By the request of several people, and just because I am unconditionally addicted to this pairing, here is another Jake/Tom story.

Yes, this is slash.

Yes, this is kind of incest. As I said in my previous story, Tom and Jake spend so much time within a foot of each other in the movie, it's hard to believe that other slash fans haven't swarmed this fandom yet.

If this disturbs you or isn't your style, go find a nice heterosexual story.

Warnings: Only a few bad words, but nothing worse than 'bitch'. Also, some making out, but nothing really graphic.

I don't own Aliens in the Attic, although I do apologize to the creators and actors for making ridiculous, incestuous stories based off of the movie.

Also: I don't own Wil Wheaton. Or Star Trek: The Next Generation or Toy Soldiers, both of which I highly recommend.

(Note: Wesley Crusher is Wil Wheaton's character in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so please don't be confused by that later in the story.)

Reviews are enjoyed, but not demanded. But they do let me know that I'm not the only weirdo who enjoys this ridiculous pairing.

Although if you do see errors of any sort (plot, spelling, grammar) please let me know. Those things are nightmares.

Right. That is all.

Something had happened.

Tom got a call from Hannah after his last class on Friday. Usually, when she called, the girl wouldn't stop talking about how her day went or about the latest stuffed doll added to her ever-growing collection. But this call was abrupt and choppy and the worst call Tom would ever receive in his life.

"Hannah?"

"Oh, Tom, thank god-"

"Hannah, what's wrong?" Broken half-sobs could be heard from the background, and Tom realized that Bethany was somewhere by his little sister. "What happened?"

"Tom, can you come home this weekend? We really need you here."

"Wait, what's going on? Is everyone okay?"

"Tom, please come home, okay?"

"Hannah-"

"It's about Jake."

She had hung up directly after that statement. Tom had stood there, halfway back to his dorm room, completely numb with shock and confusion.

Two years ago, just as Tom was applying to top universities across the nation, Jake applied to the military. He had gotten in, of course, and for the first year of training, the blonde was ecstatic. It was the perfect thing for Jake, really; there was violence and guns, but there was also the discipline he had been lacking all throughout his childhood and it was doing the boy well. The last time Jake had come home to visit was the first Christmas after high school graduation, and he had looked vibrant and happy and… good. Tom, who had been having a rough time with finals, had been in a Debbie Downer mood until the blonde burst through the front door, grinning at everyone and squeezing the stuffing out of Tom to 'show off his newly acquired strength'. Tom had later realized, after Jake went out of his way to hang out with him even though the kid was clearly exhausted, the super-strength hug might have been from Jake missing Tom a little, too.

And maybe Tom missed Jake a teensy bit, also. They used to hang out every few weekends, and on holidays and summer vacations. Suddenly not seeing Jake due to living at an out-of-state college kind of sucked a little.

But here he was, in his second year at a highly regarded Arizona university, and he had managed to make plenty of smart friends and even had a short-term girlfriend last year. He had found a way to be happy without the company of his closest cousin.

But… Hannah's phone call changed everything.

Within an hour of her hanging up on him, Tom had purchased a plane ticket home for the very next morning, and had packed a bag for the weekend. He had classes Monday afternoon, so he'd have to return Sunday night. But it was almost the end of the Spring semester, and if the situation was serious, he would have no problem skipping a few classes. Or the week, if whatever it was with Jake was really horrible.

Tom froze in the middle of updating the songs on his iPod. What if the worst had happened? Almost exactly a year after Jake had entered the Military, he had been deported to Iraq. In theory there wasn't a real war going on there, but everyone in America knew that bombs + deaths + sending in the military = war. What if Jake had gotten hurt?

What if he had gotten shot, or bombed, or something equally horrific?

What if… he was dead?

That last thought made Tom's hands tremble and had him rushing to the bathroom to throw up a little out of pure nervousness and fear. He spent the rest of the night not doing his homework and cuddling his pillow, mind racing with a million different situations of what 'it's about Jake' could mean. He didn't sleep much that night, to say the least.

The next morning, Tom sat in a stuffy seat on a tiny plane, only half-listening to his iPod. The airport hadn't been too busy, and thankfully the plane wasn't exceptionally crowded, especially for an early Saturday flight.

It was nice to go home, he supposed, except for the undying turmoil and acidic butterfly war going on in his stomach the entire flight. He had tried to distract himself with the Gameboy Art and Lee had given him for his birthday, but there were only so many times he could play as Mario and kill off turtles and Bowzer before he was painfully reminded of Jake, and every time Tom accidently killed Mario, a twist in his gut made him think of Jake coming to the same ending. Without the giant lizard and evil mushrooms and such, of course.

