[This story was written in response to BLIPS by Annie P, which should be read first. The Android would like to thank Annie for permission to use her dialogue as a framework within which to explore K's reaction to the same events.]
Once you've heard the truth, everything else is just cheap whisky.
Agent K didn't want to hear the truth five years ago and he sure as hell didn't want to hear it again yesterday, so the fact that the truth is with him here and now, large as life and twice as …
He bites down on the thought.
"Get in the car, kid," he says, brusquely.
For a moment it looks like J's going to rebel again, but then he walks around and slides into the passenger seat and his shoulders slump all the way down and K knows fine and well he's thinking about Laura. K wants to kick himself because he did the right thing but that didn't stop people he cares about getting hurt.
He drives. Doesn't think about where they're going, just as long as it's somewhere else. Finds they're on a quick route out of the city and doesn't really care. J has pulled his neuralyzer and dark glasses out of an inside pocket and he's sitting looking at them like they're going to bite him. K knows he's safe enough while he's still driving, but when they stop anything can happen and he's not at all sure where J's head is at.
"What do you think you're going to do with that, slick?" Tries to make his tone as even as possible, going for that flat monotone that's supposed to indicate emotional detachment.
Thoughts he couldn't begin to name are roiling behind J's dark eyes. "Well, hell. Trying to figure out if I have the strength to do this to you again, if you ask me." J looks away. "Are you going to ask me?"
That's a good question. Is he going to return to rural oblivion, looking up at the stars and not knowing what they mean, or is he going to come out of retirement properly and return to MiB and be this man's partner with all that the word implies? It's not like he and J even know one another on anything but a work level; they've eaten precisely one meal together and J doesn't remember most of that. Socially there's nothing there; old and busted meets new hotness; old, white and rural meets young, black and urban. They should be polar opposites, but they're not - and K wishes he didn't remember the moment it happened.
"No," he says at last. He's been through this enough times already. He's given up everything good in his life to MiB. It's been over forty years now since he took that wrong turn on that back road the night Elizabeth didn't get her flowers; he and Z are the only survivors of that time, and they've both spent the last forty years giving everything and getting nothing back.
"No? You aren't going to ask? Well, hell, let me find you … " J is rummaging in the glove compartment. "I have one somewhere, I know I do." It's a tinny little medal which but for the Creelon symbol could have come out of a packet of cereal. "Backstreet boys of the universe, huh?" J seems to have forgotten his anger in reminiscences of the encounter. "It was perfect, from an evil genius point, you know. Almost worked. Be like if Canada just up an' bombed the shit outta someone."
J's looking out of the window, lost in his memories, so he doesn't notice when K's head turns slightly and K's mouth curves into an almost-smile. The medal is twisting around and around in J's fingers as he channels all his excess nervous energy into a serious case of the fidgets.
J feels eyes on him and turns back. "So, was she your daughter?" he asks.
The question's too abrupt. K's perfectly willing to talk about it, but J's tone has opened a wound. Nobody ever knew the truth about the Light of Zartha because it was safer that way. When Laura was a baby he entrusted her to Ben and then made sure he wiped his own memory but for a few well-placed clues. There was a back-up plan which passed the information to Z just in case he was killed, but the important point was that nobody knew - not even himself. Even now it's all over he's going to have a tough job telling anyone about it. Wants to tell J, but now is not the time or the place and he's seriously thinking of getting very drunk before he lets any of it out. Instead he counter-attacks.
"So, you want to tell me why you don't have a partner?"
Sees the words hit home and the pain pass across J's face.
"Last partner couldn't take it." Flip, glib explanation that says precisely nothing.
"Not tough enough?"
"Oh, physically he was fine. Mentally … ?" J keeps his tone neutral. "No. Not tough enough. Didn't know what he was getting into."
That one hurts, because somewhere underneath K knows they're not talking about T any more. "None of us do," he says, consolingly, and thinks about a kid driving a truck along a country road forty years before. He doesn't want to meet J's eyes right at the moment so he concentrates on his driving, wonders where the hell they're going, hears a little sound somewhere between a laugh and a gasp of exasperation and knows J is right on his wavelength. "Did you, slick? When you walked into that elevator talking about skills and names, did you have a clue?"
Remembering James Edwards before he put on the suit and became Agent J - loud clothes, loud attitude, that earring - K wonders as he's wondered many times before whether he really did the guy a favour. If you cared about someone, wouldn't you send them a thousand miles in any direction just to keep them out of MiB's clutches? But as an NYPD cop the kid could just as easily have been wiped out in some liquor store heist or drug bust gone wrong and that would've been such a waste. Better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.
"I handled it fine my first three days working." Is that defensiveness he hears in J's voice? Wounded pride? Like he thinks K's criticising him for something? The hell with it. J hit the ground running and showed up better than most of the experienced agents K's worked with.
