Caught on Fire


Love is like friendship caught on fire.
—Bruce Lee

- 3 -

Jason stood away from the wall where he'd been leaning while the passengers filed through the arrivals lounge when the one he'd been waiting for finally showed up. "Hey, Billy," he said, stepping up beside him and taking the carry-on bag away from him.

Billy turned, startled, and then smiled, relief washing over his beautiful eyes—for the first time Jason understood that idiom, and what wouldn't I do for the sake of his beautiful eyes—and disappearing almost as quickly. But Jason hadn't missed it this time. "Jase," he said, "what are you doing here?"

"Your dad said you'd be home today, and since I didn't have anything better to do—" he let the end of the sentence drop. He'd gone by the Cranstons' to see just when Billy would be back and caught Mr. Cranston on his way to Nevada. He'd told him his son would be back Tuesday, and I'm sure he'd appreciate a ride home if you've nothing better to do... Jason had managed not to say the truth, which was that he sincerely doubted he'd ever have anything better to do than bring Billy home; it wasn't the time to say that to Billy's dad, not when he hadn't even said it to Billy yet. But he was here. And so was Billy. He smiled and asked, "How was the flight?"

"Long. And I was seated next to an aliterate—no, actively antiliterate—eleven-year-old who could give you a run for your money on sports trivia."

"Poor guy," Jason commiserated.

"Me or the child?"

Jason snickered. "I bet he was more bored."

"Infanticide was never more tempting." Billy's tone was dry but his eyes were laughing.

"Watch it—I'm a cop and I think that's illegal."

"No jury would have convicted."

Jason laughed. "It's your own fault for insisting on straying outside cultural paradigms." He laughed again at Billy's expression. "See? Sometimes I listen... Any other luggage?"

"No. Just these." Billy tapped the carry-on Jason was holding with the laptop in his own hand. It had been closer to Jason when he'd snuck up, but he'd known better than to reach for it: that might have cost him a hand.

"Didn't do any dressing up while you were there, did you?" Jason teased.

"I was apartment hunting, not interviewing," was the calm reply.

"Find one?" Jason gestured him through the automatic door first, consciously appreciating the rear view for the first time. The blond had outgrown his adolescent awkwardness a long time ago; his walk was a pretty thing. And those old jeans clung to his hips in a very nice way.

Billy turned around to answer, and that view was just as nice. Better. Jason almost missed the actual response. "Yes. A rather large one on the river."

"The Charles?" Pricey.

"The Mystic, actually."

Jason summoned up the maps he'd been looking at. "Isn't that on the wrong side of Cambridge?"

Billy shrugged. "Where's your car?" Then, catching up to Jason as he started toward the parking lot, he said, "It's not even five miles from the Institute."

"I forgot. The East Coast is sort of like Europe. Everything's closer together," he added in explanation.

Billy nodded. They walked the rest of the way to the car in companionable silence. Jason wondered what Billy was thinking. Himself, he was having trouble thinking about anything, including what on earth he was going to do to move this relationship past where it was to where he—and, if Kim was right, Billy—wanted it to go. Without Billy's help. Since Billy's idea of what to do now was run off to Massachusetts...

Of course, he'd run off, too, to Switzerland. Maybe he had, anyway; he still wasn't sure why he'd suddenly decided he needed to be part of that conference, when he didn't really believe it was going to accomplish one single thing. He'd told himself it was a good way to get a vacation in Switzerland at government expense, and a better way to get out from under the increasingly heavy burden of being the Ranger leader... something Tommy would do well and eagerly. But maybe Kim's suggestion had been right, maybe he'd just finally clued in on the look in his best friend's eyes and, at seventeen, not been ready to deal with that at all. In a way, though, it really didn't matter why he'd gone. He'd come back.

Zack and Trini had stayed in Switzerland and he'd come back. Slipped right back into his life almost as though he'd never left, school, football, martial arts, friendships...even the Rangers. Unlike Billy, who was working with the Rangers, but not as one of them, Jason had regained Powers and even eventually his position as leader. Which, he guessed, meant he'd missed that, hadn't really wanted to give it up, and that had been just part of the excuse. Or, maybe, it just meant he was too bossy to follow. Jason realized he'd laughed out loud when he heard Billy's voice.

"What's so funny?" Billy was looking at him over the roof of the car.

