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The Mobster and The Medic

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Gene looks at the clock and mentally tries to will it to change. Only one hour left. He can make it. One more hour of paperwork and then he can go home and eat all the cold pizza in his fridge and sleep for at least eight hours. He is so close he can taste it.

 

This late at night no one comes to a clinic, they go to the actual emergency room, but state laws says they have to be open until 1 am so here he sits trying not to fall asleep.

 

At exactly 12:55 Gene gets up and locks the front doors. He slaps the lights off on his way to the back door.

 

He opens the back door right as someone punches in the access code making the door swing easier, so he ends up over balanced and almost falls over in the process.

 

The man on the other side of the door does not work here. Gene had done his residency rotation at this clinic before he taken a full time position. He knows everyone that works here and this guy does not work here. He is also not a member of the board.

 

The man on the other side of the door is, however, hotter than the sun.

 

And bleeding.

 

“You’ve been shot.” Gene hears himself say. He would like to blame the sleep deprivation of a twelve hour shift after a night out with the guys and the sheer beauty of the man before him for the words his brain decided needed to be vocalized.

 

“Yes.” The man says back, keeping pressure on his shoulder with his rolled up jacket. “Are you a doctor?” That restarts Gene’s brain.

 

“Let me help.” Gene half drags, half hoists the other man’s arm onto his shoulder and moves the two of them towards the nearest exam room.

 

The other many is dressed in what used to be an amazing suit. Gene can tell just by the feel of the shirt under his hands and the lines of the trousers. He thinks the jacket currently being used as a makeshift bandage costs more than he makes in a month.

 

What the hell is a guy dressed like this doing in Five Points?

 

“What happened?” Gene asks as he gets the guy on one of the exam tables and turns to the cabinet for supplies.

 

“I was shot.” The guy says back like he thinks Gene might have missed the bullet hole in the top left of his shoulder or all the blood.

 

Gene takes a deep breath and tries to remember everything he has learned about good bedside manner in high stress situations. He doesn’t need this right now. He needs sleep and something to eat. Not to cut the shirt off the most attractive man he has ever seen. He decides not to ask more questions right now.

 

“I have to cut you out of your shirt.” Gene puts all the authority he has in his voice and pulls out his scissors. If he gives them one menacing click before doing the actual cutting it’s not his fault, scissors are fun.

 

The guy leans back on the exam table with a pained huff as Gene slides his hand under the guy’s shirt to grip the edge. His fingers brush warm firm skin in the process. Not now brain . Gene cuts the shirt open with swift sure movements.

 

Now that he can get a good look at the wound Gene is pretty certain this isn’t life threatening. Honestly, if he thought it was, he should have already called an ambulance. The bullet went into the meat of the guy’s shoulder and deltoid muscles. He isn’t bleeding like it hit an artery so the worst they are looking at is a fractured collar bone.

 

The problem is the lack of exit wound. Gene is going to have to dig it out.

 

“Okay, écoute, I am going to climb on the table now.” Gene explains. “I need to hold you down while I get the bullet out.”

 

“I can hold still.” The guy snarled through gritted teeth.

 

“Ouais, c’est ça. I promise you that you can’t. If I weren't the only one here I would pull at least two nurses in for this.” Gene opens a few more packets.

 

“No morphine?” The guy sounds a little desperate and confused, a strained quality to his voice.

 

“Not in this building.” Gene shakes his head. “Best we got here is the liquid nitrogen we use on warts. You want that?”

 

“No.” The guy snaps.

 

Gene pulls the cart over next to the table and then climbs onto the table so that he is straddling the guy’s abs. They are really nice abs, covered in some truly brilliant ink. Gene has always been a sucker for tattoos but this is an impressive array of work on a single man, especially one who came in wearing a suit that expensive.

 

It’s the ink nearest to the bullet wound that finally clicks as ‘something’ other than just some damn fine tattoo work. Gene has seen this particular design before; it’s in a style called American classic - thank you Ink Master’s marathon. That’s not the interesting part. The reason he is frozen with his thighs around this guy’s abs and his gloves inches above the guy’s skin is because that is a Screaming Eagle.

 

Gene isn’t from Five Points originally. He came up to the East Coast for medical school and stayed afterwards because it was where he lived now. Everyone in town - hell everyone north of Washington and east of Ohio - knows about The Screaming Eagles.

 

There was an HBO special about the gang just last year. The largest organized crime unit in the East Coast. The FBI has never been able to crack anyone higher than street level. Half the neighborhood considers the guys heroes, with all the money they put back into their community through anonymous donations. Or at least that’s the rumor.

 

Now Gene sees all of the ink for what it is. That’s not a mandala on his peck, at least it's not only a mandala. The Latin down his ribs is an old Irish prayer and Gene knows the Eagles have roots in the Irish ghettos.

 

“There a problem?” The guy - the mobster - asks after Gene has been still for too long.

 

“You never told me how you got shot.” Gene doesn’t phrase it like a question. It isn’t a question. Now that he is looking for it he can see the imprint of a shoulder holster on the guy’s skin. He must have removed it before he came to the clinic. Removing a holster with a bullet hole in his shoulder would have been incredibly painful, and something only someone hiding something would think to do.

 

“Some kid wanted my wallet,” the guy offers in what has to be the worst lie Gene has ever heard. The guy doesn’t even try to sell it.

 

“Who were you expecting to find here?” Gene asks as he digs the forceps into the guy’s shoulder. The guy lets out what can only be called a growl as Gene works. The guy takes hold of Gene’s thighs with a death grip, Gene can practically feel the finger shaped bruises form on his legs.

 

Gene gets the bullet out and washes the wound out with saline before going for stitches kit. The guy has loosened his grip on Gene’s thighs, but he hasn’t removed his hands from their hold.

 

“You didn’t answer my question,” Gene says and the guy looks at him with an angry glare.

 

“You have terrible bedside manners,” the guy growls back.

 

“Who did you think was going to be here when you opened that door?” Gene asks again, taking his curved needle to the guy’s skin. “You had the code. We change the code regularly because we do keep some prescription drugs here and as it turns out there’s a drug epidemic in America.” Maybe he shouldn’t be this angry at the guy, but his adrenaline has finally kicked in and Gene is amped up and annoyed. So what if he makes the clearly high ranking gangster angry, Gene is the one holding the sharp things right now.

 

“What are you accusing me of?” the guy asks with a pained intake of breath. It does great things of his abs, something Gene really needs to stop noticing.

 

“You weren’t fucking robbed,” Gene punctuates his sentence with a pull of the thread. The guy winces and squeezes Gene’s thighs again. “We both know that, so cut the crap.” He reaches for the gauze. “Does your gang own this clinic or something?”

 

“I’m not in a gang.” Ten points to Slytherin for the sheer sincerity this guy displays in saying that. Gene pauses what he is doing to look the guy square in the face with what Heffron calls his ‘disappointed teacher’ face. The guy frowns for a brief second. “We don’t own the clinic. I have a friend.”

 

“And you were expecting your ami to stitch you up after you got shot threatening some pauvre petit business owner,” Gene snaps, taping down the gauze.

 

“You watch too many mobster movies, Doc.” The guy clearly has his composure back, because he sounds practically relaxed now. “I don’t threaten anyone, business owner or otherwise.” He smiles and it's pure sex. Gene actually feels his blood flow experience a conflict of interest; half of it wants to go to his face and the other half would really enjoy a trip down south.

 

The guy’s thumbs move in small circles on Gene’s thighs. How long has he been doing that?

 

Gene finally becomes acutely aware of their position. Medical care regardless, this is a rather intimate pose. There is a rubber band of tension between them, now that he is looking for it.

 

“And yet, you still got shot,” Gene offers with a wave of his hand as he pulls off his gloves and throws them to the trash across the room. He still hasn’t moved; they both know this. His lack of movement hangs between them stretching the tension tighter.

 

“Well, you are taking care of me now, Doc. I’m in good hands.” The guy’s hands move upwards, as he leans forward his mouth slightly open and glistening.

 

Gene becomes aware of six things at once. One, he is turned on and his scrubs aren’t hiding that, damn his anger response. Two, they are alone in the clinic after hours. Three, this room has a security camera. Four, while this guy is hot - burning - , he has very questionable employment. Five, Gene doesn’t even know this guy’s name. Six, he smells - not so - great after working a full day and foregoing a shower this morning.

 

Gene practically leaps off the guy.

 

He really has to stop calling him ‘the guy’, but Gene is not about to ask his name at this juncture. Gene looks at the ink on the guy’s ribs again, Irish prayer written in blocky Latin and one thing comes to mind with that information.

 

“Listen, Connor , you need a sling for that shoulder and then you need to go home, because the clinic closed maybe...” Gene looks at his watch, “thirty minutes ago and I am off the clock now for real. They don’t give us overtime.” Gene turns to get one of the arm slings out from the lower cabinet.

 

“Connor?” the guy asks with a raised eyebrow when Gene turns back around. Gene point’s at Connor’s chest tats.

 

“Irish prayer, cross, bullet wound,” Gene shrugs. “I heard you guys went to war with the Cartel a few years back.”

 

The smile Connor gives him is nearly blinding in its heat. Gene is too gay and tired for this shit, he doesn’t need this right now.

 

Getting the sling on Conner proves to be another act that pushes Gene close to his limit. They are of a height, but Connor can’t really move his left arm, so Gene has to reach over him to secure the straps around Connor’s neck. There is a lot of naked skin in the mix and Connor seems to know how good looking he is and has real evidence that all of this is affecting Gene. Connor also has more ink on his back. Ugh .

 

“Thanks,” Connor smiles as Gene walks him out of the clinic, “you really saved my ass there, Doc.”

 

“Don’t get shot, s’il-vous-plait” Gene tells him before trudging to his car at the far end of the parking lot. He will deal with this in the morning. Gene doesn’t have the blood flow or the energy to deal with any of this now. Things will feel less intense in the morning.

 

<~>

 

“What the fuck, Ron.” Carwood is in a stink when he finally comes into the office that night. “Where have you been?”

 

“There was a complication.” Ron has to resist the urge to roll his shoulder from the pain. He did throw his spare jacket on before coming in, but it’s clear he is shirtless and injured. “Have Grant tell his boyfriend if he changes nights at the Clinic, even if it’s last minute he needs to tell us.”

 

Carwood pauses at that, his eyes narrowing.

 

“Do we need cleanup?” Carwood asks after a long moment.

 

“No,” Ron answers quickly. The Doc won't talk; he has too much sass in him to run to feds. That clinic treats half the neighborhood, so the doc probably knows all about the rules in Five Points.  Besides, Ron has plans for the kid. “In fact, tell Grant to bring his boy and all his friends to the club next week.”

 

“Oh good, that sounds like a wonderful idea,” Carwood snarks. Ron ignores the sarcasm and heads to his desk. Things went sideways with the Chinese, so he is going to have to spend the rest of the night making some calls.

 

“Oh, and tell Muck and Penkala to look into all the doctors at that clinic,” Ron throws out as Carwood heads back to his own office space.

 

“How much intel you want?” Carwood raises an eyebrow in clear challenge. He isn’t always a fan of when Ron finds new fixations.

 

“Everything they can get,” Ron waves Carwood off. “Stop that, we need more surgeons.”

 

“Not what your smirk says.” Carwood grumbles and then finally leaves. Well, he isn’t wrong. Ron has plans to recruit the Southern doctor - in more than one way. It’s always more fun to mix business with pleasure.

 

<~>

 

Gene puts the interaction out of his mind. He works at an emergent care clinic; he has lived through a lot of weird experiences. Like that guy who came in with what looked like an infected human bite on his neck and put down ‘drinks blood regularly to stay young’ on his medical history. Or the ever memorable couple who came in with a vibrator stuck in one of them and only sought out medical attention on hour ten.

 

Not to mention that when Gene goes to ask Doctor Bryan about the security tapes from the other night, there turn out to be none.

 

“They only record if there is movement in the rooms. Did you go into one of the rooms after close?” Tim asks.

 

“No, I didn’t.” Gene answers, because he isn’t going to talk.

 

Where Gene is from, you don’t talk. It’s one of the things he liked about Five Points when he first moved here; it felt a bit like home. Sure, the community is Irish and not Cajun, but there’s the same kind of old men on stoops and old women at church that he remembers from his childhood.

 

The point is that Gene moves on and forgets, sort of, about the stranger with the gang tats he helped.

 

<~>

 

“You’re coming, right?” Heffron asks. Gene looks up from his lunch in utter confusion. He hasn’t been daydreaming about tattooed abs. At all. He was simply looking at his salad intently.

 

“Where?” Gene replies, which makes Ralph and Babe look at him like they think he needs a hug. Great, they’ve caught on that something is off.

 

“The club, tonight. Chuck knows one of the bouncers and I happen to know a bartender. We can get in and have night out.” Babe elbows him. “You could use it, Gene.”

 

“I don’t know,” he shrugs, “it’s been a long time since I went out to a club. I don't think I have anything to wear.”

 

“No problem, I’ll come over after work and help you pick something out,” Babe offers with a smile.

 

“That’s not really…” Gene realizes as he says it that he will be going out with his co workers whether he wants to or not and fighting isn’t going to make his night any better, “gonna make an improvement, but you can try.”

 

Ralph snorts.

 

<~>

 

“You were not kidding about your wardrobe,” Babe says with horror in his voice. Gene, laying on his bed half buried in an ever growing pile of clothes, pulls a pillow over his face in an attempt to smother himself. “It’s all scrubs and southern frat boy clothing.”

 

“Hey!” Gene feels like maybe he should defend his clothes. He is actually from the South and all.

 

“I’m calling Chuck,” Babe explains as he pulls out his phone. “We cannot take you to Easy with these clothes.”

 

“Or,” Gene removes the pillow to try and put some power behind his words, “meilleure idée, I don’t go clubbing tonight because I am not in my early twenties anymore. We just drink my beer on the couch and watch Dirty Jobs on Nat Geo.”

 

“Chuck,” Babe squints at him in annoyance as he speaks into the phone, “bring everything you have that’s club appropriate to Gene’s place. We can’t be seen with him otherwise.”

 

<~>

 

“You look…” Carwood tilted his head and considered Ron “Overtly sexual.” Good. Mission accomplished. “Is there a reason for your shirt being painted on and practically see through? Not that I don’t appreciate the view.”

 

“Yes," Ron answered truthfully. Grant had confirmed the Doc would be at Easy tonight.

 

“You going to behave yourself tonight?” Carwood asks with a tired sigh. “Wait, no, don’t answer that. I’m going to deal with the boss. Enjoy your night off.” Carwood clicks several guns into his holsters before throwing his suit jacket over them, hiding the cache of weapons he’s wearing.

 

“Say Hi to Dad!” Ron calls out with a smile as his friend left the office.

 

“Only your insane ass could get away with calling him that to his face,” Carwood snaps back before picking up a briefcase at the door out their joint office space.

 

This is true. The boss really only lets Ron and a few others get away with that nickname. And Ron is the only one allowed to use it outside the inner circle; he’s just special that way. The perks of being the best wet works guy on the east coast.

 

<~>

 

Gene had been to clubs in college. Mostly they had been less fun raves filled with people in tight clothes, jello shots, and music he could feel more than hear. This is a much, much nicer version of that. He now understands why Babe and Chuck have been giving him such a hard time about his clothes.

 

Granted, what he’s wearing right now is just the most expensive, tight pair of pants and t-shirt Chuck managed to squeeze him into.

 

“You are going to thank me for this later!” Chuck had given Gene a reassuring back slap after it had taken literally jumping - several times - to get into the pants.

 

Gene doesn’t even want to know the cost of the drink in his hand. The place is packed and the line outside had been rather daunting. Gene always thought lines for clubs only happened in movies. Yet, they had walked to the front and then Chuck had been waved in with Gene, Babe, and Ralph.

 

“Let’s get our drink on and then get our dance on!” Babe shouts over the thump of the music and then throws back the shot in his hand, Gene and the rest of the group following suit.

 

What the hell, he doesn’t have to work tomorrow, time to break loose a little.

 

<~>

 

Ron had spent a long time picking out his clothes for tonight. He had learned many things in his tenure under their boss, a man who adored planning and details. One of those things was to maintain a standard of style. Before he had joined The Eagles Ron hadn’t much cared what he looked like, now the concept of presenting a picture of respectability was too deeply ingrained in him.

 

Carwood had been correct in his assessment. Ron had dressed to impress. Others noticed.

 

“Speirs,” Buck greets when he came into the office at the back of Easy. “Are you actually here for fun? Like a human being?” Ron does not smile back at his general manager. Buck just laughs and goes back to typing on his computer.

 

“How we doing tonight?” Ron asks after a moment.

 

“We had three call offs at the bar, so I have new people getting trained in the middle of a shift. Not ideal but Tipper is running the bar tonight so we should be fine.” Buck flips a page on a notebook in front of him. “Oh, next week we need to talk about ordering. I don’t think Sobel Shipping is the way to go for towels anymore. Their new manager just shouts a lot and we haven’t gotten the correct number of towels back in three months.”

 

“I’ll see what other vendors in the area can match or beat their prices,” Ron agrees, “who knows, maybe I will be willing to pay more if it means better service.”

 

That gets Buck to stop what he’s doing and stare Ron down.

 

“Leave my office and go make bad choices you are clearly here to make.” Buck points to the door. “I don't need your sense of humor ruining my night.”

 

Ron flips him off on his way out of the office and onto the walkway overlooking the dance floor.

 

He stands at the overlook watching the dance floor. He doesn’t think of the press of bodies as enticing or enrapturing; mostly he finds it to be chaos.

 

His eyes find the one thing in the room he was looking for, the doctor, quite quickly. He’s standing to the side of the dance floor, doing shots with Chuck Grant and the redhead Chuck is dating. Ron notices that in the lights of the club, the Doc’s skin glows in a rainbow of soft light, his dark hair contrasting against the colors. He looks ethereal and magical as his skin glows blue and then pink, it’s captivating.

 

“You want me to get intel?” Liebgott asks from beside Ron. He had heard the other man coming down the hall a moment ago but hadn’t acknowledge him right away. Clearly, Liebgott is feeling chatty tonight.

 

“I have intel,” Ron explains.

 

“Sure, you know his name, but do you know if he even plays for the right team?” Joe asks lighting up a cigarette.

 

Ron thinks back to that exam table and the erection he had felt as the doc snapped at him and stitched him up. He had been a gentleman and not said anything, but he was pretty sure that he had all the relevant information needed for this particular mission.

 

“Go have fun with your boyfriend,” Ron says, pointing at the tall man who just came in through the front door. He stands out in his thick glasses and cardigan, not at all dressed for the club. The man looks around the room awkwardly before pulling out his cellphone, and opening it to full brightness and using the screen to scan the crowd.

 

“This fucking guy,” Liebgott exhales fondly. He stubs out his cigarette on the railing and marches off.

 

Ron doesn’t move from his spot overlooking the dance floor. It’s nice being able to watch people without being watched himself. He notes the number of people moving off to the back hallways to get their night started, he’s gonna have to tell Compton to have the back hallways scrubbed more often.

 

His eyes stray back to the doc, Gene Roe, who appears to be having hesitant amounts of fun with his friends. Speirs clocks them doing about three shots before the redhead drags Gene out onto the dance floor. For a moment or so Gene resists attempts to get him to throw up his arms and dance; then the song changes and he seems willing to participate.

 

Watching the pale man get into the flow of the dance, swaying his hips to the beat is an experience. It’s effective.

 

Ron realizes it was time to go downstairs and actually attempt interacting with the other man.

 

<~>

 

“Have you met our friend Liebgott before?” Chuck asks, introducing Gene to a tall, thin man who Gene does recognize. They had met a couple of months ago, when he had come in with another man to get an anal probe. Well, not really an anal probe, but rather someone having something stuck up their butt. Gene semi hated days when that those cases showed up, but right now he’s pretty drunk and he is in the mood to have a little bit of fun.

 

“Not personally, but he came in with his boyfriend a few months back because they got…” Gene starts, but there’s a hand in the way of his continued story. Aw. It was a good story too.

 

“Don’t finish that.” Liebgott orders with a snarl.

 

“No!” Chuck looks somewhere between heartbroken and giddy. “You can’t threaten Gene, he's my friend and he is going to tell me what trouble you and that college twink got into.”

 

“Chuck, you’re drunk and so is the good doctor,” Liebgott explains when he finally pulls his hand away from Gene’s mouth. “Go dance, and stop talking about my sex life.”

 

“Lame.” Chuck says, blowing out a raspberry, “I’m going to go grind on my boyfriend.” Gene watches Chuck chug the last of his drink, set it down on the table and make a beeline for Babe on the dance floor.

 

Babe had been dancing with his hands in the air trying to get Ralph to stop standing so still. At the sight of his boyfriend Babe goes from ‘going with the flow dancing’ to ‘how close to sex can two people get fully clothed on the dance floor’. The answer is ‘pretty close’, because Chuck’s hand is down the back of Babe’s pants as they grind to the beat. Gene realizes he’s staring with a spike of regret and looks away quickly. They are a really nice looking couple; it made him ache a little to watch.

 

When Gene looks up, Liebgott is watching him with curious eyes.

 

“You into Chuck?” Liebgott asks, no preamble.

 

“No.” Gene isn’t.

 

“Babe?”

 

“No,” Gene responds again.

 

“Then what the fuck was that look all about?” Liebgott asks in exasperation. He seems to be itching for some kind of confrontation. Gene shrugs; it leaves him feeling kind of wobbly. The shots are finally starting to actually hit his brain blood barrier.

 

“I’m the lame single in a group of couples, va savoir” Gene waves at the table and the guys out on the dance floor.

 

“What about, what's-his-face, came with you? He’s single,” Liebgott points with his cup at Ralph Spina who is looking progressively more grossed out by Babe and Chuck’s antics on the dance floor.

 

“Ralph’s ace,” Gene explained.

 

“Ah.”

 

At that exact moment, a guy in a cardigan and a v-neck shirt slides into the booth next to Liebgott. Gene remembers this guy; the boyfriend who had the difficulties with the toy. The guy hands Liebgott his drink and then looks up at Gene and goes gob smacked.

