Alter Egos:

Hell or High Water: Excuses: A Valentines Day short

(Originally written exclusively for Sinfully Sexy for Valentines Day 2014.)

Copyright © SE Jakes
(Artwork Copyright Sinfully Sexy – I just borrow it :)

tumblr_m342vgazbm1r8vkkwo1_500_thumbAbout EXCUSES:

This is just a vignette that came to me after Monique asked me if I’d write a Prophet and Tommy Valentine’s Day coda—and for Monique, I will always say yes! The way it came out isn’t typically my style but when my guys talk, I listen and I write. Most of the time, I feel like I’m just their scribe anyway, which is a position I’m pretty honored to have. In my mind, this is set before Daylight Again. Before Dirty Deeds #1, too, since they take place during the same timeframe. So figure this is all about a month or two before the above mentioned books.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Excuses by SE Jakes

Tom thinks about Valentine’s Day once February hits, mainly because he always sends his Aunt Della flowers and he needs to make sure he keeps track of that. He ponders getting Prophet something, but Tom thinks that Valentine’s Day’s an excuse, and Proph doesn’t need any excuses. Everyone thinks Prophet’s notoriously bad at romance, like can’t even define the word bad at it. Like doesn’t even know it exists. Blue’s mentioned it, and so has Mick and Doc too. If Tom ever tells them that Prophet’s actually one of the most romantic people he knows, well, Proph will kill him. So Tom keeps it to himself. Besides, maybe no one will believe it anyway, and Tom likes that, likes thinking that he knows Prophet maybe better than most people on the planet. At least parts of him. Or maybe Proph just thinks he’s got everyone fooled, and they all humor him, because he likes it that way. It’s amazing what Proph lets the people he loves, the people who love him, get away with.

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It’s five days before Valentine’s Day when Tom notices the box. Prophet’s saved the sketchbook Tom gave him for Christmas—that’s a given. But he’s also got all the printouts of the sketches and the emails Tom sent him when they were separated—Tom found them in the box on Prophet’s dresser. It’s not as if Prophet was trying to hide them, because there’s no top on the box and it’s not a special one or anything. In fact it looks pretty beat up, like something’s tried to chew it and Tom can’t tell for sure but it looks like there might be a bullet hole on one side and there’s definitely sand around it, but that doesn’t stop Proph from stacking the papers in there, not that neatly, along with a picture of Tom that Blue had taken a month ago, when he was concentrating on drawing something or another. He remembers what he was drawing—another dreamcatcher, a different configuration because he needs to get it just right, but he’d been apparently so involved he didn’t notice Blue taking pictures. Prophet had. And now the photograph of Tom’s head bent in the sunlight sits in this box of memories and bulletholes, along with the keys from Tom’s first apartment, where he’d spent maybe a grant total of twenty nights and other odds and ends. Like a movie stub. And handcuffs.

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A package from King addressed to Prophet arrives on Valentine’s Day, when Tom’s finally decided to just draw Prophet some more sketches, the way he does all the time anyway. King’s present has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day—not to King’s knowledge anyway, as far as Tom knows. And he’s got to admit, the timing’s perfect.

“What the fuck’s this?” Prophet asks, unwraps the gift to find package containing a life-sized blow up alligator, with the card signed, Love, Your bayou friends.

“That is so not fucking funny. The goddamned thing almost killed me,” Prophet says indignantly.

“Imagine what he’d do if he knew it was your porn,” Tom murmurs innocently. Prophet looks up and glares at him.

“You make it sound so dirty. I feel unclean.” And then he’s looking back at the alligator, frowning. “There’s no duct tape.” Tom reaches into the pocket of his cargoes and pulls out a roll. “Did you know King was sending this?” Prophet demands.

“No. I’m just always prepared now.” Tom knows Prophet’s intrigued. Proph glances at the alligator again, blows it up and then sighs while the large green plastic toy simply sits there, saying, “It’s not the same. There’s no inherent danger.”