When Tom finally arrived home, the first thing he noticed was that Jake's Jeep was not in the driveway, but his Uncle Nate's was. He brushed off any implications and continued to the door, only to be met halfway by his parents and Bethany, who opened the door quickly and had rushed to greet him. At first, he thought that they were all crying, but a second glance and a slight pull back from the group hug made him realize that they seemed fine; in fact, they were ecstatic that he had come home. Before he could ask about anything, they tugged him inside, where Hannah was sitting between Art and Lee, and Nate was on the recliner hogging a large bowl of popcorn. Everyone was watching the news.

"Welcome home, honey," his mother greeted warmly, ushering him towards the couch. "Oh, you haven't been eating well, have you? You're even thinner than before," she noted, examining him from head to toe with an unimpressed gaze.

"Probably hasn't had much time to eat, with all of the exams coming up," his father pointed out, nodding as if deeming himself correct. Tom took a moment to bat away his mother's concerned hands before he finally was able to say something.

"What happened to Jake?"

It was like everyone had been hit with a Ray of Sadness. Everyone went from bustling and happy to see a family member return, to being gloomy and miserable and knowing something Tom didn't. Tom swallowed harshly before managing any words.

"Please tell me- he didn't- he isn't-"

"He's not dead," Lee spoke up finally. Or was it Art? After not seeing them for over a year, it was hard to tell the difference.

"But there was a bomb, about a week and a half ago," the other twin inserted helpfully.

"It hit near his vehicle, but on the opposite side of where he was sitting," the first twin continued.

"He…" Both twins glanced at each other, silently communicating something. After a few moments of silence, Hannah spoke up from between them.

"He lost his arm, Tommy," she said quietly, twisting her fingers together. "All the way up to the shoulder. He had to be sent home, because…" She took a deep breath.

"Well, it's for obvious reasons," his mother inserted briefly. Tom felt himself nod, not really computing anything yet.

"And it was his right arm," Hannah continued. "His gun-holding arm. He'll never be able to hold a gun again, even a pellet gun or airsoft rifle, and he's taking it really hard."

That took a moment to sink in. Jake wasn't dead. Jake didn't have his arm anymore. Jake couldn't use a gun- any gun, including his beloved paintball gun- ever again. He had been so happy in the military, like he had found his dream job. And now… it was swept out from under his feet. But he was alive. Tom let out a breath he had been holding for far too long.

"So… where is he?"

"The local hospital, getting his stitches checked out and getting re-bandaged. I'm picking him up later," Uncle Nate spoke up, looking like he was putting up a strong front. "Alone," he added before Tom could ask to join. "I need to talk to him before he gets here." For the first time in… well, ever, Tom's uncle appeared relatively mature.

Tom almost peed himself when he heard his uncle's car return that night from the hospital. His entire body was shaking, and the only thing he could think was that Jake was alive. After an entire night and day of worrying and just wishing his cousin was in arm's reach, he was home and he was alive.

Tom raced downstairs, stumbling over the last few steps and stubbing his toes painfully. But he took no notice as the front door opened and-

It wasn't Jake.

It couldn't be Jake. The Jake he knew was strong and confident and… not like this.

The boy in the doorway was hunched over, and had his remaining arm wrapped self-consciously around his chest. The spot where he should have had a right shoulder was covered in bandages and gauze. There were some bruises splattered across his pale skin, and he had a black eye that looked to be already healing. He was muscular, but looked unhealthy, like he hadn't had a good meal- or any food, really- in a few days.

"Oh, Tom, good. Here, take Jake's bags, would you?" Uncle Nate appeared in the doorway beside the pale boy, and began thrusting large, high-quality duffle bags into Tom's arms. But the brunette let them fall to the floor with a squishy thump and took a cautious step towards the boy who had been one of his best friends since they were born. Uncle Nate opened his mouth to say something about the bags again, but glanced between the two boys and shut his mouth, picking the bags up himself and sliding past Tom. He walked further into the house, shooing away the rest of the family, nodding wordlessly to the two boys and giving them all a knowing eye.

Tom was still frozen, staring at the strange person before him, when he heard a gruff voice.

"Say something," the pale boy growled, tightening his grip around himself. Tom nearly cried at that. Jake was the last person to look this pitiful and broken, and yet here he was, and it was heartbreaking. Finally able to move his limbs again, Tom stepped forward and wrapped his arms around the poor boy in a hug, carefully avoiding the bandaged area, and wrapping his own arms tighter around the boy than his own, solitary arm gripped himself. Jake didn't move or say anything for a few moments, and Tom braced himself for the worst, fully expecting to be shoved away and yelled at. Big, tough military guys didn't need pity hugs from nerdy relatives, right?

