Was it possible to go crazy listening to the man who owned the sexiest lips ever? Even if he was talking nonsense at the time, TJ was still the sexiest man Sean ever had the annoyance of arguing with.
“Just one kitten. He’s so small, he’s like half a kitten. You’d barely notice him.”
Crazy. TJ was going to drive him crazy. “There’s no way in hell.” Sean decisively typed out a string of code and hit enter. “No.”
“Please, man?” TJ whined over the wireless headset Sean was failing to ignore. “He has nowhere else to go. I swear, once you meet him, you’ll totally fall in love. He’s the cutest little ball of fluff. And his eyes! Oh, Sean, if you saw his eyes, I just know you’ll love him.”
TJ was his friend of forever and an all-around animal lover. Sean usually didn’t hold it against him until moments like this. Moments which were growing more frequent as TJ decided he was lonely and needed an animal friend to brighten his days. Sean didn’t need a cat; he needed a boyfriend. A hot, sexy, preferably fur-free boyfriend who didn’t meddle in his life.
“Stop calling me from work trying to get me to adopt one of those four-legged beasts.” Sean squinted at the nearest of his four computer monitors. “I have enough problems without adding a kitten into the mix. Do you even understand what their fur will do to my setup?” He had three computers dedicated to IT work, and he couldn’t risk them being clogged up by fur, or fleas, or whatever the hell the little beasts covered themselves in. Pets. Why the hell would TJ think he wanted a pet?
TJ, who worked at the local animal shelter, didn’t even pause at Sean’s bitchy tone. “I’m sending you a picture. Once you see him… Ha.” The sounds of a digital camera snapping filtered through his headset as TJ chased down the prospective kitten.
“Leather couch. I have a fucking leather couch,” Sean growled determinedly. “Do you even know how much the blinds on my windows cost? I’m not letting some little clawed monster near my Egyptian cotton sheets. It would be a fucking disaster.” There was no way in hell he was taking in a mangy cat. He didn’t care if it was a baby and it needed a home. He hated pets, and he most certainly hated fur. “I’m allergic,” Sean added in the hopes of stopping the conversation flat.
“Liar.” TJ snorted derisively, only to hiss a moment after. “Oh, claws are not for hugging, little guy. Shit.” The sounds of him struggling with what Sean could only assume was a monstrous kitten with ten extra claws filled his ears. “I emailed you the photo,” TJ returned after a moment. “He’s adorable. You have a huge fucking apartment and no one to enjoy it. Stop pretending rooms are for things. Love him, and take him home, and stop being a miserable bastard about everything.”
Sean closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The only person he wanted to take home and love currently wouldn’t shut the fuck up and leave him alone. He never should have answered the phone.
Sean’s computer chimed. It was his personal computer, the only one not currently being used to remote into a customer’s hard drive for virus clean up. Damn it. Sean sighed as he rolled his chair to the side and woke the computer from its screensaver mode. He paused and licked his lips when the desktop image appeared. It was a closeup of a hot, short haired man being spit roasted by two buff guys cut mostly out of the shot. It was no accident the hottie in the middle looked just like TJ. Sean spent hours photo-collaging the image to ensure TJ looked as depraved and ruined as possible.
“Well?” TJ prompted excitedly as the silence stretched on.
Sean inhaled sharply and pulled his hand up from where he was unconsciously reaching for his half hard dick. “I don’t want a cat.”
“Just because you don’t like pussy doesn’t mean you can’t like a kitten,” TJ teased cheerfully. “Come on, look at him. He’s adorable. You know you want him.”
Sean grunted at the bad joke and opened the email reluctantly. A pair of bright, blue eyes surrounded by gray fur glittered back from the screen. “I’d have preferred a dick pic. It’s hideous.” Sean clicked the email closed and rolled back to the other monitor while TJ wailed dramatically. Seriously, you’d have sworn he physically assaulted the gray, ugly beast. Although not much larger than his fist, the kitten had a squashed nose and a ridiculous amount of fluff. It looked like the sort of thing Sean might mistake for a giant roaming dust ball when vacuuming. Probably even by accident.
“His eyes, Sean. He has the soul of a poet,” TJ insisted.
Sean rolled his own thankfully poet free eyes toward the ceiling. “Will you stop it already? I don’t want a pet. I don’t have time to feed kittens, and exercise them, and give them, you know…” he trailed off with a wave of his hand.
“Basic human companionship?” TJ supplied flatly.
“Attention,” Sean grunted. “Pets are a time suck. All they do is want food, then they poop the food, and sometimes they sleep. All the other time they want stuff from you. They’re just like people. There is nothing of value in any of it.” Living alone was much better. Easier. Not to mention, if he got a kitten, TJ would come over all the time.
Sean bit his lip and slowly rolled back to the other computer screen. His eyes fixed on the image of TJ being fucked senseless by two faceless men with big dicks. A cat could be the perfect excuse to get TJ to visit more. He could pretend the fluffball was sick or needed training. It could lead to them playing on the floor with TJ all sexy laughs that demanded kisses and blowjobs…
Sean shook his head roughly and reached down to squeeze his hard cock through his sweatpants. Bad. Very bad. TJ was his friend, his completely straight friend. TJ was his shy, sweet, straight friend Sean kept promising to himself he’d stop thinking about sexually. Just… Fuck, but just look at him! TJ was so hot, so unassumingly sexy with those flashing brown eyes and plump lips. He had that hot Latin lover look but with none of the confident swagger. No, TJ was impossibly shy, and it made Sean want to do things to him. Dirty things. Mean things that would have TJ begging him to stop all while cumming a river.
Sean clicked to a folder on his desktop. He teased his tongue over his teeth as he opened up the first of many nude images he had of men who looked suspiciously close to the same build and face of his sexy best friend. He was such a cockslut. Get TJ on his knees in front of a dick, and he would totally be a cockslut…
“This is exactly why you need a pet, Sean. You have no fucking clue how to share your life.” TJ’s voice took on a quality Sean tried very hard to block out as he gave a few experimental tugs on his cock. “You seriously need to get away from your computers before you forget how to talk to people. If you give them a chance, they might even like you.”
“They shouldn’t. I’m a fucking bastard and you know it,” Sean muttered. He closed his eyes as he held onto a mental image of TJ with his ass cheeks spread open, and his fluttering pucker waiting for his tongue, his fingers, his cock. If TJ even knew half of what he thought about when it came to his straight best friend, he would never talk to him again.
“Bullshit,” TJ snapped. “Sure, you say some stupid stuff, but that’s it. Everyone says stupid shit. People like you, Sean. I like you, and I happen to be an amazing judge of character. You should come out with me and some of my coworkers. We have a thing every Friday. It’s super chill, and I know you’d have fun if you gave it a chance.”
“I can’t go out,” Sean said a little too harshly. Fuck, he was so hard. Actually having TJ talking in his ear while he was playing with himself was beyond hot. It really didn’t matter what he was saying, just that it was him. The sound of TJ’s breath, his voice was all Sean needed. He could easily imagine TJ in the room, kneeling between his thighs with those perfect lips of his wrapped around his cock.
Aw, fuck. Sean wriggled in his chair and spread his legs wider. With one hand he pushed his pants down his hips, and with the other he reached in and pulled his hard cock out. Sean held his breath when TJ’s voice returned and washed over him.
“I know. I’m not asking you to actually leave the apartment. I was thinking we might have it at your place.”
“Oh,” Sean murmured as he stroked down his rigid shaft. Fuck, this was such a bad idea. “You want it here?”
“Don’t say no right away. Just hear me out,” TJ rushed on. And fuck, didn’t it just sound so fucking good to have TJ try to convince him to fuck him? To take him, and show him what being with a man would be like? Sean bit his lip and tried to drown out what his friend was actually saying.
“They’re really friendly, really nice. Some even help to train the service dogs, so they understand, you know, about people not all being the same. No one would judge you…”
“Uh huh,” Sean whispered as he clicked to another picture. This one was of a TJ lookalike with his hard dick hanging out of a pair of tight white briefs. TJ’s expression bordered on despair, and Sean made the image smaller so he could see the desktop screenshot of TJ being double teamed at the same time.
“And if you got to know people, maybe you’d be more compelled to want to go out, right? I mean, you can’t want to just stay in your apartment forever.”
“Right.” Sean breathed out slowly. His head tilted back as he thrust into his warm palm. “So right. TJ, could you just…?”
“What? What’s wrong?”
