eff_reality: (so ridiculously pretty dom)
[personal profile] eff_reality
Premise: AU. Billy is a PhD. candidate in Cinema Studies at Suffolk University and Dom is a rent boy in Southie.
Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
Feedback: is my anti-drug. Help keep me off the pipe.
Summary: Elijah's birthday.
Note: Oh real life, why must you get in the way of my fic?
Previously.



SCENE 32. - EXT. PARK STREET T STATION - ELIJAH'S BIRTHDAY 9:00PM

Billy nearly buries himself in his peacoat as he and Elijah emerge from the stairway, taking brief solace in the awning before they both squint, scrunch their shoulders up to their ears, pinch their mouths, and plow ahead. The cold is unforgiving tonight, flurries coming down in quick, shiny spikes that'll morph into a deluge in a couple of hours.

"It's not far." Elijah keeps his eyes straight ahead even as he reassures Billy.

"Alright," Billy mumbles absently, raising his eyes to the grey-black sky, the flurries looking increasingly monstrous as they fall to his face. It's too appropriate, he thinks; it's been weeks, nearly a month since they'd gone to Elijah's house for Christmas, a near-month of surprising reprieve from the snow, an eerie calm. There'd even been a few days where the temperature had jumped back into the fifties.

All those days of quiet, without a word from Dominic.

New Year's had been the most quiet of all, Billy spending it on the couch with a pile of films and a small bottle of J&B that'd been hiding in the back of his pantry—despite Elijah coaxing him mercilessly to come out with he and Orlando.

To be fair, Dominic hasn't been totally silent. There have been half-hearted texts, all prompted by one inane question or another from Billy, and they've all seemed obligatory, like Dom's just trying to appease him or assure him that he doesn't hate his guts (even though he very well might). It's all left Billy anxious, wondering every other minute what Dominic could be doing or thinking, wondering if perhaps they'll happen upon each other on the street, like that late night after the library, with Dom more tired than drunk and Orlando high. It's been an awful lot like those first days, actually, Dominic's mystery sort of reattaching itself to him, Billy with no clue where they stand or where he stands or if they'll ever see each other again. In a moment of desperation, sometime during the second week, Billy'd asked Elijah if he knew anything about it, if Orlando'd said anything. Elijah had given only the most monumentally frustrating answer in the world: Um, we're a little busy when we're together, Bill.

Before Billy realizes it, he and Elijah are walking up a narrow storefront staircase, one that's the opposite of inviting (though Billy's certainly seen worse). They stop on a landing, and Billy reads scribbled words on the wall next to his face as Elijah rings a bell.

The door creaks open, and Elijah laughs, "Hi," to someone Billy can't yet see.


SCENE 33 - INT. THE TREMONT TEA ROOM - A MOMENT LATER

When Billy finally makes his way over the threshold, whoever had let them in has disappeared behind a bejeweled curtain across the room. Elijah leans into him, speaking low, excited words. "It's so fucking cool. Our boss took us all here before Christmas and paid for our readings."

Billy smiles graciously, indulging him, but he's distracted.

Elijah watches him. "Hey," he bumps their shoulders. He leans in again, dropping his voice even lower, much to Billy's amusement. "Do you want me to tell Orlando not to bring Dom tonight?" He pulls his phone from his coat pocket.

Billy holds out a hand, urging it back down to Elijah's side. "Don't be daft." He doubts Dominic will come, anyway. He hates that it's come to this, and so quickly. But then, what was he expecting?

The reader emerges from that same curtain, a woman in her late thirties or early forties with leathery skin, shorn hair, and a warm smile. She's tiny, and wears a pair of denims and a tee, and Billy doesn't know what he expected here, either—a stout woman in gypsy skirts, maybe—but this wasn't it. "Hi, I'm Tina," she says, all business. "Are you doing the leaves?"

"No," Elijah says just as firmly but still with that silly smile, "I did the leaves last time I was here. I think I'll do the tarot reading."

"Good," she smiles, ushering the two of them to a long table at the center of the room.

