Summary: Jack and James are on the same flight back from Australia
Note: Set after foxxcub's Let Go but an AU (to the AU) futurefic. The boys wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote this one next. Claiming for fanfic100 prompt "Years"
ETA: If you're unfamiliar with the Jack/James series that this a sequel to, please go here to catch up! Thanks!
He stretches out his legs, or tries to. Never enough legroom. He should have sprung for first class.
The screwdriver he had in the airport bar is already fading and the drink service won't start for half an hour, at least. And they're still boarding.
He pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to clear his head. Twenty hours or more to go. He wishes he could just take a sleeping pill now, except that they don't work on him.
He drops his hand and stares at the back of the head of the woman in front of him. She's talking nonstop to her seatmate, nattering on about all the trouble she had with security, and Jack wants to smother that shrill voice. And the plane hasn't even taken off yet. Twenty more hours of this.
"Excuse you, buddy!" a man mutters and Jack looks up to see a scowling face coming towards him. Shaggy blonde hair, dark brows drawn together in a frown, angry blue eyes that don't acknowledge anyone else on board.
James. Jack's heart leaps, like it always does when he sees someone who reminds him of James. And then there's always the sinking realization that it can't be him. The eyes are always the wrong color or the chin is off or the shoulders aren't right. As the man sweeps past, Jack turns to watch him go. The sinking feeling never comes.
He watches the man stop a few rows back and impatiently shove his bag into an overhead compartment before roughly pushing past the other passengers to find his seat.
Not "the man." James. It is him, Jack tells himself, and he almost starts to laugh. His father's body lays underneath them somewhere and suddenly, James appears. He can't decide if the timing is perfect or just fate's latest joke.
Heart thudding erratically, Jack tries to believe he's just imagining him, the way he's done so many times. A door opens in a restaurant, a man gets out of a cab, a blonde head turns his way and just for a split-second, he sees James again. And now he's on the same fucking plane.
Jack runs through his options. He can simply get up and walk over to him, and in front of a plane full of strangers, just say hello. Like he's some long-lost frat brother, a random schoolmate from med school. "Good to see you," he'd say, in that case. And "Small world." And "How've you been?"
He looks out the window, glad for the window seat now. Because he's not going to get up. He's not going to do anything. He's going to sit there for 20 hours and if he has to use the bathroom, he's going to talk his way into using the ones in first class. And he's going to need to do that because he's going to order as many drinks as he can when that drink cart comes by.
He's on his third screwdriver when the turbulence starts. It's not bad at first, and the alcohol is muting his sense of alarm. When the plane takes a sharp dip, he's most concerned that his drink doesn't spill, even while there are gasps and screams all around him. The shaking gets worse and panic starts to chip through the haze of vodka.
The oxygen masks pop out and the screaming starts in earnest. He cranes his head back to see if he can see James. He glimpses a sliver of stubbled chin, of tightly clenched jaw line, and parted lips sucking in a breath and then the plane jolts violently and he loses sight of him.
He gets to his feet because he's not going to die with James just a few feet behind him, he's not going to die without telling him ... something.
A harried stewardess runs to his side and orders him to sit down. People are turning to look at him, shocked stares over the edge of the yellow cup of their oxygen masks. The world goes silent when James turns to meet his gaze. There's the shock of recognition there. James holds his stare for what seems like forever and then he looks away abruptly.
"Will you sit down, sir?" The voice of the stewardess finally breaks through to him and he sits, like a good boy, and puts on his mask.
And then, just like that, the turbulence is over. The plane rights itself. The oxygen masks dangle and sway, unneeded. Jack tries to shove his back into its little compartment, but he can't get it to go back to the way it was, and gives up.
He drums his fingers against his glass as the jolt from those blue eyes replays over and over in his brain. He stares out the window, but there's nothing out there but night.
He doesn't know how it happens. He never falls asleep on planes but suddenly he's starting awake from a dream in which he's falling. His heart is racing and it takes a minute to register that the plane is landed and the passengers are slowly and impatiently filing out.
He jumps to his feet and looks behind him. The seat where James was sitting is empty. Jack grabs his bag from the overhead bin. He contemplates shoving ahead of everyone in line, but the aisle is packed and there really is no use. Just as well.
