Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
It took a few days for Jazz to find himself back in the Empire.
It was weird, almost. He’d only been living in Cliffton for the past several months, but parts of the Empire felt more foreign to him than the desert landscape of Majeria. He arrived in Delborne stupid early in the morning -- though it wasn’t that early to him, now, having lived two hours ahead. His flight had been long, but direct, and he was so, so grateful to be on solid ground once more.
He slipped out of the baggage claim and shoved sunglasses over his tired eyes. He’d hardly slept on the flight; had hardly slept after he’d taken Devin back home Sunday morning after his hangover had settled and he could drive without risk of throwing up on the way. He’d spoken to Savin every day, watched as he tried to keep it together for Jazz. Sobbed with him when he couldn’t.
He spotted the car, first. Doing his best not to draw attention to himself, Jazz moved towards it quickly, pulling his luggage behind him and pushing his sunglasses up so that they rested on the top of his head. Savin stepped out of the car, his black hair loose and in disarray.
Jazz had never launched himself into Savin’s arms so quickly, burying his face in Savin’s chest and wrapping his arms around him tightly. “I missed you,” he whispered, all while squeezing Savin. “I’m so, so sorry I --”
“Don’t,” Savin managed, the word firm but carrying no malice. “You got here as soon as you could and I appreciate that more than anything.”
His voice was rough; his appearance disheveled, and Jazz looked up at him and cupped the side of his face. He then leaned up, brushing his lips against Savin’s. “I love you,” he said as he pulled away. Sighing, he hugged Savin again, not wanting to let go after finally having him in his arms after missing him for the past two months or so. “I wish we could’ve gotten to see each other again under different circumstances.”
“So do I,” Savin murmured into Jazz’s hair. He sighed and pulled away from him. “C’mon, let’s get you back to the house. I bet you’re tired, mate."
“I bet you are, too,” Jazz said, seeking out Savin’s hands with his own. Their fingers tangled together, and Jazz kept Savin where he was. “You wanna give me the keys? I’ll take the corners a bit less like a madman than usual.”
Savin cracked the slightest of smiles at that. “You just miss driving your car,” he said. Still, he let go of Jazz’s hand and handed him his keys. “The second I feel even remotely carsick, you’re giving the keys back.”
“Of course,” Jazz said, standing on his toes to brush his lips against Savin’s again. The two of them then moved quickly to shove Jazz’s luggage into the backseat of the car before climbing into their seats.
Jazz ran his fingers over the steering wheel and took a moment or two to readjust his seat and mirrors before seeking out Savin’s hand with his own. “How’s Hajime holding up?”
“‘Tousan’s… managing,” Savin murmured. He lifted Jazz’s hand to his lips and kissed his knuckles. “He’s in a bit of a mood, today. We might want to be -- discrete with any pda.”
“Sad mood or asshole mood?” Jazz asked, raising an eyebrow. He pulled away from the curve and began to make their way out of the airport, relaxing in his seat. “I mean, neither is a good mood for Hajime to be in, but…”
“Some weird combination of the two,” Savin said with a sigh, reaching up with his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. “He’s happy that you made it in time for the funeral, though.”
“I don’t think he’s the only one who is,” Jazz whispered, squeezing Savin’s fingers. He made sure to drive slower than usual, taking turns at the same rate Savin usually did when he drove. “I missed you…”
Savin squeezed Jazz’s fingers back. “I missed you, too,” he said, leaning across the middle console to brush his lips against Jazz’s cheek. He then rested his head on Jazz’s shoulder, the angle awkward in the small space of the car. “I don’t want to talk about ‘Kaasan right now.” His voice was quiet and rough.
Jazz let go of Savin’s hand to reach up and ruffle Savin’s hair. “Okay, love. We won’t talk about her,” he said, looking away from the road just long enough to turn his head and kiss Savin’s forehead. “What do you want to talk about?”
“You never told me how your date with Devin went?” Savin suggested, looking up at Jazz over the edge of his glasses. “I know I interrupted one of your dinners, but you told me nothing about what happened after.”
Jazz grimaced. “That wasn’t intentional,” he said, licking his lips. He glanced down at Savin again before studying the road before him. “Do I make a left here or a right? It’s -- been a while….”