Billy shakes his head, tossing the both of them a polite smile—"I'll just"—and sits in a lonely-looking chair at the other end of the room to wait awkwardly. He starts to zone out as the repeated sound of shuffling cards fills the silence. He hasn't been able to shake this pissy, dark mood of his, not since going back to Suffolk two weeks ago for his first dreaded meeting with Sherlock since before break. Billy'd been certain that the act of him handing that formidable stack of pages in would change something between them, end something, but the prick bastard was still clinging to those final threads of authority, delaying Billy's defense as long as he could without the bloody dean coming after him.

Billy raises his eyes to Elijah, watching with a small smile as he leans closer to Tina, his eyes intense, their voices intimate. He suddenly wants a reading of his own, for a laugh and maybe some idea of when the fuck he's going to finish this degree, if nothing else. He rises and approaches the table quietly, slithering into the chair next to Elijah to catch the end of his session. He doesn't quite understand it all, but it has something to do with Elijah being more honest with himself and with others, something vague and unimpressive.

Elijah lets Tina's seemingly empty words drop heavily into the air between them, expanding. He inhales. "Thank you."

They both turn to Billy as if noticing his presence for the first time. Tina narrows her eyes playfully. "Are you sure you don't want a reading?"

"Do it, Bill," Elijah urges in a whisper, and Billy gives a shrug as if that's convinced him.

He and Elijah switch seats, and Tina shuffles rhythmically again, making Billy cut the deck a number of times, gathering the cards he's extracted in a tiny pile that manages to unhinge him slightly. "It's best to keep a particular question in mind," she tells him, and he gives her a quick nod and a smile, signaling his readiness.

Tina speaks as she lays the cards out in a sort of cross pattern, suddenly sounding much less full of shite than she had giving Lij's fortune. Billy's eyes roam the artwork, the surprisingly violent pictures on the cards, with mild interest. The Death card at the center is particularly unsettling. Tina smiles, noting the expression on his face. "It's not meant to be taken literally. This is your recent past. Death can represent the end of anything, putting something behind you, possibly a person or a situation. There's something you are trying to get past, but you aren't there yet—it's not quite finished with you."

Billy wants to adopt one of Elijah's trademark phrases: No shit.

"It will resolve itself soon enough, though. You just have to be patient." She lays another card across that one: The Wheel of Fortune. "And this is your immediate present. You are at a turning point. You're leaving something behind and moving forward—there are endless possibilities now. But you don't know which path to take. Don't worry: your path will find you. But you have to trust your instinct." She points to the card in the lower righthand corner. "See? This is you: The Fool."

Elijah laughs, and Billy gives a long-suffering sigh, shaking his head.

"No," she leans toward him, her hand lighting on the backs of his knuckles. "This is a good thing. You've been The Hierophant," she points to the card above it, picturing a gentleman on a throne with a scepter. "Following rules, being sensible, following convention and never straying. But you must let this go, embrace a new potential future, even if it seems... scary. You have to give yourself the room to be more spontaneous and follow your heart."

Billy nods, his eyes remaining on the spread of cards. It sounds convincing enough; Sherlock's had him following the rules for the past three years of his post-graduate life, and he's more than ready to leave all that behind. Maybe leave Boston behind, too.

The rest of Tina's reading is quick and overwhelming, too much for Billy to take in all at once. What manages to stick with him, though, is a card with a picture of a blindfolded woman crossing two swords over her chest like a barricade, which, according to Tina, means that he's keeping someone in his life at arm's length. He doesn't have to work to think of who that might refer to, though it's Dominic that's been keeping him at arm's length these days.

A knot twists itself in the pit of his stomach at the thought of Dominic showing up tonight and being just as cool as he'd been that last night at Elijah's and the morning after. Still, he'll take it over a no-show; that twee part of him that hasn't seen Dominic in weeks craves interaction, even if it's terribly awkward.

Billy pays for the both of them, giving Elijah a sweet, smiling Happy Birthday even as he continues to mull over the barrage of words that Tina's piled on him. As they trot down to street level, bundled up and ready to face that cruel, biting air again, Elijah pulls his phone out, the little rectangle of light illuminating nearly the entire stairwell. He inhales, turning to Billy. "Dom's coming." He waits for a reaction.

