Posted: Jan 31, 2012

DEDICATED TO: Moonlight-Arashi and iris129

.x.

It was done. It was over. They had won the war, saved the planet, and it was all done by six kids with very little intergalactic help, and that came only at the end. No offense to Ax, but Andalites didn't seem to be the most helpful of races.

Jake stared out at the night sky from the bridge deck. Rachel had died, that was an mind-numbing loss, and Tom had been killed, or if one wanted to be specific, they had killed each other. His parents were long since dead, no doubt by Tom's hand. The young man, once called 'Prince' by a young Andalite who yearned for home, had no idea what to feel. Jubilation for finally ending it all, sadness for the loss of his family, emptiness now that the thing that had ruled his life for the last six years was finished…it was everything, and at the same time nothing. His face was frozen in the mask he had created as the Leader of the Animorphs.

Marco, Cassie, Tobias, and Ax were all around him on the Blade Ship, each lost in their own worlds. Cassie for the devastation that they had just wreaked, Marco celebrating having his mom back, Ax happily chatting with an Andalite warrior, Tobias, settled on the console and staring at the broken body of his crush.

That struck home and Jake gave a noticeable jerk as he realized that he had sent Rachel to her death, knowing she wouldn't say no. Tobias must hate him now. He couldn't bring himself to look, sure that those golden predatory eyes were focusing all their attention on him.

Somehow he managed to give orders and the ships returned to Earth and as they slowly descended, crowds formed and gave them a hero's welcome as the walked onto terra firma.

The next six months passed in a haze for the once leader. Marco made a fortune writing his memoires, making movie and television deals, talk shows, the whole deal. Cassie returned to her regular life, school and animals, with the aim to become a wildlife naturalist. Ax returned home, hailed as a hero, and with news of his brother's death, was named Prince in his stead. Tobias he didn't hear from. Which wasn't a big surprise really.

Marco ended up buying him an apartment, it was the biggest thing Jake would allow him to buy. Originally Marco had offered up a mansion. He sold his parents house, took care of those things that always need to be settled as soon as possible after the death. Everyone else moved on and up in the world.

Jake felt trapped and locked in the past and the destruction he had caused. For the longest time, his biggest concerns were devising plans to set back the Yeerk invasion, sneaking around Tom while trying to act like they were normal brothers, instead of on opposite sides of an intergalactic war, and keeping up the front of being a student, with nothing but a student's worries as he moved from middle school to senior high.

He certainly didn't want the publicity and fame that Marco enjoyed, but before they became involved in the war, basketball was the only thing he was really into, so he didn't even have a career-interest like Cassie. He didn't live separate from humanity like Tobias, so when he absolutely had to go out and interact with the world, he would morph to a disguise, a blend of Cassie and Marco, and would thusly avoid all the people who wanted to shake his hand and talk about the war.

So it was that three years passed, with Marco as his only real contact from during the war. Andalites had become friends with humans, taking great delight in morphing human and eating with their mouths and listening to the varied sounds they could produce, and had started a program where one could learn to morph.

Jake had been asked, and had refused, to teach a class, as had Marco and Cassie. Cassie, while admittedly the best morpher of the group, better even than the Andalites themselves, was too busy with her career and a new relationship. And she was mostly in wildlife preserves or jungles and couldn't easily get away. Marco had started out teaching a beginner class, but grew to be irritated when people proved to be impossibly idiotic and made his excuses about a busy schedule and somehow got Jake to take his place. The broad shouldered brunet was still uncertain about how that particular chain of events happened.

He didn't need the money it paid, but it gave him something to do. And that he desperately needed. He had no desire to go to university and wouldn't know what to study even if he did. He'd been recruited to several branches of the US military, but had enough of war as a teen and politely, if bluntly, told them, no.

.x.

Things changed on a sunny summer day. Jake had decided to walk home, freed of his need to hide in someone else's shape for almost a year now, his green shirt unbuttoned, letting the deliciously cool breeze skim over his bronzed skin, fending off the afternoon heat that still hung in the air. The sun wasn't yet ready to set, but was on the far western side of the sky and bathed the city in a rich golden glow with hints of coloured clouds thrown in as the world slowly turned.

Using his key to enter the building Jake decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator. His apartment was on the other side of the hallway from the stairwell, but Jake couldn't care less about that. Elevators were for lazy whiners. A slightly older man who lived a few doors down from him stepped out, light jacket on and locked his door. A smile graced his features when he noticed the open-shirted brunet.

"Hot outside?" Jake shrugged. "By the way, a friend of yours stopped by, I let him in when he told me you guys were meeting up. Said he had a key to get in."

Jake carefully kept his face blank, not betraying the shock and caution he felt, before giving a small quirk to hip lips and waved a hand in response as he continued to his door, while the older man went to the elevators.

Waiting for the ding of the closing door, Jake called for the next elevator and quickly made his way down, out and around the side of the building. He was on floor five of six. But even had he been on the sixtieth, it wouldn't have mattered.

Ducking behind a bush he morphed a spider monkey and limberly scaled the building wall. Going up to the fifth floor balcony, it was an easy demorph and remorph into a fly and then he was flying down through an open window to settle on the top of his balcony door curtain.

It was a few minutes before he heard a flushing noise and a figure walked out from the hall bathroom. It was Tobias. A human Tobias. Jake never thought he'd willingly take that form again. But the evidence was against him he supposed. He leisurely made his way over to his own bedroom and returned to his natural form, all the while wondering the meaning behind Tobias being in his apartment. Let alone Tobias knowing where he lived, and when he got home from work.

He decided to leave those thoughts alone. Tobias would explain or he wouldn't. He couldn't correctly speculate on anything at the moment. Slipping through the door he came to the opened room that in a conventional home would be the living room. Leaning against the wall, Jake patiently waited for the younger blond to notice him, while doing his own perusal over the other's form.

It was a few minutes before Tobias saw something in the corner of his eye that hadn't been there before. His head turned and he jumped from the couch in shock. Jake was inside. Grey eyes moved frantically between the supposedly lax form of his ex-leader and the still-locked front door. Pale pink lips split open in a soft exclamation of surprise.

"How…! How did you get in? I locked the door after I picked it. You should have made some kind of noise getting in here. I even sat here because it has a clear view of the door."

"Someone warned me about a supposed friend with a key." The words were normal, no hidden undertones, but Tobias read a wealth of information from them. Jake regarded him as an enemy. Or at least a potential enemy. And Jake had always had an amazing grasp of war tactics. Someone broke in, and thus had the serious potential to be a dangerous threat. Most likely the older male had circled around back and snuck in. Wasn't really hard with one could morph. Tobias quickly thought about why he hadn't done that before shaking the thought away.

Jake hadn't moved. Tobias stared into serious brown eyes and remembered a pair of laughing brown ones that smiled at him and wondered what the war had done to Jake. Rachel, blonde, beautiful and vivacious flashed through his mind and pain lanced through his chest. What the war had done to them all.

For a long time no words were spoken, no moves were made. It was simultaneously comforting and awkward. Jake, normally content to wait the silence out, the blond had sought him out after all, had come down from the adrenaline high of being invaded, and the stress of his day came back once more. He wanted his customary, relaxing cocoa.

He easily slipped from his position on the wall to the kitchen and noiselessly moved around while making the calming brew. The only noise in the apartment was the piercing shriek of a boiling kettle, and it was only then that Tobias noticed that Jake had moved.

'Damn him and his sly movements. I'd forgotten he could do that.' Of all of them, even Ax, Jake had adapted to the war most. A beautiful blonde flashed through his sight, but Tobias mentally shook her off. Rachel had thrived on the high of battle, Jake had adapted to war. A slight narrowing of grey eyes, 'And quite possibly, of all of us, the one who's still stuck in a warring mindset.'

And suddenly the older teen - no, he hadn't been a teen for a long time now. Yes, the older man – was back in his position against the wall, steaming mug held in deceptive relaxed hands.

Grey looked into brown and finally, thoughts were given voice. Jake listened intensely, never taking his gaze from the one sitting on his couch. Occasionally, the mug would be lifted to his lips and he would drink. An hour had passed since he had snuck into his own house. At one point he glanced at the clock on the wall and then back to nothlit with a pointed stare.

