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Been Gone

Jake was on the edge of sleep, his mind floating in that null space between wakefulness and unconsciousness, when he heard the telltale clicks of the front door locks, then the door opening and closing.

He turned on his side and dragged the security monitor around. In the dark, the screen’s bright blue square made him squint, but he could see the pixelated figure look up at him, nod once, then continue on, out of camera range.

He rolled back and laid his hand on his chest, counting the beats. Like a jackrabbit, his heart was jumping, trying to leap out of his chest. He took a deep breath, willing his body to relax, his heart to slow down.

It was nothing new, the way he flinched and startled at the smallest sound. They’d been gone from Jericho for over a year now, but he was still as nervous as if the war was still being waged, as if people were still dying.

He missed the old Jake. The Jake that didn’t worry about risks or fallout, that took things the way they were, the way they came, and didn’t count the cost.

The war had changed all that, made him cautious and circumspect and more than a little paranoid.

But—he acknowledged with an internal shrug—there were compensations that more than balanced out the negatives.

And the main compensation, the one that really mattered, had made it up the stairs and was standing in the doorway, staring at him.

“Still up?”

“Sorta.” He shifted to the center of the bed and stretched and yawned. Like Pavlov’s dog, his body had woken up as well, in a completely different way. “I worked some. Tried to go over tomorrow’s schedule. Came up about an hour ago.”

Rob nodded and leaned against the doorjamb. He was still dressed for the cold, wearing his jacket and gloves. He looked good. Tired, but good. “How’s the arm?”

He ran his fingers over his sleeve, feeling the thin ridge that arced across his left shoulder. He’d had a run-in with an ASA sniper in one of the contested zones a couple weeks back. It hadn’t amounted to much; he’d got his trainees out safe, got the shooter and managed to make a stupid joke at the end. It had been a good experience for the group, but it hadn’t made Rob a happy camper when he’d found out about it. He had, in fact, railed for almost ten minutes in public, twenty minutes in private. Jake had finally stopped him by grappling him close and kissing his mouth shut. “Fine. Doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“You were lucky.”

He wanted to say, ‘so were you,’ because he knew what Rob would’ve done if he’d been killed. Finding and torturing the shooter would have been the least of it. And that would have meant an inquiry and jail time. If Beck and his boys could even catch up with him, of course. Because Jake also knew that if Rob had his way, if something happened and he finally cut his losses, he’d be off to Cheyenne to infiltrate and take down the ASA from within.

It was one of the reasons why he never went out these days without reminding himself that he was now a ‘we,’ that the results of his actions wouldn’t affect just him alone.

But it was something they didn’t talk about, the way Rob had lost all perspective and attention to duty when it came to Jake. They didn’t talk about it, and they probably wouldn’t, even though they should. “You’re a day early. How’d it go?”

“You mean…” Rob pushed away from the door and stripped off his gloves and coat. “How did Charles take the news that we haven’t made the progress we were supposed to have made when he asked me to take this job?”

“Yeah.”

He went into the closet, his voice fading out and then back in when he returned. “Not good. I’ve been informed that we better be past phase one of the project before the end of spring.” He sat heavily on the foot of the bed, his back to Jake.

“Or?”

“Or, there’ll be hell to pay, I suppose. He didn’t go into details.” Sarcasm and frustration laced his words—his entire back spoke of tension. “Did Chavez call?”

“No. I thought he and Beck were in Minneola.”

“They were. They got back tonight.”

“And?”

“And nothing. I was hoping he’d check in tonight so I could add his review to the report I need to write.”

“Give him a call. It’s only eleven-thirty.” It was a joke because Chavez wouldn’t be sitting at home, waiting for Rob to call. He’d be out at the nearest bar, trying to drink anyone he could under the table.

“You’re not helping, Jake.” And then Rob sighed and ran his hands over his face. “But you’re right. I should call him so I can get started. That way I’ll be done by one or two.”

But he didn’t move. Jake hadn’t expected him to. If he’d wanted to work, he’d never have come upstairs.

He reached out and touched Rob’s arm. His thin wool sweater, given to him by Jake’s mom last winter, was soft and smooth. “I should have gone tonight.”

