Rating: NC-17, fluff with a dash of angst, established relationship
Word Count: 8162
Disclaimer: Not mine, more’s the pity. Written for fun, etc.
Author’s Note: Written for adafrog , for the psychic_snakes Fic Exchange 2008. She wanted: a family reunion with a bit of tension, parents liking the partner better, and a happy ending. I hope this isn’t too much of the first, and enough of the latter.
Summary: When Emmett tells Brendan that they will have to cancel their planned vacation to visit his estranged family, Brendan can’t help but feel a bit apprehensive about this change of plans.
The door closed behind him with a slight snick, security locks engaging as soon as Brendan turned the key from the inside. Christ, what a hell of a day, he thought. He heeled off his dress shoes and wriggled is toes in relief. If given the choice, he rather preferred stalking criminals to babysitting spoiled brats.
Freya and he had pulled last minute bodyguard duty; not the type of high profile assignments they had grown so used to since they became partners. Apparently, Harper and Dr. Welles had decided to give them a break. They probably thought giving them the cushy job was a nice gesture. Instead, the spoiled little rich girl they had to take shopping of all things had managed to get on Freya’s nerves rather quickly.
“Oh, Agent Dean, I bet you have had such an exiting life”, she had simpered, smiling coyly, hanging onto his elbow with a surprisingly strong grip. “After I saw your picture, I told Daddy that you would make a perfect bodyguard for me. I am sure you would rather work from me than chase after murderers and drug dealers.” Pausing for effect, she had batted her eyes at him, making Brendan think that men should really not be expected to tell women their eyes looked pretty, when in fact the mascara-heavy fringe around their eyes were resembling nothing so much as insect appendages. Gritting his teeth, he had pretended to listen attentively as she prattled on. “The pay would be much better than your current employer could ever manage.” Oh, really, he thought, making Freya snort in a rather unladylike fashion. Two hours later, he was ready to shoot someone, if it meant getting away from Miss Munroe, right now.
“I really don’t think that I’ll be changing jobs anytime soon”, Brendan replied, wishing he could strangle Harper for this, “Besides, I enjoy my work, and I like working with Freya. You can’t expect of me to leave her to fend for herself.” Sorry, he’d thought in Freya’s direction, followed by a rather desperate; a little help here, much to her amusement if the sparkle in her eyes had been anything to go by.
“Oh, very well, she can come too”, their charge had stated with a disgruntled sideways glance at his partner, clutching his arm even closer to her lime-clad chest. She’d batted her eyes at him, all painted smiles and possessiveness, leaving Brendan with the option to either free his hijacked appendage in a somewhat undignified manner, or endure her mindless chatter for the rest of the afternoon.
Before he had been able to decide if the damage to his career was worth getting rid of her right this instant, Freya had turned around and smiled at the girl. “You know, Miss Munroe, in our line of business, we learn a lot about people, especially their secrets. Maybe we should tell your father about your little love nest in the summerhouse? I bet he would love meeting all your friends. What do you think, Agent Dean?” After that, everything had been blessed, if somewhat sulky silence. Brendan thought that Freya’s satisfied smile had been a scary thing to behold, and had concentrated on the lyrics of her favorite song in gratitude.
After they had gotten rid of Miss Munroe, Freya had shooed him out. “Go on, Brendan. Emmett has threatened to withhold the chocolate muffins if I don’t send you home on time, again.” She had given him a hug and a smart little wave, calling over her shoulder, “don’t forget we have to be in bright and early on Tuesday,” before vanishing into Harper’s office.
Now, home at last, Brendan took a deep breath, and wrinkled his nose in distaste. Flirty little Alicia Munroe he could deal with, barely, her cloyingly sweet perfume which now clung to his favorite winter coat was giving him a headache though.
Making a face–the girl really had no taste, not even in her choice of perfume–he moved over to the closet, pulled out a hanger that had a clothes bag attached to it, and zipped the coat in; seemed like his first stop tomorrow morning would be the dry cleaners instead of his favorite coffee shop. But after that, he and Emmett had a whole six days together; just the two of them, nice food, warm ocean and black sand. All that was missing now was his lover, who probably had some last minute consultations over at the New York Zoo. They had already called him away several times during the last couple of weeks to help out with their latest shipment of constrictors, some of which had arrived at the zoo in less than prime condition.
