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1 .

And here's the one that I much prefer.


His palm had already hit the door when he heard it, reverberating like a siren’s wail. Too late to take it back, too late to turn away. To run away. Fuck. He hoped the very loud, very sensual, very female moan issuing from inside would be enough of a distraction to let him close the door without being noticed, but he knew better. The man inside took pride in noticing every little thing. He couldn’t escape. He could never escape. Not from him.

And he couldn’t escape from the scene before him: the man for whom he harbored far too intense feelings wrapped around a woman, an unknown, a wisp of a thing, who was shrieking and moaning and shouting encouragements in french. God, he wanted to leave, but something intangible was weighing down his feet and paralyzing all the muscles in his neck that would have at least let him look away.

There was a moment. Silence broken only by the pants of the woman, who had full, pouty lips and fluttering eyelashes. The man on the bed turned, his face hardening as he moved his eyes to meet those of the intruder at the door. It hardened, but that didn’t stop him from seeing how it had looked before. Warm. Looking towards that pretty little bird with warmth.

Now his voice was cool. Always like that, always so cool. “I shall be with you in a few minutes, tireur. If you would be so good as to wait in the kitchen…”

Of course. Of course he would be good. The Sniper shuffled sideways, unable to take his eyes off the intimate tableau until he reached the tiled floor of the kitchen, where he shuffled over to the refrigerator and hunched against it, hands in his pockets. Should have known this would happen. Stupid.

And he could still hear it. Damn, they were loud. Was that a french thing? The Spy was always so quiet with him, but now he was murmuring, encouraging, shouting even. She was a nice looking thing. Lively, sounded like. He pulled his hat down over his eyes, screwing them shut as if maybe it would all go away. It didn’t. Obviously.

Finally, it all culminated in a swift series of shrieks. He’d never heard noises like that from his—his—his what? Surely this sort of encounter didn’t happen with a “lover”? And even after they were finished, after they were all done, he could hear them whispering to each other. French, of course. Maybe it was a french thing after all. Maybe that would console him later. It certainly wasn’t working now.

After another minute, the Spy strode in, clad in nothing but a light silk robe. Blue. If the Sniper listened close enough, he could almost hear something like guilt in his murmur. “I wasn’t expecting you, bushman.”

“I…mum’s got the flu, didn’t wanna see me. Thought I might catch it, so I thought, thought I’d come see you. Like you’d asked me to, before, before you knew I had plans. With my parents. That I don’t have anymore. So I thought I’d come see you, like you asked—”

“You are talking in circles, mon ami.” The Spy reached out a hand—still gloved, Christ—to rest on his shoulder, to try to steady him. The other hand cradled the Sniper’s chin, tilting it up so the two could look in each other’s eyes. Once they locked gazes, he couldn’t look away. He could never look away. The spook’s eyes were unreadable, and so was the little smile that grew under his mask—still wearing the mask too, crikey. “It was…nice of you, to come see me. I have missed you.”

“Have you.” He let his eyes flit towards the main room before coming back to look at the Spy. “I see.” He left his hands in his pockets.

“Of course I have,” the frenchman sighed, stroking the Sniper’s cheek. “Come see me tomorrow night. I’ll make it up to you.”

“Don’t have to make it up to me,” he snapped, jerking his head away. “I know what I am to you. Always knew. It’s no surprise.” If there was one thing the Spy had taught him, it was how to lie.

“What you are to me?” The man frowned behind the mask. “And what is that, pray tell?”

“Just your work fuck.” The spook looked as if he was about to protest, but he kept going. “No, I am. I know you can get whatever, whoever you want, out here in the real world. I might be…alright, I guess, compared to all those grizzled old wankers out on the battlefield, but here, you can have a different little doll in here with each of your goddamn three square meals a day. Or you can pick one and keep her. You can whisper to your lil’, lil’ coke-ette all weekend long, all soft and painted and pretty, and during the week I’ll be waiting in my van, gangly and hard and unshaven and willing to take whatever you feel like giving me. So, so…so I’ll see you on Monday.” He started towards the door, but the Spy shifted to block him.

“No, stop that. Stay here tonight. She is going. I say the word, she is already gone. You are right that she is one of many—but you are one of a kind.”

“Oh, put a sock in it, you snake. Don’t have to convince me to stay. I’ll be around whenever you want me.”

“I want you tonight,” the Spy insisted. Before the bushman could say another word, the spook raised his voice so it could be heard in the other room. “Valerie! Valerie! Est-ce que tu peux retourner che—”

“Stop it!” He snatched the frenchman’s hand, yanking him away from the kitchen door. “I’ll be fine; you don’t need to coddle me. Give the gal a proper goodbye, why don’t you…”

The Spy rolled his eyes. “That could take hours. She does go on…”

“I heard her.”

The mask curled into a sympathetic frown. “It’s aggravating.”

“Why bring her around, then?” He couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice.

“Cher, mon cher…” He reached towards the Sniper’s face again. “You must know that I care for you. You are my favourite—”

“Don’t mean nothing.” The gaunt marksman edged away. “Don’t trust a thing out of a spook’s mouth.” His gaze flitted again in the direction of Mademoiselle Valerie. “Don’t have reason to.”

“You are my favourite,” The Spy repeated firmly. “But I am a man with a large appetite. I cannot always have my favourite, and do you expect me to fast when we are apart? I must curb my hunger, just a little here, a little there. Please understand.”

“Already told you, I do understand!”

“No, I do not believe that you do. You think you are another throwaway, a distraction from the tedious hours of work. First only among a few hardened mercenaries, instead of among all the men and women I have met during my life.”

“Fancy words,” the Sniper snorted. He didn’t understand why the Spy was pursuing this, pursuing him, when there was no reason to pursue. He wasn’t running, wasn’t struggling. He was more than content to lay down and let the spook have his fill. Why bother lying, trying to convince him that he was anything special?

“More than just words.” The frenchman’s hand was on his shoulder again, and he couldn’t flinch away this time, didn’t have the energy. “You, after all, are the only one to whom I am willing to show my face, my naked face.”

“What? But you’ve never shown me—”

“You’ll come see me tomorrow night,” the Spy’s voice was in his ear, now, shaking him to the core with a quiet power, “won’t you?”

After a moment of brows knit with confusion, realization dawned in the Sniper’s eyes. Slowly, awkwardly, he brought one hand out of his pocket and stroked the mask covering his lover’s face. “Yeah…” He whispered in awe. “Yeah, ‘course I will…”

He knew this part. This was the part where the Spy would say “Good,” and praise him like a nice little pet: give him a pat on the head, and later, throw him a bone. This is the part where the Sniper would lap it up, elated to be able to please his master in any way.

But instead, the expression that crossed the frenchman’s features was tender, almost vulnerable. “I’m glad,” he confessed.

For some reason, for once, it seemed he was telling the truth.