one: not alone

Lance sighed as he dropped his briefcase on the sofa, then slumped against the doorframe, utterly exhausted. He’d fought with Kevin today, arguing about the future of the Deshazior account, and had left the office so frustrated that he couldn’t help but walk through the Park, taking the long way home. He’d turned off his cell phone, stuffed his Palm in the bottom of his bag, and absolutely refused to look at his computer for three hours.

He was feeling rather discombobulated now, but it had been worth it at the time.

Chris wasn’t there. Maybe he should have come home for dinner, so that they could’ve been together for a little bit before Chris went out to the club, but Lance knew that he would probably have taken out his anger on Chris, which wasn’t fair at all but usually how these kind of evenings went. Instead he’d grabbed a hot dog Joey would have been proud of him for at one of the stands on the edge of the Park, and had eaten it while watching the mothers run their kids in strollers around and the college students playing frisbee in the bright fall air.

Lance’s eyes slipped shut, and his head fell to rest against the doorframe. He was so tired of everything, and he just wanted to fuck it all and call in, quit this stupid job with its stupid people and stupid accounts that were barely going to net anything anyway. He was lost in his own thoughts; when fingers gently threaded around his shoulders and the back of his neck, he jumped straight in the air and let out an undignified shriek that he’d thought was completely out of his range.

Chris stepped back a few feet, his hands in a placating gesture and an amused smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Sorry, man. Here I thought you could use a little relaxation, but please allow me to personally call the makers of Percoset and ask for a shipment to be sent to the house.”

Lance stared at him dumbly, trying to make himself breathe again and tamping down the erratic beating of his heart.

There was a long pause, and then Chris continued, “Okay, so I’m taking your surprising and disturbing silence as you being shocked into speechlessness at seeing my gorgeous face at, oh, eight in the evening, and by the prospect of bedding the Fine Kirkpatrick Ass. And in anticipation of that speechlessness, I have prepared a variety of things that require you not to talk at all. Such as, for one, me. And for two,” he clicked a button on the remote he pulled from his pocket, “Ella Fitzgerald, who I think can and probably should speak for you in a situation such as this.”

Chris stepped a few feet closer, dropping the remote on a bookshelf and sliding his hands around Lance’s waist. There was a charged moment as their eyes met; Chris seemed tense, waiting for Lance to do something. Then, with an almost visible release, Lance’s face melted into a smile and his eyes met Chris’s with a relieved and happy look. “Hi, Chris,” he sighed into Chris’s mouth.

“Hi, Lance. Welcome home,” Chris said, before moving to kiss Lance hello.

Later, when the lights of the city were playing over Lance’s skin and Chris couldn’t stop himself from touching, Lance mouthed the curve of Chris’s neck and asked, “What about the club? I thought you were running DJ tonight.”

Chris shrugged. “One of the perks of ownership is having the prerogative to change your mind whenever you feel like it. Besides, JC has been itching to get a chance at the tables, and I figured, what the hell, I’m feeling generous.”

Lance petted the curve of Chris’s hip. “I’m glad you were home. I had a…bad day, shall we say, at work.”

Chris’s eyebrow shot up. “Yeah, about that, dude. You turned off your cell phone. I thought you’d died. Especially after Brit called and asked if you were okay because you and Kevin had torn each other apart. Again. You gotta tell me this shit, babe. It’s part and parcel of being boyfriendy.”

Chris felt Lance nodding against his chest. “Yeah. Sorry. I mean it, I’m sorry, but we were fighting *again,* over the same thing as the last few million times, and rehashing the same argument was just killing my brain. I needed to cool down. You remember the last time this happened–we didn’t talk for three days, and I didn’t want that on top of everything else.” Lance looked up, smiling just a bit. “You know I’m the atypical bitchy queer when stuff like this happens.”

“Yeah, but I love you anyway, you crazy freak. I love you from the tips of your strangely golden hair to the third toe on your left foot you broke when you were ten. Even if you yell at me and turn into Eddie Izzard on a sugar high with a hangover, I will still love you. It’s non-negotiable.”