Outside it was almost dark now, but the soft, warm light from the four terrariums placed around the living room was enough illumination for Brendan to find his way to the bathroom. After all the frantic, frenetic, too bright chaos that had been the shopping mall five days before Christmas in addition to their overly chatty charge, Brendan was happy to leave it that way for the moment.
Unbuttoning his cuffs, he rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt before loosening his tie and pulling it over his head, dropping it on top of the clothes hamper that stood in the small niche beside the bathroom door as he passed it. He stepped inside the bathroom, cozy, but large enough that two grown men didn’t have any difficulty sharing the space even if they had to get ready for work at the same time.
As soon as he switched on the overhead light, there was soft buzzing sound – almost like an insect trapped behind glass – from the terrarium that housed their fifth, scaly roommate. Brendan crouched down in front of it, murmuring a greeting to its inhabitant. “Hey, there, Zorro”, he said softly, watching as the small, dusky grey body shift a bit more, forked tongue coming out to taste his scent in the air, body uncoiling as if preparing for an attack. “Still smells awful, huh? Sorry buddy, but I’ll wait with the shower until Emmett gets home, more fun that way.”
Zorro, apparently satisfied that Brendan didn’t pose a threat despite the funny smell, didn’t react other than curling up under his heat lamp, the red and black markings running down his back making a pretty pattern against the rest of his small, sturdy body. Brendan watched him for a moment longer with a reminiscent smile.
The snakes out in the living room belonged to Emmett. One had been a gift from a well-meaning colleague of Emmett’s, the other three had been rescued from people who thought owning a snake was cool until they found feeding them with live prey to be less so. But Zorro, the Pygmy Rattlesnake was Brendan’s. He and Freya had found the snake living in a dark cellar, sick and underfed, and Brendan hadn’t had the heart to do what the people at the animal shelter had told him. “We have no room for him here, Agent Dean, but we can put him to sleep for you. I assure you, it is a painless procedure. Of course, you can always put it out into the wild again. Pygmy Rattlers are rather common here in Florida, but judging by the look of the snake, it won’t survive the next couple of days anyway.” Brendan had looked at Freya, seen her raised eyebrow and the slight, exasperated shake of her head, and put the little snake back in the shoebox that had been its temporary home.
When Brendan had brought Zorro home that night, a bit sheepish but determined despite their rule about only non-poisonous snakes in the apartment – Brendan’s rule, the one thing he insisted on when they moved into the apartment together – Emmett had just looked at him with a gaze that made Brendan shiver in all the good ways.
“Bringing home strays now, Agent Dean,” he had asked with a smile, eyes full of affection for his sheepish lover, before starting to set up a place for the snake in their bathroom. Waiting to see if the air-conditioned space would be enough to keep the scent of its tiny but poisonous occupant from the constrictors, Emmett afterwards proceeded to show Brendan what exactly he thought of this new addition to their little zoo and Brendan’s role in its rescue. Brendan still got a silly smile on his face every time he remembered that night.
Laughing at his sentimental mood, Brendan stood and turned towards the sink, washing his hands and face, giving his reflection a critical once over. He looked tired, but that was to be expected. They hadn’t had the most restful three weeks with all the crazies that seemed to think Christmas was the ideal time for shady business deals or threads to the general public, but the man who looked back at him in the mirror still looked calmer and more at ease than Brendan had been used to for so long. Cocking his head slightly, he smiled at his reflection. Time to get out of his work clothes and into something more comfortable before Emmett came home, he decided and headed for the bedroom.
He opened the door, reaching for the light switch, and stopped. “Emmett?” he asked, surprised, walking over to the lone figure by the window, a darker shadow against the near darkness outside. Emmett did not move except to turn his head towards Brendan, acknowledging his presence with a rather subdued, “Hey, you’re back early.”
Brendan frowned. ”Not that early. I told you yesterday, Harper had us on guard duty for today. I think Dr. Welles threatened him with bodily harm if he kept Freya from her well earned vacation, again.”
“Hmmm. Yeah, sorry. Slipped my mind, I guess.” Emmett still hadn’t turned around from his perusal of the streets below, but when Brendan came to stand behind him, he leaned back against him. He was still clad in the clothes he usually wore for his lectures, Long-sleeved shirt and a t-shirt over dark cargo pants. Like Brendan, he had left his shoes by the door and if Brendan’s thoughts hadn’t been miles away at the time, he would have realized that Emmett’s heavy parka was already hung at its usual place, still a bit moist from today’s short snowfall.
