Title: The Final Touch
Rating: NC 17
Warnings: slash, character death
Summary: Season 7 AU - Jack, down with the pathogen, gets a surprise visit at the hospital
Disclaimer: No matter how often I check, I still don't own Jack and Tony. Too bad. :(
Author's note: This is the first slash fic I ever wrote. When I handed the idea for the story to my 'editor', she did NOT believe that I would pull off male/male sex in a hospital bed. So there.
Jack wasn't supposed to feel the fingers that ran lightly over the skin of his forearm.
His hands had been completely numb for hours now, and a precursory prickling had spread all the way up to his elbows, excluding every other sensation. The same applied to his feet and lower legs. He wasn't paralyzed yet, although moving his limbs adequately when he couldn't feel them anymore had proven to be difficult. No longer able to walk or even stand on his own, he had finally retreated to the private hospital room Dr. Macer had reserved for him.
When he had awkwardly climbed into the bed, depending on Dr. Macer's help, an overwhelming feeling of finality had washed over him. Without anything to keep him busy, the numbness had seemed to spread more quickly. Eventually, he had stopped rubbing his hands and feet against the mattress and had surrendered to the terrible impression of disappearing, piece by piece.
A surge of panic had come and gone when Sunny Macer had stopped by for another check up and Jack hadn't been able to answer her questions. He had been grappling with a sudden blank space in his memory that made it impossible to remember such simple terms as “headache” and “cold”. All that had come out of his mouth had been incoherent stammering.
He had freaked out, almost triggering another seizure. Dr. Macer and her assortment of sedatives had coasted him over that anxiety peak. He hadn't even felt the syringe being attached to his IV. Detachment had followed and stayed. He had been floating, eyes closed, and slipped towards the inevitable.
So whose fingers were these? And why did he feel them?
The soft touch followed the length of his arm, carefully avoiding his IV. A hand firmly came to rest on his shoulder and squeezed gently.
Jack opened his eyes, blinking away cobwebs.
Oh God. Tony.
“Sunny said you didn't want any visitors, but I personally think that's bullshit. Told her you'd have to kick me out yourself if you didn't want me here.”
His voice, tainted by preliminary grief, pierced through Jack's drug haze. Jack turned away from the fuzzy figure looming at his right. He strained to evade the radiating sadness of the man settling down on the bed next to him and wished he couldn't feel the hand that comfortingly brushed his face and came to rest on his cheek.
He didn't want Tony here. Of all people, he was the one he couldn't bear to sit here and pity him. He had forbidden them to contact Kim. No need for her to come and have him die on her, for real, this time. He had yelled at Renee to leave him alone, and she had listened. Chloe's goodbye had been reduced to a mercifully short and honest phone call. Bill was dead. No one that Jack cared about was supposed to witness this.
And now Tony was here. The one who hurt most.
“I d...don't...please...n..no.” he garbled, hating himself. The rapidly progressing loss of speech was even worse than the numbness. His hands shakily lifted and pushed against his friend's chest, with no force whatsoever, then flopped back down.
Go. Please. Leave me alone.
Tony didn't move. His hand remained where it was, his familiar fingers lightly brushing over the stubble on Jack's cheek.
“I'm not going anywhere”, he whispered in a husky voice that pierced into Jack. “I'm staying, and I don't care if you want me to leave. I can't leave. Not now. Not before....”
His dark figure bent over Jack, and his warm lips placed a kiss on Jack's parched ones. Tony's breath, soft and tainted with the taste of mint, unearthed memories. Tony's scent, that unique mixture of bitter sweet skin and dusky cologne, extracted pictures from the rubble that Jack's mind was becoming. Memories of quick and heated passion as well as deep understanding between two men who had seemed to be bound to each other by fate.
Jack turned away from the hovering lips and the painful scent. He didn't want to look into the deep brown eyes. Not even the sedatives could shield Jack from their hardened gaze. But the power to decide had obviously been stripped from him. He could have fought against the steady hands holding his face. But he didn't.
