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There And Gone

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Today can die in a fire.

No, really. As far as Patrick is concerned today can't be over soon enough. His stupid computer takes a million years to shut down when all he wants to do is get away from his fucking desk. Punching the code to lock his door takes forever. The security screening to get out of the building takes even longer, but it's not the guard's fault Patrick's had a shitty day, so he bites his lip and doesn't grumble while Travie runs the wand over him. He just needs to be out of there before he makes a phone call or writes a strongly worded email or worse, any of which would at least result in getting him fired.

To top it all off, it's raining. And he doesn't have his umbrella. And its five blocks to his bus stop; five huge sprawling uncovered blocks and he's wearing shoes with a hole in the heel that'll fill with water the moment he steps off the curb. He's been meaning to get them repaired because they're still fine otherwise, but he just hasn't gone through with it, making his footwear just one more way the universe is conspiring against him.

He stands there, spending far too long under the eaves of the Dirksen building, willing the rain away. When it becomes obvious he’s not going to spontaneously develop sway over the weather, he sighs, turns on broken heel and stomps to the local bar in the next building. Because fuck if he's going to brave the wet without at least a drink.

The bar isn't crowded, or even particularly busy, despite it being a Friday afternoon. Most of Patrick's colleagues flock to the newer, trendier bar a few blocks down, trying to hit on the girls from the Smithsonian. Patrick doesn't like that bar, the music is loud and tasteless and he's not into girls, so a bunch of skinny librarians isn't a pull factor for him. The Red Bull is more of a local's bar, quiet and leathery and oozing jazz from the wood panelling.

Patrick loosens his tie as he steps inside, feeling flushed and itchy in his suit despite the cool air. He's still pissed and devoting way too much brainspace to what Harris' face would look like after Patrick’s pounded it with his fists. Or brass knuckles. Fucker.

"What can I get you?"

Patrick’s surprised he’s gotten close enough to the bar to look like he wants something. He glances up to find a blond bearded guy leaning across the counter, eyeing him speculatively. He orders a scotch and coke and perches at the bar to seethe quietly into his glass. The rain hasn't stopped by the time his glass is empty, but he's not much of a drinker and doesn't feel like staying for a second, so he squares his shoulders, nods to the bartender and heads for the exit. Better to just get it over with.

He's three steps from the cold, wet outside when the door flies open and a streak of energy in a grey jacket and purple shirt flashes in, grinning wide with teeth that look too big for his mouth. It's a good smile though, Patrick thinks, it sits well on the guy's face. That's as far as he gets with the thought before the guy comes charging at Patrick.

"There you are, I was looking all over for you."

Patrick doesn't even have time to process that the words are intended for him because the guy grab's Patrick's face in his hands and kisses him.

Just like that.

Patrick goes deathly still, but that doesn't stop the guy, he keeps kissing with enough enthusiasm for both of them. He's pretty fucking good at it too, all things considered. Patrick might even consider getting into it if he knew what the fuck was going on. As it is, the heat of anger that’s been crawling through his skin is swiftly turning to a different kind of heat, and Patrick can hear his heart beating in his ears. By the time the stranger relinquishes Patrick's mouth, Patrick’s short of breath and, as much as he hates to admit it and how long it’s been, possibly even a little turned on. He's also completely confused.

"Is she gone?" The guy whispers, his hand still warm on Patrick's cheek, breath tickling his ear. The guy flicks his eyes towards the large windows by the front door.

Patrick surprises himself by looking to the windows instead of slapping the guy. There's no one at the windows. "There's no one there- hang on, who? What?" The words tumble out of Patrick's mouth, but the guy's already turned around, checking the empty windows for himself.

"Oh, thank god." He gasps, slapping his chest and assaulting Patrick with another of those disarming grins. "That got rid of her."

"Can you-"

"Dude, I owe you big time. Let me buy you a drink." The guy just talks over Patrick and given the day he’s had, Patrick should be completely losing his shit right now. But he isn't. That's a fucking miracle.

The guy tugs at Patrick's arm, trying to drag him to the bar, but Patrick can’t make his legs work until he's sorted out the whole brain-dead thing.

"Who are you?" He finally manages to stutter. The guy turns around and flashes Patrick another smile. A melt-you-on-the-spot kind of smile and fuck, Patrick was right the first time. He's hot. Way too hot to be kissing Patrick.

"I'm Pete." He sticks out a hand to press palms with Patrick and it's odd to be shaking his hand when Patrick's lips are still wet from kissing him, but hey, he can roll with this.

No. No, he really can't. He needs answers and something more than just a first name. He needs to not have his brain fucked with by some random blow-in with chocolate brown hair that falls across his eyes and a crazy grin that twists up Patrick's-

"And you are?" The guy- Pete is smiling again and Patrick's heartbeat maybe picks up just a little.

He opens his mouth, intent on stirring up a little trouble and getting some answers, but all that comes out is, "Patrick." He nearly chokes saying it.

"Nice to meet you, Patrick." Another devastating grin as Pete leans over the bar, waving the bartender over with a flap of green bills. "What are you having?"

Patrick gives up and orders another scotch and coke. Pete requests a mojito and it looks like the bartender wants to roll his eyes at the request, but he makes it anyway, pounding the mint and looking severely unimpressed. Patrick nearly apologises on Pete's behalf.

As soon as there is a drink in his hand, Pete drags Patrick to a corner booth and talks at him, casual and enthusiastic. Patrick's mind still hasn't caught up, and when it finally does, Pete is mid-babble about the weather and Patrick manages to break in. "What was that all about?" He waves a hand towards the scene of the unsolicited kissing.

"What, you mean-"

"The kissing thing." Patrick is satisfied when his voice comes out level. He studies Pete's face, waiting for a tell. There isn't one. For all Pete's disarming grins, he's excruciatingly unreadable.

"Oh, that. You see, I have this psycho ex and I just, I needed to get her off my back or she was gonna be tailing me all night."

"You do that often?" Patrick cuts in.

"Oh no, first time. I should keep you around though, it totally worked." Pete grins and the little voice in Patrick’s head yells at the little spark of relief Patrick gets from hearing he's not just another dude on a list of random kisses for this guy. God, he is so stupid.

Pete barrels back into conversation again, spiritedly jumping from topic to topic until Patrick's head is spinning. Pete doesn't seem to care that Patrick doesn't have much to contribute. His paper pushing Government job doesn't give him a lot of material to work with, because all the interesting stuff is classified and all the boring stuff is well... boring. But when the conversation switches to music, he finds he has plenty to say and they chase around topics from Bowie to Prince to Blink182. Suddenly it’s Patrick and not Pete who can't shut up.

Patrick loses track of time and loses count of his drinks. He loses the ability to care that he's making moon eyes at the gorgeous stranger and that maybe it's inappropriate for Pete to be sitting so close. For his hand to be creeping up Patrick's leg. For him to be kissing Patrick again, and for Patrick to be kissing back with equal enthusiasm, trying not to moan as his hands fist in Pete’s silky hair.

It's completely inappropriate for him to take Pete home. But he does. He even charges the taxi to his expenditures, holy hell who is he?

Any concerns fall away the moment the door to his apartment slams shut and Pete kisses him up against the wall, lips hot and insistent and Patrick's hands clench on Pete's jacket, clinging for dear life. He's so turned on he's dizzy. The way Pete's rutting up against his leg, he knows he's not the only one.

