Title: Anything But Lonely
Warnings: Explicit sexual content, slash, etc.
Indications: Jack Knight/Sand Hawkins. Second in the Sand & Stars series. To follow Anything But Normal.
Notes: kerithwyn and miss_porcupine have scrubbed this thing within an inch of its life. Any remaining mistakes, inaccuracies, and/or awkward parts are all my fault. Even though there are only two stories, a good portion of the series is definitely in my head. The third story is already in progress. It seems like there should be more notes.
Disclaimer: Sand, Jack, and their supporting characters belong to DC Comics/Time Warner. They are SO not condoning this use of their intellectual property.
Anything But Lonely
Sand never thought it would be so hard to steer clear of the telephone. He'd never had a lot of use for it. He understood the need for emergency communication when he was a teenager but he'd certainly never considered it a means of socialization. Later, he used it to communicate with Wesley and Dian when he was living outside of the city. They'd felt he needed his own space and they weren't far wrong. He just wasn't the chatty type and preferred to save his news -- what little he had -- for the weekends he took the train into the city for visits. He could have used the phone to keep in contact with others acquaintances but instead he restricted the correspondence to paper or let it go by the wayside. It was his own fault he'd turned into something of a hermit and he was paying for it now.
This quiet Saturday afternoon, though, Sand had been doing battle with his impulse to pick up the phone and call Opal City. It had been just over a week ago -- his birthday -- when he'd wound up in bed with Jack Knight. He felt his cheeks burn as he remembered. His sexual experience had been limited by his awkward history -- one intense love affair interrupted by an unfortunate accident. Forty-five years as a silicoid monster had done nothing for his love life.
The return had been harder than he'd ever imagined, technology and social norms leaping ahead while he had stayed behind. It had made him uncomfortable around people for a good while and Wesley's money had helped him hide from the world. It was almost embarrassing to admit how much he'd managed to avoid living for so long. One near-miss of a relationship a few years back had shown him just how difficult it was to adjust to his time displacement and had served as an ugly reminder of how sheltered he'd been. It was simply too difficult to explain to some he'd met in a bar why he'd been born in 1926 and still looked 25. In a way, it had been a relief to take the chairmanship of the JSA. It had forced him to interact with people and yet keep them at a distance. It kept him busy nearly every waking hour with things he knew about, things with roots in the past. He knew how to be a superhero. He knew how to remember Wesley. He was even getting used to ordering coffee at a Starbucks. He just didn't know how to have a one-night stand.
Jack wasn't exactly a one-night stand, at least as Sand understood the term. Jack was a friend -- a distant one, maybe, but a friend all the same. Jack knew of the past and he loved old things, things Sand recognized from his own past, and Jack had known Wesley. Jack had also used the term "fuckbuddies," which seemed to imply friendship along with the physical aspects they'd explored. But he hadn't called. In fact, Sand had heard nothing of him since that night. He supposed that was part of the agreement.
It was an agreement he hadn't entirely meant to make. He didn't think he could handle a physical relationship without emotional ties but he hadn't been able to vocalize that fear to Jack. So they had this agreement.
Sand had long since given up all pretense of doing actual JSA paperwork, but there was no one around to see him slouch in his chair and play with the pencil he'd been using for the accounting. Things had been quiet since the Injustice Society had attacked Ted here and his days were mostly filled with reconstruction and security considerations. Most of the team was off tending to their personal lives. Alan was with Jenny, mourning Todd. Jay was with Joan in Keystone City, probably relaxing. Dinah was in Gotham, or wherever Oracle had decided to send her this week. Ted was around somewhere and so was Al. Kendra was staying in the brownstone, but he rarely saw her. She'd seemed embarrassed to have come on to him the night of his birthday, and was quiet and moody, sticking mainly to the aviary. Hippolyta was on Themyscira and Courtney was back in Nebraska, doing schoolwork. She'd called him up the night before to ask a question about World War II for her history lesson. He'd deliberately given her more information than she should have been able to find from a book and was waiting to see what the fallout would be. Jack was in Opal City.
Jack had an antique store in Opal City, one Dian and Wesley had helped fund before they died. He'd invited Sand to visit, to see the piece of their legacy he tended.
Sand had been waffling about the invitation. He did want to see the store, really. He'd actually meant to call Jack before, but there had never been enough time with heading up the reformation of the JSA, converting Wesley and Dian's brownstone to a headquarters, finding out his physical makeup was still silicon-based, getting the museum ready for the public, and trying to keep control of his fractured team. And that wasn't even counting battling Black Adam on the streets of New York and the attack on Ohio by Obsidian and Ian Karkull.
It was enough to give him a headache.
Another thought occurred to him: Would Jack take this overture as an invitation to fall into bed?
It wasn't an entirely unwelcome idea, Sand had to admit. Before that night, he'd been sublimating his physical needs for longer than he'd care to admit. The night with Jack had been sating, but...not for long. He still wasn't sure he liked the idea of just using Jack to fulfill his libido and he was sure that he didn't like the reverse, but the idea that it was mutual made the concept infinitely more appealing. So they weren't declaring undying love. It was probably better that way. Neither of them had time for the heady, dizzy feelings Sand remembered from his teenage years. And if it were a mutual agreement, then Sand should be able to call Jack.
