Episode Thirty-Eight: The Shopping Affair
Guy sat on a dock. His feet and ankles rested in the water, and his jeans were rolled up to just below his knees. He propped himself up with his arms as he leaned back and enjoyed the sun on his skin. Looking around for anyone else, Guy started to unbutton his shirt in the hopes of letting the sun kiss his chest.
A cold hand clutched his wounded ankle, and he let out a cry of pain. He looked down to see the bluish-white, shrivelled hand tightening around his ankle. He kicked into the water with both his feet, trying to shove the creature off of him.
But with one yank, Guy was in the water. He inhaled the thick water, staring into its foggy body. He swam upwards to the surface and achieved a breath before the creature pulled him down again. He tried to tell himself to relax; he knew fighting blindly would only wear him out. But the water closed in around him, curling against his eyes.
He looked down.
The creature was Cox, bloated with water and blue with death. One of his hands still clutched his ankle, the other pressed another body down into the murky depths. Guy swallowed water with a gasp as he saw Nikolai’s glassy eyes roll up at him. The Russian’s mouth lolled open, and he didn’t struggle. He just floated behind Cox.
Guy tried to kick Cox again, but his movements were slow in the water. Guy’s lungs began to burn as his thoughts slackened. He would swim up, take a breath of air, and then swim down and free Nikolai. He knew chances were he would simply be saving a corpse, but he had to know. He tried kicking Cox again, but his limbs moved as if the water was tar. Cox’s nails dug into his ankle and he let out another cry of pain.
And then two new hands grasped his chest, carefully leading him back above water. Cox yanked the assassin down again, but the hands on his chest held strong, pulling him towards the surface. A gentle voice hushed him. Cox’s grip on him faded, and he took in a breath of air while the arms coiled around his chest. He breathed in his companion’s scent and snuggled into the arms.
“Nikolai,” he murmured.
Nikolai kissed the side of his face, and as Guy’s eyes fluttered open, the dock turned into their bed while the water shifted into the comforter Guy kicked off during the night. Nikolai curled up next to him, nuzzling his beard and hugging him. He nibbled Guy’s ear.
“How come you get to wake me up for sex, but when I try to wake you up because I’m horny, I get told off?” Guy asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Because you are easy,” Nikolai replied. He kissed Guy’s neck and teased one of his nipples between two fingers. “Besides, it sounded like you were having a nightmare. So I thought I could make your morning a bit more cheerful.”
Guy purred and rolled onto his side to face Nikolai. Nikolai kissed him, curving Guy’s body up against his own with his hand. Guy ground up against Nikolai as he twisted his fingers through Nikolai’s blond hair. He kissed the blond back. “That’s very thoughtful of you,” Guy murmured. “Shall I be thoughtful in return?”
“I would not protest,” Nikolai purred.
Nikolai’s smile spread to Guy’s face. Guy kissed Nikolai’s chin, then his neck, then his shoulder. Nikolai rolled onto his back and stretched out his neck to help Guy fawn over him. The secret agent massaged the assassin’s back as Guy kissed down Nikolai’s chest, swirling his tongue around one nipple. Nikolai arched his chest against Guy’s lips, and Guy teased Nikolai’s other nipple between his fingers before pressing against it with his thumb. Nikolai exhaled and let his hands drift lower on Guy.
Guy let his lips drift lower on Nikolai, kissing his muscular abdomen. Nuzzling into the blond’s curly blond pubic hair, Guy squeezed his testicles. His fingers teased the area right behind his testicles, and he raised his eyes to Nikolai to watch him shiver. Nikolai licked his lips, and Guy kissed the inside of his thigh.
“Is your plan just to torture me?” Nikolai asked, a weak quiver in his voice.
“Perhaps,” Guy replied with a grin.
Nikolai let out an exasperated sigh and rubbed his face. Guy flicked his tongue against Nikolai’s testicles before licking the line between them. He ran his fingers up Nikolai’s chest as he continued licking and sucking his testicles, flicking his tongue against the area behind them. His eyes caught Nikolai grasping the sheets, and he smirked as he squeezed Nikolai’s ass.
“Toss me the lube, would you?” Guy asked.
Nikolai fumbled with the drawer, and Guy grinned at how sloppy he could make the secret agent. He flicked his tongue against the head of Nikolai’s cock, already beginning to taste him. Nikolai tossed the jar of lube onto the bed by Guy’s head. He tried to keep his voice steady as the Russian said, “Do you need a condom too?”
“I suppose,” Guy replied.
