Eleven The music was giving Andy a headache and to his great disappointment Dillon's impatient promise that it was quieter at the bar had been a lie. At least the bar had drinks, as well as a bartender who had been paid a wad of cash to ignore his lack of identification.
"Rum and coke," Andy said when the bartender ventured back to his side of the bar. The man retrieved a clean glass, fixing Andy's drink as easily as Andy fixed cereal; two parts Captain Crunch over one part milk. The sharp taste of rum wasn't as pleasant as Captain Crunch, but it made him feel tingly and numb at the same time, a feeling so distracting that he was almost able to ignore the sight of his boyfriend dancing with another man.
Andy glanced to the left but the source of the voice wasn't apparent. "What?"
"A very long day, I'd take it." A hand was laid on Andy's right shoulder and he turned warily towards the touch. Both seats on either side of him had remained empty the entire time he'd sat at the bar, but now there was a smiling man sitting at the barstool to Andy's right. As Andy's narrowed eyes turned to assess him, the man's hand slid off his shoulder. "Er… sorry."
Andy vaguely recognized that this man was trying to pick him up. The touch, the tentative way he balanced on the barstool, the awkward attempt to generate a conversation out of thin air. This is why Andy hated coming to gay clubs, especially when Dillon was with him. Dillon always got pissed whenever anyone showed an interest in Andy, though the amount of potential suitors Andy drew compared to Dillon was pretty dismal. The blond was never interested in men who tried to woo at these clubs, thought he clearly soaked the attention up like a natural little sponge.
Tonight though, Dillon was too busy dancing to play his usual betrayed, overly possessive act. And the man uncomfortably sitting beside Andy didn't look all that bad. He was slightly chubby and he had glasses and frizzy hair, but his eyes were kind and his smile was genuinely friendly, even under the unrelenting blue and green neon lights strobing over the crowded bar.
Andy took another dispassionate sip of his rum and coke, the liquid leaving his tongue curiously dry. He should have just gotten a beer as usual, but he'd felt the need to get really fucked up.
"Your right, today's been the worst," Andy said lazily as he lowered his drink. There was a ring of perspiration on the bar top and he moved his glass until the bottom fit perfectly inside the wet ring.
The man beside Andy perked up and he leaned forward slightly so his voice could be heard more effectively over the pounding house music. "I can tell. Not to be weird or anything, but I've been watching you for a while. I think that's your fifth drink tonight."
Andy looked into the depths of his drink. "Really?" he hadn't been keeping count.
"Yeah," they stared at each other for an awkward moment as no apparent topics came to either of their minds. Out of the corner of his eye, Andy noticed that the man was wearing a tidy suit, something he'd come to despise after his dealings with Sleazy Sid and his custom made ensembles. Andy was about to rudely question his choice in wardrobe when the man abruptly signaled for the bartender, calling out an order for a Martini and, "Another drink for my friend here."
Andy snorted. "We're friends? I don't even know your name."
"I'm Greg," The man, Greg, said with a good-natured amusement, patiently waiting for Andy to introduce himself in turn before he stuck his hand out and they shook to make their introduction more official. "And just so you know, I don't normally do this… Well, to be honest, I've never attempted to pick a guy up from the bar before. But I came here with my roommates," he turned around slightly, searching through the crush of bodies tangled on the lowered platform that served as the dance floor and pointed out two men dancing near the stairs. One was wearing a tight muscle shirt and the other had on fishnet. Apparently they'd been watching for Greg's acknowledgment and they waved cheerily. "They saw me looking in your direction and insisted I try to pick you up… not that I'm going to pick you up," he amended hastily. "I just came over so they'd stop pestering me, but I'm clearly bothering you with my whole spiel here, so I'll just pay for your drink and I'll leave you alone."
Andy couldn't help but laugh, his bad mood all but forgotten as Greg sucked in a large gulp of air after his long speech. Greg quirked a smile at the sound of Andy's laughter and he opened his mouth to say something else, but just then the bartender arrived with their drinks, plunking another rum and coke in front of Andy and a Martini before Greg.
True to his word, Greg pulled out his wallet and promptly paid for the drinks as Andy watched with bemusement. Greg slid from the bar stool and oddly enough, thanked Andy. "For not decking me."
"Why would I deck you?" Andy casually emptied his fifth rum and coke before reaching for the sixth. He didn't drink it, however, just moved it to cover the wet ring of perspiration that the firth glass had been doing such a good job of hiding.
Greg leaned over the bar to retrieve his Martini, standing uneasily by Andy's stool as he cradled his fancy olive bearing drink and considered his response. "You don't really look like you want to be bothered… I don't know, maybe I was drawn to that. I hate being in these godforsaken clubs. The music's too loud, the drinks are too expensive, and everyone's so unrealistically beautiful."
Andy found himself nodding in agreement, turning towards his new companion so he wouldn't rush off. Andy hadn't wanted to be bothered, but now he wasn't so sure he was ready to be alone again. "I told my boyfriend the music was giving me a headache so he told me to come sit up here. He said the music wasn't as loud, but fuck that. It's twice as bad up here."
Andy didn't notice, but Greg's face fell at the mention of Dillon. "So, you are with someone."
"Yeah," it was an easy answer to give as Andy never came to a club or bar by himself. The only people who came to places like this by themselves were looking for cheap casual sex and Andy got much better than that at home. "He's over there," he jerked his thumb towards the dance floor, not even bothering to pick Dillon out from the crowd as he did such a good job of it all by himself.
Greg strained to follow Andy's line of sight. "Which one?"
Sighing, Andy shifted around completely to point towards the center of all dancing, pressing, sweating bodies. "Dill's the one with the long hair. The blond… see him?"
"Is he the one—" Greg trailed off as his eyes zeroed in on the correct dancer, moving sensuously against a taller, broader figure. "The one dancing with the taller gentleman?"