“Nah.” Rob shook his head, “You didn’t miss much. Just Greenway making a lot of noise.” He turned to smile at Jake. “They know you’ve been busy, trying to whip that sorry-ass crew into shape.”

Jake smiled, remembering how they’d laughed themselves silly, the night after the day they’d gotten a good look at the crowd that had volunteered for the first ever, Active Community Duty Corps of Springfield, Missouri. The worst had been a skinny, underaged kid who’d spent too much time in front of her computer. But she’d turned out all right. After going out in the field with her, he realized that it hadn’t been laziness, but sheer terror that had kept her scores so low and fear, he could work with. Bravado and plain stupidity were something else and it was the others, the ones who’d assumed they knew everything about weapons and fighting that had become his biggest headache.

But, like Rob had said months ago, it took all sorts to make up the kind of civilian unit they were building, and they didn’t need just soldiers. Jake just hoped that they would all fit in, once he got the kinks worked out.

Nothing that was going to happen tonight and he said, “I’ll make it next week.”

Rob shrugged one shoulder, but said nothing.

Jake sighed. He’d told Rob it had been a mistake to accept the promotion. That the title, ‘Director of Intelligence and Recon’ had sounded great in theory, but wouldn’t mean anything more than a lot of paperwork and meetings.

Rob had argued that they had to start somewhere. Jake had countered that they’d already done that, last year in Jericho.

They’d talked about for a week. Jake had finally thrown in the towel when he realized that it was pointless and they were arguing in circle. So, Rob had said yes, and began making weekly trips to Columbus to meet with the reorganized intelligence community. Each time coming home more tired than when he’d left.

Jake tried to help out by attending when he could. His presence wasn’t mandatory, and in some people’s opinion, completely unnecessary. He never had much to add, thanks to the daily reports he made to the group, and when he did speak up, his comments were viewed with more than a little suspicion. If he’d been with the CIA or FBI, that would’ve been a different story, but his main claim to fame was his work with Ravenwood…

So he rode out his frustration, his misgivings that they’d eventually be back to square one, and ignored the speculative glances he always got when he and Rob arrived together.

But it was important—Rob liked to have him there, liked to get his take on the various initiatives and proposals. Jake pretty much just went for moral support even though it made him feel a little like Rob’s Girl Friday, something that had made him laugh, in the beginning.

He pushed the thought away and kicked back the covers, stretching his foot to trace the shoulder holster pulled tight across Rob’s back. He sighed and arched, and he pressed harder, worming his toes under the leather.

“Jake.” Rob arched again, his voice low, needy.

And he loved that. Loved it when Rob was needy because the man was concrete and steel with everyone else. It was hot and sexy and he wondered if it would ever get old. He hoped not.

So he ran his foot down Rob’s side and hooked his heel around his waist, pulling and tugging until Rob turned around to look at him.

They stared at each other a long, still moment, and then Jake took off his t-shirt and shorts and stretched his arms out wide.

Rob closed his eyes and muttered, “Jake,” again already taking out his gun, already laying it on the nightstand within easy reach. He didn’t get any further than that. Jake tugged again, and Rob twisted, sliding into an awkward tangle between his legs.

They kissed, lightly at first, then sharp and hungry when he wrapped his legs around Rob’s hips and took the holster off.

Rob moaned and twisted again, this time fitting perfectly, and this was what he loved, the weight and press, pushing him down, making a cocoon of sheets and blankets and warm skin.

But not enough of the latter and he dragged Rob’s sweater off, sighing because he found a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath. “Sit up so I can get this off.”

Rob raised up, saying suddenly, “Darcy called.”

“I know.”

“She said she talked to you.”

He got the shirt off and began on Rob’s jeans. “Yeah. She called around five.”

“What did she say?”

“I wrote it all down. It’s on the kitchen table.”

“Jake—”

“Hawkins,” he growled. “Now’s not the time to be talking about your wife.”

“Ex-wife.”

“Whatever,” he muttered as pushed and shoved, rolling them over so he was on top. “I like Darcy. I do. But,” he reached back and unlaced Rob’s boots, one after the other, “she can wait. I can’t. It’s been too long.”

