The face he's drawing is familiar to him, so familiar that now he thinks he could draw it with his eyes closed. He slides the pencil across the page, capturing the lines on the forehead, the eyes that will be the perfect blend of brown and green when he inks it, the angles of the nose and cheekbones, the full lips that somehow don’t seem out of place on such a ruggedly handsome face. There's no way to make this face imperfect, if he does say so himself.
When he finishes the panel, he looks it over closely, fixing a few things that bother him before he decides that it’s ready to ink. He won’t be at that stage for a while, not when he’s only halfway finished, but he can’t move forward until he knows that every drawing is exactly what he wants, that every word is perfect. It gives his boss fits, but Scotty doesn’t argue the point, because Jim’s become one of the best in the business due to his perfectionist tendencies and it’s all about the bottom line in the publishing business. He’s a money maker, and his successful series has put Enterprise Publishing on the map in the realm of graphic novels and comic books. Due to that, he gets however long he needs to work on each new novel, and he does their publicity tours and attends conventions to promote whatever they tell him to.
The air is cooling down and the scent of rain is heavy on the breeze. He puts down his pencil and looks out the open window at the dark sky, wondering if he has time to edit the text before the storm hits. Uhura will have his ass if he fails to get her his copy on time. Unlike Scotty, she doesn’t give a shit how successful Jim’s books are when she has a deadline. He still has a week, though, so he’ll get it done. It can wait. He’s been working since six am, which he realizes was about sixteen hours ago when he glances at the clock. No wonder his back is sore. He’s hardly moved except to piss and get some food. When he’s writing, he becomes obsessed with Donovan and, to a lesser degree, Luke, so this isn't much of a surprise. It's nothing new.
Jim stands up and rubs his back. It’s time for a break. If he doesn’t stop now, he’ll start writing again then he’ll have to draw, and then it’ll be morning without any sleep. This is his sixth graphic novel in five years, so he should be immune to the pull of his characters, but he isn’t. Hell, he’s starting to wonder if his con-buddy Hikaru’s recent teasing about Jim being half in love with his own creation doesn’t have some truth to it. When he reaches the window, he looks at the dark house next door and knows that Hikaru is wrong. It’s never really about Donovan, not when it comes down to it. Maybe it would be easier it was, all things considered.
“You’re fucking pathetic, Jimmy boy,” he mutters, shaking his head as he looks away from the McCoy house. It’s been almost a month since David McCoy died, and the house has been silent since. Jim still mows the grass when he does his own, and he picks up the mail, just in case anyone ever comes for it, but, otherwise, the house sits as it was the day David died.
Lightning flashes across the dark sky, and he slowly counts until he hears loud thunder. The storm is nearly here. The weather report said that the hurricane isn’t going to hit land, but they’re going to get storms for the next couple of days. The weather is inspiring, and it suits his mood. He’s writing about a battle, about danger and near death and a progression between his characters that scares them. Even now, watching the sky, he feels his fingers twitch as the words and emotions fill his mind, demanding his attention until he considers sitting right back down and carrying on with another panel. The sound of breaking glass pulls his mind from the fictional world that he’s created.
There’s someone at the McCoy house. Jim frowns as he listens, but he isn’t able to hear anything else. He can see glimpses of light through the window, though, and he knows someone is there. Damn it. He looks at the sky and quickly closes his windows before he pulls on his shoes. It would probably be best to call the police, but he doesn’t really want to deal with all that if it’s some stupid kids. He knows all about stupid kids, and the police never help. Besides, if it’s some juvenile prank, he wants them scared away, not put in jail. He grabs his baseball bat on his way downstairs and crosses the lawn to David’s house.
“Whoever is in there, you’ve got until I count to ten to get out before I call the sheriff,” he warns as he walks up the stairs of the porch and faces the closed front door. There's broken glass underneath the front window, and the curtain is blowing in the breeze now that the screen has been removed. He forgot to get his key on his way over, so he carefully steps through the window. The table that's usually there is gone, pushed aside, and he manages to get through all right. However, his foot makes contact with something wet before he can get his balance, which makes him slip and fall on his ass. “Damn it.”
“Who’re you?” A gruff voice demands from the shadows somewhere to his right. Bright light suddenly shines in Jim’s face, and he raises his hand to shield his eyes.
“I’m the one who should be asking you that,” Jim says with as much authority as he can when he’s sitting on his ass in a puddle of something wet and, fuck, there’s glass, too. Great. That’s all he needs tonight.
“Am I supposed to be scared?” Now the voice sounds almost amused, which is even more frustrating. The guy is local, the low drawl is definitely from the area, probably some addict who broke in to steal things to sell for another fix.
“Yes. I’m merely misleading you so that I can catch you off guard with my right hook,” he says with a hint of a snarl as he pushes himself to his feet.