But after another minute, Jake broke down. Tom felt him sink in his arms, and Jake's left arm circled around the brunette and clutched at his back frantically. Tom could both feel and hear the shattered sobs on his shoulder, and he held his cousin closer as the reality of how close he was to losing him made itself clearer.

"You almost died," Tom blurted out, beginning to cry, too. "I mean- I didn't mean to-"

"It was the perfect life for me," Jake muttered, still letting the tears flow freely, "and it's over. I have nothing left."

"You do," Tom began, but couldn't think of anything to cheer Jake up with. So instead, he let the blonde cry for another few minutes, and then gently pulled back. Jake immediately receded into himself again, letting his head drop down and covering himself protectively with his arm. But Tom grabbed his forearm and tugged him towards the stairs, leading the other boy to his room.

They were lying on Tom's bed. Tom was facing Jake, trying desperately to think of something- anything- to say. Jake was facing away from the other boy, curled into the fetal position and silently shaking with tears. Finally, Tom gave up on searching for comfort words and began just talking.

"I hate college," he began awkwardly. Jake froze at the sudden words, but stayed silent. "I mean, it's okay, but it's not as great as everyone makes it out to be." Tom tilted his head a little, considering that. "Well, maybe some colleges are. But the one I go to is really prestigious and stuff, so I guess it's not supposed to be fun. I heard that there's this one college in West Virginia that's a total party college. There aren't even real grades. But you can't graduate until you get laid," he added, and Jake actually snorted at that. Slowly, he rolled over to his back, looking at the brunette's shirt. He still wouldn't make eye contact.

Tom waited, expecting him to say something. But he didn't, and Tom took that as an initiative to continue.

"Girls aren't that nice at my school, either. Well, some are, but every single one of them is solely concerned with grades, you know? I had a girlfriend for a little last year-" Jake frowned a little and started rotating away from him again. "But we broke up," he added, internally smiling and feeling confused as Jake paused and tilted slightly towards him. "She was kind of a bitch, anyway. At one of our bigger football games, she got to the loudspeaker thing, and told everyone in the stadium that I was gay and available. Now girls refuse to date me and guys won't stop hitting on me." Instead of the teasing remark- or at least a teensy smile- he had expected to receive, Jake just stared at him.

"Are you?"

"What?" Tom asked, glad that Jake was talking again.

"Gay." And then again, not so glad. The brunette mentally punched himself in the eye. Why couldn't he tell some other story from his life? It had to be that one, didn't it?

"No. Not really. Kind of. A little," Tom decided, holding up his thumb and index finger a half-inch apart to indicate how gay he was. "I don't really like guys, because I like girls, but there's been… one or two who have caught my eye. Um. Anyway. I had a tomato sandwich for breakfast yesterday, and it was really good." This time, it was Tom's turn to wiggle away from his cousin, and he missed the slightly hurt look that flashed across Jake's face for a split second as he put distance between them.

But when Tom finally looked back up, he saw the frosty mask on his cousin's face, and didn't really think twice about it.

"Anyway," he carried on awkwardly, "I know this is the last thing you want to hear but we're going to need to talk about you. Well, you need to talk about you, and I thought… maybe you'd want to talk with me about you. Or if you don't you can talk to your dad, or Bethany- she likes to talk about things, too…" Tom trailed off, almost closing his eyes at how stupid he sounded.

Jake, predictably, rolled away from him again and once more curled into a ball on his side. Tom sighed, trying, for the sake of his cousin, to hold back more tears, but this whole thing was just tearing him apart.

"I can get Bethany-"

"My squad was just leaving after checking out a false report on a car bomb," Jake began suddenly, and Tom shut himself up and scooted closer on the bed. "We were planning on going back to base and maybe breaking out some beer that Elliot's fiancée had sent him. He was my closest friend there, Elliot. Mark was there too, and goddamn was he a paranoid guy. I don't understand how he ever made it to Iraq, being that afraid of everything. But he kept saying how we shouldn't relax, we shouldn't celebrate, because we were totally still going to die before we could ever go back to the States. Tony was driving- that was our Commanding Officer- and Mark was having another freak-out in the passenger's seat. I was behind Tony, and Elliot-" he broke off slightly, choking back a sob, "He was next to me. He had just told Mark to shut up, that we'd make it home fine, when the bomb…" He paused, shuddering and trembling, taking a moment to continue. "I was poking at Mark with… with my right hand, to mess with him, you know? And then- it hit in front of the vehicle, on the right side, nearly ten feet away. Mark was dead instantly, and I think Tony was, too. Elliot didn't… he didn't have to die- he wouldn't have died- but after the front of the Jeep blew up, a piece of the hood blasted off and hit him and-" He jumped up suddenly, slapping his left hand over his mouth and raced to the bathroom connected to Tom's bedroom. It took the brunette a second to realize what his cousin was doing, but a second later he heard him gagging, and then came the stomach-turning splashes of vomit hitting the toilet water. Tom stood and bravely strolled into the bathroom, kneeling down beside his cousin, who was hunched over the toilet like it was keeping him alive.

