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This fic is still going, and is now over 50k words... help me  
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part Six

Returning to Cliffton was a bit of a mess.

Jazz had to immediately return to his work as ambassador, attending meetings both virtual and physical. He and Devin had messaged here and there, arranged a date and time for Devin to come by and talk.


Savin flew in a week after Jazz, having needed to get his affairs in order as he relocated from one country to another once again. Jazz suspected that Savin also wanted to spend a day alone with his father, so that Savin could talk to Hajime in private, now that everything from the funeral to her cremation to getting her accounts organized had been taken care of.


Either way, time had passed and Savin had finally arrived home late on a Friday night. Devin was due to come by the next day, sometime around noon, and Jazz was -- well, he found himself pushed up against a wall, their shower, over the edge of their bed.


Obviously, Savin had decided to make up for lost time, and the two of them passed out in the bed together sometime around six or seven in the morning, spent. As the two of them drifted off, Jazz idly wondered if he should set an alarm -- just in case.


Savin had reassured him that he’d be up in a few hours -- his sleep schedule still hadn’t entirely righted itself, after all. He’d stuck to helping out during the night while staying with his parents, remaining at his mother’s bedside until the sun was beginning to creep up over the horizon. Or so he’d told Jazz over the course of the past few weeks.


So Jazz curled up against his husband’s chest, one leg draped over Savin’s, and closed his eyes.


It was his phone that woke him. It’s incessant singing wouldn’t stop no matter how tight Jazz screwed his eyes shut. Eventually, Savin sighed and reached for it, bringing the phone close to his face and tightening his arm around Jazz’s back at the same time. “I think Devin’s trying to call you, love,” he said, his voice thickened with sleep.


Jazz shot straight up and snatched his own phone out of Savin’s hands. “Hello?” he managed, clearing his throat and hoping his own voice wouldn’t betray him.


“You home, dude?” Devin asked, an odd note to his voice. “Been knocking for a while, been getting no answer.”


Annoyance. Jazz groaned and put a hand to his face, shaking his head as he tried to scrub his sleep out of his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he gasped, licking his lips as he pushed himself out of the bed. “I had to pick Savin up from the airport last night and we got home really late -- just give me a minute and I’ll be at the door, okay, sweetheart?”


“Sweetheart?” Savin mouthed at him, his brows knitting close together. Jazz flushed and looked away from him, rubbing the back of his neck as Devin said, “Okay,” and hung up. Jazz stared at his phone for a moment and covered his face with both of his hands.


“You call him sweetheart?” Savin asked, a slow, sly grin making his way across his lips. “You never told me that…”


“Shut up,” Jazz muttered, rummaging through his dresser for some clothes to throw on. His boxers were lost in the abyss of the house -- along with the rest of the clothes he’d been wearing last night when he’d brought Savin home. “I figured I had to call him a pet name of some kind at the dinners…”


“Yes, but that wasn’t one of the dinners. That was a phone call.” Savin swung his legs over the edge of the bed and squinted at the floor for a moment before looking up at Jazz. “D’you want me to stay in here while you talk with him?”


“It’s up to you,” Jazz said, tugging a pair of sweatpants over his hips. He walked over to Savin and kissed him softly. “You don’t have to stay in here, though. I don’t think you’ll scare him away.”


With that, Jazz moved out of the bedroom and down the hall to the living room. He didn’t even take a moment to fix his hair, instead hoping that Devin would find his disheveled appearance charming. Still, he found himself trying to smooth his hair down as he swung the door open, giving Devin his best apologetic look. “I’m so, so sorry, I meant to set an alarm and --”


“’Sokay, dude,” Devin said. He blinked at Jazz, his eyes skimming over Jazz’s appearance. A small smile made its way across his lips. “Guess you and Savin were up pretty late, huh…?”


Jazz blinked at him, then flushed as he stepped aside to let Devin in. Was it that obvious what he and Savin had been doing the night before? He rubbed the back of his neck and gave Devin a sheepish smile. “You could say that, yeah,” he said, wishing his face would return to its normal temperature. He gestured to the couch. “Please, have a seat. I’m gonna make myself some coffee, you want any?”


Devin blinked, then furrowed his brow. “Real coffee?” he asked, almost breathing the words. “Not fucking SynthBrew?”


“Oh, god no,” Jazz said, shaking his head and heading towards the kitchen. “SynthBrew’s fucking disgusting -- I get real coffee. Shipped directly from the Umani Republic, actually.”


Devin’s whole face lit up, and Jazz’s heart skipped a beat. “I’d like some, yeah,” he said


“I’ll make it, love,” Savin said, sneaking up from behind Jazz and pressing a kiss to his temple. “It’s my fault you ended up making Devin wait outside, anyway…”


Jazz jumped, whirling sharply on his feet and splaying had over his chest. “Damnit, Savin,” he managed. “You scared the shit out of me.”