Slipping his arms around Emmett, he nosed the longer curls at the back of his neck aside to brush kiss against tender skin. “Nnnh, cold,” Emmett said softly, leaning his head forwards to give Brendan more room despite his complaints.
Brendan hugged him closer, one arm around Emmett’s middle, the other splayed over the cotton-clad chest. “Hey, something wrong?” He asked, feeling the strong chest expand under his fingers as Emmett took a deep breath as if bracing himself. “I wouldn’t say wrong, exactly.”
Brendan frowned, not liking the tension he could feel in every muscle of his lover’s body. Now that his eyes had grown used to the near complete darkness of the bedroom, he could make out Emmett’s reflection in the glass, focused on something outside that was out of Brendan’s line of vision. “I need to cancel our plans for the holidays. There is… something has come up, and I need to go. I’d like you to come with me, but I… If you don’t want to, I understand, okay.”
“Go where?” Brendan asked, not letting go of the body in his arms.
One of Emmett’s hands came up and covered the one Brendan had placed on his chest, “It’s my father. Apparently, he wants to see me.” Emmett’s voice sounded hoarse and strained, something that happened rarely and only in times of great emotional stress. The last time Brendan had heard Emmett sound like this was when he’d had to pick up Brendan from the hospital after a sniper had winged him during a bust.
Aware that Emmett always remembered to call his parents on their birthdays, despite the fact that they seldom bothered to return the favor, Brendan wasn’t sure what to make of this unexpected change of heart. Knowing them only as disembodied voices over the phone, he pondered the fact that during the two years since he and Emmett had moved in together, never once had there been even a hint of them wanting to see for themselves how their only child was doing. Whatever their reason for inviting him now of all times, there was no way he would let Emmett face his family alone and there was really only one answer Brendan could give him; “So, we go,” he said, hugging Emmett tightly for a moment, before releasing him from his hold, “Hawaii can wait. I’ll go and re-pack our bags.” He turned away, reaching for the nearest bedside lamp with one hand. He blinked into the sudden brightness, only to be reeled in slowly by the hand Emmett still hadn’t let go of.
“Really?” Emmett asked relief and apprehension written on his face in equal parts. “You won’t mind? I could always go alone, you know. That way you can still…”
“You really don’t want to finish that sentence,” Brendan said, only partly in jest. “If you think I’d go happily off to sunnier pastures and leave you to face whatever this turns out to be alone, you’ve got another think coming, lover mine.”
“Yeah?” Emmett said, his smile evaporating Brendan’s slight irritation as if it had never been. He pulled him closer, burying his nose in the open neck of Brendan’s shirt wit a happy sigh. “That’s good,” he murmured, his breath a ticklish sensation against Brendan’s collarbone, breathing him in. Then he sneezed, repeatedly.
“Yuck,” Brendan said, with heartfelt sincerity, a smile waiting to break free. Emmett chuckled and made a face. “My god, Brendan, what is that smell?” He leaned in again, making Brendan’s smile a reality, as he took a cautious sniff from the right side of Brendan’s shirt. “That’s atrocious.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I had to spend the whole day in the presence of a perky, walking, talking fruit salad on high heels. Be glad that you missed the visual and audio effects, they weren’t pretty, believe me.”
Emmett blinked, obviously trying and failing to form the description into the image of an actual person, before pulling Brendan close and kissing him, the way only Emmett had ever kissed him. Warm, mellow and better than anything Brendan had ever tasted in his life.
When Emmett drew back, his eyes held Brendan’s for a heartbeat, before he nudged him towards the bathroom. “You,” he said, kissing Brendan again, while marching him backwards toward the shower, hands busy with his shirt. “Need,” Another deep kiss before Emmett pulled Brendan’s undershirt over his head, leaving him disheveled and panting. “A shower,” murmured against Brendan’s mouth and suddenly his pants slid down his legs, followed by his boxers, nearly making him stumble on his next step.
Emmett caught him close, having skinned out of his own clothes in record time, and Brendan sighed reaching for him, sinking into the kiss, moaning softly as Emmett pulled him into the shower stall and against his naked body.
He pulled the shower closed while Emmett started the water, both of them jumping slightly at the first, cold rush of water, bodies turning into the stream as the temperature adjusted to their usual setting. Reaching for the shampoo on the shelf behind Emmett, Brendan felt himself relax into the moment. Just as he had told Zorro earlier, showers with Emmett were always fun.