Rob smiled. Finally. “Five days isn’t all that long.”

“It’s long enough.” He got his boots and socks off and started in on his jeans.

“What happened?” Rob asked softly, reaching up to tug on Jake’s dog tags.

He shook his head and finally got Rob naked, throwing his jeans and shorts somewhere on the floor. He didn’t want to talk about his growing unhappiness, his growing restlessness. He didn’t have a solution for either and there was no point talking until he figured out what was going on inside his own head. And it didn’t matter, now—he had what he wanted, underneath him, solid and warm.

Some of whatever he was feeling must’ve showed because Rob sat up and kissed him fiercely, taking his breath before moving down to his chest, biting and licking.

He sucked in a breath and bowed his head, breathing in the faint trace of Rob’s aftershave, the fainter trace of gun oil. The boredom of the day, the boredom of paperwork and test scores and evaluations was gone as if had never existed and he drew away and leaned, reaching  for the lube in the nightstand drawer as Rob took advantage and bit the inside of his arm. He laughed as he found the tube and without a word, held it up.

With practiced ease, Rob flipped the cap while he squeezed, coating Rob’s fingers. He tossed the tube aside and took Rob’s hand, guiding his fingers.

“Not so fast, Jake.”

“It’s okay.” Even though it wasn’t, even though it was too soon. He pressed down.

“No, it’s not. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.”

“Jake—”

“Hawkins.”

“Yeah?”

“Will you please shut up and fuck me?”

He’d meant to make a joke, meant to smile so Rob would know he was kidding. But it came out all wrong and Rob stilled. He nodded. And then murmured, “Hold on,” before pushing Jake on his side, then to his back. “Hold on,” he said again, but this time he didn’t look at Jake as he spoke.

There was something weird going on. Something besides his own weirdness, but it was too late. Rob had added another finger, and was finger-fucking him now and, yeah, it was too late. He grabbed Rob’s arm and forced him deeper, closing his eyes against the heat that burned his chest and belly, against the worry he knew Rob was throwing down at him.

And he thought Rob would try one more time, but he didn’t. He just whispered, “Here I come, baby,” and replaced fingers with cock.

It was good. As good as he’d come to expect and that’s all he let himself think about as Rob began to thrust.

***

He should move. He should really move because in a minute, a cramp was going to start up in his thigh and if that happened, it would really fucking hurt.

But he was too comfortable, too out of it, so he stayed where he was, again floating, but this time in a post-orgasm high. He kissed whatever part of Rob’s chest he could reach, then settled back down.

“Hey?”

“Yeah?”

“You never asked me why I came home early.”

“I didn’t realize there was a reason.”

“There was. There is.”

He shifted, raising his knee to ease the pressure on his thigh. “Okay, why did you come home early?”

“Jake?”

He opened his eyes. Rob pushed up on one elbow and stared down at him with an oddly blank look. “What is it?”

“I’ve got some news.”

Jake’s heart stopped. It literally did. He lunged up, grabbing Rob’s arm. “Is it my mom? Is it Eric?”

Rob was already shaking his head. “No. No, I’m sorry. That was—” He shook his head again, this time angrily. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you like that.”

He fell back. “Jesus Christ—”

“I’m sorry, Jake. I wasn’t thinking.” Rob kissed his cheek in apology. “I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “That’s okay, just—”

“Yeah, I’ll never do that again.”

‘Unless I mean it,’ were the unspoken words, but Jake shrugged those away. “So what’s your news?”

And instead of answering right away, Rob sat up and nodded. “Yeah, my news.” He took a deep breath. “My news is that we’re going to back to Jericho.”

This time his heart didn’t stop, but it jerked. “What?”

“Yeah. I got the call today. Hoffman wants to reinforce the western front, so Charles is sending me out to head the task force.”

“What about the community unit?”

“They’re finally gonna get their feet wet. Some are being deployed to Minneola for the winter months. Some will go with us.”

Rob’s face was still blank. “By ‘us,’ do you mean me, because I gotta tell—”

“Yeah, you’re going too.”

He sat up and gripped Rob’s shoulders, a smiling growing on his face, so wide it hurt. “Then what’s the problem? This is great news!”

