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should old acquaintance be forgot

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An empty gaze, no recollection or feeling whatsoever. Again.

Again, again, again.

Jack is by himself in the ruin, fighting monsters without any of the others. Astos silently watches before finally making himself known. And then Jack turns those empty eyes on him.

Maybe he could've handled it, if that had been all. But Jack opens his mouth, too, and speaks. "Astos." Just that. Just his name, but — but the way Jack says it...

It's as empty as the way Jack looks at him. The name means nothing; he means nothing. Once, there had been emotion in the way Jack said his name. He hasn't heard it spoken like that in so long now, all that remains is wariness and mistrust. That's all Astos is to Jack now.

Jack will never remember. Jack will never remember him.

It's too much to bear, all of a sudden. He moves without conscious thought, rushing forward to slam into Jack and crowd him against the wall.

"Don't," he hisses. "Don't say my name."

Jack is still beneath his hands, face unreadable. Any moment now Jack's hand will stray to his sword. Maybe he'll run Astos through, and put him out of his misery. Wouldn't that be ironic.

But no, the sword isn't drawn. He doesn't even punch Astos or push him away. Jack just remains there, trapped between him and the wall, head tilted back in order to meet his gaze.

"What do you see?" Astos asks. "What do you see when you look at me? Who do you see"

Jack doesn't answer. Not verbally, in any case. He rocks forward to stand on his toes, and then presses his lips to Astos'.

It's so unexpected that Astos can do nothing but just stand there, frozen in place. After a moment Jack pulls back — and that, that does it. With sheer desperation coursing through his veins, Astos bends down and reestablishes the kiss.

It won't mean anything, he knows that. In the long run it will be forgotten, just like everything else. But even the bitterness of that knowledge can't take away from the joy of getting to touch Jack like this. His hand shakes as he cups the back of Jack's head, the short hair softer than it has any right to be. He wants to touch Jack everywhere, wants to sear it all into his memory, to keep safe forever. Astos will remember, for as long as he lives, even if Jack won't.

His hands roam over Jack's body, torn between taking his time and moving swiftly. It feels like time is running out already, as if everything will reset between one breath and the next, Jack's memory blank again, causing Astos to lose even this.

Desperation wins out. He ignores the rest of the clothes in favor of just getting Jack's pants open, dipping his hand inside to take hold of Jack's length.

Jack lets out a grunt, and Astos can feel him hardening. Astos doesn't have much experience with these things, but that's encouraging. He finds himself wanting to wring more sounds from Jack.

He begins to move his hand, gaze fastened on Jack's face, eagerly taking in every shift of emotion. The flush that rises on his cheeks, his eyelids fluttering close, the way he bites his bottom lip when Astos' runs his long nails over the sensitive skin... It's beautiful, all of it. His Jack is beautiful.

Astos isn't as gentle as in those most secret dreams of his. Not as languid or loving or happy. He's rough, even. But he can't help it.

Maybe Jack doesn't mind so much, in the end. He soon spills his seed all over Astos' hand, only letting a low groan escape his throat. His head tips forward to rest on Astos' chest.

They stand like that for a long time before Jack finally speaks. "Lover," he says quietly.

"What?"

"The answer to your question. That's who I see when I look at you. My lover."

Astos swallows. "No, we... we were never lovers."

"Pretty stupid of me."

The world comes to a screeching halt. "You — what did you just say?"

Jack's mouth slants into a wry smile. "It's true, you know. I'm stupid to not have made you mine before now."

Astos swallows. "Not going to argue with you on that," he replies, voice unsteady.

He watches carefully, foolishly hoping for a glimmer of recognition in Jack's eyes. They're bright and sincere and utterly gorgeous, the way they've always been, but that's all. There's no miraculous remembrance in them.

Astos averts his gaze, trying to push down the threatening wave of anguish and rage. He doesn't want to ruin this moment; it's something he plans to live on for a long time to come.

Jack's hand move to cover his, and he's powerless to resist looking up again. They stare at each other in silence as Astos' fingers twitch, wanting to entwine themselves with Jack's.

With a frustrated grunt Jack tears off his gloves, and then lifts his hand towards Astos' face, stopping just short of touching. "May I?"

"What?" Astos says, only to realize that the answer to his question doesn't matter. "Yes. Please. Anything."

Jack lets out a low chuckle. "Just wanted to know if I could take off your crown." His hand closes the final distance, gently removing Astos' headdress. He looks at it for a moment, running the thin silver chain between his fingers, before setting it aside. His hand raises again, this time to bury itself in Astos' hair.

It feels good. Like a desire finally slaked, a deep yearning held for so long that he'd come to believe it was just another part of himself. He leans into the touch, a heartbeat away from shamelessly begging Jack to not stop.

Jack's fingers move to trail along the sharp lines of Astos' ear, and it's suddenly too much. He presses forward, initiating another kiss that has them both breathless when they break apart.

"Sensitive spot, huh?" Jack's voice is teasing, almost affectionately so. "I'll remember that."

Astos has been doing a good job of deluding himself so far, but there are limits. He shakes his head, smiling ruefully. "No, you won't."

"Astos..."

"It's fine," he manages to say. "It makes no difference. Here, touch me."

But maybe some echo of his old Jack is still in there, the one who had stood in front of him, utterly steadfast, repeatedly swearing that he wouldn't forget, for Jack does no such thing. He merely looks Astos deep in the eye, and says, "Whatever I did or didn't do, I'm sorry. I will not forget this, though. I won't."

It's another lie. One among many, and just as sweet and wonderful as the rest.

Astos forces himself to smile and nod. He can lie, too.