Pairing: shades of Pete/Dan and Dan/Jones
Rating: R for some angsty dirty thoughts
Summary: Everyone finds out.
Notes: This is a sequel to Public Pervert by the_reverand, who has my most massive thanks for playing muse, cheerleader, editor, and general purveyor of brilliance. <3 Anything wrong is all me.
And of course I can't write anything that doesn't have at least a little bit of a soundtrack, so here's Interpol, Wanda Jackson, and The Shaggs.
It's just bad luck that Pete's reading Dan's article when Jones walks up. He could try to cover it up with 'The Cool Cat Says "How to Dance the Bop"' (Instruction booklet included), but it'd be obvious, and anyway Jones has already broken off mid-greeting to glare at it.
"Can't believe you're reading that rubbish."
And he wasn't going to, honestly, but it caught his eye in the newsagent and somehow materialised in his hands at the checkout. "Just a laugh, ain't it? I'll bet it's all made up. Builders're tired after work, all grimey. Last thing they want's more sweaty parts on their sweaty parts." Jones looks tired, and not in a satisfied played-the-most-massive-gig-last-night way. Dan can't have told him what...happened, or Jones wouldn't be speaking to him. But Dan didn't understand Pete's advice, either, or Jones wouldn't look like he's been punched in the eyes. Stitch used to say it was written all over Pete's face whenever he had a secret, but Poppy and Daisy never noticed, so maybe Jones won't either. Not that he's thinking about Stitch. Nope. Hasn't for at least an hour now.
"Wouldn't count on it, mate," Jones mutters darkly, lifting the needle off the Wanda Jackson 45 Pete's had playing and squinting at it. "Your counterweight's all arseways, y'know. You're doin' the grooves in."
"I know." Pete tries not to sigh. Stitch used to take care of that stuff. "Don't matter, really. That's a reissue. They sell 'em to tourists in Nashville."
"Think you might be better off without 'Oh, Lonesome Me,' anyhow," Jones says with a pointedly raised eyebrow.
Jones's smile is terrible and bitter. "Sad fucking bastards, we are."
That's the last thing Pete wants to be, or wants Jones to be, or wants anyone to be. "Oi, but guess what? I got that Shaggs record you been after! Original pressing and all! Some fucked-off wife sold me her cheating husband's entire collection for fifty quid, can you believe it?"
Jones smiles a much better smile. "Fuck, really? I been wanting that since I was...hell, before I was born, probably."
"There's a crate full of those Little Wonders as well. I've not graded any of it yet so it's all just jumbled about at home, but you could come round mine once I close up."
"Come up and see your etchings, shall I?" Jones says with an exaggerated wink. They joke about this, have for ages. It used to drive Stitch mad. If Jones were anyone else--no, if Dan had been anyone else--Pete might seriously consider it tonight.
Jones comes back at five and helps Pete break down the stall. He does want to see the records, of course, but he also doesn't particularly want to go home just now. Dan and Claire's sniping at each other has reached a fever pitch since That Fucking Article came out, and if he doesn't drown them out, he's torn between wanting to shout at Claire to leave the fuck off Dan and...and, well, and not, because however cruelly deep Claire digs, there's a truth to it and they all three know it.
Alone with Dan, it's these long stares like Dan's trying to work something out that make Jones's insides knot up and tremble. The night Dan lost his keys (again) and stood dumbly in the rain until Jones called him inside and fussed over him like a worried mother (fucking wife, more like), Dan smelled of the incense that pours out of the Market shop doorways and Jones found him in the bedroom stripped to his soaked jeans and socks (sock, singular, actually-- 'You're wearing one fucking sock and it's mine,' Jones said, waving takeaway menus) and he stared at Dan's chest and couldn't help imagining how the dusting of coarse dark hairs would feel against his cheek. How he'd lick the ones ringing Dan's nipples into a flat swirl rough under his tongue and how Dan's perpetually three-days-unshaven face would rasp against the insides of his thighs. He'd babbled something about vindaloo and didn't ask Dan where he'd been or why he smelled of Nag Champa, what happened to the keys or the other sock.