He rubbed the poor blonde's back, hand brushing occasionally over the edge of a bandage and reaching up to stroke the buzzed blonde hair. Jake looked good with a buzz-cut, Tom had always thought. The enforced haircut had taken place two years ago, right before he entered training. The first time Tom had seen it was the following Christmas, and it had been a nice surprise. Jake looked older, for one thing, and now he didn't look like some teenage California surfer. Plus, his big blue eyes were more visible with this cut, and even Tom would admit that Jake's eyes were… well, nice, to put it simply.

After another moment of coughing up nothing, Jake finally sat back, and Tom's hand accidently ran over the patched-up area where his arm should sprout. The two froze.

"I-I…" Tom began, but he couldn't think of anything else to say. Jake sat there for another moment, looking lost, until he finally pushed himself up with his other arm, flushing the toilet and then walking to the sink and bending over to rinse his mouth out. After swishing the icky taste out and taking a few generous gulps of water, Jake stood up and looked down at Tom, who was still sitting on the floor, looking unsure of what to say or do.

"Wanna see my stitches?" Jake asked suddenly, and Tom smiled a little at how much he sounded like a little kid just then. The brunette nodded and stood, taking the offered left hand and letting Jake help him up.

They walked back to the bed, both sitting on the edge this time. Tom sat on Jake's right side, watching as the blonde peeled back his bandaging expertly. Jake peeked up at him one last time before removing the final padding, quickly turning away and shutting his eyes. It took Tom a second to realize that Jake was ashamed, and waiting for Tom's disgusted reaction.

But it wasn't disgusting. To Tom, at least. There was a singular line of stitches that reached from the edge of his back to the very beginning of his upper chest, and it was sewn shut with coarse black thread. The skin itself was only slightly puffed, and looked to be on its way to healing already. Hesitantly, Tom lifted his hand and gently traced the stitching, and what would eventually become a scar. Where his shoulder should have been, the skin caved in. But it didn't scare or gross out Tom at all, and he continued running his fingers curiously over where an arm used to reside.

He looked up after a moment to find Jake staring at him.

"Oh. Um. Sorry," he quickly amended, pulling his hand back and shoving it under his thigh in punishment.

"No, it's- it's fine," Jake stuttered out quietly. "No one… no one just sat there and touched it… like it was the most interesting thing ever…" he murmured. Tom flushed a little, not sure if this was something to be proud of or embarrassed of.

"Sorry."

"I said it's fine," Jake said, louder than before. He tilted his head. "I had a… a… I mean, there was someone who I was seeing over in Iraq. This person… they were at our base. And when they saw me for the first time after the bomb…" He trailed off, a few tears trickling down from his eyes. But he held eye contact with Tom throughout the next part. "He threw up as soon as he saw it, and then broke up with me."

It took a full two minutes for the entire sentence to click in for Tom. At first he nodded sympathetically, but then realized that he must've missed something when Jake stared at him, waiting for a different reaction. After running the words through his head again, Tom realized that Jake had been in a relationship, and he hadn't known. Well, he wasn't going to be angry; after all, he had been with a girl last year and hadn't told anyone, even his parents.

A full minute later, the first part, the very first word, had finally sunk in.

"He?" It was a simple question, with no accusation or distaste. And then, "Wait, he?" There was the accusation.

"Yeah."

"You're… you like…" Tom sputtered, not able to wrap his mind around the fact that his manly, gun-loving, violent cousin had been with another guy.

"Yeah, I like guys. This much," Jake added, intending to tease Tom for giving a measurement of gayness earlier. But Tom stared in confusion when Jake made no gesture to measure out how much he liked guys. Jake stared back, then realization kicked in and he cursed. "I keep forgetting," he muttered, and held up his left hand, showing a good three or four inches of space between his thumb and index finger. He dropped it within seconds.

"Oh. That's. Um. Cool."

"I wake up every day forgetting that it's gone," Jake said suddenly, sounding oddly empty. "I keep going to do things that I did with my right hand. And it just… I just take an hour every morning to remember how to not have it." He paused, and then shriveled in on himself, looking ready to cry again. "I have nothing to do with my life. I have nowhere to go. I don't want to live with Nate, or my mom. I don't want to be babied. I just want to be okay again." He began shaking again, biting his lower lip as tears began, once more, streaming down his face.

