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Speakers

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Sypha watched him out of the corner of her eye and debated cutting him off. The real problem with that was that half the drinks he’d consumed this evening were bought for him and she couldn’t very well screen everyone she poured one out for, could she?

Adrian laughed at something the man he was flirting with said. She couldn’t hear him or the joke of course. In the club she tended for, Speakers, at 1:30 am no one could hear anything further than two feet away, even screaming at each other.

Long golden tresses tangled with the silver zippers on his fashionisto leather coat. It was some designer version of a biker jacket but with rhinestones, blue embroidered roses, and fringe that was absurdly long.

The lace bodysuit was saved from being completely indecent by the tiniest pair of black leather shorts she’d ever seen. They effectively answered the question for everyone of which way Adrian’s dick lay. 

There was more leather in his boots than his shorts and oh, they were very nice boots. Isabel Marant’s, if she wasn’t mistaken and over-knees with a stacked heel. They were worth more than her entire month’s pay.

Slashes of midnight purple eyeshadow rested on electric blue eyeliner and framed eyes that were otherworldly in their shade. Sypha would have laid money on them being surgically enhanced if it weren’t for the newspapers. She knew they were real.

Keeping her eye on the situation at the end of the bar, Sypha deftly shook the martini, poured it, charged it to the card and nodded at the next patron. He’s really drunk this time, she thought with dismay as she watched the blonde sway against an overbuilt man with a black mohawk.

Adrian Tepes was muscular but slender. There was no way he could hold his own against someone that huge and the strangers’ wandering hands were concerning. There was zero possibility that Adrian could consent to it.

Fretting, she wondered what to do.

Gorgeous, flirtatious, spoiled and proud, Adrian was a nightmare of entitlement and arrogance and then every once in a while, the sweetest, most politely-mannered man you could ask for. She was never really sure which version she would get. 

Sypha could handle that, because, well, she could handle anything. However, since the bartender had a wealth of pity for Adrian, it genuinely dismayed her to watch him spiral like this. 

She’d only seen him here a couple of times in the last year and had actually never served him because he would hang out in the VIP section upstairs. Until three months ago. 

Then he came in every single night and mingled with everyone. The redhead didn’t have to wonder why because everyone knew. It was all over the news. His mother had died of cancer.

There was something heartbreaking and violating about the front page photo spread that had run. Adrian laughing with his parents at some party. The photo they’d juxtaposed it with. His stony-faced father and a tearful Adrian standing in front of a coffin decked out in white lilies.

At first she’d tried to talk to him about it; offer her sympathies. He’d hissed in her face and complained to the owner.

Fortunately, Sypha and Morana had a good relationship. The owner had smiled at her and told her that not everyone deserved her kindness. The older woman suggested she simply be neutral with him from here on out. 

Adrian seemed to forget all about it because two nights later he was flirting with her in slurred French while his fur slid down his bare shoulders and the diamonds around his neck winked seductively. It’d been sexy, but also annoying. 

He doesn’t want me, he wants a distraction, she’d thought then.

The bartender knew she’d been right. Night after night Adrian got smashed, picked someone up and left with them. Night after night, a tiny part of Sypha’s heart ached. She understood loss and she understood trying to hide from it. But what he was doing was only going to end badly. 

More than once she’d begged the owner, Morana, to ban him, even if it meant he would just go somewhere else. At least then she wouldn’t have to watch him self-destruct. But it was too political to do that. His father was too powerful and his reach too unpredictable. 

“Ten minutes to break, Striga will cover.” The voice crackled in her ear and Sypha put her hand up in the air, counted out her fingers to five, and brought it back down. Morana will have seen the acknowledgement in the cameras. 

Out of the corner of her eye she saw the mohawked guy grind suggestively on Adrian and the blonde’s lopsided grin as he walked his fingers up a chest that had seen too many bench presses. Uh oh, Sypha thought and added a lemon slice to the radler. 

Sure enough, Mr. Mohawk leaned down and gave Adrian’s ass a squeeze. Sypha narrowed her eyes and took a deep breath. Just leave it, he’s a big boy, she thought. The next drink order came in and she moved to the blender. 

The margaritas were messy but simple and she was able to keep an eye on Adrian. They were kissing now, and her unease deepened. The blonde was barely landing on Mohawk’s face, much less his lips. Meanwhile Mohawk had taken Adrian’s hand and pressed it to the front of his pants. Sypha, he is completely incapcitated right now, she thought. This is wrong.

Right as she resolved to accidentally dump a pitcher of water on them, Striga appeared beside the couple and tapped Mohawk’s shoulder. The burly man reared back, mouth open in a snarl and blinked. Sypha snickered.

Striga was a mountain of a woman, all muscles and height and intimidation. She glared at the man and jerked a thumb in the universal ‘take a hike,’ sign. Scowling, Mohawk nodded but to Sypha’s dismay, practically carried Adrian off with him.

Keeping an eye on the couple, she nodded to Striga, traded spots and cut towards the entrance. She desperately needed the bathroom, but… There you are, she thought, spotting the broad shoulders and shoulder-length brown hair.

Trevor Belmont was a bouncer at Speakers and had only been here for a little over a month. Sypha liked him a lot and, if she wasn’t so set against mixing romance with business, she would have asked him for a date. Instead, they were friends who probably should be something else. 

Unfortunately, he’d had a couple of run-ins with Adrian already so he might not be eager to help her tonight. He was, however, the only bouncer she trusted not to actually hurt the blonde. 

She stopped behind him, and raised her hand to tap his shoulder. He was already turning, like somehow he knew she was there.

It was a curiosity to her; he always seemed to sense her. It was flattering and a little unnerving. His grin was wide; the thin, blade-like scar over his eye crinkling like a twisted piece of yarn. 

She smiled back and put her hands together like a prayer. Trevor’s brow knit and he followed her pointing finger to where Adrian was stumbling toward the bathroom with Mohawk. He immediately scowled, looking at her pleadingly. 

“Please?” she mouthed and mimed drinking, shaking her head.

Trevor rubbed the bridge of his nose and those impressive shoulders heaved with a big sigh. He pulled out his phone and wrote something, passing it over to her. Too drunk to say yes? She looked up and nodded.

He took the phone from her and wrote something else. She stepped close to him and read over his arm, lightly holding his bicep for balance as she peered. 

Oh you work out sir, she thought, impressed. I mean, it’s obvious but like, hellllllo. She resisted squeezing.

Trevor finished typing and she quickly read it. Okay, I will get him but you need to call his handler and you take the heat from Morana? I’m new and I need this job. Not losing it for the rich brat.

Sypha looked up at him and nodded. They were close enough she could kiss him. That’s a bad idea, she thought and tried to remember why. 

His eyes were lilac in the low, dancing lights. The cinnamon, smoky scent of him was a welcome change from the sharp, slightly sour cut of alcohol she was used to smelling in her station. His eyes dropped to her lips. Time to step back, she thought.  

“Thank you,” she mouthed and moved away. Trevor nodded and pocketed his cell phone. When he started toward the bathroom, Sypha pulled out her phone and headed to the entrance to find a quiet place to make the call.

---

The last thing that Trevor wanted to do tonight was deal with Adrian Fucking Tepes. He’d seen him of course. You couldn’t miss the flamboyant sashay, the thick blonde waves or the boots. Adrian always wore boots and somehow didn’t kill himself on them. It was a miracle considering how fucking drunk the man got.

Sypha had a soft spot for the blonde and he knew it was because of Adrian’s mother. Trevor thought it was sweet of her, and God knew, if he lost his mother he’d be a wreck. What Trevor wouldn’t do though, was get shit-faced every night and fuck anything that walked.

But that’s exactly what Adrian was doing and Trevor was getting tired of intervening. If Adrian wanted to end up with an STD, getting mugged or something worse, why should Trevor have to suffer with him? 

Because you are a sucker for Sypha, that’s why, he thought ruefully. 

And there was the problem. He wanted to be more than friends with her but Sypha was so damn competent. She could be with anyone, but she wasn’t. So what conclusion could you draw from that? 

Well, according to his coworkers, she turned down everyone who’d ever asked. She wanted to be single and she wanted to be left alone. Trevor had five sisters. When a woman wanted to be left alone, you respected that. 

So he was trying to tell himself to appreciate being friends. It was mostly working. He genuinely liked her and thought she was inspiring, determined and funny. But then there were times like just now, when she leaned into him, when he couldn’t help but want her.

She was just so damned cute. Those big, shining eyes, pixie features, cupid’s bow mouth and long, red locks. He would bet she kissed with that same energetic vibrancy that she stocked the bar and served drinks and walked and… Trevor, come on man, just stop.

This is how you find yourself herding Adrian Tepes for the third time this month, he thought sourly. 

It wouldn’t be so bad if Adrian would just take a swing at him. But he never did. It would go two ways. The way that was marginally better, was full-blown princess. Tepes would snipe at Trevor’s hair, his clothes, his lineage, his accent, and refuse to budge until he had to haul the blonde’s ass out over his shoulder, usually with the man squawking about assault charges.

But worse was when Adrian melted into Belmont and cooed about his muscles and his scar. When he was like that, the blonde got really handsy and it was irritating. How Adrian could spit on his identity and then also try to charm him into bed was insulting as hell.

The last time had been hands and he hadn’t been expecting it. Trevor wasn’t flattered and he wasn’t interested, so when the slim, cool hand had snaked under his t-shirt to scrape glittering fingernails over his pecs he’d dropped Adrian like a stone.

Remembering, Trevor grinned. Adrian had bitched like someone shit in his Dolce & Gabbana boots and the bouncer was pretty sure that he’d had bruises the next day. Serves him right, Trevor thought resentfully as he put a hand on the bathroom door. I could still see the scratches at the end of the night.

The red welts had been unpleasant reminders of the blonde’s wandering hands and mouth. I hope he’s bitchy tonight, Trevor thought and pushed open the door.

He absorbed the scene in an instant and gritted his teeth. “Okay guys, party's over, let’s go.” Adrian was pressed up against the wall, chest first and his face was turned away from Trevor. The sway of his body made Trevor wonder how he was even vertical. 

The leather jacket was on the floor and his legs were spread but he was thankfully still clothed. Well, if you counted those shorts as clothing. The blonde didn’t turn when Trevor spoke or even acknowledge his presence.

His partner was a musclebound man twice his age with a black mohawk whose pants were undone. When he looked up, Trevor could see surprise and frustration in the man’s face. Sorry, Trevor thought, but seriously?

Unbelievably men were still going back and forth from the stalls and urinals, surreptitiously checking out the unfolding scene.

“Twenty to walk away,” the mohawk said and Trevor sighed.

“Sorry, no can do. No sex in the bathrooms,” Belmont said firmly and stooped for Adrian’s jacket. That was a mistake. The mohawked man’s punch caught him square on his cheekbone and knocked him back into the sink.

“Motherfucker!” Trevor bellowed angrily and narrowly dodged the next one. A man who’d come out of a stall jumped back and slammed the door. Trevor came up against it hard.

Tapping the button on his jacket he called for back-up and ducked his opponent. “Fucking coward!” Mohawk yelled and Trevor feigned a swing, instead angling for a chokehold. 

It was easy enough. Trevor was sober, lighter on his feet and actually knew what he was doing. He didn’t try to choke the man out, just held him until the head of security, Isaac, appeared. By then Mohawk had cooled down enough to apologize but Trevor wasn’t having it. 

“Code 3,” he told Isaac, handing him over. He’d be banned but Trevor wasn’t pressing charges. It simply wasn’t worth it. The bouncer would have a bruise but nothing a week wouldn’t fix.

Isaac nodded and fixed his intimidating gaze on Mohawk. “It would be best for you if you walk in front of me to the exit and don’t deviate.” The coolly neutral tone was flat and terrifying. Trevor wouldn’t have fucked with him and it looked like Adrian’s would-be partner wasn’t going to either.

When they left, Trevor turned to Adrian and sighed heavily. “How the fuck are you asleep?” he asked the bathroom. 

“Believe me, I’m not,” came the squeak from the bathroom stall. Belatedly Trevor remembered the man who’d locked himself in there. 

“It’s all clear, you can come out now,” the bouncer told him. A slim, unhappy-looking man exited the stall, looked at Trevor and grimaced.

“That’s gonna leave a mark,” he told him with a sniff and exited the bathroom in a huff.

“Wash your fucking hands,” Trevor muttered and turned back to Adrian. He felt an unwelcome twinge of sympathy. The blonde had tumbled into a corner and passed out. Asleep, makeup smudged, hair askew and long, pale limbs in a heap, he somehow still looked angelic. 

Maybe it was the defenselessness or maybe it was the way he shivered slightly, but Trevor found he could be far more gentle than he’d intended. He picked up the discarded jacket and draped it over Adrian’s chest. 

Grabbing his own phone out of his pocket he texted Sypha and confirmed that someone was on their way to retrieve Adrian. 

He waited five more minutes, leaning against the wall and trying not to meet the stares of the men who came and went. Twitter helped him a lot in that regard. 

Finally, he crouched down and slid his arm under Adrian’s legs and back. The blonde murmured and leaned into him heavily. His jacket slipped into his lap.

Surprised, Trevor staggered a little but managed to lift him, shifting Adrian in his chest to balance his weight.

The reek of booze and cigarettes was strong and undercut the rich, fresh fragrance of whatever cologne he was wearing. The combination was distinctly unpleasant and he coughed. The movement jostled Adrian and he shivered, pressing into Trevor’s chest and throat.

The brunette tensed but the grabbing never happened.

Instead, Adrian curled his hands into his chest and whimpered. Okay, get him home, Trevor thought, a flush of discomfort and awareness rolling over him. He wanted to be free of his responsibility for this train wreck.

The man at the bathroom counter held the door for him and Trevor made his way through the crowd.

Surprisingly, people parted for him without any grief and by the time Sypha appeared, he’d almost made it to the door. She waved him to the entrance and held the door open for him. Nodding to the doorman, Trevor stepped out into the cool evening.

“He’s out cold, isn’t he?” Sypha asked when the door closed behind them. He nodded. Curious clubbers looked over at them and he moved a little further away. No need to give the gawkers something to see.

The bartender reached out for the jacket and pulled it back up over the blonde’s shoulders. “Who’s getting him this time?” Trevor asked her. 

Sypha sighed. “I’m not sure. The man who answered was very angry and it wasn’t Hector, so I don’t know?” 

Trevor shifted slightly. Adrian wasn’t heavy but anyone would be after almost ten minutes. He looked at Sypha. She was looking at Adrian with a wistful expression and it suddenly struck him. Why hadn’t he considered it before? 

Did Sypha have a thing for Adrian? He wondered.

He thought about that. Even if she did, Sypha was too smart to get involved with this mess. If Adrian didn’t cut it out, something bad was going to happen and not the least of which would be permanent liver damage. 

“What happens then?” he wondered aloud.

“I’m sorry what?” the redhead asked him and Trevor shook his head.

“Sorry, I am just wondering how long this is going to go on for.” He indicated the slumbering blonde in his arms. “How long he can do this for.”

Sypha looked pained and opened her mouth to respond. Her face changed abruptly with obvious relief as she said, “His ride is here.”

The black stretch pulled up to the corner and the chauffeur hopped out. Sypha approached him as he rounded the hood. There was a quick discussion and she came back to Trevor. Clearly unhappy, she rubbed her forehead. “Wake him up,” she said.

Trevor frowned. “I don’t need to, I can put him in the--.”

“His father is here. Vlad Dracula. In the car. He wants him awake and walking.”

Trevor rolled his eyes. Fucking wealthy and their pecularities. Whatever. “Well let’s see if he’ll even wake,” Trevor said and gently shook him.

“Adrian,” he said. The blonde lolled in his arms like a heavy bean bag in a pail but didn’t stir.

“Adrian,” Sypha tried, shaking the blonde’s arm with increasing intensity.

The driver approached them quietly. “Sir,” he nodded to Trevor, “Madam,” to Sypha. “Follow me please.”

Trevor smothered a laugh. Get the picture? He thought with disgust. He’s not waking for anyone. The bouncer carried the limp man to the limo door and the driver opened it. The dark scent of old money wafted out into the street. 

“Please set him on the right hand seat,” came the dark, commanding voice. Trevor’s skin prickled. There were vast oceans of control in that tone. There were canyons of fury there too and what might have been grief.

He bent down and as gently as possible, shifted Adrian onto the seat. The man was slumped but essentially upright. “Many thanks. Please give Sharma your name,” the voice was brisk and neutral. “I would like to convey my gratitude at a later date.”

He looked up and Vlad Tepes was a dark shadow in the corner of the vehicle, pale skin and piercing eyes.

“It wasn’t me, sir, it was Sypha,” Trevor said, automatically deferring to the person whose idea to rescue Adrian had actually been. 

“That would be Sypha Belnades?” Vlad asked and Trevor nodded. 

“It would seem she has made a habit of taking care of my son,” Vlad said without inflection. “I will make sure she is rewarded for it.”

Something about the word, ‘rewarded,’ creeped Trevor out. “Yeah, okay,” he said and stepped back. He shut the door and turned to Sypha when he heard it. A sharp crack of sound and a shocked yelp. Coming from inside the vehicle. 

Vlad struck him, Trevor thought, a sick taste rising in his throat. He struck him while he was asleep and defenseless. He struck his son.  

It’s not your business, he thought, even as he turned back to the vehicle and put out his hand. Knocking on the window, his brain screamed at him to stop, not to get involved but he kept feeling that tremble when he’d picked the blonde up. He attacked him in his sleep!

The window rolled down and he could hear Adrian’s quiet, shuddering gasps. What the actual fuck. “Sorry sir, I forgot to mention to you, I just remembered we left Adrian’s credit card at the bar, would you like me to get it?”

“Ah,” came the calm, cold voice and Trevor’s stomach lurched. “No, thank you. Adrian will pick it up tomorrow and will also have a proper apology prepared.”

“Ummm, okay, well we are open at 2 pm then. Good night sir, be safe. You as well Adrian.” 

Neither man responded as the black window rolled up.

---

You push and you push and I'm pulling away
Pulling away from you
I give and I give and I give and you take, give and you take
Youngblood
Say you want me
Say you want me
Out of your life
And I'm just a dead man walking tonight
But you need it, yeah, you need it
All of the time

-"Youngblood," 5 Seconds of Summer

Chapter Text

The knock on the door was firm. Adrian woke with a blinding hangover and the distinctly unpleasant memory of his father’s lecture on the way home. Fuck. He absolutely hated when his father saw him like that. 

I’ll never hear the end of it now, he thought. The sunlight was creeping around the edges of the curtains and it looked like it was late in the day. He threw the pillow over his head and hissed.

“Adrian,” Hector’s voice came firmly from the door. “I’m coming in; you better be decent.”

The blonde made a face under his pillow. He’d kicked his covers off in the night. Adrian couldn’t give two fucks, Hector could die mad. Besides, he always locked the door. He heard the door open and swore; apparently not always.

“It’s 12:30 pm and your father wants to talk to you before you return to Speakers to thank the staff who assisted you last night,” Hector said.

You mean the staff that ratted me out, again? Adrian thought with annoyance. No fucking way.

Even under the pillow the light was abruptly bright. “Adrian, for goodness sake,” Hector said with annoyance. “Pull up your covers, I said I want you decent.” The blonde didn’t move and he felt the covers pulled over his naked ass. 

His smirk vanished when the pillow was ripped off his head. “Hector, you dick, give me my pillow back!” Adrian hissed angrily and looked up at the neatly prim and proper man.

“You look like hell,” Hector said instead and flung his pillow onto the loveseat behind him. The pristine chin-length hair was gently waving as he shook his head disapprovingly. The disappointment in the teal eyes was annoying and in the blonde’s opinion, undeserved.

Adrian narrowed his eyes and tossed his head. It was a mistake. The giant pumpkin that had been gleefully trampolining on the back of his eyeballs decided to put on cleats. “Motherfucker! Damn it! Where’s my fucking asprin?!?” 

With a sigh Hector pulled out a small bottle and placed it on his nightstand. He went into the bathroom and Adrian heard the water running briefly. Hector returned and placed the cup of water beside it. In his other hand he held Adrian’s purple and green peacock patterned silk bathrobe. 

“What about my face cloth?” Adrian said loftly. Hector just looked at him in that reproachful, deadpan way of his. “Ugh, fine.” He rolled over and threw off the covers.

Hector quickly looked at the ceiling and Adrian smirked. “Oh, oops, sorry.” He took the robe from Hector’s hand and stood. Important shit first, he thought and took the aspirin and water. 

“Anytime now, Adrian,” Hector said tightly, still looking at the ceiling. 

“I’m getting to it, calm down,” Adrian retorted, pulling the robe on and belting it. Hector’s eyes snapped back down. 

“You know it makes me uncomfortable when you are nude,” he said.

Adrian waved that off. “I know you’re pissed that you find me attractive. I mean, I get it; I’m hot and you want me. Welcome to the club and get in line. Consider it a freebie peek.”

Hector glowered. “That’s not it at all, and you damn well know it.” He crossed his arms and the grey suit pulled across his chest and shoulders. He had a nice physique but he was such a bore.

Adrian batted his eyelashes. “Do I?” he asked sweetly.

The muscle in Hector’s jaw jumped and Adrian’s smile was triumphant. He knew damn well that Hector found him attractive and he adored throwing it at him. 

Besides, the blonde wasn’t kidding. Male or female, no one was immune to his charms. And I am very charming, he thought with satisfaction.

“You need to get cleaned up and get downstairs. Your father is waiting and you-- Adrian!” Hector whirled around and stared at the unmade bed. Adrian’s robe fluttered to the floor as he stepped into the shower and turned on the water. 

The clear glass meant that Hector wouldn’t turn around the whole time.  Or if he did, at least there was a chance Adrian might have a better morning. Or not, he thought as he dumped shampoo in his long, tangled mane. He’s so uptight and prudish, he’s probably still a virgin. Adrian couldn’t be bothered with virgins.

“I’m leaving but if you aren’t down in thirty, I am coming back,” Hector warned him, voice rising to combat the thud of the shower pulse. “You hear me, Adrian?”

“Yes, Daddy,” Adrian retorted and snorted when the door slammed. Made him lose his cool again, he thought with a weird thrill of pride. He scrubbed over his face with the raw silk washcloth and winced when he passed over his cheekbone. 

I also made Father lose his cool again, he thought with resentment. There was a soreness on his face but he was fairly certain there was no bruise. It was too bad really, he might have liked to keep the bruise for a couple of days. It would have been a sign he still existed for Vlad Dracula Tepes.

Whatever. Father never could handle me and it’s better now if he just ignores me entirely. He doesn’t understand and he acts like he’s the only one who lost--. He immediately shied away from that and broke into a loud rendition of the latest Lady Gaga hit. 

Forty minutes later, because fuck you Hector, he knocked on his father’s study door and tapped his toe impatiently. It was too early for this shit and he wanted to be anywhere but here right now. 

“Enter,” Vlad’s low voice commanded and Adrian took a deep breath, pushing the door open to the dark space. There was a fire in the hearth and the curtains were drawn. You would think he was the one with the hangover, he thought.

“Adrian,” his father said, standing. 

“Yep, that’s me,” he said, gliding into the chair furthest from the fire and hopefully the light. He didn’t need to hear about his makeup or clothes.

“What are you wearing?” his father asked with a scowl and Adrian exhaled loudly. “That’s absurd and borderline obscene. Surely you don’t intend to--.”

“Look,” Adrian cut in sharply. “You want to tell me I’m a disappointment and to get my shit together. I want to tell you to go fuck yourself. Oooh, this was fun, can I go now?”

The transformation of his father’s face was hideous. The snarl of fury and the narrowing of his eyes turned him into something lurking in the closet that would yank you in and tear you to pieces. “I tolerate your disrespect out of love for your mother but one day Adrian, you will find my patience will have an end.”

Even though his heart was pounding, he lounged in the chair as though he couldn’t care less. “Mmmhmmm,” he said, inspecting his nails. He really needed to get them done again today.

“I’ve come to a decision,” Vlad said after a moment. “One I should have made months ago." Adrian looked up, and there was something in the pull of the skin around his father’s eyes that made him look closer. It was so strained, as if he was in physical pain. “I am giving you an ultimatum here Adrian, and you would do well to heed me.”

Concern prickled down his back and the blonde straightened. “Finally kicking me out, Vlad?” he asked, even as real fear skittered over his skin like a vehicle sliding over ice.

“In a manner of speaking, yes, but only if this doesn’t cease.”

Temper rose and Adrian fought it, hard. “The clothes, or me being me, or what exactly?”

“Let’s start with the late night calls to come get you, because you are so drunk you can’t even stay conscious,” Vlad sat heavily and looked at him. “Or the people you bring home who don’t respect you and have to be paid to not sell their story to the press?”

Adrian waved that away. “You’re paranoid, no one would sell their story to the press. Of all the ridiculous ideas.”

“You know better,” his father said, the annoyance rolling off him like an unpleasant cologne.

“Okay, well, I don’t give a shit if people know I like to suck dick.”

Vlad stared at him, disbelief and anger written across his tense form like a neon-colored ticket tucked on a windshield. “That’s not the point, Adrian!” He slammed his hand down on the desk.

“Fine, what is the point then?” he hissed, wanting to be anywhere else. I’m too sober for this bullshit, he thought.

His father looked at him consideringly. “The point is that you will stop dragging our family through the mud. I can’t stop you from drinking but I can tell you that if I get another call to come get you from a bar, or if you come home drunk, or if I see alcohol charges on the statements, I’ll take your credit cards.”

Adrian hissed. “That’s bullshit, I use them for a lot more than the bar and you know it!”

Vlad’s jaw clenched. “You lack for nothing. You have food, shelter and more clothing than half the city combined. There is nothing you actually need them for, except, apparently, getting intoxicated and picking up strangers.”

Adrian’s laugh was bitter. “Of course this would come back to your precious name and money. Really, why would I ever think it might be something else?”

Vlad shook his head, and when he spoke his voice was tight. “This isn’t about that. This is about your mother’s wishes.”

Adrian leapt up. “Fuck that! Don’t you dare! Mother would have never done this to me! She understood me, she loved me! You? You’ve made it clear that you are done with me, and honestly, the minute that I turn 25, I’ll give you exactly what you want!”

He turned on his heel and stormed out of the study, seething and enraged that his father would dare try to throw his mother at him, again. Lisa had understood him. She listened to him and loved him. 

Vlad had always told him what he needed to be and what to do but his mother? She was willing to let him explore what interested him and try new things and… “Damn it!” 

The tears were ruining his look and he was pissed that he was going to have to re-do his makeup. “Adrian!,” Hector called from down the hall and the blonde whirled, snarling. 

“What do you want?” he snapped out and refused the sympathy in the other man’s eyes. I don’t want your pity. I am happy with who I am and you can kiss my ass. This doesn’t matter and as soon as I can get out of the house and have a drink, I’ll remember that.

“I was told to remind you that you need to pick up your credit card and convey your thanks to the bartender, Sypha Belnades, for assisting you several times this month.”

Adrian opened his mouth to say something acidic and snapped his jaw shut when Hector withdrew an envelope from his jacket pocket. “Your father wants you to give this to her.”

“What the fuck?!” Adrian looked incredulously at the envelope. “Is he paying her to rat on me?” 

Sypha wasn’t anything special, pretty enough, well, okay, really great skin too but she’d always been nice to him. It’d been irritating in some ways, because she was clearly a do-gooder but that made it even more unbelievable that she was a paid snitch. 

Why should you be surprised? he thought. She’d make what, $200 a night there, maybe? Pocket change for Vlad.

Hector rolled his eyes. “You know, you are unbelievable. Did it ever occur to you that she wasn’t ‘ratting’ on you but was actually looking out for you? I saw your would-be partner the Friday before last and you would have been mugged for sure.”

“Cockblock,” he muttered, trying to remember which partner he was referring to. The truth was he couldn’t remember most of them or even what they did together. Not that it mattered.

“You are to apologize to her and the man who carried you out,” Adrian’s head snapped up, “and give her this money. Your father suggested that I remind you not to make any purchases at the establishment.” There was a flash of uncertainty over his face. “And told me to tell you that he has purchase alerts activated for your cards so he can monitor them in real time.”

Fucking hell, Adrian thought, the implications of what this really meant sinking in. This was humiliating and completely unreasonable. It was controlling and infuriating. 

It’s my fucking money, Adrian thought. Just because I have two more years before I have control over it, doesn’t mean he can do this!

“Fine!” Adrian fumed, ripping the envelope from Hector’s hand. “I’ll run his stupid errand and I’ll apologize to the little bartender and her boyfriend and then I am going shopping. Tell Vlad he can watch those alerts all fucking day!”

---

Trevor stopped at the vendor, gasping, and the slim woman passed him a bottle of cold water. Cracking it, he gulped down half and poured the rest over his head before slicking the errant strands of his hair back. He put the empty on the cart and blinked as the water dripped down his face.

“I have no idea how you can stand doing that,” she said with a laugh and accepted his credit card, charging the water before passing the card back. He tucked it in the little zipped pocket and grinned at her.

“After running six miles, believe me, it’s heaven,” he said. Simone clucked with concern.

“It’s almost 100 degrees out Trevor, you shouldn’t be running in this!” she exclaimed, scooping some of the frost out of the drink bin and dumping it in his waiting hand. They did this everyday and everyday he would tell her he was fine. 

“It’s the best part of my day,” he told her, winking. “I get to see you!” 

“Oh please,” she waved that off. “How was the night shift?”

Trevor thought about Sypha’s face in the flickering lights; animated, laughing, beautiful. “It was good,” he said, pressing the frost against his neck.

Simone arched a brow and tapped her fingers. “Mmmm, that was wistful.”

Trevor laughed, “Nah, just considering. I have to go back in a couple of hours to do the clean up and man, it’ll be less than good.”

“Really? Aren’t you a bouncer though?”

“Yep, but all of us do cleaning. Part of the contract and we rotate.” He didn’t mention that he normally wouldn’t be coming the night after working late but he’d asked Isaac if he could switch last night. 

He wanted to keep an eye on Sypha if Adrian or Vlad did come in at 2 pm. He didn’t trust either of them. She wasn’t cleaning but she would be in mid-way to stock the bar and do the early shift.

“You must love this job,” the blonde said jokingly. “Late nights, weird hours, toilet cleaning and getting punched in the face.” She pointed to the pale bruise under his eye. “Hope you got them back.”

He grimaced. “He won’t be back at least.”

They chatted a couple more minutes before he left the shade of her umbrella and headed back toward his apartment. Stripped to the waist, he sweated freely, tanned muscles gleaming and flexing as he jogged down the sidewalk.

He wasn’t completely oblivious to the admiring glances he got from the other occupants on the sidewalk but he wasn’t thinking about them. Irritatingly, he was actually thinking about Adrian. He’d always assumed the blonde got drunk because of his mother’s death but the scene with Vlad last night made him wonder.