He kissed Nikolai’s inner thigh again as Nikolai tossed a condom his way. Guy rested on his knees and pulled the secret agent’s hips closer to him, resting Nikolai’s legs against his chest. He opened the lube and coated his hands. He jerked Nikolai off at the base of his erection, pulling back his foreskin to flick his tongue where the head of Nikolai’s cock met his shaft. When Nikolai arched his body, Guy’s cock ached. Nikolai bit his lower lip as Guy sucked the head of his cock.
Guy pressed his finger into Nikolai’s ass while his other hand rubbed Nikolai’s chest. Nikolai let out a gasp and he bucked his hips upwards. Guy took more of the blond’s cock into his mouth, pressing a second finger into his ass. Nikolai’s groan sent a shiver through Guy, and he desperately wanted to pound into Nikolai to hear more of his groans. “Better slow down,” Nikolai gasped.
The assassin stopped sucking on Nikolai and worked his fingers faster, pressing against the sweet spot that made Nikolai let out another moan. He licked the head of Nikolai’s cock to lap up what spilled out. Pulling his fingers out of Nikolai, Guy opened the condom packet and slipped it onto his cock. He coated it in lube, jerking himself off as he did so. Nikolai smiled, his eyes slightly gazed.
Pulling Nikolai against him, Guy edged the head of his cock into him. Nikolai gritted his teeth, and Guy slowly pumped into him, worrying that it hurt. But if it did, Nikolai held his tongue, and Guy pressed further, delighting in the sensation of Nikolai tightening around his cock. He hovered over Nikolai as he pumped deeper into him, watching the secret agent’s eyes lock onto his own. He panted and gripped Nikolai’s legs, pumping faster into him.
Nikolai groaned. He reached up to twist his fingers into Guy’s salt and pepper hair, and Guy smiled between pants. Guy ground his hips against Nikolai’s ass as he hit as deep as he could. He nearly pulled out before slamming into him again, his testicles slapping against Nikolai’s ass. Nikolai groaned and dug his nails into the assassin’s head. Guy leaned over Nikolai as he quickly repeated the process, kissing the Russian’s groaning mouth. Nikolai’s erection rubbed up against Guy’s stomach as Guy pumped quickly in and out of him. His ankle ached, but he only moved faster, eager for the payoff to cover up the pain.
Guy kissed Nikolai again, panting against his neck when he pulled away. Nikolai kissed the side of Guy’s head and he began to murmur in Russian. “Oh fuck,” Guy gasped.
Digging his nails in Nikolai’s hips, Guy slammed into him faster, feeling the Russian spilling onto his stomach. Heat lingered in Guy’s cheeks as he grunted. Nikolai groaned and came onto Guy, the assassin clenching his teeth in response. A few more quick thrusts and he finished, holding Nikolai against him as he came with a groan.
Nikolai cupped the assassin’s cheeks and kissed him as Guy pulled out of him. Guy dropped beside Nikolai, still panting. A warm fog overtook his mind, and the pain in his ankle faded to a dull ache. Nikolai snuggled into Guy’s chest, and Guy listened to the Russian’s steady breaths. “Don’t fall asleep now,” Guy said.
“Too late,” Nikolai murmured.
Guy laughed and kissed the top of Nikolai’s blond head. Rubbing the secret agent’s back, Guy said, “Will you be hurt if I start the day?”
“No,” Nikolai replied. “So long as you will not be hurt if I decide to postpone it.”
Guy brushed away Nikolai’s sweaty bangs to kiss his forehead and then his nose. Nikolai smiled, and Guy tilted the Russian’s chin upwards to softly kiss his lips. Nikolai purred, “Any chance you would be up for another round?”
“Later, maybe,” Guy said. “I’m still a little sore.”
“Where?” Nikolai asked with a mischievous grin.
“Everywhere,” Guy said, “but I’m not ready to bottom either. What about you?”
“We will see,” Nikolai replied, snuggling back under Guy’s chin.
Guy peeled himself off of Nikolai. “Sorry, Mr. Wetsuit. I’m going to shower and start my day.”
“Wish you would be up for another round in the shower,” Nikolai mumbled, rolling onto his stomach and hugging a pillow to his chest.
Guy playfully slapped Nikolai’s ass in response, prompting Nikolai to say, “Do not get me worked up if you are not planning on paying out.”
Guy kissed between Nikolai’s shoulder blades. “If you want me to jerk you off again, I am more than happy to oblige,” Guy murmured.
“No, no,” Nikolai said. “I will dream of it instead.”
Guy replied, “Probably won’t be as good as the real thing.”
“Probably will be better,” Nikolai said.
Guy squeezed Nikolai’s ass and smooched his back again. “Whatever helps you sleep in the morning, Mr. Wetsuit.”
“You can go away anytime,” Nikolai said.
