by Chicago

Disclaimer: Characters belong to DC Comics, borrowed for fun and not for profit.

Pairing: Connor Hawke/Jack Knight

Rating: PG

The crickets were disturbing his concentration. He had been sitting in the dark for hours, ever since he had missed the chance to say goodbye. He didn't want to admit to himself that he was waiting, but ...

But the truth was that ever since the door had closed earlier in the night, he had been straining for the sound of returning tires on the gravel. All he could hear were crickets.

He hated waiting.

Waiting was about not doing anything, or doing anything at all in order not to think about the fact that he was waiting. Waiting was being driven nuts by crickets who just wouldn't shut up and let you hear the sound of a friend returning from battle.


He supposed they were just friends now. That was the conversation they'd been having, before Sand's communicator went off and it was time to save the world. He hadn't said goodbye, because he didn't want to believe it was over. Four hours in the dark listening to crickets had given him plenty of time to realize that had been what Sand was saying.

He wished the crickets would shut up.

He wished he and Sand had fought. Then it would be easier - he could handle being angry and wronged. But no, Sand had been right, and Jack had agreed with him, and then Sand had said, "Friends?"

But before they could shake on it, the JSA called, and Jack hadn't said goodbye. He realized now that Sand probably would not come back for the handshake; the conversation had been hard enough in the first place. Sand would avoid him, and there would be awkward moments when they would have to hero together and try to be professional and not remember the taste of each other's skin.

"This sucks," Jack muttered to the night and its incessant crickets. But they weren't totally incessant, and Jack felt himself sitting up straighter as he heard a step on the gravel outside. He strained his ears and was rewarded by the sound of another step.

For a moment he contemplated going to the door, throwing it open and begging Sand to give him another chance. He didn't do any of those things, though. He just sat, waiting. He listened to quiet footsteps up the porch stair, marveling that the second step did not squeak the way it always did. He imagined Sand sneaking back, thinking he was asleep...

There was a knock on the door. Why was he knocking?

Jack opened his mouth, but his voice wouldn't engage. He swallowed and tried again. "Come in."

There was a pause, and then the door swung slowly open.

Jack blinked his eyes carefully. It wasn't Sand.

"Mr. Knight?" the young man at the door asked, and Jack resisted the urge to laugh bitterly. He wasn't so old - was he?

"You're Connor Hawke," he observed, remembering the blond archer from his heroing days.

The younger man nodded once. "Sand sent me - he wanted you to know the mission was a success and he's home safe."

That was Sand all over, Jack reflected bitterly. He'd break your heart, but he wouldn't want you to worry. "Thanks, kid," Jack answered gruffly, fighting against a thickness in his throat.

Sand couldn't have sent a clearer message that he meant what he had said. It was over. They were just friends. Jack scowled to himself, then realized Connor was still standing in the open door. "You gonna stand there all night?" he asked.

He expected Connor to stiffen or get angry, but the blond man just shifted his weight, bringing more of his body into view. He held out an object Jack had not realized he was holding, a brown paper bag clearly hugging the outline of a bottle. "I know it's not my business," Connor began, "but I sort of figured out what happened."

"You mean that I got dumped?" Jack snarled, regretting it almost instantly. This kid didn't have anything to do with Sand or his decision.

Connor shrugged. "Something like that." He took a couple of steps toward the table where Jack sat. "I brought you this. Ted said you'd want it."

Jack studied Connor for a moment, then held out his hand. "Give it here."

Connor obliged, handing over what proved to be a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Jack looked from the bottle to its deliverer with a raised eyebrow. "You agreed to bring me this? Doesn't that go against whatever it is you believe in?"

Connor shrugged again, and Jack noticed that the gesture drew attention to the broad sweep of the young man's shoulders. "I've... learned ... the value of an occasional drink."

Jack studied Connor for a moment longer, then set the bottle of whiskey on the table. "There's a story in that," he remarked.

"Maybe." Connor looked suddenly tense, as if he might flee.

Jack snorted. "Relax, you don't have to tell me. But have a seat, why don't you?" Jack himself was rising to his feet. "Can I get you a glass?" Connor hesitated, but Jack continued toward the cabinet. "How about I get you one just so we can pretend I'm not drinking alone?"

Connor sat and seemed to settle a little. "Okay."

Jack returned to the table with two rock tumblers and clinked them down. He poured three fingers into each glass before he sat down. Once seated, though, he didn't drink immediately. Instead he raised his glass, studying the amber liquid in the moonlight. "Ted Grant is a wise man," he remarked. "You should listen to him." This pronouncement offered, Jack tossed back the liquor with a grimace, slamming his glass down in order to fill it again.

"I do listen to Ted," Connor said softly, turning his own glass in his hands.

"Good for you," Jack applauded, raising his refilled glass. "To Ted."

Connor obliging clinked his glass against Jack's. "To Ted," he agreed, matching Jack's swallow with a sip from his own glass.