“Forgot I was here that fast, huh?” Savin teased, giving Jazz a cheeky wink. “Go sit, I can handle getting the two of you some coffee.”


Jazz glanced back towards the living room and the couch, noticing Devin’s grin had faded somewhat. He then turned to Savin and leaned up, pressing a kiss to Savin’s cheek. “Thanks. Just don’t put anything in mine, okay?”


“Or mine,” Devin said, his voice quiet. Jazz could have sworn he heard the slightest of nervous trembles. “Don’t like anything in my coffee -- ‘specially not if it’s real coffee.”


“I see why you and Jazz get along, then,” Savin said, nudging Jazz away from him and pushing him back towards the couch. Jazz rolled his eyes to himself, but found himself walking back over to Devin anyway and sitting beside him on the couch, careful to leave a respectable distance between them. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Devin. Jazz’s told me a lot about you.”


“Told me a lot about you, too,” Devin said, and Jazz could almost feel him relax against his seat. “Can’t shut up about you, sometimes.”


Savin snorted and gave Jazz a knowing look over his shoulder, just as he began to grind the coffee beans. “That’s really funny, because he can’t shut up about you either, mate,” he said with a quiet snicker. “You’ve been all I heard about for weeks…”


“Savin!”


Devin blushed, his face turning pink as he moved to hide behind his hair. “Just doing my job,” he said, his voice coming out in an almost squeak.


Jazz couldn’t stop himself. He moved closer to Devin and hugged him, kissing his cheek, too. “I need to make you blush more often,” he said, resting his chin on Devin’s shoulder. “You look really cute when you do.”


Devin turned a darker shade of pink and gave Jazz a scandalized look. “‘mnot --”


“You are,” Jazz said, cutting him off. He grinned. “Why do you think you have no trouble getting clients?” Devin opened his mouth to answer, and Jazz added:  “Aside from the fact that you’re good at your job.”


Devin closed his mouth again, mock-glaring at Jazz for a moment before sinking against him, nuzzling his head against Jazz’s. “Because they wanna fuck me,” he answered, as if it were the simplest response in the world. “Took two seconds to get you in bed with me, the night we met.”


“It would’ve been less than that if he didn’t need to ask for permission, first,” Savin said, holding two mugs of coffee and handing one to Devin first, then Jazz. He settled into the oversized armchair that Jazz had at least managed to clean off before Savin had returned to Cliffton, his face burning a little as he thought about when he’d last used it.


Devin blinked, sipped at his coffee, and his eyes closed in a moment of reverence. Jazz smirked to himself and lifted his own to his lips. “Real coffee, right?” Jazz asked, nudging Devin with his knee.


“‘Sgood,” Devin said, lowering the cup onto the coffee table. He curled up against the corner of the couch, his socked feet resting on the edge of it. Jazz had to quell the urge to whine at the lack of contact. “Wanted to talk about jobs, right?” he asked, turning to Jazz. He brushed his own hair out of his face.


Jazz nodded, taking another mouthful of coffee. “I wanted to talk about how we’d handle after the dinners, but -- there’s one next week I wanted to take you to -- another one or two the week after that. If you can go to me with those. I know this is kind of last minute.”


“Can do it, yeah,” Devin said, smiling at Jazz. He glanced at Savin. “Really okay with me going with him instead?”


“I want him to go with you instead,” Savin answered, picking up one of his books beside the chair. He thumbed through it, a slow smile making its way across his lips. “I kind of hate those dinners and from what he’s told me, the Majerian ones are almost worse than the ones back home…”


Devin balked at that. “Don’t wanna think about that…”


“You only think the ones back home are so bad because Mitchel’s there at all of them,” Jazz said, smirking into his mug as he lifted it to his lips.


“Who’s Mitchel?” Devin asked, raising an eyebrow.


“Jazz’s ex-boyfriend,” Savin answered. He turned to Jazz. “And if Mitchel would stop trying to get back together with you, that’d probably help. He didn’t get you being poly in the first place, I don’t get why he’s trying to use that to his advantage now…”


Jazz snorted and put his own mug down on the coffee table. He resisted the urge to rest his feet on the edge of it, and instead scooted closer to Devin again, half-tempted to cuddle up against his Sidearm in front of his husband. He knew Savin would be okay with that -- it was obvious from his presence in the room that he wasn’t uncomfortable with Jazz’s interest in Devin.


“So three dinners, then?” Devin asked, as if realizing what Jazz had said several moments ago. “That all you have for me?”


“That’s all I know of for now -- I can give you the dates to all of them. I know you need to take other clients, too, so I don’t want to monopolize your time,” Jazz said, pulling his phone free from his pocket. He thumbed through his calendar and listed off dates -- which ended up being more like five, as apparently more events had been added during the course of the night.


All the while, Jazz was painfully aware of the distance between him and Devin. Normally, when they had negotiated an extra week or an extra night in a week, they did it while cuddling -- Jazz snuggled up in Devin’s arms.


