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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2320688
In which Jet faces the aftermath and Kai grapples with his decision.
“Lightweight.” Luca’s voice is in Jet’s ear, low and slightly amused.
“I am not.” Jet is not drunk.
He doesn’t get drunk.
He’s…tired.
Exhausted.
Wants to sleep.
“Walk in a straight line and I’ll believe you.”
Jet squints in Luca’s direction, but it’s like looking through fog. He blinks, but that sexy face in front of him refuses to stay in focus. His feet don’t seem to want to move either, like they’re encased in concrete. Which doesn’t make any sense.
“Can’t.”
“I know. Six Black Russians will do that to you.”
“Six?” Jet doesn’t remember that many. He remembers empty glasses, but he never counted them. But apparently, Luca had. It takes Jet a minute to figure out why that’s important. “Means I’m not—not what?”
“You’re not a lightweight. It was a joke.”
Jet frowns in his direction and Luca’s grin comes into focus for just a second. “Not funny.”
“It is a little bit, but I’ll tell you why later.” Luca loops one of his arms around Jet’s waist. “Let’s get you inside.”
“Don’t.” Jet shakes him off, listing sideways against the car. Car? This isn’t his car. Where’s his car? “This is not mine.”
“No, this is my car. Pepper’s driving yours here so you’ll have it in the morning.” Luca pulls him to his feet, tightening his grip as Jet tries to fight him off a second time.
“I said get off. I’m ferc—perc—” Jet tries to say ‘perfectly capable’, but the words don’t sound right.
“Perfectly capable?” Luca supplies.
“Yeah, that.” Jet is triumphant. Those words sounded the way they were supposed to, if slightly slurred. It was probably easier because they’re shorter than the other ones he’s been trying to say, and he’s thought of another word that’s also shorter and means the same thing. “I’m fine.”
“Of course you are.” Luca manages to get Jet into the front room before he halts again.
“This is not where I live.”
“No. I live here. Watch your step.”
It’s not Jet’s feet that are the problem. There’s something wrong with this house--it’s moving. First, up and down, then from side to side. Except, only the walls are moving. The furniture is staying still. Jet looks down.
“Your floor is...” He has the same problem with ‘crooked’ that he had with ‘perfectly capable’. The word sounds garbled, like someone stuffed cotton in his mouth, so he chooses to say a shorter one. “Off. Your floor is off.”
Not only are his eyes not working properly anymore, but his tongue definitely seems to have swelled up.
“It won’t be if you sit down.” Luca’s voice is a mixture of concern—which Jet doesn’t understand—and amusement, which is annoying.
“You’re annoying.”
“I know,” Luca smiles at Jet’s accusatory tone. “Sit down.”
Jet is not about to do something just because Luca tells him to. “Why?”
“Because the room will stop spinning.”
“Oh. Yeah.” For reasons Jet can't quite understand, what Luca says makes sense, and there’s a couch just in front of him. Jet grasps one of the arms, but as soon as he touches it, the couch starts to move. Even the cushions tilt at odd angles. “This is off, too.”
He doesn’t even bother to try and say ‘crooked’ just sticks to the word he used before. Except the word sounds less clear the second time. So now there’s something wrong with his eyes, his mouth, and his ears, and also—
“Hot. My feet are hot.”
Luca is already removing Jet’s shoes. When Jet’s hands move toward the buttons of his shirt, Luca’s fingers are already there, undoing them one by one, leaving the shirt hanging half open so the air cools Jet’s alcohol heated skin.
“Better?”
Jet’s blood tingles under Luca’s touch. Either he nodded, or the room decided to move up and down again. Luca’s voice remains gentle.
“Lie down.”
“Why?” The word is out of Jet’s mouth before he can stop it.
“Why what?”
Jet blinks. Actually, that’s a really good question, but there are so many answers. He chooses the easiest one. Or rather, the one with the shortest words. “Why did you bring me here?”
“Because you need sleep.”
