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Swap Night

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Artwork by the mighty talented @highbeeans




They had barely left the ambassador’s residential compound before Nicky chucked his bowtie and took off his cufflinks like they personally offended him. He checked his reflection with his phone camera, made a displeased sound, and attacked his neatly pomaded, side-parted hair with this finger until it looked like he'd just been tossed around in bed. 


“Which one do you like better, Joe? Asshole monarch hair or just-been-fucked hair?” he asked Joe, eyes briefly flicking to the man sitting opposite of him in the blacked-out car. 


Joe couldn’t decide. “Depends on the occasion,” he settled. 


Nicky smirked. “They were the ones who were supposed to defend my argument there at the gala, the ambassador and his snivelling cultural attaché, and they fucked me over,” he said, apropos of nothing. “Metaphorically, of course. But might as well look the part. Fits the occasion, don’t you think?”


Joe raised his eyebrows. 


“How do I look?” Nicky asked when he’s through. 


“Nicely tousled,” Joe said. He couldn’t help himself. He was there in a professional capacity; he should have just given him a curt nod or something. But he’d never been able to quash the ever-present familiarity between them.     


Nicky pushed a button on a side compartment and fished a leather duffle bag. Joe could see the reflection of something sparkly inside and smiled a little when Nicky pulled out something entirely embellished with sequins. 


Then he took off his tuxedo jacket and started to unbutton his shirt and pants. Joe decided to look elsewhere. 


“You can watch, you know.” Joe heard his voice, amused. “It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”


No, not like this , he thought to himself. And again, for the nth time since he had accepted this job: what have I done to myself


“Aren’t you going to change?” Nicky asked as he struggled to get into whatever sequined bits of fabric and spandex he had stashed in that bag. 


“I’m still on duty and in my uniform, Your Highness,” Joe said. 


“Yes, but you’re accompanying me to a themed event. You should dress the part.” 


“You are aware most of the people attending Merrick’s have their own bodyguard? I’ll fit right in with the crowd.” 


“Here I am hoping you’d go incognito with me.” Nicky pouted. 


Joe snorted. “Going to Merrick’s is the opposite of going incognito, Your Highness.” 


“Tsk,” Nicky clicked his tongue. “You know what, you’re right.” 


Nicky extended a leg forward to put on – Joe glanced down at the feet landing on his lap – fishnet stockings. Huh, interesting sartorial choice


“Help me with that,” he said, rolling the fishnet up. 


Joe took his ankle, gently sliding the fabric up and smoothing the snags. The stockings appeared to rip in some parts. It took Joe a minute to realise that it’s a deliberate aesthetic choice. He did the same for the other foot. 


When he looked at Nicky again, he was dressed in sequin short shorts, the fishnet leggings and a long, sweeping lace shirt — a variety of textured black and grey, which together is mouthwateringly more than the sum of its part. A pair of black diamond studs dotted his ears. Whoever put that outfit together had an eye for design. 


Nicky fished a small quilted bag from the duffle and a pair of black platform boots.  

“Put these on me,” Nicky said, handing the shoes to Joe, this time propping both his feet on Joe’s lap while he flipped open a compact mirror and started applying eyeliners. 


Joe shook his head a little but couldn’t help smiling. Something about the gesture reminded him of their uni days. As did so many things he still recognised in Nicky. He carefully laced Nicky’s feet into the shoes, which are surprisingly light for something that looked so bulky. 


“Ow, fuck,” Nicky said, and Joe looked up to see he had messed up one of his wings. 


“I’ve never managed to do this for my left eye,” he complained. 


Joe knew where this was going. 


“Fix it for me?”


“What am I? A body servant?” Joe folded his arms. 


“If you want to be, I’m sure It could be arranged.” Nicky shrugged. “Ask for a raise. I’ll back it up, hm?” he said, handing Joe the liquid eyeliner. 


“Say please,” Joe said before he could stop himself. 


Nicky leaned forward, legs slipping between Joe’s, head tilted, green eyes vivid underneath dark lashes, highlighted by the eyeliner, and he used that voice. “Please, Yusuf,”


Well, that’s unfair. Joe took three seconds to centre himself, keeping himself from falling down that slippery memory slope.


“Close your eyes,” he said. 


Nicky did. 


Joe was quite proud of himself when he managed to cradle Nicky’s jaw and tilted it so he could correct Nicky’s left wing without breaking his composure. He then tilted his face the other way, adding thickness to the right wing so they match. 


“Do you still paint, Joe?” Nicky asked. His mouth so close to Joe’s wrist, he could feel his breath ghosting over his skin. 


Joe gave him a non-committal hum. 


“Who is your muse these days?” He asked like he had the right to. “I wonder.”


Joe stared into his eyes, now perfectly highlighted and hypnotic, and felt that keen ache again. He didn’t know why he kept doing this to himself. “You’re all good, Your Highness,” he said and released his hold on Nicky’s jaw. 