“Yeah, it’s good news,” Rob agreed quietly.

He dropped his hands. “What the hell is going on? I know Jericho isn’t your home, but I thought—” He shrugged stiffly. “Is it Darcy?”

Rob shook his head. “No, it’s not Darcy. It’s not—” He stopped then looked at Jake, his eyes wary, like Jake was an IED that was getting ready to explode. “I found the letter.”

He frowned. “What letter?”

“The letter in your coat pocket.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Rob sat up. “Jake—”

“Hawkins, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What letter?”

With a muttered curse, Rob turned switched the bedside light on and got out of bed, striding to the closet. He marched back with a piece of paper in his hand. He thrust it at Jake with a, ‘gotcha,’ sort of glare.

Jake took it. And frowned again. The words, written in his own hand on white notepaper didn’t make any sense. ‘Em, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m sorry. I left without thinking, and now that I have too much time to think, I realize I made a big mistake. This war is a mess, but it’s helped me figure out what I want and I want you. If you—’

The letter ended abruptly, as if he’d been interrupted or decided it sounded too sappy and wanted to try again. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember writing it. “Where did you find this?” he asked absently.

“In your coat pocket.”

“What coat?”

“The jacket that your mom sent in November. The jacket from Ravenwood you said you were going to donate to—”

“Oh,” Jake said, nodding. He’d finally remembered and yeah, he remembered the letter, too. But—

He looked up. Rob had put on his shorts. As if he were getting ready to run and Jake couldn’t help it, he started to smile.

“Jake?” Rob said quietly, dangerously.

“Some spy you are.” He was grinning now, because it really was funny. “How did you last so long in all that deep cover? I mean—” He shook the paper. “Did you even read this? Who writes on official Ravenwood paper anymore?”

Rob snatched the letter from his hand. “What—?” He held it up to the light where he’d see, Jake knew, the Ravenwood watermark.

“I wrote that while I was in Iraq,” Jake explained. “With Ravenwood. I’d just arrived and realized how much I’d fucked up.”

“What about Emily?”

“You know about her. I was in love with her.” He shrugged, because it was true.

“And now?”

He sighed. “What do you think?”

“So, you’re not leaving me to go back to her?”

Jake’s smile died. He hadn’t had time to think, but of course Rob had— “No,” he said softly, firmly. “I haven’t been in love with her for a long time. You know that.”

Rob sighed. And shook his head at himself. “Yeah, okay.” He ran his hand over his hair. “I feel like a fool.”

Jake  held his hand out for the letter and when Rob gave it to him, he crumpled it up, slowly so his feelings on the matter were crystal clear. “I’m not sure if you realize it, but the only reason I’m here…” He threw the wad of paper towards the trashcan and missed. “Is because of you. What do you think I’ve been doing all this time?”

“Helping our country beat back the blue line.”

“No,” he said, just as quietly as before. “I could have stayed in Jericho for that. I came because you’re here. And I love you.” The words, not said for too long now, hurt his throat so he said them again, “I love you.”

Rob was frowning, almost grimacing in that way that said he was caught by his own emotions and didn’t know how to get free. So Jake took his hand and pulled him down. Under the covers, on his side, so he could spoon up behind him and pull him close.

He kissed the soft spot behind Rob’s ear and changed the subject, “When do we leave?”

Rob found his hand and gripped it tight. “For Jericho? I can’t go until next month, towards the end of January. But you can go whenever you want. You can go tomorrow. Get a few recruits together and head out.”

“Tomorrow,” Jake repeated. “Tomorrow. No, I’ll wait until Monday. That will be soon enough.”

Rob kissed his knuckles. “Maybe you can find us a house. Beck can probably help you.”

“No, I know just the place.”

Jake was on the edge of sleep, his mind floating in that null space between wakefulness and unconsciousness, when he heard the telltale clicks of the front door locks, then the door opening and closing.

He turned on his side and dragged the security monitor around. In the dark, the screen’s bright blue square made him squint, but he could see the pixelated figure look up at him, nod once, then continue on, out of camera range.

He rolled back and laid his hand on his chest, counting the beats. Like a jackrabbit, his heart was jumping, trying to leap out of his chest. He took a deep breath, willing his body to relax, his heart to slow down.