Sean grinned as he reached for the bottle of lube he kept in the desk drawer specifically for browsing porn. “Nothing. Just wondering how many dogs humped you today.”
“Fuck off, you ass. They’re just very enthusiastic to see me.”
“Yeah, but how many?” Sean snickered at TJ’s angry growl. He was forced to bite his lip and fight a moan as his lube-slick fingers wrapped around his cock. Fuck. Fuck, he wasn’t going to last like this. Talking to TJ was far more interesting when he could masturbate. “Two? Three? Seven?”
“Damn it, Sean. I’m trying to have a serious conversation with you. This is important. It might be life changing for you.”
“Uh huh.” His eyes fluttered shut as he slowly fucked into his hand. “So… you were saying?”
TJ huffed as he tried to regain his train of thought. “Damn it, okay. I just think it would be good motivation, something positive to make you want to go out into the world.”
“A kitten?” Sean asked with brows furrowed.
“No, having friends over. That is, well, meeting my friends, making friends, and, you know, getting to know people. I think it’ll help you want to leave your place.”
“TJ, driving me out of my apartment isn’t really… Oh.” Sean’s breath skipped as his balls tightened. Fuck, he was already close, so fucking close. He licked his lips and tried to pull back from the edge. He didn’t want to cum yet. TJ in his ear was too fucking sexy to rush.
Hell, if he said his name like that one more time, he was going to blow. “Hold on a sec. I’m trying to focus.”
“Oh. Sorry.” TJ gave him a beat but just couldn’t seem to stay silent for long. “You sound out of breath. Tell me you’re not freaking out over this. I don’t want to freak you out. This is supposed to help, you know?”
“Uh huh. Eight…” Sean murmured as he stroked his cock from base to swollen tip. He squeezed around his sensitive head and slicked his palm in a tight twist before sliding down his shaft again. He was well aware how breathless he sounded and was too far gone to care. He wanted to fuck TJ. He wanted to fuck him hard, relentlessly, until he was crying his name. “Nine.” He glared at the computer screen where his slutty TJ was sucking cock like he was made for it, begging for it. Sean stroked his throbbing length tighter and wondered what TJ’s ass would feel like gripping around him, riding him, as he took every inch of his cock. “Ten.”
“So, what do you think?” TJ prodded, oblivious to how Sean was fading in and out of the conversation.
“How many was it?” Sean chuckled when TJ swore in his ear. “Eleven.”
“Dude, I’m serious. This is… Why are you counting?” TJ’s voice, if possible, became angrier. “Are you exercising right now, you asshole?”
Sean groaned and threw his head back. “I’m seriously trying,” he lied shamelessly as he thrust into his palm again. “Twelve.” TJ would be tighter. He’d be tight, and the noises he’d make being opened by his cock would be loud, desperate. His. Sean’s breath stuttered, and he stilled the rocking of his hips and tried not to give in to the delicious pressure building. “Fourteen,” he shuddered.
“You forgot thirteen,” TJ muttered. “Let me know when you’re done and can actually focus on me.”
He was focused. He was so focused his balls were going to turn blue. “You’re an attention whore,” Sean whispered. He wondered if TJ could hear it, the hard, hungry part of him that wanted him to be his whore. He wanted him always on his knees, waiting for him, TJ’s body his and only his.
“No, I’m just trying to have a conversation,” TJ shot back. “Do you remember those, man? You know, where you don’t stare at a computer all day?”
“I’d go stir crazy… fifteen… if I just sat in front of a computer all day.” Sean’s gaze slipped from the tip of his cock dripping precum, up to the image of TJ with his mouth wide open and full of dick. “What, you want to come to my gym? I’d let you come.” He’d let TJ cum as many times as he wanted. He’d suck him until he was begging for release. He’d fuck that tight hole of his and his mouth; TJ’s lips were made for fucking. They were so plump, so fucking red and perfect for drizzling cum all over…
“Maybe,” TJ mused as the sound of a cage closing echoed over the line. “Free is always good. Gym memberships are so expensive in the city.”
Sean squeezed his eyes shut as a vision flashed in his mind of TJ bent over a weight-bench in a pair of skimpy shorts tangled around his sneakers. TJ’s face and shoulders were bright red, his caramel toned ass and thighs rock hard and wet with sweat. The moans he made were so perfect as he took Sean’s cock and every hard, demanding thrust he pounded into him.
“Fuck.” Sean grit his jaw tight, and his head fell back as his entire body jerked in the computer chair. He came with a drawn-out growl as hot, milky streams of cum pulsed from his tip and splattered onto his sweat drenched stomach and flexing abs.
“Ha, you know, on second thought…” TJ chuckled awkwardly, the sound nearly drowned out by barking as he passed the kennel. “I don’t want to tell you what you sound like, man, but it’s obscene. Pornographic. I hope you go to the gym alone, or people might get the wrong idea.”
Sean, who covered his hand over the mouthpiece of his headset to keep from letting TJ hear the many swears he was cursing as he tried to recover his breathing, returned to his counting in a more even tone. “Twenty… Twenty-one…”
“You’re so full of shit,” TJ exclaimed. “You’re at fifteen, tops.”
“Do you want to count?” Sean’s grin felt too tight on his face as a familiar depression sank around him. It was a dream, a lie of his head. It was always going to be a fantasy even with TJ’s voice whispering in his ear. “What exactly are you saying?” Sean reached for the box of tissues he kept in the same drawer as the lube and wiped the cooling cum from his stomach. “You think when guys do pushups it sounds like they’re fucking? Pervert.”
TJ snorted. His voice was a little too high-pitched when he retorted, “No, I think when you do pushups it sounds like you’re cumming. Totally different, you deviant.”
Sean stared moodily at the ceiling, his mind still full of images of TJ acting like a hungry cockslut for him. Not real. Fuck, it wasn’t ever going to be real. Sean ran his fingers over his chest and thumbed his nipple through his t-shirt. “Just how often do you think about me cumming, straight boy?”
“Gah, stop being gross! I said it sounded. Sounded! I didn’t say I was thinking about it.”
“Right, right. My mistake.” Sean gave TJ enough time to think he let it drop, then added in a low voice, “You’re thinking about my dick right now, aren’t you?”
“Damn it!” TJ yelped while Sean chuckled darkly.
“Hey, you’re the one bringing up fluffy pussy and cum jokes. You’ve got a filthy mind, TJ. I swear you called me just so you could have someone to traumatize.”
TJ’s breath hitched, and all the laughter drained from his voice. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“For fuck sake,” Sean growled. “What, you think because I can’t leave the building, I can’t handle a dirty joke?” His voice was edged with an anger sourced straight from his own guilt. He was jerking off to the sound of his best friend’s voice while TJ—fucking perfect prince TJ—was worried he hurt his feelings.
“You know I would never…” TJ’s words were so slow and cautious, Sean couldn’t bear to hear them. Fuck, he was such an asshole. The things he wanted to do to TJ felt like a sick, demented disease he wasn’t ever going to be free of. He couldn’t have him. He wanted him, and he was never going to have him, and he was just fucking everything up no matter how much distance he tried to put between them. Why the fuck did he keep doing shit like this?
“Sean?” TJ called worriedly. “I said I was sorry.”
“Stop. It’s fine. I’m just fucking with you,” Sean snapped, desperate to have the conversation drop. “Stop acting like some virginal princess who can’t handle a dick joke. It’s just a fucking joke.” Sean groaned internally as he heard the callous words tumble from his mouth. Fuck, he was just digging a hole straight to Hell at this point. He was such an asshole. TJ was a virgin and so fucking sensitive about it, and still, still the perfect fuck was focused on trying to make sure Sean’s feelings weren’t hurt. Shit, why couldn’t he stop being such a dick?
Sean went to pull his pants up, and his gaze fixed on a droplet of cum he’d missed. His eyelids grew heavy as he thought of TJ licking at his skin to clean it. He’d hold it, savor it, a spot of pearly white on his red tongue. “You thirsty?” Sean asked. He couldn’t stop himself even now, even after having once again said something totally shitty to his best friend.
“Uh, a little, I guess,” TJ answered, his tone subdued. “Why, is my voice weird? I was shouting at one of the dogs earlier. It slipped its leash and booked it straight for the street.”
Sean closed his eyes and bit his lower lip hard. TJ sounded like he was sucking cock. He sounded like he was waiting for cum to be dribbled onto those perfect lips of his. He sounded like he was panting in his ear, inches away while touching himself.
“About the cat…” TJ was definitely more subdued. He was being cautious, tiptoeing around him, and Sean hated it.