Jason just shook his head. "A stray thought," he said. "Nothing, really. You want to stop somewhere and eat, or get takeout, or call for pizza?" Stay at home alone to unwind after your trip? That option he wasn't offering. They didn't have that much time. And Billy might run off to Massachusetts but he wouldn't kick Jason out of his house. Not ever, and certainly not after Emily...

"Pizza's fine," said Billy. "Ground beef and onion."

"On your half," Jason agreed equably. "On mine—"

"I don't even want to hear."

It was an old joke, the best kind. Sharing the laughter they got into the car and Jason headed back to Angel Grove. Billy leaned back against the seat, tugged at the seat belt, and closed his eyes.

"Good to be back here? Or can't wait to get back there?" Jason asked.

Billy shook his head. "Just be glad to stop running back and forth."

Running. Interesting choice of words, Jason thought. No more running. For either of us. He looked in his rear-view mirror and merged with the traffic. At least, I hope so.

Billy lapsed back into silence and Jason let him, glancing over at him occasionally and thinking. He'd slipped right back into his life, all right, to the point that it had never occurred to him to wonder why Billy was still around. Even after Zordon had replaced them all after graduation, and Adam and Kat and Tanya had enrolled at AGU, and Rocky had started a dojo, and Tommy had gone off to the car racing circuit, and Jason himself had gone up to the police academy and started his year's probation with the AGPD, Billy was still here. And sure, he was working on college courses and recovering from his illness, but... He should have wondered about it, not just taken it for granted that Billy would always be around.

And Jason's life had included Emily. Like Adam's had included Tanya (and hers him), and Kat's that guy Eric, and Rocky's Maria... and Billy's nobody. As usual. Billy had been around, supportive though Emily hadn't cared much for him... well, actually, there'd been a lot Emily hadn't cared much for and in the end that had included Jason. And then, three weeks after Emily had dumped him, Billy had leaned back oh-so-casually in his chair over lunch at Ernie's and said he was going to MIT at the end of the month...

And it was right and it was inevitable and it had been one helluva surprise. And now he knew why.

Why then. Why there. Why a surprise. And why an unexpected feeling of betrayal.

Which it had been, though he'd done his damnedest to stomp that into nonexistence as soon as he became aware of it.

And, just maybe, why Billy had kept it secret until it was a done deal.

And why he was going to have to be careful. Or determined. Or both.

Because he really wanted to go to Massachusetts with Billy, not after him.

Jason realized, suddenly, that he was on Billy's street. Good thing there hadn't been any weird traffic crisis. He pulled into the driveway—Billy's VW was parked on the street, as usual, and Mr. Cranston was out of the state... and nobody had actually put a car in their garage since half a year after they'd moved in, not since they'd agreed to put in a lab for Billy... a lab which had started as a corner of the garage and expanded to fill the entire thing. It was a good thing it didn't snow in Angel Grove.

"Do you miss snow?" he asked.

Billy stopped in mid-reach for the laptop and peered at Jason through the Jeep. “Where did that come from?” he asked.

"I was just thinking about your garage."

Billy smiled and picked up the laptop. "Yes. Of course, I haven't actually seen snow since I was eight, so my memories are probably very romanticized. As an adult, I may well hate it." He chuckled and shut the rear door. "Dad says my first winter in Boston I will definitely wish I had gone to Stanford."

"After spending all summer arguing for MIT? Hah. Still..." Jason's voice trailed away and he frowned.


"Maybe you should have gotten an apartment closer to the school."


"I just hate to think of you driving five miles in a snowstorm."

Billy's expression was unreadable. "Jason," he said, "I'm sure I can learn to drive in snow."

"Oh—yeah, I'm sure you can. I mean, I did..."

"Nice to know somebody worries, though," Billy relaxed suddenly. "Are you getting that?"

Jason grabbed the carry-on bag he'd tossed on his side of the car. "Coming." But damnit, he was suddenly picturing Billy driving through a blizzard at some ungodly hour...

"Jase." Billy's soft tenor cut through the image.

He looked at him, standing there all safe and sunlit, and blinked.

"I probably won't even have a car. I won't really need one. The Boston area has wonderful public transportation." He smiled, a slightly lost, slightly sad smile. "Okay?"

Jason's breath caught in his throat. Had Billy been looking at him like that for the past three, four years? "I'm sorry," he started, not really sure what he was apologizing for.

