armartello: (Default)
This thing is getting so out of hand I can't even with myself. But it's helping me produce words? lolol
Part 1 | Part 2

Jazz struggled to catch his breath, wiping his hand off on his long-since discarded shirt. Even with his eyes closed, he could just imagined the pleased look making its way across Savin’s face.


“That didn’t take you long,” Savin said, chuckling. Even his light tone couldn’t hide his lust. “How much did Devin work you up, tonight?”


Jazz peaked at Savin with one eye, a tired, blissed out smile making its way across his lips. “Enough,” he said, using his shirt to wipe off himself off entirely. “We didn’t really get a whole lot of time alone, but -- we made out some when we got back to his place…”


“He invited you inside?” Savin asked, raising an eyebrow. Jazz could make out Savin cleaning himself off as well, pushing his now soiled clothing aside as he curled up in front of his laptop and studied Jazz’s face. “Isn’t that a little against the rules?”


“No, we just made out in the car -- he has a ‘roommate,’ love,” Jazz clarified. He wiped the sweat from his brow away with the back of his hand, trying to forget the way Devin had all but climbed into his lap earlier that evening, his lips hot and heavy against Jazz’s own. “I don’t think he’d take a random client inside his own home…”


“Probably not a good idea, yeah,” Savin said with a shrug. He gave Jazz a small, knowing smile. “So all in all, the dinner went well, then?”


Jazz nodded, curling up on his side on the bed and pillowing his head on his arm. He closed his eyes, trying to imagine that his arm was really Savin’s chest; how it’d rise and fall with each breath Savin took. He smiled a little himself, recalling the way Savin’s arm would wrap around his back; how his fingertips would ghost up and down Jazz’s arm, from shoulder to elbow. “It made me miss you,” he said, opening his eyes once again.


Savin’s expression immediately shifted from teasing to touched, his green eyes softening. “Wow. It went that well, huh?” He reached out, brushing his fingers against the screen -- and Jazz knew instinctively that Savin was trying to brush Jazz’s hair out of his eyes. “Gonna admit you have a crush, now, then, mate?”


Jazz mock-scowled, narrowing his eyes at Savin. “Of course not,” he said -- though his face betrayed him and burned in embarrassment. “Why would I do that?”


“Oh, I don’t know… maybe ‘cause I’d let you do more with him if you did,” Savin said, snickering as Jazz started with Savin’s words. “You have how many more dinners with Piere?”


“As many as Piere wants to have with me as a guest,” Jazz answered, trying not to imagine just how far he’d take things with Devin if he had permission to do so. That kind of imagining often led to Devin pushed onto his back, his long, lean legs hooked around Jazz’s waist with Jazz buried to the hilt inside him.


“How expensive is it, if you sleep with him?” Savin asked, as if dismissing Jazz’s previous statement. “We can afford all of the services he provides, can’t we?”


“I mean, yes, but -- he’s pretty expensive even for just one or two dinners a week,” Jazz said, his mouth twisting and going dry. His stomach made an attempt at knotting itself.


“You do want to fuck him, don’t you?” Savin’s questioning clearly hadn’t ended, his green eyes meeting Jazz’s blue ones. The teasing lilt to his voice had completely disappeared -- now moving into objective fact.


Jazz swallowed hard, dropping his eyes to the mattress. “I do,” he whispered. “And you’re right, I probably do have a crush, so -- I probably shouldn’t fuck him, even though we have the money for it and I want to.”


Savin’s expression softened and he shook his head, leaning against his pillows and pulling his laptop closer to him. “Now where’s the fun in that?” he asked, his voice equally soft. “You’re allowed to have a crush on the guy, mate.”


“He gets paid to pretend to be my partner,” Jazz said, shrugging his shoulders. He glanced up at Savin before returning to studying how their sheets were woven, making shapes in the mattress with his finger. “Having a crush is fine, but -- I shouldn’t do anything that’d lead to making it worse and you know how attached I get to people if I sleep with them.”


Sighing, Savin nodded. “I know,” he said. “But you’ve already let him touch your dick so I’m not sure abstaining from going all the way with him is gonna help you all that much either, mate.”


Jazz’s face burned and he slapped a hand to his forehead, groaning into his palm. “It was over clothes!” he cried.


“And he worked you up so much that it took me less than five minutes to finish the job without even touching you,” Savin said, snickering.


“You came that fast too, asshole,” Jazz grumbled, glaring at Savin.


“If you recall, I was watching porn before you called me and so rudely interrupted me.” Savin grinned as Jazz snorted and shook his head. “I was already pretty worked up myself.”


Jazz snorted again, trying to hide his smile as he sat up and pulled his computer into his lap. “I never did ask what kind of porn you were watching…”


“You wouldn’t be interested,” Savin said with a wink. “It involves women.”


