Lounging back on the bed, Mark crossed his arms behind his back as he kept his gaze firmly fixed on the television. Not that he could have said what was showing, because he wasn't paying any attention to it. It merely provided something for him to look at instead of the other occupant of the hotel room, because if he looked at him for too long... well, that way lay trouble. Lots of trouble.
"I hate snow," came an irritated grumble from near the window, the soft drawl lengthening with annoyance.
Sighing, Mark didn't turn his head as he replied, "Then stop looking at it."
"I can't. It's snowing an' I wanted to go home, dammit, an' it's out there taunting me." A soft thud told Mark that his companion had just flung himself on the other bed. Probably on his stomach, staring out the window with a green-eyed glare. Not that he was well-acquainted with the other man's commonly-assumed positions. Not that he'd stared whenever he thought he could get away with it. Oh, definitely not—if for no other reason than that Jeffrey Nero Hardy came with a watchdog named Matthew who would happily tear out the throat of any person he thought was looking to take advantage of his little brother.
Not that Mark had ever thought of taking advantage of Jeff in any way. Of course not.
Fantasizing about someone didn't count as wanting to take advantage of them, did it?
Shaking his head slightly, he tried to focus on whatever bad war documentary was playing on the only channel that would come in through the heavy snowstorm. Mark absently considered the sort of fate that would trap him in a hotel with the person he'd been nursing somewhat more than a crush on for the last four years. Well, longer, but that was as long as he was really willing to admit to. Lusting after someone who looked like he hadn't hit puberty yet was too disturbing to dwell on. Another disgusted huff from the other bed, and he decided that God had an incredibly twisted sense of humour.
"Why don't you go see who else is still here? We can't be the only ones who got delayed by the storm," he offered, finally turning to look at Jeff. That was a mistake. The younger man had turned onto his back and was splayed across the bed, still watching the falling snow through the half-open curtains from his now-upside-down viewpoint. Mark couldn't help but admire the way the black pants hugged slim hips before catching his wandering thoughts—and eyes.
"Nah. I already checked. Matt made the flight, an' so did Shawn an' Trips an' Adam. Most ev'rybody else left last night, an' the only other people I ran into were Kenny an' Nicky... an' I'm not that desperate for company." The tone of disgust made Mark's lips quirk slightly. The Spirit Squad members were even more annoying backstage than in the ring, whether they were a tag team now or not, and Mark didn't blame Jeff for not wanting to listen to Kenny babble about Mickie and their wedding plans.
Glancing out the window himself, Mark eyed the blinding whiteness outside with some disgust of his own. The hotel had been good enough to give them a free room until the storm blew over, but the speed it had come in with meant that they'd missed their flight and god only knew how long it would be before the planes were flying again. He should've gone with Shawn and Hunter when they left, but he hadn't been willing to leave for the airport six hours early, bad weather warning or not. He should've paid more attention to it... but if he had, he wouldn't be here. Stuck with Jeff. For some unknown length of time.
That could be a mixed blessing. Getting to torment himself by staring at his chosen object of lust might almost make up for said object's boundless energy, which would probably drive him insane within twelve hours.
"Hey, Mark..." Jeff had sat up, cross-legged on the bed as he picked at the comforter with bored motions.
"Talk to me."
Something in Mark's expression must've conveyed his surprise. Jeff shrugged and came as close to looking embarrassed as Mark had ever seen him.
"I mean... we're gonna be stuck here for ages, there's nothin' but shit on t.v., an' nobody else here that I wanna talk to. I don't have a book, I'm not in the mood to draw, an' my iPod ended up in Matt's carry-on. So... talk to me."
Raising an eyebrow at the odd tone of voice, Mark reminded himself firmly of the watchdog. Surely he was reading too much into it. It made sense, after all. He'd seen Jeff drive everyone insane on overseas flights more times than he could count because he just couldn't sit still or be absorbed in one thing the entire time. Of course he'd be bored out of his mind, stuck here like this. Alone. With Mark.
Talking. Right. Sitting up, Mark turned the television off, not without gratification at the action. Much more of thoughts on Hitler's reasoning would've driven him nuts.
"About what?" He wasn't normally a talkative person... around Shawn, maybe, but Shawn sort of dragged people along with him in conversation regardless of what they wanted. Now that he'd been put on the spot, cast around as he might, he couldn't think of a single interesting topic of conversation. He could talk about motorcycles with Hunt, or bar-hopping with Glenn, or listen to Shawn gossip about everyone, but Jeff? What he knew of the man's interests would probably fit on a business card, and what he normally thought of when he thought of Jeff he wasn't about to bring up.
