Chapter 1: Kendall I: One Sultry Evening
In retrospect, Kendall realized that if she hadn't gotten drunk the night before she began her new job, her life would have been a hell of a lot more easy.
It all started out with a trip to the bar of a hotel she had fled to on one sultry summer night.
Well… no. Not quite. That wasn't really where it had all started. If she was being honest—and damn did she hate being honest—she'd have to admit that it actually started out decades back, when she was but a wee slip of a girl with a lot of dreams and something akin to an intact heart. Or just a few years ago, when she first entered Quantico and been dazzled by her new lab partner's smile. Or over the last few months, when she'd gotten a ring and an idea of how her future would proceed—and a promise that would never end up being fulfilled after all.
Or maybe just a day ago, when she'd gotten a very short, very perfunctory, very (somehow this was what hurt the most) grammatically challenging email that had—that had—
Well. If her Ex-Fiance Who Must Not Be Named
(He had taken on rather Voldemortian dimensions in her mind, given the events of the last 24-hours)
Had simply taken a sledge-hammer to her chest just a few hours back, it probably would have hurt her far less emotionally.
(And maybe even not that much physically. She had loved that sunnabitch but he had arms like a 10th grade girl and for her size, she was surprisingly hardy.)
Long story short, it had led to Kendall Martin—the top of her class at Quantico, about to head into her new life as an independent woman and a brand new job that would help crack open the toughest of computer cases for the LAPD—found herself sitting at a second-rate bar at the hotel she had fled to for the night, thinking about drowning her sorrows just enough to crawl back into an anonymous room and fall into a sodden sleep away from any concerned parents that would surely want to come over and tut over her when all she wanted to do was spontaneously combust in order to get away from anything and everything.
That was when she saw The Blond… and everything changed for both that night and all the following evenings.
She never would have approached anyone that came within spitting distance of someone that looked like him normally.
It wasn't that she was ugly. She had missed all the genetic markers for ravishing beauty and seeing as how she lacked long blond hair and bounteous bosoms that could enter a room before the rest of her, she wasn't even guy hot either. But contrary to what her just-abandoned ex might secretly think, she wasn't precisely a troll either. She was small—practically palm-sized in relation to some men—and while her wee little kewpie-doll face often made her look like a bloody teenager, she knew she wasn't actually repellent… whatever certain ex-fiancés might make her feel.
But The Blond who had just taken a seat two stools over from her? The Blond was playing in another league entirely. They were so far apart in terms of sheer appeal that Kendall rather felt like she might be committing some sort of sex-crime for gawking at him so openly.
For one, he completely and utterly deserved his Capitalization, being the sort of man you could easily refer to as The Blond and pin-point based on that description alone. Somehow, despite LA being the kind of place where every third waiter looked like Justin Timberlake's vat-grown genetically superior love-child, he stood out like a bolt of lightning, presenting one hell of a profile as he sat on his stool, drinking glass after glass of what had to be some damn potent liquor with no end in sight. But even as he gave his kidneys one hell of a job to do come morning, Kendall had to admire the picture he cast tonight. Even in the dim light surrounding them, his long, lean body cut an elegant figure, while his short, spiky hair looked almost alight, glowing around his handsome face like a kind of make-shift halo.
All he needed to complete the picture he was creating was a Regency-era back-drop and a woman in a bonnet calling his name out in desperation in the rain. As a woman who made a habit of main-lining Jane Austen like a junkie after every single break-up, Kendall could deeply appreciate the sight.
Also, he looked about as miserable as she felt inside. Which was to say, he looked rather like he had been told his wife was dumping him, his kids weren't his, he was losing his job, his house had lost half its value in the recent crash, and his gold-fish had just died.
All on the very same night.
And maybe that was precisely why Kendall—she of the sterling GPA, top of her class, the pride of her conservative family, the nice girl who played by the rules and didn't do the kinds of crazy, risky things that might trap her in a room alone with what might be the best looking maniac in her city, the girl who calculated her every move before she made it to maximize her chances of achieving success perfectly—slid two chairs over to where The Blond sat and said, down-right demurely:
"Hi. You need any help with those drinks?"
Chapter 2: Kendall II: The Preliminary Approach
Heh. You know how I said at the very beginning of this fic that updates would be frequent and come very, very quickly? Well, this update came very quickly indeed but unfortunately, future ones will probably be spaced further apart. Much to my horror, it seems as though the chapters of this fic will indeed be quite long (this dialog-heavy one alone is over 4,000 words!) and future ones will probably not be any shorter… especially since I'm planning on quite a few POV changes in the future! (If only because denying myself the chance to write Travis laughing at Wes' lack of game would be a terrible thing indeed.) Anyway, I hope my lovely readers stay with me and keep enjoying the story. Thank you for reviewing already!
Much thanks and praise also goes to my wonderful beta Asphaltcowgrrl over at Livejournal, btw. Without her holding my hand, clearing my mistakes, and cheering me on, this fic would never have been written—or at least, not written nearly so well! She also writes wonderful Common Law Travis/Wes fic over at LJ so please check it out.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kendall had always been the kind of person who tried to map out her entire life very, very carefully.
She had always loved plans and diagrams—had ever since she'd been a child. Her love of exploring and planning might have evolved from ant-farms and winning science-fair projects to computer engineering and code-cracking over the years, but through it all, she'd always prided herself on always figuring out what she wanted and following her plans clearly. She had mapped out her tech career with the same exact precision and dedication and if her love-life had abruptly derailed from the nice, neat, orderly timeline she had thought of into a flaming wreckage of pain, horror, confusion, punctuation-related disgust, and a pending hang-over…
Hell, at least she couldn't be accused of not having tried.
Even now, while sitting in a bar while trying (maybe, possibly) to pick up a complete stranger for the night, her mind was still racing as she tried to figure out exactly what to say and how exactly she was going to do… whatever the hell she was doing right now. Because while she couldn't quite picture a clear end-point as she stared into The Blond's extremely suspicious blue eyes, she at least had some vague idea of who she wanted to be, if not quite what she wanted to do. She wanted to be Not Kendall right now… wanted to be someone other than the wall-flower dweeb, the over-looked geek, the woman who had just gotten unceremoniously dumped by her goddamn fiancée the night before she started the job she'd been waiting for her entire life.
She wanted to be more than just a pleasant back-up—she wanted to be wanted presently. And she wanted this man to want her that way because he looked as miserable as she did right now and she wanted to see him smile.
That had been the plan, anyway. It was just that she had momentarily forgotten that she was bloody terrible at small talk and had no follow-up to that initial greeting. And since clutching the top of the bar with sweaty desperation would probably make one hell of a wrong first impression, Kendell screwed on her best smile and added, with more chirp than a troop of humming-birds could possibly muster:
"I mean… there are just… a lot of glasses in front of you. And… I figured you could… use the help!"
The last bit was said in something of a spurt of supreme embarrassment, as The Blond's face had gone from registering simple confusion to contorting through a complex mixture of confusion, dismay, surprise, and no small amount of embarrassment on his part either.
"…I'm also neither a waitress nor some sort of sex-worker," she muttered, after a small and terrible pause descended. "In case you were wondering."
He gave her a bit of a once-over as she shifted awkwardly on her too-tall bar stool (damn the oppression of the vertically-challenged!) and his face scrunched up as though the sight of her were causing him actually physical distress. "Well, I should hope not. Considering what you're wearing, you'd be fired soon in either line of work."
She immediately looked down at her lap, covered in crumpled green cotton so drab, she would have looked at home in a picture of the Dust Bowl. "So what you're saying is… this is not exactly the start of a saucy, scandalous seduction that'll take my troubles off my mind?"
His posture straightened dramatically at that, as though she's just taken a fish and slapped him upside of the head with it. "Wait—wait—that's what this is supposed to be?"
"Huh," she said, and had to laugh a little, dropping her elbow at the bar's countertop to crane her neck and face him directly, simultaneously blushing and breaking out into a wry smile. "You seriously thought I came here just to steal your drinks?"
The corner of his mouth twitched just a little. "It might have run across my mind. They are many and varied."
Blondie was either acting coy or simply being the least image-conscious and ungodly attractive man in LA tonight. Either way, Kendall had to admit she was intrigued.
"Well, you've got so many," she said, after another pause where they eyed one another like two cowboys on the OK corral with itchy trigger fingers. "I don't understand why you don't mind sharing."
Both his eye-brows rose at that, his full mouth parting again at something short of definite expression. "Then I guess it's too damn bad that I've been told all too often that I'm terrible at doing just that."
She squinted, going for sage and possibly landing on stupefied by mistake. "And you're going to let others define you that easily?"
He shrugged, trying for indifference and brushing on aggravation. "Well, I've been told by people who apparently know."
"And they are…?"
He shrugged again, but his pale, almost electric eyes didn't leave her face. "The two biggest pain-in-the-asses to ever exist since the dawn of time, I'm honestly starting to believe."
Blondie sounded like a man who wanted to sound indifferent but if so, he was awfully chatty. Trusting her spotty intuition, and half afraid he might slap her away in outraged presumption, Kendall let one hand make their way to a half-finished glass in front of him. His eye-brow and chin both went up simultaneously but as she took a hold of and then sipped slowly from a drink he'd partly polished off himself, his mouth twitched again, looking half-way between unsettled and interested.
Bingo, she thought, pleased all her time studying facial tics at Quantico was paying off. He wasn't quite as adverse to company as he wanted her to believe.
So while she might have just been dumped by the apparent love-of-her-life, she still had a chance to reaffirm her shaky self-esteem by shagging a sexy, snarky stranger she'd just met at a bar and would never again speak to afterward.
And before the smarter part of Kendall's mind could start pointing out all the logical inconsistencies in that train of thought, she took another sip of his drink and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, watching him watching her carefully.
"Are we talking hemorrhoids here?" she asked at last, finally smiling properly.
"They might as well be," he muttered back in turn, cheek twitching again. "Though less attached to my rear and more of the human variety."
"Sounds rough," Kendall replied, and then made a face. "And also, anatomically unlikely and disgusting."
He sighed, and ran his fingers through his short, yellow hair. Kendall tried not to let her eyes linger too long, lest she be accused of something. "Yeah, well… it's the ones that are bipedal that annoy you most consistently."
She snorted automatically at his resignation; he paused and aimed a careful eyebrow at her almost like he was cocking a gun. "What? You don't believe me?"
She snorted again, this time in amusement. "You're speaking to the choir here, buddy. You don't have to tell me that people can be colossal pain in the rears. But let's face it, we both wouldn't be here if they weren't that way and didn't have some really awful things to say."
She paused and sighed, hearing him draw a breath behind her as well. And before the silence could swallow them up, she asked:
"So what have your hemorrhoids been telling you about yourself lately? Because mine's been kinda chatty as of late."
His face, tensed at her last sentence, relaxed a little at that. Some part of Kendall noted: he really does want company.
But he still sounded more than a mite skeptical as he leaned against the bar, his eyes skimming over her face. "You really want to know?" As though he weren't used to being approached at all, a frankly bizarre notion. "You're just that interested?"
She leaned back, laughing a little at his apparent confusion. "Hell, misery could always use company."
"Well… if you think it'll make you feel better…"
Kendall shrugged, taking a drink, her eyes never leaving him. "Go ahead and try me."
Blondie opened his mouth, closed it, closed his eyes, opened them, and the narrowed them.
"Are you sure?"
She shrugged again, trying to balance mounting interest with some sense of savoir-faire, although she suspected she was failing miserably. "I doubt you could be any more screwed up than I am… unless you just had someone tell you that you're so uptight and over-controlled that it's a wonder diamonds don't pop out your ass every time you sneeze."
He snorted at that, relaxing a little. "Yeah? I'm not far from it. How about if you have a group of people around you telling you that it's amazing that you don't subsist on a diet of pure prune juice given how anal-retentive you must be?"
She winced in sympathy. "Ooof, that is rough. Although at least you probably didn't get called a tease for not hoovering up any prick within your eye-line instantaneously."
He tipped his head back and laughed at last at that. "No, I can't say anyone's every accused me of that. Although apparently, not rolling into bed with a woman who's already engaged and up to any number of illegal shenanigans is a hanging offense."
She had to start at that, and then laugh at the not-you-too face he made at her. "Well, that's… down-right ethical of you. What the hell kind of people would even get upset at you for not jumping on top of that broke-down pony?"
"My therapy group," he said, his mouth twisting into a wry shape. "Who seem to see me as some weird mixture of der Fuhrer and Bad Daddy."
"That probably explains why they're in therapy."
"Indeed," he said, and actually laughed again, although it sounded bitter even through the filter of all the margaritas Kendall had been drinking. "Although when even your therapist thinks you're a rude, snobby, callous, obsessive, aggressive jerk that everyone else in the group should feel good about comparing themselves too—"
She interrupted him by putting one slightly unsteady hand on his tense shoulder; he stopped talking abruptly. And just from the tension underneath her hand, she wondered just how long he'd gone without feeling this kind of touch, without this kind of honest, open feeling.
For a minute, she wavered, wondering if she should go any further, if he was maybe even more damaged than she'd imagined, if they'd just end up digging new wounds into each other because of this, on top of the ones that were still healing.
But then she tilted her head and saw his mouth suppress a tremble and thought: the hell with it.
It probably wasn't even possible to hurt any worse than they both already did. So what would be so wrong about trying to escape that for just a night—or even just a moment?
"For what it's worth," she offered at last, and managed a bright smile, "I don't think you're any of these things."
One blond eyebrow rose again, although he looked rather more amused than he wanted to. "Says the woman who's only known me for the last fifteen minutes."
Stubbornly, she plowed on. "Well, maybe you're someone different with me."
He took a quick gulp from one of the glasses spread out bountifully in front of him and then met her eyes. His own looked just a little brighter than before—brighter and warmer and a little more dangerous, in a way that sent prickles of warmth running against her neck, her cheeks, her spine, her legs.
He most certainly wasn't the only one being enticed here.
"Maybe. But what if you're just trying to make me feel better?"
"I am," she said, and licked her lips nervously, tasting the alcohol of them again as though it'd give her courage. "And I don't know why that needs to be a bad thing."
"It doesn't," he said, looking contemplative as he straightened on his stool again to look down at her. (Holy hell was he a bloody tall skyscraper of flesh.) "I'm just trying to figure out why you're doing what you're doing and if you're trying to do something nefarious here."
That was a good question, although Kendall felt vaguely like she was being deposed right now. "You'd make one hell of a laywer, know that?"
He snorted, steadying himself on the top of the counter. "You're telling me."
"Well," she said, after a minute, taking just enough to think the question over to make him nervous, "I certainly don't think I'm up to something and I certainly don't think you need to be afraid of me. I'm not some sort of sex-criminal so I have no current plans to shanghai you to a room, pull on some leather panties and do unspeakable things over the rest of the evening." (Although now that she had said it, it didn't seem like that bad of an idea. And Blondie sure was cute when he began blushing.) "All I want is… what I mean…"
It was a good question to ask, honestly. What was she trying for with this man? What the hell was she doing? She hadn't been lying when she said misery loved company, or that she was hurting herself, or that he didn't seem like he deserved whatever it was that had brought him to this depressing little hotel bar at eleven at night on a hot Sunday evening. She didn't have any answers for herself, let alone him, and no amount of sweet, sweet liquor could make her believe that anything that came out of this evening could help either of them in the long-run.
But she was just so tired of having to be responsible and giving and careful all the time. And she just wanted some relief.
"All I mean is that… people have a way of making you feel like… like you're a lot less than what you are and what you want to be. That… that they know better than you, that they know what's good for you, and that even if they're hurting you, it's just to make you eventually happy. I mean, that's the excuse they always use, right? It's not you, it's me. Oh, and: this is really for the both of us. I'm not being selfish here. But in the end, that's what they are, isn't it? They're the people who look at everything you have to offer but still want to leave. And no matter what you do, you can't hold onto them. All you can do is make yourself believe that you didn't really want them anyway, no matter what you really feel. All you can do is think… is think…"
This time, he interrupted her with his hand on her shoulder.
She startled a bit but he didn't let go: his hands were warm and callused; his grip was calm and steady.
"Go on," he said, and his voice was even lower and huskier than before; his lips close to her ear. "Finish that sentence."
It would have been easier to obey if his callused thumb wasn't patterning a small, delicate little circle against her bare skin just then; she swallowed hard and tried to go on slowly.
"I think," she said at last, "to hell with each and every single one of them. I don't want to give a damn about how they think."
"So that's your answer?" he said at last, his hand still on her, her body still responding without her full approval. "The hell with them?"
"Yeah," she almost breathed. "The hell with them and everything they are and everything they think."
"I figured it was something along those lines," he said after another moment of silence, his hand now playing with the soft cotton of her sleeve once he saw she wasn't pulling away, was in fact relaxing against his touch. "I'm pretty good at telling these kinds of things."
"You must be a real pain in the ass for whoever you work with," she responded dryly, and was pleased at his surprised chuckle. "But you can't quite hide that you're in the very same boat as me."
"So: the hell with them, all of them—you think that's what I should be thinking?" His hand squeezed her shoulder again, again absently.
She nodded, gently enough not to cause him to pull away. "Hell yes I do. Don't you deserve better than what they're telling you that you do?"
"My therapist would say you're projecting."
