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such great heights

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It’s not as though Mark didn’t know about the trip. He knew about it before the trip was a trip, when he and Jackson spent the first of many nights awake, huddled together under a shared blanket discussing their pasts and futures and Jackson admitted quietly at three a.m. that he wanted to climb a mountain.

But, when he said it, it was just a mumbled morning wish.

Even as Jackson began planning, it existed only as a vague idea, something he’d like to do one day, maybe, if he could get the money and the time. Back then, he didn’t even know which mountain, simply that he would climb one.

Mark should’ve known it would be the biggest. Jackson would accept nothing less.

For three years, it appeared occasionally in conversation. For two, it was a mention of budgeting and how long Jackson thought he would have to save. For one, it was training and researching, almost every free moment Jackson could get.

Through all those years, it still just felt like a dream.

It was never Jackson standing in front of him with a plane ticket and an obnoxiously large backpack strapped around his torso, saying his goodbyes on the porch of their shared home before he departs to climb Mount Everest.

There were a lot of things Mark wanted to say, like how much he loves Jackson and how proud he is of his boyfriend for chasing after his goals and achieving his dreams and not to catch a cold and to stay alert, and probably more he should say, but once Jackson pulls out of an almost uncomfortably long, unusually intense kiss with a half hearted joke about needing that one to last them a while, Mark threatens, “If you die, I’m going to kill you.”

“Mark,” Jackson starts, gently, and Mark waits for the quick lecture about Jackson’s above average abilities and years of preparation that will both ensure his perfect safety throughout his entire venture, the one that he wants so the nerves rolling through his stomach and making him nauseous will finally settle after two weeks of near constant anxiety and he can have some hope of actually sleeping in the weeks that Jackson is gone. Instead, Jackson continues, “That’s impossible. If I die, I’m dead, you can’t kill me. You’d just be hitting a dead guy. Unless you know how to bring people back to life, in which case, I’ll be so mad when I get up? How could you have not told me? Why didn’t you revive our dog? Also, how rude of you, to revive your dead boyfriend only to re-kill him. That’s messed up, Mark.”

Mark interrupts Jackson halfway through part two of his long winded rant on the impossibility of reanimation, the fear he feels seeping into his tone despite his best efforts to keep it hidden, “Stop telling me why I couldn’t kill you after you die, just tell me you’ll be okay.”

A soft smile ruins Jackson’s too serious expression, the one he always wears when he’s explaining ridiculous things as if they aren’t ridiculous. Grasping Mark’s shoulders, Jackson drags him down; their height difference amplified by the step Mark stands on. He places a single, tender kiss on Mark’s forehead, another on each of his cheeks, and bumps their noses together lightly, promising, “Nothing is going to happen to me.”