It feels like only seconds between Pete's hot whisper of "bedroom" and the soft mattress coming up under Patrick's back, Pete pressing him down into it, kissing Patrick deep until he's boneless. He rocks up against Pete, his soft body against Pete's, all hard and firm.

Pete drags their lips apart, panting down at Patrick, eyes so hungry it feels like they’re melting Patrick from the inside out.

"Jesus, Patrick, your mouth. I could just live there forever."

It's an odd sentiment but somehow Patrick understands it. He flips Pete onto his back, taking his mouth again while he works on getting Pete's pants open. Then Pete's dick is in his hand and Pete's arching off the bed and groaning into Patrick's ear, loud and rude and desperate.

"Fuck. Fuck. You-" The words get muddled when Patrick adds a twist to his hand movement, skin slickening under his fingers. "I'm supposed to be-"

"You're supposed to be, what?" Patrick asks, arching an eyebrow and letting his fingers slip lower to tease at Pete's balls, "Seducing me? Mission accomplished."

He slides down the bed and sinks his mouth onto Pete's dick, right to the root, feeling the press at the back of his throat. Pete twitches under him, fingers twisting into Patrick's hair. He mutters a string of curses interspersed with X-rated poetry about Patrick's mouth. Patrick sucks in a long breath through his nose, smelling sex and tasting Pete. It's been a long time since he's had opportunity to do this. He shouldn't even be doing this, he doesn't know Pete, doesn't know if it's safe, but all he wants is to feel him come apart under his hands and mouth.

He doesn't get the chance. Pete's fingers tighten in his hair painfully until Patrick realises he's pulling up. Patrick stops fighting the motion when he's sure he's losing precious hairs, pulling his mouth off and feeling the brush of Pete's slick length against his cheek.

"Fuck, Patrick, you- You should fuck me." Pete pants, mouth wet and loose, his hair a wreck. "You should take your fucking clothes off and you should fuck me."

His eyes are dark and full of need, stealing Patrick's breath. Patrick starts pulling at his tie immediately. Pete sits up and starts peeling off his own clothes, revealing more and more skin as Patrick fumbles with his uncooperative trappings. Patrick's finger pause mid-unbutton when the first ink on Pete's skin is revealed, a twisted circle of thorns around his neck. Patrick's breath catches in his throat as Pete's shirt opens wider and he shrugs it off, revealing more ink, a bat-like design on his stomach and one entire upper arm crowded with art.

Patrick doesn't even get his pants off before he's on Pete again, tracing ink lines with his tongue. He's never had a thing for tattoos, but there's something about them on Pete's skin, hiding under his suit until he's ready to show them to Patrick. Something about the way they sit on his skin, making him look like a young punk rebel, it's fucking sexy and Patrick has to see what they taste like.

Patrick's tracing down Pete's full sleeve with tongue and teeth when Pete's fingers pluck at Patrick's pants. "You were supposed to take these off." Pete complains, breath hitching when Patrick's teeth catch on the soft spot inside his elbow.

"Sorry, you're distracting." He presses the words hot into Pete's skin. Pete moans and grabs at Patrick's head, steering him into a kiss, messy and full of tongue. Patrick gets the button on his slacks open when Pete's hands fail, kicking off his broken shoes and shucking his pants, no thought for modesty with Pete's hot breath tickling down his neck, Pete's hands insistent on Patrick's arms.

His pants have barely hit the ground before Pete's on him, eyes dark with want, tan skin sliding up against Patrick's pale flesh. They're pressed skin to skin, nothing but heat between them, Pete's mouth hot and demanding on Patrick's. Patrick can't think, doesn't need to. He just meets Pete's touches with his own and breathes him in, hands sliding everywhere he can reach.

His fingers slip down between Pete's ass cheeks, teasing at his hole. "Were you serious?"

Pete pants hot breath onto Patrick's lips, hips pushing up into Patrick's hand. "Tell me you've got something. Condoms. Slick." His voice is rough and shredded.

"I've got something." Patrick whispers back, fingers teasing lower, loving the way Pete twitches under his hands.

"Get it." Pete sighs out the demand and flips onto his back, removing himself from Patrick's hands. Patrick wants to sulk at the loss, but he turns to dig through his drawer instead, throwing out a strip of condoms and lube as fast as his trembling hands can manage.

He's barely turned back to look at Pete when Pete's got the tube open, smearing slick over his fingers and spreading his legs. Patrick just stares, slack-mouthed, as Pete works two fingers into himself, his other hand lazily stroking his cock. Patrick's blood is so hot it's boiling through his veins. It doesn't make sense that this is happening on his bed, it's fucking insane.

"Jesus Christ." The words fall from his lips unbidden, pulling Pete's eyes open. They lock on Patrick, hot like a physical touch and Patrick has to reach down and hold his dick tight before he loses it completely.

"Get over here." Pete orders and Patrick's feeling compliant so he crawls over and takes Pete's mouth again, his fingers tangling with Pete's down between their bodies. There's a slip and slide of fingers until Patrick's pressing two into Pete's ass, Pete's slick fingers tight on his wrist. Patrick curls his fingers just right and Pete's bucking up under him, his throaty moans like music, warm against Patrick's neck.

"Like that. Like that." Pete pants hot into Patrick's neck and Patrick growls, leaning down to take Pete's mouth again, licking into it and tasting him as he feels Pete clench, hot and tight around his fingers.

"Want your dick." Pete's muttering against Patrick's lips. "Fuck me. Come on." He's fumbling with the strip of condoms, tearing one loose and using his teeth to rip it open when his fingers are too slippery with lube. The chemical flavour is on his lips when their mouths meet again, kissing as Pete gropes for Patrick's cock. Patrick's amazed he has the presence of mind to help Pete roll it on, given that he's so fucking turned on he can barely see straight. When Pete hooks his legs up on Patrick's shoulders, pressing his ass to Patrick's sheathed cock, that's it. Patrick can’t wait any more.”

He slips his fingers free of Pete's tight heat, earning a hiss as he does. "Yes. Yes, come on. Oh fuck, I want it." Pete doesn't stop talking, panting out words as his fingers paw at Patrick's hips, tugging him close.

Patrick's face is a breath from Pete's when he finally sinks home, slow and sure. Pete's breath comes out in a slow release, like Patrick's cock is pushing the last puff of air out of his lungs. With the absence of Pete's strangled monologue the room is powerfully silent. The way Pete's looking at Patrick, his hair damp and tangled, his eyes dark and intense, it's like Pete can see straight through his eyes to his soul.

Pete nods once, short and sharp, then the breathless diatribe starts again as Patrick starts to move and Pete pants out want and encouragement. "More. Faster. Jesusfuck Patrick please-"

Patrick kisses him, not just to shut him up but it's a nice side effect. Fuck, he's tight, squeezing around Patrick's cock and it's been so long since Patrick's had this, a warm body and a hot mouth under his. His hips push a little harder, a little faster and Pete chokes out noises between their lips, his body shoving back against Patrick, his fingers clenching tightly on Patrick's hips.

