"Danni," he says uncomfortably, staring at the engraved tray with the tiny bowl of sugar, the hot water and the silver coffee spoon and the candle, the frosted glass of the liquor bottle. "Danni. This is illegal."
"Live a little," Danni says. Her grin is candlelit and dangerous. "It's not every day you get married."
The ring's heavy on his finger, deceptively simple. "I signed a contract," Jensen says, the words tight, although he'd agreed to it, of course he had, going blind into an alliance that will last the rest of his life and is leveraged by a spider's web of contracts and financial agreements. He wrote them. Every word's water-tight. He'd done his best to forget that somewhere behind the words, there's another man, a boy. A boy wearing the twin to his own ring. When he goes home tonight - if he goes home tonight - it will be to the new brownstone with its echoing rooms and dust-sheets and not to his own apartment. A house he'll share with a stranger. A sweet, obedient boy who will host his dinner parties and bear his children.
Danni toys with the spoon, runs her finger around the edges of the shot glass. "Please tell me you're not still -"
"Are you going to pour?" Jensen asks, his voice rough.
The cabaret singer's voice is sultry and sweet, but torch songs never have happy endings and Jensen's never believed in fairy tales. Yet when he closes his eyes, for a moment he's standing on a bridge in Paris with a rose in his hands, and he's not alone. It's raining. The drops are so small that in the sheen of the streetlights they're little more than clouds of golden glitter.
A missed flight, an unforeseen glance across a crowded bar. He'd had three days. Two nights. It's unreal now, although he can still remember the astonishing sweetness of Emil's skin. They'd both been running away from something. He'd never asked. Emil's fingers had been long, rosin scented: his violin case had been battered, but the violin within it had a richness of tone Jensen had never heard outside a concert hall. On the street, Emil played folk songs and lullabies, but the sheets of music lying next to his bed were soloist's parts. He'd had a single crystal wineglass among the flea market mugs, and his socks, the wool still soft although the heels were worn through, came from Sears. Emil had not been his real name. But then, it was only in the quiet after that first time, tangled in a single sheet, that Jensen had whispered his own.
Two years later, in a basement club in Manhattan, he opens his eyes. He can smell burnt sugar and liquorice: there's a glass in front of him which is cloudy white, although the liquor in the bottle is still poison-vivid green.
"Congratulations," Danni says, a glittering irony in her voice and the tilt of her eyebrows, and lifts the glass.
Jensen could be back in that bar on the Rive Gauche, the walls tiled and covered with tacked up sketches, the floor worn bare wood, the women behind the bar dressed in black. In a moment, in just a moment, someone will jog his elbow and laugh, and he'll turn around and it'll be -
He drinks. Sharp as a knife, the alcohol cuts across his tongue and burns down his throat. In Paris, absinthe had made the streets magical, clouded his eyes and softened his heart. Here in New York, it makes everything brighter and harsher. Every pearl on the strands around Danni's neck is utterly distinct. The light on his ring is a sharp arc, a parabola of gold exact as an equation. The last breath the singer takes is a note so final he can barely clap.
Danni leans forward. "You'll like this," she says.
There'd been a moment, this afternoon in his father's house, when he'd caught a glimpse of the man he'd married. His husband's back, broad, the shoulders under the exquisite tailoring of his suit set and hard. He'd had long hair, curling over the back of his collar. If it hadn't been for those curls, Jensen would have at least brought himself to shake hands. But Emil's hair had curled the same way, sweat-damp in the nape of his neck, and Jensen couldn't. Couldn't.
"... from Paris," Danni says. "Marie was raving about him. He's only playing this once, one last gig -"
Everything seems slower now, more significant: the absinthe beginning to blur the edges of the cut crystal glasses and the definition of the embroidery on Danielle's wrap. It feels as if... something is going to happen. Something important. It can't. Jensen left his heart in Paris, there's nothing left, he's burnt out, gone, nothing but columns of figures and starched white shirts.
He looks around. There's a moment when he thinks, almost angry, "No. No," because he recognizes that back, that hair: he's seen it not six hours before in his father's house, and it seems beyond belief that even here, in this place, he is not alone.
Then Jared turns around.
And it's Emil looking back at him, as defiant now as the moment when he'd said, on a bridge in Paris, "Fuck the old man. Stay with me. Be happy." Emil. Emil here. Emil, with Jensen's ring on his finger: as beautiful as he was in Paris, older, sure of himself, and the expression on his face is half chagrin and half challenge.
In his boots, Jensen's toes curl. His hand fists around his ring: heat burns his stomach and slides down to his balls. His marriage is going to be a battlefield, a symphony, a -
He smiles, slow and hot, and Jared nods at him once and reaches for the violin.