The first time Sitara noticed it the four of them had been working on the Cyber Driver car for almost eighteen hours straight. They had started to snap at one another, but frankly, after eighteen hours of hard work all in close proximity to one another Sitara was surprised that they hadn’t done anything worse.
She was pretty sure that it was Marcus who was managing to keep them all in a good mood, which was sort of ridiculous. Marcus was the new guy. He shouldn’t have been as good at fixing all of their bullshit as he was, but so far Sitara was pretty sure he had stopped at least two fights from breaking out, and he had pulled each of them aside and insisted they take naps when it was clear the work was becoming too much.
“You know what we need?” Marcus said, pulling back from the car after their latest attempt to rewire the car’s controls had gone disastrously wrong. “Caffeine and sugar and maybe some actual food as well. I’m gonna do a snack run. You guys have any requests?”
Wrench let out a groan that sounded far more sexual than Sitara thought justifiable in response to the simple suggestion of food, but she really couldn’t blame him. The thought of food seemed heavenly at that moment.
“Hell yes,” she said, pulling back from the car and stretching. She hadn’t realized quite how hungry she was until Marcus had spoken.
“Oh, oh, oh!” Wrench exclaimed, flailing at Marcus. “Can you get some of those new corn chips? You know… the ones with the stuff? In the special packaging?”
Amazingly Marcus seemed to know exactly what Wrench was talking about. Sitara shook her head and sighed at the two of them. They had barely known each other for a week and the two of them were already managing to communicate using very few actual words.
Sitara and Josh rattled off their own requests and then Marcus was moving towards the garage door.
“Hey M,” Wrench said, chasing after the other hacker. “You want me to come with?”
“Nah man,” Marcus replied. “I should be right.”
Sitara wasn’t surprised that Marcus had declined Wrench’s assistance. As much as the two of them got along, Marcus was probably using the food run as a chance to get some peace and quiet away from the rest of the team, if only for a few minutes.
“Okay,” Wrench said. His mask smiled, but his voice was quieter than usual.
Sitara got back to work, figuring that she’d use the time Marcus was gone to do some more work on the car’s new paint job. The garage door closed behind Marcus with a shudder, and then Sitara heard Wrench let out a long, loud sigh; another sound that was distinctly un-Wrench.
Sitara glanced over, stencil in hand to spot Wrench staring at the door Marcus had just left through, the eyes of his mask displaying two very obvious love hearts.
“Oh. You like him,” she said. She hadn’t meant to say the words out loud. They had just spilled out as soon as she had realised what exactly she had just witnessed.
“What?” Wrench asked, snapping out of his reverie, the hearts in his mask replaced with two question marks.
“You like Marcus,” Sitara said.
“What? Of course I like him,” Wrench replied. “Marcus is an amazing guy. Wait a second Sitara! Are you telling me you don’t like him?”
Sitara rolled her eyes as Wrench let out the most over-exaggerated and falsely offended sounded gasp she had ever heard.
“And here I thought you were a woman of taste,” Wrench continued in the same scandalized tone.
“Don’t you fucking make this about me,” Sitara said, hitting Wrench gently with the paint-stained card in her hand. “Of course we all like Marcus, but you like like Marcus.”
That at least seemed to be enough to make Wrench fall silent, if only for a moment. His silence made Sitara more sure of her hypothesis. If there was nothing to the accusation then Wrench would have responded right away with some sort of smart-ass comment. Instead she found herself dealing with a silent Wrench and a pair of bright LED exclamation marks.
“Did you…” Sitara paused. Wrench seemed genuinely confused. “You don’t even realize you did it, do you?”
“Did what?” Wrench asked, the exclamation marks changing to the mask’s approximation of narrowed eyes.
“Just after Marcus left your mask’s eyes lit up in a pair of little less than three style love hearts,” Sitara explained as she knelt by one of the car’s doors. “You know, that might be the first time I’ve actually seen your mask do that.”
Wrench scoffed at that.
“Bullshit,” he said. “My mask makes little heart eyes all the fucking time. You’re just not paying attention.”
“Sure thing Wrench,” Sitara said. He was far too defensive and far too serious for Sitara to think there was really nothing behind the unusual emojis.
“He’s in denial,” Josh added from the other side of the car. He had been so quiet, so absorbed in his work that for a moment Sitara had actually forgotten he was in the garage with them.
“Oh come on Josh,” Wrench whined. “Not you too.”