“Not too bright, are you? I could have a gun,” Creepy Thief says.
“You’d have already threatened me with it if you did.” Jim reaches behind him to dust off his ass, really hoping that none of the glass managed to get through his jeans. “For the record, I’m a genius. Intellect has nothing to do with slipping in a wet puddle during a tense and potentially dangerous situation, however.”
“Maybe I don’t make threats. Maybe I just act instead of wasting my time with words.” Creepy Thief is keeping the flashlight aimed at Jim, so it’s impossible to see much of anything except spots if he looks directly at it. Jim thinks maybe he needs to see a therapist, though, because he’s starting to think that Creepy Thief sounds sexy.
Jim sighs and shakes his head. “Look, I don’t know why you broke in here, but just go. I won’t call the police or anything. You’re not going to find anything worth stealing here anyway. The owner sold everything he could to pay for medical bills, and I don’t think David would have been hiding money in the floorboards.”
The light wavers slightly before it’s slowly lowered. “Who the hell are you, kid?” Creepy Thief demands in that not-sexy voice, and Jim focuses on how unaffected he is by the low, husky drawl.
Suddenly, he blinks as a memory from half a lifetime ago comes to mind. Happy birthday, kid. Got you this. Thought you might like it, with all that drawing you do. Jim still has the sketch book, bought at some discount shop by the older boy next door when he turned thirteen. “Leo?” he whispers, blinking again as he stares at the shadow of Creepy Thief.
The light is back immediately, and Jim cringes as it shines directly in his eyes. “Fuck. Jim? Jim Kirk?” The flashlight shifts to focus beside Jim, not that he really pays it much attention as he realizes that Creepy Thief is Leo McCoy.
“Yeah, it’s me,” he says, jumping slightly when he hears a loud crash of thunder outside. It isn’t the storm that startles him so much as the fact that he’s standing here with a man that he hasn’t seen since he was thirteen.
“What’re you doing here?” Leo asks, voice still gruff and low and sexy. Jim can admit that now that he knows he isn’t admiring the voice of a thieving addict.
“I heard the glass breaking from next door. I thought someone was breaking in,” he explains, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair. It’s raining now, beating against the windows as they stand there in the darkness. “What are you doing here?”
“You live next door? Sam said y’all moved after we graduated. Went back to Iowa, didn’t you?” Leo has kept in touch with Sam? Jim worries his bottom lip as he wonders if Sam has told him about Donovan, about the books and the incredible likeness to their former next door neighbor that Sam noticed immediately.
“Sam never mentioned--“ Jim trails off and grips the back of his neck. “We moved back when I was fifteen. Mom and Dad are still there. I decided to move back to Savannah when I finished college.” And sold my first book. He isn’t going to mention the books, even if he’s exceptionally proud of them. How can he bring them up when his hero is based on a childhood crush he had on the boy next door? On this boy. Man. He’s a man now. Jim’s twenty-seven, so Leo is thirty-two or thirty-three by now.
“You moved into the same house?” Leo points the flashlight at him again, but has it lowered so it doesn’t blind him. “You mentioned my dad.”
“It was on the market, and, well, I was happy here,” he says honestly. “It was a little rundown, so I got it for a good price, and I’ve fixed it up, made it mine.” He shrugs a shoulder and smiles wryly. “I helped your dad some after I moved in. He didn’t really have anyone else, and…” He ducks his head before he continues that because he’s too old to be caught up in childhood memories of a first crush and a yearning that’s never really gone away. If he admits that he helped David because he knew Leo loved the man despite everything, he’ll sound like some immature guy who can’t let go of the past.
“Right. He was alone because I was away and never wanted to come back here.” Leo turns off the flashlight, and Jim hears him taking a few steps before he hears what sounds like someone hitting the wall.
Jim walks forward, stumbling slightly but he knows the layout of the room well enough to not fall over. One time is embarrassing enough. He reaches out when he sees the shadow of Leo, touching his shoulder. Leo shrugs him off and moves away. “You had your reasons for staying away, Leo. David’s death doesn’t suddenly invalidate them or give you a reason to feel guilty.”
“What do you know about anything, kid?” Leo curses under his breath and lets out a shaky breath. “Fuck. Sorry. I’ve been on a plane for more hours than I care to count, and I got here and it all just hit me hard.”
“This is ridiculous, trying to talk here. It’s storming out, there’s no electric or water in this house, and I live right next door. Come over there, and we’ll talk,” he says firmly. “Or you can stay here in the dark feeling guilty. It’s up to you.” He walks over the window and climbs out before he runs through the rain back over to his house. When he reaches his front door, he doesn’t have time to open it before a large body runs into him.
“Damn it, Jim. I thought you were going inside,” Leo mutters against his ear. “It’s pouring out here, fuck.”
