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Never Wanted to Save the World

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Never Wanted to Save the World

Rogers is being a dick. Again. The rest of the lab doesn’t seem to mind today, but that’s because Mick’s only hassling Brendon. Apparently, it’s still game for their supervisor to hover around Brendon for hours since B’s more of a techie than some wild-haired inventor. Three years and Brendon’s still having to deal with shit over being a wiz with code while also having a knack for augmenting already passably working equipment.

Frank curls his fingers into his palms for half a minute before trying to let go of the aggravation. Rogers is his supervisor, as well, and punching the asshole in the face would only end with him transferred again, even if his position here is supposed to be permanent. There’s no way in hell, no damn way at all, he’s going to be shipped back to Heidi and the Defense department. Frank does better when he’s not being brainwashed into the perfect little, on-site, explosions creator. If he can go a thousand years without seeing the front line of any war or coup, it still won’t be a long enough reprieve.

A couple of scuffles with crackheads in the bad part of the city hasn’t fucked up his record, but punching his supervisor in the face would be an instant free pass back to Heidi, and OH would she just love that. Frank knows Heidi’s waiting for him to screw up here in Director Wentz’s department just so she can waltz in wearing her black-as-night heels and drag him back to where he belongs.

On her leash.

After last month’s run-in with the Queen of Hell, it’s best to lie low. Follow protocol. Make as little waves as possible.

Heidi shouldn’t hold this much power over him. Frank hates her more and more every day. Especially when one visit can put a damper on everything he’s built for himself here.

Brendon said he’d firesale her electronics after she vanished behind the double doors separating the secrets from the shiny front. He was happy until the devil showed up and stole his smile. They were augmenting the front lobby cameras to resist remote tampering, which is always a field day for B. Well, Brendon was working his magic while Frank got enlisted in holding various tools and random-ass wires because he was in between development phases. Then Heidi had come in for some asshole reason, and the rest of the day went to shit.

So, yeah, Frank’s playing shit by the book for awhile. Not that he goes out of his way to break rules, but he’s learned that with that bitch it’s best to be better safe than buried under a stack of bleeding bodies in some hellhole several countries away.

The squeaky sound of the lab door swinging pulls Frank out of his thoughts. Three seconds later, Brendon’s sitting on the corner of Frank’s desk, swinging his feet so the soles of his shoes touch the smooth metal of the desk on the down strokes.

Garcia looks up and glares in their direction. Brendon doesn’t pay her a lick of attention and continues to pretend he’s a ten-year-old hopped up on Pixy Stix.

“I fucking hate when he asks about hover mods for shit. This isn’t Sci-Fi. I can’t just make something float. You’d think Rogers would be happy with the new modified specs for the GPS units in the cars, BUT NO. Fucking hover mods. I’m not a mad scientist nor am I that much of a tech wizard that I can just magic this shit up.”

Brendon’s hands are sort of waving about. Frank stares before snorting and shaking his head. His boyfriend is ridiculous. Brendon glares at him but doesn’t stop his continuous, rolling monologue on why Mick Rogers, Supervisor for the Labs, IS A DICK.

Frank’s not going to disagree. Rogers is an asshole at the best of the times. The only reason he doesn’t corner Frank about new forms of highly explosive chemical compounds is because Frank makes him nervous. Intimidation is the key. Brendon can’t scare a tiny kitten from the steps of their apartment complex, let alone glare a forty-seven-year-old dicksmack into wanting to hide behind a closed door.

Then again, if there was a tiny kitten on their front steps, Frank would have to share the couch and their bed with the fuzzy, little, cute thing because Brendon would bend down and take it inside.

It’s a wonder they don’t have any pets at the moment. Though, their work schedules are mostly the deterrent right now. Who in their right mind would subject an animal to being locked in an empty apartment for over twelve hours a day when they’re not even home for part of the other twelve?

“You shouldn’t have even mentioned floating shoes, then.”

Frank pushes back his chair and drops out of it so he can find the pen he lost earlier. If he wants to even pretend to do pre-testing calculations today, he needs his pen. It’s the only one he has that Brendon hasn’t stolen for whatever random reason he can fabricate.

“Fuck you, man. It was a joke. How the hell was I supposed to know Supervisor Asswipe wouldn’t know that?”

The pen’s stuck under the edge of the left side of the desk, and fuck, why do his pens always roll in that direction? The floor has to be slanted, no matter what Garcia and Plum say about the tiles being straight without any dips at all. Frank tugs and gets the pen free, but the cap stays put.

“Bren, seriously? You mean to tell me you thought Rogers has a sense of humor when the day you started he just stared when you did the Three Stooges ’hello’ thing? Because that’s like fucking weak-ass, man.”

No matter what he tries, the pen cap stays put, and Frank curses. Brendon leans across the top of his desk -thankfully, not near Frank’s computer monitor- and peers over the side, papers raining down on Frank’s back when he pays no heed to the shit Frank keeps on his desk.

“Okay, point. But still, do I look like a wizard or some weird robot from the future? Because the laws of physics I canz nots break it! I’m good, but not that good.”

Fuck, Frank’s going to have to block the icanhasacheezburger website for the twentieth time if Brendon’s speaking in LOLcat again. Not that it’s going to help; Brendon’s a motherfucking computer prodigy, or something, and nothing Frank does will last more than the amount of time it takes for Brendon to realize Frank’s fiddled with something.

“Fucking hell, Brendon. If my notes are out of order, I’m going to kill you.”

The pen cap’s a lost cause. Frank sighs and starts to collect his papers. Brendon’s still peering down at him, the irritating fuck.

“You just going to stare at me?”

Brendon nods, a bright grin playing across his lips, his hair doing that ridiculous waving thing.

Frank sets the papers he’s already swept together to the side and wets one of his fingers with spit before kneeling up and sliding the finger down Brendon’s neck. Brendon makes a tiny appalled sound, scattering more papers when he flails.

“That’s fucking gross, Frank!”

“Seriously, that’s gross? On a scale of all the shit we’ve done, that levels a gross?”

The eyebrow arch is totally instinctual, by now. They’ve been together over two years, and there’s probably nothing they haven’t tried at least once just out of curiously. A little spit is nothing. Not that they go around at work engaging in PDAs because that’s not how they roll. Frank would bet a million bucks with the first schmuck he could con into accepting that no one in the labs, or even the higher ups, think they’re anything more than close friends who room together.

“Now get down here and help me. And fucking hell, come around the desk. Don’t climb over it. The last time you tried that, you almost broke your scrawny neck tumbling into my chair. I love that chair.”

Brendon huffs out a put upon sigh before lifting off Frank’s desk top and shuffling around to the side. Frank can see the scuffed-up smiley faces drawn on the toes of his non-regulation Converses before Brendon gracelessly drops to the tiles so he can make ridiculously pouty faces while reaching for Frank’s scattered papers.

“I hate you. That chair gets all the love.”

Frank ruffles Brendon’s hair. “You fucking know it. That chair’s the love of my life.”

It doesn’t take long to pick up the rest of the pages, and Frank’s staring at one of the sheets of equations when his desk makes a metallic thunk beside him. Brendon’s standing off to the left with the pen cap in his hand, a shit-eating grin on his face. Frank’s going to fucking kill him if he’s jostled anything important. He doesn’t keep a lot of volatile compounds at his desk, but sometimes it’s good to have small quantities around in the case of an emergency or to scare off anyone who Frank decides he doesn’t want to talk to at the moment.

Brendon hands him the cap, and pretends to be a mime tugging a rope when Murial calls for him to come help her with the specs for some shiny, new version of a field gadget. Frank shakes his head and sets his stack of papers down again. Maybe, they should leave early tonight, see if there’s anything interesting with explosions and action playing at the discount theater.

Lord knows, they put in more hours than anyone else. It’d be good for them to get out and actually do something besides work, sleep, exercise, or the occasional marathon weekend of sex and laziness.

~*~*~*~

“No, no, no. This keystroke, then that one. And, VOILÁ, you’re in.” Brendon moves away from Frank’s desk chair and does victory arms. “One day, you won’t need my help with this. Little Frankie, will be all grown up and able to computer-it-up without adult supervision.”

Frank flips him off over the smug, condescending tilt to his words. Not everyone can be freakishly good at computers. “I don’t see why we’re even doing this at work, again. We don’t need covert ways to interact with each other.”

It’s five a.m. on a Monday, and there’s no one else around just yet. It was Brendon’s idea to come in earlier than normal people - who actually prefer to not wake up at three-thirty - just so they can run an undetectable, untraceable software program on the computers of a highly secretive, private, espionage organization. Sometimes, Frank doesn’t really get his boyfriend’s paranoia. Or his need to prove his nerdom in the weirdest of ways.

But, whatever. Frank’s getting better at finding Goatse web addresses to send without anyone in the lab(including Brendon) being wiser. All of the computers are already secured connections, and someone would have to break his multiple passwords just to get to his desktop, let alone the holy grail of an internet history list, which he deletes hourly, anyway.

Plus, it’s fucking hilarious watching Brendon pop into his secondary program, scan the url, and open up a new tab only to try and not get the other labrats’ attention by gagging over Tub Girl or Lemon Party. Seriously, Frank hasn’t seen anything funnier in years. The resulting cat macro replies are always of tiny, tiny kittens with ‘scarred for life’ expressions on their little faces.

How is it they ever get anything done? Lately, all they seem to do is pester each other while Murry tries to seduce Garcia and Plum into his relationship with his blowup doll of a wife. Give it a few more days, and Murry’ll find himself in a sexual harassment class. Followed closely by a transfer to running IT for the agent offices.

Director Wentz doesn’t take kindly to sexual harassment in the workplace. Solid relationships not coerced are a whole other issue. Technically, the rules are no fraternization, but there are people who don’t give a shit and go for it regardless of consequences.

Case in point: Frank and Brendon.

Two years and no one’s the wiser. They’re much better actors than everyone else. It helps that Brendon was just as clingy and touchy when they were only friends. Nothing’s really changed on that front. The rest of the tech patrol and labrats are more than happy for Frank’s presence so they don’t have to deal with a bouncing ball of hyperactive genius on their own.

Though, Plum isn’t too irritable about it when Brendon ping-pongs over to her area and asks for tools she borrowed weeks ago that he might need to mod something so that it suspends in mid-air.(and B wonders why Rogers wants hover mods). Murial doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in her body. Murry’s just the creeper rookie who Frank’s sure keeps hitting on an oblivious Brendon even if Frank can’t prove it, yet. Garcia isn’t as prone to niceties when Brendon slides over to her desk, while Hall, Martinez, and Jones don’t give a fuck and stay on the other end of the lab on purpose.

Apparently, they’re okay with living on their own island. Means less people Frank has to deal with. Chalk that up to another win in his books.

“Just because we’re safe now doesn’t mean we’re not being watched.” The sentiment in Brendon’s voice would have a much better effect on the dramatic scale if he wasn’t doing the ‘oooooo spooky fingers’ from his own desk chair.

Frank groans and wonders idly if he can trade his boyfriend in for a less ridiculous model. “We’re always under video surveillance down here, Sherlock. Of course, we’re being watched.”

There’s a surprised croak from Brendon as he drops out of his rolling chair to scramble under his desk for cover. Frank shakes his head. He almost laughs, but that would only egg B on.

“Melodramatic much?” The unimpressed look gets him a pout, and Frank ignores it in favor of sending a url of a picture of a badass marlin sinking one of those fucking deep sea fishing vessels. The caption reads ‘Look Maw, no handz.’

If he distracts Brendon, maybe he can actually get some of his own work done. Chemical calculations and formulas don’t do themselves, no matter how hard he wishes they would.

There’s the sound of a metallic squeak followed by the lab door closing, and Frank gets the pleasure of watching Brendon bolt out from under his desk so he can climb into his chair. There’s never a dull day in their lives.

Murry looks from Frank to Brendon before zeroing in on Brendon. “Early bird get the worm, eh, Urie?”

He’s being blatant.

Brendon spins in his chair, and Frank barely catches a shrug as he whirls. “My ride needed to do extra calculations this morning.” Brendon’s voice is bland like he really doesn’t get the hint. Like he’s not even reading Murry’s body language.

Murry places a hand on one of the swivel chair arm rests and stops Brendon from spinning lazily. He leans in, and Frank stands, his own chair scraping across the floor enough to get a reaction. Murry looks at Frank, confusion flitting across his face barely long enough for Frank to notice before it morphs into a slimy grin as he goes back to focusing on Brendon.

“Pauletta and I are always looking for newbies to teach the ways of love. I’ve been asking Plum and Garcia, but they haven’t worn down, yet. Urie, you and Iero wouldn’t even have to break the Bro Code. I can give you the address, and you and your ride can come over tomorrow night.”

Murry goes for one of the many pens scattered across Brendon’s desk, and Brendon snatches it out of his hand before using the momentum to roll away. “I’m sort of married to the job here, Murry. but thanks.” Then just to be a dick, he starts humming Haddaway’s “What is Love”.

Sometimes, you gotta give it to Brendon and his flair.

Frank drums his fingers on the edge of his desk as Murry slinks away. He should have stepped in and done something. Fuck it, this has gone too far. If Plum and Garcia won’t do anything about this, he will. Just because the asshole is a new transfer doesn’t mean he gets to proposition the whole damn lab like they’re his own personal harem.

Brendon sends Frank a url to a picture of a goose freaking the fuck out with the caption of ‘Da Fuck waz Dat?’. Frank pulls up Wiki in a new tab and searches for polyamory. When the article loads he sends the url just to be a dick. It’s not like B doesn’t know what polyamory is.

After that, he opens his office email. Instead of sending an angry message to Rogers, he finds Director Wentz’s address. It’s highly likely Garcia went to Rogers about this, and the dick thinks she’s just being her usual prickly self. Well, if he won’t do anything, Pete sure as hell will.

Fuck open-door policy and the chain of grievances. Frank’s not going to waste his time on bullshit. It takes restraint, but he refrains from cursing in his email and makes sure to include the times to roll back the security cameras and watch Murry get into Brendon’s space as well as when he almost got physical with Plum yesterday when Garcia was out grabbing lunch.

Frank thought Murry would have taken a sick day after that fiasco. He was fucking sure Plum would have told Garcia. But, since that’s not the case, Frank gets to be the asshole to escalate shit. He’s more than fine with that.

When he’s finished, he hits send.

Brendon’s little subprogram is quiet. It’s easy to tell why when there’s the sound of a screw hitting his desktop. He’s tinkering with something. That’s good. Let this not wind him up.

On a whim, Frank opens his personal email. They’re not technically supposed to check any accounts not for work. Everyone does it, regardless.

He usually doesn’t have anything sitting in his inbox, anyway. Minus spam, but he likes the size of his dick, thank you very much, internet spam-bots.

The fact that there’s a new message waiting for him catches him off guard. It doesn’t look like spam, even if the sender’s name is boobiecox, and there is an attachment.

When he clicks into the email nothing crashes. No viruses are unleashed. The body is blank, though. Of course, it is. Jake Reynolds doesn’t do banal internet chit-chat. This is why Frank doesn’t associate much with those he used to know.

Okay, no, that’s a lie. He cut himself off because no one liked him, and he didn’t like them, either. Somehow, Reynolds stuck like a bad tattoo. But then again, the asshole isn’t from the private sector Defense department. Or the CIA.

He’s military.

The picture turns out to be of an Asian hooker in hot pants and a Rainbow Brite-esque tube top surrounded by discarded candy wrappers. The prostitute looks bored and like she wants to kill someone with the file she’s using on her fingernails.

Brendon turns in his chair when Frank groans. It’s easy to wave him off. The little subprogram sitting in the bottom tool bar scrolls to show there’s a new message. Frank deletes the picture and the email before opening the program to find a youtube url of a kitten shaking its head, confusedly. Frank sends it back in reply.

The lab starts to fill with everyone else coming in for the morning, and Frank shrugs at Brendon before going back to his computer. Around eleven, before Murry can approach Plum for his first pass of the day, the lab door squeaks open again. Rogers power walks in and goes right up to Murry.

Beverly from HR sticks her head in then follows Rogers. Frank watches her go from Plum’s desk to Garcia’s. Frank’s not surprised. However, when her heels clack across the tiles as she goes to the other end of the lab where Jones is setting up an experiment in hydro-something-something everyone follows her with their gaze.

Jones shadows Beverly when she crosses over to the mainland again. She stops at Brendon’s desk to say something before heading to the door with the four of them trailing behind her like little ducklings.

Brendon throws Frank a knowing look as they leave.

Rogers barks out “I expect deadlines to be met regardless of this minor setback.” Then he all but drags Murry out of the lab.

Frank looks down at his keyboard and smiles grimly. He might as well work on something while Brendon’s gone.

~*~*~*~

It takes a week for the lab to calm down after the Murry incident. Rogers has a bitch fit about his open door policy while Jones and Garcia glare from the conference room. Score another point to Frank for being right about Rogers having received complaints only to disregard them.

Why they needed a meeting in a conference room over this, however, is baffling.

Sure, when shit happens that shouldn’t, there needs to be a debriefing. A moment to stop and say ‘hey, you need to know this isn’t appropriate, and you should tell me so we can fix things.’ But Rogers, like always, loves to take things too far. He wants to pretend to be imposing and powerful while also seeming amicable to their issues.

Frank sees right through the bullshit. If the barely audible snort from Garcia is anything to go by, he’s not alone. Which begs the question: how in holy hell did Rogers keep his fucking job?

It’s another fucking mystery of the universe, apparently.

Murry got fired. Or that’s what the gossip mill is saying. Frank couldn’t care less. He doesn’t spare much sympathy for people who think Brendon’s an easy target.

Which, of course, gets him in trouble for the whole week. The couch has become his friend after their fight over how Brendon’s completely capable of waging his own battles. How he was going to hack into Murry’s files and find something to shut him up.

Frank thinks his way was more effective and efficient. Brendon glares at him when he says that, and it’s another four nights added to his couch sentence. Eventually, they make up and the weekend’s a sex-fueled haze.