Decision mostly made, he reached for the phone and punched in the number he'd memorized during the past two days of resolutely not calling.
"Knights Past," Jack's voice answered after two rings.
"Hi. Jack. It's Sand Hawkins."
"Hey!" Jack sounded glad to see him. "What's up? World ending?"
Sand chuckled and leaned back in his chair.
"No. I'll probably jinx it by saying so, but it's been pretty quiet around here. I uh, I was wondering if your offer to see the store still stood."
There was a beat of silence and Sand felt sucker-punched with self-recrimination. Jack had made the offer long before they'd slept together. Maybe he should have waited for Jack to make a move. Maybe he should have forgotten about the whole thing.
"Sure. You free tonight? There's nothing on my calendar."
Sand's legs felt watery and he realized his mouth was dry. Jack had just been checking for appointments.
"Yeah," he said, slamming the account ledger closed with his free hand. "I can do it tonight."
"Cool. If you can get here by six or seven, I'll show you the shop and we can check out this new Thai place that opened up down the street. You like Thai?"
"Love it," he said, amazed at how smoothly the whole exchange had gone.
"Great. You coming by...you know --"
"Faultline? Yeah." Sand smiled.
"So you need directions? Because I don't do much traveling from underground and I'm not quite sure what to tell you. I could probably get one of those GPS things and get the latitude and longitude for you but I'd have to call you back --"
"Jack!" Sand couldn't help but laugh. He'd almost forgotten how easy it was to be around Jack, how easily Jack took weirdness in stride. "I can find it. I have the address."
"Ok." Jack was quiet a moment, but Sand had heard the laughter in his voice. "I just thought I should check."
"It's ok. I'll see you at six. Or sometime around then."
"Ok. I'll be here."
Sand was still chuckling to himself when he replaced the receiver but he quickly sobered. He'd just made a date for that evening. He'd just made a date for that evening with Jack and Jack's son was going to be there and they had dinner plans and they were probably going to have sex and he only had four hours until it happened.
It took Sand approximately two minutes to realize that four hours was an excessive amount of time to prepare. Opal City was in no way close to New York via public transportation but not long at all by cosmic rod or faultline. He also realized that he was somewhat limited in what he had to pack. TylerCo hadn't yet found a way for him to take items with him, but his silicoid suit was meant to change form at his will. Sand tended to morph it into the same khakis and button-down shirt every time, but that would most likely be acceptable.
And if all else failed, maybe Jack could give him fashion advice.
Sand filled up the rest of his day enthusiastically attacking his busywork, filling out forms and writing press releases, balancing his ledger, and reviewing traffic statistics for the museum and web page. He'd have to have someone -- Courtney maybe -- explain to him the different columns for the web page traffic. Also, it couldn't hurt, he mused, to have someone who actually knew what he was doing in charge of the museum. It had been his baby, his job to sort through the piles of JSA memorabilia and set up the exhibits, but now that it was open to the public, it really needed someone to handle the day-to-day...museum stuff that Sand really knew very little about.
He also swiped a magazine one of the girls had left in the recreation room and scanned it for examples of acceptable clothing for men his age. There was nothing wrong with planning for the future. Just in case.
At five minutes after six -- because Jack had said between six and seven --Sand walked up the three steps to Knight's Past and opened the door. A little overhead bell jingled and both Jack and the elderly woman he was helping looked up. Sand immediately blushed, knowing he looked ridiculous in his silicon outfit. He hadn't worn the gas mask but it wasn't as if anyone in Opal City would be able to identify him by sight anyway.
"Hey, you're here. Take a look around, make yourself at home," Jack instructed. "I'll be with you in a minute, ok?"
"Sure," Sand answered and pretended he didn't hear the woman ask in what was probably supposed to be a whisper,
"Is that one of your superhero friends?"
Sand concentrated on a display of old radios and listened for Jack's answer.
"Sure is, Mrs. Devere," Jack answered. "You want to meet him?"
"Ooh. Does my hair look ok?"
Sand hid a smile.
"You look great," Jack assured her.
"He has a firm ass," Mrs. Devere fretted, obviously worried about how she stood up next to such perfection.
Sand choked and struggled for a straight face. He should have changed before he walked in the door, he thought despairingly, although that option had problems all its own.
"That he does," Jack agreed neutrally. He also sounded like he was struggling to keep from laughing.
"Just like you," Mrs. Devere continued absently.
"Aw, is that why you come see me?" Jack asked good-naturedly. "And here I thought it was for my china. Come on, Mrs. Devere, let me introduce you to Sand."
Sand adopted a poker face as he turned to the approaching duo.
"Mrs. Devere," Jack introduced, "this is my friend Sand. Sand, this is Mrs. Devere, one of my favorite customers."
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Devere," Sand said, with what he hoped was a charming smile. He took her tiny hand and leaned down to kiss the back of it.
Mrs. Devere practically swooned as Jack mouthed, 'Show-off' behind her.
Sand grinned back at him.
"Was your father a superhero, too?"
Sand blinked and straightened as he realized Mrs. Devere was asking him a question.
