WARNING: This is slash! For those of you that donít know, that means this is GUY/GUY ROMANCE! And not only is it slash, but it is also CITRUSY slash. If you donít like it, donít read it! Also, be on the look out for bad language. You have been warned!

Disclaimer: I donít own Jackie Chan Adventures, or the characters within. Donít sue, please.

AN: Written in a burst of inspiration, I present to you . . . my first slash story! Set during the episode ĎArmor of the Godsí, and really, TRUTHFULLY written at two AM without the help of caffeine. Iíll probably post a rewrite later. Flames WILL be laughed at, CC will be loved, and mindless praise will be much appreciated. I still canít believe that that this was the first JCA fic that Iíve written, but hey, one cannot resist the muse. I could try, but that would mean extensive mental damage. So, anyway . . . read, review, do whatever. On with the story!

Almost

By Avery

The bottle met the table with a resonant thump that rooted itself in the eardrums, and drew Chowís attention like a magnet. Head raising from where itíd been resting on his crossed arms, he met Finnís solemn gaze and contradictory smirk, and raised an inquiring brow at the Jack Daniels and double shotglasses carefully set down beside it. "Getting drunk?"

"Getting *you* drunk." Said Finn casually, thudding into the chair across from his black haired cohort and putting his feet up on the card table. It swayed and squealed under the extra weight, threatening to buckle and tip the whisky bottle onto the floor. "Youíve been strung out lately. Time to relax."

Chow pulled down his glasses slightly, letting Finn see his eyes, and the stony look they held. "Strung out."

"Alright, then." The green-eyed enforcer shrugged, and tipped the flask over the glasses, filling them with small flaxen puddles. His words were light, but his tone was not, and the stiff way he held the bottle totally crushed the illusion of joviality. "More like freaking out." He said, pushing one of the shots across the table. Chow stared at it, at the little rippling patches of reflected light on the surface of the liquor, and shook his head.

"I donít want to get wasted."

"Chow-"

"More for you, anyway." He said impassively and rose from his seat, whole posture reeking of doom and gloom. Dressed all in black, the thin light from the warehouse lights making him look pale beyond the tones of the living, he seemed to be less than human, a barely opaque specter. Heíd had the same underfed look for over a week now, ever since the infamous Ďspace incidentí. It was why heíd been commanded to sit out while Valmont, Hak and Ratso had gone to Spain. It was why heíd been unable to sleep for the past week without sweet little white pills that came too few in a bottle. It was why Finn had been asked to stay here also, and keep an eye on the smaller, thinner man. Even Valmont had noticed, and while he didnít particularly care on a personal level, Chow *was* one of his best employees. Losing him would be a business setback. "Enjoy."

The momentary silence was cold, and weighty with the electrified potential that exists especially in strained situations. Then Finn spoke, and the taught wires of tension snapped, whipping back with vicious intent. "Sit down. Now." The order echoed in Chowís head, ricocheting off an impractical and all-consuming desire to escape the presence of the other Enforcer, and recoil into the walled-off chasm of solitude.

"Why should I?"

"Sit down, you ass." Finn angled the whisky down his throat, coughing slightly. "Damn." He mumbled. "Out of practice." He glanced back at the oriental manís impassive face. "Sit. Please?"

Chow snorted. "Next youíre going to say-"

"We need to talk."

Another lengthy pause, dangerous in its anticipation. Then, cautiously, Chow slid back into his chair and took the glass in a thin hand. "Iím going to need this, arenít I?"

"Damn straight."

A sigh. "Shit." The enforcer glared at the drink, as if this would help it disappear, or maybe become more potent. Then he knocked it back quickly, letting the fevered scorch of it burn away the sour taste in his mouth. He choked only slightly, holding the heaves in till they made his eyes water. It had been a while. He didnít usually like to drink.

Finn nodded in satisfaction, refilling his glass, then Chowís. Outside, the bay smacked against the docks in a kind of malicious and watery staccato. There was a storm blowing in from the west, a big one, with all the trimmings: hail, lightning, thunder that made your shiver with the pure force of it. Been on all the weather channels. The red-haired man wondered briefly, before he tossed another shot, whether it would hit tonight. Strangely appropriate, if it did. Almost uncanny. Dark talk calls for dark weather, doesnít it?