Jazz’s face scrunched up at that. “Do you ever watch gay porn?”


Savin shrugged. “A lot of the guys on gay porn don’t do it for me,” he said. He smiled at Jazz, brushing his hair out of his eyes. His expression then sobered and he folded his arms over his chest, looking away from the screen. “‘Kaasan had another appointment, today,” he said, his eyes now somber. “It -- she’s improving, but…”


“Not fast enough?” Jazz finished for him, his stomach twisting. “If you need me to come up there --”


“No,” Savin said, shaking his head. “I’m fine, I promise, love. I’m just -- a little worried about her, is all.”


Jazz nodded, swallowing his stomach back down. "You know you can talk about it more if you need to, love. I might not be able to respond right away if I'm at work, but -- I'd do my best to respond as quickly as I can, too."


"I know." Savin licked his lips and adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose. He gave Jazz an attempt at a smile, shaking his head. "'Tousan thinks she's out of the woods, but -- I dunno. Her surgery went well and she's recovering fine, I just -- have this feeling that something's gonna go wrong, y’know?”


“Oh, love.” Jazz gave Savin an understanding look, brushing his fingers against his screen. “I get that you have a feeling, but -- she’s in good hands, too. You said she was being seen by one of the best doctors in the Empire, didn’t you?”


“Yeah, but --” Savin sighed and shook his head. “Sometimes that’s not enough, y’know? There’re so many things that could still go wrong, and just because she’s responding well to treatment now doesn’t mean there’s not going to be something else that comes up, either. I just -- don’t think she’s in the clear just yet, that’s all.”


Jazz nodded. “Well -- if anything happens, call me, okay? Or send me a message -- I’ll respond and call you back as soon as I can, I promise.” He glanced at the clock and frowned a little to himself. “I should probably get going -- I need to sleep, at some point…”


“You probably should,” Savin said. He licked his lips, his eyes raking over what part of Jazz’s form he could see. “Though, maybe you should tell me a bit more about how good of a kisser Devin is…?”


Jazz chuckled and shook his head, feeling his face heat up a little at Savin’s suggestion. “Sure,” he said, leaning back against his pillows. As he began to tell Savin about his makeout session with Devin in detail, he watched Savin’s expression carefully; how his shoulders relaxed and his startling green eyes fluttered closed.


He wished Savin could come home sooner, rather than later.




The next dinner with Piere went without a hitch. Jazz picked Devin up at his place, the two of them survived several hours with multiple up-tight politicians and military types, and Jazz took Devin back home and make out with him until they were both breathless and aching for release.


They continued to follow Savin’s rules. Everything over clothes. Only getting close. During the car rides to and from, Jazz discovered that Devin’s birthday was within the next couple of weeks. That Devin had only been a Sidearm for the past year and a half; that he hadn’t had many high profile clients like Jazz, but made enough to get by. Personal details aside from that were scarce.


Jazz wanted to know more about Devin; about his friends, his family. They shared an obvious taste in music; their senses of humor seemed to mesh as well, the two of them often snickering behind their hands at something they witnessed together at the dinners. And Savin sent him encouraging texts; kept Jazz informed on how Nina was progressing with her recovery and healing.


It was the third dinner where they ran into a snag.


While Jazz had met the majority of the visible Government present in Cliffton, he had yet to meet the majority of their military officials. When he and Devin pulled into their parking space and exited the car, they immediately noticed the receiving line: that there were two severe looking men, roughly forty years of age, turning over their ceremonial weapons.


Devin froze beside him, and Jazz looked up at him, his brow furrowing. “What is it, sweetheart?” he asked, keeping his voice low. He slipped an arm around Devin's waist, partly in hope that it would help spur his partner forward, partly to provide Devin with a modicum of comfort.


The touch seemed to do neither as Devin jumped under Jazz’s arm and turned his head sharply towards Jazz. “Sorry,” Jazz said, giving Devin a sheepish smile. “Forgot how jumpy you could be.”


Devin’s face tinted pink, his eyes landing right back towards the receiving line where the two military officials -- generals, Jazz supposed -- slipped inside the building. “Know the Generals,” he said, matching Jazz’s earlier tones. His voice shook a little. “Might’ve, um, worked for one of ‘em, before.”


Jazz blinked and tilted his head a little to one side. “As in -- the part I don’t pay for you for, or the part that I do?” he asked, licking his lips as he and Devin began to approach the receiving line together.


“Part that you do,” Devin answered. “Didn’t wanna sleep with me -- said he’d pay me for it though if I let him become a regular, but -- don’t do regulars.”


