mercyrobot: (jones headphones)
[personal profile] mercyrobot
Title: One Day We'll Look Back And...
Pairing: Dan/Jones
Rating: NC-17
Words: ~8500
Disclaimer: I am playing with other people's property for fun and no profit.
Notes: Written for the [livejournal.com profile] booshbattle prompt years before the series, early twenties maybe, roadtrip. They're a bit older than that here, though. Welcome to 1998.

My extreme thanks to [livejournal.com profile] the_reverand (whose entire fault this is, really), [livejournal.com profile] silent_fields, and [livejournal.com profile] beansidhe_baby for their help with this, and also a large contingent of LJ and Twitter friends who peeled me off the ceiling more than they should've needed to. Any fail is all mine.

The Nabokov quotation that's mentioned is from this, which has nothing to do with anything except that it's also sort of about a road trip, and what it references in turn is Laurence Sterne's Sentimenal Journey Through France and Italy. There is also a James Joyce bit but that's a spoiler. :) And the cartoon pirate thing is from Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea-- it hadn't been aired in Britain yet so Jones would have only seen the original French version.

This is a portion of the backstory to Someone Like You, but neither depends on the other. Masterlist for this universe is here.




One Day We'll Look Back And...


Dan can't knock on the door because Jones is taping stencils to it. He reads the spaces aloud with feigned effort. "House...of..."

"Dan!" Jones spins round, beaming, and hugs him like it's been months, not days. He hasn't got any shoes on so he's shorter than usual and feels smaller still because a few days is enough time for this to be strange again. It shouldn't move so quickly towards feeling normal, either, the way Jones steps back and looks up with his hands loosely resting on Dan's hips. "How was Cardiff?"

"Wet." He can't help but smile as Jones starts patting down his pockets. "I didn't actually bring you a leek if that's what you're looking for."

"You thought about it, though." Jones grins impossibly wider when he finds what he's looking for in Dan's jacket pocket: a postcard and a little red dragon figurine. Jones slides the postcard into his own pocket and Dan's stomach does a nervous flip at the realisation that he can't remember what he wrote at three in the morning after drinking his entire per diem to drown out a truly appalling ska band.

"There might have been a brief, mad moment."

Jones tugs Dan inside by his sleeve, stencils forgotten and bits of tape still stuck to his forearms. "Come see what I did to the bath, it's well posh now."

A spigot in the woods would be posh compared to the state it was in before, honestly, but Jones is incredibly proud of scaring off the rats and junkies that used to live here and slowly but surely making it habitable. Somewhere he's picked up a dizzying amount about property law and says he'll own the whole building in ten years. "Five minutes. Tobias wants my drivel in tonight."

"'S not drivel," Jones mutters, and leads him to the bath, where it turns out the dirt floor was actually white tile all along and the graffiti's been covered with a fresh coat of sky blue.

"Was that tub always in here?"

"Upstairs, full of old lamps and wig dummies. Have you been up there? It's fucking amazing."

"Not partial to starlings."

"'I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze,' they can't get out, the poor fuckers."

"Nabokov was quoting Sterne."

"Swot. Not the rust and stardust bit, though." That line is scrawled on the hallway wall in foot-high black letters. Jones carefully masked it off and painted around it.

"Just the starling."

*

Five minutes stretch into hours. Dan derides late-wave ska into a dusty electric typewriter that sounds like a car engine while Jones puts together a television from a pile of tubes and wires like it's a flat-pack dresser. Dan thinks he might actually have some sort of advanced degree, but has never asked. Even though he's going to have to type the entire thing again on the computer later, Dan's more productive here than he would be at home with Max asking what he's writing every three seconds or practicing power chords (to little effect) or fucking his girlfriend (to apparent great effect, though Dan suspects she's faking). For some reason it doesn't bother Dan when Jones quietly peers over his shoulder to watch the keys hit the paper, or tinkers with a drum machine, or unearths a Specials record and creates two-tone trance by way of commentary.

The only thing that jars his concentration, once the music's stopped is Jones saying, "I will if you want," with an odd smile and waving the Dylan Thomas postcard.

"Oh. Er, thanks," Dan guesses and spends a long time searching for the matches that are in his pocket.

"Don't remember a word of it, do you?" Jones doesn't seem insulted, at least, but he's fidgeting with the toys on his mixer.

"Nope."

"There's a bit where you say I oughta come with you on the next one."

Dan weighs that and can't find a drawback. Jones would have managed to turn a loose-ended afternoon glaring out at the bay into some sort of adventure and probably would have pointed out that no amount of liquor was going to make the band sound good. He thinks about it too long, though, and Jones's smile starts to fall. "You should," he says to bring it back. "What else did I say?"

Jones shakes his head. "'m keeping the rest."

*

"Bands are going to stop writing in if you keep ripping them to shreds, Dan," Tobias says with a fatherly shake of his head.

"No, they won't."

"No, they fucking won't, will they?" Tobias laughs and lights his pipe. Dan likes to imagine him as an old-school newspaper man with whiskey in his desk, though really he fronted four failed punk bands in the late seventies and doesn't drink anymore. It was his editorials that made Dan want to write for Sugar Ape. He keeps threatening to retire but never does. "I like the typewriter thing. We'll just run an image of it. You're doing Ireland next." He pushes two file boxes full of tapes and CDs and papers across the desk. "I've sorted them into 'think they're Thin Lizzy' and 'think they're The Pogues,' but you'll have to do the rest yourself."

"Haven't we got fucking interns or something?"