Trevor had gotten cuffed by his father and mother from time to time but never like that. Never when he was defenceless and unaware. What kind of person did that? He couldn’t imagine. Especially a parent. 

He hadn’t told Sypha and was still unsure if he should.

After all, I can’t be absolutely sure that is what happened, he thought. It’s possible that I misunderstood the sound. But in his gut, he knew. So why aren’t you telling her? 

He didn’t have an answer for that one. The thing was that he didn’t want to have sympathy for Adrian so he was conflicted over it himself. It was easier to just see the spoiled brat who didn’t give a shit about anyone else than know that there was more hurt there than he had thought. 

He didn’t want to be dragged further into Sypha’s helping Adrian, it was messy enough. Trevor frowned. Morana had not been happy but fortunately she’d just given him a look and dismissed him. Sypha had been left to explain. He wanted to ask her if it was all okay today. 

Would Adrian actually show up for this ‘apology’? He wondered as he entered the park, waving at a running acquaintance with his bulldog. Trevor would lay money that he wouldn’t, but who knew what Vlad could force? 

Still, he couldn’t imagine Adrian--proud, snide, flirtatious, flippant Adrian, actually humbling himself enough for a heart-felt apology. Trevor tried to picture it. Long legs in something sheer, tapping toes in shining boots and probably one of those furs he was so fond of. 

Maybe not. It was fucking hot out and the middle of the day. So would he actually put a shirt on or would it be that pale, leanly muscular torso again? Why are you thinking about his chest? Trevor asked himself and made a face. He’d gotten sidetracked by fashion. 

Whatever Adrian wore it would be over the top and too skimpy, he thought. And that is if he shows up at all.

---

Sypha stretched in the sunlight and smiled. She was almost done dicing the vegetables and the smell of the soup base simmering on the stove was pleasantly warm in the small kitchen. 

She had work in less than an hour but her work clothes were already packed up. Sypha would stock in the outfit she was wearing and get ready afterwards in the bathroom.

The redhead intended to make muffins while the soup cooked. She would put both out to cool before she left and freeze the portions tomorrow. This way she’d have something nutritious and healthy for her early morning suppers and late afternoon breakfasts.

The tiny yodel of indignation at her feet drew her attention and she bent down to the small white cat with orange and brown spots. The cat affectionately head butted her hand and Sypha scratched her ears. “Bruja,” she cooed. “You woke up baby.”

The cat purrowred at her and Sypha picked her up for a cuddle. Bruja perched on her shoulder, purring loudly into her ear as she rinsed her hands and dried them on the teatowel. “Let’s get you some food, shall we?” 

Measuring out the dried kibble, she set the dish down on the floor and the feline scrambled down her arm to tuck into the meal as though she’d been without food for a week. Sypha giggled while she stroked Bruja’s little shoulder blades before returning to her sink to wash her hands.

Hands washed, she made quick work of the veggies, scraping them off the cutting board and into the soup base. Stirring the soup, she turned the heat up a few degrees and put the lid on. 

“Now, what kind of muffins should we make?” she asked the happily munching cat. Her phone vibrated from the bedroom and she stepped across the hall and into the bright, neat space. Her cell phone was on the bureau and she turned it over.

“Bring your headphones--Belmont won the music lottery,” Morana had texted. Sypha laughed. Morana would be muting it in her office. Whoever was on the cleaning crew would throw their names into a hat and the winner got to load their Spotify choice onto the sound system for the two hour cleaning spree.

Trevor liked punk. Sypha didn’t mind some of it and had actually fallen into a pretty big crush on Brody Dalle as a result. He’d teased her about Dalle but owned up to his own crush on Brody pretty quick. Trevor was always fair about stuff like that.

Speaking of fair, actually, she thought as she watched the dots on the screen and waited for Morana’s next message, I owe him for helping me last night.

“Also, don’t forget, split shift in the VIP with Striga--mandatory skirt or dress and heels. Don’t start, I know; she’s mad about it too. Blame Lenore for still being sick. You want early or close?”

Sypha made a face. Usually Lenore and Carmilla worked the VIP section tending but Lenore had been out for three days now with what had truly sounded like the worst stomach flu ever. 

She’d avoided working that section simply because she liked staying safely behind the bar. It protected her from groping and she didn’t have to do the tiny skirt and heels. 

Thankfully, Carmilla was eye-catching and attracted the patrons a lot more with her tall frame, generous curves and low cut dresses. She was also organized, clever and a fabulous judge of character. On the downside, Carmilla was very picky about not sharing tips and how Sypha worked ‘her’ bar.

Sighing she texted back an affirmative and asked for the earlier shift. It would be easier to avoid the groping if the customers weren’t smashed yet. She could be safely behind her usual bar by the time the night was reaching that point.

Actually, she thought quickly, I wonder if Trevor could get assigned to VIP tonight? She snickered. He wouldn’t appreciate it. Carmilla had made several increasingly aggressive overtures to him that he had flatly refused. 

Sypha knew he was embarrassed by the last two, which were apparently very revealing sexts Carmilla had sent to him. And if she was just a tiny bit grateful that he wasn’t interested in Carmilla, that was her own failing.

You aren’t going to date him, so why shouldn’t he have the chance to be happy with Carmilla? She thought and made a face. The truth was, she was closer than she’d ever been to breaking her rule about mixing business and romance.

Sypha decided to leave it; it wouldn’t be fair to him and she already owed Trevor one for Adrian last night. 

“Should I make him some muffins?” she asked Bruja as she returned to the kitchen. Phone in hand, she opened Spotify and selected the punk playlist he’d shared with her a couple of weeks ago. 

It was probably-- yep, hahah, she thought, it was the one he was listening to right now. One more thing she had to thank Trevor for actually, and it decided her. She would bring him some muffins.

---

C-c-c-c-c-come on, babe
I've never needed you so bad
You were born on a full moon, but baby
I'm the only one howlin', baby, baby, baby
Come on and give me the keys back
I never meant to deceive you
I was born on a bad moon
Baby, baby, baby
Oh babe, I would die for you
Oh babe, I will never stray
Oh babe, I would die for you
Oh babe, I will never leave
C-c-c-c-c-come on, babe
I never knew that you needed me
I was born on the wrong side
The wrong side, the wrong side of everything
Kn-kn-kn-knives in the kitchen
Sh-sh-sh-sheets on the bed
It's just another distraction
From the love that we have

-"All Babes Are Wolves," Spinnerette

Chapter Text

For probably the eighteenth time in the six weeks he’d worked at Speakers, Trevor was so grateful that his parents had made him pull his weight. It taught him the value of work and how to be efficient and thorough. 

Sure, he didn’t love scrubbing toilets or mopping floors or disinfecting surfaces but he could do it and do it well. He also could do it in half the time as some of the other staff.

Which meant that he could take his sweet time wiping off the tables he’d been assigned to because he was ahead of schedule. And if this meant he could watch Sypha’s cute ass on the step stool while she stocked, well, that was just a happy coincidence, right?

In his opinion she was built perfectly; strong, slim but appealingly curved everywhere that counted. When she bent down to get another bottle of Absolut, those shorts creased just right under the curve of her ass and he decided that life was pretty fucking perfect today.

As he watched her move he thought about why she was so appealing to him. Sypha was no pushover and she did her part. Smart, independent and self-assured, he wasn’t ashamed to admit he was intimidated by how fabulous she was sometimes. She was tough, clever, inspiring and kind, with legs that made him want to do battle for her favor. So yeah, perfect.

She’d said hey to him when he’d passed the bar and they’d had a quick word when she asked what time his break was but otherwise he was just thirsting from afar today. 

His break was in 15 minutes and he intended to spend all of it getting as many laughs and smiles out of her as he could. Her laugh was so charming and carefree and it made his belly clench every time he heard it. Every time he saw that cute dimple wink and her eyes crinkle.

You’ve got it bad, Trevor, he told himself, holding a one-sided argument about how fucking creepy it was that he was scoping her out when they were supposed to just be friends. But when she put her hands over her head and stretched, his mind went blank but to want.

Her t-shirt rode up, snug to dainty breasts that would nestle into his palm like they belonged there. The fabric gave way to expose pale, pretty skin with the faintest rose flush from her exertions. 

Would her skin pink like that if we made love? He wondered and a tiny groan escaped him. 

This was, of course, exactly what he shouldn’t be thinking of. Too late, his desire cheerfully informed him. Now he could see her pressed up against the counter, legs wrapped around him. That long, fiery hair cascading over his arms as her head fell back and she sobbed out his name. 

The muscles in his belly tensed and he sat down abruptly. He was a little too aroused to stay standing. Great, now you’re stuck here for a minute, good going, he thought. But the image stayed and oh man, it was a good one.

Sypha folded up her stool and stowed it. She straightened and looked around. It was a close thing but he managed to avert his eyes and studiously scrub the table as she turned to him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her grin when she saw him, and his heart flip-flopped. 

Don’t do that, don’t be the dick who wants more than there is, he told himself.

“Trevor!” she called out to him and he looked up. “Break in 15?” 

He gave her a thumbs up; that was perfect. He needed at least five minutes to calm down. She gave him a double thumbs up and headed toward the back. Don’t look at her ass, you’ll just make it worse.

Or better, his dick crowed happily as he watched the sway of her hips and slight jiggle of her ass disappear into the back rooms. Gimme all of that.

Fourteen minutes later he was stowing the spray bottle and tossing the rags into the hamper for the cleaners when he heard her laugh and turned. It was a blessing from heaven because it gave him a chance to collect himself before she saw him.

She was walking with Striga and carrying a large Tupperware. They were joking about working the VIP. He didn’t realize that she ever worked VIP-- ugh, poor thing that close to Carmilla, he thought. But that would explain her outfit.

Normally Sypha wore black pants and some kind of dark top to work. Occasionally something form-fitting and on the days like today, when she had to stock, it was shorts and a T-shirt. She always looked great but this was something else.

You’ve seen women wear less, he thought. 

But they aren’t her, his heart whispered. 

He thought it might be the heels. He’d never seen Sypha in heels and these were not only heels but suede, leg-hugging thigh high boots. Thigh high boots that didn’t touch the hem of her skirt and looked like they’d be soft and slinky to touch. He loved boots and Sypha wore them so well.

The black dress was simple, form fitting and covered her completely from throat to wrist, ending mid-thigh. She’d done something seductive with her hair, taming it into a sleek wave and parting it so she peeked from it. She usually wore make-up but she’d exaggerated it, a deep crimson pout and black wings tipped in electric green around her eyes.

Trevor would have cheerfully given anything for the right to touch her at this moment. She was classy, sexy, stunning and out of his league. Suddenly he was incredibly aware of how he smelled like cleaning chemicals and sweat and the shabbiness of his faded jeans and worn t-shirt.

Striga saw him and waved casually and the spell was broken. He nodded, sucked in his breath and moved out of the small nook. Sypha’s face lit up. “There you are; perfect timing!” she remarked.

“Afternoon Belmont, thanks for the good tunes today,” Striga remarked and he grinned.

“You’re most welcome and apologies to your wife,” he said cheerfully. Striga snorted and shook her head. “Lucky for you, you’re a good worker and Morana is fair, otherwise I think you’d be out of the music pool.”

Trevor made puppy eyes at her. “You’d never let that happen, right?”

“Well…” Striga said and then roared when his face fell. When she clapped him on the shoulder, he staggered slightly. The strength of the woman was unbelievable. “You’re good Belmont, but I am immune to your charms remember? Grow some tits and we’ll talk.” Chuckling she moved down the hallway and he turned to Sypha.

She was smiling at him and her cheeks crinkled her eyes so prettily. “She likes you, you know. Your music privileges are perfectly safe.”

What about my heart, murmured the organ in question and he decided it was best to ignore that right now.

“Oh good, I want to be all good with my boss because I like it here,” he said easily. 

“Which is fortunate because ‘here’ likes you too,” she said. “I know I am really glad to have you here.” She held out the container to him, “Not the least of which because you’re really awesome about helping me with Adrian.”

Trevor winced. “Ah, yeah, about that Sypha, he’s a mess. Are you sure you want to keep sticking your neck out for him? He doesn’t even appreciate it.”

Sypha’s smile slipped wistfully into unhappiness. She sighed. “Yeah, I know Trevor.” She nodded toward the lounge. “Let’s go sit for a minute and I’ll try to explain.”

He followed her out, helping her scoot her chair back in while she laughed about her stupid heels. The image of her up against the bar came back but this time those boots were wrapped around his hips. Don’t go there or you’ll have to hold this Tupperware in a very questionable way, he thought.

That brought his attention back to the container and he opened the lid. The smell of warm baking wafted up and diverted him instantly. He clutched the Tupperware like it was a chest of gold and inhaled sharply. It looked like muffins, and chocolate chip at that. 

“Holy shit Sypha, are these chocolate chip banana muffins?!” he asked her, unaware of his reverent tone or the absolute glee on his face.

He heard the amusement in her voice but when he tore his eyes off the golden treats to look at her, her eyes were soft and pleased.

“Yes, they are chocolate chip banana, but they’re actually not too bad nutrition-wise. They’re made with spelt flour and applesauce.” She gestured broadly at him. “I figured nutrition would matter to you.”

They could have been made with four cups of sugar and he wouldn’t have given a good damn. Trevor was weak for baked goods and had been since he was a kid sneaking cookies off the cooling rack. Still, he appreciated the thought.

I like that you noticed, he thought hopefully. Maybe you like it? Trevor knew that some people thought he was appealing but he also knew that there were plenty that would just call him passable. Attraction was a very personal thing. 

He carefully peeled the liner off and took a giant bite. “Ummyuckingessss,” he groaned around the pure happiness of muffin in his mouth. They were amazing, slightly crisp on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside. 

Sypha giggled. “I’m glad you like them! I just wanted to say thank you for your help with Adrian this month. I was listening to the punk list you shared with me too so it’s a double thanks.”

This almost made up for having to deal with Tepes, he thought. Almost. He polished off the muffin and went for another. “I love this ‘thank you;’ it’s my favorite and they are so good. Thank you.”

“Well I am really happy then, you deserve it.” Her sigh broke his gleeful reverie and he looked up. “I know Adrian annoys you and I am really sorry.”
His mouth too full of muffin to answer, he just shrugged. “That’s sweet of you but really, he’s a handful and I know it. It’s just that…” She tapped her finger. “He can be incredibly lovely sometimes and he wasn’t like this, you know, before.”

Trevor swallowed, choosing his words carefully. “Did you know him before?” Was there a thing between you? He wanted to ask but told himself that was too personal. 

Sypha shook her head. “No, not really. I mean, I saw him around but we never interacted. Sometimes though, I can see who he actually is?” She shook her head. “Well, who I think he probably is when he isn’t drunk out of his damn mind.”

Trevor munched thoughtfully. There was a wistfulness here that he didn’t understand and he felt like he was missing something. 

“I know it seems ridiculous,” she continued. “I don’t even know him but it feels like such a waste. Like he could be better, deserves better?” She shifted and gave him a sad smile. “I just don’t want to see him ruin his life or worse.”

She is too kind, he thought. The echo of the crack of Vlad’s slap skittered across his consciousness and he sighed. No one deserves that, he thought again. She’s right; he deserves better. 

“Sypha, I think I understand.” He put down the muffin and looked at her. “He--,” A flash of glitter and Trevor stared. “He’s here.”

Was he ever. I was right about the over the top and skimpy, he thought.

Boots again, sleek leather and gold platforms with stiletto heels that hugged his calves like a lover. Tight black patent leather pants that slicked over his figure and peeked flawless skin through lace up sides. Surprisingly, he was wearing a shirt but really, ‘wearing’ was a stretch of the definition.

The transparent, black blouse with a floral motif picked out in satin thread and sequins was completely unbuttoned to show that pale, muscular chest. His sun kissed blonde locks cascaded down one side. He stalked forward like a model, the pale purple lighting striking the shimmer on his cheekbones and lips.

Sypha turned in her chair and he heard her small inhale of surprise. At least he hoped it was surprise, and not desire. The blonde saw them and Trevor saw his jaw tighten. The bouncer’s eyes narrowed. Adrian was spoiling for a fight.

“Sypha,” Adrian said with a sneer and Trevor bristled.

“Hey Adrian,” she said calmly. “How are you today?”

“I’m here for my credit card,” he told her, just as bitchy, and Trevor put his muffin down. All thoughts of sympathy fled under the rudeness to Sypha.

“Oh, of course, let me go grab that for you, one second,” she pushed her chair back and carefully balanced herself on the heels before striding off.

Adrian looked around and his gaze landed on the muffins. “Are those chocolate chip?” he asked suddenly. 

Oh fuck no, these are--! Trevor thought but that long slim hand with black polish was already on one of his precious muffins and it was ascending to Adrian’s mouth.

“Hey!” Trevor growled. “That’s mine!” When those gold eyes met his in a defiant staredown, the bouncer knew he was going to lose a muffin and he was pissed. Adrian took a big bite of the baked good, chewing slowly and something flickered in his eyes, throwing Trevor off guard.

Was that grief? He wondered but it was gone so quickly that he couldn’t be sure. “That’s such a dick move Tepes, that was my muffin!” he said.

Adrian smirked, unpeeling the muffin before he swallowed his first bite. “It’s just a muffin, Trevor. Not your girlfriend’s virginity.”

Trevor felt his temper climb dangerously. “You owe me a muffin you ungrateful little shit!”

Adrian’s mouth dropped into a belligerent line and he gave Trevor the finger while he went to take another bite. That’s it! Belmont thought angrily and grabbed Adrian’s wrist. 

He rose out of his seat, leaned over the hand with the muffin, opened his mouth and took a huge bite from it. Skirting around the table as he munched, he held onto the blonde’s wrist, determined to get the rest.

“Hey, what the fuck, I was gonna eat that!” Adrian yelled angrily and lunged with an open mouth for the remaining muffin in his hand. Trevor twisted his arm expertly, whirling the blonde around so his back slammed against the bouncer’s chest and the hand with the muffin was safely tucked between them. 

When Adrian purred happily and ground his ass into Trevor’s hips the bouncer released him like he was an electrical cord sparking. “What the fuck are you doing?!” he asked Adrian angrily. The blonde had pawed at him when he was drunk, but this was daytime and he was sober.

Adrian turned back and winked at him before popping the rest of the muffin in his mouth. “Gotcha,” he said smugly. 

“You’re such an asshole,” Trevor said sullenly and plopped back down on his chair, quickly putting the lid on the muffins and tucking them safely on his lap.

“Ooooh, are you sure you want to put them that close to your dick, Belmont?” Adrian asked with an arched brow and a knowing smile. Trevor gave him a warning look.

“Try it and I’ll break your fingers,” he warned. “And you still owe me for my muffin, damn it.”

Adrian rolled his eyes and flagged down a waitress. “Martini, darling, and please break this for me?” He put a hundred on the table. She counted out the change and he tossed a tip on her tray. Trevor hated that he grudgingly respected that the tip was generous.

When Adrian passed him a $20 he blinked. “What’s this for?” he asked, leaving the money on the table.

The blonde leaned back in his chair. “Muffin money,” he said coolly. 

Trevor sneered. “I don’t want your money, I want my damn muffin. A homemade, chocolate chip, and banana and spelt muffin!”

“I can make more,” Sypha’s voice came from behind him and she slid the plastic card on the table to Adrian. “It’s not a problem.”

“He stole it,” Trevor said crossly and the blonde stuck his tongue out.

“Stop it, children,” Sypha said as the waitress returned with the drink. Sypha looked at the blonde. “It’s 2:10 pm Adrian, don’t you think it’s a little early for a drink?”

“No, I think it’s a little late, actually,” he retorted and took a sip. Sypha looked at him quietly for a moment and Trevor tensed, waiting for the confrontation. It never came.

“Did you steal the muffin because you are hungry? Did you eat today?” she asked him conversationally. Adrian’s brows rose.

“Are you going to feed me?” he asked curiously. Sypha laughed and Trevor felt his shoulders relax, even as he sighed internally. She was going to take care of him again. 

“No, I have to go work VIP now, but,” she plucked the $20 off the table and waved it at him. “You are going to feed yourself. Any allergies?”

Adrian looked pained. “I don’t want bar food, it’s filled with carbs.”

“You’re in luck,” Sypha said smoothly. “They have a carb-free special today. It’s a chicken napa salad and I’m betting you are a vinaigrette man, aren’t you?”

The blonde looked hesitant. “Is it actually good?” he asked and her smile was encouraging.

“I promise,” she said and he wavered a moment longer before nodding. 

“Okay, I’ll try it,” he said. Trevor’s jaw dropped as the blonde smiled at her, an authentic and sweetly beaming grin. “Thank you Sypha, that’s very thoughtful of you.”

Wow, I didn’t know that was in there, Trevor thought, unsure and a little uneasy. Was this just another mask of Adrian or was this the person Sypha saw sometimes? The person that made her keep helping him even when he spit in her face?

He caught Adrian’s eye and those long lashes narrowed, the smile dropping. Abruptly the blonde stood and picked up his drink. “I’ll take it in VIP, please,” he told Sypha and walked off toward the stairs.

She frowned and then looked at Trevor, her expression a little worried. “I’m sorry he stole your muffins, I can make more, really. He’s just embarrassed about last night.”

Not a chance he is, Trevor thought but kept it to himself. “I wouldn’t say no to more,” he said instead and stood. “But I better get going, my shift is done in 20 and I’ve got to be back tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Sypha shook her head. “No, you’ll see me tonight. I’m pulling a double because of Lenore. Well, a ‘one and a half,’ haha.”

He winced. “Well that sucks, I am sorry. Watch out for Carmilla.”

Her laugh was appreciative. “Come visit me and distract her.”

Trevor shuddered, making an exaggerated gagging face. “No thanks, I’m still scarred from that pic she sent me.”

“I still can’t believe you didn’t share,” Sypha said teasingly and he gave her a look.

“I told you, my phone burst into flames when I opened that cursed text.”

Sypha tossed her hair and peeked at him over her shoulder. “Remind me not to send you any nudes, Trevor Belmont. Don’t want to sacrifice your phone to the volcano gods.”

“I’d risk it,” he managed, watching those legs mount the stairs confidently.

“I’ll keep it in mind, maybe someday,” she said sweetly and waved goodbye.

“And it’s all I’ll think about until you do,” he murmured.

---

It's Friday, in the underground
I'm in London, lost in the crowd
And I see you, yeah, I see you
Mm, stylin', with that confidence
When you're smiling, I don't stand a chance
But I see you, yeah, baby, I see you

Tell me, how would you feel if I ever come and talk to you
My mind is telling me something, it's telling me to make a move
I swear, don't usually do this, but something's coming over me
But I can't hide the way I'm feeling

You're wicked when you work it out
Oh, you're wicked when you work it
Not trying to get with you
Just trying to figure you out now

-”Wicked” (ODC Remix), Tyler Shaw

Chapter Text

Adrian was entirely too sober for his liking. The fight with his father, realizing that Sypha wasn’t just friendly but paid to be, the nasty feeling of being used by everyone around him--he hated it all and wanted to think about something else.

The alternative thoughts though, were equally annoying. He’d been thrown when he saw Sypha. The shocking thrust of desire that had pressed itself against his body had made him especially sharp with her.

He’d tried to repress it, distract himself with the muffins. But the gentle lift of her breasts when she leaned over to slide his credit card across the table brought it all back. It was still lingering even now, and watching her move around the space was his own personal hell.

He brought his drink to his mouth, faintly wishing it would hold the delicate scent of her that had drifted past him when she’d served him. That sweetened honey, soft orange and spicy basil that seemed to beg for him to take a bite.

Think about something else! He told himself crossly and took a sip. His mind wandered to Trevor.

The incredible strength of the brunette when he’d forced Adrian’s arm toward him, the neat white flash of teeth and the scraping nip on his pinky. The quiet cinnamon scent that he’d noticed before. The flare of excitement when the bouncer twisted him around and brought the blonde’s body up against his front.

The truth was, he’d instinctively arched his ass into Trevor. It hadn’t been a revenge thing at all, but for his pride’s sake, he’d played it off that way.

I should have stuck with my original problematic thoughts, he thought as he sulked into his martini. He knew better than to think either of them would consider going home with him. Trevor was as straight an arrow as he’d ever seen and never given him any indication he’d be into men.

And Sypha? Well, as much as it grated him, Sypha seemed too together for a one night stand. She was terrifyingly capable and frankly, it was intimidating. Besides, she seemed like the kind of woman who would want to cuddle and tell you she loved you at the end. That was definitely not his style.

It made him think of the muffins. Biting into one had abruptly turned him into an eight year old boy anxiously awaiting the moment that the muffins would be cool enough to taste. The slim, lovely hands that presented one to him with a beautiful smile and a wink. The warm, buttery happiness of tasting something made with love, while feeling the same love in the gaze of his mother. 

They’d made muffins together every Sunday. She didn’t cook their meals but their muffin time was sacred. Every morning in the week after he would have one to start his day and be reminded she adored him. Every morning his father would have one and Adrian would feel like it was something that connected them.

Adrian ate one of the olives and thought about his father. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, this ultimatum was a real problem. He had no intention of changing anything, regardless of Vlad’s threats, but he had no claim to any of the money in his trust for another two years. His father was the conservator until then and actually could cut him off.

How to prevent his father from knowing he was still drinking? He needed a plan, some way to ensure that he had a place to stay that wouldn’t alert Vlad, and a way to pay for it. 

The blonde thought about the envelope Hector had given him for Sypha. She would be expecting that money but maybe there was a way to get what he needed from the giving of it. What kind of apartment would she have? Could he maybe crash there until he was sober and then call for a pick-up in the morning? He wrinkled his nose, debating it.

There was a reason that he brought people home and didn’t go to their place. Adrian liked his luxuries and his own space. He refused to sleep on subpar bedding and needed his toiletries and his bidet and his silk robe and his quadruple-headed shower in the morning. But...

Would slumming it be worse than being kicked out? He had nowhere to go if Vlad kicked him out. He sighed. He could bring his own sheets and toiletries and store them there. Maybe even order an orthopaedic mattress--he could charge that to his credit card without it being a problem.

If Vlad asked, he could say he was helping a friend…

What friend would you buy a mattress for? He thought. It was an uncomfortable reminder. Adrian didn’t really have friends that he was that close to. Whatever, Vlad doesn’t know that, he doesn’t pay attention to those aspects of my life.

He watched Sypha smile at another patron, the platform boots giving her ass a little bounce as she went back to the bar to put their order in. It might be a little bonus if she got to know him a little better too. He would love it if she overheard him fucking one of his dates and decided to join in. Threesomes could be incredible and it was an easy way to sidestep her getting too serious about him.

Adrian smirked. His father never said he couldn’t drink, in fact, Vlad said that he knew he couldn’t stop him. Specifically, he just had to be sure that Vlad didn’t have to pick him up drunk, see him drunk or know that he was still paying for Adrian’s booze. This was a neat way to resolve all of those stipulations and still do what he wanted.

Decided, he waved her down and patted the seat beside him. “Got a minute?” he asked. She looked back at Carmilla and put up two fingers. The woman gave her a thumbs up. 

“Sure, I have two minutes, what’s up?” she asked, folding herself neatly onto the lounge. When she crossed her legs, his eyes went to the boots. They really were nice. Not great of course, but nice. The legs in them were better.

“I have been thinking,” he said. “It’s gotta be annoying for you to have to call my father to come pick me up.”

“Annoying isn’t the word for it, Adrian,” she said with a concerned look. “I worry about you and I want you to be safe.”

This was a perfect segue way for him and he took it. “That’s nice; I appreciate that. I was thinking that there is a better way to ensure that I am safe and a way for you to make more money than whatever my father gives you for calling him.”

Sypha looked confused. “Your father doesn’t pay me.”

“Really?” Adrian’s eyes narrowed. Sypha was stupidly easy to read and he didn’t see her as a good liar. She seemed truly confused. Maybe the money really was a thank you?  he wondered.

“Okay, sorry about that, I just thought he did. Well, anyway, how about a way for you to make extra money without a hassle?”

Sypha laughed. “I’d say it’s too good to be true.” Encouraged, Adrian put his drink down and leaned in.

“It could be, for both of us. I was hoping you’d consider letting me come home with you. I would give you $500 for the weekend and we’ll see if it’s a good fit for something more steady.”

Sypha’s jaw dropped. Her eyes grew huge and suddenly furious. Her hand came up and for a moment he was sure she would strike him. Instead, hand shaking even as it hovered, she flew up from the couch, whirled swiftly and went back to the bar.

He watched her slam her tray down on the bar and speak to Carmilla, who straightened abruptly and looked in his direction. Even across the lounge, he could feel the freezing burn.

What did I say? He thought. Carmilla came over, distinctly unfriendly.

“I think you need to go downstairs,” she said coolly.

“What did I do?” he asked incredulously. “I just asked her if I could go home with her, just for the weekend!”

“Wow,” Carmilla said, her voice dropping into sub-zero temperatures, “You are something else, you know that? Sypha looks out for you, and your way of saying thanks is to treat her like she’s a whore. Time to leave.” Carmilla pointed to the stairs as Adrian’s mouth fell open.

“Oh my God, no! No! Holy shit, that is not what I meant, I literally meant a place to crash!” He looked over her shoulder to see Sypha going down the stairs. He leapt to his feet and skirted Carmilla. 

“Hey! Wait a second, you can’t--!” Carmilla started but Adrian was faster.

“Sypha! Sypha, wait! I didn’t mean it like that! I don’t want to fuck you!” he bellowed over the railing.

The timing was so horribly wrong. The music ended just as he raised his voice for the last sentence and practically everyone in the bar turned to stare at him. It was a small gift that it was before the dinner crowd but there was still thirty people to witness this complete fuck up.

Sypha turned midway down the stairs to glare at him. Unbelievably he could see a blush rising on her cheeks, a weird hue of burnt orange and lilac staining her skin from the colored lights. She stalked back up the stairs, close enough for her to be heard but keeping the railing between them.

There was real anger and hurt in her voice when she spoke, “You! How dare you humiliate me like this at work! I have put my neck out for you, defended you, and stupidly, I’ve even worried about you! And you would treat me like this at work?!” With horror, he could see tears starting to form. 

“Oh God, please don’t cry! Please, I’m sorry, I said it all wrong, I meant just to stay with--!” Sypha had already turned away and was making her way down the stairs. He saw Trevor coming across the floor to meet her at the bottom of the stairs but she shook her head and headed toward the back.

When his eyes met the brunette’s he felt the shockwave of anger and shrank from it. Could this have gone any worse?  He asked himself and stepped away from the railing to settle with Carmilla and leave.

-----

Sypha was furious with herself and with Adrian. Carefully she dabbed her eyes, mindful of her make-up. She was embarrassed she’d left Carmilla like that, it was unprofessional. I’ll tell her to keep the tips from this shift, she thought.

