Two weeks later…
Brendon wakes to a suffocating weight on his chest, and for a minute he thinks Mongo’s slipped inside the house and decided to crush him to death. And then the weight shifts up, across his throat, and Brendon blinks his eyes open to stare directly into hollow pools of black hovering just over his face. He would’ve screamed if there’d been any air getting through his windpipe.
“Where’s Ryan?” a voice rasps, and Brendon realizes the hollow black pools are shadowed eye-sockets of a very real person. A very real person intent on killing him, apparently, because he’s already feeling woozy from the lack of air.
Before he can pass out, though, some of the pressure is suddenly relieved and Brendon gasps, trying to take in as much breath as he can, feeling the spread of fingers still firm around his throat.
There’s another shift of motion, and then Brendon’s bedside lamp clicks on.
Brendon is pretty sure his eyes are the size of shiny quarters.
“Where’s Ryan?” the guy says again, and, fucking Christ, his eyes are hard and blue and Brendon is entirely sure the guy could snap his neck with a twitch of his fingers. They tighten again when Brendon doesn’t answer. “Well?”
Some fight instinct must kick in then, because Brendon’s hands come up to scrabble at the man’s grip and Brendon twists underneath him, bucks up, trying to dislodge the weight straddling his waist, but the guy is bigger than him – not huge, but bigger, and Brendon’s not helpless but the most he does for exercise is stroll the beach and lift stacks of canvases. The guy doesn’t even budge, just watches him with grim amusement until Brendon gives up, flops loose on the bed, panting.
“I’m going to ask you one more time,” he says, and he looks – Brendon shudders – he looks like he wants Brendon to stay quiet, like he’s just itching to take Brendon apart and maybe put him back together wrong. “Where is Ryan?”
Brendon manages a shaky, “Who?” He doesn’t even wince when his voice breaks, because he thinks it’s pretty awesome that he hasn’t completely fainted in fear yet.
Rage flashes over the stranger’s face and Brendon flinches and starts fighting again, this time catching the guy’s nose with an elbow, and he loosens his grip enough that Brendon can roll his upper body, squirming out from under him, further up the bed. Brendon kicks out blindly, feels the solid thump as his bare foot hits the guy’s stomach, but then fingers clamp over his ankle, tight and bruising.
Brendon yelps and flails an arm out and knocks the lamp over. The bulb pops as it hits the floor, draping the bedroom in darkness again. The guy isn’t letting up on his foot, and it’s like all his panicked energy left Brendon with the light; he slumps face down in his pillows, and feels fucking tears pricking his eyes.
“Fuck,” the guy breathes.
Brendon feels him move again, slipping his grip off his ankle, and then there’s an arm banding around his waist, hand shackling one wrist, hauling him backwards and up against his chest. Brendon lets him manhandle him without complaint. He’s too fucking tired, wrung out, afraid.
The guy’s breath is hot in Brendon’s ear when he says, “Fuck,” again, and Brendon shivers.
Brendon hangs his head and sniffles and the arm around him flexes tighter, sliding Brendon more firmly into the cradle of the man’s thighs.
“Shit,” he says, growls. “Are you crying?”
Brendon rubs his free hand under his nose. “No,” he says wetly.
Brendon presses his palm flat on his bare leg. “Sorry,” he mutters, then feels a hot full-body flush when he belatedly realizes he’s naked, all the covers kicked off him now, and that his ass is snug right up against this guy’s crotch. He can’t help the sudden shakes that rattle his teeth, tiny tremors as budding panic tenses him up. His eyes blur behind tears, even as his mind is racing, debating if he can jab his elbow back hard enough to surprise the guy into letting him go again.
“Don’t,” the man says, like he’s reading Brendon’s mind. “I’m not going to hurt you, okay?”
Brendon lets out a watery laugh, throat sore and ankle throbbing.
The guy’s hand opens up on Brendon’s side, fingers petting along his skin in what seems like an absent gesture. “That’s not hurt,” he says, low and quiet, like a threat, like he could show Brendon just what hurt is if he pushed him. “You’re fine.”
Brendon kind of wants to argue that, but it’d be really stupid. Brendon doesn’t always have the best common sense, but he’s not a complete moron. “’Kay,” Brendon says thickly.
“Good.” He pats his hip and Brendon sucks in a breath. The guy ignores it, though, just holds him still and says, “You’re Brendon?”
Brendon bites his lip and nods, feels the back of his head brush the guy’s face.
“All right, Brendon. I’m Spencer. We’re just going to have a little chat, okay?”
Brendon nods again, then asks, “Can I, um, put on some pants?”
“Can you—” Spencer freezes, as if suddenly realizing where his hand is, how Brendon’s basically in his lap. Then he laughs, just a rough chuckle, but Brendon can feel it vibrate his chest against his back. “Sure.”
As soon as Spencer lets his hand go, loosens his grip on his waist, Brendon’s scrambling away and off the other side of the bed, groping in the dark for his glasses, for a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. “I just need to,” he says, sidling towards the bathroom. “I’ll just be a minute.” He flips the switch, light catching Spencer’s face, the flat set of his mouth, despite his laughter seconds before. Brendon angles in and slams the door and thanks god for windows.
The bathroom doesn’t have a lock, so Brendon tugs on his clothes as fast as he can, catches a fleeting look of himself in the mirror – big eyes, pale skin and blotchy cheeks - and shoves up the window screen. He stands on the toilet to boost himself out the small window. He has to squirm to get his shoulders and then his ass through the tiny opening, but then he’s falling face first into the bushes and rolling to his feet.
