This is Issue #17 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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For a long moment, silence hung between the young men, Kieron looking defensive, Jet looking baffled. “So, what, then, you just signed up without talking to me?” Jet said, incredulous, his expression so full of confusion and pain it seemed impossible it could also hold fury. “How could you do that?”
“I needed to keep you safe,” Kieron said defiantly, gritting his teeth, trying to toss his head, to get Jet to release him, so he wouldn’t have to look at those eyes, so hurt, so angry.
“Well I didn’t ask you to do that,” Jet said, letting him go. “First thing tomorrow I’m going with you–“
“No!” Kieron shouted over him. “No you’re not–“
Jet kept right on going, baring his teeth. “I’m going to sign up, and I’ll follow you right onto the same fucking airship,” he said, blinking away hot tears. “Fuck you for thinking you got to decide for me!” he yelled, pointing at Kieron, his face hot, his heart thundering. “You’re supposed to be my best friend! Why would you hide this?”
“Because!” Kieron shouted back, frustrated, raking his hair out of his face. “Because you wouldn’t let it go! Because once I figured out the answer, it seemed cruel to rub it in,” he said, his voice suddenly cracking, losing volume. He didn’t say who it would be cruel to; he hugged himself as though there were some way to give himself comfort.
“This doesn’t have to be the answer,” Jet insisted, his hands curling into fists. “This isn’t the answer!” His voice rose even further as his face reddened. “You don’t get to decide this!” Jet shouted, looking half-panicked, half furious, stepping close to Kieron, as though he could intimidate his friend into some kind of resolution, but the face-off was anything except decisive. Jet stared Kieron down, his lips curling in pure rage, chest heaving as he tried to calm himself.
Kieron, instead of answering back in words, leaned in suddenly, and pressed his lips to Jet’s. The kiss was neither long nor particularly graceful; Kieron’s eyes fluttered shut, and Jet’s popped wide open.
“What?” Jet said, against Kieron’s lips, and pulled back, looking more astonished than anything else. “That’s… that’s not. You can’t–” he sputtered, taking a step back. “What are you doing?” Jet said, lifting a hand, touching his lips, the shock evident on his features.
The wash of shame and defeat that touched Kieron’s face then was blanked by an insistent mask of calm. “Nothing,” Kieron said, pulling back as well. “I need to talk to Garrett,” he said, clenching his jaw and turning to leave.
Jet reached out and touched Kieron’s arm, saying, “Wait — we’re leaving tomorrow. This is — this might be the last time we have alone together, for a long time. What the fuck was that?”
Kieron stopped, and looked back over his shoulder at Jet, saying nothing, not even to argue Jet leaving with him.
Jet closed the distance, reaching to take Kieron’s hand, and said “Stay.”
“I need to talk to Garrett,” Kieron tried to say, looking down at Jet’s hand holding to his.
“Stay,” Jet repeated, looking urgent.
“…why?” Kieron said, tears in his eyes again, pain on his face. “I’m leaving in the morning.”
“Then stay the night.” Jet’s voice was low, rough with agony; he stepped closer, leaned in, and pressed his lips to Kieron’s. This kiss was long enough, sweet enough, that going to visit Garrett was forgotten about. Long enough, sweet enough, that Kieron didn’t leave, even when the candles guttered out, wicks forgotten and left to drown.
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Jet came awake, feeling the sun on his face. He squirmed in the bedsheets, curling forward, seeking the warmth that had been pressed to him when he finally gave in to sleep — but it wasn’t there. A smile woke on his face, and he stretched further, his eyes fluttering shut as he felt an ache in his core, a creaking in his sinew, a soreness that if anything, only made his smile that much wider.
Until he saw the clock.
“Fuck!” he yelped. “Key — we missed the bus!”
He rolled over and reached, but his hand found emptiness, and then he sat up, startled, and realized he was alone in the bed. “Kieron?” he called, swinging his feet out of the bed and touching down on the cold floor. He winced as he stood, feeling muscles pull, and the smile on his face slipped away as he looked around for Kieron, for evidence of him — until realizing he wasn’t anywhere around.
Before he could investigate further, there came a banging on the door. Startled, Jet grabbed a pair of sleeptrews and pulled them on, rubbing his hair back out of his face as he opened the door.
Professor Garrett stood there with his mouth open, and his fist in the air, ready to strike again. “Ah–” he began, and then closed his mouth, blinking owlish eyes behind half-spectacles. “Harrington,” he said, pursing his lips. “You missed breakfast, morning meditation, and your first two classes.”
“Fuck,” Jet breathed. “Have you seen him?” A rising knowing was catching fire within the back of Jet’s mind. A nagging feeling that he wanted to shove away, that he wanted to dismiss. No, he wouldn’t have. He wouldn’t. Not after last night. He wouldn’t have just left me here.
Garrett blanched, looking at Jet curiously. “Seen him…?” he responded.
“Yes, Kieron Brody, about yea tall, sickly looking thing, only recently came back to the Academy, Kieron Brody, you helped me keep in communication with him while his father was acting as jailer, have you seen him?” Jet said, going from sarcastic to frantic. His expression worried Garrett, who pressed forward to urge Jet to let him in. He shut the door behind himself, while Jet paced, looking around for Kieron’s things, for confirmation of his existence.
“Yes–” Garrett said, staying near the door. “Yes, he… he said you knew,” Garrett said, his jaw working, anger and apology dawning over his features. “Jet, I’m so sorry — This morning, for scout regimen basic… he already left.”
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