"No, my, uh...my uncle was," he said, condensing the truth a little to simplify matters. "He was the Sandman."
"Oh! I remember him!" Mrs. Devere smiled brightly. "He was one of the first. I had the Sandman comic when I was a little girl. Now he had class. He looked so dapper in his hat and coat." She frowned a bit. "Never could figure why he'd changed to that other outfit. Just didn't have the body for it. Not like you," she added, with an once-over of Sand's body that was less than subtle.
"Oh, right," Sand said mildly, rubbing the back of his neck. "That costume." He decided not to mention that it had been his idea for Wesley to adopt a costume more like the other heroes'. He wasn't going to argue with her assessment of his fitness to wear spandex, though. He'd used his copious free time upstate to work out. It somehow made sense to him that one day he'd need to pick up the gas mask again and here he was, leading the JSA. Funny how things work out, he mused, half-listening to Mrs. Devere rattle on.
"-- born in 1926 --"
"'Scuse me?" Sand blinked. "Who was born in 1926?"
"I was, dearie. Don't like to advertise my age of course but --"
Sand stopped listening again. Mrs. Devere had been born in the same year he had. If not for his years in suspended animation, he might be perusing antique stores and wondering how much longer he was going to keep his teeth. It was a sobering thought.
Jack had managed to direct Mrs. Devere back onto the topic of old cups and saucers, so Sand began to poke around the shop. There was a plastic crate of records, most from the sixties and seventies, but toward the back, a few artists he recognized.
By the time Mrs. Devere left, waving a flirtatious goodbye, Sand had wandered over to the tables of old toys.
"See anything you like?" Jack asked, ambling over to him with his hands tucked into the back pockets of his jeans.
"I used to have one of these," Sand said, balancing a slightly battered BB gun across his palms. "Red Ryder." He grinned at the memory of Dian teaching him to shoot it and Wesley's careful avoidance of the weapon. Put his eye out indeed.
Dian had shown him "The Christmas Story" his first holiday season in the nineties and they'd both laughed at just how much Ralphie's mother sounded like Wesley had back then.
"Wes and Dian let you have an air rifle?" Jack asked, obviously amused. "Weren't they afraid you'd put your eye out?"
"Hello." Sand lifted his elbows, displaying the two guns tucked into their holsters. "Expert marks on pistol." He grinned. "Actually, yeah, Wes fretted about it every time I went outside. He said it was about me hurting myself, but I think he was just afraid I was going to start taking aim at birds or squirrels or something."
"I can't believe you just said fretted," Jack muttered.
Sand shot him a look. Jack's cheek twitched and Sand realized that he was trying not to smile. "Oh, go ahead," he invited with good-natured resignation. "I talk funny. It happens."
"No, it's great," Jack said, chuckling. "I forget sometimes. You go around sounding like any of us and then you say 'fret' and the whole illusion's ruined."
Sand rolled his eyes for show but he was secretly pleased. Like any out-of-place kid, hearing that he fit in was welcome. He set the BB gun down on the table and shifted his attention to some of Jack's other treasures.
"You know, if you want that, it's yours," Jack said.
Sand glanced over at him in surprise. He'd heard Jack was a shrewd businessman and the BB gun would be a fairly generous gift. "I couldn't," he said. "What are you asking for it?" He reached for the gun again to look for a price tag.
"Dude, it's you. Don't worry about it." Jack leaned forward and batted the price tag away from his hand.
Sand turned his head to look at Jack and found that he hadn't quite leaned back all the way. It was the perfect position, he thought wickedly, to make a proposition. "What about a trade?"
Jack's eyes gleamed avarice for a split second. "We're friends -- " he started.
"I've got tons of old books and things in the basement," Sand said, knowing he was hitting Jack right where it hurt. "I'll trade you. Whatever in the basement. Just take what you think is fair."
"But that's Wes and Dian's old stuff, isn't it?" Jack asked.
"It's old things," Sand told him, liking his new plan more and more. "The stuff I want to keep is in my room or in the attic. Dian's Nobel prize and Wesley's chemistry set...that's all packed away. The basement's junk."
"One man's junk," Jack started wistfully.
"Could be your treasure," Sand offered.
"Ok. It's a deal." Jack's grin went from ear to ear as he stuck out his hand.
Sand thrust out his own hand to meet it and they shook firmly on their pact.
"So let me give you the tour," Jack invited, sweeping his arm out to the side. "As you can see, this is the main showroom."
"I like the suit of armor," Sand offered.
"Yeah, I sell one of those once a year or two," Jack said, eyeing the piece. "They're a niche market, really." He walked Sand quickly through the clothing section, let him wallow in the books, and demonstrated the proper use of a Pez dispenser. "There's a storeroom back here with more stuff," Jack said, opening a door behind his counter. "And that leads back to the kitchen and bathroom."
"Speaking of," Sand spoke up, "I need to change for dinner. I didn't want to go like this," he said ruefully, indicating his silica suit.
"Sure, no problem," Jack said. He glanced up and down Sand's body. "Um. You didn't bring anything, did you? Do you need to borrow some pants or something?"
"No, no," Sand protested, feeling a flush crawl up his neck. "My suit...changes."
"Seriously? Into clothes?" Jack looked delighted.