It was Jazz’s turn to stop in his tracks. “Wait -- you don’t do regulars?” he asked, studying Devin’s face. He gestured to himself. “Then why’d you --”


“Felt sorry for you,” Devin said, giving Jazz a tiny, teasing grin. He slipped his hands inside his pockets and faced the line, leaving Jazz to stand, dumbfounded as Devin’s words registered.


“You felt sorry for me?” Jazz repeated, aghast and doing his best to speak quietly. He felt his face heat up as Devin’s little grin grew wider, his amber eyes shining with mirth. “Why?”


Devin shrugged, slipping an arm around Jazz’s shoulders and leaning in to press a quick kiss to his cheek. “Not from here, y’know? Figured I wouldn’t mind helping, is all.”


Jazz nodded, pouting a little as he and Devin made their way through the line. “I guess…” he said. He gave Devin a small smile and hugged him with one arm. “I’m glad you decided to help me out after all, then. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you…”


“Come to one of these things alone, I guess,” Devin said, smirking. “Would’ve been bored the whole fucking time, too.”


“Damn right I would’ve been,” Jazz said, grinning. His expression sobered, though, as he and Devin’s invitations were accepted and they were permitted to pass inside the building. “So wait -- do you think either one of the Generals would recognize you?”


“Ellis might,” Devin said, frowning a little. “‘Sthe one that hired me. Good guy, I guess? Just… old enough to be my dad, y’know? Been a long time, though. Might not recognize me now…”


Jazz nodded. “Which one’s Ellis?” he asked, glancing around the rapidly filling ballroom. “Maybe we can avoid him…”


“Dunno about that, dude,” Devin said, turning to Jazz. He hooked his arm with Jazz’s, guiding him towards the tables. “Got this feeling…”


Jazz nodded. In the past few weeks, he’d learned very quickly that Devin’s sense for anything strange was right more often than not. It was a weird little quirk -- like the fact that the younger man could read most people with only a glance. As they walked, he kept an eye out for the two generals, feeling his stomach twist with nervousness. Maybe they’d get lucky -- maybe neither one of them would recognize Devin, and therefore blow Jazz’s cover.


They arrived at their table -- a different one than the times in the past. Jazz had somehow moved closer to Piere’s table, which he was surprised to see. Devin stuck close to Jazz, his eyes warily studying their table.


“Gonna be sitting with Ellis,” he said, nudging his head towards one of the placement settings. “Murdock, too.”


“Ellis’s the one you worked for?” Jazz asked, keeping his voice low as he began to drag Devin back out towards the dance floor. Soft music played and others were dancing as well, but not in strict formations just yet. Out on the floor, Jazz knew, he and Devin would have more privacy to talk as themselves.


“Yeah. Murdock’s his boss -- kinda,” Devin said. He scrunched his nose a little as Jazz took the lead in their impromptu dance, pressing himself close. “Think Murdock’s rank’s higher, anyway.”


Jazz nodded. He gave Devin a sheepish smile. “I don’t pay much attention to the military rank stuff, though I’m supposedly good at war strategy,” he admitted, sliding his hand a little further in on Devin’s waist. He loved having Devin this close, though he’d never admit it was because he wanted an excuse to keep looking into those beautiful eyes. “Emperor Cruz said I had a good mind for it, but I hated the idea of being too involved in the Empire’s wars…”


Devin furrowed his brow. “There’s more than one?”


“Yeah -- we have two or three active wars that we’re involved in,” Jazz said, his expression sobering. “We almost went to war with Cliffton a few years back, actually. I guess that’s why they sat me at the table with the generals -- though the high tensions were before my time on Emperor Cruz’s Council…”


Devin bit his lip. “Never knew that,” he said. He swayed in Jazz’s arms, following his lead a little haltingly. “Only ever hear about the Limani…”


“Yeah, we’re at war with them, too,” Jazz said, giving a slight nod of his head as he, too, caught his bottom lip between his teeth. He looked up at Devin, continuing to speak in low, private tones. “Our previous Emperor -- Emperor Casio -- didn’t want to keep providing Cliffton with military support, as per our treaty with Cliffton.”


Devin nodded. “Guess I should know this, huh?” he asked, raising his brows. “Supposed to be from the Empire, aren’t I?”


Jazz gave Devin a small, sheepish smile. “Guess you are supposed to know this, yeah -- though it’s not common knowledge that we almost went to war with Cliffton, either, and I hadn’t met Savin yet when the tensions were that high. But -- I guess be prepared if Murdock or Ellis are dicks to us?”


“Both of ‘em have seen me before, dude,” Devin damn near hissed, his expression growing stricken. “Ellis hired me. Pretty sure they’re gonna fucking know I’m not from the Empire…”


“How long ago did you work for him?” Jazz asked, managing to keep his voice steady as he pulled hugged Devin close to him.


