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by templemarker

Notes: Utmost thanks to stele3 and clarityhiding who went above and beyond the call of duty. Set somewhat contemporaneously. Jon/Tom, 1500 words. Thanks to jae_w, for whom this story was written; thank you for being generally awesome.

This story can also be read here at popoffacork.


Jon steps off the plane looking and feeling like shit.

He’s started the form the opinion that California sucks, which is a problem since he lives and works there. He steps out of O’Hare’s arrival terminal to find that Chicago already has the slight chill of an oncoming autumn, and he wants to dig out a sweater from his duffel bag but it seems like too much trouble.

Tom is waiting for him on the curb of the airport, car idling in open defiance of the signs posted everywhere which say “5 MINUTE PICK-UP ONLY.” The old Ford he refuses to trade in is more scuffed than Jon remembers, and he gives a tired wave at Tom when the trunk pops open with its distinctive clack. In goes Jon’s duffel and his laptop bag, and he climbs into the front seat, bumping one fist against Tom’s. Tom has the window rolled down, a cigarette trailing lazily from his fingers, and the radio station is playing “Spanish Bombs” in scratchy definition.

Jon told his parents that he’s coming back to Chicago three days from now, instead of today. The only person he told that he was coming today was Tom, and here’s Tom, asking no questions and telling no lies.

Tom looks good, happy and healthy and the hint of a smile rounding the corners of his eyes. Jon watches his profile as he singles along with the Clash, and Jon taps his fingers against his knee with the beat. This whole routine is like high school, the parts they liked; running around, playing music and making it, being stupid and funny and high.

Jon’s twenty-three, but already he misses being eighteen.

The DJ switches over to the Antiflag, and Jon mumbles the lyrics wrong, which makes Tom smile. It takes them forty-five minutes to push through west side traffic and get where they need to be. When they roll up to Tom and Sean’s apartment, Jon feels so fucking relieved that something inside him breaks, a little. Here he doesn’t have to think; here he can just pretend all his shit isn’t going down.

Sean’s out, and Tom gets them both beer, orders a pizza and sets them down in front of the TV to watch old episodes of Jackass. Jon slumps, feeling dirty and tired but also, weirdly, free. Tom’s arm is slung around Jon’s neck, and he closes his eyes, just for a second, just because it feels nice to be touched for no reason.

When he wakes up, the apartment is dark; an old Ninja Turtles sleeping bag is thrown over him, and there’s a pizza box with a post-it note sitting on the coffee table. The note says, “You’re the most exciting person I ever met. Take a shower because you’re gross,” and inside there are four pieces of only slightly-congealed pizza waiting for him. Jon’s suddenly starving, and shoves them down his mouth like its going out of style; the clock reads 2:30 AM.

Tom could sleep through a freight train; they all could, the perils of learning van living from an early age, so Jon doesn’t feel bad about running a shower in the middle of the night. The pressure kind of sucks, but it feels good to be getting clean, and he steals Tom’s soap and Tom’s shampoo and Tom’s very manly body wash. He stays under the spray far longer than is necessary, and when he gets out he feels his bones grind beneath his skin and struggles not to sigh.

When he opens the door to the hallway to go back to the couch–maybe play some Call of Duty or something to get him back to sleep–Tom is there, sleep-tousled and waiting. “C’mon,” he says, shrugging a shoulder noncommittally, and Jon follows, leaving his dirty clothes and wet towel on the floor because he can. It started to rain at some point in the night, and Jon can hear it beat lightly against the windows as he crawls into the bed next to Tom.

The bed is huge, overlarge in the way Tom always liked, with well-washed jersey sheets and four more pillows than needed. Tom has this thing about creature comforts; it always made him a bitch to tour with. But Jon’s used to it, even if he hasn’t had to put up with it for years, and is grateful for the pillow-top mattress and the light comforter and the warm, remembered presence of Tom, who somehow manages to eat up so much space with his compact frame.