“If you like him then you should probably tell him,” Josh added.
Ah, if only it was that simple. Sitara knew Wrench just about well enough to be able to say with some certainty that no matter how much Wrench liked Marcus, there was little to no chance of him actually pursuing the other hacker.
“I don’t…” Wrench floundered for a moment. There was a loud ‘clang’ as an innocent tire-iron that had just happened to be lying on the floor near Wrench at the time took the full brunt of his frustration. “I don’t have a fucking crush on Marcus or whatever it is that you two are trying to say.”
“Uh huh,” Sitara replied, nodding slowly and not looking up from the stencil she was currently taping onto the car. “You just keep telling yourself that.”
“I don’t,” Wrench argued.
Sitara couldn’t help but notice that after that day in the garage, the frequency with which a pair of little sideways love hearts appeared on Wrench’s mask skyrocketed, as though he was trying desperately to prove her accusation wrong.
She was sure that Wrench would claim there was nothing behind the amount of time the two of them spent together either, or the number of times that Wrench touched Marcus. They were all pretty innocent touches, but Wrench had definitely never been that touchy with the rest of them.
She began to witness more and more instances where the two of them actually flirted with one another, although she was pretty sure that they would both claim they were just messing around. She was equally sure that Wrench still hadn’t actually told Marcus how he felt. She just hoped that one day soon he actually would.
“We’ve only got ten seconds left until that gateway resets.”
“I can stall it!”
“Come on guys. We’re so close!”
“Just a few more connections and…”
“Come on Marcus! You can do it!”
There was nothing the rest of them could do now but stand back and cheer Marcus on as he completed the last few stages of the hack. They had all helped out where they could, and it had definitely been a team effort, but Marcus had been the star of the competition. There was little doubt now that they were going to win, and there was no doubt in Horatio’s mind that it was all because of Marcus.
Lately Horatio hadn’t been able to spend as much time with the rest of Dedsec as he would have liked. As the only member of the team with full time employment he had just been too busy. He’d made sure to roster a few days off for Swelter Skelter though. This was important. It was exactly what he had needed; what they had all needed for that matter.
Horatio really began to wonder how much he had missed though when the eyes of Wrench’s mask switched to display a pair of love hearts as he watched Marcus. It was just for a few seconds, and they were all pretty excited, emotions running high thanks to the competition. He was pretty sure it didn’t mean anything, but he couldn’t resist teasing Wrench a little.
“Hey man,” he said, nudging Wrench in the side. “Your mask’s giving away your boner for Marcus.”
“What, is it showing love hearts again?” Wrench asked, sounding a little more flustered than Horatio had expected. He wondered how much control Wrench actually had over what the mask displayed, whether it was programmed to respond to his facial expressions or read his brain waves or what.
“I mean, damn straight its showing fucking love hearts!” Wrench said, and Horatio couldn’t quite tell whether he was getting defensive or whether this was just Wrench being his usual over-the-top self. “Do you not see how fucking amazing Marcus is being right now? I don’t fucking care that none of you have masks like mine; every single one of you should be giving my man M heart eyes.”
And then the challenge was over and the machine in front of them went off and they were all screaming and congratulating Marcus and Horatio’s conversation with Wrench was quickly forgotten.
In fact Horatio might have forgotten it entirely if it wasn’t for what happened later that night. They had all met up with this older hacker named Ray who had offered them a little something, and before long they were all completely high off their faces.
They had drifted apart when the cocktail of drugs had really kicked in, but as the night progressed they met up again and then drifted apart again, each of them going wherever their own personal version of blissful oblivion guided them.
Horatio vaguely remembered a cute girl who smelled like strawberries and who had delighted in messing with Horatio’s face-paint, getting black and white smudges all over her hands and face in the process.
Somewhere along the line he met up with the others again, or at least with Wrench and Marcus. Marcus had lain down and fallen asleep on a seemingly random patch of ground. Wrench sat nearby, just staring right at Marcus as he slept. The love hearts that Horatio had spotted earlier were right there on his face for all to see this time, and this time they didn’t look as though they were going to be going away any time soon.
“You just sitting there and watching Marcus sleep?” Horatio asked Wrench. “That’s pretty creepy man.”
Wrench didn’t look away from the sleeping hacker, but his mask did change back to its default crosses.
“It’s not creepy,” the masked man argued. “Marcus is vulnerable right now and who knows what sort of weirdos are out here and might try to take advantage of him. I’m guarding him.”