Guy gave Nikolai’s ass one final friendly grope as he pulled away. He grabbed his crutches and some clothes before moving into the washroom. He started the water and folded his clothes on the toilet, tossing a towel on top of it.
He stepped into the shower, and reality hit him just like the cold water.
Nikolai’s life had been threatened. He would have to leave him. “Jesus Christ,” Guy muttered. He finally found someone who made him want to be with someone aside from himself, and then this happened. Maybe he should have expected this to happen. No, he had expected it to happen, that’s why he distanced himself from Nikolai – from everyone – in the first place. He leaned on the shower wall and said, “God damn it.”
Guy tried to think, but fear and frustration cluttered his thoughts. He would have to protect everyone. He’d protect Cain and he’d protect Nikolai and he’d protect himself. He rubbed his face. Cain wanted Nikolai dead. He would have to admit to Cain that Nikolai was his. He trusted Cain once, didn’t he?
He washed up, deciding to talk to Quint first before he admitted anything about Nikolai to Cain. But until then he would cling to Nikolai and make all the memories he could, just in case the secret agent wouldn’t take him back.
Nikolai had to take him back though. Why wouldn’t he?
Guy stepped out of the shower and dried off. The face of the drowned Nikolai in his dreams came back to him. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, trying to remember Nikolai’s lips on him moments earlier. He would feel better after he ate. He exhaled.
Guy walked into the kitchen to find Jackie reading the newspaper. He gave her a quick “Hello” as he checked the coffee maker for coffee.
Jackie said, “I can hear you two having sex. For the love of God and everything that is holy, please be quiet.”
“Where were you?” Guy asked, pouring himself a cup.
“What do you mean, ‘where was I’? Did you expect me to fucking watch?”
Guy laughed softly and turned around. “I meant, which room were you in. Were you in the kitchen? Were you in the bathroom?”
“I was right here, eating breakfast and minding my own business when you to start grunting it up,” Jackie snapped. “I’m pretty sure I heard someone’s balls rapping against someone’s ass.”
“But you haven’t heard us before?” Guy asked.
“Well, no,” Jackie said. “I guess not.”
“Did you just think we were never having sex?”
“Jesus, Solo. It’s not something I want to think about. Do you know how many mental images of you are getting burned into my mind right now?”
“I’m just saying that when we’re having sex, go into another room,” Guy said. “Because Nikolai gets worked up over the littlest things and I’m not going to deny him what he wants.” Guy waggled his eyebrows and flexed his muscles.
“Fuck you, Solo,” Grier said, frowning. She sipped her coffee.
Guy moved to the kitchen table, leaning his crutches against it before sitting down across from Grier. Grier’s brown eyes avoided Guy’s, and she raised the newspaper to try to block the assassin out completely. “You know,” Guy said, “I thought maybe I could try talking Nikolai into a three-way.”
“Nikolai doesn’t like vaginas,” Grier said.
“Well, I could take care of your vagina and Nikolai could touch your boobs. I bet he likes boobs. Who doesn’t like boobs?”
“He must like boobs if he likes you,” Grier muttered.
Guy looked down at his chest, concerned about the potential weight building on his gut and manly bosoms. The crutches limited his ability to work out, but his arms still looked good, in his honest and modest opinion. He flexed his arms and felt doubt building him. What if after Nikolai and he broke up, Nikolai wouldn’t take him back? What if he kept putting on weight and Nikolai found his physical appearance repulsive? What if there came a day where he couldn’t see his toes when he looked down?
Guy raised his head to see Grier staring at him from overtop of the newspaper. “Yeah, of course I am,” Guy said, scoffing. “Why?”
“You stopped hitting on me,” Jackie said.
“You miss it,” Guy replied, grinning.
“He fell back asleep,” Guy said. “I don’t know what it is, but sex just knocks him right out.”
“Then tell me what’s wrong,” Jackie said.
Guy frowned. “Nothing’s wrong.”
Jackie set down the newspaper and folded her arms across her chest. Guy noticed the way the buttons on her shirt bulged open at her chest. “I miss boobs,” he said, staring at her breasts.
“Fuck you,” Grier said. “I just wanted to help if I could, but if you’re going to be an asshole, then I’m going to be an asshole.” She grabbed the newspaper and her coffee and stood up. “And I’m going to move into the other room in case you decide to knock my partner out again.”
Guy’s leer faded. Jackie hesitated in the kitchen. Guy remembered what Cox said – about Jackie being easy to write off. But he knew she was a valuable ally, and that she wasn’t one-hundred-percent loyal to A.B.E.L. like Nikolai was. Guy said, “Remember when you hired me to-”
The phone ringing interrupted him. Jackie stared at the phone as if it was suddenly alien. She looked at Guy, and with a raise of his hands Guy said, “I’m not supposed to be here.”
