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“The annoying thing about all this is, I know actual magicians,” Jimmy grumbled, as he glared at Scott’s hands. “People who have real powers that bend space and time. Chaos magic. Mutant powers. None of that pisses me off. This does.”

“You say the sweetest things, darling,” Scott said. He had cards everywhere on the table and his laptop, prepping tricks for a corporate show. Jimmy glowered at Scott. He’d been in the middle of making Scott coffee, but magic tricks always drew Jimmy close, made him forget what he was doing. Even now, dressed for church in a suit. “Shouldn’t you be heading out?”

“You should come to church, you heathen sorcerer,” Jimmy said. He smirked and set the cup of coffee down by Scott’s wrist.

Scott leaned over the table, grabbing Jimmy’s ballpoint pen from his suit pocket. He tapped the tip against Jimmy’s shirt. “The pastor—” Drawing his palm back, he shook the pen in his grip and made it vanish. “—and the devil, huh?”

Jimmy looked visibly pained. “What.”

“Kiss me and I’ll give it back,” Scott said. Jimmy grumbled under his breath, rounding the table. He gave Scott a grudging peck on the mouth and let Scott lean up for a better kiss, an easy enough distraction that allowed Scott to drop the pen back into Jimmy’s suit pocket.

“I saw that,” Jimmy said, scowling. “I don’t understand how you made it disappear though. Do it again.” He paused. “Down your sleeves?”

Scott climbed into Jimmy’s lap, holding his eyes as he slowly and deliberately rolled up his sleeves. “My lover’s got humour,” he sang as he folded fabric, “he’s the giggle at a funeral—”

Jimmy pulled a face. “Don’t.”

Knows everybody’s disapproval,” Scott purred, picking up Jimmy’s pen. “Should’ve worshipped him sooner.” He twirled the pen on his fingers, shook it in the air, and made it ‘vanish’.

Jimmy groaned. “I’m gonna have to pat you down.”

“Don’t I get to have my rights read to me, officer?” Scott asked, wiggling over Jimmy’s lap. Jimmy laughed, but he gave Scott a pat down anyway, lingering over Scott’s pockets. Scott kissed him before Jimmy could get a good look inside his shirt, using Jimmy’s momentary distraction to palm the pen back into Jimmy’s pocket.

“Felt that,” Jimmy said, as he kneaded Scott’s ass. “You’ve got an inner pocket in your shirt, I think. Might be why you’re wearing something that looks a size too big for you.”

Scott made a face. “This is an abuse of authority.”

“I’ll make it up to you,” Jimmy said, smug until he checked his watch. “Ah heck. Gonna be late. See you later. For lunch… mm… make that dinner. Or supper. I’ll let you know.” Jimmy wormed out from under Scott, kissed him on the temple and fled. Left to himself, Scott pressed the heel of his palm against his half-hard cock and sighed. Sipping the cooling coffee, Scott cleared up the cards on the table. Checked his notes and went back to practice.

When Luis called closer to nine, Scott was pretty sure he’d decided on the routine. “All set?” Luis asked, peppy as ever.

“Yep. How’s Dave and Kurt doing on site?”

“Sound system and the projectors look good. Dunno about doing close up magic for a bunch of bankers though. They gonna be into that?”

“Better than your original idea,” Scott said absently as he practiced a dynamo shuffle. “Pickpocketing is a fun trick up until someone loses a phone or something later and thinks we stole it. Asking to get sued. Or arrested.”

“Can’t your boyfriend just make a charge like that go away?”

“Ha, ha.” Scott cut the deck again, grimaced, and recut it.

“Seriously though.”

“Answer is yes, he probably could, and no, I never want to put him in that kinda position. Don’t ever want Jimmy to have to pick between his job and me. He loves his job.”

“He’s pretty into you too? I mean, you moved into his place. Sold your house, even.” Luis sounded faintly disapproving.

“His place is nicer and not in the ass end of suburbia.” The rambling old house was too big for just Scott, too quiet without Cassie. He’d thought selling it would hurt more, but Cassie hadn’t been phased in the least and it’d been easier to just cash in than keep trying to pay for the upkeep and repairs. “If Jimmy ever had to pick, he’d pick his job, and to be honest, I wouldn’t blame him.”

“So what did you do with the money? From your place?”

“Cassie’s college fund?”

“Oh right.”