"Yep. Anything I want, theoretically. I just have to change the structure." Sand could practically see the wheels turning in Jack's head. "Can I uh, use the bathroom? To change in, I mean."
"Sure. But what do you need the bathroom for? You're already dressed."
"Yeah, but it, um...." Sand's face felt hot and he guessed the flush had risen to his cheeks. "It...goes away," he explained, gesturing to his torso. "And comes back as...clothes."
"Huh. Yeah, bathroom's down the hall on the right."
"Thanks." Jack was still staring at him, so Sand felt a little awkward as he turned to go down the hallway. He felt even more awkward when Jack followed him. "Um? Jack?"
"I want to watch," Jack said blithely.
"What?" Sand blinked at him.
"Dude, you have a magical changing suit. Do you understand how much that rocks?" Jack followed Sand into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. He leaned on the sink and crossed his arms. "C'mon," he said, the expression in his eyes both amused and affectionate, "it's not like I've never seen you naked."
Oh. Sand's breath caught in his throat as his memory provided graphic verification of Jack's statement. Jack's smile turned knowing as he shifted against the sink and nodded. "Let's see."
Sand took a calming breath and dissolved his suit, reforming it as khakis and a lightweight pullover. He wasn't fully naked for more than a few seconds and Jack's gaze didn't wander past his chest.
"Was that so bad?" Jack asked when he was done, pushing off the sink and moving forward to stand in Sand's personal space.
"No," Sand admitted just before Jack kissed him.
"Hi," Jack said when he finally pulled away.
"Hi," Sand whispered back.
Jack kissed him lightly again, twice, and Sand met him halfway or better for each. "You still up for Thai?" he asked, reaching for the door.
"Sure," Sand said, a little dazed.
"I'll lock up and we'll go out the back," Jack called over his shoulder as he left Sand standing in the small bathroom. He checked his reflection in the mirror to make sure his hair was smoothed down. It was, but he wet his hand and smoothed the front down again for good measure and headed out to the main part of the store.
"C'mon," Jack said when Sand emerged. He had a ring of keys in his hand and a long zip-up bag slung across his back. "This way." He led Sand back down the little hallway and through the kitchen, which was clean enough, and cheerful. There was a back door that let them out onto the streets of Opal as the sun was sinking below the horizon.
"Nice view," Sand said appreciatively.
"Yeah, we get good sunsets here," Jack replied, obviously pleased. "You don't mind walking, do you? Place is only a few blocks away."
"I'm from New York," Sand reminded him. "I don't mind walking."
"I knew that." Jack grinned. "I was just being polite. Humanitarian, you know?"
Sand laughed. "Gee, thanks."
"Anytime," Jack said agreeably.
The Thai place Jack has promised was close to a mile away, but the weather was pleasant and Sand spent the walk filling Jack in on the various gossip that cropped up around the brownstone. Jack asked about Courtney, which surprised Sand a little, because he assumed that either Jack would already know or wouldn't care. He mentioned helping with her homework and watching monster movies on cable the night before.
"You didn't know her when she was a pain in the ass teenager," Jack said.
"I used to be a pain in the ass teenager," Sand replied comfortably, although he knew what Jack meant. Courtney, apparently, hadn't taken immediately to heroism.
"And that's changed how?" Jack shot back.
"I'm not a teenager," Sand said austerely and then they were at the restaurant and being seated in a booth by a pretty waitress. "Do you take that thing everywhere?" Sand asked after they'd ordered tom ka gai, chicken satay, and gkai kamin. He glanced significantly at the cosmic rod, tucked in its hockey stick bag and leaning up against the wall next to them.
"Yeah. I usually do," Jack explained. "Things have been quiet lately, though. Bobo and Condor have things pretty well in hand." He shrugged. "I'm becoming redundant."
Sand didn't know what to say to that, so he talked a bit about the museum until their food came. It was excellent, not quite native, but Sand had no complaints. They were just finishing up dessert when he heard a strange beeping sound. It seemed to have an odd cadence and it was obvious that Jack was hearing the same thing -- he paused mid-bite with his head tilted to the side.
"Your jacket's beeping," Sand said.
Jack blinked at him. "Oh, crap, the phone." He dug through the pile of fabric beside him and came up with a cell phone. "'Scuse me a sec," Jack muttered. He slid out of the booth and half-ran across the restaurant to answer the call.
Sand wasn't particularly fond of cell phone etiquette, or lack thereof, but he had been privy to Jack's griping when he was collecting emergency contact numbers. Apparently the thing had been forced on him by Opal City's police department and now that he had the baby to take care of, it had become invaluable. At least he'd taken it outside.
"Does your phone play 'The Greatest American Hero'?" Sand asked when Jack returned to the table. He'd seen syndicated reruns of the show more than once when he was living upstate and thought the theme song was catchy.
"Oh, man," Jack groaned, dropping into his seat. "Yes. That was not my idea, by the way," he added, giving Sand a pointed look and popping the last fried banana into his mouth. "That was Charity, by the way," he said after he'd chewed and swallowed. "Teddy's giving her a hard time. I'm really sorry -- "
"No, it's fine," Sand said immediately. He tried not to be disappointed that the evening looked to be ending early. After all, he chided himself, he was the one who wasn't comfortable with being 'fuckbuddies'. "He's your son. You need to -- "
"You coming?" Jack interrupted, shrugging on his jacket.
