So Please Don't Break Me
Jack had barely slept on the nineteen and a half hour flight. He bounced his leg or fiddled with the magazines in the back of the seat ahead of him or listened to music on his phone. Anything to keep his mind occupied and away from the impending landing. He glanced again at the worn, folded paper he'd held since he boarded. It was the itinerary.
He would land at 2:35 a.m., Sunday morning, at the trans-Atlantic airport in Sydney, and from there he'd take another flight to Melbourne. Jack would arrive around four a.m. and pick up the rental car. From there he would find a hotel to sleep and finally gather the courage to open that little, unassuming envelope that was in the package with everything else.
The woman at the rental kiosk was nice enough, the sympathy for Jack's sleep deprived state easing his nerves as she mentioned a reasonable priced hotel chain just a mile up the road. Coincidentally it was a really nice place. The bed was clean, crisp, and warm and the water heated swiftly; the room itself was spacious and more than he'd hoped for, for the price. Jack set up his duffle bag and dug out a pair of sleep pants before going through his nightly routine of brushing his teeth and washing his face before crawling into the bed.
He should have known sleep wouldn't be in his future.
After forty-five minutes Jack heaved a sigh and flung the covers off. He rubbed his face as he sat up and then walked over to his luggage. The small, white envelope was easy enough to find; he nestled it right on top of everything. The note was written on plain paper, and not as nerve wracking as he'd agonized over for fifteen-plus hours.
Written in Aster's scrolling handwriting was just an address.
Jack nervously packed his things into the tiny rental he'd been given. His phone read just after six the same morning he'd landed, as he couldn't get even a wink of rest. Let's just get this over with, he thought.
The drive into the city was surprisingly enjoyable. Melbourne was similar to New York, but not at the same time. The buildings towered just like home, but there was so much green. Plants were everywhere; trees grew tall and proud, every doorway had bushes or flowers, hell- even some of the storefronts were covered in ivy. The city was beautiful, and Jack completely understood why Aster was so happy to be coming home.
Jack parked the little car five blocks from the address written on the paper, deciding to walk and gather the courage and at least seeing the sights and shops. He meandered through downtown, taking in all that Southern Australia had to offer: the gentle breeze, the smell of a clean city, the happy people going about their morning. The young man grabbed a sugary breakfast from one of the food trucks and continued his stroll.
A memory flashed through his mind suddenly:
It was three months after he and Aster had gotten together. The older man had wanted to go on a trip one weekend, and had convinced Jack to go with him. It would be their first holiday as a couple, Aster had grinned.
They ended up going to a tourist city hours away, that had different historical attractions, and even one of the largest amusement parks in the state. Aster had begrudgingly taken him to ride the rollercoasters, and had even gone on the rides with him. On the way back to the car the duo had stopped and sampled something from every cart they came across.
It was one of the best date's Jack had ever been on.
Several walks down memory lane later, Jack was realizing a few things: First- Aster did a lot of things with Jack that the older man didn't like, or trust, or was afraid of just so they could do them as a couple; even if they happened in a different state or city. Second- everything Jack was remembering had been triggered by something on his walk to Aster's apartment building, leading his heart to sink a bit in guilt.
And that was how Jack found himself; somberly staring at the bottom of apartment number 462.
The young man shuffled from foot to foot and raised his fist, set his jaw, and brought his knuckles to the wood in three soft taps.
Aster opened the door before Jack had a chance to feel nervous. The older man had yanked open the door and stood, green eyes red and tired, as he huffed out a breath as he looked his ex up and down.
"Hey, Bunny." Jack croaked, his own blue eyes stinging with tears. He looked away and brought out the, now crumpled, itinerary papers. "I got your package… and the tickets… and the rent-a-car."
"Jackie-" Aster murmured, stepping forward.
