Jay has a problem.
Okay, so Kay would say - pretty much depending on the day of the week, his grumpy-ass mood of the day or heck, the moon in Virgo 'cause turns out astrology's really a thing - that a) Jay is a problem, no doubt about it, has been since day one, or b) Jay's got so many damn problems it's kinda hard to single one out for consideration.
Still, fact is: Jay has a problem and it's kinda personal. Not personal like the time he caught the oozy tongue thing from the Deciman ambassador - seemed like everyone at the office knew about that, freaking loose-lipped gossips in the med bay, and hey, how was he meant to know he'd catch Deciman Tongue Flu from a peck on the cheek at the office Christmas party?
("They generally just call it 'flu', Slick," Kay'd told him. Jay stoically ignored him. Anything that oozed that way couldn't just be flu.)
It's personal 'cause no one else can know. Literally, not just figuratively, not just metaphorically, 'cause it turns out it just won't stick in their heads for more than twelve minutes at a time (he's gotten out a stopwatch on a lanyard like it's timing a track meet and put it to the test) so no one can know.
Griffin says that's just how time travel works sometimes.
The first time was six nights after he got back from Cape Canaveral.
They'd been out all day chasing down a Fermanian with a head cold who'd been draining gallons of sticky-ass, flammable mucus into the freaking subway ("Next time, why don't you just use a tissue like everyone else, Tyrone," Jay told him. Kay suggested hopping a garbage barge and trying not to light up a perpetual a tyre fire in the process), and Jay'd wandered home to sleep off the wearing damn effect of the subsequent hour-long power-shower. He took a quick shower of the regular kind - one of the non-human techs down in Medical liked to add a puff of baby powder at the end of the cycle and there were places Jay just did not need to be collecting dust - and then headed to bed.
He was asleep pretty much as soon as his head hit the pillow, except one second he was closing his eyes in his own apartment and the next he was opening them someplace else. Someplace half familiar. Someplace whose occupant was absolutely, 100% familiar. Someplace he had to be dreaming 'cause he sure as hell hadn't taken a jump off of any tall buildings lately, at least not since the last one though he guessed that counted as lately, it just seemed like weeks ago somehow. Either way, he sure didn't have plans to do that again anytime soon.
"Thought you'd gone home, Slick," Young Kay said, glancing at him over his frying pan.
"Pretty sure I did, Kay," Jay replied.
"Sure, I mean, I can see that real clear." Kay gestured at him with a wooden spoon then went right on cooking his pan of eggs like a time-traveller from the future walking in on breakfast was just one of those things. Heck, in their line of work, Jay guessed it kinda was; that or he was dreaming. He was pretty sure he had to be dreaming.
Kay made enough for two and they sat down at Kay's little two-man formica kitchen table to eat in silence. Kay still had on his daisy-yellow cooking apron over his shirt and tie the whole time and the vinyl-upholstered chairs squeaked each time Jay moved like a freaking conspiracy. Kay looked at him over their plates of eggs - they were pretty good, could've used a pinch of cayenne - and Jay looked back. He thought maybe Kay had something to say, judging by the quizzical look on his face (the guy had expressions, you just needed to know where to look and then look real closely), but he ate eggs instead.
Then Jay blinked and woke up back in bed in 2012. It was kinda disconcerting.
He had eggs for breakfast while he mulled it over. He left out the cayenne, 'cause Kay would've.
At first it was only maybe once a week, tops, and the rest of the time he dreamed pop quizzes naked in Mrs. Emerson's English class, running marathons dressed as Barney the Dinosaur, normal crap like that. When he talked to the guys in Medical about it, they didn't seem concerned, so he wasn't.
He could deal with that, maybe a night every week going to sleep and winding up in Kay's apartment back in 1969 - sometimes he wasn't even there at all and all Jay did was watch crappy TV he must've remembered from way back in the day, and then sometimes he was and they both watched crappy TV or Kay cooked or there were beers on the couch and Jay talked about his day 'cause sometimes talking was better than Kay just looking at him like he'd grown a second head and he sure as hell wasn't Jack Jeebs.
