You'd think that the beginning of this story would take place somewhere more fitting to its theme; an exotic faraway locale like Budapest or Manila, somewhere that a Jason Bourne or James Bond novel would take place - but in fact, as it happens, Wes Mitchell and Travis Marks meet in Brooklyn, New York, at an Applebee's. A very nice Applebee's. It had valet parking.
"Sir? This is for you," the bartender says. Wes looks up from his cell phone, already frowning. "From the guy down over there."
"What guy? What?" Wes swivels his head around, but all he sees are families and the occasional group of businessmen, hunched over platters of nachos with their ties thrown over their shoulders.
"Under the Giants game." The bartender points toward a table set in the corner beneath one of the flatscreens, where a lone man in a tan leather jacket is sitting against the wall, smiling a little sheepishly.
"Jesus," Wes says, turning back quickly. "Is this seriously happening? Am I getting hit on at an Applebee's by a guy wearing a Backstreet Boys t-shirt?"
"I think it's supposed to be ironic," the bartender says, not without some sympathy. She shrugs, tossing her dishrag over her shoulder. "At least he's not an uggo."
"Right. Thanks." Wes picks up the drink gingerly and starts the trek over to the table, watching the guy's face fall a little as he approaches. "What? Am I grosser up close?"
"No! No." The guy rubs the back of his neck, his smile more of a wince. "Um, it's - you don't like mai tais?"
"No," Wes says definitively, setting the drink down in front of him. "No, I do not like mai tais, because I am not a college freshman at a theme party. You can have this back."
"Mai tais are delicious," the guy says.
"You're entitled to your opinion, even if it's wrong," Wes replies. The guy frowns, straightening up slightly in his seat. "Look, thanks but no thanks. I'm on the clock."
"Hey," the guy replies, "who said I was hitting on you?"
"Are you Amish?" Wes asks. "Do you have some sort of mental illness where you misinterpret social cues? Did you spend the formative years of your life in a cult?"
"For your information, I meant to give the drink to the bartender," the guys replies sourly. "The waiter misunderstood what I said. So sorry, but no."
Wes gives him a skeptical look. "Uh huh, right. I can see how he could've mixed me up with a twenty-two-year-old black woman."
"You're kind of an asshole, huh," the guy responds, almost thoughtfully.
"I'm just saying, you're being kind of caustic," the guy continues, taking a pointed sip of the mai tai, and it kind of pisses Wes off that he can pull off the loopy straw with no problem, "like, most people would just smile and do a 'no thanks' wave, but you - you came aaalll the way over here to tell me to my face how firmly you reject me. That takes a special kind of personality."
"And we're done," Wes says.
"I'm Travis," the guy says, like Wes hadn't spoken. Wes blinks at him. "What's your name?"
"Brad Pitt," Wes replies.
"Nice to meet you, Brad," Travis replies, nonplussed.
"Look," Wes says impatiently, "what part of 'not interested' did you not understand?"
"You're still standing here," Travis points out. "Probably that part."
Wes scowls at him. "I don't think you're cute. And I don't date guys that think they are."
Travis grins back. "Good," he says. "'Cuz I'm not."
Fact: for the first two hours of their acquaintance, Wes thinks that Travis is either an exceptionally gifted con artist or trying to assassinate him. Another fact: he is neither.
("You really thought that?" Travis will say later, "I couldn't have just been a suave, attractive, handsome, clever - "
"Ugh," Wes says.
" - well dressed person who thought you were hot and interesting?" Travis shakes his head. "You either had a real low opinion of yourself or I made a really bad first impression."
"I'm gonna give you three guesses as to which one of those is correct, and the first two don't count," Wes replies.)
The next morning, Wes sits up in bed and looks over at the smooth curve of Travis' shoulder and thinks to himself, I should go. This is bad, so I should go. Then he gets up and orders pancakes from room service.
"Oh my God," Travis says when he wakes up, "pancakes? With chocolate chips? Wes, I didn't know you ate human food."
"I was trying to come up with something you'd like to eat, so I just asked for whatever they normally serve to children," Wes replies.
Travis wanders over, stretching one arm in the air and scratching his abdomen with the other. "Good instincts," he says, through a yawn.
"For fuck's sake, Travis," Wes complains, "put some clothes on, the windows are open."
Travis stops right in front of the window and flexes his muscles in response. "What, these windows?"
"Jesus Christ," Wes mutters.
(He doesn't look away, though.)
Wes doesn't eat breakfast, but he does drink coffee, so he sits there while Travis obnoxiously eats pancakes and chews with his mouth open, wondering what the fuck he's thinking and not caring much at the same time.
"You're a little creepy with all that staring, man," Travis says, "not really helping to disprove my serial killer theory."
Wes' heartbeat picks up just a little. "You think I'm a serial killer?"
"Well-dressed, handsome, single, neurotic, irons his jeans," Travis lists off, "there's a profile. You're it."
"If I was going to kill you, I would've done it last night," Wes says honestly.
"Comforting," Travis replies cheerfully.
"I have to go," Wes says, blurting it out just so it's not sticking in his throat anymore. "I have a meeting."
Travis stops chewing, face impassive.
"You can stay as long as you like," Wes continues, "I just thought I'd let you know."
"I can stay until you get back," Travis says, carefully neutral. "I got nowhere in particular to be."
Wes sets his coffee cup on the table carefully, not breaking eye contact. "I'd like that."
Travis smiles, and Wes smiles tentatively back, and so Travis stays and watches The Sopranos on HBO while Wes goes to Manhattan to kill a KGB sleeper agent.
Anyway, that's how they met.