"It's all right," Billy said. "It's who you are: you watch out for your friends." He turned and unlocked the door and went inside.

Jason gave himself a mental slap and followed. Sure, he did that. Everyone told him so. Usually like it was some amusing character trait, or excusing his words into something they didn't really have to listen to. Which just made him worry more, of course. He couldn't see not doing it, actually; what, you let your friends get into trouble? But this wasn't just him watching out for a friend; this had damn near been a panic attack. Over something that was pure speculation. This was love.

And the look in Billy's eyes: though he wanted it to be more than 'just Jason', he'd given up hoping for it, that was apparent. On the other hand, Jason thought as he shut the door behind him, he still wants it. Which was the best news Jason had had all summer.

"Where do you want this?" He hefted the bag. "Your room?"

Billy looked up from where he was plugging in the laptop. He had his eyes under control again; they were their usual cool green. "No," he shook his head. "I'll just dump it in the washing machine."

"So I'll stick it in the laundry room," Jason nodded and walked down the hall, figuring his next move.

But Billy inadvertently preempted him by walking down the hall after him to say, "So, did you hear from the department?"

Jason looked at him. "About what?"

"Your probation," Billy said. "It's over this month, right? You're a real cop now?"

"Hey, for your information, I was a real cop anyway. Just a rookie."

Billy smiled. "Sorry. But you made it, right?"

"You had doubts?" Jason said, hoping it sounded light.

"Of course not." That was genuine. "I'm hoping I can take you out for a celebratory dinner before I leave."

"You can if you want," Jason said. "But I'm not staying with the department."

Billy stared at him in what looked like shock. "What? Why not? I thought you were happy being a police officer..."

"Oh, I am." He spoke quickly, hoping to dispel any guilt Billy might suddenly have over not noticing or not being there or whatever he could come up with. "I'm still gonna be a cop. Just not in Angel Grove."

"Oh." Billy leaned against the hallway wall, considering that. "You've transferred somewhere? Stone Canyon?"

"Might as well stay here as go there," Jason said. This was perfect.

"Is it Twenty Questions or Three Guesses?"

"Three Guesses."

"Okay..." Billy thought for a moment. "L.A.?"

"Nope. One more."

"What do I get if I win?"

"Something you really want." Jason stepped out into the hall and leaned against the wall opposite him. "So take your time."

"Is Anaheim in L.A.?"

"For this purpose, yeah. Burbank, Long Beach, Azusa, all those places. In fact, I'll give you all Southern California."

"All of it?"

"Everything from, oh, here to Mexico."

"Then I have no idea."

"Giving up?"

"San Francisco."

"You win."

"San Francisco? I didn't think—"

"Nope. Not San Francisco."

"Okay," Billy said, willing to play along. "Now I'm confused."


Billy became entirely still. Jason couldn't remember how long it had been since he'd seen that, the first line of Billy's defenses. After a long moment he swallowed and said, "Boston?", his tone expressing complete incomprehension.

"Boston," Jason repeated. "I already heard back from them. They're very supportive, I was surprised." And he had been, surprised and pleased to discover just how good the Boston department's domestic partnership policies were, and how willingly they took on someone whose partner was coming to school in the area. It had made things a lot easier, logistically.

"Boston." Billy echoed the word, and this time his voice was flat, giving nothing away.

"Boston," Jason affirmed, straightening. "What I tell you three times is true—"

"So how is it I win?" The voice was still guarded, but the eyes...

Jason took two steps, closing the distance between them. Moving deliberately, he put his hands on the wall on either side of Billy's head. There was a flaring emotion in those green eyes, one he'd seen before and disregarded, not understood, ignored. Not any more. Not ever again.

"Jason—" Billy said, his voice uncertain.

"No," Jason said softly. "Don't speak." He leaned in and, very gently, kissed him.

Billy didn't move; he was barely breathing, in fact. He wasn't kissing back, but, Jason was heartened to note, he wasn't pulling away, either. He just stood there and let himself be kissed, his green eyes wide and his lips warm. After a few moments Jason let his mouth drift along Billy's jaw towards his throat. God, the skin of his throat was soft, and the pulse beating under Jason's lips was as fast as his own.


Jason moved from Billy's throat back to his mouth, covering it and swallowing the words, whatever they'd been. This time Billy's mouth stayed open, and Jason's tongue accepted the invitation.

