Title: The Way the World Begins (Part IV-V)
Part IV: Between Idea and Reality
“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow.”
The kiss, languid and unhurried, momentarily erased Will’s anxieties and cleared his mind of all but the slow movement of Jack’s lips on his. He’d wanted to resist Jack, wanted to run and hide from the terrifying certainty in Jack’s eyes, but the aching tenderness of Jack’s hands on his face, stroking reassurance and safety into Will, had broken something in him. So he stayed, briefly allowing himself to sink in the easy warmth of the kiss and Jack’s body against his, anchoring him even as his emotions threatened to overtake him.
One of Jack’s hand slid around the cup the back of Will’s neck, pulling Will closer to him as he deepened the kiss, mouths moving with greater urgency. The contrast between the fervent heat of Jack’s mouth and the gentleness of his hand on Will’s neck had Will spinning, all thoughts deserting him as sparks of long-denied pleasure darted through him.
Will tasted better than Jack had ever imagined, and the feeling of Will’s body against his own had him floating on a cloud of pleasure. Needing more, he stroked Will’s lower lip with his tongue, drinking in the other man’s low moan and relishing in the fact that he had caused it.
Then, the sudden, sharp absence of Will’s lips on his sent Jack reeling, and the single word Will gasped had Jack’s heart dropping like a stone, an all-consuming dread dousing his pleasure as effectively as water to a fire.
“Will?” Jack kept his tone light, clinging to the fleeting hope that Will had stopped for some mundane reason, like that they head inside to escape the growing chill in the air.
Will’s words came out in a rush. “I can’t do this.”
Jack felt as though the floor had fallen from beneath his feet. “What?”
“I’m so sorry, Jack.” A panicky look had appeared in Will’s eyes as his gaze darted around the room, focusing on everything but Jack. “I just—I can’t do this.”
“Why?” Jack asked bluntly. “It didn’t seem like you were having much of a problem with it a couple seconds ago.”
“Well, a couple of seconds ago, I wasn’t exactly thinking straight, was I?” It was a credit to how upset Jack was that he didn’t make some quip about Will never being able to think “straight”. “I mean…Jack, what the hell are we doing?”
“I think it’s pretty clear what we were doing, Will—even for someone who gets as little action as you do.” Jack couldn’t hold back the slight barb as his frustration and dread increased.
Will didn’t even blink. “Jack, you know what I mean! This…I mean, we…” Will drew in a shaky breath. “This could never work.”
To Jack, it sounded as though Will was trying to convince himself as much as Jack, so he persisted, still holding onto the faint hope of salvaging whatever spark had flared between them. “Why not?” he challenged.
“Jack, I like order and control and knowing what’s going to happen next and you- Jack, you’re chaos and unpredictability and freedom and I don’t know if we...” Will finally looked at Jack, eyes filled with a mixture of desperation, fear, and sadness. Jack swallowed at the intensity of the gaze, but met Will’s eyes unflinchingly as the other man continued. “I don’t think I can do this. I’m sor—”
Before Will could finish his sentence, Jack leaned in and kissed him. It started off as fierce, with Jack pouring his anguish and denial into each heated press of his lips to Will’s. Unable to resist, Will kissed back just as fervently, shuddering as Jack’s hands traced restless patterns on his back.
Then, almost as suddenly as the kiss had started, it changed. Jack gentled the kiss, using lips and tongues to soothe as he licked his way into Will’s mouth. His hands slowed their frantic movements on Will’s back and came slowly down to rest on Will’s hips, thumbs stroking a slow, steady rhythm on Will’s sides.
Finally, the need for air forced the two apart, and the pair separated only as far as they needed in order to breathe. As his breath shuddered out in harsh pants, Will closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Jack’s, struggling for control. They stood in silence for a few moments, before the fragile quiet was broken by Will’s voice.
“That— that was a mistake.” Each word was like a dagger to Jack’s heart. “It can’t—it doesn’t change anything. I’m sorry.” He pushed past Jack and started for the door back to the apartment.
He only made it a few steps before Jack grabbed his arm. If Jack was going to be left alone, then he at least going to get some sort of an explanation.
“Why are you so against this, Will? You can’t say that you don’t have feelings for me.” Of this, Jack was sure. “Not after what just happened.” When Will didn’t respond, Jack reached out and clasped each of Will’s hands in his own. “Will, for God’s sake, talk to me.”
There was a long moment of silence, tense and oppressive. Just when Jack feared Will would refuse to speak, the quiet was broken.
“I…I can’t lose you, Jack,” Will said, so softly Jack almost missed it.
“Lose me?” Jack pulled away, confused. “Will, I’m the one trying to get you to stay with me. If anything, I should—“
“I don’t mean you as a romantic partner, Jack. I mean you as—well, as you.” He waved a hand in Jack’s direction. “I can’t lose you as a friend, as someone who’s been by my side for the last twenty years. And if this thing,” he gestured between them, “doesn’t work out, which it probably won’t, knowing both our track records, it’ll probably destroy our friendship and I can’t let that happen, Jack.” Will looked away, unwilling to meet Jack’s gaze. “I can’t lose you, Jack. I won’t lose y—“
Jack quickly cut him off. “Will, I’m not going anywhere. I haven’t gone anywhere in the last twenty years, so what makes you think I’m going anywhere now?” Couldn’t Will see how much Jack wanted this? Wanted him?