He was surprised by how much he missed that, now. He glanced up at Savin, silently asking him for permission as they finished discussing dates, and Savin nodded, a slow smile making its way across his lips. “So -- you guys still gonna continue spending the night with each other, now that I’m home?” he asked -- and the question wasn’t at all biting. No, it was cheerful, teasing,


And Jazz’s face burned all the hotter for it. He glanced at Devin, who was now looking back and forth between Jazz and Savin. “I would like to,” Jazz said finally, wishing his face didn’t feel so hot. He even scooted closer to Devin, half-draping himself over him and nuzzling Devin’s arm. “We’d just have to figure out where we’d spend the night, together -- I don’t think Wes’d like it if we crashed at your place for the night.”


Devin’s face betrayed his own horror at the very idea, his cheeks turning red once again. “Wouldn’t mind, I don’t think, but --” He scrubbed at his face with his palm. “Don’t like to bring work home with me, y’know?”


“You guys could still come back here?” Savin suggested, leaning back in his chair and flipping to the next page in his book. He looked up at them over the edge of his glasses. “We have a spare bedroom. I’ll probably be awake or I can make myself scarce, if you want. It’s not like I fucking sleep at night most of the time, anyway…”


Devin’s arm slid around Jazz’s shoulders and he pulled him closer, nuzzling him a little himself. “Not thinking of joining us, are you?” he asked.


Jazz inhaled sharply at the very thought of being caught in the middle of Devin and Savin both. He closed his eyes and shivered, catching his lip between his teeth.


“I wasn’t,” Savin said, snickering. “But I might be now, considering the way Jazz just reacted to the idea of us tag-teaming him.”


Jazz glared at Savin just as Devin began to snicker, his arm tightening around Jazz’s back. “Liked the thought of that, huh?” he teased, dropping his voice low and whispering the words in Jazz’s ear. “Bet you’d like both of us inside you…”


Jazz barely managed to contain his whimper, bowing his head and hoping his face wasn’t as red as he thought it was. Savin and Devin both in him? He’d always been interested in trying something like that -- especially since he liked being stretched and filled, but --


“That costs extra, doesn’t it?” he managed, doing his best to recompose himself. He looked up at Devin and searched his face. “I mean, I certainly -- wouldn’t mind having a threesome with the both of you, but -- I don’t know if Savin and I could afford it…”


Devin blinked, his own expression changing, somewhat, as he glanced between Jazz and Savin. “Would cost extra, yeah,” he said, squirming a little beside Jazz. “Haven’t done a threesome yet, either. Haven’t figured out just how much that’d cost…”


Jazz nodded, looking away from Devin and turning towards Savin, though he drifted his hand down the length of Devin’s thigh as he spoke. “It might be better if we got a hotel room than if we came here,” he said. “Less temptation to ask for a threesome if you’re not around, you know?”


Savin shrugged. “The hotel room’d probably cost you what it’d cost to have me join in, if the two of you wanted me to,” he said, a sly smile making its way across his lips. “Besides, I don’t mind getting to hear someone else work my husband up. I think that’d be pretty hot.”


“Is coming back here okay with you, then?” Jazz asked, turning to Devin. “I know it’s your job to accommodate me as best as you can, but I want you to be comfortable doing your job, you know?”


It was Devin’s turn to shrug. “Just don’t wanna make things weird for you and Savin,” he said. He nuzzled Jazz’s cheek and kissed it softly. “Gonna be comfortable long as he is.”


Jazz nodded, doing his best not to shiver as Devin’s breath warmed just below his ear. He closed his eyes and sank further against Devin. When he opened his eyes again, he noticed the look Savin was giving him and curled in on himself, guilt building in his throat. “You are comfortable with all this, right?” he asked Savin, biting his lip as he met Savin’s eyes.


Savin’s eyes raked over the combined form of Jazz and Devin -- and Jazz became acutely aware of how close they huddled together now. “Yes, I am,” his tone serious. He smiled, though it didn’t do much to ease Jazz’s guilt. “Though I think I’d be more comfortable if the two of you were dating for real. All of this is kind of hard on our budget.”


Devin tensed beside him, and Jazz’s mouth was open before he could stop it: “I can’t date him for real!” he all but snapped, trying to hide the panic from his voice as he glared at Savin. “That’s not -- I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules.” He turned to Devin. “Right?”


Devin blinked at Jazz, then dropped his eyes to his lap. “Been other Sidearms who did go on to date their clients, but… dunno. Union doesn’t like it much, I don’t think. Don’t wanna piss ‘em off, y’know?”


Jazz nodded and pulled away from Devin, pushing himself off of the couch. “I’m gonna get myself some more coffee -- do either of you want any?” he asked, clearing his throat.


The rest of the discussion of jobs and the like moved quickly, and Jazz ignored the lump in his throat every time Devin touched him. The second Devin was out the door, Jazz rounded on Savin, glaring at him with all his might. “Did you really have to say that?” he growled, placing his hands on his hips.