Nicky held his gaze for a few seconds longer before he sighed and retreated to his side of the car, sinking into the plush leather, reaching for the little makeup pouch. 


Broken free from the spell, Joe looked out of the window. 


“We’re almost there. We’ll park on the next block behind the building and walk there, through the secret entrance.”


“Can you really call it a secret entrance when nearly all the society spawns use that entrance?” Nicky said, voice a little muffled as he applied something else behind his little mirror. 


“My apologies. The discreet entrance, then.”


“Same comment applies.” Nicky smacked his lips and closed his mirror. “I don’t trust them. I think they were the ones who sold gossip and snapshots to tabloids.”


“You can always make a formal accusation. I’m sure they’ll listen to you.”


“Duly noted,” Nicky said dryly, and instead of stuffing everything inside the duffle bag and stowing it back in the compartment, he dumped his clothes, the bag itself and the vestiges of his gala night on Joe’s lap. 


Joe could barely make an indignant noise before the car pulled to an empty parking lot. 


“Leave your gun,” Nicky said.  


Joe sighed. “Can’t do that, Your Highness,” Joe said. “Special dispensation for protection of the royal family. The bouncers will understand.” He gave him a pointed look.


Nicky scooted over to his side, hands slipping inside his jacket. “I’m telling you to leave it.”


Joe grabbed his wrist. “Behave, now,” he said. “Or I’ll tell Booker to drive us back. I can always report to the palace that it’s too risky for you to go out tonight. You know, on accounts that they, allegedly, sell pictures to the press.”


“Look,” Nicky said, very deliberately licking his lips. “You must never lose your gun, yes? Or your daggers or throwing stars, or whatever weapons of protections you have under there, yes?” His other hand traced Joe’s lapel.


He caught it by the wrist, too, but not before that hand managed to sneak in and got to his gun holster. He carefully fished Nicky’s hand out of his jacket, very resolutely not looking at the Prince’s lips and wondered if he was wearing glitter lipgloss. 


“Yes?” Nicky pressed on. Joe hated that grin. It’s trouble.




“So leave them here. Unless you want to swap those with rhinestone suspenders or mesh shirts or glow in the dark jacket.”


“What?” Joe didn’t follow.


“It’s swap night, Joe,” Nicky said. “Only wear what you can stand to part with.”


“No, it’s not,” Joe said. “It’s a Disco Tribute at Merrick’s. I checked.”


“Did you,” Nicky said, detaching himself from Joe’s grip. “But I’m not going to Merrick’s, you see —.”


Joe blamed the glitter lipgloss that Nicky was able to open the car door and slam it closed before Joe could grab him. Cursing under his breath, he scrambled from under all the stuff Nicky had dumped on him for the door. He hated these mega cars; they are a security hazard. 


When he managed to get out of the car, he caught a sight of Nicky leaping over someone’s white picket fence and making a dash across the garden to the opposite direction of the sanctioned club he’s supposed to go to, seemingly heading to the waterfront beyond the row of houses.


Joe chased him, rapping on Booker’s window irritably while barking orders to his comm. So much for expecting a regular, (semi) incognito debauchery at Merrick’s after a long day full of royal engagements. 


He lost sight of Nicky a few turns inside the maze of narrow streets between the houses with charming ivy-covered brick walls and gabled roof. He emerged on the other side of the residential area to see the promenade and the waterfront. No sight of his wayward Prince. Through his comm, Booker gave a similar report from the street. 


There was a faint sound of music that decidedly didn’t belong in a quiet neighbourhood, though. It came from the row of boathouses on the nearby pier – a good place to start looking. 


The boathouse had no signboard. But the changing fluorescent lights leaking from its interior, the vibration of the bass and the snaking line of obnoxiously dressed people waiting to be let in told him that Nicky was definitely, most probably, inside already. 


The bouncer was not impressed with his flawless French. Joe contemplated flashing his Royal Secret Service badge, which might gain him an entry, but could compromise the security. They were not in Nicky’s kingdom after all. They had no authority there. 


“Listed names only, or wait,” the bouncer said in halting English, obviously figuring out that Joe was someone from a rival country and was determined to treat him as such. That irked him. 


But that exchange revealed that Nicky’s name was on the list, that royal pain in the ass. He had planned this. Then it hit Joe. 


“My name is on the list,” he said in French with as much royal haughtiness he could muster. “Joseph Jones. Look it up.”


The bouncer narrowed his eyes and scanned his list. Joe knew the name was there from the change of his facial expression. 


“My friend is inside already,” he said again. “Nicky Smith.” 


The bouncer scanned his iPad again, still narrowing his eyes. But evidently, he found both names because he muttered something to his comm and the corten steel door swung open to admit Joe.


Inside, the neon lights painted everything in shifting colours. The crowd was a pulsating mass moved by the usual mix of music, drinks, and, Joe was sure, recreational drugs. It’s not that much different than Merrick’s. Except, Merrick’s had been sanctioned, scouted and vetted. This unnamed venue would be a different beast, even if it had a certain polished quality to its deliberately crafted secret status. 


