A couple of years back, Jack and Steven had been drunk at a bar while Seth babbled about how baking was exactly like chemistry in a feeble attempt at picking up a doctor.
"Baking soda," Seth said seriously, eyes huge, "is half--wait."
"I saw this on Good Eats," she had said.
Seth had pointed at her. "I fucking hate Alton Brown," he'd growled.
"I'm leaving now," she had announced.
Then, Steven turned to Jack and said:
"If you weren't such a cunting bloke I'd turn you right over and fuck you senseless."
Jack had decided to take that as a compliment. "Thanks," he'd said.
"A pleasure," Steven had agreed, and then paused to frown. "Christ, you'd make a fucking hideous bird."
Then, they'd all passed out and been found in the alley afterward. Jack was proud of still having his pants in the morning, and Seth was lucky to still have his hand, considering that it had somehow ended up down Steven's pants in the course of the night.
"Does this mean I get to call you Steve now?" Seth had asked, stumbling toward Jack's car.
"This means we act like good Englishmen and never speak of this again," Steven had explained pleasantly, "or I rip your kidneys out."
"Hey, wow, look at those cloud formations," Seth had exclaimed brightly.
Nolita is hip and probably a blip, Jack knows. It has all the earmarks of an ambitious New York restaurant in one of the emerging food districts and none of the class and Paxil that's actually needed to sustain the venture.
Jack is still basically convinced that Pino is going to eat his face off one day, or that Jack will wake up on the couch of his office and find a fucking horse's head next to him. It should say something about how much he wants this--wants the restaurant, wants the adrenaline, wants not to prove everybody right--that he's staying.
At 3 a.m. Wednesday Jack rolls off of the couch, almost causes himself permanent damage, and then creates a whole fucking new seafood dish that has a playful medley of Spanish flavors and the zinging citrus of limes, the verdant flavors of cilantro and the warm, sunny sweetness of roasted sun-dried tomatoes.
When Teddy comes in, he yells at Jack about being a moron and not understanding the soul of the fish and then he throws the dish out--fixes it, and it somehow comes out completely different and exactly the same and so delicious that Jack and Teddy sit in the fucking kitchen at 6 a.m. and eat themselves stupid.
"We probably shouldn't enjoying this so much," Jack says.
"Shut up," Teddy says between mouthfuls. "This is the best not-sex I've had in weeks."
"There's something wrong with us," Jack mutters.
Then Steven comes in, dashes straight to the meat locker, and makes orgasmic noises over the shipment of fresh venison that just came in.
"Do not put that down your pants!" Jack yells.
"Would you just look at it!" Steven demands, voice muffled by the half-closed door. "It's so beautiful! It's just asking to be loved!"
Jack races toward the meat locker. "I'll kill you!" he yells.
That night, they serve forty-six orders of lasagna, and it kills a piece of Jack's soul every order up that comes in for it. There are variations of course: meatless, spinach, different cheeses. All of it could say UTTER SHIT for all Jack cares.
At eleven-thirty, somebody orders the fish. Jack stands miserably at the doorway of the kitchen, looking out the porthole window, gauging the reaction.
"Oh my God, did they like it? Tell me they liked it?" Jack says, nearly assaulting Cameron when he comes back in.
"You've lost your fragile grip on reality, Jack," Cameron says gently. "Chloe? Can you show Jack your breasts, honey? He's losing it."
"Did they like my fucking fish, Cameron?"
Steven puts a hand on Jack's shoulder. "I fucking love your fish," he says sincerely.
"You were putting venison down your pants," Jack says bitterly.
"Oh!" Cameron says, lighting up. "They love the venison, Steven."
Jack puts his face in his hands and whimpers.
"Now, now, Jane," Steven says comfortingly, rubbing his shoulders.
Cameron looks at them for a good thirty seconds before he says hopefully.
"You know, I've always wondered about this, you two are very close. Is there any chance that by getting you hugely blotto that you'll make out and let me take pictures? Because I have to say, the aesthetics there are just deeelish."