"Yeah, they gave you the Skankin' Testicles or whatever it was."

"Fucking hell."

"You really need a new expletive."

"Cockshite." Dan grabs up the boxes and leaves Tobias chuckling.

*

"And more rubbish," Jones says and reaches for the eject button.

"Total rubbish," Max says from the computer desk in the corner. Dan's trying to forget he's there but he's not making it easy. Renting his spare room seemed like a good idea only for the ten minutes it took to get Dan stuck with it. He's spent the last eight months edging away from Max's attempts to become his best mate and searching for a flat he can live in alone, but the few going that he can afford get snapped up nearly as soon as he hears about them. Max really shouldn't be able to afford the larger share of this one, but Mr and Mrs Herbert seem to have a hand in that somewhere. He could live (and has lived) far worse places, so for now he cringes his way through Max telling stories at work that imply they spend blokey weekends watching football together, and does his best not to spend time here.

Tonight, though, there's no other option. Jones has just painted his own floor and even he can't stand the fumes, so they're sat on the postmodern rug (Max's) eating Chinese off the postmodern coffee table (also Max's) and listening to demo after awful demo on the prehistoric stereo (Dan's).

"It's not that bad," Dan says.

"Nobody should do that to an accordion."

"Accordions warn their children about you, Jones. That's what one's meant to sound like."

Jones coughs the sip of wine (Max's) he's just taken back into his glass and chokes out a mad cackle. "Telling the little concertinas to eat their fuckin' veg or I'll creep up from under their beds in the night."

Dan can't help laughing; it's not possible for Jones to be uncontagiously amused. "Do concertinas grow up into accordions?"

"Yeah, start sprouting keys in weird places and their voices change."

"What's another word for cool?" Max interrupts.

"Istanbul," Jones says without missing a beat, completely straight-faced.

"Oh, right, like cockney slang!" Max says. "Cheers, James."

Jones doesn't bother to correct him because he's too busy trying to laugh silently once Max has turned back to his article. "I need new wine," he manages.

"I'll er, help you."

They make a dash for the kitchen and shut the door. "Fucking Ada," Jones wheezes. "Where the fuck'd you get him?"

"Work. The rent's cheap and it comes with free wine."

"And a free fucking plank for your entertainment, Jesus." Jones wipes at the corners of his eyes.

"It's not that funny. You've probably singlehandedly altered the slang lexicon." Except it is that funny. "I don't even like wine."

That sets Jones off again for some reason and he trips forward to muffle his laughter into Dan's shoulder. Dan can make out a broken-up, "Me neither," as Jones's arms squeeze around his back. He doesn't realise his right hand has grown a will of its own and started patting (well, more petting, if he's honest) the back of Jones's hair until the laughter gives way to a sighed hum. Sometimes he wonders if Jones is part cat.

"Oi, Dan!" Max calls from the other side of the door, too-pristine skateboarder trainers squeaking nearer on the hardwood.

Dan tenses, panics briefly, because Max will misunderstand what he's seeing if this is what he walks in on, but Jones steps back of his own volition and starts rifling through the wine rack. He's jabbed the corkscrew into a bottle by the time Max enters.

Max starts, "I just wanted to--" but trails off and gapes at Jones. "Oh, hah, the Margaux. Yeah. That's a lovely...good year. I was really saving-- er."

Max misses Jones realising he's just opened something expensive and going from a vague sort of 'oops' look to a wicked smirk that he bites down on, but Dan doesn't. "What'd you 'just want to,' Maxy?" Dan asks as innocently as he can manage.

"Oh, right, right. The Rough Trade showcase tonight, you lads going?" Ah, that would be why he's put on a leather jacket.

"Not my assignment," Dan says. "Still got nine hundred shit demos to listen to."

"Not mine either. All work and no play, Danny boy."

"Don't call me Danny boy," Dan mutters.

"Well, I'll just be off then. Don't do anything I wouldn't-- no, don't do anything I would do, yeah?"

"No fucking fear," Jones says to his retreating back. They stand in silence until the door of the flat slams shut. "What a bollock," Jones says in genuine dismay.

"He keeps applying to the NME. I'm hoping they'll just take him on one day out of pity."

"Rent's free at mine, y'know." Jones says this to the cork he's twisting off the corkscrew.

Dan wants to say yes and start packing, but there's actual logic to consider, like the hours he knows Jones keeps and the raucously high friends that sometimes drift in and look at Dan like he's the dad that wasn't supposed to be at home. And there are too many times when he wants nothing more to be left alone. "Maybe once you don't need to vacate the place due to toxic paint fumes," Dan says, though it feels like a lie. "Whose sofa would you sleep on?"

Jones drops the cork and grins. "Sofa nothin'. I ain't slept in a bed in two months."

"You might want to sort that out."

"Fat George is giving me his when he fucks off to New York. It's nearly new so he's not had a chance to ming it up." Fat George has never been fat to Dan's knowledge, but he's got a rather medieval opinion of bathing. Dan wonders guiltily whether he'll need someone to take over his lease. Jones picks up the wine bottle by the neck and takes a sloppy gulp as he loops his arm through Dan's. "C'mon, this shit ain't gonna listen to itself."

"If only."

It's two in the morning by the time Jones has written four band names on a map in green marker. Two in Dublin, one in Galway, and one in Belfast that causes a roundabout argument on Irish politics that fizzles into them both being wrong.

"That's enough," Dan declares, though there are still a good thirty demos to go. "My ears can't take any more."