There was one extraordinary moment that night, in the kitchen, where Dan (showered and dry now) rested a large warm hand at the small of Jones's back that seemed to sear through his shirt. But Claire banged through the door just as Jones was taking a breath to try to speak, and Dan snatched his hand away. That was the beginning of the stares.
He'd like to think Pete's right and that Dan made the builder up. But Pete doesn't know Dan.
Pete does know what it is, though, to love someone so much it strips away sense. Jones thinks so, anyway. It's maybe why there's a naked nail in a poster-shaped void between the bookcases and empty spaces in the records on them, as though Stitch has just gone on an extended holiday and will need to put his things back when he returns.
A little black-eared puppy skitters up to Jones where he's sat on the floor in front of a tower of record crates, yips at him and then licks his hand. "Alright, gorgeous?" He scratches the dog's head and wonders what Dan would think of a puppy. It's hard not to smile when there are puppies. Claire would probably go mental. It'd pick her trainers to chew up because it would know she'd be the one to mind it.
"That's June," Pete says. "Johnny'll be hidin' under the bed. He's shy'n all."
"The man in black."
"Nah, he's a little fuzzy brown bugger. Dunno why Stitch named 'em that, really. Bloke down the RSPCA reckoned they were brother and sister." June stops sniffing at Jones's shoes and goes to lay her head on Pete's leg. "They miss him," Pete says, more quietly. Then he shakes it off so abruptly that June falls over with an insulted huff as Pete digs into a crate and pulls a record out at random. "Aw, Beatles covers, ace! Look, it's like 'buy this, I've got my tits out!'" Pete holds it up so Jones can see the cover, which features a mostly topless woman and no Beatles songs Jones has ever heard of.
Jones laughs harder than he needs to and loses his balance a bit. The hand he's been propping himself up with slides out and underneath the coffee table where his fingers close over something small and cold. He rights himself and is surprised to find his own lighter (shaped like a fish, with eyelashes drawn on, so it's not like he could mistake it) in the palm of his hand. "This is mine," he says.
Pete looks up from inspecting the record for scratches and his eyebrows shoot up when he sees what Jones is holding. "Sorry, mate. I'm well klepto sometimes."
Jones could have sworn he lent it to Dan, but it makes more sense that he set it down at Pete's stall while searching his pockets for cash.
Pete finds the Shaggs record and puts it on and they laugh at it, and Jones is already imagining what he can do with the shambling instrument-hacking. It's beautiful in a strange way, like children banging on pots. Johnny creeps out of the bedroom with something in his mouth, which he brings straight to Jones and drops in front of him, looking up expectantly like he should get a reward. Jones stares at it. "Pete?"
Pete's over in the corner, somehow managing to dance and completely oblivious.
"Why the fuck has your dog just brought me my own sock?" He remembers now, Dan breaking his last match and swearing like a trooper last week. Passing Dan the lighter and Dan asking if the fish had a name. And the night Dan came home with just the one sock.
He hopes Pete will look at him like he's mad. There's no reason it should be his, even if Pete's flat smells of incense. Pete will have traded some children's record for them with the girl in the vintage shop across the road.
But Pete's hands are flying through the air like trapped birds. "Look, I didn't know, alright? Not till-- you never let on he was that Dan, yeah?"
No, he never did. Not even when he turned up to find Stitch reading the piss photo piece aloud, though he had to bite his tongue to stop himself saying Dan hadn't written that shit. "Why was he even here, then?"
Pete just gapes, and Jones knows the answer. Not that he didn't know it a minute ago--there aren't loads of ways for socks to end up in bedrooms--but it properly burns its way in now. He's clenching his jaw so tightly his teeth grind.
"But the builder thing, that's all made up! I even picked what he looked like!"
"What?" Jones says, because now it doesn't make any kind of sense at all.
"The fuckin' article, Jones. The rubbish one I shouldn't have been reading? It happened 'cause of that. But we made it all up, see."
Jones pictures the two of them tangled together in lamplight, joking their way through it, Dan all lazy afterglow and probably laughing. "Right." He picks at the edge of a stripe on the sock where a green thread has strayed into the grey. His head feels like it's been muted.
"Aw, Jones, c'mon. I'm sorry, alright?" Pete's grasping at Jones's arm but he shrugs away. "I never would've, I swear, not if I'd known."