The redhead had just needed the space from the bar for a moment. She paced the alley behind the bar, keeping a generous space between the garbage and her. Last thing she needed to do was smell all evening.

“I can’t believe him!” she muttered again and felt the blush rise again. The truth was that she’d stupidly thought that they were friends. Not close ones and not something that would hold once he found another bar to hang out at, but he’d never directly disrespected her, swore at her, or grabbed her.

“No, instead he just suggests that he come home with you... for money,” she hissed. The dumb thing was she probably would have just laughed if not for that. It wasn’t the first time he hit on her, although usually he was considerably more inebriated.

But having him bellow across the bar that he didn’t want to fuck her was so much worse. It opened her to all sorts of talk from the patrons and staff and made them wonder if she’d slept with him or propositioned him. Worse case scenario, she’d have other patrons suggesting things to her for a while, which was exhausting and annoying.

“Sypha?” his voice came quietly and she looked up. Trevor stood at the mouth of the alley a respectful distance and she took a deep breath. She needed to be calm. Trevor already didn’t like Adrian and she didn’t need to make it worse.

Why are you still protecting him?  She asked herself and didn’t have an answer. “Hey Trevor, it’s cool, I’m just taking a minute here.” She stepped toward him.

“I don’t want to intrude, I just wanted to let you know that Adrian left and Morana said take your time. Carmilla told her.” She could see the simmering anger in his shoulders and skirting his carefully calm expression.

Sypha felt her heart sink. “Carmilla told you too,” she said. He nodded and she tried for levity. “You braved the sex den to find out, hey?”

His mouth quirked at that and he pointed to his neck, “Suffered some vamp bites and claws for it though.” His eyes softened as she came closer. “Worth it.”

“Maybe if you like to be bitten,” she joked and burst into laughter as he gave an exaggerated considering face. “Okay Mr. Belmont! Duly noted!”

“Not looking for that from Carmilla though,” he said with a grin and her heart squeezed. 

If only we’d met some other way, she thought. I’d love to give you some teeth marks.

His grin faded and his eyes grew serious. “I’m so sorry, Sypha, he is such an asshole.”

“Nah, it’s just Adrian being Adrian,” she said. “He caught me off guard, that’s all.”

Trevor shook his head slowly. “No Sypha, what he said was inexcusably rude and incredibly presumptuous. You don’t have to take that from anyone.”

The sincerity of his voice settled her anger. “No, I don’t and I didn’t, so it’s all good."

“I’m actually off now,” Trevor said easily, “but I will be back tonight. I will wash your Tupperware and bring it back. Could I put something in it for you? Have a favorite take-out place?”

She melted. “You are just the sweetest man, you know that?” Before she really thought about it, she stood on her tiptoes, balancing her hand on his bicep and kissed his cheek. Warm cinnamon smoke curled into her nostrils and the rasp of his stubble against her lips made her shiver. 

She felt him tense and immediately regretted invading his space. You don’t do things like that without asking, she thought, especially to a man who you want to be friends with and don't want to lead on. She stepped back.

“I’m sorry, I should have asked if that was okay, I just--,” the look on his face stopped her. They stared at each other for a moment and his eyes dropped to her lips. His hand came up, hesitant and slow. She looked at him and his eyes came back to hers. When she felt his finger tips in her hair, the burn of desire pressed its thumb against her windpipe.

“Sypha,” he murmured. “Don’t be sorry, I--.” The side door banged open and they both jumped. The busboy was hauling out the garbage from the kitchen before the dinner rush.

“Time to go!” she said with a shaky laugh, even as her heart ached.

“Yeah,” he murmured, “time to go.”

You can’t do this to him, she thought to herself as they went back into Speakers. It’s not fair and it’s confusing for him. You have to make a decision and stick to it; will you risk an office romance or will you risk losing a friend?

She didn't have an answer, for either of them.

Sypha was still thinking about it almost seven hours later when she saw the blonde mane among the dancers. Sypha groaned loudly, startling the small brunette she was serving. “You okay?” the girl asked her and the redhead apologized.

“Just saw my ex,” she told her and the girl clucked sympathetically. Sypha felt guilty when she left a large tip in her jar but couldn’t do anything about it.

What the fuck is Adrian doing back here?!? She wondered. Why she was surprised, she didn’t know. He was shameless; he probably just shrugged it off. She doubted he even would remember he’d insulted her by morning.

She thought about what Morana had said when she caught Sypha between the VIP shift and her regular shift. The owner had told her that it was up to the bartender whether or not she chose to serve him in the future. Morana couldn’t outright ban him for it, but she could limit contact between them. She stressed that if Adrian touched Sypha, at all, she could and would ban him.

Sypha had calmed down by then and shook her head. She’d see him banned to stop the drinking in a heartbeat, but for this? It wasn’t in her to do it. The stricken look on his face as he begged her not to cry haunted her. When she’d replayed it in her head she kept hearing him say he didn’t mean it like that. Probably thought I’d be flattered, she’d thought indignantly.

The owner had just looked at her with wise, beautiful blue eyes and quietly said, “Be careful Sypha. You have a soft spot for him and he’ll hurt you. Don’t be alone with him. You cannot trust an addict.”

The bartender hadn’t actually decided whether she would serve him or not; she thought she’d have more time to think about it. 

On one hand, it would help her not feel so entangled with him and like she was aiding him in his own demise. On the other hand, she wouldn’t be able to keep as close an eye on him and… She watched him take the stairs to the VIP and let out a breath.

He was getting his drinks from Carmilla then. That made it easier to avoid him tonight and somehow stung at the same time. “What do you want, Sypha; you can’t have it both ways! He obviously remembered he hurt your feelings and is trying to make it easier on you!” she muttered to herself.

God forbid he say he was sorry and mean it though. She felt badly about even thinking that. He had said he was sorry. It had felt like he meant he was sorry she’d taken it badly, not sorry he’d try to buy her though. Her temper bubbled a little at that again. It was incredibly insulting.

You don’t have to take that from anyone, she heard Trevor’s words again. Damn right I don’t, she thought with pride.

The last hour of her shift went in a blur and after last call came she closed her till with relief. Wiping down the counter, she decided to take a quick break with a cold drink before tackling putting the supplies back. She served herself a Sprite, called up to explain she'd be back, and made her way to the front door. 

Trevor wasn’t there; he was helping Isaac with something in the back, so she went for a little walk down the block. Slowly taking in the night sky and city lights, she slipped her soft drink through the metal straw. 

She made a mental list as she strolled. The side cabinet needed a wipe down as well as the margarita station. She’d knocked over a long island iced tea and barely cleaned it up in the midnight rush. The sounds of people chattering and doors slamming faded as she reached the end of the block.

When Adrian’s quiet voice came from behind her she stiffened and turned. He was standing about ten feet from her, hands hooked in his waistband. Something was wrong and it took a moment to realize that he wasn’t swaying. She had never seen him upright at last call.

“I’m sorry,” he said and it was so sincere that her anger quieted. “And I’m sorry that you probably don’t want to talk to me anymore. I swear I wasn’t proposing to pay to sleep with you. I would never, that’s not--you aren’t--.”

He swallowed. “You probably wouldn’t say we were but I thought of us as kinda, maybe like, friends. I wouldn’t do that to a friend.” He shrugged. “Believe it or not, I don’t pay for sex.” There was a tinge of pride in the words and Sypha resisted rolling her eyes. She was perfectly aware there were plenty of people who’d sleep with him for free. She’d seen them.

“Anyway, I just wanted to say I am sorry, really sorry and thank you for always looking out for me.” He turned to go and Sypha found her voice.

“What were you offering me money for then Adrian? If you weren’t asking me to, you know, then what was it?” She couldn’t give a damn about the money, but she needed to know. She wanted to believe him, wanted to believe that he wasn’t so cruel.

He turned back and there was a rueful look on his face. “I need a place to crash for the weekend. Literally just sleep and leave. My father told me not to come home tonight and I figured…”

“Why not a hotel?” she asked and he shook his head.

“I need a credit card to do that and he cut them off.”

“So you have nowhere to go tonight?” she asked him, disbelieving but worried.

“No, I have options. I can go to a place that will accept cash, but…”

He didn’t have to finish the sentence. Any place that would take cash but no credit card would be a real dive. He could get mugged or worse there. “What about friends?” she asked him and immediately regretted it. Adrian never came in with friends. Adrian never left with friends.

He looked away. “It’s fine, really, I’ll figure something out.”

Sypha stepped up to him and looked him in the eye. “You aren’t trying to mess with me, right?” she asked and he met her gaze. Slowly, he shook his head.

“Here’s the deal. I’m going to say yes to this, but there are conditions here.” Adrian’s eyes widened and that electric grin flashed over his mouth.

“Really?! Oh my gosh, thank you! Thank you so much!”

“Conditions, Adrian!” Sypha said seriously and he settled, eyes wide, nodding.

“First of all, I have a nice place and I don’t want it messed up, okay? You may stay overnight, and have breakfast, but then you need to go.”

He nodded. “Second of all, I have a cat. Her name is Bruja. Are you allergic?” He shook his head. “Good.”

She looked at him sternly. “Bruja is my baby. Under no circumstances are you to mess with her or I swear you’ll be out so fast your head will spin. If there’s an issue, let me know. Do not push her, kick her, swat her, or otherwise touch her without kindness.”

“Absolutely; I like pets so we are good,” Adrian said smoothly.

“Lastly, no company. There’s not anyone getting laid in that apartment and it’s going to stay that way.” She watched him carefully. Adrian pouted a moment but then nodded. 

Sypha debated reiterating that this included herself but decided against it. He’d apologized and indicated twice that he didn’t have any sexual feelings for her. Adrian had never physically harassed anyone in Speakers, including herself. Well, except for Trevor, but that was when he was really smashed and in Trevor’s arms. Frankly, she’d probably have made a move too in that situation, so she couldn’t really judge.

“Alright, I have to clean up my station and then we can head back to my place.” She paused. “You also cannot tell anyone you are staying with me. Like anyone. I don’t want to lose my job and people are already wondering about us because of this afternoon.”

Adrian’s grin was suggestive and amused. “I mean, let them wonder baby,” he murmured and she sighed.

“I’m serious Adrian.” He held up his hands. 

“Hey, you’re the boss,” he said.

I sure don't feel like it, she thought and wondered if 'the boss' had lost her mind.

---

Bite down on your lip
Take another sip
Stop checking your phone
Looking for the answers
Mind running obsessed
Feeling paralyzed
Let me watch you undress
Fall into the night

Yeah, we change and we change and we feel so lost
And we don't know who we are
Yeah, we break and we break and we just can't stop
So we just keep breaking hearts

Why you wanna ruin a good thing?
Can we take it back to the start?
When love's not playing out like the movies
It doesn't mean it's falling apart
Don't panic

-"Don't Panic," Ellie Goulding

Chapter Text

Trevor was still thinking about Sypha’s soft lips on his cheek and how close he’d been to kissing her when the head of security broke the verbal silence in the office.

“I was sorry to see the incident between Sypha and Mr. Tepes,” Isaac said to Trevor as Striga finished the counting and allocating money into the bank bags.

Surprised, Trevor looked at him and nodded. “I got the impression she’s already forgiven him though,” he said to his boss.

Isaac frowned. “That would be unfortunate. She is a rare woman, possessing integrity, kindness and wisdom. It is wasted on Tepes.”

Trevor tensed slightly; he couldn’t help it. Isaac’s voice was respectful but he didn’t praise lightly and he’d never indicated any interest in Sypha before. “She is that, sir.”

The corner of Isaac’s mouth kicked up. “Do not fear Belmont, I do not have designs on your lady.”

“I, um, she’s not ‘my lady.’” Trevor found he really hated saying that.

“I suspect it’s a matter of time,” Striga rumbled as she sealed off the bag. She didn’t look up. “It’s written all over you two.”

Suddenly, the conversation was very intimate. He desperately wanted to ask Striga if she thought that Sypha might say yes if he asked her out, but he was also keenly aware that these were his superiors. He didn’t know if there was a company policy against dating coworkers or not, but he did know Sypha would not appreciate being discussed like this.

“This would be a good moment, would it not, to mention that dating your coworker is permitted at Speakers ?” Isaac said in his deadpan way, looking at Striga.

Trevor’s gaze snapped to the tall, muscular woman as she turned, stood, and grinned down at him. “Oh yeah, we should mention that, shouldn’t we? When it’s relevant, of course.”

On the other hand, if he didn’t expressly name Sypha, it would be okay, right? Especially if they steered him in a good direction? “If,” Trevor swallowed, a little bit shy in the face of this blunt support, “someone was to maybe ask a certain bartender for a date…”

“Nope, sorry kid, that’s on you. Balls to the wall and bite the bullet.” Striga’s smile was friendly but her words were firm. “I’m behind you 100% but that’s all you.”

“Oh, of course, sorry,” Trevor mumbled and Isaac hefted the box.

“You’ll be fine Belmont, just be forthcoming.” Striga continued. “Sypha is a rare gem, she won’t keep you waiting.”

“Thank you, I think,” the brunette muttered and helped his boss get the box on the wheeler. Together they took the cash out to the back, loaded it into Isaac’s vehicle and drove over to the dropbox.

Trevor was grateful for the radio in the vehicle, even if it was classical, because it filled the silence between them and gave him a chance to think. Was it really that obvious? he wondered. 

He thought she would consider a date with him but really didn’t want to put awkwardness between them that could ruin what they had. But in the alley, there’d been a spark, he was sure of it. More like a bonfire, he acknowledged. If the bus boy hadn’t come out, he was pretty confident they would have kissed.

So do you go for it then? He asked himself as they dropped off the money at the bank and started back. The bouncer wished it didn’t matter so much. At the same time, he was grateful that someone he cared about so deeply might possibly feel the same way.

“Your brain is on fire, it’s practically smoking,” Isaac observed gravely. “I hesitate to interfere but surely this wouldn’t be your first time asking someone for a date, yes?”

Trevor smiled. Isaac was a scary guy; contained, controlled and inscrutable. He was also someone with deep integrity and an unexpectedly fair streak. The head of security saw his bouncers as his responsibility, and apparently that translated at least somewhat, into their personal lives as well. 

“No, this is not the first time I’ve asked a girl for a date,” Trevor assured him and then surprised both of them by being honest. “It is however, the first time I might ask someone that already means a lot to me before we’ve ever even really been anything.”

He could see Isaac’s considering glance out of the corner of his eye and decided just to go for it. “I know it’s silly. I haven’t known her that long and we haven’t even gone out as friends, but she’s come to be really important to me. We clicked immediately.” He laughed, a little wistful. “Hell, it’s fair to say I was hooked the minute I saw her.”

Isaac smiled, a small upcurve, but authentically pleased. “I believe I made myself plain on Sypha’s value. Someone who understands who she is and the value of that, would be someone who could be worthy of her.”

It was Trevor’s turn to grin. “Isaac, are you giving me your blessing?” he teased. “Am I worthy of her?”

Isaac pulled into the Speakers parking lot and turned off the car. When he turned to Trevor, his eyes were serious and the brunette stopped grinning. “I would not be discussing this with you otherwise.”

Touched and suddenly humbled, Trevor just nodded. “Thank you. I really respect you so that means a lot.”

Isaac put out his hand and Trevor shook it. “You’re a good man, Trevor. Don’t doubt yourself.”

“Likewise,” Trevor said after the brief shake.

The corner of Isaac’s mouth quirked again. “It’s not frequently that I experience doubt, Belmont."

Lucky you, Trevor thought enviously but not mean-spiritedly. When he made his way into Speakers he decided that Isaac’s blessing was a sign. Striga said it was obvious and Isaac said he was worthy. It wasn’t going to get better than that and if he wasn’t careful, he’d risk losing his heart before they’d even seen each other outside of work. It’d be better to lose it knowing that it might be accepted.

Suddenly, he just needed to ask and be done with it. Whatever her answer was, he felt brave and just needed to know now. He wished Isaac a good evening and walked through the hall that would take him back to the front of house.

When he came through the door, he turned to her bar with a smile. The expression underwent a comical distortion of anger, annoyance, amusement and settled comfortably into confusion. 

Adrian sat on the far side of the bar, long legs crossed, sipping on a drink while he chattered about a Stranger Things episode with Sypha. Trevor couldn’t believe that the blonde was actually coherent, much less how lively he was. Normally Adrian would be passed out by now.

Sypha had tied her hair back and changed into her shorts and t-shirt. Currently on her knees scrubbing a cabinet, he felt his heart trip when she looked up and saw him. She grinned at him and gave a little wave.

Adrian looked over and stopped talking, giving a small toss of his hair before offering the bouncer an engaging smile. Trevor resisted narrowing his eyes. Even if Sypha forgave him for making her teary-eyed, the brunette certainly didn’t.

What the hell was going on? he thought.

---

Adrian tried to contain his glee as he followed Sypha back into the bar. He told himself that this hadn’t gone exactly the way he had wanted, so why was he so happy about it?

He’d seen her leave Speakers, her long red mane glowing in the lights and those boots rambling out the door. He’d been trying to figure out how to say sorry for hours but also get what he needed. It had focused him and he was surprisingly sober because of it.

He shouldn’t actually care that he upset her but the image of her eyes tearing up and the vast hurt in them had bothered him. That made him wary. Adrian didn’t want to care. He could be mean when there was cause, no problem. The issue was that Hector apparently had been on to something; she’d been trying to help. Even if he rolled his eyes at her do-gooder tendencies, the blonde couldn’t deny she was right. She had put her neck out for him and worried about him. 

At the very least, he owed her a real apology.

He’d gone shopping instead of finding another bar, mulling over the issue and where it’d all gone wrong. When he’d seen the blue silk robe with the watercolor wash he’d bought it on impulse. He believed a nice gift could smooth most things over. The blonde intended to tell her sorry and let her know she could pick it up from the coat check at the end of the night.

Something changed though, as he followed her down the block. The way she moved, a dreamy little stroll to nowhere and the roll of her hips, made him aware of her in a way that heightened his wariness. When he said her name it was involuntary and she turned before he knew what he was going to say.

It was the hurt and caution which immediately flashed across her face that gave him the words, even if they were unusually honest for him. It was not as hard as apologies usually were and when he said that he thought of them as friends, he was surprised by it, but it also felt true.

It was uncomfortable though, and left him feeling exposed. He’d wanted to escape as soon as possible. Gift forgotten, Adrian decided that he wouldn’t come back to Speakers anymore. It was better not to have to face the friend that he might have had if he hadn’t fucked up so badly. 

He frowned, taking a seat at the end of Sypha’s bar. That’s where the truth had started blurring in what he’d told her. 

Technically Vlad had said he couldn’t come home but there’d been specific circumstances for that. His credit cards weren’t cut off for a hotel, but Adrian knew if Vlad saw a hotel charge that they would be. Adrian always came home, so to stay in a hotel meant he was too drunk to risk Vlad seeing him.

You’re splitting hairs here, he told himself. What you told her was truth enough. But there was a niggling worm of shame that he’d played on her sympathies and lied. Whatever, she’ll get paid and you’ll be a good guest.

Paid the money that she was already supposed to have received? His annoying conscience asked him. And you're not giving her all of it, are you? 

Adrian was holding some of the cash back because he needed it to pay for his drinks. He was pretty sure that he could get more cash as he usually carried a couple of grand around but he wanted to be careful with what he had. It wasn’t clear if Vlad would allow him his usual weekly allowance or not.

In the long term, he was hopeful he could offer to pay utilities, food or anything else you could use a credit card for, in lieu of actually giving his cash. And that’s if this works out, he thought. You aren’t going sex free for however long this lasts. That is not happening. He would respect Sypha’s wishes for now but they’d definitely be addressing this again if he ended up staying longer than the weekend.

No one is getting laid in that apartment and it’s staying that way. That of course, made him wonder why Sypha wasn’t getting laid in that apartment. High standards probably. Which, like, was somewhat admirable but also all sorts of sad. Orgasms were an essential part of life in his opinion.

An orgasm a day is like an apple or whatever the saying is, he thought, watching her come back from changing and feeling slightly more comfortable. The boots were safely stowed and this was more the Sypha he was used to. 

But when she smiled at him and asked if he wanted a soda while he waited, he felt a funny little flutter in his belly that hadn’t been there before. He didn’t like it and chalked it up to the weirdness of the day.

It was a little annoying when he couldn’t get a martini but Sypha couldn’t help that it was after last call either, so he settled for a diet cola with five limes and a spritz of mango. It was odd to watch her move around the bar in such casual clothing with lighter, quieter ‘end of the night,’ music playing. The weirdness was only intensified by his lack of companion and the mild buzz that left him with a sharpness of mind he was both enjoying and irked by.

When Striga came by with a distinctly unfriendly look for him, he couldn’t resist his smugly condescending eyebrow. He regretted it when Striga rolled her shoulders and he could hear the crack of her neck tendons. The woman was terrifying. 

“Sypha, is this man bothering you?” Striga asked without a preamble.

“Excuse me, I am right here,” Adrian said loftily. Do you know who I am? He thought but he wouldn’t say it. That was cliche, and he was most certainly too classy for that.

“Because it would be my pleasure to do something about it, if he is,” Striga continued in that low, accented voice of hers, as though she hadn’t heard him.

“No, Striga, it’s all okay, Adrian apologized for earlier and I’ve forgiven him. I appreciate your concern, but I’m enjoying his company."

Sypha’s sincerity flattened out his irritation with Striga completely. She meant it. Sypha had really, actually, already forgiven him. It’d been so easy. She made it easy, he thought gratefully. If only his father were so tolerant, how different his life could be. Would she forgive you for lying about why you need to stay with her? His conscience quietly asked.

Determined to ignore it, he asked her what she was watching these days. It was a pleasant surprise to discover they were both fans of Stranger Things, although they disagreed on the romances, of course. The chat was nice, easy and surprisingly comfortable. Even when the house lights came up and the music died, it wasn’t too weird. It didn’t hurt that he couldn’t see her, just the wiggling ponytail. He didn’t have to notice how lovely her skin was or the way her eyes actually sparkled when she grinned.

He was just about to ask her about her cat when Trevor showed up. Adrian hated that the bouncer looked so great. It was just a black button-down and black jeans, but damn if he didn’t have great shoulders and a jaw he wanted to take a bite out of like Trevor was a chocolate Easter bunny. 

Adrian’s good mood abruptly came roaring back as he saw uncertainty flash over Trevor’s face. Worried, Mr. Belmont? he thought.The idea of messing with a straight arrow like Trevor was incredibly pleasing and tickled his ego. He resolved to be as flirtatious as possible. It was just a tease anyway.

He flashed an inviting smile and watched Trevor blink. He could swear the man was flustered. Maybe Trevor was still thinking about his mini-lap dance this afternoon. Great, now you sure are, Adrian thought. The blonde had gotten a hint of exceptional abs and firm thighs but it’d only made him more interested. He thought about that. 

Would it be possible to tempt Trevor into fooling around? That could be satisfying. Well, maybe. It depended. A great body was one thing, but Adrian was not interested in holding someone’s hand through sexual discovery. Please, there are people to fuck and orgasms to have! he thought. The blonde didn’t have time for hand holding and besides, he wasn’t good at it.

Nah, better to just tease him into frustration and then walk. That would be a lot of fun and Adrian was a very good tease. Besides, he thought as the bouncer’s jaw clenched and Trevor came up to the bar. I’ve always enjoyed irritating Belmont.

“Sypha, can I talk to you for a minute?” The brunette asked her softly and Adrian smirked.

“Sure thing, actually, I wanted to talk to you too,” the redhead said and washed her hands in the sink. “Be right back, Adrian,” she said and he grinned. 

“Absolutely darling,” he said cheekily and she laughed. She really did have a great laugh.

---

Sypha followed Trevor over to the back and he held the door for her. “Thank you,” she told him and he nodded, clearly lost in thought. She followed him down to the janitor's closet and he opened it, giving them a small enclave to talk that wasn’t directly in the hall.

He turned to her, face serious and eyebrows knit. “Please tell me that Adrian at least apologized.”

Sypha was startled. Trevor looked so forbidding. She knew he didn’t like Adrian but she could swear that he was angry with her. “He did apologize and I accepted his apology. We’re good now.”

Trevor’s mouth twisted with disapproval and Sypha felt a whisper of temper. He had no right to judge her on this, it was her business. “I wish you weren’t so tender-hearted,” he said after a moment and she found she couldn’t be angry with that. After all, her beloved Grandfather had told her that more than once.

“Tender-hearted is only bad if you are a pushover to boot, Trevor, and believe me, I am not,” she said, crossing her arms.

His mouth twitched and she could see reluctant admiration in the slight nod of affirmation. “No, you most certainly are not, Sypha.” He sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Listen, can I walk you home tonight? I wanted to ask you something.”

What do you want to ask me that you can’t right here? she wondered, nerves rising with excitement like toast popping out of the toaster. She was about to say yes when she remembered. I’m sure Adrian would love to overhear whatever you wanted to talk about but I sure wouldn’t want him to, she thought.

“Ah, I wish I could, Trevor but I am actually not going home alone.” His eyebrows shot up and she rushed to finish the explanation. “I’m not like, ‘taking anyone home,’ I am just letting a friend stay the weekend.”

“Oh, okay, no worries.” He said. “Would you be cool with me picking you up before the shift tomorrow?”

Bite the bullet Sypha, it’s okay, he’ll understand. And if he doesn’t, it’s better you know now, right?

“Can you keep a secret?” she asked him, and he looked suddenly guarded but nodded. “Just hear me out before you say anything, but Adrian is staying with me.”

His whole face changed. Something dangerous and alarming slammed up against disbelief and shock. He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead, that gorgeous bicep flexing like a heartbeat. A long hiss escaped him. All things considered, she thought he took it well.

“Please tell me this wasn’t his idea,” Trevor managed, his voice low and a little rough. There was something in it that sprinted up her spine setting little hot patches of desire.

“It was, but listen, it’s more complicated than you think.” Quickly she went over the issues with his father, the inability to stay at the hotel, the offer of the cash and the ground rules for staying with her.

“I hesitate to question you on this, because I have no right to advise you on anything,” his voice was incredibly sharp on the word ‘right’ and it surprised her, “but what makes you think he’s remotely trustworthy?”

Sypha waved that off. “He’s never tried anything with me, even when he’s stupid drunk.”

“He has with me,” Trevor said carefully. “He’s very handsy.”

That’s because you’re finger-licking gorgeous, she thought but decided to keep it to herself. “I know he has been with you, but that seems to be a Belmont exclusive.” She grinned. “I think it’s those great pecs, Trevor.”

“Ha ha, Sypha.” He said but his face was still gravely concerned. “You didn’t tell him he couldn’t drink and regardless of how great he seems sober, I’m afraid he might try something while he’s drunk. Something that neither of you could come back from.”

The redhead gave him a sympathetic look. “I’m really not worried,” she said and then paused. “That’s a really good point about telling him he can’t drink though. We’ll see how it goes.”

“Sypha, it might be too late by then, I really wish you’d say no or...” He took a deep breath. “I could stay too. Just for the weekend.”

What?! Sypha thought with dismay and intrigue. Her little apartment would be packed with bodies, there’d be no room at all. She wasn’t actually remotely concerned that Adrian would try anything, there was no need for the bouncer to stay but...

But the thought of Trevor exiting her bathroom all glistening from the shower with no shirt or just a tiny towel was delicious enough for her to seriously consider it. It would be a safe way for her to see if breaking her rule might be a good idea and with Adrian there, nothing could or would happen between her and Trevor.

“I’m really not worried about him trying anything with me,” she said gently but then tapped her lip. “I am worried he might fall down and I can’t get him back up though.”

“So nice to be needed,” Trevor muttered and Sypha felt a twinge of guilt.

“I promise to make breakfast,” she offered and his lightning quick grin was huge.

“Maybe pancakes?" he said hopefully. "Adrian and I could do the dishes in exchange.” 

“Pancakes it is. Although, I might have to make Adrian a fruit smoothie or… Oh my lord, I’m trying to picture his manicure in the soap suds.”

Trevor groaned. “The bitching would be unbelievable! ‘Belmont this is Prada, how dare you even breathe on it much less get soap on it!’” he tossed his hair and stuck out his lower lip.

Sypha’s laugh ended in a wheeze. “Holy crap you got the pout down perfectly Trevor, wow.”

“I’ve seen it up close and personal, several times,” he said with a sigh.

“Do you want to pop home for a change of clothes or anything?” she asked him and he shook his head.

“I actually have a set in my locker,” his smile was easy. “Never know when a drunk will puke on you.” He winced. “Or Adrian for that matter.”

---

When the sun shine, we shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be your friend
Took an oath, I'ma stick it out to the end
Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella

-"Umbrella," (Jody den Broeder Lush Radio Edit) - Rhianna

Chapter Text

Adrian was pouting. This was not going the way that he thought it would. First, Sypha had indicated that Trevor was coming home with them, which initially was a little exciting. His hopes for a possible threesome seemed viable for a whole five seconds until he’d seen Trevor’s face.

The man looked dangerous, which unfortunately was incredibly hot but also a little alarming. He still didn’t understand what he’d done to make Belmont so angry. It wasn’t like he was going to try anything with Sypha. Well, unless she wanted to.

Then there’d been Trevor’s insistence he pay Sypha first, before they even started toward her place. That didn’t really bother Adrian until it’d been apparent that Sypha had intended to let Adrian stay for free. It blew his mind. 

The excitement had been one thing-- he could keep all his money!-- but he didn’t like the guilt or the shame. Technically the money was hers, regardless of whether she let him stay or not. She just didn’t know it.

It’s a moot point anyway, he thought, aimlessly scrolling Twitter. Whatever Trevor said to her worked, because she took it. The brunette had asked her to step away for a moment and then said something to her that had her frowning and then nodding.

He scrunched his face up and slapped his phone down in a huff. Killjoy, Adrian thought again. I could have left it for her on the counter, like a gift or something but no, you had to be a dick! He quietly groaned. Great, now you are thinking about his dick.

It had been a mistake to let Trevor take the stairs ahead of him to the apartment. Between that seriously great view, the lingering interest from grinding on the brunette earlier and the vague memories he had of when Trevor had carried him from the night before, Adrian had started to wonder if all of the bouncer’s body was gonna be so impressive.

There is a chance you’ll find out by the end of the weekend, he thought with mixed feelings. Not because of any fun reasons either, but because they were almost sleeping on top of each other in the apartment.

If you could even call this an apartment, he thought scornfully. It was a tiny one bedroom in a building that was only four blocks from Speakers. Sypha had mentioned that the building was from the 1940’s and he thought it should have died there too.

When she’d opened the door, the soft scent of the banana muffins greeted them. The smell comforted him and it helped him to be polite. Which was a blessing, because her place was cramped and appallingly basic. He’d barely been able to keep the shocked horror off his face.

