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Jiang Li was the only person who had her own ringtone in his phone - and the only one he'd interrupt a date for. The girl - she was new assistant manager at the alternative apparel store he used to work at - was in the middle of this boring story about something he wasn't interested in anyway, so he held up a hand to stop her mid-sentence and answered the call. Jiang was crying and without a second glance to his date, he stood up and left the restaurant. He told her to meet him at his apartment, and once she arrived, he took one look at her and pulled her into a hug. He wasn't the most physically affectionate person - not even with his own family - but Jiang was the exception. "Jiji, I'm sorry," that she was crying, not that she and the piece of shit she called a boyfriend had broken up - since he'd always hated him. But he hated all of her boyfriends. He didn't see what she saw in any of them; none of them were good enough to her.
"Sit down," he kissed the side of her head before letting her go, walking with her into the living room (and through to the kitchen - which he hardly ever used, except for alcohol; he didn't cook), "I'll make you a drink." He pulled out a highball glass rimmed in gold (he'd bought a set of four at Mardi Gras) and made her a sex on the beach (he only kept the peach schnapps at the apartment for her), and brought it out to her. "Emily or whatever his name was," Seiko knew his name but he never called them by their names, "Is an idiot." And he looked like a goddamned hobo before Jiji changed his wardrobe - Seiko remembered not being impressed. He didn't even have a real job (that he remembered; honestly, he had no idea what he did). "You've always been better than him, smarter than him, more successful than him, more talented than him; you are the most beautiful person in New York... present company excluded," part of what drew him to her in college was that she was as attractive as he was - and then he grew to like her for her fashion sense and her personality. Who wasn't in love with her? She was practically the muse for New York Fashion Week.
Seiko faced her on the couch. "As far as I'm concerned, Emily can drop dead," or be run over by a Porsche, he was not as picky as people thought he was
when it came to violence, "He peaked in his life the moment you gave him a second look." Who the hell needed him anyway? Jiji didn't. She had him - and he would never make her cry. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Seiko smirked in response, but the amusement (at someone else's expense - especially someone he hated) was softened by his affection for her. He was glad she had ended things with what's-his-face; he wouldn't admit to being jealous, but he knew her better than her boyfriends did which was how he knew that none of them were worth a damn. Dragging people's shitty choice in clothing was one of his... it wasn't even a guilty pleasure, he did it all the time; and he was never sorry because he was always right. "I could choke him with one of those flip flops," he mused resentfully. Cargo shorts were the signature choice for bargain shoppers with no sense of style - and flipflops were not shoes. No one should be allowed to wear them outside of their own backyard. It was the worst part of summer: that and the tourists sporting backwards baseball caps and sunglasses.
Jiji didn't want to talk about her ex which was fine by him - and he smiled at her when she touched his face, interlacing his fingers with hers in her lap. She must have been crying all day but she still looked beautiful. No raccoon eyes, although he didn't think he would've minded that look on her (as compared to some people who looked haggard as hell - or like some reject from a bad superhero movie wearing a half-assed eye mask). He was thinking about that to distract himself from what he wanted to do; he wanted to kiss her. He'd never not been attracted to her but he and Jiji had never been together in that way, and less than a hour after her break-up was stupid. He knew that it was stupid. And admittedly, he didn't usually let logic interfere with his impulses because he was greedy and impatient - but Jiji was different. He actually liked her, not just the way she looked.
But it went without saying that he was better for her than anyone she'd dated - he knew what she liked (and what she didn't like - she was upfront about both which he loved about her because he was the same way), and he'd never make her cry. And they looked so good together. Seiko leaned forward carefully, into the touch of her hand, until their faces were very close together. "You are perfect," he said to her seriously, and kissed her mouth. It was short, his spiral piercing barely pressed her lip- so much for impulse control. And because he wasn't sure how she'd react - he decided to protect his (not inconsiderable) ego but letting go of her with a smirk; then he changed the subject, forced casual, "Come to Webster Hall with me tonight," it was a nightclub in the East Village, and tonight one of his favorite DJ's would be there. He had planned to take his date but this was better. And it might be good for her to be photographed going out, having a good time, with him instead of her ex (let that be all over Instagram).