As families went, this was by far not as bad as Brendan had expected. Nonetheless, he looked at the people gathered in the Emmett’s living room, unable to quiet the slight shiver of foreboding. Whatever he had imagined after Emmett’s strangely subdued behavior two evenings ago, this certainly hadn’t been it. Everyone seemed glad to meet him, and greeted Brendan like a long lost son, while Emmett stood back, arms crossed in front of him, watching his relatives with a slight smirk on his face.
Emmett’s mother, a head shorter than Brendan and in her early sixties gave him an approving once over when Emmett introduced him. She wore her hair, long and silver-grey, in a loose braid down her back, smiling up at Brendan with eyes that looked too much like those of his lover to belong to anyone but a close relative.
Looking at both parents, Brendan could see that Emmett had inherited his father’s broad shoulders and his mother’s eyes as well as her slightly lopsided smile, and he could not hold back his answering smile, when she offered him a warm, firm handshake. “Brendan Dean,” he offered, genuinely touched by her warm welcome. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Emmett.”
Turning towards her husband who stood slightly to her right, as tall as Brendan, with hair that was still mostly brown with only a hint of silver glinting under the hallway’s bright light. “Mr. Emmett,” he was glad of his lover’s presence at his back, because the scrutiny of the man’s brown eyes made him want to squirm. When he felt the reassuring pressure of a broad palm at the small of his back, he felt a bit more at ease. “Thank you for having us.” And I wonder why this is the first time in two years you did so, he suddenly wanted to ask, but refrained, for Emmett’s sake.
“Oh, please, call me Liza,” Emmett’s mother said. “And my husband’s name is Peter. We are all family here,” and with a short glance over Brendan’s shoulder at Emmett she continued, “It’s so nice to have everybody gathered here for once, don’t you think, dear.” She turned away before Emmett had time to respond, making Brendan want to reach back for him, but he was thwarted by more of Emmett’s relatives, all wanting to talk to him at once. It was moments like these, he could emphasize with Freya’s complaints about loud minds – or in this case, loud voices – whole heartedly.
The rest of the family introductions went by in a bit of a blur, as did what Liza Emmett called jokingly the five-cent tour of the house. Brendan was glad when they met up with Emmett, who had stayed in the large, homey looking kitchen to help one of his aunts with her blueberry pies. Brendan was grateful for his ability to memorize everything, no matter how confusing the circumstances, and silently vowed to sort out the rooms, faces and names at his leisure. For now, he was just glad to hear Emmett laugh about the bit of gossip his aunt Isobel was telling him. Maybe the uneasy feeling that had ambushed him earlier had been due to his own apprehension when attending a gathering of people he did know nothing about, beside their names.
Dinner turned out to be fourteen people seated around a large table filled with what appeared to be more than enough to feed a small town, and Brendan found himself hard pressed to eat even half of what Liza seemed determined on feeding him. He looked across the table at Emmett, noticing the closed off look on his face, the stiff way he held himself. About to ask him what was wrong, he turned when someone – Suzanne, Emmett’s cousin from his mother’s side, Brendan’s memory helpfully supplied – asked him “So, what is you profession then, Brendan. Are you a doctor, like our Emmett?” She asked, winking at him.
Brendan smiled, trying to keep his answer as vague as possible without being rude. “No, I’m working for the NSA. For the most part, we try to seize gun shipments before they reach their destination, that sort of thing.” Realizing that he had the rapt attention of the rest of Emmett’s relatives, Brendan fought the urge to squirm in his seat. He really hated being the center of attention, with one noticeable exception. Hoping he didn’t look as uncomfortable as he felt, he met Emmett’s eyes across the table.
“Really, but isn’t that dangerous?” Aunt Margery asked, wide eyed.
“Sometimes, it can be,” he answered, growing concerned when Emmett looked away, lips pinched as if trying to keep back an answer he was sure would not go over well with the rest of them.
“Cool,” stated by Jonathan, Suzanne’s son, with all the conviction of a nine year old. “Do you have a gun? Can I see it?”
“Jonathan,” his mother cried, turning towards Brendan, probably to apologize, voice nearly lost in the rather heated discussion about manners one of the aunts had started as soon as the kid had opened his mouth.
“He and his partner have the highest solving rate in his department.” Emmett’s voice wasn’t overly loud, but it carried. It was what Brendan jokingly called his ‘lecturing voice’ honed over the years to cut through his students’ babblings without the need to shout.