TJ paused, and this time the awkward silence didn’t fill with laughter. “You know what I mean.”
Sean did, and he took no joy in harassing TJ over it. For whatever reason, TJ was a glutton for punishment today and still hadn’t hung up. He’d been calling him every day now. Sean wasn’t exactly sure why, but maybe he was really worried about the ugly little cat.
“The kitten. He’s a boy, for one. Not that you can tell when they’re so little.” TJ’s tone changed as he tried to lighten the mood like the upstanding, unattainable, perfect being he was always going to be. “He needs someone to love him, Sean. He’s all alone in the world and, well, when I see him I think of you.”
Sean sighed heavily. “Thanks, that totally makes me not want to slit my wrists. Care to throw in how I suck at dating and will never be happy as well?”
“Fuck—Sean, that’s not what I meant!” Sean was pretty sure he could literally hear TJ’s heart crack through the headset. “I want to bring the kitten over so you can meet him. What are you doing today?”
“Jerking off. All day,” Sean said without humor. It was probably true. He couldn’t stop thinking about TJ. Getting away with masturbating while on the phone with him sure as fuck hadn’t helped anything. TJ heard him cum. TJ heard him cum, and even thought he heard him cum. Fuck, yeah, he could totally jerk off to that for an entire day.
Sean sat up and tucked away the tissues and bottle of lube as he waited to see if his rude comment had pushed TJ to hang up or not. “When’s a better day?” TJ persisted, the stubborn fuck, his voice obnoxiously cheerful.
Sean grinned bitterly. “You ever think maybe you’re crowding me, man? I’ve got a shit ton of work to get done.”
“Take a break,” TJ snapped, and all the pleasantries stripped away. “I haven’t seen you in weeks, dipshit. It’s not like you have anywhere to go.”
Angry swearing. The perfect prince was close to breaking. Sean stood from his chair and headed for the kitchen. “Oh, are we throwing that in my face now? Maybe if you spent more time dating instead of worrying over my pathetic ass, you’d be laid by now.”
“My fuck—Sean! No. Giving a fuck about you is not worrying, first of all. Second, you are not pathetic, and I’m so fucking sick of you saying shit about yourself like that.”
Sean rolled his eyes. He should have insulted the cat. TJ was less likely to go into lecture mode when he wasn’t saying truthful as shit stuff about himself. “Uh huh, yup, I’m a perfect angel. You’re right, I’m brilliant. Genius. Yes, I’m a genius.” Sean kept his voice a bored drawl even as agitation tensed his muscles tighter and tighter. He hated this. He hated this more than TJ trying to get him to make friends like he was some pathetic outcast on the playground.
Sean stalked back into the living room and paced as TJ angrily rattled off all the many reasons he wasn’t a piece of shit while Sean continued to treat his best friend like a piece of shit.
“Are you done?” Sean asked when TJ finally took a breath.
“No. You’re an asshole,” TJ added sharply. “You’re totally being an asshole right now. You’ve been acting like an asshole for ages, and I’m sick of it. Stop being an asshole, Sean!”
This was when he was supposed to ask TJ something embarrassing that would send him over the edge and hang up with the declaration of never talking to him again. It was on the tip of his tongue, but Sean couldn’t bring himself to actually say it. If he were a decent human being, he’d just tell him. He’d tell him he loved him. TJ could have a nice cry about how he could never love him back, and then—only then—would it be a promise that TJ would never, ever talk to him again. Because, for whatever fucked up reason, TJ kept coming back no matter how shitty Sean acted.
Sean sighed dejectedly and threw himself into his chair. “Fine.”
“W-What? Wait, what?” TJ stuttered in shock.
“Bring the cat down,” Sean grunted. “Just don’t expect anything. I need order, and a fluffball will only fuck up everything. Not to mention litter boxes are totally disgusting.”
“Please, not having a litter box is way grosser,” TJ joked half-heartedly. “Uh… okay, then.” He managed to not sound happy even though he’d gotten the answer he wanted. Sean was far too used to that tone. He worked hard to make sure TJ wasn’t happy around him.
Fuck, he hated his life.
TJ coughed nervously. “Sean, about Friday. I really do think it would…”
An odd sensation weighed the air around him, and Sean blinked as the hair stood up on his arms. He looked up nervously as the lights faded and buzzed through the apartment. “What?” Flashes suddenly sparked and cracked alarmingly around the room, and he jumped out of his seat with a yelp. “Fuck!”
Sean whirled around, turned back to his computer, and stared in growing dread as the project he was working on for the last two hours flickered strange, glowing symbols.
“Oh, fuck. Mother fuck, no. No, no, no!” Sean grabbed at his hair as sparks shot up all around his computers.
“What… Sean? What a… his…?”
Sean twisted the headset off his ear so he didn’t have to hear TJ’s static confusion. This couldn’t be happening. Hours of work gone. Hours.
The flashing abruptly stopped, but Sean’s work screen didn’t return to normal. A single, large symbol stretched across the otherwise blank screen.
He reached forward and clicked the monitor power, but nothing changed. The symbol remained on the screen, an obnoxious purple burning toward hot pink the longer it glowed. His mind whirred, and Sean crossed the hardwood floor with large strides to the windows. He shoved the blinds aside and peered down with dawning horror at the moving truck out front of his apartment building. “Aw, fuck. This can’t be happening.”
Spirit Movers. Fucker.
“Sean, what the hell is happening? Why is my phone screen glowing purple?”
TJ’s voice finally jolted Sean back, and he twisted his headset into place. “It’s a witch. A witch is moving in.”
“My life is over.”
“Your life is not over,” TJ said reasonably over the headset. It was drowned out by the sound of two light bulbs in Sean’s kitchen popping and showering glass to the tile floor.
Sean spun, went to his computer setup, and slammed his palm on the switch for the power strip. Nothing changed. The strange symbol glowed in taunting mockery on all four of his computer screens. Fuck, the magic was feeding the current. This wasn’t good. He could feel his business along with his little scrap of independence dying right before his eyes.
“We’re not zoned for magic.” Sean’s shock was slowly giving way to anger. “There are over thirty apartments in this building. You can’t just go throwing in a magical element without the right buffers.” Not just an element, it was a magic practitioner. Spirit Movers were contracted only by the magically inclined. It wasn’t one fucked up magically cursed item, but a creator of all things magical about to come into his apartment building. It didn’t matter how much Sean invested in proper shielding, his technology was going to be a hunk of melted metal and plastic the moment a witch stepped into the building.
Four years. He built this business up from nothing over the last four years. He slaved without breaks, starved more than he ate, and only just got to the point where he could finally pay off the fucking loan it took to buy his equipment in the first place. This wasn’t allowed to happen. He couldn’t let this happen. This was his fucking life and he wasn’t just handing it over to some careless, spark happy witch.
“Sean? Hey, are you there?”
“Quiet,” Sean snapped as he looked around his satisfyingly immaculate living room which doubled as his office. He just needed something big, like a bat. How did he live in the fucking city and not have a hunk of baseball bat to slug at intruders? Sean stomped into the kitchen and grabbed the tea kettle off the stove, thought better of it, and reached for a frying pan instead.
“Sean, talk to me. You’re doing that muttering thing. Tell me you’re not losing your shit.”
Sean snorted in irritation. “I’m not losing my shit. I’m just going to go down there and tell them to get the fuck away from my building.”
TJ sighed heavily. “Come on, you know you can’t…”
“Blunt force trauma can still hurt a witch, right? They’re still human, after all.”
“Wait,” TJ interrupted before Sean could storm out the door. “Just take a breath and hold the fuck on. This is a witch we’re talking about.”
“I don’t care if it’s the fucking mayor!” Sean wasn’t sure exactly when he started yelling, but yelling felt like the thing he needed to do. He swung the frying pan, satisfied by the heft of the metal. “Witches have to abide by the same regulations as everyone else, otherwise it’s chaos! I can’t handle fucking chaos.” Sean tried to take a calming breath, his face too flushed and throat tight all of a sudden.
“I’m just going to go down and calmly explain other people live in the building. And bringing any sort of magic into an unbuffered space can lead to the total destruction of any and all electronics.” Sean swung the frying pan again, his mouth set in a grim line.
“Right, tell that to the ass end of a wand when that witch is turning you into a stain on the sidewalk. Just calm down, Sean. My shift is over in an hour. I’ll come by and talk for you.”
