Summary: It's easier to have the power of life in your hands
when you can tell yourself you're just a vessel.
Warnings: Rated NC-17. m/m
It was one of the first things he said to you in those huddled days when you were new to the Center, fresh from the shock of living in the world, his hand fatherly, wise on your shoulder, eyes fastened on yours as if he could see right through bone and flesh, into the mysteries of your mind, the grotto of fear. "Remember, Shawn," he told you. "There's a larger purpose to all this, much greater than any of us. We're merely vessels."
You know Jordan doesn't take his own advice to heart. There is nothing mere about him, his oratorical flourishes that have people leaning forward in their seats, straining as if each word might be the one that saves them, his larger-than-life ambition flashing garishly in his eyes. Even a casual observer couldn't miss it, and the way you watch him is anything but. You find it easy to forgive him, though, for this hypocrisy, all the other shortcomings. Because his words are your lifeline too, and you cling to that. To him.
This doesn't keep you from asking the predictable questions about your newfound ability, why? and why me?, doesn't prevent you from wondering if someone else might take a joy in it that you can't and never will. You find yourself thinking back to dusty Sunday mornings spent in the church basement, amazed all these years later at what seeped into your head when you were so focused on wishing away the ponderous minutes. As a kid, the Bible stories your Sunday school teacher Mr. Pritchard droned on about in his ceremonial voice always seemed so far away, nothing to do with your life, but now they're the only reference you have, strangely vivid, as if that garden and those trees are a scene out your own window. The thing that makes you go numb is remembering the punch line, that knowledge is the human downfall.
Too close to the truth you can't tell anyone, that it's not what you can do that really scares you. It's what you know. In the lightning-split moment when you put your hands over another person's heart, you feel it, pure life, raw creation, not like Mr. Pritchard wanted you to believe, no harps or hallelujahs, no miraculous spark. It's a wild animal tearing at your gut, all claws and primitive instinct, fighting to get out, too brutal and too beautiful to stand. When it does finally rip free of you, travel down your arms, through your fingers, make the leap from skin to skin, you see it for just a split second, this blade of life cutting the other person, and you find yourself wanting to apologize, wanting to tell them that you really didn't know what you'd done.
That's when Jordan's words always come back to you, the chant filling your head like a prayer. "Just a vessel, just a vessel." As if it wasn't you who did that fearful thing, just someone who lives in your skin.
Jordan's gift, this little bit of comfort, and maybe that's why the first time you're truly glad for your power it's because of him. He's in his office, file in hand, still working even while he's chastising you for not taking your nutrition classes more seriously, his tone gently disappointed, making you feel so much more guilty than anything you parents ever pulled. He stops abruptly, mid-lecture, his mouth going slack, eyes wide and startled. The next thing, he's crumpled to the floor, thrashing, his face rigid with pain. For once, you don't hesitate. You drop to your knees, do your thing, too selfish even for dread, your only thought to salvage the thread your life is strung on.
Afterwards, he's still pale, forehead damp with sweat, breathing heavily. He looks like shit, and you don't feel so hot yourself. It was different this time, worse, not only the clawed thing trying to get out of you, but you would swear, something in Jordan, pushing back.
"What the hell was that?" you ask, passing a trembling hand through your hair.
He shakes his head. "Just overwork, Shawn. Nothing to worry about."
"You expect me to believe that? That you had a seizure because you're tired? Get serious, Jordan."
He doesn't volunteer another explanation at once. You're not sure if the sharp heaving of his chest is for real or a stall tactic, but either way, you refuse to look away, won't give in.
He sighs at last. "Lily's baby," he looks past you, not meeting your eyes, "let's just say we didn't get off to a very auspicious start."
You stare at him. "I don't understand."
He smiles tiredly. "Neither do I. Not entirely."
He rises unsteadily to his feet, won't let you help him. He runs his hands down the front of his jacket, smoothing out the creases, trying to restore order. You still feel scared, and he must sense that, because he puts a hand on your arm. "Look, Shawn, we've both just had quite the adventure. Why don't you go back to your room, take it easy for the rest of the day? We can pick up where we left off later."
You don't want to go, but he has the file in his hand again, and there doesn't seem to be anything else to say.
It takes two days before he calls you to his room. Rochelle, one of the paid staff, knocks at your door after dinner, smiling in that slightly lobotomized way that you see too much at the Center.
"Mr. Collier asked me to invite you to join him. He'd like to discuss your schedule."
You don't realize this means something else entirely. You even take your orientation manual with you, something you find rather embarrassing later.
Weeks pass, become months. You have an office now, a title. Lily and Richard stay gone. Jordan never talks about them, at least not to you, never mentions the baby again, never explains what he meant when he said she caused his illness. You hope the seizures will just magically stop, the same way they started, or at the very least that they'll lessen in severity, but it proves just the opposite. The spells come more often, more violently. Jordan laughs whenever you suggest a doctor. "What could they possibly do for me?"