“I don’t really want Maggie or Paxton to pay for it. If I can manage that. I mean, I’m pretty sure they want to have a kid of their own too. Not that they don’t think of Cassie as their kid. But I know Maggie kinda wants another kid and Cassie mentioned wanting a sibling.” That would be weird. Cool, but weird. It wasn’t any of Scott’s business what Maggie did anymore, but he sort of liked the idea of Cassie having a sibling.

“Isn’t Jimmy rich?” Luis asked. Luis and the boys had come over to the apartment before a few times, usually with a furtive air, even if Jimmy wasn’t around. They found Jimmy intimidating, for some reason.

Scott scowled at his phone. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Wow, no need to bite my head off man.”

“At my age, I’d kinda like to never be a drain on anyone ever again.” Scott started packing up, sorting cards into decks and folding black velvet into his case. “You coming with me to the Presidio gig?”

“Kiddie party right? Yeah. I’ll bring the kit. Just got to make sure it doesn’t run overtime.”

“I was thinking about that. The parents said the kids are psyched about doing a D&D game, you know how that tends to go. Especially since we’re going to have to be hustling a Session Zero with character creation at the start. Maybe you should DM and I’d assist. That way I can pop off if it goes overtime,” Scott said. He liked DM’ing—more than he liked doing card tricks for bankers—but corporate gigs generally paid a hell of a lot more than kids’ parties. Even rich kids’ parties in the Presidio.

As Scott locked up the apartment, he got a text from Jimmy.

Jimmy: Probably can’t do supper either. Sorry.
Jimmy: Going to be a late night. Don’t wait up. See you tomorrow.

Scott took a selfie video himself pouting and palming the face of a King of Hearts one-handed into a blank card, which, when he shook it, started to read Sorry to hear that babe in his blocky scrawl. He sent the video to Jimmy and waited.

There was a long pause.

Jimmy: SCOTT.
Scott: xoxo

Scott smirked to himself, palming his phone back into his pocket and the trick cards into his bag. Before Jimmy, Scott would have called coming up with original tricks for an audience of one a waste of time. Now he was already thinking up what he would do next, as he got into a lift.

#

Scott surfaced briefly into bright lights and a sensation of movement, being rattled along on his back. Something hurt but Scott felt too disconnected from himself to figure it out, drifting on a medley of something brilliantly cloudy. He could vaguely make out Luis’ pale face, scurrying along beside him, staring at him. Mouthing words. Then Luis was falling back and someone ahead of him was shouting. Scott fell back into the dark.

#

Something started beeping insistently as Scott groaned and tried to roll over. Nausea made him go still and breathe slowly as he stared blankly at the room he was in. Hospital? On a cot? Hooked up to a machine? The door to the room opened, and someone vaguely familiar poked their head in, frowned, and ducked out.

Luis scuttled in, trailing Kurt. They both looked pale. “Oh shit thank God and the Holy Spirit and the Pope,” Luis said in a pitchy babble as he darted over to Scott’s side. “Oh man.”

“The hell happened?” Scott croaked. His head hurt in a vaguely numb way that told him he was probably on a series of very good drugs. Gods, and his hand, on the sheets, his right hand—it was heavily bandaged and in a cast up to his elbows—

“You don’t remember?” Kurt asked. He hooked up a chair and sat down beside Scott’s bed. “Uhm. We were. In the corporate gig? You know. At the hotel place that the bankers booked? Starting to wind down the show. Then these guys, guys in like weird coats and stuff, they bust in past the security. We thought they were just there to rob the bankers.”

The memory was crawling back in under the drugs. “Shit,” Scott said. He frowned. “They were there for me.” Some of the guys had powers of some kind. Dave had been flung away when he’d gotten into— “Dave? Dave okay?”

“He’s fine. Badly bruised? Minor fracture?” Luis said uncomfortably. “He didn’t really want to wait around. His mum was at home and well. We uh. Yeah. He didn’t really want to incur hospital charges.”

“Right. Right, that’s good.” Scott frowned muzzily to himself, trying to concentrate. “Who the hell is ‘Hydra’? I don’t think I’ve pissed anyone off like that.” The Weird Coat guys had gone straight for Scott. “‘A message from Hydra’? They didn’t even give me a fucking message.”

They’d just—Gods, the fuckers, they’d broken his fingers when Scott had tried to punch them. Had been trying to drag him off when Kurt had activated the fire alarm. In the chaos outside in the hotel Scott had gotten free and then the SWAT team arrived. He’d been saved, Scott had thought. Then the powers guy had done something that had blasted Scott off the edge of the corridor, down two floors to the concierge’s desk. That had hurt.