The night is warm and dark under a new moon, only starlight throwing shadows across Brendon’s sandy backyard. In the distance, he hears Mongo howl and a sliver of dread trips down his spine.
Sweet Beulah’s in the shed at the end of the yard, the key hanging just inside the door. He can drive her into town – hopefully Spencer won’t know about the cart, and will think he’s taken off on foot down the beach. The biggest problem, though, will be trying to get the moody bitch to start.
“Awesome,” he says quietly, hands shaking as he slides behind the wheel of the golf cart. “My life is fucking awesome. This is crazy. And now I’m talking to myself.” He turns the key in the ignition and SB whirs and coughs a little, then sputters out.
Brendon considers banging his head against the steering wheel, but decides it’d take too much precious time. He just tries and tries again, but SB remains stubbornly silent and immobile. Brendon is getting this heap of junk trashed, just as soon as he gets out of this mess alive.
“Well, this is a shame. I guess I’m gonna have to tie you up now.”
Brendon’s forehead hits the horn. It makes him jump a little, hands tightening around the wheel.
“Let’s go,” Spencer says from the doorway.
Brendon grits his teeth and steps slowly out of SB, but doesn’t move any closer to the door. He’s not going to make it fucking easy for this guy.
Spencer’s a hulking silhouette, framed by the rough cut shed, backlit by the stars. He’s got his arms crossed and a hip cocked. He says, “You’re a real pain in my ass, you know that?”
Brendon shuffles back as Spencer ducks into the dark shed, moves until he hits the sheet metal wall. His nervously grasping fingers brush a wooden handle off to the side, which is pure blind awesome luck. By the time Spencer’s within three feet, Brendon has the shovel up and clutched between both hands. He swings the flat of it through the air, and there’s mellow twang when it hits Spencer across the shoulder.
Brendon hadn’t actually expected it to connect, not really, so the tingling shock of it glancing off Spencer causes him to drop the shovel onto the hard packed dirt by their feet.
Spencer staggers sideways. “Motherfucker,” he shouts, and Brendon spares a wide-eyed holy crap, I did that moment before making a wild break for it.
He tries to dive past Spencer, but Spencer recovers quickly and catches him around his middle, still off-balance enough that they both crash into Sweet Beulah’s front bumper.
“Holy fuck,” Spencer says harshly. “You hit me with a fucking shovel.”
Brendon lets out a semi-hysterical giggle. He’s pretty sure Spencer’s going to kill him now.
Spencer breathes heavily through his nose, holding Brendon close, curved into him as he leans against the golf cart. He drops his forehead onto Brendon’s nape, fingers clenching and unclenching in the thin material covering Brendon’s stomach, calluses on the pads brushing Brendon’s skin as the t-shirt slowly gets rucked up into his fist.
It’s not soothing, it’s definitely not soothing, but Brendon feels himself reluctantly relax against Spencer anyway.
Brendon is going to die in his shed, with Sweet Beulah the only witness. He kind of wishes Mongo was a guard dog. And didn’t hate him. Maybe then he wouldn’t have woken up with a crazy dude who can’t seem to keep his hands to himself.
Just as Brendon gathers up enough courage to ask Spencer how, exactly, he’s going to enact his slow painful death, something buzzes past Brendon’s ear, so fast and so close it flutters the ends of his hair. There’s a punch and a pop, and Brendon blinks in confusion as Spencer curses and pushes Brendon to the ground.
“Stay down,” Spencer says, then he tugs a gun out the back of his pants, and Brendon can’t believe his life.
Yesterday, he’d been painting a freaking sand piper, and now he—he has people shooting at him apparently, because he’s pretty sure that was a bullet whizzing past his head.
“What the hell is going on?” Brendon asks, clutching at Spencer’s jeans from his crouch on the ground.
“Shut up.” Spencer squeezes out a round, then says, “Fuck, it’s too dark.” He glances down at Brendon, and Brendon can’t see his expression but he’s pretty sure it’s still pissed off. Only maybe now he’s not so much mad at Brendon as he is at the people intent on riddling them with tiny, deadly holes.
Brendon presses a hand over his mouth and bites down on his palm to keep from screaming. He can feel his heart all the way up in his throat.
“All right,” Spencer says. “We’re getting out of here. I need you to stay behind me, okay?”
Brendon doesn’t want to go anywhere. Brendon wants to curl up into a ball and hide behind SB. There’s no reason for anyone to shoot at Brendon, see, so he figures these guys are after Spencer, and once Spencer gets the hell out of there, Brendon’ll be fine and dandy all by his lonesome.
“Hey.” Spencer reaches down and grabs hold of Brendon’s upper arm, dragging him to his feet and deeper into the shadows. “Stay behind me,” he says tightly. “Do you understand?”
Brendon gives him a shaky nod, but says, “Um, no.”
“Brendon, we don’t have fucking time for this.”
Spencer pulls him closer, curls fists into the front of Brendon’s shirt. Spencer leans down and his mouth touches the corner of Brendon’s as he talks. Softly, he says, “No one knows I’m here. No one knows I’m here, Brendon, which means those guys shooting at us? They’re here for you.”
Brendon freezes. Aw, shit. Shit, shit, shit, what the fucking fuck? Brendon’s an artist! He sells cheap seascapes to tourists; he takes photos of birds, of fucking crabs and shit. There is absolutely no reason in the entire universe why anyone would want him dead, and yet here he’s got whoever the hell Spencer is, strangling him, and whoever the hell these guys are, trying to gun him down.
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to normal people.
“This kind of stuff doesn’t just happen,” Brendon says, hands coming up to circle Spencer’s wrists.