Billy merely pulls his mouth into a grim line and lowers his eyes to his feet, that knot pulling itself impossibly tight.

*

SCENE 34. - INT. PARADISE - 10:22PM

He hates to admit it, even to himself, but sometimes Dominic wishes he'd never met Orlando. There are endless reasons for this, too many to think of all at once, but right now the sentiment is borne of the simple act of having to leave their flat. Dominic had puttered around for ten too-short minutes after Orlando'd originally intended to leave, Orli lingering by the door with keys in hand and a buzzing energy in his limbs. He's nervous, Dominic knows, to be at a gathering with so many of Elijah's friends, co-workers, maybe even a cousin or two. It's a bit too real, yeah? he'd said the night before over dinner in their tiny kitchen.

Dominic can relate; these last few weeks have felt like they belonged in some strange, half-baked alternate universe. He'd stayed at home, mostly, and out of his usual spots, resolving to not go out looking for clients, though they'd come looking for him. There'd been a few calls from regulars and a referral or two, all of which he'd ignored, with the exception of "Sam," who he'd indulged more for the companionship than the money (though he certainly welcomed the latter).

And then there'd been the addition of David, who was sweet and sexy and had no clue just what he was supplanting in Dominic's life, though Dominic doesn't exactly feel guilty about that. They aren't too serious, at least Dominic doesn't think so. It's hard to be when they've only seen each other a handful of times since the first.

Most unnerving of all had been the absence of Billy. It's all been Dominic's doing, of course, though there was never any intention to remove Billy from his life. He'd simply needed some time to rebuild his ego after Christmas, and a few days turned into a week, which somehow turned into all of January. It had finally gotten to the point where the Billy in Dominic's head had become a bit blurry around the edges, his features losing their reliable clarity (until Dominic had made the mistake of going back through some of his photos).

He knows he's simply delaying the inevitable. The time hasn't done much for his ego (though David has helped in his own way), or for his feelings for Billy. The fact is, he wants to see him tonight; he hates how much he does.

In spite of all that—and in how long he takes getting out the door—he embodies nonchalance as he and Orlando enter the club, face relaxed and shoulders shifting with his stride as he eyes the crowd. It doesn't take long for him to find Elijah; if Orlando hadn't given it away by bounding straight for him, Elijah's loud, childish cackle and bouncing energy would have done so.

Dominic tries his best to focus, keep his cool as he gives Elijah a birthday hug, but his eyes betray him, latching onto Billy perched at the bar, hunched over, listening intently to some girl as she nearly dances in her seat with her storytelling. Dominic's not surprised to find his body reacting to him just the way it had nearly a month ago, those obnoxiously pure firecrackers of adoration going off from the pit of his stomach and bursting in his chest.

Tonight, Billy is somewhere between his usual close-shaven, tidy self and the scruffy intellectual from that lecture last month, the sleeves of his black button-down pulling tight at his biceps and a five o'clock shadow hugging his jawline. He looks infuriatingly relaxed and comfortable. The Billy from the night they first met is a stranger, someone Dominic can't even picture now, a figment of his imagination.

When their eyes meet, a split second glance that's instantly broken by Dominic, it's thankfully too loud for things to be too awkward. By the time Billy's made his way over to say hello to the two of them, the techno bass is insistent enough to fill every silence. They exchange words, he thinks, ones neither of them can hear, and there's a feeling of peace there, but an unsteady one all the same.

The four of them turn to the bar, Orlando and Dominic quickly filling both of Elijah's fists and one each of their own, Dominic with a local beer that he knows is shite but he'll swallow anyway—he's not quite in daquiri mode, yet. The bass finally lets up a bit, allowing for some surface conversation, Dominic indulging Billy's innocuous questions. It's instantly clear that he can't cut him off completely—that probably isn't ever going to be in the cards—but he wants to make him work for his attention, so he purposely avoids his eyes, even when speaking directly to him. It gives him a sick thrill to hurt him in this small way, a juvenile retribution for all the pain he's been feeling himself over the past weeks. He wants to see how far he can push it without pissing Billy off outright, something he knows Billy has in him but that he's never had the privilege of seeing.

