The Difference Between Lonely and Alone

Written in response to cottoncandy_bingo prompt: lonely/alone. Blah, blah, blah, rare fandom that no one reads, blah blah blah. Characters not mine, please enjoy! Comments are awesome.


He should be happy they're gone.

He'd known from the second he saw them on the docks that they'd be trouble, though to be fair he had grossly underestimated the level of the cluster of disasters letting them on board would soon become. First with the disgust over the state of the boat, then the lost wallet and snarky sense of entitlement. Scuttling the boat had been the low point of everything, aside from a week and a half spent on an island and nearly being killed more times than he could count while running away from pirates with dollar signs in their eyes. The fact that they all made it back alive and unscathed seems amazing, even now, and he should just move on, now that it's all finally over.

But, he can't.

He, and Jake finds this all kind of horribly amusing, he actually misses them.

Tommy was definitely the nicer of the two. He lacked Michael's tendencies toward belligerent grumpiness and wasn't obsessed with labels and brand names as his cousin so obviously was. Add to that the fact that Tommy had lost his dad, too, and they had a lot more in common than he did with Michael.

That's not to say that he misses Michael any less. Despite their rough beginnings (and middles, let's be honest), they'd become friends by the end. Michael had proven hardworking and helpful at building the raft, and smart at fooling the pirates with the gold coin ruse (despite his moment of idiocy in shooting off the only flare for a plane that would never see it). He'd proved he cared when he gave the boat to Jake to run as he saw fit, the fact that he'd bought it at all proved that because yeah, there are a lot of charters around here, but it's far from a gold mine even now that he has a decent boat. No, Jake likes to think that Michael did it to kind of make up for being the reason that he lost the Tiffany in the first place.

And now he's alone.

Alone with a fancy, new boat, but still alone.

It's early in the morning, too early for any tourists and he doesn't have any charters scheduled for today, so he's working on the boat. He's below deck, just doing some general maintenance on the engine and straightening up what he can. He's got music playing softly from the speakers on the stereo hook-up, and he kind of loses himself in the work.

It's familiar and calming in a way that a lot of his life isn't in the aftermath of Michael and Tommy's invasion.

"Hey! Anyone on board?" Comes a shout from the docks. The voice sounds faintly familiar, but it's all muffled and distorted through the walls of the boat, so he's forced to set aside his tools and come up to see who's shouting for him.

"Jake!"

"Michael?"

It is most definitely a surprise to find the older boy standing on the docks by the Tiffany II. This time, he's dressed in a plain grey t-shirt and blue jeans, and not in a thousand dollar designer outfit. Maybe he's learned his lesson on broadcasting how much he's worth. He's even carting a backpack, stuffed full, but it's not a brand name suitcase, either.

"What're you doing here?"

"I had a few days off, thought I'd come visit," Michael says, climbing aboard and shrugging his backpack off of his shoulder and into his hands. "That okay?"

"Yeah," Jake agrees, and he finds he can't keep the smile off his face. It's been two months since he's seen Michael, since he and Tommy and their parents left to go back to the States. And, yeah, there've been some phone calls, mostly business, but some were just to catch up. "Yeah, it's fine."

Michael grins back and follows him down to the galley. "Mind if I stow my stuff?"

"Have at it," he nods toward the door with the beds, comfortable cots unlike the stacked ones that had been on the Tiffany. Michael disappears and returns just a moment later with his hands free, and then Jake finds himself caught in a tight hug that he hadn't really been expecting but is certainly not opposed to, eagerly returning the embrace.

They spend a while catching up, sitting by the wheel and just chatting over a breakfast that Jake quickly throws together. Michael tells him that he's working with his Dad at the law offices, as promised, and he's paid his father back for the trip that had started all of this. His father had let him have off a few days for his birthday and so he'd grabbed the first flight he could find out here.

"No girlfriend to spend your birthday with?"

Michael shrugs, brushes off the question with an uninformative, "nah," and pesters Jake about the clients he's had for the charters, asks if he's had to outsmart anymore pirates.