“Was my first gig as a Sidearm,” Devin said. Jazz could feel Devin tense as he admitted that, watching as his partner-for-the-evening glanced around him. “Only did one night with him.”


“So what, a year and a half’s gone by since he’s seen you, then?” Jazz asked, reaching up to brush a loose strand of Devin’s hair back behind his ear.


“The guy’s seen me every time he gets a new Sidearm -- tries to convince me to break my no regular rule,” Devin muttered. “Thinks I’m amazing, I guess.”


“You are a pretty amazing,” Jazz said, smirking up at Devin. He stood on his toes, pressing a light kiss to Devin’s cheek. “At your job, I mean,” he finished as he lowered back onto his heels.


Devin’s light blush faded, his brows knitting together for a moment before he nodded, giving Jazz a small smile in return. “Not worried about them, then?”


“Only if Murdock recognizes you, really,” Jazz said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I’m pretty sure Ellis wouldn’t do anything to blow our cover -- he seems to have a vested interest in not pissing you off.”


“Guess we’re about to find out,” Devin murmured, indicating to somewhere behind Jazz with a nod of his head.


“You must be Ambassador Callahan,” a smooth, rich voice said from behind Jazz. Jazz turned on his heel, keeping one arm wrapped around Devin’s waist as he pulled away from him and faced the individual who’d spoken. He looked up at the man, likely in his early forties. His hair was a richer shade of blond than Jazz’s; his eyes a piercing blue that was common amongst the military, though his skin tone was much closer to Devin’s than Jazz’s.


“Major General Aidan Ellis,” he said, holding out his closed fist. Jazz blinked, then recalled that this was the Majerian version of a handshake -- and found himself mimicking Ellis’s movements, placing his fist underneath Ellis’s.


“Jasper Callahan,” Jazz said, meeting Ellis’s eyes. He thought he might’ve caught a flash of surprise. “But please, call me Jazz.”


Ellis nodded, pulling his fist away. He stood, almost relaxed now despite years of rigid military training. “I believe this is my first time meeting an Albani,” he said. His eyes moved from Jazz to Devin. “And your partner is…?”


“My husband, Devin,” Jazz said, lifting his chin.


There was a beat, then Ellis smiled. “Is that so?” he asked, his eyes falling on Devin again. “The two of you look lovely together,” he said. “In fact, your interactions with one another appear so natural. I’m rather impressed. Tell me, do they have Sidearms in the Alban?”


Jazz’s face burned, and he glanced up at Devin, whose eyes were wide and his expression almost stuck on mild surprise. “Not -- exactly,” Jazz answered after a moment, clearing his throat. “They’re not called that and the whole experience isn’t exactly legal in the Empire.”


Ellis nodded. “Do you truly have a husband, Jazz?” he asked. “Forgive me if these questions are a little personal -- I’ve just never seen a foreigner utilize one of Majeria’s oldest professions.”


Sighing, Jazz turned to Devin again, this time leaning up to press a light kiss to Devin’s cheek. “Go ahead and sit down, sweetheart,” he said, managing to finally snap Devin out of his own head. “You don’t have to stay here with me, if you’d be more comfortable somewhere else.”


Devin blinked, then shook his head. “Wanna stay with you,” he said, sliding an arm around Jazz’s waist. He moved in close to Jazz, and Jazz could’ve sworn he could feel Devin tremble against him.


Jazz nodded, finding himself wanting to do nothing more than comfort Devin and knowing that doing so would likely appear odd in front of Ellis, considering he knew the truth of their situation. Slowly, Jazz turned back to him and met Ellis’s eyes. “My husband’s mother is very sick,” he said, keeping his voice low as he and Devin followed Ellis off the dance floor. “He went home and I couldn’t attend any of Piere’s dinners without a partner.”


“I see,” Ellis said, ignoring the server as she attempted to offer him champagne. After a moment, the server turned, offering the same glasses to Devin and Jazz both. Jazz took one; Devin didn’t, all but clinging to Jazz as he sipped at his champagne and waited for Ellis to continue speaking. “Well, you made an excellent choice in partners,” he said once the server was out of earshot. "Devin is quite skilled as a Sidearm. Likely one of the best there is."


Jazz glanced at Devin again, snickering a little at the blush now making its way across the tops of Devin's cheekbones. Devin’s eyes met his before he buried his face in Jazz’s shoulder, likely in an attempt to hide his all too obvious blush. With a quiet laugh, Jazz reached up to run his fingers over the back of Devin’s neck -- an action that resulted in a quirked eyebrow from Ellis. “I’m not at all surprised to hear that,” he said, smiling at Ellis. “He’s made every single one of these dinners much more tolerable than they would be, otherwise.”