"Shhh, don't- don't cry, Jake," Tom soothed (or attempted to, at any rate). He wrapped an arm around his cousin, hugging him sideways for a moment, before pulling back a bit. "How about we go to sleep? It's not that late, but… it's been a long day. Or week, in your case."

"I don't want to have to go back downstairs for my stuff or the couch," Jake sobbed. "I'll have to face everyone else and… I can't right now." Tom stood suddenly, going to his dresser and tugging out two pairs of pajama pants and oversized T-shirts.

"Here. You can borrow my clothes. Just sleep here with me tonight, okay? You don't have to go downstairs until you're ready." Jake took the clothes, staring down at them and thinking. Finally, he looked up and almost half-smiled a little.

"Thanks, Tommy," he whispered, heaving himself to stand and slipping into the bathroom. Tom changed himself while Jake was in the bathroom. Ten minutes later, Jake still hadn't emerged. Tom hesitated, but walked over and knocked lightly on the door.

"Jake?"

"I can't… I can't get the pants…"

Tom froze. A mental image of Jake wearing just Tom's shirt and holding the pants in his only hand flashed through his head, and sent a torrent of butterflies to his stomach that Tom would never admit to experiencing or liking in the least bit.

"Do you… want help?" There was a pause, but the door opened a second later, and Jake stood there. Tom let out a sigh of what he would label as relief (but may have been out of a teensy tiny bit of disappointment) when he saw that Jake had on boxers under the shirt. Tom was not gay for his cousin. But he was slightly curious as to how other boys looked. Right. Although he had crushes on several guys and gotten more than a little excited at his (ex) girlfriend's Playgirl magazine (which he totally did not steal and have hidden in his dorm room dresser), he had never been with another boy. Although there had been plenty of offers since his ex-girlfriend pulled that stunt at the football game.

But back to the present.

"Okay, here, give me the pants," Tom said, running on autopilot in order to not think about things as he grabbed the pajamas and knelt down by Jake's feet, holding the pants open for him to step into.

"God, it's like I'm five again," Jake muttered, making sure to push the correct foot through the appropriate hole. Once both legs had gotten safely into the pants, Tom carefully dragged them up as he stood, and awkwardly wiggled them over Jake's hips with the help of the blonde's hand. There was a sticky moment when Tom was clutching the waistband of the pants at Jake's waist, and Jake had his hand on Tom's shoulder to steady himself, and God when had they gotten only a few inches apart?

Tom broke the awkwardness by unnecessarily clearing his throat and letting go of Jake's pants. Jake, in return, released his grip on Tom's shoulder, and after a moment of nervous fidgeting, they made their way to the bed.

"Are you sure this is okay?" Jake's voice was small and unsure, and it made any traces of awkward disappear. Tom smiled and nodded, throwing back the thick blanket and sliding in one half of the bed, waiting for Jake to do the same on the other side. The blonde did slowly, staring at the bed as if it were a thing of beauty. "I haven't slept in a real bed since… last time I was home," he said in awe, flopping like a small child onto the pillow and tugging the blanket up to his chin.

"You know you can talk to me about anything, right?" Tom asked suddenly, as if the thought had just occurred to him. It's not that he was looking for any particular confession. He just felt like it needed to be said. Jake stared up at him for a second, and Tom found it very difficult not to look back at the big blue eyes.

"Yeah," Jake finally replied, curling further into the bed. Tom kept staring at him, waiting for something, anything, really, to be said. Jake sighed, rolling on his back and gazing unseeingly at the ceiling.

"Sorry, I didn't-"

"The guy I was with- Jamie was his name… when we finished our three years, we were going to come back to the U.S. and live together in a tiny apartment somewhere south." The sudden topic swing caught Tom off guard. He nodded and inched closer, trying to show he was listening without interrupting. "We had it all planned out. We'd get a dog, and name it Joey after the character in Toy Soldiers. Wil Wheaton is his favorite actor. And we were going to take it slow, you know? Do whatever we wanted, and not make it a real relationship until we were both ready. Well… until he was ready. I should've known it wouldn't last when he wouldn't even call himself my boyfriend. One time, just to spite him, I told him all about you, and how we'd known each other since we were little. I didn't tell him we were cousins. It worked, though, and he was so jealous that he promised we'd grow old together and get buried next to each other and have our adopted children plant cactuses on our graves instead of flowers…" he let out a choked laugh.

Tom listened patiently, although the thought of how this Jamie guy had up and ditched Jake in his time of need… it made his stomach churn unpleasantly. And maybe he was a little bit jealous that Jake had found someone to live out the rest of his life with. And… then he was hit with a tiny wave of excitement as he realized that Jake had told Jamie all about him, and apparently he had said enough to get the other guy jealous.