"So," Dr. Ryan says. Travis fidgets. "What made you two decide to seek counseling?"
"The court order is literally sitting right there on your desk," Wes says flatly. Dr. Ryan's eyebrows shoot to the top of her head.
"No, it's not - like that, Jesus, Wes," Travis says. "We're, like, married and we fight a lot and we want to stay married - "
"That's not what I meant," Wes argues, "I was just pointing out that it was a stupid question - "
"Why you gotta be like that?" Travis asks. "Huh? She's a nice lady, there's no reason to assault her right off the bat with your...personality."
"My personality," Wes repeats, "my - "
"Okay," Dr. Ryan interrupts, "apparently my question was rather stupid. Let me clarify." She shifts her weight in her chair with the air of a person settling in for a long haul, her jaw falling into a hard, determined line. Wes tenses on instinct. "Let's talk about the court order. What happened?"
"We got arrested for disturbing the peace," Travis says. "Because Wes was yelling at me."
"I was not yelling, I was talking intensely," Wes counters. "And you threw your hot dog at my face."
"Hot dog," Dr. Ryan repeats.
"It had ketchup," Wes tells her. "And relish."
"Just because you call it 'talking intensely,'" Travis says, with the most sarcastic air quotes Wes has ever had the misfortune of witnessing, "does not mean that it wasn't yelling, Wes, you were totally yelling."
"I don't yell," Wes says.
"You yell all the time, are you kidding?" Travis replies, incredulous. "This morning you yelled at the coffeemaker!"
"It was slow and I was late!" Wes snaps.
"Regardless," Dr. Ryan interjects, "of what it was called, you were fighting. Correct?"
"We were fighting, yes, and we got arrested." Travis crosses his arms sulkily. "Not a big deal. Married people stuff, the cops shouldn't have even been involved."
"It says here that you were full body wrestling in the middle of a public sidewalk in West Hollywood," Dr. Ryan says, peering at the court order through narrowed eyes.
Travis starts fidgeting again. "Yes, well," Wes says uncomfortably, "that...happened. Later. That happened later."
"Do you often have fights that turn physical?" she asks.
"No," Wes says, at the same time that Travis says, "yes." Wes turns to glare at him.
"I see," Dr. Ryan says.
"No, you don't," Wes replies, "Travis."
"Not like that!" Travis yelps, off Wes' dirty look. "I didn't mean - not like we beat each other up all the time. Just - you know, we throw stuff. And Wes has this weird thing about pinching - "
"Oh, please, that - that doesn't count," Wes snaps, the back of his neck burning.
"Let me clarify again," Dr. Ryan says patiently. "Is this the first time that one of your arguments has evolved into a physical fight, as in, you are both actively engaged in trying to hurt one another physically?"
Travis goes silent and still next to him, and Wes resists the urge to glare at him again.
"No," he says, grinding the word out between clenched teeth. "There was one other time."
Dr. Ryan nods placidly. "I see."
Wes already hates that phrase with every fiber of his being, and they've only been here for twenty minutes. "It's hardly surprising," he says, "in our line of work, that sometimes, we - it's not a regular thing. Just - big things - "
"Your line of work?" Dr. Ryan asks.
Travis sighs loudly and Wes stares resolutely at the floor.
"Ah, now we're getting somewhere," Dr. Ryan says.
After New York, Wes honestly hadn't expected to see Travis ever again. That was the way it went, when you spent your life doing what Wes did: every once in awhile, you met someone you liked, someone you clicked with, and you spent a day or a week or a month pretending you were normal before you left again, in the early hours of the morning before they woke up and realized you were gone.
Then Travis calls, a month later.
"How did you get this number?" Wes demands.
"You left it for me," Travis says innocently.
"I really, really didn't," Wes says, and steps into the bathroom of his train compartment, grabbing some towels off the rack and pushing them up against the bottom of the door. "I distinctly remember thinking about whether or not to leave you my number, and I did not."
"Wow, harsh," Travis replies. "Maybe you did it subconsciously."
"No," Wes says, checking under the sink for bugs, sliding the tiny shutters closed on the porthole-style window. "Nope, don't think so."
"Because you wanted to see me again," Travis continues, like Wes hadn't even spoken, "you were so overwhelmed by our time together that you - subconsciously - left your cell phone unlocked on the nightstand while you were in the bathroom so that I would save your number and call you later. Because you're totally gone for me."
"Really," Wes says, "my subconscious sounds kind of desperate."
"Your subconscious probably doesn't get laid much," Travis replies. "Intimacy issues, you know."
Wes sits down on the closed toilet lid, exhaling slowly and trying not to smile. "What do you want, Travis."
"Nothing, man, I just - " Travis pauses, a sort of shuffling noise crackling in Wes' ear momentarily, like he dropped the phone or rubbed it against his shoulder. "Where are you? Stateside?"
"Peru," Wes says, looking over at the laminated list of emergency numbers on the wall, the bright blue logo reading NMBS Europe at the bottom. "Doing a story about Machu Picchu."
"Interesting," Travis replies, "you know, funny thing, I've been doing some pretty - pretty intensive Googling, and I can't find any reporter by the name of Wes Mitchell. Like, anywhere."
"I write under a pen name," Wes says. "Why are you Googling me?"
"Because I like you," Travis says, easy as anything. Wes' breath catches in his throat. "Who do you write for?"
"I'm freelance," Wes says. "Look, Travis - "
"National Geographic?" Travis guesses. "Nah, too mainstream. The Smithsonian?"
"Travis," Wes continues firmly, "this is really - nice, of you, to call, but - it's not - this can't work."
