“What’s this?” Jack asks him with a frown James knows has nothing to do with perplexity.
“It’s a rose,” he answers with a simple sort of smile, holding out the vibrant red flower. Jack does not reach for it.
“I know what it is,” Jack says, his voice even, “what I want to know is why you’re giving me one?”
“Well, why not?” James frowns but keeps smiling. Jack’s lips don’t so much as twitch.
“What is it supposed to mean?” Jack asks him and James’ frown deepens.
“Mean? It’s Valentines Day, Jack, it means whatever you want it to mean.” His voice is soft, coaxing and coy but Jack isn’t playing and doesn’t look in the least bit impressed by James’ words.
“Whatever I want it to mean?” Jack repeats slowly, rolling the words around his mouth before he purses his lips and folds his arms loosely across his chest.
James hesitates. “I’ve done something wrong, haven’t I?”
“Have you?” Jack prompts, tilting his head just so and James gets the most uncomfortable feeling that he really has done something wrong.
“Jack-,” He tries but finds himself helpless with how to proceed. He finally drops his hand to his side, fingers clenching about the stem of the rose, thorns scratching at his palm but he hardly seems to notice as Jack’s eyes burn into his own, stealing his breath away with their frostiness.
“James,” Jack all but purrs his name, drawing out each and every syllable in a way that sends a shiver sliding up his spine- half dread and expectation, half yearning and anticipation. “James,” he repeats; his eyes cold and staring, “what’s your real name, James?”
Ah. The crux of the matter, he thinks, swallowing heavily and smiling nervously. As if the curl of his lips and the plea in his baby-blue eyes could tame the fires sparking in Jack’s own gaze.
“What?” He tries, but his innocence is not quite as believable as he would wish. “I don’t know-,”
“Don’t.” Jack interrupts. “Just don’t.”
And James doesn’t. He just stands there, saying nothing.
“You have my name.” Jack says after a long moment spent staring at each other. James nods his head. There’s no point denying it. Jack already seems to know.
“You have my identity.” Jack says and again James nods his head.
“It’s not what you think, Jack.” He feels the need to add.
“Isn’t it?” Jack laughs without humour. “Because from where I’m standing, James, it’s exactly what it looks like.” He reaches into his coat pocket and draws out a sheaf of papers and an identification card. James knows they contain his picture and the name he stole from Jack to use in the future many years from now.
“Is this why you stayed?” Jack asks, his voice deceptively soft. “When your lady friend left, did you stay simply to woo me? To woo me and steal me, taking my name as your own?”
And James smiles, neither mocking nor happy but in a quietly amused sort of way at the connotation of Jack’s words.
“Jack…” he breathes, pauses, shakes his head but pushes on knowing that he must. “I stayed to woo you, yes. And perhaps, yes, to steal you but not like you think.”
“Explain.” Jack demands and James hesitates once again.
“I can’t,” James tries. The look Jack gives him tells him his answer is not good enough.
“Tell me,” Jack says, “tell me or this- whatever it is- it ends. It ends now.”
“It’s complicated, Jack!”
“Too complicated to share with your lover? With the man you claim to have stayed behind for?”
“I did stay for you,” Jack insists, stepping cautiously forward, “I stayed because you interested me, because I felt something for you I haven’t felt for anyone in such a long time. I stayed because I love you, Jack.”
He reaches out, laying his free hand upon Jack’s shoulder, feeling the tenseness with which the Captain is holding himself.
“What is your name?” Jack asks and he tells him it is James.
“It is,” he implores. “It’s my name now, here and now with you my name is James. James Harper.” He reaches down, sliding his fingers down the length of Jack’s arm till he can take gentle hold of his hand. He squeezes it tightly and never takes his eyes from Jack’s own.
“I’m still the same man, no matter what name you call me. I’m the name you cry out when we’re intimate… I’m the name you moan when I kiss you so deeply you can hardly breathe… I’m the name you whisper just before you fall asleep. I’m the name you’ve always know me by, Jack, but more importantly, I’m the man you’re in love with, and who I am has never been a lie.”
Jack swallows back his emotion, finds he has no words with which to reply and so stays silent; stays still and contemplating, his eyes all but imploring James’ words to be true. James smiles, lifting Jack’s hand to his mouth so that he can press tender kisses to the palm of his hand.
“What's in a name?” He whispers, with beseeching eyes of his own, “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
“Shakespeare,” Jack says with a shaky laugh and a nervous smile. “really, James.”
And James smiles. Laughs and smiles that brilliantly blinding smile of his.
“Whatever it takes, Jack.” He says, lifting his hand to once again offer Jack the rose; an offering of peace, a declaration of adoration and love, an appeal for forgiveness and understanding.
There is a moment of stillness between them then, a hesitation that could go either way and James holds his breath, forgets to breathe as Jack stares at the rose. Stares and stares till James’ hand shakes and he feels his heart lurch up into his throat.
Then Jack looks up. Decisiveness in his eyes, determination in his movements, and he reaches for the rose.
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