Horatio rolled his eyes at Wrench.
“Of course you are,” he said.
He might have said something more if he wasn’t so sure that not only would Marcus not mind that Wrench had been watching over him, he would probably think that the gesture was just as sweet as Wrench was trying to insist it was.
Instead he spotted the girl who smelled like strawberries again, standing a short way away and waving to him. He drifted back towards her. After all, it wasn’t so late in the evening that he couldn’t still have a little bit of fun.
Just before he left he saw the love hearts appear on Wrench’s mask once more, and of course they appeared right when he started to ‘guard’ Marcus again.
In Raymond ‘T-Bone’ Kenney’s admittedly limited experience it was rare for Wrench to be quiet, but since he had come back from his run-in with the FBI he had been the quietest out of all of them. Hell, even Josh had been more talkative. The others were tiptoeing around the masked man as though he was made of glass, none of them seeming to know what they might be able to do to comfort him.
Ray grew sick of it pretty fast. So they had all seen his face? So he put up this stupid fucking front that made him seem way more unapproachable than he actually was? So fucking what?
He stomped over to the younger man and slammed a hand down on one of Wrench’s shoulders, immediately regretting it because of the metal spikes that seemed to cover every single inch of Wrench’s clothing.
Ray wasn’t exactly an expert when it came to emojis and all that sort of text speak; it had never really been his thing; but he was pretty sure that the symbols Wrench was flashing at him then were not exactly happy.
“Hey buddy,” he said. “How are you holding up after that whole mess?”
“Oh, just fucking fine,” Wrench said, shrugging off Ray’s hand. “I was only grabbed by the FBI and had fucking Dusan being all obnoxious in my face and they… you know… they took…”
He sighed and shrugged, all of the fire that had been in his voice a moment ago swiftly fleeing without a trace.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I’ll get over it.”
Ray frowned at the younger man. He was clearly bottling up a lot of shit, but it was also just as clear to Ray that he wasn’t really going to be able to help their resident anarchist.
Luckily it was right at that moment that they both heard the sound of the entrance to the headquarters opening.
“Hey guys!” Marcus called out in greeting.
Wrench’s head immediately turned towards the stairs, his eyes lighting up in a pair of sideways love-hearts as they did.
None of the others had witnessed anything past Marcus retrieving the mask from the FBI, but it was clear that something had gone down between Marcus and Wrench after that. Ray didn’t know what it was, and it certainly wasn’t his place to pry, especially not where young love was concerned. He just hoped that whatever was going on, Marcus stood a better chance of comforting Wrench than Ray did.
Marcus stayed in the hackerspace for an hour or so. Most of that time was spent with Wrench, who seemed intent on sticking so close to Marcus anyone might have thought they were handcuffed together.
Ray didn’t know how Marcus did it, but within minutes Wrench was back to his loud, obnoxious self, flirting and oversharing and generally doing his damnedest to make everyone in the vicinity at least a little uncomfortable.
Eventually however Marcus’s business in the hackerspace was done, and he was heading out once again.
Wrench turned to face the stairs as Marcus climbed them, and then and only then did Ray spot them again; those damned heart eyes.
When the door beeped shut and they could all be sure that Marcus had left the hackerspace, Wrench let out the loudest, longest sigh Ray thought he had ever heard; certainly the worst that had ever emerged from Wrench while Ray had been around him.
“I’m surprised you didn’t go with your boyfriend,” Ray said, more just to fill the silence than anything else. Wrench was clearly happier when around Marcus. Perhaps at the moment Marcus’s company was exactly what the doctor ordered as far as Wrench was concerned.
Ray wasn’t sure how he had expected Wrench to react, but it certainly wasn’t for Wrench to immediately splutter and protest.
“Marcus isn’t…” Wrench argued. “He’s not… We’re just… we’re not, all right? Marcus is my friend. Like, the best friend I’ve ever had, but just a friend.”
And Ray certainly hadn’t been expecting that.
“You’re fucking kidding me!” he yelled at the younger hacker. “But you’re obviously head over heels in love with one another. Is this one of them stupid ‘no homo’ things? If you love one another then who gives a fuck, right?”
“Marcus doesn’t love me.”
“Bullshit he doesn’t. There’s a reason I thought the two of you were dating you idiot. Besides, I can’t help but notice you didn’t mention how you feel about him.”