"What, this conversation?" Travis asks. "If it's a bad time, I can call back."
"Travis," Wes says, frustrated. "What are you doing."
There's an extended silence, the kind that Travis specializes in, Wes can already tell. The judgy silence. The you're ridiculous silence. The you should already know the answer to that question, and I will wait patiently until you acknowledge it privately silence. Wes is in trouble.
"I'm going to be in, uh, hold on." More shuffling. "Uh, Austin, Texas on the twentieth. And then after that, Puerto Vallarta for some conference thing, I don't even know. That starts on the third." Travis huffed. "For now, that's all I've got. Do either of those work for you?"
"No," Wes says sourly. "No, they do not. Travis - "
"I'll email you then," Travis interrupts. "My secretary sends me an itinerary every month, I'll just forward you the whole thing. We'll work it out."
"Are you even listening to anything I'm saying?" Wes asks. "I said no."
"I think they're sending me to London at some point," Travis continues. "That should be fun, I haven't been there before. Have you?"
Wes has an apartment in London, as well as two safe houses and three different contacts that he could probably stay with, if he really needed to. The last time he'd been there was with Alex. It's one of his favorite cities.
"I hate London," he says.
"No, you don't," Travis replies cheerfully. Wes sighs. "Look, I don't have a lot of minutes so I've gotta go, but I'll email you that stuff, alright? Email me back."
"You don't have my email," Wes says sourly.
"Shows what you know," Travis replies, and hung up. Wes sits there in shock for a few moments before cursing and kicking the side of the sink in a petty display of frustration. He has to break into the EEAS headquarters tomorrow. He doesn't have time for this.
Struck by a sudden thought, Wes opens his phone again and dials the only number in his contact list, rising to his feet and resisting the urge to pace in the small bathroom.
"Hey, bud, it's me - can you do me a favor?"
"Sorry, don't know any mes," Kendall chirps. "And I don't do favors for strangers."
Wes snorts. "You want my badge number?"
"A badge that doesn't technically exist doesn't have a number, I don't think," Kendall says dryly. Wes hears something beep loudly on her end of the line, a high, shrill tone that gets cut off abruptly. "Okay. What can I do for you, bucko?"
"Trace the origin of the last incoming call on my cell," Wes replies. "Also, thank you."
"Don't thank me yet." Wes leans against the wall, smiling, listening to the familiar sounds of her sliding around in her office chair, the clack of her keyboard. "Incoming call...two fifty-five local time, originating in Miami, Florida."
"Keep your pants on," Kendall mutters. "Looks like...payphone. Corner of Northwest 11th street, near the airport."
Wes frowns. "Pay phone?"
"Yup." Kendall clucks her tongue. "There's a hotel right there on that street. You looking for someone in particular? I could check their roster."
"No," Wes says, pinching the bridge of his nose. "No, it's fine. Never mind."
"You sure?" Kendall asks, a frown in her voice. "Is this about the floater you - "
"It's not," Wes says curtly. "It's - nothing, sorry to bother you. I'm being stupid."
"Well, at least you're admitting it," Kendall says wryly. "Don't work too hard, okay? Call me if you need anything else."
"Will do," Wes says, and hangs up.
It's silly, he tells himself. His cell phone is secure, unhackable. There's no way Travis could've gotten the number unless he'd been telling the truth - Wes had left it unlocked. Which isn't something he'd normally do, but - well, those few days in New York hadn't been something Wes normally does anyway.
"I'm being paranoid," Wes tells his reflection, kicking the towels away from the crack in the door. "He's just a guy."
(He really isn't - on both counts.)
They meet up in Vancouver about a month later, against Wes' better judgement - but he has about a week of leave he's been strongly encouraged to take and Alex won't stop bugging him about it, so whatever, he meets up with Travis. The sex was good. It doesn't mean anything. Whatever.
"See, aren't you glad you agreed to this," Travis says cheerfully. They're at something Wes' brochure calls the "Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden." Travis had insisted. "Look at this. Nice weather, nice plants - "
"Yes," Wes says, "plants. Lots of plants."
" - nice company." Travis bumps his shoulder against Wes' companiably. "Huh? Yeah? Now's the part where you agree and say something nice about me."
"You paid for the cab," Wes offers.
Travis laughs. "That's what I like about you, Wes, you're so warm and loving."
Why the hell are you trying so hard, Wes thinks. He doesn't say it.
"I'm not, though," he says instead.
"I know." Travis reaches out, still smiling, and grabs Wes' wrist. "I know, hey, Wes - you hate this, don't you. You didn't have to say yes, I just suggested it to fuck with you, you know."
Wes doesn't answer, too busy focusing intensely on Travis' hand, the way it feels on his skin.
"Let's go get dinner," Travis suggests. "You like gourmet, right? The restaurant at my hotel is supposed to be super fancy-schmancy kinda shit, right up your alley, babe."
"Don't call me babe," Wes says reflexively. "I - where are you staying?"
"Tofino," Travis says.
"That's - Travis, that's almost six hours away from here." Wes takes a step back. "It's on a different island."
"I know," Travis replies, rocking backwards on his heels. "If we leave now we can make it in time for dinner."
"You traveled six hours to meet me at ten o'clock in the morning," Wes says dumbly. "What is - what is wrong with you?"
"If you don't want to, you can just say so," Travis says, a little defensively. "I'm not an asshole, I'm not gonna get pissed or anything."
"It's not that, it's - I don't," Wes stammers, "that's a shitty drive, Travis."
Travis reaches out and lays his palm flat against Wes' collarbone, right above his heart. "Yeah," he says, "it was."