It was nothing new, the way he flinched and startled at the smallest sound. They’d been gone from Jericho for over a year now, but he was still as nervous as if the war was still being waged, as if people were still dying.

He missed the old Jake. The Jake that didn’t worry about risks or fallout, that took things the way they were, the way they came, and didn’t count the cost.

The war had changed all that, made him cautious and circumspect and more than a little paranoid.

But—he acknowledged with an internal shrug—there were compensations that more than balanced out the negatives.

And the main compensation, the one that really mattered, had made it up the stairs and was standing in the doorway, staring at him.

“Still up?”

“Sorta.” He shifted to the center of the bed and stretched and yawned. Like Pavlov’s dog, his body had woken up as well, in a completely different way. “I worked some. Tried to go over tomorrow’s schedule. Came up about an hour ago.”

Rob nodded and leaned against the doorjamb. He was still dressed for the cold, wearing his jacket and gloves. He looked good. Tired, but good. “How’s the arm?”

He ran his fingers over his sleeve, feeling the thin ridge that arced across his left shoulder. He’d had a run-in with an ASA sniper in one of the contested zones a couple weeks back. It hadn’t amounted to much; he’d got his trainees out safe, got the shooter and managed to make a stupid joke at the end. It had been a good experience for the group, but it hadn’t made Rob a happy camper when he’d found out about it. He had, in fact, railed for almost ten minutes in public, twenty minutes in private. Jake had finally stopped him by grappling him close and kissing his mouth shut. “Fine. Doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“You were lucky.”

He wanted to say, ‘so were you,’ because he knew what Rob would’ve done if he’d been killed. Finding and torturing the shooter would have been the least of it. And that would have meant an inquiry and jail time. If Beck and his boys could even catch up with him, of course. Because Jake also knew that if Rob had his way, if something happened and he finally cut his losses, he’d be off to Cheyenne to infiltrate and take down the ASA from within.

It was one of the reasons why he never went out these days without reminding himself that he was now a ‘we,’ that the results of his actions wouldn’t affect just him alone.

But it was something they didn’t talk about, the way Rob had lost all perspective and attention to duty when it came to Jake. They didn’t talk about it, and they probably wouldn’t, even though they should. “You’re a day early. How’d it go?”

“You mean…” Rob pushed away from the door and stripped off his gloves and coat. “How did Charles take the news that we haven’t made the progress we were supposed to have made when he asked me to take this job?”

“Yeah.”

He went into the closet, his voice fading out and then back in when he returned. “Not good. I’ve been informed that we better be past phase one of the project before the end of spring.” He sat heavily on the foot of the bed, his back to Jake.

“Or?”

“Or, there’ll be hell to pay, I suppose. He didn’t go into details.” Sarcasm and frustration laced his words—his entire back spoke of tension. “Did Chavez call?”

“No. I thought he and Beck were in Minneola.”

“They were. They got back tonight.”

“And?”

“And nothing. I was hoping he’d check in tonight so I could add his review to the report I need to write.”

“Give him a call. It’s only eleven-thirty.” It was a joke because Chavez wouldn’t be sitting at home, waiting for Rob to call. He’d be out at the nearest bar, trying to drink anyone he could under the table.

“You’re not helping, Jake.” And then Rob sighed and ran his hands over his face. “But you’re right. I should call him so I can get started. That way I’ll be done by one or two.”

But he didn’t move. Jake hadn’t expected him to. If he’d wanted to work, he’d never have come upstairs.

He reached out and touched Rob’s arm. His thin wool sweater, given to him by Jake’s mom last winter, was soft and smooth. “I should have gone tonight.”

“Nah.” Rob shook his head, “You didn’t miss much. Just Greenway making a lot of noise.” He turned to smile at Jake. “They know you’ve been busy, trying to whip that sorry-ass crew into shape.”

Jake smiled, remembering how they’d laughed themselves silly, the night after the day they’d gotten a good look at the crowd that had volunteered for the first ever, Active Community Duty Corps of Springfield, Missouri. The worst had been a skinny, underaged kid who’d spent too much time in front of her computer. But she’d turned out all right. After going out in the field with her, he realized that it hadn’t been laziness, but sheer terror that had kept her scores so low and fear, he could work with. Bravado and plain stupidity were something else and it was the others, the ones who’d assumed they knew everything about weapons and fighting that had become his biggest headache.