“We don’t know what Hydra is either,” Kurt said, hushed. “But we think, you know. Your. Well. Outside your room’s crawling with FBI agents. The big dude outside your room said he’s from Jimmy? Er. Cassie and Maggie and Paxton are on their way down.”

“Where’s Jimmy?” Scott asked.

Luis and Kurt exchanged uncomfortable glances. “Dude outside wouldn’t say,” Kurt said, staring at his shoes. “Confidential, he said.”

“Probably outside kicking ass.” Luis sat down carefully at the edge of Scott’s bed. “Taking names, arresting people. Stuff.”

That hurt a little. That Jimmy wasn’t here. Even though Scott knew—well, Jimmy had said he’d be home late. Something, as usual, had Come Up. And Scott had and would never be the main priority in Jimmy’s life. He’d accepted that. Or thought he had. Scott faked a smile and tried to peer down over his blanketed body. “Please tell me I still have my dick,” he told Luis.

“Why wouldn’t you?” Kurt blinked.

“You want us to check?” Luis asked, looking visibly uncomfortable. He grabbed the medical chart from the foot of the bed. “Says here, concussion, compound fracture on your left leg, um, your hand—”

“Which will get better in no time,” Kurt said sharply. Luis flushed and hastily put the chart back.

“Right, Sure. And you should take a break! For a while. From stuff,” Luis said brightly. “No need to worry about anything. Also, the chart said nothing about your dick. Yay?”

Scott stiffened as a belated thought occurred to him. Dave was right. “Oh fuck. I’ve got to get out of here.”

“What? Why?” Kurt blinked at him. “You think these Hydra people are coming back?”

“No. No, I can’t afford a hospital stay. Shit. The bills are gonna fucking kill me. Luis, you’ve got to get me discharged. Hell, am I gonna be charged for getting brought here in an ambulance? How much is all this gonna cost? And why am I in a private room?”

“Don’t worry about it. Seriously,” Luis said, though his face pulled into a weird grimace. “Also you’re in a private room because you get a door guard, haha, that’s kinda cool right? FBI security detail. I mean, I barely was let through to see you, I don’t have ID, Kurt had to come out and get me, and then we both nearly weren’t let through even though Kurt had been in the ambulance with you, I swear, the popo’s always like this man—” He yelped as the door opened and Cassie burst in, with Maggie and Paxton behind them.

“The popo’s always like what?” Paxton asked. He was faking good humour, his feigned smile offset by worried eyes as he took Scott in. Cassie wailed and threw herself at the bed, only to be hastily scooped up by Luis and set down on Scott’s uninjured side. “Well, you look like crap,” Paxton told Scott.

“Flesh wounds, I’ll walk them off,” Scott said. He cuddled Cassie as she sobbed against his shoulder. “Hey, sweetie. What’s wrong? Daddy just had a little fall.”

“Yeah, a little fall down two—” Luis yelped as Kurt punched him in the knee. “Two steps! Haha.”

“There sure are a lot of police outside,” Maggie said, with an uncertain look between Scott and Paxton.

“Yeah, think a lot of people are pulling overtime for the hell of it. It’s been a slow week,” Paxton said, with another obviously fake smile. “I’ll go talk to some of them.” He ducked out. Kurt got up from his chair, letting Maggie take it. He tugged Luis’ arm and Luis got off the bed.

“Uh, Scott. We’re probably gonna. Head out? Or I can stay if you want,” Luis said. Kurt nodded. “I got lots of cousins. Could probably hand off tomorrow’s stuff to them.”

“Nah. No offense, but I know your cousins. Uh.” Scott frowned, trying to recall his schedule. “Got a party tomorrow, Kurt can cover that one. And another one at night, office party, uh, if that hasn’t been canceled.”

“Yeah. Don’t sweat it. Just rest, OK?” Luis clasped Scott’s free hand and Kurt patted Scott on the shoulder. They retreated.

“Everything okay?” Maggie asked softly.

“Yeah. Course. Nothing to worry about,” Scott said firmly, patting Cassie’s back. “Seriously. I think the police just freaked out on me. After the fact.”

“Luis called me. Paxton tried to call Jimmy on our way in. He didn’t pick up.” Maggie sounded worried. “Is he okay?”

Shit. That hadn’t occurred to Scott at all. Maybe there was a reason why Jimmy couldn’t be here. Seeing how pale Scott was probably getting, Maggie got quickly to her feet, forcing a cheerful tone. “I’ll go find some coffee, okay?” She ducked out of the room.

“Shh, sweetie,” Scott rocked Cassie against him. “This is just like the time you climbed up the tree to follow a cat and fell down.”