What looked like a row of boathouses from the outside was actually one cavernous space. The floor alternated between neon tiles and glass blocks that revealed the water underneath it. There were a central stage and a catwalk that snaked around the interior. 


At the far end of the room was an open strip of water that admits clubbers via boats ferried from somewhere. On another were VIP booths offering various degrees of privacy. And Joe counted three island bars spread across the floor. And the reception inside was terrible, probably also by design; Joe lost his comm.   


In another time, another universe, he would have visited this place with Nicky and had actually enjoyed the experience. As it was, he was a little overwhelmed by so many stimulants. Not to mention having to find and fish Nicky out.   


You got this, you got this , he thought to himself as he moved around the space. You know him. You know how he gets . The shifting colours coupled with the spatial unfamiliarity and the adrenaline coursing through his vein did little to help. 


Focusing on finding Nicky, he tuned out the music that he didn’t realise when the song ended. Then everything went dark and quiet. The crowd stood still, and he could make out individual excited voices around him. Then the lights started flickering at an interval, clear daylight-quality lighting that revealed everything in more or less their true colours for a few seconds, interspersed by total darkness, rinse and repeat. 


Then an electronic voice crooned seductively from the sound system in French, telling them to take their clothes off. 


Then everyone around him moved to do just that, taking their clothes off. Joe stood rooted to his spot, trying to make sense of everything until he felt a pair of hands snaking from behind to remove his jacket. He could have thrown the owner of those hands to the ground in a single movement had he not recognised the breathy laugh on his ears. 


“Took you long enough,” Nicky said, taking off his jacket, one hand touching him lightly on his waist as he circled him. 


Joe shivered a little for the loss of warmth. The air conditioning was potent despite the crowd. Nicky’s palm felt burning through his shirt. 


The next few seconds when the lights came back, he took in as many details as he could of Nicky. He had lost his long lace shirt. In its place was an intricate leather harness with a central ring that gleams silver, from which leather straps burst out to wrap around and over his shoulder, torso, hip and belly. 


“Like what you see?” he grinned, turning around so Joe could see the way the leather straps, oxblood in colour, all tied to a central strap running along his spine, which was fitted with more silver rings. “The guy I swapped my shirt with said this is great for suspension.” 


The lights went out again, and Joe grabbed blindly for Nicky’s hand on reflex. Nicky twisted from his grip. Joe lost him for a second before the lights came back, and he found Nicky grinning, sporting cat ears that weren’t there a moment ago. He didn’t know which item Nicky had swapped that for. His jacket was nowhere to be seen either. In Its place on Nicky’s hand was a fedora. 


When the lights went out again – they seemed to alternate at shorter intervals – Joe felt the hat land on his head and the weight of Nicky’s hands on his shoulders. 


“You look very handsome,” he said, green eyes wide and dark when the lights came back. 


Joe grabbed his arms and ducked to whisper, not so gently. “We shouldn’t be here.”


“But I want to be here, Joe,” Nicky said, resting his chin on Joe’ shoulder. His platform shoes made him a little taller than Joe. “And I am entitled to a night out.” And Joe could almost see him pouting in the total darkness. 


“In a safe, crown-approved venue,” Joe whispered bitingly. “Your Highness.”


“You’re here, so it’s safe,” said Nicky without missing a beat, his fingers working to take off Joe’s bowtie. “And I am your sovereign, and I declare that this place is approved by the crown.”


Joe was deciding – as Nicky pulled the bowtie free off his neck and worked on unbuttoning his shirt – between debating that logic or simply dragging Nicky out when the neon lights came flickering back, gradually upping the colour saturations until everything was pink, blue and purple, alternating in sync with the intro of the next song. 


Nicky laughed and leaned into Joe, head bobbing from side to side. “Remember this song?”



When you’re walkin’ down the street

And a man tries to get your business


Joe did remember the song, with its dirty, heavy bass and unabashedly horny lyrics.  



And the people that you meet

Want to open you up like Christmas


Nicky sang, swaying to the music, hands still resting on Joe’s shoulders. Once upon a time, the last time this had happened, Joe had sung too and moved in sync with Nicky. They had been kids then. Not quite each other’s equal but wrapped together safely in a common environment — a rose-coloured bubble. It had been but a spring in a borrowed time.  



You gotta wrap your fuzzy with a big red bow

Ain’t no sum bitch gonna treat me like a ho


“Nicky,” Joe said, resting his palm on Nicky’s waist. “Let’s go. Now.” 


Nicky shook his head, detaching himself from Joe, jumping in sync with the song. His grin was wide and sharp. Joe knew that look. 



I’m a classy honey kissy huggy lovey-dovey ghetto princess


Nicky was high


“Nicky, what did you take?” Joe reached to retake his hand. Nicky simply retreated deeper into the writhing bodies around them, most of which under similar influences. Molly, most probably. Joe wouldn’t have batted an eye if Nicky had indulged in the substance in their own controlled environment. But not here. 