Tobias sighed. He hadn't wanted to share this. Not yet. Things had finally crested and he sought Marco out. The Latino had given him the key. Sort of. It was actually the exact instructions for picking Jake's lock and the tools to do so. But they had a vague resemblance to a key, so technically he had been given a key.

"I got stuck. Again. I don't really wanna talk about how…but yeah. I tried it on my own for a while. You know, like I could take care of myself as a bird, it shouldn't be that much harder as a human." He sighed deeply and with more than a little shame. "But it was…a lot harder. Things…came to a head and I found Marco. He was the one who gave me your key."

"Marco doesn't have a key." The words were soft and slightly gravelly, like when you just wake up. The sound easily made its way through a blond head and decided to set up shop.

Tobias was mortified to find that Jake could make him blush just as easily now as he could eight years ago. He coughed in an attempt to clear his throat and tried to act nonchalant.

"Yes, well…It was actually a custom lock pick and highly specified instructions."

Jake smirked at the embarrassed flush that crossed Tobias' face. He had known that the younger male had seen Marco and received his help. Jake had switched locks on his front door, something one wasn't supposed to do, but it looked just like all the other apartments and Jake highly doubted the landlord would ever need to gain entrance to his particular 'room'.

Early on, when he was still more than a little paranoid and severely depressed, he'd locked the door and stayed inside, no contact with the outside world for almost three weeks. Marco had become frantic when phone calls, text messages and emails were not replied to, and had spent the better part of 4 hours picking the lock open.

Apparently his best friend had since made a customized lock pick and had loaned it to the blond.

"Bedroom is on the left at the end of the hall. Bathroom is across from it. Take your time."

He walked back to the kitchen, rinsed his mug and then walked down the opposite hall, grabbed a book from a small table and settled into a chair on the balcony. He began to sketch the animals the class had worked on today in the dying light of the sun.

Tobias blinked at the sudden and completely unexpected words. He wasn't sure what to feel, let alone think about the abrupt development. He had come to talk to Jake about Rachel and the war and his views on everything that had happened since they last saw each other. It was needed really. He was working his way up to asking for a little help. He had stammered and tried to explain how he had hated the other man for such a long time for condemning Rachel to death.

As he made his way to the bathroom and set about having a shower, Tobias remembered the brown eyes flashing and intensifying in a way that was terrifying to anyone who had looked. That had scared Tobias more than anything. But looking back, when he could analyze Jake's movements and interpret his emotions, he realized that the palpable hatred had been directed at himself. The one-time leader held a piercing hatred for sending his cousin on a mission that he knew would lead to the death of their enemy, but with hers as the cost.

Tobias sighed. He could understand why Rachel had been asked. He didn't like it, but he understood. Rachel would have trouble assimilating back into a normal, war-free lifestyle. Had Jake not asked this of her, she would have volunteered, or perhaps even disobey previous instructions and snuck out to do what needed to be done.

As he stepped out of the shower and wrapped a thick charcoal towel about his waist, Tobias glanced in the mirror and noticed his eyes were red. The sight froze him for a moment until he realized that he had cried. Mildly embarrassed, again, the blond was extremely grateful that tears were unnoticed in the shower. And that Jake therefore wouldn't know anything about this slight to his male dignity.

Once more, his thoughts turned to the enigmatic man his childhood saviour had turned into. Or maybe it wasn't so much turning, as being forced into a role and not knowing how to live any differently.

He could still vividly recall when he had met the slightly older teen. He was 14 to Jake's 15, and had been grabbed by his daily tormentors not five minutes prior. He rarely struggled now, there wasn't much point; he was effortlessly outmatched and really, by not going against them, they lost interest far more quickly.

His head had been dunked in a dirty toilet, face and all, and then they flushed the damn thing. Jake had walked in at some point and recognized what the two idiots were doing. While not exactly the Big Man on campus, Jake was fairly well known, respected, and strong despite not being athletic. The goons were hauled off of the frail boy and kicked out of the bathroom with a manageable threat.

As soon as the hands holding him down were gone, Tobias jerked his head from the toilet bowl, letting the water and other filth drip down onto his clothes as he stared up into kind brown eyes. A hand came into his vision and he flinched away unconsciously.

Smooth lips frowned as gentle hands lifted him up and brought him out of the stall. Tobias stood where the older schoolboy placed him and made no movements or protests when the brunet turned warm water on and carefully tipped the blond head under the faucet, rinsing the crap out. Many paper towels later, silky blond strands were no longer sopping wet and his drenched shirt had been replaced by the unbuttoned one Jake wore over his tee.

Jake smiled down at the younger kid as he finished drying his hair best he could in the circumstances. The too-large long sleeved tee the smaller boy wore had been soaked all around the shoulders. 'No doubt from trying to get away from being drowned in a toilet,' he frowned slightly. He had donated his own shirt, he had two and really, he was just fine with the tee. Ruffling the drying hair Jake threw the paper towels in the garbage and walked out.

"…Thank you…" It was just above a whisper and he barely heard it.

Turning around he smiled again, "No problem man; those guys are jerks."

And he was almost through the doorway when the voice piped up again, somewhat hesitantly.

"What's…your name…"

"Jake. Jake Berenson. You?"

"Tobias."

Jake walked back into the bathroom and grabbed a thin wrist.

"Come on Tobias, you can walk home with me and my friends. If nothing else, it'll be a deterrent to those idiots."

And so he had. And the day after. And the day after that. After a full week of that Jake had sought him out at lunch and dragged him to the group's spot in the schoolyard. It was the first time Rachel had spoken to him and go figure, it was that night that they decided on a short cut through the construction plot and came across the dying Elfangor. The rest as they say is history.

A frown marred his face, 'Until she died anyway.' He tried not to be bitter at Jake, but the only other recipient was Rachel or himself. Since he could never be mad at Rachel, That left him, and he didn't want to feel any more guilt than he already did. It was just easier to hate Jake.

Except then Jake would go and do something nice and be understanding and look after him…just like when they were in middle school…And he couldn't help but feel safe again.

So lost in his thoughts was Tobias, he almost got smacked on the nose when the door opened and there was Jake, leaning against the door frame.

"I set out some clothes on the bed. Probably be a bit big, but until yours are washed or we go shopping you'll have to manage."

Indiscernible grey eyes looked into blank brown ones, and Tobias was unsure what to think. Jake turned and left and Tobias followed, staring at his back, wondering what his captain was thinking. He mentally smacked himself upon realizing he still thought of Jake as his leader.

Blindly walking behind broad shoulders and a strong back, Tobias was steered into a room as Jake held the door open.

"You hungry?"

A shake of his head, and the door closed. The light had been flicked on and Tobias took in the room. It was…sparse for lack of a better word. A simple bed, however large, a dresser, a closed closet, and a window that normally looked out at the western sky; all done in neutral tones, though they had a warm effect on the whole.

A long sleeved tee and a pair of tie-up lounge pants were on the bed. Tobias had to cinch the string to where he couldn't bunch the fabric up anymore before he tied it off, and it was still a little looser than he felt comfortable with. The tee was long and swamped his torso, but since he no longer had feathers to keep him warm, he appreciated the longer sleeves, even if they did fall past his hands.

As he came into the living room, he saw Jake lounging on the couch, two cups of cocoa on the small lamp-table. His eyes were closed and his body seemingly limp in sleep, but Tobias knew without a doubt that the other male was awake and very much aware that he had entered the room. He'd had a similar thing regarding his old territory. Most fighters, or those who engaged in some kind of battle, developed this spatial awareness. Jake just had it more than anyone else…

"It's rude to lurk in doorways you know."

Tobias' head jerked at the words, though brown eyes were still closed.

"Says the one who is found most in them."

A slow smirk slid onto his face as they both fell into the easy banter that had always been between them. No one else could do this with Tobias. Jake considered it a victory of his part as he smothered the urge to grin raucously.

"So, you gonna move so I can sit down to drink my cocoa?"

A defined brow rose incredulously, brown eyes still covered. "Who said I made you cocoa?"

This time it was a blond eyebrow that was raised. "You made two cups, and there are two of us. Most would assume that means we both get one."

"Ah, but you know what they about assuming, makes an ASS out of U and ME. For all you know, it could be a nightly ritual of mine to have two cups of cocoa, one steaming hot for the caffeine kick and the second, pleasantly warm to enjoy the cool nights."