After breakfast, they end up taking the boat out a ways, just so Michael can see how smooth it runs, how fast it can go. That turns into some fishing once they're far enough out and then into relaxing in the warmth of the late-morning sun when they don't catch anything.

"We could go back," Jake proposes out of nowhere and Michael doesn't have to ask what he's talking about.

He stands, offers a hand to Jake to pull him back to his feet and nods, "yeah, okay."

It doesn't take long to get there, which seems weird. They were so cut off from civilization when they were on the island, but in reality they were only a few hours away from port. The island is easy to spot, even from a ways off, as their Mount Everest comes into view. It looks bigger than they remember, but Jake anchors the boat anyway. They take the inflatable to shore.

"Wonder if your shelter is still standing," Michael muses, as they drag the inflatable a ways up on the sand and tie it up securely.

"Let's see," Jake agrees, heading toward the cove on the South side of the island where he'd made his camp.

It turns out that it mostly is still standing. It's a little worse for wear, after two months of wind and rain and sun. A lot of their stuff is still there, too, and maybe they'll take some of it back with them this time, now that they don't have pirates chasing after them with guns.

"I'm not surprised," Michael says, because Jake had known what he was doing when he built it, knew how and where to put it so that it wouldn't collapse or give under the weather conditions like the attempt he'd made on the North beach that first night.

"Thanks," Jake grins, looking over all of the things that'd been left behind. He spots a couple of the spears he'd made for fishing and grabs them up. "What do you say we get our dinner like old times?"

"Sounds like a plan," Michael agrees, taking one of them as they make for the water. He'd changed into board shorts when they'd taken the boat out and now he strips off his t-shirt as he wades in. Jake's just a beat behind him, stripped shirtless himself, and within minutes they've spotted a school of fish.

"Remember how to do it?" Jake asks, as they both stand perfectly still in the waves.

Michael proves that he does when he spears the first fish, pulling it up triumphantly just as Jake catches his own. They gather a few each and take them back to shore, but they have other ideas, too, and so they dive into the deeper waters to the underwater caves that had kept them alive when the pirates had Tommy. The lobsters are still there, more plentiful than they'd been before and they each grab one to add to their dinner before they swim back.

"I'll get a fire started," Jake volunteers. "Do you wanna get some fruit to have with all of this?"

"Yeah," Michael agrees, as he pulls his shirt back over his head. "I won't be long," he says, wandering off toward the tree line. He knows his way around like he never left the island, knows where to walk to avoid the drop offs in the hills and what to look for to spot mud-pits or creeping creatures that could cause him harm. It doesn't take him long to find what he's looking for. Coconuts are everywhere on the island and he plucks a few of them from a low tree within minutes of leaving Jake on the shore. He even finds some bananas and some berries they'd figured out it was okay to eat. He gathers up his cache of desserts and returns to find Jake already putting the fish and lobsters on the fire. He's got a fresh pool of water, too, which is impressive. "You work fast."

"Not like I've never done it before," Jake smirks, moving over so Michael can sit next to him by the fire. "You wanna stay here tonight or head back after we eat? It'll be dark soon, so..."

"I don't think it'll hurt anything to sleep here. If it starts to rain or something, we can always go back to the boat." That's a nice option to have, though if they'd had it before they wouldn't have needed to have the option. "You okay with that?"

"Yeah," Jake agrees, his eyes on the ocean ahead of them. "It's so weird being back here, but in some ways it's better than civilization."

Michael nods. "Yeah. It's quieter than LA, that's for sure. And short of buying an island, I don't think you could find a view like this anywhere else."

That's not exactly what Jake meant, though, even if those things are true. Because the island is the only place he's been in a long time where people have cared about him, where his skills have proven useful, where he hasn't been mind-numbingly lonely. And he wants to explain as much to Michael, but the other boy keeps talking.

"God, I was a such a jerk when we were here before," he's saying and Jake can't really disagree with him on that.