"No! Wait, please." Jack breathed, holding a hand up to rest against the older man's chest. "I- I don't know what I expected, from coming here and seeing you. But- I'm here now, to make up for what happened before you left. And- and- I don't know what you want out of this, or if you even expected me to show up. And I-…" Jack sniffled and ducked his head, gripping onto the soft cotton of Aster's shirt.
"I need to know if I made a mistake." He hissed with a trembling lip, then looked back up into worried green eyes before whispering, "Do you still love me?"
Aster smiled, slow and confident, and pulled Jack gently into his arms. He buried his nose into the younger man's hair as Jack clung to him. "Oh, Jackie. I never stopped loving you."
Jack choked out a muffled sob and tightened his arms around the older man's torso. He went willingly as Aster backed them into his home and peppered his head, forehead and neck with kisses. The older man's hand gripped tight to Jack's hips and slid up and over his sides to pull the younger man against him.
"I'm sorry it took me so long." Jack mumbled into the warm chest, sighing happily as the comforting scent of paint and soil and natural musk invaded his nose. God he'd missed this man. Looking back, Jack couldn't find the logic of waiting as long as he had. If he hadn't been so scared, they could have done this months ago, and Aster never would have left the states. Maybe they'd even be living together- for real this time.
Jack was shocked out of his musings be a slight tremor that shook through Aster's shoulders; when he looked up, pulling away slightly. Aster was gazing down on him, green eyes bright, and shining with… a mix of something Jack couldn't name.
"No, I'm sorry. Fer everything. I never should have let ya leave during that fight. I should have tried harder to find you, and talk to ya; apologize and beg ya to take me back. I should have told you I loved you, that you were it fer me. I-" Aster rushed, only stopping when Jack placed a hand over his mouth and huffing out a quiet laugh.
"You're it for me too, Cottontail." He said quietly, and lifted up onto his toes to place a gentle kiss to the tip of Aster's nose.
Five hectic weeks later Jack stood in the middle of his, now empty, apartment. He turned, making a full circle and grinned.
"I can't believe everything's gone!" Tiana exclaimed, clapping her hands before hopping to her longtime friend and giving him a light shake. "And you're leaving me too!" She pouted.
"Oh please, like you aren't thrilled about it." He chuckled; turning- he added under his breath with a smirk, "If the 'I told you so' dance was any indication."
Tiana smacked his arm then pulled him into a tight hug, tearfully sighing into her best friend's shoulder. "I know, and you have no idea how happy I am for you both, but now you'll be so far away. You know I'm going to be visiting whenever I can."
Jack smiled, hugging her back just as tightly, nodding along with every word.
Jack shielded his eyes as the plane descended through the clouds and skeet-skeeted onto the runway. He impatiently waited his turn to get off, and made his way with the rest of his plane to the baggage claim. The lines were long and loud, with menial tiffs between exhausted fliers about who's bag was who's before he finally snagged his own luggage and quickly walked through the terminal to the entrance. Jack was grinning as the clear, glass doors got closer and closer. The butterflies in his stomach fluttered wildly at the thought of his life finally settling into something happy, and amazing, and exciting.
His heart was no longer sullen and broken; he and Aster had talked for the two weeks he'd stayed and gotten everything out in the open. Every scar and cut was laid bare from the past, and tears and bitterness and explanations cleared the air between the two men and whipped clean the slate, and Jack couldn't wait to fill it with new, happier, memories.
Aster was standing in the sun, casually dressed in an old tee, shorts and flip-flops, but his smile was radiant as he met the younger man to wrap him up in a twirling hug.
"I can't believe yer really moving in! I cleaned out the loft, and reorganized everything! And I've added you to the lease- and all the bills, and I have yer key-" Aster rambled excitedly, but Jack hushed his rambling with a quick kiss.
"I know, Bunny. Let's go home."
Aster nodded, taking Jack's bags and shutting them into the trunk before settling into the driver' seat and lacing his finger's with the younger man's. Jack smiled softly as they weaved through traffic.
"I love you."
"I love you too."