Ellis’s raised eyebrow remained that way. “So you’ve managed to book him for more than one night, then?” he asked. He glanced around them, gesturing towards their table. “It might be better if we sat and talked. General Murdock seems to be coming this way…”


Devin’s head snapped up from Jazz’s shoulder, his arm tightening around his waist. “Gonna go to the bathroom,” he said, murmuring the words in Jazz’s ear. “Be back later, ‘kay?”


Jazz blinked, then nodded, casting a worried glance in Devin’s direction as he headed off towards the bathrooms. He almost wanted to follow him, except Ellis’s expectant look kept him rooted in place. Sighing, Jazz lifted his champagne to his lips and offered Ellis another smile before following him back towards their table. “He did let me book him for more than one week, yeah,” he said, loosely holding his glass to his chest. “I was only just told today that he doesn’t usually do repeat clients.”


“You must be rather special, then,” Ellis said, keeping his voice low as he and Jazz strode towards the tables. Jazz could feel Ellis’s eyes scale him and shivered a little. The look wasn’t meant to intimidate, and yet it reinforced the fact that the man he was speaking to had likely been a member of the military almost as many years as Jazz had been alive. “He seems much more relaxed around you than I’ve ever seen him.”


Jazz just shook his head, a wry smile tugging on his lips. “I’m not sure Devin ever truly ‘relaxes’, General,” he said, taking his seat. He noticed that Ellis’s name plate was beside him, to his left, and that Devin was to Jazz’s right. Murdock was at the head of the table, which might make it easier for Devin to hide, a little. “I just do my best to treat him like I would my own husband.”


Ellis nodded, pouring himself a glass of water and bringing it to his lips. His ice-blue eyes scanned the crowd surrounding them. “Has Piere recognized his accent as Umani?” he asked, keeping his voice low.


“It has enough of a Majerian hint to it that he bought it when I said Devin was from Janpantu,” Jazz murmured, snorting a little into his glass. “It helps that Devin doesn’t talk much, when Piere’s around.”


“Is that where your true husband is from?” Ellis asked.


Jazz shook his head. “His parents are from there, but Savin was born in the Empire,” he said. He found himself scanning the crowd as well, looking for any signs of Devin amongst them.


“Is he aware that you’ve hired out someone to pretend to be him?”


Jazz tensed at the question -- though he wasn’t exactly sure why. He should have expected it, considering just how intimately he’d been interacting with Devin. Ellis had said they’d looked like a natural couple, after all. And that Devin had seemed to be more relaxed around him than his usual demeanor.


“Savin’s aware,” he said, gently placing his champagne glass down on the table. He half-met Ellis’s questioning gaze. “Savin encouraged me to hire a Sidearm, actually.”


Ellis lowered his glass as well, his eyes flitting away from Jazz’s. “I suppose you and your husband have an… interesting relationship, if he’s comfortable with this.”


Jazz smiled, toying with his name plate for a moment. “You know, you remind me a little of a former partner of mine,” he said after a moment, folding his arm in front of him and leaning forward. When Ellis did nothing more than raise an eyebrow, Jazz continued: “I’m polyamorous. My relationship with Savin is open, and we are both aware of everything a Sidearm can be paid for -- though I haven’t paid Devin for the privilege to sleep with him.”


“Yet,” Ellis finished for him, picking up his glass once again and tipping it back. The temperature of Jazz’s face rose, and Ellis eyed Jazz in a way that made his face burn even hotter. “Devin found it odd that I wouldn’t sleep with him, even though I certainly had paid him for the privilege -- as you so delicately put it.”


Jazz blinked and studied Ellis for a moment before sighing and shaking his head. “Not everything’s about sex,” he said after a moment. He lifted the rest of his champagne to his lips and swallowed his disappointment when he couldn’t find Devin in the crowd. “Though I guess in Devin’s line of work, it might as well be.”


“Which is why I offered to take him on for a long term assignment -- multiple times,” Ellis said. The muscles in Jazz’s shoulders bunched together, and he whipped his attention back onto Ellis instead of the thinning crowds. He raked his eyes over Ellis’s face; over every line that was visible if one looked hard enough; at the gray that almost flecked Ellis’s blond hair. “He’d no longer have to worry about selling his body to others.”


Jazz frowned and placed his now empty glass down on the table, tapping his fingers against the decorative cloth. He resisted the urge to clench his jaw, though he still felt the muscles tighten. “So you’re one of those people,” he said, muttering the words and managing to keep his tone even and free of his sudden ire.


Ellis’s brow furrowed. “I’m sorry,” he said, his tone icy. “Did you not hire Devin because of his body?”