’Cause you’re filthy (filthy)

Oooh, and I’m gorgeous (gorgeous)


He followed Nicky, trying to appear as calm and inconspicuous as possible and not like someone intent on dragging him out by force because Joe knew what it would have looked like to casual bystanders. Were Nicky to make a fuss, people just would not give his brown skin the benefit of the doubt.   



’Cause you’re filthy (filthy)

Oooh, and I’m gorgeous (gorgeous)


When he found him again, Nicky was sandwiched between two leather-clad muscular men. Joe was more clothed than all three of them combined. He was trying to tie Joe’s bowtie to the bald man in front of him while grinning at Joe. The man wrapped his hand around Nicky’s wrist and whispered something to him. Nicky laughed, glanced at the blond man behind him, and arched his back, rubbing his ass to the blond’s crotch. 



You’re disgusting (oh yeah, right there)

And you’re nasty (you make me feel so nasty)


The blond stared at Nicky’s ass and Nicky at Joe. 


And Joe couldn’t look away. 


He felt like everything was happening in slow motion and that he was swimming in soupy air. 



You can grab me (drop it)

Oooh ’cause you’re nasty


Then, demonstrating the convenience of Nicky’s harness, the bald man hooked his fingers on the central ring on Nicky’s chest and yanked him flush against him, slipping one muscular leg between Nicky’s and latching his mouth onto Nicky’s neck. Nicky opened his mouth, and Joe imagined that he could hear his gasp. 



Every day and every night, the people they say to me

Miss Honour, thank you for the beautiful work that you be doing for our people


Joe should interfere like a good bodyguard would. But then the blond yanked him by the rings on his spine, sending both Nicky and the bald man crashing into him. Nicky craned his neck and grinned at him like he wasn’t trapped in the most vulnerable position in the arrangement; like he revelled in it. The blond devoured his mouth, and he reciprocated. His eyes, though, flicked back to Joe’s and stayed there. 



We say, “This thing, you got it going on, you is gorgeous.”

And I say, “I am so proud to serve you people because I know that with my looks, I can achieve anything in this world.” 


It’s almost a familiar game at this point; Joe knew it. Nicky wanted him to watch, wanted him to break his composure and do something reckless, like making a scene by removing him forcibly from the sandwich. Or joining in; now there’s a thought. 



And my job with my gorgeousness is to serve the people

Serve, and serve some more


Younger Joe would have probably thought that both options had their merit. But older, wiser Joe decided that he would not reward Nicky for misbehaving.   



Yes, thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for letting me do my beautiful work

And beautifying this beautiful world that is already, already so pretty.


So Joe took a deep breath and scanned his surroundings. He was standing near one of the island bars. He went there and leaned on its backlit marble counter, watching Nicky where it wasn’t conspicuous to just stand and stare at his infuriating charge, the future king of his country. 



’Cause you’re filthy (filthy)

Oooh, and I’m gorgeous (gorgeous)

’Cause you’re filthy (filthy)

Oooh, and I’m gorgeous (gorgeous)


“You’re a little overdressed for the place,” said a voice behind and Joe tilted his head to find a bartender in a purple (or maybe it was pink, it was hard to tell) wig. “What can I get you?”


“Thanks, Padma,” he said, reading her nametag. “And two bottles of water, please.”


The bartender arched her eyebrows but turned around to get him the water bottles. Joe handed her his card with thanks and turned back to see Nicky still enjoying his meat sandwich. He seemed to sense Joe’s eyes on his and stared back. 



You’re disgusting

Oooh, and you’re nasty

And you can grab me

Oooh ’cause you’re nasty


Joe uncapped one bottle and drank his water. 


“You look like you could use something stronger,” said Padma as she handed him his card back.  


“Nah,” he shrugged, “I’d like to keep my wits,” Joe grinned and finished his bottle, still staring at Nicky. 



’Cause you’re filthy (filthy)

Oooh, and I’m gorgeous (gorgeous)

’Cause you’re filthy (filthy)

Oooh, and I’m gorgeous (gorgeous)


“That looks like an invitation to me,” the bartender said again. 


It’s kind of nosey of her, but Joe was amused, and hey, he knew how tedious bartending could be after a while. During his days, too, watching people had been an antidote to his boredom. 


“Pardon?” He feigned innocence. 


“The white boy in the middle of that beef sandwich you’ve been eyefucking with,” she said dryly. 


Joe chuckled and handed her his empty water bottle. “I’d better put him out of his misery then.”


Padma smiled. “Good luck.” 



Sip the beat, till the next week

Le freak

Between the silk she-e-e-e-e-t-s 


Nicky’s smile widened as Joe sauntered over. Both Baldie and Blondie looked at him curiously, but Joe paid them no mind, deciding to just assert his dominance and reel Nicky in via his harness. Joe was confident he could take them both if they made a fuss. They looked inebriated enough. Somewhere his hindbrain whispered that maybe Nicky ought to wear the harness permanently, and perhaps a collar too, so Joe could keep him in check easier whenever he wanted. 