She turned to him in a sudden fit of passion, piqued by his curious mix of amusement and resignation, by the way he spoke as though he understood what she meant but didn't know if he could believe.
"Am I wrong to?" she almost cried out, her voice breaking a bit. "You don't really feel the same right now? You think they've got the right to tell you all the things they do?"
His lips parted again before he shook his head, looking contemplative and surprised and a little charmed all at the same time. His hand fell off of her at last, though not without her sighing.
"I don't even know anymore, to be honest."
"Well… that's a start," she said, and tilted up her chin, trying to look stern and strong and as though she had any right to be saying what she was saying just then. "Because I have no idea who managed to get you into this state but I'm willing to bet that you'd be a lot happier if you told them to fuck off already."
He almost grinned at that, looking at her with eyes even darker than before. "My therapist would also really hate the effect that you're having on me."
"Seems like a hard woman, your therapist," Kendall replied, and tried to look jauntily unaffected. "And precisely what effect am I having?"
He paused again at that, as though wondering what to say. When he spoke once more, he looked almost surprised at the word coming out of his own mouth. "You're making me agree. And you're making me think…"
She tilted her chin up further, trying to look like she could go toe-to-toe with the terrifying eldritch creature his therapist must surely be. He gave another almost-laugh and said:
"You're making me think that maybe I don't need to be quite so… me all of a sudden. And maybe that'll be a good thing."
Kendall couldn't suppress a laugh. "You make it sound like I'm enticing you into doing something risky and devious and dreadful. Is that really such a bad thing?"
"That depends on the outcome, doesn't it?" he answered, sensibly enough. Which was something that the sane, rational, and sensible side of Kendall fully agreed with.
Which might have been why she finally leaned forward to kiss him and shut that side up completely.
It was awkward, of course; he hadn't been expecting it at all and all the fruity drinks she'd been taking on during the evening had done a number on her hand-eye coordination. Trying to wind your way up a very tall man's body while being very petite and fairly inebriated took more balance than it seemed.
Still, after a considerable amount of wiggling and the emergency presence of his hands wrapping around her waist, she found herself pressed against him securely. And he held her there against him as she clumsily tried to find the best path to his mouth at last, pressing her eager lips first to his neck and his cheek and his nose and his chin before finding his parted lips waiting.
But when she could finally taste it, his mouth reminded her of expensive vodka spread across the seam of soft, warm lips: wet, smooth, even sweet. And though he would not kiss back just yet, his parted lips let her explore to her leisure, her tongue pressed against him until the world beyond them was a hazy blur, her nails digging into his neck as she drove in with sheer relief.
When she pulled back, her hands still wound around his neck to help her keep balance as her own mass practically migrated onto his lap, his eyes went adorably wide, making him look just as nervous as she was feeling.
"I…" he began—or at least tried—to say. "I… I'm… I…"
"Stop stuttering," Kendall commanded, fighting a fit of nervous giggles as she wriggled on his… rather active lap. "You're making me feel like I'm robbing you of your maiden virtue here."
That got him to stop, anyway—he ended up looking a little indignant at the thought, actually, which was one hell of a sight just a few inches away from Kendall's face.
"I'm at least a decade older than you," he said, looking horribly affronted. "I'm in no way, shape, or form a delicate virgin. And in fact, I'm actually a little worried about whether or not you're legal presently."
"I'm in my mid-twenties," she snapped back, just as insulted. "I'm also not an unplucked blossom. And I'm an independent and educated woman who wants your tongue in her mouth so please, shut up already."
And with that, she leaned forward again, quite intent on taking even more indecent liberties with his very delectable person until he pushed her away completely.
Only this time, her prey apparently wanted to change places and be the aggressor. And truth be told, Kendall probably should have been prepared for as much, since it was clear that underneath that prim black suit of his—missing only a tie—lay a very long and lean body that could overpower her own easily.
Yet when he easily plucked her up onto his lap and wound his fingers through her mussed hair as he leaned in and over, she felt rather like a woman who'd awoken a lion and had no idea whether it would consume her completely.
She'd been in charge of the last kiss, and had it made it slow and deliberate even when she had scratched and kissed and caressed him, doing all the things she knew how to do in the short time she thought she had remaining. He had been almost a spectator then, someone who stood still and let her take advantage of him, although he hadn't exactly been fighting her off either.
But he was in charge this time—and god damn did he knew what he was doing.
This man, whoever he was, kissed with intent, as though he knew all the things he had to do to get her to fall purring on her hands and knees. With one hand on her nape and another against her hip as she grinded against him, he traced patterns on the inside of her lips with his tongue before drawing his entire mouth almost chastely down, as though there was nothing unseemly about the way he was making her whimper presently.
It felt like he had his hands all over her, all over, though he kept his actions chaste and slow enough to allow her to pull away if she wanted such a thing. But every moment she stayed pressed against him was another moment he had to drive her to complete insanity.
Oh damn, she thought, as his tongue and teeth began to mark a trail to her exposed collarbone, leaving the untouched skin beneath it aching. I think I'm in trouble here.
And even as he crushed her breasts against his chest as he slowly ran his broad hands up and down her trembling back, she closed her eyes tightly and wanted, wanted, wanted even more desperately.
Still, she let go when he did, knowing they had to stop before they were thrown out of the bar for embarrassing conduct, though her body still shivered from his intensity. And even as she ran her tongue over a new shallow wound on her bottom lip—at some point, he'd nibbled on it with his teeth and then soothed it again with a kiss—she looked up and watched him watching her with that very same fierce intensity.
She'd known him for less than a half-hour, but she was starting to memorize the face he took on when he was simultaneously shocked and pleased.
"I'm not the kind of man that does things like this," he said, and she wasn't sure if he sounded more surprised at her actions or at himself. "I'm… a much more careful man, usually. I don't pick up—or get picked up—by women in bars. In fact, I'm quite circumspect with my saliva most days. I don't go spreading bodily fluids liberally."
Her fingers were still digging into his suited shoulders, her thumbs unsteadily running across the strip of skin just above his open shirt collar. Underneath the palm of her hands, she could feel his lean muscles working.
"Yeah? Well, I don't normally do things like this either. I'm downright prim usually."
"I have no proof of that," he said, and actually grinned a bit. "You could be some sort of devilish demon hoyden woman for all I know. You can be anyone and anybody."
He certainly was drawing quite a long line from plain ol' computer nerd Kendall to the seductive and sexually liberated siren he was painting her out to be. In a truly bizarre kind of way, she had to admit she was pleased.
"Maybe," she said, trying to hide her smile. "But maybe you're… oh, who knows… some lothario who runs through women once a day and twice on Sundays."
"That is so much more my partner—my work partner—than me."
"And I crack computer codes for a living," Kendall replied, trying to sound airy despite her deep desire to curl up into his lap again. "My life isn't exactly a morally lax cage of sex, sin and scandalous seduction either."
"But tonight's an exception?" he asked, an almost teasing working its way into his voice, of his large hands almost shyly making its way to her short bob of hair once more. "You're certainly not avoiding sex, sin, and scandal now."
No, she most definitely was not. Then again, for all his talk about how very uptight he was and how much everyone disliked him for it, he seemed just as eager—maybe more—to spend even a single night acting like someone else entirely.
Later, of course, they'd both be sure to blame it all on the copious drinking.
But later was not now. And Kendall closed her eyes and thought of another man's sweet words and sweet gestures and sweet smiles and sweet lies—
And then opened her eyes once more and grinned at The Blond with all her teeth.
"I'm not morally opposed to a little sin once in a while. Are you?"
From the look in his eyes and her own slowly growing smile, she knew they were going to do something they'd regret later but do it very, very enjoyably.
"No. No, not really."
She made a little show of disengaging herself from him and turning away for a moment, pretending to straighten the dress and hair he'd mussed up quite enthusiastically. He ran his own fingers through his hair as well and Kendall smiled at the thought of running her own fingers through it as well, of stroking and touching and teasing, of—oh, why the hell not—even yanking it until he wanted to melt down as well…
Take that, she thought, although she barely knew who she was even saying it to. The man who had dumped her carelessly tonight? Or the careful, cautious, even uptight Kendall she was used to being?
Well, who gave a damn anyway? She was here and he was with her and god knows, they both seemed willing. And if that made them just a little reckless tonight… who could honestly blame them? They were two heart-broken people at the right place, at the right time. Hell, they practically had a moral duty to debauch each other tonight.
"So if you're not morally opposed and I'm not morally opposed…" she said at last, with another sharp grin, "maybe we can have one more drink?"
That was when he smiled fully, warmly, and honestly at her for the first time.
"Why the hell not?"
It turned out to be a sight just as wonderful as she had been hoping.
I haven't written a word of it so far but I'm pretty sure chapter 3 will include a lot of sex, neuroses, Wes back-story, and our favorite blond detective wondering if he'd get away with foreplay that consists of copious amounts of hand-sanitizer plopped onto the adorable red-head he just met. (Hey, even a one-night-stand needs to minimize germ exposure…)
And if you enjoyed the story or have any questions/comments, I would really appreciate a review! They seriously do fuel me and help me write all the more. Plus, I'm desperate to know if Wes is working for you so far in this story, since the next chapter will likely be in his POV. Does he come off as believably uptight and yet pissed-off-enough with the unappreciative people in his life to go ahead and get enticed for the night? And do you like the chemistry he has with Kendall so far? They don't spend nearly enough time talking on the show, although she obvious likes him, so I had to kind of stretch to figure out what they'd be like together for this chapter…
Thanks again for reading!
Chapter 3: Wes 1: Waiting and Hoping
You’ll have to forgive me ahead of time for letting this chapter be a bit shorter and far less quippy than the second one! To be honest, this was by the far the hardest chapter I had to write, since it involved getting into Wes’ head at last and justifying why he would ever let himself go back to his hotel room with a complete stranger. (Besides the fact that I want him to, of course!) So I had a hell of a time writing him and thus, much of this chapter is set-up and back-story, leaving less back-and-forth good times between him and Kendall that I would have liked. That said, I do hope my readers will enjoy… and thank you so much all of those who have reviewed! Silent Assassin, Jagged, Mascha, Beth, Coos, Lady Shaye, Indigo, Almont, Tiger Dragon, and all my anonymous guests… thank you!
And much thanks again to my wonderful beta Asphaltcowgrrl. She is the tireless engine on which this fic runs and writes damn good Wes/Travis fic herself. Thank you once more, dear heart!
Anyhow, onto the story…
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wesley Mitchell did not allow himself to get drunk most nights.
This was, on reflection, precisely as it should be. He was an officer of the law, and a former lawyer, and a man of principle on the whole: someone who needed to always be control of his full facilities. At any moment, the world might need him to be a detective or a guardian or a protector or an enforcer, all roles he had chosen freely. And regardless of what some witless people might choose to believe, that meant he had to constantly be on the alert, his mind ever ready, ever willing to take control of any chaos that might break out in a situation and lead to innocent lives being shattered forever.
These were all good words, words to live by, good words that should be backed up by good deeds. And most of the time, Detective Wesley Mitchell of the Los Angeles Police Department believed in and lived up to them fully. He had sacrificed much of what he had to earn the badge he wore and he'd be damned if he let his control waver on this one thing. Even the worst days he weathered through at work—with a thousand concerns pressing up and one spectacular pain-in-the-ass partner that he still fantasized about throwing into the Pacific Ocean via small plastic packets—didn't cause him to wander down to the bar of the hotel he was staying at and begin drinking steadily.
After all, if he let himself slip just once, he might be tempted not to stop. And considering how frighteningly close his life got to one of those Lifetime shows he and Alex used to love to make fun of before she'd neatly booted him out of her life, he didn't need a side-order of alcoholism in addition to all the other screw-ups he was facing currently.
For almost 364 days of the year, Wes did not do anything to star in a bad tv-movie that could be titled: Slow Bullets and Hand Sanitizer: One Long Suffering Man's Struggle With Not Throwing Everyone Around Him Off a Cliff Due to Terminal Frustration at Their Vast and Unending Stupidity.
Wes tried to be generous and believe that it wasn't their fault that they weren't quite as good as he was when it came to understanding cause-and-effect, common sense, logic, or even basic arithmetic. He'd learned that train of thought in therapy and it helped.
Most of the time.
Or at least occasionally.
After all, he was who he was and he was damn proud of his accomplishments and he didn't care what the hell other people might think. He didn't need any crutches to feel better, damn whatever anyone else might feel.
For almost 364 days of the year, Detective Wesley Mitchell was in complete and utter control of himself, master of his domain, king of all he surveyed.
But then again, most days were also not the day of his first post-divorce wedding anniversary.
He had met Alex in college during their freshman year.
They'd been eighteen and in a class on Shakespeare; he'd spent much of that entire semester staring at the back of her bob of shiny dark hair, trying to pluck up the courage to impress the girl with the sweetest smile he'd ever seen without embarrassing himself completely. Years later, Alex would confess it had been less than impressive when he earnestly told her that sonnet 130 summed her up perfectly. But by the end of that class, in some way or another, she'd relented and given him her number. By the end of their first year, they'd moved in together. By the time they went to the same law-school, they'd been engaged. And by the time they both finished and passed the bar, they had been married.
She'd been a part of his life for the last seventeen years. He had been expecting her to be there as well for the next forty.
There had never really even been another woman for him. And besides the occasional stray thought of what if and the occasional odd, formless, wordless yearning, he'd been happy, mostly. He had a great job, he had a wonderful wife, they had just brought a starter house with one hell of a lawn, and in a few years they'd have a child. He had everything he needed and if he ever wanted any more—action or excitement or a way to prove himself—he was an ungrateful bastard for doing so.
He had been content with his life then, of course. He had willed himself to be.
He had been happy and he was lying to himself if he ever thought differently.
And now he was thirty-five years old and besides the badge he'd left upstairs in his cold, impersonal hotel room, he had absolutely nothing.
Given all of that, he rather felt as though he were entitled to one damn drink.
One turned into two and then multiplied ever more prolifically, and by the time his eye finally caught on the quiet red-head who was glumly occupying a seat a few stools down from him, he was a little—not drunk, he didn't get drunk—inebriated already. To prove it, he even helped himself to another round in celebration of his amazing sobriety right before he turned his eyes to watching her covertly, detective instincts ever at the ready.
For one thing, she stuck out quite a bit at the dreary hotel lounge they were sitting in presently. Almost everyone who stuck here even as midnight came closer at hand was more like Wes than he was comfortable admitting: sad-sack middle-aged losers who got drunk to forget their troubles and had long since misplaced their wedding rings. Anyone who looked anything like she did now—early-to-mid twenties, shoulder-length auburn hair, dark eyes, clean profile, slender body dressed neatly in a column of light cotton, perhaps a hundred pounds soaking wet and only a little over 5 feet when standing—stood out in this small, sad little crowd as though she had a spot-light trained on her and was currently undoing her drab dress in order to do a little shimmy—
Wes suddenly gave the glass he was holding a suspicious look before putting the damn thing down completely. After all, no matter what his body might insist to the contrary, he was enough of an emotional mess that he didn't need to traumatize some random girl who had the misfortune of sitting next to him by… hell, who knew, transferring over his unholy, frustrated, idiotic sudden spasm of lust over to her and cursing her love-life perennially.
He'd struck out a year ago with the woman who said that she'd love him forever; no need to go dragging some random third party into his cavalcade of misery. And besides, he didn't want to give this poor girl ideas, now that she seemed to have realized that he had been staring a bit at her and was now peering back, looking rather startled. In fact, even as Wes deliberately made a show of looking away and staring at his glasses, he spent the next few minutes trying psychically will her to understand what a bad idea it would be to approach him just then.
Now was really not the time to tempt his self-control in the least.
Though it wasn't that he thought she would. Although his partner and therapy group might vigorously disagree, Wes knew he had a very modest ego—the smallest one around!—and that there was nothing magnetic about him. He attracted women every once in a while simply on account of being tall and blond—the rest of the package was immaterial, apparently—but he knew he looked like smacked ass after the day he'd just had and the memories he'd tried to drink away tonight.
And it wasn't that he was hoping she would. He clearly didn't have a track record geared toward making anyone in his orbit happy and the last thing he needed to do was dump a platter of stone-cold misery on someone who didn't look like she deserved it in the least.
And it wasn't as though he were planning on saying yes anyway, even if she did. However good it might feel in the moment—however much he might enjoy having a woman next to him again, with her touch, her skin, her heart beating right next to him—that didn't mean he had any right to use someone for a night and then toss them away. He couldn't even keep ahold of a relationship that had lasted half his life—god knows what kind of mess he'd make out a one-time thing.
So when the little red-head finally made her move by putting down her glass, sliding over until she sat next to his isolate stool, and giving him a hopeful smile that lit up her entire face before speaking, he steeled himself to turn her down as gently as possible. After all, no matter how much of an ass everyone else around him thought he was, the last thing he wanted to do was screw someone else over the same way he'd been screwed.
Even if he couldn't make anyone else in his life happy, he could do at least do that.
It had been a good plan and he'd been firm about sticking to it. He hadn't thought that there was anything anyone could do to make him break from it either.
But at one point, his mystery woman had smiled at him and said: "Are we talking hemorrhoids here?"
And at another, she'd put her warm, soft hand on his shoulder and said: "I don't think you're any of those things."