Wes leans into the touch and swallows, aiming his gaze down at the path so he doesn't have to look at Travis' face, so close to his own. "By gourmet," he says, "you do mean actual gourmet, and not like, your own definition of it?"
"They serve a lot of shit on huge plates," Travis says. "And like eight different forks."
"Eight," Wes says skeptically.
"Well, approximately," Travis replies.
Some things Wes knows about Travis:
He's lazy. He sleeps in until noon and will sit on the couch for an hour watching infomercials for women's shaving accessories because he doesn't have the remote and he doesn't want to get up to change the channel. He hates to clean, and he only does it when he wants to impress Wes or apologize for something, and he's the messiest person that Wes has ever met, hands down, anywhere, so that combination leads to some terrifying places.
He's slept with a lot of people. He has lines, thousands and thousands of lines, and he uses them on Wes all the time, at first because he thought it'd work, and then later because he knows it's annoying and he likes to push Wes' buttons just to see what'll happen. He's personable, and he makes friends everywhere he goes, with an ease that makes Wes jealous and a charm that makes him wary.
He's got the type of recklessness that Wes has seen in dozens of young hotshot agents who fly in and take stupid risks and get themselves killed for ridiculous reasons, only in Travis that translates to even more ridiculous shit, like riding that stupid motorcycle at insane speeds on the 405 during rush hour or jumping on the rail of their hotel room balcony at 2 in the morning after downing half a bottle of champagne. If he were an agent, Wes thinks, he'd the be kind of one that Wes hates, the kind that he tries hard not to get attached to.
Other things? He's kind. Generous. He's good with kids and animals. He wants a family, because he didn't have one. Blue eyes, strong hands. Good in bed. Funny. He calls Wes some mornings and asks about his day, and he never hangs up first.
(Wes is in trouble.)
"One thing I like to do with my couples at the beginning of the process is a - sort of memory exercise," Dr. Ryan says. "If you two are willing, I'd like to give it a try. I think it might help open up some lines of communication."
"What kind of exercise?" Travis asks, smacking his gum loudly. Wes grits his teeth.
"I'm going to ask you some simple questions," Ryan says, "that you'll both answer to the best of your ability. Things like - what was the first meal you shared together, who asked who out, where he first kissed you, where you first kissed him, et cetera - "
Travis snorts in laughter, and Ryan pauses, one eyebrow raised.
"Blow job joke," Wes says tiredly. "Feel free to ignore him."
"...right," Ryan says, dry as sand. "The purpose of this is to prompt discussion, for the most part, although it can also help in reminding each other of easier times, when your relationship was new and exciting. Travis, why don't we start with you?"
"Sure," Travis says genially. "I remember everything, though, it's Wes that always forgets that stuff."
"That's not true," Wes says, an automatic denial. Ryan quells him with a look.
"Let's start with an easy one," Ryan says. "Who proposed?"
"Neither of us," Travis replies. "We eloped. On impulse."
Ryan smiles, pleasantly surprised. "Really?"
"Explains a lot about us, doesn't it," Wes says.
Ryan's smile turns enigmatic, and she makes a note on her pad, shaking her head slightly. "Who said 'I love you' first?" she says.
Wes' shoulders grow stiff. "I did," Travis says easily. "He said it back right away though."
"Where were you?" Ryan asks. "How did it happen?"
"We were in Kansas City," Travis says. "We'd met at this hotel and - "
"Talk to Wes, not to me," Ryan interrupts, gently. "Make it a dialogue."
"A dialogue," Travis mutters, shifting in his seat. "Okay. Alright. Wes, you remember the hotel, right? I got there before you did for once and I had dinner all set up in the room, and - "
"I was there, of course I remember," Wes says woodenly. "I'm not really seeing the point of this."
Travis sighs, throwing his hands in the air.
"Does this make you uncomfortable?" Ryan asks curiously. "I'm the only one listening, and I'm bound by law not to reveal any details of these sessions to anyone - "
"I'm not embarrassed," Wes says impatiently. "I'm just - "
"Intimacy makes him uncomfortable," Travis says stridently. "Look at him! Look at how he's sitting, like a damn statue."
"Is that true, Wes?" Ryan asks. "Do you - "
"It's not intimacy," Wes argues. Travis snorts. "It's not - okay, sometimes it is, but mostly it's - when you do this in front of - "
"The definition of marriage counseling is to talk through our intimate problems with a counselor," Travis says. "If you're not up for that, then I don't know what to tell you, babe, we might as well give up now."
"I don't want to give up," Wes says sharply. Sitting up, he adjusts his wrist cuffs, giving himself a moment. "I'm just - okay, I'm sorry, I'll try. Okay? Look at me, I'm trying."
"Thank you," Travis says, with just the barest hint of irritation. "Look at that, he still looks like a mannequin, though."
"I have excellent posture," Wes says.
Travis reaches over and pokes his arm. "If I push you over, will you just like, shatter into a gazillion pieces on the floor, like Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man?"
"Really?" Wes asks, "that's the example you're going with?"
"Wesley Snipes," Travis says, spreading his hands out, like that alone should explain everything.
Ryan just sits there watching, smiling a little - in approval or amusement, Wes can't tell. "Okay, not quite the type of dialogue I had in mind, but that was good, guys."
Travis nudges Wes' arm with his elbows, raising his eyebrows and mouthing 'good,' at him and grinning. Wes bites back a smile.
"This is going to sound hokey," she continues, "but what you accomplished just now was pretty important - you worked through a disagreement without any help from me, and renewed your commitment to making this work without prompting. And you did it without yelling or wrestling." Ryan smiles. "You might not need me as much as you think."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Doc," Travis says. "That wasn't even minor league."