Those are the same words that Jet has been thinking, but when they come out of Luca’s mouth, it’s annoying. Also, why is Luca smiling like that?
“You’re annoying.” Why is that long word so easy for Jet to say?
“Yes, I know.” Luca’s voice is still amused. “And you need sleep.”
“Not here.” Jet pushes himself upright, or tries to. His hands slide against the cushions as the room tilts again, this time bending at an almost impossible angle. Luca grabs Jet’s elbows before he falls, easing him back onto the couch.
“Yes, here.” Luca lifts Jet’s legs so that he’s lying full length on the couch. He braces his hands against Jet’s shoulders, ready to hold the man down if necessary. “You can’t go anywhere else; you can barely stand.”
True. Whatever is wrong with Jet’s senses has now spread to his limbs. He feels completely weightless, and not just because Luca’s hands are warm, and the cushions beneath Jet are so soft and cool it’s like being cradled by a thousand feathers. Luca’s face hovers above him.
“Jet?”
“Yes.” Every time Jet says a word clearly, he feels some sense of accomplishment. Short words are easier to say than long ones. Or maybe now that he’s no longer standing, it will be easier to say longer words? Eager to test this theory, he levers himself up onto his elbows so he can look Luca in the eye. “Still think this is the best dish--the bestest--”
“The best decision I made all night?” Luca leans so close that his scent tickles Jet’s nostrils: woody, sweet, and earthy at the same time. There’s a name for that scent, but Jet’s brain is too fogged to remember it. Their lips are millimeters apart. “Yes.”
“Why?” This time Jet genuinely wants an answer to that question.
“I’ll tell you in the morning, when you can understand me better.” Luca finally lets go of Jet. “If you close your eyes, everything will hold still.”
Jet frowns at him. “What?”
“Close your eyes, Jet.”
“Fine.” Jet snuggles down into that cool cocoon, unable to remember the last time he felt this comfortable. He will close his eyes, but he won’t sleep. “I won’t sleep.”
Luca smiles as Jet’s eyes drift closed. “I know.”
Jet squints at him. “Luca.”
“Hmmm?”
“Stop talking.” Jet’s eyes drift closed.
“Ok.”
By the time Pepper gets home, Jet still hasn’t opened his eyes, but he’s been sick twice. The first time Luca was able to get Jet halfway off the couch to take him to the bathroom. That plan backfired and the contents of Jet’s stomach had ended up all over his clothes and Luca’s. Luca had just finished cleaning up that mess, when there was another retching sound and this time the floor needed to be scrubbed. He’s still scrubbing when Pepper walks into the room, wrinkling her nose at the stench.
“Don’t ask,” Luca says before Pepper can say anything.
“I don’t have to. I just wish my nose didn’t work so well.” Pepper’s gaze falls on Jet, who is tossing restlessly on the couch. “Painkillers, water, trash can, or all three?”
“Start with the trash can. The one in my room’s empty, so put that next to him. Maybe get a hangover pill, too.”
Pepper nods, and comes back with the empty trash can, a packet of painkillers and hangover pills, a bottle of water, and a couple of—
“Fever patches?” Luca raises his eyebrows. “He’s drunk, not sick.”
“The smell in this room and the stain you’re trying to scrub off the floor tell a different story.” Pepper puts one of the fever patches on Jet’s forehead and puts the empty trash can on the floor next to the couch. The patch seems to help, because Jet stops thrashing around. She tosses Jet’s car fob on the coffee table. “I drove his car here like you asked, so he doesn’t have to go get it in the morning. He’s wearing your clothes.”
“Yes,” Luca tries to keep his voice neutral and fails.
“So you really did just bring him here to sleep it off.”
Luca scoffs. “It’s hard to have any fun with someone in that condition.”
“That’s never stopped you before,” Pepper waits for Luca to say something before continuing. “Which means…you’re taking it slow? That’s new.”
“Actually…the bossmen asked me to do them a favor.” Luca confesses.
