David always thought that love, first and foremost, was putting the ones you love above yourself.
With some people, it was easy to see how much, how fully, they loved you.
Well, Jack was Jack.
The closest David ever came to leaving Jack was after a drunken night when Jack had grabbed him by the shoulders and held him against the cold stone wall.
“David. You can’t be so naïve anymore. You’re not cut out for this world.”
“I’ve done okay so far.”
Jack laughed in his face. “No. You’re lucky. But you haven’t been smart.”
“Talk to me when you’re sober, Jack,” David said, trying to push away.
Jack held him there, hard. “You know, I’m just going to betray you someday. You think what we do, you think it means something. But I’m going to hurt you someday. And you won’t know what hit you, you ignorant little country boy,” Jack spat. His mouth was sneering, but his eyes were almost in tears.
David shoved him off and ran out, heading back to his own quarters. He punched the table with his fist and stood there, seething.
He started to pack his bags.
He thought about what Jack had said.
He sat on his bed, and tried to make himself breathe deeply, to calm down.
Why did Jack tell him that?
Even drunk, Jack didn’t just give away secrets. David had seen him far drunker and still able to manipulate dignitaries like it was child’s play.
He decided to wait until morning.
Jack knocked on his door at noon, face pale and hung over. “Sorry,” Jack said curtly, as if it were just some silly drunken brawl.
“Did you mean it? That you would betray me?”
Jack looked at him. “Yes. It’s in my nature.”
“Why would you tell me, then?”
“…I guess I’m trying to warn you.”
David stared in Jack’s eyes for a long time. “Why would you want to protect me?”
“I guess I still feel like I owe you.”
“That’s not why.”
“Does it matter?” Jack said testily.
David kissed him, hard, angry, his hands grabbing Jack’s collar.
“You won’t convince me to run away from you,” David whispered, voice full of loathing.
“Then that’s your mistake,” Jack gritted out and kissed him back, walking them into the bedroom and shutting the door behind him.
Their first time together, David pretended to have more experience than he actually did. He didn’t want to seem like some farmboy who had never done more than a handjob with a buddy (though of course that’s what he was).
Jack told him to kneel, as if it were a dare that he thought David would run from.
David did, smirking up at him. It was exhilarating, the newness of it, the submission of it, paired with the competitiveness, the defiance. He wanted to make it clear that nothing Jack could ask would intimidate him, and kneeling had never felt so much like aggression.
“Let me know if it’s too much,” Jack said with a half-smile, waiting for David to counter. “Just say so if you start to gag.”
“If I gag, just keep going. That’s how I like it,” David said, not breaking eye contact.
A twitch of Jack’s cheek muscle, then. Jack had sensed something, David realized. Maybe David had oversold it.
“Have you ev--” Jack started to ask, and David tensed, trying not to look nervous.
“You know what?” Jack said, changing his tone. “You’ve been kind of a brat lately. I think I’m give you just a little, and every inch more you want, you’re going to have to beg for it.”
“Yeah,” David said in his best deadpan, “Between the two of us, I’m the brat.”
Jack snorted a laugh and ran his thumb along David’s lower lip. “I am going to enjoy shutting you up.”
That first night, it was slow, excruciatingly slow. So slow, that David did end up begging Jack to go faster and harder. Though the ‘begging’ sounded a lot like exasperated yelling.
It was only months later, when their repertoire had expanded considerably, that David figured out that for their first few sexual encounters, Jack had been incredibly gentle in getting David to sexually experiment, coming up with all sorts of elaborate little games to help David figure out what he did and didn’t like, making everything soft and sweet until David just couldn’t take it anymore.
It wasn't all that surprising that Jack would be a considerate lover, but that he would dance around David's ego like it was some delicate thing to be coddled -- it was so unlike Jack, it was almost insulting.
David tried very hard to resent Jack for being so patronizing and manipulative about it.
Well, moderately hard.
Jack rolled his eyes. “Those miners have nothing to do with you.”
“They’re good people,” David said.
“You have no way of knowing that.”
“Jack, come on.”
“Forget it. I’ve barely avoided being imprisoned again. I’m not spending my precious political capital on your little cause of the week.”
“It’s a good cause.”
“It’s like you don’t even hear me.”
“I didn’t ask for your help, Jack.”
“Yes, but when you make a fuss to the press, my father will be pressured to respond, and then we have another shitstorm, yet again thanks to you and your big mouth.”
“You seemed to enjoy my big mouth last night.”
“I’m not asking for your help, Jack.”
“And yet, you are.” Jack stared at him a long time. “The answer’s no.”
“However. If the miners happen to find enough cash to start somewhere new, there will be no reason to send troops to crush the strike.”
“That’s not justice. That won’t change anything in the long run.”
“Exactly. That’s how your miners will get out of this alive.”
David sighed. “Where is the money coming from?”
David smiled, resigned. “Thanks. I guess.”
“You’re awful, and I hate having you around, by the way.”
“Back at you,” David said with a smile.
Sometimes Jack would get aroused in his sleep, would press against David’s thigh and whisper nonsensical things. David didn’t mind; it was nice, actually, to see Jack unguarded for once, and he could always gently push Jack over so he was rutting against the mattress instead of David’s leg.
Sometimes, it wasn’t random whisperings, though. Sometimes it was a name, a moan.
It took weeks for David to find a chance to ask who Joseph was.
Jack’s glare was enough to confirm he shouldn’t have asked.
Later that night, though, as they drifted off to sleep, sated, Jack said, “That guy you mentioned.” His stare was blank.
“I’m sorry,” David said reflexively.
“It’s not your fault. I… I don’t want to talk about him. Ever. Okay?”
Jack paused for a long time. “I made the wrong choice,” he said finally, his voice breaking.
David sensed Jack’s fragility, a sharp brittleness, and he treaded lightly. “I’m sorry it turned out that way.” He tried to appear knowing without seeming presumptuous. It was always a delicate dance around the twin dangers of Jack’s scars and Jack’s pride.
“Let’s just get to sleep,” Jack said, but he seemed calmer, so David figured that he had handled it about as well as he could have.
He thought a long time about what Jack said, though. About what Jack could have chosen over this Joseph, and what Jack might do the next time he had to choose.
He never stopped saying Joseph’s name while asleep, of course. But eventually, he would also moan David’s.
“This will break the peace between you and your father,” David said.
Jack just smirked. “Must be Thursday.”
“Jack. He won’t give you another chance.”
“What should I have done? Let him execute you?”
“He’s going to come after you, Jack. You need to go into hiding. You’ll have to leave the city right now, and when you lie low, you’ll need to avoid anyone seeing your face. I’m grateful, but you didn’t think this--”
“Good point. If I had just let him have you shot, I wouldn’t be listening to this boring lecture right now.”
“Shut up. We have a long way before we reach the border and I’m not listening to your moralizing the whole way. Did you bring any snacks?”
“What?” David said.
Jack rolled his eyes. “I got you away from the firing squad. I got us a car. I got us fake identification cards and extra clothes and some guns. And you couldn’t even bring snacks.”
David shook his head. “Fine. All I brought was the common sense.”
“Hmm. Can you eat common sense for lunch?” Jack asked pointedly.
“Well, you can’t. Your body would reject it.”
Jack just gave him a grin.