And near the end of their conversation, she'd looked up at him with brown eyes blazing and her voice breaking and said: "You think they've got the right to tell you any of the things they do?"
And maybe he could have resisted all of those things if only he hadn't met her eyes afterward and seen himself in them, seen himself in her and her in him: all that anger, all that hurt, all that confusion about why they'd been left behind and who would ever want them again, and what they could possibly do to stop feeling empty.
And by the time she'd leaned over to kiss him—he'd been holding back, he didn't want to do anything without permission, he wanted to know that she wanted it, he had wanted to know that someone still wanted him—Wes found that he'd closed his eyes already in anticipation, his skin prickling even before she slid her hands around his neck and found herself in his lap, her breasts crushed against his chest as she ground out her own misery against him, her mouth sweet and flush and warm and willing, passionate and desperate and longing and angry, and oh Jesus it had been so long since he'd been touched like this, so long since he'd ran his fingers through soft hair and softer skin—
He knew he should be ashamed and he knew he would be later, thoroughly and completely. But in the moment, as he bent over her and felt her breath shake against his cheek, all he could do was close his eyes and give in.
After kissing her in the bar, he seemed remarkably incapable of doing anything else besides kiss her over and over in different locations: in the halls, in the corridors, while waiting for the elevator, and on every floor of the hotel as they had ascended up to his suite.
Although, Wes had to admit as keep his breath steady and open the door to his room as her teeth and tongue took rather outré liberties with his bared neck, that was really under-estimating his mystery gal's involvement. Saying that he was kissing her made it seem as though she were remaining demurely still as they kissed chastely, instead of climbing him like a tree as she wrapped both arms and legs around him, pressing ardent, open-mouthed kisses over and over any inch of him her mouth hovered over: on his forehead, on his cheeks, on his chin, on his neck, against every grain of skin she could reach, making him feel as though his skin were too tight against his muscles, making him feel all too constricted by his clothes already—
At least, Wes wryly thought as he struggled with working the room's card whilst fighting against a moan as those clever lips of her skimmed his adam's apple and her fingers promisingly worked their way around his belt, he didn't have to worry about her level of enthusiasm.
Or—he had to admit, as he leaned into another tumultuous kiss that almost sent them both sprawling on the floor with her legs still wound around his hips when the door they were leaning against finally opened—his own either.
Then again, it was hard not to be excited about having a real life woman against him again, one that wasn't conjured up by some very reluctant fantasy. Though given the fact that Wes could barely even remember the last time the last time anything other than his right hand had grinded this enthusiastically against him, she probably could have been nearly anyone with double-x embedded in their chromosomes and had him panting.
Hell, at this point, she could have been a mop with two cantaloupes taped to the front and still gotten some kind of reaction out of him.
But as he found himself in bed with her at last, his body arching again and again as she set her clever hands to the task of helping him out of work shirt while he nipped and nuzzled her soft swan's neck as a distraction, Wes found himself profoundly grateful. After all, even aside from the prospect of getting splinters lodged into some damn uncomfortable places, that would be hard as hell to face come morning.
And instead of thinking of what would happen with this person come the light of day, Wes instead paused and smiled at the lovely young woman beneath him, her hair apple-red when it lay spread against the white pillow-covers, her doe-brown eyes warm as she gazed up at him with a shocking amount of trust, her lips curving up into a gentle smile as his fingers ran themselves over one of her impossibly soft, sweet, smooth, small breasts uncertainly.
He really was lucky to have someone like her with him now, no matter what fall-out they might face the next morning.
And somewhere between his sudden upswing of affection and the cognitive haze that came from a combination of alcohol and blood pooling south of his belt border, Wes' brain made a move that would have brought tears to his partner's eyes due to Wes' sheer lack of game.
"Hey pretty lady…" Wes murmured into her ear, trying to sound as seductive and mysterious as possible. "Do you happen to have any known STDs?"
Thank you once again for reading! And I would love love love to get some feedback on this third chapter of the story. I’m very, very nervous about writing Wes accurately, since he’s a major POV in the next chapter and in many chapters to come, and his uptight, constantly tense, frequently frustrated personality was tricky for me to pin down? So I wanted to ask any reviewers that feel like helping me out with a few questions:
1) Did this Wes chapter feel “authentic” to you, as though it were really him speaking?
2) Does his attraction to Kendall seem real?
3) Does it make sense for him to go off with Kendall, considering the lousy night—or rather year—that he’s been having?
Feel free to answer any of these questions if they strike you as interesting. I would really love the feedback, since it’ll affect future chapters. Thanks ahead of time!
Chapter 4: Wes II: Foreplay & Roleplay
And somewhere between his sudden upswing of affection and the cognitive haze that came from all the alcohol he'd already taken in, Wes' extremely fuzzy brain made a move that would have brought tears to his partner's eyes due to Wes' sheer lack of game.
"Hey pretty lady…" Wes murmured into her ear, trying to sound as seductive and mysterious as possible. "Do you happen to have any known STDs?"
It took a good thirty seconds for Wes' underperforming brain to realize how profoundly he'd just screwed up and thus, would never be screwed in an infinitely more positive light tonight, tomorrow night, or possibly (given how terrible he apparently was at this not offending people business) ever again.
He probably would have come to the realization even quicker without dangerous amounts of liquor coursing through his blood-stream; as it was, he knew he would look back upon this moment in the future and wish he still had the wits and reflexes left to… oh, he didn't know, jump out of the open window in a paroxysm of pure humiliation, or get down on his hands and knees and promise to commit hari-kiri in order to dissolve away the shame he had just brought upon generations of uptight Mitchell ancestors.
"Umm," he squawked instead, his voice intruding into the gaping void of shame as he demonstrated that he had all the brains God would have granted a headless chicken. "Er… I mean… um, which is to say… not to say that you're… I mean… you look like you have good hygiene… and… ahhh… really…"
She would have been completely in her rights to throw him out the window herself. And given all the terrifying femme fetales he regularly ran into (half of them harpies, the other half harlots) in his line of work, he wouldn't be surprised if she tried to take a few swipes at him for his insults. So even whilst spread atop of her with his underpants tenting at a damn uncomfortable angle, Wes found himself spluttering while wondering if whether he should try protecting his head above or his all-to-eager head below.
And that, of course, was when his mystery woman began laughing her head off.
He'd expected outrage; he'd anticipated tears; laughter threw him out of a loop completely. And before his still-dumbfounded brain could connect the dots and let him get off of her long enough to apologize profusely, he saw her continue to dissolve into a mass of girlish giggles.
When she finally finished, her next few words didn't do much to make him feel he had escaped retribution. Manfully, Wes tried to brace himself.
"Oh Blondie," she finally said, her flushed face breaking out into a cheeky grin as she sat up and slid away from him toward the head-board of his rented bed. (It wouldn't have been so bad if she weren't apparently heedless of the fact that the dress he'd unbuttoned eagerly moments was now sliding down her waist. And it was getting damned hard not to stare.) "You seriously don't know what you're doing, do you?"
He had to laugh a little too, slouching away from her and trying manfully to ignore his own hyperactive libido, which was urging him to stop with the talk and do some more things that would get him thrown out the window. "You can't say I didn't give you fair warning."
"Definitely," she agreed, laughing again, and Wes had to fight not to let him eyes travel down her quicksilver smile to the delicate curve of her collar-bone and the skin that lay gleaming below. (He was still a gentleman, after all.) "You've been scrupulously honest, so far! It's a commendable trait."
"Now you're just making fun," he returned, and when she laughed again at that, had to fight a smile of his own. "I don't think that's kind, Miss Scarlet."
One dark red eyebrow rose as she smiled, slouching further against his head-board, which did more interesting things to her rapidly falling dress that Wes continued to ignore and thus, did not even notice.
(No, really, he didn't).
"Miss Scarlet?" she said, and her smile had gone incandescent.
He fought to keep a straight face. "Is that any less creative than Blondie?"
She shrugged coyly, biting a plump lower lip that he absolutely did not relish the thought of taking between his own teeth. "If you want another name, you'll have to surrender your own."
An intriguing thought… but surely she was up to something. He knew a trap when he saw one, even if the giver of this one was significantly more attractive than most people he interrogated.
(She didn't appear to have any prison tattoos garishly proclaiming her love for her mother smeared across her comely chest, for one.)
(Not that Wes was looking.)
"Does that mean I get your own in return?" he managed eventually, trying to sound rakish instead of sincerely curious. "It would only be fair."
She cocked an eyebrow theatrically at him and it was probably a sign of how impaired his judgment was that he found it kind of… charming. "Maybe… or maybe not. To be honest, Miss Scarlet is starting to grow on me."
Now it was his time to shrug and look arrogant, pretending at far more calm than he felt. "Are you sure? If you don't give me your name, I won't give you mine… and Blondie will be one hell of a thing to scream out in ecstasy."
That got a laugh out of her—sharp and bright, of the sort he wasn't used to evoking from anybody. And when the warm sound finally died down and she looked at him again, running her tongue over her swollen lips with delightful insouciance, Wes knew she wasn't about to let that go easily.
True to form, she practically cooed her next words. "You sure you're still going to get to that point, buddy?"
Wes shrugged again, trying to look indifferent and not let on that he was practically at a point in his life where seeing a pair of actual, real-life breasts might well make him get down on his knees and thank God for giving him a sight he'd never thought to see again.
"Would it be wrong to admit that I'm still hoping?"
And that was when—as though to prove even the smallest deceit on his part would get him immediately and severely punished—his mystery woman showed that she had a working pair of eyes by cocking one eye-brow, pursing her lips, and delicately pointing at the case of hand sanitizer he kept by the bed.
The one he set out for use… once in a while.
After certain personal times.
Of extremely personal exploration.
Oh Jesus. If he knew he was going to have company, he would have hidden the damn thing as though it were evidence of a Class I felony and he were under federal investigation.
But before Wes could spend too much time contemplating hari-kiri to get over this fresh level of shame, his mystery woman once again distracted him by leaning forward until her face was once again tantalizingly close to his own, her dress dipping as though she knew precisely what had been gaining his careful inattention before.
(He wouldn't put it past the tricky minx.)
"Well," she murmured, her voice so sweet he could almost be fooled into thinking she didn't know exactly what she was doing, "I guess can't fault you. Personal hygiene is very important."
"Can you blame me?" Wes replied, trying to stay steady even as she leaned so far forward that under any other context, he'd feel sexually harassed. "There's a lot of muck out there in the world."
"Too true…" she answered, somehow improbably drawing all the closer, her breath so near it mingled with his own. "But most women still don't like to hear that in reference to their genitals."
"To be fair," Wes murmured in return, "I would imagine men take exception to that also."
"Undoubtedly." And oh, he was already coming to know that one smile of hers, wicked and mischievous, the one that lit up her entire face and promised absolutely nothing but trouble. "So does that mean I don't get to inspect you ahead of time for any second heads you might have growing down south?"
He found himself surprised into another laugh and when it mingled with her bright peal, Wes decided he could get used to this—at least for the here and now.
When he finally stopped, he sternly pointed a finger at her, prepared to defend his honor. "Miss Scarlet, I'll have you know that I get myself tested every three months…" (A good precaution that every detective should take, especially when he got into as many gunfights as Wes did) "…and I am as pure and wholesome as an unplucked blossom."
Her returning nod was surprisingly neutral, her lips solemnly pursed, as though he'd had told her about a dental appointment he'd gone through with the other day. "That is certainly good information to know."
And perhaps that should have put him on high alert—after all, since when had this demon woman ever been anything less than a spit-fire? When had she not teased and enticed him at every turn? Right now, she was almost like a female version of Travis going in for him instead of a random assortment of deranged women—a terrifying notion that Wes wanted to set down and never, ever think about again.
So of course it was when his mind was occupied with that godawful thought that she ended up pouncing on and upending him like some sort of recreational sex ninja, her tiny body somehow managing to flip him over until Wes found himself trapped by an improbable combination of her slender legs straddling his thighs and her fingers pinning his own up over his head.
All this from a woman that was likely ten years younger, sixty pounds lighter, and nearly a foot shorter than him.
He hated to be a chauvinist but it wasn't doing to soothe his ego. But when he gaped at her in shock, she answered him with another cheeky grin.
Yet—as his libido helpfully reminded him as it came roaring back to life at the feel of her impossibly supple skin rearing against him through a few flimsy layers of fabric—it was hard to get upset when he was really enjoying all the things she was intent on doing.
And from dewy innocence now shining forth from her wicked little face, she certainly knew it.
"And since I really like men who keep safety in mind at all times," she went on, almost primly, as though she were inviting him to shake her hand rather than driving him almost out of his mind with the way she was now grinding, "I think that means you deserve a reward."
Wes should have protested then and there. He should have told her that his respect for her person and presence had nothing to do with any sexual favors so she needn't give him any if she didn't wish to grant them. He should have sat her down and had a talk about proper consent and how she needn't do anything if she didn't want to and to resist peer pressure at whatever college she might be at—
At the least, Wes probably should have asked her to gargle with mouth wash and put on hand-sanitizer before she continued on with whatever wicked plans she'd hatched. He was quite sure he'd be horrified by possible germ exposure the next day—horrified and not in the least tantalized, no sir, never mind the state of his trousers, never mind what happened in the heat of the moment.
Then again, even thoughts of proper sanitation were surprisingly inconsequential when Wes had a scarlet-haired succubus gently and patiently and most certainly cruelly rolling her hips atop of top of him.
If nothing else, this was not help him impress her later by demonstrating his usual level of steely control over his various personal eruptions.
Of course, it didn't help that she rode him with a sort of gentle, unsteady, imprecise passion that so easily revealed both her surprising ardor and her lack of experience. It didn't help that she bucked into him so easily as she did so, her undone hair trailing obscuring her face and trailing her maddening scent all over, mingling sex and pale flowers into his very skin. And it most certainly didn't help that she was taking ruthless advantage of his occupied hands—which were somehow holding onto her hips as she continued to rock against him, and he still couldn't explain how the hell that had happened—to run her own over his chest, undoing his shirt-buttons even as those clever fingers of hers curled around his restless flesh.
And while it might have helped to have her stop momentarily—never mind the sudden spike of impatience that ran through him, never mind his urge to buck up against her and bring her down harder against his cock, never mind his desire to throw all consideration away and make her grind with him—he regretted his wish in but a minute.
After all, if he had known that she'd take this minute to look down on him and give him another one of those smiles that clearly meant mischief, he'd have swallowed his tongue and shut down his brain and brand himself a true one-minute-man.
As it was, he just braced himself at her expression, and didn't end up disappointed.
"You haven't done this in a while, have you?" she asked, her hips stilling for the moment but her hands apparently restless, moving beneath the loosened fabric of his shirt and leaving imprints of soft heat wherever she went, as though she were intent on branding him.
"How can you tell?" he managed, trying very hard not to arch beneath her and give it away any further. "It was the erection that tipped you off, wasn't it?"
That got another laugh out of her, even as she reared back against said object as though to make sure it was still there. Wes did his best to swallow back a groan. "Yeah, that was a bit of a clue. God, it's like one big pillar of sexual frustration!"
He glared at her, trying to simultaneously not appear pleased and to look as haughty as was possible in his present state of supreme humiliation. "Would I be canoodling in my room with a strange woman if I wasn't?"
Her smile flickered for a minute and, as he always did when he knew he had done something terrible to some unsuspecting and undeserving person yet again, Wes instantly regretted what he had said. But before he could… god, who knew… apologize or even point out that moments like these were exactly why it had been a while since he'd done this, she went on, her voice low but caressing him as surely as the hand that was trailing down his chest.
"So being with me is merely a sign of desperation?"
He had been keeping his hands almost decorously on her hips, holding them there to make sure she didn't topple over during any of her more enthusiastic gyrations. But now, following an impulse he barely understood himself, Wes let them move up her body with a more confident touch, his hands trailing up her body as though he knew it as well as his own, however unfamiliar it truly was.
(His mystery woman was much smaller than Alex had ever been, in form and frame and movement. Her figure was so delicate it almost felt as though he were stroking a china figurine rather than a real life woman, albeit one with skin that felt almost sinfully soft as he curling his fingers tentatively time and again.)
(The span of her hips, the weight of her thighs, the little dip of her navel, the curve of her spine…)
(All of it unfamiliar, but none of it wrong.)
(Only new, and beautiful, and different.)
"That isn't it," he said at last, and knew as he said it that he meant it. "I don't care how much I have to drink—I still have standards regardless. And I wouldn't do this with someone who wasn't…"
Lost for words, he trailed off, his hands flexing slightly on the ripples of her ribs, his gentle exploration having somehow undone her dress so that it lay crumpled around her waist. She gave a shaky laugh and answered for him, more tentative than she'd ever been before.
"No," he corrected, feeling far more himself than before. "That isn't it either. I simply won't settle for someone who isn't…"
He groped for words; she exhaled shakily under his gentle touch; he found it in another moment.
"Intriguing in at least one sense."
She hadn't blushed earlier when she had first kissed him. She hadn't blushed when he had practically assaulted her mouth as they did some extremely unhygienic things downstairs as their bar-keep had none-too-discreetly ogled them. She hadn't blushed when she had implicitly offered to come up to his room, or when he had taken her up on her offer, or even when they had first tumbled into bed.