Ella was still crooning from the living room when Lance pulled Chris close, framing his face with careful hands and kissing him softly, trying to pour all the joy he felt into it. Kevin and the account and Brit’s chain-smoking all seemed to fade away against the warmth of Chris, and Lance was more than happy to leave it behind.

They were falling into sleep as the cd finished, Chris spooning behind Lance, pulling him in a warm embrace, when Chris whispered into Lance’s ear, “I was thinking we should take a vacation. Maybe Jamaica, or Thailand. Someplace I can golf and you can–well, you can look pretty and make fun of my backswing. We can drink stupid drinks with umbrellas in them all day long and fuck like rabbits until we pass out from exhaustion. And then pool boys can give us massages while we make googly eyes at each other. What do you think?”

The only response Chris got was Lance murmuring quietly against the pillow and a soft snore.

two: what’s become of them

It was bright and sunny outside, but Chris didn’t feel it as he took a final drag on his cigarette, crushing it before dropping it to the floor where it fell on a pile of similarly-crushed butts. There was a stack of memos on his desk, deceptively innocent on the stock paper, and he didn’t have to read them to know what they said.

“Why do you look so down, Director? Nice weather, you’re not grievously injured, and there’s a half-naked woman running right across your line of sight. Sounds better than most days you could have,” said a deep, drawling voice from just behind him.

“You ever lose that accent, Agent, or do you just put it on because you know it pisses me off?” he replied, feeling his pockets for his cigarettes.

A lightly tanned hand held up a fresh pack with a waiting cigarette in front of his face. It should have ticked him off more, but he just sighed and took the proffered smoke. He really wanted it, after all, and why turn anything down when a guy with a pretty face and honey-slow drawl wants to give it to you?

Chris had never been the smartest guy in the world, but even he wasn’t that stupid.

The man seemed to take his acceptance as an excuse to move forward a step, and Chris had to restrain himself from fidgeting farther away. “How’s business?” he asked abruptly, fumbling with his lighter and finally getting the cigarette lit.

“Oh, you know how it goes,” the man said pleasantly. “Change clothes a couple hundred times, ruin a few nefarious plots, hide a few bodies. The more things change, and all that.”

Chris nodded, his sight trained on the tip of the Washington Monument peeking out from behind the myriad of buildings. He didn’t know what to say. It had been months since he’d seen Bass last, and even though it felt weird to stand here, talking to him now, something in Chris eased at the knowledge that Bass was actually okay, despite the fair sheaf of reports and memos that came across his desk, telling of Bass’s position and itinerary; or the one-line, unaddressed postcards he recieved and kept in his desk at home, beneath the letters from his sisters and his mother’s recipe for carrot cake.

Bass didn’t seem to mind the silence, just stood next to Chris and didn’t say anything when the smoke drifted in his direction from the wind. Chris looked at the scuffed edges of his shoes, noting that they needed a good polishing. Really, Chris needed a good polishing. He’d felt rumpled and unsettled for longer than he could remember, as if the endless closet of suits he wore didn’t fit like they used to, and he didn’t know what to do to make them comfortable again.

His world had shrunk to his office and his bedroom, and even his assistant had finally come out of self-absorbed oblivion to comment on how tired and drawn he looked. He ignored them all, knowing it for truth but unable to pinpoint what, exactly bothered him so. He chose instead to shove it away, tamp it down until whatever the cause was revealed itself.

It pained Chris to admit it, but the cause seemed to be standing right next to him, the light of the evening sunset illuminating him against the sky. Caught mid-puff, Chris felt all the air leave his chest, slowly exhaling while the hand holding the cigarette dropped, forgotten, to his side.

Oh, god. When had this happened?

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. The words formed a litany in his mind. This–well. This would ruin everything. It was bad enough, Carter and Timberlake making eyes at each other when they thought no one was looking, but at least they were both agents who were on location enough that they could get away with it without the higher ups grilling their asses. He was in no such position, a director of in operation that required every bit of his attention and one that required such close regulation of rules and procedure that it made Chris’s head swim, sometimes, to think of how much he’d changed from when he first joined.

