"Huh. These are very good." That's all he said. I was having trouble breathing. Hearing Zane praise me, combined with my panic as he looked at my sketchbook, was unsettling.
He'd persuaded me - in his unique way, compelled me - to bring my small sketchbook to breakfast, the one I usually had on me no matter what I was doing. Bringing it with me on that morning had not been the plan, and showing it to Zane was terrifying, so my last hope had been that he would forget about it. No such luck.
The walk there had been quiet, but we'd talked. I'd asked him for more details on his concert that evening, and during his explanation he threw in how, of course, I'd also be there - of course. It was a such a change from the sensation of being on the edge of everything the band did, unwelcome, that my brain wasn't quite processing this new inclusivity. The most thrilling moment was, as we walked down the street, his lightly putting his hand in the small of my back to stop me before I passed right by the restaurant itself. Not that he hadn't told me the name, of course.
But I wasn't all there.
It was that touch, the warm familiarity of it, shooting up my spine and most likely prompting my mad blushing. How damn embarrassing. I let him enter first. This was possibly just to watch his ass, and also to watch the response he seemed to garner when he entered a room. Was it just me and my mad obsession with him, or was he really that electric? The young hostess smiled liked it would split her face. I'm not sure that at any point she even looked at me, which is not a complaint, really. Zane gave off that rare aura of 'someone', one that I'd sensed even when all he'd been doing was reading a book in a hotel lounge.
And there we were - it was the two of us, sitting across from each other in a little restaurant that seemed to specialize in omelets and Indian food, at a truly tiny table. We were quiet at first after sitting down, him asking me what I wanted to drink, me letting my eyes drift, as he ordered, to an attractive young couple next to the wall that appeared to be ignoring each other, and then outside to the window opposite me.
It was clear to me later why were so quiet, or at least why I was. It was daylight, here we were, sitting together, eating food, no other purpose than that... but it was nothing we'd ever done before, was it? This was our moment of adjustment, getting used to this sudden intimacy, that, afterwards, was so mundane it was foreign. I started to twitch. Everything that had happened so far seemed so facile now that we had basically... what? Declared our mutual like?
At least mutual lust. I mean, god, his hair was thick and beautiful and those lips damn kissable and I wanted him so damn bad and... Now that we were in the perfect situation to talk, for me to ask questions, I could barely open my mouth. I wanted to ask him about Charice (Girlfriend? Not girlfriend? Old friend? I'd be lying if I said it didn't still bother me), the complicated assholeness that was Rick, and, most pressing of all, himself. But I couldn't. Suddenly how little I knew this man was so clear. What I knew most about him was his body, his lips, his co-
"What are you thinking about?" He'd asked.
"What?" I snapped my eyes back to him.
He gave me a half-smile. "You drifted off somewhere."
"Don't be. The light was in your eyes; it's ridiculous how blue they are."
I'd looked down at the table, speechless, tried to find my bearings. Damn him. Probably why he wrote some excellent, surprising lyrics - his ability to surprise with words. We ordered - me somehow picking something randomly off the menu that looked tasty - and then he struck, damn him, with that random insight of knowing just what to ask of someone and when to ask it. "So can I see your sketchbook now?"
I sighed. "Sure." Wasn't much I could do about it. He knew it was there and I know I said he could at some point. Luckily, the time I'd had to run up to the room to grab it had also given me the opportunity to rip out all the pictures of Zane and shove them in a drawer.
For their were several pictures of him. A multitude. He really didn't need to know just how crazy about him I was, did he?
But his response to my art was 'huh'. That was unsettling. And yet... he didn't look displeased. Finally he closed it, and slid it quietly across the table at me, which I took gratefully and slipped into my bag. Maybe he would let me escape without comment. That would be great...
"You can't be that good and just be a waiter," he said. I wondered if that was a criticism, but I didn't think so, there was a question there. He didn't seem to be degenerating the art of table waiting, just suggesting I could do more.
"No... I'm supposed to go to school in the fall, in NY... I just needed some time to save up some money." I quirked a smile at him. "It's not cheap living in that city, from what I understand."
