Jake questions, for what is probably the sixth time that morning, why he has elected to marry the person who can give the world’s loudest steam engine a run for its money when he snores.
Early morning light filters through the sheer curtains of the California villa, filling the room with amber light. It’s not terribly far off from the color of the whiskey that Jake and Bradley had so happily indulged in the previous evening. Jake, who does not possess the uncanny ability to sound like a landslide when sleeping, shifts groggily at Bradley’s snores in his ear and throws his arm over his face in a valiant attempt to slip back into slumber. Bradley (inconsiderate, handsome asshole) dozes on, oblivious to the world.
Awake for the foreseeable future, Jake drowsily assesses his odds of getting up without waking Bradley. Unfortunately, his position as little spoon in the California king means that Bradley’s forearm has effectively pinned him in place. While this would normally be a perfectly fine way to wake up, Jake’s bladder (and last night’s nightcap) has decided that no, sleeping in on the first day of their two-week vacation will not be an option. Not today, at least.
Jake groans internally before reluctantly lifting Bradley’s arm to make an escape for the bathroom. Not unkindly, he berates the Dagger team’s idea to finish last night at a distillery in downtown San Diego after eating at an oyster bar in La Jolla. Delicious at the time? Absolutely. However, Hangman’s splitting headache and churning stomach threaten to hang him out to dry. Not for the first time, he questions why he and Bradley didn’t take the day off yesterday before driving the five hours from Lemoore to San Diego. After a full day of training the newest cocksure batch of pilots fresh out of Pensacola, a long car ride, and a night of tomfoolery and drinking, Jake is hungover, stiff, and sore. Jesus, he’s getting old.
Successfully unentangled, Jake pulls a face at the slight tension in his shoulder blades and lower back as he stands and stretches, gazing around the room that will serve as his home base for the next few days. Maverick and Penny had clearly spared no expense with the villa they had rented on the outskirts of La Jolla: he wouldn’t be surprised if he happened to be standing in an off-duty showroom for Better Homes and Gardens . The decor is tasteful and bright, and the sound of waves crashing through the French doors isn't too bad either.
(“Mav, please, this is too much!” Jake and Bradley had protested upon their arrival at the frankly massive villa. The entire Dagger team would be staying there in preparation for Maverick and Penny’s wedding/Top Gun reunion, much to the delight of the pilots.
“Take it up with the admiral’s daughter,” Maverick had replied, mouth curling at the corner. “I think you would have more success getting her to leave me at the altar than leave her family without a roof to stay under.”
Not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, Bradley and Jake had acquiesced and trotted off to the master bedroom, vowing to buy Penny out of house and home the next time they visited the Hard Deck.)
Ambling to the ensuite bathroom, Jake grimaces at the beard burn between his thighs. In the last six months or so, Bradley had been experimenting with different styles of facial hair. Initially, it had started as a genuine exploration of how fast he could grow a beard, but quickly devolved into a surefire way to make Jake’s ribs hurt each time Bradley shaved it into some god awful style or another, eagerly attempting to make him cry with laughter. Jake’s favorite by far had been the chinstrap beard and handlebar mustache combo he had experimented with while visiting Mav for Thanksgiving. Bradley insisted on keeping it for a week, before conceding under the threat of no sex if he kept it any longer. His current style is a scruffy beard Jake pokes fun at for its unkempt nature, but privately wants to rub his face in every time Bradley walks into the room. Considering how often that occurs when an engaged couple lives together, it’s become rather distracting. Jake feels like a cat.
After relieving himself, washing his hands, and chugging some water with an ibuprofen, Jake slides back into bed, leaving a glass of water and two painkillers on the bedside table for his fiancé. Bradley breathes out a sleep-soft grunt and curls an arm firmly around him, exhaling into his hair and wedging a leg in between his thighs. Jake winces. While no longer in the honeymoon phase of their engagement, Mav and Penny’s impending nuptials had seemed to excite Bradley’s anticipation for their own wedding scheduled for the following year. A night of toasting the soon-to-be newlyweds was filled with sly hip grabs, quick neck kisses, and frankly filthy whispers in Jake’s ear, which Jake did not consider remotely acceptable when Bradley knew full well retreating to their bedroom was still hours away. Last night’s drunken return to the villa had seen the prompt retreat of the pair upstairs to the room, wolf whistles and sounds of mock disgust from the Dagger team echoing at their heels.