There was no way for a Director and an Agent to get involved, especially when one was the Director of the other and said Director was locked to home base with a complete inability to move. Fuck. Fuck.

Chris managed to pull his gaze from Bass’s profile and stared hard at the ground, using his cigarette as an excuse not to talk and shakily sucking in the acrid smoke. One night, five months ago, and he was reduced to this. Too bad he didn’t have the excuse of being drunk. Instead he had been painfully sober, recording everything into his memory with a precision that kept him awake and well-acquainted with his hand almost every night Bass was gone. Now everything fell into sharp focus, his unsettling dreams and dry, surly behavior explained in a way that seemed almost too pat. But even so, Chris couldn’t be so willfully blind to the point where he could ignore something right before him. No amount of denial could help him there.

And so it is, Chris thought grimly, watching the butt of his cigarette fall to the ground in a mirror image of its predecessors. There. He’d acknowledged it: he was in love with Special Agent James Lance Bass, 24, Caucasian, born in Mississippi, parents Diane and James, sister Stacey. Had an apartment at 14th and Columbia, drove a 2000 Ford Taurus, lived on take-out, and ate pad thai with a vigor that baffles most. Liked Humphrey Bogart and wanted a dog, even though he had no time to keep one. Could pin Chris down with startling green eyes that Chris never wanted to escape from.

Only a few of these things he learned from a file in the basement of the building.

“So I was thinking,” Lance said, and Chris whipped his head around at the sound of Lance’s voice. “We could get dinner at Bellicino’s.”

“You’ve already been debriefed,” Chris said, surprised at how gruff his voice sounded.

Lance smiled, and Chris could feel his chest constricting again. “I know.”

three: truth is paramount

Chris and Lance were mirror images of focused concentration, their hands clasped and sweat beading on their foreheads, breathing hard in quick pants, the strain showing in their arms and wrists.

“Do it, do it, do it,” Chris muttered, his eyes locked on the small, crumpled piece of paper between them. Lance’s thumb ran along the fleshy pad of Chris’s hand, and in that instant the paper caught fire. They both breathed out a simultaneous sigh of relief. “It’s done,” Lance whispered, his voice hoarse from holding out the long note that was the basis of the spell, started over an hour ago and only now culminating in this most desired result.

They fell back against the pillows they hurriedly threw around the floor of the room, their ankles touching and providing a reassuring point of contact between them. After something like this, they had to touch each other almost constantly to keep from going faint from loss of connection. It took them a long time to get used to the sense of incompletion they felt when they were far from each other, forced interdependence that neither of them was comfortable with. Even so, they became accustomed. It was more than necessary to.

Joey poked his head into the room. “You two good? J and C have passed out in the other room; it’s really starting to take a toll, on all of us. I don’t know how much more we can do,” he said, scrubbing a hand over his face.

Chris nodded from his prone position. “I contacted Alfred–he said that the enemy moved from the north position down to the Avondwell, which is more than bold for a leader of Trelvan’s character. They think there’s something else in store for us, but they don’t know what.”

Joey slid down the wall and pulled his knees close to his chest. “I think we’re going to have to borrow Nick.”

Lance raised himself to a sitting position slowly, with a few muted grunts. “They’re not going to want to give him up,” he said carefully.

Joey caught his eye and held it. “They don’t really have much of a choice, do they? The whole guild knows that Justin and Nick work better together than the three of us, and frankly the Council has wondered why he hasn’t been pulled in already. It’s stupid to hold to petty grudges and lines of demarcation when we’re in the middle of war.”

“They’re family,” Chris chided Joey gently. “It’s going to rip them up to send Nick over here. They’ll do it, you know they will: you’ve always had more sway with the Council than anyone else, and if you tell them to send him, they will without question. The House of Richardson knows well enough what we would all lose if they don’t.”