“I was giving you an opening to legitimately ask him out,” Savin said, folding his arms over his chest and pursing his lips to one side. “It’s not my fault you panicked.”


“You could have warned me you were going to set me up that way,” Jazz said, storming past Savin and picking up Devin’s mug. “Of course I panicked! That’s not how I want him to know I like him.”


Savin sighed and followed Jazz into the kitchen, where he’d begun washing what little dishes were left in the sink. “Jazz… I’m sorry. I should have at least warned you, you’re right,” he said, his hands gentle as they slid over Jazz’s hips. Jazz shivered as Savin’s lips brushed against his neck. “But also -- you were too busy panicking to see Devin’s reaction. He looked so hurt when you said you couldn’t date him for real.”


Jazz groaned and closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I think anyone would look hurt when someone wounds their pride like that,” he said, dropping his voice low and leaning into Savin’s touch. “He just looked panicked to me. I mean, this whole Sidearm thing is his livelihood. If I date him for real, I’m just taking away time he could be using to make money.”


“Talk to him about it,” Savin said, tightening his arms around Jazz’s front. “Just -- it’s hard, watching you fall so hard for someone like this -- and you’re not doing anything to actually get what you want.”


“I’m not going to fuck up his livelihood,” Jazz muttered. “He’s a Sidearm. He gets paid better the more into his client he acts, I’m almost sure of it.”


“He likely does, but --” Savin sighed and pulled away from Jazz. He leaned against the kitchen counter and folded his arms over his chest once again. “I mean, you were too busy snuggling up to him to see how he looked at you. I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one who has feelings and now what you said’s probably gonna haunt him. Talk to him. Please.”


Jazz looked over at Savin and frowned a little in thought. Sighing himself, he turned off the tap and picked up a dish towel, wiping his hands dry on it. “I will,” he said, giving Savin his most convincing look. “But I’m telling you, he doesn’t want to date me. I’d be bad for business.”


Savin shrugged and gave Jazz a small, wry smile. “You were bad for business the moment he hired you,” he said. He bent forward and kissed Jazz’s forehead. “If you don’t talk to him next time you see him, the two of you can’t sleep together.”


“Savin…”


“I’m serious,” he said, stroking Jazz’s cheek. “You have feelings for him and I’m pretty sure he has feelings for you, too, and if the two of you have sex yet again thinking it’s just business and not because you two like each other, it’s just going to make things even more confusing for you both. Trust me on this, okay?”


Jazz drew in a deep breath and met Savin’s eyes. He held it for a moment, studying the serious look on his husband’s face, before releasing the breath heavily with a nod. “Okay. If I don’t tell him how I feel, I won’t have sex with him.”


“Good,” Savin said, leaning in to kiss Jazz’s forehead. “You should finish up those dishes, too, while you’re -- ow!” He laughed, pulling Jazz closer to him and nuzzling the top of his head. “Fine. The few that you did’s enough.”


“I just wanna go back to bed,” Jazz muttered, resting his chin on Savin’s shoulder. He sighed and tightened his arms around his husband. “I like having you here so much better than not having you here…”


“Mhm. That’s just because I’ll sleep with you for free,” Savin snickered.


Jazz smacked him again for good measure, this time on Savin’s non-existent behind. “Whatever,” he said, pulling away from him. “You gonna come back to bed with me or what?”


“I don’t think you’re going to get much sleep if I go with you, mate. Just saying.”


Jazz snorted and rolled his eyes. Still, as he rounded the corner of the kitchen and through the dining room, he said, “What if that’s the point, Dr. Bates?”


He smirked as he heard Savin’s footsteps following up behind him.


***


Jazz drew in a deep breath as he approached Devin’s doorstep, straightening his tie as he walked. They had spoken several times in the past week, but Savin had been right -- things were different now. Stiffer, more awkward. Maybe it had been the times Jazz had chosen to call, but -- it wasn’t like how it had been before.


As Jazz knocked on the door, he expected Devin to swing the door open. This time, though, he was met with Wes’s dark eyes. Last time Jazz had seen him, he’d given Jazz a curious, wide-eyed look. Now, though…


“Jazz, right?” Wes asked, his voice curt. He opened the door all the way and gestured for Jazz to come inside. “Devin’ll be ready in a minute, dude. He’s just running a little late.”