While Jake freely admits that he has a bit of an oral fixation, it had taken less than a month of dating to discover that the true culprit of all things mouth-related in the relationship was Bradley. Lieutenant Commander Bradshaw can chew through a pack of gum in two days; less if he’s particularly nervous about his kids’ upcoming training mission. He mouths at the collar of Jake’s old UT hoodies before splitting off to go for a run, and smacks kisses into Jake’s neck when he gets back. He spends ten minutes every night brushing his teeth, flossing, and gargling for fear that he’ll get a cavity (he’s had approximately three filled at the dentist on base and vowed to never let it happen again). His sweet boy presses kisses on fingers and palms and cheeks at every opportunity, especially if there’s a chance for his wily tongue to flick over some jelly stain or melted ice cream droplet or another.
Last night had been no different - “Fucking goddamn baby, please-” “Yeah? You being so sweet for me on my knees, darlin’?” - but he’d never been this . . . ahem , incentivized with such a coarse beard before. Jake would swim to the edge of the earth for Bradley, and had nearly flown there for him, but was not afraid to admit that the red, raw skin of his inner thighs necessitated a change in his facial hair choices.
Bradley stirs, his grip on Jake tightening before going slack as he rolls over onto his back and stretches. Idly, Jake rolls onto his front and wonders how much motivation it would take to get the Dagger team to play dogfight football again, like in the old days. Jake, like any red-blooded American male, loves a game of pickup football. He might even say it was his favorite part of returning to Top Gun. The fact that Bradley had approached him on the patio of the Hard Deck later that evening, giving him a sweeping onceover and a sly wink, is purely coincidental. Thank God for Bradley’s forward nature, otherwise Jake is sure that they would not have gotten together for at least another three years. Ten days later, once he was out of the hospital after the mission, he showed up to Jake’s apartment with a box of dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s and a stupid “thank you for saving my life” card designed for healthcare workers, and asked him to dinner. Jake has the card tucked behind a picture of the two of them at the Grand Canyon for their anniversary at his desk at home. So yeah, Jake likes dogfight football.
“Hi, darlin’,” Bradley rumbles, his chest still thick with sleep. He drops a kiss on Jake’s forehead before slapping a broad hand on his ass and hauling himself upright, reaching out blindly for the glass of water on the bedside table. “Oh my god. Have I told you I love you lately?”
“‘I love you’? Take a guy to dinner first, man,” Jake quips, faux-incredulously.
“Shut up,” Bradley grins good-naturedly. He flops backward onto Jake, who lets out a pained groan. “ . . . I love you.”
Jake can’t help the beam that spreads across his face. Even after three years, Bradley is so goddamn good . Jake has no clue what he did to deserve him. Maybe all the years of swaggering around with his dick out granted him some karmic balance that he’s finally able to cash in on. Or something to that nature. Jake doesn’t scrutinize his spiritual side terribly often. “Love you back, you goof.”
Bradley smiles at him before sitting up and glancing at his phone to check the time.
“Mr. Seresin, I am pleased to announce that we have a luxurious 92 minutes before we have to be in attendance for wedding setup,” Bradley announces smugly. “May I have the honor of taking you to this fine establishment’s bathing chambers?”
“You may, Mr. Bradshaw,” Jake replies, batting his eyelashes. “But I must warn you, I’ve heard my masculine wiles can make even the most punctual of men operate in a belated manner.”
Bradley huffs out a laugh. “You want coffee, babe?” At Jake’s nod, he stands up and stretches, bending to brush a kiss along Jake’s back before grabbing a pair of shorts and leaving the room. Jake heaves himself out of bed to turn the knobs of the two-person jacuzzi. With enough wheedling, he can totally get Bradley to rub some of that nice eucalyptus lotion he likes on his thighs.
Bradley returns several minutes later with two steaming mugs of coffee; black for him, a heavy dash of sugar and cinnamon for Jake (“Aw, babe, it’s just like you! Looks surly on the outside but real sweet on the inside,” Bradley had teased him, early into their relationship. Despite his ribbing, he had only ever needed to hear his coffee order once.). Jake, already immersed in the hot tub, makes grabby hands at him and pays his coffee tax with a kiss. Bradley settles behind him and tugs him back against his chest, idly rubbing circles up and down his abdomen. His fingers steal a little lower, which ordinarily would be welcomed, but-
“Fuck!” Jake hisses. His thighs are a bit worse than he thought, especially now that they’re immersed in hot water. Bradley rears back with a concerned look. “Wait, babe, it’s honestly fine, I’m just a little sore from last night,” Jake says apologetically.