Jack slammed his glass down again, this time with a sigh. "Okay," he said. "Okay."

Connor was watching him, light green eyes showing a hint of concern. "I know it's not my business -"

"Damn right it's not," Jack interrupted, pouring another double shot and downing it.

Connor stayed silent for a moment, took another sip of whiskey. "I think he loved you," he finally said softly.

Jack snorted. "Thank you for the past tense. It makes it better, really." He contemplated the whiskey bottle. Boy did Ted understand. He sloshed more Jack Daniels into his glass. He felt Connor's eyes on him as he tossed back the shot, and it made him angry. He defiantly poured himself another drink and swallowed it down.

As he set his glass down this sixth time, however, Connor reached out to touch his wrist. "Don't."

Jack snarled and tried to pull his wrist away. "Fuck you."

"I mean it, Jack," Connor said evenly, his deceptively easy hold successfully pinning Jack's wrist to the table.

Jack glared at the younger man, and in his stomach the alcohol churned. "What happened to Mr. Knight?"

"Jack," Connor said simply, and his eyes met Jack's steadily across the corner of the table. He had really green eyes.

Jack blinked and took a steadying breath.

Connor was still there.

Jack blinked again. "He left me."

Connor nodded soberly. "I know."

Jack's vision began to blur a little, and he knew he wasn't going to be able to stop the tears. "He left me," he repeated, and he heard Connor push his chair back from the table, felt Connor wrap his arms around him. He let himself be folded into Connor's arms and pressed his face against the younger man's chest. He smelt like sage and pachouli.

Jack let the tears come, holding tight to Connor, letting himself be rocked in the younger man's embrace. After a little while, the sobbing calmed, and Connor pulled back a little. Jack swayed in his chair, squinting at the young man who had witnessed his breakdown. "I'm an idiot," Jack groaned.

Connor shook his head, reaching out a hand to brush away some lingering moisture on Jack's cheek. "No. Situations like this are never easy."

Jack let his eyelids flutter shut at the touch of Connor's fingertips to his skin. His fingers were cool against the hotness of Jack's face, and Jack reached up to clasp Connor's hand and hold it to his cheek a moment longer.

"It's okay, Jack," Connor murmured, rubbing his free hand reassuringly against Jack's knee.

Jack opened his eyes to once more meet Connor's gaze. He continued to hold Connor's hand to his face, and without breaking eye contact, he turned his face enough to kiss Connor's hand. The hand on Jack's knee froze for a moment, and an uncertain look crossed through Connor's eyes.

"J-" Jack began, but his throat was tight and he had to try again for words. "Just for tonight? Please? I don't want to be alone." He hated the pleading in his voice, and he wanted to blame the alcohol he could now feel in his system, but he wasn't sure he could. He gave another light nip to one of Connor's fingers and the younger man could not hide the shudder it provoked.

"Please?" Jack said again, kissing another finger. He tried to force a teasing note into his voice so he could feel like a seducer and not so pathetic. "Pretty please?"

He felt Connor's hand tighten on his knee and then the warmth of Connor's body moving forward. The hand on his cheek traced over his cheekbone and drew his face forward. He could feel Connor's breath on his face when Connor said, "Look at me, Jack."

Jack realized his eyes were closed and wondered when that had happened. He forced his eyelids open and met the serious eyes scant inches from his.

Connor brought his second hand up to Jack's face, framing it. He leaned forward then and angled his face in to press soft lips to Jack's.

A groan pulled itself up from Jack's solar plexus and he pressed forward against Connor's lips, opening his mouth and pressing forward with his tongue.

But Connor was pulling away.

Jack opened his eyes in confusion.

"Jack," Connor said seriously, "you are drunk." He let his hand trail down Jack's chest to his groin, settling his hand warmly over Jack's still flaccid cock. "Very drunk."

Jack felt a blush rising in his cheeks and opened his mouth to protest.

"Shh," Connor forestalled, putting his finger over Jack's lips.

Jack started to open his lips, but Connor shook his head.

"I'll stay the night," Connor said. "I'll help you to your bed and I'll keep you warm and I'll make sure you don't end up in a puddle of your own vomit."

Jack grimaced. "Connor-"

"Shh." Connor moved his finger, reaching out to stroke fingers through Jack's hair. "I know you're hurting," Connor said. "And I do understand."

Jack made a noise in his throat.

Connor ignored him. "I'm flattered, too. You should know that. And if you remember any of tonight, remember to make your offer another day. When I won't just be a substitute for another blond."

Jack lowered his eyes, feeling suddenly like a total heel and aware suddenly that the floor was heaving. "I'm sorry, Connor," he mumbled.

Connor pressed a kiss to his bowed forehead. "Don't be," he murmured. Then he slid his arm under Jack's. "C'mon, Jack. Let's get you to bed."

Jack lurched as he stood, wondering who set the cabin afloat. "Promise you'll stay?" he slurred, leaning heavily on Connor for balance.

Connor just set himself sturdily at Jack's side. "Promise."