“That’s because there’s nothing to mention,” Wrench immediately shot back. “I love him; end of story Ray. That’s all she fucking wrote, all right? Congratulations; you win a fucking prize for noticing. It’s not like everyone else hasn’t worked it out as well. You know something; maybe Marcus has noticed it as well, and he’s just not saying anything because he’s too nice to say ‘oh hey Wrench; that apparently super obvious and massive crush you have on me, yeah, that’s not going anywhere!’ Because it’s not and he is!”
“Woah…” Ray said. “Calm the fuck down Wrench. What the hell are you even talking about anymore?”
Through Ray and Wrench’s conversation the other Dedsec members in the hackerspace had been relatively quiet, but it was at that moment that Sitara chose to join the conversation.
“Hey, at least Wrench is actually willing to admit that he’s in love now,” she said as she glanced up from the sheet her printer was pumping out. “Believe it or not Ray, that’s progress.”
Ray shook his head. Sometimes it was easy to forget that he was essentially working with a bunch of inexperienced kids, and then there were days like this.
Naomi liked Wrench well enough. It had only taken them one date and about ten minutes of sitting down and chatting over coffee for them to establish that a romantic relationship had pretty much zero chance of working out between the two of them, but she did like him. She was more than happy to have him as a friend, and every so often he would still swing by for coffee and donuts and the two of them would chat.
It was a few weeks after their very brief date that Wrench showed up at 10 Donuts with a friend in tow; not just any friend either, but the one that had prompted the two of them to actually sit down together and talk.
Naomi already knew the guy’s name; Marcus. After all, Wrench had told her so much about him. In fact it almost seemed like the masked man could barely shut up about this particular friend. Nevertheless Wrench took the time to quickly introduce the two of them while Naomi was taking their order, and Marcus smiled sweetly at her.
Naomi watched from her spot behind the counter as the two of them sat down, Wrench talking animatedly to his friend, his hands flying in all sorts of expressive gestures as they talked, and the mask on his face rapidly switching between expressions. There was no sign at all of the shyness that seemed to occasionally grip Wrench when he was talking to Naomi. He just seemed so relaxed and happy.
It was nice to see, and Naomi found herself grinning widely as she took Wrench and Marcus’s order to their table.
“So how’s it going between the two of you?” Marcus asked Naomi after she had set their drinks down. His eyebrows waggled in a manner that was probably supposed to be suggestive.
Naomi couldn’t help but giggle at that.
“Oh, we’re not…” she started, but was grateful when Wrench interrupted her. The disappointed look on Marcus’s face had almost been too much; like a kid that had just been told that Santa wasn’t real.
“We’re not dating M,” Wrench said with a sigh, leaning back in his chair and spreading himself out, the very picture of comfort.
“But I thought…” Marcus began. Damn, those puppy-dog eyes were ridiculous.
“We’re not really er… compatible,” Naomi said. “Romantically.”
“Yeah,” Wrench added, his mask’s eyes smiling happily over at her.
“I love animals,” Naomi said.
“And as you know M,” Wrench said. “I can’t stand the little shits.”
“Come on guys, that’s nothing…”
“I fucking love me a good steak,” Wrench added. “As you must have also worked out by now.”
“And I’m a vegetarian,” Naomi added.
“I love shitty action films and science fiction and stuff whereas Naomi here…”
“Thinks you have terrible taste in movies and need to sit down and…” Naomi began, rolling her eyes at the other man.
“She likes art house…” Wrench whispered loudly to Marcus, as though it was some sort of horrible secret. “And she actually reads fucking literature Marcus. Like, really pretentious bullshit literature.”
Naomi punched him lightly on the upper arm.
“Hey!” she exclaimed.
Marcus was actually laughing at the two of them now.
“We do have the same taste in music though,” Naomi said, feeling as though somehow she owed it to Marcus to at least give him that much. “That’s something, right?”
“Eh… sort of the same taste…” Wrench conceded.
“Yeah… Sort of,” Naomi agreed. “There’s at least some overlap, but yeah; I really don’t think we’d work out as a couple.”
“No way guys!” Marcus exclaimed. “But you’re really cute together. Haven’t y’all ever heard that opposites attract?”
Naomi and Wrench shared a knowing glance and then grinned over at Marcus.
“Should I tell him?” Wrench asked her. Naomi shrugged.
“We’re not compatible… um…” Naomi said, trying to work out a delicate way to say what she needed to and failing miserably. “Sexually.”
