It was strange getting closer to home after their week in Florida. Mac's folks had given them a week vacation, sun and fun, relaxation for Christmas. His parents had completely fallen in love with Jet and their time with them had felt completely relaxed and natural. They'd spent two full weeks in Chicago before driving back to West Virginia then on to Florida. They were tanned now, well on their way to getting back to normal, or at least healthy enough to pretend. Jet's cast was due to come off in a couple of weeks and Mac's chest was starting to itch, and was no longer bleeding every day. They were due to be checked out just after the first of the year, so this might be their final fling. They could end up stationed at opposite ends of the Earth, or he could be facing a med discharge, but Mac refused to focus on that right now.
And they were spending New Year's Eve with the mysterious Shannon Kendall. Mac hadn't been able to piece together her relationship with Jet yet, and he hated not figuring out a mystery.
"Tell me about Shannon. I know her mom and your mom died together, and you take care of her, but what else do I need to know? Since we're bunking with her for a couple of days."
Mac looked down at the bracelet on his right wrist, Jet's Christmas present to him. It was an ID bracelet, nothing that would draw unwanted attention, but it felt permanent. Jet had an identical one, with Semper Fi engraved on top, and on the bottom their initials. Always faithful. It had become his mantra.
"Sure Shannon will be okay hanging out with a couple of guys in love? She won't feel like the third wheel?"
Jet cringed. They hadn't talked about Shannon all that much, and while it hadn't exactly been intentional, although he wasn't really looking forward to this. "I really think that we may want to keep our relationship from Shannon. She's fragile, and I don't know how she'd deal with this. Its better we just not tempt fate."
"So ... no shared bedroom like at Mom and Dad's?" Somewhere along the line his parents had adopted Jet.
"No, I want you with us, we just need to be more careful is all. I have a room of my own there, you can bunk in there, I'll take the couch. Shan will have to understand that it isn't like it usually is. But I want you with us."
Mac nodded. Mac listened to the sound of Jet's voice. So it was going to be like that, was it. Oh. "Well, if you don't want me to intrude, I can go back to base." Jethro wanted Mac, with them. Wasn't as much what he said as his word choices. And the guilty look on his face. Like it usually is?
Maybe he was drawing conclusions where none existed, but he was very unsettled about all of this. "If you sleep with her and disrespect me like that, I can't stay, Jet. There's either an us or there isn't, but you can't have it all, okay? I'm not trying to be a bastard, babe, but I'm in love with you. This is all a shock to me. You should have told me that there was someone else this close in your life, sweet boy. You had me thinking she was some casual friend, not a fragile woman in need of protection from the truth."
"I wouldn't do that, Mac. I said I'd take the couch, not bunk down in Shannon's bed. She and I, we aren't like that. It's not an all the time thing; it's a convenience thing more than anything. I know that makes it sound horrible but she feels the same way. I'm there, I can make her feel good and forget for a little bit. But it's done."
Jet would sit Shannon down and explain to her that he'd met someone else and that it was serious. He'd been gone long enough that she probably had met someone new as well. "I'll talk to her, let her know that aspect of our relationship is over. I'll still take care of her, but everything else is in the past."
Mac nodded. "Just be careful love. Woman scorned can do all sorts of crazy things." He drew a pattern on Jethro's good wrist. "And we're lifers, that was part of our vow right? Semper Fi, career, friendship, love."
In Florida, in the moonlight, two guys sipping beer had a long chat and made a pact, a vow, and Mac looked at is as forever. He was so in love with his beautiful boy.
"Shannon isn't a scorned woman, she's a kid who needs a hand. I can't imagine her doing something like you're thinking. It's not like I'm kicking her out of my life, just putting a stop to a part of it." Flipping his hand up, he caught Mac's hand, threading his fingers through the other man's. "You're mine, baby. I know we've got a tough road ahead of us, but I want us to be together. Friends and lovers, everything else can take a back seat."