“Is that true, Brendan?” Liza asked, without looking at Emmett.
“Yes, it is. But most of the credit belongs to Freya.” When she looked at him questioningly, he elaborated; “Freya McAllister, she’s my partner. She has a real talent for reading people”, he said, glancing over at Emmett, wanting to share the joke. The pinched look was back on Emmett’s face, making him want to reach out, offer comfort in any way he could. Emmett, as if feeling his regard, looked up and shook his head, once, so Brendan subsided, but the uncomfortable feeling in his stomach was settling in for the long haul it seemed.
“Well, that’s a nice compliment to pay your partner, Brendan. Sadly, Emmett doesn’t play as well with others. Maybe if he had listened to me and taken on a real job, like normal people, we would all be much happier.” Liza’s voice was sharp, unlike anything Brendan had heard from her all evening.
Oh, yes. Really, not feeling so good right now, Brendan thought. Looking over at Emmett’s pale face, knowing that this was what Emmett had been afraid of when he’d accepted his father’s invitation, keeping his apprehension from Brendan, not wanting to influence his first impression of these people, his family, Brendan would bet. No, Emmett had come nonetheless, because he felt obligate to his parents who apparently had no idea at all about the value of Emmett’s work.
“I’m sure you don’t mean that,” he said, trying to keep his anger out of his voice.
“Don’t you try and lay words into my mouth, young man,” she said, eyes narrowed in anger as she gazed at him.
Realizing, finally, what had bothered him so much about this house and Emmett’s parents, Brendan cursed his obliviousness in this. Too intent on helping Emmett over what was surely an awkward situation, Brendan had missed the signs that had been there from the moment they set foot in the house.
And he was angry at himself for missing the obvious. Remembering the wall of memorabilia in the study, countless pictures of a blonde, cute little girl that had Emmett’s eyes and a mischievous smile, but no pictures of Emmett, except one where he stood, laughing into the camera with his sister, all blue eyes and golden curls against a backdrop of lush greenery. The last one of them taken together before Sarah had died so horribly, Brendan would bet. Displayed solely, because the little girl was wrapped around her older brother like a limpet and it would be impossible to extricate Emmett from the photograph, without having the end result look utterly ridiculous. Shoving back his chair, he wasn’t quite sure if he should pity his lover’s parents, for not knowing their own son, or if he should allow his anger free reign.
“I think we should leave,” Emmett said, without looking at Brendan.
“Yes, you should,” she told him, angry tears in her eyes.
“Aunt Liza, please, don’t…” Suzanne tried, but her mother held her back, gripping her arm and shaking her head, no.
“Leave them to it, girl. This is none of your business.” Aunt Isobel offered.
“Come now, Liza, we agreed we’d give this a rest today of all days,” Peter’s voice rose above that of his wife, trying to soothe, but not succeeding.
“We agreed, yes. But he hasn’t changed one bit. I caught him in the kitchen, telling Jonathan about that… that monstrosity he is so proud off,” she cried, “He even keeps those ungodly creatures at home, what if one of them gets out and kills someone else? He won’t even acknowledge how wrong it is, keeping them where they can hurt people.” Shaking, she looked over at her son, accusation and loathing clear on her face, as pale as Emmett’s who stood, nearly stumbling over his own feet in his haste to leave.
Looking over to Brendan, he swallowed once “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Liza, aunt Margery, aunt Isobel, Peter, it was nice seeing you again.” Before anyone could stop him, he was gone. Brendan, intent on following, thought better of it and turned around to look at the people he had actually been starting to like.
“You really have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, do you?” Letting his gaze roam over the faces, most of which looked either surprised or sadly resigned, he calmed down a bit until he met Liza Emmett’s eyes.
She stared at him in uncomprehending silence. “Who gives you the right to tell me how to talk to my son.”
“Oh, so now he is your son? From what I heard you say to him just now, I really wonder…”
“Of course, he is my son,” she interrupted, angry tears starting to slide down her face. “I don’t think you’re in a position to talk about things you don’t understand.”