Andy grunted his approval. "That's Dill's new boss. The guy brought us out tonight in celebration of finding Dill or some shit. Said we both saved his career."
"How'd you do that?"
Greg looked up at Andy with genuine curiosity and Andy couldn't help it. Andy had tried talking to Ben about all the shit going on with Dillon's newest modeling venture, but the straight boy didn't understand. Greg might understand though, and he'd approached Andy and he also looked quite receptive, almost desperate for someone to talk to. Andy knew he'd probably feel stupid in the morning for even considering spilling all his personal details to some stranger who'd bought him a drink, but he needed someone to talk to.
"Do you want to go sit somewhere else? Somewhere where it's not so fucking loud? I've had this huge headache for over an hour now."
Greg beamed, his whole face lighting up as if Andy had asked him out back for some wild, hot, completely string-free sex.
"Sure! It's not so bad up in the balcony. I mean, it's kind of smoky, but it isn't as loud and—"
"That's great." Andy climbed off his stool, only fumbling a little as the abrupt movement sent his alcohol-laden brain scrambling to keep up. "Shit… five fucking drinks…."
"It's alright." Greg took Andy's arm, waiting for him to find his footing. Andy absently thanked him as he grabbed his drink. "Welcome," Greg smiled again and patiently led the way to the balcony, which was up some darkened steps off to the side of the bar.
From upstairs the entirety of the dance floor could be seen. The people below looked so stupidly happy and Andy paused by the railing to watch them all for a moment.
Dillon was still entwined with Felix, his new boss. He had his arms around the larger man's neck and the two of them were pressed indecently close. As Andy watched, Felix leaned down and said something into Dillon's ear that had the blond stretching up, inadvertently pressing and sliding his entire body against Felix's just so that he could answer. They stayed in their unbalanced position for a moment, Dillon's mouth poised just inches from Felix's ear and then they both laughed, grinning at whatever it was that Dillon had just said and Andy turned away from the railing, sick of watching.
At the back of the balcony it was shadowed and indeed quite smoky, but there was a small cluster of booths, most of which were empty. Andy unsteadily led the way to the nearest one, feeling a bit of vindictive satisfaction when Greg slid into the seat across from him.
He forced himself to smile, placing his drink on the table and meeting Greg's stare.
"So," Greg started once they were situated in the gloomy booth, their drinks before them. It was quieter up here, Andy could actually hear the earnestness in the man's soft spoken voice. "What do you do for a living?"
Andy immediately shied away from the casual chitchat. "I don't know, it isn't important," and then he just as immediately felt stupid for shooting Greg's first choice of topic down. He'd been the one to ask Greg up here to talk and now he was being a fucking asshole. "I work at a restaurant. I wait tables," he quickly supplied before Greg could get his feelings hurt.
Greg beamed again, his perfect white teeth gleaming. "I did that all through college. I was horrible at it. I had no balance." Andy smiled at what he wanted to take as a compliment. "Do you go to school?"
Andy shook his head. "No, I dropped out to support my boyfriend. We moved up here from Alabama about nine months ago so he could try modeling."
"Alabama?" Greg's eyes widened, as if he'd never met a person from Alabama before. He probably hadn't.
"Yeah, it was horrible down there. New York's way better."
Greg sputtered. "That so great… but um… so you're… your boyfriend's a model?"
"Oh, yeah, he's a model, but he's been having a hard time of it." Andy slid his finger around the rim of his glass, but had no plans to begin drinking again. It was nice to talk. Nice to talk and not think about Dillon entwined with Felix, the two of them whispering in each other's ears. "At first he was all upset because he couldn't get signed and then he got signed and he wanted to quit because he felt nobody respected his talent. Now though…."Andy trailed off remembering a few nights back when Dillon had come home, a grin stretched across his face. He'd been in a pretty decent mood since Andy had unwisely promised him miracles if he continued to sell his body and soul to the fashion industry, but he certainly hadn't been grinning like that. He hadn't grinned like that in a long time.
"Then he met this designer, Felix, and the guy says Dillon's his muse or something." Andy briefly considered explaining it the way Dillon had that night when he'd come home grinning from ear to ear, but just thinking about Dillon's breathless rendition of his and Felix's first meeting made him furious. Even though he hadn't intended to drink anymore, Andy lifted his rum and coke and took a sip, swirling just the barest hint of the alcohol across his palate. The taste made his head swim, but did nothing to impede the image of Felix chasing Dillon down Seventh Avenue, cornering him, and asking the ironic question "Have you ever thought about modeling?" when in fact Dillon had been convinced just days before not to give up on his fanciful dreams of posing in front of studio lights and cameras.
"It's fucking bullshit," Andy took another tentative sip of rum and coke, cradling the icy glass between his numbed fingers. "Dillon has this problem where everyone tries to take advantage of him because he's so pretty and young and I told him, maybe this guy's just trying to get in your pants, Dill, and he got pissed off and said Felix has a wife and a kid," Andy scowled towards the dance floor though couldn't see much from his position in the booth. "And I told Dill… I told him that having a wife and a kid doesn't mean shit and he just accused me of being a jealous prick."
Greg was silent as he considered Andy's rant. "Being married certainly doesn't mean that you're straight."
Andy slammed his glass onto the table top, crowing with delight. "I know! That's what I fucking told him! And apparently, this guy's primarily a women's wear designer and yet he's inspired by Dillon." Andy glared at his drink. "It just doesn't make any sense."
"That's Felix down there?" Greg nodded towards the dance floor where Dillon and Felix were most likely still dancing. Andy nodded curtly. "They were dancing pretty close."
"Yeah. What straight guy not only agrees to celebrate in a gay bar, but also dance with the prettiest boy in the whole place?"