 

“What are you doing here?” The guy hiccups on the last word. Liebgott snorts his drink out of his nose. Gene giggles.

 

“Jesus, Web!” Liebgott exclaims, trying to wipe off his nose.

 

“I thought your name was David?” Gene asks with a smile. He tries to make the smile teasing, it might just come out silly because he has gotten his drink on for sure. David’s eyes are huge behind his thick rims.

 

“Oh god, you remember us!” David exclaims forlornly. Liebgott rolls his eyes at this before pushing David’s drink into his hands.

 

“Have a drink Web, you’ll feel less embarrassed that Doc remembers we got something stuck up your butt.”

 

“Not just something,” Gene reminds them, “a purple glittery egg vibrator. Très mignon.” Gene drives the knife in with gusto. Liebgott seems unembarrassed and completely proud, because he winks at Gene. David looks ready to kill himself with the glass in front of him.

 

“What’d you do to Shark Week?” Babe asks as he comes over with Chuck. The ginger takes Gene’s drink and downs it in two chugs.

 

“How many names do you have?” Gene asks David.

 

“One.” David answers right as Liebgott says, “six.”

 

They look at each other with a glare. David scrunches up his nose and opens his mouth, but Liebgott simply leans forward and kisses David square on the mouth. David appears to take this as an apology, because he leans into the kiss as well.

 

“Gross!” Babe exclaims.

 

“Who exactly is the Ace in this group?” Ralph asks as he pushes into the booth next to Gene. “I was just subjected to you and Chuck trying to have sex with your clothes on.”

 

“Yeah you did!” Chuck laughs.

 

“Gene! It’s time for you to dance!” Babe reaches across the table and drags at his arm. “There’s a guy with huge arms out there I think you should climb.” Ralph slides back out of the booth with a frustrated noise, because Liebgott and David are making out.

 

“Let’s all dance!” Gene agrees, pulling Ralph away from the make out session, which is slowly turning into dry humping. At his words Beyoncé’s Partition comes on, like the universe is telling them it’s time to dance.



<~>



“GET US SHOTS!” Someone had shouted and put a fifty in Gene’s hand before pushing him towards the bar. It had probably been Babe, that kid really was the bad idea bear of the group no matter what his face said.

 

The bar is packed. Not a surprise. Gene shoulders his way to a corner where there’s space next to one of the occupied stools. Getting the bartender’s attention is another thing. Gene has his hand up, making pleading eyes, trying to make eye contact without being a complete asshole for several minutes. The three bartenders are swamped and don’t see him.

 

Until one of them looks up, his face half stricken in fear and rushes over to Gene’s corner of the bar. The guy in the stool next to Gene has also raised his hand.

 

“Sorry about the wait, what can I get for you?” The bartender asks.

 

“Any shot specials?” Gene isn’t exactly the king of alcohol, so he will just get whatever the bartender recommends.

 

“He’ll take two rounds of Tequila shots,” says the man in the stool next to Gene. The bartender is gone before Gene can even think to counter this statement. Then his brain realizes he knows that voice. He knows who is sitting next to him.

 

It’s not like Conner The Hot Mobster is hard to miss. He stands out, even here in a sea of attractive people.

 

“What are you doing here?” Gene asks Connor, affronted. What is he doing here? And how hadn’t Gene noticed him when he first walked up to the bar?

 

Connor, raising an eyebrow, motions to his drink like it explains everything. It almost does explain things, but also not really.

 

“I mean what are you doing HERE?” Gene tries again. Not to quote a classic, but of all the clubs in all the world Connor The Hot Mobster has to be at the one Gene has come to.

 

This time Connor smiles and waves his hand down at his outfit. Which, honestly. Yeah. Gene could get it. Connor is wearing a rather sinful pair of jeans. Having only seen him in a pair of tailored slacks before, Gene had not really been able to get a look at his thighs, not in the way these jeans allow. Ils sont vraiment ... Nice. Gene is buzzed. Really nice is the adjective he is sticking with.

 

The icing on top is the painfully thin white button down shirt Connor is wearing, with the sleeves rolled up. Offensive.

 

Wait .

 

“Where’s your sling?” Gene’s brain and mouth ask at the same time. Because going into full Doctor Mode in the middle of club with one of the hottest guys here is really what he needs to be doing right now. The bartender sets down a tray of shots with lime slices in front of Gene, enough for the whole group back at his table and then some.

 

“It didn’t go with the look.” Connor shrugs, with one shoulder because he has a still healing bullet wound on the other, the one that should be in a sling right now.

 

“Because caring about your visual impact is more important than healing from getting shot, c’est pas possible.” Gene has a bit of a temper when it comes to patients not following through with their aftercare.

 

Connor runs his tongue along his lips and makes a face that says ‘what can you do?’ Fuck, he looks good. Gene huffs and grabs the salt shaker. He looks up and glares at Connor over his left hand, as he licks the strip of skin between his thumb and index finger. Connor’s eyes follow the action. Good.

 

Gene tips the salt shaker onto his damp skin, until enough clings there to take the first edge of the Tequila off. He picks up the shot and holds it in a salute to Connor.

 

They hold eye contact as Gene licks the salt off his hand and throws the shot back. A challenge. An invitation. When Gene sets the shot down, Connor holds a lime slice out to Gene’s mouth. He takes it, feeling fingers brush his lips as he bites into the lime.

 

That small touch had been enough. Gene feels tight in his too tight pants just from the brush of fingertips to the swell of his lips. He’s drunk though, he shouldn’t be able to get this turned on. The science is against him. Yet pressed in close to Connor with the impression of heat from the other man’s body just inches away, Gene finds that all the alcohol in the world wouldn’t have slowed down his attraction.

 

“Thank you, Connor.” Gene says because he has a terrible idea.

 

“Speirs.” He corrects.

 

“First name or last name?” Gene asks half curious, half teasing.

 

“Last.” Speirs answers sharply. “Wrist.” Gene knows where this was going now, he has basically made the map and wrote out the directions. He holds out his wrist obediently. Speirs brings Gene’s wrist up to his mouth and sucks a slow, wet kiss to the spot. It’s mesmerizing; Gene barely feels the salt sticking to his skin and then Speirs hands him a lime wedge to hold.

 

Gene can practically taste what he knows is about to happen. From the look on Speirs’ face, he also knows exactly what they are doing.

 

Speirs licks the salt off Gene’s wrist with a flat tongue and a trailing lower lip, leaving the promise of the kiss coming. He takes the shot in one swift motion, his throat bobbing with the swallow, calling attention to the long line of skin.

 

When Speirs leans forward for the lime, Gene realizes he isn’t waiting for this to tease out a moment longer. He pops the lime wedge in his own mouth and pulls the pulp from the rind and tosses the peel on the bar, grabbing for the top unopened button on Speirs shirt.

 

The kiss is open mouthed and tastes of tequila and lime. Juice runs out the side of his mouth and Speirs almost bites his tongue off trying to get what’s left of the lime. It’s both a bit of a mess and the hottest kiss Gene has experienced in years.

 

They are pressed flushed from knee to collar bones. Gene can feel an answering erection in Speirs’ pants next to his own. He hooks his fingers into Speirs’ belt loops and uses the advantage to grind into the kiss. His lower lip receives a bite in response to this added aggression.

 

“This is a bad idea.” Speirs tells him, pulling back slightly to run his lips along Gene’s jaw.

 

“You’re reading my lines.” Gene tells him.

 

Isn’t this backwards? Gene is supposed to object. State moral objections. The sins of drugs and guns and money laundering on the economy and humanity at large. That’s how this scene is supposed to play out.

 

“Then tell me, what are my lines?” Speirs punctuates this by sucking a kiss into the corner of Gene’s jaw.

 

“My work doesn’t have to matter, it’s just sex.” Gene gasps as the beat of the song playing changes, something lower and slower, hitting him in the back of the spine. It feels like he could already see them naked, taste the orgasm he’s going to have. “Then later you tell me you’ll call.” Gene teases.

 

Fuck. It has been a really long time since he got laid and he could really use this. It’s going to be a perfect hit of something he normally doesn’t indulge in. Overly dark chocolate too thick to eat regularly but ecstasy once in a blue moon. Guilty pleasure sex. The perfect one night stand.

 

Only Speirs is stopping. He pulls back from the kiss and looks at Gene with a frown on his face. It makes Gene pause. Speirs unhooks Gene’s hands from his belt loops and holds Gene’s hands in his own.

 

“Have a nice time with your friends.” Speirs offers, leaning in for chaste kiss on Gene’s lips. Then he turns and leaves, cutting a path through dancers and people talking, all the way to the front door.

 

Gene does not understand what just happened. He stands there, gaping like a fish, for several long alcohol addled seconds. What the fuck? Later, he’s going to be annoyed about this. Later, he’s going to figure out who exactly ‘Speirs’ is and talk to him about party fouls and leaving a guy with blue balls.

 

In the meantime, he tries to pay for his tray of shots.

 

“They are covered,” the bartender insists.

 

“Mais par qui?” Gene wonders. He hadn’t seen Speirs pay for anything. No money on the bar and he hadn’t stopped in his exit to close out his tab. The bartender gives Gene an annoyed look and marches off to help other customers. Gene leaves the fifty dollar bill under the glass Speirs had been drinking before the shots arrived, picks up the tray of shots, and heads back to his friends.

 

<~>

 

Chuck finds him out front smoking. Ron doesn’t move, taking his time with his cigarette and also trying really hard not to move his injured shoulder. It had been vanity and pride that had forced the sling off his shoulder. He’s gonna feel tonight in the morning.

 

“You really ducking out already?” Chuck asks halfway through his own cigarette. Ron flicks his bud into the cigarette disposal stand next to him. He doesn’t litter in front of his own club.

 

“I got shit to do.” Ron tells Chuck. There are security tapes to go over, pay rolls to sign. A million little details he has to do to keep this place and his other places running. Chuck squints at him, searching his face for an answer. He must see something because his face slowly morphs from interest into clear surprise. Ron needs to stop making friends; they get good at seeing his tells.

 

“Fuck. You like him.” Chuck gasps.

 

“I’m leaving.” Ron tells him.

 

“You really fucking like him!” Chuck calls after Ron.

 

<~>

 

“Edward, you are from Five Points right?” Gene asks three days later at work. He is not that thirsty. He can restrain himself, but the mystery of it all has turned into an itch under his skin.

 

“Jesus Christ Gene, we’ve been over this,” Babe curses.

 

“I ain’t calling you a nickname at work,” Gene points out.

 

“Alright, alright, Mr. Professional.” Babe holds his hands up in surrender. “Yeah, lived here my whole life.”

 

“You know a lot of people who know people?” Gene asks, trying to hedge his bets in the easiest possible way.

 

“Just tell me who you are looking for, okay? If I don’t know the guy, my brother Bill probably does,” Babe motions with his hand for Gene to get on with it. They both have patients to see.

 

“He said his name was Speirs.” Gene explains.

 

“Oh, did he?” Babe teases. “You sly dog, meeting guys and not even getting their full names. Not like you at all Mr. Southern Gentleman.”

 

“Just ask, you dick,” Gene chuckles and goes to exam room 1, where he had what he knows is going to be a double ear infection. Time to get screamed at the moment he touches the toddler’s ears.

 

<~>

 

Harry Welsh throws open the office door with a bang. Carwood barely registers the entrance over the general noise of the floor below, but Ron goes stiff at his desk, pausing his hen pecking at the computer.

 

“What’s this I hear about a boyfriend?” Harry yells by way of greeting.

 

“Hey, Harry,” Carwood greets idly, not looking up from his paperwork.

 

“Hey Lip,” Harry waves, marching right towards Ron. “You start dating some guy and I have to hear about it from the fucking knitting circle? I am crushed! I thought we were friends.”

 

“Not dating,” Ron corrected. The ‘yet’ at the end of the sentence is heavily implied and Harry smiles at him like Ron has just done something amazing.

 

“Tell me about your boo,” Harry instructs, taking a seat at one of the chairs across from Ron. Harry doesn’t even have the grace to sit properly and instead flips the chair around so he looks like a popular kid from an 80’s film. Ron attempts to display his displeasure with an extremely blank look, but sadly Harry Welsh is immune to blank looks.

 

“I think I can hear one of your fighters slacking off downstairs,” Ron throws out in an attempt to dodge this. Harry, ever the trainer he is, actually pauses and looks out towards the window that overlooks the gym.

 

“Nice try asshole,” Harry chuckles, “I left Toye in charge of the rookies. That teddy bear will have them all practicing and know their star signs by the end of our talk. Now spill.”

 

“There’s nothing to talk about.” Ron opens up the document he had been working on with a click of his mouse. It’s taking twice as long to get anything done at work this week because he’s wearing the sling any time he isn’t seen by the public.

 

“Oh really?” Harry’s smile is manic and frankly a little scary. That’s saying something; after all it takes crazy to know crazy and Harry Welsh is the type of crazy that enjoys getting hit in the face for fun on a regular basis. Ron doesn’t trust that kind of crazy. “So you didn’t ask Malarkey to pay off his buddies for a full and federal background check on this guy?”

 

“No.” Ron answers smoothly. Harry’s face turns disbelieving, his eyebrows condemning Ron’s words. “Carwood had an appointment with Don, I didn’t see the point in both of us going.”

 

Harry laughs so hard he nearly topples off the chair, full body leaning backwards. Ron glares at the other man. From the corner of his eye, he can tell that Carwood has a hand over his face. Traitor .

 

“The guys all say you don’t have a sense of humor but they are just blind to your genius, Sparky.” Harry giggles, wiping at his eyes.

 

“I hate that name.” Ron quips, not that it would do any good. Harry never listens to that kind of information.

 

“You seen your boy’s Instagram yet?” Harry asks with a toothy grin. Ron opens his mouth to respond with ‘not my boy’ again when his brain fully catches what has just been said. He frowns at Harry. “Oh right, I forgot that you were raised by our industrious leader for long enough that you don’t like social media on principal.”

 

“It’s bad business to be traceable online.” The words come out of Ron’s mouth without him even thinking about them, like a reflex. Harry waves his hand at Ron like this is the expected response.

 

“Yeah, yeah, your mouth opens and Dick’s words come out.” Harry makes an exaggerated waving off motion and pulls out his phone. “Ooh, check this out!” Harry pushes his phone under Ron’s nose. “Your boy seems to be into motorcycles.”

 

On the screen in front of him are a series of small squares and a few of them were nice older motorcycles, clearly taken at the auto show that had been in town a few months back. They are good pictures. The other pictures interest Ron more; Roe smiling with friends. He has a cheesy smile in pictures, nothing like the small private smile Ron has seen so far.

 

“He also looks adorable with a bunny filter, but I don’t think you have one of those lying around. Unless you bought an app recently,” Harry rambles while Ron stares at the phone.

 

“Why are you showing me this Harry?” Ron asks finally. Sure, Harry and him are friends, but this is practically an attempt at match making. Harry takes his phone back and puts it in his pocket, glancing over at Carwood briefly before looking back at Ron.

 

“I know we aren’t suppose to talk about….” Harry scrunches his mouth to one side of his face, “she-who-will-not-be-named.” Ron huffs out a breath. He never exactly put on embargo on talking about The Ex, the guys had just noticed that he didn’t want to talk about what had gone down and apparently made some kind of pact amongst the group to not talk about it, ever again.

 

His high school sweetheart had broken his heart. Ron had thought she would be the one and then she ran off with some guy to England of all places. He hadn’t taken it well. Ron hadn’t known how to deal with disappointments back then. He was better now, but at the time a third of the cartel had felt his wrath.

 

“But you haven’t really gotten back on the horse since. It’s been a long time,” Harry shrugs. “I think I speak for all of us when I say, we want to see you happy.”

 

“Okay,” Ron answers.

 

“The rest of us, me and the guys, the gang down at the shipping department, everyone from back in the day, we are here to help if you need us. Not that you need us. You are the most attractive person we know. Like god damn if I didn’t have Kitty I would let you fuck me.” Carwood snorts at that. “I’m serious Ron!” Harry exclaims at the things Ron’s face must be doing. “I am the straightest man you know and I am still convinced that your dick might be magic. I have heard great things about prostate stimulation. Kitty isn’t into it, but I would love to try it some time.”

 

“Please go back to your job and stop telling me about your sex life with your wife,” Ron groans. Harry laughs with his whole body, hands on his stomach. Thankfully he does turn to leave.

 

“I am serious though!” Harry calls back once he’s at the door, “If this doesn’t work out with the Doc, you and I should talk. I am sure we can get Kitty on board. Pregnancy hormones have really opened her up to new ideas.”

 

“Welsh, get out of my fucking office.” Ron snaps. Harry finally leaves and Carwood manages exactly three seconds before collapsing in a fit of giggles himself.

 

“I hate you.” Ron mumbles as his friend wipes away actual tears.

Chapter Text

Charles Henry “Hux” Huxley the Fourth is an investment banker by trade. It’s the same thing his daddy did. He takes money from other rich people and makes them richer and he takes money from poor schleps and makes them nothing. Those are the dangers of the market.

 

He has a summer house on the beach where he throws parties for all of his Harvard and Yale friends. He drives the latest cars and eats at all the best places in town.

 

Hux not only has a silver spoon in his mouth, he has an ego and a privileged complex longer than California. He likes to do Coke on weekdays and more experimental stuff on the weekend. He likes paying to fuck people, men and women, despite the fact that he could get it for free from half the people in his own social circle.

 

Last year, however, his regular dealer got busted. It had been a really big hit. The DEA had taken out nearly everyone he knew that sold ‘the good stuff’. Hux knew his friends could hook him up for a while but if he wanted to keep up with his current use he was going to need to find a dealer.

 

He knew that Webster, the bleeding heart from his graduating class, was dating some guy from Five Points of all places. Everyone knew that Five Points had the dealers with some of the best smack in town, and there was a rumor that they delivered.

 

“Your boyfriend know anyone who deals?” Hux had texted Webster on a sunny Tuesday morning.

 

Almost instantly, Hux had gotten a text back with some enraged bullshit. “Not everyone from old neighborhoods is in the Mob you arrogant fuck.” Hux had laughed; Webster really was good for all that social justice bullshit.

 

Still, at exactly 11:45, Hux received a package from a courier at his secretary’s desk. In the envelope was a glossy card with a place and time in white ink on the black background. See, Hux had known Webster’s tattooed pissant boyfriend had connections.

 

The location was a restaurant on the top level of the baseball stadium. It was open year round for members and Hux’s dad had season tickets. He showed up on time and ordered a Bloody Mary.

 

When his drink arrived so did a man with a giant grin and un-gelled hair. He wore a nice suit, but it looked like something he put on, not something he wore. Some men wore suits, it had to do with the way the moved and looked in the cut of a suit. This man was no stranger to a suit but he wasn’t the kind of man who enjoyed wearing a suit.

 

“My name is George,” the man had introduced himself. They had talked about baseball for a while. George was really good at small talk. Hux had dealt with higher end dealers and he knew he had to pass the initial tests. After their dinner was cleared away, George opened a briefcase and pulled out a binder.

 

The binder, labeled St. George Get-Aways, was filled with vacation packages. It was code, for drugs. Hux had seen something similar before. After about three minutes of reading he understood what he was looking at.

 

He ordered several packages.

“Would you like us to bill you at work or at home?” George asked, he hadn’t written anything down, but Hux didn’t expect him to. Professionals didn’t leave a paper trail that could be followed back to important clients.

 

“A little of both.”

 

“Excellent.” George smiled. They shook hands.

 

It was the best deal Hux had ever made. This shit was way better than what his old dealer had and they delivered! Hux was in love. He placed a bigger order the next time he had dinner with George, this time it had been a wine catalogue.

 

Then the FBI had gotten wind of some shit at work. Hux hadn’t gotten hit, hell no one in his department had even been under investigation. But word had spread and suddenly they weren’t doing the business they used to. The public was still too afraid of the recent investment scandals, and the upper class didn’t want to dirty  their hands with a firm in the papers.

 

He could have sold one of the cars or the summer home, but that would have been showing weakness in front of his friends and he knew that he could never let that kind of blood in the water. His father was out of the question; the Old man had his own vices but he had never approved of Hux’s.

 

When his next order came in, he asked the skinny kid in the bike delivery uniform if he could get a meeting about a loan. The kid had squinted at him and then nodded before hoping back on his bike and peddling away.

 

The next package he had received was an invite to a mixed martial arts tournament. Hux had shrugged and still worn a suit. He doesn’t look out of place, these events are bringing in the big dollars now a days. Boxing is still big with pay per view but the people want more blood and these kinds of fights deliver. Half the crowd are well dressed couples and business men.

 

“Last years’ all around champion, the crazy Italian, Joe Toye!” the announcer shouts as Hux takes his seat.

 

The man with curly hair next to Hux does not introduce himself. He is smoking a cigar, or at least holding a cigar in his mouth. He glances at Hux briefly and raises his eyebrows.

 

“What kind of damage you talking about?” he asks without preamble.

 

“I need 20 right now.” Hux answers honestly. He needs time to liquidate other assets and in the meantime he has parties to attend and gifts to buy. The man with curly hair and a mole on his cheek whistled at this.

 

“We can get you that,” the man says, shaking his head, “but I gotta say you got the assets. You could get that own your own and our interest is not small.”

 

“Then you know I’m good for it.” Hux doesn’t have time for this folksy southern shit. He needs cash to pay for his girls and to get his girlfriend that rock she wants.

 

“Twenty percent in six months,” the man explains.

 

“That it?” Hux laughs.

 

“Plus the original sum.” The man stubs out his cigar. “You still want a deal?”

 

“Of course.” Hux knows he can do this. He handles less money at work on an hour to hour basis.

 

Hux turns out to be wrong. He isn’t good with his own finances the way he is at work. He doesn’t pay attention to the dates. He doesn’t get rid of enough watches. He doesn’t call his bank. He doesn’t realize exactly who he’s dealing with.

 

When the man with the red hair and the large nose shows up at his house ready to accept a check, Hux doesn’t have the funds.