Billy tasted, not surprisingly, of coffee... I could get to like coffee, Jason thought, a giddy, almost drunken thought. God, is this what it's supposed to be like? He had never felt so, so concentrated in his entire life. Sensation ran along his nerves like the morphin power; he felt almost overwhelmed. And nothing had happened yet, just kisses. Just... He closed his eyes and gave himself up to the feeling.

Eventually he needed to breathe. Billy made a soft sound as Jason pulled away only as far as he needed to; not quite a moan, it was a definite protest that he was being left. Jason shivered to hear it and became aware of a hand resting on his chest, not pushing him away but rather making a connection, warmth travelling both ways through the thin jersey material, enough pressure that he could feel his own heart beating against Billy's palm. Fingertips dug into him as leaned back and resumed the kiss, his tongue memorizing the taste he'd need for the rest of his life.

After another eternity Jason kissed the corner of Billy's mouth, moving his head upwards until he, unexpectedly, collided with Billy's glasses. After a startled second, he carefully took his right hand off the wall and very gently pulled them off. The blond closed his eyes momentarily, reflexively, when he did so, and another soft sound escaped him. One-handedly, Jason folded them and tucked them neatly into the left pocket of Billy's chambray shirt, feeling the rapid breathing under his hand as he did so. Then, still moving slowly, he replaced his hand on the wall and leaned in to kiss Billy's eyes, one and then the other, tenderly. Then he drifted his mouth along the angled cheekbone and slid his tongue into Billy's ear.

Billy's hand fisted in his shirt, pulling him close. "Jase," he said, so softly it was almost inaudible. "Jase..." He turned his head away, affording Jason full access to his throat. Jason took advantage of that offer, nuzzling, licking, nibbling. Billy's other hand slid through his short black hair, pulling his head closer. "Jase," he said again, louder; Jason could feel his own name in Billy's throat and it drove him crazy with desire. He took an abrupt step back from the wall; Billy's hold on him brought the shorter blond away with him and Jason wrapped his arms around him, one hand tangling itself in the thick amber hair and the other clawing the chambray shirt out of the jeans to push under it and the teeshirt beneath to find the bare skin he wanted so much it was all he could think of.

When he touched Billy's back it was like nothing he'd ever felt before. Just from skin, he thought somewhat incoherently, and pulled Billy even closer. But just before he lost it completely, he felt the tension come back to the body in his eager hands. He almost let go, gentling his hold instantly, rubbing his right hand over a shoulder blade and cupping Billy's cheek with the other. "Sorry, sorry," he murmured, "I'll slow down... or I'll stop..."

Billy was quiet for a moment while Jason soothed him, and then turned his head to kiss the hand on his cheek. "A little slower," he said, his voice rough with what Jason joyfully recognized as desire. "Just a little, Jase." He reached back up and pulled Jason's head down for a kiss.

"As slow as you want," Jason said when he could.

They stood in the hallway, simply kissing, though Jason was finding it hard to apply adverbs like simply, just, or merely to this experience. It was better than going all the way had ever been. He spared a moment to wish Kim had spoken up years ago, and then lost himself in the sensations evoked by Billy's mouth against his throat. And shoulders... Billy, he realized, had an unfair advantage. The unbuttoned flannel shirt he had been wearing had been easily shoved out of the way and it had at some point dropped unnoticed to the floor, and his tank-top offered Billy almost unlimited access to his shoulders, collar bones... he shivered with delight as Billy's teeth gently, maybe accidentally, grazed the side of his neck. His fingers clenched in the front of the chambray shirt and he thought, buttons are going to go any minute now.

Then he felt Billy tugging at his tank-top, pulling it away from his khakis, sliding his hands along Jason's back and ribs. When he could breathe again, he took that as permission and began unbuttoning. The dove-grey teeshirt was hardly an obstacle compared to a bra but sliding his fingertips over one nipple hardening even through the thin cotton made him realize all over again how much he wanted bare skin against his. Needed it.