Patrick breaks the kiss, gasping for air. He leans on one elbow so he can get a hand between them and around Pete's cock. Pete hisses at the contact, rocking down on Patrick's cock and gasping. "Fuck yes. Fuck. Yes. Oh jesusfuckingchrist." The words get tangled with broken moans and whines, and Patrick speeds his thrusts without any actual thought. He just wants more of this, he wants to see what happens when Pete loses it, wants to push him screaming over the edge but he's barely holding on himself. The hot pulse of his own orgasm roils low in his belly, sparking into his cock with every push of his hips.

He quickens the pace, his fingers slipping slickly over Pete's dick, angling his hips slightly. Pete makes a strangled high pitched sound, his fingernails biting sharp into Patrick's flesh. "Holy mother of fuckingfuckingfucking uh-" the words devolve into sounds and Pete bucks up underneath Patrick, his whole body twitching. Patrick keeps going, pushing harder and faster until he can see it crest over Pete, his eyes fluttering as his cock pulses in Patrick's hand, Patrick coaxing it out of him with hand and dick. When Pete breaks it's beautiful. His groan of release is long and loud and his whole body seizes.

Patrick strokes him through it, his hand wet and sticky. Pete's hands lock in Patrick's hair, pulling him down and kissing him as he continues to shove his hips down on Patricks' thrusts.

"Come on. Come on, Patrick. Want to feel you." The dirty whisper is mashed into his lips and that's Patrick's limit. His fingers lock around Pete's arms and he rides it out, shivering, panting and sweating all over Pete as he drives home a few more times, hips stuttering, his release crowding into his groin and pushing out through his dick and it's so fucking intense he sees white behind his eyes.

He collapses onto Pete, his lips meeting the inked thorns on Pete's neck, panting hot breath all over his collarbone. He can't pull enough air into his lungs and Pete's fingers are still tangled in his hair. They're softer now, not grasping any longer, just petting. It takes a while for Patrick to work up the will to move, and when he does move it's to roll heavily onto his back, fumbling the condom off and into the trash.

Pete doesn't leave, just curls around him, fingers light and ticklish on Patrick's sides as Patrick fights the urge to immediately fall asleep. So Pete's staying then. Good. Maybe he'll make him breakfast in the morning.

He falls asleep thinking about pancakes.

***

When he wakes up the bed next to him is cold and his phone is ringing. He jerks upright, groping for his glasses and the receiver. Harris is screaming at him down the line about files and security and the FB-fucking-I and all Patrick can think is that it's fucking Saturday and he shouldn't even be awake yet, let alone getting an earful of Harris' crap.

When his eyes can focus again he sees the note on the other pillow. He spurts apologies at Harris asking him to "just repeat that" as he picks up the folded paper. The sheets are cold, still rumpled from last night but there's no sign of Pete.

Something inside Patrick clenches and Harris' diatribe narrows to the words "illegal access" "your account" and "stolen files" into his ear. Patrick fumbles on the floor for his wallet with a sinking heart.

When he opens it, it's no surprise that his work ID and security pass are missing.

He's still clutching the folded paper in his hand, creased beneath his fingertips. Harris' words fade to a dull hum as he lets the page flap open.

It's a single word in rounded scrawl.

Sorry.

***

Patrick doesn't get fired over the whole situation, but it's a close thing.

He has to sign an affidavit and work with a bureau sketch artist on a rendering of his one night stand. The artist, a mid forties woman with a gentle voice and stringy hair named Jan, doesn't get the eyes right, but she does a pretty good job.

"He's a looker," she says when she's finished the sketch.

Patrick hates himself for agreeing.

He doesn't tell anyone he took the guy home. It's too embarrassing. He lies on record and says he must have gotten his pocket picked at the bar. The barman apparently doesn't say otherwise, even though he must have seen them leave together. Old fashioned bar tenders still exist, it seems. Patrick supposes he should be grateful.

He works at putting the incident behind him, with varying degrees of success. It stops coming up in conversation at work but it's hard to keep it out of his mind at home, in the quiet of his tenth floor apartment, more often than not with his hand on his dick.

He hates himself for it, but he hates Pete more, so when he comes home six months after the incident to find Pete sitting on his door mat wearing a charming grin, the first thing he does is reach for his phone.

"I'm calling the police."

"What are you gonna do, change your statement and tell them how you fucked me?" Pete's tone is light, not betraying the threat in his words. He springs to his feet, quick and graceful like a cat. "Because that's a story I can corroborate."

Patrick's fingers go still on the phone keypad. It's his word against Pete's if it comes down to it, and who will it hurt if he stirs this hornet’s nest up again?

"What do you want?" He asks, finally, hoping if he glares hard enough at Pete, Pete will end up with a migraine something like the one Patrick’s had for the last six months.

"Just to talk."

Patrick folds his arms. "I'm listening."

"You want to do this out here?" Pete asks, glancing up and down the hallway with an innocent expression. "Because, you know, neighbors."

Patrick doesn't even try to contain the frustrated noise that escapes him as he shoves roughly past Pete and unlocks his front door.

He steps inside and Pete's halfway in the door before Patrick's brain overrides his annoyance. He really shouldn't be letting a known criminal into his apartment at the drop of a hat. This guy could be dangerous.

Pete catches him dithering and raises his hands, palms forward. "I'm not armed." He slinks closer, smirking, "You want to frisk me?"

The last thing Patrick wants to do right now is lay hands on this guy. Pete sneers at him, and pulls up his t-shirt, flashing brown skin and ink Patrick keeps dreaming about. Patrick looks away. Before he has a chance to step back Pete's fingers are tight on his wrists, pulling Patrick's hands forward, pressing them to his body, down his chest, around his sides, over his ass. Pete's skin is hot through his clothes.

Patrick snatches his hands away like he's been burned. He puts distance between them, shoves his back against the door so it closes. "Tell me what you want and get out."

Pete's expression is unreadable for a moment before a smile creeps back over his lips. He's suddenly closer to Patrick than he was a moment ago and Patrick has to concentrate hard not to press himself back against the door. There's a tight coil of heat roiling in his chest, fear and rage and something else he's not ready to think about.

"I need information. Nothing big. Just some names." Pete eases back from Patrick, perching his ass on Patrick's dining table.

"Why me?" Patrick asks. No point beating around the bush.

Pete shrugs. "My usual sources have dried up. You're in the right place, have access to the right information."

What he's asking sinks in. "You want me to be a leak? Give you classified information? After you already stole my fucking pass and nearly got me fired?"

Pete drops to his feet, "I only need a little information, just enough to keep me alive. And I can still get you fired. If I turn up in the wrong place, people might, you know, think the wrong thoughts."

"Is that a threat?"

"I don't threaten. I'm more of a carrot than a stick kind of guy, you know." Pete's suddenly way too close, tip of his nose brushing Patrick's, breath hot on Patrick's mouth. "I can make it worth your while."

Patrick tries to surge backwards but he just hits the door, then Pete's mouth is covering his, warm and wet and he sinks into it, just for a moment, before his sense of decency kicks in too late and he's wrenching his head to the side. "Don't."

Pete's lips are on his neck, his tongue flicking out under Patrick's ear. "Don't tell me you don't want this. That you haven't been thinking about this. Because, fuck, I have. Your mouth. Your hands. Jesus, Patrick, the way you light up when I touch you." Pete's voice is low and hot, a little awed. Patrick knows he should pull away now. He should slide sideways and pull open the door and push Pete into the hallway. He should call the police.