J's tearing himself apart inside. K watches him switch on the radio and hears the words of the song that's playing and it's one of those sugary things about lovers' partings and bittersweet memories and all of a sudden J's beating his head against the dash and K knows he's remembering Laura. If any other young man in this city had fallen in love with his daughter K would have been going after him with a reverberating carboniser at the very least, but there's not a thing about J he'd want to take exception to either on his own behalf or Laurana's and he'd have stood back and watched them together if he could. Hell, he'd have neuralyzed them both personally and given them a happy-ever-after legend better than anything J ever dreamed of writing. Right before he went to Z and begged to be sent back to the postal service and a long, quiet retirement.
He's sympathetic, really he is. He knew J had fallen in love the minute the kid admitted he hadn't neuralyzed Laura - and that was before K had the whole of his memory back and before he ever knew who Laura really was. Seeing them together … he's replayed those scenes in his head and they work so well; he tries to imagine the beautiful grandchildren they'd have given him, even if he'd never known they existed.
"Want to tell me why you're slamming your head against the dashboard, slick?" It's got to be painful and it looks sickening, but the loss of Laurana did much the same sort of thing to him twenty five years ago so he knows how the kid's feeling. Just wants him to open up about it. Like he's the one to talk.
"No." But at least he stops, and strokes the dash like he's sorry he hurt the car. Insane, but a little better.
The road passes the windows, rolls under the wheels, the radio burbles endlessly about trivia and they don't hear it. J looks as if he doesn't know whether it's day or night, spring or winter, whether the moon is green and the sky yellow or whether coffee is made from sand. K can drive all night like this, with J silent beside him in the car; he'll drive until the world freezes over and time stops if that's what J needs - but he knows it isn't.
They've left the city behind and he's beginning to draw deeper breaths and feel a little more free. He's letting the speed drop now as they start to saunter along idle country roads. Forty years ago he used to do this; just get in the truck and drive to clear his head. Forty years ago this kid's parents probably hadn't even met.
"What are you thinking?" he asks, and he softens his voice to try and get a reply. J isn't fooled for a moment; his barriers go right back up.
"You're not." Trying to keep it calm, but knowing he's irritating his partner.
"Nope." There's something high strung and anxious in J's tone. "See, thinking takes up valuable not-thinking time."
"Not-thinking time. I see." Actually he does. Not thinking about things is something he's specialised in over the years. Not thinking about Laurana, not thinking about Laura, not thinking about Elizabeth; he got real good at all of those. Not thinking about J was where he ran into trouble.
J's slumped so low in the seat now he's almost wedged under the dash. K can't stand to see him like this, wants to break through that wall of misery, wants to give him the chance to get those feelings of pain and grief and frustration out in the open. Guesses he'd better give J a chance to scream, to punch him out, to kick the car or break some glass or do whatever it will take to drive the awful conflict out of his eyes. With Laura gone now, J's all he's got left. J and Z - and Z's never meant anything like this much to him - are the only family he has. He has a duty to take care of J, whether J likes it or not.
Pulls the car over to the side of the road and there's only fields to be seen in any direction. Fields, trees, a few fences, a tractor chugging along the horizon. Just a few miles out of the city and you can find open countryside that seems to go on forever. It's an illusion, but there's privacy in the middle of it. No traffic on the road but themselves. Maybe everyone's asleep.
Opens his door and goes round to let J out. J's staring ahead like he doesn't even realise they've stopped.
"Come on, kid, get up."
Shrugging, J slips lower still. It's all too much effort.
"Nah, I don't think so. I'm good."
'Good' is not the word running through K's mind. "That's funny, because you look like a Grethem on downers." Pitiful, really, but anything to stop the depths of his anxiety from showing. He can't cope with J cracking up now. He needs J to be strong.
"Low blow, man." A beaten tone, without enough energy to find a counter-attack.
"Get up." The voice the aliens don't argue with, and neither will J.
The younger man reacts automatically - God, K taught him well! - and stumbles out although his spine seems to collapse and he sinks down against the car. "God damn." He's a tragic mess, this street-smart kid with sharp clothes and attitude and charisma that just doesn't know when to quit, all crumpled into a little ball on a dusty roadside and making K want to reach out and haul him in and ... probably lose his friendship forever. He's weighing it up and deciding whether to risk it when; "Dammit, why are you doing this, anyway?"
"You're my partner." It should have been a bland enough answer but for some unknown reason it's caused J more pain. He hugs himself tightly, trying to keep himself together.
"Partners?" he spits, beginning to sound hysterical. "Partners? That's sweet. Now you wanna be partners. I'm speechless. Oh wait, no I'm not. Fuck you, K. Just - fuck you, man, I don't need a partner." Pain, rejection, hurt in every syllable. Makes K want to reject him right back.
"Oh, that's right, you work alone. How long now?" Ignore the useless T, the god-damned talking dog, all the ass-lickers who aspire to work with the great J, this is a man who walks through his life completely alone. Completely. K knows how that can feel.
