Groaning in frustration, Jeff rolled over and buried his head under his pillow, trying to shut out the noise coming from the bathroom. Sadly, it didn’t work. It was times like this that he wished he hadn’t shaved all his hair off in a buzz cut; he felt like he could use an extra layer of insulation. “Oh my God, River, if you don’t shut the fuck up right now, I will end you. I swear to Christ.” Usually Jeff was glad that being in an internationally famous pop-rock band hadn’t changed his best friends and bandmates at all; tonight, he was a little less grateful.
The loud, purposefully off-key rendition of some bubblegum-pop single coming from the bathroom only increased in volume after Jeff’s shout.
Jeff sat up quickly, grabbed his pillow, and launched it at the open doorway. It landed with a muffled thud
just inside the arched opening. Jeff’s eyes felt gritty, and his fingers were cramping. His thoughts felt foggy and disconnected, despite the focus his irritation provided; he was so tired he felt like he wasn’t even fully conscious anymore. “Seriously, man, if you want your balls to still be attached tomorrow morning, you need to shut up and let me go to sleep right now.” If there was one thing he could be glad of in all this, at least they were famous enough now to have relatively nice hotel rooms with thick walls, not the paper-thin motel walls they’d dealt with in the band’s earliest days. The last thing Jeff needed on top of dealing with River was complaining neighbors or a manager knocking on his door.
Dancing out of the bathroom, hips swaying to a beat only he could hear, and clutching Jeff’s pillow in his hands, River sashayed into their shared hotel room. His startlingly blue eyes were bright and his lips were stretched into a wide grin that bordered on psychotic. “Maybe that would help me hit the high notes better.” He followed that statement up with a line from a Whitney Houston song, purposefully flubbing the high note with a screeching wail. It was really bizarre how someone with such a normally perfect, beautiful voice could actually mangle a song that badly.
Glaring, Jeff scrubbed a hand over his buzzed-short hair roughly. “You hit the high notes fine onstage. It just seems to be after—you know, when it’s three in the fucking morning and you’re keeping your bandmates up in their hotel rooms and bus call is at seven fifteen—that you seem to have a problem.” His voice was scraped raw with exhaustion and anger.
An exaggerated pout on his lips, River propped his slender hip against the dresser, the waistband of his pajama pants slipping dangerously low, revealing the jut of bone they barely clung to. “Why do you think that is? Oh my God, you don’t think something’s wrong with my voice, do you, Jeff?” He looked over at Jeff with wide eyes filled with obviously fake panic and flapped his hands around wildly.
Growling, Jeff clenched both hands into fists and willed himself to stay calm. His sore fingers throbbed lowly, like they always did after a show, the pain helping ground him. Jeff knew River wasn’t really trying to drive him crazy; this was just how he was after being onstage, but that didn’t make it any easier to keep his temper in check. “No, but if you don’t let me get some fucking sleep, I will choke you to death
, and then neither one of us will have any more problems for the rest of the night.”
Pouting outrageously again, River turned and jumped on Jeff’s bed, bouncing up and down obnoxiously. The tone of his voice slipped into a grating whine. “Je-eff
, why are you being so mean to me?”
Jeff’s teeth snapped together with an audible click, and the minor aches in his muscles flared to life at the jarring movement. Kicking out a leg, Jeff pushed against River’s thigh and shoved him off the bed unceremoniously.
River hit the ground with a muffled oomph and blinked up at Jeff owlishly from the beige carpet for a few seconds, his already absurd eyelashes looking even longer fluttering around his wide, shocked eyes.
Maybe it should have concerned Jeff just a little at how vindicated he felt looking at the River-shaped heap on the floor, but then again, he was really feeling too ground down to care. Smirking, Jeff pointed toward the clock on the bedside table. “Because it’s late and I’m trying to sleep and you think it’s perfectly acceptable to sing terrible pop songs and jump on my bed and just generally be a nuisance and keep me awake at this godforsaken hour.”
