Jack heard the door open as he pulled a pan of hot caramel popcorn from the oven. Perfect timing. Mason was home and hopefully Gray had been able to get most of his paperwork finished, so the three of them could curl up together and continue their third run through the fourteen brilliant episodes of Firefly. Why oh why had it been cancelled and how had he not known about its awesomeness until Mason came into his life?
Their schedules had kept them apart for the last few nights and Jack had been looking forward to this all day, the three of them snuggled on the couch, watching TV until they started to doze off like an old married threesome. Who would need to go out with two amazing men at home? He could happily hole up for weeks just cuddling, fucking, and cooking for them.
Mason dropped his bag on the table and came up behind him. He kissed Jack’s neck as he grabbed a handful of popcorn that he immediately threw back into the pan, yelling, “Hot!”
“Of course it’s hot. It just came out of the oven.” Laughing, Jack grabbed Mason’s hand and kissed his palm. “Is that better?”
“No, but this will fix it.” Mason kissed him, sliding his tongue along the seam of Jack’s lips until he opened for his lover, letting him get a taste. Desire rose swiftly, and he clutched at Mason’s hips, pulling him in tight, letting him feel his cock, which was now hard and needy. Maybe Captain Mal would have to wait after all.
The sound of Gray clearing his throat brought them up for air. Mason stepped back, grinning at Jack. “That was a delicious hello.” He turned toward Gray, but when Jack saw the expression on their lover’s face, he knew they weren’t getting the same kind of greeting from him. He looked serious and…scared? Jack’s stomach knotted.
“What is it?”
“I need to talk to you. I waited until Mason was home, but I… Maybe you should sit down.”
“Gray, what’s wrong?” Jack asked, the caramel he’d tasted as he coated the popcorn lying heavy in his stomach.
Mason laid a hand on his arm. “Are you okay? You’re really pale.”
Jack ignored the question. “Don’t make us wait.”
“Thornton, the lieutenant from Major Crimes that I told you about—”
He glanced at Mason. “He’s been encouraging me to take the detective exam. He wants me in his unit.”
Gray held up a hand. “Yes, it would mean we wouldn’t be partners anymore, but it would also mean we could be out if we wanted to. We’ve been talking about making a change, and you’ve known I was thinking about going for a promotion.”
“Yeah, but, I…” Nausea tightened Jack’s throat.
Mason reached for Jack’s hand and squeezed. “This could be good for all of us. Let’s think about it.”
Jack looked at Mason. He had known this would happen sooner or later. Gray was right about it being for the best, but Jack had continually pushed it to the back of his mind.
“I just want us to—” he started, but Gray interrupted him.
“I told him I’d take the exam.” Gray looked at the floor as he spoke.
“What?” Jack roared, fear replaced by anger that threatened to scorch him. “How dare you do that without talking to us!”
“I shouldn’t have, but he’d already asked me before, and I’d put him off. He told me I had to let him know today, and you said you’d support whatever I wanted so—”
“I didn’t mean for you not to even tell me. Couldn’t you have mentioned this when he asked you the first time?”
“I—” Gray ran a hand over his ruthlessly short hair. “I should have. I’m sorry, but—”
“But what?” Mason asked after Gray was silent for several seconds. Jack was glad he’d spoken up, because he wasn’t capable of saying anything nice.
Gray sighed. “I knew Jack would react just like this.”
Fuck you. “When it was still something to actually discuss instead of something dictated to me, I would have talked to you. Now that you’ve kept it from me and decided to just walk away—”
“I’m not walking away.”
Jack snarled at him. “We’re partners, Gray, and now we won’t be.”
“We’ll still be partners in the way that really counts.”
Would they? “What about Mason? Didn’t you think maybe he wanted a say in this?”
Mason glanced at Gray, and suddenly, Jack knew. “You told him, didn’t you? When Thornton first asked you, you fucking told Mason and not me.”
Gray closed his eyes and took a long, slow breath. “He told me to tell you, told me I shouldn’t wait, but I wanted to think about it. I didn’t want to upset you if I was just going to turn it down.”
“Newsflash. I’m upset.”
Mason started to interject, but Jack held up his hand. “There’s no point in talking anymore. Gray’s made his decision. Thank you for actually trying to bring me into it.”
“I made up my mind to take the exam. That doesn’t mean I’ll take the position. That’s why I wanted to talk.”
Jack shook his head. “You’ve made up your mind. I can tell. If you get the job, you’ll take it.”
“I want to stop hiding,” Gray said. “But I want this to be a decision we all three make.”
“No, you just want me and Mason to agree with you,” Jack said, venom in his tone.
“That’s not true. I…fuck, Jack. I love you.”
Jack’s anger deflated, leaving him feeling wrung out and hurt. “I can’t imagine being a cop without you.”
Gray took a step toward Jack. “I’ll still be here.”
“We’ll all be together.” Mason spoke at almost the same time. He sounded scared, desperate. Fuck Gray for putting Mason in the middle like this, for going to him when they’d sworn they’d keep everything out in the open.
Like the time you talked to Mason about Gray seeming depressed, and he encouraged you to talk to Gray, but you didn’t. Is that what you mean by out in the open?
God, Jack hated that sanctimonious voice in his head.
He held up his hand, knowing he’d cave if Gray touched him. He’d let Gray have his way and forget how angry and hurt he was until it simmered long enough to explode again. “If you really wanted to discuss it, you would have talked with me the minute you started seriously considering taking the exam.”
“Would you have listened? Really listened?”
Jack wanted to scream that he would always listen to Gray, always consider what was best for his lover without being selfish. He wanted to stop being scared he couldn’t hold it together as a cop if Gray weren’t by his side, but he couldn’t make the words come.
Instead, he grabbed the pan of caramel popcorn and flung it across the kitchen, enjoying the ear-splitting clatter as the pan bounced on the tile. Then he stomped to their bedroom and slammed the door.
Seconds later, he heard the front door bang shut.