“Like fuck. I’m not waiting for you. The second they move all that shit in here, my computers will be fried. That’s thousands of dollars down the fucking toilet.” Sean stopped his erratic pacing and slapped his hand to his forehead. “Oh, fuck, I’ll have to move. They’ll want references. Credit checks. Fuck, TJ, they’re going to want to talk to my parents.” The frying pan fell from his hand and clattered noisily to the tile floor. “I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this. My life is over. I can’t run a business in the same building as a witch, and I can’t move.”
“Breathe. Sean, there is no reason to believe any of that. You’re just making shit up in your head and…” Another light bulb blew overhead, and Sean jumped in surprise. He scrambled until his back slammed against the fridge. Feeling trapped, he glared at the bare socket which was glowing a suspicious purple. TJ continued, oblivious. “People work with witches all the time. Hell, witches are total entrepreneurs, and not only do they hire a ton of freelancers like yourself, but also improve the local economy. I’m sure whoever is moving in has no interest in fucking up your business.”
Sean shook his head fiercely. TJ was too fucking nice, and naive as fuck, and when not sucking cock in his mind, totally distracting in all the wrong ways. “The building isn’t zoned. I have it in fucking writing. I never would have started a tech-based business in a building zoned for magic. I’m not an idiot. Magic kills tech.”
“Breathe,” TJ insisted while completely ignoring his brilliant point. There was a quality to TJ’s voice, a demand, and Sean paused and slowly drew a breath in. He could practically hear TJ’s lips inches from the phone. He wanted to fuck his perfect lips. It would shut him up. TJ just talked too much, and Sean could think of so many naughty ways to make him shut up.
“There, you feel better?”
“No.” Sean ran fingertips over his lips and imagined kissing TJ, sucking his cock into his mouth, and making him so hard he’d beg to be allowed to cum. He liked when TJ begged. He liked when he begged him to be nice, and then Sean wasn’t, and TJ just kept begging for more.
“Take another breath.”
Sean refused; he didn’t have time to jerk off. Thinking about TJ while breathing would only lead to masturbation. He glared around his apartment as a thought struck him. He had it in writing!
Sean stalked to the bedroom and went to the bookcase. He keyed in the combination and quickly rifled through the papers piled within the small safe. It took him a minute to find his agreement with the property management. “It’s in the third paragraph of the lease; no magical interference will be allowed into the apartment. This isn’t just about my business; this is basic regulations to be able to use a television or cell phone. You can’t run a fucking lamp around magic without fear of something fucking up.”
“Then call the property managers and yell at them,” TJ said as reasonably as possible. “For the love of fuck, just don’t pick a fight with a witch.”
Sean growled and headed back to the living room. He jumped and grabbed his chest when the overhead light exploded in shards and trickled onto his head. “TJ, if I could disconnect from you, I would have already. You can take the batteries out of your phone but it won’t make a fucking difference. The witch isn’t even through the damn door yet, and all the tech is fucked in the building.” Sean grabbed his keys from the bowl in the kitchen after he brushed the glass from his hair. “I’m going down there and telling them they’ve made a mistake. They’re out of zone and have to move their truck at least a quarter of a mile away.”
TJ sighed in exasperation. “No, you’re not, Sean. Just focus on your breathing. I’ll be down there in less than an hour. Fine, I’ll blow the rest of my shift off. Just chill, and I’ll be right there.”
“I’m not fucking waiting! You didn’t see my setup!” Sean pointed to his glowing computer screens, only to growl when he realized TJ couldn’t see shit through the headset. “The only other people home this time of day is the elderly couple on the first floor. What exactly are Mr. and Mrs. Luthra going to do? They’re both probably having heart attacks from all their lights exploding.”
“Either that or they haven’t noticed,” TJ said, his voice even and soothing. “The Luthras are pretty laid back. Just calm down. I’m leaving now.”
Sean bared his teeth and growled. “Fuck you. I’m not a damn five-year-old. I don’t need you to hold my fucking hand to deal with this. Fucking bullshit.” Still, Sean stopped his angry march and stared warily at the front door.
“Uh huh.” TJ’s voice was muffled over the sound of a cage clicking shut and the excited mewls of a half-dozen kittens. “Traffic shouldn’t be too bad this time of day. It’ll take ten minutes, top.”
“I go to the gym every fucking day. Every day. I don’t need your help. It’s right downstairs,” Sean insisted, his voice sharp.
“Yup, it’s pretty fucking awesome, man. I can’t drag myself to the gym consistently once a week, and you go every day.”
Sean inhaled sharply as his mind flashed to a vision of TJ in the gym, shorts around his ankles and ass up in the air waiting to be punished for not keeping to the schedule. The little whore. His bad, fucking sexy cockslut.
“Don’t condescend,” Sean muttered, feeling breathless and frustrated at every level. Fuck, he hated his life. Fucking hated it. He crossed the distance and slammed his fist down on the door.
“You know I wouldn’t do that. I seriously wish I could work out. I’m going all flab since I left college.” TJ’s cheerful tone drained away, and in his mind’s eye, Sean could see his friend’s familiar, worried expression. “You know the path is different, Sean. You can’t get to the front door from the gym.”
“Fuck you.” Sean wasn’t sure if he was directing the curse at TJ or the light bulb that just exploded overhead. “My computers are going to be on fire the second they drag something magical through those doors.” He knew what he had to do. He was determined, but when Sean grabbed the door handle, he couldn’t bring himself to turn it. Fuck. Motherfucker.
For a brief, unnerving moment, Sean could see the path it would take to get from his apartment door to downstairs. It was a twisted, crooked walk where the edges felt dark, and every doorway led to a maze of hallways and potential danger. Sean’s heart pounded in his chest loud enough for him to finally notice over the sickening wave of heat lurching through him. Fuck, he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t stay, but he couldn’t leave.
TJ’s voice broke through, calm and full of a reassuring smile. “Ten minutes, man. That’s it. You know how movers are; I bet they take an hour break before they even get started.”
Damn it. Fucking damn it. Sean huffed, stomped back to the living room, and threw himself into his roller chair. His hands were clammy with sweat, and he rubbed them distractedly on his pants while the racing of his heart slowed to something bearable.
“Ten minutes,” Sean said too sharply as he fought to regain control of himself. “If they come through those doors with something computer destroying before you get here, I’m totally blaming you.”
TJ, as usual, was far too agreeable, and Sean found it completely infuriating. “You never told me how many,” Sean snapped. He slumped in his seat and covered his eyes with his hands. He felt small satisfaction when TJ grunted, and his voice lost the placating tone of before.
“Stop being a dick. Dogs jump on everyone like that.”
“They sure don’t hump me, whore.”
TJ sputtered at his crudeness, and Sean fought a wave of heat. He really didn’t want to start calling TJ a whore. He just knew once he did, he wouldn’t be able to stop, and he’d start calling him far worse. Bitch. Dick slave. Fuck toy. Cockslut… TJ was such a hot, sexy cockslut.
“Pretty sure Blake was the biggest dog around,” TJ said under his breath, like he was afraid of how Sean would react.
Sean snorted in surprise. “Fuck, you got me there. Damn.”
TJ chuckled, and his cautiousness slipped away when Sean joined in. “Well, it’s true.”
Sean shook his head while he snickered. The cockslut. His fucking gorgeous, unattainable cockslut.
It took fifteen minutes for TJ to get there, and Sean freaked the entire time. After seven minutes of counting to himself between swearing and stockpiling heavy metal kitchenware for a brawl he would never have, Sean moved to the window so he could glare at the moving truck down below and will it to go away. They just needed to realize the terrible mistake they made and never return. There was no way they could let a witch move in. The building wasn’t zoned, none of the other occupants were consulted—there were regulations, damn it! What was the point of regulations if no one followed them?
He needed to do something. Anything. Sean stomped back to the window and pushed the blinds aside. He ran his fingers along the sill and the sides as he sought the clasp to open the panes. His windows were cost effective models that kept the room at the perfect temperature, but they didn’t actually open. Normally it would have been good news—he never wanted his windows to open—but now it was another barrier between him and yelling down to the men below. He couldn’t even drop a note out a small opening.
He felt like a caveman unable to get an email out to the property managers. He’d have to resort to smoke signals, likely by setting his wall on fire because the fucking windows wouldn’t open! Who made windows that couldn’t open? What, did they think he was going to do, throw himself from the fucking building?
Oh, he might throw himself from the building if it prevented magic from getting inside. He was pretty sure you couldn’t cross a crime scene.