After a while, it was two nights a week, three, four, till five months, six months later, he was there in Kay's apartment every damn night. The time of day in dream-Kay's time varied a whole lot, sometimes morning, sometimes midnight and he'd trip over the coffee table and curse and Kay would yell Turn the light on before you hurt yourself, Slick, and Jay would call back, Yeah, too late for that. He didn't usually wake with bruises after, so he guessed that was something.
"You save the world today?" Kay asked, the second time he popped on by 1969. He was wearing his apron again, making dinner this time.
"Yeah, that's only every other Tuesday," Jay replied, maybe sarcastic but Kay took it well. He didn't ask him to stay for dinner but it wasn't like he asked him to leave, so he didn't.
"You save the world today?" Kay asked, his fourteenth time in 1969. He was straightening his tie in the mirror by the door, jacket on, glasses in his pocket.
"Yeah, man, that was last week," Jay replied, as Kay looked at him in the mirror. "This week we're catching up on the paperwork. You know you can't save the world these days without form P99-dash-C made out in triplicate?"
Kay left for work and Jay kicked back in his apartment 'cause, well, he hadn't been asked to leave.
(Neither of them mentioned how P99-dash-C was authorization to requisition livestock from a dairy farm. Jay knew Kay knew.)
"You save the world today?" Kay asked, his thirty-seventh time in 1969.
It was New Year's Eve that time, at least in 1969 if not in 2013 - they'd passed that by a month ago by then, complete with crappy office party where Frank photocopied his ass and boy, were there things Jay couldn't unsee. Kay was in his stocking feet and shirtsleeves on the couch by the TV and gestured to the beer he'd gotten out ready for him on the coffee table, just in case. Jay snagged it with one hand and sat down real heavy right there next to him, not even bothering to take off his jacket.
"Yeah," he replied. "I saved the world today. And you almost died, you crazy ass."
Kay shot him a sideways glance as he took a nonchalant damn swig of beer. "Sure," he said. "That's how the job goes."
"Just you watch that mouth under my roof, Slick."
Jay shrugged. Jay sighed. They drank in silence. And he wondered if he'd still have 1969 - 3, 2, 1: 1970 - if his Kay bought the farm, except not with P99-dash-C.
"I'm trying real hard to sleep in here, Slick," Kay called the forty-third time, when Jay'd just tripped over the damn coffee table for the fifteenth time.
"I swear you move this piece of junk around just to mess with me, Kay," Jay called back. He frowned. "You don't, right? Tell me you don't."
"It's like you're trying to wake me up out there," Kay called the forty-ninth time, when Jay'd missed the coffee table and tripped over the damn hat stand instead.
"I think your apartment wants me dead, Kay," Jay called back, trying to remove the hat stand's prongs from inside his jacket. "You think maybe you've got a poltergeist in here? Pixies? Do you know Frank the Pug?"
"Just get down your hands and knees and crawl if you got to," Kay called the fifty-fifth time, after Jay'd knocked two coffee cups and a plate off of the kitchen table in the dead of night. Somewhere, a cat yowled. Jay rolled his eyes.
"How about you buy a damn night light, Kay?" Jay called back, wringing cold coffee out of his cuffs. "Jeez, anyone'd think you just get off on having crap to complain about."
There was a night light turned on in the apartment the fifty-ninth time. Jay sat down on the couch in the mostly-dark, no tripping, no noise, no Kay yelling out of the bedroom. It was kind of a let-down, dreaming four hours without a whole lot of light. He guessed his subconscious was getting dull in its old age.
"Just come to bed, Slick," Kay called the sixty-third time, after Jay'd been sitting there on the couch for an hour and a half. "Your silence out there's just killing me."
So, Jay went to the bedroom and he opened the door and figured, what the hell, the couch wasn't long enough to lay on and hey, it was a dream. He toed off his shoes and closed the door and fumbled his way to the bed in the pitch dark. He stretched out on top of the bedspread, trying to pretend like it wasn't kinda weird.