 

“I can get you half.”

 

“You agreed to paying the sum plus twenty percent interest in six months,” The ginger explains in a tired voice. He doesn’t seem to be the scary kind, the accountant they sent first. A push over.

 

“Yeah well, I don’t have it, come back in a month. I’ll have it then,” Hux snaps. Who does this guy think he is anyway? Some Paddy who’s good with numbers, thinking he’s better than Hux, whose family has been invited to the White House six times?

 

The guy takes Hux’s car keys off the hook, looks at the logo and puts them in his pocket.

 

“Hey, asshole!” Hux shouts, “that doesn’t belong to you. Keep your Mickey paws off my shit!” He advances on the man.

 

The guy isn’t an accountant. He has Hux pinned to the ground in some kind of hold before Hux can really process that he’s supposed to fight .

 

“I am taking the car as collateral. You want your fucking car back, you get us the cash,” the guy growls.

 

“This is bullshit!” Hux yells. It only seems to make the guy laugh really hard.

 

This time he tries to get the money. He sells off a few watches. He tries to get one of his trust funds cashed out. It doesn’t work. The watches aren’t worth as much used as they had been new. His grandfather put too many clauses on his trust fund. He sells off a few other assets, but he isn’t good at being frugal and the moment Hux has the cash, he spends it.

 

The next guy doesn’t knock. Actually, neither of them come in through the doors.

 

Hux is on his yacht doing Coke. There had been some whore with him a while ago but he thinks he must have paid her, because she’s gone now. When he goes up, there are two guys sitting at his table. One has dark hair and a blank look to him, wearing an expensive suit and expertly styled hair. The other man has wider shoulders and blond hair with a faint scar running across his cheek. This man smiles calmly at Hux while the other just looks on in disdain.

 

“Get the fuck off my boat douchebags,” Hux orders.

 

The dark haired one stands up, takes off his suit jacket, rolls up his sleeves revealing partially tattooed forearms and walks towards Hux like he has all the time in the world.

 

“No,” is the only thing the guy says. Just that. He breaks every finger in Hux’ left hand, never even flinching at the sounds of bones breaking. At least the blond one has the humanity to seem disgusted. The attractive brunette could be ordering a salad for all his face shows.

 

“Now, let's get to business.” The blond one says when Hux stops screaming and starts to slip into shock.

 

Hux signs away everything he owns. His houses. His boat. His cars. His memberships. All of it perfectly legal and nothing that could ever be taken to court. Then the scary brunette gives Hux a few pills and throws him off the yacht. In the morning he is found high out of his mind in his underwear with a broken hand. By the time he’s out of the rehab facility his mother put him in, no one even asks about all the re-possessions of his stuff. It had been so smooth.

 

<~>

 

“Stop looking like that,” Carwood groans.

 

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Ron snaps. The great secret of the terrifying Ronald Speirs is that he’s a massive drama queen who spends a large part of his time in ‘a stink’ because things doesn’t go the way he wants.

 

“I know that you get to do cooler stuff these days, so do I, but Kitty went into labor,” Carwood reminds his friend. “Not exactly like we could ask him to do his job while he is in a delivery room.” Ron sniffs at this. “Next time something low level like this comes up I’ll bring Don or The Barber. I won't bother his royal sneakiness.”

 

“Stop making me sound like Batman with a complex or else,” Ron threatens.

 

“Ha!” Carwood barks out the laugh, “I am more afraid of Kitty Welsh than I am of you.”

 

“Fuck you,” Ron growls.

 

“Cheer up, Sparky. Looks like we are gonna have a war with the Russians. You can use your talents for maximum bloodshed.” Carwood laughs at the pout Ron gives him in response. “Besides, I have good news; Detectives Muck and Penkala finally got back to me with info about your boy.”

 

“Not my boy,” Ron answers like a knee jerk reaction that Carwood doesn’t even listen to.

 

“Right, the file’s in the back seat,” Carwood explains. Ron tries to look casual for about three seconds before twisting around and grabbing the file off the floor, flipping through it.

 

“Eugene is almost as bad as Ronald,” Carwood throws out as Ron pours over the file with a manic glint in his eye.

 

“I know where you sleep, Clifton Carwood.” Ron responds with the laziest threat to date.

 

“Promises, promises.” Carwood teases.

 

<~>



“You sure you are fine closing by yourself again?” Ralph asks Gene as he puts on his coat and throws his water bottle in his backpack.

 

“I can manage an hour by myself, merci” Gene soothes. It’s not like he’s going to get two gunshot wounds in a month. Even his luck isn’t that bad.

 

“Okay, but call if you get anything in the next hour,” Ralph orders with a pointed finger. “I live around the corner.”

 

“I’ll be fine, je n’ai plus quatre ans” Gene reminds his friend and pushes the other man out the door. He is right, of course. Nothing happens in the last hour and Gene is finally able to catch up on his paperwork and double check that all the cabinets have in fact been restocked.

 

He locks the doors, turns off the lights, and heads out the back door. Into the waiting figure of Speirs.

 

Gene yelps. He isn’t proud of it, but he had not expected a man to be standing next to the keypad at the back door. Speirs flashes a quick, bright smile at the noise.

 

Tonight, Speirs is dressed for business. He’s back to the suits and honestly, it’s hard for Gene’s libido to figure out which outfit looks hotter. It‘s painful knowing there’s an entire map’s worth of ink on Speirs’ skin hidden by his tailored shirt and jacket.

 

“You better not be shot again... sinon,” Gene cautions. He doesn’t see the sling, again, and they are going to have words about healing.

 

“That was a rare and unexpected circumstance,” Speirs answers with an easy kind of casualness that speaks to the truth of his statement. “Hungry?” Speirs asks with raised brows.

 

Gene freezes at the question. He has no idea what’s going on here; at the club he had known, or thought that he had known, they had chemistry and were about to have an amazing fuck. Then Speirs had run out of there like Gene had burned him. Now, here’s Speirs seeking out Gene like he hadn’t run off. What is this guy’s play?

 

“Why, you paying?”

 

“I know a place,” Speirs explains and then waves at a car parked a few steps away.

 

“I am not getting in a car with you, non merci,” Gene tells the other man in no uncertain terms.

 

“Any car, or just one I am driving?” Speirs asks after a brief pause. It’s an odd sight, like Speirs freezes in place while his systems process the situation. Like a robot. A sexy robot. Gene frowns.

 

“You saying you would let me drive?” Were they flirting or negotiating?

 

“Give me your wallets and phones!” commands a voice.

 

Oh fuck.

 

Gene had completely forgotten that they were in a dark parking lot behind a clinic in the middle of the night. Five Points is no suburb and there’s a real junkie problem in the area. Ralph Spina had been held at gunpoint on his first shift by some addict who wanted him to unlock the doors. Ralph had been fine. Junkies are not the steadiest of people that the guy apparently had the itches because after being told ‘no’, the man had run off.

 

This is not that. This guy isn’t shaky or gaunt; he looks healthy and a little nervous, but not the kind of mugger that’s going run off with a simple ‘no’ and the threat of cops. Gene thinks he can see the kid’s finger on the trigger which is bad news for everyone.

 

“You don’t want to do this,” Speirs sighs. It is, perhaps, the weirdest response in the world to being held at gunpoint ever. Not the words, but the delivery is so unexpected that both Gene and the kid spend a second aghast.

 

“Fuck you!” the kid snaps. At least he looks like a kid to Gene.

 

It’s almost as if Speirs doesn’t care that there’s a gun pointed in his face. He looks bored more than anything. This is how he ends up shot , Gene’s brain supplies hysterically.

 

“Put the gun down, kid,” Speirs orders in a voice that speaks to a history of orders being followed.

 

“I told you to give me your wallet, asshole!” the gunman says on an almost shout. Gene flinches.

 

In an unhurried, smooth movement, Speirs reaches out and walks closer to the gunman. He grabs the gun with his bare hand and rips it from the kid’s grip; then, without changing the grip, he hits the kid across the face with the butt of the gun. The kid crumples to the ground.

 

Speirs releases the clip from the gun, catching it with one hand and putting it in his pocket. He then releases the chambered round with one hand in a motion that looks lazy and practiced. Speirs looks back at Gene, checking if he’s still there, and smiles while his hands pull the gun apart.

 

It is perhaps the most sexual experience of Eugene Roe’s entire life.

 

“You still hungry?” Speirs asks, pocketing the disassembled gun.

 

“Uh.” Gene finds that words are difficult at this moment. The kid on the ground groans.

 

“Hold that thought.” Speirs points a finger at Gene and squats down next to the bleeding would-be mugger. “You got a name?” Speirs asks the kid.

 

“Blithe,” The kid snaps.

 

“Right, Blithe.” Speirs hands the kid a handkerchief, which is the strangest part of all of this. Who even has handkerchiefs these days? “Guns are ranged weapons. The closer you get to another person, the more useless they are. If you go up against someone who knows what they are doing they can disarm you because you got to close.”

 

Gene and the kid stare at Speirs in equal levels of confusion and horror.

 

“You got a phone, Blithe?” Speirs asks. The kid nods. “Let me see it.” Blithe, in some kind of trance, hands the phone over. Speirs taps a few keys and then hands it back. “Call this number tomorrow. Friend of mine is looking to hire kids with your kind of balls.”

 

This has to be a hallucination.

 

Speirs stands up and straightens his coat. He turns to walk back towards Gene but pauses mid-turn.

 

“Oh and Blithe?” The kid looks up from his phone. “Don’t ever fucking try to rob someone at this clinic or in Five Points in general. You won’t live to regret it.”

 

<~>

 

This is a huge complication of course. Ruins his entire plan for this evening. He can see already that Doctor Eugene Roe is recalculating going anywhere with Ron.

 

Part of him realizes he could have not said the final threat, let the kid hear it from Liebgott in the morning. That’s why they keep guys like Liebgott in charge of the courier and bike services; he keeps the new kids in line and puts the fear of god into their bones. It’s hard to turn street kids into an actual work force, but there’s a combination of personalities that can do it. Liebgott is part of that combination.

 

Ron is not.

 

The kid had caught him off guard, upsetting his plans. He doesn’t like it when things don’t go according to plan when he has worked out all the variables. He has enough intel on Doctor Eugene Roe now to have a pretty good idea that he can make this work with some clever footwork.

 

Then some kid tries to rob him. The interruption had hit a very shaky nerve of Ron’s and he had reacted rashly. Now everything was in jeopardy.

 

Ron can smell the argument coming. Damnit. Time to improvise.

 

<~>

 

“Excuse-moi, but what the fuck was that?” Gene asks when the kid has run off and Speirs has returned from throwing the pieces of the gun in the trunk of his car.

 

“A failed robbery,” Speirs says it like it was no big deal, like he didn’t just threaten someone who barely looked old enough to drink.

 

“Don’t be fucking coy with me, Speirs, no first name,” Gene snaps.

 

“Ron,” Speirs answers.

 

“Ron?” Gene doesn’t feel like he has room to talk, but he’s not expecting Ron at all. Speirs shrugs, then winces.

 

“And another thing, where the fuck is your sling?” Gene pokes Speirs in his stomach for emphasis. It’s not a very effective move, because Speirs has great abs and now Gene is reminded of this. “You are supposed to be healing, not threatening teenagers in my parking lot.”

 

“Are you mad I’m not wearing my sling or that I saved your life?” Speirs asks with an amused frown.

 

“Yes,” Gene replies. “I am mad at you and all your choices.”

 

“Too mad for me to see you again?” Speirs asks with a smug expression. Why is this fucker smug? Gene’s brain practically short circuits. He has been running on outrage up until now.

 

“That depends,” he answers with a much calmer tone.

 

“On?” Speirs leans against the trunk of his car and leans into Gene’s personal space. The air between them grows warm, their shared air charging the space. Gene can see the spaces between Speirs dark eyelashes.

 

“If you are going to run away from me the again,” Gene explains.

 

“I didn’t run.” Speirs smiles like he has a secret. Gene wants to taste it. “You were very drunk and consent is important.”

 

“Fuck you,” Gene hisses and pulls Speirs into a kiss. He can’t get his footing with the man. One minute he is furious over his job or his lifestyle or his choices. The next moment they are in each other’s spaces and Gene can feel his heartbeat in his dick. Speirs shifts his weight until Gene is pinned against the side of the car with Speirs bracketing him in.

 

The kiss had been forceful but chaste when Gene started it. Speirs slows it down and makes it languid. Something much softer and all sex. Gene can feel what having sex with Ron Speirs would be like from this kiss. He knows he would be covered by roaming hands and mouth and it would all be a tease until he is begging, crying for it, until Ron decides to relent. It’s a vision of the future. Gene can see himself spread out on a mattress with Ron working him over to the point of tears. It is going to be world shattering sex.

 

Speirs pulls back from the kiss. Their lips disconnecting hesitantly because Gene finds himself leaning forward to follow Speirs. Gene opens his eyes slowly, in time to watch Speirs lick his lips while looking at Gene’s.

 

“I don’t just want to fuck you,” Speirs begins.

 

“I can tell,” Gene huffs. People who want something rushed don’t kiss like they plan to own your body. Don’t cover your face with large warm hands and hold your jaw with calloused fingertips.

 

“I want to get to know you,” Speirs continues with a soft hesitation Gene has never seen from him. Not when he had a bullet in his shoulder. Not when they had met at the club. Not when he had a gun in his face. Yet at the prospect of opening up to Gene, Speirs seems incredibly vulnerable.

 

Gene’s in real trouble with this one.

 

“You want to date me? Vraiment?” Gene tries to make it sound teasing, light. It comes out disbelieving and slightly wrecked.

 

“To start,” Speirs says with a soft tilt of his head like he’s conceding a point.

 

“Why me?” Gene doesn’t even think it through, it’s already out of his mouth. There are other questions he thinks he should ask, more important questions but this is the one he feels compelled to know. Speirs’ mouth purses to one side of his face and he looks over Gene’s shoulder like he’s searching for the words.

 

“You call me out on my shit,” Speirs answers with a quick flash of eyebrows, his face shrugging. It’s not what Gene was expecting. If he were to sit down and list the reasons someone might want to date him ‘being a frank asshole’ would not even make the list. It’s such an odd thing, and yet so completely honest that Gene finds himself completely floored.

 

“I’ll think about it,” Gene tells him. He can’t answer right now. That would be madness. His dick has it’s answer, but he can’t make the decision to date a man who willfully admitted he works for a criminal organization and threatens lives in front of Gene with sincerity. “Give me your number.”

 

That seems to surprise Speirs. He fumbles in his pockets as he steps back, nearly dropping his phone. Gene takes the phone and adds himself to the contacts and then sends himself a text message with the emoji of an eagle, the most recently used emoji.

 

Gene uses the space Speirs has given him to step away from the car and around Speirs, walking towards his own car. When Gene looks back over his shoulder, Speirs is still standing there holding his phone with a soft pleased smile on his face.

 

He is so completely and absolutely fucked.



<~>

 

The first time it happens, it’s a broken nose and a sprained wrist.

 

Gene comes into Exam Room 4 to find one guy in the dressing gown with tampons up his nose and another guy sitting next to the younger man, rubbing his back.

 

“Eugene Jackson?” Gene asks, feeling a little surprised to hear his own first name; apparently it hasn't died out with the dinosaurs the way he always tells people it has.

 

“He’s Jackson,” explains the older man, still wearing clothes. “I’m Joe Toye, his mentor.” Gene shakes Joe’s outstretched hand.

 

“Mentor?” Gene asks, setting down the chart and grabbing his pen light to look at the damage to Jackson’s nose.

 

“Mixed Martial Arts,” Joe responds.

 

“Oh yeah, like on ESPN?” Gene can tell the break isn’t that bad to Jackson’s nose, the tampons have done a surprisingly good job at keeping the blood off his face.

 

“More like Pay-Per-View these days.” Joe sounds proud. Gene keeps looking over Jackson, not seeing any of the tell tale signs that this might be anything other than what it looks like. The sprain in in his wrist and Gene hands the kid an ice pack while he gets a second pair of gloves for the nose reset.

 

“This happened at practice, c’est ça?” Gene asks Jackson directly this time. The kid nods and then looks pained at the movement.

 

“Rookie walked into a swinging bag because he was too busy texting some girl and not doing the warm ups I told him to do,” Joe’s voice has that very perfect level of disappointed and fond only some fathers can achieve. He really is a mentor. Jackson flips Joe off with a smile.

 

“Alright, well let's get it set as best we can.” Gene waves at both of them to get them to settle down before he puts any pressure on cartilage.

 

It’s happens after Gene has set Jackson’s nose and wrapped his wrist, when Jackson is getting dressed that Gene sees it. Apparently fighters don’t have a lick of shame or body consciousness because Jackson throws off his gown before Gene can even leave the room.

 

The tattoo sits between Jackson’s hip bone and groin. The outline of a screaming eagle. Not filled in and inked the way Speirs’ looked that first night at the clinic. This is just the black outline, the contrast of pale skin and black ink giving off a completely different vibe, and yet it’s the same image.

 

Something of Gene’s surprise must show on his face because Joe Toye winks at him as Gene turns to leave the room.

 

“Thanks, for all the help Doc.” Joe shakes his hand again and adds a pat on the arm from his opposite hand this time. “We’ll be sure to send any other injuries your way.”

 

“I get the feeling you aren’t joking,” Gene says with a growing realization. Joe laughs at this and pats Gene’s arm again.

 

He hasn’t texted or called Speirs since he got the number. In his phone, there is still just a single text message of an Eagle emoji.

 

Right now, that Eagle is staring at him.

 

Gene: Did you send a mixed martial arts fighter to my clinic?

 

He sends the text on a gut instinct. Sure, that Eagle tattoo is popular in the area. Hell, it’s popularity had grown ever since the HBO special on the Screaming Eagles had come out. It could be nothing. When the phone vibrates a second later in Gene’s hands, his stomach sinks.

 

Speirs: Send implies purpose and direction. It assumes there were orders given.

 

Gene stares at that text for a good long while.

 

What?

 

Gene: What?

 

Speirs: I mentioned to a coworker that you have excellent bedside manner.

 

Gene huffs at that, a silent laugh. Those were not the words spoken when he was straddling Speirs on an exam table.

 

Gene: If you think sending your ‘coworkers’ here is going to get you a date any faster you are mistaken.

 

He realizes his mistake the moment he hits send. He has typed ‘date’, not ‘answer’, without even thinking. If he really wants to keep his cards close to his chest, he should have said ‘get you an answer any faster’, that would have been neutral.

 

What he has just done is as good as saying yes. Gene can feel his heartbeat in his throat as the dots appear.

 

Speirs: Understood. I can direct everyone away from the clinic. The emergent care room on Front Street can handle them in the future.

 

Gene wants to shake Speirs. His eyebrows might be trying to crawl of his face and into his hairline.

 

Instead, he shakes his phone in his hands. He has just been given an out; instead of flirting or making a comment about Gene’s slip up, Speirs is keeping this incredibly dry and difficult. Honestly, if Gene hadn’t already been exposed to Speirs on several occasions, he would think he’s being blown off or dished. He has a terrible feeling he is actually being toyed with.

 

Gene: Y ou are really good at your job, aren’t you?

 

It’s not perfect, but it is the best Gene can come up with to point out that Speirs is clearly holding way more cards than he’s willing to show here.

 

Speirs: It’s a job.

 

<~>

 

Carwood turns his head and looks at Ron in mild horror.

 

“Stop texting.” Carwood hisses. Ron puts his phone away with a look that says ‘I have never done anything wrong in my life, ever’. Carwood just shakes his head as the elevator doors ding and they get out on the floor.

 

“And Liebgott?” Carwood says to the man standing behind them.

 

“Yes?” Liebgott’s voice sounds like he is trying to suppress either a laugh or a groan.

 

“Don’t shoot anyone until we tell you to,” Carwood adjusts his suit jacket, clicking the safety off two of his guns in the process. “These are supposed to be peace talks.”

 

“Whatever you say Sargent,” Liebgott snarks. Carwood just lets out one long slow breath. Maybe he should have brought Malarkey to the talks with the Russians. Too late now.

 

<~>

 

Gene looks at the purple sticky note on the chart outside Exam Room 2. They only put the purple ones on charts for patients that have a sensitive issue and need extra care. The last time he had seen a purple sticky note, Gene had been dealing with a very distraught teenager. He takes a deep breath to steady himself before dealing with whatever mess is about to greet him inside.

 

When he opens the door, an angry voice says “Close the goddamn door,” in a hiss, so he shuts it behind him quickly. It’s then that he knows who he’s dealing with.

 

“Bill?” Gene asks the man in front of him in confusion. Bill points at him angrily and makes a ‘shush motion’ with his hand. Gene lowers his voice. “What you doing here?”

 

Bill Guarnere is Heffron’s older brother. Bill’s family had taken in Babe when he was a kid, something that happened fairly regularly in this town. Child services didn’t come into Five Points a whole lot because the neighborhood didn’t let kids go unattended.

 

“It hurts when I pee,” Bill’s voice is half complaining and half accusation. Gene feels his eyebrows rise. “You don’t get to fucking tell Babe a word about this without breaking that dumb oath you all take.”  Gene has to physically restrain the laugh that wants to bubble out.

 

“When did it start to hurt?” Gene asks, opening the chart. He sees that Ralph has written ‘why would he even come here if he is gonna be this pissy about it?’ on another sticky note inside the chart itself.

 

“Couple of days ago,” Bill sits back down on the exam table, holding the gown against his thighs with a nervous kind of energy.

 

“Any changes in your behavior? Clothing? Hobbies?” Gene asks, looking at what the intake nurse has written down.

 

“No….”

 

That doesn’t actually sound like a no, more like a soft yes.

 

“New sexual partners?” Gene tries. Bill looks at him like he thinks his eyes might turn into lasers and he could make this conversation stop. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

 

Bill coughs but doesn’t argue. Gene is really glad he has so many years of exposure to Babe and Bill and thus can read between the lines here.

 

“At least tell me you have been using condoms,” Gene doesn’t pose it as a question. Bill rubs his nose and looks off to the side of the room.