“Crazy. You’re going crazy, dumbass,” Sean muttered. He was completely cut off from the rest of the world without his tech, and he couldn’t remember the last time he felt so trapped in the apartment while actually alone. It was the same brick walls and reclaimed architecture, but it all felt suffocating. Sean hadn’t really noticed how the Internet and telephone were the only connection his isolated world had to the rest of reality. As long as he didn’t want to leave, it was very easy to ignore how he couldn’t.
Sean pulled from the windows before he did something stupid, like attack them with a frying pan. He kept his headset around his neck and focused on the sounds of TJ trekking through traffic and pedestrians as he rode his bike to his apartment. TJ was the only one left in his life who cared about him. Not that he should, TJ was the last person who should care about him.
“Damn it, TJ, stop breathing.” TJ, of course, didn’t hear him. His phone was in his pocket while he biked, and Sean could hear every noise he made. He sounded like sex. Hot, sweaty, grunting sex. Every heavy huff of breath was a torture Sean couldn’t escape.
He needed to do something. Sean growled and took halting steps toward the door. He just had to walk out the door. He just had to open the door, walk down the hall to the elevator, and get out on the ground floor. It was so fucking easy yet impossible. Every minute he failed to leave his apartment was a minute he sacrificed to his tech being destroyed for good. It wasn’t just his tech, but his business, his life. Sean knew it, but it didn’t change anything. Every time he approached the door to leave, his vision grew dark around the edges, and his heart pounded alarmingly in his ears until he couldn’t move.
He went to the gym every morning. Every morning at 7 am, Sean would open the door, leave his apartment, and take the elevator to the second floor. He went out every damn day. He could leave the apartment, he could. But it wasn’t 7am, and he wasn’t going to the gym, and his fucked-up brain knew.
“Sean, you still there?” TJ huffed as he fumbled one handed with his cell phone. “Just a few more blocks left. Do you need me to come up?”
Yes, fucking yes. He’d give anything for TJ to rush up to the seventh floor and save him. TJ could save him, kiss him, and promise to never leave again. They could spend all day in bed where Sean would encourage loud, desperate cries from TJ’s perfectly plump lips.
Sean glared at the door and pulled his headset up so the microphone was by his mouth. “I’m fine. I’ll be down by the time you get here.” He might have to smash the window and jump out to do it, but by fuck, he wasn’t going to let TJ rescue him like he was an invalid. This was his burden, his fucked-up brain of a burden.
He turned from the door and his gaze slipped to where his cell phone was across the room. The screen was lit up with a purple symbol. Whatever the magic circuit was, it didn’t seem to matter how far away Sean stood for his headset to get reception. Sean could understand why they were experimenting lately to try to get magic to work with tech. There were benefits, you know, if everything didn’t end up exploding.
There was hardware that could be installed to keep magic from usurping an electrical current, but the shit was beyond expensive. The landlord was required to install the buffers that protected the workings of the building. There was no way Sean’s apartment was the only one losing light bulbs and electricity. Magic had the potential to be a limitless power source, but without the proper current regulators, it was also quick to fry everything. Hence regulations.
Sean growled under his breath. Why was this happening to him? Why now, after he made such a big deal about finally being independent and not needing any help? Things were tight already. It wasn’t like people were lining up for virus removal when the latest generation of computers came with magical-based defenses he couldn’t compete with. There was a time when magic and tech couldn’t mesh at all. Now there were a few elite dickbags who created magic-based worms to wreak havoc, and then they raked in the cash to ‘cure’ the problem.
Sean would love to be one of the few technicians knowledgeable enough to fix a magical virus, but it required being able to do magic—not a skill you could just learn. You were either born with it or not, and he was happy to be free of the vile stuff. As it was, Sean couldn’t even stop the computer from jumping to an unstable power source whenever magic came too close.
He felt like he was going to jump out of his skin. Sean took quick, careful steps with socked feet to avoid the glass in the hallway and slipped into his bedroom. So far, the room was untouched, and his minimalistic decor, dark furniture with clean lines, and orderly closet were free of broken glass. The way his lamps were glowing purple, Sean had little hope his room would go unscathed for much longer.
He glared into the bureau mirror and gave his sweatpants and stained t-shirt a critical once over. Fuck, he was always a mess these days. Maybe TJ was right. Maybe he needed an excuse to groom and be presentable.
He ran a hand through his messy blond hair and stared sideways in the mirror, so he could catch his gaze from behind the narrow glasses he always wore. TJ liked his eyes. It was one of the things he’d blurt out that left Sean forever guessing if he was flirting or just, well, liked his eyes.
Sometimes TJ flirted with him, but it was in that joking, childish way Sean thought would have stopped now they were in their mid-twenties. Sean was hot, and TJ wasn’t blind or anything, just obnoxiously straight. He was straight but weird about things, like his eyes. TJ called them jewel-green and wanted him to get contacts. And for TJ, Sean would do just about anything, except his eyes dried out too much from staring at computer screens all day.
He could shave, at least, and maybe dress in something that showed off his arms. The exercise was to help him relax, give him focus, make it seem like he wasn’t a fucking crazy person in a cage. He wasn’t going to complain about the six pack abs that kind of showed up overnight, though. The real question was, how could he subtly show them off to TJ?
What was he doing? Was he seriously thinking of using this as an excuse to hit on his best—and let’s face it—only friend? Sean snorted softly. Fucked in the head. He was so fucked. Disgusted with himself, Sean deliberately ruffled his hair into a mess and headed to the closet for something clean.
What the fuck did you wear to meet a witch? Strike that; what did you wear to yell at a bunch of lost movers to keep their client’s volatile gear as far from the building as possible? Sean had a feeling whoever worked for a magic type were either magical themselves, or really fucking tough to put up with all the trouble witches created. Witches were all trouble.
Panic again fluttered in his chest and his clothes blurred before his eyes. Fuck, he couldn’t handle this. A witch couldn’t move in. It had to be a mistake. Once he got down there and talked to the movers, it would all be figured out. TJ was right; you just needed to talk to people. Sean nodded to himself. It was the logical thing. Witches didn’t move into unbuffered buildings.
All attempts to convince himself to dress in tight, ass hugging jeans were eventually ruled out. He wanted to look like he had a job, and that what he said had some damn sway. Sean settled on a semiprofessional pair of khakis and a deep blue polo shirt. As he sat on the edge of his bed and laced up his boots, he tried not to think of the last time he went out. It was four months ago, easy. Sean tried not to count the days. It just made it oppressive to combine a number with his absolutely irrational fear of leaving the apartment.
It wasn’t some big phobia or anything, not really. At least, he refused to call it that no matter how many words WebMD threw around. He didn’t like to leave his apartment. Sean spent a lot of time getting his place perfect, and there was nowhere outside these very stable walls where he felt safe. Things made sense in his apartment, and he was the kind of guy who needed things to make sense.
Magic was one of those things that never worked the way it was supposed to. Not only did it not work, but it broke every fucking thing just by existing. Sean had no interest in being broken any more than he already was.
“Hey, I’m here,” TJ announced cheerfully.
TJ. Sean jumped up from his bed, tugged at the collar of his polo with one hand, and flattened his hair down with the other. He hadn’t seen him in over a month now. TJ kept calling, but Sean would make every excuse he could think of to avoid him. Fuck, he should have shaved. He should have worn the contacts. Damn it, he should have thrown on those totally hot jeans.
“Whoa, have you been out here? Holy fuck.”
Sean quickly pulled himself from the mirror. “What? What is it?”
“There’s a news van with cameras and shit. I should have brought some of the rescues down.”
Sean froze and struggled to swallow the lump in his throat. “Cameras?”
“Yeah, I think it’s one of those celebrity witches. I never follow those things, but everyone looks really excited.”
Oh, fuck. “What do you mean by everyone?”
TJ was oblivious to the strangled tone of Sean’s voice. “There’s like a hundred people out here, and they all have these weird glowing purple symbols on their shirts.”
“Like the one on your phone?” Sean grabbed the wall as his sight dimmed, and it took him a moment to remember to breathe. Fuck, a celebrity witch. They were the worst. They were the worst, and if anyone could bully their way through regulations and laws, it was a magical celebrity. Fuck, his life was over.
“Wait, I think I know who’s in charge. Hold on, buddy.” TJ sounded far too cheerful, and Sean struggled not to vomit. Static crackled in his ear as TJ approached the moving truck and the magical items it held. It was bad. It was really fucking bad if TJ was calling him ‘buddy.’ Fuck. He was so fucked.