Still, when Orlando turns talk to David, Dominic clenches up, unwilling to indulge him.

"You should see the places this guy takes him for dinner. The other night he brought home caviar in a doggie bag."

"He's full of shite," Dominic assures them, shoving Orlando. "Shut it, you. Stop exaggerating," he growls, coloring as he watches for a reaction from Billy—which he doesn't get, which is somehow worlds more satisfying. Billy occupies himself with his drink, his eyes looking everywhere but at Dominic.

Orlando pulls Dominic into his side with a gangly arm. "Oi. I've a right to know who my roommate's been spending his nights with."

And that makes Billy shift noticeably from foot to foot, his free hand shoving into a pants pocket to fidget there. Elijah wraps an arm around his shoulders, making a mirror image of Dom and Orlando. "Eh, leave him alone. He can have secrets if he wants to."

"'S nothing serious," Dominic says quickly into the neck of his bottle, watching Billy's face as he takes a swig, and there—that at least brings a twitch, a change.

The truth is, Dominic's first night with David, in hindsight, had been nothing more than a cheap knockoff of his first encounters with Billy. And while it's been nice having someone to care about him in that way, to want him in that way, to kiss him, take care of him, there's been something stagy, detached about it, at least on his end. It's only a few small steps removed from some of the more pleasant encounters he's had with johns, and miles away from the few that have really gotten to him.

It doesn't take long for the crowd to pull he and Billy apart, and Dominic is thankful for the reprieve. Billy starts to look even more at home as more of Elijah's friends trickle in and find them, settling into a spot at the bar with an easy smile. Dominic spends at least the first forty minutes carrying on superficial conversation with people he doesn't know, watching all the guys whose eyes don't linger on Billy as they pass or go up for drinks, and for the thousandth time, he feels an odd pride that he sees something that they can't. Still, the idea that the rest of the night could continue just like this, with the two of them tiptoeing around each other, makes him more than a little sick to his stomach.

Running into an old acquaintance—a member of his and Orlando's small club—pulls Dominic out of his mood, at least for the time being. It feels good to let down his guard a bit, and let go of the usual pretense, even if he has started to feel more than slightly removed from that life as well. Dominic can't remember the guy's name, but a fellow hustler is always a friendly face. They have the fortune of happening upon an empty table near the bar and settle in there.

As they talk of advertising executives and their respective regular haunts, Dominic keeps an eye on Billy holding court. At one point, Elijah all but accosts him, snuggling drunkenly into his lap and nearly knocking him off his stool (Do you know how fucking old I am tonight, Bill?! I'm really fucking old!).

Dominic's friend brushes a palm over his knuckles, pulling his attention. "Orlando tells me you're off the market these days," he simpers, gesturing with an adorned glass of pink liquid that would shame the most flamboyant patron in the place.

Dominic's eyes dart back to Billy before he realizes Orli must have told the guy about David. "I wouldn't say off the market, but um, yeah. I'm seeing someone. Casually."

"Good for you. What's he like?"

"Um. He's great," Dominic smiles, picturing David's kind eyes and soft skin and lips. "Gorgeous. Funny. I really enjoy his company." He doesn't make me ache.

Thankfully, Dominic can sense that this is the end of the conversation. He's not sure he could find much more to say.

"Well, good luck with it. It was so good seeing you." The guy leans across the table and gives Dominic a kiss on the cheek before sashaying away, disappearing on the dance floor.

Dominic leans back in his seat, shooting a furtive look at the bar to find Billy alone with his eyes trained right back on him. Billy raises a hand in greeting, his mouth pulling into a tight grimace. Dominic simply nods and gives him a poor excuse for a smile in return. As soon as he notices Billy start to worm his way out of his seat, Dominic lowers his gaze to the table underneath his hands, examining the cracks and chips in the glass encasing. He slides his empty bottle of beer around in restless circles as Billy drops carefully into the seat across from him.

"Not really your scene, eh?" Billy half-shouts over the music.