He still has no idea what he'd say to James, after all this time. Not here, not now. Because it wouldn't make the least bit of difference.
He shuffles along with everyone else, practically running when he's finally off the plane and can break free from the slow-moving, jet-lagged herd.
LAX is impossibly white and bright and loud after the plane. He stares up at the high ceilings as he boards the escalator to baggage claim. He has the most powerful sense of disorientation, of his mind and body not being in the same place.
He walks on autopilot to baggage claim, straining to see if his checked suitcase is there yet, but it's still displaying the wrong flight number, so it couldn't possibly be. He scans the crowd, but James isn't among them. Just a bunch of people who look as travel-weary as he feels. Of course James wouldn't check a bag. He can't picture James as someone who'd ever shopped for a matched set of luggage.
The casket will be driven around to the back of the baggage claim area, they said. He'll meet it there with a hearse. Except when he flips open his phone and checks his messages, he learns there's been a mixup. It won't be here for another two hours. He stops himself from hurling the phone in frustration. He just wants to go home, to his own bed, but that's not going to happen.
He looks past the baggage carousel, out to the steady stream of cabs and hotel shuttles. It's not worth it to take a cab home and then come back, but he has no idea what he's going to do for the next two hours. Except hit the bar and he doesn't relish arriving at his mother's house dead drunk, which is what he'll be if he goes in for just one drink now.
His vision narrows on a dirty blonde head of hair nearly obscuring a familiar profile. James is facing down, lighting a cigarette. James lets his head drop back as he exhales, eyes closed in savoring that first drag in almost a day.
Jack is moving out the door without even thinking. James is second in line for the next taxi and by the time Jack reaches him, he's got one leg in the back seat and is scowling at the cabbie. "No," he says sharply. "I'm not gonna put my bag in the trunk."
"Okay, okay," says the driver in a thick Eastern European accent. "No problem. Is fine."
James swings his bag into the backseat and then takes a seat, still frowning.
He doesn't see Jack until he's sitting next to him. Jack is breathless from running so all he can do is shrug and offer an apologetic smile as pulls in his own shoulder bag and closes the door after himself.
James' mouth falls open and then he lets out a startled laugh. He takes another drag, staring at his hand rather than at Jack.
James pulls a cigarette out of his pack and wordlessly hands it to Jack. He can't find his lighter immediately, so he just leans forward, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. His hand shakes a little as he raises it to steady his cigarette. Jack puts the tip of his unlit cigarette to the glowing end of James's. He inhales and his catches fire. He leans back, letting the nicotine spread through him, letting it calm him.
"Okay, where you going?" the cabbie asks as he pulls out.
"The nearest hotel?" Jack finds himself saying. He darts a glance at James and James just crooks an eyebrow but doesn't contradict him.
He looks out the window. Already he can see a hotel, looming past the letters of the LAX sign.
"There, the Radisson," Jack says, pointing. There are nicer hotels around the corner -- the Hilton, the Marriott -- but he can't wait that long. He jiggles his leg, hand drumming on his knee, until he realizes it, and stops.
The taxi pulls up to the loading zone. Jack opens his door and sets one foot outside, but hesitates to get up. He glances at James, worried now that he's not going to follow him.
But James is peeling off some ones from a wad of bills. The fare is only $5, and most of that is just the airport tax. He shoves $10 at the cabbie and -- Jack holds his breath -- gets out of the cab.
James tosses his cigarette onto the pavement and grinds it under his foot, and Jack follows suit.
They walk into the lobby side by side, not even glancing at each other. They might as well be two strangers who just shared a cab. Jack heads to the front desk and James is still keeping pace with him.
Maybe it's the nicotine, but he's ridiculously calm now. Or he's still asleep on the plane, and just dreaming this. Maybe it's all been a dream. His father's not dead. He never went to Australia. He is not standing here right now, with James.
The desk clerk, a middle-aged man with frizzy, graying hair, looks up at him expectantly. "Can I help you."
"I need a room for ..." he's about to say for a few hours, but that feels incredibly sleazy. Even though half the people staying here are probably just killing a few hours while their flights are delayed. "For the night."