"You know, this is the first time I've heard you act pissy." Pauses, as if considering that adjective again. Almost repeats it, wanting to wound. "My heart's bleeding for you man, it really is."
But K hears the compliment and not the dig. He's tried so hard to keep things on an even keel with J, and now the boat's rocking from side to side and they're both in danger of being tipped into the water. The minute emotion enters a working relationship there's going to be some kind of trouble ahead, and K's felt emotional about James Edwards from the first moment he set eyes on him.
"What happened to the doctor?" He'd been pretty certain Laurel Weaver would make a good partner; she'd been resourceful and she'd certainly been interested in J. It was only a question of whether she'd end up in J's bed or the black suit first.
"L? She was happier with the bodies after they were dead. Man, that girl was weird." Somehow J's hauled himself to his feet but he's not doing a real good job of looking K in the eyes.
"Why don't you tell me why you don't have a partner?" Maybe there was someone else, someone K didn't know about, someone after L and before Laura, who hurt J. Frantically K rakes through his partial memory; he doesn't know enough about J's sexual preferences to even form a guess. Another agent? Most of them are male, but that doesn't rule it out; E's reputed to be gay - maybe he hit on J and wasn't refused? Does J go that way? How ironic would that be?
"No, I don't think so. See, talking about it means I have to think about it. Not a good thing. Best to just leave it be."
"Leave it be," K repeats. He's not convinced. "Huh, well, that's an option, yeah." But he makes it obvious he knows there's plenty more to be told; just as obvious as J makes it that he'll tell him when hell freezes over.
"Back off, K."
"No." Body-slamming him against the car, K holds him in place. If J wanted to fight he could break free easily, but all the fight's been drained out of him and he just hangs there. "You're going to talk to me."
"I thought that's what we were doing." Low and defeated. Ouch.
"Kid, if you don’t start talking right now I will … "
"What, neuralyze me?" The ultimate weapon between them, the power each one has over the other. Any decision they make about it, Z will support; they're his best team and he wants them to work things out between them and not involve him. But they can't go on threatening each other with oblivion if they're ever going to work together effectively; no more flashy thing gags between them, ever. "Yeah, cause I gotta tell you that ain't fun."
Tell me about it, thinks K.
"I haven't wanted a partner since you … left. I thought that's what we were, and then you … And damn it they kept giving me these kids and what was I supposed to do? I ain't a fuckin' baby sitter and I don’t know what I'm supposed to do."
Is that self-pity creeping in there?
"I never got any formal training so I don’t know how I'm s'posed to act - which is your fault, by the way - and all I could do when I knew they were ready to crack was make 'em forget."
And take their problems on yourself, K thinks, kicking himself savagely. This is a man who doesn't know how to delegate, only sublimate, and he's had more grief than he knows how to deal with. The need to hug him is beginning to be an ache in K's arms and he stands stiffly with his hands in his pockets and lets his voice do all the caressing he dares.
"What about you? What did you do when you were ready to crack?"
"I worked out. Concentrated on the job. Didn't think. Got real good at denial." J's not meeting his gaze, and K's beginning to think he knows why. It's because he's well aware that K can see right through him and isn't going to be fooled by any half-assed excuses. Only the truth is going to make any difference now. "Didn't want to have to relearn how to depend on myself when whoever I was counting on left again, you know. That's why I don’t have a partner. That and well … " The sentence is left hanging awkwardly, as if the truth is too much to bear all of a sudden. "Don't worry, man, I was fucked up before MiB. Y'all didn’t do nothing special."
It's never occurred to K before that J might have taken his leaving as a betrayal. He'd needed to get out, to take a breath, to look at the stars - and to make way for L in J's life. He thought J was with that right from the start; the brave way the kid bit his lip and consented to neuralyze him gave him that idea. He's never even asked himself if J was lying to him back then. He asks that question now and he's scared of hearing the answer. The hell with the truth making you free; sometimes all the truth does is make you terrified.
"You're saying that me leaving is what's been making you so stupid?"
Watches J's face break into a grin and after all the soul-searching it's like the sun coming up and it twists a knife right through K's armour and splits him open and leaves his heart a bleeding, exposed pulp within easy reach of J's fingers.
"Naah, I've always had my moments. Just … hell, man, what was I supposed to feel?"
J turns again and looks at him and the only thing that's running through K's mind as he looks up is; My god, L was right, he does have really pretty eyes. Hates himself for it, knows he's a walking cliché, doesn't want what its going to do to his self-image and his relationship with J and his profile in MiB and a million other things but he's fought it since he entered a police interview room to talk to a cop named James Edwards five years before. Knows he's lost when he hears himself thinking 'James' and not 'J', the first time he's ever caught himself wanting to use an agent's name. Ten years alongside Donald and he'd never called him anything but D; forty years working with Z and he's forgotten that there was ever a name attached to the initial; catches himself wanting to say 'James' and bites his lip to prevent it creeping out.