“Right.” Savin nudged him. “Did it go okay?”
“I got drunk,” Jazz said, feeling his shame creep up his neck and burning his face. He found Savin’s hand again and intertwined their fingers together once more. “Devin made sure I didn’t make an idiot out of myself in front of Cliffton’s leaders. That one general gave me shit for it -- said I was putting Devin under a lot of stress.”
“The one that’s got the hots for Devin?” Savin asked. He relaxed further against Jazz’s shoulder. “What’d you tell him?”
“I tried not to say anything at all -- Devin had left me to go make a call and ordered me not to talk to anyone,” Jazz said. He wished more than anything that they weren’t in his car; that they were already back at Savin’s childhood home. It’d be easier to hold his husband, that way, if they were.
Savin snorted. “How well did that work for you?” he asked. Jazz could hear the smile in his voice. “I know how hard not-talking is for you…”
“Shut up,” Jazz said, a quiet laugh escaping him. “I told him Devin wasn’t a prize to be won -- but didn’t say much else after that… Devin came back before I could punch Ellis in the face.”
“I don’t think you could take on a military man twice your size, love,” Savin said, patting Jazz’s knee. He pushed himself upright in his seat and leaned back against it, closing his eyes. “How’d you and Devin get back to the house if you were drunk?”
“He can drive,” Jazz said, clearing his throat. “He took my keys from me before I even finished my third champagne so I wouldn’t even think about drinking drunk.”
“So he spent the night,” Savin said. His fingertips kept tracing patterns into Jazz’s knee.
“I started throwing up when we got there and I told him a thousand times he didn’t have to stay,” Jazz said.
Savin snorted again, his lips tugging upwards as he raked his fingers through his hair. “I know you guys didn’t have sex -- you’d have told me that already,” he said. “So he stayed?”
“Slept in our bed with me,” Jazz answered, feeling his face burn a little as Savin turned towards him. “I -- might have told him I wanted to be more than friends, too. He was saying something about how I was pretty much all alone in Cliffton aside from my -- whatever it is I have with him, and he didn’t want to leave me by myself.”
Savin looked away from Jazz, a small, knowing smile tugging on his lips. “He likes you, too, I think,” he said after a moment, and Jazz’s face went from warm to blazing. “He at least cares about you a lot -- and I know you’re gonna tell me he’s just a professional but he doesn’t have to keep up the act when it’s just you and him, mate.”
“He does if he wants me to keep hiring him,” Jazz said, giving a shrug of his shoulders.
“You said that was going to be the last dinner for a while,” Savin pointed out. “He probably knows that, doesn’t he? He’s gotta know what he can and can’t schedule with other clients, doesn’t he?”
Jazz nodded. “I did tell him that I probably wouldn’t need him again for a good three weeks or so -- and that I’d let him know when my next dinner with Piere was going to be,” he said, sinking into his seat a little. He didn’t want to go almost a month without seeing Devin again -- but he would’ve been here in the Empire, either way, for part of it.
“Even though I’ll be back in Cliffton?” Savin asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You hate those political dinners,” Jazz returned, lifting his brows towards his hair. “And for appearances sake, I should probably keep taking him -- I have been passing him off as my husband this whole time…”
“This is all true and that’s totally fair,” Savin began, clearing his throat. “But it sounds to me like you just want more excuses to keep seeing him, mate.”
Jazz pulled into the driveway of Savin’s childhood home and gave him a sheepish smile. “I’m pretty sure you knew that, already,” he said, not at all denying that aspect of it all. He wanted to see Devin again. He wanted to be more than friends with Devin. He just wasn’t sure if either of those things were truly possible -- though Piere would have to eventually invite him to another ball, wouldn’t he?
The two of them climbed out of Jazz’s car, Jazz opting to leave his luggage behind as he and Savin stepped inside. Jazz’s heart felt heavy and his chest tightened; the air somehow seemed thicker inside than it did outside, and it was nearing summer for the Empire.
“Hello, Jazz,” Hajime said, stepping out of the living room. He offered him his hand, and Jazz’s heart broke a little at the sadness present in Hajime’s features -- especially since looking at him was almost like looking into Savin’s future, considering the two of them looked so much alike.