Spencer’s fingers clench, making the collar of Brendon’s shirt bite into the back of his neck. “You’re right,” he says dangerously. “It doesn’t.”
Brendon’s pretty sure Spencer’s implying something here, and he doesn’t appreciate it. He opens his mouth to argue, but Spencer cuts him off with, “It’s too quiet. I only counted three men, but I couldn’t tell for sure. If we don’t get out of here now we’re going to get trapped. I’m parked about a half mile down the main road. We’re gonna run for it, okay?”
Brendon has no shoes on. Brendon’s wearing loose sweats without underwear. Brendon’s pretty sure he’s going to have trouble running anywhere.
Spencer doesn’t give him any time to protest, though, just grabs his wrist with one hand, hefting his gun – Brendon’s still having problems processing that – and tugs him out into the open again.
They aren’t immediately shot at, which Brendon counts as a win.
Spencer mutters, “Fucking hell, Ryan,” mostly to himself – who the hell is Ryan, anyway? – and leads Brendon away from the house and into the thick brush, the stand of trees that blocks the rear of Brendon’s cabin from the road.
Behind them there are shouts and several vicious barks from Mongo, but still no more gunfire as they slice their way through the woods, Spencer practically dragging Brendon, levering him up by his arm when Brendon inevitably stumbles.
Brendon is pretty sure this is the worst day of his entire life, all twenty-six years of it.
His lungs are burning by the time Spencer slides to a stop, gravel skidding under his shoes. The bottoms of Brendon’s bare feet are starting throb, and he lets Spencer shove him into passenger seat of a dark sedan, crawls in and collapses on the plush upholstery. He swipes at his face with his palms and they come away sticky-damp with more tears, because, fucking hell, he’s been shot at and kidnapped, and Spencer gives him a dark, brooding scowl before he starts the car.
This is not Brendon’s fault.
Brendon curls up as far back in his seat as he can, jammed up against the door handle. He crosses his arms over his chest and pulls up his feet, hissing in pain as they press into the cushion. “What now?” he asks. He hardly even recognizes his voice, small and hoarse.
“Now we get the hell out of here,” Spencer says gruffly, leaving the headlights off as he makes a swift u-turn off the side of the road.
He doesn’t turn them on until they hit the edge of town, and Spencer doesn’t slow as they pass the police station, Greta’s shop, the Hill Street Diner. The town’s deserted at this time of night, and Brendon presses his fingertips to the car window, watches the houses get bigger and bigger the farther they get away from the bay.
Spencer is quiet. Eerily quiet, not even his breaths make a sound, so Brendon twitches violently when he finally says, “We’ll stop for the night soon.”
Brendon stifles a snort. It’s still dark, but he figures it’s almost time for the sun to come up. Brendon feels like he hasn’t slept for a week, though. His limbs are heavy and his head aches and he presses his eyes closed, dropping his forehead onto his still upraised knees.
“Hey,” Spencer says, too loud again, only Brendon just tenses up this time, doesn’t flinch.
Brendon shifts his head so he can look at Spencer. “What?” He can just barely make out Spencer’s expression in the wan pre-dawn light, the in-drawn eyebrows and downward curve of his mouth, before Spencer turns back to the road, giving Brendon only his profile.
“You okay?” Spencer asks.
Brendon laughs, presses the heel of a palm up against his mouth. It hurts his chest, makes his eyes sting. He figures that’s answer enough.
Spencer is really fucking pissed. Spencer doesn’t think he’s ever been this angry before, and most of it, a huge fucking chunk of his rage, is because of this tiny speck of a guy, this Brendon, who refuses to tell him what the hell happened to Ryan, and, oh yeah, got him fucking shot at, and, see, there’s a reason Spencer doesn’t do this shit anymore. Ryan owes him big time. He grimaces, rubs three fingers over his left eye. If he can find Ryan. If he can figure out what the fuck went wrong.
He glances up to see Brendon watching him warily from the foot of the bed, and Spencer snaps, “What?”
“Um. There’s only one bed.”
Spencer smirks. “It’s either this or I get to tie you up. I didn’t think you’d be so hot on that but, hey, I’m totally willing to—”
“No,” Brendon shakes his head, keeps on shaking it, “no, no, that’s fine, this is. Fine.” He tugs on the hem of his t-shirt, shifts on his feet before making a pained face and dropping his gaze.
He looks like a kicked puppy.
Spencer curses and stalks over to him. “If you’re going to be a baby about this,” he says, and Brendon yelps as Spencer swings him up into his arms. He staggers a little under his weight – he looks small, but he’s kind of solid – before righting himself and glaring down into Brendon’s face. He looks hilariously indignant, and Spencer rolls his eyes.
“What are you doing?” Brendon asks as Spencer carries him into the motel bathroom.
He sets him down on the lip of the tub – drops him, more like – and twists on the hot water. “Cleaning your feet,” Spencer says. He unwraps a bar of soap and grabs a washcloth, settling down on the closed toilet seat.
Brendon fists his hands in his lap, mouth an unhappy line, but he doesn’t say anything when Spencer picks up one of his feet, just sucks in his breath at the first touch of the warm cloth on his skin.
There’s only a little blood. His right is worse than his left, and Spencer soaps up the skin, gently picks out gravel and other little irritants. He lets the tub fill a quarter of the way up, then sets both newly clean feet in the water, pats Brendon’s shoulder and says, “Let ‘em soak a minute.”
Spencer gets up and steps out off the bathroom. His shoulder throbs, burns a little, and he massages it gingerly. He’ll have a hell of a bruise, but it isn’t anything major; he’s had worse. He still can’t believe Brendon hit him with a fucking shovel, though. He’d be kind of impressed if he didn’t think Brendon was hiding something vital about Ryan from him. There’s no one in the world more important to Spencer than Ryan.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed with a sigh, Spencer tugs out his cell phone and dials Jon.