“Hurricane nearby,” Jim murmurs as he opens his door. He goes to get a couple of towels out of the downstairs bathroom and walks back to the entry way. He stops in mid-step when he sees Leo standing there dripping water on the floor. His hair is thick and shorter than it was when he was eighteen and there are a few more lines in his face brought on by the passing of years but it’s surprising how much he looks like Donovan. Or Donovan looks like him. Damn, this is getting confusing.
“Thanks,” Leo mumbles as he reaches for a towel, looking sheepish now that they’re in a lit room without darkness to hide behind. His eyes sweep over Jim as his fingers wrap around the towel, lingering on his lips and chest in a way that has Jim’s heart racing. “Fuck, you’re all grown up, kid.”
“So’re you, Bones,” he says, watching Leo’s face change as his full lips curve into a smile.
“Haven’t heard that name in a while. Not since Sam’s letter, I guess, which was back when I was in med school.” Leo runs the towel over his head. “How’s Sam doing?”
“Well. Married with two kids, lives in Seattle, works in the legal aid office,” Jim says. “I don’t see much of them, but I try to visit once a year, at least.”
“You said your parents are in Iowa?” Leo looks at him, and Jim finds that his memories of how intense his gaze is pale in comparison to reality.
“Right.” He nods as he moves the towel over his soaking t-shirt. “They love it there. I never really felt like I belonged there. Not like I felt when we moved here.”
“I remember that. I was happy to see a boy my age, and then realized that he came with a shadow.” Leo’s lips quirk again. “You were such a pest, you know? Used to drive Sam nuts, but I didn’t mind. Thought it was kinda nice having a little brother around who looked up to me.”
“I’m sure I was terrible. I used to be so jealous that Sam found a friend, that he had you,” he admits, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he thinks back to his childhood. “I idolized you, Leo. God, I must have been so annoying and silly.”
Leo looks at him and shrugs a broad shoulder. “Nah, it was nice.” He finishes drying off and looks around the living room. “The place looks good. You decorate yourself or did you have help?”
“I did it myself,” Jim says. His t-shirt is still too wet to be comfortable, and his jeans aren’t much better. “Damn, this towel isn’t really helping. I’m going to go change into some dry clothes. Do you want to borrow something? I can toss your wet stuff into the dryer for you. You’re a little bigger than me, but we’re about the same height, so the fit might not be too bad.”
“I don’t really want to be any more of a bother,” Leo says. “I’m probably keeping you from something, and I’m starting to feel pretty stupid about my behavior over there.”
“You’re not a bother,” Jim tells him. “All you’re keeping me from is my workaholic habits, so the intervention is probably for the best. It’s been a long time, Bones, and I’d really like to talk, unless you’d rather go. And, yeah, your behavior wasn’t really that great, but it isn’t like it was ideal circumstances for a reunion.”
Leo studies him a moment before he admits, “I’d rather not go. Talking would be good. There’s a lot to catch up on, isn’t there? Last time I saw you, you were a thirteen year old kid, all gangly and growing. Now, well.” He looks Jim over again, and there’s no mistaking it for a casual glance. Jim’s heart does another sprint as other parts of his body start to take an interest.
“Yeah, a lot,” he agrees, clearing his throat when he hears how hoarse he sounds. Fuck. This entire situation is so bizarre that he’s starting to wonder if he fell asleep at his work desk again. No, he couldn’t imagine those intense eyes in a dream. He smiles and walks to the stairs. “I’ll get you a shirt and some sweat pants. Those should fit well enough.”
Jim goes upstairs to his bedroom and strips his clothes off as quickly as possible. It isn’t that easy when his jeans are wet, but he finally manages to get them off. He pulls on a dry pair of underwear before he opens his closet. He’s going through the hangers of pants when he hears the creaking floorboard near his door followed by Leo’s voice asking, “Do you live here alone?”
“I do,” he says, stepping back from the closet to look at Leo. “It’s probably too big for one person, but maybe I won’t always be alone.” He is suddenly aware of the fact that he’s just wearing his boxer-briefs when Leo focuses on him. Leo wets his lower lip with his tongue as he looks at Jim, who, oddly enough, doesn’t freak out at nearly being naked with an old crush.
“D’ya have those clothes?” Leo asks gruffly. He reaches down and pulls his shirt over his head, and Jim is too distracted by the flexing muscles in his arms and back to reply. Instead, he stares, noticing a few faint scars marring the golden skin and the dark hair trailing down his lower belly. When Leo catches him staring, he purses his lips and arches a brow but doesn’t say anything.
“Clothes. Right.” He turns and reaches into the closet, grabbing a pair of sweat pants from a hanger. “T-shirts are in the top drawer of the bureau. You can get one out.”