"I don't know! What kinda question is that, anyway?" The annoyance in Jeff's voice made Mark smile and he turned to fully look at him, catching a frown on Jeff's face as the other man glared at him. "Just... talk. About anything. What do you do for fun? Who do you hang out with? Are you seein' anybody?"
The silence that followed the barrage of questions was broken only by a barely audible "oh, shit" from Jeff's side of the room.
Well, now. Drawing in a slow breath and releasing it, Mark thought as he stared at the wall. Why the hell had Jeff even asked the question? Obviously it wasn't something he'd really meant to ask, but... He could ignore the question, play it off as a joke, or ask Jeff what he meant by it. No. He couldn't ignore it. And he couldn't just ask Jeff... maybe something in-between. Keeping his face calm, he replied, "Well, to take those in order... For fun, I have my bikes. Working on them and riding them are both enjoyable, and I like to read... sometimes I even like to cook. I usually hang out with Glen, or Shawn and Hunt, but I do have other friends—even some non-wrestling ones." Letting his lips curve at the last, he paused briefly, watching Jeff closely, as he continued, "And no, I'm not seeing anybody right now."
After another silence, Mark raised his eyebrows. Jeff looked slightly stunned, and even with the uncomfortable tenseness still lining his spine, Mark couldn't help but laugh quietly at the expression. "And you?" he prodded. Jeff blinked, his eyes focusing again on Mark's face before widening.
"Uh. Well... I'm not seein' anybody." Another pause, and Jeff apparently realised what he'd said. Groaning, he let his head fall forward onto his hands, his voice muffled through his fingers. "I'm sorry, Mark. I just... I can't handle bein' cooped up like this. It's makin' me insane an' makin' me not think straight, an' I never would've asked that normally."
"I kind of figured," Mark said reassuringly, hoping that he sounded amused and not disgusted. With himself, anyway. Why in the world was he pushing this? He was damned near old enough to be Jeff's father—there was no way he could've meant that in any meaningful way. "I mean, why would you?"
Amazingly green eyes stared up at him from the painful-looking position Jeff was bent into. "What?" The younger man straightened up with a motion that made Mark's back ache in sympathy. "Why would I? Maybe 'cause you're an awesome guy, an' dead gorgeous, an' the fact that you're single should be a crime, 'cause god, I–" Abruptly cutting off the flow of words by clapping a hand over his mouth, Jeff spun around and stared fixedly out the window.
Blinking, Mark considered his options, very much aware of the uncomfortable silence filling the space between them. He wasn't unaware that most people considered him attractive, and he was unfortunately aware of the crushes that most of the talent had developed for him at various points in their careers. This, though... this was different. Not just because he had some attraction toward the younger Hardy, but because Jeff's behavior was out of character. Somehow, given the appalled expression that he'd glimpsed before Jeff had turned away from him, he didn't think that his unexpected companion had meant to let those words out of his mouth.
"Jeff, I–" Before he could even be sure of what he was going to say, Mark was interrupted by a bitter voice.
"Don't, Mark. I don't wanna hear that you're sorry but you're not interested, an' I don't wanna hear that you wouldn't mind a one-night stand, an'... an'..." A noise that sounded suspiciously like a choked sob had Mark moving before he realised he was on his feet. Taking the step necessary to reach the other bed, he reached out a hesitant hand, laying it tentatively on Jeff's shoulder. The touch was met with a violent flinch as Jeff twisted away from it and burning green eyes met his own. "Dammit, Mark, just... stop. Stop bein' so damned concerned an' nice an' stuff. I know you don't care about me... not like that." The words were angry, but Mark could tell that the emotion wasn't really directed at him. Seeing that Jeff was targeting himself with that bitterness, Mark made a decision.
Watchdog be damned.
"You're pretty damned sure of yourself, aren't you?" he asked, careful to keep enough distance between them that Jeff didn't shy away from his presence again as he sat on the edge of the bed. He wasn't entirely sure what the hell he was doing, but he knew that he couldn't stop himself now.
The silence between them was filled with confused resentment as Jeff finally moved, turning to rest his back against the wall, his arms wrapped around his knees. Another long moment, during which Mark waited, his unmoving pose a mask for his own increasing uncertainties. Regardless of the long-time feelings he'd hidden for the younger man, he'd never had any sign that Jeff was interested in... well, anything, before this. And even this might not mean what it seemed to... he was leaving himself wide open, something that he never did.
"Why're you lookin' at me like that?" The words were soft, bewildered, and caught Mark's attention immediately. Jeff had pulled his knees up close to his chest and was resting his head on them, looking sideways at Mark. Tension was written in every line of his body, and Mark had to remind himself not to reach out and touch. All he could do now was play it by ear, trying not to over-think things.