Greg laughed and Andy let himself smile, because really, it was ridiculous. He knew Dillon wasn't so stupid as to believe Felix didn't want him. It was obvious to Andy, anyway, and Felix had made it pretty clear within moments of Dillon's and Andy's arrival that he would have rather celebrated finding Dillon, his purported muse, all by their lonesome. In fact, Andy was now feeling quite skeptical that Felix had even invited him. The designer had seemed a bit startled to see Andy arriving with the blond. Over two hours ago, when they'd first arrived, Felix had been waiting just inside the club's entrance for them. Felix had quirked a brow at Dillon, communicating with him wordlessly, but when Andy had glanced in Dillon's direction, his face had been carefully blank. Despite the feeling of unwelcome, Felix had graciously shook Andy's hand before pulling Dillon into an enthusiastic hug. The two of them, Dillon and Felix, had then started chatting like long lost friends, their affectionate words flying past Andy much too quickly for him to grasp.
And then Dillon had mentioned how much he liked coming to this particular club, but how he was never allowed because Andy hated it. Which was a ridiculous lie, since Dillon came here all the time with Lena as she didn't seem to have any preference where she went, as long as there was expensive alcohol for her to guzzle.
Nevertheless, Andy had tried to defend himself, blurting out the first thing he could think of, which had ended up being a complaint about the overloud music. Andy had immediately regretted it when Dillon suggested he sit at the much quieter bar and Felix had quickly offered to set Andy up with free drinks. Dillon had cooed over how very gracious Felix was before allowing the older man to sweep him off to the dance floor, hurriedly promising that he'd be back soon. Yet another lie. "Let's not talk about it anymore," Andy said, glad that he'd at least gotten some of the frustrated anger out and even gladder to have someone agree with him. However, now that the topic of Dillon and Felix was off the table, he had no idea what to talk about. "What are we even doing?" he asked the man across from him, because he had a weird idea that this conversation could go in several different directions, depending completely on Greg's intentions.
Greg laughed again, startled by the abrupt question. "We're just talking… and really you're saving me a lot of trouble. My friends brought me here because they think I'm lonely without a boyfriend. If I go back they'll just find someone else to throw me at."
"Are you lonely?" Andy wondered.
Greg immediately answered in the negative, but then he glanced towards Andy's interested expression and he hesitantly revised his answer. "Boyfriends don't fix everything."
"I'm lonely when Dillon's out doing a job or clubbing with his friend and both those things seem to take up a lot of his time," Andy said, feeling a little stupid and selfish and bitter as he did so. "But I don't want to talk about that, fuck, you don't want to hear me fucking sobbing over my boyfriend," Greg laughed again and Andy decided that he liked the sound of it. He didn't laugh at Andy's relationship problems the way Ben did, amused and a little grossed out. He laughed like he understood, like he'd been there and knew exactly what Andy was talking about. It was soothing.
"So," Andy began and then flushed when he had to actually pause and think about what he wanted to ask. "What do you do for a living?"
Greg smiled as his initial question was flung back at him. "I'm an editor for L Magazine. We cover the arts and culture and local events, stuff like that."
"Oh," Andy blinked at his companion, taking in his suit again. It did have an artsy, culture kind of vibe. "What does the L stand for?"
"Originally it stood for the L train, but now it stands for whatever you want."
"Oh," Andy said again. He still didn't know what the L stood for, but he didn't care enough to repeat himself.
"It's great, but I'm just working there for the interim. It isn't exactly what I had in mind when I graduated, but they pay alright and at least I'm getting some valuable experience."
"What do you want to do?" Andy though that being an editor sounded so much better than being a waiter and was kind of irritated with the other man's ambition, not that it was his fault that Andy was such an underachiever.
"I want to write, actually. I tried freelancing for a while, but it's hard when you have no connections," Greg gently sipped at his Martini, pushing the speared olive out of the way with the tip of his tongue. Andy smirked at the unmannered move. "If I get my way, I'll ultimately have a column in Wall Street or The Times."
Greg smiled as he imagined whatever owning a column in The Wall Street Journal would entail. When his gaze focused on Andy again, his eyes were warm and soft around the edges and Andy leaned closer, having a weird craving to touch Greg's lightly tanned skin. "But what about you? You dropped out for your boyfriend? That's pretty brave."
Andy puffed himself up at the compliment. His mother had called him a fool when he'd left with Dillon, but when he'd packed up his shit and followed Dillon to the Big Apple, he hadn't felt foolish, he'd felt sort of heroic.
"I haven't regretted it yet. High school was total balls."
"High school?" Greg seemed confused. "I thought you were in college or something."
"Nah, I'm only 18."
Greg's expression clearly showed his surprise, his eyes flickering towards the rum and coke half-finished and clutched in Andy's hand.
"That's nothing," Andy continued. "My boyfriend tried to drop out too, but they wouldn't let him. You have to be at least 16 to quit school down in Alabama. He was doing this long distance learning thing for a while, but he stopped. They never called him out on it, so I guess they don't care all that much."
"Your boyfriend's 15?"
Greg made a face. "My god, no wonder you're worried about him being taken advantage of. And he works full time as a model?"
Andy nodded sagely. "I try to protect him, but I can't be his parent, you know. Dill resents it when I get all defensive. He just thinks I'm being clingy and possessive," which Andy was certainly not immune to being at times. "But I'm really just trying to look out for him."
Greg's skin paled a shade or two. "You really are brave."
Andy shrugged. "Or foolish. I don't know."
"No, you've got a big job on your hands trying to keep that poor kid safe," Greg said earnestly, watching the way Andy played uncomfortably with his glass. "It's noble actually. I wish my boyfriend at the time would have done something like that for me. Actually, he dumped me because I was too busy studying to party with him."
Entirely against his will, Andy felt himself smiling.
"There, did I cheer you up?"
Andy was surprisingly cheered. "Yeah, thanks," he still was thinking about Dillon and Felix, but at the end of the day Andy was sure Dillon would come back to him and that's all that mattered.