Sunday night there’s a new email from boobiecox. This time it’s a picture of a goat wearing a pink and blue, polka dot bra that it’s trying to eat. Give it another week or two and Frank will find himself getting tanked at a bar with the asshole himself while Brendon IMs with his online buddies.

~*~*~*~

The training room gym is sparsely populated on Friday afternoons. Back when they first started hanging out together, Frank was under the misconception that Brendon would be like every other tech patrol goon: lazy and soft.

And while B can be a huge softie about some things, he’s actually fine with weekly trips to the gym. In fact, he’s on a first name basis with the chick who mans the sign-in desk. Stacie doesn’t even swipe their ID cards anymore. She’ll make one fine show of it, but Frank’s noticed that she doesn’t actually run them through the system.

If anyone ever found out, she’d be reprimanded. You’re supposed to be signed in and out of the gym. There’s no limit to how long you can stay and everyone employed by the department is allowed access. Brendon just doesn’t want to be on the electronic files.

None of the other labrats or technicians use the department gym.

Brendon doesn’t want anyone to hack the files and see what he’s up to when he’s not in the lab. Frank doesn’t really understand it because the only person who would ever think to crack that code would be Bren himself, and he’s already working on a side project with a few of the administrative tech squad guys to update the computer security of the building.

And that’s not even taking into account the cameras - which he’s already in the process of updating. Electronic logs aren’t the only surveillance hanging around. Frank’s just learned to take it all with a grain of salt. Or, you know, the whole fucking canister.

“I’m going to make like the Flash while you murder a sandbag. You know where to find me.” Brendon bolts for the indoor track in his red basketball shorts and worn, thrift store tee that’s promoting some random high school’s track team.

The shirt’s supposed to be ironic.

Frank shakes his head and goes to where the punching bags are hung. No one stops him with midget jokes. That stopped happening after he bested one of the agents in a sparring match. For a chick who’s tough as nails, Stevens was a damn pushover when it came to fighting dirty.

By seven, Brendon’s already given up on running and the equipment in favor of stretches. Frank watches idly from his spot on a nearby bench. They could spar, but it’s been a long week; they should go home.

Knowing Brendon, they’ll be in the lab on Sunday working on something someone needs fixed ASAP. So, Frank’s going to be opportunistic and take this moment.

He stands, does a little stretch, before walking up to Brendon, holding out his hand so Brendon can pull himself up. “Come on. I’m going home. If you want a ride, it’s time to hit the showers.”

Brendon smiles “Works for me, there’s a livestream I want to catch at nine-thirty.”

When they finally get home, the neighbors are screaming at each other. The door flies open and the couple’s teenaged son, Bruno, slips out and almost runs into them. Brendon moves out of the way.

Frank leans against the wall between their front door and 12D. He ticks down seconds in his head. He doesn’t even get to twelve before the yelling stops, and the door opens a second time. Bruno’s father, Marley, steps out, closing the door behind him.

He shrugs at Brendon then leans against his front door. “Hannah’s back on her pain meds, and they’re making her edgy. Bru flunked another math test, and she went on the warpath before I could calm her down. Did you see where the kiddo slunk off to?”

Frank shrugs; he’s used to this shit. He and Brendon are far better off here than their old places. One slightly dysfunctional family per floor is a fucking cake walk, comparatively.

Brendon points towards the stairs. Marley leaves without saying anything else. Frank doesn’t blame him; damage control has to be swift, or Bruno’s going to grow up to be a fuckup with no outlet for his emotions.

Frank knows these things from experience.

Brendon unlocks their door. “Come on, I’ll make veggie pizza for dinner.”

The ten p.m. news is just starting when Brendon plops down on the couch next to him. Frank’s pleasantly full and content. Today’s been a good day with all of his favorite things. He doesn’t want the buzz to fade.

However, Brendon willfully coming to watch the news with him never happens. B’s a What’s Trending Now type of guy. The old ways of media news reporting bore him unless it’s The Daily Show.

Frank mutes the tv and turns to look at Brendon. “Please, tell me the world isn’t ending on the internet, again.”

Brendon grins, cheekily. “Not tonight. Your date’s here.”

Frank leans forward and sets the remote down on their second-hand coffee table. This isn’t one of those moments where Brendon’s being a dork and mentioning himself in the third person. There would definitely be more show and flair.

Which begs the question: what date is Frank supposed to be on? Their schedules are free through Sunday. They rarely have plans for Friday nights.

Brendon’s laptop pings, and there’s a flurry of typing before a second ping follows. Brendon sets his laptop next to the remote before leaning back against the couch.

“There’s an eighties model Caddy circling the block. The car’s a freaking white, battle tank, and the speakers keep booming shit like “Is Your Love Strong Enough,” “I Need A Hero,” and for some weird-ass reason, TLC’s “Creep.” I’m pretty sure that your old military buddy is five minutes from climbing the stairs with a boombox and pulling a John Cusack.”

Frank rubs a hand across his face. He’s not exactly surprised. Jake’s certifiable on the best of days. How the asshole thought Frank would hear shitty eighties and nineties songs from the fourth floor before the cops were called for a noise violation is way beyond his comprehension.

However, “it beats last time. Remember how fun that was?”

Brendon groans and slides down the couch until his head rests on Frank’s thigh. “Oh God, I remember that. Three a.m. prank calls on a Saturday morning that segued into a six a.m. plea for ’little whittle Frankie Iero’ to come out and play. Let the jerk know it’s now the twenty-first century, and there’s better music than Bonnie Tyler.”

Frank laughs while running fingers through Brendon’s hair. “You know you want the alone time to cybersex with your whole forum list.”

Brendon bites Frank’s jean-covered thigh before sitting up. “Cyber orgies can be exciting. Have fun on your play date. Call me if you get wasted. Don’t let that dick drive you home drunk, again. Okay?”

Frank nods. That was one time, and he was pissed as hell with Jake when he realized the asshole was driving. They were supposed to be stationary. The rental was parked in an abandoned car lot for the day.

Then it wasn’t.

Brendon won’t let him live that down. That was after they moved in together but before any sort of relationship happened. Reynolds dropped Frank off in the parking lot before peeling out like a speed demon, swerving all over the damn place.

Hell, a red Honda and the blue Mazda following it had to pull off on the side of the road so they wouldn’t get hit. Luckily, or unluckily, Brendon was outside checking their mail when that happened so Frank didn’t have to stumble up to their apartment on his own.

That evening was not fun.

Brendon was pissed. Frank was pissed. The fact that they ended up in bed together didn’t help matters. Though, it did open the doors for a spotty friends-with-benefits thing that eventually turned into the both of them saying ’fuck it, this isn’t working’ which morphed into an off-the-books relationship that hasn’t failed, yet.

Looks like it never will.

Like fuck Frank’s telling Jake that, though. There’d be no way of shutting the asshole up about it. Reynolds is one of those guys who’d want everyone to know just how good he is at matchmaking that he’d send little classified ads to every news publication he could afford boasting over his Cupid prowess. It would be a disaster.

Yeah, not going to happen.

Frank drags Brendon into a quick kiss. When they part, Brendon reaches for his laptop then the tv remote. “If you leave your date hanging, he might start playing boyband songs. I’ll be safe right here on the couch watching Cartoon Network with my chat buddies. Shoo.”

“Next time, I’ll just go down and drag the dick up here. You’d like him.” Frank touches three fingers to his tongue before leaning over to fuck with Brendon’s hair.

Brendon squawks and glares at him. “Spend bro time with your crazy-ass BFF. I think I might need a few more years to prepare for that moment of chaos, but sure, next time. We’ll say it’s a date.”

Frank makes a face as he’s standing. That mental image is frightening. “If you say that when you meet the guy, he’ll run with it. Jackass is worse than you in that department.”

That gets a quick laugh while Brendon waves him off. Frank doesn’t have to be told to get going again. He’s already dressed in jeans and a worn tee. There’s no need to change.

When he gets down to the parking lot, sure enough, a massive boat of a car goes from parked to coasting right in front of him. Jake leans across the passenger seat to pop the door open.

“Hop in, Polly Pocket. I’ve been waiting for ages on your Thumbelina ass. We have a case of Natural Light with our names on it to power through before any of the hard liquor comes out to play.”

As greetings go, it’s not the worst. At least, Jake’s not asking Frank how much he charges for a good time while someone’s out walking their dog. That happened last time and resulted in Frank punching Jake in the face when he finally got in the rental.

“I see you haven’t changed at all, asshole. Keep calling me short and I’ll deck you.” Frank climbs in and shuts the door without grabbing for the seat belt.

Screw safety regulations. Jake’ll just reach over and pop the damn buckle if Frank tries to be safe, anyway. What’s the use of having a life if you can’t live dangerously once in awhile? Reynolds can’t seem to grasp the notion that Frank likes playing it safe, now.

If he wanted the hot and heavy lifestyle of continuous danger, Frank wouldn’t have asked for a lab posting when he transferred out of the Defense department for the greener pastures of the Strategies and Logistics department. Director Wentz would have jumped at having another badass out in the field. Pete runs his department better than Heidi does hers; Frank’s mission expectations wouldn’t have been as difficult. So, it would have been easy in comparison.

Except.

Frank didn’t really want to be a pawn, anymore. Behind the scenes is more his style. No more making waves or jumping through needless hoops.

He likes his life as it is. The worst obstacles he’s had to tackle recently have been a pissed off boyfriend followed by a leaky sink faucet. Those things might seem trivial, banal, to Reynolds, but they’re light years better than being shot at or having to assemble an explosive under volatile working conditions; even if it’s sometimes boring as shit, and Frank wishes he could break the monotony.

“You’re not as testy as I expected you’d be. Maybe I should have sent the picture of the three midgets licking a giant-ass, rainbow lollipop, in tandem, after all. But I was showing restraint. Please, tell me you’re banging some ad executive’s trophy wife on the side, and that’s why you’re extremely chill. I bet chick fills out a D-cup with pride. Come on, you can tell me. Does she like to strip to “It’s Raining Men”?”

Jake presses down on the gas pedal and spins the wheel before Frank has time to reply. He ends up against the passenger door until the car evens out as they peel out of the parking lot. Getting comfortable after that intro to The Fabulous World of Jake Reynolds’ Mental Auditions for Stunt Car Driving isn’t as hard as it was the first time Frank was subjected to the abuse.

“Christ on a fucking crutch, Reynolds. This isn’t an audition for The Fast and the Furious. Slow the fuck down. If Brendon has to bail me out of jail because you want to verbally abuse a cop, we’re both going to kill you and let wild animals clean up the mess.”

A shitty pop song begins to play, and Reynolds starts to sing along before turning down the volume. He fondles the flashdrive sticking out of the radio before using both hands to cut the wheel to the left for a sharp turn.

“This baby holds all of my favorite tunes. Did your roomie enjoy the serenade? He had the window open and kept looking out when I’d make my passes. Also, you haven’t shaken me off your scent just yet. I know you’re getting laid. Regularly. I haven’t been punched. So, tell me about her. I won’t hold it against you if she’s barely legal, or if she had a dick. That happens, sometimes. I ain’t going to judge a bro for fulfilling his needs.”

Oh God, kill him now. Frank scrubs at his face.

“Brendon says Bonnie Tyler songs should stay in the eighties. It’s a new century, and you need to stop living in the past. Also, which chicks have you been hanging around that you can say dicks just happen with a straight face?”

Frank finds himself almost head-bashing into the dash when the Caddy comes to a screeching stop. In the middle of the mother fucking road. What the fuck?

“What the fucking fuck? Jesus Christ, asshole, warn a guy before you do that shit. You’re not a goddamn stuntman. Lay off the brake, man.”

Reynolds points a finger at him and shakes it. “Why didn’t you just tell me you and the roomie are bopping like rabbits. Here you had me thinking I’d counted the windows wrong, but no you’re just sleeping with the guy. He is a better catch than a MILF. Gold star, brother.”

Frank bangs his head against the dash for good measure before sighing. He chances a glance at Jake only to find the asshole grinning like some demented toothpaste commercial model.

“Maybe I knew you’d be this insufferable. Also, it’s not that big of a deal. We’ve been together for awhile now. And no, I’m not giving you details, so don’t even ask, perverted dick.”

Jake reaches over and pats Frank on the back of the head. “There there, Strawberry Shortcake. I’m happy for you. Though, didn’t you say your top secret underground, science-y wet dream of a lab had a strict no coworker hanky panky policy? Please tell me you’ve joined the Space Rangers and are embarking on an interstellar journey to protect the intergalactic space stations from alien harm while the roomie vows to be as BAMF as Odysseus’ Penelope.”

Frank bats at Jake’s hand and straightens. How the fucking hell does Jake come up with half of this shit?

“No one knows. It’s not like we go all exhibitionist at work. I know it’s hard for you to grasp the concept of appropriate behavior, but we’re actually able to divorce the job from home life. Now, snap out of it and start driving. You said there’s beer waiting for us.”

Jake lifts his foot off the brake only to transfer it to the gas pedal until they’re speeding again.

“Secret boyfriends. I can dig it. I bet you have trouble not marking the roomie up. I don’t even swing that way, and I’ve only seen the guy once, at a glimpse, but I’d totally want to leave marks if I were you.”

“I’m not telling your ass. Or your face, for that matter. So shut it and keep driving.”

Jake mock salutes him and begins a conversation about grain prices in Romania. It’s a fucking one-eighty and like Frank knows shit-all about the economics of this country, let alone, that of fucking Romania. However, it’s better than focusing on his sex life.

Instead of pulling into a motel parking lot, they end up in the employee lot to one of the dive bars in the warehouse district. Jake parks and pulls his keys out of the ignition.

“A old college buddy’s letting me borrow a spare room over his gin joint. This girl’s his spare ride. I have to say, I can see why Mack likes her. She’s a smooth operator. I’m planning to buy a Hula Girl for the dash before my leave’s up. You think I should go with classic red skirt or something funky like purple, or oh god, why is it so fucking bright pink?”

Frank gets out of the Caddy, shutting the door without slamming it. If it’s someone else’s, he’s not going to be the one to fuck the car up. Jake doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t get an answer to the hula girl question. He spins the keychain on his finger before tossing it into the air and catching it.

Then, it’s back to the Ramble Olympics. “Time to climb the not so golden stair. There’s no Rapunzel, either. She’s in the desert with her beau and several little rugrats.” Jake goes to the fire escape and drags the bottom portion down. When he moves out of the way for Frank to go first he bows like a fucking moron. “Cabbage Patch dolls go first. It’s a rule.”

“What did I tell you about the short jokes?” Frank grits his teeth but starts to climb. It’s not like there’s anyone mingling in the employee lot to hear Reynolds be a dick. The music bleeding from the bottom floor is muffled but would be enough to mask the asshole’s quips.

When they get to a landing with a broken window, Jake slips his hand through the hole to flip the latch.

Frank finds himself muttering “classy” as they climb through.

The room is sparsely furnished with a TV, dresser, lumpy futon, and mini-fridge. There’s a partially open door that has to be a bathroom because Frank catches a glimpse of his reflection as he passes. The place smells musty, like it’s rarely used. Thankfully, the floor’s thick enough that no music slips up through the thin-ass carpeting.

“It isn’t much, but it’ll do for a few days. Mack’s not even charging me the normal rates he does for the other rooms. It’s practically a steal. Literally is with that stellar anti-theft device of a window there. My duffle sleeps in the trunk. Wouldn’t want any punks running off with Her Canvasness.”

Frank goes to the mini-fridge and opens the door. A bottle of Captain Morgan sways, and Reynolds walks up to pluck the bottle from its perch, cradling it to his chest like it’s something worth protecting.

“Liquor might be quicker, but beer’s the gateway drug to boozing. Would be a shame to skip the first few steps.”

The rum gets set on top of the TV before Jake comes back to the fridge to swipe a few cans of beer from around Frank, who’s mesmerized by how crammed full the little fridge is. It’s like a feat how many cans are shoved in there. Frank doesn’t want to be impressed, but he is.

Reynolds must live off greasy, fast food and shitty, diner food. There sure as hell isn’t any room for food in with the silver cans. Not to mention how there’s no cooking implements stashed anywhere.

Not even a fucking hot plate.

“If you’re paying anything for this dump you should ask for your money back.” Frank grabs two beers and goes to the futon. Jake’s already sprawled on the damn thing, and it takes a minute of kicking the asshole in the leg to get him to scoot up one side.

Which leads to a moment where Frank almost drops his beers because Reynolds thinks it’s a good thing to say “think fast” before lobbing something at his head. The something in question turns out to be a Zippo with a grenade on the front. Frank turns the lighter over in his hands after setting his beer on the floor at his feet.

“When did you start collecting souvenirs?”

It’s a little known fact that Jake Reynolds isn’t sentimental. He doesn’t buy birthday presents, and he sure as fuck doesn’t pick up knick-knacks for people not himself, unless it’s a big fucking practical joke. Like the soon to exist hula girl for the Caddy. It’ll be super glued to the dash with a whole tube of Krazy Glue because hey, why the fuck not.

Jake shrugs, pops the top on his beer, and chugs half of it. “Your twin sister gave it to me. Said if I lost the damn thing she’d rearrange my digestive tract with her combat boots. Sister Asher can be vindictive and petty. I wouldn’t put it past her; so, present from her to you. She sends her love. I’m not delivering the other half of her message to you because I don’t kiss bros, and your midget ass has someone.”

Frank sighs. He pockets the lighter before bending for his beer. Leave it to Victoria to run into Reynolds while out doing her own thing. She’s not fond of the asshole and loves threatening him.

“You made that last bit up, dickwad. Maybe I should send her a message and let her know you think we’re incestuous siblings. I wonder how she’d take that.” Frank grins around the lip of his can.

Jake prods him in the hip with a scuffed up boot before swinging his legs over the edge of the futon so that he’s finally sitting the way he should. “You wouldn’t do that. You’re as much a fan of her wrath as I am.”

Which is the truth. At least, the asshole isn’t calling them the Bobbsey twins. That shit gets annoying. Fast.