But it didn't open until ten so they had a few hours. "Let's get dinner first," he still hadn't eaten, since he got up and left before the food arrived
and he might've left his date with the bill. Maybe he'd take Jiji there instead, his date probably cleared out by now. "Then we'll go, cover's on me," it was thirty-five dollars per person but it was in Manhattan so that wasn't steep - and he liked the place, "We'll drink, you'll eviscerate some fratboys who think they have a chance with you, it'll be fun." Unfolding himself from the couch, Seiko stood up and gave her a once over, "You look great." She always looked good at his place. If she wanted to change, he'd take her by her place - but she didn't need to. "Me, I'm going to change this," the lip piercing, "You should see what I picked up today," He had bought this sterling silver lip ring with a chain that connected to his collar. He couldn't wear it at work but he could wear it out. "I want to-" know what you think. The only person whose opinion mattered (other than his own) was hers.
But he was cut off mid-sentence by his phone going off. An annoyed look crossed his face and Seiko fished out the phone from his pocket. He knew it wasn't an important call because the ringtone was standard and sure enough, the name ("Sydney" No Last Name) and number that flashed on the screen were the girl's from the restaurant. The one he ditched. And given that he had zero interest in calling her back (because she was
not Jiji boring), he muted the ring and tossed the phone back on the couch.
Seiko didn't linger on the kiss; it didn't last long enough for him to taste anything, and while she didn't pull away from him, she didn't respond to it either. He didn't mind taking her by surprise but he did not handle rejection well (he told himself this was because it so rarely happened, and even when it did, not with someone he genuinely cared about since he could count on one hand the number of people who mattered to him). And he didn't want to know if she didn't want him. She was too important to him.
Seiko had never dated anyone for six months. The longest relationship he had was with Jiji and it was the only one that wasn't about sex. That's what he looked for; someone attractive enough to sleep with. And because he didn't care about personality - he could pretend to be interested in anything long enough to get his partners in bed - sometimes he ended up in the most boring situations. He didn't mind that Jiji saw the display and he arched a brow in response to what she said (and what she didn't say). "You'd think they'd take a hint when we get up and leave - but they never do," he replied wryly, "She was boring." Sitting through that dinner was making him work too hard for what he wanted which was... a distraction.
It was one of his patterns, especially once Jiji hit the three month mark with a guy. It wasn't jealousy. Jealousy was the look on their faces the first time they met her - saw her in person, no instagram filter. No one could compete with her. He loved it. Seiko led her out of the living room and down the hallway to his bedroom. It wasn't the first time she'd seen it; he had a lot of clothes, a lot of jewelry, full-length mirrors, magazines, and a computer. There was one frame for pictures - one of those large ones with several cut-out rectangles for up to ten pictures to display. He didn't put out baby pictures, or family pictures, but he had ones of himself - and of Jiji, and of them together. He flicked on the light and raised her hand to his mouth, kissing one of her knuckles before letting go of her hand.
Seiko took a step back to get a better look at what she was wearing and then pulled off his white shirt, tossing it on the bed. He ran his fingers over a dozen hangers before he settled on the jacket. It was black velvet with a white peacock design on the right, and modified on the left shoulder with black spikes. He slid it on without the shirt because that wasn't what he wanted her to see. He reached for the velvet box on the dresser, unfastened the spiral piercing from his lip, dropped it into the silver tray where he kept most of his studs, and pulled the silver chain out of the box.
"Will you help me?" He didn't like to ask for help and he didn't - technically - need help. He could've done this himself in front of the mirror, but he wanted an excuse to be close to her. She hadn't pulled away from him and he knew she wasn't one to mince words if she didn't like something - but he wasn't sure she liked it either. And he didn't want to... "I'll do the lip if you'll do the collar," he hadn't experimented with it in public yet - whether or not he could kiss with it on, or if that would pull too much on the fabric - but it was shiny and expensive, which was why he bought it. He supposed there was the risk it could get ripped out and scar him for life but he liked it so much, he wasn't deterred (by the gruesome thought of being disfigured).
And he didn't need a mirror to put in his own piercings, so he hooked it into place, running his tongue over the unfamiliar weight of the chain, and gave her the other end to fasten to the jacket. "Would you kiss someone with a face like this?" He was asking about the piercing
Seiko smiled against her fingertips, dropping his own hands to her waist. He ran his thumbs lightly along her sides before splaying his palms against her lower back. He was too arrogant to entertain the thought that he could be a rebound to Jiji but he had never acted on his feelings for her before; and she was never single for long (unless she chose to be - there was no shortage of men who wanted her). Seiko liked hearing those words because she reassured him (although he'd never admit to needing reassurance), and he felt smug over the fact that there were no more tears in her eyes. She was teasing him and he believed her, believed she wasn't thinking about her ex right now. "You always tell me what I want to hear," he murmured, touching his forehead to hers. She was so good to him.