Jackie set down her paper and coffee to answer the phone. She stared into the distance for a minute, a minute that Guy watched her relaxed body language. If it was bad news, Guy knew she would have tensed, her eyes widening or narrowing, her brows raising or knitting together. But she looked at her nails absently, a slight smile in the corner of her lips as if listening to a friend.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but you have the wrong number.” She hung up the phone.
Grier raised her eyes to Guy and pressed a finger to her lip. “What were you saying?” she said.
“Never mind,” Guy said, trying to make the confusion apparent on his face. “I’m just upset because I can’t bone Nikolai like I used to with this bum ankle.”
Jackie grabbed a notepad from by the phone and moved to the kitchen table. She said, “If you don’t mind then, I’m going to read my paper. Is there a section you want from it?”
“The Today section,” Guy said. “I’ve got to catch up on the celebrity gossip.”
“All right,” Jackie said, sitting down across from him, “but don’t tell me about it. I don’t care about that shit.”
Instead of handing Guy his section of the newspaper, she began writing on a notepad. Guy looked away as he heard the water start to run in the house. Nikolai had woken up.
She raised the notepad so he could read it. It read, “We can’t talk here.”
Guy frowned. Both he and Nikolai searched the place for bugs. He rubbed his face and he thought of someone listening to them having sex – or all the inane conversations he had about Bruce Willis and whether or not the man actually looked good bald.
Grier writing again caught Guy’s eye. He waited, and she eventually raised the notepad again. “A friend is listening, but still not safe to talk.”
Guy nodded. He suddenly had no appetite for coffee, or anything else for that matter. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. When he withdrew them, Jackie narrowed her eyes at him and made eating motions. He nodded and stood up. She stuffed the notepad in the back pocket of her pants.
Absently listening to the shower run, Guy made eggs for both him and Nikolai. He considered the bugs in the apartment and how Cox knew so much. He wondered where was actually safe for them to talk, and how many places held bugs for A.B.E.L.
He loaded up both plates with eggs, bacon and toast, but his stomach turned at the thought of eating it. He set one down in Nikolai’s spot and slid into his seat. Jackie handed Guy a section of the newspaper, and Guy stared at it while he chewed on toast. Nikolai came in smelling of citrus shampoo and gave Guy a shy smile when he saw his plate. “Is this for me?” he asked.
“Uh huh,” Guy said with a tone gruffer than he intended.
Nikolai gave a gentle “Thank you,” and started eating. Guy tried to follow suit, feeling Nikolai’s eyes burrowing into him. “Did you want to go shopping today?” Grier asked Nikolai. “I could do some Christmas shopping before the malls get flooded with people.”
“Too late,” Guy muttered.
“I will go,” Nikolai said. “But perhaps Guy is not feeling up to it.”
Guy looked at Jackie, and she gave him a hard stare. “Oh, no, I can go,” Guy said. “I should probably get some shit too and support our capitalist motherland.”
Nikolai rolled his eyes and Grier let out a laugh. “Can we go when you’re done eating?” Grier asked. “It’ll be better earlier than later.”
Nikolai shrugged. “I will leave it up to Guy depending on how he is feeling.”
“The sooner the better,” Guy said.
The trio finished their breakfast, dressed, and drove to the mall with Grier in the driver’s seat. Jackie made lively conversation with Nikolai, and Nikolai listened and tossed in a few words when he knew she expected a reply. Guy noticed Nikolai’s eyes were constantly on him, and he found it difficult to hide his brooding mood. He just didn’t feel like talking, and his armpits were already sore by the time they made it through the parking lot.
Once inside the mall, Grier clapped her gloved hands together and said, “So, what’s our game plan? Meet back here in two hours?”
“Pardon?” Nikolai asked. “I was not under the impression that we were separating.”
“Well, I’m getting you something,” Grier said, “and I want it to be a surprise. I’m sure Guy is going to get you something gross and creepy, and he probably also wants it to be a surprise, so it’s best to split up.”
“I did not know we were exchanging presents,” Nikolai said. “What should I get you?”
“I like surprises,” Grier said with a huff.
“No, you do not,” Nikolai replied, frowning. “You are a very picky woman.”
“That’s why you get a gift receipt, Niko,” Jackie said, her hands on her hips. “Come on, I want to get started.”
“I do not want to split up,” Nikolai said, folding his arms across his chest. “I am not particularly comfortable in malls, and I do not excel in picking out gifts.”