But, like Rob had said months ago, it took all sorts to make up the kind of civilian unit they were building, and they didn’t need just soldiers. Jake just hoped that they would all fit in, once he got the kinks worked out.

Nothing that was going to happen tonight and he said, “I’ll make it next week.”

Rob shrugged one shoulder, but said nothing.

Jake sighed. He’d told Rob it had been a mistake to accept the promotion. That the title, ‘Director of Intelligence and Recon’ had sounded great in theory, but wouldn’t mean anything more than a lot of paperwork and meetings.

Rob had argued that they had to start somewhere. Jake had countered that they’d already done that, last year in Jericho.

They’d talked about for a week. Jake had finally thrown in the towel when he realized that it was pointless and they were arguing in circle. So, Rob had said yes, and began making weekly trips to Columbus to meet with the reorganized intelligence community. Each time coming home more tired than when he’d left.

Jake tried to help out by attending when he could. His presence wasn’t mandatory, and in some people’s opinion, completely unnecessary. He never had much to add, thanks to the daily reports he made to the group, and when he did speak up, his comments were viewed with more than a little suspicion. If he’d been with the CIA or FBI, that would’ve been a different story, but his main claim to fame was his work with Ravenwood…

So he rode out his frustration, his misgivings that they’d eventually be back to square one, and ignored the speculative glances he always got when he and Rob arrived together.

But it was important—Rob liked to have him there, liked to get his take on the various initiatives and proposals. Jake pretty much just went for moral support even though it made him feel a little like Rob’s Girl Friday, something that had made him laugh, in the beginning.

He pushed the thought away and kicked back the covers, stretching his foot to trace the shoulder holster pulled tight across Rob’s back. He sighed and arched, and he pressed harder, worming his toes under the leather.

“Jake.” Rob arched again, his voice low, needy.

And he loved that. Loved it when Rob was needy because the man was concrete and steel with everyone else. It was hot and sexy and he wondered if it would ever get old. He hoped not.

So he ran his foot down Rob’s side and hooked his heel around his waist, pulling and tugging until Rob turned around to look at him.

They stared at each other a long, still moment, and then Jake took off his t-shirt and shorts and stretched his arms out wide.

Rob closed his eyes and muttered, “Jake,” again already taking out his gun, already laying it on the nightstand within easy reach. He didn’t get any further than that. Jake tugged again, and Rob twisted, sliding into an awkward tangle between his legs.

They kissed, lightly at first, then sharp and hungry when he wrapped his legs around Rob’s hips and took the holster off.

Rob moaned and twisted again, this time fitting perfectly, and this was what he loved, the weight and press, pushing him down, making a cocoon of sheets and blankets and warm skin.

But not enough of the latter and he dragged Rob’s sweater off, sighing because he found a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath. “Sit up so I can get this off.”

Rob raised up, saying suddenly, “Darcy called.”

“I know.”

“She said she talked to you.”

He got the shirt off and began on Rob’s jeans. “Yeah. She called around five.”

“What did she say?”

“I wrote it all down. It’s on the kitchen table.”

“Jake—”

“Hawkins,” he growled. “Now’s not the time to be talking about your wife.”

“Ex-wife.”

“Whatever,” he muttered as pushed and shoved, rolling them over so he was on top. “I like Darcy. I do. But,” he reached back and unlaced Rob’s boots, one after the other, “she can wait. I can’t. It’s been too long.”

Rob smiled. Finally. “Five days isn’t all that long.”

“It’s long enough.” He got his boots and socks off and started in on his jeans.

“What happened?” Rob asked softly, reaching up to tug on Jake’s dog tags.

He shook his head and finally got Rob naked, throwing his jeans and shorts somewhere on the floor. He didn’t want to talk about his growing unhappiness, his growing restlessness. He didn’t have a solution for either and there was no point talking until he figured out what was going on inside his own head. And it didn’t matter, now—he had what he wanted, underneath him, solid and warm.