He distanced himself slightly from that need, from once again moving too fast, by wondering what exactly was under that shirt. It was a fair question, one he'd been tantalizing himself with for the past few days, because he'd never so far as he could remember seen Billy shirtless. He even wore a tank-top when he went swimming. He said it was because he burned, and, fair enough, he was fair-skinned. But that wasn't the whole story. Shirts against skins, even inside, if Billy was on your team you were shirts, that was a given. He was aware that he and Zack had saved Billy a lot of grief in junior high, and although he could take care of himself by high school, Tommy's hair-trigger presence had probably kept a lot of people from having to find that out when Jason and Zack went to Switzerland... He'd wondered, everything from excessive self-consciousness (which was the best bet) to outrageous X Files alien-ness. At least, he thought now, enough in control of himself to slide a hand underneath the shirt, Billy felt normal.

Not, he smiled to himself, that he'd actually felt any other guy before, not like this. He dropped his head and tongued the nipple he'd been caressing with his fingers. Billy convulsed in his grasp; one arm wrapped around his head, holding him closer, and the other raked fingernails down his back while a wordless cry of desire left his throat. Passion makes him inarticulate? I like that. He sucked through the now-damp cotton and Billy shuddered, making that sound again.

He wanted to let Billy set the pace, but the other seemed a reactor... he wasn't passive, God no, but everything he'd done Jason had done first. Suddenly it occurred to Jason that Billy might just not have a clue. That realization ignited him like a spark on gasoline. He grabbed the hems of both Billy's shirts and pulled, dragging them over the blond head, intending to throw them to the floor. But he was balked by the cuffs, too tight to slide over Billy's hands. Growling, Jason yanked, but the buttons stubbornly refused to pop off.

There was a moment's awkwardness that turned into laughter as Billy, chuckling, leaned against him and unbuttoned the cuffs himself with hands lost inside the inverted tangle of shirt. "Remind me," he said, his voice smoky under the laugh, "to take my shoes off first."

Jason looked down at those shoes, white Reeboks with the laces sensibly double-knotted. "God," he said, leaning his forehead against Billy's, "you're wrapped up like a Christmas present."

Billy shook his hands free of the constricting sleeves and kicked the shirts away. "Having to work too hard?" he asked, almost seriously.

"You'd be worth it if I was," Jason replied, entirely seriously. "I love you."

Billy held his gaze for a long moment, and then touched his face gently. "Yes," he said. "Later."

Jason blinked.

Billy shook his head. "Talk later." Jason smiled, and reached for him. Billy shook his head again, stepping back. "You, too," he said, tugging at Jason's tank-top.

Jason reached down and stripped his shirt off with one fluid movement. As he dropped the clothing to the floor he saw the expression on Billy's face. He'd never seen anyone want him so much... it was impossibly aphrodisiacal. He wanted to kick Billy's feet out from underneath him, drop that lean, runner's body to the floor, and... and... he wasn't entirely sure what he wanted, but he wanted it. He wanted it a lot. But Billy's eyes were holding him unmoving, because now there was no possible mistaking the emotion manifest in their clear green depths. It wasn’t friendship, and it certainly wasn’t brotherhood, but it wasn’t just love anymore, either. It was love mixed with desire and now that he knew what he was looking at Jason wanted to see those eyes like that, just like that, for the rest of his life.

Jason wasn't sure how long they stood there, staring, drinking in the sight of each other, before Billy broke the tableau. He reached out and placed his hand, trembling slightly, on Jason's bare chest. "I can't believe I can do this," he said softly. Jason pulled him into an embrace and Billy's lips kissed the hollow of his throat while his hand slid up to brush against Jason's nipple. Words came soft against his skin: "If I wake up on that airplane, I may just kill myself."

"Not a dream," Jason said, tightening his hold. "Not a dream."

Billy raised his face for a kiss, and this time his tongue delved into Jason's mouth. His fingers had tightened on Jason's nipple and his skin burned against Jason's. Jason's knees trembled, and he felt Billy's erection, though confined by the worn denim, pressing against his thigh and his own nudging Billy's stomach. Gotta get horizontal, he thought with some effort through the sensations crashing against his mind, gotta lose this height difference... He heard moaning and realized it was him.

This time it was Billy pulling away and Jason protesting, but Billy caught his hand. "Bedroom," he said, back to single words.

Bedroom. Yes. Good idea. Jason followed him down the hallway, hands joined. It was a very good idea; he really didn't want the first time to be in the hallway next to the laundry room, with the sharp tang of detergent fighting the spicy, coffee, musky scent of Billy and the floor, or wall, hard against them. Maybe he was a closet romantic on top of everything else, but he wanted it to be perfect.