Given all of that, Wes wouldn't have been surprised to realize that she was just one of those lucky people who wandered easily through life, one of those awful, annoying, terribly enviable people who had the ability to simply not give a damn.
But she was blushing now, her cheeks going pink with shocking rapidity, blushing so hard it moved down her front and spread to her chests, her pert, pretty breasts going nearly as pink as her delicate aureoles as he made her so strangely, so easily, happy.
He hadn't known ahead of time that even a simple compliment could undo her so completely.
"Dare I ask which one?" she said at last when she finally answered, clearly trying to pretend she wasn't really so very pleased. (Her returning smile kept giving her away. Wes didn't bother hiding his smile either.) "If you're going to pay a lady a compliment after so many insults, you might as well be specific."
He grinned back, raising one sleek blond eyebrow at her, determined to tease her just a little for all that she'd done before. "And what if I prefer to keep you in suspense?"
She pouted at that. "For such a big man, you're very coy."
"Well, for such a tiny woman, you're scary."
She laughed at that, and then shook her head, looking shocked at her own pleasure. "Blondie! Right after you finally give me a compliment! You… you're so… you're so absolutely…!"
"Look who's being non-specific now," Wes murmured, sitting up so that he could take a closer look at her beautiful flush. He had to let go of her for that and even as he propped himself by his elbows, her arms wound around his shoulders for balance. "You can't expect me to follow your directions if you won't do as much either."
"You are incredibly strange," she finally said, raising her chin to look him straight in the face, blushing still but being brave. (God, she was so young. God, she was so lovely.) "But… I… don't think it's a bad thing either."
He touched her face at that— purely on instinct, purely on desire, purely out of some strange need to touch her at that moment. And though he half expected her to flinch away from his fingers unexpectedly stroking her cheek, she leaned in toward him instead.
She had a very faint, almost ghostly trail of freckles dusting the top of her rounded nose and beneath her thick swoop of lashes. A man could only see it when she came this close, drew this near to him. It looked as though it had been delicately painted atop her smooth, creamy skin.
"I'm glad," he said at last. "And me too, I guess."
And that was when he leaned in to kiss her once more, first to kiss that secret flock of freckles and then the sweet, warm lips that lay below.
He half expected her to flinch away; instead, she simply leaned back in, her own lips parting for his as though he was welcome inside her skin.
(It wasn't his surprise that actually shocked him most. It was gratitude that undid him.)
And when she pulled away, her eyes were shining, her lips were parted, her body glimmered in the light cast by the bed-side lamp, and one of her soft, slender hands…
Wes' eyes went very, very wide.
"Oh," he said, rather stupidly. "Oh, are you—"
"Shh," she said, and leaned over once more, pressing her lips tenderly to his even as her hand gently cupped his prick through the few layers of fabric that kept them separated. "Don't say a word. Not another word. Don't utter a single new syllable or sentence. Please keep those lips of yours firmly zipped."
A fine thing to say when she was doing just the opposite, her own fingers easily bringing his trouser's zip fastener down, her wrist arching as one of her small, sweet little hands dipped into its eager contents.
Wes opened his mouth to say—something, anything. She stole his breath with another deep kiss that left his breath shaking as though he'd finished chasing down an errant suspect. And any other residual thoughts of self-control he might have had went flying out the window about the time she finally eased his cock out from its resting place, one of her thumbs gently swiping precum around on the head while her fingers slowly circled his shaft, stroking with soft, tender, almost shy motions.
She was as delicate and uncertain and ardent with this task as she had been when she had perched atop him. But given the almost instantaneous reaction his body had to feel of her fingertips slowly easing themselves up and down his length, even the soothing thought of hand-sanitizer couldn't make him come back down again.
Not that he didn't try—let no one say that Wes Mitchell wasn't, in his own way, chivalrous. He might want this but he didn't want this at her expense—didn't want her to do this if she didn't want to, or if she thought she had to, or if she thought she needed to just to stay the night—
His body might have felt like it had caught on fire but he didn't want her to immolate just for his pleasure.
But even as he opened his mouth in one last time to—well, not to protest, he was actually rather embarrassingly eager to get on with this—to say that stopping now would be fine, just fine, if she really didn't want to continue, never mind the embarrassing amount of moisture he was already releasing down her fingers, never mind the howler monkey noises he was barely holding in, never mind the fact that his hips were already bucking into her sweet grasp like he was a virgin on prom night who'd just been introduced to the sweet touch of a woman—
(Jesus, it really had been far too long for him. Who knew Travis could even be right about something like that?)
Even then, there was still a part of Wes that wanted to stop her and tell her that she could stop anytime she wanted to, that she didn't need to do this just for the sake of staying with him, that he wouldn't want her to do it out of fear or gratitude because he was not that sort of man.
But as though she read his mind, she stopped for a single moment to look at him and flash him another brilliant grin, even as her fingers never even loosened their easy, maddening grip.
"You're kind of amazing," she whispered at all, voice even lower and sweeter than ever before, one set of her fingers gently running themselves through his sweat-slicked hair, the hand she used to caress him further down never once stopping or stilling. "And weirdly charming and stupidly sexy and just the sort of guy I always wanted to run into on a lonely evening. Now shut up and relax before you say anything that could possibly ruin this beautiful and touching and extremely moist moment."
Not being a complete fool, Wes shut his mouth firmly after that much persuasion.
(And at least as far as the night lasted, he couldn't bring himself to regret it either.)
Chapter 5: Wes III: Ending & Beginning
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It wasn't as though Wes kept a precise time-line of how sexual encounters he'd had over the years. That would be gauche and beneath him.
But the last time with Alex had been months even before the divorce had been official, when everything between them had been so tense and ugly and angry, when he spent all his time thinking about trying to hold onto something that was slipping away from his fingers slowly, lost in the grinding misery of coming home only to feel unneeded, unwanted, and unwelcome.
It had actually been nearly two years since he'd touched a woman this closely, in fact.
And this was different from all those times with Alex—hell, it could barely be less different and still occur during the same space-time continuum and to the same human being.
With Alex, there had always been crisp white sheets and a firm mattress, had always been a private room and a clean bed, had always been tenderness and care and love and consideration, had been a gentle, easy dance they'd mastered together and a way of moving against one another long since honed to perfection. He had long since learned where to touch her, when to be gentle and when to be just a little firm, when to keep the lights on and when to turn them off, how to undress her and be undressed as well. He always knew when would be an opportune moment—they always put it on their mutual schedule, after all—and how it should happen and where it should happen and what they would do to clean up afterward.
He was used to carefulness, and consideration, and a certain pleasurable knowledge of what lay next, to knowing just how he would be stroked and touched and kissed, with anticipation so prescient he could practically predict his and his partner's every movement.
He had almost always known what to do with Alex—how to be with her and how to feel comfortable, how to do what he had to and what to avoid out of simple consideration.
It had never been like this—had never found him arching and panting and feeling almost unbearably tense, his body stretched out so vulnerably as he panted in anticipation, his skin pulling tight against the flickers of her flesh, her achingly delicate fingers still not giving him enough of what he needed even as she quickened, her thighs tensed around his legs as he was teased and stroked and tugged all over, her skin flowing around his like water, his hands flying to her hair, his fingers curling into lush red waves with no gentleness at all, mindless and hungry and open and wanting—
No. This was nothing at all like what he was used to at all.
But the woman he was with now didn't seem to mind that last part.
And she certainly didn't let it slow her down either.
At first, she moved as though she didn't know quite what to do—though she knew that she wanted to do it badly.
She simply moved as though she wanted and needed to touch every inch of him desperately.
She moved as though she were burning as well, and his body was the only release.
And through it all, the fingers she curled deftly around his velvety cock never even stopped moving.
She kissed him as she stroked him off as well—her lips the perfect counterpart to the almost unbearable heat of her hands, her tongue driving him mad every time she pressed it to the seam of his lips and then further in, their open mouths almost violently colliding. And though Wes knew he should let her be—that he shouldn't be demanding, that he shouldn't be pressing, that shouldn't, musn't, wouldn't overpower her completely—he couldn't help his own reactions.
She had been pretty before, downstairs, with her big brown eyes and her shining red hair. And if she had been lovely previously, she was now luminous—unbound hair falling all over her face, one hand on his cock and the other braced on his shoulder, her body arching to accommodate the rough hands he sent racing all over, over her languid back and the spine that arched under his fingers, the callused fingers he worked under and onto the sweet little curves of her breasts until she were panting in time with him.
She looked as though every pore of her body was alive, every freckle and follicle vulnerable. As though all he had to do was ask and she would be happy to give, as though the present moment were all that had ever existed, as though she had spent all her life waiting to be vulnerable to this.
She looked like she wanted nothing more than him.
And maybe that's why he ended up wanting even more than what she was prepared to give.
And maybe she was telepathic, or maybe he was just that bloody obvious, but she looked down at him then—hand never once stopping, the little vixen—and grinned ferociously again.
Wes would have braced himself, if he still had the breath.
"Guess what?" she said, interrupting her task because she clearly loved to bedevil him, that smile he wanted to memorize against his own lips driving him mad once more.
"Wh—what?" he managed at last, sitting up as much as he could, hands sliding down to her lithe hips, half-afraid that she might have reconsidered this whole night in light of his way of floundering around like an untouched school-girl as soon as she'd fully touched him.
Apparently heedless of his inner struggle, she went on, her voice bright and sweet, as though she were not currently reducing him to frustrated jelly with a few simple flicks of her wrist.
"I don't have herpes in any way, shape or form."
Normally, he would have congratulated her; right now, all he could do was gape at her and wonder why she felt he needed this information at all.
"And," she went on blithely, apparently blind to his devastating loss, "even if—God forbid—I did, my mouth doesn't have any open sores."
If her clever little fingers had bothered to stop caressing his cock at this point, he might have answered coherently; instead, he made a noise of general approval and canted his hips up to her touch, which seemed all the more pressing just then.
"So," she said at last, quirking her lips at him in that way that always signaled trouble, "don't you dare freak about what I'm going to do to you now."
And before Wes could open his mouth to ask her what the hell that meant, she easily demonstrated by pouting her lips, giving his panting mouth one last lick, and then demonstrating just how malleable her control was by letting said pair of lips migrate below.
Oh, this was not going to help him impress her with his steely self-control at all.
Neither did the fact that in the end, he lasted all of five minutes.
Mind you, it was a glorious five minutes—the sort he'd been half afraid he'd never again experience, the sort that had flooded him with madness and fire, with pleasure and desire, with a heat that grabbed him by the short-hairs and had him. It was the sort of five minutes that began with his hands wound rough around her flaming hair and ended with him desperately grappling with the sweat-slicked sheets on his bed because he knew he'd end up clawing at her if he didn't.
It was five minutes full of everything slick and solid and warm and wicked, five minutes that came and went with him almost roaring out his desire, five minutes of hopelessly mingled pain and pleasure, five minutes that were spent with her nails digging into his thighs as her tongue lapped with teasing tenderness at him, the light edges of her teeth undoing him even as her lips soothed him with electric kisses before trailing back down again, his own body pulsing and aching, his blood roaring and burning, everything building up to a raw and wonderful sort of friction as he trembled and curved and pressed him to skin once more, her mouth open and accepting, her body warm and curving, her eyes boldly meeting his own as she sucked—
Unfortunately, it was also a very amazing five minutes that came to an abrupt end right about when he did something he really shouldn't have done without any prior notice-
And so, it was right about the time when he was staring at her in the moment after, wondering if she'd slap him now for taking such liberties with what had to be one hell of a sore throat, that she surprised him even more by sitting up and cheekily smiling once more.
(He'd never met anyone who smiled so much before; he didn't know if he found it more charming or worrying. Maybe a little of both.)
"Well," she said easily, filling up the silence as though it were completely normal while primly patting her mouth with sopping fingers, "I guess that takes care of me being hungry."
He gave her as much of a speaking look as he could muster, given what had just happened; she shrugged at him, lips curling down into a pout he resolutely refused to consider adorable.
"What? It's not like you took the time to feed me previously!"
Feeling sheepish, Wes had to concede that she had a point there. And the fact that he'd just violated the sanctity of her—he was at loss for words—internal vestibules without even asking her beforehand only made him feel that much more like a heel.
But before he could begin begging for forgiveness again, his mystery woman sighed and looked at the wet hand she'd finished using so well on him.
"Also," she added, looking far less traumatized than Wes would have liked, "you should probably pass over some hand sanitizer. I think the human body and its contents thereof are as beautiful as the next person but I'm also feeling moist in ways I truly do not need."
Wordlessly—secretly afraid he'd break out into a falsetto if he tried to speak—Wes handed over the precious vessel, as well as a pack of heavy-duty tissue-paper, and watched her clean in silence.
She still didn't look traumatized, oddly. In fact, she looked downright serene as she continued wiping her hands down, her cheeks rosy and a smile flitting lightly across her dewy face.
Compared to her, Wes was sure he looked like the by-product of an all-night meth binge. He was spent, he was sweaty, he was sallow, he was disgusting, he had taken liberties with her fair person that he had no right to be taking—
Yet before Wes could continue beating himself over the head with his sins once again—a sport in which he deserved a goddamn gold medal—she leaned over and stopped him with a single kiss.
It was light; it was sweet; it sparkled delicately on the edge of his consciousness, in the border-land between his mouth and cheek.
It was the sort of gentle kiss that might have well bespoken the end to a lovely evening.
And it probably would have meant just that if he hadn't taken it as an opportunity to grab her at the moment and crush her to him, wrapping his arms around her small frame and bringing her to him to bury his face in her sweet-smelling hair.
He had never been much of a hugger, to be honest. He'd always been a little too finicky for constant human contact, save with the handful of people who knew him best. Travis often accused him of being too tight-assed for normal interactions and Alex had once wearily asked him why he always found it so hard to even fake respect, and Wes hadn't even had any response for them as to why that was, as to why he was this strange, constantly closed system.
This wasn't like him at all. Nothing in this entire night had been.
And maybe he could only do all of this with his mystery woman because she had no idea of the man he was normally, because she had no idea of what she was supposed to be expecting.
The strangest part was how he could not bring himself to regret that in the least.
"So I guess this means that you'll still respect me in the morning?" his mystery gal asked at last, face still pressed against his shoulder, sounding rather wonderfully breathless.
"Miss Scarlet," he managed to reply after catching his own breath, "I'll be sure to respect you day, noon, and night, anywhere you want and at any time. That's the least I can do consider how much I owe you."
And seeing how she remained rather adorably puzzled at that, Wes forced himself to go on, explaining although doing so made the idea of throwing himself out the window seem attractive once more.
"It's just… it's been a while and it ended so… quickly… and I didn't even warn you…"
And confounding him once again, she laughed brightly before she answered back.
"Are you kidding me?! Don't worry about that—any of that. God, I know basic human anatomy, and it's not like you were squirting battery acid or anything. And as for ending it quick—"
Wes wondered if it would be manly to plug his ears up just then. That look of confounded admiration she shot him now could bode no good.
"Blondie, you're practically twice my size and down below, you're… proportional. If you took any longer to come, I'm pretty sure I would have perforated a lung."
Horrified, Wes found himself staring at first her shining face, and then his own treacherous lower half.
He had never had to think of his penis as a weapon before and the thought frankly horrified him.
But before he could frantically start probing her for any internal injuries—which would be one hell of a capper on an otherwise enjoyable evening—she gently interrupted with another kiss: this time one on his lips, delicate and edged with a tenderness it felt he'd been missing for more than the year he'd already passed through.
"Didn't I tell you not to ruin this beautiful moment with any unfortunate words?" she said, smiling at him again, even as she leaned into him again, curling her own arms around his neck until they were pressed cheek-to-cheek. "Blondie, I'm fine and you're going to need to get better at following instructions if you're going to keep up with me."
Rather than argue back, he simply leaned forward and held her closer, burying his face once more against her, the both of them clinging to each other as though neither of them wanted ever again to leave the sanctuary of this room again.
As though they could just stay, cocooned in this place, safe from having to deal with any consequences.
Which was, of course, ridiculous. Sooner or later, the sun would come up and that would be that. There was no need to try and chain this woman to him out of simple desperation.
But that didn't mean he couldn't thank her properly before she went.
"I don't have a condom on me, unfortunately," he confessed after a few more minutes simply spent holding her, her body curled against his own gently, her weight completely supported by his. "I wouldn't suppose that you came more prepared…?"
He had to admit to being a bit pleased by the stricken look that came over her face at the realization, although he had to fight off his own stab of disappointment.
(Damn. So that was off the menu already.)
"Sorry," she said, her fingers tightening regretfully on his shoulders, her blunt nails lightly scoring the skin there. "I really wish I did but… well…"
"Still your first time at this particular rodeo?" he suggested, and couldn't help but feel a little smug.
She shrugged again, her cheeks turning scarlet once more, fully justifying the name he'd given her. "Not quite but close enough. Still think I'm some sort of saucy, scandalous seductress?"
His eyebrows promptly raised at that, and she went even pinker—all over. Wes watched with definite interest.
"Oh, hey! That—that did not count. That was just a warm-up! And besides…"
And here, she lifted her chin at a haughty angle and sniffed, even as the legs she'd tangled around his waist tightened promisingly around him, kindling his own ardor once more.
"We are not going any further without protection. I like you plenty but there's no way in hell I'm going to let you implant any tow-headed, germaphobic children in me. In fact, don't even bother trying—I'll castrate you and decoupage the aftermath, which would be one hell of a way to wind up a great evening."