"Now all that's gone. I don't know what to do with my life. I won't find someone who'll like me even… like this," he flipped a bit of the blanket down and gestured to his lack of arm. "I can't get a dog and name it Joey because I don't have an apartment to keep it in. I'm not growing old with someone, and I can't adopt kids because I'm a discharged war veteran who's missing an arm and no one will plant cactuses on my grave or be buried next to me. I wouldn't do well in college because I can't write and take notes and I can't type with one hand. I don't even have anything that I'd want to be, because I had what I wanted. But I lost it. I lost it all. And now I don't know what to do." He dug his nails into his chest, probably causing little curved dents in his skin under the pajama shirt. But Tom totally wasn't thinking about the skin under Jake's shirt. He gripped Jake's wrist loosely but firmly, and tugged the clawing hand away.

"Listen to me, Jake. You will make a new life for yourself, okay?" Jake squeezed his eyes shut and showed no sign of agreement. Tom made a quick and not really thought out decision. "You can come with me," he began. Jake opened his eyes slightly, peering at the brunette in confusion. "I have a single dorm room at my campus. We could fit another bed in it, though."

"Tom, that's nice of you, but it's not like I'm homeless. That's not what I meant. I'll probably live with my dad. But I just mean… I don't know what to do with the rest of my life. I think it sucks the most that I had a person who I thought I was perfect with, and we had plans for every year for the rest of our lives, and it's all gone."

There was a thick silence before Tom spoke up again. "So spend it with me." Jake gaped at him. "Until you figure stuff out," Tom added, although he wasn't completely sure if that made things any less mushy sounding. "I was going to get an apartment next year anyway. Get one with me. We can get an apartment in Arizona, where I go to school. That's somewhere south, right? Just like you planned. We can get a dog, too- although I prefer Wil Wheaton's character in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wesley is kind of a dumb name, but how about Crusher? And I don't know about adopting kids with you, because I'm not sure if that's even legal, but if you don't find someone else, I don't mind being buried next to you. Or, if you die first, I'll plant a desert-sized cactus right over your grave, so that it looks like you were a crabby old man who hated people. I'll even put poison ivy all over your headstone."

Tom found that he was out of words. He had babbled, and hoped to God that he hadn't said anything overly stupid or messed up or… well, gay. He focused his eyes back on Jake, taking a minute to realize what emotions the blonde was exerting.

Jake was crying. Tom bit his lip and went to apologize, immediately feeling like someone had punched his intestines. But then Jake uncovered his mouth and let out a different sound, and Tom realized he was laughing. He was so hysterical that he was crying, but it was the good kind of crying.

Well, that or Jake had absolutely lost his mind.

"Jake?"

"I love you."

"What?" Tom was sure he looked taken aback, but he hadn't been prepared for a statement like that at all. Jake grinned and shook his head.

"I mean, I missed you. I forgot how your retarded babbling makes me feel better," he said, still choking back laughs. He gasped for air, finally calming down. But he still had a smile tweaking up his lips, and Tom grinned back.

"You're welcome? I think…"

"Yeah," Jake agreed, shifting a few inches closer. Tom reached behind him and shut off the bedside lamp, leaving them in almost complete darkness. The slight moonlight from the one window in Tom's room let him see the outline and vague features on the other boy's face, and the blue of Jake's irises seemed to glow slightly. He realized, without much shock and no protest, that they were only about five inches from each other.

"I was serious," the brunette said quietly. Jake didn't have to comment for Tom to know he needed clarification. "About living with me. Even this year… we'll just bring another mattress to the dorm room. My mattress there is only a twin size, or else I'd say we could share. I mean, we technically could, but… I mean… we'd have to…" He didn't really want to use the word cuddle, or the word spoon, but there weren't very many other words that were equally correct. Jake eyed him, still looking a little unsure.

"What if you start bringing a girl back to the room?" he whispered. Tom frowned a little.

"I probably won't. It's a small school, and like I said earlier, most of the girls there either are only concerned with grades, or are under the impression that I think girl-parts are disgusting." He silently watched Jake think it over.

"What… what if you bring a guy?" The question was quieter that the previous one, and Tom could see the lack of confidence behind this one. Tom sighed. This was the big one.

He wasn't stupid. Tom was well aware that the relationship he and Jake had wasn't as heterosexual as it probably should be. Ever since they were young, they were close, both emotionally and physically. It was second nature to sit next to Jake, just like it was second nature for Jake to give Tom a non-manly, squishy, squeezing bear hug every time they saw each other.

So they both liked boys. A little. And they were close to each other, and right now Tom was all Jake had. That didn't have to mean anything.