“Forgive me if I’ve learned to understand the different ways you can say fuck over the years, sweetheart,” Bradley says wryly. He leans around Jake to examine his ruddy thighs through the water and makes a sympathetic groan. “Aw, darlin’, I’m sorry. My beard’s probably getting a bit too long, yeah? I’ll shave it right after this, don’t worry.”
Jake clucks. “You don’t have to -”
Bradley cuts him off. “No, I want to. I’ll rub some lotion on you and shave this morning. I need to clean up for Mav’s wedding anyhow - I think Penny would throw us out on our asses if we showed up tomorrow with any semblance of scruff.”
“Penny? Everyone knows Mav is the bridezilla in this situation, babe. And it wouldn't even be him doing the throwing, anyways - have you seen Amelia lately? That girl is like, seven feet tall, and I’m pretty sure she’s been doing Navy workouts with Natasha in her spare time. Girl is a beast,” Jake snickers. “But thanks, honey.”
They pass the next half hour with aimless chatter and banter, splashing more than a little water out of the tub. Jake is relieved when his stomach starts to settle and his headache goes away, aided by the power of some goddamn fantastic organic coffee. Jake is finally ready to concede that the water is uncomfortably lukewarm when he spots a box, neatly wrapped in navy with a delicate ivory ribbon, on the bathroom counter. In their rush to get to dinner yesterday and general grogginess this morning, he must have missed it. Wrapping a towel around his waist, Jake ambles over to investigate. On top of the box is a thick piece of cardstock with an anchor embossed on it.
Bradley and Jake -
Here is a small token of my appreciation for the two of you, as my former students, friends, and sons. I’m so happy to have the two of you in my life, and so grateful that you would be in my wedding party. Since you’re attached at the hip, I opted to only get one for you, but I did spring for the deluxe kit! Look sharp!
Jake opens the box to reveal a vintage shaving kit in a leather case. He lifts out the gleaming razor, running his finger gently along the sharp edge. He imagines grasping Bradley’s chin, tilting his head just so as the razor rasps down his neck, and - yep, he could kiss Mav right now. Jake looks up, waggling his eyebrows and holding up the razor. “You mentioned a shave, sweetheart?” he drawls.
Bradley saunters over, wrapping his arms around Jake’s chest from behind. “I could be persuaded.” He knows that Jake used to work at an old-fashioned barbershop in high school - remembers the day Jake told him, almost bashfully, over coffee the morning after their third date. He considers this to be the turning point at which Rooster and Hangman started turning into Bradley and Jake. Bradley loves puzzles, and learning this small detail - brash, Ken doll-Jake used to spend his time sweeping up hair and draping hot towels over the old geezers who frequented the shop - felt like snapping a corner piece into place. Made him more real, substantive somehow.
Bradley jokes that his fiancé’s most marketable skill is knowing how to cut a mean hot shave. When Jake is feeling particularly motivated (usually on a Sunday morning if they don’t have any errands to run), he’ll march Bradley into the bathroom and sit him on the toilet, reaching for Goose’s old shaving kit they keep on the top shelf of the linen closet. Half an hour later, aftershave applied and razors put away, Bradley will tug him into his arms and sway him back and forth, hands loosely clasped and chins tucked against shoulders. Jake likes to close his eyes and imagine they’re at their first dance at their wedding. They don’t get much free time, but their hour-long pockets of peace are sacrosanct in their home.
Work has been more hectic lately, since their current class of pilots apparently can’t fly their way out of a paper bag turned upside down. Sundays are now spent lesson planning for how they’re going to stop their students from flunking out, and more often than not Jake ends up napping on the couch afterwards while Bradley stress cleans their kitchen. A hot shave is a rare treat nowadays, indeed, making Maverick’s gift to them all the more touching. Jake beams at Bradley, a warm feeling suffusing throughout his chest. He makes a note to thank the man later, especially once Jake sees Mav has even picked out a soothing oatmeal shaving cream for Bradley’s delicate skin.