"Very good. Smoking or nonsmoking?"
"Smoking." James speaks up. He leans close to Jack, lips brushing his ear as he says, "Be right back," and then strolls off in the direction of the gift shop. Just that brief touch is enough to get Jack hard and he steps closer to the desk to cover that fact.
"Queen or king size?"
"Huh?" Jack starts until he realizes that the clerk is asking about mattress preference. "Doesn't matter. Okay, king. Why not?" He produces a credit card and fills out the registration form. For a second, he blanks out on his own address. He's about to write down his parents' house number, and then he remembers to put down his own.
James returns with a brown paper bag. He leans against the desk, impossibly gorgeous and long-limbed, while Jack finishes the paperwork.
"Checkout is at 11," the clerk says as he hands Jack two keycards wrapped in a paper folder. Jack nods to James and they head to the elevator. Neither of them speak on the ride up to the seventh floor. He doesn't even dare look at James until he swipes the keycard through the lock and opens the door.
The second he's inside, James pushes him up against the wall. Jack fingers uncurl and his bag drops to the floor as James presses the length of his body against him. He shudders, once, closing his eyes as he takes in James's scent, the feel of him.
James nuzzles his neck and the tickling of lips and tongue on skin has his cock straining against his zipper. "James." Jack breathes his name like the word itself is magic.
He opens his eyes and James is staring at him, those clear blue eyes filled with a thousand questions. But questions can wait. James's eyes squeeze shut as he takes Jack's head in his hands, thumbs rubbing over the line of Jack's jaw.
"Are you real?" James says in the quietest voice, eyes still tight shut, as if opening them would make Jack disappear.
Jack puts his hands over James's, fingers threading through his. He barely makes a sound when he answers, "Yes." And then James leans forward, into his waiting mouth and time stands still again. James moans as their tongues touch, a familiar little moan in the back of his throat that vibrates through Jack like a shock.
Jack's sure he's going to stop breathing when James cups him through his slacks. Instead, he gasps; his head falls back, knocking against the wall, and he doesn't even feel it.
James tugs at his belt and then it's a race as they fumble to get each other's clothes off. They take far more time than they should, since they can't stop touching long enough to get a single piece of clothing off in one go.
At last, naked enough, they fall onto the bed. Jack lands underneath James and shivers as James sits back, running his fingertips over his chest, down his thighs, and then, finally, taking his cock in hand. Jack's whole body jerks at his touch and he thinks that when James makes him come, he's going to come right out of his body. He arches up into James's fist and he wants to close his eyes, but he can't take them off of the curve of his lip or the way his nostrils flare each time Jack moans.
But then the sensation proves too much and he has to just give into it, just surrender to James's touch. It's all over too fast, and he's coming hard, hips jerking up, the room spinning as his body loses control. James plays his hand over his spent cock and all he can think is how right it feels to be lying in his arms. Like they've never been apart.
James bends down, ghosting kisses over his lips and cheeks. "Hang on," he says, swinging his legs off the bed and Jack sits up to watch James cross the room. He catches sight of his own feet and has to laugh. He's still wearing his socks. They both are. He pulls his off and throws them at James as he fumbles in the paper bag. "Here we go," James says, producing a box of condoms and a tiny tube of what must be lubricant.
Jack wants to say that he doesn't need a condom with him, but then again, maybe James has his reasons. His heart skips a beat in trying to think about that and then James is settling back onto the mattress. He tosses the condom in front of Jack as he starts to stroke himself. Little shivers of pleasure run through him and Jack reaches out, replacing his hand with James's.
"Mmm, Christ," James murmurs, leaning down to brush his lips over Jack's. He tears open the packet containing the condom and Jack helps him slide it on. There's that little bit of hesitancy, a fleeting reminder of the first time he touched James and how he was so awkward and yet he couldn't not touch him.
He's not drunk now, not on alcohol, anyway. But that same rush is singing in his veins. James always got him higher than anything else.