"Minor league or not, it was still good," Ryan says. "But since you mention it, why don't we tackle the major league already? Are you both ready to talk about the other big fight you had?"
Travis and Wes turn to look at each other.
"It was his fault," they both say, simultaneously.
Ryan leans back in her chair, expression rueful. "Ah," she says.
"I assume you know why we've called you in here today," says Alex.
Wes tries to look impassive and unaffected, but suspects that all he's accomplishing is 'pissed off.' "Not particularly."
The suit at Alex's left clears his throat pointedly.
"No, sir," Wes amends.
"We understand," Alex starts, with that look on her face she gets whenever she's doing something she really, really doesn't want to do, "that agents in your position are under a tremendous amount of stress, and as such we make certain allowances - "
Wes snorts. The suit continues to look severe.
" - but," Alex says pointedly, "this association has gone unchecked for too long. We've been...encouraged to speak with you about it."
"Association," Wes repeats, slowly, like if he stretches the syllables out this meeting will start to make sense. "What are you talking about?"
Alex's face changes slightly, subtle but pronounced enough that Wes recognizes it for what it is - pity. "Oh," she says, "Wes - "
Suit opens a manila folder and slides it across the table. "How did you meet this man?"
Wes knows what it will be before he touches it, but it still manages to make his stomach drop when he picks it up. That's a face he knows, a face he dreams about. That's not a face that belongs in this room, in this world. Or so Wes thought.
"At a restaurant in New York. It was nothing, just a random - his name is Travis Marks, he's not - who is he?"
"We're not sure," Alex says, voice gentle. "Nobody's talking. All we know is that he's in deep cover for somebody, but we're not sure who - "
"You've been jeopardizing his cover for months," Suit says. "His and yours. Did you think people wouldn't notice? You've been practically flaunting it."
Flaunting, Wes thinks viciously, hackles rising. "Are you accusing me of - "
"Nobody's accusing anyone of anything," Alex says firmly, reaching out a hand to her companion and making a 'hold' gesture, as if ordering a dog to heel. "This is simply an official warning, Wes, to be more cautious in your association with Mr. Marks, as we're unsure of his intentions or loyalties - or, for that matter, whether or not he is a security risk."
Wes feels his throat tighten at the sudden implication. "You don't think he's - "
"He's been confirmed as an American operative," Alex says quickly. "He's not one of ours though, and we don't know any specifics."
Wes snaps his eyes back to the file in his hands, trying to keep his expression neutral. There are six different surveillance shots of Travis, along with a short memo with everything but the signature censored in black marker. The name isn't one that Wes recognizes, but then again, he almost doesn't recognize Travis in these pictures either, with how different he looks. Focused, intent, holding a gun. This isn't a person Wes knows.
"This is where you ask me to end my relationship with him," Wes says dully.
Alex's silence is uneasy, and Wes looks up at her, eyes narrowed.
"We see no reason for that," says the suit. "Like the Commander said, we understand the emotional demands of - "
"For fuck's sake," Wes snaps, "you want me to figure out who he works for, don't you?"
"I didn't say that," Suit says quickly, and Alex rolls her eyes.
"This isn't coming from me, Wes," she says quickly. "It's - a complex situation, and had I known that you weren't aware of Mr. Marks'...position, I never would have - "
"Asked me to spy on somebody who works for us?" Wes asks. "I know interagency cooperation is not any of our strong suits, but come on."
"This is not a direct order," Alex says carefully, precisely. "I am not asking you to do anything in particular to Mr. Marks, other than exercise more caution in your meetings with him."
"You didn't need an on-the-record meeting for that," Wes replies, leaning forward. "Jesus, Alex, you're my controller, not my CO. I don't even know who the hell this guy is - "
"My name is not important," Suit says severely.
"Really, Mission Impossible? Not important?" Wes asks. "You're not NSA, that's obvious, probably some liaison from Washington who's obviously seen way too many spy movies. By the way, your fly's unzipped."
Suit doesn't even flinch. "On the record, this is simply an official warning. And you've been warned, Agent Mitchell." Reaching down, he picks up his briefcase and thumps it on the table pointedly. "Commander MacFarland, a pleasure."
"Pleasure," Wes mutters under his breath, grimacing. Suit ignores him, and slams the door on his way out.
"Wes," Alex starts.
"I thought you knew." Alex stands up, reaching out one hand in supplication. "I really did, honest. I would've told you if I'd known. I just didn't bring it up because I didn't want to force you to go on the record if you didn't have to."
"So what was this?" Wes asks.
"I told you this isn't coming from me," Alex replies.
Wes just sits and stares at the top photograph for a moment, trying to readjust his paradigm of the world. It's not exactly pleasant.
"Don't feel obligated to anyone," Alex continues. She still sounds frustratingly kind. "It's not an official order, just an implication. I'll cover you, if you want to - "
"No," Wes says. "No, I'll find out."
"Wes," Alex says, and leaves it at that. Wes knows what she means.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention," Wes says stiffly. "I'll check in with you in forty-eight hours."
"Be careful," Alex says, voice laden with meaning.
Wes doesn't answer.
("I had the same fucking meeting too, you know," Travis will point out, "like exactly the same, they pulled me in with all these creepy photos of you on some op in Novosibirsk, they thought you were KGB or some shit - "
"And that right there is why we don't take the CIA seriously," Wes says, "KGB? Really? Just because I went to Russia once?"
"Right, because it's not like you guys suck so bad that even Fox News knows about it," Travis replies. "How's the Snowden thing going? Any progress?"