Guy looked at Nikolai’s pouting face. Part of him was frustrated at how much like a lost puppy he seemed, but another part of him just wanted Nikolai to be happy and safe. “How about you and me meet back here in an hour, and we’ll shop together from there?” Guy asked. “I do need some time to shop without you.”
“I do not need a surprise,” Nikolai muttered.
“Humour me,” Guy replied. “Please.”
Nikolai looked from Guy to Grier, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. Guy feared he realized they were leaving him out of something. Nikolai’s eyes narrowed. “Fine,” he said, flailing his arms. “I will go wander off alone and be alone with my thoughts. It is better than hearing both of your inane thoughts anyway.”
“Then I’ll meet you two back here in two hours?”
“Sure,” Guy said.
Nikolai just shrugged and folded his arms back across his chest.
“Are you seriously going to pout about this?” Jackie asked.
“I am not pouting,” Nikolai replied, the pout firm on his face.
“How close are you to having a temper tantrum?” Jackie asked.
“I am not going to have a temper tantrum.”
Jackie rubbed Nikolai’s arm, smiling up at him. Guy observed with curiosity as Nikolai’s shoulders relaxed, the corners of his lips curling upwards just a hint. “Two hours,” Jackie said.
He unfolded his arms and pulled back his sleeve to look at his watch. “We should synchronize our clocks.”
Jackie and Guy followed suit, and they lined up their watches. “One hour,” Nikolai said, pointing at Guy. He continued, “Two hours,” after he pointed at Grier.
Jackie smiled. Nikolai waited, and Guy started to move away. He assumed Grier would want to talk in the food court, so he headed in that direction without watching the two part ways. He moved quickly, trying to weave through the crowd as best he could on crutches, and he tried to ignore the Christmas decorations.
His frustration swelled as the decorations reminded him of another big factor this whole debacle caused. He would have to separate from Steffie, at least for the time being.
With a smile, Guy remembered one Christmas a few years ago that he dropped in on Steffie.
He stood outside her window, rubbing his hands together to try to keep them warm from the bitter cold. He jumped and grasped onto the first branch, feeling the snow numb his fingers. Every time he climbed this tree he told himself he’d dedicate more time to working out.
Cursing, he climbed the tree until he could see into the room through the pink curtains. Holding a branch above him to keep himself steady, he grabbed some snow clinging to the tree. He formed a small snowball and tossed it at the window.
Only now did it occur to him that she might not have been home, that she might have friends and a social life. But that fear hit him now. In the future, where would he wait for her? Would he stay in her tree all night? What if she had a sleepover?
But that Christmas the window creaked open, thick black hair hanging from it. He saw her hazel eyes light up as they locked onto him. “Daddy!”
“Open the window so I can get it,” he said. “It’s freezing out here.”
The girl pulled open the window as much as she could and stepped out of the way. Guy edged his way to the end of the branch. He could almost reach the window. Now he tried not to think of teenaged boys courting his daughter this way in a few years.
He jumped, diving through the window. He hit the floor with a graceful slam and felt the wind get knocked out of him.
“Dad, you’ve gained weight.”
“I know, Steffie,” he said. “I keep telling myself I’ll work out more.”
“So that I don’t climb this tree and one day realize that I can’t fit through the window.”
“Like Winnie the Pooh,” Steffie said with a vicious grin.
“Exactly like that,” Guy said, smirking back at her. “Is your mother home?”
“Nope,” Steffie beamed. “She left me all by myself, which is good because she’d be storming up here after she heard that sound you made.”
“Okay, so I’m less graceful than I usually am,” Guy said, laying face-down on the floor trying to catch his breath. “I brought you a Christmas present.”
“Are you staying for Christmas? I’ll bring you up some turkey.”
“Sure am,” Guy said.
Guy turned over, and Steffie playfully poked him in the stomach with her foot. “Where’s my present?” she asked. “I can open it now, right?”
Guy pulled a gift wrapped in newspaper out of his bag. He now wished he splurged on nicer paper for her. He made a mental note to buy Christmas paper in this wretched mall. But he thought of how he set the gift down on the floor and nudged it in her direction. She sat down, cross-legged, in front of her gift with her hazel eyes watching him.
“You can open it,” Guy said.
She tore into the wrapping immediately. Guy watched her eyes light up as she saw the convertible in the box. It was a car for some girly dolls she collected, but the convertible (aptly named) turned into a plane and various other forms of transportation for the dolls. Steffie started pulling the gift out of its packaging before she even mumbled a word of thanks.
Guy didn’t mind. He enjoyed watching her. Steffie showed him all the new dolls she had, their names, their favourite outfits, and so on. She continued to explain what dolls and accessories she suspected to get for Christmas from her mother. “But mom wasn’t going to buy me this. She said I’d been too naughty this year and I could buy it with my chore money if I wanted it that badly.”