He laughed. "No, no it's not." A hand casually came forward, and ran long fingers up my forearm, giving me goose bumps. Just his touch set parts of me off. "He was looking at my arm, voice and eyes a bit distant. "New York, huh?"
"Yeah." I wanted to tell him how scared I was, financially, of being able to live there, of not being as good as my classmates, of leaving the Midwest for the first time. Of leaving my mother, alone and unprotected from her demons. "I hope I'll do okay there."
"You sound doubtful."
I thought about what I was going to say, carefully, not wanting to whine to him. "Ummm... yes? I've never lived in a big city, not a real one, anyways, as opposed to a sprawling suburbia with a mid-size city in the center. I'm worried I won't be cool enough for Parsons." Uh oh, I was slipping into whining.... "I'll definitely need to get a job, and I worry about having the skills to work in NY, and I..." I stopped myself with a small smile. I definitely didn't want to bring up money woes beyond the job issue. "I worry too much."
"Worrying isn't bad, all the time," His smile was warm and comforting, with a tinge of amusement. "Sometimes worry means you're prepared. You just can't..." He squeezed my fingers lightly. "Let it take you over, or ruin the excitement. And you have to keep in mind - you won't believe how long it took me to learn this - art is largely self-promotion, carrying yourself like you mean it. I wish it was all talent, but -" His eyes unfocused for a bit, as if he was thinking about something, "That's unfortunately not the case. But you'll do just fine in New York, I think." It sounded like a subject he had thought a great deal about, that of self-promotion. It showed, I suppose.
"When did you get so wise?" I had to tease. His comforting had worked. The sudden familiar surge of panic from the knowledge of my upcoming move had abated, if not disappeared.
Instead of taking it as a joke, however, he looked serious again, and shook his head. "I'm not wise, Ethan, I'm not wise whatsoever. I just front a good game; it's my skill." His eyes sharpened. "Don't ever think I'm wise, please."
And there was a moment of silence, because I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that.
"Um... so, you excited about your concert tonight?" One of my clumsy subject changes.
"Yeah, I am; this is where it really kicks off. And if the single takes off like it should... we'll see. I don't like to get ahead of myself." The smile was clear in his voice, despite the usual brisk, business-like tone he seemed to use when talking about himself and the band; the man was definitely laughing at me.
"Single?" My head rose, curious.
"Well, yeah, we did this song at the last minute for 'Miracle Row' last month when we were in California -"
"That new superhero movie? Seriously? It looks slick."
The smile moved from his voice to his face, lighting up minutely, like he couldn't control it. That cool melted off him, even if just a little bit. "Seriously. Boom Goes the Clock was making the rounds and supposedly the producer's daughter was really into us, and they were looking to have a strong title-track and something they could put over the trailers, so... they asked us to get a tune ready in 2 weeks, told us some parameters, and we somehow did it."
"Who's we?" I tilted my head. "Do you write the songs alone, or..."
"No, it's collaborative, largely, which is a blessing and a curse. I tend to have the basic ideas, but Dustin and Rick are invaluable." He took a bite. That was not, I told myself, a spark of jealousy with the mention of Rick as 'invaluable'... Stupid jealousy. My new insight into Rick's emotions might be a double-edged sword. "Jarod has his moments, even if he's not very good at presenting them clearly. But the preview for the movie looks a bit crap, however," he noted critically. "So I don't want to get my hopes up."
"I'm sure your song will help." I kept my voice light, but I wasn't kidding. How could one of Snowborne's songs not? How could something Zane was involved in not?
His fingers were lightly tapping the top of my hand, and I was fascinated and drawn in by the touch.
"I hope so." His brow furrowed. "It's a bit like moving to the next level, doing a song like that for a big movie... If it fails, maybe it means we're not meant to be at that level. Right now, we're right in the middle. I'm not complaining, we've got lots of great fans, and great buzz, and have gotten a lot of press. But is this where we'll stay?"