"So . . ." Chow fidgeted. His glass was empty; Finn didnít know how the other man had managed that without him noticing. "This isnít gonna be about the Sports pages, is it?"

The red headed man regarded his partner silently as he refilled the glasses once again, trying to read his expression. Even with his amber shades hiding half of his pale face, it didnít take a Nobel Prize to observe that Chow was anxious. His fingers were twining themselves into knots, a sure sign that something was amiss. "You havenít been sleeping." Finn began.

"Thatís not true." He replied, but even as the words met the air, the ebon-clad enforcer dropped his head a little. Chow never had been good at lying.

"You havenít been eating, either."

"Now, *that* definitely isnít-"

Finn waved his hand dissmissively. "You havenít been eating enough." He clarified quietly. Both their glasses were bereft of alcohol yet again. This time, he didnít even think before reaching for the bottle. "Iíll cut to the chase- youíre acting all fucked up, man. Whatís going on?"

Chow didnít answer, and instead averted his eyes, staring out of one of the warehouses dirty windows and into the darkness beyond. He was shaking a little, Finn couldnít help but noting, and the shotglass was rapping against the tabletop with the tinniest of noises. Tinktinktinktinktink . . . like a pocketwatch on speed. It was disconcerting. And now there were empty glasses again, and his thinking was getting a little soft around the edges.

A low growl of thunder from outside permeated the atmosphere, and the Enforcer swore that he could smell, just slightly, the tang of ozone; though mostly what he detected was the alluring aroma of spirits. Across from him, there was the consoling clink of glass against glass, the slosh of liquor, and the light tap of a jigger hitting green felt, before a high voice so faint that Finn almost missed it whispered in distress, "Am I really the only one?"

The statement startled Finn, and he gave Chow a wondering glance. He was expecting another denial. But it seemed the booze was doing its job, loosening tongues and bringing down subconscious walls. "What?"

"Donít you . . ." The other man shivered, as if struck by a sudden chill. "What if Chan hadnít won?"

"What?" Now *this* was almost sobering. Almost . . . Finn narrowed his eyes at the bottle; it was more than half gone. When did that happen?

"What if that demon had killed him? What if . . ." The silence stretched out, a bleak highway, and Finn had one hell of a car. Oh, Jesus, this was *not* what he wanted. He had hoped the problem would have something to do with the time theyíd spent in that trash container, floating aimlessly, waiting to plunge back to Earth and burn up, or run out of oxygen and suffocate. He had hoped it would be something simple, something he couldnít relate to but could imagine, a sudden realization that life was too short. Not something that he knew about.

Not something that gave him nightmares, too.

He didnít know what to say. Should he spill, too? Should he mention the dreams of a moon out of alignment, of a dying world, of six billion starving people, of knowing that it was all your fault? Should he do that? Or should he just stay quiet, stay calm, stay cool, and pretend that Chow *was* the only one?

Fuck. He knew what he shouldíve done, at least. He shouldnít have gotten drunk.

"Hey, whatís important is that Chan *did* win, right? So no problems." He said cautiously, as if he was testing the words out for the first time. Chow just bit his lip nervously.

"I wish . . . " He stopped, and sighed, a long, drawn out and morose sound. "Stealing, fine. Intimidating, breaking bones . . . I can deal with those, you know? But . . . we almost . . . we . . ." His voice broke, and he shook his head again, as if trying to unsettle the train of thought pulling in to its station, make it jump the tracks. Finn couldnít for the life of him think of a good response, and instead concentrated on the stained tabletop and gold whirlpool in front of him. The guy was being disturbingly acute, pulling the exact feelings Finn had been trying to lock away right out of the air. He wished Ratso were here . . . the other Enforcer had a gift for being able to speak honestly and pleasantly, and somehow make things at least a little bit better.

It wasnít so much the noise that drew Finnís attention; it was the complete lack thereof. He looked up, and his green eyes fell on Chowís trembling shoulders, turned away from the table so that Finn couldnít see the face they belonged too.

He was crying.

Fuck, again.