Tobias narrowed his eyes at the challenge in Jake's voice. He stalked over to the couch, shoved ridiculously long legs off the far end and stretched over the awkwardly posed body to get the fuller cup.

Raising it to his lips, grey eyes closed as the body exalted in the warm liquid chocolate that flowed over his tongue. It had been far too long since he'd had hot chocolate.

Jake rolled his eyes as he sat up and relaxed into the couch with his own mug. Since his classes took place in the afternoon and evening Jake usually stayed awake until the early morning and slept until noon. It worked well for the most part.

When Tobias' head fell on his shoulder, he gently pried the mug from still hands. It had been emptied long ago, thankfully. Leaving the mugs on the lamp table, Jake eased the limp body so he could get an arm under the blond's knees. Almost knocking the lolled-back head on the doorframe, he breathed a sigh of relief and carefully balanced Tobias against his body with one arm, while using his other to pull the blanket and sheet back.

Challenge thus accomplished it was a bit more of a struggle to get the body on the bed and under the sheets. The movies made it look a lot easier. At some point Tobias had woken up, lying on a bed in a darkened room with Jake looming over him in the shadows cursing out his comforter.

A tired grin quirked his lips and he yawned, "What are you doing?"

"Putting you to bed. You fell asleep on the couch."

Tobias looked around through bleary eyes, "But this is your room."

Jake was tempted to raise an eyebrow and be sarcastic, but decided against it.

"This apartment only has one bedroom. Since I'm not about to let you sleep on my couch, you're sleeping in here."

"Then where will you sleep?"

"I'll be up for a while yet, don't worry about it."

That seemed to pacify the blond as he closed his eyes without another word and slipped into the world of dreams. Jake brushed a lock of hair off Tobias' forehead, finding the situation vaguely reminiscent of the only other time Tobias has slept in his bed. He frowned as he remembered the head injury one of his own had received, because of him.

He shut the door and went back to the balcony, grabbed the book he'd brought in earlier and settled into the lounge chair. He flipped past pages full of memory sketches and began to draw the most prominent image in his mind.

.x.

Four hours later he had several pages full of him and Tobias, when they had fallen into the mall fountain, Jake rallying the younger crowd against the prudish elders, them drying off in the bathroom, running through the mall hand in hand, them kissing.

The final sketch he drew seemed to take on a life of its own, as it certain hadn't happened at the mall. It was a beautiful rendering of blond hair mixed with brown as two bodies moved simultaneously with and against each other in a timeless dance.

Jake had to physical force himself to not rip that page out. The blond was attractive; he knew that. He also knew that Tobias was in love with his dead cousin, the same cousin he had sent to die. Following that logic, Tobias should hate Jake. No, not should, does. Tobias does hate Jake. Nothing would ever come of his attraction to the smaller man.

A brown head slung low as its owner heaved a sigh. Too much thinking was never good for anybody. Locking the balcony door behind him, Jake pulled the blinds closed, not wanting to rise with the sun, and flopped on the couch. There was no need for a blanket in the sun-warmed living room.

.x.

Tobias woke up with the urgent need to use the facilities. He stumbled across the room, across the hallway and crashed into the sink counter in his attempt to find the light switch. It wasn't where one would normally expect it to be. He grumbled under his breath about idiotic men who were obscenely paranoid and didn't know when to call it quits.

He was slightly more awake when he exited, compared to his entrance anyway, and noticed the soft glow of a lamp down the hall. Thinking it had accidentally been left on, Tobias decided to be helpful and keep Jake's electricity bill down.

To his surprise, though really he shouldn't be, Jake was passed out on the couch. And apparently he moved in his sleep, since he was now more off than on the damn thing. Smirking, Tobias crossed the floor and put a hand on Jake's shoulder to shake him awake. Only to be shocked, which again, he shouldn't be, when hands shot up to pull him to the ground, while a lumbering figure hovered above him.

"Jake…?"

Tobias was mildly depressed that he had just been taken down by a man who was asleep. Said man managed to shake off the last vestiges of sleep.

"…Tobias? What are you doing here?"

"You said I could stay here…remember?"

Jake frowned, "I meant out here Tobias. Why did you wake me? You should know not to do that."

And Tobias did really. Jake had once been awake for almost 36 hours when they had hid out in the forest with the Hork Bajir and Cassie and Rachel forced him to have a catnap. Marco had foolishly offered to wake him up. The resulting scene was ridiculously amusing, to humans and aliens alike, and had been a tension breaker for the whole camp.

"I had to go to the bathroom and thought you left the lamp on. Which you did. Why were you out here anyway?"

"Because you're sleeping in the bed." The tone of voice implied a 'you idiot' at the end.

"Jake you have a huge bed. And seeing as you've been human your whole life, you should know better than I that couches are horrible for sleeping."

Bleary brown eyes just stared at him. "My couch is perfectly fine for sleeping on. I sleep on it more than I do my own bed."

"Yes well when you're used to sleeping on rocks and the ground I imagine a couch would be extreme comfort." His words were snide and Jake immediately rose to the provocation.

"At least I didn't have to live in a tree."

"Trees are more defensible than plain old ground."

"You only say that because you stupidly went over the time limit on your first morph and got stuck as a damn bird."

"Hey! I was incredibly useful bird! My eyes were incredible and great for spying!"

"Yes, that was helpful," His voice was mocking, "But it was the only helpful thing, and since we normally had to go undercover to spy, you weren't really helpful were you? You were rather useless in any other function; you couldn't morph anymore, you weren't much help in a fight against Taxxons or Hork Bajir-"

Tobias scowled fiercely and interrupted Jake's rant. "At least I didn't almost kill my friends, and I never sent my cousin to her death!"

The words rang in the empty air and Tobias immediately wished he could take them back. Jake's eyes were glacier cold and empty, and Tobias suddenly knew how the mall guards felt when Jake had confronted them. Except this was ten times worse. Jake's gaze was focused solely on him, he had nothing which could distract Jake's attention from him, and oh yes! He was still pinned to the floor.

"Jake….Jake…I'm sorry. I didn't mean that, I…"

"Yes you did. You always mean what you say Tobias." Tobias winced at the cold anger in the other's voice.

"I'm sorry." It was whispered and Jake ignored it. He released his hold on the other body and stood.

"Go back to bed Tobias."

The blond opened his mouth to say something, anything! But Jake turned away and Tobias closed his mouth. Climbing into bed Tobias wondered if he'd totally just screwed up his only ready chance to escape the streets. He'd meant to goad Jake into chasing him and eventually get him into a proper bed. It had blown up spectacularly. He fell asleep with a frown on his face.

.x.

Jake left early for his teaching. Tobias had not woken when he walked in to get a change of clothes and he left immediately after. Knowing he would regret the late night and early rise, his first stop was a coffee shop before going to the library to pass the hours until his class began.

.x.

Tobias woke up at noon looked for Jake, wanting to apologize. With no sign of him anywhere he went for a shower. He didn't really need one since he'd washed himself thoroughly the previous night. It was more the principal of the thing, and the soothing effect of hot water running down his skin. After changing into a blue-grey shirt and a pair of jeans he had to use a belt to make fit, he went to the kitchen.

Not knowing where anything was, he opened all the cupboard doors and stood back. Deciding against hot food, for lack of knowledge about cooking utensils and where everything was, let alone how things were made, he decided to go with a sandwich and a mug of tea.

It was the best thing he'd eaten in a while. Being an expressionless hawk for so long meant he couldn't do an emotive face. Which didn't help when trying to beg money or food from people. And since he'd been a bird for almost six years, his human body was still that of a teenager.

A somewhat frail teenager, if he had to be honest. Which turned him into prey for predators when combined with his somewhat effeminate features. It had been his escape from one such group of assholes that had turned him back into a nothlit. Only this time, no intergalactic wars were being fought and the Ellimist didn't need their help. So he wouldn't be getting the ability to morph back.

Finishing his meal, Tobias rinsed the dishes and left them in the sink. It had been two hours since he had woken. Jake still hadn't shown his face, but Tobias vaguely recalled some mention made by Marco of Jake teaching morphing classes in the afternoon.