"Coming?" Sand echoed.
"Yeah. To pick up Teddy. You're not abandoning me now, are you?"
"Oh. No. Of course not."
"Just the check, please," Jack said to the approaching waitress.
"I'll take care of the check," Sand said, finally feeling like he could be useful. "You go get Teddy."
"No, I got it," Jack insisted, pulling out his wallet and reaching for the leather folder the waitress was pulling from her apron.
"I called you," Sand said. Dating Jack -- if indeed 'dating' was the correct term -- was frustrating in its lack of guidelines. Obviously, if Jack were female, Sand would pay. When he went out with Doc, which was rare, Doc had paid. He was older and had more than pocket change, at least. Sand decided he didn't like where that train of thought was going and reached to cut Jack off from the check.
"I invited you to dinner," Jack countered, batting his hand aside.
"Today was my idea."
"This place was my idea."
"I'll just put it on the JSA expense account," Sand finally told him. He had no intention of doing any such thing, but if Jack was going to be stubborn, Sand was willing to sacrifice the truth for his ego.
"I can write it off as a business expense."
"Yeah. I'll just...put this here while you guys decide who has the bigger...wallet." With a roll of her eyes, the waitress set the leather folder down on the table and ducked out of the way.
"Let me pay, Jack," Sand said.
"Rock paper, scissors," Jack offered.
"Fine." Sand shook out his hand three times and held out his fist.
"Paper covers rock," Jack said, slapping his open hand over Sand's knuckles. "I'm paying. You can get it next time."
Next time? Jack was expecting there to be a next time already? Sand found himself pleased despite his instinct toward caution.
He was too busy thinking to see what Jack tucked in the folder, but when Jack tilted his head and said, "Ready?" he nodded and they made their way out of the restaurant.
"Charity's is only a few blocks from here," Jack said, heading off south.
"It's nice out tonight," Sand said, hurrying a bit to catch up with Jack's long stride and head start.
Jack grinned at him. "Yeah, it is. Too bad we won't be able to enjoy it until later."
Sand resolved firmly not to overthink as he let Jack lead the way to a fortune teller's shop. It had a second-floor apartment, which Jack buzzed, and when a woman's voice answered, he pulled open the glass door and led Sand up a short flight of stairs.
Charity was waiting in the doorway, a screaming baby against her shoulder. She was a tall woman, pretty, wearing a long skirt and a scoop-necked blouse. Her style was a little too bohemian for Sand's tastes but he liked her smile.
"He's usually so good," she said straight away, handing off the crying infant to Jack, "but Mason's on duty tonight and Teddy really prefers to fall asleep on his chest."
"Aw, c'mon, big boy," Jack said, pulling Teddy to him. Teddy choked out a few token cries and then contented himself with sniffling into Jack's shirt. "What's wrong?" He bounced Teddy a little and looked back at Sand self-consciously. "Sand, this is Charity. Charity, Sand Hawkins. Mason's one of the O'Dares, Opal City PD."
"Also my fiancee," Charity said gracefully, moving forward to extend her hand to Sand. "I'm very pleased to meet Jack's friend."
The look she gave him was at once curious and amused, and he had no doubt she knew just what was meant when she said 'friend'. The knowledge made him blush instantly.
"Any friend of Jack's is welcome in my home," she assured him. "Can I bring you something to drink? I have some cider mulling."
"Um. Yes. That would be nice, thank you."
"Make it a double," Jack said, bouncing Teddy against his shoulder. The little boy appeared to be clinging to Jack for dear life, hiding his face in Jack's neck.
As Charity moved off into the kitchen, Sand shot Jack a look and moved farther into the foyer to close the front door. Jack remained entirely oblivious.
"I think he's going to sleep," Jack said as Charity reappeared with three mugs in her hands. "I can take him back with me."
"Are you sure?" she asked, handing Sand a mug and taking a sip from her own. "You're welcome to leave him here. It was just that he was so distressed and Mason won't be back until early in the morning."
"He'll be happier at home," Jack said, shifting Teddy to his other arm so he could take a gulp out of the mug Charity held out for him. "It'll be fine. He sleeps through the night."
"All right. Well, sit down and finish your cider before you go. He'll get heavy if you stand too long."
The cider was excellent, and Sand found himself enjoying Charity's casual hospitality. If she really did know his true relationship with Jack, it didn't seem to bother her. Suddenly, he found himself wondering if she knew Jack's ex -- the girl who'd left him. He wondered if they were friends.
"Charity tells fortunes," Jack was explaining as Sand pondered these new thoughts. "Ask her something."
Charity rolled her eyes. "All this time and you still haven't figured out that it doesn't work that way." She set down her mug on the coffee table and reached out. "Give me your hand."
"You don't need to -- " Sand started, but found himself extending his hand anyway.
"Nonsense. I'm curious." Charity took his hand between her own and he shivered lightly as her fingers played over his palm and the back of his wrist. "You've been asleep for a long time," she said, "but you're finally waking up."