“Where was this fateful encounter? And don’t say Disney Land. That shit gets old.” Frank takes a sip of his beer and tries to relax. However, Jake bringing up Victoria has him tense.

While he got out of the Defense department through proper channels, Victoria didn’t. She ran. Went off grid and buried herself in the black market weapons trade. There’s very few people she’d let see her face without capping them three seconds later to keep her cover.

“The Great Sandtrap of Life. She was supplying militant nationals with things that go rat-a-tat-tat-blamo-death, and a few guys and I were sent in to neutralize that shit. Of course, she slips out like the BAMF she is without getting caught, but not before cornering me with the Zippo of Great Importance.”

Which turns into a story about how many times Reynolds almost lost the damn thing; Frank was expecting that.

When he’s finished with his beers, they get set at the side of the futon’s metal leg before he gets up for more. Jake stops yammering long enough to motion for more beer. Frank tosses three cans Jake’s way and watches as the asshole sets them down next to the empties in a row like he’s formulating a battle strategy against his own damn feet.

“Lassie didn’t get little Timmy out of the well. We had to rescue the kid ourselves. At least, there wasn’t a cobra protecting his ass, or I’d have been dead, your poor lighter sitting at the bottom of that dirt hole forever.” At Frank’s unimpressed look, Jake points at him. “You know you want to hear all the exciting stories, ever. I bet the most action you’ve seen in that lab lately have been papercuts and complaints over the sun being too bright when your fellow mole people venture out into daylight.”

That’s the best Frank ever gets, as far as invitations go, to talk about work without actually talking about work. The worst was Jake’s last visit when he pestered Frank until he knew exactly what Frank was doing in a lab, instead of out in a desert or foreign country blowing shit up for the hell of it.

“We had an asshole transfer in. You know the type. Pricks who think their co-workers are just there to please them. I don’t think he understood the concept of not propositioning people.”

Jake nods, kicks over two of his empties when he stretches. “Let me guess, jackass hit on the roomie, and you had to play at being baby Godzilla stomping ass?” Reynolds’ smirk could be seen from space if satellites went looking for that shit.

Frank shakes his head. “Not everything’s solved with violence.”

Jake gasps, eyes wide. “Bleach my hair and shove me in a blue dress because I’ve just been pushed down the rabbit hole. Frank Iero, Scrappy Midget Extraordinaire, and the first person I’ve ever known to punch a military officer in the face for being a dick, thinks violence isn’t the answer? Fuck, it’s going to snow in the desert now; thanks, fucker. When did you decide to adopt the Pacifist Manifesto as your personal credo?”

Frank bends down, grabs one of his empty cans, and lobs it at Reynolds’ chest. “Why do I even know you? I didn’t say I converted to being a pussy. I don’t do the Hippie thing. Fuck that shit. It’s possible that, occasionally, a well-timed email topples empires quicker than a well-placed punch. Imagine that.”

“I’m going to blame the roomie for that one. His influence is turning you into a net-drone. You have to be connected to the internet for twenty hours a day, don’t you? It’s okay, you can tell me if you’re a robot clone. I won’t judge. Though, if you are, we can reenact the second Terminator movie. I’ll be Sarah Connor busting out of the crazy house, and you can be one of Arnold’s biceps.”

That earns Jake another beer can to the chest. “I’m not roleplaying with your ass. The moral of the story, which you derailed spectacularly, is that the douchebag got fired for being an inappropriate excuse of a human being.”

“I bet the roomie just loved your knight in shining email save. I bet you guys got to role play Star Wars. Please tell me you have pictures of him in the gold bikini.” Jake tilts his head and stares at Frank for a moment. “Though, you are more like the Lego Han Solo than the live action one. Maybe Leia got it on with an Ewok.”

Frank groans and drags himself off the futon long enough to snag the bottle of rum. The night devolves after that. There’s a beer can war, three missed shots of Captain Morgan, and a thousand bad puns before three a.m. rolls around.

Either Frank’s crashing here on the floor, or he’s calling Brendon before he crashes on the couch in front of infomercials. The floor isn’t very appealing, and it’s not like Jake’s feelings will be hurt if Frank skips out.

Yeah, he needs to go home if he’s thinking about feelings. Frank’s pleasantly, sloppy drunk, and it takes a bit to send a text with directions without misspelling numbers or squinting because the fucking LED screen is a damn nuclear reactor of light.

Jake tosses one of the remaining beers at Frank’s head after his phone’s been put away, and Brendon’s already replied. “Come on, brother, lets go out and wait for the hubby.”

Frank gets dragged back out the window before he can glare or bitch at Reynolds for being a dick. Well, dragged is an overstatement because they both sort of stumble and end up in a heap on the landing. It’s hilarious, and they laugh for a good five minutes before Jake reaches for the metal railing for support.

Which is almost a sobering mental picture. How in the hell is Frank supposed to climb down the fire escape without breaking his damned neck? He’ll deal when he gets there.

“I’m not married, you dick.” The words come out only slightly slurred. It’s another win in Frank’s book. He mentally cheers and maybe does so under his breath, which earns an eyebrow raise from Reynolds before they both dissolve into another bout of laughter.

“Vicious lies. Little Wittle Baby Iero grew up, crawled out of the war zones, and found his husband. I’m a proud papa. Though, I still don’t get it. I’d be bored as fuck with the nine-to-five.” Jake voice thins when he gets distracted by a tom cat prowling around the dumpster, but he’s not trashed enough to drone on and on without remembering his goal.

Frank shrugs and watches the cat stake out the dumpster as his territory. “Boring isn’t always bad.”

“More lies, Iero” is a weak reply for Jake’s usual standards, but it’s early, and occasionally, they come to this place where too many words just clutter everything. Where Frank realizes all over again why Reynolds is one of the few people he ever thinks of as a friend. The guy’s genuine in his I give no shits about how you live your life philosophy, and he’s had Frank’s back far too often for it to just be following orders.

You don’t risk your neck, repeatedly, for someone, out in hostile territory - especially when you go off the books and disregard orders from all sides - when you hate their guts. So, yeah. Jake might be crazy-as-fuck, but he’s Frank’s crazy-as-fuck friend.

Eventually, he’ll retire and spend a week on Frank’s couch before traveling the continental US in a beat-up junker just so he can find a new adventure. Frank’ll end up roped into The Quest of Epic Importance along with Brendon because Reynolds is nothing if not fond of other weirdos who speak his language of pop-culture and snark.

Speaking of Brendon, a black car pulls into the lot and parks near the white Caddy. The lights flick from high beams to normal twice before the car settles into darkness. That’s Frank’s cue to leave.

“The roomie’s a bit of a Cloak and Dagger guy, isn’t he? Points to the midget for scoring with a genius.” Jake nudges Frank’s shoulder with his while grinning like a jackass. “Next time, I wanna meet him; vet the goods, so to speak. See how long it takes to piss you off.”

Frank shoves Jake’s shoulder before standing. He only sways slightly. Jake remains sitting.

“If you wanted to record the two of you going at it. I have a PornTube account. Upload that shit.”

Frank shakes his head, slowly, and flips Reynolds off as he takes the trek down the metal stairs with caution. “Not going to happen. Don’t fall off the landing if you pass out.”

The only reply he gets is laughter following him downward.

It’ll be another two and a half years - maybe less, maybe more - before he sees the asshole again. That doesn’t mean he’s going to wish Jake luck or anything else mushy and emotional. They don’t do that sort of shit.

They’ll see each other when they see each other.

~*~*~*~

The lab’s empty at this hour of the night, except for Brendon bouncing around to some ridiculously hideous Top Forty pop song that’s playing tinnily from his computer speakers. Frank wants to bash his head against his equations, but then the blood would smear the ink. Plus, he doesn’t need more bruises and pains to add to the list.

He’s still sore from yesterday’s quarterly physical-slash-endurance test-slash-survival training-slash-eval. All the labrats and technicians have to sign up for a solo testing day four times a year. After Allison got shot and bled out in the field because she got in the way of the bullets, Pete decided it was in the best interests of everyone to have the inventors, coders, and even the janitors, take a crash course in field survival.

Sure, they’re not agents and not expected to be master spies or anything, but if they’re needed to fix tech or cause explosions when there are no agents around to do it, at least they’re not going in blind. All new hires have to take a two week boot camp before they’re thrown into the rotation for their quarterly evals and yearly, three-day refresher, survival compliance training.

Frank was old hand at the evals and the training even before Pete made them a part of the job description. Heidi loves to make sure all her specialists are field trained and up for frontline ops. She was pissed as hell when his transfer went through. Thank fuck Pete’s good at pulling strings, or Frank would still be running ops like a good, little, brainwashed minion.

The song changes from one pop monstrosity to the next, and Brendon does a hip shake to the beat that crashes him into the side of Plum’s empty desk. He hisses, almost inaudibly. Frank wouldn’t be able to catch it if he wasn’t already waiting for the sound.

Brendon’s eval was three days ago, and he’s still sporting some pretty nasty bruising from having to drop and roll from a moving vehicle this time around.

The underground level parking lot next door - the actual office building built over the lot is also used for indoor training and evals, as are a few of the rundown buildings and empty lots ringing the Department building - was apparently the scene of a tech kidnapping situation. Brendon had to prove he could think on his feet. That he could get out of a sticky situation without dying a painful death or being traced and tracked down again.

He passed with flying colors.

Frank’s reminded of the Brendon from three years ago, right before the evals were started and Allison was just another labrat working on gadgets and gear for the spies out in the field. Two months after being hired in as a flunky, Brendon came in bruised up. No one said anything.

The lab’s as hierarchical as any high school, so it wasn’t surprising. If Brendon wanted to be accepted, he’d have to prove himself first, which was a shitty thing if you asked Frank. Everyone under Pete’s department was a castout, runaway, nobody, freak, or unwanted. It shouldn’t have mattered.

Frank lasted three days before curiosity got the better of him, just like it had two months before when he’d started talking to Brendon after his ridiculous Three Stooges greeting. Brendon lived in a shit hole that rivaled Frank’s first slum, and some of the local street scum liked to intimidate him for favors. When Brendon got creative in telling them no, they decided punishment was a better option than cold-blooded murder.

Plus, who looks at B and thinks hey, this guy could fuck us up? No one does.

So, a week after that, Frank started teaching Brendon everything he knew about survival from his days running weapons ops. The first thing he started with was teaching Brendon how to punch someone in the jaw without breaking his hand. It took them weeks to get that one down enough for Frank to consider it a job well done.

None of that really matters now, because three years later, Brendon lives with him, and their shitty apartment is only slightly shitty and in a somewhat better part of the city. They don’t make the kind of money that the agents do. It’s not like they get paid in peanuts, but you get paid based on hazard, and working in the office means your pay scale isn’t as top-dollar as someone who gets shot at for a living.

Which means they’re forever doomed to not living the high life, but fuck that shit, Frank likes his life just the way it is. He can pay his bills on time. They don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck and can afford shit if they want to splurge. Technically, they could live in a really nice apartment closer to the office, but that would cut into their budget, and Frank promised himself when he first left home that he wouldn’t bounce from check to check if he could find a way to swing it.

It was the icing on the cake when he found out B was the same way. That might have actually been the reason they decided to room together. Pool their resources. Not to mention, Brendon was having to build up from scratch, and his shithole of an apartment was his first one. It didn’t even have a full-year lease.

If he’d signed on for agent work, Director Wentz would have given him an advance on his first check for funds to snag a snazzy place, but since Brendon wanted to play at staying in one spot for a few years, he said no. Asked for any technical position Pete could find him. It was just luck he landed in Frank’s lap.

For the second time, Frank’s indebted to the Director for changing his life for the better.

Being a labrat might not be as glamorous or violent as being an agent, but it pays the bills. Not to mention how that paycheck comes with the stipulation that they fuck around with scientific laws for shits and giggles. The agents might think they’re the hotshots and topdogs; however, they’d be up shit creek without a paddle if they didn’t have the things the lab supplies them.

Frank knows that and doesn’t forget to inform any agent who crosses him about that tiny, little factoid. He’s pretty sure he’s got a reputation for being an asshole, and maybe that’s why most of the lab keeps away. He couldn’t give a rat’s ass, though; the less people poking him the better.

There’s the sound of footfalls down the hallway before the lab door squeaks open and agent Saporta sticks his head in.

“Thought I heard Shakira.”

Ever since he got back from the hospital, Gabe’s been wandering the halls aimlessly, at any hour. Some of the admin staff’s gone to having him deliver inter-office memos when email isn’t the preferred method of correspondence. He’s, technically, on medical leave for at least three more months, but Pete can’t seem to get Gabe to stay at home. So, he’s on a forced grounding, which means he can’t go out in the field and any work he does must be light or non-existent.

Frank can understand that, he’d rather be at work mixing explosives or playing with trip wires than staring at the water stain on the bedroom ceiling in his and Brendon’s apartment. Plus, when he’s in the lab, Frank gets to watch Brendon bounce around and occasionally bend to reach for things. There’s no way he’s going to turn that down.

Brendon laughs, tiredly.

“Yeah. She was last song. Her new shit isn’t as good as her older stuff.”

Sometimes, Frank wonders how he ended up with a boyfriend who enjoys brain rotting Pop music. Okay, that’s a bit unfair because Brendon will listen to anything, including the jingles attached to commercials and that fucking, irritating as hell, melody those ice cream vans like to blast at deafening decibels. That means, if Frank can catch the right moment, Brendon will turn to the local Metal or Classic Rock station, and anything but Polka or Country is better than Top Forties.

Gabe gingerly perches on the edge of Garcia’s unmanned desk and starts up a conversation that Frank tunes out in favor of trying to scratch out part of his equation. He’d like to have something figured out before he ventures to the other side of the lab space tomorrow so he can actually try out a very miniature, controlled reaction on the island.

Jones enjoys it when he can test his hydro gear with explosions. The scientist might not like Frank much - though apparently that’s slowly changing since Frank got Murry called out and fired - but he’s a sucker for a good test of his inventions.

~*~*~*~

The overhead lighting is bright. Coupled with the overall emptiness of the floor, it’s almost eerie. Like those horror films that use stock footage of security feeds to scare the fuck out of the audience when shit pops up for no damned reason.

Brendon’s humming the theme to Inspector Gadget as they make their way from one end of the hall to the other. Their goal is the bank of computers the agents use when they’re office-bound for a few days or months. Frank’s sticking close to the wall while Brendon doesn’t even try to hide at point. He’ll occasionally look up from his phone and turn his head to make faces at Frank, but he doesn’t even pretend to worry about what happens if they get caught in a secure area without clearance.

Which doesn’t piss Frank off, at all. Not one bit. Of course, the agents are allowed down in the top-secret lab where sensitive gadgets and inventions are housed while the lab staff is only allowed on the agent floor with a visitor’s pass and a chaperone.

It’s a bunch of bullshit and one of the few things Director Wentz can’t seem to override. Apparently, the master puppeteers who set up and fund the departments don’t trust nerds as much as they do the muscle. It’s pathetic and fucking offensive.

Everyone signs a confidentiality clause when they join up. You don’t talk about classified information with those outside the approved circle of knowledge. There’s no need for all this covert shit just to visit a floor in the goddamned building where they work.

Which is one of the only reasons Frank okayed this rescue mission. They shouldn’t be reprimanded badly if they make a fuss about their second-class citizen status. That’s if they get caught, though.

Brendon turns his phone sideways to change the screen view while he switches to singing the Get Smart theme under his breath. He stops at the end of the hall and plasters himself to the open doorway before peeking inside.

Three seconds pass. Frank waits. He might hate patience, but he does understand the concept. Brendon pulls back, turns to beam dorkily at Frank, and shoves his phone into his back pocket after cutting his view of the floor from the screen.

See, Frank knew this would happen. Brendon rigged his phone to pick up the security feeds while he’s been updating the cameras. He said it was a checks and balances approach to Bruce, the entry floor overnight security guard who mans the front desk from seven to seven and never seems to be watching the screens when Bren gets bored enough to check in with the guy.

However, Frank knows the backdoor into the security feeds is another way Brendon can spread his paranoid, control issues throughout the whole building. It makes it easier for B to find the weak points and fix them. He likes being prepared. He’s slowly turning the damn building into a fucking digital-era fortress.

Pete’s not going to call him on that shit as long as Brendon continues to be a Jedi who doesn’t decide red lightsabers are ten times cooler than the blue and green ones.

Frank doesn’t even knock on the open door when he strides in, Brendon gleefully singing “Secret Agent Man” while he follows at Frank’s heels.

“B says you’ve been refusing to leave before the witching hours most mornings. Up, we’re going out for food. You’re buying.”

Gabe turns in his swivel chair to look at them. “Too busy.” He runs fingers through his hair before going back to the computer screen.

Brendon bounces at Frank’s side, twice, then darts forward to cling to the back of Gabe’s chair, craning his head over Gabe’s shoulder to get a better look. “Not important. Could be. Not that line; it’s wrong, so wrong, like Oedipus banging his own momma wrong, wrong, wrong.” He reaches around Gabe to point at the offending line before batting Gabe’s hands away from the keyboard and mouse pad to type something into the address bar. “If you’re looking for information on shit like this, you need to go here and trawl the forums. Just let me type out a few baiting questions, and you’ll be done for the night.”

The voila Frank’s expecting is even sooner than he thought. Brendon stretches out of his monkey cling pose and goes into victory mode. “Victory is ours. We are champions. Now, you can come out and play. The Palace closes at eleven. You can’t turn down food. Well, you could, but why? It’s yummy, and you know you want an excuse to crash for the night.”

Gabe wheels his chair away from the computer terminal to look from Brendon to Frank before coming to some decision Frank isn’t sure he completely understands. There’s disbelief mixed with the beginnings of a smirk, though.

Frank’s learning that Gabe’s smirks are a litmus test all on their own.