Marcus almost choked on his water.
It was the truth though. Wrench’s preferences and hers did not line up at all, even worse of a match than their taste in food and animals and entertainment were. Considering how outrageously Wrench dressed, Naomi had actually been really surprised at how vanilla the other man was.
“Naomi is still pretty cool though,” Wrench offered when he noticed how heartbroken Marcus looked on their behalf. “We’re friends now, right? So it’s not like you hooking us up and stuff was a complete waste.”
“He seems nice,” Naomi commented once Marcus had left the two of them by themselves.
“Yeah,” Wrench said, gazing out the window at the retreating form of Marcus’s back. “He is.”
He sighed wistfully, and for just a moment his mask displayed a pair of sideways love hearts.
“Oh,” Naomi commented. “That nice huh?”
“Yeah,” Wrench sighed. “That nice.”
“Does he know you like him?”
“Come on,” he said. “What do you think would happen if I actually told him? No way does he return my feelings. He wouldn’t have set the two of us up if he did.”
Naomi couldn’t really fault Wrench’s reasoning. She wished that she could, but she couldn’t.
“Love sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?” Naomi offered. “Tell you what; how about I get you another coffee. I’ll even put a free shot of butterscotch in it.”
“Thanks Naomi,” Wrench said, the smile returning to his mask if not his face or tone of voice. “You’re really awesome, you know that?”
“I know,” she said, winking at Wrench.
“Something’s wrong,” Wrench said, staring at his phone in obvious irritation.
“What do you mean?” Josh asked from the other side of the room.
“Marcus hasn’t texted back,” Wrench said. “He always texts back. Fucking always.”
“It’s only been a few hours though,” Josh said. At least, he thought it had only been a few hours. It hadn’t been that long since Marcus had been right there in the hackerspace with them, had it?
“But this was about the new Avengers trailer guys! No way is Marcus going to stay silent about that.”
They hadn’t paid any attention to what Wrench was trying to tell them. Perhaps they should have.
When Marcus had called them up, explaining that the Bratva had taken him captive and had almost succeeded in killing him, Wrench had cursed and screamed and then punched a hole in the wall right above his bench. Josh didn’t think he was angry though.
Well, he was angry; the new hole in the wall was testament enough to that, but it was more complicated than that. Josh was pretty sure that Wrench had actually been terrified. For just a moment he had been scared that he had lost Marcus and it was pretty clear that he had no idea how to deal with it.
“It’ll be okay,” Sitara tried to tell Wrench, once they had all hung up on Marcus and let him get on with business. “Marcus got out, right?”
Wrench nodded, but he still looked pretty upset.
He spent the next hour or so messing around at his desk, cursing and growing angry at whatever it was he was trying to do and, Josh suspected, ultimately achieving very little.
It wasn’t until Marcus had returned to headquarters, safe and sound and in one piece, that there was a change.
As soon as Marcus greeted Wrench the masked anarchist was throwing himself at Marcus, wrapping his arms around the other man’s shoulders and holding him as close as he could. Wrench’s head came to rest on Marcus’s shoulder and he finally, thank god, seemed to relax.
Josh wasn’t really good at judging these things, but even he thought the hug went on for far longer than any of them probably expected. Wrench’s head came to rest on Marcus’s shoulder, his arms held him close, and it didn’t look as though he had any intention at all of letting Marcus go. Marcus didn’t seem to mind though, silently enduring, or perhaps even enjoying the hug and gently patting Wrench on the back. There was something in the silence of the scene that made it seem oddly intimate, and Josh found himself quickly looking away, leaving the other two hackers in their own little world.
When they did finally break apart Josh found himself accidentally eavesdropping as Wrench explained, quite loudly and enthusiastically to Marcus how they were going to go after the Bratva and burn their shit to the ground. Wrench was still angry, out for revenge and wanting to hurt the people who had dared to go after Marcus; who had almost taken him away from Wrench.
Marcus eventually agreed to Wrench’s rather violent plan, and then curled up on the couch to rest for a few hours, claiming that he was exhausted. After what he had been through Josh certainly couldn’t blame him.
Whatever Wrench had been working on; explosives, from the look of it; work slowed to a crawl over those hours. Josh had been hard at work himself, trying to patch up a gap in their security that he had found earlier in the day, but it seemed like every time he glanced over at Wrench he found him staring at the man asleep on the couch.