Heíd never even *seen* Chow cry, except on the rare occasions that the agony from an uncared-for battle wound overwhelmed even a handful of pain killers. But theyíd all been there, it was just something your body did without consent, easily laughed away. Nothing to be overly embarrassed about. This, though . . . this was the type of crying that stemmed from some kind of emotion- and most definitely *not* a happy one. Oh, Chow was trying valiantly to hide it, to repress the sniffles even as they broke out of his mouth, but it seemed he was losing the war.

Feeling more than a little awkward, and pretty wobbly, too, Finn stood and approached his teammate. Oh, man, he wasnít trained for this . . . "Chow?" He murmured gently, laying a hand on his shoulder. The shuddering man turned his face away again, and raised a hand, covering his mouth.

"íM sorry." He managed to whimper. "I shouldní be . . . ĎS weak. Iím weak. Iím sorry, Iím sorry . . ." he stifled a quiet sob, and shoved Finnís hand away. "Iím weak, it didnít happen, I shouldní be . . . it didnít . . .we almost . . ."

Finn stared a moment longer, face twisted in indesicion, and then reached down, ignoring Chowís almost indecipherable protests, and hauled him to his feet. If anything, the defective and unstable table with the large bottle of alcohol was *not* the best place to have an emotional breakdown. Unsteadily, he lead his raven-haired friend to the one couch theyíd managed to bring into the warehouse. It wasnít much better than the table, being full of broken springs and covered in tattered fabric with the foam sticking out, but at least it wasnít in danger of collapsing. Yet. He sat Chow down, and followed, wincing as some stray piece of metal poked him in the ass. "Hey," He said. "Itís not . . . itís okay. Um." He hesitated, dubious of how to proceed. What did they do in movies in these kinds of situations? Well, he knew what you did with chicks, but . . . oh, hell, worth a try. Awkwardly, he wrapped his arms around Chowís shoulders, trying not to seem too much of a pansy. The man stiffened for only a second, and then melted into the embrace, still trying to temper his upset sobs. Only once in a while would one escape, a gentle cry that was as pained as it was painful to hear, and then it was back to shaking only.

Finn made a mental note to never, *ever* get his partner drunk again. Really, he had forbodings about it before heíd even got out the alcohol, but hadnít listened to his gut instincts. Heíd never really seen Chow inebriated, since the guy rarely drank *anything*. He didnít usually do a lot of what was generally considered bad stuff. What he *did* do was eat healthy, go to bed before midnight, and have miniature hypochondrial fits. The man was, in fact, slightly neurotic. When heíd first joined the Dark Hand, Finn remembered having to train him not to be scared of a lot of things- heights, flying, storms, San Franciscoís homeless, spiders- well, not the spiders. Finn HATED spiders. It was a healthy phobia. Hell, Chow even looked like the type of guy who was scared of his own shadow. He was slim, he was short, and his features were even slightly effeminate.

But Finn didnít knock him for it. Everyone had their own little quirks . . . and when you woke up in the middle of the night to screaming and howling and nightmares that left you sick to your stomach just hearing about them, you didnít ask why someone had grown up so afraid of everything.

Chow hadnít stopped crying, and Finn could feel the manís shaking in his own body. Truthfully, he felt pretty bad . . . Chow must have been especially distraught to break down like this, let alone allow Finn to hug him. It was damn weird, that was for sure. Damn weird . . . but kind of nice, too.

Now where did that come from?

Not once in his life did Finn remember being hugged by another guy, and enjoying it quite so much. It was in bafflement and, yes, more than a little curiosity that he glanced down at his friendís lightly shuddering form. Heíd never really thought the guy was unattractive, by any means, but heíd actually . . . never really noticed. Even now, he found it kind of hard to evaluate, with the man pressed so close against him- oh, damn, *so* not the right thing to think about. He could feel the mixture of alcohol and exhaustion and loneliness working itís wicked magic on him, arousing a mutant interest, and putting something else in danger of being aroused, too. Chow was smaller them him, wiry, built almost like the type of girl Finn liked to dally withó

And one more FUCK for good measure. This whole night was definitely headed in the direction of Ďoh my god, I canít believe I did that last night.í Finn wasnít unsure of himself at all, of what he wanted, but . . . a male? Another man? Even if he *was* leaning into him, head resting on more on his chest than his shoulder, body rocking softly in his arms . . . geh. Feeling decidedly confused, the wiry man glanced down at the top of his colleagueís head. He could smell his shampoo . . .