The whole place was the size of his bathroom at home. At least it’s as clean as my bathroom, he thought. Sypha’s home was spotless, even though the wood floors were worn and the tile in the bathroom was chipped and faded. He was also pretty sure that the kitchen hadn’t been informed that it was the new millennium.

And the nightmare just grew, he thought, shifting on the couch. He hissed with annoyance as the pillow moved again. It had never occurred to him that he would have to sleep on a couch.

Adrian F. Tepes did not sleep on couches. He never had before, and if he wasn’t so damned desperate, he would have told Sypha to forget it. Thusfar he hated it and hadn’t even attempted actual sleep yet.

He’d followed her back into her bedroom, only to have her laugh at him when he sat on her bed. It’d been obvious she was amused by his assumption that he would be sleeping in it.

Trevor told him to pick the floor or the couch from the doorway. The floor was unthinkable, so Adrian had chosen the couch. To add insult to injury, they both had clearly expected him to make the couch up. 

The bouncer had heaved a huge sigh and helped him with the sheets in a stony silence while Sypha used the bathroom to wash up for the night. Remembering the brunette's obvious irritation, Adrian made a face.

As though I am supposed to know how to put sheets on a couch like some middle class housewife, he thought.

It didn’t help that the sheets Sypha had given him were like, maybe a 200 thread count, if that. If I wanted an exfoliation treatment, I’d go to a spa, he thought with disgust.

All in all, the couch thing was a solid ‘hell no’ from him. He couldn’t understand how anyone lived this way. And that applied to her whole apartment. 

It’s just for the weekend, he thought again. He fervently prayed that Vlad would be appeased by then, because this was not going to be survivable longer than that. Adrian wished he’d gotten a couple more drinks in him before facing this nightmare, it would have made it easier.

He’d already peeked in her fridge and there wasn’t even a lousy beer. Sypha had said they could help themselves to whatever they needed in the kitchen so he’d checked her cabinets too.

The blonde had been sidetracked by the discovery of more muffins in a tin on her counter. He consoled himself with three of them while he waited for his turn in the bathroom. Trevor had snuck in during his hunt in the cupboards.

Would serve him right if I eat all the muffins, he thought impishly. But that was too many carbs for one day.

Instead, he’d just hidden the tin under the couch. That had worked for a whole five minutes until there had been a strange scraping noise from under there and he remembered Bruja.

Little yellow eyes winked from the shadows when he’d checked and, as he watched, the cat gnawed at the side of the container. He reached under the furniture to retrieve it and had his hand batted like an errant schoolboy who forgot his lesson.

Fortunately the cat didn’t claw him, but she did follow the tin as he dragged it out. When her nose peeked out, pink and white with splotches of black and orange, he thought she was kind of cute. “Want a muffin?” he asked her and on yellow eye winked at him adoringly.

He opened the tin lid and broke off a piece for her, tossing it on the floor. The cat pounced and dragged her kill back under the couch. Pleased with himself, Adrian put the tin back on the counter and returned to the couch to listen to her happy purring emanating from below him. 

It was well-timed because the bathroom door opened. Trevor emerged from the bathroom in just his jeans and Adrian did his best not to stare. Thankfully he could play on his phone and still watch him. 

And watch him, he did. 

I was right, he thought. Belmont is built like he rips logs in half for fun. It made him tingle. Adrian didn’t usually go for hairy men but the brunette made it look so good.

“Your turn,” Trevor said casually, tossing his bag on the floor and grabbing the pillow Sypha had left on a chair for him.

Oh I would take at least three turns on that honey, he thought, admiring the spread of his shoulders. “I’m good, but thanks,” he said instead.

He would go in a minute but not while there was a hot man to oogle. Adrian offered him a seductive smile which was totally missed as Belmont shrugged and looked away. The blonde scowled. Trevor crouched down to unzip the sleeping bag. Watching his thighs and the muscles in his back shift like they were being chiseled into a mountain had Adrian’s mouth watering. The blonde wanted Trevor to fold him like a croissant and fuck him to within, oh, about 9 inches of his life.

Since that wasn’t going to happen with just staring, he tried again. “Too bad about the floor, hey?” he said sympathetically.

Trevor grunted and stood again. He went over to the tiny kitchen. Um, hello? I was talking to you? the blonde thought with annoyance.

“I’m just saying, it’s probably not going to be very comfortable.”

“It’s fine,” Trevor said shortly and gulped the water down. “Unless you want to switch?”

Adrian blinked. “No.” He thought this had been very clear. “The couch is mine.” Even if it’s awful, it’s a step up from the floor and the least I deserve.

“Then stop rubbing it in and use it already,” Trevor retorted sharply, placing the glass in the sink and coming back over.

The blonde narrowed his eyes and glowered at Belmont. The man was a rude jerk. Sexy yes, but rude. Okay, you want to play? Bring it on. I am more than you can handle, he thought with determination.

“I sleep in the nude,” Adrian said sassily, shrugging his shirt off. It landed on Trevor’s sleeping bag like a seductive suggestion.

“Well, not tonight you don’t,” Trevor snarled, scooping down to throw the blouse back at him. “This isn’t one of your one nighters, or the chateau Tepes, thank you very much!”

Amused, Adrian stretched lazily, rolling his hips and letting his hair tumble down his back. He gave Trevor a coy wink. “Oh babe, there are people who would pay to be sleeping at my feet tonight.”

Trevor laughed and the sound was wonderful. It brought a smile to the blonde’s mouth that was genuine and just a little enchanted. Then the bouncer spoke.

“Why would anybody? They could hold a martini out and you’d just follow them home.”

Adrian’s jaw dropped and insult flared bright in his vision, blotting out the warm glow. “Excuse me?!” he snarled.

Trevor’s smile was self-satisfied and he settled onto the sleeping bag, those stupidly attractive pecs rippling as he put his arms behind his head. You could sell real estate in his biceps, Adrian thought resentfully. Asshole.

“And I am not sleeping at your feet,” Trevor corrected smoothly. “I’m keeping an eye on you for Sypha’s sake.”

Oh fuck you, Trevor, Adrian thought, still furious from the suggestion he was an easy lay. As if.

“I understand,” he said smugly. “We do get along really well, after all. It’s natural to feel threatened.”

Trevor snorted. “I don’t feel threatened. I just don’t trust you.”

“Whatever makes you feel better, babe.” Adrian smiled condescendingly. “I’m used to the excuses.”

The brunette rolled his eyes. “Holy shit, you are so full of yourself. I repeat: I don’t feel threatened. I am not interested and I know Sypha isn’t either.”

Feigning a calm he didn’t feel, Adrian’s hands went to his pants. “Then it shouldn’t matter if I sleep in the nude.”

The bouncer sat up abruptly. “Don’t even think about it. That’s completely inappropriate, and interested or not, you’re not wandering around here without clothes on.”

“I don’t have anything to sleep in though,” Adrian said apologetically, unzipping his pants. Internally he was cackling.

Trevor’s discomfort was hysterical and his possessiveness over Sypha was just stupid. Adrian didn’t want to marry her or anything. This wasn’t Victorian England. If anything did happen between them, it would be short and casual, no strings.

Trevor growled threateningly, body tensed to spring. “If those pants come down at all, Adrian, I am decking you!” he warned.

“I suppose I could just sleep in my underwear,” Adrian said thoughtfully, somehow containing his absolute glee. He wanted to laugh so badly it was painful.

“I--!,” Trevor paused, considering. “Okay, fine, I guess. You’re still covered so it--.” Adrian wiggled his pants down. The bouncer’s jaw dropped and he jerked hard as he quickly looked away.

“You fucking son of a--!” Trevor barked out. Unable to hold it back any longer, the blonde burst out laughing.

Adrian liked lingerie and now Trevor knew it.

Suddenly the bedroom door opened and Sypha stepped out. She was wearing flannel pajama pants and a sweatshirt. Her hair was tousled and she looked soft and sleepy. Her eyes widened when she saw the blonde.

“Wow, okay. Hi?” She crossed her arms and looked at the ceiling. “Maybe pull your pants back up, please?”

Adrian was still getting over Trevor’s reaction and he snickered. “What, Sypha? Tell me these don’t look great, come on now.” He wiggled happily. “Don’t be jealous; Trevor already is.”

“Trevor’s scarred for life,” the brunette replied with contempt, still refusing to look at him.

She giggled. “Okay, yeah, they do look cute. But seriously I’m tired and you two are keeping me up. Go to bed or get out, okay?” She said it with a grin, so he wasn’t actually worried.

He pulled his pants up. “Don’t worry Trevor, your chastity is safe once more. Sypha is tired and needs her sleep so we’ll have to finish up later.” The bouncer glared at him and Adrian gave him a toothy, satisfied grin.

“Would you like to borrow some shorts, Adrian?” Sypha asked. “I have some that would probably fit.”

“Are they silk?” he asked jokingly. “I think Trevor likes it when I wear silk.” The brunette gave him the finger. The blonde blew him a kiss and Trevor crossed his arms, flopping back down in the sleeping bag.

“He wouldn’t be the only one,” Sypha said cheekily, exaggeratedly batting her eyes.

“Oooh, a fan.” Adrian gave her a sultry look. “Don’t forget to like and subscribe, sugar.”

“He’ll take the shorts,” Trevor cut in, looking at him with a grumpy expression. “And he’ll fucking wear them or else.”

Adrian was about to say something when a quiet meow of inquiry interrupted the conversation. 

“Bruja!” Sypha said happily. The cat trotted over to her and the redhead scooped her up. “Okay, one second,” she told the blonde and disappeared into her room again.

Twenty minutes later, clad in a soft jersey pair of shorts that were snug but surprisingly comfortable, Adrian stared at the ceiling. The apartment was dark and quiet. Moonlight peeked around the curtains alongside street lights.

This was not the stay he’d envisioned for the weekend and it had started out rocky. Still, he felt surprisingly content. The couch was horrible and he was going to need a massage tomorrow, but the happiness he’d felt joking with Sypha was a pleasant warmth in his chest.

He’d gotten the best of Trevor, made a new friend in Bruja and apparently there was the prospect of pancakes in the morning. Things could be worse. Maybe this could work, he thought, cautiously hopeful. After all, how long could Vlad insist on this? Two weeks?

Her place was horrifyingly small and in desperate need of upgrades but he could help with that enough to make it tolerable for him to sleep in.

The couch would need to be replaced immediately with something that could convert into an actual bed but he could talk about it with Sypha. There would need to be a bidet and the small set of cupboards in the bathroom would need to be divided but that wasn’t impossible…

The sex would be a problem though, he acknowledged. There was no way around it, he needed a place he could bring someone back to. He sighed. Vlad hadn’t said he couldn’t bring someone to the Tepes mansion, just that he couldn’t be drunk if he did.

The blonde wrinkled his nose. The idea of bringing someone back to fuck while he was sober was actually really unappealing, for a whole number of reasons that he didn’t want to think about. His thoughts were interrupted by the chirp of his phone as he got a text.

“For fuck’s sake, put it on silent,” Trevor grumbled softly in the dark. “It’s 4 am and I am trying to sleep!”

“Sorry!” Adrian whispered back, scrambling for it. It was Hector.

Speakers Chapter 6 insert

After the quick back and forth, he put the phone on silent and tucked it under his pillow. He felt triumphant, sure that Hector would let his father know in the morning that Adrian hadn’t come home. 

He’ll know that his threat didn’t matter, he thought with satisfaction. Vlad would check the credit card statements and be at a loss.

It was perfect.

---

She’d forgotten they were there. When Bruja woke her scratching at the bedroom door Sypha had blearily wondered why the hell the door was closed. It wasn’t until she stumbled out of bed and opened it that she remembered.

Two stunning men were spread out in hilarious and somehow endearing fashion in her living room. In the pale morning light, she saw Trevor first.

She would have expected a man sprawl across the floor, limbs everywhere and loud snoring. Instead, his sleeping bag was neatly zipped up around him like breading on a deep fried shrimp.

He even slept like a cute shrimp, she thought with an affectionate pang. He was curled into the fetal position, hands pillowed under his head; slow, even breathing through his nose. It was surprising how young and innocent he looked.

Well, innocent until you looked at the curl of his bicep over the top of the covers, she thought. She looked at the tanned curve and shivered. She knew from watching him help around the club that he was incredibly strong.

And sweetly tender, she thought, remembering the Vietnamese take out he’d brought back for her dinner last night. She heaved an appreciative sigh. The man was a damned dream. No surprise Adrian had been flirting with him again last night.

That made her grin and she looked at the blonde. Sypha had to stifle her immediate laugh. Now there was a man sprawl.

He was too long for her couch and his feet hung off the end. His arms were flung out above his head, the sheets crumpled and halfway onto the floor. The mane of blonde hair was tangled and a good deal of it was obscuring his face, fluttering every time he noisily exhaled.

He really is too tall for that to be remotely comfortable, she thought, looking at the long leg exposed by the sheets. She followed it up to the bare chest; the lean and muscular torso rising and falling slowly.

He too, looked surprisingly innocent like this. The pretense and pride were all stripped away, just leaving a leggy angel.

He sleeps like a child, she thought, thinking of the kids she would babysit as a teenager. Adrian shifted, his leg curling up and his arm coming down to scratch the kneecap absently. His form was so pretty really, the skin palely flawless, like creamy blown glass against the golden hair. 

The image of him standing in her living room came back. His long, lean form framed by that gold hair, the casual, unself-conscious stance, the tiny scrap of lingerie which should have been ridiculous but was incredibly sexy, and his laughing face. 

He was so beautiful when he really laughed.

The blonde arched slightly, the sheets shifting down and Sypha realized she was biting her lip. The burst of awareness was immediate and made her more flustered. Stop staring, she told herself sternly and started to shut the door before she remembered that she had to leave it for Bruja.

She stood there for a moment, torn between not wanting the cat to wake anyone by meowing and clawing at the bedroom door but also not ready for either man to see her as defenselessly asleep as she’d seen them.

It’s just different, she told herself as her brain reflected that was hypocritical. They look great any sort of way. She glanced at the mirror and winced. And I most definitely do not.

Compromise came in the form of brushing her hair into a ponytail and leaving the door open a crack. For extra security, she pulled her quilt all the way up to her chin and turned away from the door. That should do it, she thought.

She lay there for a while, thinking about how she came to find herself with these two in her tiny apartment and wondered why it didn’t bother her more. Sypha had never lived with another man that she wasn’t related to. Wait, wait, she thought. You aren’t living with them now. This is just for the weekend.

As she drifted back to sleep she wondered why she was comforted knowing they were there.

---

Caught up in circles
All dreams and bright lights
Wait, I'm here always
Brighter than sunshine
I fly, fly out
Fly out to your heart
Fly out
Lay your hands on me
Stay close by my side
Drive me so crazy
Moonlight and star shine

-"Lay Your Hands On Me," Boom Boom Satellites 

Chapter Text

Trevor woke abruptly, violently startled by the unexpected lick to his face. He reared back with a hiss and watched the white and orange butt of Sypha’s cat race under the couch. “What the fu--?!” he started to exclaim and immediately lowered his voice as he became aware of how still the household was.

“Seriously, not okay,” he said to the cat in a hushed whisper. “No licking me with your butt cleaner!”

A displeased hiss emanated from under the couch and Trevor narrowed his eyes. “Hey, it’s called personal space and if you think I--!” Adrian's long leg flexed and Trevor’s eye caught the movement, following the muscular line up stunning calves and taut thighs to the edge of those stupidly tiny shorts. Trevor looked away. He’d seen entirely too much of the blonde at this point and he resented it. So what if Adrian was nicely formed, he was a total asshole.

Nicely formed? A taunting voice snickered in his mind. I think you mean, 'damn, look at those legs.'

I don't care about Adrian or his legs. Get out of my head, he answered with annoyance. He could swear that the blonde was deliberately hitting on him at this point just to mess with him. It would be fine, all he had to do was remember what a dick Tepes was. Speaking of dick, admit it, that voice said cheerfully. His was looking pretty good in those silk and lace briefs. 

NO! Shut up! 
he snarled internally. Trevor had genuinely been embarrassed by Adrian’s little strip tease last night. It had produced an unpleasant and blindsiding awareness for the beautiful lines of Adrian’s body and the stark curve of his cock under the sheer lilac fabric.

It's just in your mind, the voice coaxed. You can admit it and no one will know. 

I admit nothing! he hissed back angrily. He’s a brat who doesn’t even know it and besides, he’s slept with half the club. Of course there’s some appeal to him, but it’s completely resistible. Besides, who needs to even think about him when you’ve got Sypha in the mix?

He pictured her at the door of her bedroom last night, all soft and cozy in her sweatshirt and flannels as she giggled. Adoration bloomed, easy and simple. She’s so much more real and uncomplicated than him, he thought. She’s gorgeous and sweet and capable. He’s moody and sarcastic and prickly and… 

His eyes wandered over to the couch and unbidden his lips quirked. All that blonde hair was spilling over the arm pillowed under his head and half over his face. Pouty lips had captured several strands and his other arm was curled into a slight fist under his chin. He looked silly but kind of cute too.

No, he thought immediately. There is nothing cute about Adrian Tepes. As if to prove him right, Adrian grunted with a little snort. See? That’s not cute, that’s annoying. “Nahgahnah,” the blonde exhaled with a wistful little sigh. Trevor’s mouth struggled not to grin.

Are you sure that’s not cute? The little voice asked. Seems like it might be.

“He’s cute for thirty seconds and that's only when he's unconscious, sober and ridiculous. It hardly counts,” Trevor muttered and looked away. He looked around the room instead. It was cozy, clean and comfortable. The orange curtains glowed warmly with the morning sun seeping around the edges, giving everything a faintly golden hue.

Long shelves filled with books and trailing plants in earthen pots dominated the wall behind the couch. The couch and easy chair were covered with quilted throws, one in blue and black and the other in purple and gold. Two throw pillows with floral embroidery decorated the easy chair.

There were little collages of postcards, photos and mirrors on her walls that made the space seem larger than it was. The big pieces were two dreamy posters of landscapes in the rain, one looking out over the cliffside into a raging sea where dark shapes twisted in the water. The other was a woman in a Victorian dress standing in a field and looking toward a forest that seemed dark and foreboding. 

The choice of art was interesting to him and somehow fitting. He’d like a closer look once he got up. Let’s be honest, he admitted to himself. You’d love an hour just to look at everything and revel in this peek into Sypha. 

When they arrived at her apartment last night they’d all been focused on just getting some sleep. He’d been very aware of Sypha’s exhaustion. She’d worked almost 13 hours and he had been afraid that Adrian would be a dick and want to party all night.

So he’d helped as much as he could with the blonde, suggesting she wash up first and assuring her they could fend for themselves. Then Adrian had started his shit talk about Trevor sleeping on the floor. As though somehow Trevor was an idiot for letting him choose, as opposed to being nice.

It’s because he doesn’t understand being gracious, the brunette thought. He just thinks he deserves everything. Hell, he thought Sypha was going to let him sleep with her!

Trevor tensed, remembering Adrian just following her into her bedroom without even asking and plunking himself down on her bed. Just like that moment, his protective instincts flared. The bouncer had been about to haul the man out by his hair when Sypha had laughed. It’d been such an easy sound he knew she thought Adrian didn’t mean anything by it. This is exactly why he isn’t staying here with her alone. Sypha was incredibly competent but the blonde was definitely a blind spot for her. 

He sighed. Trevor had almost accepted that something really ugly would have to happen with Adrian before she’d give up on him. As if him declaring to the entire bar that he didn’t want to fuck her wasn’t enough, he thought with a silent groan.

Trevor had itched to throw Adrian out on his pompous ass, but was helpless in the face of Sypha’s generosity. He wouldn’t disrespect her wishes, that was insulting. But if he could protect her, be a barrier between her and the dangerous uncertainty of a spoiled, almost alcoholic dickhead, then he would.

A small meow brought him back to the moment and he looked down to see two eyes peering out at him inquisitively from under the couch. Trevor cautiously locked eyes with the cat. “Listen,” he whispered, “I’m not really a cat person. If you stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of yours, okay?”

A squeak and the little nose appeared. “Does that mean yes?” Trevor asked Bruja and she warbled as her head appeared. Slowly, arching her way out from beneath the couch like a princess descending from her daybed, the petitely sleek cat wound her way around the edges of the furniture. 

Trevor followed her progress, noting with relief that she was steering clear of him in favor of heading for the far wall. With a last little dart, she sprinted into Sypha’s room with a triumphant ‘purrrowr!,’ lightly smacking into the door, which yawned wide as a result.

“Hey!” Trevor hissed, alarmed. “Don’t wake her up!”

“Meow!” came the loud retort and Trevor sprung up as quietly as possible, hesitating at the threshold. His heart tripped once at the small, still form huddled under the blankets and the peek of her long red mane cascading across the pillow. Good morning gorgeous, he thought with yearning and wished he could wake her with a kiss.

Then he spied Bruja. The cat looked at him inquiringly and leapt onto Sypha’s bed.

“Seriously, come on!” Trevor warned her. “Your mom is tired and this isn’t fair, let her sleep!” He tried patting his leg like he would with a dog. Bruja pointedly ignored him.

“Meow! Meow! Meeeeeoooooooowwwwww!” the cat called plaintively, stomping over Sypha’s feet insistently. The redhead stirred with a murmur, and Trevor decided he would risk the claws. He crept over to the bed and scooped up the cat whose morning tirade abruptly ceased. Holding Bruja at arm’s length like she might explode, he started to back out of the room.

“Bruja?” Sypha murmured, sitting up, blinking and then staring at him. Trevor froze, the cat held out in front of him like an offering, one foot out of Sypha's bedroom and one foot in. He was suddenly incredibly aware that it probably looked like he was trying to do something creepy.

Sypha yawned and rubbed her eyes. “Oh, good morning,” she said calmly. He was amazed she was so blasé about this, completely unaware she was praying he hadn't noticed her gaping at the best abs to ever grace her bedroom.

“Hey,” Trevor said lamely, unsure what to do. Sypha groped at her side table and came back with a pair of glasses. The cat squirmed and he put her down immediately, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pants and trying not to drool over the softly disheveled goddess waking from her slumber.

Bruja instantly started licking her mussed fur compulsively, staring at him with accusing eyes. Sypha put on the glasses and looked over at him. “You wear glasses,” he said dumbly and Sypha touched them self-consciously.

“Oh! Ha ha, yes, I usually wear contacts, but at home I just do the glasses,” she shrugged. “Just simpler, I guess?” 

His brain was on its knees. She looked so studious and innocent and fucking adorable in those glasses. With her frowsy ponytail, sleepy face and still half-buried in her blankets, he was utterly seduced. “They look really good on you,” he managed and she grinned.

“Thanks,” she said simply. “You’re the first non-relative to see me in them, so consider yourself among the elite!”

Oh believe me, I do, he thought gratefully. Getting to see her like this was a dream come true and he felt damn lucky.

“So what’s up; you hungry?” she asked.

“Your cat was waking you up,” he said and felt like an idiot. “I mean, I was trying to keep her from doing that.” He sighed. “As you can see, I was not successful.”

“Oh, that’s just Bruja,” Sypha said. “She’ll wake me for food and then let me go back to sleep. It’s okay.”

“Why not put out food the night before? Then you could sleep?” he asked her and Sypha was clearly amused. 

“Because she’ll eat it and still come begging. You’ve never had a cat, have you?”

Trevor tucked his hair behind his ear self-consciously, unaware that Sypha wanted to whimper as his bicep bulged. Putting her glasses on had totally been worth the embarrassment. “Is it that obvious?” he asked sheepishly.

“Hey, no judgement, you just gotta learn that they’ll eat themselves into a stupor. Bruja is a bottomless pit of begging. I love her, but she has no control.”

“How long have you had her?” Trevor asked. He didn’t want her to move just yet, didn’t want to have to leave. Just stay right there and let me pretend that I got up to feed Bruja before crawling back in there with you, he thought wistfully.

“A little over two years now. She was a rescue that they found trapped in a condemned house. They named her Tiffany, which frankly, both of us found insulting. Isn’t that right sweetie?” she cooed at the cat, who perked up and rubbed against the bedframe adoringly.

“So you named her Bruja?” he asked her, curious. “That’s Spanish for witch, right?”

“Why Trevor Belmont! Si Io es. Tú hablas?” (Yes it is. You speak it?)

It took him a good moment to translate and he shook his head. “No, no, I really don’t but I recognize some words. It’s close to French, which is my mother’s first language and I took a Spanish class in highschool.”

Sypha was beaming at him and he swallowed. Resisting her, especially in such an intimate and disarming setting, was really becoming a struggle for him. She was just… everything.

“I love that!” The redhead said happily. “Spanish is my grandfather’s first language and really, the only one he’s truly fluent in. He taught me and I am so grateful for it. French does have a lot of the same though, I agree.”

She gave him a saucy grin. “And it’s such a romantic language, don’t you think?”

You make me want to be romantic, he thought but just smiled back. “It can be,” he agreed. 

“Vamos hace calor,” she teased. “Admitelo.” (Come on it’s hot. Admit it.)

“Je le garderai à l'esprit,” (I will keep it in mind), he purred back and Sypha gave an exaggerated flutter, fanning herself wildly.

“Careful Trevor, I might just melt,” she warned, batting her lashes. “You are entirely too perfect, and I might think you are a bruja, too.”

Excited awareness prickled over him. Perfect? He thought disbelievingly. Be cool, Trevor, don’t assume. But hope made him brave. “I promise, I have no magic up my sleeve,” he said, stepping forward with his wrists out. “See?”

“I don’t know,” she said sassily with her eyebrows raised. “It’s dark in here, I think I need a closer look.”

A thrill zig-zagged up his belly and into his throat. Oh I will get closer, don’t you worry, he thought as he made his way to the side of her bed. The soft scent of her was warm and densely rich as it clung to her sheets and Trevor swallowed against the urge to just lay his head in her lap and breathe.

Sypha put out her hand and he placed his in hers, palm up so she could inspect. His breath caught as she traced one fingertip over his wrist, following the vein up to the sensitive skin of his inner elbow. Desire flared hot and bright inside of him. “Sorry,” she murmured, lashes hiding her eyes. “Ticklish?”

“No, it’s just, uh, sensitive?” he muttered, focussing on not groaning like she was going down on him. It’s just a touch on your arm, he told himself, but it didn’t matter. It was Sypha.

“Mmmm,” she exhaled, fingertips light on his bicep and he could feel the warmth of her breath on his belly. Control was peeling back quickly and he had maybe a minute before she’d see just how much he wanted her.

“See?” he remarked, working for a light tone. “No magic.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” she said and there was a flutter in her voice that he honed in on like a bird of prey sighting a field mouse. She was not indifferent and he could hear it.  Ask her, Trevor, he thought and took a deep breath.

“Sypha?” he asked and she looked up at him. It struck him again, how incredibly exquisite she was. How seemingly vibrant and alive she was.

“Yes, Trev--?" she started to say and there was a loud thud from the other room. Adrian yelped; an indignant, angry, “Motherfucker!” They jerked apart like the blonde had sprayed them with a hose.

Trevor could have strangled him and he stalked to the door with every intention of doing just that. Fury exploded into disbelief and rising humor. He started to laugh and when Adrian glared at him, he actually wheezed, leaning against the doorframe for support.

Adrian had obviously tried to roll over on the couch and fallen. What made it hysterical was that he’d twisted himself into the sheets and blankets so tightly that when he’d fallen, his legs and one arm stayed on the couch. He hung there like a towel stuffed into a locker and just as helplessly trapped. 

The look on his face was shocked pride and furiously haughty indignation. It was priceless.

“Hey, lemme see,” Sypha said, squeezing past Trevor with soft, yielding curves that made his breath catch for an entirely different reason. “Oh Adrian,” she said sympathetically but with a distinctly snickering note at the end.

“Fuck you both! Stop laughing, and help me out of this!” Adrian yelled.

Sypha started forward and Trevor grabbed her wrist gently, still laughing. “Say..,” he had to clear his throat. “Say please, Tepes.”

Adrian’s eyes widened in livid disbelief. “I will kick your ass when I get out of here if you don’t--.”

“Sypha, did you hear ‘please,’ in there?” Trevor asked her inquiringly and she covered her mouth as she coughed. He would have laid money on her cough being a cover for laughter. She was not fighting his hold whatsoever.

“You! I swear Belmont, I will make you pay for this! You have two seconds to--!” Trevor reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone. Adrian’s face morphed into horror. “Oh my God, do not! Do not, I will kill you; I will!!”

With immense pleasure, Trevor framed the picture nicely, enabled the flash and took it while Adrian struggled and shrieked. The blonde moaned unhappily and looked at Sypha with beseeching eyes. “Sypha, come on, this is so mean!” he wailed.

“Okay Trevor, you’ve had your fun,” she said reproachfully and he grinned, releasing her. Inspiration struck just as she reached Adrian. 

“Wait! Wait!” he said quickly and Adrian hissed with anger. Quickly he squatted down, motioning to the redhead to do the same and turned the camera toward the trio. “Sleepover selfie!” he said gleefully and Sypha snorted with a distinctly entertained chortle.

“TREVOR!!” Adrian bellowed angrily and when the picture popped up, Trevor and Sypha were beaming into the camera and Adrian was trussed up like a prize turkey on a hunting trip. As if that wasn’t fabulous enough, he was mid-bellow, face a mask of outrage and wounded ego.

Trevor laughed so hard he fell over, which was a mistake because that put him in the range of Adrian. Specifically his free hand and his mouth. He got punched in the pec at the same time the blonde bit him really hard on his arm. “Son of a bitch!” Trevor yelped, still laughing as he squirmed away.

Sypha was working him out of the twined fabric, seriously hampered by Adrian’s angry thrashing. “Delete those or else, Belmont!” he bellowed.

“Not a fucking chance!” Trevor crowed, saving both pictures to his camera roll. “These are Instagram worthy!”

Adrian's eyes were wild and outraged. “I will fucking sue you! Don’t you dare!” the blonde threatened.

“Sue me?? Hahahahah,” Trevor was exuberantly flippant as he leaned against the back of the counter. “Go nuts, I got nothing to take.”

“I mean it!” the blonde snarled. Sypha finally released his leg and Adrian surged up, angrily ripping at the sheet still entangled over his shoulder. “Do not post either of those pictures or I will take you down!”

Trevor wiggled his eyebrows, amused and triumphant. “I’ve heard you’re really good at that,” he said with a smirk, crossing his arms. 

Oops, he thought as Sypha’s jaw dropped and Adrian blinked, his face a comical mix of surprise, anger and confusion. He tried to shrug it off. “These pictures are mine now Tepes, deal with it.”

“How much do you want for them?” Adrian said, narrowing his eyes calculatingly. Trevor snorted and waved his hand dismissively.

“Oh please,” he said witheringly. “You can’t buy them from me.”