“You don’t think Santa’ll bring it for you?”
“Please Daddy, I’m not a child,” Steffie said. “But mom’ll be ticked you bought it for me. It’s going to be great.”
“Good,” Guy said, laughing. “Are you going to read to me then?”
“Yes!” Steffie said, standing up. “Mom’s new boyfriend gave me this new book. I’ve already read it but I think you’ll like it.”
Steffie moved her clothes off the hidden mattress in her closet, and the two snuggled in together. Steffie sat on Guy’s lap so he could read over her shoulder and see any potential pictures. He loosely kept one arm around her waist, and he leaned against the wall to keep himself upright. He breathed in Steffie’s hair, noticing a change in shampoo. She moved from a Kiwi/Papaya blend to some more fabricated smell of a more science-promoted shampoo. He didn’t care either way, but he noticed the change in her.
He noticed too that the pictures were not on every page, and the book was dominated by words. He had wondered when Steffie dove into those kinds of books? He let Steffie’s voice wash over him as she mumbled on something about rabbit holes and things getting curiouser and curiouser and Guy found his eyelids grow heavier and heavier.
As he walked through the mall, he thought about how every time he saw Steffie, she was a little taller and a little smarter. Her comebacks carried more playful venom. But still, when he left that Christmas and said, “Watch all that fantasy you’re reading. I’m not sure what it does for real life.”
She said, “It’s all metaphors and stuff, Dad.”
But despite her quickening tongue and her growth spurts, she still wore the large smile whenever she saw him. He loved her. And he would miss her more than anything this Christmas.
So he slumped into one of tables in the food court with a heavy sigh. Grier approached him quickly, a soft drink in her hand. She sat down across from him, squeaking the straw in the drink’s plastic lid as she did so. “I figured you didn’t want Niko with us,” Grier said.
“I think it’s best if he isn’t,” Guy said. “You’re sure it’s okay here?”
“Uh huh,” Jackie said. “Even if there was something to pick us up talking, it’d be too hard to hear us with all the other noises.”
Guy quickly scanned the crowd. He stopped when he reached a woman with curly red hair mostly covered by a black military-style cap. Red. No, he was still mad at her, he decided. He wouldn’t even give her the opportunity to talk to him.
“You know the hit I had in the hotel?” Guy asked.
“The A.B.E.L. heads, yeah sure,” Jackie said.
“Your boss hired me to do it,” Guy said.
Jackie let out a laugh, but her face froze, and then faded into a frown. “Jesus.”
“He’s the one who hired me to take down E.V.E.,” Guy said. “Shit, I really need to start looking into my clients and their hits more.”
“So are you just giving me the heads up that my boss is an asshole?” Grier said. “You know how I feel about Adams. That fucker. It’s not like I’m not used to working for assholes.”
“That’s just the thing,” Guy said. “He is beyond asshole. He told me that if I don’t spy on Cain for him, he’s going to kill Nikolai.”
Grier exhaled. As Guy watched her brown eyes crawl across the table, he could see her putting the pieces together. He wished he brought Jackie onto the project a lot sooner. She rarely trusted anyone, and Guy could easily use that trait to his advantage.
“That’s why they brought me in,” Grier said. “We’re both expendable fuck ups.”
“That’s essentially what he said,” Guy said.
Jackie sucked her teeth. Guy retold the whole story, and she nodded as she followed along. Guy had never heard the agent so quiet.
When Guy finished, Jackie said, “Nikolai loves Cox. If he catches wind of this, there is no way he’ll believe it. I mean, you could try to just seduce him away and tell him to quit his job, but then you’ll constantly be looking over your shoulder. And, even so, Nikolai would probably want to personally say a farewell to Cox.”
“What do I do?” Guy asked.
“I don’t know,” Grier said. “But you can’t see your daughter.”
“I just thought of that,” Guy said. “I can’t risk putting her in danger, and I don’t need any other weaknesses.” He scratched his beard.
“What was your plan before you talked to me?”
“I don’t have to start until January. So I figured I’d stay with Nikolai until January, break up with him, go back to Cain, and spy for Cox until the time expires or until he threatens Cain and I need to figure out a way to kill him. Then I come crawling back to Nikolai and we run away together and screw a lot.”
“I can’t decide if breaking up with Nikolai is the right choice,” Jackie said.
“Neither can I,” Guy said. “But if I stay with him, it could make Nikolai’s life harder as an A.B.E.L. agent, especially since I’ll be working for Cox. He’s going to get a lot of shit from his co-workers, and who knows what hell Cox will put him through. It might be easier to protect him at a distance. And, I mean, you’ve got his back too, right?”