Not sure whether to wince or blush, Wes answered back, his grip steady as his hands moved down the slope of her back with ease.
"I wouldn't do anything you didn't want me to, Miss Scarlet—believe me." Hell, he'd decoupage himself before he became the sort of man who made any woman do anything she didn't want to. That said… "You do realize," Wes added, in a tone of voice that had often led to drinks being thrown in his face by enraged women, "that you're a wee little pixie next to me, right? There is no reasonable way in which you could decoupage any part of me."
She reacted immediately, her nails coming down on his shoulders as high spots of color bloomed again on her cheeks, looking piqued and peeved and so completely adorable Wes wanted to just grab her again and kiss her for all the hours they had left remaining.
"Hey!" she said, her voice going high pitched in a way that failed to strike fear into Wes' heart. "That's sexism! And discrimination against the vertically challenged! You don't know what I can or can't do!"
He gave her a droll look and she sniffed again. "I'll have you know that I know kung-fu and karate and tai-kwon-do and…"
"Lots of other words that sound scary?"
She gave him a look that would have frozen water in the Sahara. "Please do not make me ruin this beautiful, tender moment by demonstrating my prowess on you."
He stared stonily at her. She stared defiantly back. It was so quiet, the clock beside his bed could be heard ticking.
He wasn't sure who started laughing first but at some point there was a flying tackle and they ended up sprawled in bed again, both of them giggling helplessly on top of the covers, his body colliding with hers and rolling over a few times until he was on his back and she lay atop of him once more, her brown eyes glimmering as they met his own again.
"You are so strange," she said, and bit her lip, letting one delicate hand reach out to caress the scruff of his hair, wander down to the line of his face, touching him with a gentleness he'd long missed. "But I don't mind at all."
If she had any idea who he really was and all the mistakes he'd made before, she surely wouldn't have said that. If she had any idea of all of the peccadilloes and obsessions and flaws he hid in plain sight before, she surely wouldn't be smiling at him the way she presently was. If she had any idea how deep his damage run, she'd run off screaming into the night and no one could possibly blame her either.
But to her, he was just a lonely stranger who she could smile at and touch without being afraid of, without having to worry for.
Her words meant more than she probably thought possible.
But he knew that if she knew, she'd withdraw as well.
"I'm glad," he said at last, his mouth wobbling up into a careful smile, even as his hand carefully wound its way through her soft cloud of hair. Against his white sheets, she was almond and auburn and glowing with exertion, so at ease with him it almost hurt. "It's… this night and you being with me… and everything that's happened… and everything that we're doing… I'm glad you don't mind any of it."
And all it was true. He was glad. And grateful. And all of these other things he didn't know he should be feeling with a woman he'd just met, a woman who was different in a thousand little ways from Alex, a woman who he might never see again after.
"I just," he said at last, as though to ground the moment, "feel like I'm okay at last."
Her warm smile didn't waver; her bright eyes didn't dim; she only changed the position of her hand. It migrated from caressing his neck to following a line down to his shoulder, down past his collar, until her fingers were entwined with his own.
Her hand were much smaller than his, much smaller than he was used to, much smaller than Alex's hand in his own had been. Truth to be told, their clasped fingers were a bit of an awkward fit. The cleaning had left her skin slightly tacky and he was still a sweaty mess.
And maybe it was the copious alcohol he'd consumed earlier or the misery that had paralyzed him previously, but Wes found he didn't even mind all of that. He just let his forehead rest against her own and smiled at her flustered laugh.
"Hey," she said at last, mouth turned up into that puckish smile he was coming to know so well, having had it pressed against him so often tonight. "No more making fun of me, no matter how thrilled you might be. I can't even get off tonight, so you might as well be kind."
Now it was his time to frown, looking at her with complete surprise. "Why wouldn't you get off tonight? I mean…" And suddenly, he felt self-conscious again, in a way he'd been hoping to escape in this moment. "I mean, unless you… don't want to… with me…"
Her face melted into an expression of sheer surprise. "Believe me! I do!" The legs she locked around his waist certainly surged, showing all evidence of enthusiasm. That was promising, at least. "But we don't have any protection and I'm not putting my ovaries in the literal line of fire so…"
"So…" and she trailed off, looking a little uncertain for the first time since her lips had first met his, her face wavering as her dark eyes met his in a flash of anxiety and dawning comprehension. "So… I mean… what else could we possibly…?"
Oh, she didn't think he would even bother, did she?
And so, without missing another beat, he gathered her up, smoothed out the covers, rolled them both over and pulled her nigh-weightless form beneath him for once.
She went down giggling and he decided that his challenge for the rest of the night would be to never give her laughter a reason to end.
She turned out to be ticklish, which helped a lot.
But he very nearly kept his word and when he resurfaced, she was still panting.
Hell, he had even been right when he had told her earlier that Blondie would be a hard name to scream by the time he'd make her thighs shudder over and over again.
And by the time Wes pulled away and found himself gazing on her blissful face, that was more than close enough to be pleased with his performance for the evening.
Afterward, after he'd finished exploring the heart of her—after he'd finished kissing the delicate lines of her collar-bone and the tender tips of her areolas, after he'd cupped the delicate delta between her legs and pressed slick fingers to the most vulnerable and aching part of her, after he'd swallowed her cries with his kisses and precisely mapped out the lines of her throat—they found themselves lying against one another, naked beneath the thin white covers, legs tangled and arms akimbo as they stared flushed and hapless and smiling stupidly at one another, neither of them sure of what to do anymore.
With Alex, there had been a routine afterward. He showered first, and she'd do so after, and sometimes they'd watch television together or talk about their day or even catch up on their paperwork. When it was time to go to bed again, she'd put on one of her old night-gowns while he'd slip back into a t-shirt and slacks, and they would go to sleep with their arms touching gently, needing nothing more than that to know that they were together.
With Alex, the aftermath had always been easy, simple, sensible. He hadn't even had to plan—it felt like something they did instinctively.
But right now, he had no idea what would happen to him, or the woman in his bed, or the day that would soon come rising up for them.
The night felt like it was at a close, but he wasn't sure he was ready for an end.
Which may have been why he finally turned to her at last and offered her his hand.
"Hi," he said, feeling oddly more like a lawyer than he had in the last few years, "I'm Wes. And now that we've been acquainted with each other's genitals, I'd like to know your name and also, to say thanks."
Alex would have been disappointed. Travis would have laughed. Dr. Ryan would have asked if this had anything to do with his fear of intimacy and his apparent mother complex.
The woman in his bed simply stared at him as though he had pinched off his own penis as per her earlier threat and was now offering her a variety of colorful craft supplies with which to decorate it.
And then she stuck out her own hand, grasped his in a firm handshake and said—in a voice that suggested this was by far the strangest pillow-talk she'd ever engaged in but she was willing to roll with it—"Hi. I'm Kendall. It's nice to meet you too. I enjoyed everything you did and tomorrow morning, I promise to still respect you."
Then, as her lovely, mobile mouth curved into another one of her sweet, secret smiles, she added: "I think this is possibly the weirdest conversation I have ever had."
"What?" he replied, propping himself on his elbow to look at her more closely in the sparse light. "You don't often have post-coital conversations where you finally get the name of your new partner?"
She made a face in turn, which made her look quite appallingly adorable. "Hey, is this some way of insinuating that I'm some sort of scarlet woman after all?" And then, with a slightly slyer tone: "Was I that impressive in bed?"
Well. He'd already insulted the poor woman—Kendall—a half-dozen times before and she'd still stuck it out with him. If she wanted some praise, by god, she'd get it. Some of it wouldn't even be much hyperbole, given how grateful he was that she was still with him.
"Incredibly so," he immediately insisted, doing his best to keep a straight face. "I'm in awe. You've now given me a set of completely unrealistic expectations."
"That can't be true at all," she returned, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. Ah, he'd have to do this with some verbal dexterity and even tact.
"Sure it is," he argued, hitting his stride as he went on. "Every time I go to the bar downstairs from now on, I'll be expecting a gorgeous red-head with a tongue like Dorothy Parker's to hit on me out of nowhere. Can you imagine how disappointed I'm going to be from now on when I do visit?"
"You're flattering me," she said, trying to sound stern, although the warmth in her eyes gave her away. "You lie and you trick and you deceive with impunity."
"No need to be so suspicious," he said, smoothly gliding into his thousand-dollar-a-day voice as though he'd never left the court-room. "I'm merely telling the truth."
"You're giving me a highly selective version thereof," she countered, and he had to fight back a smile at her playful belligerence. "And Mr. Wes, I just don't believe you."
"Well, picking the best version of the truth is something I paid over 100 grand to learn how to do it in law-school," he replied, and grinned when she looked startled. "So, Miss Kendall, please let me have this moment."
And when she began to laugh helplessly at his non sequitur, he had to laugh too, and somewhere in between all of that, he found himself wrapping his arms around her once more, bringing her ever closer.
Her hair was hopelessly tangled, auburn strands stuck to her flushed face and curling around his gentle fingers, almost achingly soft in his hands. Her mascara had run and her lipstick had long smeared over her face, its remnants leaving her teeth oddly pink.
Wes had thought she was down-right pretty when he had first seen her, with her neat dress and her careful make-up and her dark red hair falling down to her shoulders.
Right now, she looked a lot more like a sex-ravaged panda than any other thing.
But she wouldn't stop beaming and just then, she was beautiful to him.
And even as they gazed quietly at each other during this small, strange, quietly peaceful moment, Wes trailed his hand absently down the warm pane of her back and wondered what he ought to tell her.
He wanted to say: thank you for making me feel so wanted.
He wanted to say: you saved me tonight without even meaning to.
He wanted to say: I would really like to see you even after this.
But it wouldn't be fair to dump all of this on a stranger, simply because she was kind and funny and warm and trusting, because she had managed to temporarily push away dreams and nightmares of Alex from his mind, because she'd bought him some temporary relief to all the thoughts of never being good enough that he kept caged within him.
It hadn't been her fault that she'd found the single clingiest man in Los Angeles to have a one-night-stand with.
It wouldn't be fair to make someone else carry his burdens.
Instead, he found himself asking the one question he had no answer to.
"Why did you pick me out, downstairs?"
She startled a little under his hands, clearly not expecting a question so serious. "Pardon?"
"I just… I mean… why pick me?" And before she could make another joke, he wryly added: "And don't say because I was just too difficult to resist. It's LA and there are gorgeous people everywhere. You could have always chosen someone else."
She was quiet for a moment, her brown eyes wide in her thoughtful face. "You really want to know?" she finally said, her voice oddly pained but still gentle.
"I do," he said, after another moment of contemplation, his hand rising to stroke her hair again. "I just… want to know what drew you to me."
Because he didn't understand it himself, no matter how well he was slowly getting to know her, to know not just the feel of her hair or the scent of her skin, but what made her smile and what made her twitch and how well she rolled with his unwitting verbal jabs.
She could have done a hell of a lot better than him.
But the way she smiled at him now showed she hadn't even realized it yet.
"You just looked so unhappy," she said at last, the pain he had noticed in her eyes the first time she'd approached began flooding back. "You were sitting across from me, and you looked so unhappy, and I thought I'd rather hear you laugh instead."
Then she forced another smile, and the effort she made at holding back all the hurt in her eyes might have felled another man.
"I just saw you and I thought you were like me, and that you didn't deserve whatever had happened to you either. And I didn't want either of us to be sad."
She didn't cry just then; it might almost have been easier if she had. He knew enough about how to handle crying women through his line of work, and with tears, you could always offer tissues, offer a shoulder, offer apologies and consolations and whatever else was necessary. There was a script in that.
But there was no script now. There were no sure ways of acting. Only of looking down at her and trusting his instincts, just the way she now trusted him.
So instead of saying anything, he bent down and kissed the parted swell of her sweet lips once more, threading his hand across her hair and shoulders until she eased down again. And when her only response was to wrap one hand around his own frame and bury her face in his chest, Wes knew he had done what he needed to and sighed when he held her closer to him.
"Was that all it took?" he said at last, when her quiet shudders had died, and she raised those luminous brown eyes to his. His fingers touched her cheek, wiping away the slight dampness he found. Smiling gently, he added: "If gorgeous girls were going to chase me every time I looked mopey, I should have had a much better adolescence."
That shocked her into a laugh, though she looked as though she were afraid he would think less of her for being in pain. "It honestly was." And then, simply because she enjoyed his discomfort, she added: "Though I do admit that at least 40% of the decision also centered on your amazing booty."
Wes immediately did a double-take, which was damn uncomfortable whilst not trying to jostle a naked woman right next to him. Demon woman she was, she laughed.
"No," he declared, cheeks flaming all of a sudden. "No, it was not. You thought I was unhappy and you wanted to soothe my pain and I wanted to do the same and it was all very romantic and none of it had to do with my… with my… with my rear…"
"Oh yes it did," she argued back. "I mean, it wasn't the only reason I was looking but it was most definitely a factor in my decision. At least 30%. It's just so sexy… so high and smooth and full and curvy… and the way you kept wiggling it on your stool was simply…"
He stared at her, appalled.
She stared back, unrepentant.
And then, for good measure, she groped his apparently irresistible ass.
Wes yelped and then, purely for retaliatory purposes, ended up groping back.
And any other words they might have said for the night ended up dissolved after they both realized the night was still relatively young and there was still time to take advantage of being fully naked at last.
Sometime later, at what was very nearly a criminally late hour, Wes found himself propped on his elbow, staring silently at her as she slept nearby and wondering what he'd done yet again.
He'd never thought of himself as the kind of man who would ever indulge in a one-night-stand. Even aside from Alex, whose specter still loomed over the horizon of his life, he had always valued loyalty and friendship and commitment, had never wanted to be careless of other people, and had never wanted to throw anyone away once he was done with them.
He had had it happen too many times to him to become that sort of person.
And even now that this night had turned out to be something much better than the unmitigated disaster he'd been afraid of while somewhat sober, he still didn't want to be that man.
Especially not when it came to the woman in his bed.
She looked sweet as she slept, younger even than before and peaceful in a way that had eluded her previously, calm and restful as she had never quite been. In fact, it was only now when he saw her fully sleeping that he realized how much nervous energy there had been in her previously—a nervous energy she had only partially covered with smiles and wise-cracks, a sort of strange fragility she would probably never admit to and that came out only gradually, a kind of rawness he knew so well himself.
Tonight, she had needed him, just as much—if not more—than he had needed her company.
In the end, maybe that was the change in his life that he needed.
So even as Wes disentangled himself from her slumbering form to sneak out for a quick shower and a brush of his teeth—there were some rituals he couldn't stay away from, apparently—he found himself frowning thoughtfully.
He still didn't want to be a man who did one-night-stands. But this wouldn't really count as one if he took her out to dinner and a movie and whatever else she might want to do, would it? It would be a normal date—one that went ass-backwards, admittedly, but one that also meant he wouldn't just abandon her if she still wanted—needed—him.
If nothing else, given how many messes she'd swallowed tonight, he owed her at least three separate meals for compensation.
(And obviously, the possibility of gaining more saucy sexual favors from her wasn't at all a factor in his newfound decision.)
(Mostly, he just wanted to be sure that no one would ever say that Detective Wes Mitchell of the LAPD didn't pay back his favors.)
By the time he went back to bed, freshly showered and ready for rest, he curled up next to his mystery woman—Kendall—again and thought of the future with a little more hope for the first time in quite a while, feeling certain and decided at last.
When he woke up the next morning to raw daylight, she was gone.
All she left behind was the scent of her hair on his pillows and a small note on his desk.
It said: I lied. It was only 20% ass. The rest was all due to your smile. Sleep tight, Blondie. I don't want to bother you anymore but I still want to say thanks.
And when Wes ended up crumpling the paper in his hand, he knew he had screwed up once again.
Cinderella had fled and he had blown it by not asking her to stay while she had still been with him.
And he had absolutely no one else to blame but himself for missed chances.
Oh, I do hope you enjoyed this chapter! It was kind of wrenchingly hard to write, weirdly enough, and I had to keep writing and rewriting and then moaning over, and then writing over all the sexy bits... but I do hope you enjoyed the chapter nonetheless. And if you love Wes and Kendall together, might I recommend the amazing new fic community for them that the lovely RosesAreForWriters has started on this site? We're up to a brand total of 4 fic for our sweet little ship and you should most definitely check them all out.
Reviews and comments are always appreciate- I answer every one and I love talking to my readers to cull good ideas from them! I would really, really love it if my readers could tell me what they're interested in reading about in the next chapter. At first, I thought of simply jumping into Kendall's POV to show why she did what she just did... but now, I'm toying with taking on Travis' POV (!) and showing Wes' somewhat bipolar reactions in the morning after.
What do you think? Which would you prefer? I'm taking a few weeks hiatus from this fic to work on some one-shots (I have an adorable Wes/Kendall I'm working on from an RP session with the amazing Lady Shaye and a few Wes and Travis friendship fics as well) so I'd love to get some feedback about what seems better!
Chapter 6: Travis I: Common Cure for the Broken Heart
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
In retrospect, Travis knew, the fact that the day started out so well should have been a major clue as to the drama that would soon come along.
In the end, what really should have tipped Travis off was the donut.