But Tom kind of wanted it to.

And Jake seemed to, also.

They could pull it off. Their parents wouldn't even question the two getting an apartment together, or living together for years. And if this whole deal lasted for decades (like Tom knew it would, if given the chance) then they could tell the family at their leisure.

So… there was nothing stopping him. He tried to think of a clever line to say, something absolutely awesome to really reel Jake in. But he couldn't because it was late, and it had been a really long day, and Tom was kind of socially awkward anyway. So he said the first thing that came to him.

"I won't if you don't."

But it seemed like that was good enough, because Jake stared for a moment, and then broke out into one of his lovely smiles, and Tom found himself pulled into a one-armed hug. He smiled into Jake's existent shoulder and wrapped both arms around the blonde, tugging him closer until they were completely pressed together. A few moments after the hug should've expired but didn't, Tom felt Jake pull his face back a little, and Tom did the same in order to see the blonde. Or, well, kind of see the blonde in what little light there was. But he was still very nice looking, even with only a cupful of moonlight shining on select parts of his face.

Tom realized why Jake had pulled back a second later. The boy was looking at him like that. He had been looked at like that by the girl he had dated last year, right at the end of their first date. And, more recently, he had received that look from the better half of the football team and the other scarce gay guys on campus.

It was the 'I-want-to-kiss-you-but-you-gotta-move-first-because-if-I-do-it-I'm-afraid-you'll-reject-me' look.

Tom gazed at Jake's face for a few more moments, taking in the way the blonde was glancing from Tom's eyes to his lips, and simultaneously nibbling nervously on his own lip. After double and then triple-checking to make sure he didn't mistake the look for some other look that had nothing to do with wanting to kiss, Tom took a deep breath and went in for the kill.

He only made it in about two inches before Jake sighed in relief and met him the rest of the way.

And Holy Mother of God, it was awesome.

Tom decided that he liked kissing Jake a whole lot more than he liked kissing the girl from last year, or any random person from the few parties he had been to. Especially since Jake kissed like how he used to be before the bomb. He was confident and excited and just… god, there weren't even words for it.

Tom nearly melted right into the sheets when Jake's tongue entered the picture, and soon enough, he found himself on his back, pinned to the mattress by a one-armed dominant blonde boy, who had shoved one knee between Tom's legs, and had most of his weight on his one arm that was bent and had the hand playing with Tom's hair.

Tom had both of his arms clutching around Jake's neck, pressing him as close as possible, because the buzzing in his stomach and chest and brain was oh-so-nice and who cared if someone walked in right now, because this was the greatest thing ever, pretty much.

And after what Tom could swear was only ten minutes but turned out to be around an hour, Jake finally pulled away, with one final, slightly wet mouth-to-mouth press, he smiled shyly and collapsed next to him, wincing slightly when he landed a little on his stitches, but recovering quickly and curling up to the brunette. Tom let Jake guide him, and ended up being turned on his side, away from the blonde, and pulled flush against the other boy, so that they were spooning tightly. Jake wrapped his arm around Tom's chest and pulled him even closer, although there wasn't actually any space to be closed between them. Tom ran his hand down Jake's arm and entwined his fingers with the five Jake had left.

Without any more words, the two began to fall into a peaceful sleep, not even caring that the door wasn't locked or that they should probably be having A Talk about all of this. Jake pressed one last kiss to Tom's ear, and the brunette could swear he mouthed thank you into his hair, but maybe he imagined it. He shut his eyes, letting drowsiness overtake him, and seconds later they were both headed for dreamland.

Not-Quite-An-Epilogue (AKA Two Years Later)

"Yeah, mom, I got your care package," Tom said into the phone, pinning the device between his ear and shoulder as he used both hands to dig through the freshly received box. "I'm looking through it right now. Oreos… oh, Pringles, those things are good… toothbrushes… what- why are there tampons in here?"

"Well, incase you have any girls over. Trust me, it's better to just keep a box there than have a poor girl making a mess all over your furniture."

"I don't even have a girlfriend."

"Keep them in stock for your friends, then. I promise, honey, it's a nightmare when a girl gets her monthly at a boy's place and has nothing. Just keep them in the cabinet under your bathroom sink."

"Okay, mom," Tom agreed, simply for the sake of agreeing. He pushed the feminine package aside and continued picking through the treats. "There's so much food in here… I can't eat all of this by myself. Not before I come visit you guys, anyway."