"And quitting school wasn't the best of ideas, but you're young yet; you can do anything you want," Greg continued, further boosting Andy's dismal mood. "What would you do… if you could do anything, that is?"
Andy instantly knew what he wanted; his thoughts about becoming some kind of photographer hadn't dimmed since coming to New York, it was just that he didn't have a lot of time to play around and experiment the way he had back in Red Oak.
"When I left school, I told Dillon I wanted to get into photography."
Greg's smile brightened. "Really? Are you any good?"
Andy wasn't about to sell himself short and he grinned back, pushing his drink away and leaning in confidently. "Yeah. I'm pretty fucking good."
"Did you ever think about freelancing? If your any good with your camera, you should start putting a portfolio together. That's all you really need to start getting work." Greg leaned in too and again, Andy had a strange urge to touch Greg's face. His skin wasn't as perfect and smooth as Dillon's was, and Andy could detect the faintest hint of freckles spreading across the other man's cheeks. They looked nice though. Soft, warm and touchable. "I could help you, actually. We're always looking for reliable photographers at The L."
"Absolutely," Greg said. "You know the Thanksgiving parade?"
"You want to cover it for us? We can't pay you all that well, but you can put the photos in your portfolio."
Andy nodded dumbly and Greg went on, explaining how some of the freelance photographers he'd talked to in the past worked. Frankly, after nine months waiting tables, anything different would have been a dream, but working for himself and getting paid to actually do something he liked sounded too good to be true.
When Greg mentioned personally making sure that Andy's photos were used in the magazine Andy cut him off.
"You'd do all that for me? A complete fucking stranger?" he asked, feeling a little awed by the whole thing.
"Sure, you seem like you deserve a break."
Andy blushed. That was the nicest thing he'd heard in awhile. "I have a boyfriend, Greg," because surely, nobody would do all this with no hope of getting anything in return.
"I know," Greg didn't do anything as obvious as blush, but he did bite his lip and his warm gaze slid from Andy's face and towards the dance floor instead. "This has nothing to do with that, I just think you're a nice guy and I know how hard it can be to try to make something out of yourself, especially when you're sitting on the bottom rung."
Andy couldn't argue with that. He just smiled and let his worries drift away, listening to Greg's surprisingly detailed lecture on how to become a freelance photographer. It'd take some hard work, but with Dillon so firmly entrenched in his modeling Andy thought he'd have a bit of time on his hands. He didn't like Dillon being gone so much, but he understood it. Now was their time to go out and do what they wanted, when they were young and driven and maybe now it was Andy's turn.
"And I could come with you… to the parade… if you'd like. You know, just to show you around and give you a few pointers on what we're looking for. I'm guessing you have a photographer's eye but—"
"That'd be great," Andy interrupted. "When is it again? Next month?"
"A few weeks, yes," Greg seemed surprised with Andy's immediate approval. "Your boyfriend won't mind it if I go with you?"
Andy thought about it for a moment. "Your right, he won't like it." Dillon could be so annoyingly contrary like that. Dillon got to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, but Andy was made to feel like some sort of horrible beast for showing the slightest interest in anyone beside Dillon. "Don't worry about that though, Dill won't want to come to a parade."
Greg smiled and reached under the table, moving around in an odd little squirming dance. For a wild moment Andy thought that the older man was getting off on the thought of angering Andy's boyfriend, but then Greg pulled his cellphone out of his pocket.
"Sorry," Greg apologized for the weird movement. "My pockets are really deep."
Andy snorted with laughter and Greg joined him as well, though from the blank expression on his face, he didn't understand what Andy was laughing about.
"If you really want to do this we should exchange numbers." Greg put his cell phone down; it was a nice one like the stupidly expensive smartphone Dillon had convinced Andy to buy him right after he'd gotten signed. Andy still had the same old battered one he'd been carrying for almost two years and he pulled his out, feeling unsophisticated and a little embarrassed. Greg didn't notice, just asked for Andy's number and swiftly put it into his phone.
Andy did the same with Greg's number, feeling another warm boost of happiness as he typed Greg's name in the contact information.
"Do you think I could call you before the parade? Maybe you could help me build my portfolio, like you were saying earlier… I mean, it's totally up to you and you don't have to, but it'd be cool if you could—"
"I'd love too," Greg said a bit more enthusiastically than the situation really called for. He was beaming and Andy found that he was too. "It's pretty cool that we met. The only people I've met at bars have been assholes, I honestly thought you'd be some snobby pretty boy—"
"Me?!" Andy broke the moment with an outburst of laughter. "I'm not pretty. Dillon's pretty, everyone on that fucking dance floor's prettier than me. I'm just the weird guy with too many piercings and a fuckton of tattoos."
"You do have a lot of piercings," Smiling again, Greg suddenly reached out and did the thing that Andy had been wanting to do to him for the majority of their conversation.
Gently, Greg's fingers trailed over Andy's cheek, skating down his jaw and brushing against the corner of Andy's mouth. Greg and Andy stared at one another, surprise in Andy's gaze and something soft, something almost sad in Greg's, but finally, just when Andy was sure the man was going to pull his hand back and resume his proper position in the booth, the tips of Greg's fingers touched Andy's lip ring. The sadness drained from Greg's expression and a curious smile took its place, his eyes focused intently on the bit of metal shoved through Andy's lower lip.
"Didn't it hurt?"
"Yes," Andy said cautiously, afraid to speak and have Greg's fingers touch his mouth more than he already was. Afraid because he wanted it and also because he didn't.
"I think it's pretty," Greg said softly, his eyes burning with an intensity that reminded him of Dillon, only unlike the blond, Greg's gaze was warm and it filled Andy's belly with something that felt suspiciously like butterflies. "It sets you apart from all those perfect faces and bodies down there."