This is why Frank doesn’t do friends. Not often. He’s not a fan of having to learn people inside and out for more than a job. It makes him feel exposed, vulnerable, stupid. Victoria, Reynolds and Agent Stump are exceptions to Frank’s self-imposed isolation. However, they’re as good as family in his books. Hell, they sure as fuck stuck around longer than a few of the people he’s actually related to, even Patrick, who’s relatively new on the list compared to Victoria and Jake.

That’s not even factoring in Brendon. He has a category all to his own. Dorky asshole just waltzed right into Frank’s life and promptly took up the most space. Not that Gabe isn’t somehow making space for himself in that same category.

Which is something Frank’s not thinking about right now. Nope, not going to happen. There’s no reason to follow that line of thought. It’s much better to muse on how he’s apparently collecting agent friends.

Okay, two agents who don’t give a shit about the agent-lab divide. But, still, agents. What’s Frank’s life coming to? Sometimes he doesn’t fucking know anymore.

Gabe twists around to reach the mouse pad. It only takes a few clicks for him to close his tabs and log out of the terminal before standing. “I didn’t know you guys were allowed up here.”

Frank huffs. Gabe knows why they’re here. Friends keep other friends from being moronic douches all the time. Lord fucking knows how often Frank’s had to do that when he was out in the field with Reynolds. That dick knows how to attract the worst kinds of attention.

Gabe easily catches the rectangle of plastic Frank throws at his head, even if he’s a little stiff about it. Someone’s been pushing the rehab requirements past their limits the last couple weeks. However, it’s none of Frank’s business, so he doesn’t mother hen.

That’s not his job.

“When certain assholes, who shall not be named, decide to stop coming down to the lab to bug us, some of us get worried.” Frank makes sure to glance at Brendon because it’s more believable that B would want to check in on Gabe than Frank would.

Though, to be fair, Frank was less worried and more intrigued that Gabe decided they deserved a way to lurk the agent floor without Brendon having to break into the floor’s keypad - like he’s wanted to do since they first decided Gabe was a friendly worth keeping in their tiny circle of friends.

Brendon frowns at Gabe before shoving his hands into his pockets. “Well, if you didn’t decide to leave your Ident badge on Frank’s desk, it would have taken us longer to accept the invitation.”

Gabe quirks an eyebrow and feigns innocence. “Fuck, I hadn’t noticed I’d lost the thing.”

Frank snorts because that’s a bald-faced lie. Hell, the asshole even used an office black-light pen to write his keypad password on his badge. If that’s not an engraved invitation, Frank doesn’t know what is.

Please. You knew what you were doing. I had to listen to Brendon rant about security protocol for three days straight while the jerk made us our own copies. Who knew plastic was that fucking hard to replicate?”

Apparently, Frank’s little rant is all it takes for Brendon to pull his hands out of his pockets and dart forward so he can snag Gabe’s suit jacket.

“Next time, if you want to be Mister Master Spy just slip me the damn thing, okay? Do you know how dangerous it could be just leaving that shit laying around? We’re talking the Death Star blowing up Alderaan levels of fucked-up destruction if you lose your identification badge. There’s a reason entry level paperwork includes a clause where you have to report that shit the moment you realize it has gone the way of the Dodo.”

The rest of the night is going to be fun. Frank can tell. Especially when Gabe pats Brendon on the shoulder and promises to take better care of his identification card, while trying not to laugh, before waving his hand forward and asking Brendon to lead the way to The Palace.

Frank’s life is a fucking comedy. No one could make this shit up. Not even if they tried.

~*~*~*~

The Palace becomes a routine. So much so, that when the Asian chick who runs the front register with an iron fist spots them come through the door, she yells their orders back to the kitchen staff. They still have to wait in line to pay, but by the time they’re done with that, they get their food without much wait time. It pisses off a few of the less regular patrons. Frank doesn’t give a fuck, and it might actually warm his scorched heart to know they get the special treatment.

Might.

Oh, fuck that. It makes him pleased as punch spiked with top shelf whiskey.

Gabe picks their table, and he always chooses the seat that gives him a good view of the entrance while Frank gets the honors of watching the swinging door that separates the kitchen from the front counter and eating area. Brendon usually gets the window seat.

Frank’s not stupid enough to think that means the asshole isn’t paying just as much attention to their surroundings as Frank or Gabe are. Fuck, Brendon’s already pegged exactly where the security cameras are. It’s a fair estimate that a good third of his body language is embellished for the feed itself and not comic effect.

While B has trouble being intimidating, he’s fucking aces at the underestimation game.

“I’m not saying we have to build blanket forts and braid our hair, just watch movies and MST3K some of them while drunk. We don’t bite. Plus, dick here won’t watch MLP with me. Gabe, you know you want to watch movies with sparkly ponies and unicorns saving the day. Like that has to be one of your top twelve dreams, right?”

Frank groans and pushes the remainder of his food in Brendon’s direction to bang his head against the tabletop. “No one wants to hear that discussion, B.”

He refuses to look up and witness Brendon’s obnoxiously fake, pouty face.

“We talking old school My Little Ponies or new school?”

Frank doesn’t even have to glance at Gabe to know the asshole’s laughing inside because the evidence is right there in his voice. Frank hates him and Brendon right now.

“If we’re watching movies, I’m vetoing anything not action or horror. You two can start a Brony forum when I’m not around.”

Brendon pokes at Frank’s shoulder with a chopstick. “Frankie, Frankie, Frankie, you didn’t tell me you went looking up fan terminology. Oh God, you didn’t go to youtube and scare yourself with pony porn, did you?”

Frank reaches out blindly and grabs the damned chopstick Brendon’s using to poke him. When he scowls at Brendon, the dick starts to laugh like an asshole.

“We’re changing the subject. Who thinks the counter-chick used to run an underground militant unit?”

Gabe focuses his attention on the front counter. “Nah, she’s too loose in her motions. If she’s part of a militant group, she’s never had the military training or focus.”

Frank raises an eyebrow at Gabe, who just shrugs. Brendon tries to steal his chopstick back and fails. He pokes Frank with a finger and leans over him to wave the chick over.

“Sue, Sue, Sueeeeee.”

Which gets Brendon a glare from the front counter. When Sue finally stops at their table, Brendon smiles brightly at her. “The guys here think you’re a rebel base leader. They’re debating over Hoth or Endor’s third moon.”

Frank sighs and looks longingly at the tabletop. He could get another good headbash in if he goes for the gold right now. However, the bell over the front door jingles, and Sue straightens with a snap before crisply walking back to her post.

“Saved by the bell,” Gabe laughs.

Brendon continues to beam like a fucking moron.

His smile slides off his face, though, when his voice slips down to almost a whisper. “She’s got security training of some sort. One of her brothers has to know computers like the back of his hand because their set up isn’t shabby for a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. They’re not drug runners, but they’re def hiding from something.”

Frank glances at Sue before going back to Brendon. “You sure about that?” He’s not a fan of outing people.

Brendon nods. “She knows we’re not a threat. Our orders would have been laced with laxatives days ago if that was the case.”

Gabe shakes his head. “Want to tell me, again, why neither of you midgets decided to go into agent work?”

Frank shrugs. He doesn’t really feel like reopening that Pandora’s box of goodness tonight. It’s enough that he even so much as fucking mentioned that shit to Gabe the last time they were the only one’s left in the lab.

Brendon takes the moment to finally snatch back his chopstick. With a hand flourish, he points it at Gabe’s face. “Where would the fun be in that?”

Gabe grabs the chopstick out of Brendon’s hand, wipes it on his napkin, and proceeds to try to poke Brendon in the ear with it. Frank’s surprised that doesn’t start a elementary school slap fight. How is it that he only knows assholes who act twelve on their best days?

Someone’s phone starts to vibrate in a pocket. It’s not Brendon’s because he sets the ringtone to “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard” even when he’s working. Frank keeps his phone on the factory ringtone, mostly to piss Bren off more than actually caring what ringtone he uses.

Process of elimination means Gabe’s the one with the call. Instead of getting up and taking it outside or going to the men’s room, he glances at the call screen before hitting send.

“Saporta speaking, how may I direct your call? … si, madre ... Do I need to bring whiskey and Duct-Tape this time? … Okay, give me thirty. I’m with Iero and Urie; my car’s still in the lot.”

Gabe sighs and ends the call. “Patrick’s threatening to skin Pete alive over being a smothering douche or something. I’m on best friend duty since Travie’s still out of the country. Come check on me tomorrow night, if you don’t hear from me before then. We’ll make plans for movies and unhealthy shit, then.”

With that, Gabe stands and takes his trash to the garbage can before leaving. Brendon stares at his ass as he goes. Frank shakes his head, snapping fingers in front of B’s face to break his train of thought.

“Mission Control to Brendon Urie, come in. Ogling Gabe’s ass is not an Olympic event, so stop trying to go for a gold medal.”

Brendon blinks and shoves at Frank’s shoulder, playfully. “Oh, please, like I’m the only one. I swear you have a fucking fixation on his hands.” He rests his chin on Frank’s shoulder, batting his eyelashes like a fucking starlet. “I do declare, Mister Iero, that we have a mutual crush on one Mister Gabriel Saporta. Oh, whatever shall we do?”

Frank jostles Brendon. “You’re not a blushing maiden from a regency novel; knock that shit off.”

B pouts before shrugging and smirking, ridiculously. “I could whisper dirty things into your ear, instead. You can’t tell me you’re not thinking about it.”

“Like you’re thinking about sex, Bren. I know you. You’re imagining mocking commentary while watching Mars Attacks and sappy shit like holding hands while cuddling.”

Which isn’t exactly true. Frank would bet money on the fact that it’s more a mix of all those thoughts. Brendon’s the only guy Frank knows who can make cuddling while watching something animated fucking dirty as shit.

Brendon pushes back his chair and grabs for their mess. When they go to leave, he mock salutes Sue while gleefully shouting ’may the force be with you’ without giving a damn about the other customers staring at him like he’s a fucking crazy person. Sue holds up her right hand and smugly parts her fingers into a V without saying anything.

Brendon pulls Frank out the door, laughing. “’Live long and prosper.’ She’s a trekkie. That makes everything awesomer than it already was.”

The walk back to the office building isn’t quiet. Frank spends fifteen minutes listing pros and cons about liking Gabe. Brendon bounces and even, occasionally, skips.

It’s not exactly surprising that Brendon’s very pro-Gabe. Except he’s not about ditching Frank for someone else. B wouldn’t do that shit, even if he’s always been more inclined to have less conventional relationships than most.

The first few months of their adventure into project Secret Boyfriends, Frank was mildly concerned that he wouldn’t be enough. Who can match a dude who spent several years in an open relationship with a friend and that dude’s girlfriend?

No one.

Especially not Frank, who’s really never been big on relationships. Not so much because he didn’t want one but because he didn’t have the time or drive to care for many years.

However, he’s fucking invested as all shit in what he has with Brendon. Which should be surprising but isn’t. Much the same as how Frank’s starting to think he’d be okay with including Gabe.

“I’m vetoing an open relationship.” Frank refuses to seem startled that he’s the one to say that.

Brendon pushes him up against a darkened building and kisses him, quickly. “Agreed. We’ll just think about it, okay? Bring it up eventually, slip that shit into a harmless conversation. I think Gabe’ll agree. He totally thinks of you as a tasty, little snack to gobble up.”

Frank pushes Brendon away. It’s dark, and they’re alone. No one important is going to see them. Not yet. They’ll have to start acting again when they get closer to the lab, but for now, they’re safe.

“Who talks like that? Gobble up, really? You need to stop reading fairy tales for inspiration. I’m not the only one who likes hands. Gabe tracks every move you make when you gesture.” Frank’s smug because he enjoys playing Brendon at his own game.

Brendon bumps his shoulder against Frank’s when they start walking again “So, Operation Assimilation is a go?”

Frank nods and checks his phone when it rings. There’s a message from Gabe sitting in his inbox.

new i shld hv gn 4 dctape.

Followed by nxt tme u 2 r cming w/

Which will be fucking hilarious as shit if that ever happens. Patrick’s been on Frank’s case for years about why he’s not shacking up with Brendon. However, that’s mostly because Frank’s a little dipshit who can’t stop needling Patrick about his attachment to their boss.

The epic love story of Director Wentz and the office’s top agent is something Frank can’t help but bring up, over and over again. That shit’s funny as hell, okay. Except where it isn’t because Pete’s a stickler for setting a good example, and Patrick’s too much of a regulations junkie to say fuck protocol and wing it like Frank and Brendon.

In the future, something’s going to happen and those two are going to end up alone and hurting. It’s none of his business, and Frank’s not a Yenta. It’s possible he could talk Gabe into the role if the asshole wasn’t already a member of team Wentz/Stump Forever. That doesn’t stop the unwanted feelings Frank has telling him that he needs to help move things along before disaster strikes.

One day, he’s going to let Patrick in on the secret to happiness: you find the people who finally matter and hang on as tightly as possible. No matter what the rules say. Fuck the rules.

Only, he’s not going to say it like that because he’s not a fucking Hallmark card. Jesus fucking Christ, he did not sign up for this shit. When did the world become complicated as fuck?

It doesn’t really matter.

Frank smiles to himself imagining Patrick having an aneurysm the moment he decides Gabe’s been pulled into the Urie/Iero Sphere of Hotness. That thought keeps him occupied until Brendon steals his phone and types a reply to Gabe.

They spend the rest of the walk widening the empty space between them until they’re a respectable distance apart while discussing the finer points of special effects in action movies.

There’s no use in thinking about tomorrow when today’s still hanging around. He’ll leave that shit to Brendon.

~*~*~*~

Lunch time rolls around at ... 6 p.m. Frank has to actually fiddle around for his phone to figure out what time it really is because Brendon and he never take lunch at a normal hour. Especially not when he’s finally got the chance to test out in-lab chemicals that could be stealthier than the old-fashioned kabooms of conventional explosives. He’s been working on these particular items for years, and he’s finally close as fuck to a legit breakthrough.

Frank’s high school chemistry teacher can suck monkey balls for saying he’d never make it in the real world. That Frank was a horrible human being with no direction and even being whip-crack smart wasn’t going to save him from a painful death. Looks like the joke’s on that asshole, though, because Frank’s sure as fuck succeeding.

Whatever, Mr. Dwight doesn’t deserve the seconds it takes to think about him. There are better things to occupy Frank’s time. Like Brendon and their ridiculously late lunch.

They’re sitting in the upper-level lobby, leaning against the evil as fuck torture devices of chairs that are set out for hopeful, new employees and whoever else would be visiting. Technically, they should be down in the cafeteria playing tabletop, napkin-football on an actual table and not the buffed and shined floor of the lobby, but neither of them really like the smell of meat that lingers in the air there, so they’ll either eat their veggie sandwiches in one of the lobbies or outside in the courtyard.

Valerie, the receptionist, never tells on them. Usually, she just smiles and lets them know when the department heads have appointments with agents or head honchos from other departments.

It’s raining outside today, so the courtyard’s a no-go. However, the upper level lobby is dry and quiet. It’s late enough in the evening that Valerie’s nightshift replacement has already clocked-in. Joey doesn’t care what they do, and as long as he can get away with ‘reading’ his smuggled in skin mags, he’s not going to shoo them away.

After all, the guy’s not a secretary. He’s nothing more than a glorified security guard who works six to six. Only he’s not as snarky as Bruce, so he gets the honor of watching the security feeds on Valerie’s computer instead of working the ground floor manning the entry level desk and actual security monitors after hours.

He’s ex-military. Discharged honorably way before he was ready to leave. The tells are in how he doesn’t care about the lesser rules but follows the bigger ones like dress code and being respectable - minus the Playboys. How he keeps Valerie’s desk immaculate and other tiny things most other people wouldn’t notice.

He wants to go back, but they won’t let him. Frank can sympathize, even though he doesn’t fucking understand why someone would want to go back to a warzone.

The ding of the elevator causes Frank’s shot to stutter and tilt to the tiles not even a quarter of an inch away from where he tried to flick it. Brendon looks up out of curiosity. Frank watches his face, noticing the moment Brendon closes off, a wide, fake grin plastered across the edges of his lips in greeting. Frank swivels his head toward the elevator and catches Jason, the Intelligence department’s head, step out.

The man’s fucking starched within an inch of his life, and Frank thinks he’d make a good match for Heidi. The two of them would be one hell of a merciless power couple. Though, heaven help the whole planet if the two of them ever did decide to hook up.

Before getting to the desk, Jason slows to stare at Brendon. Frank does his best to hide his clenched fingers. If clocking Rogers would get Frank sent back to Heidi in a heartbeat, decking Jason would get him handcuffed to Heidi’s ankle until the zombie apocalypse decided to show up three centuries too late for his poor fossilized skeleton.

“Did you think about my latest offer?”

Brendon mutters something under his breath that Frank can’t catch before speaking up. “I did, and I’m fine here. Thanks, though.”

Jason nods once and starts off towards the desk again. Joey’s hidden his magazine somewhere, and Frank couldn’t care less.The moment Jason’s buzzed through the doors, Frank turns back to Brendon.

“He asked if you wanted to transfer, again. Didn’t he? That fucking jackass, douchenozzle.”

Brendon sighs and stares at his hands.

“The answer’s always going to be no, Frank. I’m not leaving, so you can stop acting like a caveman about to pull his bride back into the safety of the cave by her hair. There’s nothing the Intelligence department could offer that’s going to make me change my mind.”

Brendon tries to smile for real, and Frank picks up their discarded napkin-football wedge. When it bounces off Brendon’s cheek, he laughs, loudly. Frank feels some of the tension settled in his shoulders melt away.

Occasionally, he forgets Brendon is just as coveted as he is. It’s hard to think of B as an asset when Frank’s seen him sit upside-down on their couch just to see if watching Saturday morning cartoons is different from an opposite viewing position. Maybe if he wasn’t so used to Brendon being a happy, cheerful, and stupid asshole, Frank wouldn’t always have this intense possessive feeling every time the Intelligence department makes a pass at him. As it is, he’ll just have to deal, and eventually, Jason will stop asking because there’s no way Bren’s willingly giving up his lab work, Frank, or Operation Assimilation.