“I hired him because he helped me relax in an unfamiliar and anxiety-inducing environment,” Jazz said. He glanced around the table, grateful that no one seemed to be paying a bit of attention to his conversation with Ellis. “He made me feel comfortable and he helped ease my mind over even hiring a Sidearm in the first place,” he continued, and despite himself, he leaned in closer to Ellis. “I'm not going to deny that there is a sexual interest -- and he’s well aware of my physical attraction to him, but that doesn’t make me any worse than you, either.”


“And how am I just as bad as the rest of you?” Ellis asked, raising an eyebrow. He sipped at his water, glancing at Jazz out of the corner of his eye. “You’re taking advantage of a disadvantaged man.”


“And ‘saving’ someone who doesn’t want to be saved just so you can feel better about yourself isn’t exactly benevolent, either,” Jazz said. He pushed himself up from his seat and straightened out the labels of his suit jacket. “I’m going to go check on my husband.”


“‘mright here.”


Jazz jumped, turning on his heel and meeting Devin’s eyes. Devin’s mouth was pressed closed, his eyes moving back and forth between Jazz and Ellis both. “Sweetheart,” Jazz said, pouring all of his relief into the word and reaching for Devin’s hand. “I was starting to get worried about you.”


"'mfine," Devin answered, his back impeccably straight. His eyes drifted to the hand Jazz was now holding; then moved back up to Jazz's eyes, his brow furrowing just a little bit. He moved closer to Jazz and settled into his seat, his posture still a little too stiff. "Just had a call," he said, offering Jazz a half-smile as Jazz sat back down beside him, totally ignoring Ellis's obvious interest in their interaction.


Jazz nodded and leaned in close, letting his fingers drift along the edge of Devin's thigh in search for one of Devin's hands. As he squeezed Devin's fingers, he felt the other man relax a little beside him. "Ah, okay," he said, a quiet, teasing smile making its way across his lips. "I was just starting to wonder if you'd fallen in, that's all."


Devin just shot Jazz a brief, horrified look, which resulted in a quiet snicker from Jazz and an even quieter chuckle from Devin himself. "Nah, would be wet if I did," he said, squeezing Jazz's fingers back. He glanced away from Jazz, his mirthful expression closing off as his eyes landed on something beyond the table. "Might wanna let go of my hand, dude. Murdock's coming."


Jazz shook his head and interlaced his fingers with Devin. "And what if I don't want to?" he quipped, turning his head towards where Devin was watching. As Murdock approached, Jazz turned back to Devin. "Though I guess I should stand up and introduce myself, shouldn't I?"


That earned another snort from Devin and a slight nod of his head, and Jazz reluctantly let go of him and forced himself back to his feet. "You must be General Murdock," he said, all smiles as he faced Murdock's hardened expression. He offered his closed fist just like Ellis had done for him before. “Jasper Callahan, Ambassador from the Alban Empire.”


Murdock glanced down at Jazz’s hand, then thrust his on top of Jazz’s, all while making intense eye contact. Keeping his shoulders back, Jazz knew as the one on the bottom, he couldn’t pull his hand away first. Once Murdock seemed satisfied, he dropped his hand and placed it on his hip. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had an Albani at one of these dinners,” he said, giving Jazz a curt nod. His eyes snapped to Devin and back to Jazz. “I see you brought a -- partner with you.”


“My husband, Devin,” Jazz said, turning to flash Devin with a reassuring smile. Devin stood up as if on cue, giving Murdock a dip of his head as he slipped an arm around Jazz’s waist.


Murdock nodded back at Devin, his eyes narrowing for a moment. Jazz did his best to keep his posture relaxed, leaning in closer to Devin and sliding his own arm around Devin’s waist and squeezing. “He looks like one of your -- former partners, Major,” Murdock said after a moment, his eyes leaving Devin and flitting to Ellis. “Though he seems a little old for your tastes…” Murdock wrinkled his nose, taking his seat beside Ellis and leaving plenty of space between them in the process.


“I suppose,” Ellis said, giving an exasperated sigh. “Though my partners often aren’t as young as you think, Murdock.”


Ellis’s eyes lingered on Devin as he continued to speak, and Jazz tightened his arm around him before taking his seat once more. Devin furrowed his brow, a question obviously on his lips as his eyes met Jazz’s, but he shook his head and sat down as well.


Dinner would be underway soon, Jazz told himself. And he and Devin could engage in conversation by themselves, though now they would certainly have to be careful what they spoke about. So he and Devin made small talk, both of them sipping at champagne and picking at the first entree when it was presented to them.


It was not, thankfully, another giant tentacle. Since that first dinner, Jazz had been wary of every plate placed before them. By the time dessert arrived, Jazz had almost forgotten about Ellis and Murdock both, as they were deeply involved in their own halting conversation.


“Jasper,” Murdock said. Jazz tensed at hearing his whole name and turned his head towards Murdock, waiting for the rest of what he had to say. “Were you involved in government when Emperor Casio was in office?”