“You don’t think I have the right to defend him? That I don’t what… know him well enough to understand what’s going on here?” He wanted nothing more than follow his lover from the room, but he owed it to Emmett to say his piece, even if it fell on ears not willing to listen. “Yes, he talks about his work, because he really believes in what he’s doing, saving lives, not endangering anyone.” Drawing a deep breath, trying to calm down from the urge to point the finger as she had done, he continued, “Thanks to his work, there are more people able to get treatment in time when they’ve been bitten, because the new anti-venom he’s been working on actually does help. There is so much good he can do, and he works so hard to prevent what happened to Sarah from happening to another little girl whose parents may be caught unawares. Yes, he’s far from finished with his project, but he’s gotten funding for the next five years, because people recognize the value of what he is doing.” Turning away from her, he faced Peter Emmett. “I don’t know what you wrote in your letter, or why you even bothered to write it. I know he had his doubts about coming here. But because he care for you, because despite whatever else you’ve said or done to him over the years, he still loves you, we cancelled our plans and came here instead. Please, don’t do that to him again. Keep your letters, until you mean what you wrote him.”
“He knows Liza doesn’t like it when he talks about snakes,” Peter said, looking uncomfortable but still not nearly bothered enough in Brendan’s opinion.
“He talks about snakes, because that’s what his life and work is all about. Trying to prevent others from going through what you had to suffer. I, on the other hand, shoot people for a living, if I have to. You really shouldn’t consider that the more valuable choice of career.” Needing to get out before he made matters even worse for Emmett, he hesitated at the door, speaking over his shoulder without looking at Liza or Peter, “And for the record, the snakes in our apartment are completely harmless. The only one that isn’t, I brought home. Maybe you should spend more time thinking about your surviving child, instead of spending all your love on the one that didn’t. From their picture, I can guess Sarah loved her brother. Do you really think she’d want you to treat him like you did today, using her as your excuse?”
Hurrying to catch up with his errant lover, Brendan took the time to collect their jackets on the way out, hoping that Emmett had done the predictable thing and went for the car.
“Hey,” he said softly, coming to a halt in front of Emmett where he stood shivering, arms wrapped around his middle, shoulders hunched against the cold. Placing the parka around Emmett, he pulled him close while his lover fumbled to get his arms into the sleeves, sighing, as Brendan pulled the long zipper closed and the parka, still carrying a bit of warmth from the house, started to do its job.
“Better now,” Brendan asked, hugging him close, trying to make them both feel better.
“Yeah, thanks.” Emmett hesitated, before venturing, “I’m sorry. I really thought…” he shrugged, almost dislodging Brendan’s arm around his shoulders. “I’m not really sure what I thought. That she’d changed. That she’d understand,” shaking his head, he continued, “I’m sorry you had to be there for this. I shouldn’t have asked you to come with me, in the first place.”
“Why what? Brendan, I think without counting one of your various hospital stays during the last twenty months, that this must have been the most uncomfortable evening you’ve spent since meeting me,” he said heatedly, looking back at the house. His face showing anger and regret, before they were chased away by resolve.
“You know, the first part wasn’t quite so bad, you know. Your aunt Isobel is quite something. I’ve never seen someone who could put away their liquor like that.”
“Yes, well, she started early, or so I’ve been told. Only girl in a family of five. And I have her to thank for my first hangover as well as for my first name.” Emmett offered.
“Really? What did she do, drink your dad under the table so he couldn’t tell them what to write down? ” Brendan asked.
“Well, apparently, she and my dad got so drunk that they decided it would be better if she went to fill out the certificate, only she was so far gone, all she could remember was Emmett.” He smirked at Brendan, leaning into him as if to share a confidence. “She kept repeating Emmett, Emmett, until they’d had enough and just filled it in for her. My dad was so embarrassed, he never told my mother until it was already to late and they never got around to changing it.”
Brendan couldn’t help it, he laughed. And after a moment, Emmett joined in, laughing so hard he was nearly crying. Brendan hugged him, until he stopped shaking, offering him a tissue that looked slightly bedraggled but hadn’t at least been used before. “Here you go. Better now,” he asked.
Emmett nodded. “Yes, I think I needed that.”
“Yep, I think we both did, at that.” Smiling, he held out the keys. “You want to drive,” he asked, pretty sure what the answer would be.
“No, I think I’ll pass.” He walked around the car to the passenger door, waiting for Brendan to push it open from the inside.
“I saw a motel when we were passing through earlier. Want to stay there, before we end up as road kill? I think neither of us should be driving much farther tonight.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Emmett said before being ambushed by a yawn.
“The motel it is,” Brendan replied.
Silence filled the car as Brendan drove. It was only broken when Emmett reached out to place his hand on Brendan’s knee, giving it a short squeeze. “Thank you,” he said.
