The sun's set long enough ago that when Jack turns his head, fingers dragging through the bobbing ice in the cooler for the last beer, label long since floated off, brown glass bottle fish-scale-slick and slippery, he can only just make out the features of the man beside him.
The profile hasn't changed that much in a decade, though. And the half-dozen sentences they've exchanged during the afternoon that weren't about the strange, lamentable lack of fish in Jack's pond, are enough to reassure him that Ellison hasn't, either.
A mosquito buzzes them, Ellison's hand falling to swat it as if he heard it coming and was waiting. Jack watches the crushed corpse bleed red and smiles. One down, a million waiting in the woods. They don't bite him, and when he says as much, Ellison gives him one of those vague smiles of his, bland and empty, and murmurs something about Jack not tasting good or smelling right.
"You want me to shower when we go inside?" Jack inquires, flicking the rush of foam from the neck of the bottle as he lowers it too fast, his wrist jerking. "Is that it? Subtle hint?"
Ellison's staring out at the darkly lapping water, still smiling. "No."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Jack says, heavily sarcastic, overplaying it just a tad, "because I'd hate for the way I smell to be a problem or anything --"
"Do I look like a fucking mosquito?" Ellison tips his beer dregs onto the wood of the dock, drip, drip… drip, and lets the empty bottle splash and sink into the depths of the cooler.
"No…" Jack's off-balance now, missing a beat somewhere, out of step with a conversation that's been all pauses, staccato, until this crescendo rushed out of nowhere.
Ellison's hand fastens around Jack's wrist, his fingers cool and strong and damp. He's not smiling now, and the mouth Jack's never got around to kissing in all these years is tight with temper.
"You smell just fine. Have since I got here."
"Well, good." Jack lets his hand rest against Ellison's for a moment before delicately peeling it off in a way that puts the subtlest of pressures on two vulnerable spots -- force of habit, that's all -- and then releases it. In the dusk, it's easier to do what he's been wanting to do since Ellison's truck pulled up outside the cabin, and Ellison's just made it easier still.
"Good," he repeats, starting to realise that maybe, just maybe, they could have skipped the fishing and gone straight from 'hi, how've you been?' to naked and sweating.
"Good," he whispers for the third time, sliding his hand around to the back of Ellison's neck, sun-heated and smooth, and curling his fingernails in and out, scratching softly at the skin until Ellison hisses and his eyes close halfway, like a cat.
They stand abruptly, in unison, chairs scraping against the soft, old wood in thick, low screeches, and sway together like the trees around them are, soughing in the quickening breeze. There's rain coming in, Jack can feel it; a close, hot dampness and weight in the air he's breathing, a creak of tiredness in his body.
When they wake, later, and it's still ink-dark outside, Jack will tell Ellison too much, groping for words to describe the way it's so damn hard to remember Daniel's not there anymore, and when he does --
And when he wakes again and it's light, golden splashes of sun spilling from a rain-washed sky, he'll wish Ellison was back where he belongs, in his past, a memory, not a yawning, stretching reality sprawled out across the bed.
But now, right now, Ellison's just what he wants, and he takes it, the first time right there, with the flat scent of the water in every breath they take and their hot skin prickling into shivers from the night air as they strip from the waist down. The handful of ice water from the cooler that Jack pours over Ellison's belly, loving the leap of shocked muscles and the yelp he gets, trickles down to the dark, rough spring of hair around Ellison's cock, flattening it. Jack licks at the taut, ridged flesh his fingers have teased harder and tastes it, hungry, avid, greedy.
Ellison comes too soon, shaking and pushing deeper at the same time, and Jack's not sure either of them are thinking of each other, but he doesn't really care.
Ellison's hand finds Jack's erection, fumbling, at first, but eager, settling into a brutal, economical rhythm that's designed to get Jack off, just blunt the edges a little.
Jack climaxes a few moments later without knowing why that one stroke up, that one firm brush of Ellison's thumb, is the one to trigger his body's surrender. Wasn't anything Ellison's said; they haven't spoken a word. Maybe it's the way Ellison's mouth is moving on Jack's neck in soft, frantic little bites and sucks, the acrid spill of spunk heavy, trapped between their bodies. When Jack comes, they're both covered in it, bellies smeared and warm.
They rest like that for a moment, smiling foolishly into the dark, Jack's hand absently petting Ellison's back through the crumpled shirt he's still wearing.
Then they walk into the cabin and clean up, sit for an hour or three with a table between them, drinking whisky and chatting, faces flushed with sun and sex, a fragile ease building that shatters when they can't put off the fact that it's time to go to bed and Jack's not sure he wants to -- twice? Can he? It's been a long day and --
Ellison settles it by heading for the spare room, giving Jack an amiably polite nod that's verging on insulting in the circumstances.
Jack tidies up, puttering around pointlessly, then swears, tosses the dishcloth he's holding at the sink, and goes to bed alone.