“Alright,” Leo drawls, crossing the room to open the drawer. He chooses a faded t-shirt from a sci-fi convention that Jim attended a few years ago, looking at it curiously as he faces Jim. “What’s this about dragons?”
“It’s from a convention. Here.” Jim hands him the sweat pants, not wanting to answer anything else that might lead to a discussion of his work. “These are a little loose on me, so they should fit okay.”
“How’d you get this?” Leo reaches out to drag his fingertip over a scar on Jim’s side.
“Motorcycle accident when I was at college,” he says, finding it difficult to breathe, much less speak, when Leo’s finger is touching his skin. “Had to swerve to miss getting hit, ended up hurt anyway but still alive. What about yours?”
“It’d take me all night to tell you about them, kid,” Leo murmurs as he pulls his hand back. “I got them at work.”
“David told me about that, about what you do.” Jim watches Leo’s face change at the mention of his father. It probably isn’t the right thing to bring up, but it’s why he’s here, so Jim sees no reason to treat it as a taboo subject. “He was proud of you, Leo.”
“Somehow, I doubt that.” Leo steps back as a crash of thunder shakes the windows. Jim finds that rather appropriate considering how distant Leo manages to become with just one step and a few words.
“Why?” Jim gets a pair of sweat pants for himself and pulls them on, trying not to stare when Leo shoves his pants down. Instead, he uses the mirror on his door to provide him with a clear view of Leo in his underwear, and he feels his dick twitch as he stares at muscular legs, trim hips, and an obvious bulge that is probably pretty impressive when erect. He takes a few deep breaths and imagines his parents having sex, which quickly takes care of the burgeoning problem in his pants. “When’s the last time you’d talked to him, Leo?”
Leo snorts as he pulls the sweat pants up. “Don’t you know? Figure he’d have told you if you were so damn close.” He tugs the shirt over his head, and it’s definitely not big enough. It clings to his chest and biceps like a second skin. When he looks at Jim, he’s scowling. “Nearly four years. He was pissed off that I wouldn’t come back here to practice, and there was nothing proud at all when he accused me of hating him and spending my life running away from the past.”
“I helped him out some, and I listened when he needed to talk, but I wouldn’t really call us friends,” Jim says. “He was still drinking heavily then, when he said those things. I know that doesn’t matter, but he got sober after he found out he was dying. He bragged about you a lot, about you being a doctor and going off to travel and save the world. He wrote you a letter, before he…died. The lawyer has it for you. I gave it to him after I found David.”
“You found him?” Leo looks at him again, and it’s like there are a dozen different emotions fighting a war to determine how he feels. His face is so expressive when he lets his guard down, which Jim remembers wasn’t very often. After a fight with his dad, when Leo would end up with a black eye or a busted nose and seek refuge in the Kirks’ garden, that’s when Jim would see it because he’s the only one that dared ever approach Leo then. Not even Sam knew how to handle it or wanted to try, but Jim would go sit with him and quietly draw while sneaking looks at the boy he’d eventually realize he had a crush on when such feelings and awareness started to make sense to him.
Jim looks down at the floor and nods. “I…he told me what he had planned,” he says quietly. He hasn’t broken any laws, but there’s still a part of him that feels responsible for it all. His shoulders slump as he walks over to sit at the end of his bed. “I’m sorry, Leo. He told me, and I tried to talk him out of it, but you know what your father was like. I couldn’t blame him, though. He was in a lot of pain and the treatments weren’t helping. The cancer was spreading, and he knew he was going to die. He just refused to do it on any terms but his own.”
“It’s not your fault, Jim.” The mattress shifts as Leo sits down beside him. “He wrote me a letter,” Leo murmurs. “Another one, I guess, if the lawyer has one. It was sent to agency where I work, and it took weeks to track me down. I didn’t even know he was sick until three days ago. I got a bundle of mail with a letter from him and one from the lawyer telling me that he was dead. It’s why I’m here. I didn’t even have a chance to talk to him, to apologize for all the shit I’ve done and to accept his apology because, damn it, I loved that bastard regardless of it all.”
“I think he knew.” Jim looks over at Leo. “I mean, I knew, so I figure he did, too.”
“You did?” Leo arches a brow and studies Jim’s face. “I’m glad that you were here for him, even if it isn’t fair that he put you into that position. Even as a kid, you had this uncanny ability to make things better, so I’m relieved that maybe you were able to help him like you used to help me.”
“I used to help you?” Jim clears his throat, feeling like he’s done that a hundred times since going next door and discovering Leo. “All I did was bug you.”
“I can’t really explain it.” Leo looks away and gets to his feet. “I don’t even understand it. Seeing you again, it’s just reminded me of those quiet moments in your garden.” He turns to face Jim and smiles slightly. “I kinda can’t believe that you went next door to face a potential burglar with nothing but a baseball bat, though. Thought you were a genius, kid.”