Jon picks up after the first ring. “Any luck?” he asks instead of hello.
“Not yet,” Spencer says. “Any word from Gerard?”
“Nope. Whatever happened, they seem to think Ryan’s cover with Wentz is still good.”
Spencer snorts. He fucking disappeared, no message, no nothing. Spencer may’ve been out of the game for over a year now, but he still knows that’s a bad sign. “Yeah, well, we just got shot at, so.”
Jon whistles. “We?”
Spencer pinches the bridge of his nose. “I sort of kidnapped a guy.”
There’s a pause. Then Jon says, “Spence, what does he—”
“He knows what happened. Fuck, Jon, he has to know. Those guys weren’t after me, couldn’t have known I’d even be there, right?”
“Oh, hey, you do what you gotta do, Spence.” Jon pauses. “Is he hot?”
“Jon,” Spencer says sternly.
“That totally means yes, awesome,” Jon says, and Spencer can hear the grin in his voice. Jon has a bad habit of being completely inappropriate at all times. It drives Ryan crazy, but Spencer usually finds it amusing.
“Fucker.” Spencer smiles, quick and fleeting. “It doesn’t matter, anyway.”
“Of course it matters. Number one rule of the Agency, never kidnap an ugly dude.”
“You’re trying to distract me,” Spencer says.
“Hell, yeah.” Jon sighs. “Ryan’s okay, Spence. He can take care of himself.”
“Ryan usually has Kennerty,” Spencer says.
Jon’s quiet for a weighty moment – Ryan doesn’t do solo work, at least he never used to. They both know this is Ryan trying to prove that Kennerty’s defection hadn’t touched him. They’d both spent those months in the Ritter compound. Spencer never doubted Ryan’s loyalty for a second, but the Agency is tight. They haven’t let Ryan forget the loss of Kennerty, and what it meant to their team. That kind of shit is part of the reason Spencer had left.
Jon finally says, “I’ll let you know if I hear anything from Gerard. You heading my way?”
“Yeah,” Spence clears his throat, “yeah, man, sometime tomorrow probably.” It’s the best arrangement he can think of. He needs a place where he can keep Brendon, at least for a little while, until he can figure out what’s going on. He may not like the guy, but Brendon’s a civilian, and Spencer’s not going to let him get killed, not if he can help it.
“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” Jon says, then there’s only dead air.
By the time Spencer gets back to the bathroom, Brendon’s got all but his ass through the narrow window over the toilet, knees slipping off the porcelain back. Spencer is actually pretty sure Brendon’s stuck. He decides to find this funny, rather than really fucking annoying.
Brendon jumps a little when Spencer curls his hands around his hips, thumbs digging into the top of his ass.
“I like this view,” Spencer says, enjoying the way Brendon tenses up. He moves his thumbs higher, dragging along the loose waistband of his sweatpants. He kind of wants to bite one of his cheeks through the cloth, see what Brendon would do. He just digs his fingers into his hipbones, though, and tugs backwards.
The top of Brendon’s head knocks the window frame, but Spencer ignores his pained, “Ow,” and clamps a hand over his nape when he’s standing on the ground again.
It’s kind of fascinating, the way Brendon goes absolutely still, slumped against the sink, but they’re both worn out – Spencer can see it in the gray cast to Brendon’s face in the mirror. He’s surprised Brendon even had enough energy to boost himself out the window.
“We’re going to bed,” Spencer says, slipping his hand off Brendon’s neck, urging him around with hands on his hips instead, until Brendon’s practically sitting on the counter.
Brendon tilts his head back and looks up at Spencer with huge, watery eyes, red-rimmed, and Spencer does not need more tears. He fucking hates tears.
“What’s going on, Spencer?” Brendon asks, and Brendon’s good. He’s got that wide-eyed innocence thing down pat. Spencer would think Brendon really had no clue, if he wasn’t already so sure Brendon had been an integral part of Ryan’s disappearance.
“Later,” Spencer says firmly. “We’ll talk about it later.”
Brendon nods, and Spencer maneuvers him out into the main room, tugs the covers down on the double bed while Brendon just stands there like a zombie, staring unblinkingly down at the ugly flowered bedspread.
Spencer rolls his eyes. He plucks Brendon’s glasses off his face and pushes on the small of his back until Brendon gets the hint and climbs into the bed, tugging the sheet up to his chin, laying flat on his back. Spencer sets his gun carefully on the bedside table, toes off his sneakers and shucks his jeans. He crawls in after Brendon, then rolls over, up onto his side, and swings an arm across Brendon’s stomach, lets it rest heavy to keep him in place. Spencer wants to fucking sleep, and he doesn’t want to have to worry about Brendon trying to sneak out again.
Brendon fidgets against him, legs restless, breathing shallow, and Spencer shoves his thigh over Brendon’s and growls, “Fucking keep still.”
“Sorry,” Brendon says softly.
Spencer snorts. “Just go to sleep,” he says. He lets his entire body relax into Brendon’s, feels Brendon’s breath hiss out through his teeth before he sort of deflates into the mattress.
Spencer doesn’t remember falling asleep, but he wakes up with Brendon sprawled half on top of him, and one of Spencer’s hands is down the back of Brendon’s sweats, palming his ass. Brendon’s breath is heating his throat where his head’s tucked into the crook of his neck, and he’s got one thigh pressing into Spencer’s dick. So Brendon’s a cuddler. Spencer isn’t, but he’s not going to complain. He’s hard and Brendon’s warm, and he remembers the night before, more vividly than he’d like to, Brendon naked and settled all along his body, the way he’d writhed against him and fought, so he leaves his hand where it is and hitches Brendon closer.
