face that keeps David standing there, waiting for some cue while Joe scoots back against the headboard and fixes David with a thoughtful look.

“What you wrote in the bar, that wasn’t right,” Joe says, and David’s heart thumps hard in his chest: regret, edged with acute disappointment. He tries to respond, something to lighten things between them, but then Joe’s hand drifts down his belly and pulls at his fly, unzipping his jeans and touching himself while David stands stupidly by.

He’s got no clue what to do, and that's not how this game goes; they don't tell each other what to do, they just go along with what's happening as much as they want to, so he stands there and watches, because maybe if he doesn’t move, then Joe will keep doing exactly what he’s doing, which is opening his pants and guiding his cock out from beneath the waistband of his underwear.

At first he seems focused on what he’s doing, but he pauses for a moment to meet David’s eyes and kick his clothes the rest of the way off. Something new and immediate sparks between them, and David reels from even that much contact. “It’s not?” he asks.

“No. I'll give you points for imagination, but this is how I get off,” Joe says, low and hoarse, like it hurts to say. He’s not all the way hard yet, but David is keeping a close watch, and with a squeeze, a swipe of thumb over the head, Joe stiffens in his own hand. David’s blood has been warming slowly, rolling through him in confusion since they began, but that visual takes him with a surge of arousal that knows right where it’s headed; even as he marvels over the head of Joe’s cock, he can feel the sensitive push of his own against the smooth skin of his belly and on the other side, cotton blend.

Joe’s right; David had gotten it wrong. Joe doesn’t take the slow, teasing route that David had written. Instead, he pulls hard and fast at his cock, long strokes at first, and then, once the tip is so wet David can see the shine of it in his fist, short persistent strokes.

Titillation aside, it falls short of an invitation. All David can do is stand over the bed and watch the blur of Joe’s hand on his cock, listen to the hiss of harsh breath, the low moans that break through every so often.

“I did try it your way, though,” Joe says suddenly, reaching into his underwear with his other hand and cupping his balls, lifting them out where David can see them, dark and tight in his palm. David knows exactly how they feel, because his own balls feel so heavy right now, his whole body hot and alive and pulsing with deferred pleasure. It must be obvious, but Joe isn’t taking notice; Joe is too busy sliding down the bed so he’s lying down, feet braced on the bed, head pressed into the pillow, eyes shut.

David’s feet bring him forward to the edge of the bed because something is happening and he wants to see—he wants to touch. “You tried it my way?” he says, heat crawling down the back of his neck and burning behind his eyes. Joe’s so wet now; David can hear the slick slap of Joe’s clenched fist, see the lines of muscle in his arm strain with the effort.

Joe makes a sound that sounds like a yes, and David swears his hand speeds up as he gasps out, “Did it slow like you said, did all of it, even-“ and he doesn’t finish, but he draws one leg up, spread wide as he swells in his fist, holds it to his belly as he shudders and spills all over the dark hair there. David’s cock swells similarly, throbs demandingly as he stares between Joe’s legs, at the admittance he’d just made and what it means, because God, that’s all he wants to know, what all of this means.

This is nothing at all like words on a page, finding fifty different ways to write the curve of Joe’s mouth, the jut of his hip, the arch of his spine. There are no lines here for David to hide between, no clever turns of phrase to conceal the way his skin is hot and tight, the way his pulse beats in double-time. It’s just the two of them in this room, close enough to feel each other’s body heat, and when Joe opens his eyes and slowly licks his fingers, David is helpless to look away. He’s so hard it’s insane, and there’s no way Joe can’t know, can’t see, because he’s watching David just as intently.

“Fast, like me?” Joe says, low and intimate, nothing at all like David has ever heard before, “or slow, like you wrote it? How do you do it, David? I can’t quite decide. I haven’t written it down, but I’ve thought about it.” A slow, sly smile, then, “I’ve thought about it a lot, to be honest.”