He was going to have to move. He’d lose it all; his business, his security, his home of the last four years. Could he ever build it back up again? He wasn’t even sure how he did it the first time. He was a fuck-up, and to have him succeed in anything never made sense. He dropped out of college, slapped something together he called a business the same time the damn industry was dying around his ears. How could he hope to do this all over again? He shouldn’t have been able to even get as far as he had.
Maybe this was the result. Maybe this was how the universe balanced out those few months of stability where he finally felt like he could breathe. Sean knew it was too good to be true. He knew he didn’t deserve any of it. The universe gave him hope, and now it was dumping him back in the gutter where he belonged, broken and useless.
Static crackled right before TJ’s voice cut in again. “…is how it looks. The movers know they can’t bring the stuff in until the regulators come in and finish their installation. Except, well, they weren’t expecting the cameras. Their boss is on their ass cuz he thinks they look lazy. They want to bring stuff in, so they’re looking for the safest items.”
“No. Don’t tell me they’re coming in here with magic,” Sean whimpered. “It’s a mistake. It has to be a mistake.”
“I didn’t say that.” TJ coughed awkwardly. “Okay, I totally said that. They haven’t yet, though. They know they can’t, but they really need to look like they’re doing something. They’re trying to get a hold of the property managers, but I guess traffic is messed up from the crowd, and it’s making it difficult for them to get here. Holy shit!” TJ made a noise Sean only ever heard from the mouth of an excited teenage girl and toddlers of all genders. “That’s a phoenix! There is an actual phoenix out here. Oh, my fuck, a miniature dragon! Sean, it’s no bigger than my arm. Get down here right now. You don’t even understand what you’re missing!”
Sean slumped against the wall and groaned. Damn it, TJ turned into a total flake the moment something fluffy and idiotic showed up. “Yeah, I’m good right here.” Cameras, a crowd of star-struck fans, and magical monsters who never walked the Earth outside of a witch’s power? There was no way in fuck he was going near any of that. No doubt a permit for those exotic beasts would not be available upon request. “Did the movers mention when they’d be leaving and taking the magic with them? Tell me they’re just using the parking lot.”
TJ, who was distractedly cooing at something likely capable of eating him alive, was too interested in the animals to sugarcoat things anymore. “Dude, she’s moving in. It’s the right address and everything. Have you been listening at all? The regulators messed up the time. They were supposed to be here before the movers but got stuck in traffic. The news messed everything up. It’s Magnolia something or other. I guess she’s a big fucking deal. Like the next big thing in the magical world.”
Fuck. Motherfuck. This couldn’t be happening. What was he supposed to do?
“Sean? Are you…?” TJ was cut off by a cheer. It was quickly joined by other voices until it was a roar of one word shouted again and again.
Oh, fuck. Sean pushed off the wall and threw himself at his bedroom door. He stopped, turned, and grabbed the lease from the bookcase. He couldn’t let this happen. He couldn’t.
“Do you need me to come up?” The sound dulled as TJ ducked somewhere quieter. “Sean, are you okay? Tell me you’re not freaking out up there. I know stuff like this can seem overwhelming, but you can’t build it up in your head. The movers aren’t through the door. There are trained regulators on their way to prevent any issues with magic going haywire. You have absolutely nothing to worry about. Sean? Are you listening?”
Sean wasn’t listening. He could barely breathe. His life was fucking over. Approved. The management approved the move without telling anyone, and now his life was over.
It had to be the shock. When chaos swept in, doorways stopped looking like barriers of safety to his fucked-up brain. Sean couldn’t really explain it, the same way he couldn’t explain why it was so difficult to leave his apartment when it never used to be. His front door slammed behind him, and his steps were muffled on the hall carpet as he stumbled to the elevator. He needed to keep the movers outside. He’d chain himself to the door. He didn’t have a chain, or a lock, or any sort of plan really. He hadn’t even thought to bring the tea kettle. It didn’t matter; he needed to do something before every scrap of stability was stolen away from him.
A witch couldn’t move in.
“Sean, is that the elevator I just heard?”
“I’m fine,” Sean said automatically as he punched the button. “Stop worrying over nothing.”
There must have been something in his voice. TJ became both stern and impossibly calm all at once. “Sean, I really don’t think you should come down here. There are a lot of people, and I know how much you hate crowds.”
TJ wasn’t even trying to lie to him anymore. “I’m fine.” Sean felt strangely calm, actually. Could he barricade the doors with something? There were two large potted plants by the outer doors, if he remembered correctly. Maybe he could drag them in front of the doorway and then stand in front of them.
“Just stay where you are. I’m coming up. Have you eaten yet? I’ll get us takeout and we can throw a DVD on. It’ll be fun.”
Right, cuz spending time with the gorgeous best friend he couldn’t fuck was always a delight.
It was. Fuck it really was. He loved TJ so much.
Sean remained silent as he watched the numbers light up and the elevator glided down. He hadn’t taken the main elevator but the one that led to the gym on the second floor. There was a private stairway only the residents knew of. TJ wouldn’t have a fucking clue, which would give him plenty of time to run around the building and throw himself in front of the doorway. Once he showed the movers the clause in the lease—a binding fucking contract—they’d have to back off. There was no way magic was getting into his building. Regulations mattered. Rules fucking mattered.
Sean was relieved to find the hallway empty when the elevator doors swung open. Broken glass crunched beneath his boots as he stalked past the gym entrance. He brandished the rolled-up lease in his hand like a sword as he threw the inner door open that led down a brief flight of stairs into the small tiled room that contained a rundown vending machine, faded stock painting of the ocean, and askew rug by the door. Sean paused and stared at the vending machine critically but eventually dismissed it. There was no way he’d be able to carry it all the way to the front of the building, even if it would be the perfect size and weight to block the doors.
He was five feet from the exit when the heavy security door swung open. Sean staggered to a halt as someone slipped through the gap. It was a slender, dark-skinned woman in fashionable sunglasses and a wide-brimmed black hat. She turned her back to him and peered out the door, then quickly shut it tight with a sigh.
Sean’s mouth gaped open when he recognized the pointed tip on the top of the newcomer’s hat. Witch! It was the witch! “You’re… You can’t,” he stammered and waved his lease accusingly. “You can’t come in here until the regulators set up!”
“What?” Magnolia turned with a sculpted eyebrow quirked inquiringly. “What can’t I…? Aw, crap.” Sean followed to where she was looking the same instant the florescent tubes above shattered in a rain of glass. Purple flames glowed from the bare circuits and shot outward with a violent roar.
Sean squeezed his eyes shut and ducked down to protect himself from the shards. Heat seared his face, but it was the sound of static that reminded him too late. He fumbled blindly for the headset hooked on his ear the same moment it combusted into flames and the vending machine exploded.
“Holy fuck! Why is everything made of shit here? Damn it.” Magnolia pulled a wand from the metallic leather purse hanging off her arm and whipped it at the vending machine. “Son of a…!” The purple glow flared into a roar of flames in response to the magic, and the vending machine shuddered and began to melt. “I hate tech. I fucking hate it.”
Sean groaned from where he was curled up on the tiled floor. His sight was consumed with glittering flames, and the only noise was a loud ringing in his ear and muffled voices. Everything hurt. Everything. It hurt even more so when he went to move, and his muscles screamed in protest. Sean struggled to get up onto his trembling knees and found blood streaking his khakis. His hands were scraped raw from shattered glass and wouldn’t stop shaking.
Black high heels, shiny with a stiletto heel, stalked past where he was kneeling and stopped. “Jamie? Jamie, what the fuck did you send me into? You told me the regulators would be all set up. There is a crowd of dumbasses wrapped around this entire building!”
Sean swayed and tried to focus as darkness dimmed his eyesight. His face was on fire, possibly literally. He grasped for where the headset once hung, his fingertips stiff and throbbing pain. “What happened?” He clasped his hand over his ear and blinked rapidly, but nothing made sense. Sean’s gaze followed the stiletto heel up to a narrow, cocoa skinned ankle and shapely calf. Nausea churned his stomach the moment he tried to raise his head any higher, and Sean gripped the back of his neck as he lurched forward.
He missed the angry shriek as what was left of his lunch sprayed onto the floor. Sean’s thoughts were a jumble of half sights and confused memories. He fumbled fingers around his left ear, and his brows furrowed from the strange sensation. It felt wrong. It didn’t feel like anything; it was like plastic and strange twists. He wasn’t sure if it was because his fingers were messed up, or his ear was very, very wrong.