“Brendon,” he says, voice rough with sleep.
Brendon shifts a little, stretches, and Spencer’s mouth opens on a soundless groan as Brendon’s leg flexes against him. Brendon yawns along his throat, mumbles, “What?”
Spencer sweeps his thumb over Brendon’s skin, brushes his tailbone, just a little lower. “Are we being friendly this morning?” he asks.
Brendon instantly stills. He says, “Spencer?” half-warily, and Spencer hooks an ankle over Brendon’s calf and rolls them, pinning Brendon underneath him on the bed, hips cradled together. He shifts some of his weight onto his knees, slips his hands from under Brendon’s ass and slides them up, up along his bare ribs, pushing at his t-shirt as he goes, and instead of getting up and off of Brendon, like he so totally should, Spencer—Spencer angles his head down and kisses him.
He takes advantage of Brendon’s startled mouth, parted lips. He buries his hands in his sleep-mussed hair, tilting Brendon’s head back as he licks past his teeth, and he wants to shift forward again, wants to grind down into Brendon, feel the heat flare out from his groin, catch his spine on fire. He forces himself to leave it just a kiss, though, thumbs pressure points under Brendon’s ears.
Spencer hasn’t kissed anyone for a while. He has no idea why not – no time, no inclination, maybe – but Brendon feels good under his hands, feels nice.
Spencer’s not sure how long it takes for Brendon to kiss him back, seconds or minutes, but as soon as he feels Brendon’s fingers curling into his shirt, feels Brendon’s tongue swipe cautiously over his own, he pulls away.
Brendon blinks up at him, eyes dazed, mouth slick and soft. Spencer suddenly really wants to fuck him, wants those lips around his cock. So he moves all the way off Brendon and turns away and says, “Get up. We have to get moving.”
He hears Brendon rustling the covers behind him, the squeak of the bed springs as he gets up, and he waits until the bathroom door slams shut before pressing the heel of his palm into his dick and groaning. He’s such a fucking idiot.
Cursing himself, he tugs on his jeans and sits down in the room’s singular chair to put on his shoes.
Brendon’s in the bathroom a good fifteen minutes, water running, before Spencer thinks about the fucking window, and how if Spencer has to fucking chase Brendon down again he’s seriously going to kick his ass. When he jerks open the door, though, Brendon’s wide eyes catch his in the mirror over the sink.
Spencer scowls and says, “Hurry the fuck up,” and Brendon twists the water off and soundlessly slips past him in the doorway, their bodies brushing as Spencer refuses to move.
He catches Brendon’s slight shiver, the blush on his neck as he ducks his head. Spencer resists the urge to run his fingers over the pinked skin revealed by the loose collar of his t-shirt, curls his hands into fists.
Spencer barely takes five minutes to piss and collect himself, splashing water on his face. When he emerges from the bathroom, Brendon’s sitting docilely on the end of the bed, staring down at his folded hands. He looks even smaller than he really is, bare feet piled one over the other.
Spencer settles down across from him in the chair. He digs a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and chucks it onto Brendon’s lap. He says, “Tell me everything you know.”
Brendon’s fingers tremble a little as he opens the paper, and then he glances up at Spencer in surprise. “This is. This is mine. I gave it to George,” he says, and Spencer nods, because, okay, George. He can work with Ryan being George; that makes some sense.
“Turn it over,” Spencer says. The photo is the only piece of evidence Spencer could find anywhere in Ryan’s neat-as-a-pin beach house. It’s got Brendon’s name and house number scrawled on the back in red pen, circled several times.
Brendon looks up at Spencer again. “That’s why you—what does George have to do with this? Did something.” He sits up straighter. “I haven’t seen him for a few days. Did something happen to him?”
Spencer just shakes his head. “Brendon, this is important. What’s this a photo of?”
“It’s a dog.” Brendon shrugs. “George seemed kind of worried about the boat, though.”
Spencer stands up abruptly, ignores the way Brendon’s body flinches away from him. He grabs the photo and squints at the boat, a slightly blurry shape in the background. No matter how hard he looks, though, he can’t make out the name painted on the hull. “Do you have any more like this?” Spencer asks.
“Maybe? I mean, yeah, probably, at home.” Brendon stares up at him, wide-eyed, and Spencer knows he’s thinking about the gunmen from earlier, and Spencer isn’t all that thrilled about going back to the house, either, but they don’t have much of a choice. If Ryan had been worried about this boat, worried about there being a picture of it maybe, then Spencer knows it’s important in figuring out just what the fuck happened.
“Then we’re going home,” Spencer says.
Brendon gives him a completely unenthused, “Yay.”
Brendon is all for going home, he totally is. All he wants is for Spencer to let him go, because he has no idea what’s going on, he has no idea what this has to do with George or that stupid fucking boat and, oh god, home is where someone had tried to kill them.
Brendon totally doesn’t want to go anywhere near his house, not for anything. “Maybe you can just drop me off at Greta’s in town,” Brendon says, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt.
Spencer doesn’t say anything.
Spencer is not any less scary in the light of day. He’s got some mean stubble, too.
Brendon touches his mouth lightly with the pads of his fingers and tries with spectacular failure not to think about how he’d been woken up that morning, with Spencer’s hand on his ass. And then his body on his body and his mouth on his mouth, and Spencer is hot, Brendon thinks, if you go for that crazy, can kill you with one hand type of guy.