Andy opened his mouth to respond, thinking that he should probably say something about how very pleasing he found Dillon's perfect features to be, but that line of thought just made the situation he was currently in seem about ten times worse than it actually probably was. Of course, he was sure Dillon would throw a fit if he saw Andy now, hiding away in the shadows, his face being cradled by some random guy he'd met down in the bar—
Just then, Andy's cellphone buzzed and he suddenly realized how far he'd been leaning over the table, how far he'd been leaning into Greg's touch and, startled, he yanked backwards, smacking his head against the back of the booth.
"Are you alright?" Greg immediately left his seat and came around to Andy's side of the table. He started to reach out to touch Andy again, but the younger boy pulled back.
"I'm fine, really, it's ok," Andy ignored Greg's look of disappointment and took a quick peek at the text message he'd just received.
"Shit, it's Dill," Andy said for Greg's benefit. "I guess he's done dancing, he wants to know where I am."
Greg sighed. "You've got to go then?"
"Yeah," Andy was a little surprised to find that he wouldn't have minded staying longer. Greg made for pretty good company. "I'll call you soon, though. If you don't mind?"
"Not at all." Greg got up so he could leave the booth and then Andy was just standing there awkwardly, peering hesitantly into the man's kind eyes. Silence stretched between them, both of them trying to figure out what to say now.
Andy's cellphone buzzed in his fist, most likely Dillon again, getting impatient for an answer, and Andy opened his mouth to say his goodbye, finally, brilliantly, thinking to thank Greg for the drink and for the possible opportunity for future photography work. But Greg spoke before Andy could, his voice emerging in a strangled kind of way.
"And if you don't call… well, that's fine too. I know that you're really into your boyfriend and that's understandable. I think that it's—"
"I'll call you," Andy said firmly, though he didn't know when he'd be able to. Dillon had been pretty demanding of Andy's free time lately. Felix had wanted to spend time alone with Dillon, and Dillon must have wanted that too, but his need to keep Andy on a short leash had prompted him to drag Andy along and had instigated the creation of a grand lie of a tale, in which Felix respected Andy enough not to invite Dillon out for a night on the town without also including him.
Andy's cell buzzed again and Andy rolled his eyes, lifting the vibrating phone up so that Greg would know he wasn't rushing their parting for any reason besides the fact that his very demanding boyfriend could no longer wait. "Sorry, I've gotta go."
"Alright," Greg said simply, his smile strained and his eyes crinkling around the edges, but not in a good way. Actually, he looked like he was wincing.
Andy swept down the stairs, miserably sobered by Greg's final look, but picked up his pace as his phone buzzed obnoxiously in his clamped fist. As he descended the steps, his frantic eyes swept the entirety of the bar. He was too anxious to bother answering the texts and he instead sought the blond out the old fashioned way.
Dillon was standing by the bar, near the stool Andy had occupied earlier with Felix protectively at his side, dwarfing him like a fullback would a tiny and graceful ballerina. Dillon was throwing his arm around, the other occupied with sending another text. He was yelling something over the pounding music, clearly addressing Felix, but the designer wasn't paying attention. He'd spotted Andy the second the younger boy had descended the steps and his sharp eyes were glued to his approaching form.
Andy wished Felix would look away, or at least blink those piercing blue eyes of his. The man's stare was unnerving, especially when paired with his big muscled arms and the washboard abs pressing out against his form fitting shirt. His head was shaved bald and his square jaw was grazed with dark blond stubble. His appearance was hardened and rough, more like an action hero than a women's wear designer and Andy approached cautiously.
Felix continued to stare him down until Andy was standing right before him and though Andy was unwilling to break the man's challenging stare, he meaningfully averted his eyes from the cold gaze and reached out to snatch Dillon's cellphone right out of his hands.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Dillon shouted, looking up wildly. When he saw Andy before him, the tension left his expression, but the anger remained. "There you are! Where the fuck have you been?"
"I was drinking upstairs," Andy jerked a thumb back in the general direction of the balcony. "It's quieter up there."
"Oh," Dillon glanced towards the balcony, but seemed uninterested in hearing more about it. "I'm sorry. This probably wasn't much fun for you, was it?"
Before, Andy would have agreed and said something rude, possibly looking towards Felix as he did so, but despite being ignored by his boyfriend and his boyfriend's ridiculously menacing boss, Andy's night hadn't been a complete waste.
"It's alright, I was talking to this guy; this editor from The L magazine…have you ever heard of it?"
Dillon quirked a brow, a lock of his white-blond hair falling into his eyes. "What?"
"This guy said he might be able to get me a job. He said if I brought him some of my stuff I might be able to freelance for them," Andy explained excitedly. "Wouldn't that be fucking awesome? I could get out of waiting table and—"
"Andy, what are you talking about?" Dillon snapped, his fist sliding up to rest on his bony hip. Beside him, Felix was a silent guardian, watching the proceedings with his sharp eyes. Andy tried to ignore him. "What guy, Andy? You were talking to some random guy?"
Andy had known better to bring up Greg's failed and short-lived pickup, but since he was planning to start working with the editor, Andy figured now was the time to come clean, before he got really involved with Greg and photography and Dillon started flinging accusations around. Andy hadn't done anything wrong anyway, he and Greg had sat and held a civil conversation over drinks.
"I met this guy, and we were talking about what we did for a living and I mentioned that I wanted to get into photography and—"
Dillon slapped a hand over Andy's mouth, his gray eyes furious. "See you later, Felix, we've got to go," he said through gritted teeth.
"Are you coming to the studio tomorrow?" Felix asked, pointedly ignoring the little drama between Andy and Dillon.
"No," Dillon said, removing his hand from Andy's mouth. His eyes, however, did not leave his face. Andy followed his example and didn't bother to look in Felix's direction.
"Alright then, it'll be hard to finish anything without my muse," Felix joked, his voice darkly amused. Dillon didn't react to the designer's joke, but Andy couldn't stop himself from cringing. Felix cleared his throat. "'Night, baby doll," he leaned in to kiss Dillon's cheek, the same way he'd greeted the blond earlier, but instead of meeting the affectionate gesture Dillon ducked out of the way.