To pass the time he went on the computer in Jake's den and began to look their group up. He knew what happened, having lived through it, but after living on the streets for longer than he'd have liked, he was out of the loop and kind of curious about how the rest of the world thought of them.

Turns out it was like every issue in the world. Some people were thrilled that aliens were real (and now living among them), others were horrified that mere children had fought a war (and won), and others were terrified of the fact that their identity could now be stolen with a single touch. In fact the government was up in arms about it really. Some departments, like the CIA wanted to use this ability for spying while justice departments were frantically trying to devise laws for prevention and detection on suspected persons.

There were also numerous links about new morphing classes that were taught. They had been instigated before the government was arguing over the issue and now the public was in debate. Some people thought that those who had the ability to morph should be tagged somehow, so the government was aware of when they morphed and where they did so. A lot of people were in favor of the regulation of morphers, but there was no technology readily available, so until that happened it was just empty words.

Eventually he happened upon the school were Jake taught. It was hailed as the best for having one of the original Animorphs as a teacher. Tobias snickered at the thought of Jake being in high demand as a teacher. The website had a list of his classes, other classes available and when they took place.

With only three hours having passed since he began his research, and Jake's classes going until 9:30, Tobias decided to surf the internet and see what he could. There had to be something interesting.

.x.

Dinner had been eaten, another sandwich, this time with some fresh fruit and a simple salad, and he was starting to feel drowsy. Odd because he'd been up for less than twelve hours and hadn't done any strenuous activity, like running for his life from either pimps or mad store owners.

Figuring it was the meals and the knowledge of a safe area, he ignored any oddities in behavior and fell asleep pretending that Jake wasn't back yet because of a busy schedule and students needing help.

.x.

When there was still no sign of Jake the next morning, Tobias began to get a little worried. Maybe he had gone walking late at night trying to sort out his problems and had been attacked? He scoffed. Jake was the strongest fighter he knew. While Ax had some natural talent, like all Andalites, Jake had learned the art of war and fighting. It was much more deeply ingrained in him than those who had natural abilities.

'But even the best fighters can be caught off guard.'

The thought came unbidden and Tobias tried not to think of the large amount of people against the ability to morph, or even people who were angry that their loved ones had died in an underground war.

The hours passed slowly as Tobias wore a track in the carpet. He watched the sun sinking beautifully into the horizon he felt too worn out to do anything but sleep. The shame from the words he'd spouted in anger, to the worry about what he might have inadvertently caused was too much. He wasn't used to feeling so many emotions, and certainly not so many negative ones, let alone worrying about someone other than himself. It was exhausting. He much preferred the simplicity of being a hawk. He had his territory and needed enough food to survive and protect his territory. That was it. He'd figure out what to do about Jake tomorrow.

.x.

It was almost a week before he actually saw Jake. He had slowly driven himself crazy with worry and panic over what had happened to the brunet and what would happen to him when people found him. He didn't have money so he couldn't buy food and the newer models of wash and dry machines were ridiculous and Tobias might have accidentally broken them while trying to use the damn things.

He had even called Marco, which had led to the shameful admission of what had transpired between the two of them. He'd had to listen to Marco rant about his failings, and then Jake's (to which he paid more attention to than he probably should), and finally being told that Marco would take care of it.

Except that Marco didn't take care of it for another three days. Or at least Tobias didn't see the result of Marco's 'taking care of it' until three days later.

.x.

Tobias stumbled out of the bedroom, clothes wrinkled, bags under his eyes and messy unkempt hair, and moved across the hall to the bathroom. Except when he pushed it open. the door opened with more force than he was expecting and was pulled forward. His probable nose-meet-floor was stopped by a warm, slightly damp, bare chest.

Bleary eyes looked up into a familiar face and he felt an unusual surge of anger. Like any rational being would do, he pushed back from the chest, slapped a cheek with as much force as he could muster and then sagged against the other's body.

"You are a complete and utter ass! I've been worried all week and thinking you hate me when you're kind of all I have at the moment and I don't particularly want to lose you too, and you go off who the fuck knows where and leave me alone in your damn apartment when I know absolutely shit when it comes to living indoors and I have no money and you suck at stocking your fridge and I don't know how to use those new washing machines with so many fucking options that they look like a control panel, and its new-age green technology with a billion different soaps, and how the hell do you know what to use! And then you just waltz in here and have a shower like you've been doing this everyday and expect everything to be like it was and-"

A finger pushed against his lips. He tried to raise his head and glare, but it took too much energy and the relief that had flooded his body was currently making him weak and he didn't feel much like moving.

"Sorry."

Tobias waited for an explanation to follow, but that seemed to be all the brunet was going to say.

The weakness fled before the anger. He pushed back hard, Jake tripped over the bathroom carpet, and he jabbed a finger into his chest, eyes narrowed.

"That's it? That's all you have to say? You're sorry! Do you have any idea what it's been like for me for the past week? And all you can do is say sorry? You know what? I don't care anymore, I don't know why I did in the first place. Get out."

He pushed the brunet out of the bathroom, locked the door and had a long shower. He got a new change of clothes room Jake's closet and grabbed Jake's key from the counter.

The day was spent with the blond wandering around that area of town and even visiting a few places he could remember from his old life.

.x.

Jake had spent the better part of a week figuring out his emotions regarding Tobias and the surge of rage he had felt when accused of sending his friends to their deaths. Part of it had been that he did feel as if he had sent them on suicide missions that they escaped by the skin of their teeth.

But to hear it put so blatantly and accusingly from another voice was too much for him to bear. He had lashed out at the blond and left, his anger threatening to consume him and ultimately do something he might regret.

Not wanting to face his accurate accuser, he had wandered for several days. Spending time in forests and morphs, leaving behind the complicated world of human emotion. Somehow, it was easier when he was a kid. Even with the war and the double lives they'd led. Everything had been clearly defined; black and white; good and evil.

Feeling much more rational and calm, Jake returned home. Hopefully Tobias would still be asleep and he could get in, have some semblance of a life and then go to work. His students had been sending him strange looks all week. Not that they didn't normally, but these were 'you've been wearing the same shirt for the past four days and are more detached than usual…what the hell is up with you' looks.

He'd just finished wrapping the towel around his waist when he opened the bathroom door and ended up with Tobias leaning on him. Bleary grey eyes had looked at him and Jake was about to offer an apologetic smile when the blond frowned and slapped him across the face.

It didn't really hurt, but he was definitely surprised! He became even more so when the blond sagged back against him and began to rant about…something. He wasn't sure. He was still in shock from someone (read: Tobias) actually slapping him.

When he realized Tobias was no longer talking, he apologized. Jake wasn't really sure what the apology was for at this point, making the other worry, yelling at him earlier in the week, threatening him, or because it was expected at that moment.

Grey eyes stared at him for a few brief moments before their owner jerked back, features blank with a hint of fury, and shoved him away. The taller male stumbled over the turned up corner of the floor mat and hastily regained his footing. A finger jabbed into his chest multiple times, each with more force than the last.

Tobias yelled at him again, though he was slightly more coherent this time, and was then summarily pushed out of the bathroom. He stared uncomprehendingly at the shut door for a moment before shaking the confusion off and went into his room to change.

Jake was making a breakfast for two when Tobias walked down the hallway and grabbed his keys before leaving. He opened his mouth to protest, those were his only keys, but the door shut before any sound could be made.

Jake had the vague notion that this was what it was like being in the doghouse with a seriously pissed off girlfriend. And here he'd thought he'd escaped that particular fate by avoiding the general masses. So much for that.

Quickly dumping his plate in the fridge, he ran through the living room and jumped through the open window, morphing into an eagle mid-leap. It didn't take long to find Tobias as he paced down the street, hands shoved into jean pockets; and had he been closer, Jake was sure he would hear distinctive mumbling as well. Most likely about himself and his less desirable traits. If a bird could smirk, Jake would have at that moment.

For close to four hours Jake followed Tobias, switching morph twice to give him enough time. Finally the manic pace that the blond had set forth with slowed and his body relaxed. Jake, currently a sparrow, flew down to an alley slightly ahead of Tobias and quickly demorphed. As the blond walked by the opening, an arm snaked out and yanked him into the shadowed alley.

Thinking it was another gang who wanted to use him, Tobias tried to yell out before a hand closed over his mouth. The fervent thought that he was stupid for running away from Jake passed through his mind.