The words fall like white heat onto his skin, and David doesn’t even try and hide the sudden shiver that races through him, a hot flush of arousal that almost takes his breath away. He entertains the brief thought that maybe, just maybe, Joe is calling his bluff, but he doesn’t think so. He really doesn’t think so.

Not with the way Joe is watching him so very closely, waiting for his answer, still trailing his fingers through the hot mess on his belly. David had written him as being private and just a little wary, guarded about opening himself up fully, and it was all knocked sideways in a dizzy rush the moment Joe stretched out on the bed in a tangle of skin and breath and need. “I had no idea,” David says, because he didn’t, about any of it, not really, and then he’s unbuttoning his jeans, shoving them halfway down his thighs, pulling his t-shirt off over his head. He cups himself through his boxers, and there’s dampness on the fabric, smearing against his belly, the tip of his cock slick and wet above the waistband.

“Show me,” Joe says, his voice rough and just a little unsteady as he gets to his knees on the bed to crawl even closer, “show me how you do it.” Close enough to feel Joe’s sudden exhale of breath as David presses his palm flat against the curve of his dick, and slow, he thinks; because that’s how he likes it best, long slow strokes to draw out every last moment of pleasure. Slow, and he’s jacking himself through his underwear, sweet, sweet friction and the heady rush of being watched. It ratchets up the burn of arousal, spreading heat along the base of his spine, and David lets his head fall back and closes his eyes, concentrates on the shivery drag of cotton over hot, tight skin.

“Did you like it?” he says softly, rocking forward into the cup of his fingers, squeezing the base of his cock gently before pulling back again. “When you tried it my way. Did you like it?” The heel of his hand skimming over the slick head of his dick, and David draws in a shuddering breath, because, fuck. Fuck. One more slow pass of his hand, and then he opens his eyes again.

Joe, still on his knees and even closer now, his face flushed, his cock in hand and half-hard again, moisture beading at the tip as he jacks himself in time with David’s strokes. “Yeah,” he says on a rough exhale of breath, “yeah, I liked it. It was, I’d never—“

“Did it make you come?” Just the thought of it, of Joe lying with his legs spread wide, reading David’s words and following them to the letter—sends another flare of heat through his belly, his cock, and he can’t help hissing softly as his fingers graze over his shaft, then down to tug gently at his balls. Joe nods, a soft gasp of his own, and it’s crazy, this—all of it, here in Joe’s room, the two of them barely a foot apart, and David never thought—he never—

Except, he did. Somewhere in the back of his mind, every time he put pen to paper and wrote what he saw when he closed his eyes, he knew it was leading to this. Every time Joe’s fingers brushed against his when he took the offered pages. Every time he read David’s words and still kept coming back for more. Every time.

“Stop thinking so much,” Joe says, his breath hot against David’s neck, his hands just as hot when they curl around David’s hips, pulling him closer to the edge of the bed. “Stop thinking and just let me, can I—“

“Yeah,” David breathes, “yeah, okay,” because Joe’s already pulling his jeans and boxers down and out of the way, and when he wraps his fingers around his cock, David swears softly under his breath, rocking forward into the touch.

Long, slow strokes, because clearly Joe’s a fast learner about exactly how David likes it, letting his thumb glide over the head every so often, a slick, wet sound that travels the length of David’s spine in a shivery rush. Every so often he cups David’s balls, rolling them between his fingers, playing, teasing, until David spreads his legs a little, and Joe murmurs a soft sound of approval. “This is what it feels like to be ghostwritten,” Joe says, a flash of teeth as he grins up at David. It’s ridiculous really, but David’s laugh turns into a soft moan when Joe dips his head to suck gently on a nipple, teasing it into a hard nub with his tongue, and David can feel himself swell in Joe’s hand.

“Joe, I’m gonna,” he breathes, “I can’t—“ even as Joe reaches behind his balls with his other hand to press firmly as he jacks his cock harder. When his teeth close around a nipple and his finger slips inside, David gasps as bright pleasure-shocks ripple right through his body and then he’s bucking helplessly into Joe’s hand, coming hard in long pulses over his belly and fingers. He curls in over Joe’s body, which is warm and solid as he pants against the smooth skin of Joe’s shoulder, still coming apart, everything blurred and raw at the edges with Joe’s thumb drawing idle arcs over the sodden, swollen tip of his cock.