“How about a trade then?” Adrian said, crossing his arms and giving him a considering look. Behind him, Sypha was shaking her head with a small grin, folding up the blanket he’d shrugged off.

“You don’t have anything I want,” Trevor retorted and Adrian’s face dropped into a seductive smirk.

“Are you sure?” the blonde asked smoothly, hips rolling as he moved toward the bouncer.

He’s fucking with you, the bouncer thought. Don’t let him.

Trevor eyed Adrian uneasily, straightening from the counter for the extra space as the man stepped in front of him. “Yes I am sure,” he said defensively, trying to edge around the flawlessly muscular and nearly naked frame. Golden eyes latched onto his and for a moment Trevor held his breath. It was laughable, really, how pinned by that gaze he felt. Just push him away, he thought.

I don’t want to hurt him, Sypha wouldn’t like that. He was sure that’s all that this hesitation meant.

Adrian put out his hand, brushing long fingers over the angry bite mark on Trevor’s arm. Belmont winced reflexively and the blonde clucked regretfully. “Naughty boys get punished,” Adrian murmured admonishingly.

Warmth seeped into Trevor’s cheeks and he looked away. How many men has he said that to? he wondered and sought refuge in knowing Adrian had practiced it to perfection. That was the only reason Belmont was remotely unsettled by it. “Back off, Tepes,” he warned.

“I’m good on my back too,” Adrian said, leaning in, pressing his chest into the brunette’s crossed arms, the warm and smooth skin an unwelcome contact. “It's okay; I can see you being traditional like that.” Trevor’s eyes snapped back, wide and alarmed. Against his own will, his gaze slipped to the blonde’s mouth before he looked away again. Sypha had finished tidying the couch and was placing the folded pile on the seat.

“Shit I do not ever want to hear again,” Trevor hissed uncomfortably. “You are in my space, Adrian. Last warning.”

“Anyone picking fights this morning forfeits their pancakes,” Sypha said casually as she made her way past them. Desperately Trevor caught her eye. She sighed and grabbed Adrian’s wrist. “Against my better judgement I am going to let you use the bathroom first. Do not use up all the hot water.”

She tugged, and Adrian flicked his eyes to her. “Make him promise not to post the photos and I’ll go,” he told her.

“I promise!” Trevor said quickly. His breath whooshed out with relief when Adrian started to step away. The blonde paused, turned, and stroked a finger over his cheek, trailing it onto his bottom lip. Trevor shook his head angrily, swatting his hand away. Cut that shit out! he thought with irritation, lips tingling.

“Good boy,” Adrian said, confident and satisfied. Trevor snarled, and Sypha pushed the blonde toward the bathroom.

“Never know when to quit, do you Adrian?” she muttered and he laughed, the sound scorching the brunette’s pride and scraping like fingernails over his taxed nerves.

“I fucking hate him,” Trevor muttered angrily.

“Mmmm,” Sypha said as she pulled out the cat food.

I really do, Trevor thought resentfully, as he took a moment to let his heart slow down and his belly settle. That was why he was so churned up. It was the only explanation. 

--- 

Maybe I need some rehab
Or maybe just need some sleep
I got a sick obsession
I'm seeing it in my dreams
I'm looking down every alley
I'm makin' those desperate calls
I'm staying up all night hoping
Hittin' my head against the wall
What you got, boy, is hard to find
I think about it all the time
I'm all strung out, my heart is fried
I just can't get you off my mind
Because your love, your love, your love is my drug

-"Your Love is My Drug," (Bimbo Jones Radio Mix), Kesha

Chapter Text

Adrian sang in the shower. It was absolutely adorable. 

“He’s actually good,” Trevor muttered. “Figures.”

The corner of Sypha’s mouth tugged so she turned on the oven and ducked down to get a baking sheet and grin.The worst of the scene between the men was over, thank goodness. She had been afraid for a moment that Adrian might actually hit Trevor for real when he’d refused to give up the photos.

The bite had been bad enough, and actually… “Hey, did he break the skin when he bit you?” she asked him, looking over her shoulder. Would you look at that, his chest makes my fridge look like a ninety pound weakling, she thought with a groan. I mean you could break a door down with that thing.

It’d been incredible the first time she saw him in her bedroom, and now, with the lights on, she swore he just got more intensely attractive. Part of her wanted him to put his shirt back on so she could think again. The other part of her just wanted to shove him onto her counter, mount his lap, curl her fingers into his chest hair and grind on those abs until they were both panting.

Adrian sang out, “So baby come light me up, and baby I’ll let you on it,” and she reminded herself that they weren’t alone here. She wasn’t sure if she was happy about that, or pissed. She opened the fridge and got the bacon out.

“Nah, it’s fine,” Trevor poked at the bite that was red, angry and purpling at the edges. “It was so worth it. It’ll bruise but whatever,” he shrugged. His muscles rippled and Sypha banged her knee solidly into the fridge door. 

Pay attention to what you are doing! she thought and her desire groaned that it was paying attention to what she should be doing. Her nipples peaked in agreement, reminding her that she needed to put on a bra.

“Ooof, clumsy me haha, you’d think I’d know my way around this kitchen already!” she exclaimed, wincing. She closed the door and put the bacon on the counter. Opening the bottom cupboard, she got the parchment paper and lined the baking sheet.

“You okay?” he asked her, tilting his head with a worried furrow of his brow.

“Yeah, I’m just still waking up,” she covered her mouth. The yawn was not a fake out, she was tired. She grabbed the kitchen snips and opened the bacon package, distributing the strips evenly on the sheet.

Adrian switched to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance,’ and Sypha hummed along. “You could leave this for now, and go back to bed,” Trevor said gently and she shook her head.

“Nope. I promised breakfast and besides, I bet you’d both like to get home sooner rather than later. Do you work tonight?” she asked him.

“No, actually, I have the night off,” he smiled. “Do you?”

Sypha smiled ruefully. “I’m betting I work. Striga warned me that Lenore was still out last night. I won’t have to work VIP again, but if Striga is covering there then I will have to take the dance floor bar to cover her. I told Morana to text me once she knew.” She grinned. “At least it’s all OT at this point. I am saving up for school, and this week has bought me a semester’s worth of textbooks, haha.”

Trevor’s eyebrows shot up. “School, hey?” he asked, clearly interested. She nodded, washing her hands. She dried them and spoke.

“I have all the first year courses for a business degree with a focus on community planning completed, and most of my second year. I took a break for a couple of reasons but money was one of them. I also wanted to be sure that I had the classes I needed to do what I really want.” She put the pan of bacon in the oven before reaching into the cupboard for a mixing bowl.

“And what do you really want to do?” Trevor asked her, Bruja skittering past him to her water bowl. He straightened instinctively, and she had to resist the grin. 

She’ll grow on you, don’t worry, she thought. “I want to work for a non-profit organization within the community,” she said calmly, although her heart pounded.

Sypha didn’t discuss this much. People inevitably tried to talk her out of it because it wasn’t glamorous or profitable, or they treated her like she was a saint. Both were uncomfortable, and what Trevor thought mattered to her.

“That’s cool, I can see you being really good at that,” he said with a smile. “Is there a particular group you had in mind to work with?”

Sypha exhaled quietly, measuring out the ingredients into the bowl. You really are perfect, she thought. You accept this part of me without any judgement. “I’m really interested in affordable housing, education and job support, outreach programs for refugees, and sex education for youth. It might sound like a wide range but actually, you’ll find that many of those things go hand in hand.”

She peeked into the cupboard for the brown sugar. “Often when someone comes to the city from another country they have immediate needs that always come down to housing, job opportunities and school for their children. The support in our city cannot meet the actual needs that exist and I think I could--I’m sorry!” she laughed self-deprecatingly. “I get really excited about this and I know it’s not actually interesting to most people!”

Trevor’s smile was slow and reassuring. “I’m interested, believe me. And most people are idiots. How could you not believe in taking care of your neighbors?” he asked.

Sypha looked up. He meant it, she could see it on his face. And what a fabulous face it was, she thought. The rough stubble was drop dead sexy, his kind blue eyes serious as they met hers, and the fascinating scar crinkling slowly as he grinned.

“Okay, what are you thinking?” he asked.

“I’m thinking that’s a very particular way of thinking,” she said. “The phrasing seems religious even, ‘believe in taking care of your neighbours.’”

Trevor looked sheepish. “You caught me. My mum is very Catholic and ‘love thy neighbor’ was a theme I grew up with.”

“That’s okay by me,” Sypha said easily. “It does explain some things though.”

His smile faded and his eyes grew watchful. She missed it as she whisked the sugar into the dry ingredients. “What does it explain?” he asked carefully.

“Can you turn the stove top on please?” she said. “The pan on the counter can go on the heat.”

She heard Trevor clattering around and answered him. “I can’t explain it exactly,” she said. “You just have this way about you that made me think you might be spiritual. Maybe how you treat everyone well regardless of their behaviour? You live like you believe everyone has value.”

Trevor’s voice was oddly relieved. “Oh, okay. Thank you.”

Sypha glanced up and saw his face. “What did you think I was gonna say? You look surprised.”

He tapped the counter thoughtfully. “I’ve had some people who see my background as a bad thing. Understandably to be honest. I have a lot of issues with the church myself, actually, it’s a fucking wreck. I just…” he sighed. “It can be hard for people to get over the faith part of myself. I was afraid you might hold it against me.”

Out of all the things I want to hold against you, that wouldn’t be one of them, she thought, even as empathy crept into her. It was hard to fight against the public perception of a label.

“Nope. Faith is alright with me. I agree though, the church has gotta deal with its shit. But that doesn’t mean all believers are bad; that’s a silly line of reasoning.” She stepped to the fridge and pulled out the milk. She poured a cup out into a small bowl and put the jug back in the fridge.

“It is, but people will judge regardless. It’s okay; I figure it’s simplest not to argue, and just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Trevor said. “Also, can I help? I didn’t want to get in the way but I would love to help.”

Sypha smiled. “In about 10 minutes you can set the table,” she said and he gave her a thumbs up. “How do you like your bacon?” she asked him, pouring the vinegar into the milk to make buttermilk and setting it aside to allow it to curdle.

“Chewy with a little crisp. But honestly, it’s all wonderful. I am really grateful you are cooking.” He said it so humbly that she felt a little embarrassed.

“It’s just pancakes and bacon, Trevor,” she said. “It’s nothing, really.” He crossed his arms-- oh baby , she wanted to whimper--and shook his head slowly.

“I live on very simple food and didn’t realize how good I had it with my mum’s cooking until I moved out,” he said. “I miss it a lot.” There was a small sigh. “I miss her a lot.”

“It’s been a while since you’ve been home?” Sypha asked carefully. Parents were a loaded question sometimes. She passed him the tin of muffins and watched him open it. His absolute glee when he realized what was inside made her grin.

“Yeah, I haven’t been home in almost six months.” He pulled one out and took a bite. “I am going to try to make it for Thanksgiving.”

“Can I ask why you moved away?” she inquired and the water in the bathroom shut off. She heard the shower curtain and Adrian singing Madonna now. Trevor finished chewing and answered.

“Sure, it’s not a secret. The firefighting training I want to take is here,” he replied. Sypha felt something click into place.

Someone who wants to help their community, she thought. Someone who would live in service and care about people and understand long hours and needing to give something back. Someone who could love you for what you believe in and not in spite of it.

“Who doesn’t want to help their neighbors indeed, Mr. Belmont,” she murmured, her heart skipping like a kindergartener on their first day of school. He winced around the mouthful of muffin.

“Ah, yeah.” He cleared his throat. “That’s definitely in there somewhere.” She looked over at him and he was looking at the tin in his hands. “It’s just something I could do. It would help. When I looked into the training, it just... it seemed right.” She saw his face as he looked at the tin; the intense certainty and hopefulness. 

You are such a good man, Trevor Belmont, she thought. It was almost intimidating but Sypha prided herself on knowing her worth. She was just as worthy as him, and, if she decided to go for it, would be worthy of him.

There was a banging clatter from the bathroom and Trevor glanced back. She looked toward the bathroom with him. “I hope it’s still standing when he comes out,” the brunette said wryly.

“I heard you!” Adrian yelled. “Come in and check for yourself!”

Trevor rolled his eyes and said a little louder, “No one out here is talking to you!”

“That must mean the convo is boring then!” the blonde retorted. Trevor rubbed one finger over the scar on his forehead.

“I swear the only thing bigger than his ego is his mouth," the bouncer said with annoyance, finishing off his muffin.

“And my dick!” Came the cheerful reply through the door. “Wanna check?”

Trevor gave the door the finger and Sypha snickered. “I think that is what he is hoping for actually,” she said with a grin.

Trevor groaned. “Come on Sypha, not you too!”

“Sorry, I’ll think about something else,” she said with amusement. It was quiet for a moment and then Trevor sighed.

“Okay, what are you actually thinking about then?” he asked her, taking another muffin.

“I’m wondering where you got that scar, actually,” she confessed. “I’ve always wanted to ask but it seems rude?”

Trevor’s smile was rueful. “Yeah, sorry, it’s not very pretty.” 

“Oh please, don’t think I didn’t see Carmilla practically licking it before,” she teased gently and he shuddered. The little gagging impression he manufactured made her giggle.

“Yeah, but Carmilla’s a capital F freak,” he said and the bathroom door opened. “She said she has a thing for scars?” He mock-shuddered.

“Oh Carmilla is,” Adrian said as steam rolled out. “That woman is very comfortable with herself, believe me.” He grinned. “But your scar is definitely lick-able. Right, Sypha?” 

Sypha stared. I have never seen him look so young and so alive, she thought. The blonde was shirtless again and had put her shorts back on, but that she was expecting. The slight flush from the hot shower, the bare innocence of his face without makeup--that she hadn’t been. It was lethal when paired with the cheerful grin, the damp strands of hair tucked behind his ears and the sparkle of his eyes. 

He was more beautiful than she would have thought possible. “What?” he asked, tossing his hair. “Scars aren’t your thing?” 

What scars? She thought, taking in the absolutely flawless skin, pink and glowing in the morning light. There was a rising ball of nerves in her belly that confused her.

“It’s okay,” Trevor said, “they aren’t for everyone.” There was the tiniest drop of disappointed acceptance in the words that snapped her back. He was gorgeous and she wouldn’t have him thinking otherwise. She looked over at him and gave him an appreciative once-over. 

I’d lick everything, she thought. Twice.

“Well, ‘everyone’ is an idiot,” she purred. “Your scar is definitely attractive.”

He blinked and grinned. “Yeah? Cool.”

“I bet there’s a sexy story to go with it too,” Adrian said, combing his fingers through his hair and sniffing. “Bacon? Not overdone I hope?”

“Not especially sexy,” Trevor said, frowning as the blonde eyed the tin in his hands with interest. She was pleased when he opened the lid and offered him one, even if it was slightly grudging.

Adrian pounced with a satisfied murmur and, to her relief, actually said a sincere thank you. “Trevor likes his bacon chewy with a little crisp, so not overdone,” she told Adrian.

The blonde paused, muffin partway to his mouth. “Huh, we share opinions on bacon.” He gave an exaggerated flutter of his limbs and batted his eyelashes. “It must be love.”

Trevor snorted. “I can’t love anyone who doesn’t know how to make up a couch,” he retorted and Sypha’s brow raised as she poured the batter into the sizzling pan. I thought he was joking about not knowing how to make up a bed! she thought.

It made her feel sorry for Adrian. Helplessness was not something she would enjoy. She knew that no matter what, she could handle anything, and had the skills for it. Her independence was very important to her.

“Ah,” she heard the invitation in the blonde’s voice. “Good thing you taught me last night then. What else could you teach me, I wonder?”

There was a pause and Trevor muttered, “No means no?”

“Mmmm, have I mentioned I am very good at knowing when someone is lying to me?” She heard a step and a shift, and decided she didn’t want to test Trevor’s patience too much more today. He was doing her a favour after all and the mood was nice.

“How about he teaches you how to set a table?” she said, flipping the pancakes.

She listened with interest as Adrian badgered Trevor into telling the story of his scar, grinning over the stupidity of young boys and wincing over the genuine fear of losing an eye. She didn’t say it, but she would have grounded her son for two months too.

Ten minutes later she watched the two men tuck into pancakes and bacon like it was the last meal before a week long fast. She’d doubled the recipe and cooked up the entire package of bacon but was seriously starting to wonder if she shouldn’t have done up the sausages too. Trevor she’d expected to eat a mountain of food, but Adrian was a surprise.

Both men slathered their pancakes in butter and syrup, but the blonde had looked up hopefully and inquired about whipped cream and strawberries. Thankfully she’d had the cream to whip but there’d been no strawberries. Rather than the pout she’d expected, the blueberries she’d offered instead had been met with a humble gratitude that touched her. 

If she wasn’t wrong, it’d touched Trevor too.

He had given the blonde a thoughtful look before offering to pass him the orange juice. It didn’t look like much to someone who didn’t know him, but she knew that for Trevor, it was a sign of consideration.

Now they were both plowing through a stack of three pancakes apiece and as she watched, Adrian forked his second piece of bacon onto his plate with such relish that her heart squeezed. She appreciated feeding people who clearly enjoyed her food. 

Trevor made no secret of his gratitude either. The first bite, he’d groaned with such pleasure that her skin had prickled. He’d muttered ‘fucking orgasmic’ and continued to make appreciative noises that were slowly turning the lower half of her body liquid.

She half expected Adrian to comment on it but he was too busy making affirmative noises in response to all of Trevor’s. It was charming and sweet and also unsettlingly hot.

“Sypha,” Adrian asked, and she looked up from the pan where three more pancakes were fluffing. “Thank you. This is really good and I am really enjoying it.”

He was so sincere and sweet that she melted. “I’m so glad, Adrian. It’s nice having you here. It’s fun cooking for you guys.”

“I could get used to it,” Adrian said and looked over at Trevor, who was watching him while chewing. “What do you say, Belmont? Pancakes and bacon every day?”

Trevor swallowed and smiled. “I’d say hell yeah, and I can’t believe we agree on something else.” His words were filled with friendly teasing. “Let’s not make a habit of this, okay?”

“Oh no, God forbid you find yourself agreeing with me,” the blonde said with mock horror, picking up the strip of bacon. “What is the world coming to?”

“Insanity,” Trevor agreed with a grin and looked at Sypha. “Seriously though, he’s right. Thank you so much for this, it’s divine.”

The redhead smiled happily, pleased to see them getting along and over her food no less. “Not a problem, Trevor. Like I said, it’s just breakfast.”

He looked at her, eyes soft with admiration. “And I told you, it means more to me than that.”

Adrian clucked quietly. “Oooof, the man’s in love, Sypha, watch out,” he said cheekily.

Shock ripped through her and Trevor immediately bristled. “Shut up, Tepes,” he said furiously.

He can’t love me, she thought, I know he’s interested, but love?! That’s, that’s…!

“I’m just saying!” Adrian said, brandishing the bacon like a laser pointer. “Everyone knows that the traditional way to a man’s heart is his stomach.”

The turmoil of emotions that had dumped out like an overturned basket of laundry flattened as though Bruja had settled in for a nap. Of course, he didn’t mean literally, she took a breath. That would be ridiculous. We’ve only known each other for a month and… 

Trevor hissed out through his teeth. “The way to your heart must be paved in martinis and bathroom blowjobs,” Trevor snarled and Adrian gave him a sour look.

“Ha ha, Belmont. Mighty touchy on the love subject aren’t you? Weird, considering you make moon eyes at--,” Sypha coughed loudly.

“So!” she said determinedly. “What is everyone doing today?” Just give me a minute to sort out why I am both thrilled and terrified by the idea Trevor might love me, she added silently. She eyed Adrian. Did she trust his observations? That wasn’t so clear. He and Trevor fought like two roosters in a barnyard; he could just be trying to embarrass him. 

She thought about the look on Trevor’s face when he told her there was no magic up his sleeve. You might be playing with a man’s heart without meaning to Sypha, she debated. This made it even trickier for her now. The office romance had given her pause but this, if it was true, was an even bigger consideration. 

While Trevor seemed absolutely wonderful, she wasn’t in love with him, not yet anyway. Sypha didn’t play with hearts and certainly not good ones. She needed time to consider this. Intentional or not, Adrian had given her a lot to think about.

“Going for a run,” Trevor grunted.

“Ooooh, let me guess,” Adrian paused, fork inches from his lips. He eyed Trevor’s chest. “Ten miles; through the park and then around the Hills?”

Trevor stared at him and then, in a strangely endearing, prudish gesture, brought his empty hand up to cover his pecs. “Stop staring at me like a steak you’re gonna buy, it’s weirding me out,” he grumbled and reached for his orange juice.

“Oh are you for sale?” Adrian asked innocently and reached out to squeeze Trevor’s bicep. “Mmmm, prime beef,” he said, just like Sypha imagined a butcher would say at a nice cut. She couldn’t help it, she laughed. 

“So I take it the way to your heart is beef?” she asked calmly, reaching for the syrup.

“Well, it depends on the beef. Trevor was half right; blowjobs are in there,” Adrian said cheerfully and Trevor sighed loudly. “Pun intended!”

“I hate it here,” Trevor muttered and put another pancake on his plate.

“Here you go sweetie,” Adrian said with an equal amount of sarcasm and soothing as he passed him the bacon. “It's not beef, but it'll help.”

“He’s not wrong,” Sypha murmured. “Bacon is one of those things that makes life worth living.”

“Well, that and blowjobs,” Adrian agreed, sighing with longing. “Giving, receiving, in public, in private. You know, just like anytime, anywhere? Just, mmm, gimme.”

Unhelpfully the image of him laughing in his cute lingerie floated into her mind, the sleek, strong length of his body, and the stunning ease he had in his own skin. Oh no, absolutely not thinking about that right now, she told herself. Things are complicated enough, thank you very much!

“Are you--are you blushing?!” Adrian crowed and Sypha realized he was looking at her. 

Well shit, she thought and tucked into her pancakes in earnest as she desperately told the blood to stop rushing to her cheeks.

“I do believe Sypha might also be into blowjobs!” Adrian said and she covered her face with her hand. Her cheeks were flaming now, she could feel it.

“Hey,” Trevor said and she could hear the warning in them. “You don’t do that to a lady. What would your mother say?”

Oh shit, she thought and dropped her hand as her head shot up. She could see it in Trevor’s face. Instant regret and unease. She looked at Adrian and was heartbroken to see absolute devastation pouring out over every feature. Even as she watched, fury rose up in place of it.

“Adrian,” Trevor said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t--.”

The blonde pushed back from the table and stood. “Thank you for breakfast Sypha. I should get going.” He brushed past Trevor, scooped up his pile of clothes from yesterday, and went back to the bathroom.

“Well fuck,” Trevor muttered and Sypha exhaled slowly. Suddenly the pancakes were like sand in her mouth and she pushed her plate away gently. 

“I didn’t mean it like that.” Trevor whispered. “I wouldn’t have--.”

“I know,” Sypha said, nodding. “But it doesn’t change how much it hurt him.”

Trevor rubbed a hand over his face and then stood. He took a deep breath and a step towards the bathroom door when it slammed open. The blonde came rushing out and practically ran into him. "Are you okay?" he asked quietly.

“I’m fine,” Adrian snapped at the brunette. “Get out of my way.”

“Listen man, I’m--,” Trevor said, not budging and Adrian sneered.

“A prudish asshole? Yeah, I know.” He put his hands on his hips. “You think you’re so much better than me because you are sexually repressed and don’t know how to have a little fun, but you know what Belmont?” He poked his finger into Trevor’s chest and the brunette hissed.

“At least I’m not afraid to do what I want to. Life is too fucking short to doubt yourself.” He took a breath. “My mother taught me that. Apparently yours taught you to be embarrassed that men fuck each other.”

“Don’t.” Trevor snarled. “Do not talk about my mother.” Sypha was on her feet, alarmed by the sudden ugly turn in the dynamic between the two men.

Adrian laughed, a bitterly unhappy sound. “Oh sure, but mine is up for discussion because what? She’s dead? Fuck you Belmont, and fuck your saintly mother.”

Trevor’s hands clenched and she could see the muscles in his back tense. “Tepes, I’m sorry about what I said. It was a mistake on my part, but I warning you, if you don’t shut up about my mother, I’m going to deck you.”

That’s quite enough, Sypha decided and spoke over Adrian’s snarl. “No one is hitting anyone in this apartment. Trevor, please sit down. Adrian, please come finish your breakfast and tell me what you are doing today.”

Neither man moved and Sypha felt her own temper rise. “I said sit down,” she snapped. Trevor looked over his shoulder uncertainly, and she pressed her advantage. “Now, Belmont,” she ordered.

He moved toward his seat. One down, she thought and turned her gaze on Adrian.

“Now Adrian, I understand you are upset,” she gentled her tone. “I would be too.” He swallowed and looked at her, face a mask of resentment and hurt. Oh sweetie, she thought. I understand more than you know. “But Trevor really didn’t mean it and he did say he was sorry.”

Adrian huffed and crossed his arms. “I heard him, you know.”

Patience, she coached herself, even as she resisted answering him with the same sarcastic tone. “Oh good. I wasn’t sure, and I knew it would make a difference to you. We both know how important it is to be reasonable and understanding about how someone can say something that comes out wrong. Remember yesterday afternoon?” She laughed.

As she’d hoped, he remembered his own embarrassing scene at the club and his shoulders came down. That’s it, she thought. It’s okay. He looked sheepish.

“I’m not going to forget that for a while,” he said softly. “I think Striga wants to cut my dick off.”

Sypha laughed. “I won’t let her, I promise.” She pointed to his chair. “Come back and finish, okay? We are all friends here.”

He looked at her and she thought he would. But then his eyes slid over to Trevor and she saw his mouth firm. “No,” he said, “but thanks. I really do need to get going.”

Sypha bit back her sigh. She didn’t like sending him off angry but she also couldn’t make him stay. So she compromised and made up a little care package of pancakes, bacon and muffins, pressing it into his hands at the door.

“What’s this?” he asked and she smiled.

“Lunch,” she told him and when he looked back at her, there was that sweetness again. The side of his personality that made her wistful and hopeful for a better future for him.

“That’s really nice of you, Sypha. You didn’t have to do that,” he said.

“It’s nothing. Take care of yourself, okay?” she said and he smiled.

“See you around,” he replied and stalked down the hall in those incredible boots. She was fairly certain the building had never seen anything designer before and never would again.

“He forgot this,” Trevor said from behind her and Sypha turned. In his hand was a folded piece of stunning blue silk with light splashes of blue and white that looked like flower petals. “It was on the couch.”

She opened it up and a piece of paper fell onto the ground. She stooped to pick it up, noting that it looked like a robe. Trust Adrian to have an actual silk robe, she thought and unfolded the paper.

I saw this and it made me think of you. I’m really sorry for embarrassing you and thank you for being my friend. -Adrian

Sypha’s head snapped up and she stared at the beautiful item. “It’s for me,” she said, floored by the gesture and touched by his thoughtfulness. He'd bought it before she'd ever said yes or accepted his apology. More than the item, that was what she treasured.

She passed the note over to Trevor, who scanned it quickly and looked up. “Wow,” he said and she missed the discouraged note, as she looked back out into the hallway, looking for a tall, sexy figure with hair that looked like he’d mugged an angel for it.
---

Angels with silver wings
Shouldn't know suffering
I wish I could take the pain for you
If God has a master plan
That only He understands
I hope it's your eyes He's seeing through
Things get damaged, things get broken
I thought we'd manage, but words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give
I pray you learn to trust
Have faith in both of us
And keep room in your hearts for two

-"Precious," Depeche Mode

Chapter Text

It was just bad luck that he ran into Hector on the front steps. “Adrian!” the man said, clearly shocked. “You’re,” he peered at the blonde, seemingly able to look through his sunglasses. “You’re not hungover.”

This only soured the fragile mood Adrian was in. He had spent too much time in the taxi thinking about his mother. When he’d finally gotten distracted from that, he got stuck on how much she would have liked Sypha. The redhead had the same sweetness and the same amazing ability to put arrogant men in their place.

Watching her tell Trevor to sit had made him think of Lisa telling Vlad to stop lecturing and talk about something else. I miss you, Mama, he had thought, and then had to fight off tears. He’d been incredibly grateful for his sunglasses. 

He had no makeup, his clothes were rumpled, and his hair was still wet. If anyone recognized him, he would have to leave the country. Now Hector was in his face before he could get himself composed and ready for the day.

“I promise, I intend to cure that at my earliest convenience,” he sniped at Hector, skirting around him and starting up the stairs.

“Adrian! Wait, hang on,” Hector said and skipped back up the stairs. Both men were surprised when Hector put out his hand and gently touched Adrian’s bicep to turn him back. “Are you okay?” He asked. Hector took his hand back. “You look…”

“Terrible, yes, thank you I know,” he spat and swirled, charging up the stairs and slamming the door.

“Present,” Hector finished with something like curiosity in his voice. He had some time this morning, and he was suddenly very interested in where Adrian had spent the night. The blonde hadn’t looked that alert, present and aware this early in the morning since Lisa had passed.

---

The text from Striga wasn’t a surprise but Sypha still sighed. After Adrian had left, Trevor had insisted on doing the dishes. So she’d dried them and they’d chatted about his five sisters and what being the only boy was like. It’d been an unspoken agreement not to discuss Adrian. The bouncer made a quick exit after that and she’d gone back to bed.

She’d only been up for an hour when Striga had texted asking if she could come in tonight. “Lenore better be dying,” she muttered and then felt guilty. Lenore was a quietly sweet woman and would have to be very sick to miss this much work.

This was confirmed for her when Striga’s next text was bad news. “Lenore doesn’t have a stomach flu. Finally got her to go to the doctor and it’s her gallbladder. She has stones stuck in the duct and has an emergency surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning. She’ll be out for 3-6 weeks. We are looking for a temp replacement but it’ll be a couple of days.”

“Holy shit!” Sypha breathed, scrambling to call. Five minutes on the phone and a serious discussion about overtime payments and immediate time off once Lenore returned meant that when she hung up, Sypha was satisfied with the arrangements.

She needed to cram some errands in before she went into work or she’d run out of some of the staples, and most importantly, kibble. She also wanted to deposit Adrian’s $500 into her savings. She paused, making a little note on her calendar of his name, the date and amount.

She had not intended to take the money but then Trevor pulled her aside and reminded her that any funds she took was less money he had to drink with. As much as she agreed with that, she had pointed out that if his father cut him off completely, it was food out of his mouth.

Trevor told her she could always give it back but if Adrian damaged something, especially if he was drunk, she would be glad she had taken it to cover whatever happened. It’d been a valid point and she decided she could give it back at the end of the weekend.

In the meantime she was definitely not keeping $500 in cash in her apartment, that was just asking for trouble. Even walking around with that much to get to the bank made her uneasy. She checked the grocery list, added strawberries onto it for Adrian, more cream to replace what she’d whipped up, and an extra package of bacon because there were obviously meat lovers in this house.