Zane's voice was, as always, smooth, and calm, and thoughtful. But listening to the words, I heard a reflection of what I had just shown - worry. I moved my hand beneath his and touched him back, finally.
"It'll do great." I smiled. I didn't want to say too much, because he wasn't overly effusive when he had talked about my art - I appreciated that, and wanted to grant him the same. But I understood he was talking about where the band was, and where it was going, and I believed everything I said, completely: Snowborne was incredible, and they deserved to be big. If there was any creative justice in the world, they would be. "Snowborne will do great."
"Promise?" He teased. His hand reached under the table and squeezed my knee, and ran, dancing, up my thigh. I stiffened slightly.
"Promise." I must have blushed a bit, because he grinned.
Our food came, and our hands withdrew, to my regret. His face was unreadable again. We ate, and chatted... I kept the conversation off of me as much as possible, asking more questions about the band, learning that they had all met in California through Erica, who had started managing Zane after he had fronted an unsuccessful band full of egos and little talent. (I was getting used to how unfiltered he could be - when he didn't like or admire something his offhand dismissal was absolute. I hoped I was never the target of that particular attitude.) But it was very easy talking to him. It was interesting finally learning more, actually talking more than two seconds of pillow talk.
"So you've always wanted to be a rock star," I noted, "Ever since high school, it sounds like."
"Just like you and being an artist," he countered, turning it around back to me with a small smile. I think he'd started to notice my avoidance, and was thus trying to pin me down again. It was actually fun, twisting around him verbally like that, it showed he was, indeed, interested in me. Or, at least, was good at faking it.
I'd take what I could get; the man was mercurial and confusing and I was crazy for him in a way that was very possibly unhealthy... but that morning, the sun was shining into the restaurant, Zane was so damn sexy, I was relaxed, and it was as if the misery and general discomfort of the last two days hadn't even happened.
"Not necessarily," I responded, thoughtfully, "I didn't actually start taking art seriously until the end of high school... sometimes, actually, I wondered if I really do, or it's just what I'm best at." He opened his mouth, I'm sure to ask a question about that, and I cut him off. I didn't want to bounce my insecurities off of him. Not right now. I felt immature enoughin his presence. "But you're a natural born rock star," I teased. “You look the part, and it seems to come pretty easily to you. I'm jealous."
Face neutral, he concentrated on his food. "Mmmm, thanks. It's nothing to be jealous of."
I didn't believe him, honestly; he was too good at it, too smooth. As someone who wasalways a bit nervous, he was the paragon of everything but.
There was a brief moment of silence, and I wasn't too dumb to note it probably came from what I just said... Wanting to break it, I tried to force myself to be forward, although I wasn't very original - I just did what he had did a bit before.
Reaching under the small table, I encountered his knee, and his eyes lifted.
"Hi?" I said goofily.
"Hi." And he, without stopping eating, hooked out one impossibly long leg and, lifting it, ran his calf up mine, slowly, our jeans rubbing against each other.
The table was small enough that I could get halfway up his thigh with my hand if I leaned forward, and I squeezed firmly, loving the firm resistance of his lean muscles. He moved his knee towards my touch.
I pulled back and put my own knees forward, taking a (hopefully) nonchalant sip from my coffee. Our legs brushed, and we played a silent, slow game of pushing our legs against each other, both a test of strength and a slow turn-on. That we were going about our meal, surrounded by people chattering and reading their papers, made it that much sexier.
I watched someone accidentally knock their cell phone off their table, and reach down and pick it up.
Without thinking too much about what I was doing I knocked my napkin off my lap, and leaned down to pick it up, taking a moment to reach forward between Zane's legs, pressing my palm forward from where his ass met the chair up to the head of the outline of his cock; he lifted his hips to increase the pressure, and I squeezed.
It took a helluva lot of willpower not to do a lot more right then and there. Wiggling around the table support on my hands and knees, that dirty wooden restaurant floor, pulling down his pants down over his hips, down to his ankles, and swiftly taking him in my mouth....