He blinked at the fierce but tired features of the only man he had ever wanted. He studied the stubble framing his expressive mouth, the hard jawline and the scars scattered over Tony's forehead and neck. They did nothing to lessen the attractive pull.
Tony's eyes, impossibly soft despite his ruggedness, mirrored the intensity of his words. “I'm not leaving you alone with this, you hear me? I'm staying with you. You're the only one who...”
Tony broke off and blinked. His eyes stayed dry. But his voice assumed a new edge of urgency as he spoke again, his hands still holding Jack's face.
“There's no one left, Jack. Michelle..Bill...and now...” His thumbs absently caressed Jack's cheekbones. “Let me be there for you. You have to let me do this.”
Jack shuddered at the pain etched on Tony's face. He shut his eyes and allowed himself to lean into the gentle touch of his hands. These calloused, skillful hands that knew how to kill silently just as well as they knew how to tease and comfort and delight. As Jack looked at his friend again, he was shocked at the thought that this would be the last time he saw Tony. Tomorrow, Tony would be in prison. And he would be dead. A small gasp escaped his mouth. His hand reflexively lifted to grasp Tony's arm and missed, awkwardly flapping against his wrist.
Despair took hold alongside anger, and Jack wanted to scream at Tony to go away. To run. To leave him the fuck alone. This was unbearable. He was unbearable as he reached for Jack's helplessly twitching hand and guided it back down onto the bed sheet. His presence was too much to handle.
“L...eave..” The scream came in the disguise of a breathless whisper.
Tony's hands returned to Jack's face. They gently closed around his neck, enfolding his ears. Jack stiffened at another kiss, strained against the second and gave in to the third. Jack had fled into his embrace before, in times of unfathomable grief and loss so deep it had hollowed him. Tony had been there. With no questions asked, no strings attached, no answers given he had comforted Jack and, at times, even made him whole.
Without thinking, Jack reciprocated the kiss, longing for the safety of Tony's touch. He lifted his head from the pillow and leaned into the warmth of his friend. Tony's lips paused, sensing Jack's resistance fade. He reengaged with a gasp of relief and deepened the kiss. His hand slid to the back of Jack's head, supporting him, and slipped into his hair.
Tony's hand fumbled for Jack's and found it, swiftly removing the pulse ox clip from his index finger. He wove his fingers into Jack's and softly pressed their joined hands into the mattress. Jack broke the kiss and stared at Tony with a mixture of confusion and frustration.
“C...an't..f..eel”, he stammered. “N..um..b.”
Tony released Jack's hand and unceremoniously lifted the blanket that covered him. Jack jolted when he felt Tony's fingers run down his belly and deftly settle on his cock.
“Tell me if you feel this, Jack.”
Jack's lower body tensed and pushed back into the mattress. His hips, instinctively, bucked against Tony's hand. His cock startled awake and then thickened in response to the pressure applied.
So that was still working.
His eyes flitted to Tony's, trying to make sense of what he was doing. But his calm and sad face left him clueless.
“Relax, Jack. Breathe.”
The soothing, husky voice was back. The hand lingered. Tony's long fingers casually pushed up Jack's hospital gown and hooked into the waistband of his boxers. Jack hitched a breath. The skin of his belly dotted with goose flesh.
“Let me do this, Jack”, Tony whispered, his fingertips playing at the blond hair peeking out of the white cotton fabric. “Please. Just one more time, let me take away some of that pain.”
Tony felt Jack's body surrender and saw the change relax his face. Jack's legs stopped shifting, and his growing erection filled Tony's palm. His shadowed features lit up and his eyes stopped darting aimlessly. His unfocused gaze settled on Tony.
“I..c..an't...y..ou...” He broke off and tried again. “I..w..ant...”
Your touch is killing me. But please don't stop. It's all that I have left to feel.