It made her pause. Would they both come back? She wondered. She was sure Adrian would just out of necessity, although she hoped that Vlad would have relented in the light of a new day. But Trevor? She couldn’t say. 

Tapping her phone against her palm she debated texting him to ask but felt it would be too much pressure. She didn’t want him to feel like he had to come back, and besides, she was perfectly fine on her own with Adrian.

But it would say something, wouldn’t it? She thought. If he didn’t come back because of Adrian he would effectively be saying he didn’t want to deal with him anymore. If she made the move to date Trevor that she’d been thinking about, then she would have to be clear that she was still going to be friends with Adrian.

Nothing like starting a relationship with a little tension, she thought with a wince. Thinking about tension made her remember the comment Adrian had made about Trevor loving her. Really hung up on that, aren’t you? She thought with annoyance.

The blonde hadn’t meant anything serious by it but she kept thinking about Trevor’s eyes when he’d looked down at her in her bed. It had been dim and she’d thought she’d seen desire, not love. Certainly she hadn’t been thinking about love. Well, making love, yes. 

She’d wanted to use the hand on his wrist to pull him down into the bed so she could unsnap his jeans, yank them down and say good morning with style. Say good morning until her glasses fogged and he lifted her up onto those unreal pecs and teased her through her sweatpants until they were both frustrated and gasping and she would grab her headboard and ride him until--

Her phone chirped and startled her so much that she dropped it. When she picked it up, she saw that it was Isaac. The message was simple and to the point. 

Do you know a man named Hector? He says he’s Vlad Tepes’ assistant?

“Oh shit,” Sypha said and winced and wrote back. Yes I do, and he is. Is something wrong with Adrian?

No, he’s just trying to sweet talk me into giving security footage of last night. Apparently he wants to know who Adrian went home with.

Sypha heaved a sigh and started to text back. She stopped and looked at her phone before slowly deleting the message.

No, she thought, thinking about Adrian’s assumption that Vlad paid her to call him. Vlad and Adrian have enough issues without my help. They need to talk to each other and I’m his friend, not Vlad’s.

Sorry, she wrote back instead. I think that’s Adrian’s business. Maybe he should talk to him.

---

Trevor dumped his bag, jerked on his shorts and runners, stretched briefly, and headed right back out again. 

He needed the run to clear his head and work off this frustration. What a complete fuck up the morning had been. It’d been going okay, and then he’d put his foot in his mouth. The blonde really did get under his skin sometimes. 

Yeah, it’d been a little weird when Adrian had hit on him; he really wished he’d cut that shit out. But for the most part, the morning had been nicer than he’d thought it would be. And then you mentioned Lisa, he thought with disgust as he locked up again and took the stairs. And it all fell apart.  

He couldn’t even blame Adrian for being upset about that but damn it, why did he have to say shit about Manon Belmont? Trevor was incredibly protective of his mother and-- “And Adrian wouldn’t be?” he snapped at himself. “He’s right, you are an asshole.”

He hit the door and started to jog down the street. “If he wouldn’t be so…” 

So what? His brain picked up the thread of the dropped sentence. So defensive when you make fun of him? So tragically broken? So charming when he wanted to be?

“No!” he growled. “So handsy and belligerent and unreasonable and in my face and so...fucking extra!” 

Well he’s not like that with Sypha, is he? His brain observed. Maybe because she’s kind to him?

“He was a total bitch to her yesterday, and sweet as sugar today,” he argued as he crossed the street. “He’s only nice when it suits him. He only cares when it’s convenient.”

Adrian’s face when he thanked her for the breakfast unhelpfully floated into the conversation with himself. The simple grace of his gratitude and the genuine happiness in his voice. 

Are you sure he doesn’t actually care? His brain prompted. Because if he was faking that, he’s got more acting skills than Meryl Streep.

“She was feeding him, and her pancakes were incredible; he could be grateful for that and still be fake as hell.”

Those wide, uncomfortably innocent gold eyes and how soft they were when he said goodbye to Sypha at the door. The sincere words on his thank you note. He’s not faking his appreciation of her, his brain said quietly. 

Trevor was still wrestling with the gift Adrian had left. Sypha had been stunned and then thrilled. The silk robe was lavish and while he knew next to nothing about clothing designers, even Trevor had heard of the brand name.

Adrian didn’t show any romantic interest in Sypha but it was stupidly obvious that he wanted to be friends with her. They already are, his brain told him, so buckle the fuck up. He sighed.

He wished that she was less of a sweetheart in this instance. Adrian was a complicated disaster and entirely too good at bringing out the worst in Trevor. If the brunette was going to date Sypha, it was clear he’d better be prepared to have a lot more contact with Adrian.

You sure you aren’t just insecure about how much she cares about him? His brain asked and Trevor gritted his teeth. 

“Why didn’t I bring music?” he asked himself. It was a dumb question. He rarely ran with music because he liked hearing the city and saying hi to the regulars he would see out and about.

Are you sure you aren’t insecure about him ? The question came again but this time it narrowed into the blonde himself. The thought was accompanied with the memory of Adrian pressed against his chest and that lazy golden gaze that dripped into his eyes like a fingertip trailing down his cheek. 

He shouldn’t have looked at his mouth and the pouty lips that told him naughty boys would be punished. Now he was thinking about how pretty the shape of the dip in his upper lip was and the glossy sheen where his tongue had licked against his bottom lip. Had his skin tingled like it was right now? It was uncomfortably warm and he could swear he was blushing. 

“It’s the blood moving from running,” he told himself but his unease deepened. 

What if it wasn’t? Asked the reasonable tones of his annoyingly outspoken logic. What if you are interested?

“Oh please!” he grunted as he chose the steeper incline towards the rocky edges of the lake. “Interested in what? Being puked on? Or maybe listening to him bitch about the color coordination of the fall collection? No, wait, I know! Being told not to touch his fur coat because it was worth more than my family home!” 

He felt the anger working up again and embraced it happily. It was far more comfortable than that ripple of awareness. Trevor charged up the next hill, sweating in the mid-morning sun. But his brain wouldn’t let up. Maybe you used to think that was all he was, but we know better now, don’t we?

Adrian laughing when they agreed on the bacon. The ridiculous and cute sprawl he made when he was sleeping. The gentle teasing as they ate. It’s not so simple now, is it? His brain whispered insistently.

“Motherfucking hell!” he hissed and stopped at the top of the hill. Trevor stretched his tendons out, using the opportunity to grip the railing like he could strangle it.

It was one night! He thought furiously. One lousy, stupid, quick--Sypha curled up in the morning light, Adrian’s long legs curving over the couch, the cozy intimacy of watching her cook in the kitchen while the blonde sang in the shower, the feeling of rightness and belonging... “What the fuck is wrong with me?!” Trevor said loudly, slapping the railing.

There was a sound of commiseration behind him and he jerked around to see an old man pushing a shopping cart with two cats and all his worldly goods in it. “It’s the hair or dehydration and either way dude,” the old man said, “fix that shit.”

“I--ugh, thanks.” Trevor said, at a total loss. What’s wrong with my hair? He wanted to ask. 

The man nodded sagely and pushed his cart down the hill, cooing at his cats. The brunette finished stretching and started down the incline. He’d gone two blocks before he realized he was talking to himself again.

“Just don’t think about him, it’s simple. You ignore him when you have to deal with him, and you don’t think about him otherwise. This isn’t about him and he doesn’t matter. Don’t let him get in the way of what you could have with Sypha.”

The image of her untucked itself from its home in his heart so he could remember her hair all tousled in a messy ponytail, the sweatshirt bagging on her as she competently mixed up the pancakes and talked about making the community a better place. 

The man’s in love, Sypha, watch out. Adrian’s offhand comment had been like a punch in the mouth coming in from his blindside. Trevor had known he cared a great deal but he hadn’t liked calling attention to it. And the ‘L’ word was so loaded, even if it was dangerously close to the truth.

It had left him feeling tremendously exposed when he’d seen the surprise and concern on Sypha’s face. It made him question everything that had happened in her bedroom that morning. Maybe he’d misread the situation and she wasn’t looking for something with an emotional connection. Maybe he was making this all up in his head.

“Fucking Tepes,” Trevor muttered. 

I think that is what he is hoping for actually. Sypha’s words came back to haunt him.  

“I’d have to be black out drunk,” he muttered, “it was the only way to save the entire planet, and someone would pay me a million dollars.” 

It seemed like a very safe and unlikely list.

---

Adrian managed to make it to his bedroom without running into Vlad or anyone of note. Closing the door, he locked it and groaned with appreciation for the freshly made, king sized bed that he flopped down on. 

“Civilization!” he whimpered into the coverlet. 

Sypha’s couch could eat a bag of his bed’s dicks. This was heaven and the creaking protest of his hips was soothed by the soft give of the mattress that had just the right amount of firmness to it. It was perfect, and he should know, he’d had tried four before settling on this one.

He started to bring his arm under his head and realized he still had the bag with Sypha’s food in his hand. It made him smile all over again. He couldn’t believe he’d ever thought that she’d been a snitch. We are all friends here.

If only, he thought, remembering Trevor’s furious expression and nasty words before he’d left. As though he could talk about my mother, but I couldn’t talk about his? What a completely two-faced, bullshit standard!

It’d hurt, more than he cared to think about. Not only because it opened up the deep wound of loss, but because stupidly, he’d been enjoying himself. The food was amazing, the playful chatter had been fun, and somewhere along the way he’d started to feel like he was having breakfast with his friends. 

Trevor will never be your friend, he thought and peeked up at the bag resting on the coverlet. Sypha might be though, and that was enough to make him grin again. Who cares what Broody McBuff Butt thinks? He told himself. I don’t have to deal with him or his incredible gluts again if I don’t want to.

That made him think about what Trevor said about running. He never did answer me on that, the blonde thought with a sigh. Probably shocked that I actually know the running paths in that part of town. 

His mother used to go for dawn runs and somehow, she’d coaxed Adrian into going with her twice a week. She’d liked to run in the park near the Hills. It had old castle ruins in it and the lake brought a cool breeze when the wind picked up. Why he’d guessed it for Trevor, he wasn’t sure, but something about the castle just seemed like the brunette to him.

Whatever, Adrian thought with annoyance as he rolled on his back. You don’t know him, just that he thinks he’s better than you. He thinks you’re an easy lay; a drunk slut.

Some people might think that was hot, but not Adrian. Well, okay, most of the time. Sometimes it could be sexy to have someone pull your hair, and call you a whore. He frowned. But not if they really believed that. 

He does, he thought bitterly. He treats you like-- 

There was a knock at the door and Adrian sat up. “Who is it?” he asked.

“Your father,” came the low voice. Adrian made a face. Just perfect.

“One moment please,” he said, making his way to the door.

Vlad’s eyes raked over him when he opened it, and Adrian wished he’d left his sunglasses on.

“You’re not hungover,” his father said with great satisfaction and the blonde sneered.

“A fucking model son, just like you ordered,” he swept his hand over his body. “Satisfied? Can I go now?”

Vlad’s face tightened at the disrespect but he simply nodded. “I am satisfied, actually. Enough that I am not even angry that you couldn’t be bothered to let me know where you were last night.”

Triumphant, Adrian crossed his arms. “I don’t have to tell you that. It’s my business, not yours.”

“Hector said you were staying with a friend,” Vlad stalked over to Adrian’s bookshelves and picked up a framed picture of the blonde laughing.

“I was,” Adrian agreed and smugly perched on the bed.

“Would this friend be someone I know?” his father asked, putting the picture down and turning to his son.

“I repeat, that’s none of your business.” Adrian was working for cool. Inside he wanted to shout that he’d bested his father and they both knew it.

“Just wondering if I should be updating my contacts list for when I need to track you down,” Vlad said smoothly. 

“You don’t need to ‘track me down.’ I can take care of myself and I’ve proved that.”

Vlad arched one thick black brow. “Have you now?” He stepped toward the door. “It’s one night Adrian, it’s not like you’ve gotten a job and moved out.”

That stung. His father was right, but he’d been proud of himself and the cleverness with which he’d handled the ultimatum. It made his pride rise and he spoke without thinking. “It’s one night to start with sure,” the blonde said recklessly. “But who knows? Maybe you might get your fondest wish even sooner than scheduled. I’ll let you know when I need the boxes.”

Vlad turned, body tense. “What are you planning, Adrian?” he asked quietly.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” the blonde retorted sharply. “Get used to hearing that it’s not your business, Vlad.”

His father stiffened and narrowed his eyes. “As long as you abide by the rules, and don’t shame our family further, I don’t care what you do.”

Adrian ignored the cracks around his heart that always seemed to open up whenever Vlad confirmed his lack of interest in his son. “Good. Keep not caring, and we should be just fine.”

Vlad gritted his teeth and the hand on the doorknob went white at the knuckles. “Watch your mouth with me,” he spat and strode out, closing the door forcefully.

“Go fuck yourself, old man,” the blonde hissed angrily and stalked over to his closet. Opening the drawer that held his belts, he reached toward the back and his hand closed over the bottle. Drawing it out, he took a healthy swig and felt calmer.

“Now,” he said to the bottle. “Between you and me? There’s some plans to be made for today.” He pulled out his phone. “First thing? A massage.”

He placed the call, scheduling the massage for the afternoon. When he hung up, he eyed his bed and put in another call. He was pleased to discover that they could make a pull out version. It wasn’t a king size but it was a double. He could suffer through a smaller bed if it was comfortable. He placed his order, promising to have a delivery address by the time they completed the manufacture.

I need to talk to Sypha about it first, he thought, taking another hit from his bottle. Worse came to worse, he could store it here until he found living arrangements that were more suitable. Polishing off a fourth of the bottle, he settled comfortably into the solidly floating feeling that was pleasantly crushing the grief of the arguments he’d had this morning. 

“Alcohol, I love you,” he said happily and carefully replaced the bottle in its hiding spot.

He headed into the bathroom and stripped off his boots, pants and shirt before he caught himself in the mirror. His hair was a wreck and his eyes were wide-eyed innocence without eyeliner. Adrian winced, hating how young he looked, and his eyes travelled down, checking for other marks or bruises. 

Sometimes there were mementos of things he didn’t remember doing but not today. Today he remembered the night before and the scan confirmed it. Nope, just his annoyingly bad hair and perversely innocent eyes.

“Nothing innocent about these panties though,” he hooted, remembering Trevor’s reaction when he’d dropped his pants. He turned around and grinned at the lace framing the very naked bottom half of his ass. “Should have shook it in his face,” he chortled. The idea seemed incredibly funny and he giggled as he shimmied his hips. 

“You can do better!” he declared sassily, dragging his boots back on. Standing up, he turned around and gave a sexy little shake to the gentle curves.

“Oh my gaaaawd he would literally die. Die!” he snorted and pursed his lips. It’d be satisfying as hell. Tease Belmont into admitting he actually thought Adrian was hot, and then kick him in the balls.

“So sorry Belmont! I’m not your whore, baby,” Adrian said to his reflection and felt the thrill of revenge. Adrian’s train of thought was interrupted with a thud of understanding. Actually, a better revenge would be to seduce Sypha. Trevor was an absolute mess over her and…  

He thought about her great laugh and the hurt in her face when she’d asked him how he dared to speak to her like that. The sweet smile of welcome when she’d said ‘good morning’ and the way she’d made him laugh even when he still felt horrible over Trevor’s comments. The gentle press of her hand on his shoulder when she said goodbye at the door.

That’s a bad idea, he told himself. She would get attached. She’s the type. Your friendship would be fucked up and that’s a complication you don’t need. 

"Still,” he said to his reflection, “You can think about it. Imagine if Belmont walked in on you kissing her? Oooh, better yet, you’re going down on her!” The thought was pleasurable for a number of reasons and the surge of anticipation was a little startling. “He’d freak out and--”

But what if he didn’t? A little voice asked him. What if he came up behind you, brushed your hair to the side and kissed your neck? What if he pressed that incredible body up against your back and rocked into you and put his hands under your shirt and--

“Shut up, that’s not possible,” he told himself and the wide, aware eyes of the man in the mirror.

But what if it was? What if he was here right now, pulling your panties down so he could fuck you up against the counter while Sypha was on her knees with your cock in her mouth and wearing nothing but those great boots?

He quaked, his arousal pressing against the fabric hard enough that it gaped.

Do you think she’d say your name? Would he? Adrian moaned quietly. Would he congratulate you on treating a lady right as he fucked you? While you dipped your tongue into Sypha’s bright, spicy heat? Would she be soft and wet and sweet like her smile? Would she arch and clutch the pillows or would she curve into you with her hands in your hair? Would he tell you to make her come twice before you were allowed to?

His hands stroked over his cock and his mouth was dry. The fantasy had come on so quickly and built like a skyscraper inside of him until it was shoving all reservation out of his skin. Closing his eyes, he debated a scant moment, and then reached to open a cupboard. 

Let’s go all in, he thought and yanked his underwear down.

Between the scorching images of the ménage à trois and the generously lubed plug, his orgasm was swift and fierce. He watched himself climax in the mirror, imagining he was seeing himself reflected in Sypha’s eyes as he thrust inside her and Trevor held his hair in a firm grip and drove his hips into him.

Panting and trembling, he closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the glass. The orgasm was better than anything he’d experienced in recent memory. He wasn’t sure if it was the fantasy, or the lack of sex last night, or the uncanny amount of detail that he was able to put into the vision, that had made it so good, but he stepped into the shower feeling divine.

Maybe that’s why it snuck up on him as he was towelling off and debating whether to take a nap now or later.

What if you woke up in your bed with them there, and you had pancakes and bacon and laughter instead of breakfast alone with your family portrait mocking you from the other end of the table?

“Ha!” he managed, a little uneasy and an abrupt mess of wistful hurt that plummeted his mood and cut into the hazy glow of alcohol and satiated pleasure. “Like that’s even something you want.”

It was easier to tell himself that it wasn’t something that he wanted than admit the absolutely impossibility of it ever coming true.

---

Baby, there's just one thing I need from you
Baby, I'll tell you what I'm gonna do
Lately, I think I need you on my team
'Cause lately, you're my fucking fantasy
Lately, all I think about is you
Baby, I don't know what I'm gonna do
And you got, you got me beggin' please
'Cause baby, you're my fucking fantasy

-“Fantasy,” Mystery Skulls

Chapter Text

Isaac surveyed the calm, composed man across his desk. “Sypha suggests you ask Adrian,” he said, setting his phone down. The gentle smile that played on Hector’s lips begged Isaac to answer it. And they were exceptionally lovely lips. Pale pink with a slight sheen and tempting fullness.

You are at work, Isaac, he reminded himself and maintained his carefully neutral demeanor.

“I’m sure you would be unsurprised to hear that I have already attempted that,” Hector said softly.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful,” Isaac said, mildly surprised by his own cordiality. “But without a court order, I cannot provide the tapes.”

Hector waved off-handedly. “No, it’s fine, I was just intensely curious.” His chuckle was self-deprecating. “Adrian showed up hangover-free and shockingly sober this morning. If anything, I just wanted to shake the hand of the person who made a space available where that would be possible. He hasn’t been that way in some time, as I am sure you are aware.”

More than aware, Isaac thought. We’ve had to haul his ass out of here practically every night in the last three--.

“He’s not a bad person,” Hector continued. “He’s just very lost right now.”

Isaac wasn’t sure why he wanted to continue the conversation. He couldn’t care less about Adrian Tepes. “I take it you know him well then?” he asked.

Hector murmured an affirmative. “I’ve known him since he was sixteen. Almost seven years now. He’s always been flighty and somewhat spoiled but since his mother died his poor behaviour has, well, exploded.”

“The loss of a parent can be very hard,” Isaac said evenly. He was assuming. He never lost a parent because he never knew one. Isaac didn’t count his mother as a parent and he’d never met his father. He had been a street kid for the most part, having run away from his mother when he was eleven.

“Yes, it can be. I lost both of mine when I was young and it took time to come out of the spiral,” Hector said and shifted slightly. It made the lush wing of his hair brush against the gold skin of his cheek and Isaac’s eye was drawn to the high cheekbones and long lashes. Hector was prematurely graying and rather than fight it, he’d evened the tones out into a beautiful silver. 

The combination of youthful, golden skin and silver hair was spectacular. He looked like something precious and angelic. Isaac was annoyingly susceptible to delicate and beautiful things but this was business and his own interest had no place here. “I can’t imagine you handled it by having endless drunken one-night stands though,” Isaac said.

Hector made an amused sound and sighed. “No, I didn’t, but self-destruction takes many forms.” That was uncomfortably relatable to Isaac’s own history and he simply nodded.

“I beg your pardon, that’s beside the point,” Hector said and languidly rose. The slender lines of his body were accentuated for a brief moment before he straightened and the excellent suit fell into place. It hinted at a trim waist, nice shoulders and strong legs. Despite himself Isaac’s eyes travelled slowly up to his face. He rose as well.

“Thank you for your time today, Isaac,” Hector said respectfully and put out his hand.

Isaac came around his desk and stepped in front of him. It was as he suspected, Hector was well matched to him in height and build. Physically they were equals. Personality we seem to be as well, he thought and regretted that this should have to remain solely a business transaction. It was hardly appropriate to approach someone at his place of work.

“It was my pleasure,” he said sincerely and took the offered hand. A pleasant hum pulsed under his skin as the faintly warm palm met his. Hector’s hand was smooth but not fragile. There was a strength there that appealed to him and intrigued him. He could faintly smell something quietly green but warm, similar to the forest floor when the afternoon sun heated it. 

The hum grew into a throb and he released his guest. This is not happening Isaac, he told himself even as his flesh yearned to re-establish contact with Hector’s. “May I see you out?” he asked and blinked. He had to lock the door behind Hector of course, but the way he’d phrased it was far more intimate than he’d intended.

Hector’s face broke into a smile. “Of course, thank you.”

It was a matter of minutes to take Hector through the quiet club; the stations closed and gleaming. This early in the morning the only other person here was Morana, reviewing the till tapes and putting in food and drink orders.

Isaac reached the front door and unlocked it, stepping through to hold it open. “Have a good day Isaac,” Hector said as he stepped through and paused.

“You as well, Hector,” the head of security said with a slight bow. Hector offered another one of those slight smiles and started toward the sleek silver vehicle at the curb. Isaac stepped back into the club.

As he locked the door behind Hector, he wondered what it meant when the man paused to look over his shoulder at the building before continuing to his car.

--- 

Adrian was feeling pretty fucking great. His massage had been excellent, he’d rediscovered the exceptional Dior top that he’d forgotten about from last week and he’d packed a proper overnight bag this time so he wouldn’t have to travel home like it was some weird walk of shame across campus. 

He texted Sypha to see if he could drop off his bag before she went to work and made a face when she said that she was on her way to do some grocery shopping. He knew what it was, of course, but he hadn’t actually done it himself. It was a surprise to realize she was headed to a place less than twenty minutes away. He debated for a moment. 

You could pay and use it toward next week, he thought and that decided him.

Could I please join you and we’ll head back to your place together? I’ll drop my bag and see you later tonight? He texted.

Her response was a bunch of amused emojis. I’m laughing right now, I can’t believe you want to go grocery shopping with me but I would love your company! Sure, meet me there.

It was a matter of five minutes for him to call the car and load his bag. The driver made excellent time to the grocery store. He told him to wait and that it might be a while. Adrian left the man happily playing on his phone and headed into the giant SuperCenter. There were so many people he couldn’t believe it. The rapidly depleting piles of produce and baking was truly unbelievable.

I’ll never find her in here, he thought and texted Sypha. She wasn’t there yet, having just gotten out of the subway. Well shit, he thought and debated waiting in the car.

Do me a favor? She texted. I don’t trust myself to look at the Lavish Level stuff. Can you see if the mascara, eye shadows, or soaps are on sale? At least 30% off. They’re supposed to be switching over to the fall line soon and I wanted to grab some things IF they are on clearance. Looking without buying their stuff is next to impossible for me.

Adrian theoretically understood looking without buying, but had never actually denied himself something he wanted as badly as it sounded like Sypha wanted this. He’d never tried Lavish Level but he knew the brand. It was one of those organic, save the planet brands that featured ordinary people in their ads.

Sure, I’ll take a look and let you know, he texted back.

Awesome! See you in ten! He looked up and around. Now to find the makeup aisle. 

When he found the Lavish Level display, he was ridicuously annoyed. The sign that said ‘Makeup & Personal Care,’ had not had this brand there. He would have thought they didn’t carry it, but it’d been clear Sypha had seen it here before. So why the fuck wasn’t this makeup in the makeup aisle? 

But noooo, it was in the ‘Natural Foods’ aisle. How did that make sense? You don’t eat makeup, you wear it, and why would what it’s made of change where it should be in the damn store? That was ridiculous, especially in a store the size of a theme park.

He’d finally had to ask someone for help and that had been annoying too because he didn’t know that it was the clerks who wore little red vests. He thought the people he saw wearing them were part of a school trip or religious affiliation or something. He had noticed them but mostly with pity for the people who’d been born without an ounce of fashion sense.

In the stores he went to the clerks were usually the best dressed people, which didn’t help him because that was literally no one here. He’d been reduced to just wandering down an aisle asking every other person if they worked here and it’d been so embarrassing. Thankfully there was a very nice older woman who’d come up to him and told him to look for the red vests.

He checked his phone. Sypha would be there in two minutes. He looked over the display. There was a tag for 25% off on the mascara and 20% off two shades of eyeshadow that were definitely not Sypha’s colors. The soaps were 30% off. 

Then he saw the prices. $11 for a bar of soap before the sale didn’t seem that bad. His was like $45? Maybe? He wasn’t sure actually, but he knew it never went on sale. None of his toiletries did. That didn’t stop him from buying it. You’re rich though, his brain reminded him and it was a tiny bit uncomfortable. I’m not that rich, am I?

His phone chimed; Sypha was here. He told her where he was and she told him to meet her in the produce section. Adrian wasn’t sure why they couldn’t meet in the makeup-- sorry the ‘Natural Foods’ aisle --but he went back. 

She was easy to pick out, even in the busy hustle of the space. You could argue it was her hair. The long fall of red in the ponytail. Or maybe the cheerful blue of her slacks peeking out from the sea of browns and black and jeans. But actually, it was just Sypha. She seemed so vibrant and alive in the press of harried people, a bright sunflower growing in the weedy underbrush. 

When he touched her arm, she turned to him and smiled. Smiled like she was really happy to see him. It dazzled him and made something deep in his belly hurt. When was the last time anyone looked at me like they were happy to see me? He wondered and pushed the thought away.

“Lavish Level soap is 30% off,” he told her and watched her face make a journey over hopeful, excited and nervous to settle onto determination.

“Okay, we’ll save that for last,” she said. “I’ll see what my bill comes to and maybe I can manage a bar or two.”

“I would be happy to buy you some, Sypha,” he said off-handedly and she shook her head.

“That’s incredibly sweet but I can’t accept that,” she said as they stopped in front of the strawberries and she picked one up and turned it over.

He was about to argue when she sniffed the container. Intrigued, he asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m checking for ripeness,” she said, putting it down and turning another over. He peered at the container.

“You can tell they are ripe from looking?”

She laughed. “No, but I can see mold and bruising that way.”

“So what’s the sniffing for, the ripeness?” he asked and she stopped and looked at him. There was something on her face and he wasn’t sure he liked it. Was it pity? Or judgement?

“Here,” she said and held it up to him. “Close your eyes and smell it.” He did and smelled faint strawberry.

Feeling ridiculous he opened his eyes and said, “It smells like strawberries.”

“Okay, but...” she said, picking up one, smelling it and putting it down before repeating this with another. “Ah ha! Smell this one.” She brought it to his nose and Adrian inhaled what smelled like a field of strawberries in the afternoon sun. He opened his eyes.

“Which one do you think is ripe?” she asked him and he pointed at the one he just smelled. She smiled and nodded. “You got it. Now, the key is to get that smell and avoid things like this.” Sypha pointed to one that she’d turned over. There were a couple of mushy looking strawberries at the bottom.

“Can you help me find one?” she asked. He was surprised she was asking for his help but was interested to see if he could find one. He reached for a new container and turned it over.

They made their way through strawberries, bananas, lettuce and potatoes and he learned something new about each one. Adrian wasn’t sure he’d want to go grocery shopping all the time but there was something enchanting about the process. 

From sorting through the bunches of green and inspecting the bananas, he learned that not all lettuces had the same vitamin content. It was a revelation to understand that sweet potatoes and yams were not actually the same thing.

He listened to Sypha explain that you wanted the potatoes to be slightly dirty and dusty because it meant they would last longer and wondered how she remembered all of these things. Like knowing that pre-washing could actually be a bad thing for produce? Who knew things like that?

She was an exceptional wealth of information and seemingly willing to share it without thinking less of him for not knowing. By the time they’d guided the cart to pick up the cat food he’d completely dropped his concerns about whether she’d judge him for asking and point blank asked her how she learned all of this.

“Some of it I learned from my family, but a lot of it I researched.” She bent to get the bag of food and he leaned on the cart, watching the blue slacks mold to the pretty curve of her ass. Part of him thought this shouldn’t be an issue that he was looking, after all, Adrian looked at ass all the time.

But the other part, the part that was wary of anything messy or emotional, told him that he already thought about her too much and said things to her that were too honest. He shouldn’t be looking because that would complicate things more than he wanted and he was already too comfortable with her. 

“If you’re interested, I’d be happy to share some recipes and stuff with you. Nutrition is really important.” She straightened up and turned, placing the bag in the cart.

“I don’t cook,” he said and held up his hands with the freshly manicured, glittering purple nails.

Sypha shrugged. “Never know when you might need to and it’s a useful skill. You might enjoy it.” 

The image of baking with his mother was a pointed stick that skewered him under his lowest rib and stirred vigorously. “No, I won’t,” he snapped. “Are we done yet?” Don’t ask me any more questions, he thought. Don’t make me remember.

“I’m sorry,” she said simply. It was so disarmingly honest that he didn’t know what to say. 

“It’s okay,” he managed after a moment. Her eyes were so patient and he had to look away. “I just… I can’t talk about it.” You’re doing it again, you’re being too honest with her. 

“I mean I don’t want to,” he tried, unaware how brittlely the words came out. “I don’t owe you a reason.”

“No you don’t. That’s okay, I don’t need one.” she said. “We need bacon, follow me.”

They went in silence to the meat aisle and he tried to understand why she was so good at making him want to explain when he avoided it with literally anyone else. If you just tell her it’s because of Mama, you’ll seem less like an asshole and she’ll understand why you can’t bear to, he thought.

Why do you care if she thinks you’re an asshole? His pride argued. She already said it was okay, why can’t you let this go? 

“My mother used to bake with me,” he blurted out and immediately hated himself. See? Too comfortable with her. This is a bad idea.