I looked up, meeting his eyes again. Something must have telegraphed what I was thinking; he'd drawn his cheeks in and had a bemused expression, his tongue pushed up against the inside of his mouth before clearing his throat. "Shall we go?" He asked sedately. It didn't really didn't need an answer.
He paid quickly, and we did our best to walk out normally, nonchalantly, ignoring the fact we were both sporting erections.
Walking, silently, down the morning street, cloudy with a touch of sun, many of London's young and fashionable wandering by, when his hand slipped into the back pocket of my jeans, and squeezed.
And without warning he was pulling me towards a very narrow alley between two ancient brick buildings, pushing me up against the wall. The way the sun fell it was dark, very dark, and we were just far back enough where it was unlikely any eyes who weren't looking for us would see us.
I laughed, and then stopped, because he was staring down at me, so intensely, engrossingly, I could only stare back. My hand slipped behind him, into his pockets.
Fingers sliding up my jaw he kissed me, and, somehow, despite how turned on we were, we kissed slowly, no tongue at first, just tasting each other's lips.
I broke first, my tongue darting out of my mouth to feel his lips and jab between them, feeling their soft but powerful muscles. His hands were now roaming everywhere all around my back, from the small up to the shoulders, wandering.
And then his fingers wandered to the clasp of my belt buckle, and I was knocking away his finger to get to his. It was a scramble of fingers and we were both laughing and, damn it, he was faster... his fingers finding my cock without hesitation and fingers squeezing.
"Damn," I hissed, and he started to jack me, slowly, grinning, but I stopped him.
"Let me do you, too," I insisted, "Please."
"You're so polite when you want to fuck me, Ethan," He said teasingly. "Wait -" From out of one of his pickets he pulled a small stack of paper napkins.
"Grabbed them from the cafe," He said by way of explanation. The man was smart. We each took one, to lessen the inevitable mess, and I dug into his fancy buckle and his fancy jeans (we needed to talk about that, they were often ridiculous, if damn sexy) and made an unintentional sound of triumph when I had him, his beautiful, smooth head, long and... I was in a trance as I moved the smooth skin up and down in my hand, feeling it glide over the shaft, and he groaned and started on me again.
It was hard to concentrate on my own movements, while his fingers sliding over my now rock hard self was making me want to growl and concentrate on that particularly fantastic sensation. But I wanted him tocum, I wanted him to cum hard, I wanted him to cum so hard that maybe those people passing not far from us outside the alleyway would hear him. The dank smells of the alley were somehow sexy, something about being there with Zane made the scenery so...
"Rrrrr, Ethan!" I tightened my grip, loving the straining, uncontrolled expressions on his usually oh-so-composed face, the awesome snarl, oh god -
I bucked, and came soon after him, almost spasming away from him as one strong hand kept a tight grip on my shirt, the other on my cock. He lightly squeezed it a couple of times as I came, both painful and awesome.
I leaned into him, laughing, breathless, body alive and also sated. His arms snaked around me, and I briefly felt his chin on my head.
Zane, being comfortable with him. He squeezed my bicep and then leaned in, kissing my neck and pulling his grip up at the same time. His perfection was a bit mussed now; I liked it, especially knowing I was the one who caused it.
He was a master of his hands; I liked paying attention to what he did, and how he did it to me, so I could file it away, use it on him later, maybe do something slightly different.
He'd kept me around, right? It was a chance. And I didn't want to squander that chance by being boring. While I was thinking this my fingers were idling at his chest, making little lazy circles and whirls. This wasn't necessarily the best smelling alleyway, but that was alright, at that moment it wasn't so important.
"You," he started, and captured my wrists, grabbing them tight, causing me to start.
He was looking down at me, eyes bright, so intense I couldn't hold his gaze, didn't have a response at first.
Don't be a loser and a wimp, I chided myself, You started this; run with it.
"Me?" I grinned, and made my eyes snap to his. "What about me? I'm a pain in the ass?" Man, I hope I looked more casual than I felt, because it was somewhat tortuous, making myself focus on him so intensely.