"Hmn?" Dominic finally looks up, those missed, mossy green eyes slanted in amusement and just a hint of melancholy that Dominic wagers is another thing most people miss about Billy. "No, guess not."

"Me neither." Billy gives him a friendly smile that looks like a private peace offering. Dominic isn't sure his pride will allow him to accept it just yet. After a long moment, Billy scoots his chair closer and leans across the tiny table to better be heard. "Ehm, congratulations." Dominic narrows his eyes at him. "The guy you're seeing," Billy explains. "That's great."

The sheer flatness of Billy's tone is enough to pull a genuine smile out of Dominic. "Thank you."

"So what's he like?" Billy asks, the question sounding more like a challenge than conversation.

Dominic levels a defiant look at him. "He's nice."

"Mm," Billy nods, his lips curving into a playful grin. The song changes—the DJ's moving into the 80s part of tonight's set—but Billy doesn't miss a beat, his gaze never faltering as he urges, "Dance with me."

"I don't dance to this shite."

Billy chuffs a laugh. "All gay men dance to Madonna, it's written in the Bible."

"Gay men aren't in the Bible."

"Where do you think the term sodomy came from?" Billy reaches for Dominic's hand, wrapping his fingers loosely around his wrist instead. "Come on."

Dominic feels all of twelve as he allows himself to be pulled from his chair, his throat going dry and his pulse hammering against Billy's fingertips. He hadn't prepared himself for this.

Billy finds an empty little stretch of floor on the mezzanine level with the go-go dancers, one of Dominic's go-to spots (as if he'd ever admit he had go-to spots in Paradise), and ushers him over to the balcony, the cold bars brushing against his back through the thin material of his shirt. Billy essentially traps him there, Dominic realizing with a flush that they're standing exactly where he'd danced with Angel Billy the last time he was here.

Billy wraps confident hands around his hips and moves to pull him in tight, and Dominic can't help but resist, his stubborn ego telling him to keep his distance and not give in. Billy tilts his head at him playfully, though he still loosens his grip. "Come on." He brings his mouth next to Dom's ear. "Y'haven't married this guy yet, have you?"

Dominic swallows, draping his arms over Billy's shoulders, swaying along with him awkwardly as Madonna urges them to get into the groove. He really doesn't dance to this shite.

Christ, it infuriates him, how good it feels to have Billy all close to him like this again, powerful shoulders cradling him and stubble lightly scratching at his cheek. When Billy's fingers spread along the small of his back, possessive and intimate, he stiffens, moving a hand to Billy's shoulder to give it a squeeze. He tilts his mouth to his ear, holding it there for the long seconds it takes for him to garner enough courage. "I heard what you said at Christmas, to Elijah's mum."

Billy slows to a near stop. "What did I say?"

Answering that question takes even more courage. It's not until Billy pulls back and looks at him with wide, patient eyes that he's finally able to. "You said... you weren't my type. You said, 'I don't think I'm Dom's type.'" Dominic is instantly bashful; the words sound so puny out loud.

A rush seems to go through Billy's entire body, his face suddenly open and relaxed. "Is that why you were so angry the last night? Why you've been avoiding me?"

"I haven't—" Dominic starts to protest, but that sounds even more puny. "You just—the way you said it. You said it like it was some sort of fucking curse to be my type. It was insulting."

Billy scrubs his hands over his face, smiling. "I was insulting myself!" He trains his eyes on Dominic's and gives an exasperated shrug. "I don't know why I said it. I mean... You can have anyone, Dom. Don't pretend you don't know that."

Dominic drops his eyes to the floor, unable to hold back a bitter laugh. "Right."

Billy continues staring, slowly tilting his head at him until he finally cracks. "We all right, then?" He takes up one of Dominic's hands loosely in his.

"Feel like a fucking idiot."

"C'mere," Billy laughs, reeling him in for a tight hug. He expels a big breath into Dom's ear that tickles his skin, their bodies lining up perfect and warm, Dominic's igniting with the purity of recognition. "I missed you," Billy mumbles.

Dominic closes his eyes, his fingers splaying and tightening around Billy's shoulders.