"What do you want?" is the best he can manage.
Watches as J reaches the end of the road. Knows what's going to happen even before J's arms reach for him, J's strength enfolds him, J's voice starts whispering against his neck.
"God. Oh god, oh god."
Not too late to back away; friends hug like this, especially when they've been through the shit K and J have been through. True, they don't often agonise about it the way they seem to be doing, but K knows this isn't just a matter of comfort asked and given. Wishes he hadn't been so stupid. Wishes he'd been able to see past Laura and even L and everything else on his agenda for this young man. Wishes he hadn't decided to play God with James Edwards' life five years ago.
"You have to tell me what you want, kid. I'm not telepathic." But he is. He can read J's thoughts and see very clearly how they mesh with his own. Just wishes he'd understood it a lot sooner but hell, how was he supposed to know that this smart black kid nearly thirty years his junior, as alien to him as any Creelon or Kylothian, would turn out to want …
And what the hell does he have to offer, anyway?
"J, talk to me. Now. What is it?" Panic rising in his voice. Panic that he'll turn out to be right. Panic that he'll turn out never to have been more wrong. Wishing he'd never noticed that J is smart, funny, courageous and has really pretty eyes.
And J's head lifts from his shoulder, where K's somehow managed not to stroke the back of his neck and whisper things into his ear, and J is looking down at him and suddenly there's nothing else K needs to ask because it's all there and it's all suddenly in perspective. Wants to wrap himself in J and never let him go. Wants to hold him and hug him and in god's name kiss him until the stars fall out of the sky.
Three times, dammit. Three times he's been in love in his life. Brought up on sweet cosy daydreams of falling in love, getting married, having children.
One woman he fell in love with and they had a child but didn't marry.
One woman he fell in love with and they married but didn't have children.
And despite Laura and everything that's happened J is just as much in love with him. Somewhere in those soft brown eyes he can see the absolute truth, even though there's a fog of confusion. J is fighting a last ditch battle with heterosexuality; J is working through his own illusions, his own cosy daydreams. Damn, this wasn't what either of them ever had in mind.
And when J's head drops back to his shoulder his arms slide around J and hold him just a little closer and he just lets it happen because he's not capable of anything else right at the moment and J in his arms is all he wants out of life for the foreseeable future. J feels so good and smells so good and probably tastes so good that he eclipses everything else that has ever been important in K's life and drives out everything but his most poignant memories of the past. K knew he would, the moment he set eyes on him, and there's nothing he can do about it any more. J's arms are around him and his arms are around J and the world can end for all he cares, because he's got everything he's ever wanted right here and right now.
Oh god, J!
At some stage he's going to have to try to use his voice again but there's no way he can trust it yet, so when J stirs in his arms and the feeling goes through K that maybe the kid wants to talk and try and get a handle on the moment he doesn't let him, just fastens on firmly and refuses to allow him to pull away. J subsides against him with something like a contented sigh running through his whole body and K's aware that neither of them wants this to end but that J has questions.
A small, scared voice. K doesn't dare look; knows he's going to snap and J is going to see all the pathetic weakness he's been trying to keep locked away.
"Uh, K?" Stronger now, like J's trying to be the adult for both of them - and if K really loves this man shouldn't he be treating him just a little better?
He opens his eyes and sees longing like he's never seen before. Sees J's mouth move just that least fraction, lips pursing. Sees him trying to reach a decision and knows how tough it's going to be for him to just do it, just lean in and …
So K takes the decision away from him. Puts a hand squarely on the back of J's head and simply kisses him like falling into deep water and feels shock and relief and delight in the maybe half second before J's kissing him back and oh god, when was the last time he tasted anything as perfect as J's sweet mouth? Cappuccino ice cream with chocolate sprinkles is the only thing that's even been close. And J's all over him, legs either side of K's, pressing him back against the car, getting hard against him and who the hell can blame the kid because K's right there with him and if J wants to rip off every shred of his clothing and do him here and now over the hood of the car K won't complain.
"K?" From somewhere J's discovered a need to breathe and has released him for a second, and then it really hits him for the first time that the mouth that's only just detached itself from his own has a neat little fringe of barely-there moustache and the sounds that it makes are somewhere in the baritone register. He's never done this, he's only wanted to; he's only wanted to with J. Maybe the kid's right and all that fooling round with memory alters your personality and gives you brain cancer and changes who you are, because he's about to throw nearly fifty years of active heterosexuality into the trash can of history. He can't meet J's eyes; the change is too sharp, too sudden, and for a moment all he wants is to get away. Then J grabs him, holds his face between strong, competent hands and forces him to make eye contact and kisses him again and he surrenders, knowing he's never going to refuse this kid anything ever again.