Sensing the rising panic from the smaller body, Jake spun him around, hand still covering his mouth, so the blond could see him. Grey eyes wide in fright, desperately trying to flee from his assailant, narrowed when they locked onto calm, brown eyes in a strong face.

"Promise not to yell if I let go?"

Tobias felt like rolling his eyes. Everyone knows that even if the person agrees, they'll shout anyway. He was tempted to do exactly that, but instead used his own hands to pull Jake's larger one from his face.

"What the hell is your problem? Is normal for you to abduct people into alleys now?"

"I didn't want you to get away again." Brown eyes were serious and guarded, but anyone who knew the man could easily see the apology therein.

Of course, there was a myriad of ways his words could be taken, and Tobias wasn't sure exactly which one applied.

"What do you mean get away?"

And Jake fumbled for words. He didn't know what he wanted. He'd been alone for so long now. Unable to interact with civilians, harder still to be with his old friends, he had become a recluse.

But that one evening he had shared with the blond had lit up his life, just for those few hours. He could smile again, sort of. He'd had fun, the talk between them was easy and he never felt like he had to force something, had to act around the other male.

But he couldn't ever describe this to him. Serious brown eyes closed and the hand that still held a slim wrist fell away. He sighed and gave a self-depreciating grin.

"No idea."

And an eagle flew off. He was beyond late for his classes.

.x.

Tobias frowned and stared after the majestic bird, sure that he had missed something important. He spent the rest of the afternoon and evening continuing his walk around town, that moment in the alley plaguing his thoughts. Over-analyzing every gesture, every movement, every emotion, every word. And still he didn't understand.

When he finally opened the door to the apartment, he hesitated just the slightest before walking in. Though it was still early, concerning his regular schedule, Jake was asleep on the couch. Tobias made a mug of cocoa and for a long period of time, simply stared down at the sleeping figure.

If he was only pretending he did a marvelous job. No twitching or ticks, no slight movements that one can only make when aware and pretending otherwise. Eventually the hour grew late, and his cocoa had long since cooled. Dumping it down the drain and rinsing his mug, Tobias walked back to the couch. He wouldn't sleep on the bed if its owner wouldn't. Shifting long legs to one side, he curled up on the other end of the couch.

.x.

Jake woke to the sun glinting a brilliant white, straight into his eyes. Raising one arm from where it was resting, he dropped it across his eyes and groaned. He'd forgotten to close the curtains again.

An answering grumble sounded from his chest and something shifted to get a better grip. Jake froze and tried to recall the previous night's activities. Nothing came to mind. Probably Marco's fault. It usually was in these circumstances.

Except then a finger jabbed into his side and he moved to get away from it. Which prompted another poke, this time from the other side. He growled and moved to grab the offending appendages when a blond head popped up and grey eyes glared fiercely at him.

In an animalistic snarl that Jake never would have expected from 'Bird Boy Tobias', the grouchy blond demanded to know what the hell his problem was and would he kindly stop moving? It was disturbing his sleep! And then laid his head back on Jake's chest and dozed off, leaving Jake blinking at the space his head had previously occupied.

Unsure what he should do in this particular situation, Jake tried to gently shift the body off him so he could close the curtains, go to the washroom and then fall asleep for another few hours before his classes.

The first two ideas were thwarted when the surprisingly strong arms wrapped around his chest squeezed. A single grey eye looked balefully at him and Jake felt afraid for a fraction of a second. Quickly he settled back down and the form on top of him relaxed its hold.

Ten minutes passed before Jake fell back into the arms of Morpheus, one arm behind his head, the other wrapped around a lithe frame.

.x.

Three hours later Tobias woke up, comfortably warm. Tilting his head away from the warmth of the sun, he slowly opened his eyes. The back of the couch filled his vision. Lifting his head, mercury eyes glanced around and discovered his pillow was actually a chest. A glance upwards confirmed that it was his old leader, and as much as he wanted to hit himself for that errant thought/remembrance, he was not yet awake enough to do so.

His gaze settled on a sun-lit face and he studied the similarities between it and his dead love. Their eyes were similar too, not just in colour but also in their expressive ability. The same nose, straight and somewhat pointed at the tip. Both had a full lower lip, though Jake's wasn't as pink as Rachel's had been. A gentle finger against the plumpness confirmed their softness.

Tobias jerked back when he realized he was leaning over the brunet, eyes closed and about to kiss him. A blush flared across his cheeks and spread down his neck. Forcibly turning his gaze elsewhere, Tobias noticed the muscles in the arm behind a brunet head.

The position caused strong biceps to bunch together and envious eyes stared at them before glaring at his own feeble arm muscles. Trying to refocus his attention away from Jake's body, and the male shame of being impossibly weak in comparison, Tobias let his eyes follow the arm which went behind him and draped across his lower back.

Eyes glazed as tactile memories forced their way forward and Tobias remembered the last time Jake had held him like this. Images of them flickered through his mind's eye; falling into the fountain, running from the guard, hiding in back hallways, Jake looking down at him while drying his hair, being caught and held as Jake hurt himself, crying out for help from Jake, for the guard to let him go, the feeling of that pimple-faced bastard who held him far too tight against an oily body.

Jake standing proud against a group of guards and taking them all on, the sparking pain that erupted through his body, Jake picking him up as black covered his vision. A tender hand on his face, a gentle kiss on the corner of his mouth, Jake grinning sexily at him, a passionate kiss, arms secure around him, pulling him closer, worried brown eyes as he was hauled off, the first time he saw Jake at the fountain in those clothes.

The blush deepened and he ducked his head before wildly shaking the images out.

"Tobias?" The voice was gravelly with sleep, "What are you doing?"

Tobias froze and looked up. Jake had squinted his eyes against the sunlight and only slits remained open to look sleepily at the blond.

"You're as red as a tomato, you know that right?"

Squeezing his eyes shut in embarrassment, Tobias reached out a hand and smacked Jake upside the head. Totally unprepared for such a move, Jake's head was pushed to the side with the forced of the blow and his body followed. Right off the edge of the couch.

Tobias gave a startled yelp as he was pulled off the couch too, Jake's arm still around his waist, and landed on the ground with Jake above him. Thankfully he had enough wits about him to keep from squishing the smaller body beneath his.

A devious smirk appeared and Tobias had the good sense to be worried for himself.

"You're still red Tobias. Should I ask why?"

Said tomato scowled and turned away. Jake felt unusually playful, a contrast to his morose attitude from the previous night, and leaned down to nuzzle Tobias' neck.

"Mmmm, you're embarrassed about something Tobe. Wanna tell me what it is?"

Tobias shuddered at the warm breath on his neck and the husky voice that always got stuck in hid head. Jake's action just made him blush even more and the memory of the last time he had been called 'Tobe' by the brunet certainly didn't help it go away.

Surprisingly calm grey eyes looked into laughing brown ones, "Just remembering an old mission of ours."

It was Jake's turn to blush, though since he didn't have extremely pale skin like Tobias, it wasn't quite as bright. Ducking his head he let it rest against Tobias sternum, flush still in place.

"Oh, right. That mission of ours…Sorry…"

"What are you apologizing for?"

"…For pretending to be your boyfriend…for kissing you…teasing you…using you…everything I guess…"

A single blond eyebrow was raised in disbelief. Jake was purposefully avoiding looking at the male beneath him.

"For starters, it was Rachel's idea for us to pretend to be lovers," They both blushed at that particular term, "Kissing would be a part of that, you tease me normally, I don't know how you think you used me but whatever…I really can't think of anything for you to apologize for, Prince Jake."

Jake's blush disappeared at the hated nickname and he scowled. Tobias smiled a half smile-half smirk and leaned up to press a quick kiss to Jake's cheek. Jake looked down and asked a question with his eyes.

Tobias smiled a real smile, however small, blond hair creating a halo. "We're good."

.x.

Tobias decided to finish high school and did so in record time via online classes and ignoring the world around him. And after living with Jake for close to a year, he figured he should have some sort of income so Jake wasn't constantly buying him clothing and hygiene in addition to rent and food.

But existing away from people for so long, even if he lived with someone else for a year, his people skills were none existent and his blank face and staring eyes would scare people off. Also despite his actual age, most thought of him as a sixteen year old, and a scrawny one at that.