"'M so glad we're talking again, it really was eating away at me," Billy laughs a little. "Silly. We've only known each other a month or so, y'know? You've worked your way under my skin, you."

They're not dancing at all anymore, just holding each other there, Dominic hooking his chin over Billy's shoulder and Billy's hand sliding up to finger at his hair. Dominic wonders if it was all just a ruse on Billy's part to get him here. "Almost two months." He opens and closes his mouth a few times before finally bringing it right up against Billy's ear again. What he says takes all the courage in the world, and it's not even the full truth. "Billy... I think you're anyone's type."

Just then, he feels something on his neck, mingling with Billy's fingers, tickling at his ears and then his own hands too. He opens his eyes: gold confetti. Of course.

He and Billy pull apart, still joined at the hip but holding each other at arm's length, Dominic's face turned to the ceiling and getting covered with flecks of shiny paper. He feels Billy's fingers crawl up to his nape, plucking pieces from his hair, and for one insane moment, he thinks Billy's going to kiss him, but he merely smiles, flicking the confetti off the balcony over Dominic's shoulder. Of course.

Billy keeps one square bit of gold for himself, pressing it to the tip of Dominic's nose so it sticks there. "Now who's the pixie?"

Dominic gives him a playful scowl, transferring the fleck of gold to Billy's face. Billy wrinkles his nose until it falls off, disappearing between their bodies, and Dominic giggles, his hair falling into his eyes as they start moving again.

The song shifts to something more techno-ish, only slightly more danceable in Dom's opinion, but he throws his body into it, trying as best he can to tap into that seductive part of himself, the one that typically has no problem showing itself but seems utterly handicapped whenever Billy's around. Dominic slides his hands down to Billy's belt, curling the tips of his fingers over the leather but not quite tugging on it. Billy lowers his eyes, inhaling quietly, almost imperceptibly under the thumping bass, though Dominic notices, the sound like victory to his ears.

Their hips stutter and collide, Billy's denims abrading his and his neat hands cradling him by the neck just under his ears, again, the prelude to a kiss that won't come.

Dominic swallows, pulling Billy closer, making the waistband of his denims separate ever so slightly from the tuck of his shirt. "'S funny, with David. How it happened," he says, watching Billy's face suddenly go tight and expressionless. "I thought I liked being alone, you know?" he presses. "Thought it wasn't something I needed."

"Mm," Billy says, finally lifting his eyes, seemingly looking over Dominic's shoulder into the crowd below but not focusing on anyone in particular. "I've been thinking about leaving. Boston."

Dominic's heart drops into his stomach, hanging there. "What? ...When you're done with your defense?"

"I don't know," Billy exhales, his hands resting somewhat awkwardly on Dom's shoulders now. "I have another course to teach this semester, but... I was thinking of Florida. California. Someplace warm."

Dominic wants to push him away, wants to yell, wants to have a fucking tantrum, quite frankly. Billy's only talking in hypotheticals, and half-formed ones at that, Dominic knows, but the idea of it still has the power to scare the shit out of him. California, God, he might as well go back to fucking Glasgow.

"I hate it here," Billy confesses, sounding pained, and Dominic knows instinctively that he's the only one who's ever heard that thought. "I've never liked it here. It's better than New York, but."

Dominic can't help but be curious again at that mysterious stretch of time Billy spent in New York, even as his inner child pleads, Don't leave, don't leave, don't leave. If Billy leaves, he knows what'll happen. He sees his life going back to exactly what it was before they met, he can visualize it perfectly, and it makes him sick to his stomach.

Billy opens his mouth to say something else, and Dominic shakes his head wildly, raising his voice. "I can't hear you, we'll talk later."

*

INTERLUDE: OLD FRIENDS - MINUTES LATER

In the middle of their third or fourth song plastered together, Billy feels a pair of hands that aren't his or Dominic's sliding between them, around Dominic's waist, big knuckles cold against his own stomach. It happens so suddenly, a blur of Dominic being yanked away, his face bursting into a bright yellow light of recognition before he's lifted high off the ground and into the arms of a man who towers over the both of them. Under the lights with his own arms now empty, Billy can see a flash of wavy grey hair and the deep wrinkles of a smile, and he averts his eyes, giving them as much privacy as he can without running away like a child.