Andy silently cheered, but as Dillon grabbed his arm and dragged him bodily from the club, Andy wondered if watching Felix kiss Dillon's cheek would have been better than having Dillon's ire centered on him, and indeed, when they exited the club and Dillon abruptly released Andy's arm, the furious spark he'd seen in Dillon's eyes back in the club, flared into a raging inferno.
Andy nervously wet his lips.
"So, what's this about a guy? You met someone in there?"
"I ah… he just… he's an editor for L Magazine."
"You already said that." Dillon's coherence was frightening. When the blond's eyes shone like they were now Dillon was usually in the midst of a fearsome tirade, but his voice was smooth, just the slightest hint of anger glinting through the cracks in his calm veneer.
His hands balled into fists at his side, his lips trembled as Andy attempted to explain himself. "Dill, we were just talking about—"
Dillon cut him off before he could even finish the thought. "Do you expect me to believe that you just happened to meet an editor who was just randomly offered you a job?"
It did seem kind of unlikely. Of all the guys who could have made passes at Andy as he sat vulnerable and alone on his barstool, Greg, with his fancy editing job, had been the only one foolish enough to buy Andy a drink.
Andy glanced towards the ground, attempting to hide his delight as he marveled at the pure luck Greg presented. In his head, he tried to compose some kind of speech that would convince the other boy that Greg wasn't a threat, but a gift from above when Dillon grew tired of waiting and slammed his hands into Andy's chest, pushing him backwards and effectively gaining the older boy's full attention.
"You met an editor in a GAY club and you think he's legit?" Dillon's voice had spiked several decibels and as Andy rubbed his chest, shocked and pained, he started to shout. "How can you be so fucking STUPID! How many drinks did this fucking EDITOR fuck buy you? Hmm? Did you promise to suck his cock if he gets your pictures printed? Is that it? You fucking WHORE!"
"I'm not a whore," Andy said quickly, trying to ignore the laughter coming from behind him. It was early yet, barely past eleven, and the line to get into club was long and snaked around the corner. Dillon had pulled them only a few paces away from the entrance and they stood at the mouth of an alley that led between the club and the tall glass paned building on the other side. It was dank in the alleyway, the walls dirty and graffitied, but at least it was somewhat sheltered from the laughing and jeering crowd who had nothing better to do than watch as Andy got his ass handed to him.
"Dill, please, let's just…." Andy turned towards the alley in an attempt to spur the blond into action. "Let's go somewhere more private—"
"Is that what you like now? You like it dirty and hard in a fucking alley?" Dillon spat at Andy's feet. "Bet you sucked that editor right over there, right behind that fucking dumpster," he pointed wildly towards said trash container. "Me and Felix came over to check on you and I was fucking worried sick when I couldn't find you." Andy tried to intercede the damning words flowing from Dillon's mouth, but the blond spoke louder, pushing Andy again, hitting him right in the same spot. Andy clutched his chest, resolved to keep his arms in place until Dillon was done raging and he was safe again. "I bet you laughed when you got my text. Bet you laughed around that fuck's dirty cock."
"Dillon! No! I didn't—"
"You're such a fucking piece of SHIT Andy!"
"Shut up!" Andy lashed out at Dillon, grabbing him around the waist and hauling him towards the grimy wall of the alley. He shoved the blond against the wall, using his body to pin the blond down. His hair spaying out in a chaotic tangle, Dillon opened his mouth to shout, but Andy slapped his hand over the blond's lips, unsurprised when the younger boy immediately bit him.
Andy talked quickly, the state of the relationship and his fingers, depended on it. "I'm not cheating on you. I'll never cheat on you. I love you, Dill, even though you're a thick-headed idiot!"
Dillon's teeth clenched down on his finger and Andy grit his teeth and pressed his hand harder to the blond's mouth. He wasn't done yet.
"I was drinking, and your right, I've had way too many tonight, but I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was just sitting at the bar, exactly where you and Felix wanted me, and I was talking to the bartender about you and about how I used to take all these fucking pictures and about how I wanted to be a photographer and out of nowhere this guy comes up and asks me if I'm any good with my camera." Andy was lying blatantly. Besides demanding rum and coke, he hadn't spoken to the bartender all night, but Andy had overestimated Dillon's tolerance and since he hadn't done anything wrong in the first place, he didn't mind fibbing most of the night's details to correct his mistake. Like he'd said many times before, he wasn't letting Dillon go. "He says I have to prove myself, I have to bring him in some good shots, but that'll be easy, Dill. You know I'm good and you fucking know that I deserve to do something besides wait tables for the rest of my life."
Dillon had calmed slightly, his teeth merely resting against Andy's finger rather than sinking in and drawing blood. His eyes were still furious though and Andy pressed his body into Dillon's a little tighter, afraid that the blond was going to stage an escape at any minute.
"Please," Andy whispered, staring directly into Dillon's hard eyes. "I love you and I'm just trying to be honest with you. When Greg and I went up to the balcony, it was strictly to talk business. He said he can't pay well, but they're looking for some cheap local photographers to promote. We both get what we want, Dill, they get photos for their magazine and I get my stuff out there for future employers to see," Understanding stubbornly shone in Dillon's eyes and Andy smiled faintly, relieved that he'd managed to soothe Dillon's unquenchable fury. "I'm going to take my hand away now," he said gently, and did just that, peeling his wet and aching hand from Dillon's mouth.
"Get off me," he said and Andy complied, moving away completely.
"I'm sorry. I just—"
"Don't ever do that again."
Andy's eyes widened at the coldness in the younger boy's voice. He'd never heard Dillon sound so distant and furious at the same time.
"Don't say anything," Dillon held his hand up for silence, his mouth set in a disagreeable line. "I just want to go home."