Billy pushed the door open and backed through it, his eyes never leaving Jason. Jason crowded against him a little, kissing him, hands roving, and Billy kept backing, drawing Jason with him, until he bumped into the bed. They stood there for a long moment before Jason leaned forward, deliberately overbalancing them onto the bed. It wasn't made, he noticed, and with the last of his rational mind he hoped that Billy's only objection was to making beds, not having them made, since Jason always did...

- 4 -

Jason woke up to darkness and a warm and welcome weight in his arms. Sprawled across him, more like, he thought, smiling to himself. He ran his hand gently down the back and hip of the body covering his and smiled again when Billy moved a little closer.

Oh, God, he thought, this is how it's supposed to be, isn't it? He rubbed his cheek against Billy's hair. Awkward, over way too soon, neither of us knew what the hell we were doing... and it was the best sex of my life.

Of course, standing in the hallway and kissing him had been the best sex of his life up to that point, so, with any luck, it would just keep getting better. It'll kill me, but I won't mind. I won't mind at all. He laughed to himself, but it turned audible in a minute, and he felt Billy stir against him.

"Morning..." Billy said, raising his head to look at him. "Or, sorry, night."

"What time is it?"

Billy put his head back down and said drowsily against his shoulder, "Later."

"Later?" Jason turned to look at his lover—lover—and asked, "Later? Not, oh, 8:32 or whatever?"

Billy smiled at him, waking up. "It might be. But I can't see the clock. It's not ten yet; there're only three digits."

Jason turned over reluctantly and looked. The clock beside the bed read 9:23 in large red LED figures. "It's nine thirty," he informed Billy. "What do you mean, you can't see it—oh. Your glasses," he realized.

"Yes," said Billy. "In my shirt pocket. In the hall. I don't need them," he added as Jason started to get up and fetch them. "Not now, at any rate."

Jason resettled himself, and threaded his fingers through Billy's now-tangled blond hair. "I want to wake up like this for the rest of my life."

Billy moved his head unconsciously under Jason's hand. He was a snuggler, Jason had been delighted to discover. It surprised him, considering that he wasn't much of a toucher in the general run of day-to-day life and never had been; it wasn't the Cranston way, he'd said once, lightly. Jason remembered worriedly asking his parents, years ago, if Billy's father didn't love him and being told that he loved his son very much, he just didn't hug him often. At all, Jason thought. But if Billy wanted hugging, Jason would be more than happy to provide it. His stomach growled softly and he remembered that he hadn't had lunch. "Are you hungry?"


"Well, I am."

"Call for pizza," Billy suggested, not moving. "Phone's by the clock. Speed dial 2."

"What's 1," Jason asked as he reached for the phone, "the Chinese place? Or the Colonel?"


Jason dropped the phone on the bed and propped himself up on one elbow so that he could lean over and kiss him. Billy cooperated in the plan, taking Jason's head in his hands and allowing himself to be rolled over onto his back. But when he ran one of his hands down Jason's back, Jason grabbed it and pushed himself up on his elbows, holding Billy's hands between them. "You're gonna kill me, aren't you, Cranston?" he said.

"That wasn't my intention." Billy's lips quirked into a smile despite his efforts to sound serious.

"Well, you will if you keep this up."

"Then perhaps you'd better call for pizza and get some sustenance inside you."

"Perhaps." Jason kissed him again, lightly, and rolled over to sit up and find the phone.

Billy waited until he'd called in the order, and then sat up too. "I'm going to shower," he said, "and while we wait for the pizza, we can talk."

"Talk?" Jason looked at him; he sounded serious. Maybe he should have gone along.

"Talk." Billy repeated. "As I said, it's later."

Jason remembered him saying "talk later" in the hallway, after he himself had said "I love you." After the past four hours he couldn't be too worried, but... Billy had already gotten out of bed. Jason thought about joining him in the shower, but too many girlfriends had made talk a bad word in his vocabulary. So while he waited for the shower to be freed up he stripped the bed and remade it with fresh linen from the hall closet.

Billy didn't take any extra time in the shower. When he came out, his hair still damp and a towel around his neck, he was wearing a fairly ratty teeshirt and old sweatpants. He looked adorable. This could pose problems in the mornings, Jason realized.

"I'm going to do laundry," Billy said. "If you'll toss me your things, you can borrow some sweats..." He paused suddenly, biting his lip momentarily. "You are staying the night?"

