Vaughn's cell phone rang as he was sitting down at his computer first thing that morning after an early work-out in the agency gym. It wasn't even seven a.m. yet, too early for calls, except from other time zones, and he wasn't expecting any of those.
"Wheat or plain?" Jack asked in a businesslike way.
Very often you had to figure out the context of Jack's remarks with minimal clues, but this one wasn't hard, even though they hadn't spoken since yesterday afternoon at a meeting. Vaughn leaned back in his chair as his computer booted up.
"Wheat. Where are you, Fry's?"
"Wheat," he heard Jack say to the counter person before speaking to him again. "Yes."
"Is it still raining?"
"More or less."
"I hate when it rains." He tapped a pen against his thigh and yawned. "I just want to stay in bed." A whisper in the back of his mind questioned this choice of small talk, but he didn't listen to it. He sensed that he was drifting along the edge of a new sea of knowledge, but wasn't ready to commit to the deep or retreat to safe land, wasn't even sure yet what the deep held. His feelings were like a handful of loose change that he hadn't added up.
"I know the feeling."
"You? I imagine your eyes snapping open at the crack of dawn, like clockwork." He slid the pen through his fingers in a lazy twirl, and rocked a little in his chair.
"I'm not an automaton." Vaughn could hear the sound of espresso machines grinding and chuffing in the background.
"You wake up at five fifty-nine every day, don't you," Vaughn guessed.
There was a brief, possibly irritable silence. "That proves nothing. I simply have regular habits."
"Predictability is what gets people killed."
"That's true," Vaughn pondered. "You're not that predictable."
"I should hope not."
"You're even kind of erratic."
"I'm hanging up now."
Vaughn closed his phone just as Sydney came up. "Good morning," she said, with a toothy grin and a face too awake for this time of morning. She stood by his desk, a model-tall figure with coffee in hand.
"That sounded interesting. Are you finally seeing someone?" She was happy for him, her voice lilting, brows raised to an inquisitive height.
His heart tripped double-time and his face went blank. "What?"
"You were smiling and fondling your pencil--also, leaning back." She recited these facts as unequivocal proof of her observation, an earnest contrast to her teasing. "Classic signs of a morning-after conversation."
He couldn't quite take in what she was saying, and his face felt hot. "That's--no--it was just--someone. A friend."
Weiss wandered over. "What's up? Other than my dragging ass."
"Vaughn's seeing someone," Sydney confided over the rim of her coffee cup, then smiled before taking a sip.
"I am not! Really, I'm not." He appealed to Weiss for support.
"Oh yeah? Who is she? Is it Kim in Analytics? You know she has a thing for you."
"Okay, you both need to go away now," he said to them, starting to log on to the system. They exchanged knowing looks over his head and strolled off together.
Jesus Christ, he thought. His entire body was flushed with embarrassment, and the knowledge he'd been resisting was pushing against his consciousness for attention. He pushed back, hard, and told himself that his friends were crazy. And that maybe he needed to be a bit more professional when speaking to Jack in the office. Or not. Because really, they were just insane.
Nonetheless, he geared himself up to be polite but crisp when Jack came by with the bagels. Except that Jack also brought him a coffee. Vaughn knew he was smiling like an idiot at Jack again, just for the gift of an Americano. Did he smile too much? How could he know? Jack didn't seem to mind, but Jack could be hard to decipher.
He brought me coffee, Vaughn thought. He doesn't care if I smile at him. Secure in this reasoning, he went back to work. It was a boring as hell day, a paperwork day, a day in which not a single bombing came over the global wires. By six, Vaughn was entertaining thoughts of a white-water rafting trip sometime in the near future, even some fishing. When was the last time he'd gotten away? He rose and stretched and grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair. His exit brought him by Jack's office, and he paused at the open door. Only the desk lamp was on, casting a low light on Jack, who was absorbed in his computer. Vaughn thought he looked incredibly bored.
"Hey," he said, drawing Jack's gaze up. "Want to come over for dinner?"
Jack looked at him a moment, unreadable. "Dinner at your place?" He put a slight, questioning emphasis on 'your'.
"Yeah." They'd never done that before, but so what. "I was thinking of making stir-fry."
"I should really finish this." Jack was hesitant, groping for an excuse that he didn't even want to make. Vaughn always knew when Jack wanted to be persuaded.
"Finish it tomorrow," he said easily, leaning against the door frame, aware of his own body's low, steady burn, like a pilot light he'd only recently discovered. He didn't take his eyes off Jack. This was just friendship, but it could be a deep one, nearly as good as more. He was used to bearing certain aches quietly, accepting whatever was offered without asking for what he couldn't have. Besides, what did he want that he couldn't have? Nothing. He was happy.
"All right." Jack took a breath and nodded. "Shall I follow you?"
"Yeah. I don't need to stop."
His apartment felt unused, as it always did--the office was where he lived, when he lived at all. But having Jack there made it almost comfortable, breathed life into the empty quiet. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had someone over. Probably Weiss, for beers and a game. And before that, Alice.