He's afraid he's going to say that, out loud, so he takes James's head in his hands and kisses him, slow and aching until James gets impatient. "Not as young as I used to be, Jack," he whispers, and gently turns Jack onto his stomach. Jack braces himself against the mattress, hands winding into the sheets as James hovers behind him. James says his name and then he's inside him.
His eyes start to prickle, so Jack buries his head in the pillow, biting down as James moves within him. He wants to suffocate, he is suffocating, with pleasure, with pain, with regret, with grief. The feeling is too intense. It's shaking loose every feeling he's ever had, bringing everything to the surface until he thinks he's going to scream. He mouths the pillow instead.
James slows, then stops. His hand is on Jack's shoulder, and he coaxes his head back. "I'm here," he says. He rolls Jack onto his side, inching closer, so that the curves of their bodies align perfectly. Jack sighs, letting James take the weight of his body and letting his head fall onto his shoulder. James kisses and claims him, slowly coaxing Jack's cock into stiffness.
They move together, slowly at first, like they're learning each other's bodies all over again. And then, he thinks, James just can't hold back anymore. He feels so deep, deeper than Jack remembers being possible and he knows neither of one them can hold out much longer. Both their breath comes faster. He tenses, knowing how it will feel to James. He's met with a muffled moan and then James is biting down on his shoulder, his hand bringing Jack along with him as he comes.
He'd be perfectly content to just lie here forever, bathed in sweat and wrapped in James's arms. Neither speaks for several minutes.
Then James brushes his fingers over Jack's bicep. "Got some more ink."
"Yeah." Years ago.
He shifts, turns so that he can look at James. "I didn't really think it was you at first. On the plane."
"Small world," James sighs, fingers still tracing over the designs that are new to him.
Jack expects James to ask him what he was doing in Australia, but he doesn't. "My father died," he states flatly. It still sounds unreal. Odd. Odder even than being here with James.
He can feel James stiffen at the news and he's almost glad when he doesn't offer his condolences.
"I was bringing his body back on the plane." Jack doesn't look at James. It's easier that way. "It's still at the airport. The hearse wasn't there yet and ... " His voice starts to crack as he talks, so he stops.
"That's rough," James says, squeezing his arm. "I didn't know."
"How could you?" Jack laughs. He sits up, drawing his knees into his chest.
"That why you decided to ... seize the moment?"
"It's not like I'd ever see you again if I didn't," Jack sighs, tired of not saying what he's thinking.
James leaves the bed and produces a bottle of whiskey from the gift store bag. "Thought we might need this. Guess after's just as good as before."
"I shouldn't," Jack says. "Five years sober."
"So how come you taste like vodka?" James raises one eyebrow and hands him the bottle.
"Momentary lapse," Jack sighs, taking a swig. He winces and hands it back to James.
"Like this?" James says softly before he takes a drink.
"No." Jack looks James right in the eye and says it again. "No. James, if you knew..." But he can't bear the intensity of those brilliant blue eyes, and he's the first to look away. He pulls the sheet around him.
James settles back onto the bed, holding the bottle steady so it doesn't spill. He runs his thumb up and down the glass neck. "Someone expectin' you right now?"
"Just my mother. Oh." Jack rubs his forehead. "You mean, am I married? No. I was."
James doesn't say anything, just waits for him to continue, so he does.
"She left me," he shrugs. "I was never home. Can't really blame her."
"So you drink too much and you work too much," James notes, taking another swig. "Haven't changed much. You a doctor, just like your daddy was?"
"Yeah, spinal surgeon. You?"
James raises that eyebrow again, head tilting just so that his hair falls into his eyes. "Me what?"
James holds up his bare hand. "Nah."
"And what were you doing in Australia?"
"Business." James' tone and the downturned curve of his mouth don't invite further questions.
An uneasy silence fills the room. Jack's not sure he wants to ask any more questions. He's starting to worry about the answers he'll get. He just wants to be touching James again, but it doesn't seem like that's an option anymore.
He sighs and looks at his watch. It's been about an hour since he left the airport. He doesn't want to leave, and yet if he sits here any longer with James, not saying anything, he's going to feel even more ripped-apart than he does now. He starts to think of getting dressed, of walking out the door, and never seeing James again and he almost chokes.