"Always. But You. I'm really into you."
I kept the smile. This wasn't easy, because I wanted to sort of fold in on myself. Like I did. "Yeah... me too." I'm insane about you. I'm in Europe for you. Hell, one could say I was OBSESSED with you. It seemed pretty clear!
Ah, but it obviously wasn't, was it? Keep talking, keep talking... "I... didn't come to Europe just to come to Europe. I came to be with you. I mean... I don't know you. Do I? But. You are..." I wasn't exactly speaking clearly. "I am very happy to be around you."
"Yeah." So we stood there for a moment, and his long fingers danced and played in mine. Neither of us seemed to be able to say more. I wasn't sure if I had said enough, if I had made my fixation clear. Fixation? Love? God, how would I know. All I knew was that right then and there I felt peace. All the dick moves - wow, that's a Scott phrase - he'd made since I'd arrived in Europe didn't seem to matter. That crazy, drugged-out woman he obviously had a fucked-up relationship with didn't matter. He'd just told me he was really into me.
And here, with this sense of connection, it made me feel a lot warmer, fuzzier, and healthier than it had last night, in his hotel room, as he asked me to stay. This seemed much more real.
Did this confirm how fucked up I - we - were?
Well, fuck it. If drama meant Zane, then I embrace Drama. God, that was freeing.
"I really do have to go." He pulled his hand back, and I felt a distinct pang of regret. But it was a warm regret, since I could tell he felt the same way. I nodded. "You're going to be okay today?"
"Be safe." He warned, and I could tell he was deadly serious. Awwww. It would have been annoying from anyone else. "And...." He dug in his pocket. "Here." He then slipped whatever it was directly into my pocket before I could react. Here? Uh oh, was this what I thought- I opened my mouth.
"If you say something I'll ignore it. I just don't want you to be bored, today's a long one. And the clothes you picked are fantastic. I got you in this situation - the least I can do is make it as comfortable as possible." He smiled, the one I was beginning to recognize as different from others, if in subtle ways; shyer, and somehow more honest. "I'll leave a message at the hotel about if we'll be able to pick you up, or if we'll just meet you at the concert venue tonight. Tonight's the 8th, right?" He laughed. "Crap, when we're on the road like this I forget what day's what so quickly, it's ridiculous. If it wasn't for Erica, we'd all be screwed."
The eighth. Indeed. Something else I wanted to do came rushing back at me, and it was all about Today.
"Cool, I'll wait for your call." I smiled, not able to resist, even if I was not comfortable with this whatsoever. Under the Table indeed. "Oh, hey... is there a bookstore near here? Um, a Borders, to be exact?"
He narrowed his eyes, thinking. "Yeah, I think there is, on Oxford. You want some books?"
Sorta but not exactly. "Yeah, I think so."
"The concierge can help." And with a mysterious smile, he blinked, and gave a little wave before turning away.
And then he was gone. I pulled out the money in my pocket and gave the wad of Euros a distinctly unhappy look. I understood the spirit he was giving it to me in, I think, but, it did break into my euphoria. I wasn't THAT much a lost soul in need of help.
Sighing, I put it back in my pocket, and swore firmly to ignore the connotations of taking money from him. He was into me... him of the wonderful lips, the fantastic hair, the long sexy legs... I was here, and he really didn't seem to regret it anymore.
Sure, I was still confused. Would that go away anytime soon? But here, right here, this was where I had hoped I would be when I first got here. Now, once again, I was excited, but also a good bit more armed about Zane. Because Zane? He was a very hard to read, twisty person.
But a hot, twisty person. Who was glad I was here. Sure, I still didn't get what was with the 'girlfriend' that he didn't care about. But, one thing at a time.
"Awesome." I smiled. Suddenly all I wanted to do was draw, my mind bursting with ideas and places I could go to do it. I'd have to write emails to Mina, Scott, and my mom so they wouldn't worry about me.
Life was good.
Which, if I had paused to think about it, was a distinctly bad sign. But at least, for a while there, it was all rather lovely