"Fucksakes, Pete, shut up."
Pete looks wounded and Jones is a little bit glad.
"How'd you even--" Jones isn't sure he wants to know.
"He was just some bloke in a pub that was about to do something stupid."
Jones has spent years squinting to read between Dan's lines, and Pete's are much wider apart. There nearly was a builder. Completely beyond Dan's grasp to just have a look at the place and make the rest up, not when he could dig a fucking hole for himself instead.
"Never would've even known if he hadn't mentioned you." Pete's eyebrows are up in hopeful arches like he thinks that might help.
"You would've said right off if he'd called you the wrong name."
"Don't think he called any name, actually." Pete wrinkles his nose up. "Weren't no need to bring you up, though. Here, I know what you need."
Jones lets Pete grasp his arm this time and drag him over to the sofa. Pete rummages in a bookcase and produces a bottle of whiskey, which he shakes questioningly. "Yeah. Fuck it," Jones says.
They drink straight from the bottle and Pete's strangely silent, staring at the window but not really out it. The whiskey reminds him of Dan. The record shambles to an end and the speakers pop.
"Fucker's blind," Pete says after a while and pulls Jones into a one-armed hug that he doesn't try to edge out of. It isn't Pete's fault.
Jones can't help but wonder what would've happened if he'd been the one to run into Dan in that pub. He imagines cold tile against his back and lager on Dan's lips and wants to go home. But it's also the last place he wants to go. Dan probably would have grumbled some lie about escaping the idiots. Maybe they would have played darts. Dan would've crept back there later, and the small-mouthed bald man would have been a reality. It took a stranger to stop him crossing that line. Or anyway someone who could pull him back harder than Jones can.
Dan is, unfortunately, still sober enough to see straight. He's heard no end of wank and cock jokes, had Jonatton call him into his office to ask his opinion on whether a wall could be knocked out ('oh, can't you ask your boyfriend?'), and had Ned asking far too many questions to put down to admiring curiosity. He'd thought the joke would be on them, but it turns out being a builder-wanker is a lot like being a preacherman: it only matters if they think you are one.
Claire was happy enough to get her money, but looked disgusted at him. He's not sure she would have believed him if he'd told her he hadn't done it. Especially as he nearly did. Maybe he'd feel differently if he'd never had any intention.
At least Pete is probably having a good laugh. Dan's thought about going to see him--not for a repeat performance, though it's admittedly crossed his mind--just to have someone look at him for five minutes who's not imagining him tossing off a fat bald man in a toilet. Not that he thinks Pete would be keen on a repeat, not after the turn things took when Dan mentioned Jones. He didn't piece it together at the time, not entirely, not until he was soaking wet with Jones's hands sliding slow-motion down his shoulders, an instant replay of Pete pushing off Dan's coat, his shirt, and 'do it closer to home' finally stood up and made sense. It wasn't about Pete trying to keep himself from having to have an awkward 'so you sucked off my flatmate' conversation. Or, it was, but that wasn't all.
Dan's been debating what else it meant. The conclusion he first jumped to was that Jones must've told Pete about having what, feelings?--it sounds terrible but it's the least juvenile way Dan can think to put it--for Dan. Dan didn't hate the idea. It came as something of a shock how much he didn't hate it, heat spiking to his groin and a strange warmth fluttering in the pit of his stomach like a shot of whiskey. He'd stared at Jones in the kitchen, spooning curry onto mismatched plates, and wondered how long and how much and just how. And why. But it made sense, didn't it? Jones wouldn't put up with Dan's shit if he didn't...care. Would've just let Dan shave his hair off with the clippers instead of spending the better part of an hour carefully snipping out the other half of the paint and making it match what the poor barber had done. Wouldn't drag him out of mad swearing rants by saying something ridiculous or slip silly drawings into Dan's cigarette packs for him to discover, somehow, at the moments he'd most need to see one.
He'd only meant to slip past Jones to search for something to drink in the fridge, but somehow his hand stayed on Jones's back, and Jones looked up at him, and Dan looked back, and Jones licked his lips and Dan wondered (thought about, imagined) what kissing him might be like. But Claire coming home was a bucket of cold water, because Dan remembered her camera and her money and the article, and could already picture the look on Jones's face.