"Nobody is interrupting my special time with Jane," Steven says firmly.
"Steven's so fucking heterosexual he has to take a break every now and then," Jack snaps, and slaps Steven's stupid, venison-fucking hands off of his shoulders. "Go away."
Cameron pouts for a while before he turns back to the dining room. The kitchen's quieting down, last orders trickling in, slips of paper slipping into the trash and the temperature starting to fall. Jack always knows how late at night it is by how clammy he is, sweaty and coming down from an adrenaline high.
"Hey, Janey," Steven says.
Jack looks up from the account sheets that night. There are two Stevens in the doorway and no beers in Jack's stomach; a depressing but true fact Jack has learned is that exhausted sobriety is essentially the same as ecstatic inebriation.
"Yeah?" Jack says, rubbing his face.
Steven grins at him and winks. "She loved the fish, mate."
Jack grins all the way home.
Steven's an asshole but he's Jack's asshole, and if Steven had tits, Jack would do him--hairy back or not.
On Steven's birthday Jack makes Seth bake him a cake in the shape of a penis.
"What the hell," Seth demands.
"It's his favorite thing," Jack explains, as if to a very slow child.
Seth points a knife at him--but it's a pastry knife, so you know, whatever. "I am not making a cake in the shape of a meat stick, Jack."
Jack opens his hands and his arms, smiles broadly. Teddy, who is doing something that sounds completely gruesome and would probably be even more gruesome if Jack had the visual to go with it, is snickering.
"Seth, it's Steven. It's his birthday. What the hell are we going to make him a cake of if not his dick?" Jack says reasonably.
Seth looks like he could cry.
"Aw, come on, Seth, you sold your ass for dental," Teddy says.
Seth glares, and then he makes the cake.
"Oh my fucking God!" Steven says, practically sparkling with delight. "This is the best fucking thing I've ever fucking seen in my fucking life!" He holds up the pan.
The enormous cake-cock is swollen and weirdly shaped at the head because Cameron had come in a little drunk and gotten frisky, but they mostly covered it up with horrible, pinkish icing. Then, Jack put chocolate shavings on the balls. "I hate all of you," Seth had said.
"And it's life size!" Steven adds.
Jack bursts out laughing because seriously, he fucking loves Steven.
Then Steven wraps Jack up in a hug like he's taking a one week break from heterosexuality or something and says, "You're the best, Jane. The fucking Queen of England."
Suze leaving Jack is the best and worst thing that's ever happened to him because of the following reasons:
(1) It proves that Jack still has a heart, because otherwise, it wouldn't have felt like she was ripping it out with rusty backhoe.
(2) She left him still proud of him, and that has never happened before.
(3) She is giving him a chance to be a person he thought he could never pull off, and afraid to be if she was there, because Suze was and is and will probably always be the best thing that ever happened to him, and he would fuck all of this up--fuck the restaurant, fuck himself--if it would make her happy. But then he'd hate himself and probably hate her forever, and Jack's really not into that.
(4) The apartment is empty so that when Jack and Steven get shitfaced Sunday night and wake up pantless on the living room floor, there is nobody to take pictures and mail them to friends.
"Your arse hurt, mate?" Steven asks.
Jack throws a rolled up copy of the Post at him. "Yours?" he growls.
Steven actually checks, swishes his hips around a bit before he glares at Jack.
"A bit, yeah," Steven says, threatening. "You bloody brute."
Jack lays back down on the floor and rubs his eyes. "Oh my God, my whole head."
"My whole arse, you fucking heathen," Steven complains, and stands up. His underwear is bunched up around his knees and he tugs it up his massively thick, hairy thighs. He kicks Jack with his bare foot. "Up, you fuckhead. If you're going to roll me over you're going to make me breakfast."
"We did not have sex," Jack insists.
This is probably maybe at least a little bit true, but Jack doesn't remember much after Steven shook the tequila at him, pointed out the worm at the bottom of the bottle. There might have been karaoke. Oh God, Jack thinks, please let us have been too busy having gay sex to sing karaoke. Because there is embarrassing alcohol-induced homosexuality and then there is just unforgivable.