"Never thought I'd run into you here," Dominic teases, his hands cradling the man's nape and his legs a long, coltish grip around his waist.

"Well, it wasn't my choice," the man rumbles, finally easing Dominic back down to the floor, giving him a more thorough look but with kind eyes.

Billy glances at the bar, seriously considering running now; Dominic knows a lot of people—too many, in fact—but Billy has it on good authority that this is Dom's john from the year before, the one he'd fallen for, or so he'd thought. Well-dressed, English, refined, an embarrassingly young thing trailing close behind him, looking just as petulant at this reunion as Billy probably does.

The man seems pleased with Dominic's appearance, noting physical changes that Billy can't hear and doesn't really care to, his big hands pushing Dom's hair from his forehead and cupping his cheeks. And where Dominic's been cautious with Billy, parsing out his touches like a temperamental cat, he's careless with this man, outright draping himself all over him. Billy takes particular note of how young Dominic seems next to him, and not just in comparison; his eyes have gone wide and wet, his face soft as he smiles and ducks his head bashfully.

"You're glowing tonight, cherub," the man says, and Billy blinks, certain he'd misheard the nickname if not for the color blossoming on Dom's cheeks at the sound of it.

Dominic finally brushes his hands gently away, turning to make introductions. "Billy, this is Ian, a good friend of mine. Ian, Billy."

"Pleasure," Billy says automatically, extending a hand, which Ian envelops with his own.

Ian corrals the twink lingering behind him into the center of the little circle they make, placing him there like a prop. He introduces him, too, but Billy doesn't care to remember his name and so doesn't. Neither does Dominic, he can tell, and that's somehow reassuring.

Billy takes the opportunity to give Ian a closer look. He's older than he thought he would be, but Billy can't deny that he sees his appeal, and that's all too irritating.

Dom and Ian's conversation with one another isn't noteworthy, but the soft, intimate timbre of Dominic's voice is something that snags itself on the edges of Billy's heart. It reminds him a bit of what he'd sounded like at Elijah's house, when they talked each other to sleep. Billy almost doesn't register his hands clenching and releasing in pulses at his sides. There's a searing guilt that comes with this brand of possessiveness; Dominic's not his, he never has been, not even physically. Billy'd made sure of that.

"So, how do you know our Dominic?" Ian breaks through that dangerous train of thought, managing to drop a thick, heavy silence in its place. Ian's eyes gleam knowingly.

Dominic claps his hands together. "I'll go get next round."

Billy and Ian watch as he slithers his way gracefully through the crowd to the mezzanine level bar. Billy senses Ian's companion slinking away, and he suddenly feels as if he's in the middle of a Western showdown—and with no weaponry to his name.

"Sweet, is he not?" Ian drawls, and Billy thinks the picture he makes, standing there all regal and knowing under the flashing lights, would only be completed if he'd had a pipe or a cigarette holder protruding from his mouth.

"More salty than sweet, I'd say." Billy doesn't necessarily mean it—it's just something to fill the silence.

Ian doesn't realize this, however. "You'll learn."

Billy can feel his eyes going sharp like daggers. "What does that mean?"

"I've known Dominic a long while. He softens with time." Watching the shape of Dom's back at the bar, Ian's eyes seem to soften at his own words. Then, just as quickly, they change. "Except for when he's at work, that is."

"Stop," Billy finds himself saying, totally uncharacteristic of him with someone he's met only moments before.

"Stop what, lad?" Ian's eyes rake over the tight set of his body.

Billy feels overcome at that point. He wants to say the most infantile things, clarify that he's far from a lad, that he's seen sweetness in Dominic that Ian could never hope to—though he can't be sure that that's true. Even if he feels it in his heart, there's still so little that he knows about Dominic, least of all the details of his relationship with Ian, if it could be called that.

"I don't know why you're being so protective," Ian says. "He's not ashamed. You shouldn't be." He takes up his wine glass from a nearby table and takes another sip.