Sean couldn’t tell how much time passed as his body revealed every ache and pain, and he tried to figure out if he still had an ear. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to pull a breath in. Air was elusive as he gasped and fought to get his lungs to work. The door that led into the apartment building crashed open, and TJ came barreling through. His tanned face was flushed red, and the shirt he wore for the animal shelter was stained with sweat. Sean couldn’t tear his bleary gaze away; he’d never seen anything so beautiful.
“Sean!” TJ’s dark eyes were huge as he froze and stared at where Sean was hunched on the floor. “Oh, fuck.” Blood was splattered on the tile, and Sean’s clothes were smoking a strange, dark purple color. TJ’s gaze fixed on the side of his head where Sean couldn’t hear, and his expression crumpled to heart wrenching for a moment. Without another word, TJ jumped down the steps and crouched next to him.
“It’s okay. I’m going to get you an ambulance.” TJ reached for his back pocket before remembering he no longer had his cell. “Fuck, I had to throw my phone when it started smoking. The thing blew seconds after I heard the explosion in here. Fuck.”
Dear fuck, he loved him. Sean stared dazedly up into TJ’s worried face. He could laugh about gaining flab from not working out, but TJ was gorgeous, fit, with the most calming, loving smile. A weak smile curved Sean’s lips as he stared at the fear in TJ’s beautiful, brown eyes flecked with gold. He seriously loved him. Dying wasn’t remotely scary just so long as TJ was there.
“Sean, hang in there. Fuck.” TJ looked up at Magnolia, who was pacing the small room as she snapped orders into her phone. “Hey, can you make a call? We need an ambulance.”
Magnolia didn’t stop her agitated steps as she glanced disinterestedly in their direction. “No, that’s not going to happen.”
“What?” TJ glanced away, only to turn back slack jawed. “You’re the witch,” he blurted.
“I’m a master sorceress, not some backwater wiccan.” She sighed and stopped walking. “Magnolia DeVaun. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.” When recognition failed to reveal on TJ’s face, Magnolia took her sunglasses off. She looked him up and down with an assessing gaze, and a smirk twisted on her perfectly glazed pout. Her sharp eyes narrowed as her gaze fell to Sean. “His wounds are superficial. It’s nothing a few healing spells can’t handle.”
“No! No magic.” Sean lurched back and tried to scramble away. He only heard half of what was exchanged, but he was certain any wand pointed his way was going to kill him. TJ went to grab him, but Sean slipped from his grasp when pain shot through his body. “My computers. My phone was in my apartment. I have to see if they’re dead.” Sean gasped for air while he muttered in desperate bursts. He couldn’t stop shaking, the motion a quiver through his entire body.
“Sean, calm down. Just…” TJ sighed helplessly when Sean stumbled from his well-intentioned attempts to help him, and he fell to the ground. Sean clutched the side of his burnt face as he struggled to breathe.
“What’s wrong with him?” Magnolia stomped over and glared down at where Sean was heaving for air on the floor.
“Besides the fact he’s been in an explosion, his glasses are melted to his face, and one of his ears is full of metal?” TJ snapped rhetorically. “He’s having a panic attack. You came in here before the building was buffered, and you fried his entire business. Not to mention we can’t even get an ambulance in to get him patched up because of all the traffic from your appearance. None of this was handled properly.”
“Hey, the regulators were supposed to have been here already,” Magnolia said defensively. “This is the only building zoned for commercial work in the area. Believe me, I would have preferred something upscale and modern, but the competition over territory rights is brutal for professional magic users. I was told this would all be straightened out before I got here. As for that mess outside…” Magnolia stalked to the outer door and pushed it open with a scowl. “I don’t know who tipped the fucking media, but there’s no way I can stay out there with those crazies. They think magic is a fucking god-code or something, and none of them want to pay for it. Do you want to go out there and make stupid disappear?”
TJ glanced at the gap of the door and found a dozen people staring back, standing only feet away. All of them were wearing shirts with the purple symbol once blazoned on his now fried phone. “Shut it. Shut the door,” he hissed under his breath.
Magnolia huffed and glanced over her shoulder. She jolted when she saw the crowd gathered around the entrance. “Damn it.”
“Magnolia, can I get your autograph? Oh, a photo! Smile Magnolia!”
Magnolia’s expression twisted to pure disgust, and her voice was clipped and cold when she spoke. “Sorry, darling, but your camera isn’t buffered properly.” Her wand twitched between her perfectly manicured fingers, and a camera in the crowd fizzled into a smoking plastic heap with a cracked lens. Enthusiastic oohs raised in response.
“Awesome! Can you sign it?” The girl, whose camera was smoking on the ground, turned wide eyes to Magnolia. “Please, it’s gotta be a collectible now.”
“Magnolia, curse my camera too!”
TJ coughed in disbelief, and his unease grew as more people ran up to the open door. Someone was shouting outside, and he had a terrible suspicion it was a call to the large group of fans at the front of the building.
“I loved your interview in Tricky. Is it true you’re still looking for love?”
“Are you challenging Mistress Flora for enchanting rights this season?”
“When you cast, do you need to use your dominant hand?”
“Magnolia, just one picture.”
Magnolia took a step back as someone grabbed the door, and the crowd surged forward as one.
“Magnolia, my mother is really sick. Can you bless her foot for me?”
“Her foot?” Magnolia stared blank faced as a human foot was shoved in front of her nose. It was severed at the ankle and was apparently from the holder’s mother. TJ had to give her credit, Magnolia sounded incredibly calm once she found her voice. “Sorry, I’m in the middle of a move right now, and I’m not taking new customers.”
TJ grabbed Sean by the shoulder and pulled him up roughly. “We’re leaving. Now. Right fucking now.”
Sean swayed and grabbed TJ’s arm for balance. Even though all his senses were a mess, his nose seemed to be compensating. TJ smelled good, of sporty body wash mixed with the scent of his sweat. Sean licked pained lips and wondered what it would be like to kiss him. TJ couldn’t get angry at him when he was half exploded. He might even kiss him back…
Sean stumbled again and nearly fell. He couldn’t keep upright, and he wasn’t sure if his legs were fucked up, or it had to do with his weird ear.
“No, run. We’re running.” TJ hauled Sean and helped push him forcefully up the small flight of stairs. “Your place, then we’ll figure out how to get an ambulance. Shit, two feet. Why does she have both of her mother’s feet with her? Holy fuck, what a psycho.”
“TJ, I can’t breathe,” Sean protested. He grabbed blindly for the door before it could smack him in the face.
“Breathe later. Those were pieces of a fucking person. Holy fuck, the smell.” TJ fumbled with the door while he shouldered Sean upright. He stilled when a slender hand reached from behind him and pushed the door shut. “What the fuck are you…?”
“Quiet.” Magnolia spoke a few clipped, foreign words under her breath. A black void formed in the center of the door and pulsed out to consume the wall in front of them. “Hurry up or I’m leaving you with these freaks.” She smacked her hand on TJ and Sean’s shoulders and shoved. Sean tried to resist, but his feet refused to listen, and he was propelled forward into the dark portal.
“Honestly, the nonsense of all this. I gave clear instructions to everyone. There was absolutely no reason any of this had to happen. The couch; no, not that one! That’s older than the country. Put him over there by the cages. No… Did I stutter, Jamie? You assured me this was taken care of. I arrived and it was a madhouse. I had to port just to escape the crazies. You promised me a simple, productive move, not another freak convention. That skitzo was out there again, this time with another foot. I don’t care how it looks in the papers…”
Magnolia’s voice boomed as she paced back and forth and her high heels clicked angrily on the hardwood floor. Sean had no idea where he was, and his gaze struggled to focus as TJ half guided, half carried him to a couch and made him sit. The architecture looked oddly familiar, and with a wince, he realized he was still in the building. Magnolia had an apartment in his building.
This wasn’t happening. None of this was allowed to happen. The lease, crumpled to the point of unrecognizable, fell out of Sean’s hand. He didn’t notice since the sensation failed to reach his fingers. Sean shook uncontrollably while TJ pulled his feet up and turned him until he was stretched out on the buttery leather couch.
“Sean, breathe. Just breathe. Can you hear me?” TJ’s face peered down at him, and Sean focused on his kind expression. Sweat dripped from TJ’s short black hair onto his forehead, and it made him look ruffled and out of control. His brown eyes, usually on the verge of laughter, were full of tears as he looked Sean over.
