Jakob Fox spends his days performing on the sidewalk and his
evenings in various coffee shops and clubs, reading his poetry.
But he always takes the time to thank firefighters when he sees
them. He knows first-hand how much firefighters risk and what
they sacrifice. His father was a New York firefighter, until he
died in the line of duty. As a result, Jakob can show his appreciation,
but he always keeps his emotional distance--from everybody. He
also suffers from almost debilitating anxiety.
He wants to be with Lance, but he cant handle the emotional
stress of being with a firefighter. Jakob needs to decide if they
have a future, or if he should just walk away.
Lance stopped short and looked over his shoulder. The words
had been clear and loud, and he was pretty sure they were directed
at him, though he hadnt been doing anything except walking.
There was nobody to his left, but when he swung his head to
the right, he found a possible source for the words. A scruffy
young man with the most stunning blue eyes Lance had ever seen
leaned against the wall, one foot crossed over the other as
he idly strummed a guitar. His other hand moved over the fret,
like he was picking out chords, but Lance couldnt tell
what. At his feet lay an open case. Brown hair hung over his
forehead, like he was a week overdue for a cut, and he had the
type of body that always made Lance pay attention.
After several beats, he realized he was staring, quite openly
and rudely. He had been staring so long that he couldnt
just turn around and walk away like nothing happened. Even though
he was pretty sure a red flush was starting to creep up his
neck. He was just grateful for the shades hiding his eyes. Excuse
The young man used his guitar to gesture at Lances chest
and the Los Angeles Fire Department initials on his blue shirt.
His fingers were still moving, strumming out a tune Lance could
barely catch, and didnt recognize. Lance couldnt
help but notice that his nails were neatly trimmed.
Thanks. You know, for all your hard work.
Oh. Lance smiled a little self-consciously. It
wasnt the first time somebody had stopped him on the street,
but it always made him feel a little awkward. It wasnt
as though he became a fireman because he wanted to be a hero,
but he had to admit, it was a nice perk. Especially when good-looking
guitar players stopped him to express his gratitude. Well,
youre welcome. He might have left it at that, but
the strangers eyes were like magnets drawing him forward.
I thought you might have been sarcastic.
He tilted his head, his fingers moving along the fret like
they had wills of their own. Why?
Because I just kept walking and didnt, you know...
Lance gestured at the case. Coins and bills littered the bottom,
but it was by no means a great fortune. Or any fortune at all,
The man smiled. His smile was almost as captivating as his
eyes. No, I find that sarcasm doesnt actually encourage
people to give me their money.
Lance returned the smile. I guess it wouldnt.
You been a fireman for long?
Five years now.
Five years? I thought you were younger than that.
Lance took a step towards him. Nope. And Im getting
older every day. What are you playing?
Nothing right now. Im just making sure its
You can do that while we talk?
Sure. You can do two things at once, cant you?
I did try to walk and chew gum at the same time. It wasnt
The man looked up from beneath his lashes, his eyes dancing
with amusement. Youd expect firemen to be a little
bit more coordinated than that.
No kidding. Actually, Im not a fireman. They just
let me hang around the station as a sort of mascot.
The man arched his brow. I thought thats what Dalmatians
Im cuter than a Dalmatian.
A Dalmatian? He shook his head. No, but maybe
an English Bulldog.
Were you fishing for compliments?
No, but I wouldnt have complained if you had given
me one. Lance touched the open guitar case with the tip
of his boot. Besides, English Bulldogs arent ugly.
His grin widened. I never said they were. For all you
know, I love English Bulldogs and I have one of my own.
No, but Id like one.
Lance snorted and held out his hand. Im Lance Stuart,
by the way.
Jakob Fox. He stopped playing long enough to take
Lances palm in a firm grip. Its a pleasure
to meet you.
Do you play around here usually? Im sure Ive
seen you here before. Which was a lie, but Lance figured
it was forgivable, since his intentions were good. Now that
he was standing a little closer, he noticed small details. Like
the fact that Jakobs shirt was clean, and the scruffy
beard wasnt actually scruffy at all, but neatly trimmed.
Yeah, I usually play on this block. Sometimes Devin lets
me play inside for tips.
Lance looked up, dragging his gaze from Jakob. They were standing
outside Café Muse. Lance had never been inside. The name
itself was enough to put him off. He didnt really get
the feeling it was the right place for firefighters who preferred
Budweiser to lattes. That must have been where Ive
seen you before.
Jakob inclined his head. Must have been. Though it doesnt
really seem like your sort of place.
It doesnt? Why not? I like coffee.
Jakobs smile changed slightly, and his eyes glittered
with amusement. The coffee is okay, but I meant because
of the atmosphere. This place is usually full of beat poets
and old hippies...and other eccentrics.
Oh, yeah, I know. Lance offered an easy smiling,
wondering if he should just cut the conversation short while
he could still escape with his pride intact. I like eccentric
people. They keep life interesting.
If youre not on your way to any fires or anything,
Id love to buy you a coffee.
Im not even on my way to the station. Todays
my day off.
Mascots get days off?
Oh, there are two. We trade shifts.
You and the Dalmatian, eh?