“Well, House Fatone does as well, and even so we’re beginning to tear at the seams.” Joey’s head fell into his hands, loose strands of his hair wisping around his fingers.

Lance crawled over to sit next to him, Chris doing the same at opposite. Their arms went around him, holding him tightly. “Remember who we’re fighting for,” Lance whispered. “Briahna is safe, because of you. Kelly holds her unharmed at State-over-Haven, where no one can touch her, because of the fight *you* led. Our families, the home Christina died protecting, that Marshall gave himself over to the madness for–that is what will keep us going, when all hope seems to be lost. House Fatone will not crumble, we shall all see to that. We took your name for a reason, Joe. Together we can overcome anything.”

Chris and Lance held Joey through the sobs that wracked his body, silently speaking over his head and together forming a spell pattern with their fingers drawing sigils over his skin. Joey slowly fell lax, slipping into a dreamless sleep that would offer some rest for his weary mind. They lift him carefully, grinning at each other for the weight of him, almost impossible to make the short distance to the bed on the last of the strength they had.

They helped each other out of their clothes, their minds working in the close tangle developed over so much time creating spells and simply being together to situate themselves silently in preparation for bed. It was late, though it mattered little, really, because sleep tended to be only a fleeting visitor. They stayed close, placing little kisses and minor touches against each other for the time it took to wash up and stumble to the bed.

Oh, how they laughed when Christopher Kirkpatrick nó Fatone and Lance Bass nó Fatone made their relationship far more than just working. They bumbled into it much as they did anything else in House Fatone, strange and ridiculous at first, but turning out to be exactly what was needed. It provided jokemaking and laughter in the Great Hall for weeks upon end when Master Wright had walked in on them kissing in the closet where his robe hung.

Even so, the teasing had died down as the enemy had risen in the West, and House Fatone was called to action as much as any other House. Now they met each challenge with fierce determination, and though all would speak later of their valor and greatness, at the moment all they were was weak with fatigue and fear. They had not lost anyone yet in their House, unlike House Spears and House Mathers, who still mourned their fallen comrades.

But now Chris and Lance banished all thoughts of what awaited them tomorrow and the days after, climbing into bed on either side of Joey and holding him between them, sharing their warmth and their minds-ease for the short time they had it. Their hands clasped over his hip, and they slept.

four: dream in metaphor

Lance was splayed out on the divan, and open invitation paired with a cool gaze that made Chris’s toes curl. The steward placed a key in his hand, green glass that matched Lance’s eyes, and Chris nodded wordlessly at the instructions and rules recited to him, his stare never leaving Lance’s beautiful body. The door closed quietly behind him, but he didn’t hear it against the roar that seems to fill his ears at the very sight of Lance. He knew his heart was taken.

Lance rose, gliding across the floor with regal grace, the thin gauzy fabric that did not truly cover his body almost falling from him in airy folds. He kneeled abeyante, his head bowed and his hands spread with palms up. “Tonight, sir, I am yours. Where would you have me?”

Chris found he couldn’t speak, his words choked in his throat. His fingers raised Lance’s chin, and he searched those deep green eyes for some indication of what he should do. He saw nothing, and wondered how many times Lance had been promised to people before and felt nothing.

He left Lance kneeling there and plopped himself into a chair, dropping his head to his hands. He didn’t know why he was here; there were so many other things he ought to be doing, going over the books in preparation for the yearly audit, or looking over the apprentice applications. JC had just laughed at him when he used those excuses against the thick vellum invitation he waved in his thin fingers.

It was unexpected, a gift from the young prince who was taken with him, a ploy to win a friendship that was already there. Chris was still amazed at the turns his life has taken, going from a poor boy singing on the street for copper coins to the head of one of the fastest growing theater houses in the country. At times he still longed for the simplicity his childhood had offered. Now, though. Now he received requests for his presence from the palace, delivered personally by Prince Timberlake’s consort, Nickolas, and thoughtful gifts sent to his residence with all the best intentions.