Pepper looks genuinely surprised. “Since when do you do ‘favors’ for Bel and Kam?”
“Since this particular ‘favor’ looks like that.” Luca grins at her, jerking his head in the direction of Jet’s sleeping form.
Pepper looks Jet over. “He is kind of cute.”
“Cute?” Luca looks offended on Jet’s behalf. “He’s gorgeous. Even in this state.”
“Good thing he’s your type, then.” Pepper can’t help rolling her eyes before her face becomes more serious. “Would this favor have anything to do with certain information you have?”
Luca’s eyes steadily meet hers. “I could ask you the same thing.”
“I already told Kai I would help him,” Pepper admits. “But I didn’t tell him why.”
“If you didn’t come clean to Kai, then I don’t have to come clean to Jet.” Luca’s expression dares Pepper to argue. “Not yet, anyway.”
“Just,” Pepper presses her lips together. “Don’t do anything to piss Kai off. He cares about his brother, whether he says it out loud or not.”
“I know,” Luca’s voice is completely sincere. “Trust me.”
Pepper’s answering smile is mischievous. “It’s not my trust you have to earn. So are you going to tell Kai tomorrow morning, or do I get to?”
Tires squeal.
Breaks scream.
The stomach dropping sensation of being whipped forward and then back like so much forgotten street rubbish.
Shattered glass explodes, landing in his hair, slicing his face.
Someone is shouting, calling his name over and over.
Pressure across his chest, a red and sticky substance smeared across his hands where he’d wiped his stinging face, streaming from his nose, splattered over the front of his shirt.
A face, bent into absurdity through the spiderwebbed remains of the side view mirror.
He should know that face.
He should—

Kai jerks upright, feeling as though someone has tried to squeeze his insides out through his mouth. His pillowcase is damp and the sheet equally so, tangled around his legs. The dorm is coated in darkness, the only sound the low hiss of the AC and the erratic gasps of Kai trying to breathe.
Again. It’s happened again.
Kai runs his fingers through his hair, flopping back onto his bed, knowing, as he did on other nights, that dreaming about the car accident means he won’t be going back to sleep. He should be mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, but now he’s back to being alert. Before, taking a shower and flopping back into bed to lie on his stomach had worked, but that’s not something he wants to do this time.
Honestly, how many jolts of surprise is he supposed to take in one day?
He would be seeing Nail on Monday when he went back to work anyway, but that hadn’t stopped Kai’s stomach from bottoming out when Nail had shown up at the gym. He had half expected Jet’s reaction when he told him as much, so their conversation in the car and their argument at Nightshade wasn’t a complete surprise. Both of them had been in need of a distraction, and the celebration of ManiratNexus’ sponsorship and Zone’s acceptance on the racing team had seemed like as good an excuse as any.
And it had been, until Pepper had offered to look over OmniVentures financial records. As grateful as Kai knows he should be for that, Pepper’s involvement means Chalam could target her too, and that thought turns his blood cold in a way that Kai doesn’t want to think about. His insides still squirmed at the thought of going back to OmniVentures, not because he would see Nail, but because of the lie he would have to tell Rome, and possibly Mali. The lie that Jet was fully supportive of Kai’s choice to come back not just to complete his internship, but to find the information he needed against Chalam.
Information that would definitely put that damn shark behind bars.
The dorm had been empty when Kai got back, which meant Zone was still out with Iris. He’d stared at the ceiling until he heard Zone’s key in the lock, then clamped his eyes shut when he’d heard the door open. Zone had said his name a couple of times, but Kai had refused to respond. Zone would want to pick apart everything that had happened since this morning and Kai isn’t really in the mood for that right now.
It takes a ridiculous amount of time for his friend to flop into his own bed. Kai burrows his head back into his pillow, pressing his body deep into the mattress and trying to match his breathing with Zone’s, half hoping all of that will finally force his body to relax and give in to sleep.
No such fucking luck.