Frank’s more than happy knowing this.

~*~*~*~

Brendon’s bent over his laptop scrolling through his digital library when Frank walks out of the kitchen. They’ve been trying to decide what to watch for this edition of what Bren’s fondly dubbed “How to Carefully Seduce a Gabe.” Eventually, Frank’s going to run out of veto cards on shit like The Care Bears or My Little Pony. Gabe doesn’t help because the jackass used to watch that shit with Travis when they had down time to get high back before they signed up to be agents.

It’s a losing battle, one where Frank’s not quite ready to admit defeat. Maybe, when Gabe officially notices the clue-by-four, Frank’ll lift the ban in favor of a victory celebration. The chances are slim to none, but it could happen.

“We’ve already marathoned Die Hard, Terminator, and Firefly. You’re still refusing to let us watch the original Star Wars trilogy again. You’re totally cramping our style.” Brendon stops scrolling through his files and wiggles his ass when he notices Frank watching him from the kitchen archway.

“You and Gabe would watch The Empire Strikes Back on repeat just to make shit up for them to say. We could do horror classics of the ‘thirties and ‘forties. I know you torrented that shit last Halloween.”

When there’s a solid series of knocks on their front door, Brendon rolls his shoulders in a tiny shrug before pulling away from the coffee table. Frank groans when he notices “Shave and a Haircut”. That can’t be anyone else but Gabe.

Of course, B gets to the door before Frank can. He belts out “Two Bits!” when he opens the door to a smirking Gabe. Asshole just loves to push at Frank’s irritated yet inexplicably fond button.

Gabe’s dressed down. Like he usually is for movie day, night, or weekend. Outrageously obnoxious plaid button downs over a white tee and worn jeans tend to be his weapons of choice when he comes over. Frank very much approves. As does Brendon, if the wolf-whistle that dissolves into happy giggles is anything to go by.

“We need your opinion, Oh Wise and Tall One, RKO King Kong or PJ’s update?” Brendon’s already dragging Gabe in by his sleeve.

Frank keeps leaning against the doorframe, watching smugly.

Gabe throws him an amused glance before going back to B. “How’s that even a question. Fay Wray all the way.”

Frank shakes his head and pushes off the doorframe. “I hope you know what you’re getting us into there, Chief.”

Brendon releases Gabe’s sleeve so he can go to his laptop. “We can do that one too, Frankie. Seventy-five is still one of the classic years despite the movie being in color.”

“Why don’t we save murderous sharks for another day, B? Throw in Deep Blue Sea and some of those bad Z shark attack movies, and we have our next theme.” Gabe moves around to plop down at the end of the couch where he proceeds to take off his shoes and set them to the side.

Frank watches him take up as much room as possible, so Frank has to kick at him to have space for the rest of them to sit. Which he doesn’t have to do because Brendon always drags his laptop to the middle of the coffee table so he can wedge between Gabe and Frank when they watch movies.

It would be adorable if it wasn’t devious and part of Brendon’s million-step seduction plan. Frank’s own ideas have been of the “wing it” variety to see where shit goes. So far, they’re mostly about even on who’s winning the war for their cause.

“Would you like refreshment after conquering our couch for the millionth time, asshole?” Frank keeps his tone mildly irritated and bland. It’s hard as fuck to do when he wants to laugh like a dick because Gabe has to stop staring at Brendon’s ass to turn and address Frank.

Gabe doesn’t even fake modesty. Fucker has no shame when it comes to being caught red-handed mentally undressing either of them. By the time he leaves, Brendon will have catalogued plenty of the moments just so he can whisper dirty shit into Frank’s ear before bed.

“Beer but none of that Corona shit.” Gabe prods Brendon’s leg with his foot.

Brendon promptly shoves him away while he finishes his set-up routine. B likes hooking his laptop to the tv because it gives him more control. “You don’t know what you’re missing. That shit’s summer in a bottle that doubles as a deadly weapon when smashed. What’s not to like?”

Gabe laughs. “Do I even want to know how someone who could be the human-feather would know that shit?”

When he goes to prod B with his foot again, Brendon wraps fingers around Gabe’s ankle. “Not all dance clubs sell only high-priced mixed drinks and Miller Lite. A few stock up on the Corona. Those always tended to be my favorite meet-up spots.”

Meet-up spots? Why would you meet up at a dance club when there’s dancing to be had?” Gabe tries to prod at Brendon’s side with his captured foot, and Brendon pulls his sock off.

Brendon drops Gabe’s foot, smiles like a dick, and does victory arms.

Frank shakes his head. “So, a Corona for the tech department and a six pack of Bud for those of us with good taste.”

Brendon balls up Gabe’s sock and throws it at him. Gabe hooks his arm over the back of the couch and points at his sock then looks up at Frank. Which, fuck no, Frank’s no one’s damned maid.

“Does it look like I’m a French Maid?”

Brendon takes a few steps to the side and falls on Gabe in a controlled way before turning and beaming at Frank. Together they chorus “Kinky!” and start laughing like assholes.

Jesus fuck, Frank’s dating and attempting to date two Reynolds-lite clones. Damn it. Motherfucking fuck. He’s screwed as shit. But, whatever. It’s not the worst thing to happen in his life.

Unless Jake finds out. Which, yeah, that’s not high on Frank’s list of shit he wants to deal with right now. Thank fuck he has a few years to wait before Jake will wander back to the states.

“I can totally order you an outfit if you want. What do you think, Gabe, classic black and white with the frills or something in lime and hot pink? I think he could pull it off.” Brendon has trouble speaking because he’s laughing too damn much.

Fucking asshole.

“I like how you think, Timothy Q. Mouse. May I call you Timmy? Or does that bring back bad Lassie flashbacks?” Gabe ruffles Brendon’s hair before glancing to Frank. “You guys LARP that shit right? Help, Timmy’s suck down the well.”

Frank flips them off before using the doorframe to pivot back into the kitchen. “Scratch that, I guess I’m only getting beer for myself, you two chuckle-headed assholes can get shit yourself.”

Which doesn’t mean he actually follows through with his threat, though. Damn it. Frank’s apparently got a soft spot for idiots with shitty taste in humor.

He comes back to find Brendon cueing up the original King Kong while talking about hacker meetings in dance clubs. It’s nothing Frank hasn’t heard before. Gabe, however, seems amazed by that shit and appalled.

Mostly appalled.

Frank finds it hilarious as fuck.

“That’s an abuse of dance code, bro. You don’t go to nerd out. It’s about losing yourself in the music.” Gabe sounds affronted and scandalized.

Frank rolls his eyes when he sets their beers down: two Coronas for Brendon and a six pack to share with Gabe. “I thought it was about dry humping twinks and popping pills to make the pretty colors swirl.”

That earns him the blanket from the back of the couch being thrown over his head. Brendon snickers and slides his laptop over until it’s in the middle before settling between Gabe and the empty cushion Frank snags.

“I shouldn’t share. B, do you think the Care Bears had a “No Douchebaggery” clause?”

Brendon makes a shushing sound and stares at the TV. Frank can’t help but laugh, which earns him a glare. Gabe presses the end of a Bud can against Frank’s neck, and Frank snatches it.

That shit’s cold as fuck; Gabe has no fucking manners. “You were born in a cave. Stop that shit.”

After King Kong they watch Boris Karloff creep it up in a B movie that not even Frank can remember the name of. Leave it to Brendon to find all the obscure shit.

In the middle of the movie, pizza shows up. Gabe finally ordered. It’s about damn time.

Frank pokes at a chunk of pineapple while Brendon eyes his slice with intent. “Don’t even fucking think about it. I know where you sleep, and you have your own slice.”

When the movie ends, Gabe snags Brendon’s laptop and drags it closer. Brendon squawks, batting at Gabe’s hands. “If you break my baby, you’re buying me a new one. If you’re looking for something just tell me, and I’ll ctrl+f for it.”

Gabe huffs out a put upon sigh. “I know what I’m doing. Trust me.”

Brendon shakes his head before standing. “I’m going to piss. A million vetoes against Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees.”

Gabe already has a movie cued up and ready to play when Brendon gets back. Frank hasn’t paid any attention. He’s missing the news right now, so it seemed like a good idea to check the local shit from his phone.

If Gabe picked something animated, Frank’ll just reach over and punch him in the shoulder before Brendon sits down.

The menu screen blurs some like it’s unfinished and glitchy. “Oh goody, a bootleg. Bren, I thought you stopped downloading the bastardized shit?” Frank makes sure the sarcasm is dripping. Brendon smacks the side of his head with the flat of his palm before glancing from Gabe to the TV and back again.

“What?” Gabe doesn’t sound confused which gets Frank’s attention. “It’s got action and romance. Best of both worlds, right?” The smarmy smirk punctuates the right.

Frank scrubs a hand across his face. “There’s no world where Romance movies are acceptable.”

Brendon sits and leans forward so he can press play. “Did you go to a matinee?” When Gabe shrugs and says something about only seeing a trailer Brendon knocks his shoulder against Frank’s as if to say ball’s in our court again, watch me work my magic.

“Remember, you picked this.” Brendon’s voice is gleeful, and Frank glances at Gabe only to see the asshole smirking like it’s every holiday rolled into one.

“What are we watching?” Frank eyes the screen and the opening worthy of any action movie. Victoria would be bitching about the gun myths and misrepresentation of weapon violence right off the bat.

This Means War,” Brendon doesn’t shush him like he did earlier in the night.

It takes a moment for Frank to register the movie title. When he does, he rolls his eyes. Leave it to Gabe to pick a movie about motherfucking spies. Best friend spies at that. Who fall in love with the same woman.

Christ doing the hula, this is going to get interesting.

“Isn’t that the one with-” Frank doesn’t get a chance ask the rest of his question because Brendon elbows him in the ribs while Gabe throws the blanket over his head, again. When he growls under his breath, Gabe shushes him.

Frank tugs the ratty-ass blanket off his face and chunks it behind the couch. See how long it takes for them to pretend he’s a fucking caged bird ready for a nap when they have to get up and retrieve the damn microfibre throw themselves.

It takes fifteen minutes for Gabe to start bitching about how wrong the movie is over field-agent shit. How not even the CIfuckingA is that damn moronic to hire idiots like those two. Then it gets to a part where the blonde chick’s bemoaning about finding a date, and Frank tunes it out as completely as possible.

Which turns out to be harder than it seems. Awesome.

Brendon pretends to bash his head against the couch when the chick decides it’s okay to date two guys without telling either. And, yeah, Frank totally remembers the long-ass rant Brendon went through after watching this movie the first time.

How open relationships didn’t work that way. How Hollywood was a bunch of dicks. Blah blah blah.

“Is there a reason you kept this on your hard drive without deleting it?” They’re nearing the end of the movie, and Frank can’t really see any redeeming sparks of mediocreness in the narrative. It’s been more entertaining just listening to Gabe and Brendon snark over how wrong everything is.

Brendon shrugs. “Still trying to figure out how to remotely trigger a sprinkler system. That’s the only impressive thing in this. Their blatant disregard for a civilian’s privacy puts most Evil Overlords to shame.”

“The tranquilizer to the neck was inspiring but a stupid waste of funds.” Gabe sounds as appalled as he did when Brendon was mentioning how he didn’t go to dance clubs to dance.

The movie ending is a relief; Frank can stop wondering how none of the main characters died a painful and much needed death. Though, oddly enough, it catches him off-guard. “Wait, shorter dude is getting back with his ex? Pigs haven’t been sprinkled with fairy ejaculate and can now fly. There are valid fucking reasons people divorce.”

Gabe snorts and reaches behind Brendon to mess with Frank’s hair. “Is Kermit the Frog jealous of all the fake love in the air?”

The TV screen glows blue while Brendon goes about shutting down everything. He packs up his laptop and takes it to the spare room. Frank has his suspicions that Gabe knows they’re together, but he’s not asking, and Frank’s not telling.

So, the charade of Brendon living in the junk room continues. For now.

Maybe they should be honest. Brendon’s been pushing for it, but Frank doesn’t think that’ll work to their advantage. If anything, it might push Gabe away. Nothing says “committed triad relationship” like admitting to a long-term, two-person one that isn’t dissolving any time soon.

“You mean to tell me you think plaid-wearing guy is going to make it five seconds with the ex-wife?” Frank doesn’t know why he’s so pissed with how two movie relationships were divided up. It’s so trivial and stupid.

Gabe stretches out on the couch and prods Frank’s hip with his foot. “And you think Pretty Boy Pine is going to stick with Reese? He’s too hung up on Hardy to be a good boyfriend for her without frequent brodates.”

Frank gives Gabe a quizzical look that Brendon rudely interrupts when he sits in the gap between Gabe’s legs. It’s a stupid position, but it gets Gabe to laugh and move Brendon around until they’re both comfortable. Frank does his best not to think on how fucking hot that is.

Noise breaks through his thoughts when Brendon switches the blue screen to cable. “We’re watching cartoons until I don’t want to punch things. I’d forgotten how stupid Lauren, FDR, and Tuck really were. They had a perfect in for a triad, and instead, they go back to conventional hetero relationships when Tuck and FDR clearly have as much of a thing with each other as they do with Lauren. Great Scott, they’re all fucking morons.”

He tips sideways and falls against Gabe. “See.” When Gabe only pets at his hair, Brendon pushes off of Gabe and crashes against Frank’s side. “Why is it no one ever thinks threesomes are a valid option? It doesn’t have to be mainstream to work. Like, missionary is a good position but is boring as fuck.”

“Aren’t threesomes just about the steamy, kinky sex?” Gabe raises his eyebrows in confusion. “Looked like the movie was going for True Love, not porno.”

Frank shakes his head when he glances over at Gabe. Who knew the guy was a closet believer in the love word. Brendon’s going to be even harder to shut up, now.

Which is, of course, when Bren goes into full dramatics. He points a shaking finger at Gabe while leaning against Frank’s side and chest with enough force that it feels as if he’s trying his damnedest to climb into Frank. “Not you, too. Frankie Wan Kenobi, save me from society’s mass brainwashing.”

It takes a second to shove Brendon off of him. When he finally does, Gabe’s staring at them like they’re the most interesting thing he’s ever seen. It’s unnerving.

Frank glares at Gabe. “I hope you’re ready to stay for a few more hours. Brendon’s convinced it’s a conspiracy to keep everyone paired off and being good little minions who don’t think for themselves.”

That comment earns him a smack to the head.

“You have a better explanation for why the media only ever shows non-conventional relationships when they’re unhealthy? It’s taken them forever and way past infinity to finally show a functioning gay relationship that isn’t only about sex and instant gratification or ends in death, death, and, oh look, more death.” Brendon settles back into his cushion now that Gabe’s moved his legs.

Gabe ruffles Brendon’s hair. “Makes sense, B. What would you have done in that situation?”

Frank mentally wants to facepalm and laugh like a fucking hyena at the same time. Brendon’s going to lord this over his head for ages.

“First, no fucking lies about the whole dating-two-people thing. Or, you know, betting my best friend that I can bag the person we’re both dating first. I’d think about an open relationship because V’s can and do work. I know because I’ve been there before, and it was good while it lasted.”

“But?” Gabe’s not smirking anymore. He’s wearing his serious face. Frank’s actually worried they’re about to break him.

Brendon doesn’t seem to notice because he barrels right along. “That’s not exactly what I’d want. You know? I’m greedy and like too much attention for that to work. However, a triad, that would be perfect. Everyone on equal ground. No revolving, no lies. No shitty Hollywood reasons for anyone to get back with an ex when the bromance is coded more as a closeted gay romance that’s trying hard on both ends to be hetero than a close friendship.” When he’s finished Brendon cringes at the cartoon playing on Boomerang and promptly pushes in the numbers on the remote to go to Cartoon Network.

Frank was half expecting B to come out and propose a relationship between the three of them at the end. Though, he’s not surprised Brendon pulled back. Gabe looks like he’s processing Brendon’s rant. It actually looks like it might sink in and incubate.

Maybe it’ll hatch sometime soon, and Frank can stop fantasizing about this shit. He doesn’t like all this waiting, but if it works, he’s not going to complain. Much.

It’s edging on two a. m. when Gabe goes for his shoes. “As comfortable as your couch is, I think I need to split. Travis is supposed to be between objectives for a few days, and time zones are a bitch to work out when he texts.”

Which is code for Gabe being tired of his phone waking him up at three a.m. - on the occasions where Gabe’s actually asleep at three a.m. - with cryptic messages from Travis that he has to decode while trying to work through the sleep haze. Brendon shuffles from the couch and vanishes into the kitchen. He comes back with the second box of pizza they didn’t completely work through earlier.

“Our gift to you for being such a good guest.” Brendon smiles when he shoves the box into Gabe’s hands. “Let me know when is good for you; I’ll come by and set you up a secure net Bubble of Solitude, only it’ll be way better than movie-Superman’s lair. Then we’ll set up Skype, and you can video chat. That shit’s revolutionary.”

Frank rolls his eyes. Gabe shrugs before pretending to clasp the damned pizza box, congealed grease and all, against his chest. Frank can almost believe the asshole didn’t buy the damned thing.

“I will cherish this box.” After a moment of watching Brendon laugh like a tired child, Gabe lets the box drop so he can carry it like a normal fucking person. “I’m going to hold you to that, B. Thanks for having me over, brahs.”

“You don’t surf, jackass. We’re still on for The Palace tomorrow night?” Frank doesn’t know why he even tries to curb Gabe’s antics because all it earns him are choruses from Gabe and Brendon of duuuuuddeee, tubular, and bogus. If they keep this up, Gabe’ll be around for another hour quoting Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with Brendon while Frank pretends to be irritated.

Gabe goes to the door and unlocks it before pulling it open. “Of course, I wouldn’t want to miss date night. Sleep tight, munchkins; don’t let the monster fleas bite.”

“Go wait up for your boyfriend to call, Saporta.” Frank glares then glares more when his brain catches up with the short joke. “And we’re not that damn short.”