"Hey, Kay?" he said. Kay said nothing, so he started to speak, not about much, not really anything at all, but then sometimes it just felt better to fill up all the space with words so he couldn't get a second in there to feel awkward, at least no more awkward 'cause hey, crap was awkward. Ten minutes with what felt like three breaths and he was into Mrs. Emerson's English class and that one pop quiz he hadn't prepped for and Kay moved - turned out he was alive. Kay turned over, leaned over, and he stopped Jay's mouth with his.
"Did you just do that to shut me up?" Jay asked when Kay pulled back, not that he pulled back far. He figured the triumphant look he was imagining on Kay's face wasn't too far off the mark.
"Why else would I do it, Slick?"
"Y'know, if I had my lie detector here right now, Kay, your pants would be so on fire they'd burn up. They'd be ashes. You'd be lying there in your tighty whities covered in dust right now, Kay, I'm telling you."
"It's past 2am and I'm in bed," Kay said, close, too close. "You think I sleep with a suit on?"
Jay's eyes went wide and his chest went tight. Kay's warm hand slid over Jay's still buckled belt, feeling a whole lot more real that any time Jay'd ever thought about it. He'd thought about it. Man, had he thought about it.
Jay blinked, and in a second he woke up back in his own bed in 2013 with morning wood in his MIB-issue boxers. He rubbed his eyes. He sighed.
Jeez, his subconscious had a whole lot to answer for.
"Come to bed, Slick," Kay said the sixty-eighth time Jay turned up in 1970.
It was the first time he'd played Quantum Leap and gotten there at night since that night, and he'd've been a straight-up liar if he'd said he hadn't thought at least a little about what'd happened. He'd've been a liar if he'd said he hadn't thought about it in bed in the morning and in the shower, when he was sitting there right next to Kay in the car, glancing at him sideways every forty seconds the way he was pretty sure would make Kay wonder if he'd gotten himself a huge dose of Noflurian brain mites at the New Year's party and they'd just taken a while to incubate.
And okay, sure, Young Kay, Kay in his dream might've laid one on him to get him to shut the hell up, but the way things'd been going when Jay went to bed at night...who the hell even knew anymore. He'd kinda spent more time with Young Kay in nine months than he had with Old Kay in fifteen years and it turned out he was the same guy except maybe, maybe less of a grumpy-ass son of a gun. Jay figured his head'd just conjured that 'cause his Kay sure was. His Kay didn't go around kissing guys to shut them up, he was pretty sure.
Jay went into the bedroom. He toed off his shoes and he stretched out on the bedspread. And when Kay moved, when Kay's rough hand fumbled at Jay's face and their mouths collided, he guessed he was ready for it. He'd made up his mind. If it made his Kay stop wondering where he picked up the brain mites back in the real world, he could do this thing in his dreams.
"You need to relax, Slick," Kay said when he pulled back, one hand tugging the knot out of Jay's tie.
"Y'know, you could try calling me by my name sometime," Jay replied, on his back, stock still. "It's Jay. You can say that, right? Jay. Jaaaaay."
Kay's mouth found the side of Jay's neck and he tensed. "You need to relax, Jay," Kay said, and he shifted up on top of him, firm, all hard angles pressed against him, and that was all the proof Jay needed right there: this was definitely a dream.
Kay turned on the light. That was pretty unexpected and Jay lay there like a bug in the headlights - 'cept a Bug probably would've won against the car - while Kay straddled his thighs and pulled his undershirt up off over his head. It would've been a whole lot easier in the dark, except okay, a whole lot harder, too.
"This ain't a spectator sport, Slick," Kay said, his usually perfect hair all mussed, and damn, he looked amused.