It was quite a delicious donut—chocolate coated and still toasty hot, grabbed out of the box the hottie he'd slipped the ol' baloney pony to last night had thoughtfully left behind before she'd upped and sauntered off. Travis had already eaten three of its mates already before he'd grabbed it and jogged over to Wes' car when his partner had come to pick him up for work, figuring he'd maybe get at least a few more bites before Buttercup bitched him out and made him dump it out. And when that hadn't immediately happened—when, heavens of heavens, Wes had actually remained silent- Travis had happily kept on chewing and swallowing and maybe even slightly drooling over leather upholstery that Wes had spent an ungodly amount of money on since he had nothing else going on in his life.
Hell, Wes had been so quiet at first that Travis—lost in thoughts of the smoking hot red-head that might well have left marks on his sore behind—had barely even realized what terrible liberties he had been taking in his partner's car. In fact, it was only after Travis had finished his donut and began noisily licking the last of the chocolate frosting off his fingers—a move that usually made Wes shriek like a little girl and claim his car was now being unspeakably defiled—that Travis realized that Wes hadn't even said a word so far.
Which… just wasn't normal at all. At all.
After all, Wes might be a lot of things—anal-retentive, tight-assed, an enemy of normal joy and spontaneity, someone who had a stick shoved so far up his ass it was probably tickling his nose-hairs right now—but he was certainly never shy about speaking his mind. When he thought something, he came right out and said it, normal tact or manners be damned—and while it had made him a top-notch lawyer and a damn good cop, it didn't exactly endear him to many, even his partner of 7 years.
Travis was pretty sure that, short of a nuclear apocalypse, Wes would shoot his smart mouth off about what-so-ever he pleased. Which made this current silence in the face of Travis smearing chocolate all over his beloved car all the more freaky.
Slowly, very slowly, Travis turned his head toward his partner, in case Wes was having a nervous breakdown or just storing up all his bile for a surprise attack or something. (Not that Wes wasn't the sort to vent immediately but—well, he was one high strung mutha and you never knew what Tighty Whitey might be hiding. Travis hadn't even known Wes had been divorced until months after the fact, for real.) And then—just as slowly, just as cautiously, trying not to set Buttercup off lest he come chomping—Travis asked:
"Hey, man. How ya doing?"
Wes said nothing, not even bothering to snap his usual rejoinder about how he was at least experiencing good reproductive health, unlike some in the present company. And that, strangely enough, was what tipped Travis about what his partner's problem might be.
The thing with Wes was that he was about as neat as Travis was messy. (And since Travis had woken up today in a bed circled by greasy take-out cartons, half-crushed beer-bottles, a ping pong paddle he'd put to good use last night, and a pair of ladies' underwear he was thinking about enshrining in a homage to one of the best lays he'd ever had, that was saying something.) Wes was about as dependable as clock-work and about as easy to deter as a wave of lava coming forward. If there was nothing else Travis could count on in his life, he could always count on Wes coming to pick him up for work at 8 AM sharp, while carrying in two cups of black coffee that never had enough sugar and wearing a dark suit and matching shirt that Travis suspected transformed into a sleeping pod at night.
Wes might secretly be a complete crazy person but at the very least, he never looked it. He always looked sleek and smug and pompous and professional, the very image of a hot-shot cop who knew exactly what the world owed him and was sure of getting it.
He'd never before had pasty-pale skin or blood-shot eyes or a general expression on his pinched and miserable face that suggested he was thiiiis close to vomiting everything he'd taken in since his mother's milk.
But then, he'd never come to work hung-over and probably still half-wasted before.
Needless to say, it was… quite a sight.
Travis' mouth opened. Then closed. And then opened again for good measure. But before he could say some damn fool thing that could start a fight—like: hey, someone seems to have had a good night!—an inner voice that sounded terrifyingly like Dr. Ryan's came to mind.
Travis, it purred sweetly, in that scrotum-tugging accent of hers that always made him want to melt. Travis, you're going to need to be sensitive here. Clearly, your partner seems to be going through some life changes you should be supportive of. Do it for me, Travis. Do it for my luscious bosom, baby!
(Okay, maybe that last part was a bit different from what the actual Dr. Ryan would say. But let a man have his dreams!)
So instead of pointing and snickering immediately, Travis took a deep-breath and tried to think soothing thoughts about Dr. Ryan's cleavage before he began speaking. And what came out of all of that was:
"Hey! Guess who had a damn good time last night!"
Wes had been a rather fetching shade of white-green before; it turned into purple abruptly. Travis valiantly tried to consider it a good sign. "Let me guess… was it your genitals? Travis, when you finally expire of syphilis, absolutely no one will be surprised."
Travis made a face; so much for being supportive. Still—Wes was talking, even if he was being a little bitch about it. That was a good thing, right?
Shrugging it off, Travis went on. "Well, the rest of me didn't do so bad either. You shoulda seen the chica I picked up last night. She had moves like woah, man. And her thighs…"
Wes made a noise and abruptly went back to his native greenish tint. "No. No no no. Spare me the details. I don't care what you stick your prick inside, short of a combine."
"I'm surprised you even care that much," Travis muttered.
"Only because you'll take it as an opportunity to loaf off and make me do all the paper-work," Wes replied, voice drier than the Gobi desert. "Also, don't eat inside my car again, Travis. You'll attract ants and I already have enough pests inside."
Travis had to snort at that, if only to hide his relief. Weird as it was, having Wes upset at him as was usual was a hell of a lot more comfortable than having Wes go creepily, disturbingly silent. And in the hopes of encouraging more talk—and, let's face it, finding out what bug had crawled up Buttercup's behind this time—Travis went on needling.
"You really sure you don't wanna know more, baby? After all, smoking hot red-heads with mouths like a hoover on steroids don't come along every night!"
It was as though Travis had somehow switched a flip that sent an electric current up the rod shooting through his partner's posterior. Man practically jumped upright. And then—in a tight little voice that swore ugly vengeance if Travis made too much of this—Wes spoke once more.
"…Is that right?"
Travis' mouth opened, closed, and then opened once more.
Because—yeah. That was right. And Wes had never, ever, ever shown that much curiosity in anything Travis got up to in his bedroom, ever—at least before last night.
It wasn't just that Travis was talking about a gorgeous woman with morals that were even looser than her panties had been—shit, for all of Wes' monk-like rectitude since Alex had left his ass in the bin, it wasn't like he hadn't had his fair share of exposure to pretty, available women. Hell, they lived in freaking Los Angeles—where every other woman was a part-time model or actress or fitness guru or something—and they'd trolled through their fair share of cabarets and titty bars and other less-and-respectable establishments that show-cased some remarkably unclothed ladies.
And even if Wes acted like the sight of bare breasts was some sort of insult to his eyes—even though Travis had seen him discreetly looking plenty of times, the hypocrite—it wasn't as though more professional women wouldn't be interested, if Wes just tried. He was a good looking guy and you couldn't even tell he was basically insane for a while and there was no reason he couldn't go out and date as much as he wanted to except for the fact that he treated the whole idea as though it were pissing on Alex's grave or something, though she'd already moved on with her life.
(And this, of course, was why Travis never depended on the fickle whims of women. When his red-head had sauntered away, he'd just shrugged and smiled. They couldn't leave you if you wanted to be left… right?)
It was all pretty weird and creepy and maybe even a little sad and scary and Travis tried not to think about it too often because it honestly made him feel kinda… bad. And it was a lot easier to deal with Wes' bitching and whining when he didn't have to feel actual pity for the guy.
So for Wes to at last look interested in something about a woman who wasn't Alex was—surprising, to say the least. Leaning back into his seat, Travis thought hard about what to say before finally replying.
"Yeah," Travis said at last, smiling a bit. "Yeah, all right."
Then, airily, casually, as though it seriously wasn't strange in the least, Travis went on, voice going warm and jokey, as though he were telling the story to one of his brothers as they cheered him on for having a damn good time.
(And really, what was Wes if not the uptight white brother that Travis had never had before? If he could just think of it like that, this really wasn't a big deal.)
(Right? Yeah, this was just some manly bonding here. Riiiiiiight.)
"Met her at a bar and let me tell you—she was the one who came up to me. Smoking hot number, with red hair down to there and a phattie in the back like she'd been smuggling bubble-rap." At Wes' look of disgust, Travis just shrugged. "Dude, I'm black and I like my chicks stacked in the back. Let me have my thing!"
And then, rolling on as though he'd never been interrupted: "Brought her a few drinks and got her name and then brought her back home with me. Picked up some take-out and beer and condoms and lube on the way back and…" Here, Travis stopped to wriggle his eyebrows as Wes looked on with what seemed to be fascinated horror. "Lemme tell you, that slow-heating KY stuff? It really works! Kinda reminded me of that one time I got the clap, actually."
"Okay," Wes said faintly at that. "I take it all back. I just want to pull over so you can shoot me in the head and I can forget that entire mental picture."
Since there was few things in life finer than aggravating Wes, Travis went on happily. "Yeah, she was totally awesome. We ended up screwing on the couch and then playing MarioKart before she topped me 'cuz she won. Daaaaaaamn. Homegirl was like a Valkyrie in the sack. Clawing and biting and climbing me like I was a damn tree. Thought I heard the fat lady singing and everything!"
Wes gave him another faint, queasy look. "Do not go into details. Do not, I tell you. I swear to god, Travis, I will vomit on you if you do."
With a satisfied smirk—he knew damn well Tighty Whitey would never on clean leather!—Travis leaned back. "Whatever, man. I had me a good time. She even left me donuts before she ran out at the crack o' dawn. So I got breakfast and got laid last night. What does that tell you?"
After having Wes snap back to his usual snarking mode, Travis had thought his partner would follow up with another quip, like: You're not nearly as good as you think and she left the donuts because she thought you were a helpless indigent?
That was the way they worked normally, after all. Nothing touchy-feely, nothing girly-twirly, nothing that violated the bro code no matter how often they got shoved into couple's therapy. They were two dudes with two dude jobs and they didn't talk about lovey shit, no matter how often they had to talk about their freaking feelings. And that was fine, because as bad as they got, Travis figured that if they hadn't shot each other yet, they wouldn't get around to doing it now, and if they were cool, everything else around them was too.
But from the look slowly blossoming on Wes' face right now, Travis had a feeling he was dead wrong about that.
And god help him, Travis had no idea what to do to go back to what was normal either.
Wes simply said, voice very smooth and detached and cool: "So she just left without even saying goodbye to you?"
Shrinking back into his seat, Travis frowned. "Yeah, uhm, well… that happens. Sure, that's what some chicks do."
"Some chicks?" Wes still replied, his voice cold and controlled, as precise as it became when he interrogated a suspect. "What sort, might I ask?"
Feeling oddly helpless once again, Travis ended up shrugging, trying to look non-chalant. "The kind that are there for a fun time, I guess. Or the ones that just don't want you."
There was a long silence for a while after that.
It wasn't a calm, clean, controlled silence—not the kind of silence that happened on as stake-outs that happened on late nights, one of them keeping count while the other relaxed a bit, after they'd passed forth bull-shit front and back and were ready to dig into an easy, comfortable silence. And it wasn't the calm, warm silence that came after a shoot-out either, that came after the giddiness of being shot at and yet still in one piece had came and went, when they went out for burgers while Wes whined and bitched about having to get his suit dry-cleaned and pressed, and Travis congratulated himself on having superior taste in clothes and also, not really giving much of a shit.
It was just a long, cold, terrible kind of silence—kind of like the silences that had taken Wes over once Alex had finally left him, the kind of silence that had made him too proud to let him say a word no matter what happened to him, the kind that made him too proud to even let Travis help him move, as Wes had shifted boxes of clothes and wedding albums and little more up to that depressing-ass hotel room where he sat alone and drank alone and wouldn't let anyone in.
It was the kind of silence had filled their car and office and partnership for nearly the whole year after Alex had left and Pac-Man had died, the kind of silence that crawled under Travis' skin and made him pick nasty fights just to get that stoic son of a bitch he was with to talk, to listen, to be alive.
Right now, Wes reminded Travis all too much of those times—with his blood-shot eyes fixed on the road ahead so they didn't meet in the least, with that hitched breath that probably smelled of the expensive liquor he indulged in only when he couldn't do otherwise, with that look on his face that showed so clearly that he was trying to look completely in control when he was knocked off-kilter inside.
It was all too familiar and Travis wished he could—he wished he could just shoot whatever had caused this, whatever problem had made Wes go back to the way he'd once been, whatever had resurrected exactly that Travis had been hoping was dead and buried and wouldn't ever come back to haunt either of them.
But Travis knew it had been buried inside Wes all along and it had to come out sometime.
(God help them both. It was just—Christ!)
But before Travis could open his mouth again and have some sort of talk about—urgh—their feelings, Wes interrupted with his own words and made Travis decide that maybe even horrible silence hadn't been so bad after all.
"And what does it mean," Wes said at last, voice strangely distant, "if they make you think that they like you, they really like you, and they still leave in the end? What does it mean if they leave a pretty little note on your desk but give you no way to contact them? What does it mean if you did everything you could think of to make them stay and they still go away after that?"
Six months in therapy and Travis still had no idea what to say when Wes got this upset. Somehow, he had the feeling that Dr. Ryan would not be pleased with the either of them.
Finally, Travis managed to say: "Hey man… you okay?"
"I haven't been all right for a very long time," Wes quietly replied.
That sounded about right, to be brutally honest. But Travis knew he couldn't say that.
Instead, Travis looked ahead carefully, pretending he didn't see the wavering line of Wes' mouth or the way his white-knuckled hands were gripping the steering-wheel. He could do that much for his partner, anyway—could at least respect him as a man.
Still, out of morbid curiosity, Travis found himself asking: "What did her note say?"
(And it had to be a her—with Wes, it almost always ended up being a her. And though it was almost surreal to think of Wes moving on in any way, shape, or form from Alex—well, somehow Buttercup had apparently gotten laid last night. And normally, Travis would have congratulated him, only—well, now did not seem like the time.)
Dryly, Wes replied. "Thanks for the orgasms and warm memories. Ta-ta and I dearly hope you weren't looking forward to my continued company."
It was enough to make even Travis, master of the zipless fuck, wince. Well, he wouldn't have minded the note—would have thought it was kinda cute, to be honest. But knowing how much Wes tended to obsess and how long it had taken him to move on and put himself out there after years of being attached to the hip to a wife who'd long since dumped him…
Damn. Trust Wes to be the one man who'd angst over getting laid at last and ending his dry-streak. Wincing, Travis tried to at least point out the positives. "Well… at least she sounded like she had a good time. You must have done something good to make her that happy!"
Wes just snorted. "Sure. So maybe I didn't physically hurt or take advantage of some sweet college kid who barely knew where her clit was located." And before Travis could shit a litter of kittens at the thought of Wes saying something like that, he went on. "It still doesn't mean I'm good enough to stick around with for even one more night. But then, nobody really likes spending time with me anyway, right?"
This time, Travis knew enough to brace himself—not that it did any good either. You might as well try to persuade a volcano to hold its eruption on the inside. And somewhat spitefully, Travis decided that he was going to blame this all on bloody couple's therapy and goddamn Dr. Ryan, scorching though she might undeniably be. If she hadn't spent the past 24 weeks talking about the importance of open communication between partners, Wes would have simply shoved his feelings up his stoic ass, like always, and repressed them until their next gun-fight. Say what you will about the man—he could directly weaponize spite damn effectively.
But now he was talking, his words as cold and crisp and merciless as they would have been in a court-room, and there was nothing much Travis could do but listen helplessly.
"I mean, nobody likes me much, that's clear. You don't like me much, even though we've been partners for seven years—you only put up with me because I help you keep your job and your neck attached to the rest of your body. The chief doesn't like me—he tolerates me because I can seal the deal for his toughest cases and because I do what he wants with fucking therapy. But it's not like he's crazy about having me in his life, considering all the shit I bring down on the department continually. Dr. Ryan and the group don't like me—they think I'm an asshole and they think laughing at me is entertaining but when they go home at night, I know they don't ever bother to think of me. Most of the station doesn't like me because I'm better than them and I'm not afraid to let them know it. Hell, I'm amazed they haven't burned me in effigy yet, given how childish they can be. And Alex—Jesus, Alex—Alex, she—"
Wes' voice cracked at that, cracked right in half, cracked as though he'd been holding in much too much and the time had come where the holes in his armor had gotten much too big for him to keep on patching. And all Travis could do was sink into his seat with a terrible mix of embarrassment and pity and fear and worry, not sure what to do, not sure if there were anything worth doing.
Travis was always the one who ended up comforting people in crime-scenes; Wes had the about the same nurturing skills of a black widow spider and so, it was always up to Travis to soothe family members, calm them down, reassure them that he'd find the killer eventually. And he was good at that kind of thing too—damn good. Give him a stranger to sling his arm around and he could make them feel better stupid easily.
But right now, it was just him and Wes—and Travis had no damn idea what to do, no idea what to say, no idea what he could do without Wes tearing his head off right now for making his partner feel small and weak.
If there was one thing that Wes Mitchell couldn't stand—and after so many years together, Travis knew this all too well—it was pity. And given how sad Wes could make everyone around him, that might just be why he had always found it so hard to open up to others—even his partner of 7 years.