This morning, you're in the auditorium when he collapses. He's giving you pointers on the welcome speech you're practicing for the next orientation session, his idea, not yours, when he suddenly falls out of his seat, starts convulsing on the hard tile floor. You scramble down from the stage, lay your hands on him. Each time, it takes more out of you, and Jordan looks even more ashen when you're through. Staff members come running, and they have to help you both up. Your legs feel like they're made of water.
"Help Shawn back to his room," Jordan tells them.
You don't argue. You can't remember when you've ever been this tired. The rest of the morning you lie on your bed, staring at the ceiling. It's not until well into the afternoon that you finally stir, force yourself over to your desk, comb through your speech, trying to put to use the suggestions Jordan made. You're not at it very long when someone knocks at the door, Anne Marie, one of the chirpier administrative assistants.
"Mr. Collier thought you might like to go over those revisions to your remarks for the orientation."
At first, when this started, him and you, Jordan liked to play it cool, let a few days go by before he sent for you. Now everything is more desperate, the spells and the aftermath, and he never waits very long.
He's glad to see you when you walk through the door. "Shawn." He claps you on the back, gives you his bright, business smile. There's always an initial period of pretense to these rendezvous of yours. "Can I get you a drink?"
He pours it, and you see his hands still shaking. He's halfway through a tumbler of Scotch, fills his glass back up to the top. You wonder how many times he's already done that today.
"So have you thought any more about what we talked about? Adding more of your own personal experience to what you're planning to say?"
You nod, take a sip, not meeting his eyes. "I've thought about it."
Jordan moves closer. "You're special, Shawn. You shouldn't hide it."
You close your eyes, and Jordan's words bleed together, predictable favorites, chosen ones and revolution and our time to lead. The moments blur to black, the way it always happens, and by the time you open your eyes again, you're naked and on the bed, and Jordan's on you.
Sometimes you wonder if this is the power he came back with, that he never admits, the ability to blind people into bed. Then again, maybe it's just you, not wanting to be responsible for this, either.
In the end, it doesn't really matter how you got here, not when Jordan starts to lay kisses in circles on your chest, his hands sliding over your hips, tracing patterns on your skin. He has this thing about putting his hands everywhere, like he wants to colonize you, and by the time he finally kisses his way back up your thighs, you're hard and desperate and lost to any thought of consequences.
The only blowjobs you'd ever had before this were from nervous girls, out to prove something, giggling and halting as they went down on you. Jordan sucks your cock the way he conducts leveraged buyouts, aggressively, thoroughly, smug that there's no one who does it better. He holds your hips down when you start to flail, and when you come, he swallows intently, licking away every stray drop. There's a light in his eyes, fervent, a little crazy, and you're not sure if his meticulousness is meant to give you something or take something for himself.
He always fucks you afterwards, most times on your belly, legs spread wide, his mouth pressed to the back of your neck, voice in your ear, telling you over and again, "We're the future, Shawn. Us."
Today, though, he wants to see your face, so he pushes your knees back, kneels between your thighs. You close your eyes, because it's just too much, bite your lip as he pushes inside you. It hurts. Always does.
"Look at me," Jordan says softly, a command.
You don't obey at once. You need a moment, and you take it. When you do finally let your eyes flutter open, his smile warms, like he's proud of you, and you really wish you didn't have to think about this now, that the man fucking has been more of father to you than your own dad ever was.
You'd look away if you could, but Jordan won't let you. He says your name, "Shawn," a gasp in the back of his throat, like it's torn out of him, like you're the only thing that matters. He moves deliberately, and it starts to feel good. Always does. Just a vessel, just a vessel, you tell yourself. When Jordan comes inside you, his expression grim with conquest, you can almost believe it.
Usually when he's done with you, he cleans you up, sends you on your way. Today, for whatever reason, he wraps an arm around your shoulders, keeps you at his side, his hand stirring restlessly over your arm.
You meet his eyes questioningly. He holds your gaze, a good long while, and then he leans in to kiss you, taking his time with that, too. "Just remember, Shawn. Together, we can change everything."
It's the kind of thing he says in his speeches, rah-rah, a whole new way of life, but there's flint in his expression, like he knows something you don't. Times like now, you find yourself afraid that Jordan understands more than he's meant to, that he's taken things, mysterious things, that don't belong to him. You're never sure if you fear for him or the world.
He seems to read your thoughts, as usual, and pulls his arm away, slides out of bed, slips into his shirt, buttons it up with a busy, practical air. You pull your clothes on haphazardly, as quickly as you can. Just the thought of being naked while he's clothed makes you feel unbearably exposed.
You follow him out to the living room. "Well, I'll see you later." You're always awkward with these goodbyes.
You turn to the door, and he calls out, "Shawn." When you glance back, he says very quietly, "We're each others' strength. Never doubt that."
Certainty shines in his eyes as hard and cold as a polished stone, and the weak-kneed hangover you had from that morning is finally gone. You nod. Maybe Jordan does know best, after all.
Or maybe you'd just give anything to believe that.