 

“I am going to bring the STI slide show to the next family dinner ya’ll have, je le jure,” Gene threatens.

 

“Fuck you,” Bill snaps with a laugh.

 

“Alright, let's take a look at you.” Gene puts on his gloves. “Deep breath in,” Gene tells Bill, who takes the breath and holds it.

 

Bill is looking pretty healthy, honestly. His chest sounds clear. He isn’t stuffed up and his eyes look great. The list of possible suspects is down to exactly two things. Luckily they are both nothing to worry about. Gene continues the general wellness exam to the more invasive parts. It’s when Gene gets the blood pressure cuff out that he sees something that stops him in his tracks.

 

On the underside of Bill’s arm, practically in his armpit, is a tattoo. Gene knows that tattoo. This one is colored in just like Speirs’. Damn. Gene would have sworn he had seen Bill in a state of undress at some point in the past, at a cook out or that time down at the pier. Only this tattoo has the faded coloring of years to it and that means he’s had it for a very long time which also means that Gene has never seen it before, because Bill must have kept it hidden.

 

He uses the whole ‘turn and cough’ maneuver to cover up his momentary mental stall. Bill takes it with as much grace as he can.

 

“Where these bruises from?” Gene asks Bill, looking at some of the dark and fading marks on the other man’s back and legs.

 

“Been going to the gym more.” Bill’s shoulders twitch. “Joe’s a better fighter than I am, he gets more hits in.”

 

“Joe Toye? Of Pay-per-view fame?” Gene clarifies. A picture is forming in his mind now, a more complete idea of how he got to this point. A web of connecting lines branching out around him.

 

“Yeah!” Bill’s smile is pure sunshine joy. Gene laughs a little. “Babe tell you about that? Man, it’s so great that he has these bigger fights now.”

 

“He seems like a good athlete.” Gene doesn’t mention that he met Joe Toye in the clinic and not through Heffron. Clearly Toye is a good friend of Bill’s.

 

“He’s the best.” Bill makes a little boxing motion with his arms that Gene has to dodge. “He’s gonna take the belt this year.”

 

“I’ll take your word for it.” He really doesn’t know the first thing about mixed martial arts fighting but if he had to put money on Bill Guarnere’s suggestions he would. “Well good news is it doesn’t look like you have kidney stones.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Bad news is you have UTI.” Gene snaps off his gloves. “I’m going to write you a prescription for some pain medication that can help. In the meantime; drink lots of water and cranberry juice, and start wearing a condom. Oh, and no fighting until this clears up. Extra pressure on your bladder would not be good.”

 

“Whatever you say Doc, as long as it stops hurting to piss.”

 

<~>

 

“You grew up with Heffron and his brothers right?” Gene asks at lunch. Spina looks up from his sandwich and book with a quizzical eyebrow.

 

“Next door to the Guarneres, yeah,” Spina answers after a swallow.

 

“You know Joe Toye too?” The key to this is to be casual about all of it.

 

“Oh yeah,” Spina nods enthusiastically now, thinking he knows where this was going. “You see the fight last month?”

 

“Naw,” Gene shakes his head. “C’est pas vraiment mon truc. Just heard a lot about him recently.”

 

“I’m sure you have. All of Five Points is excited about his big break.” Spina wipes his hands on a paper towel so they are free, in order to better emphasis his points with hand motions. “You know Toye could have left Five Points back when he first got on the circuit. There were a bunch of deals for up north or at least in the city, but he kept his gym here and trains new kids here.”

 

“That’s awfully kind,” Gene’s mind is slowly building a larger picture of the world he was beginning to glimpse.

 

<~>

 

Gene waits until he’s pretty sure he has a better idea of what he’s dealing with, who he’s dealing with, before confronting his friends. He also might have waited for the most dramatic moment, because what’s the point in confronting friends if you can’t be dramatic about it?

 

It’s pizza night at Chuck and Babe’s place and Gene is over to watch Rupaul's Drag race, because he doesn’t have TV at his place and doesn’t have the time to stream it. Chuck is in the kitchen doing... actually, Gene has no idea what Chuck is doing but it’s noisy. Babe is laying across the entire sofa and Gene’s taken the armchair as his throne today. The pizza is gone now. They are between episodes.

 

“So, when were you going to tell me that you two are members of The Screaming Eagles and stitch up mobsters at the clinic regularly?” Gene asks with a completely deadpan delivery. Babe freezes like a startled rabbit. In the kitchen, Chuck drops something that sounds like three pasta pots. Chuck emerges from the kitchen wearing rubber gloves and looking equally shocked.

 

“What...” Babe’s voice squeaks. He clears his throat and tries again. “What makes you say that?” Gene is pleased to note there isn’t any real attempt at denial from his friends.

 

“Mmh, voyons voir, first off I had Speirs show up at the clinic after hours with a bullet wound expecting someone else to be there.” Babe face-palms. “On our night out we go to a club I later find out has been investigated by the FBI on four separate occasions.” Babe groans into his hands. “Then I get Toye bringing in fighters and all of them have the ink.” Chuck visibly sighs. “Bill, talks about Toye constantly when barely prompted and also has ink.” Chuck leans his face into the wall. “Oh and Speirs hasn’t denied any of this during his multiple attempts to flirt with me.”

 

On the television one of the Drag Queens is being interviewed. “These girls think I’m stupid or something.” The poetic irony is too much. Gene laughs. Chuck, his entire front plastered into the wall, begins to shake with laughter.

 

“Don’t laugh!” Babe shouts at Chuck, who just pulls a phone out of his pocket and starts texting. “Don’t text Lieb!”

 

“I owe him like fifty bucks.” Chuck says through laughter. Gene is physically biting his tongue to keep from cackling.

 

After Chuck calls Liebgott to confirm that, yes, Gene figured it all out and no one out right ever said anything to him, with Gene confirming on the phone, after Babe is suitably upset for several minutes and after they all realize no one paused Rupaul and they are going to have to start the episode over, Chuck goes to grab the cupcakes he had been making and brings them out, so all three boys pile in to talk about it.

 

“When did you figure it out?” Babe asks, still looking upset.

 

“Probablement when I had a shirtless guy with a bullet wound and gang tats in an exam room after hours,” Gene teases. Really, he didn’t know know until last week, but he is gonna ride this guilt train for a while. “Also the way everyone seemed to scatter when Speirs showed up at the club.”

 

“What now?” Babe asks looking at Chuck who, to his credit, shoved an entire cupcake in his mouth. “Charles Grant, did you offer to take us out in order to get your boss laid?” Babe glares at his boyfriend. Chuck grins and crumbs fell out of his mouth. “Please tell me you did not sleep with him?” Babe turns to Gene with a look of growing horror.

 

“I did not sleep with him,” Gene parrots back.

 

“I can literally hear the Not Yet at the end, Gene.” Babe accuses.

 

“I’m considering it,” Gene admits.

 

“You want to climb that like a tree, basically.” Babe throws down his cupcake wrapper and stands up. “I need alcohol.”

 

“I don’t understand how both of you lying to me for nearly two years means that you get to drink,” Gene throws out after Babe, as he marches off to the kitchen. Babe pauses with a gasp.

 

“Oh my god, you want his dick so bad!” Babe practically shouts, throwing up his hands. “You only try guilt when you want us off a topic, secretly evil southern gentleman. I’m onto you.”

 

Babe goes into the kitchen and comes back with whiskey. “Now let’s drink to Gene getting plowed by the most dangerous dick in the tri-state area.”

 

“I really think you are exaggerating,” Chuck adds with his face pulled to one side. “He’s nothing like the stories from when we were kids now. He’s really cool.”

 

“If they end up getting married, I’m divorcing you.” Babe points at Chuck with an accusing finger. “Not even Joe or Bill will be able to stop me from leaving you.”

 

“Is everyone in this town in the mob?” Gene wonders aloud.

 

“Yes.” Babe answers right as Chuck says, “No.”

 

Gene looks at the two of them with pursed lips.

 

“Just, nearly everyone we both know.” Babe explains after a swig of whiskey straight from the bottle. Gene raises his eyebrows at this. “Which in turn is mostly everyone you know because you don’t have that many friends outside med school.”

 

“Rude,” Gene mutters, “but factual.”

 

Maybe Gene should have been more angry with his friends. Maybe he should have stopped speaking to all of them. Maybe he should have cared more that nearly everyone he knows has a hand in either drugs or guns. Then again, he remembers stories of his great grandfather who had made hooch in the bath tub during prohibition. Drugs and guns aren’t going to disappear off the streets if he suddenly stops speaking to his friends. So he lets it slide. Instead, they get drunk and Babe starts singing “Speirs and Eugene, sitting in a tree.”

 

<~>

 

Carwood Lipton has limits. Watching Ronald Speirs pout for a fifth day in a row is one of those limits.

 

“Let’s go to the shooting range,” Carwood tells his friend just before lunch time. They need to get out of the office. Ron, who for his part, is wearing his sling again and touching the strap while looking at his phone like he could set it on fire, simply nods at the suggestion.

 

Carwood drives them to the shooting range out in the suburbs where the owners give a discount for larger purchases of ammunition. He doesn’t even really look at the cost for truly epic amount of rounds he purchases for this afternoon.

 

Half of the haul goes to Ron at his own stall. The owner brings out some different guns for Ron to try and sets them on a table and then goes back to the front. Carwood takes a stall a few over from his friend and puts on his ear protection.

 

There is something relaxing in the concussive force of a firearm. Something powerful in the kickback of a big gun. Carwood likes guns. He understands guns and he is good with them. He has steady hands and callouses to spare. The hard part is, of course, the hand guns. Larger guns, rifles and the like, are easy to aim and to handle.

 

Hand guns are more difficult. They are less accurate by half and yes they are the main weapon he uses. It’s easier to conceal more handguns than it is to hide a rifle. Its an exercise in control to properly fire a handgun. Anyone can pull the trigger but making the right shot takes a level of focus that Carwood enjoys slipping into.

 

He loses himself in the reputation of shots. In the rhythm of shooting. It clears his head until Carwood feels ready to deal with whatever is going on with his friend. He finishes his rounds before Ron, putting away the guns he borrowed and walking back behind the stalls.

 

Ron is taking a long time because he appears to be trying to keep his sling on. Carwood watches in mild amusement as his friend does everything one handed.

 

“I thought you were just about healed up?” Carwood asks when Ron removes his ear protection. He knows that Ron went to get his stitches removed the other day, only the good Doc Roe was not on site. Grant’s boy had gotten to do the honors and had had words with Speirs. Carwood didn’t know exactly what happened but he was sure that some part of this interaction or the lack of texts were the cause of Speirs’ current stink.

 

“I need to rest up still,” Ron shrugs with one shoulder but his demeanor is more composed now. “Sorry, about earlier.”

 

“I’m used to it,” Carwood chuckles. He would not have made it this long without knowing how to deal with Ronald Speirs in a stink.

 

“I’ll buy you one of those fancy coffees seeing as you paid for all of the ammunition.” Ron offers as he gives his gun a cursory wipe down.

 

“I am honored,” Carwood taps his chest, “to know you are willing to spend actual money on me.” Speirs walks out of the room in retaliation. Carwood smiles. At least this field trip brightened the mood. Now if only the good Doc would text Speirs back and get this dog and pony show on the road.

 

<~>

 

He freezes at the door of the coffee shop.

 

Gene comes here nearly every day on his lunch break to get his coffee fix before the second half of his shift. He knows buying coffee is crazy compared to sucking it up and just using the coffee maker at work, but he’s from New Orleans and there are coffee standards he has been raised to uphold. His palate has developed far beyond the Folger's the office manager buys for the coffee pot.

 

Today, on top of the normal customers and baristas, there’s an addition Gene has not been expecting, Ronald Speirs.

 

Suddenly, Gene hates his scrubs. Sure, Speirs has seen him in his scrubs before, but standing here in the warm light of noon he feels disheveled in comparison to Speirs, who once again looks perfect in a suit with his sleeves pushed up.

 

Speirs stands to the side, clearly waiting for an order, leaning against the wall and rubbing his hands with a black cloth. There’s another man next to Speirs, looking up from his phone to say something to Speirs.

 

Gene realizes something in that moment. This is a meeting where Speirs is not in control; for the first time, Speirs is not the one planning the meeting. If one ignores that time he was shot of course. Every other interaction they have ever had was pre-planned by Speirs.

 

He gets in line and places his regular order; the barista barely lets him get started before filling out his cup and asking him for his money. Gene doesn’t even care right now, he’s too busy trying to eavesdrop on the conversation that Speirs and the other man are having.

 

“Did you actually talk to the doctor about your range of motion before coming with me or did you just wing it?” the other man asks.

 

“You were the one that invited me,” Speirs points out. His tone is friendly and light, Gene recognizes that whoever this man is, he’s a friend of Speirs’.

 

“It was take you with me to the range or let you mope around the office waiting for your boy to text you back,” the other man teases.

 

“I don’t mope,” Speirs mutters in what sounds exactly like the beginning of a mope. Gene has to hold in the snort he wants to make.

 

“I am glad you have moved on from denying that he is your boy,” the other man teases. At this comment Gene can’t hold in the impulse to turn and look over his shoulder at the two of them. Speirs is looking out the front window, but the other man happens to look up from his phone right at Gene. For a moment, neither of them does anything. Then the other man, with a soft smile and a wink, puts his cell phone in his pocket. “I’m going to hit the head, don't forget to grab our coffees.”

 

Gene, who is standing at the counter where the baristas put the coffees out, sees the kid set down a coffee that says ‘Spears’ and grabs it before she can call out the name. She doesn’t even question him and just goes back to making the next drink.

 

He turns and walks over to Speirs, coffee cup in hand.

 

“I think this belongs to you.” Gene holds out the cup in greeting. Speirs, who has been gazing out the window, looks down at him in shocked surprise. His face is completely open as it morphs from surprise to unbridled joy.

 

“Gene,” Speirs breathes, like he doesn’t think Gene would hear him, like it’s a personal moment to remark on the beauty of his existence. With that one word, Gene no longer feels like a slob in his scrubs, he feels special and infinite. “Thank you,” Speirs smiles and takes the cup from Gene’s hand.

 

“What was that I heard about doing quelque chose against doctor’s orders?” Gene asks with a smirk. Speirs looks caught, his eyes going comically large before his face closes off to the aloof look he normally has.

 

“You said light activity was allowed,” Speirs counters.

 

“I might have mentioned something along those lines, oui” Gene smiles and pulls his lips into his mouth to keep himself from smiling even more. “I’m actually glad I ran into you,”

 

“Oh yeah?” Speirs brightens up visibly. He looks cute. He looks handsome. He also looks open and ready to do just about anything Gene says right now. It’s a powerful feeling to have another person look at him this way.

 

“I was thinking, we should go on that date.” Gene can feel a blush on his cheeks at his own words. God, flirting is just... the worst. However, it’s worth it for the smile Speirs gives him.

 

“Sure, anytime. Just tell me when it works for your schedule,” Speirs nods. “I’m flexible.” Gene raises his eyebrows at this and Speirs puts a thumb to his forehead and blushes at the implications of his words.

 

“Rope!” The barista calls. Gene rolls his eyes. Sometimes he thinks baristas misspell names on purpose as the only point of amusement in their customer service hell.

 

“That’s me.” Gene motions to his cup waiting for him on the counter.

 

“I’ll text you.” Speirs looks hesitant for a moment and then he reaches out and squeezes Gene’s arm, before letting go quickly. Gene can feel the moment crackle between them. He knows that he wants to stay, talk, maybe let Speirs touch him again, but he has to get back to work. He settles for smiling brightly at Speirs before he grabs his coffee.

 

On his way past the window Gene can see the other man who had been with Speirs, punch him in the arm with a friendly smile as Speirs looks down at his coffee cup with a bashful smile.



<~>

 

Gene doesn’t break stride when his music switches over to his ringtone, he just presses his headphones to answer the call and keeps running.

 

“Allô Winnie,” Gene answers with the knowledge of years.

 

“Why do you take my calls if you are running?” his sister asks, followed by a crunching sound, which means she is probably eating carrots or something. Winnie enjoys eating and talking because she is terrible, he still loves his sister.

 

“I can run and talk at the same time. Unlike some people, tu sais” Gene teases, taking a turn into the park down by the water.

 

“Oh har har, très drôle,” Winnie snarks. “If I want to be belittled, I can just call Mins.” Gene sighs at this; his sisters are a bit too close in age and have spent nearly their entire lives in a slow and very passive aggressive war. They loved each other of course but they were very different people who did not agree on almost anything. “I am call to see if you were bringing quelqu’un de spécial to Christmas this year?

 

“Subtle, vraiment” Gene laughs as he finally reaches his preferred resting spot half way through his run.

 

“Well, be glad it’s me and not Mama calling,” Winnie sighs. “I think she has grandbaby fever Gene, c’est terrible. At lunch the other day, she asked if I had ever thought about just having a baby before marriage.”

 

“You’re engaged.” Gene states because this sounds asinine.

 

“Yes, yes I am. And I am planning a wedding. I don’t know why that hasn’t taken up enough of her mental energy but it hasn’t.” There is a loud amount of crunching while Winnie stress eats a few carrots. “Just tell me you are single and I can release the hounds in your directions. You owe me big brother.” Gene and his siblings play an endless game of hot potato when it comes to their mother’s worried and well meaning attentions.

 

Gene has his mouth open to agree when he hesitates. He thinks about the text messages on his phone. Speirs’ smile when Gene handed him a coffee cup. Babe’s voice singing that dumb song. Flashes of images and emotion come back to Gene and he realizes that Christmas is several months away and he might want to bring someone with him.

 

“Holy shit!” His sister shouts down the line. “Eugene are you seeing someone?”

 

“Peut-être?” Gene tries to quantify this thing with Speirs. It’s so new. Gene can’t really tell if it’s just physical attraction and infatuation or if he is crazy enough to like this guy, at least not yet. They haven’t even been on a date.

 

“Are you courting someone?” Winnie intones in a way that tells him she is clutching imaginary pearls and fanning herself in the great tradition of southern Mamas who have just realized their little boys are grown up. He hopes she can hear his eye roll as well.

 

“Noooooo…..” Gene paused. “I’m not the one doing the courting.” He admitted to the hungry silence down the other end of the phone.

 

“Thank you baby Jesus,” Winnie exhales happily, “for creating a man out there ready to love my frérot enough to court him.”

 

“I have given you literally no information, why you saying shit like that?” Gene decides it’s time to get moving again and leaves the bench where he had sat down. Talking about this makes him feel like he needs to run. The motion of his legs cooling the burning on his face to simply athletic exertion rather than emotion.

 

“For a boy to get your attention over your job he must be something special,” Winnie teases. “What he do, flirt while bleeding?”

 

The similarity between what his sister has just described and what actually happened makes Gene stumble and trip on the pavement. He lets out a soft ‘fuck’ as he falls.

 

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Winnie exclaims. “He totally did!” Gene considers just laying down on this part of the pavement and staying there. “Le chanceux, what’s his name?”

 

“Speirs,” Gene answers because there's no point lying now.

 

“Is that one of those new age names or…” Winnie lets the options hang in the air.

 

“His last name,” Gene replies.

 

“What are you, a heroine in a trashy romance novel? You don’t call him by his first name?” The giggle Winnie lets out is very undignified and sounds more like a startled cackle. It makes Gene laugh too.

 

“He introduces himself as Speirs to everyone. I figure it’s what he wants to be called.”

 

“Gene, the only people that like to be called by their last names are football players and famous football players,” Winnie condemns. “Is he a football player?”

 

“Around here, he could play hockey.” Five Points apparently produces two types of people, hockey players and mobsters. At least according to the local news.

 

“I keep forgettin you live in the frozen north now.” Winnie makes it sound like he moved to the other side of the planet, not the east coast only a plane ride away.

 

“I ain’t even tan anymore.” Gene boasts.

 

“Gross.” She blows a raspberry at him. “But you like him?”

 

Gene considers this question. He has interacted with Speirs on several occasions, but few of them were deeply personal. Yet. And still he feels drawn to the other man in a quiet sort of way that goes beyond their physical attraction to one another. Despite the warning signs, Gene has agreed to jump into the murky waters. He has never been one to be scared by a lack of visibility ahead of him, but this particular path he is on promises to leave him swimming in dark unknown waters.

 

“Ouais,” Gene lets out a sigh. He likes Ronald Speirs. He hasn’t really liked anyone in years, not since undergrad and that had turned out okay, but fizzled out when Gene put work first and he couldn’t handle waiting on Gene’s career.

 

“Eugene, you have to tell me more than this guy's last name and the fact that he might have at one point played hockey, the unholy sport that it is,” Winnie squeaks out in her overly excited pitch. “And the fact that you met him at work and he was bleeding.”

 

“He has a great smile,” Gene offers with an answering smile of his own. God, the memory of Speirs’ smile could keep Gene warm for a year. There is something reactive about the smiles Speirs allows across his face, like nuclear fission has to occur at his core before enough energy to create a smile can be found. It makes them powerful.

 

“Well now I can’t exactly say to Mama that you met a boy with a nice smile,” Winnie teases him. “What does this man of yours’ do for a living? What’s his family like? He got any cute sisters we could pawn off onto the other two idiots in this family?”

 

“He’s from around here and he owns his own business with some friends, I think,” Gene offers, because saying ‘I am deeply considering starting a relationship with a man who is a known member of an organized crime ring’ is out of the question.

 

“That’s almost no information you got there, brother mine.” He can hear her head shake.

 

“Well, it’s mostly been flirting and I am not itching to get married, so I don’t ask people your 40 essential questions on the first date.” Gene is nearing his block as he runs. That’s probably a good thing because while he loves his sister, he doesn’t really know how to talk to her about this. Speirs’ secret is not his to disclose and he needs to be sure about things before he outright lies to family and friends.

 

“Maybe you should be using my questions. Elles sont bonnes. They helped me cut through a lot of dates and find the man of my dreams. Put this new man through the wringer, and if he comes out the other side still interested then he is worth the time, tu sais.” Winnie has shifted into her ‘mom’ voice and Gene tries not to roll his eyes. But then a thought comes to him; he realizes that he is getting deep fairly quickly with this one and it might be in his best interest to find out more about Speirs before this ends in a broken heart or blood shed. Or both.