Wrench had to know that he was doing it. Everyone in headquarters could see him staring, and there was no way that any of them could fail to notice the love hearts that kept flickering onto his mask whenever he did.
“You’re doing the heart eyes thing again,” Josh said.
“Yeah,” Wrench replied quietly. “I know.”
Josh wasn’t blind. He’d seen Wrench’s mask form heart eyes plenty of times before; when they were gearing up for the Cyber Driver stunt, at Swelter Skelter, after Wrench had been taken by the FBI and a dozen other times besides.
“Fuck man…” Wrench added, surprising Josh by his openness as he continued. “I’m so fucking in love with him. I don’t… I don’t know what to do. I’m not used to these sort of fucking stupid feelings. When he… when he was in trouble I just… I just couldn’t think straight, you know? If I lost him…”
“You didn’t lose him,” Josh said.
“I know,” Wrench said. “But what if I did?”
Wrench had never been this open with any of them before. Perhaps he had been with Marcus; those two were closer than any of them; but he had never been like this with Josh or Sitara or Ray. This was clearly getting to him even more than Josh had thought.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do?” Wrench asked, his shoulders slumping.
“Fucking tell him how you feel kid!” Ray called out from the other side of the room. “It ain’t that difficult!”
Wrench looked like he was just about to shout something back at the older man, but then Marcus stirred a little on his sleep and whatever Wrench had been about to say died on his tongue.
“He’s right you know,” Sitara added. “You should just man the fuck up and tell him Wrench.”
“Why the fuck is that always everyone’s answer!?” Wrench said, half yelling, and then, seemingly realizing how loud he had been and how close he was probably coming to waking up Marcus, he continued in a much softer tone. “Do you idiots really think that’s going to help anything?”
“Well, it’s not like he’s going to hate you or tell you to fuck off just because you’re in love with him,” Sitara argued. “He cares about you Wrench.”
“You think I don’t know that?” he shouted back, getting dangerously close to waking Marcus up once more. “Marcus is a great fucking guy. He won’t be pissy with me. Instead he’ll just look at me with those big damn fucking puppy dog eyes and tell me that he’s sorry and he wants us to still be friends and he’ll mean it, you know, which will make it even fucking worse, but then things will be awkward between us and our friendship will never be the same again and I just couldn’t fucking take that. He’s too important to me to risk ruining everything like that.”
Josh’s heart went out to Wrench, it really did, but that didn’t change the fact that Wrench was being really stupid about the whole thing.
“Or, you know, he might feel the same way,” Josh said.
After all, Josh wasn’t blind. He had seen Wrench sending heart eyes in Marcus’s direction, heard him sigh and scream and pine quite loudly and pathetically for the other man, but he had been watching Marcus as well. He had seen the shy smiles that the self-proclaimed not-a-hipster had been sending in Wrench’s direction for about as long as the two had known one another, he had heard the anger in Marcus’s voice when Wrench had been taken by the FBI, and he was pretty sure that Wrench’s feelings weren’t quite as unrequited as Wrench seemed to think they were.
After all, Marcus hadn’t pulled back from that ridiculously long hug either.
“Just fucking tell him,” Sitara told Wrench, echoing Josh’s feelings on the matter.
And then Marcus was stirring awake, for real this time, and all discussion of feelings was quickly put to one side and forgotten about.
The fireworks had been spectacular; far more than Marcus ever would have expected.
Wrench had been like a man possessed; completely insistent on getting their revenge on the Bratva. Marcus had a sneaking suspicion he knew why that was as well. As much as Dedsec would claim it was connected to the human trafficking ring they had uncovered, Marcus knew without even having to ask that Wrench had gotten revenge for him.
It was a weird thing to try to come to terms with.
Marcus cared about Wrench. God, he cared about him so much. Loved him even, although he had yet to say anything to that effect to the masked man, sure that Wrench was straight and that any attempt to change the nature of their relationship would just end in awkwardness for both of them. Marcus had grown pretty good at hiding his crushes, especially where other men were concerned, and so he had told himself that he was perfectly content just being Wrench’s friend, and he’d tucked away that part of him that spent far too much time thinking about what it would be like to kiss Wrench in the most dark and hidden corner of his mind that he could.
Lately though he’d started to wonder if perhaps his love for Wrench wasn’t quite as unrequited as Marcus had always assumed. Sure, Wrench had always flirted with him, but Marcus had always assumed the other man was just fooling around and didn’t really mean it.