Will shook his head. “I’m not saying that you’ll want to leave, Jack. I’m saying that neither of us has a history of good relationships, and if this ends badly, you won’t…you won’t want to stay.”
“But what is this doesn’t end badly?” Jack persisted, unwilling to give up when he could still see the hint of desire hidden in Will’s eyes. He knew Will wanted this, but his friend’s famous ability for self-sabotage was rearing its ugly head. “What if it goes well?” Will opened his mouth to respond, but Jack continued before he could answer. “Are you more afraid of this failing, or succeeding?” He knew his statement had some element of truth to it when Will fell silent, simply staring at the wall behind Jack’s head.
Jack moved closer to Will, cupping the other man’s cheek in his hand and forcing Will to meet his eyes. “Look, Will,” Jack began, “I understand why you might have doubts about this. I’m not exactly known for having great relationships, or even ones that last longer than a week.” Will smiled slightly at that, and Jack continued, encouraged. “But I’ve never entered a relationship with the intention of it lasting forever. I’ve never been with someone and wanted that person to be the one I spend the rest of my life with. The next couple days, sure.” Now it was Jack’s turn to smile. “But, Will, you’ve already been with me forever as a friend, ever since the day you dragged me out of your literal closet and I dragged you out of your metaphorical one.” Jack leaned his forehead against Will’s. “I won’t leave, Will. You won’t get rid of me that easily.”
He should have known that Jack wouldn’t simply let him go, not without a fight. Jack was fire and energy, untamable and unrelenting.
Will closed his eyes against the flood of emotion Jack’s words inspired. Rarely had he heard his friend sound so mature, so sure and achingly tender. “It’s not just your history I’m worried about, Jack,” he whispered, hoping his friend couldn’t hear the tremble in his voice. It was breaking his heart to force himself to leave Jack, but the possibility of staying was too immense – too dangerous— to contemplate. He had to leave.
Jack scoffed lightly. “What, you think that because your previous relationships haven’t ended well, that this one automatically will, too?” He shook his head. “Don’t be ridiculous, Will. It’s not a good look on you. I’m not Michael. Or Vince. Or any of your other boyfriends.”
“I know you’re not, Jack. That’s not what I mean.” Will had no clue how to verbalize his hesitations, the sickening mix of delight and apprehension that coiled in the pit of his stomach whenever he considered the idea of a relationship with Jack. The two of them together could be wonderful…or it could end up destroying them both. And it was the latter possibility that had caused Will to continually shy away from what Jack was proposing at that very moment.
“Then what do you mean?”
Will searched his mind for the words to explain the chaotic mess of emotions churning through him, and came up empty. He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Jack shook his head. “That’s not good enough, Will.”
The pair stood in silence for a moment, Jack waiting for an explanation that Will couldn’t give.
Finally, Jack sighed. “Look, Will. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t want this, that you don’t have any feelings for me at all, I’ll walk away. We can just…pretend like this didn’t happen.” Will knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near that easy to forget what had happened between them. Too much had changed. Too much had been revealed in the past minutes, in the brush of Jack’s fingers against Will’s face that bespoke of affection long hidden, in the way Will’s lips had moved against Jack’s that told of desire long suppressed.
“Will.” Jack’s tone, insistence laced with quiet desperation, demanded an answer.
Will sighed. “I can’t. I can’t tell you that I don’t want you—want this. But it’s more complicated than just wanting, Jack.” There was so much more at risk, and the stakes were just too high.
Part V: Between Potency and Existence
“Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow.”
The words hung in the air, an almost tangible entity amidst the sounds of ragged breathing. Jack, hand still on Will’s neck, could feel the tenseness in Will’s body, could practically see the uncertainty radiating off of his friend.
After a minute, when Will still hadn’t spoken, Jack sighed. “Fine,” he said softly. “If that’s what you want.” He slid his hand off Will’s neck and, without meeting the other man’s eyes, grabbed his jacket off the couch, desperate to escape so he could lick his wounds in private.
“No, Will,” Jack spat, unbelievably hurt and upset as finally, finally the swirling maelstrom of emotions caused by the emotional roller coaster he’d been dragged on coalesced into anger. “I’ve been waiting for almost twenty years, and you know what? I’m done.” He reached for the door, and had just begun pulling it open when another hand came from behind and pushed it closed.
Jack whirled around, indignation clear on his face. “What the hell is your—”
Will heard Jack’s voice only vaguely through the pleasure-induced fog in his mind, like it came from across the room. He’d tried so hard to resist Jack, tried convincing himself that starting a relationship with his best friend would only cause heartbreak. He’d resisted Jack’s pleadings and arguments, but the hurt in his friend’s voice as he walked towards the door…that had shattered every one of Will’s remaining defenses. In that moment, he’d realized that the denial of his feelings for Jack would destroy their friendship more than the accepting of them.