 

“Listen, Winnie, I just got to my building and I need a shower something awful. How about you email me your massive list of torture questions and next time I see Speirs, I’ll get around to asking him some of them,” Gene offers as he jogs to a stop in front of his stoop.

 

“Alright .” Winnie drags the one word out to several syllables. “But I expect answers, frerot.”

 

“I make no promises.” Gene really does not want to promise anything at this point.

 

“You shoulda been a lawyer.” She clicks her tongue at him. “Have a good day. Stay safe. I love you.”

 

“Je t’aime aussi, Winnie.” Gene replies before hanging up. He’s unlocking his door when the email beeps into his phone. He huffs at the title “Is a Man Good Enough For You?”.

 

That’s the question, isn’t it?

 

Part of Gene wants to put an end to this madness. But a larger part of him, the part that told him to go to Med School out of state, the part that takes over every time an emergency happens, the part of him that cries out every time Speirs is near; knows that he isn’t going to put an end to this. Hell, he told his fucking sister about Speirs.

 

Whether Speirs is good enough for Gene isn’t even the topic anymore, because Gene has made his mind up.

 

<~>

 

Ron likes to clean out his guns at the office. It’s easier to dispose of the evidence inside the industrial cleaning that the gym goes through nightly than it is to do it at home. The trick is to make it seem like he’s never packing, so he’s unlikely to get stopped by the Feds or the Cops. He hasn’t seen any heat from the authorities recently, but with the way things are shaping up with the Russians he wants to be as clean as a choir boy right now.

 

Gun cleaning is better than meditation. The organization of the parts. The feel of the oils and cloths over his fingers and metal. He can forget about everything but making sure his tools are properly cared for.

 

His phone chirps.

 

He glances at the screen, expecting one of the coded messages from Malarkey or Liebgott about current going-ons. Then he realizes that the screen was black. The noise has come from his other phone.

 

Ron smears grease all over the front of his phone as he reaches for it in his pocket, not even caring about the gun grease that now stains his shirt and tie.

 

It’s a text message from Gene.

 

Gene: The clinic is closed on Sundays.

 

Ron feels his eyes go wide and his mouth fall open.

 

Speirs: This weekend?

 

The seconds waiting as the dots load across his screen drag in a truly impossible fashion. Maybe those poets were onto something when they talked about waiting and love. Or maybe Speirs just feels ready to vibrate out of his skin onto another plane of existence.

 

Gene: Pick me up at 11:30

 

Then there’s a text with an address. Not that Ron needed the address; he has a file that contains that kind of information, but now he can go to Gene’s home with an invitation.

 

Speirs: Looking forward to it.

 

He can’t even stop the smile that spreads across his face as he sends his reply.

 

However, when he looks up from his phone, it’s to see Harry Welsh standing across the room recording him with a smart phone.

 

“Aw, don’t frown like that! I am just making sure we have video evidence of this moment for when I give my best man speech at your wedding,” Harry laughs, still holding up the smart phone.

 

“Carwood is my best man,” Ron replies, mostly to hear the affronted shriek Harry makes and the amused snort Carwood tries to hide. The phone goes away after that. His tactic has many advantages.

 

<~>

 

Ron triple-checks that he has put everything he needs in his pockets before he locks up the office and heads down the stairs. The gym is mostly silent at this time on Sunday, most of the guys at church or visiting with caring parents or grandparents. He doesn’t feel left out by his lack of people to visit; maybe it’s one of the reasons everyone says he’s fucked up.

 

There’s someone at one of the heavy bags, going though a warm up. As Ron walks through the floor, skirting around different weights and machines, he sees that it’s Toye. They don’t really know each other. Ron doesn’t interact with most of the fighters, that’s what they pay Harry and Bull for.

 

“Hey, Boss?” Toye calls out when Ron is just about to the door. He freezes and turns to look at the other man.  Joe, for his part, squares his shoulders like he is getting ready for a fight. “Me and the guys,” Joe pauses. “Listen,” he begins again, “we all like The Doc. He’s good people. He’s good for you.”

 

Ron is floored at this. Not that someone would give a shit about him, he’s gotten used to that concept the moment Winters let him move in when Ron was just getting started in The Eagles. The open support for his relationship is what surprises him. He doesn't know what to do with that.

 

“Right,” Ron says finally when it getting to be too long since he should have responded, “yeah.”

 

“Have fun!” Toye calls out and goes back to hitting the heavy bag.

 

<~>

 

When Gene gets to the street, he’s shocked at what he sees. No, ‘shocked’ isn’t the right word for what he feels. ‘Shocked’ implies a level of outrage or confusion. What had that teen said the other day? ‘Shook’ .

 

Speirs stands, leaning against a motorcycle, looking sinful. Gene has only ever seen Speirs in suits - or that one time in a tight button down and jeans. Today, he’s wearing a white fucking v-neck t-shirt with a worn pair of jeans and a leather jacket. To top off the entire look, Speirs’ hair looks messy and he’s wearing aviators. Gene is practically drooling. The woman jogging across the street trips when she turns to look over. Gene feels that.

 

Which means something is up.

 

Gene is learning, Speirs doesn’t do things ‘just because’. He didn’t show up at the clinic randomly that second time. And from what Gene has gathered so far, he is pretty sure Speirs planned to meet him at the club. Word on the street is the Speirs is one scary mother fucker, or that’s at least the gist of the gossip Gene has been able to get out of Babe and Chuck.

 

Reputations like that don’t just come out of nothing.

 

If Speirs looks this good, it means that he means to make Gene weak at the knees, and that he has something planned or at least something in mind. There is a game here. Gene just has to figure out the play.

 

“What’s with the bike?” Gene asks. Speirs has a second of honest to god offense at the term before his face slides back into the casual calm it had been in before.

 

“You said you wouldn’t get in a car with me.” Speirs waves at the bike like he has solved a great problem.

 

“How is this better?” Gene has an idea but just giving in wouldn’t be as fun.

 

“On a motorcycle, there’s no room for me to incapacitate you without both of us going up in a great ball of fire.” Speirs taps the handle bars like he isn’t nonchalantly talking about the concept of kidnap and injury and death by motorcycle accident. Gene raises his eyebrows at this. “And you can effectively pat me down for weapons on a motorcycle.”

 

“You put a lot of thought into this.” Gene is frankly a bit impressed.

 

“I don’t do things by halves,” Speirs answers, licking his lips. It could have been a subconscious move or it could be Speirs being an absolute cock tease.

 

“What’s the plan, alors?” Gene asks.

 

“We are going for a drive,” Speirs answers, pulling a spare helmet off the side of the bike and handing it to Gene, “see the countryside.”

 

Gene thinks he’s kidding at first, as they meander through back roads out of the city and onto a two lane road. It’s when the sub-burbs melt away into trees that Gene realizes Speirs had been serious.

 

They drive down meandering roads, with tree canopies changing color. The bike kicks up a spray of yellow, orange, and red in their wake. The hum of the motorcycle feels like a gentle white noise machine drifting through Gene’s body. He can feel himself melt against Speirs even as he tensed with every turn they took.

 

I’m being seduced, Gene thinks.

 

It isn’t a fancy date at a restaurant or a club. So far there’s no small talk involved at all. The thing is, Speirs is showing Gene something that’s normally only seen on the third or fifth date, a part of himself. It might have been just the countryside in the fall but Gene can tell this is something else. It isn’t just something pretty to drive through on a nice day. It feels like a kind of ritual, the way Speirs seems to know the way by heart. The way Speirs relaxes into the bike and into Gene with every mile.

 

Some fucking first date.

 

<~>

 

They stop, eventually, in a town that has signs everywhere to ‘Share The Road’ and then pictures of buggies. Gene didn’t even know there were amish anywhere in the state. Ron parks the bike in front of a diner and waits for Gene to hop off.

 

It’s one of those rustic places with so much wood you can see the forest that gave up it’s life for these tables and chairs. The waitress is an older woman who doesn’t seem at all interested in anything other than mild attempts at interest in them. She hands off menus before heading to the back with barely a ‘welcome’. Speirs doesn’t even look at his menu.

 

“Either get fried chicken or meat loaf. Nothing else here is really worth eating,” Speirs advises as Gene looks at his menu.

 

“You a regular?” Gene raises his eyebrows in question. This does not seem like a place Speirs would come to, the atmosphere isn’t him. Not to mention the nearly hour drive it took to get here from the city. Granted, the drive might have been shorter if they had taken a highway, but Gene gets the impression the path they had taken here is the only one Speirs ever takes.

 

“I used to come out here from time to time,” Speirs offers with a shrug, leaning back into his side of the booth.

 

“Oh?” Gene wants to hear more, because this is the ‘getting to know you’-phase. And he needs something more to go on between them than what he has right now. Even though he already feels like he can read Speirs without trying, Gene doesn’t really know any personal information. Speirs pauses, swallows, and then gives a little nod like he knows it’s time to pay up.

 

“I had a rough childhood,” Speirs starts with a grimace, “It sounds lame and overdone.”

 

“A bit,” Gene exhales the smallest of laughs.

 

“When I,” Speirs freezes for a second and looks at Gene with calculating eyes. “When I found my family, I wasn’t great at dealing with things. Emotions, stress, change, fear.” Speirs rubs at one of his eyes with a thumb, a motion that makes him look soft and smaller somehow. “The boss, he took me in. He didn’t have to do that. I don't even really understand why he did now.”

 

Gene can see it. Ron Speirs, young and scrappy, broken in so many little ways that kids can get with neglect or abuse as their constant companions. Now that Gene really thinks about it, he can see some of the lingering signs in their past interactions. The way Speirs holds him at an emotional distance while trying to draw him in. It makes sense in a painful way.

 

That comment about family, about who these people are to Speirs is the real key to all of it. The cornerstone Gene has been looking for all along. He knows now that there’s no escaping the Eagles in Five Points. But he also knows from his friends - and now from Speirs’ own admission - that they are a family. Not in the cheesy movie sense, but in the ‘stand by you’-sense. Why else would this mystery boss take in a kid like Speirs?

 

“Anyway,” Speirs huffs, “his parents live out here. He would drag me out here almost every week. Take the long way. Roll down the windows and let me lean my head half out the window. Then we would stop for chicken and meatloaf.” Speirs sounds incredibly fond, his smile the same shade of sunshine Gene had felt on the drive here, filtered through warm leaves.

 

Gene reaches across the table with his hand held palm upward. Speirs notices it, looks at it for a heartbeat before slowly placing his own hand in Gene’s.

 

“Thank you for bringing me here, c’est vraiment sweet,” Gene puts the thick, warm feeling in his chest into his voice. Speirs freezes at this, clearly not prepared for the reaction.

 

“Ya’ll having the chicken or the meatloaf?” the waitress asks just as Speirs opens his mouth to respond. Gene snorts at the glare Speirs shot her. “If I remember, you always liked the chicken better.” She points a pen at Speirs and then writes on her note pad. “You?” She asks Gene.

 

“I’ll have the chicken too, ma’am,” he answers with a smile.

 

“‘Ma’am’, he says,” she mutters to herself. “You turned out okay then, Sparky. Got yourself a southern gentleman.” The waitress clicks her tongue at Speirs and walks off.

 

“Sparky?” Gene asks.

 

“I didn’t realize she remembered me that well.” Speirs frowns for a brief second. It’s adorable and makes Gene snort again. The hand in his squeezes briefly at the noise.



<~>

 

“Can I come up?” Ron asks as they stand on the steps of Gene’s apartment. Manners dictate he should have waited to be invited up, but he’s done waiting and he has never had manners in his life. Gene raises his eyebrows. Then Gene places two fingers on Ron’s neck, moving them until he has Ron’s pulse point.

 

“Checking my heart rate, Doc?” Ron asks, because he’s not exactly sure what’s happening here and he doesn’t like that. Gene looks up from Ron’s neck with stern, honest eyes.

 

“What do you want out of this?” Gene asks. His face appears calm, but Ron sees him lick his lips at the end. Oh, so they’re going to be serious.

 

“I like you,” Ron confesses honestly.

 

“I can tell,” Gene smiles with a soft kind of warmth, and then his face hardens again. “But you also have your goons come to my place of work nearly every other day, you don’t answer my questions, and you keep trying to distract me with sex.”

 

“Is it working?” Ron asks hopefully. He had been planning on sex today. The entire outfit and the motorcycle are a testament to his planning. That and the lube in his jacket pocket. Gene leans forward.

 

“We aren’t playing right now,” It’s practically a whisper, the words are so soft. “Drop the calculations and the ego and tell me exactly what you want. And don’t lie because I’ll know.” Gene pushes into Ron’s neck lightly with the two fingers he still has pressed there.

 

Oh.

 

Ron exhales in a gush, his mind spinning at the implications but also at the desire to be truthful. He can do this. And if he does, he will get what he wants.

 

“You.” It’s the truth. “I knew after that first kiss in the club I wanted you for more than just a quick fuck.” Ba-dum.  “I want to see you every day and taste you so often it never leaves my mouth.” Ba-dum. “If I’m really lucky, I want breakfast and dinner and eventually a key to your place.” Ba-dum. “But right now I want to put my mouth on every inch of you and make you come so hard you forget your name.” Ba-dum.

 

Merde .” Gene sighs and then pulls Ron into a kiss. Like the kiss at the club, there is a lot of teeth and pressure. Ron feels ready to crawl on top of Gene right here, right now, because after all the time on the bike with them pressed flush against one another, he is ready for the foreplay to be over.

 

Gene breaks off the kiss and pulls out his keys, turning to unlock the door. Ron, ever an opportunist, takes this time to place biting kisses to Gene’s neck and ears. “Jesus, fuck, let me get the door unlocked avant de me sauter dessus en public.” Gene mutters.

 

They get the door open, Gene stumbling further into his apartment building ahead of Ron. Now that Ron knows he is going to get what he came for, he doesn’t feel rushed. He follows Gene up to the second floor slowly, taking care with each step, watching Gene’s ass. When Gene gets the door of his apartment open he backs out of the entry way quickly looking excited.

 

“I think you should fuck me,” Gene explains half the room away from Ron. The door closes behind Ron with a solid click.

 

Yes.

 

<~>

 

Speirs pulls his jacket off with a rush, advancing on Gene who almost falls over at what he sees. Speirs is wearing a brown leather shoulder holster over his white v-neck shirt. The gun isn’t in the holster, Gene actually has no idea when Speirs could have removed it, but that’s not the point. The point is a shoulder holster over a white t-shirt is perhaps the hottest thing Gene has ever seen and he’s seen Ron Speirs in a leather jacket earlier today.

 

Gene feels his throat bob with a dry swallow when Speirs realizes where Gene is looking. Then Speirs suddenly looks dangerous, a predator with a kill in his sights.

 

“You like it?” Speirs voice is practically half an octave deeper and Gene actually twitches at this. Gene nods enthusiastically. “Yeah?” Speirs asks moving in closer, until he has Gene pressed up against the back of the couch, Gene has to keep his hands on couch or he will topple over, allowing Speirs free rein. Speirs grinds their dicks together through the layers of clothing. “I was planning to keep this simple, through, but if you want the holster to stay on we can negotiate safe words and hard limits right now. Your choice.”

 

Gene groans with his whole body. Speirs chuckles at the sound, his laugh rumbling in his chest and shaking Gene in response.

 

High brain function is gone. Gene has a very clear and painful image of a rabbit hole he’s about to fall down and it’s literally doing to destroy him.

 

“What if I want both?” Gene asks, his voice sounding wrecked. Speirs smiles and it’s a come on and promise, the edge of teeth and sliver of his eyes. He leans in, dragging his teeth across Gene’s pulse. Speirs slips a hand between them and grips Gene’s dick through his clothes.

 

“When you talk to an officer, you say ‘Sir’.” Speirs adds with a squeeze.

 

Gene sees stars; his vision whites out as his senses explode. He opens his eyes, expecting to see Speirs with that smirk of a smile; instead he gets something better.

 

Speirs looks awed, shaken, lips open and shining wet, eyes nearly black with pupils blown. It makes Gene feel a little better about having just come in his pants.

 

Speirs doesn’t move so Gene leans in and kisses the other man. It is so much softer than the previous kisses. The edge Gene has been riding for weeks now is off and he can actually feel the shape of Speirs lips on his. Speirs responds to the kiss, but weakly, like he’s still lost in his own mind.

 

“I’m the one that just came, tu sais.” Gene teases, running his hands up Speirs arms.

 

“Sorry,” Speirs offers, returning the next kiss with renewed interest. “I was trying to figure out if I brought enough lube.” Gene snorts at that and bites Speirs lip. Speirs in retaliation, pinches his nipple through his shirt.

 

“Adjusting your plans for me?” Gene asks, slapping Speirs hand away from his nipples - they are sensitive right now.

 

“Always,” Speirs answers with a level of sincerity that floors Gene.

 

That’s the thrust of this situation, isn’t it. As Gene learns more and more about Speirs, he realizes how much the man loves to plan and know what he was doing. And as Gene realizes this, he also sees how Speirs changes his plans for Gene. It’s humbling to be on the receiving end of these recalculations.

 

“Do you think we have enough? Il ne faudrait pas en manquer,” Gene wonders. Speirs nods, slipping his hands under Gene’s thighs and lifting him.

 

“You already came,” Speirs whispers with a pleased growl. “I can eat you out without using a cock ring.”

 

Fuck. Gene practically shudders as Speirs moves the two of them to the bedroom.

 

“You are going to ruin me,” Gene hears himself wonder aloud.

 

“That’s the plan.” Speirs promises.

 

<~>

 

Ron doesn’t feel in control of himself. That is perhaps the scariest part of all of this. The way this other person can affect him this way. Ron has learned the painful way, nearly a decade ago, that he can’t let other people affect him, that way lay only pain. And yet here he is, on his knees, ready to give up everything, control, sanity, safety, for another person.

 

He’s so out of his depth here. He thought he knew what he was getting into when he made the choice to pursue this. Thought he understood why he was so drawn to this Doctor, who never seemed to do what he was expecting.

 

Relationships are something Ron has done before. He had tried to be that person that cared and loved. He’d gotten a slap to the face for his efforts. It had been in the club the that he had understood he didn’t want Gene just once but regularly. He had been so overwhelmed by the realization that he cared about another person, that way.

 

Friendship, Ron can handle. Brotherhood he understands. There’s hours of pain under a needle between his brothers, him, and the rest of the world. The Scream Eagles are better than family. He doesn’t have to worry about betrayal and heartache with them.

 

The truth is he’s terrified. The truth is that he’s in love. The truth is it doesn’t make a lick of sense and he’s powerless to stop it.

 

Ron gets a very light kick to his shoulder blade. He looks up from between Gene’s legs with a questioning eyebrow, like his heart doesn’t clench in his chest at the sight.

 

“Keep going or get inside me already, bordel.” Gene huffs, panting and glorious. Ron feels a spike of renewed lust at the evidence of their activities litters on Gene’s milk pale skin.

 

He has been meticulous in taking the other man apart. Sliding Gene’s shirt off with his hands spanned across the doctor’s chest. Following his hands with his mouth. Sucking bruises into every spot that made Gene gasp. Discovering that Gene is extremely sensitive on his hip bones. Biting into that jutting bone with blunt teeth to feel Gene jack knife off the bed in response.

 

Ron licks the drying come off of Gene’s dick while the other man watches, chest heaving on shallow breaths, knowing that this is going to be a masterpiece of a fuck. He can feel it at the base of his spine already, that kind of heavy tingle that means he would white out when the moment came. But until that moment, he has Gene’s body to worship and destroy.

 

When Ron gets his tongue inside Gene, he loses English. It’s perhaps one of the hottest things Ron has ever experienced in his life. He has no idea what the words are, but he knows what they mean. Adoration. Prayer. Blasphemy. Pleading. He understands the feeling, sympathizes, because the taste of Gene on his tongue and Gene’s fingers twisting his hair and Gene’s gasps in his ears are the closest Ron had come to religion.

 

“S’il-te-plait, Ron, je t’en prie, ah- oh mon dieu, je- allez, je t’en supplie-”

 

The conflict has started because Ron can’t decide how he wants Gene. Does he want to watch Gene’s face as he comes apart with Ron inside of him? Or does he want Gene on his knees with Ron plastered to his back, able to watch himself disappear inside the other man over and over again? It has shorted out his brain, the thought of each option almost too much for his neglected cock to take.

 

“How do you want this?” Ron asks, because he can’t decide and so far everytime he has given any control over to Gene he has been rewarded with brilliance.

 

Gene, for his answer, pushes Ron off of the bed and then stands and maneuvers Ron into an arm chair in the corner of the room. It puts Ron off balance for a second, unsure of where this could possibly go. Then Gene climbs into Ron’s lap and lowers himself onto Ron, one perfect inch at a time.

 

When Gene bottoms out, Ron sees the brilliance of this position. He has to look up at Gene, craning his neck back. As Gene raises himself up, they share a panting breath. Ron doesn’t have the leverage to fuck into Gene, but he does have the space to grab Gene’s hips and fuck the other man onto him. And he can feel the brush of Gene’s leaking cock against his abs.

 

He isn’t going to survive this, his soul won’t last with this kind of onslaught. Ron’s witnessing his undoing and leaning into the sensation.

 

He tries to kiss Gene, shining lips bright red and bitten, but each thrust takes Gene just too far out of reach. So he settles for his lips just brushing Gene’s lips on each down thrust.

 

Sharing air, panting as one person, his hands roaming up Gene’s perfect pale back to tangle in his inky hair, Ron feels otherworldly. So this is why it’s called ‘The Breathe of Life’. So this is what all the Catholics are on about when they speak of communion.

 

Becoming one with another person.

 

He shifts his hips, hits Gene’s prostate with each bounce, feels Gene climb the peak again. And this time, when Gene’s body shakes with a million nerve endings lighting up, Ron wraps him up in his arms, presses sore spit wet lips to his own and shatters with him.