Some of whatever he was feeling must’ve showed because Rob sat up and kissed him fiercely, taking his breath before moving down to his chest, biting and licking.

He sucked in a breath and bowed his head, breathing in the faint trace of Rob’s aftershave, the fainter trace of gun oil. The boredom of the day, the boredom of paperwork and test scores and evaluations was gone as if had never existed and he drew away and leaned, reaching  for the lube in the nightstand drawer as Rob took advantage and bit the inside of his arm. He laughed as he found the tube and without a word, held it up.

With practiced ease, Rob flipped the cap while he squeezed, coating Rob’s fingers. He tossed the tube aside and took Rob’s hand, guiding his fingers.

“Not so fast, Jake.”

“It’s okay.” Even though it wasn’t, even though it was too soon. He pressed down.

“No, it’s not. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.”

“Jake—”

“Hawkins.”

“Yeah?”

“Will you please shut up and fuck me?”

He’d meant to make a joke, meant to smile so Rob would know he was kidding. But it came out all wrong and Rob stilled. He nodded. And then murmured, “Hold on,” before pushing Jake on his side, then to his back. “Hold on,” he said again, but this time he didn’t look at Jake as he spoke.

There was something weird going on. Something besides his own weirdness, but it was too late. Rob had added another finger, and was finger-fucking him now and, yeah, it was too late. He grabbed Rob’s arm and forced him deeper, closing his eyes against the heat that burned his chest and belly, against the worry he knew Rob was throwing down at him.

And he thought Rob would try one more time, but he didn’t. He just whispered, “Here I come, baby,” and replaced fingers with cock.

It was good. As good as he’d come to expect and that’s all he let himself think about as Rob began to thrust.

***

He should move. He should really move because in a minute, a cramp was going to start up in his thigh and if that happened, it would really fucking hurt.

But he was too comfortable, too out of it, so he stayed where he was, again floating, but this time in a post-orgasm high. He kissed whatever part of Rob’s chest he could reach, then settled back down.

“Hey?”

“Yeah?”

“You never asked me why I came home early.”

“I didn’t realize there was a reason.”

“There was. There is.”

He shifted, raising his knee to ease the pressure on his thigh. “Okay, why did you come home early?”

“Jake?”

He opened his eyes. Rob pushed up on one elbow and stared down at him with an oddly blank look. “What is it?”

“I’ve got some news.”

Jake’s heart stopped. It literally did. He lunged up, grabbing Rob’s arm. “Is it my mom? Is it Eric?”

Rob was already shaking his head. “No. No, I’m sorry. That was—” He shook his head again, this time angrily. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you like that.”

He fell back. “Jesus Christ—”

“I’m sorry, Jake. I wasn’t thinking.” Rob kissed his cheek in apology. “I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “That’s okay, just—”

“Yeah, I’ll never do that again.”

‘Unless I mean it,’ were the unspoken words, but Jake shrugged those away. “So what’s your news?”

And instead of answering right away, Rob sat up and nodded. “Yeah, my news.” He took a deep breath. “My news is that we’re going to back to Jericho.”

This time his heart didn’t stop, but it jerked. “What?”

“Yeah. I got the call today. Hoffman wants to reinforce the western front, so Charles is sending me out to head the task force.”

“What about the community unit?”

“They’re finally gonna get their feet wet. Some are being deployed to Minneola for the winter months. Some will go with us.”

Rob’s face was still blank. “By ‘us,’ do you mean me, because I gotta tell—”

“Yeah, you’re going too.”

He sat up and gripped Rob’s shoulders, a smiling growing on his face, so wide it hurt. “Then what’s the problem? This is great news!”

“Yeah, it’s good news,” Rob agreed quietly.

He dropped his hands. “What the hell is going on? I know Jericho isn’t your home, but I thought—” He shrugged stiffly. “Is it Darcy?”

Rob shook his head. “No, it’s not Darcy. It’s not—” He stopped then looked at Jake, his eyes wary, like Jake was an IED that was getting ready to explode. “I found the letter.”

He frowned. “What letter?”

“The letter in your coat pocket.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Rob sat up. “Jake—”

“Hawkins, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What letter?”