But his tongue wasn't heeding his commands, his lips wouldn't form the right words. Tony watched him struggle and give up, and the pain of seeing Jack like this ripped at him. Softly, he placed his index finger onto those finely shaped lips.
“Ssshhh”, he silenced him. “I know.”
And he did.
Watching Jack's chest rise and fall in a quickening pace, he withdrew his hand and slowly folded the blanket down until he'd exposed Jack's boxers and part of his thighs. Jack's leg muscles quivered, and a ripple washed over the defined surface of his belly. But he lay still. His arms and hands rested calmly at his sides, balled into loose fists. Tony saw his eyes flutter close, the feverish blue-green disappearing under his impossibly long lashes.
Jack both hated and loved what Tony was doing. His gentle hands slipped underneath his gown and undid the leads attached to his chest, brushing over his nipples as if by accident. The monitor at his bed side shrieked, but only for a second. Tony must have shut off the alarm. The lines that had criss-crossed Jack's body vanished and left his chest tingling under the hands that had freed him.
His skin flushed, the patches that weren't yet numbed by the toxin over-reacting to the stimulation of being touched. His cock did in kind, rushing to demand attention. Erect and pushing against the restraints of his boxers, it pulsed and longed for Tony's hand to return. More intense than ever, the need quickly mounted to a sweet, throbbing ache.
The current that swept through Jack's torso, his neck, face and, most prominently, through his cock and balls almost compensated for the spreading numbness in his arms and legs. Whereas more and more nerve endings stopped transmitting, the remaining ones took over with tripled force.
Was this what dying did to a body? Amplify all sensations before everything froze to a final halt?
He felt Tony cup the back of his head and pull him up to untie the gown. Wherever Tony's fingers brushed his neck, fiddling with the skimpy garment, tingling warmth lingered. In teasingly slow motion, Tony pulled the gown down his chest.
Tony felt Jack stiffen, as if bracing himself. For what?
He knew when his eyes were drawn to the extensive array of scars on Jack's torso, some of them even disappearing into his boxers. Jack had been dotted with scars as long as Tony had known him. He had traced them with his fingers countless times. Tony was one of the few entrusted with the stories to each and every one of these marks. The knowledge hadn't put him off – on the contrary. It had deepened the intimacy between the two of them.
But what he saw now was new and inhuman.
He couldn't help but touch the landscape of abuse and torture. His fingertips, feathering over the raised and pale patches of skin, confirmed what he saw was real. This was barbaric. Jack flinched and turned his head sideways.
“My God. I'm so sorry.”
Tony wasn't sure for what exactly he was apologizing. For not breaking Jack out of prison in China? For not knowing what horrible things they had done to him? He had tried to find out where Jack was being held while working for David. Had he not tried hard enough?
He did the only thing he could think of to drive away the horror and the shame. Starting with the largest scar on Jack's left shoulder, he brought his lips down on each and every one of them. Reluctant and flinching at first, Jack slowly responded to the treatment. With each subsequent kiss, Tony felt the tension ebb from his body. When he reached the stretch of skin below his navel, a soft shudder traveled through Jack's muscles. Tony looked up to see the hint of a smile curl his lips. A soft moan accompanied the smile. Jack's boxers bulged with his returning erection.
The gown wasn't completely off yet, crumpled and abandoned at Jack's waistline when the slow ritual of undressing had been suspended. Tony reached out to continue and pulled it down over Jack's limp arms. He stopped for a moment to detach the IV line, fiddle Jack's right arm out of the sleeve and then expertly re-attach the tube. As much as he longed to see Jack free from all the marring medical gear, he knew that the IV had to stay. Sunny had warned Tony about the immediate danger of seizures as soon as the steady flow of medications was stopped. That was a risk he couldn't take.