He could have stayed here with her but going out was his idea, and he didn't want to disappoint her. He did want to show her off - and show himself off, of course - so he released her to pick up his phone and his keys, before leading her out of the apartment. They took an Uber to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn; it was nicer than the one he ditched his first date at, better menu, white and red sangria he knew Jiji would like, with the kind of clientele who side-eyed people like him who walked in (he didn't mind being stared at, all attention was good attention as far as he was concerned). And dinner was better with her than with anyone else he bothered to take out (before taking them home), because he cared about what she had to say. They had similar interests. She didn't bore him.
And after dinner they took a car to the East Village, got out between third and fourth avenue, and crossed the street to the club entrance. The line stretched around the corner of the building at a quarter to eleven, but he and Jiji decided to cut the line; why should they have to wait with the average-on-a-good-day looking people? Security waved Jiji in with a leering look - they weren't the only ones looking at her, and Seiko would've been surprised if no one recognized her because she was famous (both on the runway and on social media) - and he followed her inside. Webster Hall was warm and crowded, and it took his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the purple and white lights illuminating the dance floor, the bar against the far wall, and the DJ's booth on the second floor. Seiko slid an arm around her waist and threaded his way through the crowd with her to the bar.
Seiko ordered a double shot of whiskey even though he knew that meant he'd wake up with the hangover from hell tomorrow. "Somebody is trying to get your attention," he lowered his head to speak close to her ear, the only way to be heard over the thrum of the music without shouting. His voice was neutral with only the slightest edge of mocking - he wasn't jealous of people looking at her, but he realized he'd started to think about this as a date even though it wasn't. He indicated the other end of the bar with his glass, where two guys - mid-twenties, both blond, not bad looking objectively-speaking
but not as good-looking as him - were staring at her. One glance would be enough to encourage them to come over, to ask her to dance, and even though nothing had happened yet he already hated them.
This night was about Jiji, and she could do whatever she wanted (as she was well aware), but he supposed he wasn't very good at 'unselfish' acts. There wasn't anything 'unselfish' about this: he wanted to go out with her, be with her, not watch her with someone else. The thought of it annoyed him. Unsurprisingly, the two of them managed to work up enough confidence between them to make their way through the crowd before he finished his drink. If she turned them down, he would enjoy that (no one had a sharper tongue than her, not even him - although he thought he could hold his own). "Will you put them out of their misery?" he teased her mildly, making the effort not to sound as jealous as he felt.
Seiko admired the effortless shift in his Jiji's expression, deceptively sweet with her bottom lip caught between her teeth. He glanced away from her to his drink but his head was tilted ever so slightly towards the conversation. If you could call it 'conversation' - and he didn't hear anything he hadn't heard a dozen times: she was beautiful, the most beautiful woman at the bar, did she want company (he felt slighted by the question and scowled into his whiskey), did she want a drink, did she want to dance, they even introduced themselves but Seiko did not bother to remember their names.
Average names for average men who weren't putting in enough effort to earn Jiji's interest. But this wasn't the part he enjoyed; it was what came next: how clever she was when insulting them, the bite to her voice, and the turn of her body to him. He liked what he heard, smirk deepening with each carefully uttered syllable, and flicked the empty shot glass away from himself, watching it slide to the lip of the bar before he met Jiji's gaze. "That was masterful, my queen," he murmured warmly, matching her grin with his own. He loved her tongue, and he could count on one hand the number of people who could get away with telling him what to do. Jiji made it easy, giving him what he wanted - a night with her, and no boyfriend. "Dance with me," he replied, turning his head into the brush of her fingertips against his jaw. He pushed away from the bar and touched the small of her back, running his hand along the fabric of her jacket until he reached the collar. Then he carefully pulled the jacket off of her, easing it off her shoulders and her arms. He gave the jacket to the bartender with two twenties, informing him that he was going to watch it for them. The coat check was a nuisance and it was on the other side of the club.
He took that hand in his, leading her away from the bar and between the leather booths framing the crowded floor. Still, the masses seemed to part before them and he released her hand only once they were in the middle of the floor, bathed in purple light that glinted against his piercings and caught the color of her fingernails. Seiko released Jiji's hand as the DJ blended two songs, and he took her by the hips, pulling her into him until there was no space between them. "I think about this, you," us, "All the time, Jiji. At work, after work," he smiled at her, unrepentant, "With other women. There is no one but you." Mirroring her movements with his own - until they were perfectly in sync - he brushed two fingers against the tantalizing strip of bare skin at the top of her left thigh, revealed by her black pants. Sometimes he preferred to dance with her facing outward, to show her off to the crowd, but right now he wanted to see her face.