However Jones might have felt, whether or not Pete was right (because, after all, it could've just been some mad idea of Pete's--he seemed the sort to come up with mad ideas), he wouldn't feel that way for long. So there was no point to staring at him in search of some clue, or to his mind turning memory into fantasy.
Dan does a lot of pointless things these days.
They haven't talked about the article. Dan's done his best to avoid seeing Jones at all the past two days, and maybe Jones has been avoiding him too. H'es not sure what he's seen the couple of times he's dared to look--it's a lot like the wounded expression when Dan can't contain his anger and snaps something pissy at him. Except there's no apology to mumble and Jones doesn't shake it off, and dark thundering music grinds its way into Dan's dreams.
There's no time to feign sleep when he hears Jones come in; Dan's walking back from lighting a cigarette off the stove and freezes idiotically in the middle of the room. Jones has got a stack of records under one arm. He should be talking ninety miles a minute about what he's going to do with them, dragging Dan over to the decks and making him listen to the best bits. Instead he just sets them down and says, "Claire in?"
Dan shakes his head.
"'m going to sleep," Jones says, and disappears into the bedroom.
He does look tired, eyes drooping and swollen. It's not that unusual. Jones stays up for days at a time and then crashes. Except it is unusual: those crashes come with no warning, Jones full-force one second and unconscious the next, like putting out a light. This time it's like the light has already gone out. Self-preservation, maybe, not wanting to pass out in a record shop.
Record shop. Shit. No, Pete won't have told him. Pete was the one who didn't want him to know. Dan wonders if Jones would prefer the truth or the fiction, given the choice.
Later, when Dan passes by on the way to the bathroom, he sees Jones sprawled half on top of the covers in just his pants. It's not a novelty, and Dan's seen him in less, but for some reason now, maybe because of what he thinks (hopes?) he knows or what he did with Pete or what he thinks he might want to do with Jones, it's like looking for the first time.
It is the first time, really; you don't stare at your incidentally naked flatmate, not when it hasn't occurred to you to want your tongue in the hollows of his hips or to mouth along the outline of his cock through blue cotton, or how the frantic rhythms of his hands on mixers and turntables might translate to skin. You certainly don't stand there getting a hard-on from watching him sleep. You sure as fuck don't go have a wank in the bathroom.
Dan's also fairly sure there's some don't in being half-past thirty in a locked bathroom with your dick out, wondering if this means you're gay. Educated and without any more than the standard schoolyard homophobia drilled into him from birth, possibly he should have wondered sooner, but maybe someone had to come along to make him wonder. Queer, but not gay, as Jenny the photographer used to remind him, before the day she poured a steaming latte over Jonatton's head and told him to go fuck himself. He thinks he might have slept with Jenny, once, but either she didn't remember any better than he did or wanted to pretend it hadn't happened. He liked her hands on the camera knobs.
It's not Jenny he's thinking about, though, as he leans back against the door and grips his cock with strokes so rough and tight they nearly hurt. He's thinking about how hot Pete's mouth was, how like this it wasn't, how Jones's lips are the same shape and would look the same way, how dark Pete's hair looked in the dim, about ragged black-lacquered nails scratching over his chest that aren't Pete's short clean ones, blue eyes with more than just Pete's laughing mischief in them, and it's definitely not Pete's voice asking if Dan's going to let him---
Fuck. Nothing kills an erection faster than a sister's voice. Dan reckons he probably deserves it. "What?"
"Have you nearly finished?"
It's just like being a teenager in so many ways. "Nearly," Dan says. He tries to smirk at the pun but the mirror tells him he's sneering. He tucks himself away and washes his hands, flushes the toilet for good measure.
Claire shoves past him and slams the door in his face. She comes out bitching about something to do with Pingu and some Ribena and scrubbing at a stain on her jeans.
"Nathan didn't have spare trousers for you?"
"Fuck off," Claire says, and starts towards the bedroom, presumably for clean ones.
"Jones is sleeping in there," Dan warns.
"God forbid I disturb him."
"With no clothes on."
"Christ, again? What've I told him--"
"Leave off him. It's his flat." Dan doesn't know why he's suddenly so defensive on Jones's behalf--well, all right, he does. One part guilt and several parts something he doesn't want to give a name to.