He took Hajime’s hand in his and then moved in closer, pulling Hajime into a loose hug. “Hello, Hajime,” he whispered as he pulled away. He slipped an arm around Savin’s waist and squeezed him, too. “I wish I knew what to say…I’m sorry I couldn’t be here sooner.”
Hajime blinked, then gave a slight shake of his head. “It’s alright,” he said. He gave Savin and Jazz a curt nod. “I got called into work -- I should be home later this evening.”
With that, he slipped out the front door, and Savin sighed and raked his fingers through his hair. “I wish he would just take a day off,” he said, his voice wavering a little. “He hasn’t spent more than a few hours in the house at a time since ‘Kaasan passed away.”
“She died in their room, didn’t she?” Jazz asked, keeping his voice low as he and Savin both watched Hajime drive off through the living room window. He glanced up at Savin and gave him an expectant look.
“They had actually set up the spare bedroom for her because she had so much medical equipment here towards the end,” Savin said, frowning a little. He met Jazz’s eyes. “When I catch him sleeping, it’s always in that room.”
Jazz nodded, turning so that he could better wrap his arms around Savin. He rested his head against his chest and closed his eyes, listening to Savin’s heartbeat. “You could have told me she was getting worse,” he said after a moment. “You kept saying you had a feeling something was still wrong -- she wasn’t actually improving, was she?”
Savin grimaced and buried his face in Jazz’s hair. “She was, but --” He shook his head. “She -- said that fighting to stay alive was more painful than dying. Apparently, she’d --” He sniffed and drew in a steadying breath; one that rocked his thin frame. “She’d stopped taking her medications and hadn’t told anyone. She told me just before she died, and…”
Jazz tightened his hold on Savin, drifting his fingers along Savin’s back and kissing his chest. “It’s okay, Savin,” he whispered. “You don’t have to tell me about this if it’s too much, right now.”
“I haven’t told anyone yet,” Savin ground out. He lifted his face away from Jazz’s hair. “Let’s go to my room real quick, okay mate? It feels a little weird, talking out here…”
Jazz didn’t need to be told twice. Even though they were alone in the house, now, Jazz knew that Savin would feel more comfortable speaking somewhere more private. Slowly, the two of them made their way up the stairs to Savin’s childhood home, Savin leading the way. He gestured to the first bedroom -- it was small with a full-sized bed in the middle of it, and not much else.
It wasn’t long before the two of them arranged themselves on top of it, Jazz sitting up against the pillows and cradling a trembling Savin to his chest. He drifted his fingers through the length of Savin’s hair, letting his nails drag along Savin’s scalp in a way he hoped was more comforting than anything else. “So she wanted to die on her terms, huh?” he asked once Savin had seemed to mostly settle. He made sure to speak in quiet, even tones.
“Yeah,” Savin managed, clearing his throat. “She told me she was going to be dying soon, and I -- I didn’t want to believe her, y’know? But she -- she did a good job of pretending to take her medication. ‘Tousan doesn’t even know she stopped.”
“So you really haven’t told him yet.”
“No, I haven’t.”
Jazz licked his lips and nodded to himself, continuing to massage Savin’s scalp as he looked around the room. It reminded him a little of Devin’s, though there were hints of the boy Savin used to be -- posters from childhood movies and a bookshelf with medical textbooks. Jazz’s heart twisted in his chest.
If it weren’t for him, Savin would’ve had a career in the Empire. He could have stayed home, helped Hajime with Nina much sooner. Maybe if Savin had been home from the beginning --
“She didn’t want me to tell him,” Savin said, breaking through Jazz’s thoughts. He nuzzled Jazz’s chest, snuggling closer to him. “She said it’d be better if he didn’t know, but I -- I dunno, he deserves to know his wife wanted to die.”
Jazz bit his lip. “I don’t think it’s so much that she wanted to die, as it was she didn’t want to keep putting you and Hajime through the pain she did,” he whispered, gently tucking Savin’s hair behind his ear. “She probably knew how scared you both were of losing her, or what if she survived this time but not the next, you know? Nina was a strong woman, she knew she had raised you right, she had provided Hajime with the support he needed -- she was a good mother to me and she met me only a few years ago…”
Savin snorted. “Said she liked you the best out of all the people I’ve brought home,” he said, taking Jazz’s hand in his and tangling their fingers together. “Even if you do sleep with other boys on occasion.”