Jake slaps the counter, indicating where Bradley should sit. “Well?” he asks, arching a golden brow. “Whaddya waiting for, darlin’?”
Sliding a new pair of boxers up his legs (yeah right, like he’s going to subject Penny’s nice rental house to his bare ass), Bradley hops up on the counter obediently and tracks Jake’s figure as he soaks a washcloth in hot water under the faucet. He parts his legs, making room for his fiancé between them and closes his eyes once the piping hot cloth is laid across his face. Jake bustles around him, putting on a pair of boxers as well and prepping the parts of the kit that he’ll use with militant precision. Once he deems Bradley’s face properly steamed, he leans down for a soft kiss before removing the towel. Bradley blinks up at him, puppy-dog soft. Jake chucks him under the chin and brings the brush to his face, applying the cream in short, methodical strokes.
Bradley hums with pleasure and lets his lids slide shut, tucking his fingers into the waistband of Jake’s boxers. He prefers to not speak when Jake gives him a hot shave, choosing instead to focus on his capable hands as they work. He imagines Michelangelo slowly revealing the face of David in a block of marble, painstakingly scouring the surface and analyzing each angle before precisely bringing each detail to the surface. Jake is a lot like Michelangelo, he thinks absently.
The first rasp of the razor against his cheek sends a tingle of pleasure down his spine. He hasn’t shaved in probably a good month, and he cannot wait to be clean shaven again so he can finally bury his face in Jake’s neck without complaints of scratchiness. Jake’s deft hands tilt his chin this way and that, and Bradley loses himself in the rhythm of the shave - the razor scrapes, the towel cleans, Jake’s fingers run over the spot he just shaved.
“I think,” Bradley says languidly, during a pause while Jake grabs a new washcloth, “I’d like to do this on our wedding day.” As soon as he says it, he panics slightly; who the hell is going to give Jake a shave? Bradley has steady hands, but nowhere near the fine motor skills nor the experience that his fiancé has. The last thing he wants to do is make his husband put in work on what should be the happiest, most relaxing day of their life. Jake’s hands still briefly before dipping to run the towel under hot water.
“Oh yeah?” There’s a smile in his voice. “What about not seein’ your husband the day of until you walk down the aisle? I think my mom would stage a protest - you know how traditional she is. Says it’s bad luck.”
Bradley cracks one eye open. “You’re worried about your mother? I was more worried about you saying no because I can’t give you one in return.”
Jake actually laughs at that, a wry grin curling his mouth. “Darlin’, I give you shaves because I love you and I enjoy doing it for you. If this marriage is gonna be tit-for-tat, I’m not sure how long we’re gonna last at this rate.” Humor dances in his eyes as he wipes the last of the shaving cream off Bradley’s face and reaches for another hot towel. “You’ll just have to make it up to me at a later date, I s’pose.”
Properly assuaged, Bradley closes his eyes again. “I think that can be arranged.” He purses his lips, silently asking for another kiss. Chuckling, Jake obliges, slipping him a little tongue because he’s an asshole and knows that they do not have any time for it to develop into anything. Speaking of -
“Time check?” They have to be at the beach to help set up the tent for the reception tomorrow while the girls go get their nails done ( “Even Phoenix?” Bradley had whined. “She’s a woman last I checked,” Penny had replied dryly ).
“Twenty minutes, my strapping young lieutenant-commander.”
Bradley flicks a towel at him. Jake catches it and pulls himself closer into his space, nosing under Bradley’s earlobe. Giving him a quick peck, he snags the towel out of his hands and runs it under some cool water, placing it on Bradley’s face and snickering at his slight flinch. “You’re more surprised by the cold towel every time than I’m surprised by Bob sneaking up on me at the Hard Deck, sweetheart.”
Bradley grunts in acquiescence. “Maybe so.” In his defense, he runs hot - genuinely, Jake sometimes feels like he shares a bed with a radiator, especially in the summer. “So is that a no on the wedding shave, or . . .”
Finishing rubbing the aftershave into his skin, Jake snaps the waistband of Bradley’s boxers. “I think we can work something out, sweetheart.”
Bradley beams up at him and stands, tugging him in for a proper kiss. Jake breaks it to hook his chin onto Bradley’s shoulder, body instinctively beginning to sway back and forth. Twenty minutes be damned - Jake is anchored here with no plans to move anytime soon.