"Like what?" His voice was equally soft, and he was afraid that his gaze was, too. He'd always tried to control himself, but something about Jeff just seemed to draw things out of him.
Jeff shifted slightly, a frown on his face. Mark caught his hand before it could move to try to trace away the wrinkled line.
"Like that. Like you care about me. Like... like you want to touch me." This time he barely caught the last words, as Jeff's voice trailed off into silence. The normally honey-smooth tone was rough with emotion, the dark eyes shuttered.
"Maybe because I do." There. He'd said it. Now to see what sort of hell might break loose. The stories about "Hurricane Hardy" backstage were many and varied... and all based in reality. Not that he'd ever wondered secretly what it would be like to have that particular storm blowing over him... Pushing his mind firmly away from those thoughts, Mark watched as Jeff's eyes widened.
This time, the silence was tense with potential energy.
"You don't mean that." The uncertainty in the voice belied the statement. Looking into the eyes focused so intently on him, Mark discovered something that he'd never thought he'd see in the man in front of him: hope. It was just the barest hint of emotion, but it was absolutely impossible to ignore.
"I do." Simple words, but not a simple answer. Mark drew in a slow breath, keeping his discovery in mind as he asked quietly, purposely mimicking their earlier aborted conversation, "And you?"
Absolute stillness in that body as Jeff took in the question and all the potential meanings behind it. Green eyes closed for a moment, bringing a sudden fear to Mark that he tried his best to ignore. He was standing with one foot over the edge of a cliff... and he'd just given Jeff the ability to either push him over the edge or pull him back from it.
The slim body uncurled, twisted, as Jeff turned to face him, resting on his knees. Mark realised with some bemusement that the move brought Jeff close to eye level with him, but his attention was absorbed with the expression on Jeff's face. The slight flicker of hope that he'd spotted had grown to a warm glow, the lips now curled with a slightly hesitant smile.
"I... I'd like that." Barely above a whisper, but Mark would've heard those words even if he were deaf. His heart pounding, he reached out, slowly tracing the curve of Jeff's cheek with one finger. The other man had always been exotic-looking, the effect only heightened by the wild hair dyes and brightly coloured clothing, but over the last few years, Jeff had matured. Not the scrawny kid he'd been when Mark had first met him, he was slim now rather than frighteningly thin, subtle curves where angles had been. The struggles he'd fought through had left their marks on him, but overall the effect was to make him a man fully comfortable in his own skin, the hard-earned wisdom in his eyes showing only occasionally but always present.
Letting his fingers curve around the side of Jeff's face, the soft sigh in response surprised him.
"Mark..." Long fingers came up to wrap around his wrist, holding his hand in place as Jeff looked at him. This time, Mark could read the emotions clearly written in green depths, and spurred on by the surprised happiness therein, he brought his free hand up to rest on Jeff's shoulder. This time there was no flinching.
Gentle fingers on his own face made his eyes drift shut as they traced over his skin. Making a quiet noise as they tangled in his hair, Mark's eyes flew open again as the bed shifted, meeting green eyes now scant inches from his own. Jeff smiled at him, but Mark could feel a tremour running through him.
"Jeff, you don't–" He stopped himself. Obviously neither of them had to be doing this. Jeff shook his head.
"No. I... I think I do." The words were still quiet, but without the underlying sharp edge that had hurt to hear just moments earlier.
As Mark realised what Jeff had said, warm lips pressed softly against his and his whirling thoughts receded into the distance as his focus shifted to the man kissing him. His hand slid to the back of Jeff's head, not pushing but encouraging, and his senses filled with sparkling green eyes and an unfamiliar but enticing musky scent. It was over far too soon, but Mark knew that he'd feel that kiss until the day he died.
Another silence passed between them, for the first time comfortable. Only as Mark drew in a slow breath did he realise that he'd drawn Jeff into his arms... and that Jeff was still there, his head resting against Mark's shoulder, watching him. Taken off guard by the last few minutes as he was, Mark didn't miss the fact that it felt absolutely right.
"Don't make me leave, Mark. Please." A whisper again, all unguarded hope and worry with... something else... underneath. Allowing his hand to slide across Jeff's back in slow soothing circles, Mark smiled and accepted the metaphorical hand. There would be no falling off cliffs today.
"I won't. I promise." The words were gravelly, and Mark cleared his throat, warmth blossoming somewhere inside him at the quietly delighted smile that lit up Jeff's face. A glance out the window showed him that the snow was still falling in heavy flakes. For the first time, it occurred to him that a blizzard was just another type of storm, and he knew that he'd never look at snow quite the same way again.
~ finis ~