Just as he managed to extract Nicky from his sweaty sandwich, the lights go out. Nicky giggled in his arms. 


“What did you take, Nicky? Molly?” he asked again. “Anything else?”


Nicky giggled louder, swaying in his hold as the same sultry electronic voice told them to take their clothes off again. 


“Nicky,” Joe said, grasping Nicky’s chin, tone stern. 


Nicky gasped. “Just molly,” he said, smiling sweetly. “And a couple of drinks.”


“Did you order the drinks?”


Nicky chuckled again. “”


Joe cursed. Nicky’s pupils were blown wide when the lights came back. It could have been just molly and nothing else, nothing riskier. But there was no telling if the drinks hadn’t been spiked with something else. Joe hadn’t been there to see. 


“Joe,” Nicky said, cupping his face as the lights went off again, his palm was hot to the touch, “Joe, are you mad?”


Joe wanted to do unspeakable things to him after he got him to relative safety. But he wasn’t going to do that because he was a goddamn professional.  


“No,” he said, trying to sound as level as possible. He unscrewed the water bottle. “But you need to drink this, and then we need to go.” 


“No,” Nicky said petulantly, shoving the bottle away. It hit Joe and spilled some of the water on him. Caught by surprise, Joe let him go. Nicky had slipped in the crowd when the lights came back. 


Swallowing more curses, Joe capped the water bottle, rolled up his soaked sleeves and stalked into the crowd in search of Nicky. 


“Hi handsome, this would look good on you. Swap me the hat?” a voice said from somewhere in his vicinity. He simply took the fedora off and handed it in the general direction of the voice, too busy looking for Nicky to notice the leather suspender his mysterious swapper clipped on to his waistband. 


He felt someone else tried to make a move for his shirt. He twisted the unwelcomed hand, heard a yelp and moved on. 


He was still circling the floor when the next song started. The accompanying light slow was decidedly more subdued than the last, low and golden bronze. It made everything appear more flattering. 


The crowd cheered as dancing poles emerged along the catwalk, and performers in various anachronistic costumes started taking their positions in them, from Tudor era gowns and Egyptian pharaoh costume to scandalous bejewelled naked bodysuits and millennium-era silver origami futuristic nonsense, like they had just raided the costume archive of a major Hollywood studio. The synth intro of the song itself was squarely ’80s. 



When I met you

I picked you out, I shook up and turned you around

Turned you into someone new


Who planned this party? Joe wondered. The concept seemed a bit random even when the execution and production value were turbo-charged. Joe was willing to bet it was bankrolled by one of Nicky’s rich scion friends of dubious origins. That made him nervous. It’s a blackmail risk.



Now five years later on, you’ve got the world at your feet

Success has been so easy for you  


Then he spotted Nicky on the other side of the catwalk, raptly watching the performance of a pole dancer dressed in 1920s jazz era beaded silver dress. He had someone’s arms around him; Joe didn’t get to look at his face, but he had a beard, and he was currently nuzzling Nicky’s neck, and Nicky was leaning into him, grinning. 


Then he opened his mouth, and Joe saw a pill on his tongue, which Nicky happily swallowed as the man jammed it down his throat.  



Don’t you want me, baby?

Don’t you want me, ohh?


Joe didn’t have time to circle the whole space to get to Nicky, so he waited for the right moment the pole dancers climbed up their respective poles to heave himself up to the space and cross over to Nicky’s side. He had been quick that it didn’t attract much attention from the mostly inebriated audience beyond a few gasps. 



Don’t you want me, baby?

Don’t you want me, ohh?


Nicky’s eyes found him as he stalked towards them. Joe couldn’t see if he’s still grinning because his mouth was busy. When the bearded guy pulled his tongue out, Nicky’s jaw was a little red from beard burn, and his dramatic wingtips had been smudged, giving him a mildly debauched air that shouldn’t look so attractive on anyone. 


“Joe,” said Nicky, smiling and taking a sip from a glass that Joe was sure he didn’t order himself. 


“Nicky,” Joe said, wrenching the glass from Nicky’s hand. 


“Uh,” said the bearded guy. “I’m Riz.”


Christ, mashallah, Joe mixed his curse words quietly as he took a good look at the guy. He could have been Joe’s cousin. 


“Yeah? Was that molly you shoved down Nicky’s throat with your tongue, Riz?" Joe said, conversational, but with that edge in his voice that no one would mistake as friendliness. 


“Uh, yeah? I think? It’s good, man. Do you want –”


“Did you mix anything with the drink, Riz?” 


“Uh,” the guy stammered. Joe sniffed the drink. “Just whiskey sour?”


“You’re not sure? How about you drink it now in front of me?” 


“Uh,” repeated the guy, both high and drunk. And Joe wanted to punch him. But he wouldn’t because he was a goddamn professional. “Look,” said the guy after he had emptied his glass. “Sorry man, he called me Joe and just –”


Joe realised that Nicky had slipped away again. He shoved the guy to the side and scanned for Nicky. 