"I'm shattered anyway," Jones says from where he's half under the coffee table doodling tiny green cats attacking the Isle of Man. "Think I last slept on Tuesday."

Dan waves a hand in the general direction of his bedroom. "It's the one with papers all over the floor. Don't take anything apart."

"Spoilsport," Jones says. He gets up and stretches, which draws his shirt halfway up his ribcage.

Dan would ordinarily try not to stare, but it's directly in his line of vision and... "You got a tattoo of a unicorn?" Its pink grinning head is just visible above Jones's waistband.

"Nah, 's temporary. This weird girl with a glass eye gave it to me at my last gig. I have got one, though. Not of a unicorn."

"Do I want to know where?"

"No place dirty, y'perv. Just here." Jones indicates the middle of his right thigh. "I'd show you but I ain't wearing any pants."

Dan can't help glancing at Jones's tight jeans. "Doesn't that chafe?"

Jones shrugs. "Not like you'd think." He rifles through the bag he brought with him and produces a toothbrush. "I was mostly takin' the piss before, you know. You can have the bed if you want. Or we can--"

"I'm fine here." He is too drunk and not drunk enough to hear the end of that sentence, especially with all this talk of no pants. It's just Jones being Jones and he's got no business reading anything into it.

"Right. Night, then."

Dan picks up the wine bottle and finds himself wondering why he's thinking about strange glass-eyed girls pasting toy tattoos on Jones's skin.

He's woken by Max blundering in wearing last night's clothes. "I hope you weren't waiting up," Max says, entirely too fucking cheerful for a man with hangover eyes and his shirt buttoned wrong.

"Jones is here, the floor paint," Dan says, and hopes it makes enough sense. He actually feels drunker than he did before he fell asleep.

"Oh, right, your DJ friend! Is he any good? Should we review him?"

"Go away." It comes out as more of a generalised grumble, but Max does go away after alluding prickishly to having been up all night.

Dan's already under the shower by the time it clicks in his head that Jones is sleeping in his bedroom, where all his clothes are. He feels like a tit creeping into his own bedroom in a towel, but if Jones hasn't slept in three days he probably needs all he can get. The first thing he registers is that the lamp is on. The second thing he notices is that Jones is awake and sitting up and doesn't appear to be wearing anything at all except the duvet covering him to the waist. The third thing he notices is that Jones is reading, and the fourth is what he's reading.

"What the fuck, Jones!"

Jones drops the notebook in his hands and jerks his head up. He at least looks like he knows he shouldn't have been reading it, but that doesn't help the stabbing nerves in Dan's stomach or the shamed panic strobing in his brain. Dan couldn't feel more stripped if Max came in with ten of his mates and pulled off the towel. "I didn't mean to! I woke up with this...thing in my head and needed to write it down, and that was there--"

"And you accidentally read a hundred pages of it?"

"I'm sorry, alright? I knew you'd kill me. 'S just, it was...good."

"It's shit. I'm not going to kill you, so you can tell me it's shit."

"No, it's really good. Like proper good. It oughta be in a book."

Dan would like to argue, but Jones picking at the duvet and looking like he might actually cry does something to him, something that swells up in his chest and makes him want to fix it. Jones has never not told him if he thinks Dan's being stupid, and of course he knows Dan won't really kill him. "You've read five books in your entire adult life that didn't have circuit diagrams in them." Jones has said as much himself. Willard and His Bowling Trophies, Finnegans Wake, and Geek Love. The other two were Harry Potter.

"Six. I read Lolita after you showed me that poem. And I said since uni. They did make me do literature. You ain't gotta read three thousand books to know a good one."

"That's not a book. It's the mad scribblings of a--"

"'Thank you, Jones. I know you won't do it again and I forgive you,'" Jones says in an appalling attempt at a Northern accent.

"You sound like Yorkshire with pneumonia." Dan doesn't quite crack a smile but the rage is draining away enough that when Jones reaches a hand out to him, he steps up to the bedside and takes it.

"I'd hug you but we're both basically starkers."

"Might be a bit odd."

"Yeah."

When they're dressed, Jones does hug him, as well as buy him breakfast and grill him on what becomes of his main character. Dan doesn't want to admit he hasn't been able to come up with an ending, and so he makes up one on the spot. It's not half bad, as it turns out.

*

Jones makes a good case for borrowing a car off his mate and taking it over, although Dan suspects the vocal mistrust of baggage handlers to be the public face of an actual fear of flying. "Fuckin' hate it," is all Jones says when Dan asks. If he won't chatter on about it, there must be a good reason, so Dan leaves it.

The car is an elderly custard-coloured BMW with rashes of rust. He finds Jones sitting in it when he turns up the night before they're set to leave, detaching the stereo from its wires with a small torch held between his teeth.

Dan leans on the open window. "Nicking radios now?"

Jones looks at him for about half a blink and hands him the torch, which is unpleasantly wet, and adjusts Dan's hand until it's pointing where he wants it. "Taking hostage for emergency surgery," he says as he fiddles the last wire free. "If I gotta listen to tapes the whole way, they're at least gonna play at the right speed."

Dan has a brief nightmarish vision of Jones somehow piping the engine noise through a mixer all the way up the M1 and suddenly doesn't mind the spit on his hand, though he does wipe it off on his jeans once he's stepped back to let Jones get out of the car.

"'S that all you're bringing?" Jones asks, eyeing the rucksack over Dan's shoulder. They're leaving early and neither of them trust Dan not to oversleep if he's left to his own devices, so he's spending the night here. "What've you got in there, ten books and a change of pants?"