Cassie raised her teary-eyed face. “Did you climb after a cat too?”

“Nope. Which makes me getting hurt even less forgivable really. Sometimes adults make bad decisions too.”

“Like what?” Cassie asked, suspicious.

“Like… eating too much chocolate before going to sleep. Like not eating enough veggies,” Scott said playfully. “Like leaving out lego bricks on the floor instead of tidying them away. Like eating ice cream with pizza.”

Cassie startled to giggle. She hiccuped and wiped her eyes, then giggled again. “Nobody eats ice cream with pizza.”

“Yeah, but who’s gonna know? When you’re an adult you can do whatever you want. If it’s legal,” Scott said conscientiously, because he could just see Jimmy frowning at him in his mind’s eye.

Jimmy. Shit. Scott looked around for his phone, but couldn’t see it anywhere. “Cassie, sweetie, could you find Maggie for me?” Scott asked.

“Sure Dad,” Cassie said. She started to scoot off the bed, only to go still as the door opened. It was Maggie, juggling a couple of takeaway cups. She handed one to Cassie.

“Hot chocolate,” Maggie said. Cassie perked up—hot chocolate, even a shitty one, was her current favourite. “Careful kiddo. Don’t burn yourself.”

“I know, Mum,” Cassie said, pulling a face.

Maggie sat down in the spot Luis had vacated and forced a smile. “I asked the doctor if you could have coffee and he said no,” she told Scott.

“Boo,” Scott said, pretending to deflate.

“The bad news is, you’re probably stuck here for at least another day. Yeah, super boring,” Maggie said, for Cassie’s benefit. “Nothing to do but lie around and watch TV.”

“Boring,” Cassie said sympathetically, sipping chocolate.

“Another day?” Scott asked, dismayed. “I’m not that badly hurt.”

“Doctor’s orders,” Maggie said, with a smile for Cassie. “You see. Your daddy. Already thinks he knows better than the hospital.”

“He probably should stay in here,” Cassie agreed, with some thought.

“Yeah, go ahead, gang up on me.” This interlude would’ve hurt before, more than his injuries. It would’ve hurt to remember what he no longer had. Now Scott was glad that his family was here, however unmade and remade, but worry still curled in his gut.

“Jim’s on it,” Maggie said, before Scott could ask. Scott relaxed. That’s right. It would make sense for Paxton to be the one to try and sniff something out from police buddies. They talked to Cassie about her school day until Paxton let himself in.

“Hey, hot chocolate!” Paxton guessed, coming up to sit on the chair beside Scott. Cassie nodded and giggled. “How’s it? Good?”

“Not really,” Cassie said.

“Yeah, that’s places like this for you. We’ll get something on the way back, okay? McDonalds?” Paxton said. As Cassie started to frown, Paxton coughed. “Doctors kinda want us to let Scott rest.”

Visiting hours were probably over. Scott nodded and snuggled Cassie, faking a big yawn. “Yeah. I should be tucking in.”

“We can come back tomorrow,” Maggie said, with a quick smile. “Smuggle in something nice. Like a milkshake. Say goodbye to your dad.”

“Bye Dad.” Cassie hugged Scott and let Maggie scoop her off the bed. Paxton made a show of getting up but waited until Maggie and Cassie were out of the door.

“Jimmy?” Scott asked, tense.

“No one’s saying a word.” Paxton looked a little tired. “I’ll keep trying to see what I can find. Gale’s on it too.”

Scott’s stomach dropped. “Okay. Thanks.”

“I’m sure he’s fine. Probably just up to some weird Bureau top secret shit. Get some rest.” Paxton hugged him, careful of his wounds, and let himself out. Scott lay against the pillow and stared at the ceiling. Like he was gonna get any rest now.

#

Paxton dropped off Cassie and a couple of milkshakes after school. “Maggie will come by after work,” Paxton said. He looked a little uncomfortable. “She couldn’t cancel.”

“Joke’s on her, Luis might be swinging by,” Scott said, and grinned as Cassie visibly lit up. Luis was her third favourite person in the world after Scott and Maggie. And probably the worst influence in her young life.

“Oh God.” Paxton made a show of leaving with reluctance, which made Cassie giggle. She sat on the bed and kicked the air, looking around curiously.

“I kind of thought hospital would be scarier,” Cassie said, in a conspiratorial tone. “Like. Full of dead people.”

“Why’s that?” Scott asked.

“‘Cos of Paxton. Whenever he has to go to the hospital he always looks so angry. Not like mad angry, more like sad angry.”