Jon lets himself be pulled into Tom, against his back, limbs tangled everywhere. He lets his head rest in the curve of Tom’s neck, and between one breath and the next he’s asleep.

He wakes up alone the next morning, sun spotty and bright through the broken shade, the low hum of Robert Johnson audible from the front room. Jon runs an hand through his hair, scratches his balls, and stretches; his feet don’t even make it to the foot of the bed.

When he goes out into the living room, Tom is making pancakes, still incapable of making round ones after eight years of trying. He’s singing, in that half-thought way he has where he’s not really trying to sing, but not really trying not to either. Jon’s clothes are in the half-opened duffle next to the couch, but he doesn’t bother trying to grab a pair of jeans, just sits down at the counter in his boxers.

Tom turns, and gives Jon a little wave, handing over his mug of coffee as Robert talks about the woman that did him wrong. Jon’s toes grip the stool he sits on; already he feels like a different person than the man who stepped off an eastbound plane twelve hours ago. He feels more real.

Two misshapen pancakes are put in front of him, and he eats, burping up the weird taste of old pepperoni over maple syrup. The six-record player, Sean’s cared-for baby, clicks over to Cassandra Wilson, and Jon remembers some texts about blues and rhythm and a trip to Memphis that he’d half forgotten in a cloud of altering substances. This is probably where it came from.

When he and Tom were nineteen, they were half in-love with each other, skirting around the end of something, some change in their friendship they couldn’t quite define. They talked about the future, about what they wanted, bands and music and apartments and stories. Jon thinks that future might have looked something like this, except instead of a band he has a project, an idea, something he’s banked his own future on that he’s not so sure of anymore.

When they were nineteen, Tom used to be able to look at him and tell Jon what Jon was thinking like it was some kind of funny psychic joke. Jon’s sort of hoping Tom can still do that.

Tom puts his batter bowl in the sink and eats his pancakes standing up in the kitchen, a little bit of syrup catching the stubble near his mouth. His eyes are set on Jon, and Jon lets him look, doesn’t fidget, just waits.

“Did you lose your band?” Tom asks finally, curiosity coloring his voice.

Jon scrapes his fork on his plate before answering. “I’m not sure how to answer that yet,” he says, and hopes it doesn’t sound as lame as it does in his head.

Tom just shrugs, takes their plates and puts them in the sink, leaning back against the kitchen counter. “But you made a choice, right?”

Jon isn’t sure he has the answer to that too, so he rests his head on his hand and raises a shoulder.

“Okay,” Tom says, tongue licking out to wipe at the syrup still in the corner of his mouth, “well, you’re probably going to have to have an answer soon. Or at least a pretty good lie.”

Jon frowns, but Tom is probably right. Now, though, he doesn’t want to lie. “Do you want to mess around?” he asks, because if Tom can be blunt he can too. “I have wo days, and I kind of want to spent them only thinking about things I like instead of what I’m going to have to explain to my parents.”

Tom’s expression flares between amusement, annoyance, and arousal, but Jon already knew he’d say yes before he asked the question. Jon gets up from the stool, walks around to the kitchen and pushes up against Tom, who’s looking at him with masked fondness. “Shut up,” Jon says, and pushes up slightly to meet Tom’s mouth.

They kiss like they’re good at it, but it’s mostly just practice. Hours of screwing around in the backseat of Tom’s car, in poorly lit venue bathrooms, skate parks lit up by the night sky. Moments in between then and now, little breaks in the different paths their lives took, and still there was always something familiar about that swipe of tongue, that slow stuttered breath.

Jon pulls back, recalling the taste of Tom and syrup; he licks his thumb and wipes it across Tom’s mouth, gathering the sticky remnants of their breakfast. “You wanna mess around?” he asks again, the edge of something hopeful in his voice.

“Yeah, okay,” Tom says, pulling him in close again.

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