He doesn't.

He can’t.

He’s stuck, frozen against the door, heart racing and heat burning through his body. It's not rage. It’s desire, and he feels weak with it. Pete's breath is still warm on his neck and his hands are heavy on Patrick's shoulders, but he's not pushing. He's not grabbing for Patrick's face, which is still turned away, eyes tightly shut because he can't think, not when Pete's looking at him.

"Patrick." Pete's voice is soft, like a question. And damn him. Damn him for making Patrick feel like this, for not pushing, for forcing Patrick to take the next step. Because he does. Patrick's hands fist in Pete's shirt and he takes his mouth, hungry and forceful. The noise Pete makes in the back of his throat is only part victory and all desire as he kisses back, pressing himself up against Patrick and it feels too fucking good. It's everything Patrick didn't want to remember about that night, and kissing Pete, stone cold sober in the fading light of the afternoon feels even better than it did then. He falls into it, hitting mute on his brain and all the reasons why this is wrong, clinging to Pete.

He can feel Pete's smile against his lips a second before Pete drops to his knees. He gets Patrick's pants open and his mouth on Patrick's cock and what’s left of Patrick's brain shorts out.

***

Patrick gives Pete the names. He sources them from eyes only files and it's too easy. Accessing them, memorizing, everything. It's all too easy.

The names are folded into an envelope in his breast pocket when he visits the bathrooms on the National Mall on his lunch break. He goes to the bathroom stall furthest from the exit and Pete's waiting for him, taking his mouth in a kiss as he pushes the door closed. Patrick falls into it, the kiss easy and slow as his hands creep up Pete's chest, his fingers skirting around the shoulder holster under Pete's jacket.

Patrick fucks Pete up against the stall door, quiet and slow, one hand on Pete's dick, milking him until he comes apart with a shudder and a soft moan.

Afterwards, Patrick slumps against the door, short of breath, flushed and skin sizzling, as Pete buttons him back into his pants. Pete kisses him gently as his fingers dip into Patrick's pocket for the envelope, and he whispers another request. More names, some addresses and Patrick can only nod, head swimming, his fingers still twisted in Pete's hair and shirt.

Pete whispers a time and a place, waiting for Patrick's nod before he slips away, quiet as death. Then he's gone, and Patrick's only got the sweat on his skin, the taste on his mouth and an empty coat pocket to prove he was even there.

It continues for weeks and months, never the same place twice. Whispered requests and hidden trysts, until the names on a page have become original documents and even microfilm. Patrick knows he's in way over his head, that he's beyond misdemeanors and well into large chunks of jail time if he's caught now, but he can't stop. The rest of his life fades into a dull grey, Pete becoming the only point of color, all he can think about. He wonders if this is what addiction is like, recalling news stories he's read about gamblers bankrupting companies, all liquid assets vanishing into the pockets of casinos. Except there's no meeting he can attend to wean him off Pete, no methadone for what he's feeling.

It's no way to live and he knows it. He rehearses the words he'll say, the speech, the one he'll deliver to Pete to end it, but the words never leave his lips. He just needs one more meeting. Just one more time.

The words are ringing in his head as he swings open the door to a bathroom stall near midnight on a Sunday, raindrops clinging to the sleeves of his jacket. It's pouring rain outside but the hole in his shoe is long mended and he remembered his umbrella, so he's relatively dry. Pete isn't.

Pete's hair is wet and plastered to his skull, his shirt and jacket are dark with water and cling tightly to his shoulders. His lips are purple and he's shaking.

He reaches for Patrick, but Patrick catches Pete's hands between his, pressing chill fingers between his warm ones.

"Jesus, you're freezing." Patrick says, rebuke in his voice.

"I'll warm up." Pete's voice holds the familiar taunt, but the attitude doesn't reach his eyes. He leans in to take Patrick's mouth, but Patrick pulls away, reaching for the envelope in his pocket. He's pressing it into Pete's cold hands before he can talk himself out of it.

"No, we don't have to. Not tonight. You should go." Patrick's voice comes out throatier than he intended.

Pete's fingers flex around the envelope. His lips are trembling, damp strands of hair on his forehead trailing drips down his face that look like tears. His eyes are huge.

"Patrick."

Patrick has to take a step back, or he'll put his arms around Pete and not let go.

"You need to get out of here. Get dry. Get warm. You'll get sick. I got what you asked."

Patrick doesn’t realise he's taken another step back until he feels the stall door hard against his shoulder blades. The speech he's been practicing rings in his head. This is the time, right? This is when he should let Pete go.

Pete takes a small step forward. He's still clutching the envelope, a tremor in his hands.

Patrick opens his mouth to tell Pete it's over. Except what comes out is, "You should come home with me."

Pete finally smiles and it goes all the way to his eyes.

***

Patrick takes Pete home for the second time, but this time when Pete strips off it's to get in the shower. Patrick finds himself staring at the line of bruises running down Pete's arm, mottling the tattoos with purple blotches.

He's lifting a hand to touch them before he notices what he's doing. "What happened?"

Pete shrugs, shaking his damp shirt off. There's a tear at the seam and blood on the sleeve.

"It's been a rough week." He says, kicking his jeans off. That's all the explanation he gives. He walks to the shower naked, leaving Patrick standing there clutching Pete's damp shirt in his fingers. Patrick's gaze swipes over Pete's retreating back, searching for any other signs of injury before he can remind himself it's none of his business.

Patrick heats up soup in the kitchen while Pete showers. When he emerges his hair is damp and his cheeks have more colour in them. He's wearing a set of Patrick's sweats that swim on him, making him look younger than he could possibly be.

Patrick tries not to pace the kitchen nervously while Pete eats at the bench. He tries not to hover around Pete. He has little success on both counts.

"You gonna stop fussing, mom?" Pete asks pointedly, spoon dangling between his fingers, one eyebrow arched comically.

"I'm not."

"You so are." Pete dumps the spoon into the half-empty bowl and leans back, folding his arms. He stares levelly at Patrick, glancing down at Patrick's feet that don't seem to be able to stop shifting. He casts his eyes sideways, to the stool standing empty next to him and Patrick takes the hint, sitting down.

"That's better." Pete grins at Patrick and Patrick's feet stop tapping.

Pete finishes his soup.

Later, Pete catches Patrick dithering over whether to make up the couch and sleep there tonight. Pete doesn't let him, just snares his arm and drags them both into Patrick's bedroom. They don't fuck, Patrick wouldn't have been up for it even if Pete was, but he spoons his body around Pete's, pressing his face into Pete's silky hair and breathing deep. The ends of Pete's hair are still a little damp from the shower. Patrick's mind leaps back to how Pete looked in the stall, drenched and dripping. He wants to know what happened, where the bruises came from, but he can't ask.

"You should consider investing in an umbrella." Patrick says instead.

"Then I'd have to carry it everywhere. I like to travel light."

"You like to get wet, I think." Patrick argues, the words pushing warm into the back of Pete's neck.

"It's not so bad. If it wasn't so fucking cold I'd be fine." Pete shifts a little and if Patrick didn't know better he'd call what they were doing snuggling. "I need to be somewhere warmer. I'm not built for this. I'm over the cold."

"Where would you go?" Patrick asks.