"Yeah, you kinda were," he answers, ignoring the light shove he gets for his comment. "But you got better. And so did I. I wasn't exactly enjoyable company for a while there, either."

"No, but you were holding us all together. And keeping us alive. Tommy and I would've starved or frozen to death if you hadn't been around. We never would've managed to build a working raft, either. I bet that would've worked, too, if the pirates hadn't shown up."

Jake opts not to point out the fact that the only reason the pirates found them was because Michael did the thing with the flare. This isn't the time for that and he didn't know any better when he did it. "It was doing pretty well, wasn't it?" He looks away, concentrating on flipping their dinner to cook on its other side. He's not used to compliments.

"Yeah, it was."

They lapse into a comfortable silence as they wait for the food to finish and it continues as they enjoy the meal together. It's not really until dessert that the conversation really picks up again, when Jake offers Michael a coconut with an amused comment of, "It's not exactly a birthday cake, but here you go."

Michael laughs and accepts, as he and Jake both crack the things open with impressive skill. "Cheers, mate," he teases, bumping the coconuts together before they down the barely sweet water inside. "Next time I'll bring wine or something."

"Next time?" Jake asks, hopeful and curious, as he picks at the flesh inside of his coconut.

"Well, yeah," he says, looking a little embarrassed as he rubs at the back of his neck and looks away. "I kinda missed you." He clears his throat and doesn't let Jake get a word in, "And, anyway. Tommy's mom is getting married in a few months. Right around Christmas. She and Mark got engaged a few weeks ago," he explains. "You could go with me, if you wanted to."

"What, I'm the only date you can get?"

"You're funny," Michael laughs, but he got a kind of deer in the headlights look that Jake doesn't miss.

"I try," he replies, "but, yeah, I'm in."

Michael breathes a sigh of relief (that Jake also doesn't miss) and says, "good. Tommy'll be happy to see you," like that's his only motive (just like scaring Tommy was the only reason Michael was mad at him for jumping out at them when they first met up here).

"Right."

The silence falls over them again, but they don't mind. They watch the waves crash on the beach under the light of a nearly full moon that makes everything glow. Michael leans back, braced on his elbows and watches the sky, too. "No views like this in LA," he says, then raises a hand to point out something that catches his eye. "Look, shooting stars."

"Where?" Jake asks, leaning back and over toward Michael a little so he can see from kind of the same angle. He spots it, too, then. A flash of light moving across the sky. "There's another over there," he says, nodding in a different direction.

"Make a wish?" Michael jokes, but Jake absently thinks that if he were to make one it would probably involve being a little less lonely.

"Did you?"

"Maybe," Michael grins at him. "What was yours?"

"Isn't it against the rules to tell?" Jake asks, though he has no idea who established shooting-star-wish rules. He opts not to tell, just in case (and also because he doesn't want to sound absurdly pathetic). He stares at the shooting starts for a minute longer before he gets to his feet and gathers up the remnants of their dinner. "C'mon, let's clean this stuff up."

Michael frowns, but does as requested.

They're on the way back to the camp after disposing of the scraps when Michael reaches out and catches Jake's arm. "Wait," he says, but he looks like he regrets that he spoke up. It's too late to take it back though, so he plows on. "I... I don't have a girlfriend."

Jake blinks, confused by why this required such an abrupt declaration. "Oh-kay."

"I thought you should know," he says, as if that's any kind of explanation at all. And, yeah, Jake had asked him that question hours ago, when they were still docked in port and just catching up but Michael's telling him that like it's a key piece of a puzzle that Jake didn't know he was putting together. "And..."

"And?"

There's still a hand gripping his arm, and Jake is forced to stumble a step forward when Michael pulls him closer and lets his grip slip down to catch his hand, instead, and he's a little too focused on not falling on his face to really notice what's going on until it's already happening.