He turned on the radio, which brought up a public radio station playing jazz. He thought about changing it, but didn't.
"You want a drink?"
Jack seemed restive, like a cat ready to bolt. He hadn't taken his jacket off, and his tie was still neatly knotted at the neck.
"Yes. That would be--" He finished the thought with a nod.
"I have beer, and--" He looked inside the refrigerator. "Beer."
"Beer is fine."
"Sorry. I haven't been to the liquor store in a while."
He gave Jack a bottle and a glass, and started chopping vegetables. Jack watched him. After an awkward minute or two, as Jack was looking around his apartment but not moving from where he was planted, Vaughn said, "You can take off your jacket and get comfortable, you know."
"Of course." Jack didn't move right away, but after a few moments, removed his jacket and loosened his tie. "Can I help with anything?"
"You can marinate the chicken."
For that, Jack went to the unprecedented length of rolling up his sleeves. It was pretty funny for some reason, and Vaughn's lips quirked. He ducked his head to keep from giving himself away, and they moved around the kitchen together in increasing comfort, neither of them getting out of sorts when they had to brush by each other. Brush passes, Vaughn thought, as he turned to grab a towel just as Jack turned to put a bowl in the sink. They were facing each other maybe a foot apart and it took Vaughn's breath away for a second. Hoping his face hadn't shown anything, he took the bowl from Jack and put it in the dishwasher.
"I like to clean as I go," he explained.
"A good rule to live by."
Vaughn tried to find subtext to that, but couldn't. Over dinner they started off talking about cold cases, cases in progress, and what might come up next on their slate, but at some point talk turned to politics, then to political history, then to school, authors they liked, places they'd traveled, people they'd worked with, strange dishes eaten in strange circumstances, things they'd seen that had changed them, the ways they looked at the world. Done with the meal, they lingered with their beers.
Clean as you go, Vaughn thought, but he was afraid that if he cleared the table, Jack would leave. When the talk inevitably dwindled, he felt stirred by melancholy.
"It's late," Jack finally said. "I should go."
"Yeah." Vaughn gave the requisite smile, because showing regret would have been far over the line. He stacked dishes.
"I'll help with that."
Vaughn didn't turn the offer down and they cleaned up side by side, rinsing dishes, putting them in the washer. He could feel his heartbeat rabbiting in his chest, fueled by unspoken words, even as he remained outwardly calm.
Finishing up meant nothing else to do, an end to the evening. He dried his hands and gave the towel to Jack, who took it and folded it and laid it neatly on the counter and then turned and took Vaughn's face in one hand and kissed him.
Shocked, Vaughn froze for a moment, and then gripped Jack's shoulder and kissed him back with desperate need. The kiss grew fiercer, hard and deep. Vaughn pressed against the other man's body and tried to work shirt buttons open with shaking fingers. Jack batted his hand away and began undoing Vaughn's belt.
"Oh god," Vaughn said on a ragged breath, clumsily returning the favor. The kisses came in an unstopping rush and then Jack's hand closed over his dick, drawing him out. Vaughn gave a muffled cry and shoved into Jack's grip as it slid up and down, squeezing the head on each pass. Feeling as if he might fall to the floor, Vaughn grabbed Jack's shirt to stay upright and fumbled with his free hand at Jack's pants, grateful when Jack guided it inside. He closed his fingers around another man's dick for the first time in his life. It was hard, heavy, big.
"Oh Jesus," he whispered into Jack's mouth, hips picking up frantic speed as he slid closer to the shocking, perfect end he could see rushing toward him. "Please--"
Everything felt familiar, as if they'd done this before, even as the bright sharp newness was overwhelming him. He lifted his hips and rocked with a wild longing into Jack's fist. The world was losing shape at the edges and his dick was growing slick and painful, the best kind of painful. He could feel every muscle in his body trembling to hold it together, and then need sharpened and broke and he came in wet jerks on Jack's hand and shirt.
Jack gasped into his mouth, heavy, incredible gasps--his tongue, his hands, the hot pressure of his body--Vaughn arched and kept coming, crying out again and forcing himself harder into Jack's hand, the skin of the other man's palm pulling a clenched kiss over the head. He couldn't stop fucking into the tight heat of him, he was going out of his mind, he had to bring Jack off too, and jerked his hand, hoping he was doing it right and that Jack wanted this just as badly, which he seemed to, and then he felt Jack's soft cry break in his mouth and a wetness hit his hand and the skin of his lower belly and he gave a happy laugh with almost no breath behind it.
"Oh god, yeah." He caught Jack's mouth back after it had been torn away, and Jack stabbed his tongue inside again at a sweet angle, still coming with heavy thrusts into Vaughn's caress.
They slowly caught their breath, leaning against each other. Vaughn rested his head on Jack's shoulder, rubbed upward against his neck, then drew a cheek across Jack's cheek to kiss him again. Jack didn't pull away. He didn't pull away at all.