Genuinely frowning now, River climbed up on the bed again, sitting on the edge cautiously. Exhaling softly, he mumbled hurriedly and tugged nervously on one of the dark curls brushing his shoulder. “I’m just really having trouble winding down from the show.” The manic energy that had been clinging to him all night seemed to bleed away marginally, and he looked just as run-down and weary as Jeff felt.
Jeff rubbed a hand over his face; he knew that—they all did. River had always had trouble winding down after performing even when it was just a basement show at a friend’s house party in front of a few dozen people. Normally Jeff was really sympathetic and didn’t mind River’s particular brand of crazy, but normally he didn’t feel like he could fall asleep standing up in the middle of a sentence either. Jeff liked taking care of the rest of his band, liked being there for them, and he honestly wanted to help River wind down. But exhaustion was dragging at Jeff, making his brain sluggish and slow. He wasn’t really thinking his words through properly, especially in the face of River’s genuine distress, making him spit out the first thing that came to mind. “I get that, I really do, but God, why can’t you just be normal and jerk off to relax like the rest of us?”
Perking up, River leaned forward like that was the most fascinating idea he’d ever heard, a thread of excitement in his voice. “Is that what you do?”
It took real effort to fight down the groan that threatened. Internally, Jeff replayed what he’d just said and River’s rabid curiosity on the subject. Oh God, he was actually going to have to talk about this. Nodding absently, Jeff got up to retrieve his pillow. He completely regretted bringing it up, but he was trying to act like he didn’t care, attempting to keep his face blank, his responses casual, and his movements easy and relaxed. “Sometimes.” It wasn’t like he and the rest of the boys never talked about sex, but this felt different.
River cocked his head to the side, curls falling into his face in a limp and sweaty mass after River’s rather enthusiastic jumping around—onstage and off—all night long. “Yeah?”
Shooting River a pointed look, Jeff climbed back under the covers and arranged his pillow the way he wanted. “Yeah, you know coming makes most guys pass right out.” Jeff hoped he took the hint and decided to try it himself and leave Jeff alone.
River bounced on the bed and frowned. He looked down at his crotch like it had disappointed him somehow. His voice plaintive, River whispered, “I don’t really want to right now, though.” How he could pout and whisper at the same time was a mystery of science.
Jeff punched River in the thigh and growled again. This conversation had gone so beyond the threshold of weird and into another realm altogether, and Jeff was half-delirious anyway. Somehow it was easy to grind out, “Jesus, River, just go jerk off in the bathroom and leave me alone.”
Face pale, eyes wide, and body tense, River looked stricken now. He stared at Jeff, and a strangled “What?” sounded like it barely escaped his throat.
Strung out and desperate, Jeff infused as much authority into his voice as he could. Telling one of his bandmates to go jerk off in the next room wasn’t really what Jeff normally considered acceptable behavior, but he was committed to the idea now. “Go. Jerk. Off. Now.”
Flushing, River hurriedly scrambled backward off the bed, stumbling and struggling to get his feet under him. “O-okay.”
Jeff frowned at the odd behavior and watched River walk into the bathroom, then close the door. When the sound of the shower cut on, he rolled over with a little huff. He wasn’t exactly sure what had just happened between them, but he hoped whatever it was mellowed River the hell out. Except that thought led to Jeff thinking about exactly what it was that was going to have River feeling so mellow, and suddenly Jeff couldn’t escape the reality that River was only separated from him by a couple pieces of drywall and a door with his hand wrapped around his cock just because Jeff told him to—somehow, he’d managed to ignore that part when he was suggesting it. The idea was scorchingly hot, and had it been anyone other than one of his bandmates in there on the other side of that door, Jeff would have had no problem in letting his brain explore the idea further—probably with a hand shoved down his pants. Jeff had always thought of his sexuality as fluid in just about every capacity; he didn’t believe in limiting himself—and possibly missing out on an opportunity—when it came to pleasure. But that was River in there, and it felt so wrong to let himself get off on the idea of River getting off. Jeff figured if he had to draw a line somewhere, here was a good place to start, no matter how primed and ready to go his imagination and his body were.