So Travis waited until Wes pulled himself back together, just a little bit. Waited until his hands stopped gripped. Waited until his shoulders stopped shaking. Waited until that awful waver in his voice was over already.
And it was only when all that was finally over—or at least gone for the moment—that Travis let himself speak.
"Alex?" he asked, quietly.
Wes laughed, soft and terrible.
"What about her, Travis? You got something to say, you should say it already. Isn't that what we learned in goddamn couple's therapy?"
Slowly, Travis went on. "You were saying that she…?"
Wes laughed again. It didn't sound any better this time.
"She left me a year ago. She's never coming back. And who can blame her? Even a complete stranger knows better than to start anything with me."
Wincing, Travis finally had to talk—the quiet misery in Wes' usually smug, smooth voice was too much to bear without trying—something. "Hey! You don't know that. One one-nighter that flew the coop don't mean anything, man. I have that happen to me all the time!"
As though to show that one good turn definitely didn't mean another, Wes' reply was as cold as his arctic blue eyes.
"And that's why you're nearly 40 and all alone, with absolutely no prospects in sight. You think I want to end up like you eventually?"
Fuck. That stung. Asshole didn't have to get so snotty when Travis had been trying to help him, hopeless case though he might be.
And it would have been easy, just now, to strike back—to hurt Wes at his lowest, to dig into his weak points, to leave marks on his mind that might never, ever heal. It was easy to see how much the thought of being alone hurt Wes, and to use it against him, to tell him there was a reason he had pretty much no friends besides Travis himself and why the woman he'd loved for half his life had left him already.
It would be so, so easy to hurt Wes now—to finish the job that had already been started long before Wes had gone through whatever happened last night, to finish a process that had started long before with Alex, with police academy, with being shot and dumped and rejected and ignored and disliked by practically everybody.
It would have been so easy.
Travis looked straight ahead, blinking hard until his eyes were clear again. And then he said, very firmly: "Cool it, man, all right?"
There was another long silence.
Then Wes said, quietly: "Alright."
He didn't say sorry.
He didn't need to.
Travis took a deep breath and then smiled.
Then he said: "Hey, I never tried to get me a steady girl. Don't want to either." And then, grinning, he added: "Women are way too scary for me to involved with permanently. They act all sweet but trust me, man— they're all harpies inside!"
And he'd been hoping Wes would say: so that's why you're trying to get six inches deep inside them all the time? And Wes would bitch about Travis having no taste and Travis would bitch about Wes having no life and the rhythm would go back to the comfortable zone it had been before, and it would be fine—just fine.
He didn't want to feel upset for Wes—he didn't.
He didn't want to feel that way when there was nothing Travis could do for Wes—nothing he could do to begin filling that ugly, awful hole his partner had inside.
But instead of saying anything, Wes simply went silent—again, for that long and terrible time.
And when he spoke again, Travis could practically hear Wes' heart breaking in his chest.
"Then why," Wes whispered, as Travis closed his eyes, "can't I keep even a single one of them in my life?"
Travis had nothing to say. After a while, Wes turned the radio on to fill the silence. They rode on without saying another word, knowing they'd never speak about this again, ever, no matter how much Dr. Ryan might ask or what tricks she might try.
Over the air-waves, Nina Simone swore she was just a soul whose intentions were good and asked not to be misunderstood. Wes turned the volume up and sighed.
It was better at the station, at least, if only because there were too many people around to talk about that kind of stuff anymore and they both had to have their game-faces on ready. It had been tough ever since the run-in with SIS and Wes almost shooting Travis' damn face off and then getting sent to fucking couple's therapy. It was hard enough to earn respect as a black cop who'd been to Juvie without being harassed every which way by jokes about how he and Tighty-Whitey were still in marriage counseling, and how was their sex life, were they cuddling in bed already?
Assholes. Like he and Wes didn't do better work than most of these sorry bastards put together, for real. But when you flashed any blood, sharks always came at you—and so, you had to do what you had to do. And if it mean smiling and winking every time someone made another bad joke about who was the husband and who was the wife when you'd rather throw them through an open window? Shit, that was life, seriously.
(Which was another thing that Wes didn't realize, given that the man was borderline socially retarded. Sometimes you just had to eat shit to get along. It didn't make Travis any happier than his partner but… hey. You had to do what you had to do and at least Travis had actual friends in the departments. Wes was pretty much only cool with the chief and the coroner—and she didn't even count, considering she mostly just like needling Travis with her so-called 'friendship'. Sad, really.)
So at work, he and Wes always had to look cool, like they had balls big enough to play hacky-sack with attached to their bodies. (Not that Wes' desire to eat rabbit food or get pissy about people using up his precious hand sanitizer helped. Man was like Gollum with freaking disinfectants, seriously.) And if nothing else, that meant that even Wes wasn't allowed to keep brooding openly about how forever alone he'd always be because two women had left him in the space of a single year.
Maybe it wasn't the most sympathetic reaction in the world but Travis had to admit to feeling a hell of a lot of relief.
So life went on and they settled down into work and Travis suppressed the tiny ball of worry that had been building inside of him for later. After all, there was no use worrying about this problem right now when Travis always did have a knack for pulling things out of his ass later—though he knew he had to credit Wes for helping him keep it intact and bullet-free.
(He really did owe that sorry bastard a lot, didn't he? Jesus but Travis wished he had some way to make him stop moping already.)
So time went on as they settled in their routine, Wes doing all the paper-work while Travis harassed him endlessly. And so it was about noon, when Wes had wandered off to lunch or gone to review case-files or ducked into the bathroom or something, when Travis first saw the note that would up-end their lives completely.
It was small, stuffed into a plain-white envelope, and had apparently fallen between their two desks to the floor, having slipped between the cracks or something. Travis had been too busy harassing Wes about work and Wes had been too busy actually doing work for them to notice before—and even as Travis picked it up, he wondered how long the thing had actually been there, if it had been hidden for all of the morning.
And when Travis turned the envelop over and saw Detective Mitchell discreetly written on the front in careful, girlish letters, Travis could practically feel both his Detective and Dame-Hunting skills a-tingling.
Since when did Wes ever have women writing him hand-written notes, after all?
And since when did that happen right after he finally got laid, however scarring the experience might have seemed?
And so, after stealthily looking around and seeing no sign of a morose blond head anywhere, Travis opened the note cautiously, as though half afraid it might be hiding a ticking time bomb within the pretty, floral-patterned stationary.
And in a way, it did. For it said—in the same careful, girlish handwriting that had been on the envelop—the following.
Blondie, we need to meet—badly. Please come to Lab 103 ASAP. I've got one hell of a surprise waiting.
It was signed: Miss Scarlet. She'd put a little heart beneath it, with a duck's butt on top that was probably meant to stand-in for Wes' stupid hair. Kind of cute, really—even if it made Travis suspect she was more than a little on the young side.
Still—Lab 103? That was the main computer hub, the place where all the mouth-breathing internet geeks hung out, being all pasty-pale and creepy. Which meant—holy shit, had Wes seriously screwed one of those freaky web-crawlers the other night? Did his, like, loins now smell like Cheetos and Mountain Dew? Had he been fatally misled by beer goggles?!
Jesus—no wonder Wes had been so pissed this morning!
Still in a mild state of shock, Travis made another attempt to look for his partner around the central hub of the room. But nothing—absolutely nothing. No spiky blond head in sight.
And that was when he found and then opened the note on Wes' desk, feeling rather horribly sure that two notes in such close quarters meant that terrible things were already happening.
And given how good Travis' intuition usually was, it was no surprise that he'd gotten the timing of the collision down perfectly.
Wes' note said: Left to go meet our new computer lab tech. She'll be working almost exclusively on our cases for the foreseeable future. Come to Lab 103 when you're ready.
Travis' jaw dropped so hard, he could probably have satisfied an entire armada of randy red-heads then and there. And then, with a curse, he was off and running to Lab 103. He knew he needed not to miss even a single minute of action there—especially if he ended up having to pull his enraged partner off some poor girl who had no idea how deep the crazy went in Blondie.
But of course, when Travis finally ran into the fateful lab 103, what he found was nowhere near what he had been expecting.
For one, there was the girl.
And then there was Wes, staring at her as though she were someone long dead who'd just been resurrected into his life.
And when Travis finally had a chance to actual see her in person, he had to stifle an urge to whistle.
Damn. Wes had done all right.
She looked like she was all of twenty, Wes' girl—young and pretty and slight. She was practically palm-sized as she stood before them in fact, her dark red hair piled atop her head, her delicate face flushed but determined, her chocolate-brown eyes large and bright.
Given that Travis had been kinda afraid that Wes' tragic beer goggles might have led him to bed some pimply gargoyle, seeing what looked more to be Thumbelina in a lab-coat was a more than welcome sight.
(Mind you, she was still way too scrawny for Travis' taste. He liked 'em stacked front and back and her itty-bitties couldn't be more than a mouthful, seriously. But hey, one man's flattie was another man's phattie! And Travis wasn't about to question Wes' white-boy ways.)
In any case, she was clearly more than enough to make Wes stare dead-shocked at her, like he'd just been electrocuted up the ass once more and had no idea what she was actually trying to say.
But Travis had been more than paying attention. And it was more than enough to make his jaw drop one last time for the day.
"I'm Kendall Smith," she declared, oddly defiant for what was supposed to be a simple introduction, her doe-brown eyes fixed on Wes. "And I'll be your new computer data and tech analyst, assigned to the both of you exclusively. We'll be working closely together for the foreseeable future, with me acting as the third member of your team."
Wes continued to silently stare at her, as though he were psychically trying to tear a hole into her skull and find out what was going on inside. She lifted a chin that trembled slightly and continued on, braver than most would be.
"I'm yours and yours alone," she said at last, and a small smile finally stole upon her as though she'd happened on a private joke. "You two think you can handle me?"
And when Wes' silent stare slowly became a calm, measured, icy-cold glare, Travis watched the sweet smile melt off her face and knew the poor kid had one hell of a rough time coming.
Reviews, comments, and questions are always greatly appreciated! (And please do review if you like and read this story-- I never get any reviews on this site and it makes me sad, really.) Next chapter is going to be murder to write, especially with Wes pulling off his little hissy-fit with a completely blind-sided Kendall. I'm pretty sure I'll switch over to Kendall's POV for the next part but I'm not sure if I should have some Travis & Kendall dialog or skip right over to more Wes/Kendall shenanigans. What do you think? Any advice is much appreciated!
Chapter 7: Kendall III: Night and Day
Author's Note: This may the last of my regular updates for a while, sadly. Since going back to teaching, my time has been vastly truncated and though I'll try to update on a weekly basis, I can't promise anything. But in any case, I hope everyone enjoys this chapter- it was a bitch and a half to write but I think it turned out pretty decent. And much love, by the way, goes out to Asphaltcowgrrl, Rose, Beth, Lady Shaye,and Mascha for putting up with my endless, endless whining about this chapter. It couldn't have been written without the help of all of these fab ladies, who are about the best betas and sounding boards imagine. Kudos to you lovelies.
And thank you for all my readers, including Raven, Pumpernickle, CS, Anne, Jagged, and all my guests- I would not write were it not for the feedback. Thank you for being so supportive continuously!
When Kendall Smith groggily struggled toward consciousness on the morning on August 5th, she started the day with the queer conviction that her genitilia had been rearranged since the last time she'd been awake.
It was the oddest feeling—as though everything delicate between her thighs had been shifted and tugged out of place—and while it wasn't painful per se, it certainly felt as though muscles that hadn't been exercised for months before had just gone on their version of a triathlon. Miscellaneous things burned and ached. It was simultaneously sore and satisfying, which Kendall's mind could not quite fully understand.
She also appeared to be imprisoned by a fleshy straight-jacket, which only confused her further No matter how hard she struggled, she couldn't even move her arms and legs—or at least, she couldn't move much before some strange force grabbed at her and rearranged her back into her old place. At some point, Kendall's groggy mind concluded that someone had either cast a level III spell of paralysis on her or—given what appeared to be slender tree trunks wrapped around her arms and legs and pressed against her head, spine and neck—she was trapped in tentacle hentai.
Suddenly desperate that it wasn't the last option, Kendall warily cracked one eye open and at first, saw nothing but the dark red of the comforters she was lying naked atop of.
Hmm. Interesting. She distinctly remembered buying bright, robin's egg blue covers for her new apartment. And she also tended not to drift about her quarters as naked as the day she'd slid out of her mother either. Ergo, she was most definitely not waking up at her own place.
That brilliant deduction completed, Sherlock Smith continued to dazedly look around her, trying her best to figure out what had occurred through the veil of alcohol that still hung about her puffy, post-hang-over face.
Then she noticed the slumbering gentleman next to her, who was golden of hair and tan of skin and possessed a gloriously curvy bottom that some corner of her panicking mind was still able to lovingly admire…
…Even as his powerful arms and legs were wrapped around her and his front pressed snuggly against the curve of her own rear…
…All while displaying strong evidence that even when the man in question was unconscious, he was still excited by her presence…
And that was about when Kendall opened her mouth and began to shriek as though she were trying to wake the dead.
Or at least, that was what would have happened had the events of the previous evening not taken one hell of a toll on her lungs. But between the binge-drinking and all the spelunking she'd done on her gentleman companion's genitals earlier on, all Kendall could manage was a tired wheeze that wasn't helped much by his death-grip on her body.
Which was really just as well, the sensible part of her psyche reminded her as she teetered on the verge of a quiet panic attack. For while the man had been dear and lovely and all things dreamy and had managed to give her a string of rapturous orgasms using nothing more than his hands and mouth and a dental dam he'd cleverly improvised out of a cut-up pair of medical gloves he'd been kinkily keeping in his top desk… he'd also been very inebriated. Even while panicking, Kendall was quite sure she would rather avoid a scene of what might well be massive regret on his part (if not her own) when he was fully conscious.
After all, she was still coming to terms with what had happened herself. She didn't feel she needed any confusion or recriminations or even passion on his part to unsettle her further.
It was 6:24 in the morning and Kendall Smith—quasi-Mormon, possible descendent of Joseph Smith himself, pioneer from the flat-plains of Utah and middle daughter of a family of twelve, a girl whose idea of a good time included drinking an illicit amount of caffeine and rebelling against her ultra-conservative family in the nerdiest ways imaginable—found herself waking up to her drunken one-night-stand completely unprepared to deal.
Her thighs burned. Her throat was a sore mess. She probably looked as though she'd been ambushed by a make-up gun set to whore and left in a ditch for dead.
And even as she found herself neatly trapped in the arms of the mystery man beside her—oh God, what was his name? Warren? No, no, Wes!— Kendall found herself almost unable to believe last night's unbelievable chain of events.
Had she really been dumped through a consolatory email by her cretinous ex-fiancé, whose memory was growing blacker and blacker as the seconds raced past? Had she actually gone to the first half-way decent looking hotel bar to give both her former lover and her upright Mormon ancestors the what-for in a moment of miserable rebellion? Had she truly gotten drunk off her tiny bottom and did her clumsy best to seduce the first equally miserable yet delectable man she could find in the hopes of drowning out her sorrows in new passion?
All the evidence—including a pair of cotton panties she absolutely could not locate as she frantically looked about the room for her clothes, and if there needed to be any evidence that this had not been planned before, it lay in those sensible, stretched out, slightly discolored drawers—suggested yes.
And of course, it didn't hurt that she had having the man who had so deliciously debauched her last night right beside her—stretched out naked and cuddling her as though she were the largest bottle of hand sanitizer in the world and he had gotten a fit of vapors over STDs again.
Yet even as various patches of Kendall turned bright red at the evidence that morning was absolutely no impediment to his state of tumescence—God help her, he felt like he might well slide right in if she so much as canted her hips!—she found herself wondering not just why she had done what she had done but who he was as well.
Because as mysterious as her own actions had been, everything about the man—Blondie! Warren! No, Wes!—suggested that he'd probably wake up even more confused than she had been.
After all, as handsome as he was, as wealthy as he surely was, as sophisticated as he was, as well as he dressed, as old as he had to be and as experienced—
Even as Kendall cautiously slunk away, eventually substituting a pillow in her place to keep him from sleepily wrestling her back into bed, she found herself smiling, half in embarrassment and half in budding protectiveness.
-God help them both, he had been such a wonderfully adorable dork. She had no idea how but the man who was now smiling sweetly in his sleep and gently nuzzling at a pillow somehow managed to be extraordinarily sexy, fantastic in bed, and endearingly gawky at pretty much everything he said and did in her proximity. She honestly didn't know who would be more surprised at the events of the past night—especially since he had seemed so genuinely astounded at once again experiencing the sweet, sweet touch of a woman that he had let her put her grubby little hands all over his body as though she had any idea at all of what she was doing.
Which she really hadn't, sadly, and she still blessed Wes for finding her clumsy attempts at pleasuring him arousing. Overall, Kendall's sexual history remained a meager and attenuated one, with this night actually being one of the literal peaks of her experience—a fact that was sad in ways she didn't want to articulate. Suffice to say that Blondie over there had literally pushed her buttons far, far more efficiently than her all-of-two previous partners had ever managed. Of course, the fact that one turned out to be gay and the other was a demon from Hades had some sway.
But regardless of her pathetic past and all the events of his past that had led him to be so strangely grateful to her fumbling touch, she had enjoyed his company—and he had enjoyed hers.