Sand opened his mouth to correct her timetable, but Jack shook his head and he closed it again.
"Happiness is within your grasp," she continued, "but it won't be easy to hold on to. I see mashed bananas in your future."
"What?" Sand stared at her. The last line seemed so incongruous.
"It's what Teddy eats for breakfast." Charity smiled and squeezed his hand before releasing it. "They get everywhere."
"And on that note," Jack said, downing the last of his cider and hefting Teddy, "we'd better get this show on the road."
"Well," Charity said matter-of-factly, standing and brushing off her skirt. "I'm sorry to see you go. It's been lovely to meet you, Sand, and I've quite enjoyed the company."
"Same here," Sand said, shaking her hand. "The cider was delicious, too, thank you."
"Thanks Charity," Jack called over his shoulder. "I'll call you tomorrow."
"Call or stop by," Charity invited. "You're always welcome."
Jack tucked Teddy's blanket around him to ward off the chill breeze that was picking up. It didn't bother Sand and neither of them had brought a jacket, but Jack kept his shoulder between the wind and Teddy's face as they walked a few more blocks back to Knights Past.
"Can you grab the keys?" Jack asked. "They're in my pocket." He nodded toward his left side and Sand slid his hand into the hip pocket of his chinos and found the metal keyring nestled next to Jack's leg. He pulled it out and used the key Jack indicated to open the door. "Dude," Jack said, rolling his eyes. "Have I taught you nothing? I just gave you a prime opportunity to cop a feel -- it was practically an invitation -- and you were a perfect gentleman. I feel so sheltered and Victorian."
"You're…you're holding a baby," Sand protested. "I'm not going to grope you while you're holding your son!"
"Sand." Jack wrapped his free hand around Sand's shoulder and pulled him in close. "He's not even two, yet," he said, tilting his forehead against Sand's. "He has no idea what's going on."
"Maybe I was afraid you'd drop him," Sand returned, moving close enough to press the side of his leg against Jack's. He could feel the swell of muscle under denim and the warmth of Jack's body against his own.
"Not a chance," Jack said, lowering his head to kiss Sand softly. He grinned. "You're good, but you're not that good. I'll be right back," he added, turning away and flicking a light switch with his elbow as he walked to the back of the store. "There's stuff in the fridge," he called after him just before Sand heard his feet on the stairs.
Sand wasn't thirsty after his cider at Charity's and his hunger wasn't for food, but he'd inherited his aunt's nosiness and, after locking up, wandered into the kitchen and poked his head into Jack's fridge. A lot of baby food jars, he noticed with a smile. A six-pack of beer, in bottles. The requisite hunk of molding cheese. A couple of plastic containers from a local deli. One seemed to have some sort of mayonnaise-based salad and the other looked like soup.
He heard Jack on the stairs again and straightened up. As he closed the door, he caught sight of a photograph stuck to the freezer with a sunflower magnet. It was Jack with Dian and he looked like he'd just been handed the Publisher's Clearinghouse check. Sand smiled and turned away from the doorway in case the sudden emotion in his eyes was visible.
He heard footsteps on the stairs and felt Jack behind him, even before Jack's hand squeezed his shoulder. The temperature of the room shot upward and he felt himself react.
"Hey, you're tense," Jack said, squeezing his shoulder again and brushing his mouth against Sand's neck. His body slowly molded against Sand's back and Sand could feel the swell of Jack's erection against his buttocks. He liked the feel of it, suddenly wanting -- aching for -- Jack inside him. Jack's other hand came around to rest on his stomach and then Sand felt himself being turned around. "If you want to come upstairs," Jack offered, his eyes offering more, "I'll give you a backrub."
"Yeah?" Sand asked, staring curiously into Jack's eyes. They were dark blue with lust and promise. The offer was...more than tempting. It was enthralling, the offer of strong hands on his body, relaxation...and the ecstasy that would follow. He'd given Doc backrubs when the trials of running a medical clinic in the low-rent district had driven the older man to distraction. He'd enjoyed it and at the time, he'd preferred Doc to turn him over and make love to him rather than reciprocate. Now, though, he relished the idea of being in Doc's place, being limp under Jack's hands as the kinks and knots were worked out of his back and shoulders.
"Yeah." Jack's hand was curling around his neck, pulling him in close and then their mouths were touching, moving together in a warm, passionate kiss.
Sand stepped closer, moving to embrace Jack and press against him. Their cocks brushed and rubbed together and Jack rolled his hips so smoothly, Sand gasped. Jack grinned and stepped back, reaching for his hand.
"Upstairs," he urged, walking toward the back stairs without breaking eye contact with Sand. Sand followed willingly, letting Jack tug him up the dark staircase. Jack's hand was warm and he didn't turn on the light, moving easily up the stairs by memory. Sand had to exercise a little more caution, being careful not to catch his foot on the edge of any step. They emerged into a small living room with an overstuffed couch and a compact entertainment center. Jack pulled Sand into his arms, giving him a long, deep kiss. "Bedroom's this way," he said, using a hand on Sand's lower back to guide him through the living room to a narrow hallway. Sand slowed and impulsively pulled Jack to him, initiating the next kiss. Jack moaned and it vibrated against his mouth.