Jeff’s only option was to ignore it, roll over, and finally get the sleep he’d been pleading for all night. It was just that the longer he lay there, the harder it seemed to get comfortable, the harder it seemed to ignore the idea of what was going on in the bathroom. Jeff lifted his head and shoved at his pillow with impatient jabs, trying to force it into a comfortable shape. When he’d first lain down after changing into his shorts and worn-thin tee, the pillow had felt so comfortable—like resting his head on air—but now it felt like a rock beneath his head. Jeff shook out the sheets and blankets covering him so they lay smooth. Logically he knew the sheets were high quality, high thread count and everything, but they felt scratchy and paper-thin and he just couldn’t seem to find the perfect arrangement for them to feel right lying against his skin. He rolled over and then rolled over again, willing the mattress to get softer beneath him with every turn.
Jeff tried thinking about anything and everything other than River getting himself off only a couple dozen feet away. Jeff thought about chord progressions, but that just led to thinking about hands, which led to thinking about hands wrapped around cocks. He thought about bus call in the morning, but that just led to thinking about how quickly he could take a shower and brush his teeth, which circled back to the bathroom and what was currently going on in the bathroom. He tried thinking about the new song he and Josh were working on, but then that just bled into how great River’s voice would sound singing it, which turned into River’s voice in general, which turned into curiosity about River’s voice when he was getting off. Was he a moaner, a gasper, a talker? Would he sound as lyrical in bed as he did onstage?
Giving up, Jeff flopped over on his back. His head was pounding, and his eyes kept trying to slip shut, but his heart was racing, and his cock was tingling and swelling between his thighs. The steady drum of the shower felt like it was drilling into Jeff’s skull, teasing him with the idea of what the noise might be covering up—the sound of flesh on flesh or quiet gasps or watery moans. Jeff’s skin felt hot and stretched too tight, and his blood buzzed beneath the surface of his skin.
Angry at himself for getting aroused and refusing to jerk off, Jeff rolled over on his belly and pressed his swollen cock against the mattress in a pathetic attempt to relieve the pressure. A lick of fire raced up Jeff’s spine, and Jeff panted out wetly against his pillow. Screwing his eyes shut, Jeff trembled beneath the sheets, and his skin broke out in a fine sheen of sweat, the scent of it mingling with the clean scent of laundry detergent and filling Jeff’s nose. The tang of Jeff’s precum mixed in, and it smelled like sex, drawing Jeff even deeper into the realm of desire. The urge to wrap a hand around himself was so strong, but Jeff battled it back, refusing to let it overwhelm him.
The door to the bathroom opened, and River stepped out in a cloud of steam. Every line of his body seemed more relaxed, and his movements were graceful and deliberate—not the spastic, jerky mess of excess energy they had been. River’s face was flushed, but his eyes were heavy-lidded, his ridiculous eyelashes almost brushing his cheekbones, and there was a soft, satisfied smile barely curving his lips. He looked sheepishly over to where Jeff lay. “Good tip, thanks.”
Mumbling acknowledgement under his breath, Jeff flipped over and tried to ignore the way his erection twitched at the relaxed, blissed-out look on River’s face. His cock was now a steady, thrumming ache between his legs that felt like it was squeezing the breath out of his lungs and chasing away all coherent thought. The heavy heaping of guilt he felt knowing he was thinking about one of his best friends in such a blatantly sexual way did nothing to cool his arousal.
A few moments later, the light clicked off, and there was the rustle of sheets from the other side of the room.
Despite the darkness and the quiet and the steady, easy rhythm of River’s drowsy breathing, Jeff was still wide-awake. His mind was racing with heated thoughts and phantom images, and his blood was pumping quickly through his veins. His dick was swollen with want and need. His breath was uneven and his skin slick with perspiration. The room felt hot and too small and far too public with River lying only feet away in the other bed. Jeff felt trapped in his own body. Suddenly, enduring terrible renditions of top forty singles didn’t seem quite so daunting.