So they left the alley, neither of them speaking. They had to walk about five blocks to the nearest subway entrance and they walked side by side, not saying a word. Andy was concerned by the younger boy's silence and the stiffness of his shoulders. He wanted to say something, but he couldn't think of anything else he could possibly say. Everything he came up with in his head was just so pointless and maybe it was better that Dillon didn't want him to talk because then Andy couldn't lie anymore. He couldn't believe how much untruth had come out of his mouth. He wondered if Dillon could somehow tell that he'd been lying and that was why he'd demanded silence.
Down on the platform, Andy ruminated over the many ways Dillon might punish him if he had indeed picked up on Andy's dishonesty. Andy remembered the way Dillon had treated him after he'd spent the night with Miranda. Dillon had been summarily angry, but he'd quickly forgiven him. This time though, Dillon hadn't said a word since leaving the alley and he wasn't even looking in the older boy's direction anymore. He stood slightly in front of Andy, staring straight ahead at the Coke advertisement on the opposite wall. The red and white ad reminded Andy of the half-finished rum and coke he'd left in the club and he felt bad for not finishing it. Was Greg still sitting up in the booth with his martini? Was he thinking about Andy? Waiting for his call?
The A train arrived, hurtling from the darkened tunnel and pulling to grinding halt at the platform and Dillon and Andy got on.
The car was mostly empty, though there was a man standing near the door, holding onto a railing. He was tall and thin, wearing a dirty sweater and ripped jeans. As Dillon pushed past him and went to sit, the man's stare followed the blond, staring at him with a crazed gleam in his yellowed eyes.
Andy quickly followed the blond, sitting strategically between him and the strange man. Dillon didn't seem to appreciate the move and he made an impatient noise as he scooted away from Andy's close proximity, trying to keep them from touching. Andy didn't like the look of the man though and even if Dillon was pissed at him, Andy still felt the need to protect the little blond. He thought of Greg again as the train lurched away from the platform and back into the tunnels, one of the fluorescent lights flickering overhead.
"You really are brave." Greg had said and Andy ran the man's words over in his head several times, liking the way Greg had sounded when he'd said it. He'd sounded so awed, amazed, incredulous that Andy did so much for Dillon… maybe he'd even sounded a little jealous, as well.
Andy held onto Greg's voice the entire ride back to Inwood.
The creepy man eventually got off the subway, winking at Dillon who continued to ignore him as thoroughly as he had since they'd gotten on. After the creeper left, three loud girls in different colored party dresses got on. They fell into the seat across from Dillon's and Andy's, laughing and giggling, clearly drunk.
"Do you guys like to party?" a girl in a puffy pink dress asked. Her blue and purple dressed friends laughed at her audacity, but their giggling was cut off prematurely when Dillon snapped and told them to shut up.
"Freaks," the purple dressed girl said, getting to her unsteady legs and leading her friends to the next car. She flicked Andy and Dillon off just before she slammed the car door behind her.
It was another ten minutes until they reached their stop and it was spent in complete silence. Andy risked a glance in the blond's direction, unhappily studying his blank expression.
The walk from the platform to their apartment added another 10 minutes to their total travel time. Andy walked behind the blond, staring at the back of his head. His hair was longer now, brushing his shoulder blades. Andy liked it when Dillon straddled his lap and rode his cock; Dillon usually liked to start slow, lowering himself onto Andy's cock and rocking back and forth, teasingly squeezing Andy's length and then he'd lean forward and his long hair fell around them like a curtain, obscuring everything but Dillon's pink tinged face and his impish smile.
Andy wanted to touch his hair now, wanted to stroke his fingers though the silky length and brush it back from his neck but knew he could not.
They rode the elevator up to their room when they finally arrived at the apartment. Dillon tapped his foot impatiently as the lift dithered between the second and third floors. Andy really hoped that the elevator wasn't about to give out, leaving them stranded inside until someone noticed it was broken. That could be fucking hours.
But the elevator reached the third floor without further incident and Dillon hurried out, the older boy reluctantly following.
As soon they entered their tiny apartment, Dillon immediately went for the bathroom, silently pulling the door shut between them. Andy stared after him, watching the light bleed from under the bathroom door. He heard the shower come on and sighed. Clearly, Dillon wasn't done ignoring him yet.
Restless and not knowing what to do about it, Andy undressed and went to lie on the bed, staring out the window at the fantastic view of a neighboring brick wall.
Andy must have allowed himself to fall asleep because suddenly Dillon was standing next to the bed, clad in one of Andy's white undershirts. His legs were bare and Andy couldn't help ogling the exposed skin and the slim thighs.
"I want you to do something for me," Dillon said, and Andy's gaze reluctantly left Dillon's bare thighs and moved to focus guiltily on his face. The blond's expression, however, was mostly obscured by the gloom of the room and Andy couldn't make out anything in the pale gleam of Dillon's eyes.
"The man you met at the bar… his name was Greg right?"
Andy sat up, propping the curve of his bare back against the cold metal headboard. "How did you know that?"
Dillon held up Andy's phone. "He's your newest contact."
Stifling guilt rose in Andy's throat, making it nearly impossible for him to speak. Dillon didn't ask him anything, however, just stood over the bed, phone in hand, his stare steady and calculating.
"I'm going to delete it," Dillon said after a moment and he finally moved to sit on the edge of the bed, the shirt riding up and exposing one of his sharp hip bones. Andy concentrated on the tantalizing reveal of skin and not on his phone. "I know what's best for you, Andy. And I know you think that this guy is going to help you, but he won't."
"Why?" Andy forced himself to ask, Dillon's sharp eyes narrowing in on him. "He… you didn't even meet him."
"This man is trying to take advantage of you, I know because people try to do it to me all the time," Dillon fussily flipped his hair over his shoulder, his piercing gaze finally leaving Andy and looking towards the window. Andy followed his gaze uncomfortably. "That's what modeling's all about; people trying to take advantage of you while you're trying to figure out who the hell to trust."