"And a toothbrush," Dan adds in feigned indignation as Jones let them into the flat. The floor is now black and Dan has to step around the cardboard and spray paint that were used to paint the white arrows on the entryway floor.

"I reckon I want a big shag-pile Jungle Room rug in here," Jones says in the (still mostly theoretical) living room, digging through boxes and drawers and pulling out tools.

"Why'd you paint the floor, then?"

"Just now thought of it," Jones says, but he's already distracted by the car stereo. Dan finds himself watching the way he pulls it apart without hesitation, his hands steady on tiny screwdrivers and tools Dan doesn't know the name of, the look of intense concentration that's somehow still a smile, and the huff of annoyance when his hair keeps falling in his face. He pins it out of the way with a pair of alligator clips, wire and all, blending in with streaky mixture of red and black like some cybernetic appendage.

"You'd make a good mad scientist."

"I am a mad scientist."

He didn't think about why he was doing it when he packed the notebook that Jones read, but now he pulls it out and puts pen to paper. He writes half a sentence of the ending he came up with and drifts off to sleep on the sofa, where he dreams of a ghostly blond Jones covering him with a blanket made of rolled-out sparkling cassette tape that rustles out snatches of music when he shifts under it.

The blanket gets heavy, and Dan's aware of light creeping in the corners of his eyes and the smell of coffee.

"Oi, sleeping beauty," the blanket says.

Dan drags one eye open to find that ghost-Jones is sitting on his feet holding a mug shaped like a giant tooth. He mumbles a complaint about the blanket malfunctioning and shuts the eye again.

"Dan. C'mon. We gotta go."

A rough shake forces him awake. Ghost-Jones is still there, which means it's just Jones with shorter, much blonder hair. "What happened to your head?"

"I been ready since four. All me gear's packed up, I got bored."

Dan groans and sits up to take the coffee. "You should really look into reading books."

"Plan B involved the reciprocating saw and a wardrobe. I thought you'd rather sleep."

"It's very...blond."

"It was gonna be pink but I ran out of time." Jones climbs off Dan's feet and smacks him lightly in the knee. "You should have a shower. You're well rank," he says, and walks off to what passes for a kitchen.

"How kind of you to notice."

"D'you think you can eat six pieces of toast?" Jones calls. "Only I think it'll go off before we get back."

"Paint pictures on it or something. Or maybe you'll come back to the Virgin Mary in mould."

A slice of bread narrowly misses the back of Dan's head and sails past him into the bathroom. That piece and the remainder they don't eat get faces drawn on them, and Jones insists that the Virgin Mary one has to come with them and sit on the dash as a good luck charm. "They got this sticky bun in America that looks like Mother Teresa," he says as though that explains it.

*
Dan refuses to let Jones drive until he's had some sleep, although Dan himself hates driving to the point where he prefers to let people think he doesn't know how. He's even less thrilled by the BMW's stubborn clutch in city traffic and tendency to drift to the right on the motorway, but having an underslept and overcaffeinated Jones at the wheel seems worse than the flash-panic visions of large vehicles crashing into them or the brakes failing.

Jones cannot passively listen to music. He drums on the dash and jiggles invisible knobs and shouts encouragement at whatever he finds impressive. Dan can't even be annoyed by it because he's so plainly and unselfconsciously enjoying himself, and he's not even aware he's doing it, because he stops with a sheepish shrug and a mumbled apology, all lowered eyelashes and spilling-over laughter that turns into a childlike pout when Dan says, "Okay, Billy Idol."

"Oi, leave off the barnet. You ain't gotta like it."

"I meant you were dancing with yourself." It's lame, but the best Dan can come up with. "The hair's more...Warhol."

"You are fuckin' sad at lying, Dan." But Jones is laughing.

"I'm brilliant at it. Just ask my little sister."

"I didn't know you had a sister."

Dan's about to say he must've mentioned it, but he hasn't. He knows how Jones takes his coffee and that he loves the smell of rain on pavement and can nearly recite his novel-length condemnation of vinyl purism from memory, but knows almost nothing about Jones's life that he hasn't directly witnessed. That's how it is with Jones; he skips the intervening stages between strangers and friends, and so six months on, they've got years of in-jokes and evaporation of personal space, but Dan's missing basic details like, say, Jones's first name. Jones is his first name for all Dan knows. A couple of vague mentions of a grandmother and some university somewhere, but that's the lot.

"Yeah. Claire. You'd probably like her." Whether Claire would like Jones, Dan can't say. His instant intensity can put people off.

"I used to really want a sister. I even tried to buy my mate Steve's off him when I was like, eight, but Gran made me give her back. She didn't wanna go, neither. She liked me better. Said I was nice and Steve was sticky."

Dan laughs, because it's funny, but he's also wondering whether Jones's gran just happened to be minding him on all the occasions he's mentioned her, or if she raised him. There's not really any good way to ask, because there's nothing worse than making someone tell you their parents are dead or in prison or didn't want them, so Dan leaves it.

*

Jones is particular about what music he likes, but there isn't much he minds listening to, luckily, at least when it comes to Dan's preferences. The only things they really agree on are Kleenex and The Velvet Underground, and the Clash to a certain extent, but even then they don't like the same songs for the same reasons. Eventually Jones gets restless and twists round to rummage in the back seat until he comes up with a sketchbook and, inexplicably, Dan's fountain pen.

"Be careful with that," Dan says. "It was my grandfath--"

"Left, left, the fucking M6, Dan!"