And then James is putting his arm around him and pulling him close. "You always had the weight of the world on you, didn't you?"
Jack just nods, sinking into the bed and into James. He won't let himself cry, because if he starts now, he might never stop.
"C'mere," James whispers, pulling Jack off the bed with him. He sets the bottle down on the dresser. "Think we both could use a shower. Don't wanna send you back to your mama smellin' like every sin under the sun."
He leads Jack into the bathroom. It's all marble and granite, far too fancy for the matching suite, but it doesn't matter. The shower is a standalone and big enough for two. James steps in first, drawing Jack after him with that wolfish grin Jack hasn't seen in years. He tosses his watch on the counter and steps into the steam.
They take turns soaping each other's bodies, not able to stop touching each other.
"Your hair is so long," Jack laughs, running his hands through it. "I like it, though."
"Yours is so short!" James rubs his scalp roughly until Jack cries out. "Suits you," he says, with that same cocky grin.
James turns him around and presses him up against the sleek surface of the shower wall. He runs his hand down Jack's back, stopping over the curve of his ass, and Jack nods. "Yeah." He braces himself as James thrusts into him. The sensation is different this time, more intense, with no condom and both their bodies slick with soap, their skin heated from the hot water. The water washes over his face and he lets the tears come, grief and passion too mixed up to separate.
The breathless way James says "Jack" when he comes just about breaks him. With both their hands on his cock, Jack comes hard for the third time today, like they were both still 17 and there were no such things as bad backs and wrenched knees and broken hearts.
He turns to face James, his cheek resting against his shoulder. They stand there for what seems like ages, arms wrapped tight around each other as the water continues to rain down on them. Finally, James gives him a little squeeze and turns the water off.
Jack knows that guarded look on James's face too well, the one he wore whenever Jack had to leave.
He towels off, but he's really watching James. He watches as he pulls on his jeans, then two T-shirts -- one short-sleeved, one long -- and a battered pair of tennis shoes. "You still dress like a teenager," he observes with a fond smile.
James shakes the hair out of his eyes and shrugs. Jack's glad to see there are smile lines there, like a record of all the times he's been happy. But the lines around James's eyes and the fine creases on his forehead are etched a little deeper.
Jack unwillingly puts his suit back on, reknots his tie. All he's changed is his underwear and his socks.
He sits on the chair across from the bed, knotting his fingers together. "I have to go," he sighs. "You can keep the room ..." He wants to say he'll be back, if James will just stay here. He hasn't even found out where James lives, where he's headed.
"Don't need to stay on your dime." James sits opposite him, on the bed.
"I ... I have to get back," Jack says, but James isn't arguing the point.
"Even dead, your old man's calling the shots," James says with a wistful smile. The words sting even though they're true.
"Here's my cell number, just if ..." Jack scribbles it down on one of the free notepads on the desk and hands it to James, who folds his hand around it. Please. He can't bring himself to say it.
He has to go now, just walk out the door because if he stops to touch James again, he won't go.
"See you," he says, burning the image of James sitting on the edge of the bed into his brain, and then he closes the door.
He calls his mother on the way back to the airport, tells her about everything but James. He picks up his suitcase and still beats the hearse. It's his lucky day.
It takes forever before he gets to the funeral home, hours before he can make the arrangements and before he finally arrives at his mother's. It's even longer before he can retreat to his old bedroom to make the call to the Radisson.
"I'm sorry, sir. Mr. Shephard has already checked out."
He flops back on the bed, the same bed since high school, and tells himself he's not surprised.
Jet lag means he's still awake at 3 a.m. when his cell phone comes to life. He picks up immediately, thinking it's ringing, but it's just his message notification. Damn thing takes hours to let him know he missed a call. He sighs in disappointment and checks his messages, expecting to hear his mother's voice, chiding him for not calling right when he landed.
Jack sits up. It's James's voice. "Hey," James continues, clearing his throat. "Think I still owe you a drink or something. Or, y'know, coffee or tea or whatever you drink when you're not drinking."
There isn't much more. Just the name of a hotel and the phone and room number and then a little pause before the hang-up.
Jack puts the phone on the pillow and lets the message play over and over.