“Yeah,” Jackie said. “I’ve got that. Listen, I’m going to try to talk Nikolai into quitting A.B.E.L. with me – outside of the house. If he agrees, then we’ll say you have something to do before you join him. You finish your sentence with Cox, and then the three of us bolt.”
“And if he doesn’t agree?” Guy asked.
“Then you two get into an argument in the house,” Jackie said. “Tell Nikolai you’re going back to Cain no matter what. He can choose whether or not he thinks you’re worth staying with. Either way, you and I will figure out what to do to keep him safe. But at least he will be included in the decision making process. If you just dump him, I don’t think he’ll let you back into his life regardless of the excuses you give him. He might be more forgiving if he does the dumping over something like that – especially after he finds out why you needed to keep working for Cain.”
Guy nodded. “Perfect,” he said. “Thank you.”
Jackie exhaled and folded her arms across her chest. “You’re welcome. But don’t think I’m doing this for you. This is all for Nikolai. I just want to make sure he’s safe and happy.”
“That’s all I want too,” Guy said.
Jackie smiled weakly. Guy responded with one of similar strength. Jackie replied, “I really hope I’m doing the right thing by believing that.”
“You’ll see,” Guy replied. “I will keep your partner safe. But I have another question.”
“What the fuck do I get him for Christmas?”
Jackie laughed. “Jesus Christ,” she said. “You two are useless.”
“I don’t know what he wants,” Guy said. “Grier, the man has zero interests.”
Grier smiled as she thought, but her face faded into a more serious one. “Well, since there’s the possibility that you two might break up for good, maybe you should buy him something you want him to have. He’s sentimental; he’ll probably keep it regardless of what it is or where your relationship goes.”
“Yes, but for fuck’s sake, don’t tell me what it is if it’s something kinky.”
Guy grinned. “I was thinking more along the lines of a sweater. You know how he always gets cold. I thought I’d get him one that actually looks trendy.”
Jackie smiled and played with the straw of her drink again. “I’d appreciate it. He wears the ugliest sweaters. Just make sure it’s warm.”
“Forgive me if I’m being blunt, but what are you going to do about your daughter?”
Guy looked around to try to spot Red in the crowd again. She seemed to have faded away, but he lowered his voice nonetheless. “Ship her a package and an apology. I’m not going near her with this many eyes on me. I’m not sure I could disappear without being followed by someone.”
“What if I dropped something off for her,” Jackie said. “I could make up some excuse for you, and she might like meeting another one of your-” Jackie sighed as she added, “-friends. I’m going to visit my parents anyway. It’d just be a stop on the way.”
“No, I’m just fucking with you,” Jackie said with sarcasm and a scoff. She continued, “Of course really. I don’t mind stopping by to see your little girl. I want to make sure she’s okay too, you know. It’s not her fault her dad’s a bad guy.”
“Oh about that,” Guy said. “I’m actually a spy. I told her Nikolai was a bad guy and I’m the good guy. If you could keep that going-”
“Jesus Christ,” Jackie said and rolled her eyes.
“-I’d really appreciate it,” Guy finished.
Grier narrowed her eyes at Guy. “You’re such a prick.”
“Is there anything else I should know?” Jackie asked.
Guy shrugged. “We were reading Harry Potter together – but she’s probably finished it by now. She likes Disney movies a lot, but her mom and me try to make sure she has realistic expectations in life. We refer to Nikolai as ‘The Beast.’”
“Of course,” Jackie said with a scowl.
“I’ll pick her up something with Nikolai and give it to you once we’re back at the house, but we won’t talk about it in the house,” Guy said. “I figure I’ll tell Nikolai I’m not seeing her to be on the safe side, but, again, not inside the house. Sound okay?”
“Perfect,” Guy replied, standing up. He put his crutches under his arms and when he looked back to Grier, he saw her staring off into the air in front of her, deep in thought. “Thanks for all of this. I truly appreciate it.”
“It’s nothing. Like I said, I want Nikolai to be safe too.”
“Well, I want you to know how much I appreciate you even hearing me out,” Guy said. “Really, I don’t know how I could do this without knowing someone was on my side.”
“I’m on Nikolai’s side,” Jackie said, looking back to Guy.
Guy smiled. “Sure, okay. I’ll see you later.”
“Uh huh,” she replied, drinking with the straw in the corner of her mouth.