"Shit." Dan swerves over in time, but he's coming up too fast on a van and has to slam on the brakes. Some instinct from years of ferrying Claire about makes his left arm shoot out in front of Jones to hold him back. He's too busy trying not to have a heart attack to remember to take it away until Jones moves it for him. "Sorry," he mutters.

Jones squeezes his hand briefly before releasing it. "Think I need a piss now," he say with a laugh.

"Ha ha."

"No, really."

Jones leaves the Virgin Mary toast on the windscreen of a sad rusty Beetle at the service station and grins his way into making Dan buy him overpriced sweets along with the petrol on the Sugar Ape credit card. He wants to lie in wait for the Beetle's driver to come out and discover the toast, but after ten minutes they conclude that the owner either works there or, more likely, is the leathery old man glued to the fruit machine.

It's like travelling with a twitchy kid that steals cigarettes. Jones draws scribbly fountain pen doodles that he lays up on the dash so Dan can see them: a sinister Dan in a top hat and cape, a roller-skating tiger, a television growing out of a flower pot. He tries to write his name with his eyes closed and crunches impatiently on violet pastilles and tries to make rude words out of number plates. He falls asleep suddenly like a light switched off, ink bleeding onto his fingertips. Dan turns the music down low and lets White Light/White Heat repeat itself the rest of the way to Holyhead as Jones mumbles in his sleep.

*

Jones leans too far over the deck railings on the ferry for Dan's comfort and shouts down at the sea until finally Dan can't help but grab him back by his hips. It draws a sneer from the patriarch of a strolling nuclear family, but the mother smiles gently as she averts her eyes. Dan blushes and pulls away, but Jones stage-whispers loudly enough for them to hear, "They must think we're bumming," and laughs as the father throws a glare over his shoulder.

"Or that you're a dangerous lunatic." It's not the first time someone has made assumptions about them, but it is the first time Jones has said anything about it.

Jones pushes his ridiculous red Jackie O. sunglasses up on top of his head and squints up at Dan for a second before he laughs. "You've gone rosy pink like a fuckin' schoolgirl."

"It's the sun."

"So it won't get worse 'f I talk about bumming some more?"

"I should've left you in the boot with the rest of the noisy electronics."

"The valuables, y'mean. I ain't insured, neither. Somebody might run off with me and then you'd be all alone."

That feels like a gun on the mantelpiece for some reason. Dan supposes it should; he was honestly surprised when a month had gone by and Jones still wasn't sick of him.

Jones shoves his sunglasses onto Dan's face and tugs him over to a bench. "Nah, you're stuck with me," he says, and for a second Dan wonders if he thought out loud. "They'd just bring me back going, 'oi, mate, this one's defective.'"

"You're not--"

"I am. Just in a good way."

Dan can't argue with that, and doesn't bother arguing about having his photo taken in the stupid sunglasses.

*

"We shoulda taken the other ferry," Jones says as he whips the car round a traffic circle, oblivious to Dan's white-knuckled grip on the seat. It made sense to let him drive since he's been here before and Dan hasn't, but Dan didn't consider that Jones might have been taught to drive by an intoxicated F1 racer. "Dun Laoghaire, yeah, there's this brilliant place there where...I dunno, it's where all the caravans go to die or something. 's beautiful."

"Christ, slow down."

"Just 'cause you drive like a granny--no, I think my gran drives faster--"

"I drive like a normal person. You drive like a madman. It's making me ill."

Jones opens his mouth like he's going to argue more, but what comes out is a laugh. "Think I saw this on George and Mildred."

"I was thinking I'd seen it in Withnail and I." Jones takes the next corner at a reasonable speed and Dan sighs through the smile he can't fight. "Tell me about the caravans."

*

"What's that?" Dan asks when Jones sets down a weathered brown case on the foot of the bed that Dan's claimed. Jones did most of the packing while Dan was asleep so he didn't have much idea what was in the car (or the sheer volume of it, or why, exactly, Jones needed to bring a toy piano) until they had to drag it all into the hotel.

Jones chews the side of his thumbnail and shrugs. "Yours, if you want it."

Dan opens the case. It's a typewriter. Not the ugly electric one, but a much older black Oliver that's been well looked after. "Did you find this upstairs?"

Jones shakes his head. "Got it off my gran. Nobody else was gonna use it, so I figured...."

This isn't some random oddity Jones has unearthed in his roomfuls of vintage rubbish, and it's not the afterthought he's is trying to brush it off as. "Are you sure? You know I break everything."

"That thing survived the Blitz. I think it can handle you."

"Thanks," Dan says, and Jones's uncertain smile widens into something more familiar. Dan thinks he should probably say more than that, but he just picks at his sleeve.

"You sorted to go out? I wanna eat chips on a bridge."

*

Jones misquotes Joyce with a mouthful of chips and waylays a couple of American students to take their photo. They pause on their way to a likely-looking pub a bit up the quay for Jones to ring the friend who's in charge of the club night he's playing. Dan idly spins through a rack of postcards at a newsagent and it occurs to him that one of them will have to end up sober enough to drive the car tonight.

"Which one're you writing me, then?" Jones says, suddenly startling up behind him.

"Why would I write you a postcard? You're right here. I can't wish you were." It's strange enough that he writes them and brings them back by hand. That started because he found an incredibly stupid one in Manchester he knew Jones would find funny, but he didn't know where to send it once he'd written it.

"Here, get me the one of Molly Malone. Poor old slag. Donnie told me there's a bloke whose entire job it is to come round every hour and pull out all the stuff people shove down her tits, but I think he was havin' me on."