“She knew about that?” Jazz asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, she asked about you and Councilor Foraker,” Savin said, a quiet chuckle escaping him. “Remember the paparazzi pics? it was so obvious you were in ‘em -- and that you weren’t with me…”
“Ugh.” Jazz groaned and buried his face in Savin’s hair. “You had to remind me of the time I dated Mitchel, didn’t you?” Savin’s body shook with laughter, and Jazz found himself smiling into Savin’s hair. “What did you tell her?”
“I explained to her that you were poly and that you and I had an open relationship -- and that at the time, you were dating a coworker. I told her that I was okay with it, and that I even found it a little hot, when you’d come home to me after seeing him.” Savin lifted his head from Jazz’s chest, cupped the side of Jazz’s face, and brushed his lips against his. “She said as long as I was actually okay with all that, then it was okay with her and that she wouldn’t kill you in your sleep for cheating on me.”
Jazz laughed, sinking further down against the pillows so that he and Savin were both laying on the bed, Savin half on top of him. “She was planning on murdering me in my sleep, huh?” he quipped. “So much for being her favorite son-in-law…”
“I wouldn’t have let her do it,” Savin said, kissing Jazz’s forehead. “I love you a little too much to let her do something like that.”
Jazz smiled at that, squeezing Savin with the one arm that was still wrapped around his shoulders. “I love you, too,” he said. “You could have asked me to come sooner, you know.”
“I know,” Savin said, his expression sobering. “I didn’t want to alert ‘Tousan to anything being amiss, though. Telling you to leave Cliffton would’ve certainly done that, mate.”
“I guess,” Jazz said with a quiet sigh. He turned his gaze towards the ceiling. “We could have played it off, though -- like I had just missed you that much that I left my duties to come see you instead of waiting for you to come back…”
“‘Tousan would’ve figured it out.” Savin pulled away from Jazz, only to tug him closer to him, Jazz’s head on his chest and his arms wrapped around Jazz, instead. “I also didn’t want to take you away from Devin sooner than I had to.”
Jazz shook his head as a wry, twisting smile made its way across his lips. “I’m paying for Devin to pretend to like me, love,” he said, looking up at Savin. “There’s no way anything’ll ever come from that…”
“He said he doesn’t take regulars,” Savin said, giving a slight shrug of his shoulders. “He stayed with you all night even though you drank so much you threw up. He told you he didn’t want to leave you alone when you were in pain. Sounds to me like he fucking likes you to me, mate.”
Jazz sighed and buried his face in Savin’s chest. “I guess,” he huffed, his smile not at all fading from his lips.
“Look, I know it’s his job and all but either Devin’s very fucking good at his job or he’s got feelings, too,” Savin said, closing his eyes and taking his glasses off his face. He set them down on a nearby nightstand and rubbed at his eyes, yawning.
“Then he wouldn’t be so good at his job -- he’s not supposed to get feelings,” Jazz pointed out, leaning up to brush his lips against Savin’s cheek. He curled up tighter around his husband, burying his face in Savin’s chest once again. “I’ve missed you so much, you know…” he said, breathing in the faint scent of Savin’s aftershave.
“I’ve missed you so much, too,” Savin whispered. He nudged Jazz’s cheek with his nose, the two of them locking eyes for a moment before Savin’s lips came down softly on Jazz’s own. Jazz melted against the kiss, his body pressing close to Savin’s as Savin half-rolled on top of him again, cupping the side of Jazz’s face as he deepened the kiss.
Jazz almost wanted to push Savin onto his back and take the lead, but Savin pulled away first, his lips still brushing against Jazz’s as he spoke. “I want to top,” he said, sliding his hand up Jazz’s shirt. “You haven’t had anyone in you for weeks -- I want to be the one to fix that…”
Savin’s fingertips brushed against his nipple, and Jazz found himself moaning quietly in response. He didn’t want to question this -- if Savin wanted him in this way, he’d let Savin have him as many times as he wanted. As he needed.