“Oh, shut up,” Jim groans, rolling his eyes as he fights a sheepish smile. “I’d have been scary if I hadn’t slipped and fallen on my ass. I can wield a mean bat.” He gets up and crosses over to his dresser to get a shirt. “And stop calling me kid. It might have been okay when I was ten, but I’m going to be thirty in a few years.”
“I’m serious, Jim. If I had really been a burglar, I could have had a gun, and you’d have been shot.” Leo watches him pull his t-shirt over his head, which is more than a little disconcerting. “Next time, just call the police and don’t try to be a hero.”
“Yeah, all right.” Jim gets his shirt on and decides not bother getting fresh socks. It’s storming, but the floors are warm. “You hungry? I know it’s pretty late, but if you’ve been flying for a while, the food usually sucks on planes, and I worked through dinner.”
“Hmm?” Leo frowns briefly before he looks at the clock beside Jim’s bed. “Actually, I should probably go find a hotel. I drove straight here from the airport after I got my rental. I figured I’d stay at the house but…yeah.”
“There’s a bad storm out and a hurricane off the coast. Even if it’s not going to make landfall, people will be booked in all over,” Jim reminds him. “Happens every time. You can borrow my spare room, if you want. It’s got a bed and it’s free.”
Leo ducks his head and sighs. “I’ve put you out enough tonight, Jim. I don’t want to be a bother.”
“There’s still catching up to do,” Jim says simply. “Seriously, Leo, stop it. You’re an old friend who needs somewhere to crash. I’ve got the space, so it all works out. Now, are you hungry?”
“Still just as stubborn as always, I see,” Leo mutters before he raises his head and offers a slight smile. “I could eat. Also, is there a bathroom I can use?”
“Down the hall on the left. I’ll be in the kitchen when you finish.” Jim leaves his bedroom and goes downstairs. Since it is pretty late, he decides to go for easy and just make them grilled cheeses. Maybe heat up a can of soup, since the weather outside is nasty even if it’s pleasant indoors. He gets a can of vegetable beef and pours it into a pan before he gets stuff out for the sandwiches. He hears Leo’s footsteps and glances up with a smile. “Soup and grilled cheese okay?”
“Delicious. Can I help?” Leo walks over to the counter and reaches for the bag of bread. “So, what is it you do, Jim? You mentioned working through dinner.”
“Oh, um, well, I work in publishing,” he says, reaching for a slice of bread. His fingers brush against Leo’s hand, and he manages to avoid jerking his hand back at the touch. What the hell is wrong with him? He isn’t some shy, nervous little virgin. He’s had sex many times in the past, even had a brief relationship during college, yet he’s practically blushing just from touching Leo’s hand.
“Fascinating.” Leo leans against his shoulder to reach over him for the block of cheese. “I see that you’re still a fan of do it yourself.”
“Ha, you sound like my agent.” Jim laughs as he thinks about Spock and wonders what he’d think of Leo. Probably find him fascinating, too. “Sliced cheese isn’t real cheese. I formed that opinion at age eight, and I still hold firm to it.”
“You have an agent?” Leo is staring openly now, and Jim realizes that he’s said too much to just change the subject.
“I write and illustrate graphic novels. Spock comes with the contract.” He slathers butter on a slice of bread and puts it on the counter. “Do you like your sandwiches drowning in butter?”
“Yeah, I do.” Leo is still staring. “Graphic novels? Like comic books?”
“No. I mean, sort of, but not really. They’re like novels, only they’ve got pictures, too.” He shrugs a shoulder. “It pays the bills, and I enjoy it.”
Leo shifts next to him, his elbow bumping into Jim’s arm accidentally. “You always were drawing as a kid. Think I still have that picture you gave me when I turned eighteen. It was me sitting on a rock, remember?”
“You still have that?” Jim looks at him and grins. “God, it was so amateur. I’ll have to sketch you a new one, then you can compare them like a before and now.”
“I liked it.” Leo reaches for a slice of buttered bread and puts into a pan, adding the cheese before putting another slice on top. “How well does it pay the bills?”
Jim clears his throat and replies honestly. “Extremely well. I’m one of the best around right now,” he says. “My series is really popular, and I’ve actually turned down two different film offers. I don’t want anyone to fuck up my work by trying to make it into some summer action crappy popcorn movie.”
“Tell me how you really feel about it, Jim.” Leo’s tone changes into something closely resembling teasing, which makes Jim’s grin become even wider. Leo smirks when Jim glances at him, and he has to look away because it reminds him of Donovan toying with Luke in his novels before they end up fucking anywhere and everywhere. As some of his reviews state, his writing is good, the arc is solid, and it has good looking men fucking so what’s not to like? Leo nudges his arm and, as if he’s somehow reading Jim’s mind, asks, “What do you write about?”