"You can trust me," Andy said neutrally.
"Of course I can," Dillon answered, his voice just as impartial. "You're the only one I can trust."
Andy liked the sound of that, even if Dillon was acting weird and threatening to delete Greg's number. "Then trust me," he pleaded, staring hard at the window pane. "I mean, I don't know that Greg can get me a job, but he wants to try."
"No, Andy," Dillon said sharply. "I'm deleting his number and I don't want you to fucking see him or talk to him ever again."
Andy abandoned the window, turning to stare at his boyfriend. Dillon didn't meet his eyes. His hands were balled up, fisting at the hem of the undershirt that barely covered his legs. They'd ridden up again and Andy felt a wave of helplessness wash over him as he stared at the slim legs. Andy personally knew how soft and flexible they were. He liked having them over his shoulders or wrapped around his hips when he filled the younger boy's body. It was stupid that they were arguing when they could have been fucking. It was hard to accept that if Andy reached over now and tried to run his hand over Dillon's exposed flesh or his fingers through the silky sheaf of his hair, Dillon would push him away. Andy just wanted him, desperately and stupidly, but Dillon wouldn't let him, any more than he would let him have Greg's photography job.
"I've been talking to Felix," Dillon said when Andy remained silent, staring at the side of his moonlit face. "I think that he might be able to get you a job, taking pictures, just like you've always wanted," Dillon turned, his head tilting and his mouth parting as his tongue flicked out to wet his lower lip. Andy followed the slight movement, entranced by the younger boy's grace. "I don't want you to think that I'm trying to keep you from doing what you want, I just don't want you getting hurt or screwed over by this random guy you met in a bar."
There wasn't much Andy could say against that. He didn't know that Greg wouldn't fuck him over. For all he knew, Dillon could be right. It was entirely possible that Greg was some sort of charlatan, interested in Andy's more physical charms rather than his photographical talents, but Andy refused to believe that.
"And you should start practicing with your camera again. Start developing pictures, working on your technique," Dillon said earnestly and Andy glanced up at the younger boy again, surprised when his gaze met Dillon's. The blond had turned back fully and he sat with his head cocked, a stream of blond hair covering one of his pretty eyes. Andy cautiously reached up and brushed the hair back over Dillon's ear. The blond leaned into the touch, a sweet smile playing around the edges of his beautiful mouth. "You'll really make something for yourself," he whispered, quoting Andy's stress induced promise last month when they'd been standing outside the pizza shop on Sheridan Boulevard.
Andy kissed Dillon's smiling mouth, moaning at the warm slide of their skin as he climbed over the blond and settled between his bare thighs.
"Andy…" Dillon laughed, squirming underneath the older boy's body as he tried to pull Dillon's shirt off. The blond was naked and warm underneath the white cotton and Andy plunged his hands under the enshrouding fabric. "I'm not done yet," he bit playfully at Andy's lip. "Hold on a minute."
Andy pulled away from the bite, though he was unwilling to stop completely. Instead he licked at the saliva he'd left on the younger boy's lips, reveling in their soft plushness. Dillon started laughing again. "Cut it out," he pushed at Andy's chest until the older boy was forced back and Andy reluctantly retreated, resting his head on Dillon's shoulder.
"Tell me I can delete his number," Dillon said after a moment's pause. Andy could feel the younger boy's erection, could see the hardening length pressing up against his cotton shirt, and he knew Dillon wanted to continue the current topic no more than he wanted to. Andy fumbled around on the bed, reaching for the cellphone he'd felt fall to the bed while they'd been otherwise engaged. He fished it up, flipping it open.
"I'll do it," he said nobly, sitting up and cradling the phone in his lap as he looked through the contact list for Greg's number. He wasn't surprised when Dillon sat up beside him and looked over his shoulder, watching as Andy selected the correct entry and brought up Greg's details.
"It's for the best," Dillon said as Andy studied Greg's number, repeating it over and over in his head. "I'll help you find something good, Andy, don't worry about it."
"I'm in the business now… connected… and if anyone can get you started in photography, it'd be me."
"So, just get forget about this guy. He's a freak anyway, promising you jobs and shit….I mean, who the hell gets a job from a weirdo in a bar?"
"Delete it. Then we can fuck and go to bed," Dillon said, his voice syrupy sweet. "It's getting late."
It was getting late and Andy turned to kiss Dillon on the nose. The blond flinched at the unexpected touch, but laughed and reached up to scratch his fingers through Andy's shaggy hair. "C'mon," he whispered, returning Andy's kiss, his mouth so soft and light, promising. "Do it, for me."
Andy repeated Greg's number in his head, his eyes closed, Dillon's lips sliding against his own as the blond urged Andy to forget it. Andy didn't forget it. When he opened his eyes again and checked Greg's number, the little screen glowing in the dark of the tiny apartment. He'd remembered it correctly.
While there was no guaranteed that Andy would remember Greg's number tomorrow, or even in an hour when he'd finished filling Dillon's ass with come and the two of them tangled together in bed and fell asleep. But Andy wasn't concerned.
If he remembered the number, than Andy promised himself he'd pursue the career Greg had outlined for him back in the club, whether he had Dillon's support or not. But if he didn't remember….
Andy checked the number one last time and then hit delete. Beside him, the younger boy let out a sigh of relief and kissed Andy's ear. "Thank you," he whispered, reaching out to grab Andy's phone. He sat it to the side on their little night table, and then he slid into Andy's lap.
Leaning in to kiss Dillon's mouth, Andy's arms automatically wrapped around Dillon's waist, pushing up the younger boy's shirt. Dillon pulled back and urged Andy to yank the single article of clothing over his head, leaving him bare and deliciously exposed.
"You did the right thing," Dillon promised, pressing his ass down into Andy's needy cock. Andy respectfully disagreed, and firmly kissed the blond's smiling mouth to shut him up.