Around one, with the rain drumming down and the sky split with noise and light, they collide in the hallway and Ellison's naked and Jack's hard just from that knowledge as his blind hand finds a bare hip, and they stumble back into Jack's room, onto the bed his grandparents bought new half a century ago, and this time should be slow, even gentle, but it's not, it's all want and grabbing and they're fucking fighting over each other, Ellison batting Jack's hands away when Jack reaches for Ellison's cock, so that he can put his mouth on the soft interruption of Jack's nipple and lick it tight and aching; Jack growling and tipping Ellison to his back, holding him still with every trick he knows, leaving marks he can't see, doesn't need to see, wants to see --
And this time, they're not fucking in a crowd. It's just them, sweating and hot, and Jack's grunting out orders Ellison's ignoring, and yeah, this he remembers; the way neither of them will ever give a fucking inch, but between one sliding, vicious hump of a leg and the next, Ellison sighs, suddenly resigned and acquiescent, and Jack smiles, all teeth and snarls, and lets himself get nailed, hard and sharp and dry, Ellison's palm slapping down on his thigh, nails digging in as he sinks his cock deeper with every short, fierce stab, and this is gonna hurt when it's over, but Jack promises himself he won't regret it, and the washed-soft, starched-stiff pillowcase smothers the sounds he's making until they're good sounds, ones he doesn't mind sharing, ones that get him fucked until he can't remember anything at all but how much he's missed this.
They part, messy and dripping, and Ellison's mouth finds his in a kiss that's not what Jack wants, but he endures it patiently, even gratefully, and when Ellison moves away, he brings them together for a second kiss; shorter, sweeter, a grace note.
"Think we'll catch anything today?" Ellison asks the next morning, after they've drunk enough coffee to be polite to each other. They're both a little pale from too much drinking, not enough sleep, and Jack's ass is as resentfully tender as he'd expected it to be.
Ellison nods, as if Jack's told him nothing he hadn't already guessed, and glances at his jacket, slung over a chair. "You know, I came here to fish, and if they're not biting, well…"
It's an easy way out of an awkward situation, and as soon as it's offered, Jack doesn't want it. "Hey, I could be wrong."
"Yeah?" Ellison's eyes warm up a little.
"And since when was catching them the point of fishing?"
Ellison considers that, staring down at the table, and finally shaking his head in a brisk dismissal of the subject, a smile appearing.
All day, Jack's edgy, uneasy, waiting for Ellison to bring up what happened; the sex or worse, the conversation, but there's nothing said or done, which in itself is something said, because if Jack's still sitting with due care and attention, well, there are bruises rising on Ellison's skin here and there, dappling it in smudged ovals. Jack sees Ellison look down at one set on his forearm and waits, waits…
When Jack emerges from the bathroom late that night and goes to his room, Ellison's in there, folding the jeans he's been wearing and placing them neatly on a chair. He's naked, calm, and he slides into the bed on the side Jack doesn't use, and picks up the book he's been reading on and off throughout the weekend, peering at the small print in the inadequate light of a bedside lamp too far away to be of much use.
Jack clears his throat, decides it's not worth arguing about, and is forced to abandon the shorts he's wearing because at the precise moment he hesitates, his thumb hooked into the waistband, Ellison smiles, a small quiver of his lips, no more, eyes fixed on his book.
Jack huffs, strips, and gets in beside him. "Just so you know --" he begins.
"Relax," Ellison murmurs, placing the book face-down on his lap and sliding his arm around Jack's shoulders, pulling him closer, his hand loosely clasping Jack's upper arm. He picks up the book again, ignoring Jack's indignant wriggle as he gets comfortable, his head on Ellison's shoulder, his arm across Ellison's waist.
It's not all that comfortable, though, and Ellison sighs and puts his book down, and Jack kills the light. They end up jerking each other off because they're both there and it seems a waste not to, but Jack finds himself looking forward, not to an orgasm that's brief and satisfactory, no more, although that's good enough, but the aftermath, when, cleaned-up and sleepy, he can let the sag in the mattress excuse the way they end up close, bodies shifting closer until, by any definition, they're hugging, holding, held.
Jack can't sleep like this, never could, but he doesn't want to move. Ellison's back is warm against his fingers and he explores it to the limits of his reach, too lazily content to expand his scope. Shoulder blades to the dip and curve of Ellison's ass; good enough. When Ellison grunts and kisses him, low on his throat, he lets him, and they both do what they want, barely connected, pursuing different goals.
When Jack's had enough, he kisses Ellison's mouth firmly, closed-lipped and quick, and they ease apart, roll until their backs are to each other, asses bumping now and then as they settle.
The next morning, they drive into town in separate vehicles, and Ellison leaves after breakfast in the diner Jack always uses because it's the only one there is, his eyes amused as he and Jack exchange a handshake and a quick, one-armed, entirely suitable for public consumption hug, punctuated by a punch to the shoulder.
It feels like goodbye. Jack guesses it is.
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