“Well,” Scott said, as carefully as he could, “Paxton has a very serious job.”

“So do you!”

“Nah. My job’s about making magic and getting little kids to fight dragons.”

“That’s serious to me. And you can still do that after, right?” Cassie gave him a worried look.

“Well yeah. Told you, flesh wound,” Scott said lightly. He had tried not to think about it. About how he was going to pay for therapy, how badly his hand was broken. He could still DM games, and there were some tricks he could do one-handed, but he’d have to scale back on a lot of corporate events. The others tried their best, but they weren’t that good. Hell, maybe the corporate stuff was already toast. Getting a gig invaded by powered weirdoes probably got you blacklisted across town.

“‘Cos I stayed up, and when I was sneaking out to use the bathroom, I heard Mum and Paxton talking downstairs. Mum said she talked to the doctor about you. The doctor said he didn’t think you’d be able to pick up a deck for at least a couple of years.”

A couple of years? More? Scott blinked and took in a slow breath. Cassie was staring worriedly at him. “Sure it isn’t that bad,” Scott said, in a slightly strangled voice. “It’ll be fine.”

Too late—Cassie was starting to look upset, her face scrunching up. “But—” She paused as the door opened.

It was Jimmy. He looked absolutely exhausted, a little wild-eyed as he looked from Scott to Cassie and back. He exhaled, rubbing a palm over his face, shuddering. Then he walked over and gave Scott a hug, burying his mouth against Scott’s hair. “Hello to you too,” Scott said, shaky. He forced himself to breathe evenly. No breaking down in front of Cassie. Jimmy seemed to get the hint. He sat down in the chair and smiled at Cassie.

“Hey Cassie,” Jimmy said.

Cassie shot Jimmy a suspicious stare. “Hi,” Cassie said. She’d been slow to warm to Jimmy, even after Scott moved into Jimmy’s place. It’d gotten to a point where on Scott’s days with Cassie it was easier to take her out the whole day rather than spend it at the apartment. “He’s weird,” Cassie said, when Scott had asked her about it.

“How’s school?” Jimmy asked. Jimmy hadn’t minded Cassie’s reticence, strange as it was for a kid normally so sunny. He’d been patient about it instead. “Youth pastor,” Jimmy said once when Scott had sort-of apologised. “You’re the most important person in her life, Scott. She’s going to resent anyone who looks like they’re becoming a big part of your life.”

“She didn’t mind Paxton,” Scott had said, and Jimmy had chuckled. “You ever ask Maggie about that?” he’d said, at which point Scott had forgotten about it. Now, watching Cassie draw herself up when it was just the three of them made Scott regret that oversight. He should’ve asked Paxton how he’d gotten through to Cassie, maybe. Asked—

“Fine,” Cassie said.

“Doesn’t sound fine to me,” Jimmy said, tilting his head.

Cassie scowled at him. “Luis said it’s best not to talk to the popo.”

Was it Luis? Before Scott could cut in, Jimmy laughed, easy and warm. “In normal circumstances that’s often a good idea. Not to talk. Get a lawyer first.”

“Really?” Cassie looked taken aback that Jimmy was agreeing with her.

Jimmy nodded. “Of course. Even if you’re actually in trouble. You have a right to a lawyer. So if you’re ever in a situation where you have to talk to the police, tell them that. That you want to talk to your lawyer.”

“Can I use that on Paxton?” Cassie asked, looking thoughtful. “Like when he asks me how I did on a math test?”

“I don’t see why not,” Jimmy said, with a perfectly straight face. “Tell him your right to counsel is in the Sixth Amendment.”

“Okay. I’ll remember that.” Cassie said, very seriously. “Does that work on Mums?”

“I’m gonna get into so much trouble with Maggie,” Scott muttered.

“Nope. Mums are a special case. You always have to tell them the truth,” Jimmy said, just as seriously.

“What about you? Do you always have to tell the truth? As the popo?” Cassie asked, with a studied innocence that Scott recognised.

“Cassie—” Scott began.

“Sure,” Jimmy said.

Cassie pointed at Scott’s hand. “The doctor said he can’t hold a deck for at least a couple of years. To do magic. Is that true?”

Jimmy went still. He turned his face away to control himself, but Scott caught the flash of pain that crossed Jimmy’s features anyway. When Jimmy looked back over at Cassie though, he was calm and smiling again. “Does Scott need to hold a deck to do magic?”

That made Cassie hesitate. “Dunno,” she said, after thinking it over.