Tom smiles. “I’ll give you danger, Proph.” Proph rolls his eyes, but before he can say anything, Tom tackles him to the ground.

“Yeah, that’s good, Tommy. That works,” Proph grunts from underneath him, and then groans at the sound of Tom ripping the duct tape. Tom thinks about how most people wouldn’t think fucking while playing alligator isn’t romantic but really, it is, because the damned thing’s so fraught with memories—good and not so good—it’s all a potential landmine and even though the sex is hard and fast, rough and hot, there’s also tenderness mixed in. Even when Prophet does get control—because Tom lets him—and slaps his ass more times than Tom can count, there’s a gentle resonance there, a reminder of what Tom is to him. Mine. Together, they’re both each other’s mine.

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“You have really sick friends,” Tom tells him later, because King sent the alligator to remind Proph of the time he was left to die in the bayou with alligators surrounding him.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Proph says. He’s lying on his belly, duct tape still half on his wrists where neither man’s bothered to take it off. Hours have passed, because these days, when there’s time, they take it, like they know that there are days when there might not be. Proph’s got no casts at the moment, but Tommy doesn’t need anything else but Prophet’s skin. Proph’s letting Tom draw on him, and he’s taking his time as he maps out the space almost reverently. Tom’s own newest tattoo is almost healed—a replica of the bracelet Prophet gave him to wear on their first mission together. Tom still wears the actual bracelet over the tattoo, figures that, when the universe is ready, the bracelet will either fall off on its own accord or Tom will find someone to pass it along to, the way it was originally passed onto Prophet. But all Tom cares about is that he’ll always have that goddamned bracelet and what it symbolizes. No one’s ever taking it from him, or making him take it off, and it doesn’t matter what happens from here. That bracelet’s always going to be good luck as it circles his wrist, much in the same way Prophet circles him, in bed, in missions…in life.

Now Proph’s asking, “What’s that?” “Another dreamcatcher.” Proph doesn’t comment, which means he approves. Tom knows the drawing will fade away, but that’s not the point. What’s important is that it’s there now. Tonight. That the ink’s a part of him.

“You think you’ll ever get a tattoo?” Tom asks after a few more minutes. It’s a topic that always comes up when he’s drawing on the man’s skin, and Proph humors him with the same answers every time. It’s a ritual, the same way the drawing is. “Are you gonna draw it for me?” Proph asks.

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll give you a solid maybe.”

“I know you’re going to make me do something in return.”

Prophet grins over his shoulder. “Yep. And you know you’ll love it.” Tom shakes his head, but he’s smiling. He glances at the clock for a brief second, notes it’s nearly midnight.

“I know Della’s flowers got delivered, but she hasn’t emailed or called. Which isn’t like her.”

“Maybe because of who delivered the flowers,” Proph murmurs sleepily.

“Are you saying my aunt’s having some kind of Valentine’s Day fling with the flower delivery guy? Because that’s a little sordid, even for you.”

Prophet shifts his body so Tom loses his balance a little. He’s looking over his shoulder, smiling, but he’s not saying anything.

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It’s not until the next day, when Della does call, that Tom knows exactly what Prophet’s done. How Proph tracked Connor down is a mystery, one Tom knows Proph won’t reveal, and that’s okay. Because Tom truly believes there was magic in the man nicknamed Prophet, who’s barreled into his life and shares his bed, and Tom has no need see beyond the curtain. Instead, Tom will content himself with blow up alligators and finding various things of his saved on Proph’s dresser, with his drawings on Proph’s skin, marking him daily with ink and his tongue and teeth and hands. Before Tom goes to sleep, he notices there’s a brand new sketchbook Proph’s deliberately left on the table where Tom does a lot of his drawing. And a new roll of duct tape. So yeah, Tom still thinks that Valentine’s Day’s just an excuse…and Proph doesn’t need an excuse.

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