 

<~>

 

“What the fuck is that?” Chuck asks when Ron walks into the office the next day. He freezes for a moment, trying to figure out what it might be that Chuck has noticed. “You’re smiling!” Chuck accuses with a finger.

 

Ron is most certainly not smiling. His face doesn’t feel any different than normal. Mostly Ron feels sore and tired because Gene and him had gotten up and had more activities in the night, and then again this morning.

 

“I’m not smiling,” Ron corrects and moves to his favorite chair.

 

“Harry!” Chuck calls out the door to the other man. “Come look at this!” Harry, because he’s actually horrible comes running into the room and stops dead when he sees Ron.

 

“Oh my god!” Harry exclaims. “Body snatchers do exist!”

 

“I have a conference call in five minutes,” Ron reminds the two men he used to consider friends.

 

“You can’t skype The Irish looking like that!” Harry argues. “They are going to think you are a soft baby who loves stuffed animals and rainbows.” Ron glares at the other man.

 

“Get out, both of you.” Ron orders, standing up to close the door on the other men before returning to the table with a laptop set up with an encrypted skype account. He’s still busy getting ready to discuss the arms deal with the Irish when Don opens the door and pokes his head in. He pauses, looking at Ron with a slightly puzzled look.

 

“Did you see that you have a hickey below your left ear?” Don asks, pointing at the spot on his own neck. Ron can feel his teeth grinding.

 

“No,” he grinds out. “I did not notice that.” The call has to be delayed by a few minutes while he hunts down some concealer. Fortunately Joe Toye still keeps some around for the fighters to lessen the look of their black eyes.

 

<~>

 

Speirs: I have a hickey .

 

Gene: I have 8

 

Speirs: Is this a contest?

 

Gene: It’s about to be

 

<~>

 

It takes him a while to wake up to the pounding. At first his mind puts the noise into his dream, so a radio is tapping out this terrible thumping noise that makes it impossible for him to make the bananas.

 

Finally something about the noise makes his brain realize that this isn’t just coming from inside his head. Gene falls out of bed as the pounding on his door starts again. He drags himself out of the bed and towards the front door. There is a pause in the pounding just as he rounds the corner and then it starts again.

 

Maybe he should have checked through the peephole to see who it is, but his brain isn’t actually on just yet so Gene just swings the door open in bleary confusion. Two men stand on the other side of the door. One has a clearly injured leg, starting at his shin his pants are torn and Gene can see slow bleeding. The other guy is a bit worse off. His face is all cut up and there still seems to be debris in some of the wounds. The wounded leg guy is supporting the other one which is clearly taking a great deal of effort.

 

Gene holds the door open wider without even thinking about it. They hobble in and Gene walks over to the table and pulls everything off onto a chair. He points to the guy with the leg wound.

 

“Help me get him on the table and then I want you to sit with that leg elevated.” Gene instructs.

 

Once the guy with the face wounds is on the table, Gene dashes to the bathroom where he keeps his kit. It’s moments like this that Gene is really glad he never got rid of his old EMT kit from when he was training.

 

He gets the first guy cleaned up pretty quickly. Face and head cuts tend to bleed faster than cuts anywhere else. Most of his cuts are small, but nearly his entire left side it littered with debris. Gene ends up cutting most of his clothes off. The guy with the leg wound calls the guy on the table Alley.

 

Gene has just gotten a name out of the guy with the leg wound, “Skinny”, when his door opens again. He looks up in confusion to find Speirs holding the door open for another guy. The other guy barely registers in Gene’s mind because when he sees Speirs his brain finally wakes up. Suddenly, Gene is aware of the fact that he is sitting in nothing but his boxers and some latex gloves with a few smears of blood across his chest and now three strange men and his sort of boyfriend in his main room in the middle of the night.

 

“What the fuck!” The incredulity in Gene’s voice makes Speirs and the third man pause. Skinny’s face goes wide in shock and Gene is pretty sure he hears Alley straighten up even though he was supposed to lay still. “Lay down Alley!” Gene calls out without turning around. The third guy looks impressed.

 

“Your place is closer than the clinic and someone told me it was serious.” Speirs says with the voice of a disappointed father. Gene is not dealing with that tone right now.

 

“These are serious wounds,” Gene growled out at Speirs who really deserves this for acting like a face wound wasn’t a big deal. “Not life threatening but the amount of debris on these boys was awful.”

 

<~>

 

Don Malarkey has no idea what he was supposed to do with himself right now. When Speirs had been driving them over here he figured he was going to need to help fix up one of the kids. Speirs had really not explained where they were going, just that two of the runners had taken a hit from some kind of explosive while at one of the depots.

 

Now it looks like he’s going to watch Speirs get yelled out by a half-naked guy. This is shaping up to be a really entertaining Tuesday. Skinny looks torn between amusement and horror as well.

 

“C’est pas possible! They need more medical care than I can give right now,” the angry Cajun tells Speirs.

 

“Like what exactly?” Speirs asks and then looks around the half naked guy at Skinny. “You good kid? You need more help?”

 

“No, sir!” Skinny agrees, because he’s a smart kid and realizes that now is not the time to argue with his boss. “Me and Alley can get out of the Doc’s hair now, right Alley?”

 

“Stay exactly where you are, Skinny.” The Doc throws out without turning around. Don and Skinny make painful eye contact for a moment before Skinny shakes his head and then nods at Alley.

 

Don gets Alley up and standing so that he can carry the other man’s weight as the three of them hobble out of the apartment. The argument is heating up between Speirs and the Doc. The shouting from a few moments ago has turned into a mix of English and French and Speirs saying things in that terrifying tone of his. This is not something that needs witnesses.

 

In fact, when Don turns to look, Speirs has the Doc backed into a wall and is pulling the bloody gloves off the doc’s hands with his teeth. Kinky.

 

“N'essaie pas de me distraire avec ton body, mister, je... I mean, I... You won't get out of his so facilement,” is the last thing Don hears before he closes the door. He doesn’t need to know what Speirs sounds like during sex. That’s not something he, or the kids, need to hear.

 

<~>

 

After Ron blows Gene against the wall with one hand still in a bloody glove, they get to the point where he has to explain himself. They had never gotten around to the relationship talk after the first time. Or the second. Or the third. Ron had been trying to avoid the relationship discussion because with it would come questions about his job.

 

“What happened?” Gene asks because of course he wants to know about the injured people first.

 

“There’s a thing with the Russians,” Ron explains.

 

He’s downplaying it of course. A month ago, the Russians had started to make noise about some territory. Then there had been an incident at a deli that was owned by the parents of one of the Eagles. No one had been able to prove it was the Russians. They guys who had held the place up had no ink and were Five Points born and raised.

 

Two days later, the terf war had started. Small things at first, guys getting shot at on corners. Then they started to up their game after the talks had fallen through. Tonight the Russians had bombed the messenger service. It was the first big declaration of an all-out territory war, unless Ron was losing his touch.

 

“And two bike messengers got hit with a homemade grenade?” Gene raises his eyebrows like he knows Ron is full of shit. He is probably right. “Where is this going?”

 

“The thing with the…” Ron begins and then sees the look in Gene’s eyes. “Us?”

 

“Am I your doctor or your boyfriend?” Gene’s face is sincere and it hurts Ron in a way that he hadn’t expected. “I can’t be both, je ne peux pas.”

 

“Boyfriend,” Ron answers with a speed he’s scared to admit has come from a deep place inside him. He won't lose this, not if it means a little pain in some other things. It means too much to him.

 

“Then this,” Gene points to his blood covered kitchen table, “doesn’t happen again. You call Babe or one of the other medically trained people or you take them a hospital.” Gene’s voice softens and he slips his hand into Ron’s, “if we are going to do this then there needs to be a line.”

 

<~>

 

It takes Ron a while to figure out how to do this, how to fix this. Gene drew a line in the sand and he needs to respect that line, but he also feels like he needs to help Gene understand that his life isn’t separate, can never really be separate.

 

His work is his work, because he cares about the people that he does it with. He is good at what he does, because the stakes are the lives of the people he gives a shit about. He keeps doing it even now, because leaving means losing some of those people.

 

He needs to make Gene understand that this is more than work.

 

He needs to show Gene the truth.

 

He needs to take Gene home.

 

Speirs: Are you working this Sunday?

 

Gene: I shouldn’t be

 

Speirs: Dress nice. I’ll pick you up at 10

 

Gene: Now I’m intrigued.

 

<~>

 

Speirs rings the doorbell and second later, there is a patter of small feet running at high speeds.

 

Now Gene is really confused. First, this place doesn't look a thing like he was expecting when Speirs made plans and to top it off there is a kid coming to the door. He turns a questioning look at Speirs but the other man is stone faced. Uh.

 

The door is opened by a boy who looks about eight year old, maybe a little older, in khaki shorts and a short sleeved button down. He is wearing a bow tie. Gene is glad he decided to put on one of his dress shirts suddenly.

 

For about three seconds the kid’s face is pure joy at having opened the door and getting to greet people. He looks at Gene hopefully and then his eyes land on Speirs and the kid’s demeanor changes completely.

 

“Uncle Ronald,” the kid says with venom in his voice.

 

“Floyd,” Speirs responds in the same tone. Gene is flabbergast watching a grown man who is a confirmed killer have a staring contest with a child.

 

“Hey! Kiddo, who’s at the door?” calls a voice from inside. A man comes to the door. He has jet black hair and the beginnings of a beard in the same color. He also looks dressed for a church event in khaki pants and a light colored button down. The man is in is forties or fifties with a healthy amount of laugh lines surrounding his eyes and mouth. “Ron!” the man smiles brightly, “Dick didn’t mention you were coming for lunch.”

 

“I didn’t call,” Speirs offers in a halting response. He looks sheepish.

 

“Well, it doesn’t matter.” The man turns to Gene and holds out a hand. “Lewis Nixon, nice to meet you.”

 

“Eugene Roe,” Gene shakes the man’s hand.

 

“Ooh, I like the accent,” Lewis grins and turns to Speirs. “He’s cute.” Lewis points at Gene. “You boys come on in,” Lewis looks down at the kid. “Go put out two more place settings.”

 

The little boy, Floyd, rolls his eyes but marches off like he’s being ordered to his death. Lewis snorts at this and holds open the door more.

 

The house is nice, decorated somewhere between rustic chic and restoration hardware on crack, with a smattering of Pokemon and Legos on every table and a stack of comics in an arm chair. It’s a shockingly normal looking home. This really is not what Gene was expecting for today’s outing. Then again, Speirs keeps surprising him when Gene least expects it.

 

In the dining room, a man with ginger hair, about the same age as Lewis Nixon is setting the table wearing an apron that reads ‘kiss the cows’ with a cow pattern on the ties.

 

“Speirs, nice of you to join us,” the man in the apron offers in a flat greeting.

 

“You said I was always welcome,” Speirs responds in the same kind of tone. For a second Gene is worried that this is some kind of hostility and then he realizes that both men look slightly amused at this, an old joke then.

 

“Dick Winters,” the red haired man introduces himself to Gene.

 

“Gene Roe,” Gene offers in return with a handshake. Dick’s head tilts to the side just a little bit in a way that reminds Gene of when Speirs did that in the parking lot, weeks ago.

 

“The doctor at the clinic?” Dick asks with mild interest.

 

“Yes, sir,” Gene answers just as the kid returns from wherever he had been. “Did Ron mention me?” he asks only because it’s a bit strange for someone to know where he works without having ever come into the clinic. Not that Dick or Lewis couldn’t have come to the clinic but they live far enough away that they probably have a closer clinic location or a regular doctor.

 

“No,” Dick shakes his head and walks back into what looks like the kitchen. Lewis gives a soft exhale that sounds a bit like a laugh and takes a seat at the table. Gene apparently will not be getting more of an answer.

 

“Uncle Harry told us,” the kid pipes up. Gene feels lost. He’s missing something here and Speirs doesn’t seem ready to open up about what. There is some connection here that Gene doesn't know about. “He comes over to drink with Daddy while Aunt Kitty is pregnant because he can’t drink in front of her.”

 

“That’s right,” Lewis nods along with his son. “But what else?”

 

“Aunt Kitty had the baby and if I practice I can hold her when we go to visit them next week,” Floyd recites in that way all children do when they are repeating words from an adult. It makes Gene smile.

 

Dick comes back in carrying a tray in oven mitts and instructs everyone to sit down. Speirs makes for the seat across from Lewis and next to Dick, but apparently that’s not going to fly today.

 

“Ronnie, we want to ask your friend questions!” Lewis says after he points Speirs to a chair across from Floyd. “Gene have a seat, it’s time to grill you.”

 

“Don’t,” Speirs practically groans. Gene has never heard him make a noise like that. He sounds exactly like an upset child. It’s, weirdly, cute. Gene is getting a peek into the man behind the leather and guns, seeing the home life he had at one point. It feels like seeing the inner workings of a stage play, exciting and inspiring.

 

“Where you from Gene?” Lewis asks clearly ignoring Speirs. “Because I know you aren’t from around here.”

 

“No, sir. New Orleans,” Gene answers pleasantly. Floyd repeats New Orleans in an imitation of Gene’s accent making the ‘ Neu Orlews’ noise with a scrunched up face.

 

“What brings a nice southern boy all the way up here?” Lewis appears to be the talker of the family because Dick doesn’t seem inclined to jump in and Speirs is staring down the kid, who is returning the favor.

 

“I came up here for Med school, liked it so much I decided to stay,” Dick passes out the food as Lewis continues to grill Gene. None of the question are anything crazy. Lewis and Winnie would get along like ducks in water if they ever met because these questions are awfully familiar. Just the normal round of questions one gets when they meet the parents and Lewis seems ready to defend Ron like a family member.

 

That’s what this is, Gene realizes maybe later than he should have. He is meeting the closest thing Ron has to parents and they are trying to vet him. He knows Ron was in foster care, they had talked about that before but Ron had never named the men who took him. Man. Ron had been very instant that he had one parent, who took him out to the country when he was upset.

 

Gene realizes that it’s Dick, the quiet one who looks sun kissed and proper, who helped raise Ron Speirs. Lewis talks about ‘Ronnie’ but only in a more abstract way, not like a parent. It’s Dick whose mannerisms seem so similar to the things Gene has seen Ron do.

 

He also realizes he is thinking of Speirs as Ron for the first time because Lewis and Dick call him nothing but his first name.

 

It’s a strange feeling.

 

It’s a nice feeling.

 

Gene just isn’t exactly sure why he is getting to meet the parents this soon. Because it has to mean something, Ron wouldn’t just bring him here for no reason.

 

<~>

 

After they finish eating Lewis puts Floyd and Speirs to work doing the dishes and picking up the table.

 

“Dick, why don’t you go pull out the embarrassing photo albums of Ronnie and show his boyfriend all of his bad haircuts,” Lewis teases.

 

“I have never had a bad haircut.” Speirs comments as he is ushered out of the room.

 

“That you know of kid,” Lewis snarks. Gene can’t help but laugh softly at this comment and the utter blankness of Speirs’ face.

 

He is left in the dining room with Dick Winters and they both seem at ends as to what they are supposed to do now. Eventually Dick seems to come to a decision.

 

“Let me show you the new deck,” Dick stands and heads towards a set sliding glass doors that Gene saw in the living room.

 

It’s something domestic and suburban, a lawn and a back deck. As a kid Gene was just lucky to have a yard that wasn’t completely swamp, he know his grandfather grew up in the actual bayou.

 

The yard is surprisingly large with a crop of trees near the back edge and a swing set on the grass. Dick points out some of the new features of the deck for a bit while Gene tries nod along and make appreciative comments.

 

“Oh shucks,” Dick says looking at the trees. “The tire swing is off again.” Without hesitation Dick unbuttons his dress shirt and lays it across the back of a chair before walking towards the garage, probably for some tools.

 

As he moves Gene sees it on Dick’s upper bicep, a tattoo of a screaming eagle. It’s less stylized than some the others he has seen. It has less color depth than Speirs’ tattoo and the line work is heavier than the one on the boxer kid, but the shape of is unmistakable.

 

Gene has to sit down.

 

He watches Dick Winters, the man who raised Speirs and a member of The Screaming Eagles repair a tire swing silently while he realizes why he is here.

 

Dick comes back and sits down next to Gene in the warm sunshine and doesn’t seem at all bothered by the look on Gene’s face.

 

“It was just what we did when I was young. You were from the neighborhood so you joined.” Dick explains calmly putting his shirt back on. “I wasn’t smarter than anyone else but I learned, I paid attention to things. I realized without someone capable at the top it was all going to crumble and someone else was going to move into my neighborhood and peddle drugs laced with rat poison to kids.”

 

Gene hums, still shocked by this.

 

“Ron was barely a teen when he started showing up demanding work. I think I first saw him at eleven.” Dick shakes his head. “He wanted to be a part of this before we even really had a name.” Dick taps his arm. “I got this for my grandfather who fought in the War, it was his unit. I never told the rest of them to get it, they just did.”

 

Gene is starting to see it. To understand that he isn’t dealing with a criminal organization, or at least not just a criminal organization; he is dealing with a family. A brotherhood.

 

“I told Speirs I didn’t want any part of this,” Gene offers because he realizes he needs to explain himself, or at least speak like a polite human being with manners. Dick nods at this.

 

“Ron’s an all or nothing kind of guy. I heard the term ‘ride or die’ used by some of the street kids these days.” Gene has to snort at that because of course Ron would be ride or die, that sounds like him. God, Gene is so screwed here. “He brought you here because he wanted you to met us and to see that there’s no escaping what he does or who he is.”

 

“So that’s it?” Gene wonders. “Get comfortable with organized crime or leave?”

 

“Or learn to forgive Ron for being who he is and start from there,” Dick supplies evenly.

 

Gene realizes he has been unfair. That’s exactly what Dick it telling him. How can he expect Speirs to change everything about himself over a boyfriend. It’s unreasonable. He feels like a heroine from a bad rom com.

 

“I was being dense,” Gene responds finally.

 

“It’s alright son, we can’t all be perfect.” Dick offers with a devious smile. Gene laughs because of course this is where Speirs gets his odd sense of humor from.

 

<~>

 

“What’s with you and the kid?” Gene asks on the car ride home.

 

“Nothing.” Speirs answers quickly. Gene raises his eyebrows at this response. Speirs sighs and scratches at his eyelid. “He doesn’t like that I have first dibs on his dad.”

 

“First dibs?” Gene repeats in confused horror.

 

“His words,” Speirs answers evenly. “I just don’t like being stared down by someone who has a bed time.”

 

“You are ridiculous,” Gene chuckles. Speirs shrugs at this like he doesn’t mind being called ridiculous. “Thanks for taking me to meet your family,” Gene says after some time.

 

“I’m glad they liked you,” Speirs has the ghost of a proud smile at this. “Well Lew liked you but he likes everyone. Dad patted me on the back so that’s about as good as we are gonna get.”

 

“What would a glowing response have looked like?” Gene wants to know.

 

“If Dick had hugged me.” Speirs explains. “I only get those on special holidays or when I have done something well.”

 

“You make so much sense now.” Gene realizes aloud with a laugh.

Chapter Text

Memory is a funny thing. Gene can barely remember most of high school or that family road trip when he was thirteen. But he will remember the sound of the tires on pavement for the rest of his life. He will be able to recall exactly the words spoken moments before it happened.

 

At the time, Babe and him had been arguing about Philly Cheese Steaks of all things.

 

“Not everything thing needs cheese, c’est vraiment trop de fromage,” Gene points out. It had seemed so important. A dumb argument that had started at lunch and continued until the end of the shift.

 

“This is an outrage, Gene! Aren’t you part French? Don’t your ancestors worship cheese and dairy products?” Babe had been flushed with anger or excitement. That was the thing that stood out about that exact moment; the shade of Babe’s skin as they argued.

 

His brain holds an exact catalogue what comes next including the still image of his best friend. He remembers the screech of the tires. The slam of the van door. The powerful sweet scent in his face.

 

He remembers the rough hands on him, the rope biting into his wrists. He remembers realizing that television lied about how quickly this stuff takes effect, they don’t just put a cloth over your face and you pass out a moment later. You breathe it in over and over again, the struggle in your body getting a little bit harder each second. The sweet smell flooding your sense of smell as you try to escape.

 

Later he thinks he got a couple of good kicks in. Mostly he remembers the terror. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and Gene will be haunted by this the rest of his life. The real gut deep terror of those moments with the rag over his nose and mouth. The fear that had shook his bones. The fight or flight response going into overdrive as he struggles to draw in air to his burning lungs. And he remembers wanting to cry out for someone. It might have been for God but he knows the person his soul cried out for only acted all powerful.

 

The blackness takes him.

 

<~>

 

Carwood Lipton looks at the text message with something like dread in his stomach. There are things people don’t do in the world, lines that aren’t crossed.

 

There are people who aren’t crossed. Ronald Speirs is one of those people.

 

This, what the Russians have done, is a line no one has ever dared cross. Maybe they think the Eagles are weak, maybe they don’t know exactly who they’re dealing with.

 

“Give it to me,” Ron orders. He can see that Carwood’s hesitating. They have been friends too long, colleagues for longer.

 

Carwood had been there the first day a young “Ronnie” had shown up at a back door and demanded a job. He remembers the determined look in the pre-teen’s eyes. Ron had few friends in life, even fewer loved ones. Outside of the Eagles, Ron has no social life. Until ‘The Doc’. Carwood had always been a bit worried that Ron doesn’t know how to connect to anyone not part of the Eagles, too hurt by all of his past experiences. The relief he had felt when Ron showed interest in connecting with someone outside their group is now overshadowed by the pain that is about to occur.

 

Carwood hands the phone to Ron.

 

Once, Carwood watched cement dry on Youtube. He had done it just to say he had. This looks surprisingly similar. Something human and malleable turns solid in a slow process, sped up before his eyes.

 

“Call The Saint.” Ron’s voice holds no tremble. It also does not hold emotion or humanity.

 

“Of course.” They are going to need a lot of hardware.

 

<~>

 

George Luz started off in life as a poor pick pocket. Then he upgraded to things falling off trucks. Now he’s the Third Party Acquisitions guy on the entire eastern seaboard. He also has a really dumb nickname that he can’t shake.