“He doesn’t. And you know what? I’ll prove it. Scott, can you raise your hand? If it doesn’t hurt?”

Scott lifted his arm. The drugs made it ache in only dull numbing pulses, and his wrist was splinted. Looking at how thickly bandaged his reset fingers were kinda hurt anyway, a hollow dull ache, and he nearly missed what Jimmy was saying to Cassie. “—his hand’s still magic. Even as it is now.” He was taking a silver dollar out of his wallet, handing it over to Cassie. “What’s that?”

“A dollar?” Cassie said.

Jimmy took it from her, holding it above Scott’s bandaged hand. “A real silver dollar. Look at Scott’s hand. Even like this, it’s still gonna do magic. Watch.” Jimmy pretended to drop the coin ‘through’ Scott’s bandaged hand, palming a second coin under the bandages. Cassie laughed in delight. “See? Magic. And he’s got more of that where it came from. Scott, how about you say the magic word when I drop the coin again this time?”

Scott couldn’t help the huge dopey grin stealing over his mouth. “Fine. If I have to. Abracadabra,” he said, as Jimmy pretended to drop the coin again. This time Jimmy palmed a golden coin out of the air, handing it over to Cassie.

“…And he’s turned it into chocolate. Unwrap it.”

Cassie whooped. She unwrapped the gold foil with huge eyes and bit into the coin. Then she grinned at Scott. “Wow. It’s really chocolate. That’s awesome Dad!”

“Yeah, let’s keep that from your Mum, OK? You’re not meant to be having so much sugar,” Scott said, somehow managing to keep his voice steady. He set his hand back on the bed. Chocolate recharged Cassie into her sunny self, and she was chatting with Jimmy about school all the way until Maggie let herself into the room.

“Oh! Jimmy. Hey.” Maggie smiled, a little nervously. “Um. Here for Cassie. Everything OK?”

“Everything’s going to be fine,” Cassie said confidently, slipping off the bed and grabbing Maggie’s hand. “Bye Dad. Bye Jimmy.”

Jimmy waved as Scott blew his daughter a kiss. Once Cassie and Maggie were out of the room, Scott stared at Jimmy. “I don’t believe it.”

“Believe what?” Jimmy asked.

“You fucking learned a coin trick. Two tricks. Coin Through Hand needs you to learn the Classic Palm. Though I guess since you had to use my hand you just did two Classic Palms.”

Jimmy smiled wryly. “I was looking through a list of coin tricks and it looked like the one that kids were most likely to enjoy in Sunday School. Especially once you do the chocolate coin ‘swap’.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Scott asked, grinning.

Jimmy looked a little embarrassed. “It’s not very impressive. Good enough for kids so far, but it’s not really natural or as smooth as your tricks.”

Jimmy the perfectionist. “Come over here,” Scott said, beckoning. “Gimme a real kiss.”

Instead of obliging, Jimmy exhaled and shot him a long, lingering look. “Think we should talk.”

“Okay. Can I start?” When Jimmy inclined his head, Scott said, “I’m thinking these Hydra guys weren’t actually after me, they were after you.” Jimmy’s jaw clenched tight, and he looked away. “That’s why they were trying to kidnap me or something, only in the mess and with SWAT turning up they decided to just get really vindictive.”

“You could’ve died,” Jimmy said softly.

But I didn’t. And it would’ve been nice if someone could’ve told me that you were still alive, but I’m guessing the whole thing was pretty confidential, whatever you were doing. And it’s now over?”

“Sort of.”

“Who are these Hydra guys anyway?”

“Nazis. More or less. The modern, more organised terrorist version. Not so much the radicalised incel supremacists with the tiki torches.” Jimmy paused and made a face. “I can’t believe that in 2018 we’re grading Nazis by degree and shade, but yes.”

“Well that just fucking figures,” Scott said, with a snort. “That’s got to shit Captain America. He gets flash frozen during the World War and wakes up to more Nazis. Like a fucking rash.”

Jimmy’s mouth twitched up briefly. “It does annoy him quite a bit.”

“Wait, you’ve met him?”

“In passing, yes. We’re not particularly close.”

“‘Cos of the FBI stuff?”

Jimmy looked away again, this time at his hands, nervously wreathing and un-wreathing his fingers. “I never wanted my life to end up affecting you.”

“Wait, wait. I’m not finished, because we ended up getting sidetracked talking about the 1940s happening all over again. Anyway. Yeah, it sucks that I got used as a punching bag and thrown off a balcony, what even the fuck, some people have no chill whatsoever, but if you’re going to use this as an excuse to break up with me or something I’m going to punch you,” Scott said belligerently.