"Shut up," Wes says.)
Wes sits in Travis' apartment for an hour and a half, waiting quietly, until Travis finally walks through the front door. To his credit, he doesn't flinch, just stops dead in his tracks and stares.
"Hey," Wes says.
"Hey," Travis says back. His keys are still hanging from one hand, the door still ajar. "Say, that's quite the gun you've got there, Wes."
"Yeah, I'm gonna shoot you with it," Wes replies. "Probably."
"Right." Travis nods, sucking in his bottom lip. "Probably?"
"Well, I'm still deciding."
Slowly, Travis drops his keys on a small table, keeping eye contact. The moment stretches out into tense silence, Wes looking at Travis and Travis looking at Wes until, as Wes had predicted, Travis breaks first and moves. Wes moves with him.
Wes fires twice, and he can tell instantly that both shots miss their target, who is currently cursing up a storm and taking cover behind the couch, three feet away from Wes' own vantage point behind a dresser. "Fucking fuck son of a - "
"You kiss your mother with that mouth, Marks?"
"Fuck off," Travis calls back. "Jesus. You grazed my leg, Wes, this hurts like hell."
Wes peers around the edge of the dresser carefully. "A graze? Don't be a baby, Travis."
"Who the fuck do you work for, man?" Travis calls out. Sensing movement, Wes darts back behind the dresser just in time to miss the two bullets flying at his face. "Oh, hot damn! Baby's armed!"
Wes just rolls his eyes. "Seriously? Did you seriously just say that - "
"Saw some nice pictures of you this morning, Wes," Travis continues, voice strained. "You said you'd never been to Russia - "
"You said you worked for Google!" Wes shouts back. "You said you did search engine optimization, you motherf - "
Travis doesn't let him finish, and Wes ducks down into a crouch, barely feeling the spray of glass from the window. Wes stares at it for a second, breathing heavily.
"I got neighbors, man," he hears. "Are we really gonna do this - "
"I evacuated them," Wes shouts.
Travis laughs, a twisted version of it that doesn't sound anything like it normally does. "You evacuated my building so we could have a shoot out? Of course you did."
"I didn't choose this," Wes says, "I didn't make this choice. You did."
There's a sort of rustling sound, and Wes leans as close to the edge of the dresser as he dares, bracing one foot on the wall. When Travis speaks again, his voice is closer than it was before, more to the left. The bookcase, Wes thinks. "How's that?"
"Who do you work for?" Wes hollers. Travis laughs again. "You got my phone number, after New York. How?"
"I told you, you left your damn phone unlocked!"
"Why me?" Wes demands. "What were you looking for?"
"Looking for, looking for," Travis repeats, "you're fucking crazy, you think I don't have better things to do than run honey traps on uptight control freak spooks like you?"
"How do you know that?" Wes shouts. "Dammit Travis - "
"Lucky guess," Travis says with a grunt. Another rustling sound, and Wes tenses, aiming his weapon. "I'm coming out. Wes? You hear me? Don't fucking shoot me again."
Wes doesn't move. "You're crazy," he accuses, "don't - Travis, don't break your cover, what, do you have a death wish?"
"You're not gonna kill me," Travis replies, voice frighteningly close. "And I'm not gonna kill you, Wes, come on."
"I might," Wes says. "You lied to me."
"You lied first. We both lied. Whatever." Travis' hand emerges slowly, palm held up in surrender. "Come on out, baby, come on. I didn't know."
Wes reaches out and slaps Travis' wrist away with one hand, still keeping his gun aloft in the other. "Fuck off. You are crazy."
"Wes - "
"Don't talk to me like I'm a victim," Wes says harshly. "Don't do that."
"Fine, fine." Travis steps into view fully, annoyance plastered all over his face. Wes aims the gun straight at his forehead. "Oh, please."
"Show me some ID," Wes orders, "idiot."
"I don't have ID," Travis replies impatiently. "I'm undercover."
"No bona fides," Wes snaps, "nothing but your word, and I'm, what, just supposed to believe you?"
"If you thought I was a big bad evil guy you woulda killed me twenty minutes ago, Wes - Wes," Travis says, rolling his eyes, "are you serious? Put the gun down."
Wes just stares at him, grip steady. This is what it means to be compromised, he thinks.
"Wes," Travis says, "it's me. It's me."
"I don't know who you are," Wes says, taking a shaky breath.
Travis reaches out slowly, cautiously, and puts his palm on Wes' chest. "Yeah, you do," he says, like it's just that easy. Wes closes his eyes.
"Wes - "
"Shut up," Wes says, eyes flying open.
Travis makes a face. "Wes, don't - "
"No, shut up," Wes says urgently. "Did you hear that?"
Travis' hand falls from Wes' chest slowly. "Hear what?"
There's the sound of shattering glass, and Wes grabs Travis' arm, pulling him backwards, because somebody has just shot a fucking smoke bomb through the window.
"That," Wes says dryly.
Travis groans in irritation. "I don't know how," he says, "but I know this is your fault."
"Is it possible," Ryan says, "that your discovery of each other's true identity is something that still bothers you both?"
Wes trains his eyes on the ceiling. Beside him, Travis sighs almost inaudibly.
"Finding out like that must've been quite the blow," Ryan continues. "It must've shaken your trust in each other, finding out that most of what you knew about each other up to that point was a lie."
"Thank you for that insight," Wes says dryly. "Groundbreaking observation right there."