After moping around the house for three straight weeks, Jake signed him up for a random class at the local centre in an effort to keep his sanity. It turned out to be a cooking class. And wonder of wonders, Tobias was good at it.

When Jake commented on the ease with which he took to cooking three weeks after the course began, Tobias ignored him for a good two hours. It took Jake on his knees with a cup of cocoa mixed just the right way for the blond statue to even acknowledge him.

Later that night Tobias couldn't sleep so he got out of bed and went to the couch where Jake was sprawled. Looking at him for a few moments, he eventually nudged the other with his foot and waited for sleepy eyes to notice him.

"I'm good at cooking because my aunt made me help out, and I got lots of practice with my uncle. Cooking food was a good way to avoid and placate him. If that wasn't enough I'd hide in my room. I was kind of neglected by the two of them and don't really like to think about them or anything that happened in that period of my life."

Jake said nothing, and really he didn't have to at that point. He opened his arms and the blond slid in, easily resting on top of him. They fell asleep like that, and for the second time, woke up like that. Though this time there were no blushes when they woke up.

Having shared a bit of his past with Jake, Tobias became more open with his cooking, and when that particular class was finished, Tobias signed up for the next level and dragged Jake along on nights when he had no classes.

Jake slowly felt himself become more human than he had been in a long, long time. Marco came around more (at Tobias' invitation) and the three of them would have a good time. There was still only one bed in the apartment, and Jake still spent most of his nights on the couch. But there were times he woke up in his actual bed, arms wrapped around Tobias. He was always very careful to extricate himself and go back to 'his' bed.

When fall blew in, and winter passed, with spring just around the corner, Jake noticed that Tobias was cleaning everything in the apartment. Everything. Including the shower curtain. He didn't even know those things could be washed.

When queried, Tobias looked at Jake incredulously.

"It's Spring Cleaning. Everyone knows that; even Marco knows that!"

Broad shoulders shrugged, hands stuck in jean pockets. "My mom always looked after the house; Tom and I didn't really have chores growing up. And then the war happened and I was busy with that. If you haven't noticed, I don't have much in way of possessions, so I don't really need to clean and organize."

And it was true, Tobias realized. He remembered seeing Jake's room for the first time. It was empty of everything except an alarm clock. There were no lamps, no pictures, no books; nothing that showed someone lived there. His den had a laptop computer and that was it. Presumably he used the printer at the school if he absolutely needed a paper copy of anything.

His kitchen had the basics, a few plates, bowls, cutlery, glasses and mugs, along with a skillet and one pot. It was only after Tobias started living there (and doing the grocery shopping) that the rest of the cupboards filled with spices and dry goods. And after the cooking classes started, more cookware came to live on the shelves.

The living room had two lamps and a coffee table. Twice a year (if that) Jake would have to vacuum; he never worried about washing his balcony or the chairs on it, he didn't wash the drapes.

It was kind of sad to Tobias that he knew more about keeping a household that Jake did, considering he had grown up with a family. But it was also a reminder that Jake no longer had family left. Tom had been a Controller almost from the beginning and had killed their parents in an attempt to get Jake. Jake had given the order for his cousin to kill his brother, with them both dying in the end. His other relatives were listed among the casualties of one of the many large-scale battles that occurred at the end of the war. And then once the war was finished, the people he'd been closest to for the past six years pretty much up and left, abandoning him.

Tobias stared at Jake with unfathomable grey eyes. For the first time in almost a decade, Jake felt the urge to fidget. He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and forced his eyes to remain in contact with Tobias'.

Tobias eventually held out rubber gloves and some paper towels. "Wanna help?"

"…Sure…What am I doing with these?"

And so began Jake's lengthy introduction to cleaning supplies and nifty little tricks for stains and numerous other problems. By the end of the week Jake almost regretted agreeing.

Finally, the apartment was cleaned to Tobias' satisfaction. Jake fell on his couch and groaned as he let his muscles relax into the softness.

"You do this every year?"

Tobias smirked, "Every year. It probably wouldn't be so bad if you actually cleaned more than once a year."

Jake sent a lazy glare in the blond's direction. "I clean more than once a year you idiot. I just don't clean to your anal retentive levels. Though I'm sure you'll make some guy happy, you make a great housewife."

A self-satisfied smirk crossed his face at Tobias' indignant spluttering; he totally expected the tackle. As the spring sun finally fell below the horizon and the last vestiges of dusky light faded, a merry chase continued in the apartment of Jake Berenson and Tobias.

.x.

It was the middle of summer when Tobias found a stack of several books partly hidden in the closet. He'd grown a fair bit since he had first come to live with Jake, and had chosen today as the day to shrink his wardrobe. As the sun beat fiercely down on the city and those unfortunate enough to have to be outside, Tobias would be nice and cool within the air-conditioned apartment.

He and Jake shared a closet, though the majority was Tobias'. Jake kept his limited pairs of jeans and sweats in the dresser, along with a few t-shirts. The few nice button-up shirts someone had bought him (either Marco or Tobias) hung on one side of the closet; the rest belonged to Tobias.

The stack was comprised of six identical books, the covers completely blank. They were a dark forest green with a tan spine. Curious, as there was no writing on any of the covers, Tobias opened the top one a few pages in.

Images of war, intricately done looked back at him. As he flipped through the pages, he recognized many as battles they had been in; several of the drawings were of the Animorphs, as a group, individually, and in their various morphs.

Entranced with the beautiful, yet painful images, Tobias brought all six books out to the couch and made his way through the books. It seemed that the books went backwards through the timeline, the earliest battles having been drawn the most recently.

The sixth book was painful for Tobias, and he imagined it had been even more so for Jake when he drew them. While everyone was drawn in at least one picture, there were more than a few of Cassie, but the majority of them were of Rachel, profiles, head shots, dancing and laughing, gymnastics tricks, fighting, all of them beautifully encapsulated her spirit and who she was. The last page was Rachel looking head on at the viewer, determination in her eyes, a set face, ready to do what had to be done, with just a hint of a smile, her enthusiasm for fighting.

Silent tears trickled down pale cheeks as Tobias closed the book and set all six back in the closet. Tears for those lost in the war, for the things that could have been, for what never would be, for his leader who had suffered in silence and led them to the best of his ability, when he was only a kid himself, doing him damndest to keep them alive and safe.

Finishing putting his too-small clothes in a garbage bag and labeling it for the local charity, Tobias grabbed a glass of ice water and dropped onto the couch.

He shuffled around for a minute trying to get comfortable. Fed up, he shoved a hand down the back side of the cushion and yanked out another green-cover book. He opened it curious as to why it was shoved away and hidden, though he was in Jake's normal spot, so maybe it wasn't full yet?

He blinked at the first page; it was a very detailed close up of his face. He blushed at the second, his eyes at half mast, a light flush on his cheeks, hair mussed. The blush intensified as he flipped through the pages.

Various scenes of his day of acting with Jake were laid bare on the pages, drawn in graphite or ink. Some were loose collages of images, an eye, a hand, two mouths kissing. Some of them even depicted them having sex.

Interspersed were images of people Tobias didn't know, in the process of morphing and the final animals. 'Probably Jake's students.'

When he finished looking through the images, Tobias stuffed the book back under the cushion, face permanently stained red and desperately hoped he'd be able to act normal when Jake got home.

.x.

Jake walked through the front door, saw Tobias holding a glass in his hands and immediately knew something was off. Shucking his shoes off, he walked into the kitchen, grabbed a soda and went to the other side of the couch.

Tobias flushed as soon as he sat down. Jake raised an eyebrow. It didn't take long.

"I was going through the closet, trying to find the clothes that don't fit me anymore, for that charity project going on ya know? Anyway I stumbled across these six journals…And I looked through them…" He turned to look at Jake, eyes apologetic, his voice truly regretful.

"I'm sorry Jake, I shouldn't have done that, and I didn't mean to intrude on your privacy, I just didn't know that…" His voice trailed off at the veiled pain that sprung into brown eyes at the mention of his journals.

Jake closed his eyes, pushing back the pain those words brought up, and sighed. Well at least he hadn't found his current journal. God that would be embarrassing!

Tobias coughed and blushed a brighter red. "And..uhh…I accidentally found your…other…book. And I uhh…Well I thought it would be similar stuff so I looked through that too…"

Jake vocalized the groan this time and slumped against the couch, one hand covering his own flushed face.