Joe holds David’s weight steady as they shift, and then they’re on the bed, Joe beneath him and Joe’s hands on his ass, pulling, tugging, bringing David as close as he wants him, which isn’t nearly close enough judging by the way Joe is lifting his hips to keep his erection pressed against David’s belly. His eyes are half-lidded as they move across David’s face, and David has never been this near to him, near enough that when Joe’s eyes drift shut, David can duck his head and touch his mouth to Joe’s.

It’s not meant to be a kiss—at least, he hasn’t planned that far ahead. It’s an impulse, nothing more, but then with the taste of Joe on his lips—not some fantasy, but soft skin and warm breath—David nudges Joe’s lower lip with his own, a tentative exploration that Joe responds to with a soft “Yes,” like he understands David’s hesitation. “Just--please,” and with the steady surge of Joe’s hips against his own, David can’t miss what he means.

He’s already come, but there are still sharp remnants of pleasure that spark up all through him at the way Joe seeks his second orgasm, single-minded and desperate for David’s weight on him, for pressure and friction that David gladly gives him. No matter what he’d imagined about tonight, he hadn’t ever imagined Joe rubbing his erection against David like he’s fucking, every muscle bunched up tight under David’s hands, and finally, finally, with one last trembling shove, Joe’s mouth opens in a gasp and David dips his tongue inside, stroking wetly against Joe’s tongue and kissing the way he wants to, the way Joe kisses when he’s coming, wet and messy and unashamedly needy.

The kisses turn more controlled as Joe comes down from it, David goes flush with a new kind of pleasure when the press of Joe's lips mirrors his own, his tongue stroking into David's mouth like a lush welcome. Joe's whole body feels like it's welcoming him, hands drifting across David's back in gentle circles, as though he's touching for the sake of touching, which makes David warm and sleepy and yet reluctant to let go. He rolls onto his side, his hand curved over Joe's neck. The amazing thing is still how Joe lets him. Or maybe it's not, because it's taken months to get here, and Joe's thaw had been gradual, prompted by David's words and the inkling that whatever they'd had between them could be more.

They'd both been right about that part, and David had been right about how utterly pleased Joe would look after getting laid, his smile lazy with satisfaction when he turns it David's way.

"So you--twice, huh?" David can't help saying. "That's impressive."

Joe's expression doesn't change; if anything, his mouth curves into an even more satisfied smirk. "Hey, you've been winding me up for weeks, what do you expect?"

He can't argue with that. He doesn't even want to. It's just that when it comes down to it, he's surprised that it worked, that Joe had taken his words exactly how they had been intended.

"I'll kind of miss it," Joe says, his thigh rubbing between David's in a way that's too sexy to be anything but deliberate. "All those pages, waiting to see what you wrote. Jerking off to it."

"I knew it," David says automatically, even though he wants to say more. He hadn't only known it; he had hoped, had made hundreds of observations about Joe that he still wants to get out there. "I mean, there's a lot I still have to say, of course," he says, and Joe cuts him off with another kiss, long and slow and edged in stubble.

"Write it down, then," Joe says when he pulls away, going for his pillow. "Or better yet, you can tell me in the morning."

“Okay,” David says, ducking his head so Joe can’t see the stupidly content smile he can feel spreading across his face. “Oh, but—there’s just one more thing you should probably know.”

Joe stretches lazily, his body warm and solid against David’s. “Yeah? What’s that?”

“I also wrote you as a very considerate bed-mate who doesn’t hog the covers.”

Joe laughs as he bunches the sheets in his fists and tugs hard —a low, goofy laugh that ends in a sharp slap on David’s bare, exposed ass. ”And this is where we learn you’re not always right, Hewlett,” he says, and settles onto his side, still touching David in a half-dozen places as he drifts off to sleep.

***