Brendon never thought he was into that. First chance he gets, he’s totally going to knee Spencer in the balls and take off. Seriously, he so is.
It takes forty-five minutes to get back to Brendon’s house, and Mongo is sitting on the top of the porch steps, watching them as they pull up.
Spencer says, “Stay in the car,” and then takes out his gun. Brendon knows enough about guns to know that he doesn’t like them, but that’s about it. He watches Spencer flick something on it, watches him unfold his legs out of the car and take a cautious look around.
Mongo barks once, sharply, but cuts off when Spencer waves a hand towards him. The dog whines a little, then sits back on his haunches and slides his front feet forward to lie down. Brendon’s reluctantly impressed. Mongo normally just ignores anything Brendon asks him to do.
Spencer disappears around the side of the house, and then ten minutes later he’s walking out Brendon’s front door, gun away and hands on his hips. He jerks his head, gesturing, Brendon supposes, for him to get out of the car.
There is no way Brendon’s getting out of the car.
Spencer’s eyes narrow.
Brendon grins at him through the windshield, then reaches over and locks all the doors. It’s kind of an empty gesture, considering Spencer has the car keys, but Brendon feels that it’s important not to get too compliant here. Spencer’s maybe not part of the posse of bad guys that wants him dead, but Brendon is all too aware that he isn’t the good guy either.
“If I have to come get you,” Spencer shouts from the porch, “neither of us is going to be very happy.”
Brendon bites his lip, hand hovering over the lock. He hesitates maybe a second too long, though, because Spencer’s face gets dark, jaw clenched around a scowling mouth, and he takes long, purposeful strides down the steps. Brendon squeaks and scrambles over the center console of the sedan and fumbles with the lock on the driver’s side. He’s got it unlocked and opened by the time Spencer’s turning the key in the passenger side door, but he’s only got the upper half of his body over the seat and Spencer makes a grab for his leg, catching his ankle before he can fully slither out the other side.
He kicks out and Spencer growls, “Fucking stop, Brendon, I swear to god,” and yanks him back into the car, back over to the passenger side. Spencer’s got one knee up on the seat and Brendon’s legs are bent, back biting into the console as he stares up at him, wide-eyed and breathing hard.
Spencer says, “If you kick me one more time, I really am going to tie you the fuck up.”
Brendon swallows hard and licks his bottom lip.
Spencer leans forward, knee sliding further down between Brendon’s still bent legs. “Honestly, I’m really going to love tying you up, Brendon,” he says, soft and menacingly. “So you go ahead and try it.”
“Spencer,” Brendon says, and it comes out embarrassingly hoarse. He feels his cheeks heat.
And then Spencer abruptly moves back and out of the car, crossing his arms over his chest, and Brendon scrambles out after him, head down. He walks past Spencer and up towards the house without glancing at him once.
Mongo makes a pathetic I’m-hungry sound and Brendon automatically picks up his empty food bowl to bring into the kitchen. He drops it with a metal clatter just inside the door, though, when he spots the complete fucking mess that is his living room.
“Fuck,” he say. Everything is trashed. Everything; his old sofa’s torn, tables are turned over, canvases slashed. Brendon traces the jagged edge of a painting of a sand crab he’d just finished last week, surf foaming up around it. Brendon’s not—he’s not a great artist, he knows this. He’s okay, he’s good even, but he doesn’t delude himself into thinking he’s anything special. Greta sells his paintings to tourists breezing through town, people that want beach scenes for their beach houses, and he makes a comfortable living that way. But he puts a lot hard work into the paintings and he loves them, and it’s tough to see every effort he still had on hand completely ruined. “Well. This fucking sucks.”
He must sound pretty dejected, because Spencer cups his shoulder when he steps up behind him.
Brendon shrugs him off and says, “So the pictures are on my laptop. Which is,” he looks around, “somewhere.” He sighs, then gestures towards his bedroom. “I’m gonna go change.” The one good thing about going back home is that he can at least get a pair of shoes.
“Pack a bag,” Spencer says.
Brendon pauses slightly mid-step before nodding. His bedroom isn’t any better than the rest of the house, but Brendon tries not to focus on the mess as he switches his sweatpants for boxers and jeans, tugs on socks and sneakers. He stuffs a small duffle with some underwear and t-shirts and grabs his toothbrush and toothpaste from the bathroom. By the time he wanders back out into the living room, Spencer’s got his laptop spread out over the coffee table. In pieces.
“Do you have copies of the photos anywhere else?” Spencer asks.
“No. I, um, might have uploaded some to my flickr account, though,” Brendon says.
Spencer nods. “Okay. That would be great.”
Brendon tangles his fingers in his shirt. Spencer is being suspiciously easygoing about this, considering the fact that he keeps threatening to tie him up. “Yeah.”
Spencer stares at him, and Brendon feels a hot flush start up from his neck, in from his ears. He drops his shirt and wipes damp palms on his thighs, and then Spencer’s gaze shifts to the left, over Brendon’s shoulder, and he frowns.
Brendon turns and sees a print of George pinned to the corkboard just outside the kitchen. He’s silhouetted by a sunset, just a black shape, really, unrecognizable unless you’re familiar with the way George holds himself when no one’s looking, slightly slouched, head tilted, one leg bent.
“That’s—” Brendon stops, eyes wide on Spencer, who’s—who is smiling. It’s not a very big smile maybe, but there’s something fond in his eyes and it transforms his whole face, and Brendon is kind of stunned. Brendon suddenly feels like he wants to do everything in his power to keep Spencer smiling all the time and, wow, is that a stupid, stupid thought. He swallows hard. “Um. You can have it if you want?”
Spencer shakes his head, smile slipping.