They finally came up for air, and just stood together in the middle of the living room. Jack rubbed his cheek lightly against Sand's forehead and Sand had a weird feeling of contentment in the pit of his stomach. He felt cozy there, welcome. It was more comfortable than he expected from a 'fuckbuddy'. Jack lifted his hand to Sand's face and eased back, quick blue eyes searching.
"You're still tense," Jack said hopefully, running his thumb along Sand's jaw and moving his hand down to cuff the back of Sand's neck.
"Someone offered to fix that for me," Sand answered, just as hopefully.
"Yeah?" Jack's face broke into a grin. "Still sound good to you?"
"Yeah," Sand confirmed with a matching grin. "I could do with a backrub."
"Yeah, I bet you could," Jack murmured, moving closer, as if he were going to kiss Sand again. His hands ran up Sand's back, over his shoulder blades, and just when Sand was sure Jack was about to kiss him again, Jack brought his hands around and pushed on Sand's shoulders lightly. "So get in there," he instructed.
Sand walked down the narrow hallway. There was a closed door to his left, which might have belonged to Teddy. Jack's room was at the end of the hall. He stepped through the doorway, Jack at his back, and heard the door close behind him.
"Take off your clothes," Jack instructed, running one hand down his side. "I have to be able to reach the merchandise."
Sand skimmed his fingers under the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. He watched Jack slip around him, going to the bed and turning on the small lamp on the night table. It had a blue-green base of twisted ceramic in a tell-tale art deco style and a dark cream shade that made the forty-watt bulb shine gold. The whole room took on a warm glow, concentrated on the bed. Sand unbuckled his belt and watched Jack as he opened his pants and dropped them to the floor. He stepped out of the puddled material, leaving his shoes behind, and wondered why Jack wasn't watching. Jack was rooting through the drawer in the bedside table. Sand watched him bend over the drawer as he pulled off his socks and undershirt.
"There," Jack muttered, sitting a small bottle on the nightstand and pulling his own shirt over his head as he turned. He grinned as he saw Sand standing in the middle of his discarded clothes, wearing only his boxers.
Sand glanced down too, already aware that he was hard, but unsure how obvious it was in the low light. Still pretty apparent but Jack didn't seem to mind at all.
"All of it," Jack said, yanking his own unbelted fly open and shaking his jeans down one leg and then the other.
Sand paused, torn between wanting Jack to turn around again -- as if he needed any additional privacy -- and wanting to show off. He hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his shorts and eased them over his hips and his erection and pushed them down his thighs.
"On the bed," Jack said, his eyes locked on Sand's body.
Sand moved to the end of the bed, rested one knee on the edge, and pushed himself forward until he was lying completely on his stomach, his head pillowed on his folded arms.
"Get a pillow," Jack said, moving to the bed himself, on his knees, and straddling Sand's hips. Sand felt lean thighs, rough with hair, brushing against the sides and the silk of Jack's boxers sliding over his ass. Sand took a long, shallow breath, the mattress uncomfortably solid under his full cock. He reached forward, snagging a pillow and tucking it under his chin, pulling his arms around it.
He felt Jack balancing on him, reaching to the left, and the little bottle Sand hadn't thought to look at was in his hand.
"Close your eyes," Jack ordered. "Stop looking at everything."
Sand felt Jack's body push down over his and Jack's mouth against the back of his neck, the kiss hot and wet and messy. All his muscles tensed, pushing his body up against Jack.
"Just. Stop." Jack's voice was firm but teasing in his ear and Sand dropped his head to the counterpane. "Good."
His skin prickled as warm, thick liquid drizzled onto his back. It slid down between his shoulder blades until Jack caught it in the small of his back and stroked his hand slowly upward, spreading the oil over Sand's skin.
Sand swallowed and pressed his mouth against the pillow. The backrubs he'd given Doc were playful, childish things compared to what Jack was doing. Strong fingers dragged over his back, assaulting the muscle beneath and kneading it limp. The bed rocked slightly as Jack lent more of his weight to his actions.
"Is that ok?" Jack slurred in Sand's ear, thumbs on either side of his spine, digging into his lower back.
"Mm. Yeah," Sand said into the pillow, his eyes closed against distracting input. Jack's touch, the rasp of his voice, and the scent of his aftershave were all he could handle. "Feels good."
Sand held as still as he could as Jack shifted back, weight sliding away. He felt Jack settle back over his calves as Jack systemically worked his hands up to the nape of his neck and then back down to his tailbone, thoroughly slicking his skin and squeezing tension out of the muscles. Then Jack's thumb pressed down hard on the base of his spine and Sand arched into it, biting his lip against the surge of warmth in his groin.
"Like that?" Jack whispered, applying more pressure to that area. Sand groaned and started to turn over to show Jack just how much he liked that but Jack pinned both Sand's legs with one of his own and pressed both hands over Sand's shoulders. "Not yet, man," he chuckled. "I'm not done with you yet." Sand felt him scoot backward, the bed shifting under them both as Jack moved.
Sand let his fingers curl around the top edge of the mattress and was glad he'd done so when Jack's hands slowly skated down over his ass. The muscles there contracted involuntarily and Sand bucked his hips up. Pressing against the mattress was uncomfortable enough as was.