"You don't know women, Jet. If you hurt her, she might strike out. Some girls are like wounded animals and Shannon sounds really young and vulnerable." Mac was relieved for the assurance even though he knew he was being completely irrational. "Just be smart, okay?"
"No, I don't know women, I'll give you that. But I do know Shannon. Just watch, you'll be totally blown away at how she handles this."
"I hope you're right, sweet boy. I just worry..."
Mac wasn't smiling any more, and Jet rushed on trying to smooth things over, squeezing his hand. "How do I explain Shannon, without sounding like a total jackass. She's always had a crush on me, and our moms thought that maybe one day we'd get married and live in one of the houses between their family and mine. I never looked at her that way, at least not seriously, although we have on more than one occasion ended up in bed. I protected her as much as I could from her dad, and when I knew I was leaving, I took her with me. Her dad died right after we left, but he didn't try to stop her. I think he thought he was better off without her. I pay for her place, and if I can't handle the barracks anymore, I crash there. She works, but it's mostly for food and utilities. I've been pushing her to get her GED, but she's still just a scared kid most of the time, who got the raw end of the deal when it came to a home life."
Jethro turned, looking deeply into Mac's eyes. "I love you baby, but I don't want to hurt her. You'll see when we get there, she just turned seventeen, and she's out there on her own. She's making friends through the restaurant she's waitressing at, but I'm still the one she counts on to take care of her."
"You're been having sex with a kid? And you set her up in her own place? Backward city I come from, that's called statutory rape. Did you forget to mention to me that you're having sex with a vulnerable kid? Or are you ashamed of something. Course the kid has a crush on you, she probably thinks you're fucking Superman, Jet." Mac pulled off to the side of the road and turned to Jet, furious and just a little betrayed that he hadn't known this about his lover.
"What the hell are you thinking? Vulnerable kid doesn't need a house and a job. Send her to Mom and Dad, Jet. Give her some structure, not a dick to ride and a hero who is already taken." Mac leaned in close, gripping Jet's shirt. "I don't share well."
"I was thinking if I left her at home, she'd end up dead or knocked up by some jerk who would take off and leave her to raise a kid on her own. At least here, she's got an apartment of her own to go to. She's a great kid who deserves better than she got. I'm really the only person she has now that her dad is dead. He didn't even look up when she said she was leaving, just said he was better off not having to support her. Every penny I made went to pay for the motel she was staying at during my basics. Once I got assigned to Quantico, I got her an apartment and found her a job and she's been my responsibility."
Jethro couldn't go back on his promise to take care of Shannon, not with a good conscience. Sure he could send her to Chicago, Emily would love to look after her, but he couldn't ask someone else to take over for him. Shan wouldn't understand and knowing her, she'd probably bolt."
"I can't ask your mom and dad to support her, I promised her I'd take care of her and I will. The relationship is not something either of us planned, but it's also not serious. She dates other guys, I've introduced her to a few guys from the base. But she's kinda territorial about me. I know, you didn't sign up for this, but she's part of my life."
Mac sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I understand you needing to take care of her, but I don't think I can share you and if you expect that ... It won't work, beautiful boy. I'm committed to you, as much as I can be and keep our careers safe. I don't think I've been imagining our connection but I have to tell you that I'm shaken by this." Mac shrugged and looked down at his wrist. "Semper Fi means what to you, beautiful boy? To me, it means my heart is yours."
"Mine belongs to you, Mac. I want us to be together, when ever we can. You know as well as I do, we can't exactly move in together and set up house. You have some great options ahead of you, and I'll go where they send me. But I think we can make this work for us, I want us to make it work. I love you, I love your family and I want you to meet mine now. She's all I have left anymore, which is why you're coming home with me. You're important to me. I wouldn't bring you here if you weren't."
"That doesn't mean I don't fantasize about us going somewhere and being who we are together. Like Florida." But even there they'd got some looks, hair too short, bearing too military. It couldn't work but it had to work, because Mac couldn't live without Jet.
.... There is more of this story ...