Tobias actually squeaked at the sound and immediately began apologizing, but halted his vocalizations when Jake held up a hand. Tobias mentally despaired that the trick Jake had used in the war was still so ingrained in him. Probably in all of them really. His mind wandered off to an imaginary room where the Animorphs reunited years later. It was extremely awkward.

"It's not your fault Tobias, they weren't exactly hidden away. I'd prefer that you hadn't seen any of them, but," A shoulder shrugged, "What's done is done."

Silence stretched between them, Jake avoiding Tobias' eyes, Tobias fidgeting and trying to find a way to end the uncomfortable moment between them.

"…The drawings were really good…"

Jake snorted. "Thanks."

The Quiet danced between them, extremely obvious.

"…I didn't know you could draw."

"It's kind of a personal thing. Not exactly the kind of ability I want to share with a bunch of jocks. Marco knows. I think."

"Did Cassie?"

"…No. I never drew for her. Rachel didn't know either. Elsewise she'd have teased me about in someone's hearing."

"Did you take lessons?"

"Nope. I drew tons as a kid and I loved it. But one of Tom's friends cane over and mocked me and ripped my paper up. To a little kid, it made an impression. So I only drew in private from then on. Can't do landscapes worth shit, but buildings are easy and I always liked animals. People were just a step up."

"Was it therapeutic?" Tobias knew he was entering dangerous ground, but he wanted to know why Jake would draw events that were painful for him.

There was a pause where Jake had to steel himself to actively think about those drawings and what they meant to him.

"In some ways, yes I suppose it was. It was my way of grieving for Rachel, a way to release the guilt, not that it worked mind you. But at the same time, it became an obsession of mine. Drawing events that happened, aliens and humans I met, everything, it tied me to the war, kept all the memories fresh. And because I was so secluded I had no one that wasn't involved in the war to connect with. So I lived in my memories and drew everything I remembered."

Silence reigned supreme again, but it was infinitely more comfortable than it had been earlier.

"Marco eventually found out. That was when he picked my lock and broke in. He stole my journals and spent close to a month taking me outside and introducing me to people. And got me the job teaching morphing. Still not sure how he got me to agree to it…"

Tobias snickered. Marco could be very pushy and forceful if he wanted. He was an idiotic goof-ball, but he had sharp eyes and lots of blackmail. He was also pretty good at manipulating people into doing what he wanted. That was partly how Tobias had come to live with Jake. The other half was he couldn't stand Marco for anything longer than a day. The week spent with him was a nightmare.

"By the way, your current book, I know for a fact some of those drawings didn't happen during our escapades. Care to explain?"

He tried to be nonchalant, he really did. His eyes were cool and calculating, a slender brow raised in question. But the blush on his face and the fidgeting hands he crossed over his torso to hide them, gave it away.

Jake on the other hand, seemed unfairly calm and collected. "Sometimes I dreamed about it, and the best way to get it out of my head and back to sleep was to draw. So I did. If it helps, I never planned on you seeing the damn thing."

"You dream about me Jake? Not sure if I should be flattered or worried for my ass."

A challenging smirk thrilled him and sent a spark of heat low in his belly.

"Your ass would love what I would do to it. But in all seriousness, it was a fun mission and to be honest, one of the easier ones. It was easy to hang out with you, you were fun to tease and you blushed easily. Still do."

"I do not!" It was a lie and they both knew it. Unfortunately for Tobias, Jake loved challenges. He gave a devilish grin, one arm moving on the back of the couch to slide down narrow shoulders to land on a slim hip, the other gently grasping a pale chin. Tilting the fair head at a slight angle, Jake nibbled at the exposed throat and murmured throatily.

"Are you sure Tobe? You won't blush that lovely shade of fuscia if I continued to do this, or snake my hand under your shirt?"

"No…I..Jake! Stop…I don't…not that easy…!" His protestations devolved into a whimper as Jake sucked on a particular spot just below his ear. He could feel Jake's grin against his throat and scowled. He didn't give in that easily!

Jake pulled away, entirely too satisfied with himself. Tobias pouted, "You can't tease me like that! It's not fair! I can't tease you back!"

"You probably could, but you're far too shy and would never do it. So I get to make you blush anytime I want and you can't really do much about it!"

The pout turned into a glare, "One day I will find a weakness of yours and exploit it mercilessly."

"Happy hunting and good luck."

.x.

So a week later Tobias mixed in a sleeping pill with Jake's cocoa (Jake had been teaching him how to make the perfect cup). Today had been a particularly exhausting day.

It was the first day of a beginners' class, none of whom had tried this before and people were always stupid and idiotic and Jake had to deal with all thirty of them by himself. Hopefully, any early tiredness could be explained from that.

When Jake fell asleep while they were sitting on the couch, Tobias plucked the mug from limp hands, lay the heavier male out so he wouldn't cramp when he woke up and began exploring. He had to be ticklish somewhere.

His search was fruitful a few minutes later. Lightly skimming hands over taught abs and protruding hip bones, Jake jerked slightly and shifted in his sleep. Tobias smirked and ran his fingers over the area again. Jake jerked again. Gently raking his nails across bronzed skin, grey eyes widened when a groan was pulled from Jake's mouth.

Dancing his fingers to muscular sides, he found more ticklish areas. He had to straddle the others waist when the thrashing became too violent for him to tickle from just sitting beside the sleeping body.

Fully satisfied he had found enough ticklish spots, Tobias climbed off the older male and went to bed, a smile on his face.

.x.

Three days later Tobias surprise-tackled Jake when he walked through the door. Jake stumbled against the counter that separated the entranceway and the kitchen, doing his best to contain his reactions to the light fingers that skimmed under his shirt and across his skin.

Tobias looked up at Jake, disappointed in the lack of reaction, and saw Jake's raise eyebrow. Smirking, he rose to the challenge and scraped his nails down one particular path that made Jake's knees buckle and his body tremble.

Grinning with victory the blond was too occupied to notice when a tanned arm snaked out and grabbed a wrist. Protesting vocally, Tobias did his best to not only escape the grasp, but also keep his other hand free, because is Jake got both hands he was fucked.

Unfortunately for Jake, Tobias was pretty good at evading him, and could sweep around and duck, or twist away. Jake discovered that his flatmate had a double-jointed shoulder and mentally cursed him as one contortion should have been painful enough to keep him in place, but the blond just smirked and twirled away.

Finally having enough of simultaneously being tickled and avoided, Jake hauled the one hand he did have above his head and slightly back. Tobias found himself pulled forward and a little off balance into Jake's chest, where an arm wrapped securely around his waist, his left hand still held aloft.

Grey eyes widened as Jake leaned down and growled, "My turn."

Desperate not to receive anything Jake had designated as revenge, Tobias's mind raced for a way to escape. Impulsively he stood on his toes and pressed his mouth against Jake's. Not the most elegant of plans, but it caught Jake off guard and he paused.

Tobias pulled back and leaned his forehead against Jake's shoulder, fighting down a blush. Defiantly, he looked up in mild brown eyes, fingers tightening on his hip just the tiniest bit. His arm was still in the air.

Nostalgia flooded his mind and Tobias leaned back in for another kiss. Jake responded this time, but still held himself back. He had been thinking about Tobias far more than he let on that night on the couch.

Fingers curled into shirts and tightened their grip, Tobias mewled in the back of his throat and Jake fought against himself to push deeper into the kiss. The nothlit pulled back first and put a hand on Jake's shoulder to stop him when he moved to follow.

"Tobias?"

He shook his head, unsure. Part of it was enjoying the moment and remembering a memory, part of it was attraction, but…there was always a but…He didn't know what was going on.

Jake buried whatever had sprung up in his chest and forced his hands to release their hold on the blond. He pulled away from Tobias and took a silent breath before heading to the balcony.

"Jake…!" There was quiet plead in that word, but Jake knew it wasn't the kind he wanted.

"Don't worry about it Tobias." He grinned at the blond and then went out onto the balcony and lay down in the chair, closing his eyes.

Tobias watched the brunet walk away and wondered what he'd just done. If it had been a good idea to kiss Jake, his old leader, his old enemy, his savior in so many ways, as a distraction and then again because he actually wanted to.