"You're getting the idea," Jack murmured as Sand gasped. Jack had slipped his thumb between Sand's cheeks and was stroking firmly. "Ever done it this way before?" he asked, circling the sensitive opening.
Sand groaned again, lifting his hips once more to meet Jack's hand. "Hey, I'm thrilled you're incoherent and all, but I'm gonna need a yes or no." He could almost hear the eyeroll in Jack's voice.
"Yeah," Sand gasped, lifting himself on his elbows. "I've done it this way before." But not in this decade, he didn't say.
"Good." Jack's voice was soft and his mouth was hot and wet at Sand's neck a moment later. Calloused hands cupped his hips, urging him up as Jack's mouth moved down his spine, kissing and licking and sometimes just sliding. Something soft brushed against his ass -- the head of Jack's cock, he realized with a heady rush -- but then all contact was gone and Jack was digging through the covers beside them.
"What are you doing?" he asked, turning his head.
"Condom," Jack said, leaning over and tugging the far nightstand drawer open. "You'd think I'd learn to plan ahead. Aha." He rolled back, holding up the condom packet between two fingers.
Sand flipped over before Jack could stop him. "Give that to me," he said, taking the condom out of Jack's hand. He made short work of the packaging and moved forward to roll the sheath over Jack's cock. The principles were the same as they had been 55 years ago, even if the product had improved. His hands didn't even tremble.
Jack's breathing was heavy by the time Sand sat back. He leaned forward and caught Sand's mouth in a deep kiss. His arms pressed against Sand's rib cage as he eased them both back into the pillows.
Sand lifted his knees and let Jack slide one oil-slicked finger all the way into him. It burned and he lost his breath for a moment before his body recognized and adjusted for the intrusion. He probably should have told Jack earlier that he hadn't done this in decades, he thought guiltily, glancing down at the top of Jack's head.
Jack brought himself up into position, balancing himself on one arm and pushed in gently. Sand groaned a little at the pain and tried to relax.
"You ok, man?" Jack asked, reaching up with his free hand to run his fingers through Sand's hair. His expression was concerned as he puffed a lock of hair off his own forehead.
"I'll be better when you stop dawdling," Sand returned, pushing his hips up. His body was settling around Jack and he wanted more.
Jack grinned and slipped forward, pushing Sand's legs higher as he lodged himself deep in Sand's body. "Dawdling," he said with a wink. "It's one of those words."
"My outdated slang turns you on," Sand replied with a roll of his eyes as he shifted his hips into a more comfortable position. He sighed when he felt Jack slide into exactly the right place. "That's good."
"You know it." Jack started moving, sliding deep and slow as he grasped Sand's cock and began jerking him off in counterpoint. "You're so hot," he murmured, blue eyes studying Sand's face. Sand wasn't quite sure what he was looking for and tried not to think too hard about it.
Truth was, Jack felt good in him. It should have been strange to have someone else inside him, someone he hadn't wanted for weeks and months before, someone he really didn't know all that well. But it wasn't and he'd put more thought into that when Jack wasn't fucking him handily into next Thursday.
Sand let Jack's body rock him back, let his pulse reset to Jack's pounding, and let the friction inside him flow through his body. Jack's hand stroked his cock, warm and strong and hard in a way the mattress was not and Sand hadn't had time to decide that his limit for teasing had been reached when his body decided for him.
His muscles contracted and he came all over Jack's hand. Aftershocks flowed through him, tightening his body around Jack's cock again and again, a warm sweat breaking out over his entire body as Jack lifted his hand to his mouth and licked. Sand remembered him doing the same thing last time in his room at JSA headquarters, and shuddered. Sated, he let his eyes wander up Jack's lean chest to the tattoos -- he loved the tattoos, he decided -- and noticed that one of them had more color as if Jack had it touched up in the past week.
Then Jack's hips were banging lightly against the back of Sand's already-aching thighs. Sand looked up and saw the tension in Jack's face and the anticipation in his eyes. He reached between his legs and found Jack's balls. It only took a light touch for Jack's face to clench and his body to shudder in release.
Jack let out a shaky breath as Sand watched, and eased himself back slowly. He rubbed the back of his wrist across his forehead and rolled to his side to remove the condom. Sand closed his eyes. His own body twinged as his stretched muscles insisted on contracting. He didn't care.
He felt content, that mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration he so rarely even had time to crave. He exhaled slowly, relishing the feeling of tired air leaving his body.
Jack flopped down next to him. "That was...." He rubbed a hand over his face and back through his damp hair. "Wow." He dropped his hand and Sand saw his eyes were closed. "You ok?"
"Yeah," Sand said. It was all he had the energy to say. Jack opened his eyes, though, and looked over, propping himself up on his elbow.
"Spend the night," he said. "I promise, breakfast this time."
It hadn't occurred to Sand not to spend the night. He felt a flash of insecurity about navigating the foreign world of 'fuckbuddies' when Jack spoke again.
"I won't go running off if you won't."
Sand thought of his accidental rejection of Jack's morning advances last time and promised himself that he'd be the first one to reach out in the morning. His answer was sleepy and quiet as Jack turned off the light.