Brendon still has no idea what’s going on. He has no idea why Spencer had shown up at his house in the middle of the night, he has no idea why he’s been shot at, why Spencer is so angry with him, and he has no idea who this Ryan person is, and why Spencer seems to think his photos are going to help. He sets his duffle on the floor by his feet and stares down at his hands. He says, “Spencer?”
“Yeah?” The couch squeaks a little when Spencer gets up, and Brendon watches him out of the corner of his eye.
“Is this. I mean.” He bites at his thumb, fidgets on his feet, back and forth, before finally glancing up again and blurting out, “Seriously, what’s going on?”
Spencer’s eyes narrow.
“No,” Brendon spreads his hands out. “No, I really want to—I’ve been fucking shot at, Spencer, so I think maybe I deserve to know what the fuck is going on here.”
Spencer’s jaw tightens. “There’s nothing I can tell you right now that would make sense.”
“Oh right.” Brendon bobs his head. “Then I think I’m just going to stay here.” Brendon does not actually want to stay there. Brendon’s pretty sure he’s never going to feel safe in his own home again. But he can certainly walk the miles into town and beg Greta for her spare bedroom. He is not above making soulful puppy eyes at her, and she’s always been unable to resist those.
“No,” Spencer says.
“No,” Spencer repeats, and tries to loom over Brendon, but Brendon isn’t having it.
Brendon is pissed off and exhausted and his feet hurt and he isn’t going anywhere with Spencer ever again. He very valiantly does not take a step back, but squares his shoulders and tilts his head back a little and looks Spencer dead in the eye. “I’m staying.”
Spencer pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look. Look, Brendon,” he says tightly, “I’m sorry for—”
“Sorry for what? Trying to kill me?”
“I wasn’t trying to—”
“Kidnapping me? Because, hey, the threats on my life have been awesome, and molestation,” he shoots Spencer a thumbs-up, “thanks for that, too.”
“Brendon,” Spencer curls his hands around Brendon’s upper arms, leans down so their noses are nearly touching, “no one knew I was here last night, remember?”
Brendon remembers. He knows—he knows that the implication there is that those guys had been after him, not Spencer, but it still doesn’t make any freaking sense. “But why would—why would anyone shoot at me?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” Spencer’s voice is almost soothing now, even though his grip on Brendon’s arms is still vice-like.
Brendon deflates a little. “Fuck.”
“We’re going to stay with a friend of mine,” Spencer says. “You’ll be fine, okay?”
Brendon pulls back, and Spencer, surprisingly, lets him do it, loosening his hold and sliding his palms down Brendon’s arms, squeezing his wrists once before dropping them completely.
Brendon doesn’t say anything; there’s really nothing to say. He just bends down to pick up his duffle bag again, hitching it up high over his shoulder.
Spencer has no idea what to do with Brendon.
He’s going to take him to Jon’s, yes, and then they’re going to figure out why Ryan had been worried about that boat in Brendon’s picture, but he’s going to have to contact Way about Brendon, and they’re going to have to deal with him, because Spencer is no longer a part of the Agency. This isn’t Spencer’s job anymore. Brendon is none of Spencer’s business. Except he really kind of is.
Spencer’s angry that Ryan made Brendon his business, because whatever Ryan had been doing there with Wentz, whoever he was trying to set up, it certainly hadn’t been part of his mission to befriend his neighbor down the beach. He had to have known that would’ve blown up in his face.
Brendon’s dog is breathing down his neck from the backseat, and Spencer reaches over his shoulder and pushes his muzzle away. “Mongo, quit it.”
“I told you we didn’t have to bring him,” Brendon says.
Spencer spares him a disbelieving glance. Brendon’s sort of huddled into himself on the passenger seat, big dark eyes watching him. “You’d just leave your dog?” Spencer’s a dog person. He’s a big fan of dogs. Cats, not so much. Jon’s cats kind of hate him a lot.
“He’s not really mine. He’s a stray. He. He doesn’t even like me very much.” Brendon shrugs.
“You feed him,” Spencer points out.
“Yeah, well, I don’t want him to starve.” Brendon straightens up a little. “He’s old, though. I figure he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants, you know? So he,” he waves a hand, “hangs around.”
“You named him,” Spencer says. He doesn’t know why he’s arguing the point, but at least Brendon’s relaxing.
“George named him. I’d been calling him Old Dog for months.”
“George, right.” Spencer taps his fingers on the steering wheel. “You two were close?”
Brendon shrugs again, but doesn’t say anything.
Spencer has to force himself to keep his hands lax on the wheel. He doesn’t like the thought of Brendon and Ryan being close. In fact, he really kind of hates it. Huh.
Brendon starts fiddling with the radio, tunes in an alternative station and then hums along.
They ride in relative silence for hours, eat fast food from drive-thrus, turn into the occasional rest stop to let Mongo out and to use the bathrooms. When Spencer starts feeling the pull of exhaustion, he turns off into the next motel he finds. He runs okay on little sleep, so it’s late when he checks in, paying for the room in cash.
Brendon’s conked out in his seat, head lolling on the window. Spencer pokes him in the side after he parks in the space in front of their door.
Brendon bats at his hand. “Stop,” he murmurs.
“Come on. Bedtime.”
Brendon yawns, arches his back in a stretch as he blinks open his eyes. “What?”
“We’re stopped,” Spencer says. “Get out of the car, Brendon.”
Brendon yawns again and fumbles for the door handle. He scrubs a hand over his face, then staggers towards the open-air corridor in front of them, Mongo following at his heels.
Spencer rolls his eyes and grabs Brendon’s bag before joining them.
