Archiving: just ask.
Date: January 2003.
Notes: This piece is a standalone insert to Chapter 7 of Nancy's Malfoy, P.I., from Harry's POV, before Draco drops by. Noir.
For Nancy, with fond admiration, on her birthday.
I hate wearing a tux. Always have. I hate the tight fit across the shoulders, the way the bow tie cuts across the jugular, the way the cufflinks make my wrists sweat. Itīs not so much the look I hate-Iīm not a fool. I know what I look like in a tuxedo, and Iīm not complaining.
Itīs not about appearances--you could pass a Melrose mechanic off as a Moroccan prince if his suit was expensive enough. Especially here in L.A. No, this is deep-seated, some instinctive dislike of form-fitting clothes Iīve never been able to figure out. I donīt know why, but I like things baggy. Slipping into the luxury suits and silk shirts and Armani jackets is a private daily ritual of forced discomfort that I make myself endure for my business associates, my clients, my colleagues, my neighbors--my life. Such as it is.
Or such as it was. I try not to think about it most of the time, but itīs there, lingering in the back of my mind like an ambulance-chaser lurking in the back of an ER, just waiting to pounce the moment the victim is alone with his injury. I know all those people Iīve been dressing up for all this time, all the people Iīm still dressing up for, tonight, have forgotten about me, most of them intentionally. I know the ones that still remember do so with a kind of blanket pity, so sympathetic, to cover up the fact that theyīve already written me off for dead. That as far as theyīre concerned, my life is already a `was.ī
I keep telling myself weīll show them. And I keep forcing myself to wear these damn luxury suits, because the moment I admit that it doesnīt matter, Iīve lost. Plus thereīs the simple matter that I look good in them, and I like looking good in them.
I thread the silk bow tie around my neck, under the stiff, politician-white collar, the points of which have already begun to wilt under the stifling L.A. heat. Iīve gotten used to living without the constant use of the air conditioner, because I canīt bring myself to contribute to the cityīs god-awful pollution epidemic, but tonight my willpower is tested, and I have to shut the windows to block out the heat. The smog hovers over the city tonight, trapping all the heat and dirt and grime and tension and sex and blood under one polluted gray canopy.
God, I hate LA.
As I shut the windows I wonder for the thousandth time what I decided to settle here for, why I felt that under all that grime this city is worth something. Iīm still searching for the answer, by day and more often at night under her dim streetlights and in the backrooms of her lonely bars. So far all sheīs given me is a closet full of suits, enough money to send the kids Iīll never have to college five times over, and a lot of hangovers. And, for whatever reason, Iīm still here.
I tighten the bow tie around my neck, like the figurative noose, and between the sweltering discomfort of the suit and my own preoccupation, the heat is suddenly unbearable. Iīm restless, very restless for some reason, and I try to tell myself it has nothing to do with a phone call, and a soft, too-gravelly voice that had sounded surprised and warily pleased to see me, and about a casual meeting in, oh, any minute now.
That voice... I try to push it out of my mind and start trying to slick back my damp hair. I am pent-up, stifled, and frustrated, and feeling a little like a racehorse thatīs just been retired with no track to run.
Though at the moment I wouldnīt mind being put out to stud.
Involuntarily a vision of porcelain-gray eyes shimmers in my mind, intelligent, light-filled eyes as haunted as the Queen Mary, as haunting as a manīs first view of the Pacific. Those eyes, beautiful, challenging, with lashes so thin and laced with so much silver that when he blinks itīs like catching a ripple of sunlight on a stream. Hair I dream about tangling in my fingers, pulling until he gasps, until that sharp, defiant mouth opens for me. That smooth, flushed throat, perfectly chiseled out between the arcs of his neck, in a way that demands a bottle of white wine being poured right over the hollow--
Oh, god. I have to stop thinking about him. I really donīt have time for a cold shower, and even if I did, I canīt let him take over my thoughts. I have a stockholderīs banquet tonight, and theyīre all waiting for me to show up with my tail between my legs so they can express their pity for me. I wonīt let them. I have every intention of being myself, and showing them that no matter what, Harry Potter is not about to quit, murder trial or no murder trial. Besides, he wouldnīt expect anything less of me. And how heīd scoff if he knew I was standing here pining away over the sound of his voice, for godīs sake.
Right, thatīs it. No more crushing. There. Done. See? I can quit any time I want to.