“The usual,” Jim says vaguely. “Demons, angels, struggle between light and dark, lots of fighting, sex, inner turmoil. All that stuff.”
“Doesn’t sound like my usual,” Leo says. “You’re also starting to make me curious why you won’t just give me a straight answer.”
“Can’t really give you a straight anything, Leo.” He snorts and rubs the back of his neck. “I mean, I just feel awkward talking about it maybe. I can attend cons, that’s conventions for fans of like sci-fi and comics and shit, and I do Q&A sessions, and it’s always a lot of the same questions. I can give pat answers well, but I don’t feel comfortable opening myself up to the personal stuff.”
“Well, that answers one question I had,” Leo mumbles as he flips the sandwich and leans his hip against the stove. He coughs and reaches for another slice of buttered bread. “It’s personal. I get that. I’ll just read one and find out for myself.”
“No!” Jim grimaces and reaches for the tub of butter, putting it away so he has something to do with his hands. “I don’t think you’d enjoy them. Like you said, it’s not your usual. Just forget about it. Tell me about your work. Where have you been assigned recently?”
“I’ve been in the jungle for the past six months, going to villages to help inoculate people and heal what I can. I actually resigned, though, after I got the letter from my dad. I might go back eventually, but he was right. I can’t spend my life running away from the past.” Leo finishes making the last sandwich and looks at him. “I’ve enjoyed my work, found it very fulfilling, but I think I need to try something else for a while. There are people here that I can help, you know? I just need some time to figure things out, I guess.”
“You’re welcome to my guest room for as long as you want it,” Jim offers without hesitation. It’ll be torture, having Leo around when one look caused all the dormant feelings to resurface, but he’d like the opportunity to get to know Leo now and replace the old childhood memories with present day knowledge.
“Thanks, Jim. I appreciate the offer but I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.” Leo puts the two plates of grilled cheese sandwiches on the table and sits down while Jim gets them bowls of soup. There’s a loud crash of thunder, and Jim looks out the window at the rain.
“Well, it’s yours if you want it,” he says, turning away from the window and walking to the table. He sits down and starts eating. “Are you considering staying in Savannah? Or are you going to sell the house?”
“I’ll probably sell it. Even if I stay, I don’t need all that space when it’s just me,” Leo says. He sips his soup and licks his lips as he glances up at Jim. “As for Savannah, I haven’t made any decisions. I have some good memories about this place, but also plenty of bad.” He shakes his head. “I actually planned to visit the house and then get the hell out of here. Now, after running into you, I don’t know anymore.”
Jim reaches for his glass of sweet tea and takes a healthy sip. He isn’t sure what Leo’s saying, or not saying, really, but his heartbeat is going all crazy again with how Leo’s looking at him. “Oh.” Well, that’s just great. Definite proof of his English degree and support for the various writing awards he’s won when he can’t even come up with a better response than that.
They eat in silence. It’s slightly tense but not particularly uncomfortable. Leo finally breaks the quiet. “Does old man Archer still live on the corner? I saw those damn pink flamingos of his when I drove past and couldn’t believe it.”
Jim laughs and the tension is broken, for now. “He is, and his daughter’s just as crazy as he is, I swear.” They start talking about the neighbors, and Jim gives him all the gossip that he knows, which he mostly hears whenever he goes ‘round to visit Pike’s bar or Janice is working when he goes to the supermarket. Chris Pike always seems to know what’s happening in this town and several surrounding counties, and Janice is a fan who tells him everything she overhears in case he might want to use it for a new book. They finish eating and linger at the table until the clock chimes midnight, just talking about Savannah and the jungle and childhood adventures.
“I can’t believe it’s already so late,” Leo says. “I should be exhausted after the last couple of days, but I’m more wired than anything.”
“I know how that is. I should probably get some sleep, though. I’ve got a deadline at the end of next week for the first part of my book, and my editor will fly down here and personally sever my balls if I don’t have it on her desk on time.” He makes a face as he stands up. Leo stands, too, and reaches for a plate. “Nah, don’t bother. You’ve had a rough few days, Leo. Go on up to bed, and I’ll clean this up. The guest room is next door to the bathroom. I think there’s an extra toothbrush in the cabinet, if you need one tonight. It’s still storming so bad that you’d get soaked if you go get your luggage from the car.”
“I left my wet clothes on your bedroom floor,” Leo drawls, making the casual statement sound unbelievably dirty. Jim hopes that he isn’t gaping because he feels like maybe he is but can’t help it when Leo makes comments sound like that. “Should probably toss those in the dryer.”