Jazz blinked and stepped inside, catching his bottom lip between his teeth for just a moment before pushing it back out with his tongue. “Is he okay?” he asked, murmuring the words. “It’s not like him to be running late…”


Wes just shook his head and looked away from Jazz. “You can go ahead and take a seat on the couch -- d’you want anything to drink while you wait? I’m sure he’ll be ready in a couple of minutes…”


“No thanks,” Jazz said, furrowing his brow as he noticed the slight scowl forming on Wes’s lips. He sat down on the couch, though, and pulled out his phone. His stomach twisted. Had Devin told Wes about what Jazz had said over a week ago? Or was this just how Wes was with all of Devin’s clients? Devin wasn’t in the habit of letting them come to him, and this was the second time Jazz had come by the house when Wes was here, but…


Jazz heard footsteps, and he looked up. Devin had pulled his hair back in its usual braid. There were visible circles under his eyes, like he hadn’t slept well at all the past few days. And his smile --


Jazz’s stomach slipped into his shoes. Devin’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. His whole expression was business only and held none of the warmth it usually did, when Devin’s eyes landed on him. Jazz shivered; he wanted that warmth back. “Hey,” he said, standing up from his seat on the couch. He offered Devin his own nervous, not-quite-heartfelt smile. “Ready to go?”


“Yeah,” Devin said, clearing his throat. He looked away from Jazz and glanced down at himself. “Look okay, right?”


“You look beautiful,” Jazz said, this time his smile more relaxed. He held out his hand. “Thank you for letting me in while I waited, Wes,” he said as he led Devin towards the door.


Wes blinked. “No problem, dude.” He and Devin exchanged goodbyes, and then Jazz and Devin were outside, alone, together.


Jazz turned to Devin and looked up at him, noticing the odd look crossing Devin’s face. “You okay, sweetheart?” he asked, nudging him with his elbow. He let his brows knit together. “You look like you didn’t get much sleep, last night.”


“Stayed out late with a client,” Devin answered, avoiding Jazz’s eyes as he climbed into the passenger seat of Jazz’s car. “Didn’t sleep too good either, when I got home.”


Jazz nodded, slipping into the driver’s seat and turning on the ignition. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, his voice unusually quiet. “D’you wanna talk about it any? We’ve got a long ride ahead of us…”


He waited for Devin’s response and saw Devin shake his head out of the corner of his eye, the action almost imperceptible. “‘mfine,” he said. He reclined his seat back. “Wouldn’t mind a nap, though.”


Jazz nodded again, lowering the volume of the radio as Devin shifted in his seat into a more comfortable position. “I was going to ask if you’d like to take a nap, then,” he said, a small, not-quite smile tugging on his lips. He reached across the middle console and patted Devin’s shoulder. “I’ll wake you up when we’re about ten minutes out, okay?”


“‘Kay…”


Sighing, Jazz pulled onto the highway and leaned back in his seat, one hand on the wheel. He was careful to maintain his speed and not to go too fast as Devin was silent beside him. He wanted to ask questions; wanted to push Devin to talk, but he knew it would be better to wait. Devin obviously needed more time. Or maybe a nap would, in fact, lift his spirits some by the time they would arrive at the dinner.


The drive dragged on, the silence of the radio and Devin leaving Jazz to his own thoughts, none of them pretty. Maybe Devin was mad him. Maybe Jazz had said the wrong thing the last few times they’d spoken. Maybe Savin had been right and that Devin liked him, too, but now thought Jazz didn’t given the way he’d responded, or --


It couldn’t have been that, could it? Yes, Wes had been acting a little strange, too, but Devin had explained once that Wes was really protective of Devin. And if Wes had noticed the mood Devin was in…


Sighing, Jazz glanced at the time, then placed a gentle hand on Devin’s shoulder. “Sweetheart, it’s --”


“‘mawake,” Devin said, his head moving slightly. “Never fell asleep.”


“Oh.” Jazz pulled his hand away and frowned a little to himself. “Maybe talking about it will help, you know,” he said, keeping his voice quiet.


Devin pulled his seat up and kept his eyes trained on the window, watching as they sped by other cars. “Don’t think it will,” he said, his lips tugging downward. “Don’t worry, though. Still gonna do my job just fine, promise.”


“You’re allowed to have a bad day on the job, you know,” Jazz said, glancing at Devin. They were so close to their exit, now. “You’re human. My mother supposedly died a few weeks ago. Maybe we had a fight before we went to the dinner -- lord knows Savin and I have done that once or twice…” He gave Devin a small smile and reached for his hand, squeezing his fingers. “You don’t have to talk to me about it, but -- I wouldn’t mind listening, if you decide to, okay?”


Devin didn’t squeeze back, but he did halfway meet Jazz’s eyes. “‘Kay,” he said, pulling his hand away. He smoothed his hand over his hair, looking at himself in the sun visor mirror.


Jazz’s stomach lurched again, and he pulled off the highway with a sigh. Tonight was going to be a long one -- and if Devin was in this kind of a mood now, who knew what he’d be like by the end of the evening. Jazz knew how much it sucked having to keep it together during work; how hard it was to keep a smile on for all the people around him. Though Devin didn’t do much of that as a Sidearm either; just for Jazz, in their more private moments that were certainly visible to anyone, if they decided to look at them.


He eventually pulled into the parking structure, validated his and Devin’s identities, and parked. They took their time getting out of the car, and Devin hooked his arm through his once they were next to each other. As they approached the receiving line, Jazz felt Devin stiffen beside him.