Ginger, who has been lying in the corner looking at me mournfully, as if she suspects me of doing something ridiculous like lying to myself, suddenly leaps up and perks her ears eagerly, her dog tags clinking together. She is out the door and down the hallway even before the doorbell rings, and I shake my head, wondering how she does it. Even though we agreed on six oīclock, I have to quell a sudden childish urge to peek through the window and make sure itīs really him. Instead I hope I havenīt kept him waiting too long and open the door.
God, heīs gorgeous. I drink him in for a moment, the sight of all that loose, sexy fringe of hair falling around a taut jaw line, the sudden widening of his eyes when he sees me all dressed up--and now Iīm really not complaining about the tight fit, and--is he stuttering? Heīs stuttering.
Oh, god. Maybe Iīm not the only one with a crush.
I smile at him before I can stop myself, and then, overly conscious of what that smile might reveal, barely remember to invite him in. I have a smooth, collected persona I depend on like an auto-pilot, and I switch it on now, while my mind races to figure out what heīs thinking. We make small talk. Talk about Ginger. About his cat--of course he owns a cat, and of course its name is Marlowe. I canīt stop watching him. His clothes are slightly rumpled and his hair is disheveled, and he was made for it. He is nervous, I think, and trying to hide it. I donīt see him that way often--but Iīve thrown him off guard, and instead of making it easier for him to recover, I find myself wanting to keep him off-balance. At the moment itīs either that or I forget about this banquet and drag him upstairs to screw him into the mattress.
I realize Iīve been staring at him. Or maybe heīs been staring at me. Iīm trying to figure out which, when he shifts on the couch. Itīs the kind of shift that makes me very aware of every line of his legs underneath the fabric of his trousers, and the arch of his chest under his shirt.
Suddenly I need a drink.
I stand up and offer him one too. His eyes never leave mine. They are glimmering with alertness and something else altogether. I wonder if I should risk it. The tension between us is as thick as the smog outside, and I can almost put my hand into it and see the line of want and hesitation between us. If I cross that line, what then?
Then, oh, he stutters again, and I donīt just cross the line, I play tic-tac-toe with it.
"Would you like it straight up? Or do you want it on the rocks?" Iīve never seen anyone flush so quickly, or so beautifully. Automatically my voice drops. "Tell me how you want it, Malfoy."
His name leaving my lips changes everything, at least for me. I am thinking about what I really want to say, the name I want ripped out of me between kisses so hot and heady you could get drunk on them. I havenīt been drunk on this sort of thing for a long time. I havenīt lots of things, and Iīm drawn to the idea that a kiss from those pale lips could make everything new again. He makes me feel like a kid going to his first pro baseball game, where everything is ten times more exciting and loud and big than you ever dreamed it could be--and every ball could be the one that lands in your lap.
I am trying my best not to smirk at the image as I hand him his drink. For the next five minutes he talks to me, and I respond like a rational, sane human being, and the whole time I am watching his mouth, the faint lines around his eyes, the way his hair feathers out just above his temple. I am a heartbeat away from leaning forward and just running my lips over it, over the pulse point in his throat, right above that hollow I canīt stop thinking about. The only thing that prevents me is the knowledge that once I start touching him, I wonīt be able to stop.
Itīs too much, too fast, too soon, the warning in my head is saying. I know this, and I donīt care. If the case ends badly, then I donīt have time to care--and even though I know itīs a mistake, I can't shake the desire, and I'm starting to think that neither can he.
I don't want to hurt him. And I know getting involved with one of his clients can only hurt him. But I can't help it. It's too late. Maybe it's been too late ever since I walked into his office and saw those grey eyes for the first time.
Maybe, just maybe, he feels the same way.
As we're walking to the door a famous LA tremor jolts the floor, and to keep from sprawling all over the floor I clutch his shoulder.
I was right. Once I've started touching him, I can't stop.
I can't make myself pull away, and I see by the half-wary, half-eager expression in his eyes that he doesn't want me to. The heat around us is nearly overpowering, and I find my relief in the coolness of his lips.
At first it's barely a kiss, only a slight pressure from my mouth to his.
But then, oh heaven, he kisses back, and it's--oh. I've had lovers, but this kiss is like touching magic. It is power and possibility and thrill and fear, all at once.
He moans, softly, so perfectly, and like a sudden, irrevocable tremor through my soul, I understand why I have stayed in L.A. all this time.
I stayed for him. I stayed for this.
And, I realize with a sudden, permanent resolve, I have no intention of leaving.