“Right.” Jim puts Leo’s bowl on top of his. “I’ll, uh, do that, when I’m finished cleaning up. G’night, Leo. It’s been good seeing you again.”
“Night, Jim.” Leo gives him that intense look before he steps away from the table. “It’s been real good.” He nods at Jim and goes upstairs.
“Fuck,” Jim mutters, running his hand through his hair before he sits down again. During the next con, he’s going to have to tell Pavel and Hikaru an abbreviated version of tonight’s events just to prove to them that he isn’t infatuated with Donovan like they’re always teasing. No, instead he becomes a stammering pre-pubescent moron when an old crush turns up. Old crushes, it appears, develop into serious cases of lust and ridiculous behavior.
With a sigh, he gets up and cleans off the table. He looks out at the rain as he washes the dishes, reaching over the sink to open the window just enough so he can hear the storm. It’s strange having someone else in his house. There are noises upstairs, floorboards creaking and doors shutting, but it’s comforting, in a way, to not be completely alone, even if it’s just for the night.
“J.T. Kirk, huh?”
Jim is startled by the low voice coming from behind him. He drops the glass he’s rinsing back into the sudsy water and turns to see Leo standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Holding one of his novels. “Where did you get that?”
“Your office door was open, and there was a light on. I saw the bookcase and thought I’d get something to read before I fell asleep. Imagine my surprise when I walked inside and saw the large poster on the wall.” There’s a nerve in Leo’s cheek that is twitching as he stares at Jim. “That’s why you said I wouldn’t want to read them, isn’t it? Because of the art?”
“What do you think?” Jim says sharply, feeling defensive as Leo just stands there. “I didn’t even realize it at the time. It took Sam pointing it out for me to see the similarities. By then, it was already in print and he was too developed in my head to change how he looked.”
Leo steps into the kitchen and puts the book on the counter. “You thought I’d be angry?” he asks slowly, continuing to look at Jim with that powerful gaze that seems to see right through him. “You drew the hero of your series looking kinda like me, and you thought I’d be pissed off about it?”
“Aren’t you?” Jim wipes his wet hands on his shirt and worries his bottom lip, gnawing on it as he prepares himself for whatever Leo says.
“Damn it, Jim. Have you seen your work? It’s amazing.” Leo drops his gaze to stare at Jim’s wet lips. “I know it’s just a coincidence and you didn’t intend to do it, but it’s flattering, if anything. That Donovan guy is prettier than I am, but still.”
“I thought about you a lot when I was creating him,” Jim admits. “Thinking about heroes and dark and light and how gray things really are, and I thought of living here, about the fights you had with your dad but how you’d have fought anyone who said a word against him even after he hit you. That loyalty and integrity…it became part of Donovan, and his face took shape, and, fuck. I don’t know. I honestly didn’t plan it, but he looked a lot like you, only older and more world-weary. It’s not like I’ve been pining away or some shit since I was a kid or anything.”
“Jim.” Leo looks down at the book and touches the cover. “What’s it about?”
“A demon who becomes a warrior, fighting for what he believes in regardless of sides, and a fallen angel who doesn’t let him do it alone,” Jim says quietly. “There’s more than that, of course, but Donovan and Luke are the heart of the story.”
“I was wrong earlier. That sounds like something I’d enjoy.” Leo focuses on him, studying him silently before he steps forward. Jim watches him, feeling that tension in the air again as Leo moves closer. “I’ve wanted to do this all night,” Leo growls softly before he grips the back of Jim’s head and kisses him.
Jim is still, at first, but then he feels Leo’s tongue tracing his lips and he begins to respond. He opens his mouth and returns the kiss as he moves his fingers into Leo’s hair and tugs as the kiss deepens. He can feel the back of his shirt getting wet as he presses into the sink, shifting slightly so that he can push against Leo’s body. When they pull apart, he can feel warmth in his face and he’s panting, sucking in gulps of air as he tries to decide if pinching himself would ruin the mood.
“I’m sorry,” Leo says quietly. “I shouldn’t have done that. Not without asking or giving you a chance to say no.”
“I wouldn’t have said no,” Jim tells him, laughing softly. “I’ve only thought about kissing you since I was eleven and realized that kissing might not be as icky as I thought if I was kissing Bones.”
“Eleven?” Leo blinks at him and looks pretty damn adorable.
“I was an early bloomer,” Jim confides, moving his hand from Leo’s hair and touching his face. “I meant what I said about not pining all these years, but I can’t deny that I had a pretty big crush back then. You’re the one who made me realize that I like boys, and I’ve never really forgotten you.”