"It probably would be tempting," Dan says, considering the statue's voluminous chest as he sorts through the change in his pocket for 10p that hasn't got the Queen on it. He wonders if Jones knows how impossible he is to say no to.

*

They get a couple of pints in and Dan's disappointed to hear that Jones's set will likely start in the middle of the gig Dan's going to, which means he'll have to suffer through it on his own. At least he can get as pissed as he likes; Jones says he never drinks during a gig and looks at Dan like he's a bit mad for even wondering. "Few pills sometimes, maybe, but I usually wish I hadn't." Dan wishes he wouldn't either.

Dan falls asleep while Jones sorts out his records back at the hotel and wakes up to him standing in the bathroom doorway without a stitch on, drying his hair with a pink towel. In bleary half-sleep, Dan's brain supplies a jolt to his groin and a fuck, he's gorgeous. That kicks Dan awake with loud alarm bells. The first thing Jones ever did was ask him to dance and proceed to flirt his arse off even after Dan refused, so it's not a totally foreign concept, but it is the worst idea in the entire fucking universe. There are two lucky distractions. One, he's found the tattoo Jones mentioned (which isn't actually that lucky of a distraction since it's near the top of his thigh), and two, the towel is pink because Jones's hair is pink, as are his fingers.

"Were you attacked by a candyfloss machine in the shower?"

"No, but it sorta looks like I murdered Animal in there."

"Animal?"

"The pink muppet, you muppet. The one that plays the drums. We better leave a nice tip for the maids."

"So what is the tattoo?" It just looks like a collection of wonky stripes around Jones's leg.

Jones comes closer so Dan can make out that they're not just stripes, but have seemingly random squiggles and loops throughout them. "Record grooves under a microscope, see?" Then he gets a little too close.

"Get your cock out of my face," Dan says, shoving him back. His face feels like it matches Jones's hair just now.

Jones stumbles back, laughing. "I don't normally get complaints."

"Those people are probably expecting your-- Christ, could we talk about absolutely anything else now?" Dan pulls a pillow over his burning face, but it's not enough to block out Jones cackling and calling him an old prude. He forgets to ask what record the tattoo came from.

*

The thought assaults him again later, when he's half-drunk and has just sat through a band out of the 'think they're the Pogues' file. They were happily a bit better than their demo suggested, but still nothing to write home about, even though Dan has to. He's got notes jotted down like 'guitar licks with fewer teeth than Shane MacGowan' and 'bassist possibly deaf.' But it all evaporates from his mind once he's pushed his way through a writhing dance floor to see Jones bathed in pulsing blue light, completely engrossed in twitching knobs and caressing vinyl with such a look of bliss that Dan's mouth goes instantly dry despite the sip of beer he's just taken. He thinks of Jones too close and too bare and smelling of warm skin and soap, and then of the way he actually smells when he's been sweating under hot lights all night, and how that might be up close.

Dan fingers the postcard in his pocket. It's obscene the way you touch those records, he writes in his head. I think you must be fucking the music.

Jones looks up like he's heard and his gaze falls right on Dan. He grins and holds up one finger, and then some familiar noise slides its way in between the tracks. Dan might not have recognised it if he hadn't heard it fourteen times today, but he does. It's the 'fuckin' feedback solo, Jesus,' from a Velvet Underground song, and Dan knows Jones was saving it just for him.

When Jones is done, it takes Dan long enough to get through the crowd that he's already unhooking cables and talking animatedly to a guy with at least forty facial piercings whose arm he keeps touching. But then Jones's whole face just lights the fuck up and he stops mid-sentence to throw his arms around Dan. His back is sweaty and so is his face as he rasps stubble against Dan's neck and ear and says, "That was fucking brilliant."

It's drunken reflex and some sort of happiness contagion that makes him kiss Jones's cheek. It's only Facial-Piercings (Donnie, as it turns out) clearing his throat that brings Dan back to his senses and stops him hauling Jones up and kissing him when Jones pulls back and looks at him.

Dan doesn't let the moment return.

*

Dan's razor has snapped in half in his bag. Jones offers the loan of his, but it's a dangerous-looking vintage one with real razor blades.

"Looks a bit good on you anyway," Jones says, brushing a finger across Dan's whiskery chin. He seems as easy with Dan as he ever has, so maybe he didn't realise after all how close Dan came to just full-on snogging him.

He lets Jones drive to Galway and is tired enough that he can sleep through the worst of the swerving about, though his stomach is sincerely not pleased with him by the time they get there.

Dan would like nothing more than to sleep off the rest of his hangover, but Jones is instantly enamoured of a pamphlet about the Aran Islands at the hotel desk. Barely an hour later they're on a bus trundling through grey drizzle past peat bogs.

"Augh, you've dribbled on my shoulder."

Dan blinks to find the bus has stopped and people are getting up, and that he's been asleep against Jones. And has, indeed, dribbled a bit. "Sorry."

Jones pats his head and Dan sneers.

They go from the bus to a small ferry, which proves to be a bad idea. It's windy and the waters are choppy and Dan has to stumble outside. He doesn't actually get sick, but he wonders if it might make him feel better. The drizzle and sea spray hitting his face help a bit, but looking at the water doesn't, so he shuts his eyes.

"Boats and hangovers don't mix," he groans when Jones lays a hand on his back and asks what's wrong.

"You're just seasick, you daft shit. Hang on."