Pete hums and it rumbles against Patrick's chest where they're pressed together. "There's a lot of places I could go. Florida, the Caribbean, the Cook Islands, Jamaica. Some place where they put little umbrellas in the drinks."

"So those umbrellas are okay?"

"Yeah. They don't weigh much. I can go for those kind of umbrellas."

Patrick's lips quirk up in a smile Pete doesn't see. He feels good. This feels good. He's all warm and comfortable and wrapped around Pete. Sleepy like this, it's easy to forget how they met, who they are. He gives himself leave to do that, just for a little while.

"You don't mind travelling alone then?" Patrick asks, before he can talk himself out of it.

"Oh you want to come? You should. You need some sun. We could rent out a little bungalow on the beach from some guy with an unpronounceable name and learn how to surf." Pete's voice sounds thick and sleepy and he stifles a yawn, which makes Patrick yawn too.

Patrick lets his mind slip into the fantasy. Pete would look good in swim trunks, sunning himself on a towel, hair wet and dripping but in a good warm and summery way, not in a nearly catching pneumonia way.

They're silent for a long time, Patrick starts to think Pete's fallen asleep when Pete speaks again, his voice softer than before. "You'll come with me right? Tell me you'll come." It must be Patrick's imagination, the way his tone sounds almost childlike, fragile and unsure.

Patrick's heart trips over. He takes a breath, his chest feeling tight. "Of course, Pete. Wouldn't miss it." His hands rub lightly at Pete's chest,

Pete makes a satisfied, sleepy noise and slides his arms over Patrick's, entwining their fingers and pressing back against him. Patrick listens as his breathing gets slow and regular. The steady rise and fall of Pete's chest under his arms is soothing.

Patrick sleeps better than he has in months.

He wakes up blearily just as the first rays of sunshine begin to filter into his bedroom, unsure what stirred him. His arms are empty, but the bed isn't. When he blinks his eyes open, his gaze traces up Pete's spine. Pete's perched on the edge of the bed, facing away, his phone pressed to his ear.

Patrick is no language expert, but he's pretty sure Pete is speaking Russian. The realisation tightens Patrick's chest and his limbs feel suddenly weighted. He lays there, melting into the mattress, blinking up at the ceiling and trying to calm his racing heart. A million thoughts he's avoided so far storm his brain. Thoughts like treason. Thoughts like jail time.

His hands fist in the sheets. Pete's talking softly but his voice is getting more insistent. He sounds like he's pleading. Patrick's panic switches gears and he wonders what the person on the other end of the phone has got on Pete to make him sound like that, if it has anything to do with the bruises on his skin and the blood on his shirt. He's reaching for Pete without thinking, tangling their fingers, and Pete glances over his shoulder to find Patrick's eyes. His voice doesn't pause or falter, but his fingers squeeze Patrick's tightly.

There are a million questions on the tip of Patrick's tongue when Pete ends the call. None of them make it past his lips. Pete slides down onto his side next to Patrick, body curled and his nose inches from Patrick's own.

"I should go." He says, but he doesn't make a move to leave. The silence lies heavy between them, only broken by low rumble of a passing car. Patrick's eyes trace over every detail of Pete's face, like he needs to memorize it. The dark hairs of his eyelashes, the tiny lines between his eyebrows, the generous curve of his lower lip. Pete just watches him, his eyes large and shiny with reflections from the windows.

Patrick kisses Pete first, soft and tender and sweet. No urgency at all. As Pete kisses back, they stop being a spy, a traitor, a bureaucrat, a rogue. The world fades to a dull hum and it's just them. Just two men, mouths melded, hands sliding over skin.

Pete pushes Patrick back on to the bed, their chests pressing as their tongues find each others. Patrick's hand trails up Pete's spine, dipping over the bumps of his vertebrae, slipping up to catch gently in his hair. Pete purrs into Patrick's mouth and rolls down against him, his skin warm against Patrick's through the thin material of Patrick's boxers and t-shirt. Pete slept naked so there's nothing but skin everywhere Patrick's hands slide, down his ass, over his shoulders, fingers trailing up the curve of his neck.

It's different from the other times they've done this, panting and desperate in hidden corners of the botanic gardens or bathroom stalls. The hunger is still there, but not the urgency, Patrick feels like he could just keep doing this forever, just kissing, just touching. He wants the smell of Pete in his nose, the taste of him in his mouth, for as long as he can have it. It's always over too soon and he wants to savor it, to keep Pete on his skin for as long as he can.

When Pete gets a hand inside Patrick's boxers, skilful fingers shaping his dick, Patrick's resolve crumbles. His fingers tighten in Pete's hair as his hips buck into Pete's hand. It really is like a drug, an addiction. Pete smiles against Patrick's mouth and Patrick moans back, loud and needy. Pete shifts, leaning over Patrick on one elbow, the hand that's not busy dissolving Patrick's spine coming up to press against Patrick's flaming cheek.

"Fuck, Patrick." Pete's voice sounds desperate, and Patrick's eyes fly open. Pete looks completely undone. His cheeks are pink, his hair in disarray and his eyes... fuck, his eyes. Patrick has to blink slowly few times to refocus because he can't actually be seeing this, Pete can't really be looking at him like this, like Patrick is everything he needs, everything he wants.

Patrick's breath sticks in his throat, a tight warmth growing in his chest, threatening to ignite his entire body. Pete rocks down against him, his hard dick pressing into Patrick's hip, even as his fingers continue to squeeze and slide on Patrick's cock.

"Christ, Patrick." Pete's voice is a choked whisper, like a prayer. His eyes fall shut as his head tips down, forehead touching Patrick's, damp with sweat. His hand slips lower, down between Patrick's legs, palming his balls, fingers caressing behind them, gently pressing at Patrick's ass. "Can I? Fuck, Patrick, please, can I?" He pants the words on Patrick's lips and Patrick hasn't got breath or will to say no. He scrambles for his bedside drawer instead, pulling out the lube and pressing it into Pete's fingers.

Pete's eyes spring open as the meaning behind the action sinks in. He stares down at Patrick, eyes wide, mouth twitching.

"Yeah?" His voice is eager, a little awed.

"Yeah." Patrick's response comes out sounding wrecked. He barely gets the word out before Pete's lips cover his again, kissing him rough and wicked, sucking his lips and moaning into his mouth.

Patrick loses any ability to track what is going on at that point. He locks his mouth to Pete's, showing with lips, teeth and tongue - yes, just yes - his fingers gripping Pete's ass, shoulder, back. The next thing his brain can compute is Pete sliding a lubed finger inside him and Patrick barks out a choked noise, because fuck, it's good. So fucking good.

It's not enough, though, Patrick's rocking down on Pete's hand, groaning mindlessly for more, one hand flying up to cup Pete's face. Pete presses a kiss to Patrick's fingertips and smiles, wicked and warm, before slipping his finger out and pushing back in with two. The groan Patrick makes at that is soul deep, rumbling in his chest, which is wedged tight against Pete's. He's sweating through the t-shirt he's somehow still wearing, heavy musk of perspiration and arousal sharp in his nose. His whole world arrows right down to Pete, his fingers, the loose grip he still has on Patrick's cock.

Patrick growls and rocks down more, begging with his hips for what he wants, for Pete's dick. "Fuck, more. More. Pete, come on. I'm fucking dying here." He's babbling and he knows it.