Joseph said he needed to get out more, be happy, enjoy the life Fate set out for him. Over tankards of honeyed ale at the Red Talon, Joseph had pulled him close and whispered to him in beer-heavy breath, “Find some pleasure, Chris, or I fear you will forget the feeling of anything save your hand. You’ve made yourself better than that, Kirkpatrick. And I shall take responsibility for you if you do not do so for yourself.”

Chris still wasn’t entirely sure what Joe meant by that, but when the invitation had arrived the next day, courtesy of the young Prince, Chris did not say no. JC forced him out the door, telling him not to come in the next day, and Chris was jittery and easily riled all night and into the next evening, when it was time for his appointment.

He looked up when he felt fingers slide against the back of his neck. “Do I displease?” Lance asked quietly, Chris’s head shaking even before the sentence was finished. “No, no, no,” he said. “You are…” He could barely get the words out, breathing them out in near reverence, “beautiful.”

Lance inclined his head, accepting the compliment, and reclined on his heels next to the chair. “Then, sir, what would you have me do?”

“I-” Chris opened his mouth, searching for what to say. “Please don’t call me sir. I am never sir–only Chris.”

“Chris, then.”

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he confessed finally. “I’ve not felt a touch of passion in–years. My wife died, and other things drew my attention.”

“You own the theater, do you not? I have much enjoyed the performances you carry there.”

“You’ve seen them?” asked Chris, suddenly eager. “Which did you like? Which have you seen?”

Lance laughed unexpectedly, a clear deep sound that made his eyes crinkle slightly. Chris thought he would like to be the cause of more of Lance’s laughter.

“Should I have known you came alive at the very mention of the stage, I would have restrained my efforts,” he said, pushing himself to a stand with the aid of the chair’s arm.

“Oh–I didn’t–I mean. Blast,” Chris whispered to himself.

“It’s fine, Chris. You did no harm. I am simply used to another sort of patron, and you are a refreshing change. I am glad to speak with you, about anything you wish.”

Which, of course, was when Chris fell into one of his rare silences. He shifted restlessly in the chair, playing with the hem of his shirt. He finally looked up to say something, only to find Lance mere inches from his face. Lance said, “Or perhaps my efforts are better received than I thought,” and kissed him.

Chris whuffed with surprise, but immediately leaned into the kiss, drawing as much from Lance as he could. Lance pulled him to the plush floor, and there they began what was meant to happen.

As the pleasure built and Chris gasped sightlessly, arching like a well-plucked bow, he whispered Lance’s name as if it were a prayer, causing Lance to look from his ministrations momentarily, unsure emotions crossing his eyes that he was grateful Chris did not see.

Chris was about to leave, a blissful smile on his face, when Lance calling his name made him turn. “Yes?” he asked, reaching out to touch one more time.

“Will you return?” Lance asked, looking seriously into Chris’s eyes.

“I shall,” Chris replied with all his heart, claiming Lance’s mouth once more.

“Good,” Lance whispered as Chris left, watching the space where his back had been for a long time.

five: in my mind

“Did you get the charger fixed?” came Lance’s crackling voice through the walkie.

“Yes,” Justin hissed. “And it was fixed the first four times you asked, too, Mr. Bond. God, man, chill. It’s not like it’s our first run or anything.”

He could almost hear Lance roll his eyes through the radio waves. Justin turned and grinned at JC and Joey, who grinned back, and ducked at the swat Joey tried to deliver at his head.

“Maybe not,” Lance said, “but it’s the first time we’ve done a five-man job in over a year. Give me some credit for being a little concerned, okay?”

“Sure, sure,” said Joey, after taking the walkie from Justin. “We all know it’s just an excuse to make sure we’re not, like, drinking the reactant or hanging ourselves with the rappelling gear. Such a mother hen, dude.”

Lance’s note of indignation made the three burst into peals of laughter.