That first time was weird and that was saying something in Jay's line of work. Kay was still Kay but also kinda not 'cause he was all in Jay's time-jump-addled head so when Kay's fingers worked on his clothes and got him stripped down naked out of them, when Kay stood himself up and tugged off his socks and underwear, when he pushed Jay's thighs apart...when Kay's hand grasped his balls and squeezed, when Kay's tongue touched the tip of his cock, well, jeez. Jay got his hands into Kay's mussed hair and hung on tight.
He came in Kay's mouth and woke up in a second with sticky-ass sheets. And maybe he felt kinda guilty, but somehow it made facing his Kay easier.
"Come to bed, Slick," Kay called, times seventy-three, seventy-four and seventy-nine. Jay did. He didn't regret it.
Times eighty-one and eighty-four, Kay sucked him off with his hands pressed to his hips while Jay babbled like Frank on too much caffeine. Times eighty-three and eighty-eight, Kay jacked him off all covered in lube, and number ninety-two Jay went ahead and repaid the favor. It was weird, really weird, really really weird, his hand on Kay's cock and that look on his face like jeez, that was good, like he hadn't gotten laid in months. Jay guessed maybe he hadn't; his partner from the future had been hanging around the apartment too damn much for that.
Number ninety-seven, Kay's fingers squeezed Jay's balls then fumbled further back. Jay's cock hardened. Kay's brows raised.
"Yeah," Jay said, though Kay hadn't asked the question.
Kay nodded. There was lube in the nightstand - Jay's never asked himself why. And when Jay pushed himself onto his hands and knees, Kay slicked himself up and rubbed his cock between Jay's cheeks and jeez, jeez, if he closed his eyes - and he closed his eyes - it felt so real he could pretty much imagine it was his Kay, not this freaking figment.
Kay teased his hole with the tip of his cock and Jay groaned out loud.
"Just do it already," he said, shuffling his knees wider apart on the bed. His cock felt heavy, hanging down, low enough it almost grazed the damn bedspread, and Kay reached down to stroke him slowly as he thumbed the head of his own cock down into place.
"Whatever you say, Slick," Kay replied, and then he pushed on in, slow and firm, till his hips bucked up against him. It was the sound Kay made as he did it that made Jay grin like he really had brain mites. When Kay came in him, fingers tight at his hips, when Kay brought him off with his cock still inside him, Jay kinda had to wonder if he really did have brain mites.
"Well, that was a pretty damn successful dream," Jay said, after, as he stretched back out nude on the bed.
"Dream?" Kay replied.
"Dream. What else do you call moving pictures while you sleep?"
When Kay threw the bedspread over the top of the both of them and reached over Jay to turn out the light, he was almost honest-to-God smiling. Kay. Smiling. Kay.
"Sure, Slick, you tell yourself it's all a dream," Kay said, and Jay woke up.
Jeez, he thought, his fantasies had some kind of delusion of grandeur.
One hundred. One hundred twenty. A year. Eighteen months. Jay lost count somewhere along the way.
At night, he had what he had with Kay the Younger, appearing like a freaking ghost in Kay's apartment back in 1970, '71, '72, and hell, the clothes hadn't gotten any cooler than Jay remembered when he looked out at the street through the kitchen window. And when he turned up at night, he pulled off his suit on the way to the bedroom. Kay was usually waiting, unless he was away with work; he left notes pinned on the refrigerator door with a magnet that looked like a freaking nebula in the dark whenever he went away, back on the 20th or use the milk before it turns or whatever you do, don't open the icebox. He opened the icebox. If he hadn't've been dreaming, he would've needed form P97-dash-F for the cleanup.
Eighteen months turned to two whole years and Jay was still there every night. Sometimes, all they did was watch the ball game on TV and argue over whose turn it was to go grab the next beer from the refrigerator - Kay always won 'cause it was his damn apartment. Sometimes, Kay cooked and they ate at the kitchen table while Jay told him how they'd saved the world this time, back in 2013, 2014, 2015. Sometimes, Kay came home with pie and they ate it on the couch out of the box. Sometimes, they went to bed and Jay bit his lip and wrapped his legs around Kay's waist. It was like having a partner - another partner - just for the crap he couldn't have with the other Kay. His Kay. The Kay.