"Shit, my fucking nipples hurt! You beast!" Steven mourns, and Jack hears him padding into the bathroom. The water turns on and a hiss of steam meanders from underneath the bathroom door.
Jack rolls over, sticks a hand down to his cock, which feels normal if slightly sticky and he has a perverse desire to check if maybe there is extra virgin olive oil on it, which would essentially be the funniest fucking lubricant ever.
Jack groans and gets up and goes to the bathroom. He opens the door without knocking and brushes his teeth and checks the trash can for a condom.
"So maybe we had sex," he says, pulling open the curtain, after he spits and rinses.
Steven throws a bar of soap at him. "Back, you prostitute! I've barely recovered."
Jack goes to the kitchen and makes them scrambled eggs, which they eat, smoking over a mug of last week's coffee, all molded over, ashes dusting the green-white fur.
"Hey, this isn't so bad," Steven says suddenly, surprised.
"Not really," Jack agrees grudgingly. He leans over to look at Steven's ass. "Everything okay down there?"
Steven puts out his cigarette in Jack's eggs.
"Fuck off, Jane," he says sweetly.
On Monday night Steven puts thirteen (13) entire quails down his pants and claims he's defrosting them with the powerful heat of his manliness. Seth accidentally decorates a miniature chocolate cheesecake with a very offensive word in Arabic and doesn't realize this until the customer storms into the kitchen and puts his face in a tub of fish intestines. The new kid gets his foot stuck in one of the toilets and nobody cares. Chloe and Cameron get into a slap fight.
Jack screams at all of them and smokes a lot and looks at Tanya's breasts and Steven's ass and flirts with the drunkest girls in the restaurant.
"You taken, sailor boy?" one slurs at him.
Jack laughs, not at all politely, and eats a piece of quail off of her plate. It really is fucking amazing. He grins around the tiny bones in his mouth.
"Me? No," he says. "But I am the Queen of England."
"Ohmigod," the blonde on his right says. "I knew it."
Jack sends them packing at the end of the night, and Steven looks disapproving.
"They wanted your fish, mate," he says, sad. "Suze broke you."
Jack rolls his eyes.
Somehow, the next Sunday the same thing happens, only this time they're in Jack's bed and Steven's got him in this terrible, choking cuddle.
The following three Sundays, the whole thing repeats like a gay sex Groundhog's Day, and to be totally honest, Jack can't seem to mind, because seriously, who's he kidding? He loves Steven and Steven thinks he's the Queen of England.
"Fucking hell, Janey, this fish is shit!" Steven yells.
It's seven in the morning. Teddy is curled up in a corner murmuring sweet nothings at clams. Jack just doesn't understand why this is his life.
"It's cod," Jack says defensively. "I was trying to do something playful."
"My balls can do something more playful than this," Steven snaps, and dumps it.
"Fine, fine!" Jack yells. "Rebuff my fish."
Seth takes two steps into the kitchen and goes right back out again.
Steven grins. "Aw, didn't mean to hurt your feelings, precious."
"Go stuff some meat down your pants," Jack says sullenly.
On the way to the meat locker, presumably to touch the sirloin they'd just received in terrible and filthy ways, Steven leans over to whisper in his ear, "Maybe yours, yeah?"
Jack stares at him. "It's not Sunday!" he blurts out.
"You're not the bloody queen, either, you twat."
Jack says, "Oh."
Steven grins. "Yeah."
Seth continues to nurse a strangely heterosexual crush on Teddy, who continues to have a weirdly sexual relationship with the seafood, and the new kid continues to get on everybody's nerves. Chloe and Cameron still run roughshod over the entire floor and Jack's still convinced Pino's going to have him whacked.
And on Sundays and Mondays and a lot of the days in between, Steven continues to put out his good morning! cigarette--"Fag," Steven says; "Cigarette," Jack corrects; "I was talking about you, you girl's blouse."--in Jack's coffee. And that's okay.