Don’t you want me, baby?

Don’t you want me, ohh?


He found the Prince on the stage, trying on the pole while the dancer in the silver dress instructed him how to do it. Nicky tried to pull himself up on the pole and do a simple spin, which looked rather dramatic because in the three minutes Joe had lost him, Nicky had swapped his sequin shorts with a flouncy pink tutu and cat ears with lucite stripper heels. The tabloids and the church would have a field day if someone got a snapshot of that.   


Both Nicky and the dancer laughed, and Nicky whispered something to her. She shook her head, smiling, then Nicky took off his earrings and showed them to her. Joe realised what happened as the dancer put one diamond stud to her mouth and bit it. 


By the time he reached the stage, the dancer had taken off her dress in exchange of Nicky’s black diamond studs, unbothered with being exposed on stage clad only in flesh-coloured shapewear. The song had not even ended yet. 


“Nicky,” Joe yelled as Nicky looked like he was also about to strip. “Nicky, no!”  


Both Nicky and the dancer looked at Joe. She whispered something to Nicky and whatever Nicky said made her laugh. She shrugged and winked at Joe. Nicky went to the edge of the stage carrying the beaded dress, crouched down and smiled at Joe.  


And he nearly toppled over his new lucite heels. 


Joe caught him, one of a few successes he had had that day.  


Nicky was laughing when he put him down on his feet. 



Don’t you want me, baby?

Don’t you want me, ohh?


“Oh, Joe,” he said. “Would it kill you to relax a little?”


“High chance of that,” Joe said, clipped. “Higher chance of getting you killed.”


“Hmmm,” Nicky said, looping his arms around Joe’s shoulders and humming the chorus, swaying a little. 



Don’t you want me, baby?

Don’t you want me, ohh?

“We’re going back, now.”


“Don’t you want me, baby?” Nicky mouthed, “Don’t you want me, ohhhh?”


It hit too close to home. Joe could only stare up at Nicky. Those lucite heels gave him at least three inches of height boost. His smile was both familiar and foreign, and something inside of Joe ached keenly. 


Nicky hummed. “I like it better when you’re taller,” he said, close to Joe’s ear.  


Joe took a moment to swallow the words at the tip of his tongue. Me too. And when your smile reaches your eyes.

He thought.


Then the lights went out, and Joe felt Nicky’s lips tracing the shell of his ear. 


“Nicky,” he hissed. “I’m taking you back to the penthouse now.”


“One song,” Nicky mumbled. “Just one song, Joe, dance with me.”


Joe inhaled and exhaled slowly. “I’m still on duty, Your Highness.”


“Then watch me dance for one song,” he pleaded. “I insist.”


The lights came back, and the way Nicky looked at him robbed him of all retort. 


“One song,” Joe finally said. “Take anything from anyone, and I’m throwing you over my shoulder.”


“Tempting.” Nicky grinned. 


Once upon a time, Joe would do it anyway – throw him over his shoulder and carry him. To his bed. “Behave now,” he said instead. 


“Mmm,” Nicky said, pressing their foreheads together. “Zip me up into Roxie’s dress?”


The dress looked, for the lack of a better word, spectacular on Nicky. The spaghetti straps accommodated his broad shoulders. The corseted bodice highlighted his trim waist. And the short, beaded fringe skirt revealed so much while hiding just enough. It took Joe only one try to zip it all the way up. 


The next song, as it happened, was called Stupid Love , and Joe was sure the universe laughing at him. He watched Nicky making the most of Roxie’s dress from a distance, while leaning on the bar, carrying the pink flouncy tutu and the oxblood leather harness, which Nicky explicitly had said to guard with his life. 


“Hey,” said a voice behind the counter. 


Joe saw the purple-haired bartender from the corner of his eyes. 


“Why don’t you dance with him?”


Joe chuckled. They’re practically friends now. “Nah,” he said succinctly. “But I’ll drive him home.”


“Such a gentleman,” she said. 


Just doing my job , Joe thought, watching Nicky smiled and shook his head when more than once someone approached him with offers. He accepted physical closeness, though, didn’t seem to mind sweaty bodies pressed closed and gyrate against him. His gaze, though, kept sliding back to Joe. Joe was and had been his audience. Just a job , Joe repeated to himself. 



I want your stupid love, love

I want your stupid love, love


“More water?” The bartender offered, taking him out of his head just in time before he slipped down into that rabbit hole again. 



 I want your stupid love, love 

We got a stupid love, love 


Joe smiled. “Two, please. Merci, Padma.” 



Nicky was a bit wobbly when he walked over to Joe at the end of the song as the lights went out again for the next round of swap. Joe caught him. The last pill he had taken might have not been molly after all. Most probably a type of sedatives. And it must have been strong enough to cancel out Nicky’s earlier euphoria. 


If Joe had had a proper backup, he would apprehend the guy who had given it to Nicky. But they had no time. So Joe took off his shirt and put it on Nicky, and walked him out of the warehouse.