In the daytime he had his normal life with Kay the Elder, running around New York like it was going out of style. Kay stopped looking at him like his brain was oozing out his ear 'cause he stopped looking at Kay like his brain was oozing out his ear, and they went to work, day in, day out, rain or shine, alien invasion or just another raid on Jeebs's store. Dude had some heavy-duty treaty-violating narcotics stowed under the counter most times, not that they did any more to the average human than make the sky taste pink. The sky tasted really pink, Jay thought.
And it was fine, it really was. He had the best of both worlds, month after month. Sure, it was kinda hard to look his Kay in the eye the morning after dream Kay straddled his hips and rode him like a cowboy. Sure, it was kinda hard sometimes to look Kay in the eye when he knew he wanted all that crap with him, not some younger Kay-shaped fantasy. But it was fine. He didn't talk about some 70s ball game with his Kay like it'd happened last night. He didn't say a damn thing about the time he found him cooking in his daisy-yellow apron and only that and they screwed in the kitchen with Jay's suit still mostly on while the lasagne burned. They weren't the same guy. One of them wasn't even a guy, technically, when it came down to it.
They saved the world on a Tuesday before Christmas and they ate pie at Kay's favorite diner after while their scrambled-up thoughts had the chance to re-settle; they'd been neuralized and deneuralized about twelve times since Sunday and boy, that kinda left everything feeling like a Diet Coke shaken up with Mentos. (They were alive, though. No one mentioned how close they'd come to not being, Mentos or no Mentos.) And after that, Kay drove and Jay, bone-tired, scrambled up and half asleep, just followed when the car stopped.
"Come to bed, Slick," Kay said, so Jay went into the bedroom, pulling off his jacket as he went. He was halfway out of his suit before he realized: it wasn't 1973, it was 2016. And there was Kay, his Kay, in the bedroom in his MIB-issue boxers and neatly-pulled up dress socks. Jay's chest went tight. Jay's pulse picked up. Kay raised his brows.
"Kay?" Jay said.
"Jay?" Kay replied.
"Why are we getting undressed, Kay?"
"If you want to sleep in your suit, that's fine by me."
"Don't be an ass, okay."
Kay nodded. He put his hands on his hips. He shifted his weight like weighing up his choices. He shrugged.
"Today's the day you realize you've not been dreaming," he said. "I remember everything."
Jay has a problem.
The way Kay tells it, Jay's still travelling through time and probably he always will be. Griffin backs that up. It makes for a hell of a story, 'cause what it means is for Jay it's been four years and for Kay it's been forty. Kay still sees him every day, he says, another him, a future him who's Kay's age now. Every time they tell O, she thinks it's hilarious till she can't remember, but that's time travel for you.
"What, so you're not interested now I'm crotchety and gray?" Kay said, that night after they'd saved the world again.
"Dude, c'mon, you were always crotchety," Jay replied, and Kay, well, Kay almost smiled. Almost, but it was pretty much there, Jay thinks, if you knew where to look. He knew where to look.
There were more lines on Kay's face and he'd gotten softer round the middle and sure, so he didn't bend the way he'd done in 1973 but Kay was Kay. Kay was an emotionally stunted jerk sometimes but that was Kay. All Kays were Kay. Turned out his Kay remembered everything they'd done since 1969 and more besides and when they went to bed that night, they did it on their sides so Kay's beat-up knees didn't complain, Kay's chest pressed to Jay's back, one arm around Jay's waist. They fell asleep after and Jay did it all over again with the other Kay in the '73 sun through the bedroom blinds and made him late for work. He wondered if his Kay knew. In the morning, he asked him; the twinkle in his eyes before they got to work said he did.
Jay has a problem. Sometimes he wakes up with a headache and an insatiable craving for chocolate milk and he wonders if it's all a dream but the cantankerous jerk in bed there with him says his imagination's just not that good - it must be real.
Jay has a problem. But he's gotta admit he's not been trying real hard to solve it.