And even as Kendall swept through the room for the last traces of her clothes and belongings, only barely managing to swallow a shout of triumph when she finally located her long-lost pair of faded undies, she found herself feeling more gratitude to the man who had shared her bed than she could quite say.
Maybe it was bizarre. Maybe it was crazy. Maybe it bespoke an impending mental breakdown from years of dealing with her nutty and controlling family while trying to have her own life and start her own career and do more with her time than pop out happy little Mormon babies until her uterus tried to evacuate.
But even as Kendall leaned over to take one last look at her sometime lover, she found herself thinking about whether she should stay with him until he woke up to meet the day.
It was a ridiculous thought, really. She had work to go to and she had no idea what his schedule was or what he'd do when he'd awake. Maybe he might well regret everything they'd done that evening, given how hard a sell she'd had to make to even bag him in the first place. Or maybe he'd come to his senses eventually and think he needed something a little better in his life than a screwed-up 24-year-old kinda-Mormon whose idea of a good time was playing a flame-throwing wizard online and who sometimes cried into her cat when she was lonely.
He could probably do better than her. If you could put aside his germophobic fits, he was still handsome and evidently rich and extremely sweet in a way that should have women lining up to be with him. And for all she knew, maybe the him she had met yesterday wasn't the him she'd meet tonight. He might well be a total ass when he wasn't a drunken mess—just one who had managed to charm her one night with kindness, and decency, and a truly lovely sense of tenderness.
But after having moved to a strange new city where she had no friends or family and after having been dumped rather spectacularly, Kendall thought she could do worse than be with a man who could treat her with consideration, who could look into her eyes and enjoy her kisses, who could hold her in the darkness and let her know she wasn't the only one who was lonely, that he was there and he would listen.
And wasn't that what she liked best about him?
If she had been with him last night—and if she was even now thinking of coming back—it was for reasons that went beyond his face or his hands or his lips or his smile or the way he had made her feel as though she were the most beautiful woman in LA that night—though those were important considerations.
In the end, she thought it boiled down to the look she'd seen in his eyes all of last night.
The look in his eyes that said: I know you and you know me. We're one and the same right now and right here.
He seemed a man who knew something of pain and of broken promises, who had learned and was still learning everything about heart-break. And when she looked down at his peaceful face, she couldn't help but realize that—as strange as their encounter might have been, and as much as it defied her own expectations of who she was and what she would be doing—she wanted to know more about this man who had been with her this last night, and who had done everything he could to make her feel needed, and necessary, and safe.
God help her, but she wanted him.
And she wanted to come back during this next evening.
So before she left him with a silly note and a silent promise to once again come calling, she bent over to kiss his gentle face three more times in his sleep.
Once on the soft snub of his nose.
Once on the sharp curve of his cheek.
And then one last time on the soft, pillowy seam of his lips, her own aching slightly with their meeting.
"Keep well, Sleeping Beauty," she whispered, as he sighed and reached out for her in his dreams. "I'll return as soon as I know who you might actually be."
Then, as she gently reached over to kiss his hand and then tuck it back beneath the thin covers, Kendall's face broke out into a real and radiant smile for the first time that week.
Things were looking up finally. And after having gone through the worst summer of her life, Kendall could only hope that this meeting augured some damn good tidings.
Of course, her smile had died away as soon as she went down-stairs, finangled out her mystery lover's full name by flirting outrageously with the clerk, and found through a simple Google search that 'Wes' stood for Wesley Mitchell.
Detective Wesley Mitchell.
Of the Los Angeles Police.
A divorced, 35-year old ex-lawyer who often made the news for vaulting to the top of the LAPD's Robbery/Homicide division by solving cases that baffled all others in the department—and who was infamous for pulling his gun on his partner of several years for utterly inexplicable reasons before they had been sent to (of all places) civilian couple's therapy.
And worst of all—the very same detective whose stellar work she had been sent to investigate, analyze, and eventually quantify for Quantico, in the hopes that learning more about him and his partner could help the FBI replicate their success at a far larger scale.
In other words, the very same star detective she'd be working with for the better part of the year—and a man who might have the ability to single-handedly derail her budding career if he was so willing.
Needless to say, that killed off most of her starry eyed hopes and dreams effectively.
Yet even as she drove herself to police headquarters and waited in the main computer lab for him to read her note, search her out, and have what had to be a very excruciatingly conversation about what would happen to them in the future, Kendall found herself trying to be optimistic about what might soon occur.
After all, though she knew that starting a new line of work by unwittingly seducing her co-worker the night before would make no training manuals whatsoever, he had already been so—so—so good to her! Though everything she had learned about him since the last time she had kissed him had been downright terrifying, her memories of the night that had passed were still sweet enough to make her hope that he'd be at least a little understanding about how they had ended up nakedly lolly-gagging about in bed the previous evening.
Surely he had to know she had the best of intentions where he was concerned. And while all her fragile hopes about jumping into his arms again were already crumbling to ash, Kendall knew she could deal with nursing a hopeless crush on her quasi-supervisor at work so long as they could mutually pretend to forget the past and start all over again.
Mind you, she was not looking forward to seeing him day in and day out while knowing she'd probably never have another chance to go up to his hotel room and kiss his silver-fish eyelashes as she wished. But at the very least, she knew that once he got over the embarrassment of accidentally picking up the flat-chested new office techie, they could at least learn to be professional and accommodating.
Hell, maybe they could even end up being friends… although Kendall knew that side-benefits were likely too much to ask for, given how he was said to treat his ex-wife as though the woman had Machiavelli's brain in Helen of Troy's body. Needless to say, Kendall knew it her chances of actually impressing him in the long-term paled horribly in the shadow of a paragon who might as well have had beer-flavored nipples and a vagina formed of rose-petals for all the adulation she received.
Unfortunately, all that fragile confidence was about to be undone in one sweep by Detective Wesley Mitchell himself stalking into her new lab and immediately staring at her as though he were trying to psychically set her hair on fire through the sheer force of his new-found hatred.
And she had barely even had the chance to do more than introduce herself—trying as hard as she could to hold in her nerves and show that she hadn't meant to do whatever it was that had ticked him off so severely—before the man in question had turned back around and left the room—leaving her alone to gape at his partner, whose sympathetic and startlingly blue eyes showed that he suspected he knew far more about what had happened to Kendall's orifices last night than she was comfortable with.
And then Detective Travis Marks opened his mouth and upended everything.
There were three principal and important things that Kendall had learned about Detectives Marks and Mitchell the very morning she came in: three facts that her fellow geeks had told her she'd have to keep in mind as she got ready to shadow and service them.
First: they were the absolute golden boys of the Robbery/Homicide department. No matter what shenanigans they pulled—having gun-fights right in the middle of populated streets, chasing down suspects on little more than a whim and feeling, even pulling a gun on each other in the middle of a crowded police station—they always seemed to get away with whatever they pleased. Then again, given that they had an almost unbelievable solve-rate of 70% on their cases—truly legendary when you considered the fact that the average was 35%- it was clear that more than mere favoritism was at work. Though given how much Captain Sutton appeared to dote on them—letting them get off with civilian's couple's therapy, of all things, when Detective Mitchell had almost shot his partner in the head!—even hard work wasn't all that led them to get all the perks they'd accumulated as of late.
Second, Detective Mitchell was rumored to be… difficult to more than just the tech-team. As much as it utterly flabbergasted Kendall to hear it—considering just how clumsy and shy and gentle and down-right sweet as the man had been between the sheets—he was practically a slave-driver to many who knew him. He was said to have a tongue that could strip flesh from thirty paces, a legendary persnickitiness that had propelled him from police academy to detective status in a record amount of time, and a temper foul enough to have sent everyone but his partner running years back.
(It seemed as though all of his complaint about how little everyone around him liked him were grounded in more truth than she'd dared dream…)
And finally, his partner, Detective Marks was pretty much his polar opposite. He was leaps and bounds more popular by far—more easy-going, more warm, more kind, more reasonable—and much, much, much more friendly.
Unfortunately, that also was not merely rumored but known to extend especially to the women of the LAPD. He apparently held the all-time record for number of sexual harassment claims fielded by a still-working detective.
And given the slow, lazy way he was eyeing Kendall right now, she knew she was about to get a second horrible curve-ball to deal with.
"Hey, kid," the infamous Detective Travis Marks said, as he leaned with cheerful insouciance against the frame of a desk and grinned at her, as though what she'd seen was an every-day occurrence. "Congrats. You just made Buttercup blow a fuse in the first five minutes of knowing him. I spent seven years with him without seeing him break so bad. So tell me, sweet thing—what's your secret?"
And maybe it was because she was still pretty hung-over. Or because she had been far too emotionally battered by what had happened so far. Or maybe it call came down to her discomfort from walking around like a bow-legged cowboy freshly off an obese horse due to a chance encounter she was beginning to regret direly.
Or maybe it all boiled down to the fact that this was the only honest answer she could think of giving.
But for whatever reason, Kendall found herself opening her mouth and setting herself up for her next disaster.
"I think I drove him mad through prolonged contact with my vagina the other night," she blurted out, at last, before her brain could cut contact with her treacherous vocal cords entirely.
Detective Marks' eyes went wide with shock—a sight that Kendall would have felt privileged to experience under any other circumstances. And then, after opening and closing his mouth repeatedly while no words exited, he finally managed a reply.
"Uh… excuse me? What did you just say?"
And that was when Kendall decided that retreat could sometimes serve as a form of valor, and took off in a dead sprint, saving herself from at least one horribly uncomfortable conversation for the day.
(Though she had the terrible feeling that there were a hell of a lot more coming.)
Five minutes later, she was in her locked office, as safe as she could possibly be, and wondering if it would be too unprofessional to throw herself out her tiny office window and end it all before the day heaped any more doom upon her already suffering body.
Mind you, she had almost no idea how her circumstances could possibly get any worse, absent some revelation that Detective Mitchell—Wes, Blondie, damn it, she didn't even know how she should be thinking about him privately!—was a long-lost relative come to sweep her back to the Mormon fold after tempting her with a celestially sinful body. But as it were, just knowing that:
-he was one-half of the duo she had been sent to study extensively over the course of at least the next year;
-he very possibly had the power to make or break her budding career; and
-he apparently hated her with a passion strong enough to rival a thousand angry suns and might well be tempted to shoot her the next time she wandered by his proximity;
was enough to defeat her for the moment. And having her mind default to bullet-points mode was indication enough that she was lost at present and had no idea how to proceed.
But if there was one thing Kendall was and had always been, it was logical. And after she had finished screeching like a depressed tea-kettle and uselessly banging her head on her desk in search of ideas, she finally pulled herself together and decided to do what she did best: think.
What had happened?
Why had it happened?
And what could she do to keep Detective Mitchell from boring a hole in the back of her skull with his eyes during their next meeting?
So Kendall sat down again, taking deep even breaths that almost never petered into hysterical bursts of laughter, and carefully went over all that she knew.
They had had a no-strings-attached one night stand. That was clear enough, given how they'd only exchanged names after their genitals had had scandalous, non-church-and-state-sanctioned contact. She had enjoyed the hell out of it and given the evidence of his ardor before, during and after, it was safe to say he had done the same. As long as she had been in any given state of undress with him, it had all been rapture and banter and cuddles and laughter and various sexual organs quivering to and fro. So any problems that had cropped up clearly occurred after she left.
So what could have happened? Had he had a sudden attack of a guilty conscience? He'd seemed perfectly happy in her arms, even if he had been surprisingly nervous and eager to please—but from what Kendall had read on him and canvassed from her fellow geeks, he had only been divorced from his ex-wife for the past year and had spent much of his time being even more of a persnickety Type-A autodidact after having lost her incomparable company. Maybe he blamed Kendall for flashing him her chicken legs and inciting his drunken self into a night of fornication he now direly regretted? Maybe he had wanted to save all his manly purity for a reconciliation with his ex-wife and was worried she'd spread office gossip about bagging him about, ruining his chances?
But if that were the case, it would make no sense for him to make such a scene in front of his partner, who was a major office gossip as well as a renowned lothario. Wouldn't Detective Mitchell simply avoid her if he was embarrassed by what he had done—or deal with her with the cold professionalism he was renowned for and ask her to shut up about their night afterward? The only person he regularly blew up with was his partner—and for her to suddenly provoke that much passion out of him was… strange, to say the least.
So what else could she have done to get such a reaction out of him?
She closed her eyes and remembered how he had been in the morning as she had gotten dressed to leave, his face a little puffy but still handsome even after a night of heavy drinking. She had awaked to him holding her as though he'd never expected to hold a woman again, the way he'd even fought to keep her by his side in his sleep. As though even unconscious, he'd fought in every way he could against her going.
Her eyes snapped open. Her mouth dropped slightly.
Maybe he wasn't upset at her for being there in the first place after all.
Maybe he had been upset at her way of leaving.
And in retrospect, Kendall couldn't even blame him for feeling angry. She had meant to show that she wanted to come back… but hell, it wasn't as though she had any previous experiences to pull from or some handy-dandy manual on how to gracefully handle a one-night-stand that she was hoping to rope into something approaching a friendship with major benefits. (Though at this point, she'd be willing to settle for being in his presence for longer than 30 seconds without either sweating or fending off bullets.) She'd left a note where she'd gracefully tried to allude to the fact that she might visit him again and…
Sleep tight, Blondie. I don't want to bother you anymore but I still want to say thanks.
…and while she had done everything she could to appear to not be a clingy twit trying to secure more of his sweet smiles and glorious body, she had probably overshot and come off looking like a saucy tart who skipped off blithely after having her share of fun for an evening.
Not that there was anything wrong with that, provided the other party was well and willing. But she knew perfectly well that if she were to wake up to him hustling her out of his doors with nary a word after the time they'd spent together, she wouldn't be spouting rainbows out her rear either. It hurt enough to be rejected by someone you loved; having a complete stranger do it soon after was compounding malice with misery.
Which didn't justify the way he treated her today, of course. Whatever else she was, she was his colleague and his fellow officer and she deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, however he personally felt about her. If this was the way he regularly treated others, she could easily see why his marriage had failed and his partnership had apparently been rocky enough to need couple's therapy.
And if this was the way he continued to treat her even after they next spoke… well, then the hell with him. He'd soon find himself on the receiving end of a sexual harassment suit and she'd pack up, go back to Quantico, and demand they either give her a new posting or—or—oh god, maybe lose her skills altogether. Kendall didn't exactly relish burning out so quickly in her first major assignment—but she'd be cast out to the lowest level of gelfite Mormon heaven (the one where they sent all the mediocre people and the off-brand jello) before she took this crap from anyone around her.
If she had to fight to be treated fairly—well, she'd deal. She might dread the possibility—might hate the idea of having to get dissembled again and having to once more having to adjust all her desires and dreams—but she could deal with that when the time come. After all, she'd done it once before—and she knew she could reinvent herself if it were necessary.
(Though God, as though she needed all of that. She just wanted to find herself at last. She just wanted to be clear.)
But if her hunch was right—well, her hands weren't clean either. She might have done it wholly unwittingly but she had still caused someone who had done her nothing but kindness (at least before today) a considerable amount of pain. And after being the recipient of rejection herself—well, she didn't want to reject anyone else either, didn't want anyone else to feel inadequate because of her, didn't want anyone else to think they weren't good enough as they stared hollow-eyed into their mirror.
(…Not that she was speaking from experience.)
(Obviously, that wasn't it. Obviously.)
And maybe Detective Wesley Mitchell really was the anal-retentive pain-in-the-ass douche-bag everyone told her he was. Maybe there was nothing there in his touch for her. Maybe the best she had to look forward to was strained tolerance on his part, and awkward denial on hers for the rest of the given year.
Maybe she'd hallucinated his warm smile and his gentle eyes and the awe in his touch as he'd held her last night, making her feel not only tolerated or wanted but desired completely.
But even if he only was all of those ugly and unlovely things he'd seemed to now be—she still owed him an apology for hurting his feelings. And she'd be damned if she let him get away without giving her one either… however unprofessional it might be to whip out her lap-top and beat him upside the head with it if he continued to be the little bitch he had been this morning.
So by the time Kendall finally set herself down to her work proper, mentally putting together all the files she'd take to Detective Wesley Mitchell's hotel room tonight, she couldn't help the mischievous little smile that flitted across her face suddenly
Blondie had no idea what was going to coming. And considering the ambush she was preparing for him, he'd be lucky if he still retained control of his bowels by the end of the week.
Then, hands gently coming down to caress her lap-top's keyboard, Kendall started typing.
Author's Note 2: I cannot tell you how much I simultaneously look forward to and dread having to write the next chapter of this story! Wes and Kendall finally square off and I'm interested in knowing what you think will happen, as I'm clueless myself. Who do you suppose will come up on *cough* top this time? ;) And whose POV should it be in? I'm thinking of switching back to Wes and his hilarious man-angst but Kendall's fun to write as well, given how screwy she can. What do you think?
(BTW, if anyone is interested in chatting about this story or CL, feel free to tell me in a review or a PM- I'd love to have more people to discuss this out with!)
And please do review if you enjoyed the story... I have so little time on my hands nowadays that the more motivation I have to write, the faster I'll update. I'm going to try to put the chapter up by next weekend but I can't promise anything. But comments, questions, and thoughts from readers always, always, always help the process! Thanks again!