Brendon laughs and starts trying to postulate on what size an actual monster flea might grow to. After a minute of calculating in his head, he gives up and waves. “Have a good night, Gabe. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

No one should even sound that chipper, like, ever. When the door closes behind Gabe, Brendon darts forward to plaster himself against Frank’s side. It would be annoying if Frank didn’t enjoy when B decides to be a monkey.

“I think it’s time for bed. You’re pretending to be five, and we’re not into ageplay.” Frank pokes at Brendon’s side until he gets a squeak. Sometimes, it’s way too damn easy.

“I think Gabe likes us. He really, really likes us. We’re so winning this war. Do you think maybe we should just tell him we want to date him?”

When Frank doesn’t say anything and instead starts trying to tug Brendon toward the master bedroom; Brendon licks the side of his neck. There’s intent, and the graze of teeth, behind the action.

“If you leave a mark, I’m hitting you. Stop that shit. We’ll pull out the clue-by-four if we need to, soon. Give it a few days to sink in that you’re into poly. Which, Christ, B, way to almost break Saporta’s brain. You might as well have tattooed warm and willing across your forehead.”

“You’re just jealous. Don’t be. Gabe was totally mentally casting you as the male lead in a personal fantasy or twelve.” Brendon snickers against Frank’s neck, and it shouldn’t be hot. “Come on, it’s time to sleep.”

If sleep equals sex, then yeah, that’s totally what’s slated for the rest of the damn night. Frank’s not going to complain. It’s sex. Why would he complain?

~*~*~*~

Saturday mornings shouldn’t exist. The weekend used to be sacred. Frank vaguely remembers a time when he could sleep in, when noon was an acceptable time to roll out of bed and start the day. Which wasn’t when he was younger or when he was one of Heidi’s trained dogs. It was only when he began working for Director Wentz and fell out of old routines that he got to enjoy the weekend like a normal person.

Then Brendon bounced into his life, and Frank’s weekends have never been the same. To be fair, there have been Saturdays where they spend all day in bed or sitting on the couch in their underwear while they watch random bad movies on basic cable for the hell of it. So, maybe, he shouldn’t bitch too much. It’s not like he’s sweating to death in Nature’s Sandtrap of Life or having to wake at dawn to do chores that wouldn’t matter come the end of the day.

He’s an adult who makes his own decisions. Finally. Thank fuck.

It’s nine-fifteen, and the lab’s empty. If anyone shows up it’ll be Jones and Martinez around noon. They tend to swipe in to use the quiet lab space as a sounding board for figuring shit out when they’re stumped.

Everyone who works in the lab is a work-a-holic on some level. Brendon and Frank Included. They’re just better at staying until two a. m. some nights, going home, only to wake up four hours later to do it all over again. Their lives would suck hardcore without coffee and caffeine tablets some weeks.

Deadlines have to be made, though.

That’s not exactly why Frank’s in the lab this morning. He has to pick up a few tubes of experimental compounds and a handful of specialty tap charges. He’ll be long gone by the time anyone else shows up. If he’s lucky, the rest of his weekend won’t have to revolve around work.

Brendon’s going to try and talk Gabe into tagging along with them to the shooting range later while they’re running errands this morning. After The Palace earlier in the week, Gabe’s been oddly AWOL until last night. Running to the lab was a last minute addition to Frank’s usual plans. They always pick one Saturday every month so Brendon can make his rounds several cities over.

It’s the paranoia rearing its always be on your guard head. Frank doesn’t know anyone else who keeps a secondary alias so close to their chest that they dress up like a preppy douche and travel an hour and forty-five minutes away just to make deposits to a bank account they’re never going to use. Brendon’s cracked in the head, but if it keeps him happy, Frank’s not going to bitch about it.

Hell, one day, that damn account might become fucking important. Frank’s not betting on that happening. However, his life alone has taken too many turns for him not to think Bren might be onto something. That doesn’t mean he’s going to do the same fucking thing.

He’s not as fucking paranoid. Which is partially because he’s never had to live off-grid or create a separate persona for the outside world. Brendon spent years out of the system just from making shit up and crashing on couches instead of trying to afford an apartment of his own.

It’s impressive. Even if Frank thinks its overkill to keep a secret identity when Brendon’s not an agent. Whatever, B doesn’t hound Frank about keeping all their weapon permits and licenses current or bitch when Frank drags them to the shooting range to stay fresh, so Frank’s going to keep his fucking mouth shut about Brendon having a second ID he hides so damn well Frank doesn’t even know where the fuck it is until it shows up in Brendon’s palm Saturday morning.

The tap charges get set in a padded box. The chemical tubes are placed in a separate box because only idiots store the two together. Which, actually makes sense when Frank thinks about the minor fires a few agents have caused in their hotel rooms after thinking it was a fucking good idea to shove everything together to conserve space. Fucking morons, the lot of them.

Well, not all of them. There are a few Frank doesn’t mind handing shit over to for missions. Which, considering what time it is when he looks down at his phone, he has one of them waiting for him down the block.

Marty, the weekend security guard at the front desk, double checks Frank’s printed-off supplies form for the proper signatures and runs the page through the computer scanner before popping the latches on the black boxes so he can account for all goods. When he’s finished, he greenlights Frank’s exit by unlocking the main lobby doors. It’s a bitch of a hassle to go through procedure, but it’s for safety purposes.

No one wants a biological or weapons-based hazard because someone got their panties in a twist enough to jump ship with their destructive, little babies.

Patrick’s going to complain about tardiness; Frank doesn’t give a fuck. In fact, he plans on sitting in his black sedan for an extra fifteen minutes, on purpose. That, and he needs time to gift wrap Patrick’s mission goodies.

There’s a sparkly, pink, glittery monstrosity of a gift bag sitting in Brendon’s seat practically calling his name. If Patrick wanted the standard-issue equipment case he shouldn’t have asked for supplies over the weekend. He knows the drill. If he needs shit on the weekend, Frank’s going to be a dick about it. That’s just how it works.

Frank unlocks the sedan’s door and stretches to drag the hoodies he keeps in the backseat up to the passenger seat. They’ll act as a proper cocoon since he’s not using the safety precautions correctly. It’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Sometimes, it’s actual orders to be more covert than usual and transport supplies differently, that doesn’t mean Patrick gets to get off scott free.

That would be far too fucking boring.

The coffee shop down the block isn’t crowded. It’s pleasantly full with just enough spaces open that Frank can park in an obscure enough way as not to be noticed by the front windows. Patrick’s, no doubt, already snagged a primo spot that gives him the advantage of seeing both the entrance and the lot with ease, along with being far enough away from the tables in the center of the room to have the illusion of privacy.

Brendon calls while Frank’s in the middle of arranging pink tissue paper so they look like fairy, fire flames spitting out of the bag. He has to stop what he’s doing and answer before wedging the phone between his shoulder and his ear.

“You’re interrupting arts and crafts, B. You done pretending to be a Gap model?”

Brendon laughs, and Frank can imagine Bren running a hand across his perfectly styled hair.

“Has Patrick, Danger Mouse, Stump seen his presents, yet? You didn’t forget to add Cruzie Q., did you?”

Frank digs around in the Walmart bag until he snags the lime green, ribbon bow - chosen in Gabe’s honor while he was on the phone with B late last night while they were shopping for gift supplies - that’s hiding at the bottom of the plastic bag. He has to fight with the tape backing to get it to stick, but finally, it does.

“What part of arts and crafts didn’t you get? And, yes, I made sure the fucking thumb drive’s in the bag. Does Gabe want brunch?”

Which is, of course, when Gabe steals the phone from Brendon and starts laughing over Frank’s use of the word brunch. The Virgin Mary in fucking spankies, Frank can’t ever seem to win. He’d be facepalming if he wasn’t so damn sure Gabe’s smirking happily from the other end of the phone.

He’ll take the fuck my life moment if it means Gabe’s not going to vanish on them again with only a feeble excuse of needing to keep Patrick from killing Pete because of cabin fever.

“Breakfast and lunch mated and had a fucking baby; lay off, asshole. You want some or not, Saporta?” Frank knows his voice pitches into surly territory. He doesn’t really care, especially not when Gabe laughs more.

“Sure, short stack. We’ll come pick you up at the apartment, and then, there will be food with the promise of firearm-goodness afterward.” Gabe can’t be doing anything else but grinning now. Gabe’s been restless lately. It’s a feeling Frank’s gotten used to over the years that never really goes away. A little practice at the range will be good for both of them. “You’re bound to get back before we do. Our favorite Ragelicious Guinea Pig won’t keep you long.”

Frank surprises himself by laughing. He’s doubled over so badly he has to lean back into the driver’s seat to keep from bashing his head against the steering wheel. “I’m going to make sure to call Patrick that and let him know that’s your nickname for him.”

The massive-as-fuck work vehicle blocking the sedan from the front windows pulls out, and Frank’s left in the open. He runs fingers through his hair to make it even messier on principle. Patrick’s not a big fan of shit like that. There’s a reason Frank originally thought the bastard was a department accountant or Director Wentz’s personal assistant.

Even dressed-down, he’s in slacks and a shirt that tomorrow’s Sunday crowd would damn near salivate over. Seeing Patrick in ratty jeans and a faded tee is like Frank’s holy grail of goals for the future. Gabe’s assured him that the event does occur, but seeing as Frank’s not Pete, it’s going to take time and a really fucking good plan to achieve that objective.

“Speaking of which, I’ve been made. Stop talking on your phone while driving, douche. If you assholes die in a fiery car crash I’m resurrecting your asses just so I can set you on fire myself.” Frank hangs up, gently grabs the pink twin handles of the gift bag, and gets out of the sedan as carefully as possible.

The last thing he needs is to catch himself on fire after thinking unkind thoughts about dickheaded, moronic, douchebaggery agents causing property damage because they’re idiots. It would be poetic justice. Thank all fuck Frank doesn’t believe in flowery shit like poetry. But still, something would find a way to bite him on the ass.

It always does. Eventually.

Patrick eyes the gift bag warily from the moment Frank gets out of the car all the way to Frank setting it down in the center of the table with a soft thump.

“It’s not going to bite and give you glittery herpes. I’m grabbing a cup of coffee then you can open your present.”

The girl at the front counter looks bored out of her skull when Frank orders a plain coffee. Frank doesn’t put much stock in her expression. He just doesn’t care that much.

As soon as he has his surprisingly-not-shitty coffee, he makes his way back to Patrick’s table. He doesn’t know why Patrick decided to meet here. They usually sidestep coffee shops when they hang or whatever it is they do occasionally.

Once was good enough for both of them. Until now. At least, this place is upscale.

Frank sits down and sets his coffee on the table as far away from the gift bag as possible. “So, I’m curious, does this get to be your long-awaited, honeymoon present? Because I didn’t know if Director Wentz preferred strawberry-flavored condoms or cherry.”

Patrick pointedly stares at Frank before adjusting his glasses. Patrick wears them when he’s got nothing better to do than be a judge-y, judge-y asshole. “You’re a little shit, Iero. Where’s your shadow? Do you need thread to sew him back to your side so he doesn’t wander off again?” He slides the gift bag closer and slowly starts to pull out the tissue paper. When he pulls out the boxes and flips the lids to examine the goods, he looks up at Frank. “More new shit to play with?”

Frank smiles like a dick. “You know you love being my ragelicious, little guinea pig. You already know how the tap charges work. Don’t get your ass blown up, Stumpy; Pete’ll kill me, and I like being above ground.”

“You’re not a comedian. Stop trying to be one. You’ve been hanging around Urie too long if you’ve named your newest shit after cartoon pets. Pluto, Astro, and Scoobie?” Patrick’s not impressed.

Frank can tell.

“You want me to give you complex information that could fall into the wrong hands?” Frank’s having way too much fun being an asshole right now. Patrick knows it and glares at him when Frank points to the box with a grin and lowers his voice to a whisper. “The instructions never change, so I just labeled them aptly. Pluto’s a twist on the old classic you love so much. Astro should blow through metal; it’s close to what I’ve been promising you for years. It’s still got a few bugs in the mixture, but it won’t fuck you up if you’re smart about using it. Scoobie’s a warped play on a smoke distraction only with more flaming-death involved once you set the chain reaction into motion. Run like hell when you activate it.”

“Joys.” Patrick fishes out the thumb drive, arching an eyebrow at Frank when he notices the pink-sharpied name on the back. “Urie needs to stop naming his flash drives. What does this one do?”

Frank shrugs. “B wouldn’t tell me. Said it was a surprise. You could ask Gabe; I’m pretty sure he asked Bren last night when he told us your favorite color. Which, just so you know, ragelicious guinea pig was his term, not mine.”

Patrick shakes his head and repacks his supplies even going so far as to replace all of the tissue paper back to how Frank originally arranged each fold. “Do I need to worry about you turning Gabe into your own personal Tinkerbell?”

It’s said so blandly and straightforward that Frank almost misses the thread of steel in Patrick’s voice. “Only if Gabe wants to be a tiny, sparkly fairy. But, Brendon might fight him for the title if he knew it came with sparkles. We’re not fucking with him, Patty McPat Pat, the greatest Leprechaun to ever live. So chill.”

Patrick glares at him and grits his teeth when he says “you’re pushing it with the short jokes, Iero.”

Frank laughs and pushes his chair out when he goes to stand. “Hey, it’s not every day I get to not be the shortest dude in the room. It would be a fucking shame to let the opportunity go to waste. Go save the world, Underdog. When you get back I’ll think about refraining from vertically-challenged nicknames.”

“Don’t make promises you never plan to keep,” Patrick mutters under his breath. “Glad to know the lab hasn’t curbed your dickish tendencies since the first time we met.” His voice is droll, but he’s trying not to grudgingly smile.

Frank has that effect on people. Either they want to punch him, or they don’t.

Patrick stands, snags the gift bag with one hand and his coffee with the other. He hip checks the chair back into place. “Sometimes, I wonder why you didn’t sign up for shit outside the lab. You’d annoy the fuck out of our clients. Their surrender would follow shortly after.”

“Nah, not my gig anymore,” Frank shrugs. Patrick’s not trying to recruit him. If anything Patrick knows just how damn bored Frank gets sometime, and this is his way of making sure Frank’s fine with his lot in life. “However, if something a little more hands on came up and I wasn’t flying solo, maybe.”

Frank doesn’t know why he tacks that on, except for how he’s felt like this for awhile. He’s never voiced it before because, to the best of his fucking knowledge, there’s no such position. Especially not one that would pair him with anyone, excluding Brendon, that he can stand enough to work with that closely.

The department houses administrative posts, agents, and lab techs only. It’s not like they have other slots Frank could fill. He’s happy as a labrat.

Patrick nods like he’s taking Frank’s comment into advisement. Knowing the asshole, he is. “Your next eval’s coming up in a few weeks. Ask your examiner about options when you pass. Don’t incinerate the lab while I’m gone.”

Frank watches Patrick leave. Next time they meet up, he’s going to make sure their venue is a strip club just on principle. It’s not like Patrick’s going to oggle the strippers, often. He might as well be married to Pete as rarely as he hooks up with randoms these days.

They’ll get drunk when Patrick comes back, and Frank’ll get to hear Patrick bitch about whatever it is that goes wrong this time, the shitty strip club, and Pete’s smothering tendencies when Patrick returns scuffed up. It’s a win-win situation in Frank’s book. Patrick’s safe, and he gets to rant.

Frank’s phone rings when he’s tossing his coffee cup into the trashcan. He has a picture text from Brendon. The picture’s of Gabe flipping off a tractor trailer on the interstate. It’s the song attached to the message that has Frank laughing while he leans a little too heavily on the metal strip running across the middle of the door as he pushes it open.

Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home” sticks on loop in his head the whole way to the apartment because of the damn text. Knowing Brendon, the next text will be a picture of a road sign accompanied by “Carry on Wayward Son”. Frank sets his phone on the arm of the couch when he gets in and waits for the rest of the hilarity to begin.

~*~*~*~

“You can not just say that Nirvana is the only good thing that came out of the ‘nineties. What about Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast?”

Brendon’s shoulders are tense; he’s aggravated, and Frank tries to swallow his laughter. He’d rather not have to sleep on the couch when they get home. Brendon tends to take any slight against the Disney classics as fighting words.

“Disney isn’t the make all and break all of that decade, bromigo.”

Frank snorts, and Brendon spins on his heels to glare at Gabe.

“What? Gabe’s right, Bren. Lots of shit happened in the ‘nineties. Like fuck if I can remember at ass o’ clock in the morning what did. Don’t look at me like that. Disney is important, but it’s not everything.”

Gabe gives him a satisfied little smirk, and Frank shakes his head.

“That doesn’t mean Nirvana’s the highest man on the totem pole either, dicksmack. Though points for not saying “Barbie World” is the single best piece of lyrical genius to come from that era.”

Gabe stares at him, horrified, while Brendon snickers into his hand.

“You were reading the forums about weird shit again weren’t you?”

Brendon’s smiling at him, and Frank tries to sound surly when he replies.

“Boredom gets to the best of us and not like you can talk. If I don’t block the sites, you spend hours looking up cat macros and pie charts of Rick Astley or Meatloaf.”

“Oh fuck you, I do not spend all my time on the lolcat website, and you wish you could block what sites I use, but I am a crafty ninja who can get around your shitty fake walls. Ha says I, HAHA!”

“Neither of you have a life. No wonder you’re stuck down here in the labs like Quasimodo with his gargoyles.”

Frank’s about to say something when there’s the sound of a throat clearing. There’s light spilling in from the hallway, and when exactly did the lab door swing open? Someone must have oiled the squeaky hinge this evening or something because otherwise, he would have heard it open.

“As much as I’m enjoying the comedy hour, we’ve got an issue.”

Pete’s standing behind them, trying not to seem amused by their argument. Whatever’s happened to bring him down here at one a.m. can’t be good, so Frank tries to cut him some slack. Also, it’s not often the boss man makes his rounds below ground level or gives out lab orders that aren’t mass emails about Cheerful Yellow Day or Speak like a Pirate Week.