“Hey, jokers,” Chris’s deceptively pleasant voice came over the phone. “While I appreciate a good jab at Lance as much as anyone, I might remind you that you are currently located in an air shaft in a building owned by the most powerful man in the Northern Hemisphere, where we are trying to abduct a very shiny and very expensive diamond that will keep me in Speedos and daiquiris for the rest of my life. I would prefer if you did not fuck that up by being so loud that any one of the dozen secretaries that happen to be working very diligently below you could hear and blow the entire operation, capiche?”

They muttered their assent, settling down somewhat and double-checking the equipment and plan, until Justin took the walkie back and said, “Speedos, huh?” sending everyone save Chris into quiet snickers.

The shift in their position happened at precisely 18:05, and they donned their earpieces and microphones, splitting up. Chris and Lance continued their trip down to the basement, Joey and JC went west to the security headquarters, and Justin was making his way to the power source when he fumbled with his headset and mic pack and accidentally switched the frequency, only to hear,

“I love it when you’re on your knees, Kirkpatrick,”

and his breath caught and he stopped in place. Whoa.

It wasn’t as if they didn’t know Chris and Lance were sleeping together. It was only inevitable after so much time bitching and poking at each other, and then the enforced separation of slipping into two-man and three-man teams? It was like putting a water balloon in a pressure cooker, just get ready for it to blow. More than anything, Justin was stunned that the two most uptight, anal-retentive bastards on the team would break concentration during an operation.

It was kind of funny, really. Justin sniggered and adjusted the volume a little. It couldn’t hurt to hear what they were up to.

“God, Chris, you fucking ass, you know that turns me on.”

“Kind of the point, really, don’t you think?” said Chris, muffled slightly by something Justin didn’t want to think about.

“Sure, but I still have to keep an eye on those–ohgod–numbers, and when you do that–jesus fuck!–thing, that thing you happen to excel at, by the way, kudos to you, my eyes roll back into my head and it makes it a little hard to see–eeohdearmotherofchrist, you, fuck, oh!”

Justin didn’t move. He didn’t want to make any sound, that was it. No sound, no move, holy christ this was hot.

“You know you owe me big time when we get out of here, right? Because I don’t just do this for anyone, Bass, especially not in the middle of a run that’s precarious enough as it is without you writhing there on my fingers. Not that I mind, not at all. I’m just saying, you should make a note in that incredibly anal datebook you keep. Though I suppose I prefer your tendency toward the anal,” he said, chuckling slightly.

Lance was huffing laughter between frantic moans, and if Justin listened hard he swore he could hear the slap of skin against skin. He glanced down at his watch, glad that he’d made it to the halfway mark early. He’d still have to hoof it to get down to the power source by the next time stamp, but it would be worth it. He palmed his own erection and sucked in a deep breath, realizing only after that his fucking microphone was *on,* oh shit–

“Bass in stereo,” Chris said. “Oh, I like this. Remind me to keep these for a little while when we get back to the compound.”

“Uh-huh…sure, Chris,” came the reply

Justin silently sighed relief, settling back against the wall to hear the rest of the show.

“Just a little bit more,” Chris said decisively, and did something that made Lance’s voice go deep and thick, shuddery and really, really sexy. Justin felt his toes curl in his steel-toed boots, and grinned suddenly at the absurdity of the situation. Internationally wanted criminals, lauded by their peers for their perfect record, richer than five guys probably ought to be, and the secret to their success? Their two leaders fuck in the middle of a delicate, carefully planned operation. Who would have guessed?

“Ah–almost there, Chris…Chris, Chris! Godiloveyou, ohchris,” Lance came with a cry, and Justin was sort of surprised when he creamed his pants.

As he came down from his orgasm, he heard Chris softly telling Lance that he loved him, he did good, god, he was beautiful, and Justin clicked back to the regular frequency, where Joey and JC were arguing about the relative merits of RENT as a musical over Les Miserables. He grinned. Ah, how a ragtag bunch of prettyboys can pretty much rule the world.

Then he looked down at his wet jumpsuit, and cursed softly. That would be more than uncomfortable for the duration of the long fucking evening. He sighed and picked up his things to move to the next location.