Jazz blinked at the question, then offered Murdock an insincere smile. “I’ve met him, but he’d been impeached before I found my way onto the Emperor’s Council.”


“Ah, I see,” Murdock said, his voice gruff. “I wasn’t aware that the man had been impeached.”


“He was pushing for unnecessary wars in order to continue embezzling government funds,” Jazz said, placing his knife back on the rack like Devin had shown him, the week before. “Including a potential war with Cliffton -- though when I was in college, it was one of the many things I personally protested against.”


Murdock’s brows lifted towards his hair, and he and Ellis shared a glance. That seemed to signal the end of the conversation for now, and Jazz turned back to Devin and offered him his hand. “Would you like to dance, sweetheart?”


Devin glanced down at his dessert, which was half-finished, then back to Jazz’s hand and pouted. “Wasn’t done yet,” he said, the words half-whined.


Jazz chuckled at that and leaned in, pressing his lips to Devin’s cheek. “Okay,” he said, sliding an arm over the back of Devin’s chair. He remained close, whispering, “That was really fucking adorable.”


“‘mnot --” Devin cut himself off and shot Jazz a dark look, which only made Jazz grin even wider.


“Are too,” he said, moving away from Devin before Devin could retaliate. Though deep down he knew Devin wouldn’t -- his sense of professionalism wouldn’t allow him to act so rashly. Even so, Jazz knew that teasing Devin this way helped him relax; helped pull him out of his own head, at least a little.


When Jazz turned back to his own dessert, he could see the way Ellis’s expression had soured; the jealousy that was plainly visible. Murdock seemed to notice it too and scowled, pushing himself up from his seat. Jazz couldn’t help the smirk making its way across his lips -- he wanted to be petty; wanted to further rub in the fact that he had Devin as his Sidearm and that Ellis didn’t.


He behaved, though, and when Devin was finished, the two of them rose from their seats and headed towards the dance floor. The increased distance from Ellis seemed to help Devin to relax even further, and he took Jazz’s hand in his as they arranged themselves appropriately, with Devin as the lead.


“Saw Ellis the night you hired me,” Devin said suddenly, clearing his throat. His eyes wouldn’t quite meet Jazz’s. “Tried to convince me to take him on again…”

Jazz blinked, his brow furrowing a little as he pressed himself closer to Devin. "Was that after I had already booked you for a few jobs?" he asked, tilting his head to one side as he studied Devin's expression. "I don't remember seeing anyone approach you before that..."

Devin nodded. "Said you wouldn't respect me," he said, his face turning pink. "Said foreigners like you'd just take advantage of me."

Jazz felt his own face color with that and closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to take in a deep breath before he broke away from Devin and returned to Ellis to give him a piece of his mind. "You'd tell me if you felt like I was taking advantage of you, wouldn't you?" he asked instead, giving Devin an imploring look.

Devin looked away again, dropping his eyes towards the floor. "Don't think you have been," he said after a moment. He squeezed Jazz's hand. "First time I've taken a repeat client, y'know? Not sure if this's supposed to work differently or not, but -- would tell you, yeah. If you did."

Sighing in relief, Jazz leaned up and kissed Devin's cheek. "Good. I want you to be comfortable with me, you know? It makes this whole thing easier on the both of us, if you are."

Devin nodded, leaning forward to press his lips against Jazz's. The action, being unexpected, made Jazz's face burn a little hotter. It wasn't like Devin to initiate that level of intimate contact while they were in the presence of others. "Comfortable with you, yeah," he said, pulling away and giving Jazz a small, almost shy smile.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Jazz said, giving Devin a warm smile in return. They continued to dance, pressed close to each other, Jazz unable to look away from Devin’s face. He wanted to reach up and pull Devin down to him; to kiss him again and this time never stop. Without realizing it, he drifted his hand on Devin’s shoulder to hook it around Devin’s neck and pulled him close.

He felt Devin hold his breath; moaned a little as Devin’s lips came down on top of his again. The kiss deepened just enough that Jazz knew he and Devin were probably gaining some unwanted attention. When he broke apart, he laughed and buried his face in Devin’s chest, knowing it had to be red.

“We probably shouldn’t do that on the dance floor,” he said after a moment.

Devin snickered. “Guess we shouldn’t, yeah,” he said, burying his face in Jazz’s hair. “So fucking cute when you blush like that, though…”

“Oh my god…” Jazz groaned and shook his head. “I am not…”

“‘Mnot fucking adorable, either, then,” Devin said, and Jazz could hear his grin in his words.