They may as well have been dancing in the privacy of his apartment because he wouldn't have noticed anyone else, he barely heard the music (and this was a DJ he enjoyed listening to). "I love you," he said to her instead - not exactly a surprise, but not something he meant to say here and now. But he did love her, no strings attached. And he hardly loved anyone; he loved himself, of course (some - not him
and not Jiji would say to excess) and he loved things. Expensive things. Designer clothes. Shoes. Cameras and flatscreen plasma tvs. Piercings made of gold and silver and diamond-studded titanium. But no one, in fact, outside of the obligatory 'love' he had for the people he was related to by blood - made the list.
Seiko would choose all of those things over someone else. Exception: Jiang Li. He loved everything about her: that face that could stop a room full of designers at Fashion Week, that beautiful body, the clothes she wore, the insults she drawled, her taste in fashion, in business, in music and food and entertainment. "And I... want you." In this - and only this - he was no different than the others; but while they could lust for her off-stage, he had her in his arms. At least for now. And he didn't want to let her go.
Seiko didn't know what it meant, the catch of her breath in her throat and the way her body faltered against his. He had no intention of apologizing for the timing or the words - he never apologized - but he inwardly wondered if he had made a mistake. He didn't want to believe it was 'too soon' because her ex was... insignificant to him, he couldn't imagine that anyone loved Jiji the way that he did. And if he didn't tell her now and she found someone else, he would regret it. And he hated to regret anything.
He was unused to feeling vulnerable, he hadn't in years - and he always made a point to be the one on top, so to speak, taking advantage instead of being the one taken advantage of. But admitting what he felt to Jiji eased the tension thrumming in his body, the tension of wanting someone without acting on it. Jiji knew almost everything about him - with two glaring exceptions. He was not proud of where he came from, so he rarely spoke of the work he'd done for his uncle, in the pawn shop he owned. And connected to that, of course, was what he could do: turning garbage into gold, literally, if only for a few hours at a time. It didn't bother him to have that power; to be honest, it was more proof in favor of how exceptional he was. And there were some who knew what he could do, but most of them were... not the sort of people Jiji would be interested in spending time with. And he didn't know if she would be as impressed by his skill (considering what he used it for) as he was. She might think he was a freak. And if he was ever going to tell her about it, it wouldn't be tonight.
Jiji said his name and the whisper of it - no one had ever said his name like that - made him want to kiss her. It encouraged him to confess that he wanted her, head bowed towards hers to minimize the height difference between them. She kissed him and her mouth seared over his; he smiled into the kiss, teeth grazing her bottom lip as it deepened. He ran one hand along the tantalizing arch of her back to the back of her neck, pulling her into the shadow of his body. Jiji broke the kiss to catch her breath and he did the same, his forehead pressed to hers. She'd enveloped him in her arms, holding him close, and he did not want her to let go. "I love you," he repeated, acquiescing easily to her demand. It wasn't anything he didn't want to say, hadn't known for years, and he kissed the corner of her mouth, "I've wanted you since the first time I saw you," he dipped his head to kiss her cheek, the delicate line of her jaw, to her neck. He kissed her throat, leaving a trail of impressions against her skin until he reached her ear.
And since he really couldn't resist his own ego, especially now, he murmured promises to her, "I can satisfy you, Jiji," in ways her exes couldn't, he was that confident - and he knew her that well. With a brief kiss to the pulse in her neck, he raised his head to look at her, eye-level with that beautiful face. He kissed her mouth and said, "I can make you happy," happier than she'd been with the others. He could be everything she needed - or wanted - in someone else. He kissed her again, slowly, memorizing the shape of her lips, how soft they were, the stroke of his tongue against hers, and he thought about picking her up and carrying her out of this club, her legs wrapped around his waist. He loved her legs.
And he had no interest in Webster Hall, the music, the DJ, or anyone else. He only wanted her. He broke the kiss momentarily, just enough to speak against her lips. "Say yes, Jiji," he coaxed her with a smirk which curved into a genuine smile, "Say you'll be with me," exclusively, that's what he wanted. He was far too jealous to agree to anything less than all of her.