“Your face is burned.” TJ gingerly touched Sean’s glasses where the metal was fused to his flesh. “You’re lucky your skin didn’t melt off. What the hell happened? I heard an explosion, and my phone blew up a second after. This can’t just be from exposure to magic, right? Did she curse you?”
Sean couldn’t speak. His breath was caught in his chest as TJ leaned over him and his mouth edged close to his. He wanted him, needed him. Having TJ worry about him was this fierce, selfish joy Sean didn’t ever want to release. He wanted him.
“She broke me,” Sean whispered, unable to pull his gaze from TJ’s perfect mouth.
“What? Sean, I need to know if she—uhhh…” TJ blinked rapidly as Sean crossed the small space and brushed their lips together.
Perfect. He tasted perfect. Sean exhaled heavily and fell back on the couch, the effort having exhausted him.
TJ stared down at him as his cheeks quickly flushed red. “Sean, are you…? Are you even…?” He gave up trying to talk when Sean shut his eyes and curled to the side. “Uh, right. You should rest. I’ll, um, get you some water while we wait on that ambulance.” TJ straightened from where he was crouched and gave him a final questioning look Sean kept his eyes closed through. He walked unsteadily from the room, and Sean let himself relax fully on the leather sofa.
He shouldn’t have done that. Fuck, he really shouldn’t have done that. It was hard to feel guilty when he could still smell TJ’s scent and still taste him on his tingling lips. He wanted TJ to come back and cuddle with him, curl around him until he slept. TJ could feed him soup and dote on him for as long as it took for him to heal. He could move into his place and kiss him to sleep every night, and when Sean was finally better, TJ would do more than kiss. He’d slip between the sheets and give his body to him, his cries, every drop of cum…
A dream. A cruel lie of a dream.
Sean couldn’t remember a time he wasn’t head over heels in love with TJ. For one miserable year he tried to convince himself TJ might return his hidden feelings. It was the same year Sean was disowned for being gay and ended up living on TJ’s sofa. Nothing good came from revealing his sexuality. If anything, Sean felt cursed, a victim to a long line of emotional assaults where his parents abandoned him, his friends rejected him, and love, love was always one sided.
Sean tried not to love, just, it was impossible when it came to TJ. He was selfless, caring, and always calm among the worst of storms. While Sean’s world forever spiraled out of control, TJ was a rock of compassion and generosity. It wasn’t like he was particularly rich or anything; TJ lived in a little flat in a slummy part of the city, but somehow it was idyllic. His job didn’t pay much, but he loved every moment of it. TJ had friends, confidants, people who made him smile and brighten, and it all just came so easy for him.
Sean knew he could only bring misery to someone as perfect as TJ, but he couldn’t let him go. If he were a decent human being, he would have pushed TJ away years ago. He tried. Fuck, he was a bastard every time they talked, just to make TJ see reason. TJ still hung in there trying to make Sean into someone worthy he could show off to his friends. And fuck, Sean wanted to let TJ pretend he could be better if it kept him reaching out. He’d rather be an asshole, than completely broken hearted and alone.
“Jamie, I said call the lawyers. I don’t give a fuck what time it is over there. I have a sparker with half his face blown off, and I don’t want to be sued.” Magnolia’s angry steps stopped. “What, water? Yeah, fine, this way.”
Silence descended as Magnolia led TJ to the kitchen, and her steps clicked and faded. Sean sank back into the couch with a heavy groan. He was in throbbing pain and lost in a numb buzz of red that had no relief even in his mind. He blinked his eyes shut, surprised to find they were open. His brain wasn’t processing anything properly, and the darkness behind his eyelids felt more real than the room he was in.
Would anyone care if he died in that explosion? What if his head was severed just as cleanly as that foot? Would anyone miss him? Would the clients waiting for their computers to be fixed demand to find out what happened to the IT specialist who let them down? Would his parents call TJ to see if he somehow died hetero with a girlfriend? Would TJ think about him fondly on the anniversary of his death while shaking his head about how Sean wasted his life?
He was wasting his life. He hadn’t achieved anything, and when he came close to being okay, it was all taken away.
Sean’s eyebrows furrowed as something hot and silky brushed his forehead. Breath teased over his wounded cheek and stung through the descending numbness. Sean reached up to brush the strange sensation away, and his burnt fingers connected with something solid and large hovering over him. Soft.
TJ would care. He was the only one who cared he was alive. It was a burden on him; Sean was either a burden or a fuck up. He couldn’t do anything right. He couldn’t be what everyone wanted him to be, and the only option was just not to be at all. His parents would be happier to never have a son. TJ’s life would be better if he never had to check up on his neurotic, social reject of a friend who was not so secretly in love with him.
By default, Sean’s life would be much easier if he stopped existing. He couldn’t even get his fucking brain to let him walk through a door when he needed to.
Breath ghosted his forehead, and Sean cracked his eyes open. The darkness remained, and his blurry gaze focused on long, black strands of hair as lips brushed the side of his face. A hot tongue lapped his singed flesh, and Sean gasped as the world rocked. He squeezed his eyes shut and groaned as pain, heat, and a soothing noise washed over him.
Was that… was something purring?
Sean’s glasses clattered to the floor, and it took him a moment to realize they were no longer seared into his skin. “What?” he mumbled as wet heat burned up his neck. Sean clutched weakly to a shoulder, powerful muscle and hot skin firm beneath his shaking hand. A hot mouth latched onto his ear. “What are…?” Sean tried to pry his lashes open, but they felt too heavy to move. His face contorted, and he jerked as pain lanced through his head. “F-Fuck,” he choked out. His ear felt on fire—on fire while being ripped off and chewed up.
Sean’s hand was pulled free from his death grip on the stranger’s shoulder, and lips rubbed over the damaged flesh. “Hurts,” he whimpered as every inch of skin those lips and tongue touched roared with fresh pain. He wasn’t sure if the skin was peeling from his bones, or healing as he clutched at the hand holding his. A pins and needle sensation followed as Sean’s nerve endings tingled, and his brain tried to process whatever the hell was happening.
TJ? Something… someone… “Oh.” Sean breathed out softly as his fingers were sucked into a hot mouth, and a velvet tongue coated and caressed his digits in long, sensual strokes. The pain slipped away to be replaced by a new madness. A heat flickered through Sean, and flames lit him up from the inside out with every suck and lick to his skin. Teeth nipped at his fingertips and Sean gasped and reached his free hand up to tangle into silky hair.
It was good, so good, and he needed more. With an unsteady exhale, Sean tilted his head and sought the mouth tormenting his hand. Lips swiftly covered his, and he groaned as he was devoured by demanding, consuming kisses.
Sean fought the dizzying motion of the room and used his handhold of hair to tug the stranger closer so he could nip at his lush lips. Saliva dripped hot down his chin as a tongue plunged and stroked into his mouth to explore and taste. Fire roared through his sluggish body, and Sean moaned and rocked his hips as he sought friction for his aching erection. “Y-Yes… Again. More,” Sean whimpered as he humped against the hard body hovering over him and ground against a bare thigh.
Rough hands pulled him up and wrapped him into a powerful embrace. Sean sluggishly chased the lips trailing wet over his jaw. He wanted to taste him, needed to tangle with his tongue again. He tried to pull the hard, muscular man closer, but each kiss drained Sean of the little energy he had remaining until he felt boneless and lost. Sean’s head fell back on the couch as his body refused to hold itself up. He moaned in despair until lips returned and kissed him in a hungry burst.
It was perfect, so perfect, and he groaned to find he couldn’t pull the other down against him the way he wanted. The only relief was when hands ran possessively down Sean’s heaving chest and sides as they sought the hem of his shirt. Yes, this is what he needed. Skin on skin.
“Sean, I have your…” TJ’s voice cut off, and he froze in the living room entrance. “What the hell? What the fuck is that thing?” The water he was carrying fell from his grip and shattered to the hardwood floor in a spray of liquid and glass.
Magnolia followed at the sound of destruction and stalked into the room. She pulled from her phone with a dark scowl once she caught sight of Sean and his mysterious kisser. “You son of a bitch. Bad! Back in your cage this instant!”
Sean groaned when he was released abruptly, and he sank heavily into the couch. His body was dripping honey, his lips swollen and tingling, and his cock throbbing for release. It took a few tries, but he eventually managed to crack his eyelids open. Beautiful purple eyes gazed deep into his for a frozen, perfect eternity. Sean sighed and blinked. His eyes refused to open again no matter how desperate TJ’s voice became as it echoed in the darkness.