His comm and his phone chimed and vibrated with tons of messages as soon as they were out on the promenade. Joe checked Booker’s location. He cursed when Booker told him they had to walk across the residential strip again because the goddamn boathouses had no vehicular access from the land.  

Sober, Nicky might be able to walk there in five-inch lucite heels. In his current state? He’d break an ankle. Joe sighed and made a decision. 


“Nicky,” he said. “Wear my shoes.”


Nicky slurred an unintelligible question. 


“You can’t walk in those shoes, however convincing you are dancing as Roxie Hart,” Joe said, guiding him to sit on a bench and taking off the translucent heels, swapping them with his leather oxfords. Joe wore a size bigger than Nicky, but they worked just fine for the occasion.   


Joe half walked, and half carried Nicky to the parking spot beyond the houses, finding it easier to slot his body and support Nicky when he’s a bit taller than him. 


Booker gave him a curious look, amused even. Well, with Joe topless, barefoot and carrying what appears to be an explosion of tule and a pair of stripper heels, and Nicky half awake, in a beaded dress, Joe’s shirt and Joe’s shoes — they made quite a walk of shame. 


“Don’t,” Joe said as Booker opened his mouth. 




Joe quietly thanked the building’s VVIP entrance and private elevator. The concierge didn’t bat an eye, and the butler didn’t stay on the same floor so he could deliver Nicky without much fuss and questions. And the penthouse is already secured. 


Gently, he deposited Nicky onto his four-poster bed and sighed in relief. He briefly wondered if he should make him throw up, purging whatever substance they had given him at that unnamed boathouse club. 


But then Nicky sat up and started making complaining noises like he always did after a night out clubbing, and Joe had a reasonable experience to expect that he would be okay. If anything, the sedative would cancel out the ecstasy, and he would be asleep soon. 


And Joe had told Andy he would stay the night, just in case Nicky would choke on his own vomit or something. 


Nicky sat up to take off his shirt and lay down again. Somehow, it irked Joe. But he was also grateful to have his shirt back. He took it and wore it unbuttoned, threw himself at one of the plush armchairs and propped up his bare feet on the ottoman, exhausted. 


“Joe.” came Nicky’s voice. “You there?”


“Yes,” he replied. “I’m here.”


“Joe,” he repeated, a little more urgently. 


Joe groaned and padded over to the bed. 


Nicky rolled over. “Spoon me?” he said like he still had the right to that request. “Help me sleep.”


“I should stick my fingers down your throat and make you throw up all the shit they gave you there just to be safe,” he said a little heatedly. 


Nicky chuckled, running his hand over his eyes. “I won’t mind, do you want to?”




“Stick your fingers down my throat. Or stick anything in me, really,” he said without missing a beat. 


“No.” Joe said. 


“Then hold me and help me sleep,” he said as he curled tighter into himself. “I’ve been good.”


Joe laughed bitterly. “How exactly have you been good, Your Highness? You’ve made my job incredibly hard today.” As you have been ever since I took this job. His mind supplied unhelpfully. It really was his own fault. He had walked into this. 


“I went home after one song, didn’t I?” he countered. “After that Stupid Love song.” He sighed. “And I didn’t take anything from anyone. There were offers, you know.” He smiled, and something about the contrasting sadness in his eyes tugged at Joe. 


So, quietly, he climbed on to the bed, curling around Nicky but not touching him. Nicky sighed as the mattress dipped. That drew Joe’s attention to the beaded dress. 


“You should take off that dress,” he said. “It’s corseted. No wonder you can’t sleep. You can’t even breathe.”


“But it’s so pretty.”


“Nicky,” Joe warned. 


The Prince snickered. “I can’t reach the zipper,” he said. “Unzip me?”


Joe tried as they lay down. It didn’t work. He suspected some of the sequins were stuck in the zipper’s teeth. 


“Sit up,” he said, and Nicky obeyed. 


Joe sat up and tried the puller again. It still didn’t work. But what the hell, the Prince still needed to breathe, so he did it with force. He ended up breaking the zipper, the slider slid down easily, but the two rows of teeth remained separated. The beaded fabric peeled off to reveal Nicky’s pale and freckled skin.


Nicky’s shoulders sagged, and he sighed in relief. Joe could see the red marks running along his back where the corset bones dug into his skin. 


Nicky shivered as Joe traced one particularly irritated strip of skin with his finger. 


You shouldn’t have done that, Joe chided himself.  


He snatched his hand back like it’s burned. 


“I broke the zipper,” he told him.


“Oh,” Nicky said, wiggling out of what remained of the dress to inspect the damage. “Shame. I really loved it.”


“Send it to the royal seamstress to repair.” 


“Don’t think I won’t,” said Nicky, laying the dress carefully on the other side of the bed. He caressed the beaded fabric reverently before lying down again, clothed only in black boxer briefs and the red marks left by the too-tight dress. 


Joe watched him. The image extrapolated with a memory he had tried to bury. 