"God, K, don't you dare, don't you fucking dare!" J almost shouts, and his hardness presses into K's groin and meets its equal. K pushes back against him, hearing himself moan, watching the impact of his actions reflected in J's eyes. How could he ever even contemplate pushing him away? J's the place he needs to be, now and for the rest of his life.
"We are going back to headquarters and we are settling this," J is telling him, being masterful and not having the least idea what that concept does to K. "Then hopefully we'll settle this, but let's go now 'cause I really don't wanna have to flash some country bumpkin sheriff cause he caught us making out." And K knows right away that's a lie because they'd happily neuralyze the entire County Sheriff's Department and all their wives and children and cats and dogs and rabbits if they had to and five minutes make out time with J anywhere on the planet is worth anything it costs.
It's not easy but J unwinds from him, grabbing another quick kiss first like he can't really bear to let him go, and somehow squirms back into the car.
Jesus, has he thought about how that sounds?
Numbly, K gets back into the car and realises he can't take his eyes off J.
"Who the hell taught you how to … ? I mean, damn, how …. "
You did, James. The thoughts run behind K's eyes but he can't get them into words. Digs around in the basement of repartee and somehow finds something to say that doesn't make matters a whole lot worse.
"Natural skill, kid. No need to feel inadequate." Run with me on this, J. Let's just try to put the world back on its axis one more time.
"Inad- ohho!" A sharp intake of breath, and then J gets up to speed. "I didn't hear any complaints earlier. Skills … I got skills. I got lots of skills. Talk like you know. Inadequate … "
He could listen to J talking this sort of gibberish all night and he has no doubt that sooner or later he probably will. For now, though, it's time to try and restore calm. K starts the car and turns it around; wherever they are, they're just going to retrace their route all the way back to headquarters and somewhere there if all the chaos has died down and the place has been cleaned they should find enough peace and quiet to work through whatever the hell this is they're feeling for one another.
"Okay, kid. After we have your talk, you can show me your skills. I expect to be impressed."
Because J can impress the hell out him just by walking across a room and he doesn't even dare to start thinking how impressed he's going to be if J wants to take this all the way. And realises he can strike out the word 'if' and substitute 'when' and starts planning his descent from heterosexuality in the certain knowledge that he's about to have the best and wildest sex of his whole miserable life and if he doesn't survive it that's fine with him because as long as he's naked and with J he'll sure as hell die happy.
When they get out of the car back at MiB, J makes a big deal out of engaging the autodriver just so that he can bend over and have K look at his backside and give him some kind of hint of what he's going to be getting. K digs his fingernails into his palms and wonders whether the kid's thought this through and really understands what he's offering; in the animal world that's as close as you get to an engraved invitation for the dominant male to mount either a female or a submissive male, and submissive isn't a word that springs to mind in connection with J. Matter of fact he's already figured that he'll probably end up being the one to take it from J, and he's a bit apprehensive; all that fooling around about the size of the weapons they use has just been one extended metaphor for who has the biggest penis, and he's concluded they're probably about even. In that case …
He's wincing already.
J stops showing off and turns back to him. "We gonna do this?" he asks lightly.
Still not trusting his voice K nods and they enter the building side by side. Humans and aliens call out greetings to them as they pass; J acknowledges some of them with a preoccupied wave, K manages the occasional nod. Before they've had a chance to think about where exactly they're making for Z blocks their path and K doesn't even let him take a breath, insisting they need time to freshen up and catch a little sleep and just generally unwind and they'll see him in a few hours. Carefully doesn't specify how many. When K catches his partner's eye again J's grinning insanely, never looked happier in his life. They walk away leaving a stunned-looking Z behind them; in forty years he's rarely been on the receiving end of the full power of K's charm and although he knows he's just been goldbricked he has no idea why or how.
"You have got to teach me that!" J insists, and it's a relief to both of them how normal and carefree he sounds.
"That is one of my skills, slick. I'll think about it."
But the balance tilts again and there's a tremor in J's voice next time he speaks. "Shoo', and how long did that one take to learn? Or is it one a your 'natural skills'?"
Mercifully they're outside J's quarters by this time because K backs him up against the door and for a long moment seriously contemplates kissing him right here in the hallowed halls of MiB. Doesn't think the sky would fall in if he did, either. There's never been a non-fraternisation rule - there couldn't be. Z doesn't have a problem with 'keeping it in the family' and there have to be gay agents somewhere about the place. Besides, K would really like to find out what would happen if some poor innocent rookie agent rounded a corner suddenly and found K-the-legend kissing J-the-hero in the middle of the corridor. But maybe he'll save that for another time; some time when the kissing isn't so likely to lead to an urgent need to be naked and running his hands all over J's body.
"All my skills are natural, kid," he says briskly, backing off and letting J breathe again. Then they're inside the room and the door's locked and K's glancing around an agent's room just like any other agent's room, just like his own. The usual monochrome colour scheme except for the multicoloured spines of a few books and a bedcover of blue and purple spirals.