Sighing with regret, he hid as much of the tube as possible underneath Jack's arm and pushed the IV pole out of Jack's line of vision. He let his hand rest over the IV catheter in the crook of Jack's elbow for a short moment, covering the glaring white tape and clear plastic tube. On Jack's bronzed skin, this last remaining piece of medical equipment looked like a hideous disfigurement.
Jack had remained passive and silent throughout the exposure. His eyes were still closed. But his face was tense and his body, displayed in gut wrenching vulnerability on the hospital bed, was fidgeting slightly. Here and there barely noticeable muscle spasms made his arms, legs and neck alternatively twitch. Tony wanted to believe it was anticipation, and not the toxin, but that was naïve.
“It's going to be alright, Jack”, he promised, standing up from the bed. “There's no need to fear.”
Registering a small frown cross Jack's face, Tony strode over to the door and closed it. Jack's eyes opened at the click of the lock.
“Tony?” The confused question came out loud and clear.
Tony quickly returned to the bed, where Jack could see him. Sunny had informed him that Jack's vision would be next to deteriorate. The signs were already there. Jack looked at Tony, his gaze somewhat off center, his pupils unnaturally dilated. A few more hours, and he would be blind. Tony cringed, surprised how deep the ache went.
In his downhill slide, Jack was still Jack. His well toned body looked healthy in spite of the scars. His boxers stood out crispy white against his sun tan. The African sun had bleached Jack's hair a boyish blond. The neuro-toxin had struck silently and too quickly to leave any visible trace on Jack's athletic figure. The fine tuned machine that his body had always been looked undamaged. The carnage was merely internal, but just as debilitating. The unfairness of it all struck Tony and made his hands turn into fists as he looked at Jack's perfect body, now robbed of its strength.
“I'm here”, he repeated and placed his hand on Jack's hip. “And I'll see you through this.”
With these cryptic words, Tony shed his leather jacket and hung it over the chair next to the bed. He reached for the collar of his shirt and saw Jack's bewilderment when he pulled it over his head. He dropped the piece of clothing and revealed his own set of scars. A trail of burn marks ran from his neck to his left shoulder and down his back - reminders of the explosion that had killed Michelle and left him burnt and meaningless. As a result of Hodges' interrogation methods, Tony's belly and ribcage were dotted with bruises in varying shades of red and purple. A healed gunshot wound on his abdomen and a white line zig zagging across his hip completed the collection. Tony thought it was nothing compared to Jack.
Jack gaped at him in disbelief. Tony toed off his boots, pulled off his socks and straightened to his full height. Jack struggled to adjust both to the element of surprise and to the sight of Tony's hardened body. Clad in nothing but the same black pair of jeans he'd worn all day, tarnished by remnants of dust, the change was on full display. The few extra pounds Tony had always struggled with had transformed into solid muscle. His shoulders had broadened, emphasizing a trim waist and firm hips that barely held the waistband of his jeans. The sight of the scars and fresh bruises littered over Tony's olive skin struck Jack deeply. Time had leveled the differences between the two of them. The damage, inward and outward, was now the same.
Jack opened his mouth. He wanted to say something, wanted to tell Tony how sorry he was about everything that had happened to him. That whatever 'bad things' he had done didn't matter any more, now that he was here. Forgiveness, redemption and regret filled his mind. There was so much he needed to tell him. And couldn't.
He grunted furiously. Not even Tony's name would pass his lips.
Tony shook his head. He rested his hand on Jack's upper arm where he knew Jack could still feel it.
“Don't talk”, he said. “You don't need to.” His hand wandered over to Jack's shoulder and his neck. The long fingers trailed down Jack's collarbone and chest.
“I want you to close your eyes,” Tony added, his face serious, his eyes warm and dark.
Jack did not stop to think. This was too surreal to make sense of. He briefly wondered whether Tony's presence was just a mirage, a hallucination conjured by the drugs or the toxin infiltrating his brain. Or both. But Tony's touch was real, and the comfort his hands provided felt too good to be questioned.
He closed his eyes.