 

“What would I do with out Saint George?”

 

He has rolled with the whole ‘Saint’ joke long enough that it’s now just a part of who he is. You want something, you ask The Saint for guidance. He is good. He knows his stuff. And he has a lot of stuff.

 

This call is a bit excessive. Ron Speirs has sent a text ordering fireworks. “All The Fireworks”. Which is how George ends up at warehouse by the docks with a truck full of guns.

 

“I brought the fireworks, as ordered,” George explains to Speirs, who is apparently nonverbal today, because he just nods and grabs a crate by the handle and walks off. “What is his deal? And what country are we invading?” George asks Carwood, who appears as Speirs disappears with his share of the guns.

 

“His boyfriend ’s been kidnapped. And Russia,” Carwood answers with a grim look.

 

“Fuck me,” George exclaims, “I did not bring enough guns.”

 

<~>

 

He feels the pain first. The stiffness of his joints in a single position for too long. He tries to roll off his arms and shake out the soreness when he realizes he couldn’t move. Then he fully wakes up with a gasp.

 

Gene is tied to a chair in a dimly lit room. It smells like damp mildew and gasoline. Right. He’s been kidnapped. He’s not blindfolded. That’s supposed to be bad, right? If they don’t care that he can see and remember faces, it’s bad. Had he seen faces in the van? He tries to remember, but nothing comes back except for the smell of that rag and how fucking scared he was.

 

He doesn’t feel scared right now. What he feels is pissed. The anger at his situation and the people who put him here overwrites the natural fear response.

 

“Gene?” he hears a voice ask, Babe’s voice.

 

“Babe?” Gene turns his head to see his friend equally tied up a few yards away. “You okay? Tout va bien?”

 

“Yeah, just peachy Gene. Would like a water but other than that I’m fine.” Babe rolls his eyes. Gene nearly laughs. They have been kidnapped and tied up and yet neither of seem to be panicking.

 

“Da, you are both awake,” a third voice says from the shadows. A tall man with gold rings, slicked back hair, and yellow teeth smiles as he steps into the light. “We can get started.”



<~>

 

Don Malarkey is not the guy you call when you want a bloodbath. He’s the guy you call when you want something done quietly and with police assistance. The amount of firearms before him tells him this was not his type of job.

 

“Why me? This sounds way more like something for The Barber.” Joe Liebgott earned his stupid nickname after he took a liking to slitting throats when he was called in for high end hits. It was their own fault for letting that sapiosexual fuck date a Literature Major from Harvard. He goes to see Sweeney Todd once and now Lieb’s got an even bigger FBI case file because he just has to be dramatic about everything.

 

“I want someone level headed watching Ron’s back,” Carwood explains, snapping extra clips into his holster.

 

“Isn’t that your full time job?” Don asks, because everyone knows that nowadays Ron Speirs only gets sent into the field if Carwood goes with him. They are established and don’t need a pile of bodies every time there’s a territory dispute, like back in the day.

 

“They grabbed Heffron,” Carwood looks at Don with a grave expression. “Guarnere and Grant are coming too.”

 

“Fuck,” Don takes it back, he’ll keep an eye on Speirs as long as he doesn’t have to be near Bill and Chuck during this. “Do they have a death wish?”

 

“Boss says this is Russian M.O.” Carwood shakes his head sadly, like he knows the stupid fucks signed their own death warrants. “Back in the motherland you kidnap and torture the family of your opponents. Shuts up politicians and mobsters alike.”

 

“Instead, all they did was activate Beast Mode,” Don mutters. Carwood snorts at this and then hands Don a rifle.

 

<~>

 

“You both belong to men who have wronged us.” The man takes a drag of his cigar. “So we make you hurt a bit. Your men learn they can’t treat our family this way and then you go home.”

 

“I don’t belong to anyone.” Gene snaps, gritting his teeth against the blow to his stomach that comes after his words.

 

“Perhaps.” The man with the cigar puffs out a cloud of smoke while one of the goons hits Babe in the same place they had just hit Gene. “Particulars not important. Important is Baba Yaga think your face pretty. We ruin face, small. Boogey man of Five Points stop fighting. Maybe he cry.” The man shrugs and taps the ash off the end of his cigar against the chair in front of him. “What you think, dark one?” He directs the question at Gene.

 

Babe watches his friend take one deep breath, spit out blood from that blow to the chin earlier, and then make a terrible decision.

 

“Harder, daddy,” Gene growls at the three Russian men.

 

It is in this moment that Babe realizes a few things before he gets punched to the face.

 

One, they are going to live through this; because, two, Eugene Roe is Ronald Speirs’ fucking soulmate. Three, he is not into BDSM at all in any way.

 

He must laugh, because he gets another hit to his stomach and one to his kidneys.

 

<~>

 

Don Malarkey joined The Screaming Eagles in his late teens. At the time it was just the thing that people his age did in this neighborhood. All of his friends were joining in some way or another, making money for their parents who were losing their blue collar jobs faster than the boys get could into the Eagles.

 

He’s like everyone else in many respects. He works hard. He saves his money. He takes pride in his work. So what if the first job he ever had was running drugs to rich assholes and the second job he ever had was learning how to cut the drugs just right. He’s not a bad person and frankly, loan sharking and drugs are not the worst things in the world. Hell, the American government does both.

 

Don has seen Ron Speirs in action exactly once, his first day on the job. Back then, The Eagles weren’t what they are now. There had been territory wars regularly. Street corner kids got shot nearly every night.

 

That first night a car had pulled up to the curb and opened it’s windows. Don can’t remember why he ducked at that moment but he did. The gunshots rang out. And then this guy, Speirs, barely old enough to vote, had taken out two guns and ended the entire thing in a rapid fire of death. Don had been stunned at how quickly it all happened. Speirs had just shrugged at all of it, gotten in the car full of bodies, and driven off.

 

That story was going to be nothing compared to this.

 

“They’re expecting us,” Don points out as he pulls the car into the warehouse district by the docks. “Carwood thinks if he goes in first…” Don doesn’t get to finish his sentence, because just as he is making a rather sharp right turn at nearly full speed, Speirs opens his door and steps out of the car like it’s nothing.

 

“Son of a bitch!” he shouts trying not to over-correct for what he just watched.

 

He can already hear Ron shooting. Did he leave the car with the grenade launcher?

 

<~>

 

Anton is fairly new to America. He came over to get away from the cold and because there’s money to be made in the family over here. He works for the men of his family; not blood family, but the family that really mattered.

 

He’s low level, but that isn’t something he worries about too much. He supervises the workers cutting the drugs and makes sure no one walks out with anything they aren't supposed to leave with. He gets to go out on the weekends and watch television at work. It’s a good job.

 

He had heard of the Screaming Eagles when he first came to America. They are The Family’s rivals in every way. They are good at what they do and they do not turn or break for police. Ivan, Anton’s uncle, speaks of their leader with a level of respect Anton found baffling. How can an American make Ivan, an old world man, speak this way?

 

Anton was told the stories of the scariest of the Eagles over drinks and cards.

 

“He is like Baba Yaga, you speak name and he come,” Ivan explains after his third loss. “This why we no say name.”

 

“Or because we don’t know his name,” Sergei points out. “We know he is dark,” Sergei pulls at his own hair to emphasize the point, “but beyond that, we don’t know which of the dark one’s it was.”

 

The story of the Ghost of the Eagles goes something like this: The Columbians used to hold this territory. Port towns like this are important and the districts containing the dock workers even more so. The Columbians believed in intimidation tactics, like back in the old country. A group of kids from one of the Irish families had gotten together to fight back against the Colombians. They were led by this fearless guy who never backed down from a fight, and when he promised to fuck you up he did it. For a while this was the way it was. The Colombians still controlling the town but with a small guerrilla force in their midst who seemed to be able to come out of nowhere. Then came the new kid.

 

“They were all children. No old men at top. No father. Just boys.” Sergei explains. “But the dark one. He is youngest. His voice not dropped yet.”

 

One night, the Columbians get hit near their main distribution site. They think it’s just another one of these guerrilla attacks where the ‘little screamers’ will appear and wreck shit for a while before disappearing again. Only this time it’s different.

 

“Men say the little dark one walked out of cover,” Ivan adds. “He not care about bullets. He just walk from behind car to door and kick it open.” Anton doesn’t really believe this part. There is no way this is real. No way that some teenager walked into a Columbian strong hold without taking a hit.

 

“That night, they go from small problem to big problem for Colombians.” Sergei finishes.

 

Anton didn’t believe the story. He didn’t have any reason to think that there could be a man like that in The Eagles. He had met many of them over the years and they seemed so nice that it was almost comical that they were a well-respected family.

 

He regrets his disbelief. He knows he was wrong.

 

When the first shots echo in the night, Anton is sure that they will stop soon. Organizations do not go to war over two members in a single night. His family would feel the pain of this choice another day.

 

Then the gunshots continue. And continue. He hears the car engine stall out in the alley by the back door. He hears the radiator get shot out. He hears doors slam and loud Russian shouting. The thing he doesn’t hear is any shouting in English. No one is calling out for their comrades on the other side.

 

As the fire fight grows closer to Anton’s position, he does what he is trained to do. He packs up the product and gets his guns ready. He does not stand directly across from the door, because that is how men get shot in the head. He moves so he’s behind where the door will open and waits.

 

The door is not kicked open or opened slowly. The hinges are shot off. Anton has to duck a piece of debrief. The door falls on the ground and two guns come into view. He doesn’t have time to get his gun up to return fire before a shot gets him in the shin. It bounces off something and hits his foot as well. Anton crumples. Later he will know that this one bullet saved his life.

 

A man with dark hair stands over him with a blank expression. His clothes, a nice suit, are splattered with blood and yet he seems unaffected. One of his guns is something large, maybe a modified shotgun and the other is a powerful looking hand gun. He looks at Anton blankly for a moment before raising his gun.

 

“They are not here,” Anton says, hoping this knowledge can save him. He is not afraid that anyone else will know he has spoken to the enemy. It’s clear they are all dead.

 

The man lowers his gun a fraction. Another man appears in the doorway, this one with red hair and no blood splatters, only blood on his hands.

 

“He talking?” The redhead asks. The dark man nods.

 

“Boss took doctor and tall one to building outside town,” Anton speaks through gritted teeth.

 

“You know where?” asks the redhead as he pulls back his sleeve to look at his watch. “They’ve had time to move them.”

 

“No.” Anton corrects. “No move. They rough them up. Hold them there 2 days. Then return them to hospital. Like in old country.” Americans, like they know anything of what it’s like in Russia. He really hopes the boss didn’t think to move the hostages.

 

“You got a’ address?” The redhead looks at Anton squarely, but he can barely see past the two guns still pointed at him. Anton rattles off what he remembers of the street where the strip mall they use is located; he doesn’t remember the exact address but explains where the doctor and tall man would be.

 

“Basement of closed restaurant.” Anton confirms when the redhead asks again. “Da.”  

 

“It’s going to be a bit of a drive,” the redhead explains to the dark haired man, who still is pointing his guns at Anton. “Let’s go.” The red head leaves with no backward glance, not even to make sure his friend is following him. The man with dark hair doesn’t move right away. He looks at Anton for a long moment.

 

“Put pressure on the wound,” the dark haired man states and then slides his handgun into a shoulder holster and leans the shotgun over his shoulder. Then he leaves.

 

Anton really hopes Amazon is still hiring delivery drivers in Ohio. He is getting out of this town and this business. Baba Yaga doesn’t let you live twice.

 

<~>

 

People tend to underestimate Carwood Lipton. Especially when he stands next to Ron Speirs. They see Ron’s death glare and hard eyes next to Carwood’s easy smile and they think that, clearly, he’s the ‘good cop’. That might be a misconception on their part. Carwood is a Screaming Eagle like everyone else, perhaps more so because he calls the shots so often.

 

Carwood believes in leading by example, so he is the first one in the door at the garage. This isn’t like the first location. The warehouse had just been a distribution and packaging location for the Russians. They figured they are holding Roe and Babe there because of the lighting in the picture, and it‘s the most isolated location they knew the Russians held.

 

The drive over had not been a pleasant experience. Chuck Grant gets quiet when he’s upset and someone kidnapping his boyfriend qualifies for upset in any book. Then there’s Bill Guarnere who isn’t even that much of an active member anymore, but his kid brother is in danger and he’s here to get shit done; he talks when he was upset. Carwood is just glad he’s not in the car with Ronald Speirs, because Ron tends to be something completely inhuman when he’s angry and Carwood has never seen Ron this angry before.

 

As Carwood opens the door, he figures he’s about to be greeted by a garage filled with armed men. The garage is in fact empty. That’s not right.

 

Of course, the moment Carwood, Bill, and Chuck step into the room, gun fire opens up. It’s a fairly large garage, with a large hallway leading into the rest of the building, but they are bottlenecked if they want to get past this point of entry. Carwood can see several doors along the back wall where muzzle flashes appear. He ducks behind a truck, Bill and Chuck use the car next to him as cover. Perhaps Ron did have the right idea with that grenade launcher he picked up.

 

Carwood is just considering leaving the safety of the truck to make a dash for one of the doors when there’s a fast double pat on his shoulder and then Ronald Speirs runs out into the open area of the garage.

 

“Jesus Christ!” Bill voice rings out as Ron runs through the gunfire to reach the hallway unscathed. “No wonder he’s fucking a doctor. He’s got a death wish!”

 

Of course, because Bill has to say something like that, Don Malarkey appears a moment later to also make a dash, this time for one of the doors. Carwood shrugs and then gets to his feet, heading towards a different door. Time to take out some gunmen.

 

Ron isn’t the only one with a bad ass reputation to maintain.

 

<~>

 

Gene clenches around the pain. It feels a bit like pushing his knuckles into his temple when he has a bad headache. The throb will increase for a while, override the dullness, and then when he removes his knuckles, everything feels feel a little bit better. He works his jaw from side to side, trying to feel how much of this is swelling and how much is bruising. His face is going to be a mess tomorrow and probably for weeks after.

 

He’s about half-sure he has a concussion from the hits he took to his jaw and face. The ab-hits hurt less, his diaphragm able to absorb more of the impact. They left him breathless for a moment and reeling, but the pain was gone the moment the fists stopped.

 

The trick is to keep calm during the assaults. Gene doesn’t have any kind of natural disposition towards dealing with pain well, but he does have years of medical school under his belt and he knows how to push past a certain level of discomfort and fear. The important part, he thinks, is not to break during the period of attacks or when they let up for a while.

 

It’s a break right now, and the longest one so far. It worries him. After the initial interrogation (‘ you work for the Eagles?’ ‘where they keep their drugs?’ ‘what is name of the boss?’) there had been a general kind of beat down.

 

Luckily, the Russians either don’t know or don’t care that Gene and Babe are doctors and had left their hands alone. So, on the bright side, Gene isn’t going to have to give up his chosen profession due to an injury incurred during a mob kidnapping and beat down.

 

Honestly, when Gene gets out of this, Ron is going to be in a lot of trouble. Or someone is. Gene is very much going to react with anger to the solution of this situation, because the other option is fear and crying and he isn’t going to be a victim.

 

The boss got a call a minute ago, or at least the guy that Gene has been thinking of as the boss. The two thugs won’t hit Gene or Babe until the boss gives a signal, so for the moment they are fine. Whatever the call is about, it’s not a good topic. The voice on the phone is clearly shouting with angry enunciation every so many words. The boss tries to answer calmly, but soon his voice starts to change to a shout.

 

“Well that doesn’t sound good,” Babe offers to the room at large. Once Gene had started the trend of talking back to their captors Babe had tried to join in, but he isn’t as good at it. Gene figures it’s a personality thing. That or he really is just that weird. Gene, at this point, is willing to go with either option. He is learning a lot about himself tonight.

 

The boss hangs up the phone and throws it across the room. Well, things have just gone from shit to fucked. Angry mobsters are not the type of people to be kind to their captives. Gene catches Babe’s eye and realizes both of them are thinking the same thing.

 

An argument breaks out between the thugs and the boss, all of it in Russian, but Gene still has a decent idea on the topic. The pointing the one thug keeps doing helps a lot. They are arguing about Gene and Babe. The thugs seem to think that whatever the boss is saying is a bad idea. One guy keeps shaking his head.

 

“Da,” one of the thugs agrees finally and the boss storms out of the room. They both come for Gene; before, there had been a man on each of them, but now they both march towards Gene and Gene alone. They cut him out of the chair and then one guy takes duct tape to Gene’s wrists while the other frees his legs. When Gene is standing, the thugs basically lift him by his armpits and carry him out of the room. No one goes back for Babe; Gene doesn’t even get to make eye contact with his friend before he’s hauled out of the room.

 

It’s as the men half carry, half drag Gene down a short hallway and up a flight of stairs that he realizes he hears shouting. Shortly after they turn a corner Gene also hears loud blasts. Gunshots. They don’t sound like they do in the movies and they certainly don’t sound like a car backfiring. These shots sound both far away and very, very close at the same time.

 

He feels like a complete idiot when he realizes what is happening here. Why the men grabbed him and not Babe. Why he can hear gunshots. Speirs .

 

The thing is, it’s a completely different experience knowing your boyfriend uses guns regularly and participated in at least one gang war to being in the middle of the actual chaos. He has heard, once he started listening, about Speirs. The way Chuck and Babe talk about him like he‘s some kind of feral animal that decided to stay in a house but was not to be touched. That weird way Dick Winters had talked about him after the dinner, like he was proud and disappointed at the same time. Weird rumors that make Ron Speirs sounds like the boogey man. A boogey man who is coming to save Gene.

 

Gene’s in a garage now, or, more accurately, he would call it a loading bay, one of those big open areas at the back of strip malls and big box stores where trucks come in and out. The thugs push him towards a large black car. They are trying to move him. Gene had almost hoped they were just going to use him as a bargaining chip. At least then he’d have a small amount of control in the situation. If they move him, he’s not going to be in a good position; he might not know a lot about this world, but he’s watched enough cop shows and documentaries to know that if they move him now, he’s probably not going to make it out of this alive.

 

He tries going dead weight, dropping all of his muscle tension and just flopping, but the carry the thugs have him in isn’t impacted by this move. So Gene starts thrashing and kicking.

 

“Stop,” the one guy commands as Gene throws his legs out. It’s not an elegant move and in the end, they drop him and fall into a mess of limbs. Gene lands on his shoulder and a bright flash of pain runs up his spine. It’s not dislocated but falling fully onto concrete hurts like a bitch.

 

One of the guys stands up. A door slams open somewhere, Gene can’t see from the angle he’s lying at. The thug standing up reaches for his handgun, but before he can get his hand to it, there’s a burst of noise and he falls over.

 

Gene knows that guns don’t work like they do in the movies. Guy’s don’t just fall down silent because they took one to the gut or the leg. For a real human being to fall over like that a bullet would need to be in the head or the heart. Those are not easy targets to hit.

 

The second thug has dived behind some kind of concrete structure to Gene’s left at the first gunshot. Footsteps ring out in the silence after that first shot. The second thug, the one who had been in charge of hitting Gene, does not seem stupid. He moves out of the cover only to shoot in the direction of where the first shots have come from. Gene considers twisting to see who‘s shooting at his captor, but he realizes not moving is probably a better idea when it comes to surviving a firefight in the middle of a loading bay.

 

Whatever happens next Gene doesn’t see. There are more gunshots. A yelled curse. Someone else yells something else, maybe ‘stop’ maybe ‘wait’, but Gene isn’t really sure because gunshots this close leave his ears ringing for a moment. There are two more fast bursts of noise and then the ringing is back at a new pitch.

 

As the ringing in his ears subsides for a moment, he can hear the sound of his own pained breathing. The raspy in-out of breath as he tries to deal with what he has been through and appears to still be going through.

 

Gene sees shoes move in front of him and the breath of relief he feels is huge. Later he won’t  be able to say why he knows those shoes. He has probably seen them before but who really pays attention to shoes? The only thing Gene really knows is when he saw the shoes, he knew he was safe.

 

“Hey,” Speirs says softly as he crouches down into view. His hair has fallen forward on his forehead and he looks impossibly good and dirty. There is a smudge of dirt on his cheek and what is probably blood on his collar. He is sweaty and his cheeks are red. His relieved smile is the best thing Gene has seen all day.

 

“Hey,” Gene answers with a relieved kind of sob, “I don't think I'm into bondage.”

 

The only reason Gene says this is because his brain knows he is supposed to say something.

Speirs raises his eyebrows with a surprised face before he leans forward, unbalancing in the process, takes Gene’s face in his hands and kisses him closed mouth with his entire weight behind the kiss.

 

It hurts. Speirs’ hands are on the swollen part of Gene’s face and the pressure hurt. All of it hurts. Speirs practically falls on top of Gene and he is bruised and beaten all over. It hurts.

 

It’s also one of the greatest kisses of Gene’s entire life and there isn’t even any tongue and neither of them are naked. He has just had one of the most terrible nights of his life, including that all nighter eighteen hour shift when he was a resident at the ER, and yet all he can think, all he knows is that he loves Ronald Speirs.

 

<~>

 

When the fucking Russians grabbed Gene, Babe had about two minutes of pure fucking terror. Then Chuck and kicked open the door with his brother hot on his heels and Babe had a moment of relief.

 

After Chuck kisses him nearly breathless and Bill squeezes Babe’s ribs so hard he might have cracked another one, Babe demands they go find Gene.

 

“They grabbed Gene and ran! We have to go after them!” Babe shouts. Bill takes a moment to kind of look at his kid brother with an amused sort of horror before they usher him down a hall and up the stairs. Babe makes confused eye contact with Malarkey who is sitting on the ground by a door smoking a cigarette in a frustrated manner.

 

Then Babe looks up and sees Speirs on the ground a ways off, on top of Gene. They are making out. There are two bodies maybe ten feet from them.

 

“I called the cleaners,” Don tells the other guys. “Carwood is doing another pass of this place and getting all the important documents, but you could not pay me to get between those two right now.”