Any nebulous worries Jason had disappeared. "At least," he answered, throwing the sheets along with his khakis and boxers across the room. "Bottom drawer still?"

Billy smiled and nodded. "You want beer with your pizza?"

"That'd be good."

"I'll see if we have any."

"Good host," Jason teased.

"You consider yourself company after that?" Billy raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, you have a point... Don't step on your glasses out there," he called as Billy laughed and left the room. Then he pulled a pair of black sweatpants and a faded blue sleeveless sweatshirt out of the bottom drawer and headed for the bathroom.

He had a choice of some generic dandruff shampoo or an herbal that had to be what Billy used. Their hair was completely different, but for tonight it would do. He'd have to buy some of his brand... He poured the green liquid into his hands, smelling the tang that was part of the overall scent that said Billy, and stood under the hot water wondering how anyone could feel as good as he did. The rap on the bathroom door made him jump.

"Hey. Did you drown?"

"What?" he stuck his head out around the curtain.

"Pizza's here." Billy's voice sounded amused. "Shall I stick it in the oven or are you coming out in the foreseeable future?"

"Can't be."

"It is. It's ten fifteen."

"Cripes. I'll be right out."

"Don't hurry. It's not like I'm eating any of your half." The door shut. He could tell Billy was laughing.

Laughter was fine. He wanted to hear laughter every day from now on.

He toweled off, got dressed, and went into the kitchen. Billy was sitting at the old table the Cranstons had, a genuine antique, or at least a really old piece of furniture, scarred and comfortable. The pizza box was in the middle of the table, with paper plates and two bottles of beer keeping it company. He sat down and pulled a piece of the pizza out of the box.

Billy took a pull from his beer and said, "You left your wallet in your trousers." He pointed the bottle at the counter. "Jason—"

Jason took a drink himself to wash down some pizza and looked at him. "Yes?"

"Don't misunderstand me: I have absolutely no complaints about what happened here today. On the contrary, I'm... happy."

Jason grinned involuntarily. "That was the plan."

"But why? How? I mean, I never..." he didn't seem to know how to finish that.

Well, if this was what he wanted to talk about, there was no problem. Jason took another drink and another bite and said, "I got my eyes opened. You shouldn't get angry—"

"Angry? Jason, even if you called the psychic tarot hotline, I wouldn't be angry with you." Which was a huge concession, Jason knew, because Billy had no patience with those things and less of a sense of humor about them. "But what happened? I would have sworn when I left you were, well..."

"Straight?" Jason shrugged. "I'd have sworn it, too."

"Then, what?"

"Kim was in town."

"I'm sorry I—missed her," he finished. It was clear he understood.

Well, his IQ did start with 2, Jason reflected. It was hard to keep him from figuring things out when the evidence was available. "Don't get annoyed with her. She kept the secret for five years, after all, and she only told me to, so to speak, knock some sense into me."

"I can hardly quarrel with the results," Billy admitted.

Jason smiled, and got a brilliant smile in return. "All I had to do was realize I love you. The rest just sort of fell into place."

"Including your job?"

Whoops. "What do you mean?" he tried to buy a bit of time.

"I mean, you said you already had a job in Boston. Based on what Kim told you you were going to move across the country?"

"Well, you're going to MIT. It's a bit hard to live with someone who's in Boston if you're in California. These bicoastal things usually don't work out... Okay." He capitulated. "I wasn't going to give up. If I had to pay for all those years of not noticing you, I was going to. As much time as it took."

Billy's expression was an unfamiliar one. When he spoke, his tone was odd. "You were going to follow me to Cambridge based on nothing more than what Kim said? Regardless of what happened today, what I might say? You wouldn't even talk about moving to L.A. for Emily—"

Oh. He'd actually forgotten that, another of his differences with his ex-almost-fiancée.

"—but you were going all the way across the country for a chance at me?"

"Sounds reasonable to me," Jason said.

"Oh." Billy swallowed. "Oh, god. Jason."

"All that," he agreed. "And then some."

Suddenly his arms were full of a trembling lover, holding on like a drowning man. "I love you, Jason," Billy said against his neck. "I love you. Did I say that? Because it's true."

"I know. Believe me, I know."

They didn't finish the pizza.


beginning second part third part conclusion


Original Fantasy:
  Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans
Original Fan Fiction
Star Wars | Power Rangers | Real Ghostbusters
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
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