"Oh, but… it's just you? I thought…"

"Mom," Tom sighed, sitting on the kitchen counter and using one hand to pop open the Pringles can. "You know that Jake's still at his Honored Veteran of War ceremony. He won't be home for another week." He tried not to think about how much he missed the blonde. The ceremony was over in Virginia, halfway across the country. He had already been gone for a week, and although the actual ceremony itself was only two days and had already ended, the other twelve days were spent doing activities and going for beer with his war buddies. Tom had nearly cuddled the stuffed tiger Jake had given him to death every night, trying not to cry like some fifteen-year-old girl.

"Right, I knew that," his mother remembered suddenly. She paused, and Tom could feel her getting ready to say something motherly. "It's only another week, honey," she reminded, and Tom stopped mid-Pringle grabbing. She said it like she knew something. Like she knew he was missing the blonde.

"I know, mom. It's fine. Hey, I gotta go, okay? Crusher has to pee and I gotta walk him." He waited for the regulated goodbye from his mother before hanging up, stuffing two more Pringles into his mouth, and searching the kitchen for the leash. Finally finding it hidden in a pot, he strapped it to the German Sheppard's collar and made for the front door.

Three hours later, Tom and Crusher finally returned to the apartment. Crusher bounded right inside, gulping heartily from his water bowl. Tom sighed and sat on the couch, grabbing the remote control but not actually turning the television on. Crusher followed him, still dripping some water from his large mouth, sitting right in front of him and looking at him expectantly.

"I hate this, Crush." Tom watched the dog tilt his head, as if he was asking what it was Tom hated. "I hate being this stupidly girly. I miss him and I can't sleep well without him. I don't want to wait another week to see him." He sighed and grabbed a throw pillow, hugging it to his chest and trying not to sound so much like a dramatic little bitch.

"Then don't," a voice said from behind him, scaring the hell out of Tom and making him whirl around and hurl the closest object- being the pillow- at the intruder.

It hit Jake smack in the face. He may have gotten used to only having one arm, but he still didn't have amazing reactions with it, and the hand that shot out to stop the pillow only caught air.

It took a moment for Tom to realize who was standing in the middle of his apartment before he hurdled over the couch and more or less pounced on the blonde, nearly sending them to the ground. Jake grasped the brunette by the waist, smiling into his shoulder.

Then reality sank in and Tom pulled back, staring at Jake incredulously. "Why are you here?"

"Gee, thanks, I missed you, too."

"You know what I mean. You're not supposed to be back until-"

"I lied." That wasn't exactly the response Tom had anticipated. He stared at the blonde, before taking two steps back and crossing his arms.

"What? Why the hell would you do that?" Then the full impact of what Jake had done, knowing what it would do to Tom, hit him. "Why would you do that! What is wrong with you? Do you think it's funny how I sit here and bitch and moan like a little girl about how you're not here? You sick, twisted son of a-"

"It's not like that!" Jake cut in, grabbing Tom's shoulder firmly. The brunette stopped ranting, still glaring at the other boy. "I wanted you to think that I wouldn't be home for a week so that I could see if you missed me…" He grinned at the flat look Tom gave him, but the smile disappeared in a second and he took a deep breath. "And… to surprise you." Tom raised an eyebrow, completely confused, until…

Jake lowered himself to one knee.

And pulled out a small, dark blue velvet box.

And ohmygodohmygodohmygod Tom's jaw dropped in a second, arms falling to his sides. Jake's grinned returned a little bit, but it was shaky.

"Um… but you're gonna have to help me… I can't-" he lifted the box, and Tom, somehow, managed to gain enough control of his arms and legs to move himself forward and lift the lid of the box, which Jake couldn't do with just one hand.

Inside was Jake's military ring. It was thick and silver and beautiful, and Tom noticed that it now had a light blue diamond set into the center of it- the exact shade of blue that Jake's eyes were.

"Jake…"

"Tom, we've been together for two years, and so far everything you said we could end up doing has happened. We have the apartment, we have a dog named Crusher, and we even have a little cactus growing for when one of us dies," he added, nodding to the small plotted plant on the kitchen table, right next to Tom's care package. "You're graduating soon and I'm starting my job as a trainer at the nearest military base in two months. We have everything…" he broke off, glancing off to the side nervously. "And I know we can't actually ever get married, but legal document or not I want to be with you for the rest of forever… and I don't need some stupid paper to say that you're mine. But I want you to wear this, to always have this, to show that you belong to me. If you want. Please say something. I'm two seconds away from hyperventilating." Tom finally snapped out of his dumbfounded stare, and took another second to realize what it was he was supposed to say. Not able to remember the exact words and not daring to screw it up, he nodded softly, still unable to move much. But clearly it was enough, because the next thing he knew, Jake had jumped up and was hugging him tightly and kissing him and Crusher was at their sides, using his pointy snout to try and wedge between them, and it was possibly the most perfect moment in his life ever.