"Well … " J says nervously. Now he's got him here he seems at a loss, as if what happened back by the side of the road is already a memory he can't deal with.
"This was your idea, slick. What do you want to talk about?" K can hardly blame the man if he's getting cold feet. In the harsh overhead light he knows every line and wrinkle on his face is showing up clearly, every trace of silver in his hair is highlighted. Maybe he should take a share in Z's regular tanker delivery of Grecian 2000; no-one's believed in the old guy's hair colour for the past twenty years.
He's looking at sleek black perfection, wondering why it's never occurred to him to tell J he finds him beautiful - but when have they ever had the time, in between saving the world? - and at the same time wondering what the hell sleek black perfection sees when it looks back at him.
"How … how long?"
Astonished that J can ask - but then he doesn't remember that electric first meeting. K neuralyzed him soon after that; one of the worst decisions of his life. But he's never been a rebel like J, never looked at a material witness and thought: He's going to be important to me.
It had started with lust and had turned into respect. Before he'd left J in the Chinese restaurant it had already been love.
"Not sure how long exactly. I realised it after I'd called Z and told him we had the Arquillians' galaxy and you were telling me about how you were taking care of things while I was getting my gun. First time I'd laughed during that kind of situation in God knows how many years."
J's brow wrinkles like he's remembering that same moment. "So … why did you still want … ?" And the silence adds: God, K, if you loved me, why'd you leave me?
"Remember what happened right after that, kid? The Bug nearly got the galaxy because I wasn't paying attention when I should have been."
The Bug could've had the galaxy and any other damn' galaxy he'd taken a fancy to, for all K cared. At that point The Bug had nearly torn J's head clear off his shoulders and L had shot its guts halfway across the borough. That was round about the time K had reached his final decision; that L would be better for J than he ever would. He'd put J in danger, she'd saved him. Simple. Just a little self-denial needed here, get out quick before the kid realises what's happening. A few little face saving lies and they'd all live happily ever after.
"An' who said you had to be perfect, huh?"
K doesn't answer. One of these days J will put it all together in his mind and realise K was doing what he thought was best for him. He's not in a hurry.
"So, since the start, huh?" K nods, letting J do all the talking. "That's good." The kid's starting to undress - jacket, shoes, unromantic as if he's about to have a medical exam. He's got very businesslike all of a sudden. "Me too," he adds, wistfully, and K wishes he'd realised that back then. But if he had, he'd still have been conflicted about it. What does old and busted have to offer new hotness, after all? "Any questions from your end?"
Just the one.
J gives him the 'shit, man, isn't it obvious?' look that says he's astonished to be asked. Like any sane young cop in his position would fall heavily in love with his much older and more cynical partner. Like it just isn't a question for him.
"'cause I couldn't resist your animal magnetism?" Turning it into a joke rather than having to answer it.
"Why?" K repeats.
"Because." J's looking up at him from the bed, and the look on his face all of a sudden loses its veneer of confidence and his voice becomes tender as he really thinks about the answer. Thinks about it so honestly that K knows he's hearing the truth and nothing but. "Because even when you were a neutral you called me 'kid' and 'slick'. Because the first time you neuralyzed me you didn't just tell me to be at HQ and leave, you waited until I was aware again. Because you get this look sometimes … " Obviously J hasn't realised that he has a look of his own. He turns it now on K, and K feels his bones beginning to melt. "Because for the leading contender for the starring role in the next 'Grumpy Old Men' movie, you're damn sexy. And you have this imposing … thing … around you. Like a - I don’t know, man, a - a bubble! And I'm allowed in!" And the pride in J's voice when he speaks about being allowed close to K is almost enough to make the older man forget he's just been called 'damn' sexy' by someone with the physique of a young god.
"Hm. You done?" Hiding behind cynicism, thinking how J has always pretended to hate the nicknames and there he was all along cherishing every last damn' one of them. The boy has it bad. But then so does he.
Unaware of the gentle, deeply affectionate gaze he is turning on his partner as J just sprawls there, half-undressed, matter of factly preparing for sex and not realising that K's a complete beginner in this. Hoping to god the kid knows what he's doing. That one of them does.
"Umm … K … You can put me out of my misery any time here, man … "
"Misery, slick?" Forty years in MiB and his voice remains level in more or less any circumstances. Not a whole hell of a lot frightens K these days - but if anything could, a semi-naked J would be high on the list. "Well, now, we'll see what we can do about that."
Still he doesn't make any move closer to J; stands and looks down at him as though he can't believe what he's seeing. And maybe he can't, because J's licking his lips when he looks at K's groin and he doesn't need a universal translator to work out what the kid's thinking. Somewhere under the uniform K's body is beginning to respond without ever being touched. He's never thought about the mechanics of the situation except that he's sort of imagined J taking the lead; never expected to see that wild look of anticipation on his partner's face; never thought J would gain any pleasure from the thought or the act of sucking him. Why hasn't he imagined J wanting to do it? Why hasn't he realised that he might even want to do it himself?