Ellis. No Murdock, this time, Jazz noted, unless the other general was already inside the building. Jazz looked up at Devin and moved his arm so he could hug Devin around the waist, pressing a light kiss to Devin’s shoulder and hoped that the action was reassuring. Considering Devin’s back relaxed by just a fraction, maybe it was.


“Maybe he’ll ignore us all night, tonight,” Jazz whispered, gently guiding Devin through the receiving line. They were welcomed inside, and Devin seemed to force his body to relax, unlocking muscles one by one under Jazz’s touch.


Devin didn’t say anything in response, though. He didn’t even look at Jazz; just kept his eyes straight ahead. They were welcomed inside, and Devin turned to Jazz. The smile he gave him was false, even as he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Jazz’s forehead. “Gonna get us drinks, ‘kay?”


Jazz blinked up at him, then gave Devin a slight nod of his head. “Okay. But I’m sticking to just one glass of champagne this time, alright? Last time was bad.”


That brought a real, true ghost of a smile to Devin’s lips. “Yeah,” he said, kissing Jazz’s forehead again. “Was pretty bad. Had to leave early before you started shit.”


He was gone before Jazz could protest, and Jazz sighed as he watched Devin’s back retreat. He glanced through the mingling crowd of politicians and military officials, wishing his mouth didn’t suddenly feel so dry.


“Good evening, Ambassador Callahan. Your absence has been noted during these dinners.”


Jazz turned on his heel, wishing more than anything that Devin wouldn’t return with their drinks for a little while longer. He gave Ellis a brittle smile. “Well, I had to return home to the Empire, after all,” he said, adjusting the knot of his tie. “I wasn’t about to miss out on my own mother’s funeral.”


“Mm. I suppose that’s true,” Ellis said, lifting a glass to his lips. Jazz was certain it didn’t contain alcohol. Majeria was a dry portion of the country -- the military men in particular seemed to avoid it. “Did you come alone, this evening?”


Jazz shook his head, glancing back towards where Devin had wandered off to. Given how long he was taking, chances were Devin had seen Ellis approach Jazz and opted to stay away. “Devin’s with me this evening,” he answered, clearing his throat. He lifted his chin and met Ellis’s crystal blue eyes. “I would prefer it if you were to stay away from him.”


Ellis blinked, his brows furrowing for just a moment before he, too, cleared his throat and raked his fingers through his hair. “He didn’t seem to dislike my company last night,” he said. He gave Jazz a flash of a smile as he lifted his glass to his lips. “No matter, I’ll be respectful of his space, this evening.”


Jazz did his best to keep his face free of his surprise, gave Ellis a curt nod, and turned on his heel, the conversation now over as far as he was concerned. He could see Devin’s long braid from here, the slump of his shoulders as he held their drinks in his hands. When Devin turned to face him, his eyes skirted towards where Ellis must still be standing, his expression unreadable.


“I told him to stay away from you,” Jazz said once he was close enough, gently taking the glass of champagne Devin offered him. He sipped at it and studied Devin’s face. “He said something about you not disliking his company, last night?”


Devin’s face paled even further. He looked down into his glass, his expression pinched. “Private party,” he said, not meeting Jazz’s eyes. “Ellis was there, but -- was with someone else.”


Jazz released the breath he’d been holding and closed his eyes, letting the modicum of relief wash over him. “I figured you didn’t -- take him on as a client, but…” He trailed off, glancing around them and noticing Piere’s approach. “We’ll talk about this later, okay? Piere’s heading this way…”


And so began the night of uncomfortable schmoozing. Devin managed to pull himself together just as Piere offered Jazz his hand, welcoming them both to the party. Piere gestured towards the others, how some were already dancing, and made small talk Jazz could barely concentrate on as Devin fidgeted beside him.


Piere, thankfully, didn’t notice Devin’s odd behaviors; though his expression closed off a little as Jazz wrapped an arm around Devin’s waist in an effort to soothe him and help him keep still. They needed to talk -- needed to find the privacy to do so, and yet Jazz was almost certain they wouldn’t be able to. Not until after all of the pomp had its time.


“I almost wish we’d stayed home,” Jazz said at some point, after Piere had gone off to mingle with other politicians. He turned to Devin and gave him a wry smile. “I’m so not in the mood for politics, right now…”


Devin blinked at him and lifted his champagne to his lips. “Supposed to tell you not to leave early, right?” he asked, another faint smile on his lips as he leaned into Jazz’s touch.


“You don’t need to,” Jazz said with a quiet sigh. He turned to face Devin, pressing himself close and standing on his toes to brush his lips against his. “I know better than to sneak out of yet another dinner. We’ve pushed our luck with that as it is.”


Devin nodded, still stiff even as Jazz pulled away. He studied Jazz’s face for a moment, then bit his lip and looked away. “Wouldn’t mind if we did, though,” he said, swallowing hard. His eyes seemed to focus on some point beyond them.