“I never…you were my best friend’s kid brother. I knew you liked tagging along after me, but I had no idea that you felt like that.” Leo strokes his thumb up and down Jim’s neck.. “I never really forgot you, either, though. I used to ask Sam about you before we lost touch, and I kept that picture because it made me feel good. Whenever I lost a patient or felt like things were getting unbearable, I’d take it out and remember those quiet moments in the garden where it was just us breathing and the sound of your pencil sketching.”
“It was a long time ago, Leo. We’ve both changed, grown up and had experiences,” Jim says. “I was a kid, and you wanted out of this town, so it’s not like anything would have been different if you had known. Hell, I’d have been mortified, no doubt.”
“I’m attracted to you, Jim. I felt it as soon as I shined the light on you and saw your face, saw these eyes staring at me,” Leo says bluntly. “But I also like you, the man you are now with your obnoxious convention t-shirts and charming confidence. I’d like to get to know you better, to see what happens, and I know it’s selfish of me because I don’t even know what I’m doing with my life anymore. My dad asked me to come home, to stop running and to be happy, so I’m here to do that, and I’ve somehow found you again.”
“I like you, too, Leo.” He laughs. “God, listen to us. Soon, we’ll be writing notes to each other with instructions to check a box if we want to meet after school.” He smiles as he brushes his knuckles over Leo’s unshaven jaw, feeling the bristle against his skin. “It’s only been a few hours since I thought you were a creepy thief with a sexy voice, so why don’t we just give it time and, like you said, see what happens.”
“We do sound rather silly.” Leo smiles slightly before he arches a brow, “A creepy thief, huh? Thanks a lot.”
“I did say with a sexy voice,” Jim reminds him. “I’m just glad that I heard the glass breaking or we might not have met again.”
“Serendipity.” Leo looks at him. “Did my father ever read any of your books?”
“Yeah, I gave him copies after he got sick and started spending so much lying down. He enjoyed them.”
Leo frowns in thought. “He had to have noticed the artwork then. And he was rather insistent in his letter that I come home, back here, and let myself be happy. Here where you lived next door.”
“You sound paranoid, Leo,” Jim points out. “David didn’t really strike me as much of a matchmaker, and he had rather old-fashioned ideas regarding appropriate relationships and my ‘lifestyle choice’ as he called it. I know you’re a doctor and probably used to over-analyzing things, but maybe this is just one of those coincidences that doesn’t have an explanation. Like you said, it’s serendipity.”
“You’re probably right. My father definitely didn’t know that I’m bisexual,” he says. He kisses Jim again, soft at first but it quickly escalates as Jim curls his tongue around Leo’s and pulls him closer. When they break apart this time, Jim’s lips are swollen and he’s flushed again. Leo is flushed, too, and he’s breathing hard. “I should probably go to bed before we end up having sex on the table, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s probably moving a little too fast.”
“Just a little,” Jim reluctantly agrees. He doesn’t want to mess whatever this is that’s been happening between them for the last few hours up by having sex too soon. Has it really only been a few hours? It’s hard to believe, especially when they click so damn well. “We’ll talk in the morning, alright?”
“Okay.” Leo kisses his forehead and caresses his face. When he steps away, he picks up the novel and smiles. “Until tomorrow. Night, Jim.”
“Don’t stay up reading,” Jim warns, returning the smile as he watches Leo leave. “Good night, Leo.”
After Jim finishes the dishes, he goes upstairs and collects their clothes from his bedroom floor. He puts them in the dryer but doesn’t turn it on. He’ll just dry them in the morning, since he should probably get to bed so he can get a little work done when he wakes up and still have time to spend with Leo. When he walks past the guest room, he pokes his inside and smiles. Leo is sleeping with his novel open on his chest, the lack of sleep and stress of the last few days obviously catching up with him.
Jim walks into the room and carefully pulls his book out from under Leo’s hand. Once he has it, he sets it on the nightstand for Leo to read later. He fixes the covers, pulling them up around Leo, and then he kisses him lightly. “Sleep well,” he whispers, switching off the light as he quietly leaves the room.
After taking a quick shower and brushing his teeth, he opens the bottom dresser drawer and pulls out the old sketch book that he keeps there. He gets a fresh pencil and lies down. He flips through the book, seeing all the sketches that he made when he first got the gift from Leo. Most of them are of Leo, though there are some of his parents and Sam and random other things that appealed to his thirteen year old mind. The images change as he nears the back, improving as he got older and used the book more sparingly so it wouldn’t get filled up.
When he reaches a clean page, he thinks about Leo sleeping, about the way his eyelashes spread out and his lips were parted so slightly. He feels the familiar itch in his hand as he puts pencil to paper, listening to the sound of the rain hitting his window as he begins to sketch Leo. He’ll sleep after he’s finished, but he knows he won’t be able to at all until he gets it onto paper. They’ve been given a second chance for something neither of them was ready to do anything about before, but, this time, he knows that they’re ready and willing to try and see what happens.