"K, I know this is a little fast … " Pauses, starts again. "Umm … K, we gonna … or do you need a little help there?"
"I'm up for whatever you want, slick." Hearing gruffness in his own voice, adding the nickname like a caress and just contemplating for a moment the images the word evokes. Do they actually have anything they can use as lubricant if matters go that far? And who gets to use it, and where? Damn, this whole business is fraught with uncertainties, with little pit-traps for the unwary. All he clings to is the fact that he wants J, and by some unspeakable miracle J seems to want him. He'll do anything, anything, just so long as he gets to share this with J. He's telling the literal truth; J can write his own ticket; K will give him anything in the world he wants.
J's out of his suit pants and shirt now, naked but for black silk boxers which aren't doing much to conceal a very impressive erection. Almost paralysed by the sight, K can only stand and stare; he's got everything he wants right here, right in front of him, and yet he's afraid to reach out and take it. Between them MiB and various aliens have messed around with K's mind so much that he's never been perfectly sure what was real, and this near-naked temptation by J is definitely verging on hallucinatory. Did he really kiss J on the side of a public road? Is he really in J's quarters and seriously considering making love to him? Or has something from one of the more evil sectors of the galaxy turned his deepest desires into pay-per-view for the enemies of MiB? Don't have desires, that's the answer. Don't want a wife, a family, friends, a private life of any kind; live like a monk. Eat where we tell you, live where we tell you, wear what we give you to wear. Z might just as well have added: Fuck what we tell you to fuck.
"So what's the hold up? I realise it's been a while, but damn, I didn't know your memory was gone too." Teasing, J stands beside him; J has maybe a couple of inches in height over him so they're more or less on a level, brown eyes to brown eyes, and J's communicating amusement and affection and desire but he's not rushing K because somehow he can see that there's a conflict going on in there.
"My memory is fine, kid." Looking him up and down appreciatively, breaking free of the straitjacket of the past. "I'm just waiting to see what you got. Where are those skills you were talking about?" Shrugging off his moment of doubt, which was never doubt about J himself so much as a kind of terror for the new K who would emerge on the other side of this experience. A vulnerable K. A K in love. Damn. And they don't have a prayer of keeping this secret; it's going to be all over headquarters almost before the deed is done. It's probably on the news wire to Arcturus already.
"Well," J is smiling, "I was gonna wait for you to take your clothes off, but if you really want me to do this through the suit … " He's making obscene little gestures and licking his lips as he drops to his knees in front of K, and all of a sudden the great stone heart cracks from top to bottom and all the emotion K's been keeping hidden away pours forth. Hell, if J can make this big a fool of himself in the name of love, K isn't going to let him suffer alone. Wrestles out of his jacket and throws it somewhere, then sinks down and with a softly inarticulate groan pulls J to him and kisses him and holds him and wants to say things and make promises but his mouth is far too busy making friends with J's mouth. J's with him all the way, J's hand is in his hair just as his fingers are stroking J's strong neck, J's body is meeting his and J's head is dropping to his shoulder and giving K the chance to pretend that he's the dominant male around here. Jury's still out on that one, but he'll take the illusion for now.
"K?" J's asking, his voice just a whisper of chiffon as their eyes meet. "Need some help with that?" About as blatant a come-on as he's ever heard, and the shock is registering on K's face. "Well," J giggles, "I could have said 'come here often, sailor?' but I didn’t think it would convey the right amount of I-want-to-suck-you-now-please, and that was important to me." It's never occurred to K for even a fraction of a second that J will ask permission before touching him; when he hears the words he can't keep abject consent out of his eyes.
Hell, J, anything, anything. Haven't I already said that?
Carefully J makes his move, fingertips spidering across his waist, searching for the fastenings of his pants and easing them open. K co-operates, lets J drop the damn' things on the carpet, lets J's tentative fingers explore him for the first time. Wonders if he should have warned the kid he never wears underwear, and then wonders how the hell he could have slipped that into the conversation. In the elevator, maybe, or as they walked away from Z. By the way, tiger …
Then there's no room for thought, because without preamble or any apparent fear J is taking K into his mouth, sucking him into sweet wetness, and K is cursing with every fibre of his being as a jolt of jealousy runs through him.
Have you done this before? he shrieks, without a sound emerging. With E?
Damns E to hell, and any other man who might have laid lustful hands on J. J is his, his own possession; doesn't matter how many women J's slept with, but K wants with all his heart and soul to be the only man.
Wants it to be love, and wants it to be forever.