Pete smiles, running his tongue across the tip of Patrick's thumb, which is still pressed against Pete's chin. The motion erases any control Patrick had left - it's fucking sinful how good Pete looks doing that - and Patrick's reaching down, pawing at Pete's hips, "Now."

"I like it when you're bossy." Pete grins so wide it crinkles his eyes. He leans in to drop a kiss on Patrick's mouth, licking his tongue across Patrick's bottom lip before easing back to sit up. Patrick has the presence of mind to hand him a condom and it takes way too fucking long for Pete to get it on, fingers slippery with lube and Patrick watching him hotly as he shoves his sweat damp boxers off his legs.

Then Pete's ready, and Patrick's not sure if he is, but fuck if he's going to stop things now. Pete's fingers are warm on Patrick's hips, pulling him forward, pressing his shoulders back and down to the mattress and leaning up over him.

"Like this, yeah?" It's an eager whisper as Pete's fingers trace hotly up the back of Patrick's leg, pushing gently but firmly behind his knee, opening him up. "Can we do it like this? Want to see you." The heat in his voice, the hunger in his eyes, there's no way Patrick's saying no to that.

Patrick nods roughly, feeling strands of his own wet hair flap against his forehead. Fuck, he's a sweaty, panting mess, how can Pete be looking at him like that? All lit up like Patrick's the best thing he's ever seen? Patrick doesn't have time to fathom it, because Pete's pressing Patrick's other leg back, putting his shoulder behind Patrick's knee and fuck. He's so open now, stretched wide and so fucking empty. He feels so naked, splayed right out for Pete, completely at his mercy. He doesn't have time to freak out about that, because Pete's leaning down to take his mouth, sucking his tongue and nipping his lips and all Patrick can do is arch up and moan into it, moan even louder when Pete's fingers stroke his ass, following the motion with the blunt press of his sheathed dick.

Patrick gasps out of the kiss, one hand clutching the back of Pete's neck, the other fixing tight to Pete's hip. Fuck, he's not sure if he's ready for this, he only knows he wants, wants it so much. When he focuses, Pete's looking down at him, sweat dotting his brow, strangled breaths leaking from his mouth. He's waiting for Patrick. Patrick knows that. He's waiting and it's fucking costing him - red in his cheeks, chest heaving - for Patrick to let him know it's okay.

Patrick can only nod, tug on Pete's hip with his hand, take a deep breath and push it out on a "yeah."

"Yeah?" Pete's eyes are lit up and dancing.

"Yeah." Patrick says again, voice shredded, then he's pulling Pete's hip forward with tight fingers and pushing his ass against Pete's cock. Pete follows the action, pressing in slow, so fucking slow and shit there it is, the familiar resistance, the tightness, the slight pain. Patrick breathes through it, not letting go of Pete's hip, not letting him back off even as Patrick's breathing gets labored and his eyes slide shut. He feels the crisp brush of Pete's pubic hair at his ass as Pete slides all the way in, and fuck, the stretch. Patrick feels so full it's overwhelming.

He peels his eyes open to find Pete's gaze locked on him. He's panting hard, nearly shaking, and Patrick knows it's costing him not to move. He opens his mouth to say fuck me but all that comes out is "Pete", the word strangled and breathy.

Pete's eyes crease up and close at his name, brow furrowed deep as his head tips forward to touch his forehead to Patrick’s. The hand he's not leaning on flutters up to Patrick's face, gentle fingers on his hot cheek and Patrick's pressing his face into Pete's hand before he even knows he's doing it.

When Pete's eyes open again they're shiny, blinking down at Patrick. "Jesus, Patrick." The words are barely out of his mouth before his lips meet Patrick's, and Patrick meets him kiss for kiss, losing himself in it, sinking into it, dampness on his cheek and he's not sure if it's coming from him or Pete.

Their tongues tangle and they start to move as one, Pete pushing in and Patrick pushing into it. It's as close as they'll ever be, and Patrick doesn't want it to end. His fingers are tight on Pete's hip, guiding him, and they're moving slow and easy, so in synch, both of them wanting it to last. Pete's breath tickles across Patrick's chin and he's muttering Patrick's name like a mantra between kisses, whenever his tongue isn't in Patrick's mouth, undoing him from the inside.

It's bliss and agony. Patrick's teetering on the brink of orgasm the moment Pete's hand closes around his dick, and when Pete picks up speed on his thrusts, matching them to the stroke of his hand on Patrick's dick, Patrick has to give up Pete's mouth to gasp in air and grunt Pete's name into the quiet room. Then it's nothing but the slick slide of skin, Pete's dick in Patrick, hand on his cock, Patrick's fingers slipping up the sweat-slick skin of Pete's back as he pushes home, whining in the back of his throat, panting for more.

Patrick's not sure if he pushes it faster or if Pete does, but soon his lungs are burning, his muscles are aching and the slap of flesh against flesh joins the sound of their agonized breathing.

Pete starts muttering "Fuck. Fuck" between Patrick's name, and Patrick's running so hot he feels as though he could white out. He groans every time Pete pushes deep, his dick twitching in Pete's fingers. Patrick’s still got one hand locked in Pete's sweat-damp hair, and he can't take his eyes off Pete's face, beautiful and flushed, brows pinched and his mouth working absently. When his eyelashes aren't fluttering, his gaze is fixed on Patrick, so Patrick sees the moment his orgasm hits him. Pete's face distorts into a grimace, eyes falling shut, his fingers tight on Patrick's neck as his hips shove forwards, faster, faster, then he's shuddering, spitting out curses and endearments as his body stiffens above Patrick's, every muscle taut . Patrick feels it, the pulse of Pete’s cock releasing inside him as he shoves home one more time, moaning shakily against Patrick's lips.

Pete slows for a moment, but doesn't stop thrusting, and then his hand works Patrick's dick faster, fingers sliding over the sensitive head and shit, shit, Patrick's gone. He thumps back on the bed, groaning Pete's name as his body goes bowstring-taut and he's coming, cock spurting between Pete's fingers and Pete milks it out of him, mindless words falling hot against Patrick's mouth as he strokes him down from it.

Patrick is still trembling from his orgasm when he takes Pete's mouth, kissing him hard, tongue pressing inside, needing to taste him, to mark Pete's flavor forever. He can't think about anything, not yet, he just needs Pete close. His arms slide around Pete's back, pulling him down until their bodies are pressed tight, kissing messily and breathing noisily through their noses.

When they finally come up for air, Patrick's not ready for it. He's not ready to face the expression on Pete's face, his eyes soft and a little shell-shocked as he looks down at Patrick. Patrick knows he's wearing a matching expression and it's heart-quickening and terrifying. His hand is still on Pete's back, fingers tracing a circle on his skin above his ass. He can feel Pete's heart thumping where their chests are pressed together. He can't stop looking at Pete and his chest feels too small for his heart.

His mind is a total mess and he can't think of one thing to say. Except fuck.

"Fuck." Pete says it first, eyes still hot on Patrick, a note of awe and terror in his tone. "Fuck." He says it again, somewhere between resigned and shocked and his fingers are stroking through Patrick's damp hair, gentle. Almost reverent. "Patrick?"

Patrick can only nod, pressing his head into Pete's fingers and closing his eyes.