Guy left Jackie in the food court, and he went through several clothing stores before stumbling onto a hooded sweater with beige fuzzy lining strong enough to be a winter coat and trendy grey and black horizontal stripes. As he ran his hand up the sweater, he thought of his hand running across Nikolai’s nude chest. He tried to mentally fit Nikolai’s dimensions into the sweater as he decided on a size.
He purchased the sweater and picked up a gift receipt to save himself from being lectured by Jackie if Nikolai openly loathed the sweater.
Next, he stopped in a gourmet chocolate store. He managed to schmooze his way into trying several samples and bought Jackie a custom box of what he assumed someone like her would like. If not, he would just have to eat the ones she didn’t like. What a hardship.
He checked his watch and decided to wait for Nikolai even though he was early. He decided to find a nice bench and relax on it until Nikolai met up with him.
He moved through the mall at a slower pace, finally taking time to appreciate the decorations, the spirit, and the generally grouchy consumers. He tried to think of what to pick up Steffie, but he knew he would brainstorm with Nikolai whether the secret agent wanted to or not. In fact, he decided he would tell Nikolai about Grier dropping off the gift for Steffie then, and if Nikolai tried to bring it up inside of the house, he would just distract him with kisses. It seemed like a good strategy. He knew his kisses were irresistible.
Before he reached the spot, a blond head caught his eye. Nikolai stood at a pay phone, his back to the passing crowds and Guy. As the assassin considered groping Nikolai’s ass, curiosity nipped at him. Certainly the only two people Nikolai cared about were here in this mall. Without thinking of the consequences, Guy moved closer to Nikolai without any groping intentions. Nikolai talked softly in Russian into the phone. Guy always assumed Nikolai’s Russian simply complimented his fantastic sexual skills, but he decided that this is probably not what Nikolai talked about on the phone.
Guy watched a small smile lingering in the corner of Nikolai’s mouth. Somehow, Nikolai also seemed a little sad to Guy, but he couldn’t decide if it was the tilt of his eyebrows or the tone of his voice. He had the sudden urge to coil his arms around the Russian and hold him close.
Nikolai’s blue eyes caught Guy, and his face turned stiff and hard. Guy realized this was not a conversation for him to hear. Guy pointed towards a bench and mouthed, “I’ll wait there.”
Nikolai simply gave him a cold gaze without nodding or shaking his head.
He left Nikolai to his phone and sat down on the bench, resting his crutches next to him on the bench and out of the way of anyone passing by. He watched Nikolai, trying to judge his body language, but it stayed stiff. Guy debated whether or not he would ask Nikolai what happened immediately or if he would leave it for later.
Nikolai hung up the phone and approached Guy. “I’m sorry,” Guy said, quickly. “I didn’t realize you were having a private conversation.”
“I was speaking Russian,” Nikolai said with a frown.
Guy offered a sheepish smile and replied hopefully, “Which means I couldn’t eavesdrop?”
Nikolai exhaled. Guy watched Nikolai clench and unclench his fists, a sign that he was trying to calm himself down. He asked, “What did you buy?”
“Nothing you need to see at this particular moment,” Guy said.
Guy slid his hands inside of Nikolai’s unzipped, hideously pink coat, pulling the Russian closer to him. “I am sorry,” Guy said. “I should have just left you alone.”
The assassin tried not to think of the eyes of the crowd, and whether or not they lingered on them. But he tried to hide his concerns to soften up Nikolai. Certainly the secret agent was more important than strangers’ perception of him.
“It is fine,” Nikolai said, though he kept his hands off of Guy.
“Well, I was coming to meet you anyway. Are you ready for me?” Guy asked.
Nikolai shrugged, but Guy felt the muscles in the blond’s back loosen.
Guy continued, “I notice you don’t have any packages. Did you get me anything?”
“I bought ribbon,” Nikolai said. “It is in my pocket.”
Guy’s brow furrowed.
“If you cannot figure it out, then you will just have to wait,” Nikolai said, his tone superior, but a smile snuck onto his face. He gently took Guy’s hands off of him, squeezing them before releasing them into the assassin’s lap. Nikolai continued, “I do not know what to get Jackie. Perhaps you can help me.”
“I’ll certainly try,” Guy said. “I just bought her chocolates. I need to pick up something for Steffie, so maybe you can help me with that.”
He stood back up, and Nikolai took the bag from Guy as Guy equipped the crutches again. The assassin observed the Russian. Nikolai stood patiently, swimming in his puffy pink jacket, with his fingers curled around Guy’s shopping bag. Nikolai looked normal, and he supposed they looked normal together. Maybe if they walked around in the mall long enough, their dangerously intertwined lives as a secret agent and an assassin would dissolve into normalcy.
With a grin at his companion, Guy said, “No peeking.”
“Never,” Nikolai replied with a small smile.