Jimmy stared at him. “What?”

“I’ve watched enough of the Korean dramas you saved off Netflix to guess. Someone’s going to develop cancer. Or turn out to secretly be some chaebol heir.”

Jimmy was quiet for a long, tense moment. Then he started to laugh. He kept laughing as he tried to speak, until he ended up with his arms bent over his knees, gasping for breath. “I love you,” Jimmy managed to say, still fighting chuckles. “You’re ridiculous.”

“You’re the one who was going to break up with me over Nazis.”

“I wasn’t going to! I don’t even know how you came up with that idea. Life isn’t like Korean dramas, thank God. Also, I can’t believe you watched any of those. I was going to apologise. Ask you to forgive me. I thought you were going to want out. My job’s endangered your life. And those of your friends. Possibly damaged your business.”

“Well no? I mean. I think maybe there’d be a setback, but we’d manage, and paying for therapy is going to be a bitch… but don’t you open your mouth and offer to pay.”

“Too late, I’ve already spoken to the hospital.”

“What? That’s out of line.” Scott scowled. “I’m not destitute. I just sold a house.”

“To pay into a college fund for Cassie. And after the payments to the bank and Maggie’s share you don’t actually have that much left. Especially with the healthcare market being as volatile as it is. I can afford it, all right? So let me afford it.”

“…Only if we’re really in this together,” Scott said firmly. “You don’t have to apologise for Nazis being Nazis. Also. Please don’t stick me with a security detail or whatever you were thinking about.”

Jimmy assumed a faintly guilty look. “Might be necessary for a while.”

“No. No.”

“Scott.”

“Goddamn it just come over here and kiss me,” Scott growled. “I’m having too many feels, and if I have to try and sit up to get to you I think I’m going to regret it. The drugs aren’t that good.”

Jimmy let out a hoarse, wrecked sound. He sidled over, leaning down, brushing a soft kiss on Scott’s mouth. “I don’t think I deserve you,” Jimmy said, hushed.

Scott clenched his good hand into Jimmy’s collar and pulled. “Feeling’s mutual, asshole. Now gimme a proper kiss.” Jimmy obeyed, though he was still reserved. Still guilty, probably. Scott licked into his mouth anyway, tried to kiss that off him. Jimmy braced his weight, careful of Scott’s arm. He was still tense. Jimmy relaxed grudgingly as Scott curled his good arm over Jimmy’s shoulders, kissing Jimmy until Jimmy was stroking Scott’s cheek, nuzzling kisses down his jaw, resting his cheek against Scott’s shoulder.

“If I wasn’t on so many drugs, I’d prove to you why a security detail is a bad idea,” Scott said.

“Do tell,” Jimmy murmured.

“I’d ask you to suck me off right here,” Scott said, grinning as Jimmy went still. “But I don’t know if I can get it up. Too many drugs. And pain. That’s right. Your security detail is gonna be traumatised for life.”

Jimmy’s shoulders shook in soft laughter. “They’ll be unobtrusive. This is already the least obtrusive solution I thought you would accept. Ideally, I’d prefer you—and Cassie, Maggie, and Paxton—to go into witness protection in an undisclosed location until things are sorted out.”

“No fucking way to that.”

“I thought so,” Jimmy said, resigned. Scott patted his back, threading fingers through his hair.

“It’s okay. I know you’ll sort something out. Catch the bad guys, punch some Nazis, save the day and all that.” Scott kissed Jimmy on his forehead. “So go get ‘em. And don’t worry about me. Or us.”

#

“Nazis ruin everything,” Scott said, sunk into the couch with Jimmy doing something in the kitchen.

“What happened now?” Jimmy asked. He sounded distracted. Jimmy was never particularly good at multitasking—he tended to get hyperfocused on one thing, like cooking, and ignore everything else, like Scott.

“You’ve been tiptoeing around me for weeks. My leg’s out of the cast, even.” Scott could even do without crutches now.

“I’m not tiptoeing, I’ve been genuinely busy,” Jimmy said, reading the recipe while chopping vegetables.

“We could’ve ordered take-out.”

“You can’t keep eating take-out. It’s not healthy.”

“Wow, that’s funny coming from you, a person who lived on take-out and Bureau canteen food until I came along.”

“So it’s my turn,” Jimmy said absently, rereading a part of the recipe with furious concentration.

“I just think there’s something else that you can do for me since we actually have some time before you have to pop off to wherever,” Scott said pointedly.