Ryan stares him down, unimpressed. "You know that I was assigned to you by a joint decision from both of your case officers," she says, demeanor changing to stern. "Both Commander MacFarland and Chief Sutton both believe that your professional difficulties of late can be traced to your personal ones. You are also aware that your respective statuses with them can change as a result of my report."
Travis elbows him and Wes scowls. "Okay, yeah, sorry. That was out of line."
"I don't want an apology, I want cooperation," Ryan says, barely even blinking. "You said in our first session that you want to preserve your marriage, is that still true?"
"Yes," Travis says quickly.
"Of course," Wes chimes in, nodding. He can feel Travis' gaze on the side of his face, but he refuses to look, not wanting to see what his expression must look like. "Of course we do."
"Then act like it," Ryan orders. She sighs. "Look, you don't have to do it here. You don't have to tell me about anything personal whatsoever, that's fine. But talk to each other, for your own sakes." She leans forward slightly, pinning them both in place with a severe look. "I know that you're not used to it. I can tell that your courtship was a whirlwind one to say the least, and God knows you're both in a unique situation, under incredibly unique circumstances. But I will tell you right now, that that doesn't mean that you can get away with sweeping these things under the rug. It doesn't matter what your lives are like, or how good you are at your jobs, if you do not communicate with each other, your relationship will fail."
Travis reaches out and touches the side of Wes' wrist lightly, a small thing he does whenever he wants Wes to know he's there. Wes swallows thickly and looks back up at the ceiling.
"We hear you, doc," Travis says gravely. "We do."
"Good." Ryan leans back in her chair with a satisfied sigh. "You never know, gentlemen. You might even enjoy it."
"Let's not get carried away," Wes says.
Here's the thing about Wes: he's very good at his job. The moral implications of it don't keep him up at night like they do to other agents, and he's got the skill and dedication necessary to keep himself at the top of the game. He's quick, he's smart, he can think on his feet, and he believes in what he's doing.
Travis is good too, though in a different way. He's smart too, and just as quick, and dedicated, but he's also reckless in the way Wes isn't, more willing to take chances and risks. He jumps first, shoots first, walks in first, and leaves the thinking to Wes, and while this is part of what drew them both to each other in the first place, it's also what gets him shot.
"I'm going to kill you," Wes says, through gritted teeth, trying to keep both hands on the wheel and off of Travis, currently bleeding out next to him in the passenger seat. "Don't worry about staying alive because you're already dead. This is it. Bon voyage, Travis."
"It'll be a heroic death," Travis says, sliding down farther in the seat and clutching the wound in his arm with his free hand. "Did I mention that I - ugh," he grimaces in pain, words stuttering over themselves, "I love car chases? They're like my favorite part. I am literally so attracted to you right now."
"Of course you love car chases," Wes, who hates them, replies. "Of course you do - "
"Wes," Travis shouts, and Wes yanks the wheel to the side, narrowly avoiding a kamikaze maneuver from one of the (cliche, derivative, deadly) black vans chasing them.
A spray of gunfire hits the side of the car and Wes ducks his head down, cursing violently. He presses the pedal to the floor, accelerating enough to pull them out of the range of fire and swivels his head to check on Travis, who is curled up in the corner of the seat, clutching his arm and groaning.
"I need you to drive," Wes says, keeping his voice even. "Travis, are you hearing me? I need you with me here."
"Yeah," Travis mutters, then clears his throat, raising his voice. "Yeah, shoot them. Like, all of them."
Wes reaches into the backseat and fumbles for something, coming up with a jacket he'd left in there earlier. "Here, use this."
Travis takes it and wraps it gingerly around the wound, bracing with one foot against the dash. He groans in pain as he ties it tightly, head falling back against the armrest.
"Dead," Wes says, heart beating rapidly, "so supremely dead."
"Shut up and switch me places," Travis says sourly, reaching over and grabbing the wheel.
Wes slips out of the seat to let Travis take over, climbing into the back and reaching the for the spare firearm beneath the driver's seat. "Who the hell are these guys? Your people still think I'm a hostile?"
"No," Travis says, turning the car sharply and sending Wes careening towards the door. "Sorry! Sorry - "
"I have a gun in my hand!"
"I said I was sorry," Travis snipes.
"Son of a bitch," Wes says, grabbing onto the back of the seat with one hand and aiming with the other. "You were saying?" he asks, and shoots out the back window.
"Drug cartel," Travis says, "they call themselves the Huns. It's the undercover assignment I was working."
"You do look like a drug dealer," Wes says, and shoots again, aiming at the windshield of the closest van. Two of his bullets hit home, and the car goes careening off the road and into the nearest ditch. "One down," he calls. "Two left."
"These guys are big time," Travis says. "Connections with local government, we thought maybe they had an in with the police commissioner - "
"Down," Wes shouts, ducking down behind the seat to avoid another shower of bullets. One of them grazes the back of his wrist and he hisses, pulling it into his chest. Travis swerves violently, taking a sharp turn to the east. Wes can hear the tires squealing.
"We need help," Travis says urgently, glancing in the rearview mirror. Wes looks up over the seat cautiously, seeing the remaining two vans still close on their six. "How much ammo you got left?"
Wes checks quickly. "Four rounds."
"I used most of it on you!"
"Can you get air support?" Travis asks. "I already called for backup but we don't have the resources here in LA to get assembled quick enough - "
"Not for this," Wes says, shaking off the pain and reaching for his cell phone. "But I can get us evac."
"Oh, you can't get air support," Travis says incredulously, "we pay you how much of our taxes every year and you can't even fuckin' manage air support - "
"We're in the middle of LA being chased by drug dealers, this is your damn jurisdiction," Wes snaps, "shut up, I'm on the phone."