Sighing, Jazz looked up at Devin again and gave him a wry little smile. “I guess I am cute then, because you’re definitely fucking adorable,” he said, pulling away from Devin just slightly. He glanced around them, grateful that everyone was at least polite enough to only side-eye them and not stare at them, full-on. Not wanting to encourage it, Jazz raised himself up on his toes and whispered just below Devin’s ear: “Maybe we should head back to your place, soon...”

“Wes isn’t home,” Devin said, and Jazz could’ve sworn he felt the taller man shiver. “Know we’re still not allowed to fuck, but… don’t gotta stay in the car, if we don’t want.”

Jazz nodded and broke away from Devin entirely. “Let’s start making the rounds to get out of here, then,” he said, smiling up at Devin. He pulled him away from the dance floor, bringing him back towards where Piere was sitting. If everything went smoothly, they’d be back in Jazz’s car in fifteen minutes.

Except nothing ever seemed to go smoothly. He said good evening to Piere painlessly, both he and Devin bowing just enough to be appropriately respectful. They flitted from important person to important person, managing to give a brief goodbye to Murdock just as they were closing in on the doors.

“Leaving already, you two?” Ellis said, his smile tight-lipped as Jazz and Devin were just about to collect their things.

Devin tensed beside Jazz, and Jazz held back his groan. Instead, he gave Ellis an equally tight-lipped smile. “We have a bit of a long drive -- our home is almost in the Umani Republic,” Jazz said, sliding an arm around Devin’s waist. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Major General.” He offered his fist.

And Ellis ignored it.

Jazz lowered his hand and turned to Devin, tightening his arm around Devin’s waist. “Do you think you could meet me at the car?” he asked. He pulled his keys out of his pocket and handed them to Devin. “I have a feeling the Major General would like to speak with me alone.”

Devin blinked, his back still stiff underneath Jazz’s hand. He looked between Jazz and Ellis before nodding, the motion jerky and his confusion bunching his brows together. “‘Kay,” he managed, pressing a light kiss to the side of Jazz’s head. “Should be able to find the car just fine, yeah.”

When he was out of earshot, Jazz turned to Ellis and did his best to keep his scowl off his lips. Instead, he offered Ellis another smile. “Was there something you wanted to say to me before I left?”

Ellis folded his arms over his chest, a slight frown marring his features. His eyes followed Devin for a moment, and Jazz resisted the urge to step in front of him to break his line of vision. “You’re protective of a man who doesn’t want to be saved -- as you so succinctly put it, earlier this evening,” he said after a moment, meeting Jazz’s eyes. “He is a professional first and foremost, but…”

Ellis trailed off and Jazz raised an eyebrow, keeping his arms loose in front of him in an effort to keep his annoyance in check. If his body language remained open, maybe he would be open to Ellis’s words as well. “But…?” he prompted, stepping closer to Ellis.

“The -- attraction you have to him might be shared by him,” Ellis said after a moment, after apparently carefully selecting his words. His arms unfolded themselves, and he gestured towards Jazz with one hand. “Please, try not to compromise his livelihood. Sidearms can be removed from the Union if the Union believes their conduct hasn’t been within their standards.”

Jazz lifted both of his brows towards his hair and caught his bottom lip between his teeth. “I very seriously doubt Devin has feelings for me,” he said after a moment, licking his lips. “It’s his job to appear as though he does -- I understood that from day one. I don’t expect anything from him.”

“So you admit you have feelings for him?”

Jazz flushed from his head to his toes, and was grateful that most of it was hidden behind his suit. “It’s a crush,” he said, clearing his throat. “I heavily enjoy spending time with him, even if it is in this context. I wouldn’t compromise his livelihood, nor am I arrogant enough to think he’d compromise it for me just because I have a crush.”

“Does your husband know?” Ellis asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Savin’s been teasing me about it since I first told him about Devin,” Jazz said with a quiet snort. “Pretty sure Devin’s aware, too.”

Ellis studied Jazz for a moment, his eyes narrowing in thought before he slowly nodded his head. “Yes, I would be surprised if he wasn’t,” he said. “He might even be using that crush of yours to his advantage.”

“Well if I sleep with him he gets paid more,” Jazz said with a shrug of his shoulders, a wry smile tugging on his lips. He raked his fingers through his hair and looked away from Ellis. “He’s just doing his job, Major General. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do the same, when I worked in the sex industry back in the Empire.”

Ellis blinked, confusion etching itself into his features. Jazz just gave him a warm smile and offered his fist once again. “I need to go check on my husband,” he said, lifting his chin and raising his voice just enough so that anyone nearby would hear him. “Thank you for your kind words, Major General. Have a good evening.”

Ellis’s expression smoothed out, and he placed his fist on top of Jazz’s. “You’re welcome, Ambassador Callahan.” He cleared his throat. “Please, enjoy the rest of yours.”


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June 2017

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