Kai flips onto his back and watches the ceiling turn from black to gray to pink, trying to force his brain to stop turning cartwheels. It’s almost a relief when his phone vibrates, potentially offering another distraction. Zone’s snoring is a clear indication that nothing short of the fire alarm will bring him into consciousness, so Kai doesn’t bother to keep his voice down as he answers. He even smiles when he sees the name of the caller on the screen.
“What’s up?”
“I drove Jet’s car to my place last night.”
“Oh?” Pepper’s answer isn’t what Kai’s expecting to hear. “Why did you have to do that?”
“Because Luca drove Jet home.” Pepper says it like it’s the most natural thing in the world. “You should come get him. I don’t think your brother’s in any condition to drive.”
Someone must have dropped several bricks on top of Jet’s head, and then rubbed sand in his eyes for good measure.
That was the only explanation for the insistent hammering in his temples and the dryness under his eyelids. His mouth feels like he’s been chewing leather, each swallow feels like scraping sandpaper, and even his skin feels sore and curiously swollen. It takes more effort than Jet likes to crack open his eyes.
Ugh!
Bad idea!
Really bad idea!
Really very bad idea!

The indoor lights are off, but morning sunlight is pouring through the window, setting off wave after wave of cranial pain. Jet lets out an involuntary moan, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes to try and ease the pressure in his head. Even that movement hurts more than it should.
“I thought I was the idiot in this family.”
“Kai?” Jet doesn’t have to open his eyes to know his younger brother is giving him the look a disappointed parent gives a naughty toddler. “Why are you here?”
“Pepper called and told me I should come drive you home, and now I see why.” Kai looks Jet up and down. “I don’t think you're an asshole anymore. Now I think you’re a moron. If you moan any louder you’ll bring the house down.”
“Not funny.” Jet lowers his hands long enough to take a peek at Kai’s face.
Kai holds his thumb and forefinger a couple centimeters apart. “It is a little bit.”
The pressure of Jet’s hands against his eyes isn’t helping, and neither is lying down. His pulse throbs through his entire body as he levers himself into a sitting position. “I hate you so fucking much.”
“That’s supposed to be what I say. Soooo,” Kai leans forward. “What’s a hangover like?”
“Kai.”
“What?” Kai doesn’t look the least bit put off by the warning in Jet’s voice. Actually, he’s grinning like an idiot. “I’m allergic to alcohol, remember? So I can't drink, which means I’ll never have a hangover, and I’m curious what it’s like.”
“It’s hell,” Jet tries to glare at his little brother, but can’t manage more than a squint. “Stop smiling.”
“Which pain is worse, Muay Thai injuries or a hangover?”
“Kai.”
“I’ve never seen you like this before.” If anything, Kai’s grin gets wider. “It’s hilarious.”
Jet would roll his eyes if his head wasn’t pounding so much. “I’m so glad.”
“Take these.” A hand with two painkillers and a full glass of water appear in front of Jet’s face. “and drink all of that. No arguments.”
Jet swallows painkillers, looking up into the newcomer’s face. Luca’s dark hair curls around his face exactly the same way it did last night, and the look in his black eyes is just as intense. The magnetism radiating from him makes Jet’s pulse speed up in a way that has nothing to do with the consequences of his actions last night.
Details from last night start to click into place.
Nightshade.
Kai calling him an asshole.
How appealing that dark corner had looked and how badly Jet craved a distraction, any distraction.
Luca approaching him and saying something about the best decision of the night.
Then after all those Black Russians, Luca had called him a lightweight, and Jet had called Luca annoying.
Everything else slowly blurring into what Jet now realizes was an alcoholic haze.
And….
This was not Jet’s condo.
This was where Luca lived.
Jet glances down at the clothes he’s wearing.
They aren’t his either.
“Did we—”
“When I sleep with someone, it’s because we both want it, and are both fully aware of exactly what’s going on. ” Luca’s voice is dry, but amused. “And when one of us hasn’t consumed six Black Russians beforehand.”