They're so totally fucked.

***

Pete stays a couple more hours at Patrick's before he leaves, letting Patrick fuss over him before getting re-dressed in his damaged clothes. They share a lingering kiss by Patrick's front door, neither of them willing to break it. It feels too much like goodbye.

Patrick doesn't hear from Pete for well over a month. He thinks maybe Pete's trying to be safe, to end this thing before it gets worse. Not that Patrick is sure it can get any worse. He's never felt so lost. The need to see Pete is a constant ache in his gut, he can't help checking faces whenever he's on the street, searching files at work for names and clues, wishing he had a phone number, an address, anything.

It's probably good that he doesn't have any of those things for Pete, because if he had a number he'd call it and it would appear on a bill somewhere and there'd be evidence of their contact and Patrick would be that much closer to the conviction he so richly deserves. He's having a hard time convincing himself it wouldn't be worth it though.

He's still dreaming about Pete and waking up hard. He’s still hoping he'll turn the corner out of his stairwell to find Pete sitting on his doormat every time he comes home from work. He’s still hoping, the night he's woken up by the shrill ring of his phone. He startles upright, groping for the handset in the dark.

The moment he hits the button his ear is assaulted with a harsh yelp followed by a panting whine in a familiar voice.

"Pete?" The name leaves Patrick's lips before he can stop himself. Pete sounds hurt.

There's shuffling on the other end of the line and an unfamiliar voice. "Mister Stump. You know this man?" The voice is thick and heavily accented in Russian.

"Yes." The word springs from his lips, rushed and harsh. "I mean, I think-"

"He needs your help. He's in... a bad way. Over his head. But you can perhaps, clear this debt of his." The voice as much emotion as someone bargaining a price on a used car. Patrick's listening hard, so hard he can hear agonized breathing in the background. Pete's breathing.

Pete’s still breathing.

Patrick's throat closes over and his eyes fall shut. Behind his lids he can see Pete, hogtied and bruised. Another bad week? A bad month? He pushes the image down, fighting to control his breathing, his pounding heart.

"What do you want?" The phone jitters against his ear. His hand is shaking.

"What you have already been giving. Information."

Patrick leans back until his head hits the wall. This is different now, he knows it. If he gave himself time to think about what this is, what the voice on the phone is asking for, he'd freak right the fuck out.

He can still hear Pete's breathing, soft on the line. If he listens hard he can almost convince himself that Pete is speaking, pushing out the word "Don't". He can't freak out. Not now.

He tilts his head back, the wall hard and cool at his crown. His fingers fist in the sheets as he closes his eyes and wills himself to speak calmly.

"What do you need?"

***

The information the Russian wants is higher level than what Patrick's been giving to Pete. He ends up having to steal a password and get on a workmate's computer to access is. He does it, heart in his throat, one eye on the door. He waits for the printer to finish spitting out paper, wondering when the fuck this became his life.

He could just leave it. He could just walk away and whatever happens to Pete happens.

Except leaving it is as impossible for him as trying to fathom giving up breathing. He can't go five minutes without wondering where Pete is, if he's okay, if he's hurt. Where are they keeping him, are they keeping him? Or is he out and free? And if so – where? And why hasn't he been in contact? The ratio of questions to answers is impossible.

Patrick stashes the stolen documents in the empty space beneath the bottom drawer in his kitchen and waits for further contact from the Russian. He doesn't sleep much and he barely eats. When he's not at work, counting hours and checking his phone for missed calls, he spends a lot of time in front of the television, meditating on the 24 hour news channel. He doesn't want to see or hear mention of Pete or Russian espionage on it, but he doesn't want to miss it either.

It's been nearly a week without word since that middle of the night phone call and over a month since Patrick last laid eyes on Pete. He's walking into his living room from the kitchen, poking at a bowl of ramen he probably won't eat when he glances up at the television and sees Pete's face on it.

He drops the bowl.

The footage is barely a glimpse - Pete in a featureless room. He looks terrible, thin and bruised and so fucking worn out it makes Patrick ache.

His feet hurt. He's standing in a puddle of hot broth and noodles, skin burning, but he can't move. He can't take his eyes off the screen. His brain snatches at the voiceover, grabbing at words. There was a shooting. On the steps of the Capitol. A plainclothes policeman went down. A suspect is being held. The cop is in ICU.

He has to sit down. No, He has to fucking do something. He doesn't know what. He needs to talk to Pete, or the Russian. He needs to know if Pete did this, if he's okay. Fuck. He has no way of doing any of those things. He has no way to contact anyone. He's just a pawn, a leak, a detail in some bigger picture he's so far been trying to ignore even exists.

He swears, kicking the bowl, because it's easier to be angry than to let himself acknowledge how helpless he is in all this. How completely useless he is to Pete.

Fuck it. Fuck it. He has to do something, or he won't sleep tonight, or ever again. He grabs for his phone, his mental Roladex for anyone useful, anyone he knows in the Justice Department. Maybe Saporta, he's pretty shady. He's scrolling his contacts when the phone vibrates in his hand, ringing. An unknown number. He hits send.

"Hello?"

He knows before he even hears the voice that it's the Russian.

"Mister Stump. Do you have-"

"I've seen the news." Patrick interrupts. "I know you don't have him anymore. I'm not handing over this information if you don't have him."

There's a long silence on the line before the Russian speaks. "That is unreasonable."

"No it isn't. The information was to help Pete. I give it to you now, it doesn't help him. That's not unreasonable."

"He is in your justice system now. It is out of our hands."

"What kind of shitty spies are you that you can't get one of your own out of fucking jail?"

"He is not one of ours, Mister Stump, and it is beyond our reach. If it was Russian legal system it would be different. Perhaps if he is extradited we could take some action."

Patrick's eyes squeeze shut. There's a throbbing behind them. "Can you do that?"

"Money would need to change hands."

Patrick's hand flattens against the wall, because he's starting to feel dizzy. The thoughts he's having are alien to his brain, but he has to ask.

"How much?"

The answer is more than he can comfortably afford, but not that much more than the content of the vacation savings account he hasn't touched in years. The money would go into the pocket of a crooked bureaucrat, and Pete would be ripped from the American justice system and vanish into the womb of Mother Russia.

"If I do it." Patrick starts, his throat closing up a little and he has to cough to clear it. "If you can get him out, I'll hand over the information, but only to Pete. He can give it to you when he is safely out of the country."

He can hear the Russian start to protest, but he talks over him. "This is the only way I will do it."

The Russian reluctantly agrees.

***

Four endless days later and thousands of dollars poorer, Patrick stands on the street in front of the Russian Embassy. The sun glancing off the blocky concrete building is nearly blinding. His heart throbs in his throat as he stares past the gates to the empty paved driveway beyond them. He checks his watch again.

It's exactly eleven 'o clock when a black town car draws up on the other side of the gate and Patrick's moving before he's even aware of thinking to do so, his shoes scuffing the pavers until his chest is mere inches from the iron bars. His own breath is loud in his ears as the car door pops open and a pair of battered sneakers drop into view. Patrick's eyes trace up from the shoes, over worn jeans and a faded hoodie to the face he's been missing every day.

Pete looks thin and tired. There are fading bruises on his skin and dark circles under his eyes, but they are bright when they alight on Patrick. He jogs up to the gate, slipping his hand through the bars and Patrick's reaching up to tangle their fingers before he's even realized it. Pete's hand is warm, his fingers squeezing Patrick's tight.