Jazz didn’t need to look to know his attention was focused on Ellis again. “What did he do, last night?” he whispered, turning on his heel just long enough to glare in Ellis’s direction. “You’ve been wary of him before, but -- he really shook you up last night, didn’t he?”


Devin’s face flushed and he downed the rest of his champagne, avoiding Jazz’s eyes. “Don’t wanna talk about it,” he said, keeping his voice low. “Just -- wanna forget, ‘kay?”


Jazz wanted to argue. He wanted to push and needle, but the utterly broken expression on Devin’s face stopped him. Sighing, he nodded and squeezed Devin. “C’mon, let’s go sit down at the table -- maybe if we sit down, this whole thing will end sooner.”


It didn’t. In the past, Jazz could entertain himself, flirting with Devin and feeling him up under the table between courses. Given Devin’s current state, Jazz wasn’t sure if the attention would be welcomed or not, and he didn’t want to accidentally overstep his bounds. Instead, he rested his head on Devin’s shoulder when he could; kept his arm around his waist and hoped that the touch was as comforting as he’d meant for it to be. Devin never once pushed him away, but he did stiffen once or twice, and even for him, he was unusually quiet and subdued.


Ellis, for what it was worth, did not make conversation with either him or Jazz, instead opting to chat up the young, well-dressed man beside him that Jazz was certain he hadn’t met before. What little relief that brought didn’t seem to make much of a difference, though, as Devin avoided looking in their direction.


“Is that another Sidearm with Ellis?” Jazz found himself asking, just before the servers brought out dessert. He kept his voice low, letting his eyes drift over to Ellis and the other man. “Ellis doesn’t have a partner, right?”


Devin didn’t follow Jazz’s gaze. He shifted under Jazz’s arm and reached for his glass of water. “Think so, yeah,” he answered. He took a sip and glanced towards Ellis and the other man. “Said he’d be bringing someone tonight. Wanted me to meet them.”


Jazz pulled a face at that and shook his head, reaching for his second glass of champagne. He was determined to nurse it for as long as possible, just grateful that Devin hadn’t stopped him from getting a second one. “What’s he trying to do? Make you jealous?” he asked with a quiet snort. “I don’t think that’s gonna work…”


Devin tensed beside him. Jazz looked up at him, his brow furrowing as Devin’s eyes now focused on some point in the distance. Jazz followed his gaze. Dessert had arrived -- an intricate chocolate piece that Devin would no doubt love.


But Devin wasn’t looking at the dessert itself; he was no doubt looking at Ellis and his partner for the evening. How the young man was now feeding Ellis pieces of his own dessert and practically sitting in Ellis’s lap. The utterly indulgent look on Ellis’s face made Jazz gag.


“Okay, I don’t think anyone could be jealous of that,” Jazz said, turning back to Devin. He nudged him with his elbow, resting his chin against Devin’s arm and looking up at him. “I wouldn’t want Ellis’s mouth anywhere near me.”


Devin blinked at Jazz, his eyes focusing on him as though it were the first time he were seeing him, all evening. A slow, wide grin swept across his face. “Wouldn’t want it anywhere near me, either,” he said. He bent forward, pressing his lips against Jazz’s own. “Know someone else’s I would, though…”


Jazz hummed against Devin’s lips. “Yeah?” he breathed, inching closer to Devin. He’d missed Devin’s grin; had missed his flirting. Even if he was only going to get a flash of it now, he couldn’t stop himself from flirting back. “Too bad you and that mouth can’t leave early, tonight. It'd like to be everywhere on you.”


He pulled away and turned to his dessert, smirking to himself as he caught the slight blush forming on Devin’s face. Seeing Devin smile like that had lifted his own spirits some, even if Devin’s mirth didn’t seem to last for long. Whatever Jazz had done to break through Devin’s thoughts, earlier, he would have to figure out what it was and do it again.


Once Devin had finished with his dessert, the two of them stood from the table, Jazz noticing that Ellis and his partner had already wandered off to the dance floor. He made a mental note to avoid them as much as possible -- though obviously Ellis was distracted by his partner of the evening. When Jazz spotted them on the dance floor, the Sidearm was all but grinding on Ellis to the beat, causing Jazz to snort.


“I obviously picked the more professional Sidearm,” Jazz said as he pulled Devin close, taking the lead for this particular dance. “I mean, I’m sure we can be a little obnoxious sometimes, but -- that Sidearm isn’t acting like a real partner would. You do.”


Devin’s brow furrowed a little. “I do?” he asked, sounding uncertain. He cleared his throat. “Been told we don’t -- act close enough…”


Jazz gave Devin a reassuring smile, sliding his hand up Devin’s shoulder to the back of Devin’s neck. He pulled him down for a kiss, this one much slower, more intimate than all of the kisses they’d shared that evening so far. As he pulled away, Jazz met Devin’s eyes. “Ellis’s full of shit, and you know it. Whatever he said last night, it’s not true, okay?” He rested his head against Devin’s chest and closed his eyes, swaying to the music with him. “Trust me.”