“Six?” Kai’s eyebrows are threatening to disappear into his hairline.
“At least.” Luca turns his attention back to Jet. “Do you know how hard it is to scrub vomit out of tile? That’s not something anyone should experience more than once. Also, you owe me new clothes. Silk stains.”
“That really was silk?” Kai sniggers, not looking the least bit apologetic when Jet shoots him a half hearted glare. “What?”
“Here,” Now Luca is holding a steaming plate just under Jet’s nose. “Omelet. Your favorite breakfast.”
Jet’s forehead wrinkles. “I told you that?”
“Among other things,” Luca confirms. “You should eat before Kai takes you home.”
Jet’s stomach lurches at the mention of food. “Not hungry.”
“You can eat the omelet yourself,” Luca puts the plate on the coffee table in front of Jet and sits down next to him. “Or I’ll feed it to you…darling.”
Jet takes one very small bite, barely meeting Luca’s gaze. “What exactly did I say last night?”
“A lot, actually.” Luca looks amused. “You’re really talkative when you’re all liquored up. Stubborn as hell, too.”
Kai barely manages to turn his snigger into a cough, and Jet gives him a Look. “Don’t get any ideas.”
“I didn’t--I wouldn’t--why would I ever do something like that?” Kai shakes his head, but can’t keep the mischievous glint out of his eyes.
“For the hell of it.” Luca says exactly what Jet is thinking. He’s refilled Jet’s glass with water. This time he also drops something in it which makes the liquid fizz and turn a shade of green that makes Jet’s stomach churn. “Finish the omelet and take the hangover pill. And don’t say you just took painkillers, because a lightweight like you needs all three to function properly.”
“Hilarious.” Jet takes another bite of the omelet, forcing himself to chew and swallow.
Luca grins at him. “Last night I was annoying.”
Jet is able to choke down the rest of the omelet and the hangover pill concoction, which is a good thing because Luca won’t let him off the couch until both the plate and the glass are empty. Kai just sits and watches his brother with a very slight smile on his face. He has the car fob in his hand before Jet can even reach for it, and despite Jet’s feeble protests, Kai is behind the wheel with Jet in the passenger seat. The silence in the car is neither completely comfortable nor completely tense. Jet is concentrating on making the pain in his head disappear, and Kai is still unsure how to say what he needs to, so neither of them feel much like talking.
“I’m sorry,” Kai’s voice is a little uncertain as he finally breaks that silence.
“For what?” Jet has his eyes closed and his head against the headrest. His voice is slightly muffled due to the fingers that are pinching the top of his nose, making it difficult for Kai to read his tone.
“Last night.” Kai keeps his eyes on the road, rather than looking at his brother. “I acted like a jackass.”
Jet looks over at him. “You’re not the only one.”
The silence becomes a little more comfortable as they drive the rest of the way to the condo. Apologies can sometimes help ease tension, even if they don’t completely heal it. Kai keeps the radio off, aware that the added noise won’t do anything to ease Jet’s headache, and he stays quiet until they pull up to the condo. Both get out and Kai hands Jet his car fob back.
“Thanks,” Jet mumbles.
“Hang on,” Kai steps in front of his brother, preventing him from going inside, and the words come out in a rush. “There’s something I need you to know. I acted like a jackass and I’m sorry for that, but I’m still going back to OmniVentures tomorrow. Nothing you say is going to change my mind. I know you don’t like it, and I know you’re worried about me, but I have to do this, Jet. I need you to understand that.”
“Ok.”
Kai blinks at his brother’s simple answer. “Ok?”
Jet nods. As much as the thought of Kai being that close to Chalam again makes his stomach turn to ice, he is fully aware of how stubborn his little brother can be. “Just--I just want you to be careful. Are you capable of doing that?”
“Don’t worry,” Kai smiles. “I won’t let Nail kick my ass a second time.”

"22. Progress

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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