It was the least he could do, after all.
The funeral was much more subdued than Jazz had thought it would be.
Savin and Hajime both stood next to each other, their appearances a near perfect match aside from the green of Savin’s eyes and the slight skew of his tie -- something Jazz had offered to fix but Savin had refused, stating his mother wouldn’t mind if his tie were crooked. They welcomed guests together, directed them to the open casket and to the room they had set up of various pictures and memories many had shared with Nina.
Jazz had found himself spending a lot of time in that room, avoiding small talk with the other funeral attendees as much as he possibly could. Savin’s extended family hadn’t necessarily accepted Jazz and Savin’s marriage, even if Hajime and Nina had. He smiled at the pictures of Savin and Nina -- particularly one of the ones from Jazz and Savin’s wedding. Savin was pressing a kiss to his mother’s cheek, his flower-crown askew after having kissed Jazz deeply in front of friends and family.
They had both worn flower crowns. And Nina had worn one of her own -- the one she’d worn when she and Hajime had gotten married, decades before them. Jazz brushed his fingers over the photograph, absorbed in the happiness present on both Savin’s face and in his mother’s. He may have looked every bit like Hajime, but Savin’s expressions -- his mannerisms, they all belonged to his mother.
Jazz felt tears sting his eyes as he looked through the rest of the pictures -- Nina’s wedding day with Hajime, which confused Jazz for a moment, if only because Hajime was so much younger and therefore Jazz initially thought it was Savin in the picture. She was a beautiful woman, with a sharp mind, and she had taught Jazz so much about what it was like to be loved by a parent. Reminded him a little of his own father, who had passed away when Jazz was a child.
“The service’s about to start, mate.”
Jazz looked up and turned towards the voice, his smile fading a little at the tears shimmering in Savin’s eyes. “She picked half of these pictures herself, didn’t she?” Jazz asked, glancing around the memorial room. He took a step closer to Savin, his fingers itching to fix the crooked tie.
“She had them hidden under her bed,” Savin answered, his own eyes skimming over each image. “‘Tousan said he would’ve picked the same ones.”
Jazz nodded and slipped an arm around Savin’s waist once he was close enough. “She just wanted to make things easier on both of you,” he whispered, leaning up to press a kiss to Savin’s cheek.
“I know,” Savin said, sniffing. He turned towards another set of pictures Jazz hadn’t had a chance to go through, picking up one picture in particular. “Have you seen this yet?” he asked, holding the framed picture out for Jazz to see.
It was Jazz and Nina, arm in arm. Jazz’s own mother had refused to come to his wedding; had refused to be involved in it in any way. Jazz’s eyes stung, a tear slipping down his cheek as he shook his head. “No,” he’d answered, his chest tight as he took hold of the frame with both hands. “I didn’t -- I didn’t think anyone had taken a picture of her -- walking me to you at our wedding.”
Jazz’s face was pink in the image, the soft petals of his own flower crown offsetting his natural tone amazingly. Nina looked proud standing beside him; like she was gifting Savin the best thing she could give him.
“She really did love you, mate,” Savin murmured, pulling Jazz into a loose hug, the picture held between them. “She told me more than once she was happy I’d finally found someone like you.”
Jazz choked back a sob and buried his face against Savin’s chest. “Stop, you’re making me cry,” he whined, his grip tightening on the frame. He’d promised himself he wouldn’t cry -- that he’d stay strong for Savin’s sake and let him have his moments of decomposure, but --
“It’s okay to cry, love,” Savin whispered, brushing his lips against Jazz’s forehead. “You don’t need to be strong for me. This funeral’s for everyone who loved her, not just me and Dad.”
Jazz sniffled, nodding before looking up to meet Savin’s eyes. “Thank you for showing me this,” he said, wiping at his eyes with one hand as he set the picture down with the other. His fingers drifted over the picture; over Nina’s face. “She was more of a mother to me than my own, you know? So to know she picked this picture…” He hiccuped and blinked away more tears. “Thank you.”