Sypha looked up from the bacon and gave him an understanding smile. There was no pity in it and that was a blessing. Maybe that’s why he said the next part. “I can’t talk about her; it hurts.”

“Of course it does. You obviously loved her so much,” Sypha said. There was no ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘I know how you feel.’ It was refreshing and he couldn’t explain what a relief it was to be able to say something about his mother that wasn’t met with a sympathy that felt hollow, even if it wasn’t.

“I didn’t want to learn,” he said and it was such a bitter cloud of grief that it hovered over the bridge of his nose, threatening tears with an electrical prickle. “I was too busy and cooking with my mother seemed like the dumbest thing in the world. Now? Now I would give--” he broke off and swore.

You are not doing this in the middle of a fucking Supercenter , he thought. You aren’t talking about Lisa with anyone. No one can understand what you lost and no one can understand who she was and what she meant to you.

“I’m sure that you’ve heard this before Adrian, but cancer’s a thieving bitch that steals our time. We’d all do things differently if we knew what was going to happen.” She put the bacon in the cart. “It’s easy for all those signs to tell us to ‘live like today it’s your last,’ but in reality, life doesn’t work like that. We can’t be angry at ourselves for doing our best.”

Was it my best though? He wondered. Was I ever living my best? It was a question that he didn’t want to think about and he didn’t want an answer. All he wanted right now, with a sudden and burning intensity, was a drink. I need to get out of here, he thought.

“I need to go,” he said and stepped from the cart. “I’ll see y--.” Sypha surprised him, coming around and touching his shoulder.

“Don’t go. I’m sorry, you said you didn’t want to talk about this and here we are talking about it.” She gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze and dropped her hand. “I’m almost done with the shopping and you can drop your bag at my place. Let’s talk about why you said Carmilla was a freak.” She grinned. “I want the dirt, Mr. Tepes.”

“Carmilla?” he asked, thrown by the topic change. 

“Yep. I felt like there was something specific when you told Trevor she was a freak,” she said, gently leading the cart he was still holding forward. 

Adrian thought about the one night stand almost three months ago that left him with a bruised throat, several deep scratches and oozing bites on his chest and the distinct impression that while he couldn’t remember if he’d had a good time, he really didn’t want permanent scarring. “She likes it really rough,” he said. 

“Yeah, I could see that actually,” Sypha said. “Do you know that she sent Trevor…”

The urge to drink was still sharp and he was about to excuse himself to go to the bathroom to use his flask when Sypha said, “Okay, be a friend and hold me back when we get to the Lavish Level stuff. I am allowed one bar only. I will tell you right now I’ll try to put the potatoes back and I need them more.”

It distracted him. “Why would you put the potatoes back?” he asked and her expression was rueful.

“My cart is about $65-75 dollars right now and I can’t go over $95,” she explained. “I can’t afford it.” There was no shame or apology in her voice, just the same matter-of-fact tone she’d used to explain how red leaf lettuce was nutritionally better than the Romaine.

“What about the $500 I gave you?” he asked, curious. Surely that could buy her a couple more bars of soap.

“I’m not touching that,” she said smoothly as they rounded the corner to the aisle. “I put it away.”

Now he was completely confused. “Put it away for what?” he asked. Sypha looked hesitant and he suddenly wondered if he’d overstepped something. “Listen I--,” he started to say and she shook her head.

“I don’t like lying to my friends so I’ll just be honest. I’m planning on giving it back to you. But even if I wasn’t, it would go into my school fund. All my tips and OT does. I live on a budget and always have."

She was going to give it back? The sheer shock overrode both the lovely flush of warmth and the thrilled excitement of having more cash for his drinks. What was left was concern. “Sypha, you could use the money.” Anyone could see that after seeing how carefully she shopped and the extremely basic nature of her apartment.

The bartender looked at him. When she smiled there was something so sweetly trusting in it that it shamed him. “I don’t need your money.” It wasn’t proud or rude or judgemental, but gentle and kind. “I’m not your friend for money and I am not helping you for money. I don’t want you to think that.”

“But you took it,” he said, confused. She sighed and stopped the cart to look at him.

“I did, yes. I did, because if anything happened, accident or damage or anything, I couldn’t afford to be left without the money to cover it.” She looked at him with sincerity.

The shame deepened and he didn’t like it. He was free to be who he wanted and to act how he wanted and she’d said he could come stay knowing exactly who he was. If that’d been a problem for her why didn’t she say that upfront? “Is that why Trevor was there?” he asked bitterly. “In case I got drunk and out of hand?”

“Wait a second,” Sypha said so firmly that he blinked. “Backup a moment and take a deep breath. I said we were all friends at the apartment and I meant that.” She paused and gave him a serious look.

“You immediately took that as me saying ‘you’re a drunk who can’t be trusted,’ and that was not what I was saying at all. That’s your take, Adrian, and not what I actually said. If that’s what you immediately concluded, you need to look at why you think that.”

She spread her hands. “Think about how you’d feel if you’d broken something. Drunk or not. What if you tried to get a dish out of the cupboard in the middle of the night and dropped a bowl that damaged the floor? What if that was the morning my shower handle decided to snap off? ” She looked at him expectantly. “Wouldn’t you feel better if I told you not to worry about it because I had the $500, as opposed to you feeling like now you had to make it right and maybe needed to just go?”

She smiled. “It was the first time we hung out and the evening had not started well. I thought it was simpler to take it and give it back after the visit, then to make you feel nervous or awkward. And if something had happened, well, no hard feelings or worries because it was covered. We could still be chill and just carry on.” 

Sypha’s smile edged into a grin. “That’s also why I am telling you this now too, because I don’t want you to be worried about it. You’re my friend who happens to be crashing for the weekend. Not my renter. Get the picture?”

He got the picture and it overwhelmed him. She was so fucking nice and he couldn’t believe his luck that she’d want to be his friend. That she would worry about him being comfortable like that. Because she was right. He would have been embarrassed and ashamed if something like that had happened. And it would have been different if she’d just reminded him that the rent would cover it and not to worry.

You should be worried about what she understands, his brain quietly warned him. But he was too elated by knowing she was willing to put the ‘friend’ label on the table in such a real way, to pay attention.

“So Trevor just really wanted to sleep on the floor?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood so he didn’t have to tell her what it meant to him to hear this.

Sypha snorted. “Trevor was promised pancakes. Beyond that, you’ll have to ask him.”

“The man is serious about his food,” he answered as they started toward the ‘Natural Foods’ aisle again. “I can see it.”

“Oh! Thank you! I forgot chocolate chips, I need to make him more muffins...which, damn it,” she eyed the cart. “Means I need more bananas. What time is it?” she asked, pulling her phone out. She groaned. “Okay, tell you what. Can you please get the basil lime or the honey almond soap? Just one and surprise me because I honestly cannot choose. I’ll grab the chocolate and the bananas.”

He nudged her hand off the cart and said, “If you leave this with me, you can move faster. Meet me at the till?” She nodded and moved off. Adrian immediately dashed down the aisle. This I can do. This is an easy way to say thank you and to make it more equal. She can’t give this money back.

It was a blessing he was good with makeup and observant because he knew her palette and her skin. It was a matter of thirty seconds to grab two handfuls of each type of soap, pick four eye shadows in flattering colors and two mascaras. Fuck it why not, he tossed two lipsticks, a foundation and a powder in the cart too. If she didn’t like them, she could pitch them.

He was cackling with mischievous excitement when he reached the till and found a line with only one person ahead of him. His grin must have been infectious because when the cashier was definitely flirtatious as she gently told him that he was in the 20 items or less line.

Encouraged, he batted his lashes and told her that these were his friend’s groceries and she was going to come insist that she pay if he didn’t get rung up right away. He wanted to be able to do this for her, so could she please make an exception just this once? And oh, didn’t her hair look fabulous today, wow. Did she say her name Cherise or Cherry? 

Cherise preened and started scanning his items while he gushed over what was, in reality, a very mediocre perm. But she was happy and so was he. So when he told her that she was very pretty, he meant it. And when he said ‘thank you, you’ve made my day,’ it was with sincere gratitude.

In fact, Adrian felt so gleefully triumphant that he didn’t even snap at the older man who grumbled behind him about entitled youth and reading signs. Instead, the blonde turned, dropped his mouth into a seductive pout and murmured, “Oh Daddy, how can I make it up to you?” The blush and stammer of the older man shot his ego into the stratosphere and piled on the joyful sense of accomplishment.

By the time Sypha made it to the door with a warning look, he’d already prepared his speech. “I know you’re going to say I didn’t have to and you’ll pay me back, but I don’t want you to. I’m crashing for the weekend and want to contribute to the groceries. You’re my friend, not my landlord. Get the picture?”

Sypha’s face went from determined concern into a mess of giggles. “Damn it Adrian, using my own words against me? That’s playing dirty!” she laughed.

Enormously pleased with himself, he grinned. “I play dirty really well babe, you have no idea," he put out his hand to her and she twirled into it, a light, enchanting blossom of color.

Chuckling, she linked her arm through his as she came close. “Oh I’ll just bet you do, honey,” she purred. Adrian tried to ignore how much he really wanted to show her.

---


I was just an only child of the universe
And then I found you
You are the sun and I am just the planets
Spinning around you
You were too good to be true
Gold plated
But what's inside you
I know this whole damn city thinks it needs you
But not as much as I do
'Cause you're the last of a dying breed
Write our names in the wet concrete
I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me
I'm here in search of your glory
There's been a million before me
That ultra-kind of love
You never walk away from
You're just the last of the real ones

-“The Last of the Real Ones,” (Win & Woo Remix)
Fall Out Boy, feat Princess Nokia

Chapter Text

“D'accord maman,” (Okay mom) Trevor laughed. “I get it. Don’t worry, I’ll be there!”

“Darn right mon garçon mignon,” (My cute boy) Manon Belmont said sternly. “It’s not Thanksgiving without my whole family.”

“I’ll pick up some wine on the way there?” he asked and she laughed. “If you want to bring something, bring me a young lady to pepper with baby stories and photos!”

Trevor groaned. It was a common joke from his mother, who made no secret of her disappointment that he wasn’t in a relationship. Sypha’s grin floated into his mind and he was smiling when he answered. “Someday Maman, someday there might be such a lady.”

There was no getting anything by his mother though; her voice sharpened and he could hear the glee. “Is there now? Might this young lady have already made an entrance?”

He thought of Sypha sashaying down the hallway with her stunning figure wrapped up in that little black dress and those boots. An entrance like no other, he thought. He was about to tell his mother that he wasn’t ready to spill the beans but he would let her know, when another set of boots drifted into his mind. 

Fucking hell, he thought, and ground his teeth as Adrian’s little purple panties and long legs pranced in stiletto boots with gold trim. “No one is making any entrances into my life right now,” he said a little testily. It was more to the apparition who flirtatiously batted his lashes at him then his mother, but he could hear her surprise.

“Oh, alright then,” she said a little cautiously. “Sounds like you’re a little adamant on that front, Trevor.”

“Sorry, I just...thought of someone who has been really annoying me lately.”

“Are they cute?” Manon asked, and Trevor made a face.

“I guess so? A little?” he said. “But they are such an asshole.”

“Trevor Christopher Belmont, watch your mouth.”

“Sorry Maman, I wanted to say dickhead,” he snickered and his mother heaved a long-suffering sigh.

“You know, I raised you better than those words,” she said primly and then started laughing. “So a kinda cute dickhead that you thought of because I asked if you’d be bringing anyone to dinner? Mmmmm.” The glee was back.

Alarm was a swiftly rising rocket to the sky. “Oh no, it’s not like that,” he said. “They’ve said all sorts of things about me and my family and trailer trash and believe me, there is nothing there.” 

Who are you convincing here, Trevor? His brain whispered.

Manon sniffed. “You’re right, it doesn’t matter how cute this dickhead is. If they can’t see the quality of my boy then they are an idiot.”

“Well, in fairness, they haven’t seen my best side really.” Why are you defending him? He asked himself. “We tend to fight when we interact.” 

Unless he’s sweet and sober and funny and we are having breakfast together, he finished silently. Or at least until I screw it up.

It’s not enough, Trevor, his brain said stubbornly. 

“So you are seeing this person then?” Manon asked, an incredulous note in her voice.

No! No, I see them at work a lot. They come to the club.”

Manon laughed. “So they come to the club, find you in the crowd, and fight with you? Oh sweetie, they are coming to see you! They have a crush!”

Trevor shook his head. His mother didn’t get it. “No, they come to get black out drunk. I just happen to be there and have to deal with them.”

Worry was in his mother’s voice now. “Oh sweetie, that’s hard to watch and to handle. Do they have a problem then? Is anyone helping them?”

Unbidden, the sound of Vlad’s slap came back to him and he felt a pity well up that he didn’t want to deal with. “No, Maman,” he sighed. “I don’t think anyone is helping them. In fact, I think no one cares about them.” Except for Sypha, he thought ruefully. He refused to even listen to the tiny voice that suggested he might too.

His mother was silent for a moment and when she spoke it was with kindness. “Can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer it, just think about it.”

“Sure, go for it,” he said.

“Do you think about this person because you want to help them, or because you think you can change them? Because those aren’t the same thing you know.”

“I--,” Trevor stopped himself. What do I want from Adrian? He wondered, and really didn’t have an answer for that. Twenty four hours ago he would have said he just wanted the blonde out of his life. But now? Now he wasn’t so sure. It would be simplest, that would be true. 

“I don’t want to think about them at all, to be honest,” he said and it was the truth. Whatever thoughts he had about Adrian, they were complicated.

“That’s an easy fix actually,” Manon Belmont said merrily.

“Is it?” Trevor asked warily. His mother was a little too cheerful about this.

“Yep. Just find someone else to think about!”

That’s not the problem, Trevor reflected, even as he laughed with her. Sypha was never far from his thoughts. It’s just that Adrian kept interrupting. 

What an accurate reflection of life, he thought with frustration. When he hung up the phone he still felt conflicted. Trevor didn’t consider himself a complicated man. Desire and emotions were straightforward things that he’d always handled like he did everything else. Act on them, remove himself from the situation, or flat out ignore them.

“Yeah, Adrian refuses to be ignored,” he muttered. It was incredibly annoying that made him want to smile. Just a little bit.

So if you can’t ignore him, what are the other options? He asked himself. I’m not saying you can’t; just what if?

“Removing myself from the situation,” he said aloud, picking up some of the items he’d left in the living room and stowing them back in their places.

Leaving him with Sypha. Do you trust him? He wondered.

The irony was that he didn’t trust Adrian… but Trevor trusted him to respect her. Everything he’d seen of them together now spoke to a surprising affection that he hadn’t thought Adrian was capable of. Because you don’t know him! Logic sputtered. You can’t trust what you don’t know.

The dumb thing was though, the intimacy of the situation last night and this morning made him feel like he maybe, just a little, did know Adrian. Not enough to risk her, his protectiveness argued and he had to admit that was just a fact. If anything happened he would never forgive himself.

And what if something did? He wondered. What if it wasn’t what you are afraid of. Instead, what if Adrian finally saw Sypha as she really is and made a move?

The softly assured smile of the blonde as he touched Trevor’s lips cruised back into his thoughts. Sypha’s gentle kindness and care toward Adrian danced beside the image. Would she be interested? He wondered.

It was so hard to tell and he didn’t like the uncertainty. Whether or not Trevor was attracted was something that bothered him but even if he was, he’d never act on it. Whether or not Sypha was attracted was something that shredded his happiness because he didn’t know if she would act on it. He was self-aware enough to admit it would break his heart if she did. 

There’s nothing you can do about that, he told himself. As far as you know she isn’t and neither is he. You still have a shot with her and you need to chill.

Just keep on target, he thought. It’s one more night and then this nightmare is over. Ignoring the blonde seemed to be the only safe response to the situation as it stood. He just hoped he could keep it up.

He thought about that sensual mouth inches from his. Wondered if Sypha might find it beautiful too. With a curse, he went to pack a bag and think about anything else.

---

Sypha was still slightly stunned and more than a little concerned when her shift started. Adrian had said he wanted to buy her groceries but when she’d found the bag of Lavish Level items she’d had to sit down. That was not groceries. 

Adrian had already left after dropping a suitcase that looked like he was travelling abroad for a month. They’d agreed to meet up at Speakers in the late evening.

She’d looked at Bruja and back at the bag that had to have over $150.00 worth of personal care items in it, and then back to her cat. “I can’t repay this,” she whispered and the worry had set in.

Sypha had known approximately what the bill came to and planned to explain to him that she didn’t need his money to be his friend or have him stay with her. She thought he had understood this, but obviously not. 

She was prepared to repay it to actively demonstrate to him that she did not want his money, but this…

You’re my friend, not my landlord, she remembered and sighed.

It wasn’t that the bartender couldn’t accept a gift, or that she was weird around money. It was just that it was complicated. Adrian was a special case when it came to what she would accept from him, and it had everything to do with his subtle self-worth issues.

On the outside, Adrian seemed to have boundless pride and an overabundance of self-confidence. But everything you needed to know was in the way he used money to resolve things.

The muffin money for Trevor in lieu of saying sorry, the rent money for her rather than just asking to stay because he’d been kicked out, buying her the robe as an apology--although that one was an oddity because he’d left it after the actual apology, but had obviously purchased it before he’d said the words. 

Even the groceries were a red flag. She’d said she wasn’t going to take his money and he found another way to have her accept it. It wasn’t malicious, in fact, she was positive he had no idea this was how he was relating to her and simply wanted to do something nice. 

He’d been gleefully glowing and obviously pleased with himself. Sypha hadn’t pressed it because he was so joyful. 

But the issue remained that she wasn’t sure he knew how to connect to her without his money to offer. As though he thought all he had to offer was his money. 

Well, not all, she thought. He treats his body the same way. “So ass and cash,” she muttered with a frown. 

He’d hit on her before of course, but she knew that was just him hiding away from the loss of his mother. The simple fact was that she was pretty sure that Adrian didn’t know how to form a connection that wasn’t based on sex, or money, or alcohol right now. Maybe he never had before; outside of his family of course.

Adrian could have so much more, she thought unhappily. He’d be happier, healthier and feel more valuable. Sypha reminded herself that he’d always thrown his money around and liked to show off his body. 

It was true, Adrian had always related to the world through his money and his sexuality. But it changed when Lisa died. It became more desperate; more sadly lost, she thought. It became obviously self-destructive.

“And why do you need to be the one to show him it can be different?” she asked herself as she scooped ice into the glasses and poured the soda for one of the waitresses.

“What sweetie?” asked Megan, a sweet brunette who’d worked there for years.

Sypha sighed. “Just wondering why I want to do stupid things,” she replied and Megan gave her a rueful look.

“Life isn’t much fun without a little brainlessness,” she patted Sypha’s arm. “You are always so responsible, it’s okay to be foolish sometimes. Who knows? It might be worth it.”

“Could be a lot of trouble for nothing though,” Sypha said to her, passing the drinks over.

“If it’s fun while it lasts and won’t seriously hurt anyone? I say go for it.” Megan carefully lifted her tray. “You only live once.”

This was actually really helpful to Sypha to hear. She put her hand over the one Megan had resting on the bar. “Thanks. Really. That is exactly what I needed today.” The bartender grinned and removed her hand. “Guess I’m gonna try a thing.”

---

Adrian wanted to fuck. Between Sypha’s cute ass in the grocery store and his incredible fantasy from this morning, he needed a distraction and he needed it quick. There was no way he was going to mess with his friendship with Sypha at this point and, although he was sure he could persuade Belmont if he wanted to, Trevor didn’t deserve his dick.

So he was dressing to find someone. Sleeking out his hair, dark slashes of color over his eyes and black wings of eyeliner. Nails fresh and foundation flawless. The smoothly sleek dusty rose trench and sheer lace bodysuit with barely-there booty shorts underneath. He grinned at the bright gold of his shorts peeking through and matched stiletto ankle boots to it that were studded with slouched ankles.

As a bonus, he could tie the trench closed so he didn’t have to listen to Vlad’s tirade on his clothes. He’d been coldly glowering from the end of the dinner table and Adrian had elected to finish his meal in his room. He couldn’t stand the oppressive silence and the pain of missing the voice that was noticeably absent.

Don’t think about it, he reminded himself, tucking his flask into the little metallic clutch. The warm buzz was a promising start to a fun evening. He checked his cards, condoms and compact. He checked his pocket. Cash and phone were there. Everything else he needed was at Sypha’s.

Humming Bebe Rexha, he took the stairs to the front door. The limo was waiting and he slipped his sunglasses on, starting down the steps. “Adrian,” said Hector. With a sigh, Adrian turned and looked at the man standing in the doorway.

“What do you want?” the blonde asked.

Hector hesitated and then stepped out of the house, closing the door behind him. It was such an odd thing to do that Adrian straightened out of his bored slouch. What was Hector doing? He wondered. His father’s assistant stepped down until they were face to face and paused, looking at Adrian.

“You’ve been drinking,” he said, and the blonde could hear the disappointment in his voice.

Annoyed at himself for thinking Hector might want something other than to police him on behalf of the almighty Vlad Tepes, Adrian sneered. “I had wine with dinner.” He turned, “Tell Vlad that his pride and joy left the house annoyingly sober.” The blonde’s smile was wintery. “I’ll suck a dick tonight in his honor.”

“Wait, Adrian!” Hector said urgently and came around to his front. The concern in his teal eyes was irritating.

I’m fine, leave me alone! The blonde thought. “I have things to do Hector; unless Vlad’s decided house arrest is his next move,” he snarled.

“I’m sorry, Adrian. I don’t want to keep you, I just…” He tentatively put out his hand and Adrian arched a brow.

“Baby, I know I look good this evening but striking someone speechless is a new win, even for me,” he drawled. “If you want to ride in the limo with me to the club, I’m sure we could coax some fun words out.”

The concern on Hector’s face vanished under irritation. “Stop it Adrian, I don’t want to have sex with you.”

“Hector, I don’t think you even know what sex is,” Adrian retorted, swinging away and stalking down the stairs. “Google it and we’ll talk. Believe me, one orgasm and your whole outlook on life would improve.”

Hector muttered something that he missed, and said, “Will you be home tonight?”

“Stop being Vlad’s version of my chastity belt,” Adrian threw over his shoulder as Sharma opened the door. “And don’t forget Google!” The door closed behind him and he sighed, sinking into the plush leather. Outside the limo door, Sharma and Hector were exchanging eye rolls with each other. But Adrian was too busy helping himself to the limo bar to notice.

---

It was his night off and he should have been reading his codes and procedures manual for firefighting. Trevor wanted to have all his mandatory reading completed for his courses before he applied. In his spare time, he was diligently working through the thick books but it could hardly be termed exciting reading. Interesting yes, exciting no.

But she’s exciting, he thought as he walked the next block. He was on his way to Speakers to meet up with Sypha and Adrian for the last night of this cursed menage-a-sleepover. And if he was an hour early because he wanted to nurse a beer and watch her move under the lights, it was only because he believed in punctuality. 

He shifted his backpack and cut across the parking lot of the closed IT store toward the back alley. He’d come up the back and knock. Someone in the kitchen would let him in. 

Trevor caught the gasp first and thought someone had fallen.

He looked up and turned toward the sound. It took him a moment for his brain to process what he was seeing and when he did his jaw dropped alongside the massive landslide in his stomach.

Adrian was leaning up against the side of the building, just around the corner from the mouth of the alley. At first Trevor thought he’d collapsed against it because he needed the support and was going to pass out. He actually tensed to take a step forward but his brain was catching up to what he was seeing and stopped him. 

The blonde was panting, long throat working as he looked toward the sky with parted lips and closed eyes. Adrian was rocking gently as though he couldn’t quite find equilibrium. He looked like a fallen angel, the dark shadows playing across his pale chest and tracing the tendons of his neck as he gasped.

It was the throaty moan that clued Trevor in, and raised the hair on his neck. The sound slapped against his skin like a wet kiss.The shadowy form he thought was Adrian’s fur coat piled in front of him shifted, the outline splitting from the blonde’s. He could see the shape of a person kneeling in front of him, one hand splayed on his belly and one moving between his thighs. As he watched, Adrian’s hands flexed in their hair as he urged them closer.

The emotions rising in Trevor were billowing clouds, heralds to an explosion that he could not guess at, only fear. A screaming maelstrom of feelings battered him, seeking the freedom of the chilly night air and some form of action that probably would end in violence. I have to get out of here, he thought but seemed unable to stop staring.

Adrian looked down at the person and there was something so nakedly sensual about his face that Trevor’s breath caught in his throat even as his cheeks burned. “That’s right, baby,” the blonde purred. “Such a talented mouth I’m fucking.” There was something terribly seductive about his smile and Trevor couldn’t watch anymore.

Quietly he backed up and shifted toward the wall. He couldn’t see them any longer but the pleasured whimper that drifted around the corner made him grit his teeth and prickled over his skin. With a quietly hissed exhale, Trevor turned away and started to walk back the way he came. Before he knew it, he was running.

---

I don't believe
In consequence
I make the rules up in my head
And nobody seems
To satisfy
This monster that
I've got inside
Am I a freak
Show me how you move
Cause when you break
I'll get a new one
Oh shit it's complicated
I do this every time
True love is over-rated
Baby I'm dead inside
Oh shit it's complicated
I think that you will find
True love is over-rated
Baby I'm dead inside
I manipulate
To make you mine
I'll pick your lock
Till I'm inside

-"Baby I'm Dead Inside," KOPPS

Chapter Text

Trevor ran. He didn’t know where he was going or really, what he was running from, but it hunted him mercilessly. So he ran.

The scene from the alley was a frustrating, horrifying, maddening mass of emotion that kept trying to rise up and vomit out. But he refused it. He was too afraid of what it might look like when it came out. What might be left once it was gone.

I am not going to think about this, he thought even as a stitch in his side started to insist that he was going to slow down, whether he wanted to or not. This shouldn’t be doing this to me.

I am not going to think about the slow rock of his hips or the needy clutch of his fingers. Trevor couldn’t sort out what he was feeling but it was too intense and whatever it was, he was not prepared to deal with it.

I’m not thinking about his desperate swallow for air, Trevor told himself. He didn’t want to think about the way Adrian’s cheeks hollowed out as though he was the one inhaling dick and not his partner. Didn’t want to understand why that was doing weird things to the pit of his stomach.

I am definitely not thinking about the way Adrian’s lips parted to make way for that sound, he thought. 

That sound. The one that crept under his skin like a tiny, feral creature was seeking out all the best tubers in the roots and would eat the plant alive. Trevor was going to hear that sound in his dreams.

In my nightmares, he corrected. I don’t want to hear it again. That makes it nightmare material. 

Seeing that was a nightmare. It battered him with emotions he didn’t want and messed everything up into a tight, stretched ball that he was afraid would snap at any moment with the power of a million elastics.

This is his fault , Trevor thought as he finally, finally had to slow down, his lungs working so hard that he tasted a vinegary bitterness at the back of his throat. He couldn’t be still but he was forced to slow to a fast trot. 

If Adrian wasn’t fucking everything that moved, he thought bitterly, maybe the public wouldn’t be subjected to shit they didn’t want to see! The righteous fury poured into a deep, hollow misery that made absolutely no sense to him. Did Adrian even know the person’s name? Did he care? Would he remember them in the morning? The questions ached like a thumb caught in a door and he didn’t know why.

‘Such a talented mouth I’m fucking.’ That sensual purr of pleasure, the hungry little smirk on his lips, golden eyes gleaming. Damn it!

Trevor stopped and swore loudly, throwing his arms over the railing of the overpass and looking down at the traffic that whizzed by. “It’s gross, right?” he said to no one in particular. “Who says that to someone?”

So why did it make you flustered? The question was incredibly unwelcome and he hissed.

“I was ashamed for him. It’s…it’s slutty to be fucking a stranger behind a nightclub!”

“Sounds like you need to get out more,” the voice was low and gravelly. Trevor looked up and saw an older man passing on the walkway with a construction worker's safety vest, filthy pants, and a tired expression. “It’s only slutty if you’re judging it to be,” the man continued. “Don’t judge.”

Trevor resisted the urge to tell him to mind his own business. What was it with random people butting in on his conversations with himself? One more thing to lay at Adrian’s feet. Trevor mentally winced. Don’t think ‘lay,’ that’s just…don’t.

Not only had the man been rudely interrupting, Trevor didn’t agree with him. Fucking strangers in a sketchy alley was slutty by any stretch of the imagination and that wasn’t a judgement, it was a fact. So what? he thought. Slutty or not, why do you–?  

“I could tell Isaac that we need a camera back there and then he couldn’t do it anymore,” Trevor whispered, rearing back from the railing and staring sightlessly over the city.

There were white pools of illumination from the streetlights over the shifting leaves of the trees that lined the freeway. It made him think of pale hands in dark hair. A deeply mangled snarl of fury pulled his lips into a sneer.

I’ll tell Isaac and that will be the end of it, he thought. It was unaccountably pleasing to him, and he wondered why that would be. Why it should please me that there wouldn’t be anyone else’s ‘talented mouth’ getting fucked behind the club? He wondered. Trevor wasn’t invested in whether Adrian got fucked…was he?

“It’s unhygienic,” Trevor muttered as he settled on where he was going to go. He turned back, starting at a good clip. “This time it was me but what if it was some kid or a health inspector or something?” It was just practical.

Bullshit, you feel triumphant, his brain retorted. You’re happy he can’t get blown back there once you tell Isaac. “He shouldn’t be back there anyway!” Trevor hissed angrily, stepping off the overpass and onto the sidewalk.

But why do you care? Logic persisted. He’s not hurting anyone but himself.

“Well maybe I am tired of watching him self-destruct!” he mumbled.

So you do care then? “No! No, I don’t care! I just–!”

Are you jealous? “Oh for fuck’s sake I am not jealous! I don’t want to get blown in an alleyway!” he snarled and immediately blushed as the woman who’d been walking his way gave him the cheekiest grin and winked.

“Damn it Adrian, this is all your fault,” he groaned quietly. “Your dick is ruining my life.”

Pretty sure that’s not what the person on their knees was thinking. The thought was unwelcome and shocked him. The mental image of a shadowy person moving their head and hands in an ancient dance between Adrian’s thighs. 

What would it feel like? To be on your knees in the open darkness like that? Those long fingers speared into your hair as he rocked into your face and–

“I’m not interested in Adrian fucking Tepes!” he growled through clenched teeth. “I’m not interested in him or his promiscuous ways or his fucked up life!”

And I’m especially not interested in ever being one of his faceless, nameless shadows in the dark, he finished silently.

---

Sypha was holding onto her patience as well as she could, but she was going to have to make a call soon. But to whom? She wondered as she watched Adrian dance with the graceful limpness of a serious drunk. He’d come in buzzed but it hadn’t gotten out of hand right away, so she’d thought that maybe… 

You thought wrong, she acknowledged with annoyance. The simple fact was when Adrian got to a certain point in his drinking he could either pass out, or he became a royal pain in the ass. Apparently he had decided to wear his princess cape tonight and be a total dickhead.