J begins playing with K's balls, and no matter how assured his mouth may be his hands are shaking and he seems to be a little uncertain of his actions. Deep within himself K groans, pushes deeper into the overwhelming mouth, grips at J's broad shoulders and closes his eyes to concentrate on the sensations flooding his body. He's close, too close to last much longer; sheer emotional impact and the surreal knowledge that this is J, his partner, sucking him with such apparent enthusiasm is about to send him plunging over the edge. J senses this and retreats, letting his hand take the place of his mouth, watching as K thrusts blindly into the hand. K has never felt so wanted, so cherished, in all his fifty-odd years of existence - and certainly not in the forty years since he set off to bring flowers to Elizabeth one night in 1961.
"J! J!" And then a long, satisfied groan as his body throbs and plunges and empties into J's loving hand; K shudders against a strong shoulder and seriously considers shedding tears.
Hears his own breathing.
Hears J's, and knows J's still up there and needs his help to get down. Meets J's eyes and sees delight on his younger partner's face; smugness, even, that he's brought K to climax so effectively, mingled with blatant need. J is so hard it's painful, but he's taken the trouble to make sure his partner was satisfied first; might have known he'd be a considerate lover on top of everything else. Could this boy be any more perfect?
"Get over here." K doesn't even try to keep the affection out of his face or his voice this time. J has to know that his partner's melting, remoulding himself, losing all semblance of identity and building himself again from scratch - just as he's doing himself.
J doesn't hesitate; somewhere along the way he's lost the boxers and now slides naked into K's hands. Calloused hands; truck driver's hands.
"K!" Shock as K takes a firm, commanding hold on J's overheated flesh.
"That's my name, kid." Whispered close to J's ear, accompanied by a tongue-tip exploration.
"Can we … little faster, here, please?" It's a demand, but so politely expressed K is almost fooled. For maybe a quarter of a second.
"Sure thing, slick." That deep velvet quality of seduction in K's voice almost tips the balance for J. The hands on him take him the rest of the way; hands that know precisely what they're doing now, because bringing a man to orgasm is something K knows all about - although the only man he has ever done this to before today was himself. His recipe works just as well on J, though; the young man is writhing in his arms, eyes closing luxuriously, head dropping back.
"Christ, K, I'm going … "
"No, you're not." Unexpectedly masterful, the words are accompanied by a flick of the wrist that takes J by surprise and his eyes fly open.
"What the fuck, man!"
"Open you eyes, kid. Not doing this until I can see you." No pretence, James. That way I won't play any make-believe games with you, and you won't start imagining I'm Laurel Weaver or even my own daughter. Just us. J and K. In this together, partner.
The words are written in K's eyes. J reads every single one and understands completely. He also reads intentions far beyond this evening, far beyond tomorrow morning, far beyond the walls of MiB headquarters. Looks into K's eyes and lets K see that it's mutual, whatever the hell it is.
"That's right, kid, come on now." Soft, encouraging tone, while deep dark eyes meet J's and J responds, his whole body rising to K's hand. K's mouth takes his again, kisses him deeply, sucks on his tongue and stifles the cry that would otherwise erupt as the rest of his body convulses in a scream of completion. Then K's mouth releases J's and kisses are in J's hair and on his brow as he fights for breath, as he's held and cherished by a partner who loves him beyond anything that's rational, as he relaxes against K and they both wonder what would have happened to them if they had never ever met.
J's laughing softly, his fingers plucking at K's shirt. K hasn't even realised he's still wearing it, but a moment later it's joined the rest of their shed clothes on the floor. The hell with the last suit he'll ever wear; the one he has on now is wrinkled like he's slept in it for the last fifty-seven years, but every thread and fibre of it is conscious of the silk of J's touch.
K stands, signalling to J to get into the bed. J moves swiftly and holds out his arms to K, and seconds later K has killed the lights and slid in beside him thinking that as long as the twins keep them on Centauri time they have fifteen hour nights and they can fit an awful lot of love and affection into fifteen uninterrupted hours.
"If you're staying here," J says hesitantly, his head resting on K's shoulder as his arms tighten around K's waist, "I should warn you. Weird dreams, man. Just … not good times."
K adjusts his hold. He wants to scare the demons away, protect this man from any more harm, rebuild his confidence and most of all let him know he's loved.
"I'm not going anywhere, junior," he says, soothingly. "James."
J's mouth is against his shoulder, J's hand already possessive on the flat of his chest. He's never going to bring himself to say 'Kevin', and why should he? Kevin Brown ceased to exist a very long time ago; he'll never be anyone but Agent K ever again.
"Aw, K, man," J whispers as he sinks into K's embrace. "Think I'm gonna love you. I'm sorry, partner."
K's heart does backflips. Not that he didn't already know it, but that he's never expected to hear it. At least, not this soon.
"That's all right, J," he says. "I guess I'll learn to live with the shame."
Hears J give a little chuckle, kisses him once more, and knows that he needn't say anything else now because J understands completely and he's cool with it, but he thinks it and knows that at long last J is close enough to hear the words running through his heart.
It's all right, tiger, 'cos I know I'm gonna love you too.
Matter of fact, I already do.
* * *
Click here for companion story BLIPS