“Three agents unofficially went offline two days ago. They were supposed to check in at the five hour mark earlier today as a safety precaution. None of them did. There’s reason to believe they’ve been compromised. We’re stretched thin working other cases, and no one else is available.”

Gabe’s listening attentively, and fuck, when did Frank forget that Saporta used to be one of the people, in general, who make his life hell by bitching about his supplies and abilities, all the damn time?

“I can be ready within the hour.”

Pete stares Gabe down.

“You’re still on medical leave for a few more weeks. And if I didn’t think you’d just up and follow who I’m sending in as the calvary, you’d be grounded. When Mitch gets in, you’re first on his list. If the doc can clear you for light duty, I’ll sign off on it, but you’re not going alone.”

Frank’s pretty sure he knows where this is heading. He and Brendon have the best eval scores of all the non-agent staff. The labrats don’t really talk about their stats, even if that’s all most of the agents like to brag about - obviously, minus Patrick, who just has to look like a tiny badass for everyone to move out of his way, and Gabe, who only has to pretend to loom to get his point across. Down here, it’s more about how fast you can rebuild or replace broken tech and gadgets than how quickly you can shoot a moving target off in the distance. That doesn’t mean Frank’s blind to how the two of them are the fittest of the lab staff. Not to mention, he has field experience that he’s been teaching Brendon for several years now, and Pete has to know that.

It’s a wonder they haven’t been pegged for tech fieldwork, yet.

“Frank, you have experience with shit going wrong, and I’m pretty sure you’re up for blowing shit to smithereens. Brendon, you can’t tell me you don’t want to help Frank destroy shit. Plus, you can’t tell me you don’t want the challenge of cracking into locked-down security systems.”

If Brendon says no, Frank will too. They go together, or they don’t go at all.

Brendon fidgets and shoves his hands into the pockets of his off-white lab coat - there’s not enough bleach in the world to get rid of the ash stains his coat was subjected to during an experiment they did one weekend just for shits and giggles.

“We’re not agents. I mean Gabe is, but Frank and I aren’t. Decent scores on our evals, aside.”

Pete looks at Brendon. “That’s fucking good because I really don’t need spies right now. I need a search and rescue team. Since I don’t have one yet, I’m creating it now. Say no if you like. I’ll try to find someone else, but the two of you are the best qualified, and I’d rather it be you than anyone else.”

“So, it’s just blowing shit up and breaking door-code locks?” Brendon’s pulled one of his hands out of his lab coat and is fiddling with his collar.

“Something like that. In or out. Because if you’re out, I need time to call people.”

“In.”

Frank lets out the breath he was holding and nods.

“It’s been awhile since I got to cause a good explosion.”

Pete nods back.

“Good. As soon as Gabe’s cleared, I’ll brief you. Go home. Get some sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”

~*~*~*~

Frank has no damn clue why he’s staring down at a folder with haphazardly shoved papers crammed into the center. Shouldn’t the department be shifted over to paperless documents by now, instead of dossiers that have to be carried around? Then again, Brendon would bitch about exactly how easy it can be to steal information virtually, so Frank’s not going to bring it up. They have a folder filled with information, and they’re in a shitty motel room an hour away from where Evans vanished, only forty-five minutes away from where Stevens went missing, and an estimated twenty from where Pruitt last checked in.

They really could be anywhere nearby. Brendon’s estimating that their search area is a radius of an hour and thirty minutes, at most. But, that’s only a damn estimate. There’s no fucking telling if Pruitt, Stevens, and Evans are even in the fucking area anymore. Or, if they’re alive.

Joys.

Whatever underground organization the agents have been digging into is glossed over. Frank’s not really happy about that. How the hell are they supposed to launch a successful rescue attempt when they don’t even know what the fuck the three agents were getting into?

The peeling varnish on the motel’s table is a distracting texture under his fingers. Frank looks away from the glossy picture of Pruitt in baggy cargos and a grey hoodie taken five days ago by accident with Evans’ camera to watch his fingertips slide across the table top. Brendon sighs from the bed and continues typing on his computer.

Frank’s not really sure why they’re the search and rescue team. Okay, he can understand Gabe, the guy’s part of Pete’s original crew from back before Pete was promoted to fix the department and is damn good at being an agent if the rumors are true. However, Frank and Brendon aren’t really trained recon operatives.

No matter what Pete thinks, he wasn’t put on recovery missions much when he was leashed to Heidi’s division of the Defense department. Sure, he’s blown a hell of a lot of shit up, and he’s shot people and been shot before. That doesn’t make him some sort of magical knight in shining armor. Frank snorts because Brendon’s rubbed off on him in more ways than one. Complaining about not being some magical creature destined to save the world is just one of the many habits Frank’s picked up from Brendon.

Brendon’s never really done anything remotely close to this, and to say Frank’s worried is an understatement. Not that Brendon can’t take care of himself because he can. Fucker’s squirmy as a hopped-up tomcat bristling at the vet’s office, and he’s gotten good at fighting. They both walk away mottled and smarting when they practice twice a month.

Frank’s of the opinion that it’s best to not grow lax and settled. So, he’ll pick a random day in the month, Brendon chooses the other. Once that’s settled, they spend the evening and way into the night surprising each other with different scenarios. Often times, it ends with sex; really fucking good sex, at that.

Still, the point is, Brendon has no field time on the books. He’s green. Living off-grid doesn’t get to count here. Frank doesn’t want to think about what could go wrong. His first field op went belly-up within the first three hours. That’s an experience he never wants to relive or have someone else go through. Its something he doesn’t want to think about in relation to Bren.

Steam pours into the room when Gabe opens the bathroom door. Brendon stops typing and looks up. Frank watches Brendon stare at Gabe for a moment before going back to his keyboard.

Gabe shuffles through his duffel bag for clothing while Frank counts the scars sliding across his skin. Frank can’t help that Gabe’s attractive. Hell, there’s a good, goddamned reason they have Operation Assimilation in place. Frank’s pretty sure they’re going to have to outright ask Gabe because all this covert clue-by-fouring is getting beyond irritating.

Gabe just isn’t getting the progressively blatant clues being dropped daily.

“I didn’t know they made clothing that fit giants?”

Brendon snickers at Frank’s comment, his shoulders shaking with mirth, even while he tries to hunch closer to the computer screen.

“Well, we can’t all shop at Gymboree or Forever 21.”

Brendon’s out right laughing now, his head bent low enough that his hair grazes the keyboard.

“Just because I don’t need to shop at the Jolly Green Giant store doesn’t make me a teenage girl who hasn’t had her growth spurt yet.”

Frank closes the folder and moves from the uncomfortable chair he’s in to the bed. Brendon scoots over so Frank has room and isn’t in danger of falling off the edge.

“I wasn’t calling you a tween girl, Iero. Only a tiny, tiny hobbit.”

Gabe pulls on a hideous looking plaid button-down shirt and starts to slip the buttons through the buttonholes.

“Fuck you, I do not have hairy feet.” Brendon looks mildly offended, and Gabe just laughs.

“I love that you didn’t even dispute the short comment, but hair on your feet is totally objectionable.”

Brendon flips him off and goes back to whatever it is he’s doing with his computer. Gabe moves his duffel to the floor, next to the wall, and sits down on the edge of his bed.

“So, we need a cover story. Why are we hanging around snooping about?”

Frank thinks about it, but before he can say anything, Brendon chimes in.

“Boyfriends.”

Gabe’s head snaps in Brendon’s direction, and he’s staring.The only reason Frank knows this is because he’s doing the same thing. Gabe’s still sitting at the edge of his bed, so it’s not hard for Frank to watch his reaction. Brendon takes the silence to mean fuck no and starts explaining.

“What? No one’s going to expect three guys together to actually be agents or officials or cops or anyone who’s going to make waves. We’re just around looking for a good time. Try new shit.”

Gabe stares at them.

“Playing romantic entanglement isn’t exactly for novices. You sure you want to go the advanced class route? Because it’s not as fun as you think it is.”

Frank flips him off and leans forward to card fingers through Brendon’s hair. He shouldn’t be thinking about doing what he’s going to do, but fuck Gabe for being an asshole. Before Frank can actually do anything, Brendon curls fingers into the hem of Frank’s faded tee-shirt and tugs him down for a kiss.

Damn, Frank’s fucking gone on Brendon and his ability to be not even a step behind. If he were a sappy romantic, Frank would think they were made for each other or something stupid like that.

The kiss isn’t mocking or for show, just how they normally kiss when there’s no one around to watch or pass judgment on either of them. One kiss turns into three, and Frank has to rest his forehead on Brendon’s shoulder when they part for air. They’re going to be making out for the rest of the night if he doesn’t.

It’s happened before.

“Who said anything about acting? If you want to be the third-wheel that’s fine, but neither of us are going to complain if you want in on the action. We do have an action plan running for this, but you keep missing the goddamned cues.”

Brendon’s cheeks are flushed. Frank tips his head slightly to the side, hoping to convey is this okay? without actually saying anything. Brendon nods and leans forward again to lightly nip at Frank’s bottom lip before backing away.

He closes his laptop and gets up to put it away. Frank watches him bend to close the flap of his messenger bag and turns in time to notice Gabe watching as well. This is, perhaps, a very fucking bad idea. But if they don’t try now, then when?

“This isn’t some game to play for shits and giggles.” Gabe sounds irritated.

Brendon turns around to look at Frank before just going for it.

“This isn’t a game, Gabe. We’ve been talking about it, a lot. Like Frankie said, there’s an action plan. I aptly coined it Operation Assimilation.” Brendon even makes sure to smile like he’s a confident dick while his voice stays fond. It’s not a skill Frank’s ever seen used on anyone other than himself.

It’s stupidly hot.

He nods when Gabe glances over for confirmation while Brendon slowly moves from his bag to where Gabe’s still sitting at the edge of his bed.

“This isn’t the best possible time, I know, but we’re not fooling with you. If you don’t want to, that’s cool. No worries. We’re still the best bros evar.”

Gabe wraps fingers around Brendon’s wrist. “I don’t do casual, anymore.”

Frank laughs. Gabe and Brendon turn their heads at the same time to look at him.

“That’s good because neither do we.”

Somehow, that’s the deciding factor. Gabe tugs Brendon down until he’s pulled into Gabe’s lap. Frank doesn’t know how he’s ever lived without that image burned behind his eyelids.

Fuck.

Watching them kiss is hypnotic. It isn’t until Brendon pulls away from Gabe and turns to stare at Frank, pointedly, that Frank realizes he’s still sitting by himself on the other damn bed.

“You going to just stare or come over here and join in?” Brendon’s trying to waggle his eyebrows and fails miserably.

Frank laughs again and climbs off the bed so he can go to Brendon and Gabe. The moment he gets close, two hands snap out to pull him off-balance. If they all crash to the floor and crush each other, this rescue mission will be over way too quickly. However, Frank can’t find it in himself to care.

Especially not when Gabe starts laughing against his neck. “The Borg, really? That’s either creepy or, no, just creepy.”

“Shut up, douche. Less talking.”

Which is when Frank pulls Gabe into a kiss. Seriously. No more talking is going to happen or he’s going to hit someone.

~*~*~*~

Frank wakes up having to piss.

Of course, he’s sandwiched in the middle of Brendon and Gabe, so it’s going to be a fucking obstacle course just getting to the bathroom. Three people sleeping together is a logistical nightmare. Thankfully, Frank couldn’t give a fuck about that; if it doesn’t work they’ll try something else.

It’s that easy.

Poking Brendon in the ribs gets him to roll enough that Frank’s able to get some leverage to wriggle free. When he’s back from the bathroom, the red numbers of the motel’s clock read 1:45 a.m.

It’s been two days since they started looking into the missing agents case. They know Pruitt and Stevens are alive. It’s just getting them out that’s become the issue.

Evans is a ghost. Brendon thinks she’s alive, but Gabe has his doubts. After the last picture of Pruitt was emailed to the department, Evans sort of only pops up sporadically before there’s no trace of her at all. Brendon thinks she went off grid for some reason; Gabe thinks she got her ass shot.

Frank doesn’t know what he thinks.

If this was Stevens he’d say her ego got her killed. Only this is Evans, who’s ego stays small and in check, so he doesn’t have a clue what happened. All he knows is that they have two more days, max, to find a way to get Pruitt and Stevens out and decide if Evans is collateral damage or not.

Frank would love to go back to sleep, but they have some cover of darkness, spying shit to do. Waking Brendon up is, as always, interesting and an act of deviousness on his part. This time, he takes the last packet of shitty instant coffee and waves it under Brendon’s nose before tearing into the filtered pouch. When Brendon breathes in deep, some of the coffee gets inhaled, and he wakes up spluttering and flailing. Gabe grumbles and sits up, the thin motel sheet sliding down his naked chest when Brendon wakes him by accidentally smacking him in the head.

Frank can’t help but laugh his ass off.

“FUCK YOU, FRANK. What the hell?” Brendon glares at him then begins to shuffle out of bed, the sheet doing its best to play reticulating python around his legs.

“I thought we talked about the whole don’t be a dick when waking me up thing?”

Gabe grumbles again before scrubbing a hand across his mouth. “The two of you are both twelve-year-olds stuck in adult bodies, right? Who does this shit when they’re closer to middle-age than twenty?”

Frank laughs again and wanders off in the direction of his duffel. They need to be dressed and out of the room soon.

~*~*~*~

Brendon’s talking to three guy - tourists, of course - his hands waving about while Frank watches from a safe distance, smoking. Frank doesn’t often indulge in nicotine, but it’s two-thirty in the fucking morning. Why else would he be outside at this hour?

The three guys laugh when Brendon says something outrageous. Frank shakes his head. These guys aren’t in any way related to the mission. Stupid, fucking, waiting games bore Bren. He can’t help but make acquaintances with everyone and everything that comes close to his personal bubble of bounciness.

It’s a good cover. Also, it’s a good gauge of B’s paranoia. If he’s willing to be open like this, Frank doesn’t have to worry.

“He does know they have nothing to do with why we’re here, right?”

Frank nods and lets Gabe lean next to him against the side of the building. He still has no damn clue what exactly happened to Gabe to land him in the hospital for a week and a half, with medical leave for almost four months after that. He doesn’t ask, and Gabe hasn’t said anything.

Yet.

Frank can be patient, sometimes. Not everyone has to spill their whole life story like Brendon did with him when they first met. It doesn’t matter, and if Frank can help it, Gabe’s a permanent fixture now. They’ll just have to figure things out as they go. It can’t be too goddamned difficult.

The cigarette burns down to the filter. Frank drops the butt; Gabe steps on it. Brendon wanders up to them with the three guys trailing behind him. Gabe quirks an eyebrow but doesn’t stop Brendon from making introductions.

The gangly guy is Mikey, and the dude at his side is Mikey’s older brother, Gerard. The third guy, is Ray, and they’re just out exploring the city after catching a late movie. Some older, foreign horror film that has Frank’s attention the moment they mention a chick kidnapping a dude and tying him in a canvass bag. It’s interesting, though, not as exciting as explosions and action sequences. Which leads them to talking about Bruce Willis and the fourth Die Hard film.

Yes, taking out a helicopter with a car is damn unlikely, but it’s fucking entertaining as hell.

Around three-fifteen, the car they’ve been waiting to park across the street does exactly that. Gabe makes an excuse for the three of them before trying to drag them away. Brendon slips out of his grip, scrawls an email address across Mikey’s arm with Frank’s pen and waves goodbye.

Frank shakes his head. Brendon looks at him.

“What? they’re cool dudes and we don’t really have friends.”

“This isn’t the Care Bears, B.”

“Thank goodness for that. Can you imagine the Care Bear Stare in real life. It would be shudder inducing. Think of all the horror movies that could be made from that premiss.”

Gabe just looks at them blankly for a moment, the lamp light from the street light they’re standing under shadowing half of his face, before starting to walk off. “If we’re done with the impromptu friend gathering, it’s time to get down to business. We do actually have shit to do, midgety midgets.”

If everything goes right, they’ll have Pruitt and Stevens out before daybreak. Shipped back home safely and soundly. If it goes wrong, then. Well, fuck. Frank’s going to hate that, but he’s not unhappy with how everything is going right now, so that counts for something.

You can’t win every battle. People get lost. Or die. It’s shitty, but it happens. You fucking deal and move on.

~*~*~*~

Fuck, fuck, fuck. I hate people, sometimes. Seriously, Frank, why can’t they act like Sims with the willpower function turned off once in awhile? Stevens jumping ship and switching sides, was not in the mission summary. Now, we have to figure out how to make sure she hasn’t given away classified information.” Brendon’s fingers are tapping hurriedly across the keys of his little, handheld device.

“That’s not our job. We’re not a clean up crew.” Gabe’s leaning against the corner they’re hiding behind. Occasionally, he’ll peek his head around it to check the corridor for hostiles. He has his gun out. Frank’s thought about pulling his, but he’s too busy mentally calculating quantities and if the chemicals he premixed are enough to take out the wall.

Stevens is a lost cause.

Pruitt isn’t.

“No, but you said Stevens is a high profile agent. Either she’s faking them out or has actually turned evil-baddie. If she is giving them information and is smart, she’s got something good to hold over their heads to keep herself alive. Which means she hasn’t told them, yet. Or not enough for them to do anything with that knowledge.”

Gabe glances down the corridor again before turning back to look at Brendon. “It’s not our problem. We don’t have to save the world. Just Pruitt.”

Brendon’s continuing to stare at his handheld. His index finger presses one button several times before he’s scrolling down the screen.

“You don’t get it. What information could a spy have that would be enticing to the bad guys. To this particular bad guy, to be exact? And no, I don’t mean bank codes. She’s hypothetically got access to data that could have personal information about all of us. The head of this crime circle has a thing for handing out scraps of info like that to others who have no qualms in shooting wives or husbands and children. If she gives him anything, he could have everything I haven’t secured yet, and I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start triaging the situation ...Fuck... This is about to get even better ... Evans is alive, but she’s not here.”