 

<~>

 

They end up putting Speirs in a pair of scrubs that Chuck has in his trunk, because Babe is actually horrible at remembering to bring clothes to the gym and Chuck basically keeps half a closet in his car. The scrubs are necessary, because the moment Speirs and Gene disentangle, both doctors start demanding that they be taken to proper medical care, one with a lot more force.

 

“I probably have a concussion I need to be checked over,” Gene points out enthusiastically, with some what slurred speech a clear indicator that he is right, as they evacuate the area. He then motions to Speirs, “les gens vont poser des questions, you can’t come to the hôpital with moi, you look like tu as killed a bunch of people.”

 

“I did.”

 

There is an audible pause while Gene just stares at Speirs in what might be disbelieve.

 

“Don’t be cute with me right now, I can’t handle it,” Gene says when the silence has stretched on for far too long.

 

Carwood realizes that someone is going to have to step in because Ron is emotionally compromised and the good Doc is out of it in other ways.

 

“We can’t all take you to the hospital,” he tells the three men wearing scrubs. “In fact, none of us can take you to the hospital because it will look worse. Which of your co-workers is most likely to wake up in the middle of the night if you two got beat up, and mugged to drive you to the hospital?”

 

“Renee,” Gene says the exact moment Babe says “Ralph.”

 

“Let’s go with Renee,” Carwood decides. He knows Ralph through the grapevine and that’s not what they need here. “We are gonna drive you back to Five Points. Don’ll pick an alley near work that we can put some of your blood in.” At that, Don marches off to grab enough samples that he can use as splatter. “Then you are going to wake up a neighbor and call Renee on their phone.”

 

Carwood looks at Guarnere who, with a nod, starts to hustle Gene and Babe towards the door and one of the cars.

 

“You know you can’t go with him,” he reminds Ron. His friend is visibly upset by this news but nods in understanding. “Once he is admitted, we can make sure either Babe or Chuck or one of the guys that's clean calls you.”

 

“I know,” Ron sighs and walks after his boyfriend.

 

<~>

 

He wakes up to the phone ringing. Lew groans next to him and slaps an arm across Dick’s face. It takes him a second in the confusion to slide his hand under his pillow on find his cellphone.

 

“Hello?” Dick asks because he didn’t look at the number.

 

“How do you do it?” asks a calm voice he only hears when things are particularly bad. His brain wakes up fully to a memory, and on the instinct that his son needs him. Not the son he has now, the small boy with an open smile, but his first son, the one that convinced him he wanted to do it all again.

 

“It’s hard,” Dick admits. “It’s why I turned it over to you and Lip.”

 

He’s heard, of course he’s heard, earlier this evening the Russians took the kid and the Doc. Dick had wanted to do something, but there was nothing for him to do at the time and he would only have put everyone in more danger if he had gone. It‘s a painful position, being in true command.

 

“Listen, Ron, don’t make any choices right now. We can talk later in the week. Find something that will work best for us all,” Dick assures him.

 

A soft silence stretches across the phone.

 

“I don’t want to leave the guys.” Ron’s voice is barely more than a whisper. He is clearly torn up about this. “But I can’t put him in danger like this again.”

 

“I know exactly how you feel.” Dick doesn’t have to pretend to know the hell Ron is going through right now. He can look across the bed and feel it at any second. “We’ll figure something out son.”

 

“Okay,” Ron answers in a voice from nearly a decade ago. “Good night, sir.”

 

“Night Ronnie.” Dick indulges in the nick name because he knows it’s something his son needs right now.

 

Dick plugs his phone back into it’s charger and sets it back on the beside table. As he lays down, he realizes that perhaps it is time reevaluate some things in his life. He rolls over and nudges Lew with his foot.

 

“Wa?” Lew asks sounding mostly asleep.

 

“I want to talk to that senator in the morning. It’s time,” Dick explains to his husband.

 

“Yeah, okay,” Lew agrees, because he is barely awake. It doesn’t actually matter, Lew will remember this in the morning and he will know what Dick meant. There has been something in the works for a few years now but Dick is finally ready to pull the trigger.

 

What’s that saying about parents? Willing to go to extraordinary lengths for their children’s happiness.

 

<~>

 

Gene wakes up because his internal clock tells him the nurse is about come back and ask him questions again. He feels dizzy still and the small amount of light in the room hurts, but this time the world isn’t throbbing.

 

There is someone else in the room. He can tell because he hears the sound of another person breathing and for one horrific moment he thinks it’s one of those men from the basement come back to kill him. Then he remembers their blood seeping into the floor and Speirs hands on his face. He’s safe. Or as safe as he can be with the life he has chosen.

 

“Gene?” Speirs asks from the chair next to him. Gene inhales shakily, suddenly floored by everything. He can feel tears prick at the corner of his eyes.

 

“Hi,” he exhales when Speirs jumps into his vision and sits down at the side of Gene’s bed.

 

“How do you feel?” Speirs asks as he interlaces their fingers, rubbing a hand across the top of Gene’s palm that doesn’t have an IV in it.

 

“Like shit,” Gene admits. He has never been on this side of a concussion, but he would not recommend it. 1/10 would not do again. The nurses keep waking him up every hour or so. Renee had been half hysterical, half pissed when she had picked him and Babe up. Maybe they should have called Ralph instead, because Renee had hovered for hours before finally going home.

 

Speirs tries not to smile at the face Gene makes but he is not overly successful.

 

“What are you doing here?” Gene asks, suddenly remembering what they had talked about. Speirs isn’t supposed to be here. Apparently, the ‘cleaners’ can take care of everything but it would raise too many questions if Speirs stays around Gene at the hospital right now. The other man had made it sound very serious.

 

“Checking on you,” Speirs offers, reaching forward and brushing finger tips against Gene’s hairline. It’s a soft and tender gesture and it freaks Gene out.

 

“I mean it,” Gene tries to sit up but Speirs puts a hand on his shoulder. “It’s gonna mean trouble for you if you stay, your friend said so. Je ne veux pas que tu sois en danger.”

 

“We don’t need to be worried about that anymore,” Speirs explains, reaching for a cup with water so that Gene can have a drink. Gene pushes the cup back towards the table because something’s going on and he is just fuzzy enough for it to be hard to follow.

 

“What do you mean, Ron?” Gene asks.

 

“It’s over,” Speirs states flatly. Which is wrong. Gene raises his eyebrows at his boyfriend, because something is missing from that statement. “I’m done,” Speirs continues.

 

For a second Gene has no idea what he is talking about, and then his brain kicks into overdrive and Gene can actually hear his heart rate spike due to the monitor. The look Speirs is giving him, this look of grave seriousness and utter devotion is wrong.

 

“No,” Gene says, gripping Speirs’ hand tighter with his own, “you aren’t leaving your entire life for me.” He puts his doctor voice behind this statement.

 

“We have barely been together a month,” Gene reminds Speirs. It feels like longer because they danced around this for closer to two months, but they have only been together a short while. Three months is not a time frame to make life choices in, no matter what line of work. “They are your family.” Gene doesn’t know why he is arguing for this. Can’t seem to fathom why he has chosen this side of the argument, but he can’t stop. “This is a rash, spur of the moment, emotion driven choice and you will regret it.”

 

This makes Speirs laugh. It’s a pleased deep laugh that opens up his face and makes him look younger. Speirs leans in and kisses Gene, holding the back of his neck with one hand. When Speirs pulls away from the authoritative press of lips he stays close.

 

“Everything I do is spur of the moment and emotionally driven,” Speirs admits like a secret. “Any impression otherwise is an illusion.” Gene squeezes his hand in retaliation because he knows that, or at least he knows the sentiment that Speirs is attempting to express.

 

“This is your family. Ton sang,” Gene feels compelled to remind his completely insane boyfriend.

 

“You trust me?” Speirs asks with a smirk and Gene has to physically stop himself from rolling his eyes so hard he gives himself another concussion.

 

“Yes.” Gene offers. He trusts Ron Speirs deeper and harder than he meant to. He trusts the man before him in a way that left physical marks on his body. He trusted Speirs to get him out of that basement. He trusts Speirs farther than he might trust a single other human being he knows. This question seems insane after everything they have already been through.

 

“Trust me,” Speirs tells him.

 

“Alright.” Gene agrees.

 

It sounds like ‘I love you’.

 

<~>

 

Epilogue

 

Gene is in that perfect state just before he really wakes up. That glowing soft unconsciousness where he can feel the sheets and the heat behind him, but isn’t so awake that he is aware. His alarm is going to go of soon, he can tell, but for now he is just perfectly comfortable. He keeps his eyes closed and smiles softly in pleasure.

 

Lips brush against the bare skin of his neck and a weight pushes into the cleft of his ass. Gene considers for one second pretending to not be aware of what Speirs is trying to do and then a hand rubs over his ribs softly before trailing down between his legs.

 

“We don’t have time,” Gene protests softly. Speirs huffs a warm breath in his ear, biting the lob.

 

“You haven’t even opened your eyes.” Speirs’ voice is deep with sleep and it goes right to Gene’s dick. “I can be fast.” Speirs punctuates this with a firm squeeze on Gene’s hardening cock. He groans.

 

“I’m not doing any work,” Gene sighs in defeat. “I have the gym this morning.”

 

“Just lay there and take it,” Speirs commands with a bite to Gene’s shoulder. Gene rotates so he is on his stomach instead of his side and spreads his legs. Speirs cants up Gene’s hips to drag off his boxer briefs before returning to plaster himself to Gene’s back.

 

They don’t do this as often as he would like. Gene always forgets how much he loves morning sex until it’s actually happening. Normally, he just doesn’t want to be touched first thing in the morning and Speirs is completely fine with it. But every now and then Speirs indulges and decides he wants to deal with their morning wood in a more enjoyable way.

 

It’s one of the many advantages to living together. They can have sex any time. Not that they do; Gene is busy and Speirs is adjusting to his new position with all the grace of a wet cat most days. But they get to come home to each other and wake up together.

 

Gene feels spoiled with affection and attention. He is starting to drift off to the lazy paces, Speirs as taken to rubbing against him and molding his hands to Gene’s body. It’s more of a sensual massage than it is sex.

 

Until Speirs yanks Gene’s hips in the air and puts his tongue directly into Gene.

 

“Jesus Christ!” Gene muffles into the pillow.

 

“No, just me,” Ron teases because he is evil . Gene groans in agony. Ron takes mercy on Gene and puts his tongue back where it was, with vigor.

 

Ronald Speirs fucks like he does everything, with an insane singular focus and no fear. He is also a very good listener and knows when he finds the rhythm Gene needs right now, working his tongue in circles while keeping a firm grip on on Gene’s length.

 

It’s torturous and deliberate and driving Gene slowly to pieces.

 

It’s also not enough.

 

Gene lets out a frustrated huff, clenching his fists into the meat of the pillow. He can feel his release on the edge of his awareness but it’s hiding beyond his grasp and there just isn’t enough stimulus to get him there.

 

“I got you,” Ron assures him to a kiss to the base of his spine.

 

He is gone for a moment and then Gene feels an impressive amount of lube on his hole. Ron follows that feeling quickly, not giving Gene time to adjust or get settled. Gene’s gasp is soundless and twists up his entire body.

 

“Don’t work for it,” Ron taunts driving into Gene sharply. Thank God he is relaxed from sleep and rimming because his devious boyfriend doesn’t know how to hold back in times like these.

 

“You…” Gene grunts out.

 

“I have to be fast,” Ron reminds him, panting to keep up the near rocket speed he has set up. Gene can’t even hold on to anything at this angle, just try to keep the weight off his face so he can breath and feel each impact on his prostate. “Wouldn’t want you to be late for your work out.”

 

Gene regrets his morning work outs right now. Regrets the stubborn streak that had convinced him it was time to learn to defend himself, time to learn how to take a punch. Speirs doesn’t like it. Hates it in fact. He has a jealous streak when it comes to other men getting Gene sore and bruised. Speirs considers that his territory. But he supports Gene’s desire to get better at self defense, understands it’s part of his recovery from what happened. So he fucks Gene into the mattress instead of getting angry and then he’ll make Gene’s lunch and buy him coffee to apologize.

 

It’s a nice set up actually.

 

Gene is getting close now, he can feel it along his spine as his muscles tense up, and that press at the base of his skull gets harder.

 

“When you are sweaty and sore, who will you think about making you that way?” Ron asks with a dangerous edge to his voice. It’s painfully hot.

 

“You, sir,” Gene pants in reply knowing it's the right answer to get him what he wants. Speirs loves control. Needs a certain amount of control in his life. They have discussed limits and safewords and all the things they need to talk about. Gene knows that Speirs needs to hear Gene say this as much as Gene needs to come.

 

“Exactly right,” Ron agrees with a vicious kind of joy as his pace picks up. Gene leans into the feeling of Speirs’ hand on the back of his shoulders, pressing his face into the pillows and the stretch of his spine.

 

God, Gene has gotten spoiled. There was a time when he could come from just a hand on his dick and the thought of a nice pair of arms. Now, he is hungry for more stimulus. His body wants the weight of another person and the drag of another cock. He would laugh at how greedy he feels if it weren't for the fact that he wants to come so bad it hurts.

 

Ron leans down just a little more and bites Gene’s shoulder. It’s the final thing he needed. Gene comes on a soundless exhale that goes on so long he might whiteout. Above him Ron collapses just long enough to enjoy his own release before he drags them out of the wet spot Gene just made.

 

“Good morning,” Ron greets, kissing the shoulder he bit a moment ago. Gene swats at him, still not ready to speak words. Ron has the audacity to laugh at Gene. He also has the decency to get a glass of water for Gene and get breakfast started.

 

Gene looks at the clock and sees that his alarm is maybe three minutes away from going off. He feels like he might have been tricked, but when the reward is a fantastic orgasm first thing in the morning and breakfast made while he showers, Gene figures it isn’t that bad.



<~>

 

When the bill passes, the entire state has a party. They are the third state on the east coast to legalize, the 10th in the country. The young state senator who was the cornerstone of the bill quickly becomes the favorite for the Democratic Party. The talk about town is that ‘Meehan for President’ won't be far off.

 

Gene is too busy getting his ass kicked to go out and get high, also he doesn’t use weed recreationally.

 

“Arms up.” His coach shouts at him. Gene pants and brings his arms back up to guard his face. “Watch your footwork,” his coach reminds him. The next punch gets him near the gut and Gene stumbles.

 

“Come on Joe!” He cries out because he is not actually training to be a fighter. Toye has the decency to look bashful at the swing that nearly took out his student.

 

“Alright, we can call it a day,” Toye reaches for Gene’s gloves to help him get them off. “Sorry about that swing Doc.”

 

“It’s fine,” Gene assures the other man. “I asked you to train me to defend myself. It’s your job to put me through the wringer.”

 

“Yeah, but you are important Doc,” Toye hands him a towel to wipe off with. “You help people, cure the sick. Not like my useless mug.” Joe Toye, one of the best fighters in the world right now, has a very low opinion of his self worth.

 

“I fix broken bones and give out flu shots, you poured your last three purses into this neighborhood and got the play grounds remodeled. I think one of us might be a superhero and it ain’t me.” Gene smiles at the blush on Joe Toye’s face.

 

“Oi!” comes a shout from the door, “stop flirting with the merchandise, you have your own at home.” Gene chuckles at the look on the man’s face.

 

“You’ve met my manager and sometimes boyfriend, George Luz?” Joe asks.

 

“I might have, il me dit quelque chose,” Gene remembers meeting this guy at the gym before, or maybe the clinic. Some people from Five Points are starting to blur.

 

“Sometimes?” George gasps sounding affronted.

 

“Well, you’re only my boyfriend when you act like it,” Joe teases back as he leans against the ropes in a very blatant display of his torso. The look George gives Joe is pure promise.

 

“I’m leaving!” Gene calls out as he practically jogs out of there.

 

<~>

 

Some days, Carwood misses the old gig. He misses being able to make his own schedule. He misses being in charge of things. He misses a time when his life wasn’t this new particular hell. He makes pained eye contact with Don across the room, who looks equally bored.

 

Private security is not all it’s cracked up to be. Some days they get to go out of state and protect actresses and government officials. Other days, days like today, they get to stand in a board room and make some pompous CEO look scary to some other company.

 

Carwood misses the days when he could have taken that CEO for all he’s worth. At least the benefits are better. He has a really low premium, and eye and dental coverage now. Carwood also now has time to have friends outside the Eagles. A novel idea.

 

Now if only his current friends didn’t need him so much.

 

“You ever laugh at the fact I now sell guns to the law enforcement agencies that used to have me on wanted lists?” Ron asks at lunch. He smiles with his teeth in a way that tells Carwood that Ron is having a great day.

 

“Swap you.” Carwood offers.

 

“Only if I can break paparazzi cameras again,” Ron bargains with a wave of his fork. Carwood considers it. Ron is one of the better guys at personal protection. The actors love him because he looks good on a red carpet. On the other hand, Ron’s boyfriend can’t travel with him and a sad Doc is the worst thing in the world.

 

“No deal, if we send you back to the west coast again Doc will pout and I don’t have the heart for it,” Carwood shakes his head. “Stick to scamming the government out of money in every legal fashion available to you.” Ron actually laughs at that which means Carwood laughs too.

 

At the end of the day, it’s worth it. Maybe their profits don’t come as quick; and maybe they don’t bring in members the way they used to; and maybe Carwood only gets to pack about half of his guns on a daily basis, but in the end it’s worth it.

 

The rest of the guys think this was the plan all along, and it was. Dick Winters never planned to be a shadow king his entire life, he wanted to legitimize his business and his friends the first chance he got. It was the time line that changed. Originally it was all set to be a few years off. Once a few more palms were greased and a few more Super Pacts had been created for political purchases.

 

That had changed the moment Ronald Speirs fell in love.

 

Doc Roe only ever got one thank you card, from Kitty Welsh, for his part in all of this. Carwood was told the good southern boy thought the card was about making Ron play nice with others. He didn’t know he was the catalyst for a battalion of men going straight. So to speak.

 

Then again, Carwood thinks looking at the smile on Ron’s face, maybe the Doc knows.

 

<~>

 

“Chuck is going to be late,” Babe sighs into his phone. Gene pats his friend on the back because that’s what you do when your friend is a little bit sad. “I wish he didn’t have to work out in the boonies these days.”

 

“I thought you like the whole,” Gene waves a hand in the air inarticulately, “rugged farmer look he’s got going these days.”

 

“I do,” Babe agrees and takes a gulp of his beer. “But I deeply dislike his commute times.”

 

David joins them a moment later looking like a model for the Patagonia catalog. He is the one who picked out this new hang out, because Ron sold off Easy when all of the changes were made. That had been a bit of a shock to say the least.

 

“Wait, we met the second time in a club you owned at the bequest of my friends who knew you were into me?”

 

“You only use language like that when you are pissed, so I am going to just leave now.” Ron had really dodged that plot point for weeks.

 

However, the new bar is much more Gene’s speed than the club ever was. It’s got a patio filled with picnic benches and they serve spicy Po-Boy sandwiches on Friday. It might be a bit more hipster and gentrified than the rest of the guys are willing to put up with, but David and Gene love it.

 

“Our boys running late?” David asks, holding a flight of the fancy craft beers.

 

“Yes,” Babe pouts but steals the sour beer off the flight before Gene can reach it. “Thanks for the flight, College boy.”

 

“You both went to med school,” David points out with a sad wave at his beers. Gene grabs the one that looks like it might have blueberry in it.

 

“I’ll have Speirs buy the next round, promis juré,” Gene offers, because David looks a bit like a kicked puppy.

 

“Thanks, Gene,” David smiles and doesn’t even protest when Babe drinks the rest of the flight and challenges him to a game of darts.

 

<~>

 

Ron will never admit to being under the influence, but he can tell his face is smiling without his express consent so he is pretty sure the game is up. Gene smiles at him as they sit in the back of the bar watching their friends goof off.

 

“Having a good time?” Gene asks with a lick of his lips. Ron chases that movement with his own mouth.

 

“Yes.” he breathes in answer.

 

It’s the truth. He is having a good time. Not just right now in the brewery pub at the corner of his street. He is having a good time always these days. He has a job that doesn’t put his life in danger anymore which is surprisingly pleasant. He has friends.

 

Most importantly, he has Eugene Roe in his heart and in his head.

 

“Whatcha’ thinking about?” Gene inquires with a hand in Ron’s hair.

 

“What a miracle you are,” Ron admits. Gene laughs, bright and joyous.

 

“You are really feeling those edibles aren’t you?” Gene’s smile makes Ron dizzy and he hides his face in his boyfriend’s neck. “Lieb will be so pleased to know he finally grew a plant that can get you mess up.” Gene scratches at his scalp idly.

 

“I’m gonna marry you,” Ron admits to the skin in front of him.

 

“Oh merde,” Gene breathes, “You are really feeling it.”

 

“I am,” Ron admits, “but I knew in the club.” Ron can remember that exact moment when he knew that he had to have this man in his life for all time. “I saw the way your skin looked under the lights and I saw you smile and I knew I would move mountains for you.”

 

He looks up because he needs Gene to see the truth in his eyes, to understand that this was never going to end any other way than with them bound together in every way legal on this earth. The shock of course is that he sees the same feeling reflected back at him.

 

“Yes,” Gene tells him, “but we are waiting until you are sober and have time to get something more romantic than a twist tie and then we are going to do this again.”

 

Ron barely looks as he pulls out his wallet and finds the ring between his rewards card for Froyo and the coffee place. Gene’s face is so shocked for exactly one second before he laughs and then almost cries.

 

“How long has that been in there, mon amour?” Gene wonders as Ron slides the ring onto his finger.

 

“I got it the day you texted me back.” Ron knows it's ridiculous but he doesn’t care. Gene kisses him so hard Ron can actually feel the parts of his tongue that have gone numb from those brownies and beers.

 

He can hear hooting shouts from the bar. Ron smiles into the kiss but doesn’t stop. Gene slides onto his lap deepening the kiss.

 

“Liebgott you whore, where’s my money!” Chuck shouts from somewhere behind Ron. “I told you he had a ring!”