"You get them, then."
There's no reason he can give not to, so he goes in, trying to be as quiet as possible as he rummages in the dark through the dresser that's got some of everyone's clothes jumbled together, and trying not to look at Jones again. But Jones was either awake already or only sleeping lightly, because as soon as a drawer creaks, a soft, "Dan?" sounds from the bed and the lamp switches on.
"I didn't mean to wake you," Dan says with as quick a glance in Jones's direction as he can get away with. "Claire needed trousers." Dan lays hands on a pair and holds them up.
"Those're mine," Jones says.
"Are they?" Dan inspects the label, but it's got the arcane women's sizes on it like Claire's do. "They're girls'."
"So?" Then the mattress springs creak and Jones is right up next to him, all sleep-warmed skin and mussed hair, pale back bent over the drawer. Dan concentrates on three random freckles rather than the swell of his arse, and when Jones says, "Here," and hands him a pair of jeans that apparently do belong to Claire, Dan keeps his eyes on them and not the line of dark hairs disappearing beneath Jones's waistband.
"Thanks," Dan says. It occurs to him that he might have left some matches in the desk, which is a good three paces of safe distance away.
"What d'you want in there?" Jones asks as Dan searches through broken pens and telephone buttons and wads of wire.
"Matches," Dan says, staring at a striped blue jay feather he remembers finding some three years ago tucked between the pages of a secondhand Sassoon. Jones was with him at the time and had plucked it out of Dan's lap and stuck it behind his own ear.
Dan looks up and his mouth goes dry. Jones is holding up the fish lighter Dan lost at Pete's. Maybe he didn't lose it at Pete's? Maybe he lost it before and-- no, what would he have been using, then? Maybe Jones doesn't know. Maybe Pete gave it back to him with some story about finding it and knowing it was his? Anything but having to do this now. "Thought I'd lost that," Dan says, trying for casual and failing miserably. He can feel his eyes darting around and has to swallow past what feels like a brick to even speak.
"You did. I found it." Jones's tone is soft but his eyes are like ice.
Dan feels, maybe, a tremor in Jones's hand as he grabs Dan's and turns his palm up to deposit the lighter into it. "Jones--"
Leaving it would be easy. They could shove it under the rug and go on with life. At least until one or the other of them tripped over the massive buried lump in the middle of the room, somewhere between the decks and the settee that Dan tends to favour. He doesn't want that. Until that day in the Grey Lion, Jones was one of the few things in Dan's life that actually made sense. Not irony or farce or poetic justice, but sense. So he reaches out, a blind jump that'll either send him tumbling through space or land him on solid ground. It's his hand trembling as the lighter clatters to the floor and he grips Jones's bare warm shoulder and stops him turning his back. "I don't want to." They're maybe the hardest words he's ever said.
He can see the muscles in Jones's jaw clench. "Maybe if you'd told me in the first place I'd feel a bit less of a fucking...idiot." His face isn't made for that kind of bitterness.
"He-- Pete asked me not to."
"'Cause Pete fucking Sweet knows what's good for me, does he?"
"You're not an idiot." His hand is still on Jones's shoulder, and he drops Claire's jeans to lay his other palm against Jones's cheek. "I probably am."
Jones flinches at first, but then his eyes flutter closed. "Don't," he whispers, and Dan feels him tense, but then he shuffles closer and wraps an arm round Dan's waist. "Don't," he says again, muffled into Dan's collar.
Dan's not sure what he means or if he even means it. "Why?" The shadows in Pete's bedroom, they were all Jones.
Jones raises his head and looks up at Dan, brows knitted and eyes blown black. "It's...." He shakes his head several times, no and no and no again. But then he leans up and brushes his lips across Dan's, just a ghost of a kiss, gone before it's even there. "Just...gimme a bit of time, alright?"
And Jones's skin slips from under his hands, which already feel cold, and it sounded more like never than later. "Right," Dan says to the empty room. The lighter's goggling up at him from the floor. He picks it up and slams it shut in the desk drawer with a hard enough shove that the desk hits the wall and the gutted old dictaphone crashes over the edge. He can't even tell if it's broken or not.