Wrench had been so upset when the Bratva had taken him though, had wrapped his arms around Marcus when he had returned to the hackerspace and clung to him so hard and for so long that Marcus thought he might never let go. And Wrench’s insistence that they get revenge on the Bratva?
Marcus wasn’t sure that anyone had ever cared for him so obviously or so ferociously before. Around Wrench he felt like someone special, like he was truly loved and cared for. There had been moments too when Marcus had caught the eyes of the other man’s mask turning into love hearts when he looked at Marcus. It had never been for very long, and Marcus wasn’t even sure that Wrench had realized he was doing it, but it gave him hope.
He was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe Wrench was in love with him as well.
As the fireworks continued to go off Marcus found his attention not taken up by the explosions of color and light, but by the man standing in the boat next to him. The fireworks were lighting up Wrench’s mask, bathing it in silver and blue. It looked absolutely beautiful, and Marcus was entranced.
They took the boat back to shore, careful to give the site of their fireworks spectacular a wide berth. Sitara bid them farewell, shared a fist-bump and a quick hug with Marcus, and then turned her attention to Wrench.
Marcus waited and watched as his two friends said farewell to one another. Sitara smiled softly at Wrench, leaned in close and whispered something to Wrench that Marcus couldn’t quite catch. Whatever Sitara had said, the confident smile on her face did not stop Wrench from shaking his head in reply.
Sitara playfully punched Wrench on the shoulder, and then she was off, neither the shake of Wrench’s head or the suddenly downcast set of his shoulders apparently enough to remove the smile from her face.
As she passed Marcus she winked at him, and then she was gone.
Marcus wondered whether Sitara knew there was a little more between him and Wrench than mere friendship alone could account for. If she did then she was clearly trying to encourage it.
Maybe this was it. Maybe tonight was the night that Marcus finally actually said something.
“Hey Wrench,” Marcus said, and the masked man immediately looked up at him, a pair of question marks lighting up his eyes. “I don’t know about you, but I ain’t really ready to head back yet.”
“Say no more M,” Wrench said, throwing an arm around Marcus’s shoulder. “Feels to me like if we headed back to the hackerspace now then we’d be wasting a perfect opportunity to party until the sun comes up.”
They did not party until the sun came up. In fact they didn’t really party at all. Instead they swung by the local convenience store for slushies and candy, and just walked around Marin for a bit, geeking out and laughing until eventually they found themselves sitting on a hill with a pretty good view of the bay.
They had both just recovered from a fit of laughter brought about by Marcus’s frankly awful impressions of half the Star Wars cast and were silently looking out over the bay, the clear sky above reflected in the water, the lights of the city at night glowing softly in front of them, when Marcus found himself just watching Wrench again.
Marcus found himself struck again by just how amazing Wrench could be. Marcus wasn’t sure he could even put all of the reasons he was in love with the other man into words.
“Thanks man,” he tried as a start. “For today I mean. You didn’t… you didn’t have to do all of that for me, but you did.”
Wrench waved a hand at Marcus, the lights of his mask blinking the same happy approximation of a grin that they seemed to have been stuck on for the last few minutes straight.
“Don’t mention it M,” Wrench said. “I mean really, it’s nothing. You would have done the same for me.”
Marcus smiled softly at the other man, and, feeling a little brave thanks in part to the stunts they had managed to pull off that day, he reached out to place his hand on top of Wrench’s own, where it rested on the ground between them.
“Yeah,” Marcus replied, giving Wrench’s hand a brief squeeze. He made sure to look Wrench straight in the eye as he continued, needing Wrench to know how much he meant what he was about to say. “I would.”
Wrench immediately grew far more flustered than Marcus had anticipated. He could see the skin on Wrench’s neck flushing bright red beneath the edges of his mask.
”Well, of course…” Wrench muttered. “I mean, you already sort of did with my mask and stuff. And you know, I was pissed off with the Bratva too after what they did so really this was as much for me as it was for you and… uh… Oh fuck. What the hell…”
Wrench began to move the hand that Marcus had pinned under his own, and for just a moment Marcus thought that Wrench was going to pull it away, but instead Wrench turned it around, so that he was now holding Marcus’s hand just as tightly as Marcus was holding his.
The masked man intertwined their fingers tightly and gave another squeeze. He kept his face turned away from Marcus as he did, hiding it just enough that Marcus couldn’t make out whatever symbols were being displayed on his mask at that moment.