Devin's arms snaked around him, squeezing him tightly. Jazz heard Devin whimper in his ear and squeezed him back, smiling a little as he pressed himself closer to Devin. "'Kay," Devin breathed in Jazz's ear. He nuzzled Jazz's neck, his lips lightly brushing against the sensitive edge of it. "Helps, knowing you think I do a good job..."


"You do an amazing job," Jazz corrected, lifting his head so he could look Devin in the eyes again. He smiled, knowing he must look as absolutely lovesick as he felt, his hands sliding down Devin's chest to rest on his hips. He leaned up, letting his lips brush against Devin's ear as he continued speaking, murmuring, "You're pretty fucking amazing in general, actually..."


He smirked up at Devin as Devin’s face turned red, the blush creeping down Devin’s neck. Jazz watched Devin’s adam’s apple bob as he swallowed and looked at Jazz through his thick lashes. “Think I’m amazing?” he repeated, his voice quiet. “Mean just in bed, right?”


Jazz snorted, his smile growing wider as he and Devin continued to move in time with the music. “I don’t mean just in bed -- though I did say you were amazing at your job, didn’t I?” he countered, giving Devin a wink. He glanced around them, running his hands back up to Devin’s shoulders as he took the lead, twirling Devin a little further out of earshot. “No, Devin, I --” He licked his lips, dropping his gaze to the knot of Devin’s tie. He steeled himself and threw his shoulders back.


“I have feelings for you,” he finished, lifting his gaze once more. His face felt hot as Devin’s eyes widened. “As in I like you. A lot. More than I should, probably, but -- I really, really enjoy your company and would love to date you for real.”


Everything around them slowed down, and Devin's face went from pink to purple as Jazz's words hung between them. “I don’t expect an answer,” he blurted out, his own ears burning as he looked away from Devin’s eyes. “I don’t even expect you to want to be my Sidearm anymore, after this, if I’m being honest, I just -- Savin said I couldn’t -- sleep with you tonight, if I didn’t tell you how I felt, so…”


Devin blinked at him, his eyes still impossibly wide. He then cleared his throat, his adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed and licked his lips. “Um,” he managed with a quiet cough. “He really okay with you -- with you having feelings for me?”


Jazz nodded, licking his own lips himself as he noticed Devin hadn’t pulled away from. But he didn’t move closer to him either -- nor did he seem to acknowledge Jazz’s confession in its entirety. “He thinks we -- make a cute couple, actually… he wasn’t kidding when he said what he did the other day, you know? That’s why I yelled at him. I didn’t want you to find out how I felt that way.”


“Kinda already knew,” Devin said, murmuring the words. He guided Jazz off the dance floor and back towards to their table. He cleared his throat again and rubbed his nose, looking away from Jazz. But he kept an arm around Jazz’s back, walking almost arm in arm with him. “Said you wanted to be more than friends, when you were drunk.”


Jazz’s whole face had to be an impressive shade of red. “I know,” he squeaked, glancing up at Devin. “I was hoping you didn’t hear me -- or that you’d written it off as me being drunk and not knowing what I was saying…”


“Kinda did, yeah,” Devin said with a quiet, awkward laugh. He sat in his seat and picked up his previously abandoned glass of water. He toyed with it for a minute before putting it down, his fingers running down the length of his braid instead. He couldn’t quite meet Jazz’s eyes as he spoke. “This’s kinda why I don’t do regulars, though,” he said after a minute, his words soft. “Don’t want anyone to get attached to me.”


“I know,” Jazz said, ignoring the way his heart wrenched in his chest. He picked up his own glass, staring into it as he avoided Devin’s eyes. “I don’t expect you to feel the same way. I’m just a job, you know? Your employer, technically. You’re a professional and like I said, you do an amazing job. I just --” He shook his head and gave Devin a sad, partial smile. “I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I’ve developed feelings for anyone other than Savin. I forgot how hard I could fall for someone.”


Devin nodded, his fingers undoing and then reworking the end of his braid. Here, at the table, they were as alone as they were going to get, here at one of these presidential dinners. Devin chewed his bottom lip, his anxiety obvious in the way his shoulders bunched and his deft fingers couldn’t keep still. “Need to think,” he said after a moment, looking as though the words were as painful for him to say as they were for Jazz to hear. “Don’t think I should spend the night tonight, though.”


Devin’s words were a stinger left behind by a wasp. One that couldn’t be easily removed from Jazz’s heart. Jazz kept his expression as neutral as possible and nodded, looking away from Devin and focusing his attention on the glass in his hands. “Alright,” he said, knocking the water back like it was a shot. He put the glass down and stood up from his chair, patting Devin on the shoulder as he did so. “Don’t worry about refunding me for tonight -- I already paid ahead and I don’t want it back.”


“‘Kay,” Devin whispered, standing up as well.


He couldn’t look Devin in the eye for the rest of the night.

Last Part~!

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