Jones's hand was apparently helping as well, because he feels worse once it goes away. Jones returns a few minutes or days later and leans down to slip a tablet between Dan's lips. "Just swallow. It'll taste well fucking nasty, but it'll help."

Dan chokes down what is literally a bitter pill to swallow. "Have you poisoned me?"

"No, genius. It's for seasickness. Found a lady with a kid I figured'd have some." He keeps rubbing Dan's back and tells dirty jokes until Dan feels less like dying, and makes him drink a ginger beer once they're off the boat. It's a bit nice, being looked after. Dan wouldn't have thought it would be.

They ride round the island in a van (once Dan can look at one without wondering where the nearest toilet is) with two old ladies and a middle-aged couple. The couple are put off by Jones and keep sneaking him strange looks, but the old ladies seem to find him charming, and the driver laughs at everything he says.

Dan's not usually much for country scenery, but it really is beautiful-- thatched cottages and horse-drawn carts and road signs that have no English on them at all, like it's stuck in a time capsule. The ride ends not at the ring fort Jones claimed they were going to see, but at the tourist centre for it. Jones only now informs him it involves a long uphill walk. He really must know his powers of persuasion after all, because up they go.


*

The mist skips all the stages between that and monsoon. The middle-aged couple runs for the tourist centre and the two pithy old ladies solemnly raise their umbrellas and soldier on. Jones grabs Dan's hand, already wet and slippery, and drags him in a mad dash on up the hill. There's no shelter, even when they reach the inner ring of stones and trip to a stop, Jones doubled over laughing and Dan's lungs burning. Their hands slip apart and Jones straightens and tilts his face towards the sky. He laughs up at the streaming clouds and does a slow turn with his arms stretched wide, colour dripping from his hair and staining his shirt in fat pink drops that he'll purposely not wash out. When he stops and staggers from dizziness, laughing in openmouthed joy, Dan can no longer remember what the fuck was stopping him last night. He catches Jones round the waist and kisses him, swallows that laughter like an enemy cannibal heart. Jones doesn't hesitate a moment and Dan wonders if he's been expecting it. Jones's mouth is warm against the rain hitting their faces, a sweeter kind of wet than the sea-gritty downpour, and he's biting at Dan's lip and may still be laughing. The skin at the small of his back warms under Dan's palms when he slides them under Jones's shirt and Jones has got one rough fistful of Dan's collar and the other rubbing circles in the back of his hair. They might be moving towards the edge of the cliff; they might be falling over it for all Dan knows.

The old ladies walk up chatting about their granddaughters and one of them says, "Well!"

Jones breaks off the kiss, shaking Dan's lips with renewed laughter, and right now Dan doesn't mind who sees what, except what he might see if he looks at Jones, so he keeps his eyes shut and presses his lips to Jones's damp brow and laughs too, and holds onto him tighter than he'd like to admit.

Jones turns in Dan's grip, Dan thinks maybe to pull away, but it's just to face the cliff and pull Dan's arms around his shoulders, and maybe he doesn't want to look at Dan either. But Jones's heart is pounding through soaked cotton under Dan's hand, and Dan's face might be stained pink now because the crown of Jones's head is the easiest place in the world to rest it, and they stand there for a long time watching the waves crash through the fog. The rain slows as Jones's heart does, but Dan's feels like it might burst out of his chest. He is painfully hard and the roar in his ears is more than the sea.

"Let's go back, yeah?" Jones says, hoarse and small and laced with promise, jarring even for how quiet it is.

"Yeah," Dan says around what feels like something caught in his throat.

It's a slow walk back down, picking over jutting rocks that Dan doesn't remember being there. Jones tucks himself into Dan's side and they still don't look at each other. They pass the middle-aged couple going the opposite direction, now venturing out into the drizzle and bickering. Dan wonders if they ever kissed in rainstorms.

Dan's cigarettes are mostly dry, but he mutters curses around the filter as he tries to strike match after soaked match while they wait for the ferry. He hears the metallic sound of a lighter striking and there's Jones holding out a flame, illuminating his face in a warm campfire glow in the grey afternoon. It's pure reflex that Dan leans over and holds Jones's wrist steady, but Jones smiles when he does it and their eyes finally meet. Dan's stomach drops so violently he might as well already be on the boat. He brushes pink drips from Jones's cheek. "You're like a melted cartoon," he thinks aloud.

Even once Jones has flicked the lighter shut, he's brighter than the landscape. "Cartoon pirate. Like those ones out of that French thing."

"I've got no idea what you're talking about."

"I've got a video at home. It's genius. They're like punk pirates, you'll love it."

Dan feels they're having a different conversation entirely, one where Jones is telling him it's going to be fine and whatever Dan's just started isn't the end of anything else. Or that nothing's started and nothing's changed, that this was there all along.

There is a strange staring moment once the door of their room is shut behind them. Jones's eyes dart all about Dan's face as if there'll be something hidden in his hairline or the corner of his mouth. The curiosity that makes him rip machines to shreds and find music in city noise and starlings. It's baffled Dan from the beginning what draw someone like him could have for Jones, but he finds whatever he's looking for and steps up to slide his arms inside Dan's jacket and give him a kiss that starts slowly enough for Dan to catch on, just soft lingering presses of lips that are warm despite the way Jones is shivering in his damp clothes, and it grabs Dan by something deep in the pit of his chest and becomes a thunderstorm again. Dan's jacket hits the floor with a jangle of coins and the kisses break and shudder with ragged breath as he backs Jones up against the dresser. His hands act surer than they feel as they peel the wet shirt from Jones's body, and he only falters when he reaches clammy leather and a cold belt buckle. He freezes there, and the rough needy kisses dial back down to something dangerously elegant. Jones pops the snaps on Dan's shirt open in a neat succession and pushes it down his shoulders, and it's just them in wet jeans and Dan's hands stuck on a belt.