. . .

. . .Oh, well. In the end, he could always chalk it up to good old Jack Daniels, couldnít he?

Nervously, Finn reached down and lifted Chowís chin upwards, regarding his tear-streaked face and surprised expression. How would he react? He looked so . . . alone, and sad, and soft, glasses slipped downwards so that his large nut brown eyes peeked out, glittering with tears and refusing to meet Finnís face. Bordering on beautiful, like a girl . . . thinner lips skimmed against pouting ones almost imperceptibly, and Finn hesitated, sudden fear pressing behind his eyes as the man leaning against him went as rigid as a slab of concrete. Oh, great, now heíd scared him, and theyíd both-

And then, he felt something soft and damp and salty pressing against his mouth with a kind of desperation that you only saw in starving whores, almost triggering a knee- jerk reaction to spring back. Eyes wide with surprise, he realized that it was Chow, that Chow was kissing him, that they were two guys who hadnít gotten laid in at least two months, and they were *kissing*. It was terrifying. But- but in a good way, too. Shit, now he was just confusing himself. Best to let his hormones run their course. And besides, heíd started this; he damn well wasnít going to just cut it off. So what to do now?

Parting his lips just slightly, he ran the tip of his tongue over Chowís mouth, testing how far he would be allowed to go. It tasted like whisky somewhat, but mostly like tears, and as he probed gently, he felt the lips beneath his give way, allowing for a more detailed exploration. His hands seemed to have a life of their own; they made their merry way over his partnerís shoulders, down his arms, and then back up again and unto his chest, feeling the pectorals and ribcage. He was so small, it really was like a flat-chested woman, down to the minute whimper when he ran his thumbs over the hardening parts under the thin cloth of Chowís black shirt. Intently, deliberately, Finn pushed off the heavy leather jacket his friend always wore, revealing pale arms that immediately were wrapping themselves firmly around his waist. It was like having two pieces of steel twine embracing him, and Finn almost exclaimed at the strength they contained as they pulled him closer, so that Chowís stomach touched his, and Finn could feel a hardness bump against his lower abdomen . . .

No. No, this was getting out of hand. Shit, he might of been drunk, but he wasnít *that* drunk. Firmly, he pushed Chow away, breaking their kiss. The other man was gasping slightly, and staring at Finn with a mixture of despair and expectation, as if asking him Ďwhat now?í. He still had his glasses on, the little trails of wetness not yet dried on his face, and Finn suddenly realized in horror that Chow had been crying even as they kissed. "No." He said, backing away down the couch, shocked with himself, ignoring the heat built up under his skin, the desire for Chow's mouth on his again. "No way."

"Finn?" Chow asked, head cocked to one side, and that one simple word was so full of sorrow that the Enforcer could not believe that he had just- that he would have just taken advantage of that, of his friend and associate, without even thinking about the consequences. It made him sick. And it sobered him up quicker than anything else he could imagine would.

"Oh, god . . ." He scrambled up from the couch. "Oh, man, oh, Chow, Iím sorry . . ."

"I- I did something wrong? Finn?" Chowís voice, as frail as a childís. He looked like he was going to cry again, and sat, gazing at his horrified partner.

"I . . . I have to go. I have to go to bed." Said Finn shakily, and a sharp strike of thunder punctuated his trembling statement. He had to leave. He had to, because he could still taste the other man, and it was like a sirenís song. Who cares if Iím not thinking clearly? You want me, Finn, admit it. You even *like* that Iím weak, and out of my head. It makes it easier- "You should, too. Itís late."

"Finn?! What did I do? What did I do wrong?!"

"Nothing . . . nothing at all. I did it wrong."

"What?!"

"Youíre drunk, Chow. Go to bed. Just go to bed. Please." Finn turned, unable to bear staring into that betrayed face any longer. "Goodnight." With that, he turned and fled for his room, trying to put the image of what he could of done out of his head. He slammed the door behind it, and felt rather than heard the lock click into place.

Lightning flashed, briefly illuminating a flask of whisky, two shot glasses, and one quivering, frightened man who, what seemed like hours later, pulled his knees up to his chest, and began to sob harder than ever before, wails mixing with the sound of rain beginning to fall.

 

~El Fin~