"'Shut up I'm on the phone,'" Travis imitates, voice as nasal and annoying as possible. "Suck my - "
"Travis!" Wes resists the urge to kick the back of the driver's seat, reminding himself that he's injured, possibly severely. "I swear to God, you are the most annoying person I have ever met in my life."
"The sentiment is mutual, baby," Travis replies, "now hold on, I'm gonna do some crazy shit, okay, and you can't yell at me for any of it later."
"What," Wes says flatly, forgetting about his phone call for the moment, "what are you - "
"You can't kill me if it saves our lives," Travis says quickly.
"You are driving with one hand," Wes says, slightly panicky, "whatever you are about to do, don't - "
"I told you this is my favorite part," Travis says with a terrifying grin, and yanks the wheel one more time.
(In retrospect, it's possible that letting him drive was a mistake.)
"So," Travis says, talking with his mouth full (as usual), "how much longer, d'you think?"
"A few more weeks, I guess." Wes grimaces as a piece of chicken falls out of Travis' sandwich. "Could you, I don't know, not?"
"Not what?" Travis asks, oblivious.
"Eat like a toddler," Wes says, throwing a dish towel at his face.
Travis dodges it and starts making obnoxious chewing sounds, which - Wes doesn't know what else he expected.
"Kendall's coming over for a progress report later," Wes says instead of pursuing the issue, which never ends well with Travis. "She wants everything we've got so far."
"What we've got," Travis says, and scoffs. "Some psychobabble and a bunch of useless surveillance of the good doctor sitting in her apartment and watching TV. Oh yeah, lots of progress."
"It takes time," Wes says patiently, "if she is the mole then we won't know until she leaks the intel we've fed her, you knew when we started that she's too smart to get caught any other way - "
"You really think it's Ryan?" Travis asks curiously. "She doesn't seem like the type."
"Neither did Henry," Wes reminds him. "Besides, we'll know soon enough."
"I guess." Travis crumples up the wrapper to his sandwich, shooting it at the trashcan, basketball style. It flies in easily, of course.
"Point," Wes says dryly.
"That was worth at least three," Travis protests with a grin. Wes shoots him a strained smile. "What's wrong? I thought cleaning made you happy."
Wes tosses the spray bottle of cleaner on the counter with a clatter and sighs. "It's not working right now," he complains. "It's this damn apartment."
"It's not that bad," Travis says. "It's better than most of the places I've lived."
"What places?" Wes asks wryly. "The motels you used to stay in or that disgusting trailer you used to - "
"Don't talk shit about the trailer," Travis says.
"Oh, God forbid."
"Come on," Travis insists, "what's wrong."
Wes crosses his arms, leaning back against the stove and regarding Travis thoughtfully. Travis grins in response, folding his arms on the kitchen table and resting his chin on his arms. "Do you think she's right? About us?"
"Which part?" Travis asks. "She talks a lot. Sometimes I zone."
"The communicating part," Wes says. "The - fighting because we have trust issues, or whatever. That part."
"We communicate all the time," Travis says. "This morning you communicated to me that you hate the donuts with the jelly in the middle by ripping mine in half and throwing it in the sink, which is a thing I didn't know about you. Progress."
"I'm trying to have a serious conversation here," Wes says, "and you're being all - you. Quit it."
"What d'you want me to say, you want me to say I think she's right?" Travis says, sitting up straight. "She's right a little, maybe. But she also thinks we have bigger problems than we do."
Wes casts his eyes to the ceiling in surrender. "Right."
Travis holds out a hand. "C'mere."
"Just c'mere, jeez." Travis jerks his head invitingly, as if that's supposed to make Wes want to obey.
"Oh God," Wes says, "you look like a twelfth grader trying to flirt with his prom date; stop doing that thing with your eyebrows right now - "
"Do you want me to tell you you're pretty?" Travis asks. Wes grimaces. "I can - "
"I will kill you in your sleep," Wes says, letting Travis draw him in closer.
"No you won't," Travis says, and pulls Wes in by his belt, leaning the plane of his forehead against Wes' sternum. Wes lets go of the breath he'd been holding and rests his hands on Travis' shoulders, carefully, as careful as Travis' hands are on his waist.
"I don't regret it, do you regret it?" Travis mumbles, voice muffled. "You're a pain in the ass but I'd rather fight with you than be with anyone else."
"I don't regret it," Wes says, swallowing thickly. He brushes his knuckles down the side of Travis' face, feeling the motion of his jaw as he smiles. "Idiot."
"Whatever," Travis says fondly, pushing him away suddenly and sending him staggering back a few steps. He grins. "You big sap."
Wes kicks at Travis' chair, sending him flailing for balance. "Fuck off," he replies, laughing.
"Son of a bitch, I hate you," Travis says fondly.
Fact: it is only due to Alex's influence that Wes avoided some pretty serious consequences for the...Travis situation, namely the fact that he unknowingly started dating a CIA agent and accidentally blew his cover causing a high-speed car chase/shoot-out that lasted for nearly an hour through downtown Los Angeles.
("Not my fault," Wes had said.
"In what universe is that even close to being true?" Alex replied, incredulously.)
Travis thought it was hilarious and suggested that they use their newly-earned time off (while their superiors decide just what in the fuck to do with them) to take a vacation.
"Somewhere really, really stupid," he said, lounging on Wes' bed like he'd always been there, like he'd just been waiting for Wes to notice, "Las Vegas, maybe. Reno."
"Do I seem like the sort of person that would enjoy Las Vegas?" Wes asked wryly.
"Absolutely," Travis said passionately.
Anyway. That's how they met.