Frank’s had years to get used to Brendon’s rambling. Gabe’s getting there. Which means they both know Brendon doesn’t make shit like this up. If he’s concerned then they need to deal with what he’s brought up.

“Then lets break Pruitt out, cause a distraction that will hopefully keep Stevens from having time to sing like a songbird, and figure out a way to get Evans back.”

Brendon nods once.

“Okay, I’ve got the rest of the cameras, but I can’t promise them for long. We need to do this now.”

Frank pulls out a pre-measured vial and shakes it. The liquid goes from clear to amber. The glass starts to heat up.

“We have thirty seconds; duck and cover, assholes.” Frank throws the vial against the wall.

The sound of the wall caving in is louder than he likes. Demolition is rarely silent which occasionally pisses Frank off, but what’s he going to do? Walk up to a wall and tell it shhhh? Yeah, no, not going to happen.

Once the dust clears, they’re staring at a confused Pruitt. If he was expecting anyone, it was probably through the front door of his room-slash-holding cell, not the back wall.

It’s one of the joys of having a room in the center of a building. No one expects someone to fucking sneak in to blow out the back wall. They always think you’re going to stroll up the direct route like motherfucking idiots and start a hail of bullets because agents are that badass, right?

“Come on, we gotta go!”

Pruitt doesn’t wait for Frank to yell a second time. He’s off the cot in an instant, limping through the hole in the wall. When he’s through, there’s the sound of a bullet ricocheting off stone. Well, looks like they’re going to have to run, after all. Gabe shoots back when he gets a chance, while Brendon’s at point trying to direct them out by the safest halls or corridors.

Once they're out and in their rental, Pruitt turns from the front, passenger seat to ask Frank if they have Evans yet. He doesn’t take it well when Frank shakes his head, no. Huh. Frank didn’t know they were friends.

He does find out that the reason Evans wasn’t in the same location with Pruitt is because Stevens wants Evans to go rogue with her. The bitch isn’t giving up on the other agent changing her mind.

“This is fucked up. Iero and Urie, running a mission. I thought you guys only saw the sun when you’re out testing shit?”

“This isn’t some Jules Vern novel. We’re not Morlocks, Pruitt.”

Gabe smirks in the rear view mirror. Frank barely catches it before Gabe says something that has him laughing.

“You mean H. G. Wells, Bren.”

Brendon shoots a glare in the direction of the driver’s seat. Frank keeps laughing because who knew Gabe was this big of a closet nerd? It’s a much better thing to think about than how quickly this mission is falling apart around them. What was supposed to be a four day op has turned into what’s going to be at least another week of trying not to fuck up.

Yeah, Frank’s so fucking happy about that.

They have to keep Stevens from spilling too many secrets. Find Evans. So, basically, they’re pulling an agent mission instead of a quick-ass extraction, which helpfully also includes convincing Pruitt to not fuck shit up.

The guy’s not a bad agent, but from what Frank’s heard, he’s more about information management in the field than hand-to-hand combat or fucking fire-fights. It’s best to keep him as far from fucking their plans up as possible.

~*~*~*~

Gabe has him pushed up against the wall of their motel room. Frank fucking knew he was missing this. There’s the sound of a chipper ping from the table where Brendon’s laptop was left open.

B’s out picking up their take-out order. The only place nearby that has take-out doesn’t deliver, of fucking course. So, he left his computer booted up when he left. Frank ignores the ping in favor of rocking up against Gabe while stretching for a kiss.

When three more pings follow in quick succession, Gabe backs away, breaking the moment. Motherfucker. Frank has half a mind to just throw Brendon’s computer outside, but then they’d be at a disadvantage because no matter what new relationship the three of them are exploring right now, they’re still on a job and can’t forget that.

Frank’s just making his way over to the table, to mute the damn thing, when the door swings open, and Brendon walks through in all his dorkish glory.

Speak friend and enter. How is melon equal to friend, anyways? I mean, sure, it’s Elvish, but all I think about are cantaloupes or honeydews. ”

Gabe snickers. He steps forward to take the bags from Brendon’s hands. “Your nerd following is chirping for your presence. Also, Fellowship of the Ring? Really, Brendon, why not Land Shark or anything actually relevant to modern society?”

Brendon shrugs. Then he sits down in front of his computer to start typing. B’s computer should come with a chest attachment so he never has to leave it.

The cheerful ping replies again and again. It’s down right fucking annoying as shit.

Frank sneaks up on him and pulls Brendon’s laptop away while Gabe slides a carton of veggies and rice under Brendon’s nose. If they don’t act now, it’s possible he won’t eat for another couple hours. Frank’s had first-hand experience with Bren’s technology addictions.

One weekend there was a seventeen hour Youtube spiral that started with kittens and ended with steampunk robots.

“Hey, gimme. I’m talking to the guys. They want to know if we’re free for a few hours and might want to meet up to see a horror movie at the discount theater.”

It’s been three days of them finding nothing on Evans' whereabouts. Pruitt was finally convinced to go back to the office this morning.

Brendon’s whacked-out computer program is interfaced into the mark’s computer system. Hello, jumping at shadows and flitting from one false hit to the next. There hasn’t really been much else to do besides finding spots away from Pruitt to touch. Brendon’s been instant messaging Gerard and Mikey the last two days pretty religiously, especially when Pruitt hovers nearby.

That doesn’t mean Frank should encourage this friendship. It could go wrong in so many different ways, but Gerard and Mikey are entertaining, and Ray’s pretty knowledgeable about good music. It’s been years since Frank’s actually had friends. Patrick and Gabe don’t count.

The Ways and Ray don’t seem to care that Frank, Brendon and Gabe are together. They’re inclusive and funny. Maybe that explains the weird three-friend vacation they’re on together; Frank can’t even begin to fucking understand how that works.

If he’s being honest, he wouldn’t mind a little of that inclusiveness and fun in his life. It helps that the guys actually live less than an hour away from them, outside of vacationing here. What could it hurt having someplace else to hang that doesn’t come with a confidentiality form or boss-level security protocols?

It’s not like they’re going to spill sensitive information to civilians. That would be stupid as shit.

~*~*~*~

Brendon’s in his lap, hot tongue sliding down his neck. Gabe’s hand is working its way under his shirt. Needless to say, Frank can’t fucking think really well. His brain’s shorting out. They haven’t even undressed yet, just stumbled through their motel door and collapsed on the nearest bed. Gabe’s behind him, to the left, one hand caught in Brendon’s hair while the other keeps skating across Frank’s side.

“I can’t believe you told them we were secret agents, Brendon. If anyone would believe you, it’s the Ways. We haven’t even know them over a week, and I can tell you that.”

Frank’s voice sounds reedy and thready, already; fuck, sex should not always feel like this much of a thrill, but it does. Gabe only makes it even more intense. He’s another piece of the puzzle helpfully completing the picture.

“I ... I didn’t ...Jesus, do that again … I didn’t think about it. Was just a joke ... fuck. They weren’t supposed ... to ... to ... take me seriously.”

Brendon’s panting against his neck, the words moist and slick against Frank’s skin. Gabe makes a low sound before dragging Brendon’s mouth away from Frank’s damp neck so they can kiss, the sound wet and messy.

“The two of you are idiots. This is why you can’t be trusted alone.”

Why Gabe stops kissing Brendon to tell them that is a fucking mystery. Frank cranes his head around to glare at Gabe.

“And what, you’re our keeper or something?”

“If I have to be...”

The words get lost when Frank leans closer, one hand against Brendon’s waist while the other snakes around Gabe’s forearm, to kiss Gabe as hard as he can.

Suddenly, there’s the sound of something clanging and blarring. Brendon scrambles out of Frank’s lap quicker than the Flash running off to save the world from a super villain. He crawls across the bed, rolling off the side before moving to reach for his laptop - which he conveniently didn’t fucking shut off when they left earlier - that’s sitting open on the table.

“Fuck ... fuck ... fuck ...fuck. They found the program. Good news, however. I think. We might now know where Evans is.”

Motherfucker, Frank hates it when he forgets he’s working and gets caught up in something else. Now he’s hard and can’t do a damn thing about it. This is going to be so much fucking fun.

Though, maybe this means they can end this mission without getting themselves killed. The, they can go home. Figure everything out about how the three of them are going to work.

Now they just have to fine-tune everything. But to do that they need to not die of blue balls or lead poisoning before they can get back.

~*~*~*~

Evans is incoherent when they finally get to her. She’s awake but not lucid. It’s completely possible that she was given something to incapacitate her. It’s that, or they’ve been drugging her up to her gills, constantly, to try forcing an easy compliance from her lips.

Get someone hooked on the high, and you have a junkie who’ll follow you around like a goddamned puppy whining for scraps.

Brendon works on scanning the computer’s security feed while Frank tries to parse out how much experimental chemical to use to melt her chains without taking her skin off with the metal. He’s been working on this mixture for years. It’s Astro’s less destructive cousin. When it works like a fucking charm, he’ll make a vial of the shit for Patrick’s next job.

As soon as Evans is free - not even a single chemical burn around her wrists or ankles, thank you very fucking much - she lurches forward, almost flailing out of her chair. It takes everything Frank has to keep her from pitching out of the metal chair, taking him to the ground with her.

Gabe moves from his position near the door to take Frank’s place, motioning for him to take watch. Frank pulls his gun from its holster as he goes. After three minutes, Brendon makes a tiny affirmative sound in the back of his throat. Gabe picks Evans up and throws her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. She doesn’t put up much of a fight. Frank watches Gabe struggle under her weight for a second before catching his bearings. It’s been awhile since he’s had to do heavy lifting of the person variety.

Frank takes point while Brendon takes the rear. He sings snatches of songs at Frank that are code for, turn left, go slow, and turn right. Gabe’s in the middle with Evans bogging him down. Frank’s starting to think they’re going to get out without being caught when a bullet whizzes passed his head. A thin streak of fire slides across his cheek. He drops to a crouch from the shock of being grazed. Fuck, not even a quarter of an inch to the right and he’d be dead, right now.

That shit just isn’t going to fucking fly. Oh, hell no, it’s not.

When he looks ahead, Stevens in blocking their way. She’s the only one in the hallway. That’s either on purpose or an accident. If it’s an accident, they need to hurry because there’s bound to be more people coming after them, shortly. If it’s deliberate, then Stevens wants to deal with them herself, which is fine by Frank.

Three against one.

“Awwwwwwww, Saporta, when did they give you teeny, tiny pets to watch? I thought you hated nanny duty.”

Stevens clucks her tongue and shakes her head once before raising her gun to point it at Frank again. He drops the crouch - hello, carpet, nice to meet you - as quickly as he can. There’s the sound of a bullet embedding into the floor near him not even half a second later. Apparently, Steven’s has something against him because she’s not firing at Brendon. Anyway, Frank would rather have her shooting at him and not B or Gabe.

God fucking bless Stevens’s ability to hold a grudge.

He counts to three in his head. At two, Frank pushes off the ground, sprinting towards her. Steven’s gets off one shot before she goes down to the carpet, hard. There’s a trail of fire poking the side of his left forearm, but he ignores it because it’s another graze. Hurts like a bitch, sure, however, it’s not going to kill him, so he can focus on other things at the moment. Like keeping Stevens from trying to crawl to her gun.

Just. Hell, no.

They scuffle for maybe a minute before Steven’s wriggles out of his grasp to snag her pistol. She raises to her feet and points the gun at him. His pistol’s several feet away. Really not close enough to do any damage.

Of fucking course.

“You’re always so cocky, acting like you’re better than all of us. Whoops, guess you a-”

There’s the sound of a shot ringing out. Steven’s goes down hard, her gun falling from her hands when her knees hit the carpet. There’s a clean shot right in the center of her chest. Frank scrambles to get to his feet. He’s expecting Gabe to have fired the shot, not Brendon, who’s staring at Steven’s dead body in awed shock.

Frank shouldn’t feel proud. Taking someone’s life is never something to be prideful over. However, he taught Brendon how to shoot, and that’s one hell of a pretty shot.

“Come on, we need to go. Chimps on tiny fucking trikes, Evans is heavy.” Gabe grunts and shifts Evans on his shoulder once to get their attention.

That snaps Brendon into focus again.

“Okay, okay, okay, okay … this way then.” B jerkily turns down a side hallway at point, his gun casting a shadow against the wall.

Frank bends for his gun as Gabe slips around him.

“You’re not going to drop on us are you?”

Frank shakes his head, gritting his teeth when the motion pulls at the graze across his cheek. He falls into step behind Gabe as they make their way out without anymore trouble; thank fucking fuck.

Getting Evans to a safe place for medical treatment becomes the next thing on their to-do list.

Brendon gets ahold of Pete as soon as they’re out, safe behind cover. They’re told where to go for medical attention. The doctor makes Evans comfortable before checking Gabe over for strain and cleaning out Frank’s minor wounds. Brendon’s fine, only bouncy and adrenaline hyper. He refuses medical attention on the grounds that he’s uninjured.

Three hours later, Pruitt shows up to take Evans to a safer location. Frank knew the guy hadn’t gone far. Knowing that elicits a grin because Pruitt and Evans make a good couple. Or they will. If they haven’t gotten together just yet.

Before they leave, Pruitt slips an envelope into Frank’s hand. Inside, there are three tickets for a private, department plane. The flight leaves in the evening, which means they have time to nap and pack without having to rush anything.

Maybe if they make it to the motel room in enough time, he can press Brendon against the wall and remind himself that they’re all alive instead of six feet below. Hopefully, Gabe won’t be against the idea of fuck yeah, we survived and are boss as fuck sex.

If he is, well then, Frank’s just going to have to convince him.

~*~*~*~

Brendon’s laughter rises into the air; Frank grins. There’s no telling what Bren’s laughing about, but whatever it is must be ridiculously funny. Considering he’s texting Mikey and Gerard, the answer could be literally anything, ranging from tales of WoW songvids on Youtube to which Magic cards make the best roleplaying models when drawing character sketches.

They have a few weeks worth of vacation time before they have to go back to the lab. Well, not exactly just the lab because first they have an appointment with Director Wentz to iron out some of the finer details about their now-official, three-person, recon team. Fuck short-term, one trick ponies; they’re permanent now, bitches.

Apparently, Pete wasn’t kidding when he told them he was creating a search and rescue crew. If Frank and Brendon want it, they can split their time between pulling agents out of fucked up situations and working on their experiments. Pete hadn’t even asked Gabe for his preferences. If they declined, Gabe was still going to be one third of the team.

Like they were going to leave his ass behind. Fuck, no. That wasn’t a fucking option in Frank’s books.

Brendon hadn’t even let Pete finish speaking before talking over him, saying he was in. Frank had followed B’s lead - like he wasn’t going to, yeah right. There’s no way they aren’t doing this together.

Why not ride the experience until the wheels didn’t exist anymore?

When Gabe had leaned forward and kissed Brendon first then Frank right after - because damn straight, Gabe wasn’t going to fucking hide shit from his friends, even if the rest of the department didn’t matter - Pete had just raised his eyebrows, telling them not to let a relationship fuck with their work. And, oh yeah, PDAs were forbidden, so stop making out like teenagers on prom night.

Frank had waved him off.

If he spent two years with Brendon without tipping assholes off, he’s pretty damn sure he knows how to not signal hey dickbits, I’m with these two assholes. You’re not, nananananana to anyone at work.

So, now, they just have to finalize everything, sign legal documents in triplicate, talk about exactly how their time should be split up, yada yada yada. It’s the nuts and bolts. Basically, the boring shit that can wait until later.

Frank sits on the side of Gabe’s massive mattress thinking about how fucking crazy life is while Brendon continues to snicker or laugh at whatever text message is so damn amusing.

He never expected anything like this to happen. Back when he first signed on for the Defense department, Frank was just a delinquent eighteen-year-old with no clue how to straighten himself out. Now, he’s in his late twenties with a job he doesn’t hate, a few new friends who seem promising, and a relationship with two people, who he would have never thought to dream about.

Hell, give them a few months for their lease to be up and Frank’s betting Gabe asks them to move into his mostly empty apartment. It’s big, has several rooms, and Gabe’s bed is comfortable in a way that theirs isn’t. Did he mention it’s fucking massive, which will always be a plus.

“Gerard wants to know if we mind him sketching out a private comic about a polyamorous couple who save the world without being vigilantes or superheroes. I told him it was okay.”

Of course, Brendon would find it hilarious that someone wants to draw them saving the world. Frank cracks a smile when Bren crawl into his lap without tackling him against the fluffy comforter that’s somehow not made its way down to the floor. Yet.

On the flight back, Frank was sure Stevens’ death would fuck Brendon up, but if it’s bothering him more than it should, B’s not mentioning it. Gabe says to give it a few weeks for everything to settle into reality. Then they’ll have to steady him through bad dreams and a broken sleep cycle.

Brendon kisses him at the corner of mouth and wriggles in his lap. Frank slides fingers down his sides until Brendon giggles, squirming from one of his ticklish spots being exploited.

Not fair.”

There’s the sound of a deep laugh. Frank looks up to find Gabe in the doorway in only his sleep pants.

“What’s not fair is the fact that you two hobbity-hobbits started without me. Do I have to tie you up so I’m not forgotten?”

Frank bends his head forward so he can nip at Brendon’s naked shoulder while still glancing at Gabe. If he was worried over Gabe having issues with being in a relationship with them once they got back, he shouldn’t have because there’s nothing but jest and mirth in his voice.

Brendon moans into Frank’s ear before tipping backwards out of Frank’s lap so he can tumble off the bed; asshole should have been a gymnast with how much he likes doing that. He moves to Gabe and stretches up some to get a hand around Gabe’s neck so he can tug him down for a kiss. When they part, Brendon lets his hand slip down around Gabe’s wrist, tugging him toward the bed.

“That was the pre-show, you’re totally not forgotten. Next time, if you still want to, we’re game for whatever.”

Frank laughs when he sees Gabe register what the tail end of Brendon’s sentence means. Man, they’re going to have so much fucking fun in the future.

Nothing can possibly get better than this.