So he’d finally given in, finally allowed himself to unashamedly and unreservedly touch, feel, taste. Jack felt so good against him, arms around Will’s waist, chests against each other, Jack’s mouth moving eagerly against his.
The feelings were so intense, so overwhelming, that it was like a slap in the face when Jack pushed him away. It took Will a second to push the desire in his mind aside and focus on the almost accusing look in Jack’s eyes.
“Jack, what’s wrong?” Will asked, voice catching as he tried to steady his breathing, utterly bewildered by the sudden change in Jack’s demeanor. “I thought you wanted this!”
“I did—I do,” Jack responded, leaning heavily against the door and swallowing before adding softly, “I just didn’t think you did.”
“Wha—Jack, that’s crazy!” Of all the things Jack could have protested, that was the last one Will had expected. “Did that,” he waved a hand in vague motions between them, “Did that not give you a clue?”
“Well, yeah,” Jack retorted, “But what the hell was I supposed to think, Will? You could barely look at me five minutes ago, and then all of the sudden, right when I’ve finally taken the hint that you don’t want me here and start heading out the door, you kiss me? I mean, what is going on? What do you want?”
Will could hear the hurt and frustration in Jack’s voice and desperately sought to make them disappear. “Jack, I want you.” Had always wanted him, always needed him, and just been to blind to see it. To afraid to see it.
“Well, you didn’t five minutes ago!” Jack shouted. “Then, you were spouting some crap about all of our past relationships and pretty much saying you didn’t trust either of us enough to make this work!”
“No Jack, it’s not that—” Will tried to explain, a panicky feeling rising inside him.
“Then what the hell is it?” Jack’s voice demanded an answer. “I know it’s not that there’s someone else you’re interested in, because you would have told me about him. I know it’s not that you don’t have feelings for me, or you think that I don’t have feelings for you.” After all that had happened, that was no longer a question in the slightest. “Is it me? Is there something about me that makes you think this won’t work?”
“Oh, Jack, it’s not you, sweetheart—” Will frantically sought to reassure his best friend. It had never been about Jack.
“Then who is it?”
“It’s me!” The two words rang out, cutting through the tension-filled air like a knife. Jack fell silent, staring at Will in confusion. After a long moment, Will broke Jack’s gaze, shifting his weight nervously, already wishing he could take back the words that had sprung involuntarily from his mouth.
“What?” The question, though only a single word, conveyed Jack’s bewilderment and desire for an explanation. Will sighed, knowing he owed Jack at least that much. Even if, at the end of it all, Jack still walked out that door and left Will standing in the tattered vestiges of his life.
“I have a history of…of somehow managing to drive the people close to me away. Boyfriends. Even family.” Will spoke haltingly, meeting Jack’s eyes for a split second before glancing away. “And I get it. I mean, I’m not exactly the easiest person to…to be with.” He forced a small laugh that, even to his ears, sounded horribly fake. “I’m obsessive about keeping the apartment clean, I need to have everything in it’s place, I’m boring, I’m—”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Jack interrupted. “I’ve known you for almost twenty years, Will, and I haven’t run screaming yet! Do you think that’ll change somehow if we get together?”
“I didn’t want to risk it!” Will said, the words sounding foolish even to his own ears. “I know it’s stupid,” he sighed, taking a tentative step closer to Jack. “I just—Jack, I just couldn’t risk the same thing happening with you, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. I convinced myself a long time ago that the possibility that there could be something…more between us wasn’t worth risking our friendship. Like I said earlier, I couldn’t risk losing you.” Will closed the distance between them and took Jack’s hands in his own, relieved to see that the irritation and mistrust in Jack’s eyes had faded into curiosity and tentative hope. “And then you turned to walk out that door, and all I could think was, I’m losing him—in a second, he’s going to walk out that door, thinking that I’m rejecting him when I actually lo—“ Will abruptly stopped, unable to say the word. He’d said it to Jack before, of course, but now…not it had a different meaning. He let out a long breath. “You were going to leave,” he said simply. “And I couldn’t let that happen.” He squeezed Jack’s hands. “It’s always been you, Jack. Always.”
“Oh, Will,” Jack breathed, and Will almost collapsed in relief when he saw the frustration had left Jack’s face completely, replaced by pure affection. He slid his hands up Will’s arms to wrap around his shoulders and pull Will closer to him in a hug. Will’s eyes slid closed as he relished the warmth of his friend against him, then flew open at the sudden smack of Jack’s hand against the back of his head. He jerked back, utterly confounded by both the action and the grin on Jack’s face.
“Jack, what the hell was-”
“That was for putting me through hell, Will,” Jack scolded. “And this,” he leaned in and kissed Will, long and deep, “is for finally getting your head out of your ass and growing a pair. It sure took you long enough.”
Will wanted to be outraged, but Jack was just too damn cute when he smirked. “So, I’m forgiven?” he breathed against Jack’s mouth.
Jack just answered with another kiss.