The room is musty, like it hasn’t been used in a while, but Spencer’s too tired to care. Brendon collapses facedown on the bed nearest the door, and Spencer rifles through his duffle, pulls out a tube of toothpaste. He considers using Brendon’s toothbrush too, but just uses his finger instead, rinsing out the stale taste in his mouth from days on the road. He rubs a hand over the thickening burr on his cheeks and chin. He’s grown out a beard before; sooner or later it’s gonna start itching like a bitch.
Brendon’s snoring by the time Spencer gets out of the bathroom – faint, whiffling snores, but still snores – and Spencer watches him for a minute, staring at the sweep of dark eyelashes on too pale skin. He’s on his stomach, face turned to the side, one hand fisted under his chin, glasses pulled off and lying haphazardly on the pillow in front of his nose. He smacks his lips and flutters his eyes open, like he senses Spencer’s gaze on him.
Spencer moves forward then, says, “Hey,” and, “You should get your shoes off at least.”
Brendon just looks at him, the glow from the overhead light painting a starburst in the corner of his eye. Then he sighs, closes his eyes again, breathing almost immediately evening out.
Spencer doesn’t even really think about it, just bends over Brendon and tugs off his sneakers. He pushes at Brendon’s shoulder until Brendon rolls over onto his back, boneless, and Spencer’s fingers hover over the button on Brendon’s jeans, hesitating barely a second before opening them up, urging the zipper down with one finger.
“Are you molesting me again?” Brendon asks sleepily, and Spencer starts a little, but doesn’t pull away. He just tugs on Brendon’s belt loops meaningfully.
Brendon lifts his hips, letting Spencer draw his jeans all the way down his legs and off. There’s even a tired smile on his face when Spencer maneuvers the covers out from underneath him, and he curls up on this side once he’s snug. Spencer brushes the hair off his forehead, then feels his face burn when he realizes he’s petting Brendon, Jesus, and he snatches his hand away, quick.
Brendon just murmurs, “Thanks,” though, and Spencer retreats to the other bed.
He kicks off his shoes and lies down on his back, hands clasped over his stomach, and he stares up at the ceiling for a long, long while.
He wakes up to Brendon’s face hovering over his. He blinks. “What time is it?” he asks.
“There’s someone outside,” Brendon whispers.
Spencer tenses. “How—”
“The door. I heard noise at the door. Spencer, do you think—”
“It’s probably a maid,” Spencer says, sitting up. It could be a maid. Or it could be someone who’s followed them from Brendon’s. The important thing, though, is to keep Brendon from panicking.
Then there’s the distinct sound of someone working the lock. Spencer curses under his breath. Once the lock is picked, the flimsy door would be a piece of cake to kick in, even with the bolt latched. Their only advantage is that whoever’s out there thinks they’re asleep, and is trying to be as quiet as possible, so it’s slowing them down.
“Get dressed,” Spencer hisses. He pulls on his own pants and quickly laces up his shoes, then grabs his gun and heads for the bathroom. The single window is small, but he’s pretty sure they’ll fit through. He shoves it open and punches out the screen.
Spencer takes Brendon’s bag out of his hands and tosses it outside. “Let’s go.” He gestures for Brendon to follow his bag. “Hurry up.”
Brendon’s eyes are huge and he scrambles up on the toilet lid, pulling himself through the window. Spencer steadies his legs so he doesn’t fall on his face, and then he climbs right out after him. His shoulders scrape the frame, but he thankfully doesn’t get stuck. He tucks into a roll so he won’t land on his face or arms, then scrambles to his feet and pushes on Brendon’s back to get him moving. It’s only a matter of time before they crash into the room and find them missing.
It’s a murky gray dawn, heralding rain, but the wan light is better cover. They’re just turning the corner of the building when Spencer remembers Mongo. “Shit, fucking fuck,” Spencer says.
“The fucking dog,” Spencer says, and Brendon goes, “Oh, shit,” and then, “Bet you wish you listened to me now, huh?” and Spencer says, “Fucking shut up,” because he has to think.
First things first, they can’t take Spencer’s car. He picks a shitty, nondescript hatchback and cheers under his breath when the door pops open, unlocked.
“All right, get in and wait for me,” he tells Brendon. He searches for keys – in the console, glove box, visor – but comes up empty.
Brendon slides into the passenger seat and slumps low. “You’re going back?”
Spencer’s fingers fumble under the steering column. He hasn’t done this in while, but he pries off the plastic, feeling for wires. It’s a risk, hotwiring the car and then going back for the stupid fucking dog, but, other way around, he might not have enough time. When the car sputters to life, he allows himself a brief flash of satisfaction before ducking out of the car again.
He’s not worried that they’ll hurt Mongo, not really, not if they’re Wentz’s men. For all his renowned ruthlessness, Wentz has an unexpected soft spot for animals. It’s stupid, going back for him. Brendon doesn’t even seem to like the mutt, but for some reason Spencer feels it’s important. Like Mongo is one tiny speck of normal in Brendon’s life right now and Spencer is a fucking soft-hearted moron. Ryan always loves to point that out about him.
By the time Spencer leaves Brendon and heads back towards the motel, barely five minutes have passed.
Rabid barking suddenly echoes across the pavement, along with several startled shouts, and then gunfire rings out from somewhere off to the side, nowhere near the building, and it’s official. Spencer’s completely off his game; it hadn’t even occurred to him that they’d have more men watching the lot and it fucking should have. He berates himself for acting like a fucking newb. Apparently, forging a normal life for himself this past year – he’s a fucking chef, he doesn’t do this shit anymore – has dulled his senses to the point of idiocy.
And then he gets shot.