"Jesus Patrick, you're fucking insane." Pete speaks first, and there is more than a little awe in his voice. He tugs on Patrick's hand until he pulls it through the bars, scraping the back of it against the cold metal on the way. "Why? Why would you-"

"I had to." Patrick says simply, reaching up to rest fingers on Pete's cheek. He's solid and real under Patrick's hands. Real and alive. Patrick's eyes are prickling even as his mouth tugs up in a shaky smile. "I just had to."

"I'll pay you back-"

"Don't." Patrick lets his hand slip so that his thumb brushes over Pete's mouth. "You don't need to. Just promise me you'll get out. Don't waste this."

When he meets Pete's gaze, it nearly undoes Patrick's wavering self control. Pete's eyes are huge and he nods at Patrick, the movement rubbing his cheek against the palm of Patrick's hand. "I am. I'm getting the fuck out. Going somewhere warm, I reckon. Somewhere with umbrellas in the drinks." He smiles as he says it, the same cocky confidence in his grin as the first day they met, and Patrick's hand is trembling when he reaches into his coat pocket for the envelope that will pay for Pete's freedom.

He pokes the envelope through the bars. "Don't give it to them until you're safe. Promise me."

"I have done this before, you know." Pete folds the envelope into his pocket. Once it's safely tucked away he glances up at Patrick, eyes lit and glowing. He pushes his body up against the bars, reaching through to drag Patrick forwards by the front of his shirt. He kisses Patrick, messy and light, lips wet and warm as the cold iron bars press their cheeks, keeping them apart. It's nowhere near enough, but more than Patrick thought he'd ever get again and he melts into it, moving his lips over Pete's and breathing him in. He's still got one hand on Pete's neck and it slips low to rest over his pulse, beating hard under his palm as they kiss.

It's a heartbeat and an eternity before Pete pulls back, lips wet and eyes dazed, staring at Patrick. "Thank you." It's all he says, but it's enough. Patrick's opening his mouth to respond, but the rude blare of the town car's horn startles him into silence. They're out of time.

Pete presses damp lips to the palm of Patrick's hand.

"Promise you'll get out." Patrick says, a little desperate.

"I will. I'm out. I promise. They'll never catch me now." Pete smiles, brash and open, even if his bottom lip is trembling. Patrick tugs him close for one more kiss, soft and brief, fingers curled in Pete's shirt as he kisses into Pete's mouth the words he can't say. Words that are pointless if Pete doesn’t know them by now.

The horn blares again and Pete's lips leave his. Patrick still doesn't have any words he'll let himself utter and Pete doesn't speak either, just drags two fingers down Patrick's cheek before stepping backwards, out of reach. Their fingers catch, squeeze, then slip apart. The withdrawal is like physical pain, but Patrick fights not to show it. He drinks in every detail of Pete, writing it all to memory, the fall of his hair, his eyes, the crease between his eyebrows. Pete bears his study for a moment, then his face twitches like it might crumple and he turns quickly around, walking towards the car.

Patrick watches his retreating back, gripping the bars of the gate to stay upright. It isn't until Pete's inside the car that Patrick sees his face again. The window rolls down and Pete's smile is forced as he waves his arm at Patrick in goodbye. Patrick's answering smile isn't any more genuine.

The car's engine turns over and it pulls away. Patrick watches until it's rounded the building, completely out of sight.

His knees don't buckle until after Pete's gone.

***

Epilogue

Patrick's drafting his resignation letter. He does this a few times a day. It calms him. He hasn't gotten to the point of printing it out and submitting it yet, but that's just because he doesn't know what he'll do after he leaves his job. He will leave, just as soon as he figures that part out.

He's down to the yours sincerely sign off when his phone trills. He reaches for the receiver and mutters a droll greeting.

"Is this Patrick Stump?" The perky female voice at the other end of the line asks.

"This is he." Patrick reports, stabbing his name into the keyboard.

"This is Penny from United Airlines, I'm calling about your lost luggage. We have your suitcase here from your recent flight from Russia?"

Patrick chokes on his own spit at the word 'Russia'. "I'm sorry?" He hasn't left the country in years.

Penny sighs, sounding put out. "You reported via email that your suitcase was misplaced? Well we've located it, and we have it here at Dulles International. You can come and pick it up, or we can have it delivered to you for a nominal charge."

Patrick's fingers are frozen on the keyboard and he nearly drops the phone. "My flight from Russia?" He stammers.

"Yes, you were on the UA964 service from Moscow to Washington three days ago. Your suitcase wasn't. It's arrived on a later service and we have it here for you now." Penny is starting to slow her speech like Patrick is special needs. Patrick is feeling pretty special needs right about now because what the fuck?

"I. Um. I'll come by and collect it then?" He utters haltingly, mind still spinning around the word Russia. His hands are shaking a little and his heart is pounding so hard it feels like his ribcage is rattling.

"Just look for the United Airlines desk at Concourse C. Have a nice day."

Patrick sits frozen for a long time, gripping the phone to his ear in a trembling hand and staring into space. Without any real thought, he takes a breath and presses 'print'. He signs the document and leaves it on his desk, striding out of the office. By the time he gets down the elevator and onto the ground floor, he's nearly running.

He flags down a taxi and goes straight to Dulles International. He's doing his level best not to think about anything and mostly succeeding.

He steps up to the United Airlines desk, drumming his fingers on the counter until he gets served by a bored, business-like woman with a hard face and too-bright lipstick.

The suitcase, when she hands it over, is fairly non-descript, black and medium sized, only slightly battered. Patrick nods like he recognises it even though he's never laid eyes on it. He fills out the form the woman behind the counter pushes at him and carries the suitcase to a bench outside.

He's not sure what he's expecting to find inside it, a bomb? A circus midget? He unzips the case and opens it, pawing through the contents to find everything you'd expect a traveller to pack: clothes, toiletries, shoes. It doesn't look like a suitcase for a trip to Russia, however. It's full of warm weather gear - Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts, swim trunks, flip flops, sunscreen. Sitting at the top of the case is a Lonely Planet guide to Jamaica. Patrick lifts it out of the case, staring at the book in his hand, puzzled.

A piece of card flutters from between the pages. He catches it clumsily before it hits the floor, turning it in his hands. It's a postcard, showing an idyllic beach scene, the words "Wish you were here" scrawled across the sky. When he turns it over there's the name and location of the photographed beach printed up in the corner. The area to write a message and address is blank.

Patrick stares at the postcard until his eyes start to defocus. His brain scrambles to put the pieces together. He knows what he wants it to mean, but is that what it means?

He opens the Lonely Planet book to put the postcard back inside. The pages fall open easily to a centre page, marked by an unusual bookmark. He tugs the object from between the pages, barely able to process what it is.

It's a small pink drink umbrella.

All Patrick's breath rushes out between his teeth and he closes his eyes. Blood thrums through his body in a rush of relief and a sentiment he hasn't felt in far too long: hope. He presses the pink drink umbrella back between the pages of the book with infinite care, before putting it back into the case and zipping it closed.

He picks up the suitcase and approaches the counter again.

"I'd like to buy a one way ticket to Jamaica."

 

~end