Jones pulls back and looks up at him. His lips are bitten-red and his eyes look enormous. "We haven't gotta--"

"Yes, we-- God, fuck, but I want you," Dan whispers in a rush, and it's easy enough to bypass the belt for the moment and squeeze Jones's cock through his jeans. Jones lets out a low hum of appreciation and mouths a hot line down Dan's neck as he steers them towards the bed, where they fall and tangle and wrestle with wet denim and boots and Jones laughs like he's having the time of his life, and Dan can't even say 'I've never--' before they're naked (except for one striped sock dangling off the end of Jones's foot) and Jones has got his skinny thighs straddled across Dan's hips and both their erections gripped together in his hand. He's looking down at Dan with this intense concentration usually reserved for delicate alterations to circuit boards, except his mouth is open in a slack smile. His hair is standing in wild pink tufts pointed every which way like it's at war with itself, and the lengths of chain and beads and wire around his neck glint in the sliver of sunset pushing its way through the grimy window. Maybe not a cartoon, but quite possibly some kind of fantastical creature, angel or demon or the embodiment of noise.

But it's just Jones, who records the refrigerator and makes Dan laugh himself sick at stupid films and somehow makes him write better just by being there, which is brought home to Dan in a way it wasn't before when he groans and thrusts up in Jones's grip and rubs rough fingertips over his nipples and Jones closes his eyes and sucks in a breath through his teeth and says, "Fuck, Dan." It's a phrase he's heard in amusement and concern and annoyance, but never like that, never raw and wanting. He pulls Jones down on top of him and kisses him, panting and messy with their cocks pressed between their bodies, and he grabs Jones's arse and doesn't give a damn how desperate he might seem.

Jones keeps saying his name in between gulping breaths of air against Dan's lips, and then, hot and hoarse on his ear, "I wanna fuck you." It shatters Dan like a hammer and he comes with sudden stuttering jerks of his hips that he can't control. He doesn't register what Jones says during the hazy twitching aftershocks, but his eyes snap open when he feels the cool air hit the wet smears on his belly, and he sees Jones sat up on his knees and stroking his own cock, biting his lip and looking down at Dan through half-closed eyes. The sight is nearly enough to just keep him hard, and he's torn between watching this and wanting to touch, but he reaches for Jones and pulls him back down enough to kiss him and replace Jones's hand with his own. He barely even touches, though, before Jones clutches at his shoulders and comes with what would be a shout if it weren't into Dan's mouth.

Dan doesn't know what's meant to happen next, or even what he wants to happen next, as Jones cleans them off with his damp shirt that apparently Dan threw on the bed and smiles like a shy-eyed firework. Jones scrambles under the covers and says, "Get in, 's fuckin' glacial."

"I should--"

"You should get in this fucking bed, Ashcroft."

"--turn on the radiator," Dan finishes. It's probably what he was going to say in the first place.

Jones ducks his head and laughs. "Oh. Yeah."

Dan feels ridiculous bending down to fiddle with the mysterious-as-possible controls on the radiator, more ridiculous still when he has to reach under the bed to get at the heap of wet jeans to drape them over it. When he unearths his cigarettes and lights one, he nearly jumps out of his skin at a flash and a noise, which turn out to be Jones on the bed with the Polaroid and a smirk. "You fucking--"

"Relax, your bits ain't in it or nothing. C'mon."

Dan scowls but his heart isn't in it. He climbs into the bed and immediately gets a heap of Jones plastered to his side. "You're not cold," he grumbles.

"Got the sense to come in out of it, dun' I?" Jones says in a warm mumble against Dan's neck.

They don't say anything for a while. Dan looks at the ceiling and smokes and Jones occasionally cranes up to steal a puff, his lips soft against Dan's fingers. This should be stranger, should feel more 'what the fuck have I just done.' He shouldn't be just combing his fingers through Jones's damp hair and feeling his skin thrill up in gooseflesh at Jones tracing ticklish patterns on his ribs.

Dan reaches over to stub the fag out, and the hand that's now free gravitates to Jones's hip, which feels like it was moulded to the exact shape of his palm.

"Dan?"

"Hm."

"Are you totally shitting yourself?"

"No."

He can feel Jones smile before he sees it. "Good. We ain't gotta make a thing of it."

That's more disappointing than Dan might have thought. "Oh."

Jones's smile just gets bigger and he rolls over to pin Dan on his back. "I said a thing, not a habit, y'tit. I ain't near done with you." Jones gives him a lazy kiss that he can barely sustain for grinning, and Dan forgets to feel stupid.

*

"Are you ever going to tell me what else I wrote on that postcard?"

"Told you, 'm keeping it."

"Jones..."

"You might not like it."

"You've had your tongue up my arse. I don't think I'll be embarrassed."

"Oh, alright, nosey knickers. But you can't take it back."

"Just tell me."

"You said, 'If you were here you'd probably try to make me dance with you, and I probably would, even though I can't dance for shit.'"

"Holding me to that, are you?"

"Ain't my fault you asked."

Dan stretches down to the floor and picks up his jacket, which has the still-blank Molly Malone postcard in the pocket. He pulls it out and writes one line:

yes I will Yes.
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