“She says you’re welcome,” Savin said, a half, sad smile making its way across his lips. He slipped an arm around Jazz’s shoulder. “C’mon. I’m pretty sure they won’t start the service without me.”
Jazz nodded and leaned against Savin, his own arm settling around Savin’s waist. The two of them walked out of the memorial room together and across the hall to the service itself, where a section was designated for family. Savin sat down beside Hajime, and Jazz beside Savin.
He’d thought about preparing a speech for today -- but Savin had insisted that Nina would rather he not write one for her. Not that he would have made it overly long or anything, but -- Savin said she would rather hear those things at her tombstone and at her memorial shrine in her home. Not speeches, but stories.
The service itself was rather short, for which Jazz could tell Savin was eternally grateful for. They went up together to see Nina, dressed comfortably as she rested in her casket, their arms around each other and both of them trembling with tears they fought back. Jazz looked up at Savin just as Savin turned to look towards him, and Jazz found himself smiling as he turned back towards Nina.
They did a good job of arranging her like she was sleeping. Licking his lips, Jazz tightened his arm around Savin’s waist. “Don’t worry, Nina,” he said. “I’ll make sure to take good care of him, promise.”
“I’ll take good care of him, too,” Savin returned, squeezing Jazz back. “And ‘Tousan, even though he won’t want to be taken care of.”
Jazz snorted, and glanced back at Hajime, who was sitting roughly ten feet away from them. He was surrounded by work-friends, people who had known him and Nina since he’d started working at a nearby hospital. “I think his friends’ll have that covered, love,” Jazz said, turning back to Savin.
They moved on to the reception not long after, had a quiet meal with friends, shared stories about Nina around the table. It was nice, and exhausting, and in a way, it made Jazz miss Devin. At some point, Jazz found himself fishing his phone out of his pocket.
“Something wrong?” Savin asked, raising an eyebrow. He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and loosened his tie.
“No, I just --” Jazz glanced around the table and turned his attention to his phone. There was a text message, sitting innocently on his screen. His brow furrowed. “Devin messaged me.”
“Oh?” Savin’s expression lightened, a slow grin winding its way across his lips. “Is it business related? Or is it personal?”
“I don’t know.” He unlocked his screen and clicked on the message.
Know the funeral’s today. Hope you and Savin’re okay -- can talk to me if you want, I won’t mind. Not really my job, but -- can make an exception for you
Heard at another dinner that there might be another big event soon. Know Savin’s gonna be back and all, but if he’d wanna stay home, I don’t mind going instead.
Jazz blinked, his face warming just a little at Devin’s words. “He thinks there’s going to be another dinner with Piere, soon,” he said, turning off the screen and putting his phone facedown on the table. He picked at his food, twirling his fork in a pile of noodles.
“Message looked a little long for him to have just said that,” Savin said, his voice quiet as he nudged Jazz. “I mean, the way you talk about him, he doesn’t seem like he’d be real wordy…”
“He also said he hoped you and I were okay,” Jazz answered, meeting Savin’s eyes. “And that I can -- talk to him, if I want to.”
“That doesn’t sound like that’d be part of his job description,” Savin said, a slight smile tugging on his lips. “Are you sure he doesn’t like you, too?”
Jazz shook his head. “I’m not,” he admitted quietly. He picked his phone back up, typing a quick message to let Devin know that he and Savin were holding up okay, that he appreciated the offer to talk but not right now, and that they would discuss the next big event later, once Jazz had more information.
We could meet at my place to talk about it? Jazz had even suggested. When Savin and I get back from the Empire, of course :)
Would like that, yeah. Got a car, now, so I can meet you there from now on, if you want. Just lemme know when
Jazz looked up to see Savin reading over his shoulder and snorted, putting a hand in front of Savin’s face. “You’re so fucking nosy,” he said, trying to hide his laugh.
“That’s because you and your new boyfriend are cute,” Savin said, keeping his voice low and murmuring the words against Jazz’s ear. “Even if you two won’t admit you’re a couple, yet.”
“Because we’re not,” Jazz protested, shoving his phone back into his pocket. He turned to Savin and kissed his cheek.
Savin just gave him an incredulous look, and Jazz admitted to himself that maybe, just maybe, it was possible Savin was right.