What was wrong with him? He couldn't like Rachel's killer! Except Jake didn't kill Rachel. No, he only sent her to her death. And she went with a smile on her face.

Troubled the blond turned off the lights and walked the hallway to the bedroom. Stripping off his shirt, he flung himself onto the bed and curled up trying not to think. It was a restless sleep that night, for both of them.

.x.

For weeks the two danced around each other, both attempting to act normal, both pretending nothing had happened.

Jake finished the drawing on the very last page of his artist's book and stared at the image. It was two men, one lying on top of the other, his dark head bent to the neck of the smaller one, teeth gently biting an exposed collarbone while the lighter haired man underneath bit his lip, an orgasmic expression on his face; sweat on both their bodies as they rocked against each other.

He snorted in derision and flipped the book shut while rubbing his forehead. Those thoughts weren't getting him anywhere. Tobias had clearly made a mistake and Jake wasn't one for pining. He'd get over it, life would go on; it always had.

He found some matches in one of his kitchen drawers and put the book in the sink. Four matches were lit in quick succession, one on each side of the book. Dark brown eyes stared down as the flames grew and consumed the paper. It was significant in more ways than one.

When the flames grew too big, he turn the tap on and waited until the last flicker was gone. Dumping the book in the garbage, Jake grabbed his keys and left for his class.

.x.

Tobias walked in the door and immediately noticed the burnt smell hanging in the air. He'd been trying to act normal all the while attempting to sort out his confusion. It had taken him a while, but he'd finally figured everything out.

Yes, he had loved Rachel; in some way he still did, but she was dead and had been for almost six years. The hardest thing to admit to himself was that even when Rachel was alive, they had no idea where they were going. Rachel wanted him to become human again, and Tobias hated his human form.

But when he was with Jake, he didn't mind so much. And it wasn't just that he was stuck in that form; when Rachel had come up with that ridiculous plan of hers for the mall, he could relax with Jake and not feel pressured. Outside Rachel, and later Ax because they were related…technically…Jake was the only one he got close to.

Marco was an ass, Cassie always pitied him, he was a lovesick puppy for Rachel and for some reason she returned the feeling, Ax was plain out weird and Jake…Jake treated him like he was normal. He knew he wasn't, but Jake didn't care about that kind of stuff. He looked after Tobias the way he looked after all of them.

He had wanted to hate Jake after Rachel's murder, and for a long time he did. But after seeing the torment in his face and the anguish in his eyes when they spoke of her, and the pain evident in the drawings he had found, whatever had been left of his anger had drifted away.

He'd known he was bisexual since he was 12. Somehow it got out and that was a big part of why he was bullied. In the weeks of self-reflection, he'd come to realize that a large part of why he'd crushed on Rachel was because of societal culture; it was normal to like the popular girl and Rachel was pretty damn popular. He'd convinced himself so hard into liking her it became real, and then she'd liked him back.

But that one day with Jake was burned into his memory and he never forgot a thing that happened. It was one of the few happy memories he had from the war. Jake teased him frequently in the year they'd been living together and he didn't mind nearly as much as he let on, but at the same time he was hesitant about admitting his feelings to himself.

"You probably could, but you're far too shy and would never do it."

It had been plaguing his mind, what Jake had said. He wanted to read into it but wasn't sure if that was how it was meant. Shaking his head he followed his nose to the source of the burn smell.

It was a book in the garbage. Tobias pulled it out and recognized the burnt pages. He quickly flipped it open, most of the pages burnt beyond recognition. Surprisingly the last page had been burnt the least, though part of the image was still burnt away.

It was him and Jake. Not explicitly them, but it couldn't be anyone else. A small part of him staggered at the realization of what Jake had done. If he had felt anything, he'd given up on it. Burned it down and threw it away. He'd read correctly, but had moved too late.

Tobias panicked and ran out the apartment. He made his way to the school where Jake taught as fast as he could. He had found something with Jake; somewhere along the way they had connected and it wasn't just as friends; together, they worked. And Tobias wasn't about to lose that because of a stupid mistake.

He crashed through the doors and startled the receptionist. Panting he asked her where Jake Berenson's room was. Big blue eyes stared at him for a moment, mouth slightly agape, before she pointed down a hallway.

"305."

Tobias thanked her as he ran down the hall. When he got close, he slowed and frantically tried to regulate his breathing so he didn't look he'd run all the way here. Pulling the door open, he watched the class for a few seconds until he was pointed out.

"Yes?"

"Can I talk to you for a sec?"

"Tobias I'm in the middle of class."

"It's kind of important."

"Is the house burning down?"

"…No."

"Are you dying?"

"…No…"

The students were avidly watching the byplay happening in front of them. Many were grinning.

"Then it can wait until I get home tonight." He turned to face the class once more, "As I was saying, it's important to focus on each aspect of the animal as you change. For this reason you will pick one of the three animals I've listed and research them thoroughly to learn their habits, physiology and anything else you think important."

Tobias was shocked for a moment as Jake so easily dismissed him. When the brunet continued his lecture, Tobias got angrier and angrier until he stomped over and spun the bigger man around.

"Excuse me! We need to talk and we are going to, so stop ignoring me!"

Brown eyes stared listlessly down at him, "Tobias I'm in the middle of class. It can wait until later."

"No I don't think it can."

"Trust me, it can. This isn't the time for whatever it is."

"No, I really think it is." And then yanked the taller man down and kissed him. When he let go, he realized they were in front of thirty odd people and blushed a deep red. Jake still stared at him.

"Excuse us." He kept his gaze on Tobias even as he spoke to the class. He spun Tobias around and they walked into the hallway, where he shut the door.

Silence hovered between them, Tobias unsure how to start, Jake waiting.

"Umm…yeah. I saw your book…." He cringed. That was a stupid topic to bring up and a dumb way to start off an awkward conversation.

"You told me already."

"No…I meant…You burned it…why…?"

"You know why."

Tobias stood, unsure of what to do, how to mend what hadn't quite broken yet. He breathed a sigh and looked up, determination in his gaze.

"I would like to…try…something with you. I want…I like living with you, I enjoy our habits and the things we do and I like being friends…but…I want…more…"

Jake's eyes were over-bright, hope flashing through them, pain pulling him down, "How can you want that Tobias? I killed Rachel. Remember? The girl you were in love with?"

"I know…And I've thought about that a great deal…And you didn't kill her. Tom killed her. You just-"

"Sent her to her death?" The words were harsh in the silent hall and Tobias winced at the tactlessness of his old leader.

"Yeah…but we both know that she was the only one who could've managed to end it. And even if you hadn't asked, she would have volunteered."

He pulled Jake's crossed arms apart and settled himself on Jake's chest until those same arms wrapped him in an embrace.

"I know we have a somewhat convoluted history, but…I think it'd be worth it to try. It's been three years…I think I can move on from something that never really went anywhere, ya know? And I know you're at least somewhat interested, because if you weren't you wouldn't have teased me the way you have for the past year.

"You may tell yourself that it's just friends teasing each other, but you and Marco were never like us. You guys ribbed each other, you flirt with me," He tilted his head back to look into brown eyes. "And I flirt back."

Jake sighed before looking down, "You really wanna try this?"

Tobias nodded.

"People are gonna think I'm taking advantage of you, we could get in trouble."

Tobias lifted an eyebrow, "Jake we've always been in trouble. Besides we got all my papers and whatnot, I can prove we're the same age. And since everyone knows about morphing and the dangers thereof, we can easily explain my body's younger age."

"Except we can't because the Ellimist was involved and not many will believe that."

Narrow shoulders shrugged, "Meh, we can cross that bridge when we come to it."

Jake smiled brightly, the tension leaving his body, and Tobias was reminded of the teen when they'd first met.

"So…We're gonna try this yeah?"

Tobias smiled back, "Yeah."

.x.

END

A/N: Alrighty, I finally finished it! Hope you're happy with the results :) I am (for the most part). Sorry it's taken me so disastrously long to update; as I told iris129 I was visiting a friend who felt I was ignoring her, so she hid my laptop and in my rush to catch my flight I forgot it. Since she lives on the other end of the country, we don't see each other a lot. Finally got the damn thing back and finished this on my slow days at work :/

Anyway, thanks for reading guys!

August