“Marcus,” Wrench muttered, his face still turned away. “I… um…”
Marcus gave Wrench’s hand another squeeze, and rubbed his thumb gently over the bare skin on the back of Wrench’s hand.
The set of Wrench’s shoulders changed, he took a deep breath, and he looked straight at Marcus once more.
When he did there was a pair of less than three style love hearts right there on his mask where Marcus could most definitely see them.
Marcus’s heart skipped a beat. He might have caught tiny glimpses of love hearts from Wrench before then, but the other man always glanced away, and it was usually only for a moment, and Marcus had never been entirely sure whether he had just been imagining those moments and whether Wrench had meant for them to happen, but there was no mistaking how deliberate these love hearts were, or whether Wrench had intended for Marcus to see them.
Marcus just hoped that they meant what he thought they meant.
“Hey Wrench?” Marcus muttered, surprised to hear his own voice emerge far smoother and confident than he felt in that moment. “Can you take your mask off? Just for a second I mean, and uh… don’t… you know… it’s fine if you don’t want to… I just…”
Wrench stared at him for a moment, the love hearts turning into exclamation and then question marks, but soon he was reaching up with both hands, having gently extricated one from where it had been tightly interlocked with Marcus’s own. He removed the mask with hands that were shaking, and Marcus caught just a second of the confusion and discomfort on Wrench’s actual face before Marcus was closing his eyes and leaning in towards Wrench.
Marcus pressed his lips against Wrench’s own, hoping as he did that he wasn’t making a terrible mistake.
The kiss was short and sweet; Wrench’s lips warm and pliant beneath Marcus’s own.
When Marcus pulled back he realized Wrench hadn’t even closed his eyes during the kiss. He had however turned bright red all over.
“Oh,” Wrench muttered. “Um…”
He finally moved, and that was to stare at the ground.
“You… you just…” Wrench stammered. “You… I mean… Holy shit Marcus. You just kissed me. That’s… that was what that was, right? You actually… Holy shit…”
“Hey Wrench…” Marcus tried to interrupt, but Wrench was so flustered it was almost like Marcus hadn’t spoken at all.
“Holy shit,” Wrench muttered. “Holy shit!”
“Hey Wrench!” Marcus practically shouted, grabbing Wrench’s hand again as he did. That finally seemed to get the other man’s attention.
“Yeah?” Wrench asked.
“I love you,” Marcus said, feeling a smile break out as he finally, at long last, said the words.
Wrench’s eyes went wide, and then he was smiling as much as Marcus was.
“I love you too Marcus,” he replied.
“I mean, shit, obviously I love you,” Marcus floundered, not wanting there to be any confusion at all about the matter and worried that he was making a complete mess of the thing. “But I mean, like, I love you love you as well, like, I am in love with you Wrench.”
“Yeah,” Wrench muttered. “Me too.”
Marcus felt like his heart was about to burst, it was so full of joy and love.
“Awesome,” he concluded, right before he leaned forward and kissed Wrench again.
They soon discovered that kissing could be rather awkward when both parties involved couldn’t seem to stop smiling, but despite this, they didn’t pull apart from one another or speak again for a very long time.
Wrench lay on the cool grass and stared across at Marcus, the man who was his best friend, or was it boyfriend now? He didn’t know exactly which it was, but he knew that they loved one another.
They had just stopped what had been a quite frankly epic make out session, stopping not because it had been anything less than perfect but because they both needed to breathe eventually. In the minute or so since they had stopped the two of them had just lain there on the cool grass, smiling across at one another and not saying a single word.
Marcus stared at Wrench, his eyes so full of love that Wrench wondered how he had managed to miss it before then. His hand and Marcus’s own lay entwined tightly between them, Marcus’s thumb tracing lazy circles on Wrench’s skin.
It was incredible. Everything about this; about Marcus, about what had just happened, about the fact that somehow, despite everything that was wrong with Wrench, Marcus had managed to fall in love with him; was incredible. It was almost too much to take in, and Wrench thought he might explode from all the happiness and love inside of him.
It was so damned sappy and stupid, but he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
He was so content, lying there with Marcus, that for a long while he had even managed to forget that he wasn’t wearing his mask.
Wrench knew, without a doubt, that if he had been wearing the mask in that moment, it would be stuck on a pair of less than three style love hearts.
Hopefully he would still be able to get the message across without the mask.
He shuffled closer to Marcus and pressed another gentle kiss to the other man’s lips.