“Hmm? Like what?”

“You’ve been working late, you’re tired, I don’t want to pressure people into anything, but I think this is the longest we’ve gone without having sex,” Scott said.

Jimmy didn’t even look up. “You’re hurt.”

“Recovering!”

“You need to eat,” Jimmy said firmly.

“I could guilt trip you, except that’s gonna be gross for everyone involved,” Scott said, tugging his laptop over. “So I’m going to use a secret weapon instead.”

“Uh huh,” Jimmy said, distracted again.

Scott linked his laptop up to Jimmy’s Bluetooth-enabled hifi system with a little chime and accessed his Spotify library. As the first languid strains of the ballad started to play, Jimmy let out a loud yelp and dropped the knife. Scott bit down on a laugh and concentrated on the phonetic lyrics he’d found on Google. “Ni wen, wo ai, ni you, duo shen—”

“Lord, please stop,” Jimmy said, in between horrified gasps of laughter, setting the knife aside. “Your pronunciation’s awful.”

Wo ai, ni you, jifen—”

“Stop, stop.” Jimmy wiped his hands down and strode over to the couch, still laughing as he paused the song and pushed the laptop off Scott’s knees. “Where the hell did you. How did you even know?”

“Google told me that’s the most famous Chinese love song,” Scott said innocently.

“Teresa Teng’s 月亮代表我的心, indeed, yes, for the older generation, I don’t even.” Jimmy was still laughing in gasps and starts. “What the heck. Christ.”

“Oh, I like this. I think I just broke you.” Scott smirked. “Speaking of which, the lyrics don’t make sense. ‘The moon represents my heart’? The moon fucking changes.”

“Stop it,” Jimmy said, still grinning as he bent to kiss Scott, and finally, there it was. A touch of hunger, nothing of the gentle fragile care of the past few weeks. Scott grabbed Jimmy’s palm, pointedly pressing it to his crotch and grinding against it.

“I’m making dinner,” Jimmy complained, in a hushed murmur.

“Yeah, and if you go back to it, I’ll just keep singing. Mangle this song with my bad pronunciation. Then I’ll move on to the next one.”

“This is blackmail,” Jimmy said, though he was chuckling as he obligingly went down on his knees, tugging Scott’s underwear and pants down to bare his cock. He smiled lazily up at Scott as Scott made an eager noise and spread his legs. Licking the tip, Jimmy stroked Scott until his cock had thickened out before sucking him in, and Gods there was the part of Jimmy that Scott had missed, who pinned Scott to the couch and could drink him all down. That crazy self-control and confidence.

Jimmy purred as his mouth pressed against the coarse curls at the thick base of Scott’s cock. When Scott groaned and twitched against him, Jimmy swallowed around his cock, humming as Scott yelped and bucked. Taking it. His hands eased up to Scott’s hips and tugged. Compressed a moan around Scott’s cock as Scott eased the fingers of his good hand into Jimmy’s hair and started to rock into his mouth. Scott knew he could be rougher and Jimmy would handle it, would even like it. There wasn’t any need to. “Jimmy, God, Jimmy,” Scott whispered in an uneven mantra as he thrust. “Feels so good, Jimmy.”

Jimmy hummed, as though in agreement. He started to suck, loud and sloppy, like he had nowhere else he wanted to be, nobody else he wanted to do this to. Scott tried not to watch. Knew he wouldn’t last. Tried to slow it down but he couldn’t, not with Jimmy’s mouth stretched around him like that, spit-slicked, his cock pressed in that warm, wet heat. When Scott cried out and bucked, Jimmy leaned back, drinking him down like a pro, licking up the rest with catlike laps.

“Shit,” Scott said hoarsely. Jimmy chuckled, tucking him back in.

“Feeling better?” Jimmy asked. His voice was ruined.

“C’mon up here.” Scott tugged at Jimmy’s shoulders until he could balance Jimmy over his good leg.

“I’m okay,” Jimmy said, then hissed as Scott pointedly spat on his palm and pushed his hand into his pants. “Scott. I was making dinner.”

“You can’t get grumpy over getting a handjob. And we’ll order pizza.”

“The time—”

Qingqing de yi ge—” Scott broke off into a laugh as Jimmy yelped again and flinched against him. “Damn. That’s never gonna stop being funny.”

“We’ll get pizza,” Jimmy said, frozen between horror and mirth, “if you promise never to try and sing that song again.”

“Deal.” Scott kissed Jimmy, long and lingering, until Jimmy stopped grumbling and nudged his hips into Scott’s grip.