The blonde had been downright rude to her when she’d served him last, and the woman he’d been with had been licking his chest right in front of Sypha. It had been over the top, and very uncomfortable for her. So when they’d left out the front door together, she’d breathed a sigh of relief. She’d assumed that they were taking a smoke break or going to another club.

It wasn’t until they came back about thirty minutes later that Sypha clued in. She wouldn’t have noticed if Adrian hadn’t come to the open end of the bar and stood there like she owed him something. As it was, when the bartender looked over she noticed immediately.

Wherever they’d gone, it’d stained the shins of the woman’s leggings. It was like something out of a music video montage. The smug giggling as the woman clung to Adrian, the way he swayed with her. The music pounded over the scene, the flashing lights and brilliant hues slowing everything down into little snips of movement.

Her eyes had flown to Adrian and he’d raised a brow. Somehow she knew; they’d fucked. And so what, she thought again. He fucks a lot of people, this is not new. But she couldn’t help feeling dismayed, for both of them. She doubted this woman even knew his name and consent for both of them was a serious question mark right now.

He gave her a belligerent look and held up a bill. There was something about it that had been deeply insulting and she’d ignored him. But when she’d turned around, he was grabbing a bottle of vodka and tossing three hundred dollar bills at her like she was nothing.

Like he didn’t even see me, she thought again. It had wounded her more than she would have thought possible, and picking the money up from the floor had sparked her temper badly. There was something about it that scraped her pride and gnawed at the lovely feeling of friendship she’d had with him this morning.

Now she was watching the drunk couple pass the bottle back and forth while they pawed at each other, and struggling with a temper that was threatening to make her lose perspective on what actually mattered.

Adrian doesn’t know how to be friends, remember? She reminded herself. You knew this from the beginning. He uses his money to keep his distance from you in good and bad ways. It’s always between you, and there is no way he’ll ever let you forget it. You either decide to call him on it before he’s ready, or you live with it for now.

Neither option was appealing and stretched her patience. Putting the temper to good use, she whipped around her station setting it to rights while serving the dwindling numbers of customers. When last call was announced, she was grateful the night was almost over and her station was practically pristine.

But she still hadn’t decided who she was phoning. 

Looking out into the club, she scanned the seating for broad shoulders, shoulder length brown hair, and an easy smile. She didn’t expect to see him. Sypha was sure that Trevor would have come to see her if he’d shown up tonight. When she didn’t locate him, she pulled her phone out of her pocket. 

No messages and no calls. “Well, damn,” she muttered.

The bartender could call him and flat out ask if he was coming to her place tonight. There was no way that she could handle Adrian on her own if Trevor wasn’t going to be there; he was likely in the pre-blackout drunk state and would be unresponsive within the next thirty.

She didn’t want to call Trevor, that seemed unfair and manipulative. If he had wanted to hang out with them tonight, he would have come before last call. Or would he have assumed that I didn’t want him back because of the unpleasant scene with Adrian this morning? She wondered. There was no way to know.

If she called and the bouncer said no, that would tip her hand to make the other phone call. The one to Hector and Vlad.

Sypha didn’t want to call them. Adrian had said that his father had told him not to come home and the last time she’d called the conversation had been unpleasant. Sypha suspected now that she’d been talking to Vlad. It was likely that her last phone call was one of the reasons the blonde had been kicked out for the weekend.

So what do you do? She wondered, watching Adrian stagger off to the bathroom. There wasn’t anyone with him so she wasn’t too worried. With luck he’d throw up and empty his stomach.

Sypha, he treated you like garbage tonight, her pride lectured. You have zero reason to care like this. The bartender wasn’t a fool, she knew she had every reason to refuse to allow him to stay tonight. But…. but.

But she’d meant it when she said that they were friends. She’d had a lovely day and some really meaningful interactions with him up until Speakers. Sypha knew that drunk Adrian was not the real Adrian and she didn’t want to create issues with his father.

Maybe Isaac would…, she thought and rejected it. No, you can’t ask him to help you. Hector was already asking questions about where Adrian was staying, remember?

What should I do? She fretted, returning to her station and wiping down the counters. She was caught between the phone calls and there were reasons on both sides not to get in touch with either option.

Sypha was not accustomed to feeling helpless and she wasn’t going to start now. Forcing herself to move past the feelings and worries, she walked it through and made a decision.

What she was going to do was to call Trevor and offer him $100 from Adrian’s money to help her. If he didn’t want to, then she’d done all she could do. 

Adrian was an adult. He had gotten drunk knowing that they needed to walk back to her place. It was obvious that she couldn’t lift him or carry him if he couldn’t walk. Whether or not he thought through the consequences of this was not something she could do for him.

Decided, she unlocked her phone and scrolled through her contacts. She couldn’t call for another ten minutes but she could text.

Speakers Chapter 12 snip

So he had planned on coming, she thought with relief. That would make things easier. Calmer now, she focused on finishing up cleaning her station and noted the bottles that needed to be replaced from the back so she was ready to go the minute she was off. They needed to get Adrian out of here.

--- 

Adrian couldn’t seem to escape his own head longer than ten minutes tonight and it was destroying his good time. No matter how much he drank, annoying thoughts kept popping up. Not even an orgasm had silenced them for long. It was Sypha’s fault and he resented it.

He kept thinking about how nice it’d been to be with her this afternoon. How sweet this morning had felt with her. The cute tousled look of her over breakfast. That great ass in the grocery store. Sypha had no business being so appealing when they were supposed to just be friends!

If they weren’t friends he’d have jumped her already. You’ve tried to suggest that before, remember? He thought. She wasn’t having it.

Well what am I supposed to do with this? Adrian retorted to himself. If sex isn’t doing the trick, then what? 

So he had drank. But even then, he had to run into her to get to the booze. He could have gone upstairs to Carmilla but the chick he was with didn’t want to go the extra distance. Instead he had to watch her move, confident control, oozing competence and grace, and when she smiled he wanted to be able to call her his and–!

“Fucking stop it,” he slurred to himself, holding onto the side of the stall. He could piss if the toilet would just hold still. It wasn’t cool of the floor to move it like that.

So you hurt her because you’re mad she won’t fuck you? He asked himself. Nice, that’s really an asshole move.

I didn’t hurt her, that’s bullshit, he argued silently.

You saw her face, you hurt her. The admonishment of his own brain was annoying and he wanted to get back out to…to…to whatever her name was! 

How is that my fault? It’s not like I did it on purpose! He retorted soundlessly.

Maybe you did. Maybe the widening of her eyes when she saw you felt a little like judgement? That calmly reasonable voice continued. You didn’t want to know what she thought of how drunk you are, or what you’d been doing.

She has no right to give a shit about me, I never asked her to! 

Oh so now it’s her fault she is a good person? The voice that sounded annoyingly like his impression of Vlad. You’re such a dickface.

“Can’t a dude piss in peace without his motherfucking conscience harassing him?” he groaned with annoyance. “I just want to take a leak and think horny thoughts!”

“It’s the floor telling you to aim for the toilet man, or maybe your conscience is sorry for the janitor,” the mumbled response came from the other side of the stall divider.

“I am trying!” Adrian yelled and the volume hurt his head. The lights were too bright and the stall swam. “Stupid Sypha,” he muttered, closing his eyes while he did up his shorts. The dark was a relief but his equilibrium was a spinning plate teetering on top of the sharpest knife.

“Don’t feel so good,” he whispered, fumbling for the lock on the door. He managed to get it open and then felt the warning lurch of his stomach. “Shit!” he whirled and fell on his knees to be violently sick into the toilet he’d just liberally pissed all over.

“Awwwwww man, that’s brutal,” came the voice again. Gasping, Adrian shivered, wrapping his coat around himself and leaning his head against the stall. The world was narrowing in a soft, inky cloud.

“You okay?” His stall mate asked and Adrian waved aimlessly. He heard the bolt of the stall beside him and the door opened.

The concerned face of a reasonably cute man hovered in the shrinking ball of light above him. “You don’t look good, my dude,” he came closer. “Is there someone I should call?”

There’s no one, Adrian wanted to say but the words were stuck in his throat. It doesn’t matter. The thought he wouldn’t allow to form, that he couldn’t bear to allow, was that maybe he didn’t matter.

You’re my friend. Sypha’s grin. We’re all friends here. Those pretty blue eyes filled with understanding and caring.

“Sypha,” Adrian whispered and passed out.

---

Sypha was in the back getting her messenger bag and refilling her water bottle when Isaac found her. “Sypha,” he said and she turned with a smile for the head of security.

The look on his face was so serious that her smile froze in an awkward caricature of happiness that was obviously not felt. “What’s wrong?” she asked, carefully putting the bottle she was holding down.

“Adrian passed out in the bathroom and the person who found him said he stopped breathing.”

“What?!” The horror and then the guilt, was enormous. Terror ripped inside her, and she was shocked to feel her heart breaking. She knew she cared but she hadn’t realized just how much. “Is he…?”

“No! No,” Isaac shook his head. “He’s alive, but he asked for you before he lost consciousness. The paramedics just arrived and I wanted to know if you–.”

“Take me to him, I’m not leaving him,” she said firmly and stepped forward.

“Don’t forget your water,” Isaac said and she retrieved it, capping it and moving toward the door.

The club music was still playing but as they crossed the floor it stopped and the house lights came up. The front door opened and Trevor stepped in. He saw her immediately and smiled, offering a wave. She couldn’t smile back and knew her face was probably filled with distress.

His face fell and he immediately jogged over. “Belmont, what are you doing here," Isaac asked, "It’s not–?” Trevor took Sypha’s hand and squeezed. Isaac stopped mid-question, and although Sypha knew it looked bad, she didn’t take her hand back. The comfort of it was enormous and she squeezed back. His hand was a warm, solid anchor that held her safely in the chaotic fear of the moment. He wasn’t clinging or squeezing, just holding her gently. She needed his strength and understanding right now. She looked at Trevor.

“What is wrong?” he asked her and she tried to soften it. “Adrian passed out in the bathroom. They think he stopped breathing.”

Trevor’s eyes widened and he inhaled sharply. “Are you serious? Is he okay?”

They arrived at the bathroom door and Isaac turned back. “Let’s find out,” he said and opened the door.

---

Running around like a rat in a cage
Don't know what to do with my anger and rage
Writing my book 'cause you ripped out my page
You hear me screaming out

I have been tainted by gold
Dividing my mind from me
Losing my soul
Stepping away from me
So here I go
I dedicate my life to loving

I'm looking for light this evening
Part of the lost and found
Now the connection's leaving
It's dragging me farther down
I know I will find my meaning
One day I will stand my ground
These trends are so demeaning
This noise is far too loud

-"Looking for Light," Sam Perry

Chapter Text

Isaac opened the bathroom door and Sypha stepped inside. Trevor was right with her, unwilling to let go of her hand or to leave her to face whatever this was, alone. He heard Adrian’s voice just before he saw him.

“Baby, if you wanted to take my temperature a different way, I would be good with that too,” Adrian winked salaciously at the paramedic who was clearly amused by the whole thing. The attractive redhead was busy with a blood pressure cuff and his partner was holding a temperature wand to Adrian's forehead.

“We don’t need to do that, thanks,” the other paramedic said crisply, noting his temperature was .5 degrees below normal.

Because he’s practically naked on the cold tile, Trevor thought with exasperation and concern.

Adrian was sitting outside one of the stalls, leaning on the closed doors, one knee drawn up and the lace bodysuit ripped at the other knee. Thankfully his shorts were on and zipped up– not that Trevor was checking–and his pink trench was sliding off his shoulders.

He was obviously drunk but appeared alert and aware. The relief was enormous and a little alarming. You’re just grateful that this idiot didn’t do something that would break Sypha’s heart, he thought, even as his breath whooshed out.

“Adrian,” Sypha said and let go of Trevor’s hand to walk slowly toward the blonde. “I was so worried!”

She’s just concerned for him, Trevor thought, even as his hand felt cold and empty. It’s her way and they are friends. He tucked his hand in his pocket.

Adrian jerked and looked up. For an instant, a split-second, there was a heart-wrenching vulnerability there; a hopeful disbelief that hurt to see. Trevor saw a glimpse of the Adrian that had thanked her so humbly this morning for breakfast. It’s like he didn’t think she would come, Trevor thought.

Do they have a problem then? Is anyone helping them? His mother’s words reached out to him from the morning conversation that seemed like a week ago.

I think no one cares about them. 

What if he was right? Worse, what if Adrian knew it? What if his mother had been the only thing holding him in check from just letting everything slide until…The moment was gone and Adrian’s normal smirk joined his arched eyebrow.

“Worried about what, darling?” he asked her saucily.

You are reading too much into what you think you saw, Trevor reminded himself. Is Adrian all flavours of hot mess? Yep. Does that mean he’s self-aware enough to know how sad and meaningless this all is? Nope.

“I heard you passed out,” she said, crouching down a couple of feet away, out of the way of the medics.

“Oh that,” Adrian waved nonchalantly and the medic taking his blood pressure clucked disapprovingly, murmuring he needed to hold still. “I already threw up, it’s fine.”

“Did you stop breathing?” Trevor asked.

“Take your pants off and we’ll see,” Adrian said with a little pout and bat of his eyelashes. The mental image of the blonde’s throat working in the shadow of the alleyway made Trevor’s snarl more like a huff of irritation.

“Adrian, the man who found you,” Striga said. “He said you stopped breathing.”

The blonde snorted. “Please. I have class. I might black out but I am not dying in a bar, thank you very much.”

“Mmmm,” Striga said, leaning against the counter with her arms crossed and brow furrowed. She looked at Isaac and caught his eye. Trevor saw them nod to each other and Striga moved toward the door. 

“Mr. Tepes,” said the medic. “Your blood pressure, oxygen levels, response times and alertness are all within norms. I’m sure it comes as no surprise but your blood alcohol level is unhealthy and definitely an indicator that you should consider going home and sleeping this off.”

“Are you off shift soon then?” Adrian asked the man while he tried tossing his hair. He missed actually connecting with the blonde tresses so it looked like he was batting at imagery flies. 

Despite himself Trevor felt a little grin forming. Adrian was so ridiculous. Hitting on his fucking medic and looking like an idiot while doing it but somehow also… charming?

Okay, so he can flirt even when he’s half-comatose, Trevor thought, how is that charming; that’s ridiculous.

“Regrettably no, but I am flattered,” the man grinned. “I think you’ll be just fine sir.”

“It’s Adrian, honey, and what’s your name?” he asked coyly.

“Mario, and I’m gonna leave you in your friend's capable hands, okay?” The medic looked at Sypha and she nodded seriously. 

He stood up and Adrian looked up hopefully. “That’s a great view,” he said and Mario chuckled, leaning down to pick his bag.

“You have a good night,” he said to the blonde, offering him a wink. 

“It’d be better if I got your number,” Adrian said.

“911 is not a dating service,” the other paramedic said sourly and Trevor had to agree. Sypha giggled.

“Can’t blame a man for trying,” she murmured and then cleared her throat. “But thank you both, for all you’ve done for Adrian and all that you do to help our community.”

That seemed to slightly mollify the medic and she gave Sypha a nod before she turned and walked toward the door, which meant that she would walk right by Trevor. 

He turned and left the bathroom, catching the tail end of a quiet conversation between Isaac and Striga that he would be very interested in hearing the rest of. It would be too obvious for him to stand and listen however, so he moved off to the side.

When the female medic came through, he fell into step beside her. “Thank you again, and sorry about Adrian, he’s…”

“An alcoholic?” the woman said without preamble. “Yeah, he is, and if he keeps this up he’ll pass out and stop breathing where someone can’t save him. It’s a waste.”

Trevor put a hand out toward her and she stopped, looking at it warningly. He drew his hand back. “Excuse me, I didn’t mean that disrespectfully,” he said. “But how do you know that? I mean, maybe he just had too much tonight.”

She snorted. “Is he your friend?” she asked, keeping her voice down but looking at him intently.

“It’s complicated,” he said. Her eyebrows rose. “Let’s say yes,” he amended hurriedly.

“Look,” she said, jerking her head toward the door as they started walking again. “His blood alcohol levels are ridiculous. At his body weight, he shouldn’t even be talking, much less awake. That’s someone who maintains a blood alcohol level. That’s someone who is never really sober.” 

Trevor felt his heart sink even as he struggled to understand that. You’re saying he’s at least buzzed all the time? “But I’ve seen him sober,” he said slowly.

She shook her head vigorously, opening the back of the ambulance and climbing in. Putting her bag on the gurney she turned to him, and almost looked regretful. "Have you seen him sober?” she asked bluntly. “Or have you just seen him less drunk?”

And Trevor didn’t know what to say.

---

Sypha looked at Adrian when Mario left and he gave her a crooked grin. They were alone now and the door swung shut behind the medic. “I need to tell you something,” she said quietly.

Her heart warned her that wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference but if it made him even hesitate or think once, it was worth it. “I know, I know, I shouldn’t drink so much,” he said carelessly as he put out his hand for her to help him up. “I swear, I really am fine.”

She took his hand but didn’t rise. Instead she brought her other hand up and held his, cradling it gently between her two hands.

Sypha waited until he looked at her. He was very reluctant. She could see it when his eyes finally found hers, but he did it. There was a wariness there and sorrowfully, she noted there was an expectation of rejection too. 

“I care about you Adrian,” she told him. It was true. She did and she was willing to accept that meant that he could hurt her. The simple fact was that he already could. There was a chance that knowing it might stop him from the next drink, or drive him straight to it. But she believed in honesty and she thought he needed to know.

“Aw damn it,” Adrian said and his face looked pained as he looked away. “I would rather you didn’t babydoll.”

She wasn’t going to accept the facade. Not right now. “Adrian, look at me please.” He did, a vaguely annoyed expression on his face. Sypha tried again. “I really care about you.”

“Yeah, I hear–,” he looked at her and she saw what she’d been looking for. The slightly afraid but terribly hopeful awareness of someone who needed to know that they mattered. Who might believe it if she was clear enough. Serious enough. If there was enough trust there.

Please trust me, she thought. Believe me.

“You matter to me,” she said and touched his cheek. She watched his eyes water and he sniffed.

“Okay,” he whispered. “Okay.”

The bathroom door swung open again and she looked over, keeping her hand on his. Trevor stood there, one hand on the door. “How we doing?” he asked, face drawn and sad. 

“Better,” she said with a smile. It’s okay, she thought. It’s going to be okay. “I think it’s time to go home.” 

She turned back to Adrian. The blonde was still looking at her and she found herself lost in that bleary, tired gaze. I can’t rescue you, she thought, but I can remind you that you are worthy of rescuing yourself.

“You ready?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said with a small, grateful smile. “Let’s go home.”

“Sounds good to me,” she said and eased next to him, draping his arm over her shoulder. “On the count of—.”

“Hold up, let me help,” Trevor said, easing his arm out of the strap of his backpack and using it to prop the door open. They waited for him and he took the other side of Adrian, the tips of his fingers trailing in her hair and brushing across her shoulder blade.

God, he’s so big, she thought and immediately wondered if that applied to everything. Okay really, Sypha? Get a grip right right now, for real! There was a faint warmth in her face she fervently hoped wasn’t noticeable. How could she even be thinking about that right now?

“Couldn’t wait to get your hands on me again, huh?” the blonde said with an attempt at a seductive wink at Trevor.

“You smell like piss and vomit,” Trevor snipped but she noted that his hands were gentle. They rose up together, the trio adjusting for height differences and Trevor easing Adrian’s coat up his shoulders.

You’re a good man Trevor Belmont, she thought, remembering how he took her hand unhesitatingly and came to help without questioning. When we have some time, I’m going to tell you that. 

“Wait a second, his phone,” Trevor said and put Adrian’s hand on the stall to keep him balanced. Once he was settled, Trevor bent down and leaned in for the phone.

Hello that’s a great ass, she thought appreciatively. The jeans creased lovingly around muscular contours and a softly generous curve. As he shifted, she could see the muscles of his thighs flex and Sypha bit her lip. She was perilously close to saying something very fun, but fairly disrespectful.

“Oh, I think there are other things to pick up down there too,” Adrian said gleefully. “Like my jaw. Hey there, sweet cheeks.” Before she could stop him, he let go of the stall and smacked Trevor’s butt.

It’s not like you weren’t thinking the same thing, she reflected even as she struggled to hold him. He swayed wildly and Sypha gasped as his full weight pressed into her, causing her to stagger and tip dangerously toward the floor.

“Listen you–!” Trevor hissed and whirled. That was a mistake. Adrian lurched back and clutched at Sypha. It surprised her and she lost her balance completely.

“Fuck!” Trevor said with furious alarm and grabbed for him. He managed to get the edge of the trench coat, but missed anything that would stop their fall. 

With a yelp, Sypha let Adrian go, hoping he might not be dragged down with her. He held on, tucking her into his tall frame. She felt his hand on the back of her head and they hit the tile floor. 

Her breath was knocked out of her and she felt the cushion of his hand against her skull when they connected with the floor. There was a horrible snapping sound like a broken bone and she couldn’t tell where it came from.

“Adrian!” she shrieked against his bare chest. There was a warmly soft scent with a sharp tang that hid faintly under the smell of liquor, cigarettes and being sick.

“I’m fine,” came the hollow rumble through his torso and he was abruptly lifted off of her, his hands falling away. “I’m fine,” he said again and she realized he was talking to Trevor, “check on Sypha.” She saw Adrian’s eyes looking at her with worry and then there was Trevor leaning over her.

Trevor’s eyes were wide with concern and anger. The blue was so unbelievable she just stared for a moment. There were blue eyes and then there were gemstones that nature decided to form inside flesh and that was what he had. Under the fluorescents it was otherworldly.

“I’m okay,” she said, “a little winded.” Then she remembered. “But I heard a bone break? Adrian?” she asked urgently.

“Nope,” came the mournful voice just out of her vision. He sounded incredibly upset. Sypha sat up abruptly, startling Trevor who immediately put his hand on her back. The wide press of his hand at the small of her back distracted her and she barely contained her gasp. It was absurd how physically small he made her feel sometimes.

That’s why it took her a minute to understand what was going on. Adrian was cradling one of his spiked slouch boots like a pet that had been hit by a car.

“Adrian, what the fuck?” Trevor asked with exasperation.

The blonde didn’t look up. “Baby’s heel broke.” He stroked the top of the boot.

“Your shoe?” Trevor said with disbelief.

“These are boots!” Adrian cried. “These are 2019 Memento Edition Jimmy Choo boots!” He looked up and Sypha saw tears glittering in his eyes. “These are precious.”

Trevor’s sigh was long-suffering. “At least it wasn’t a bone, Princess.”

“Bones would heal,” Adrian sniffed. “These won’t.”

“I’m so sorry, Adrian,” Sypha said sympathetically. A good pair of shoes was like a comfort blanket. It was hard when they wore out or broke. She wasn’t sure she’d ever cried over a pair, but he was tired and it’d been a bit of an evening for him.

“Thank you for protecting my head when we fell,” she said, taking Trevor’s hand and standing up slowly. She did a quick check of her limbs and other than a sore hip that would probably bruise and a banged elbow that definitely would, she was okay.

“Huh?” the blonde said, sniffing unhappily. “What are you talking about?”

“You held my head when we fell, so it didn’t rap on the tile,” she said.

“No I didn’t,” he said. “I was just trying to get away from Trevor. I didn’t want him to hit me.”

Sypha laughed. “Trevor wouldn’t hit you, come on.”

“Trevor might think about it though,” the brunette muttered with annoyance beside her.

Adrian shrugged. “You never know. People can surprise you.”

Something about the way he said it stuck uncomfortably in her awareness, like too much peanut butter in your mouth at once. She opened her mouth to tell him that no one should ever ‘surprise’ him like that. But Trevor spoke first.

“No.” He went over to Adrian and squatted down. “I wouldn’t hit you. You don’t deserve that. No one does.”

It was sincere and it was kind. Her respect for him deepened and certainty that she needed to have that conversation with him soon solidified. Adrian looked at him like he was thinking.

“What about spanking though?” he asked seriously.

Trevor rolled his eyes to the sky and gave her an exaggeratedly irritated expression.

“I’m just saying, that if I was asking for the spanking, what then–?” Adrian chirped cheerfully and Trevor just scooped him up. With a startled yelp the blonde clung to him and then immediately purred. “Oh, my hero.”

“Seriously, you gotta brush your teeth, holy shit,” Trevor grumbled. He looked at Sypha. “Can you grab my bag please? I figure I’m gonna have to carry him to your place so we better get moving before I drop his ass.”

She scooped it up and pointed toward the front door. “Head on out, you know the way. I have to grab my stuff and I’ll run after you. I’ll catch up by the end of the block.”

---

Adrian was exhausted. The night had been a confusing mess of emotions and he felt hollowed out by it all. Usually drinking numbed him to everything but Sypha seemed to call him out of that comfortable place. She brought him into a space where things ached and meant stuff and tears felt good. He didn’t want that.

“Stop giving a shit,” he mumbled tiredly.

“Believe me, I am trying,” Trevor muttered back and shifted him slightly.

Right, oops, I forgot he’s here, Adrian thought. It was kinda weird that he would actually. Trevor smelled great, like spicy warmth, and he was carrying Adrian like he weighed nothing and the chest he was pressed up against was like a fucking concrete wall had been upholstered in all the right places.

Is he saying he cares about me too? Adrian thought, even as he yawned. Is it possible?  “Oh no, Belmont,” he drawled in the warm space of his arms. “Did you catch feelings?” 

“How about you shut up?” Trevor said grumpily “Go to sleep already.” Adrian smiled.

Maybe not feelings, he thought. But you’re definitely not immune to me and we both know it. “Have I mentioned my love language is when you bitch at me?” he said sleepily. “It turns me onnnnn.”

“I’m gonna dump your ass in the middle of the road and go home with Sypha myself,” Trevor said warningly.

“Oh I’m close, keep going, oh my gawd,” Adrian moaned throatily. It was an unreasonably thrilling personal triumph when Trevor snickered.

“Just tell me you hate me and I’m finishing right here!” he crowed. Trevor didn’t laugh and he felt a touch of disappointment. It disappeared in the rising wonder of what Trevor said next.

“I don’t hate you,” the brunette said quietly.

We are all friends here.

Was Sypha right? Was it possible? Adrian didn’t know what to say, how to ask for what he hoped for. The moment was lost as they heard the slap of sneakers on the pavement. Sypha was coming. Trevor turned toward her and Adrian peeked out to see her, a cute, happy shadow that jogged the last couple of paces, hair billowing, eyes flashing and a welcoming smile that pulled everyone in at once.

“You guys made good time,” she said easily. “I actually had to run.”

“I have a walking redwood as my personal chauffeur,” Adrian said proudly.

“In. The. Middle. Of. The. Road,” Trevor said but there was no malice in the words.

“I’ll pull you down with me,” Adrian said. “You’d like it. I’d let you top.”

“And protect his head too while you're doing it,” Sypha said, falling in step with Trevor by skipping to stay caught up.

That shut Adrian up. He could joke about sex but not that. The truth was, he’d been acting on instinct but that made it worse. It meant that his unguarded response was to take care of Sypha before himself and that was something he needed to unpack tomorrow. Adrian wasn’t ready to address that with either of them.

"Nobody is doing anything except going to sleep tonight," Trevor complained plaintively. "Been enough 'doing' around here."

"Speak for yourself," Adrian grumbled and closed his eyes.

"Actually I was speaking for you," the brunette retorted and the blonde just made a raspberry sound. Talking was too much work.

They were companionably silent until they reached her apartment. Trevor had only started to breath hard at the second last step and Adrian was doing his best to not think about how much cardio he must have. How he’d gotten it. How Adrian could put it to good use.

When she opened the door, Sypha stepped back for them and Trevor said, “I’m putting you down now, okay?”

No, it’s not okay, keep holding me, Adrian wanted to say but it sounded too needy and he just nodded. His bare foot touched the floor and he sighed. It was a focused task to get his other boot off and he looked at it sadly. They’d been great boots.

“Adrian, you’re blocking the door,” Trevor said and the blonde looked back. He was right.

Fuck this apartment is so small, he thought and went forward, into the bathroom. Need to clean up. It was a vague thought.

“What’s up?” Sypha asked him and he struggled with the sleeve of his trench. “Here, hang on.” She pulled the cuff and it untwisted, sliding down his arm.

“I need a shower,” he said. “Pee on the floor.” Sypha winced.

“Oh yeah, me too, that’s, yeah, good call.” She looked at him, clearly a little worried and clicked on the light. “Are you sure you won’t fall?”

No, but I want my shower, he thought. Trevor was right, he smelled and he hated waking up filthy. Well, unless he’d gotten filthy in a fun way. This didn’t count.

“Yeah, I’m cool,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll grab your bag for you?” she asked. He looked around.

“Where would you put it in here?” he wondered and she laughed. I’m serious, he thought.

“Good point. Can I get things from it for you?” she asked and he nodded.

“I have a peacock print robe and three toiletries bags, Vuitton, you can’t miss them.”

“Sounds good,” she said. “Be right back.” She closed the door behind her and Adrian started to strip. The body stocking was a total loss and he tossed it in the trash just as she knocked. “One second,” he said and looked around. Spying the towel he used that morning, he grabbed it and wrapped it around his hips. “Come in.”

Sypha opened the door and passed him the bags and his robe. “I’m checking on you in fifteen minutes,” she said lightly. “Don’t be naked, okay?”

He grinned. “Or we could just shower together.”

“How about no?” Trevor said from somewhere behind her.

Adrian mock-pouted. “Fine Belmont, you can join us.”

“We would need a bigger shower for that,” he said and Sypha’s eyebrows rose.

Adrian gave her a surprised and delighted grin. She shook her head with a bemused smile. “No one is getting into the shower with me,” she said firmly. “I am tired and have been on the pee floor now too. I want to be clean. So get in there Mr. Tepes, and do your thing already.”

She closed the door firmly and he whispered, “The problem is, I really want to do my thing,” he said. He let the towel fall and turned back to the shower. When it was hot, he stepped in and finished the sentence in the safety of the little space. “But I am afraid of what it would mean.”

---

I got kinda drunk and told her that I liked her
She said, "You're the best," this girl has got me all messed up
When she bites her lip, looks at me like that
I wanna be morе than a friend, more than a friend
Doеs she feel the same? Does she want me back ?
I wanna be more than a friend, more than a friend
I have you close but I want more
I want your t-shirt on the floor
When you bite your lip, look at me like that
I wanna be more than a friend, more than a friend
My hands 'round her body
Her perfume left on me
On top of the dresser
I wanna undress her
My hands 'round her body
Her perfume left on me
This girl's got me all messed up

-”More Than a Friend,” GIRLI