With a muttered curse, Rob turned switched the bedside light on and got out of bed, striding to the closet. He marched back with a piece of paper in his hand. He thrust it at Jake with a, ‘gotcha,’ sort of glare.

Jake took it. And frowned again. The words, written in his own hand on white notepaper didn’t make any sense. ‘Em, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m sorry. I left without thinking, and now that I have too much time to think, I realize I made a big mistake. This war is a mess, but it’s helped me figure out what I want and I want you. If you—’

The letter ended abruptly, as if he’d been interrupted or decided it sounded too sappy and wanted to try again. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember writing it. “Where did you find this?” he asked absently.

“In your coat pocket.”

“What coat?”

“The jacket that your mom sent in November. The jacket from Ravenwood you said you were going to donate to—”

“Oh,” Jake said, nodding. He’d finally remembered and yeah, he remembered the letter, too. But—

He looked up. Rob had put on his shorts. As if he were getting ready to run and Jake couldn’t help it, he started to smile.

“Jake?” Rob said quietly, dangerously.

“Some spy you are.” He was grinning now, because it really was funny. “How did you last so long in all that deep cover? I mean—” He shook the paper. “Did you even read this? Who writes on official Ravenwood paper anymore?”

Rob snatched the letter from his hand. “What—?” He held it up to the light where he’d see, Jake knew, the Ravenwood watermark.

“I wrote that while I was in Iraq,” Jake explained. “With Ravenwood. I’d just arrived and realized how much I’d fucked up.”

“What about Emily?”

“You know about her. I was in love with her.” He shrugged, because it was true.

“And now?”

He sighed. “What do you think?”

“So, you’re not leaving me to go back to her?”

Jake’s smile died. He hadn’t had time to think, but of course Rob had— “No,” he said softly, firmly. “I haven’t been in love with her for a long time. You know that.”

Rob sighed. And shook his head at himself. “Yeah, okay.” He ran his hand over his hair. “I feel like a fool.”

Jake  held his hand out for the letter and when Rob gave it to him, he crumpled it up, slowly so his feelings on the matter were crystal clear. “I’m not sure if you realize it, but the only reason I’m here…” He threw the wad of paper towards the trashcan and missed. “Is because of you. What do you think I’ve been doing all this time?”

“Helping our country beat back the blue line.”

“No,” he said, just as quietly as before. “I could have stayed in Jericho for that. I came because you’re here. And I love you.” The words, not said for too long now, hurt his throat so he said them again, “I love you.”

Rob was frowning, almost grimacing in that way that said he was caught by his own emotions and didn’t know how to get free. So Jake took his hand and pulled him down. Under the covers, on his side, so he could spoon up behind him and pull him close.

He kissed the soft spot behind Rob’s ear and changed the subject, “When do we leave?”

Rob found his hand and gripped it tight. “For Jericho? I can’t go until next month, towards the end of January. But you can go whenever you want. You can go tomorrow. Get a few recruits together and head out.”

“Tomorrow,” Jake repeated. “Tomorrow. No, I’ll wait until Monday. That will be soon enough.”

Rob kissed his knuckles. “Maybe you can find us a house. Beck can probably help you.”

“No, I know just the place.” The last time his mom had called, she’d mentioned something about selling the farm—it was getting too much for her, she’d said, now that he was gone.

His throat tightened up and he imagined it, driving away from this grey place that was cold but never with snow. Heading north on 45 until he hit I-70, then turning west. Following the sun as he raced under the too-blue sky, the Roadrunner purring because she would know where he was going.

And driving into town, slowing down as he passed Gracie Leigh’s, passed the town hall, finally stopping when he got to his parent’s house. Leaping out to run up the sidewalk—

He swallowed hard and pressed his face against Rob’s shoulder. And Rob, he tried to turn, but Jake held him fast. He didn’t want him to see this, even though they both knew he was crying.

So Rob just pulled his arm tighter, just hummed low in his throat, murmuring, “Merry Christmas, baby.”

 

fin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story notes:
Jake Green/Robert Hawkins
Jericho
3,500+ words
Takes some time after the end of the show and is a continuation of A Month of Sundays
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me.