Nicky peeked over his shoulder. “I still can’t sleep,” he said. It sounded a little mischievous. 


Joe feels conflicted but laid down again anyway. Nicky pressed his back into him, and Joe let out an involuntary sharp breath at the contact. His skin remembered Nicky’s warmth. 


Evidently, the molly had outlasted the sedatives because Nicky was restless, squirming minutely against him. Or maybe he did it deliberately. Joe could feel his own body stirring with interest despite the day’s fatigue. 


“Yusuf,” Nicky said, sounding a little breathless. “You should fuck me.” 


Joe went very still. 


“So I can sleep. We can forget about it in the morning.”


Joe went very, very still. 


“The lube’s in the nightstand,” he said, like Joe hadn’t found it when they had scanned the room for bugs. "You're technically off duty now, right?"


No, Joe thought. You are the job, the duty. As long as I am with you, I'm on the clock. But he didn't have the heart to say it. 


Hadn't Nicky said something like that once upon a time about being a Prince? 


Joe should leave the bed, leave the penthouse. He should come back tomorrow with a clear head to prep for Nicky’s flight to Berlin and maybe scold him a little. 


But instead, against his better judgement, he pulled Nicky closer, crushing his body to his own, engulfing his frame with his bulk, slipping a leg between Nicky’s. He gently moved Nicky’s head to rest on his arm. His other arm sneaked under Nicky’s so his forearm was draping across his torso while his palm and fingers closed around his throat, locking him in, cradling him with his body, gentle but firm.  


When Nicky moaned softly, Joe loosened his hold. He chuckled when Nicky made a noise of protest. 


“My dear Prince Nicolò,” he said near Nicky’s ear as he tightened his hold on him again. “You don’t think you deserve a reward for misbehaving, do you?”


Nicky went very still in his hold. 


“You asked me to hold you because you’ve been good, like you deserved it. But you’ve caused so much trouble. And you’ve been so. fucking. reckless,” Joe continued. “You’ve been good exactly once, tonight. So I am going to hold you as a favour. Just once. Nothing more, nothing less.”


Nicky’s pulse picked up. Maybe this approach was counterintuitive, Joe thought. But he was too pissed off to give up now. Nicky had taken so little care of himself. Taking substance from strangers, drinking drinks he didn’t order, offering lube but not condom — Joe counted all his transgressions that day and let them stoke his ire.


“I am not going to fuck you,” he said, emboldened by how Nicky’s pulse jackrabbited. “Nobody is going to fuck you tonight. You don’t deserve to cum tonight. I am going to hold you, just like this, and you will be good and go to sleep. Is that clear?”


“Yes, Joe,” Nicky choked off. 


“Good,” Joe said, careful to keep his tone gentle. “Rest now. Maybe you can dream of getting fucked. Maybe by that Baldie and Blondie from the club? Or by that bearded asshole who slipped you something? He kind of looked a bit like me, don’t you think? You’re getting less and less subtle, My Prince. Maybe you’d like all three of them going at you at the same time, hm? Would you like that? All of them have beards. You love beard burns all over you, don’t you, Princess?"


Nicky sounded like he was on the verge of sobbing. “Y-yes, Joe.”


Joe was rock hard. And he could guess that Nicky was in a similar situation by the way he breathed. But fuck it all, he would endure the blue balls out of spite. And Nicky needed a lesson. 


“Good,” he said, “Sleep now, Nicolò,” he said, deliberately scraping his beard on his shoulder and the back of his neck. “Sweet dreams.”  


They still couldn’t sleep long after that. But they stayed coiled together. Joe kept his hold like that, firm, gentle and nothing more, breathing close to Nicky’s neck. Nicky stayed still until his pulse calmed down, and he eventually succumbed to exhaustion. 


Joe stayed awake a little longer. The songs from the boathouse played inside his head, earworms he would not be able to get rid of so soon. 


Stupid love was what it was and had always been. It’s what Joe wanted. It’s what Nicky, Joe suspected, also wanted. It’s absolutely not what they needed. 






Is songfic still a thing? I feel like I'm 15 again using songs as a tool in my fics hahaha. But they are fun songs tho. These three songs are: Filthy/Gorgeous by Scissor Sisters, Don't You Want Me by The Human League, and Stupid Love by Lady Gaga. Have a listen to all three to get the vibe of the boathouse club.

The colour scheme is lifted from Atomic Blonde movie. Nicky's silver jazz dress is inspired by Roxie Hart's dress in movie Chicago

The SluttyPrinceNicky!AU (we gotta come up with an official name) is created by one of my favourite writers mehmeh(aglassfulloffhappiness) who have imagined a torrid, intensely sexy dynamic between slutty Prince!Nicky and Bodyguard!Joe in a series of snips on Discord based on this sexy moody moodboard by Maea that I hope one day she would published here on AO3.

If this little story make you feel something or want more, please yell at her (and me) on the comment. It'll make by day :D and It'll feed her to expand this AU! Thank you for reading!