"What're you-" he starts to say, but the question dissolves around that point as he realizes the answer for himself and opts to just go with it. He kisses Michael just as fiercely as Michael is kissing him, tilts his head so their noses aren't quite so squashed together. He brings the hand that isn't being held to drag Michael in closer, even as Michael's free hand settles on his side, fingers curling into hard muscles and the sharp point of his hip bone, slipping under the edge of his shirt to press against skin. "This is what you wished for?" Jake asks, slightly incredulous as the kiss ends, leaving them both breathing harder than usual.

"Maybe," Michael says again, suddenly nervous in the wake of the kissing thing, which seems odd given that he certainly wasn't during the kissing thing.

"Hey, I did, too," he says, because it was what he'd wished for, even if it's not exactly how he thought he'd get it. And this time he's the one to start the kissing and he's the one who pushes for it to escalate, bringing tongue and teeth into the battle and proving to Michael that he's not the only one who wants this even if he wasn't the one to start it.

But that's when the rain starts, as it tends to most nights on the island, and suddenly the very nice kissing thing is interrupted by the not so nice downpour of cold, stinging water that's now hammering down from the suddenly cloudy sky. They break apart and rush back toward the shelter, but it's a little on the leaky side now that the elements have had a go at it, so they're forced to get a little wetter and take the inflatable back out to the Tiffany II, carefully bouncing over rougher waves. They're both cold and soaked to the bone as they clamber back on deck, Jake rushing to secure the inflatable again, and within a moment they're below deck and calling dibs on the on-board bath-tub.

Once they're both warm and dry again, it's back to the kissing. It escalates quickly this time and before too long, they're making use of the sizable bed down in the cabin.

The storm dies down around dawn, and it's not long after that they both wake up, trading slow, lazy kisses as they go about untangling limbs and sheets from each other.

Before too long, through, they leave the boat and head back to the island to explore a little more before they have to go. They catch and cook breakfast, wander to the cannibal's cave and then take a dive off of Everest (Jake did say he'd do it if Michael did and he is a man of his word). They pack up some things from camp: clothes that survived the time, a few things from Jake's boat, Tommy's picture frame, and some of the odds and ends they found on the island as well as some of the things they'd used to survive. They pile it all into the inflatable and cart it all below deck on the Tiffany II before they take their leave of the island.

From there, it's back to civilization.

By the time evening rolls around, they're back in port.

"Let me take you to dinner," Michael says. "Someplace nice. We'll let someone else do the cooking this time. And then maybe we can go back to my hotel?"

And, well, that's not a bad plan, Jake thinks. "Okay."

After all, they only have tonight, tomorrow, and the early morning hours of the next day to lose themselves in this new thing between them and then Michael is going to have to go back to LA and they probably won't get to see each other again until close to Christmas. But, Jake finds that he's not dreading the time apart so much this time. He's feeling much less alone, given Michael's promises to call and e-mail and check in as often as he can.

Michael smiles and leads him down the dock, "Great."

When the time does end, Jake drives him to the airport and Michael glances around them quickly before he kisses Jake again, a long, drawn out thing that makes him wish that they'd stayed at the hotel a little longer.

"I wish you could come to LA for Thanksgiving," Michael sulks.

"Me, too," Jake says, "but if you want me there for Christmas, then I can't come for Thanksgiving." They've had this conversation already, though, back at the hotel. Michael had offered to pay for the trip, but it's not in Jake's nature to go for that, so he'd reluctantly said no even though he really didn't want to. It's nice, though, that Michael doesn't want to go so long without seeing him, too. "No, go before you miss your plane."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"Your Dad might not be thrilled," Jake laughs, pushing Michael lightly in the direction of the gate for his flight. "I'll see you soon."

"Yeah," Michael agrees, walking backwards. "See you."

And so Michael leaves.

Jake does, too. He heads back to the boat to prepare for the charter he's supposed to have tomorrow, and for the first time in months he's not lonely. He's going to miss Michael, probably more now than before, and Christmas is still a long ways off, but he's not alone anymore and that's the important part, he thinks.