"I'm not—" Billy starts, his tone sharper than his eyes, but then he takes a moment to really think about what he's saying, and he's not sure that that's true, either. He can't be ashamed of the circumstances in which they met—that'd been a conscious decision on his part—but he does wish it had been... better. Not that Dominic cares about that.

Ian smiles behind his glass, unnerving him, and, knowing there's no reply he could give, Billy walks away, blindly back to the bar downstairs and into the welcome embrace of Elijah. In the name of distraction, he quickly puts another drink in Elijah's hand.

"Thanks, man. So: did you two kiss and make up, finally?" Elijah leans back into Orlando's embrace, his eyes going liquid as Orlando necks him a bit.

Before Billy has a chance to answer that, or even shoot him a look, Orlando cuts in. "I see you met Dom's granddaddy."

"He's a fucking prick," Billy says, pounding back a double shot of whiskey.

"Ooh," Orlando slips his fingertips just under the waistband of Elijah's denims, "I love it when he talks dirty, don't you?"

"Stop it, you nutjob," Elijah chides, laughing a little as he brings Orlando's hands up to safer territory. "Is everything okay?" he asks Billy. "What happened?"

Billy lifts his eyes to the upper level, watching the path Dominic makes as he brings a pair of drinks back to Ian. Dominic looks confused for a brief moment, probably inquiring after Billy, before his face takes on that breathless, youthful quality it had before. It's like watching a silent film without the intertitles, but Billy's sure he could provide them if he tried hard enough. "Nothing," he answers Elijah darkly, trying in vain not to stare plainly at the scene above.

Ian drops into a chair at a nearby table and beckons Dominic into his lap, and Dominic gladly curls up there, one hand combing through the waves of Ian's hair and snaking down to finger at the buttons of his shirt as he chats excitedly, the other still holding fast to his beer. Ian's companion is still nowhere to be found.

Billy motions for another drink.

Upstairs, Dominic braces his knees on either side of Ian's thighs, making himself at home there as his eyes rove the planes of his face. It's been so long since he's seen them. Ian reaches up to tweak his nose, and he laughs. After a long moment, Ian levels a curious look at him. "Does he know that you're in love with him?"

Dominic leans back on his haunches, forcing his eyes not to flicker down to Billy below. "David?" They'd just been talking about him—it's not an illogical jump—but Dominic still knows it's impotent trickery.

Ian tilts his head at him, giving him a stronger look this time. "No, not David."

"Oh," Dominic feigns realization. "No, I'm." His eyes betray him, falling down to a despondent-looking Billy at the bar. "'M not in love with him." Though right as he says this, Billy's eyes connect with his, and he can feel his fingers instantly gentle on Ian's skin and clothes.

"Infatuated, then, at the very least."

Dominic looks back at Ian, mirroring his smirk. He supposes he'd know the signs better than anyone. "Well, it's a lost cause, so."

"Look again, cherub," Ian insists.

Dominic is suddenly overcome with just how much he's missed Ian, how happy he is that he's here, right here underneath him. He wraps a hand around his nape and pulls him in for a kiss. "I'm really happy to see you."

Ian's smile goes soft as he drags a fingertip through the kohl underneath Dominic's eye. "Come home with me, then." At Dominic's silence, he amends: "I'd get rid of Michael for the sake of a proper reunion."

Dominic blinks, vaguely remembering the tiny thing Ian had brought with him. He's tempted; it would be lovely and comfortable, and so very fulfilling to be with someone who knows him so well, at least physically. "No, 's not that." He glances down again at Billy, who's now doing his best to look like he's having a good time. "Well, not totally."

"Oh," Ian purrs, his voice thick with understanding. "Well, I admire your devotion. Even if it's only in private."

Dominic gives him a sad shrug, suddenly finding he has nothing more to say to him. He rises to his feet, halfway to drunk already, and Ian steadies him with a hand to his hip. Dominic takes that hand in both of his and presses a kiss to the knuckles. "Don't be a stranger, alright?"

"As I recall, it was you who disappeared on me."

"You knew where to find me," Dominic tosses over his shoulder, along with a smile, as he heads for the stairs, straight for Billy.



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