“What for,” Brendan asked, glancing over at him.
“I don’t know. For being here, coming to visit my crazy family with me.” He shrugged. The slight flush spreading over his face made Brendan smile.
“Well,” he teased, “I’m a great guy. Ask Freya, ask everyone.”
“Hmm, even Harper?” Emmett teased him.
“Well, okay, maybe not him,” he conceded. “Oh, hey, we’re there.”
He pulled into the parking space by the entrance. “Want to come along?”
Emmett shook his head no. “I’ll wait in the car, okay.”
“Sure,” Brendan smiled, leaning over to brush a kiss on Emmett’s cheek. "’S long as you don’t drive off with the next, handsome, stranger that comes your way.”
Emmett turned his head, cupping a hand around the back of Brendan’s neck, and kissed him. When he let him go again, they were both breathing hard. “There will never be a stranger handsome enough to make me give you up. Brendan was about to say, to hell with the room, the car was fine, when the sound of a wolf-whistle from the general direction of the entrance interrupted them.
“Ouch,” he yelped, as he hit his knee on the steering wheel. Trying to get out of the car with as much dignity as he could muster, Brendan straightened up and smiled at the elderly woman standing there, watching them with a knowing grin on her wrinkled face.
“Well, what have we here, then? Another pair of refugees, hmm?” her laugh sounded kind as she stood, watching Emmett who had stayed in the car. She held out a book and a set of keys to Brendan. “Here you go, dear. Just jot down your name. Number three over there’s still free,” she said, nodding towards the small bungalow at the end of the row. “And get yourselves out of the cold, before you catch a cold.”
Brendan accepted both book and key, smiling at her rather sheepishly. “Thank you,” he glanced at her nametag, “Marie.” He scribbled down their names and his credit card information, before giving the book back to her. “We’ll be staying until tomorrow, maybe a day longer. I’ll let you know in the morning.”
“Of course you will. And have a care with the warm water, dear. It won’t last more than five minutes at this time of the night.” And with a wink she was gone.
Brendan stuffed the key into his coat and got back into the car. “That was rather embarrassing,” he muttered, turning the key in the ignition and reversing.
“You don’t say,” Emmett said, but he was grinning at Brendan, looking more at ease than he had all evening at his parent’s house.
Number three turned out to be reasonably clean and well kept. Brendan returned from his trip to the bathroom to see Emmett leaning against the windowsill, his back to the window, arms crossed in front of his chest, and an indulgent smile on his face.
“What?” Brendan asked, stepping closer.
“Do you realize that you do this every time we stay somewhere over night?”
“Doing what?” Brendan asked stopping with his hands braced on his hips, head cocked slightly to the side to look at Emmett.
“You scout out the room, checking if everything’s where it’s supposed to be.”
“Oh,” Brendan blinked. “Well, one of us has to. If it bothers you, I can let you do it, next time we go on vacation,” he offered.
Emmett chuckled. “I didn’t say it bothered me, just that I noticed you doing it.” He leaned forward, reaching out with one hand, motioning Brendan closer. “I think it’s cute,” he whispered into one slightly pointed ear, wrapping his arms around Brendan, silencing his initial protest with a kiss.
“I’m not cute,” Brendan grumbled, sharp teeth nipping at Emmett’s lower lip in retaliation; his hands already busy opening buttons and zippers to rid them of their coats.
“Why not? I happen to like cute.” Emmett whispered, shrugging out of the heavy parka, not caring where it landed. His mouth opening to Brendan’s with a soft groan, Emmett shuddered when his lover’s familiar hands slipped beneath the well-worn cotton of his shirt to caress the small of his back, venturing further down to cup the silky flesh they found there. Brendan pulled them closer together until they stood hip to hip, cloth covered erections brushing against each other, making them both groan.
“Want you,” Brendan whispered, mouthing a wet path from Emmett’s neck to his chin, returning to the generous mouth that opened for him with gratifying eagerness.
“Yes,” Emmett said, pulling him into another, equally heated kiss, before pushing Brendan back a step to help him strip out of his clothes. Stumbling in their eagerness, they moved closer to the bed, laughing as they hit the mattress in a tangle of limbs and uncooperative denim.
Brendan wriggled out of his jeans, reaching for the hem of Emmett’s shirt when a hand on his straining erection made him gasp and nearly let go of the shirt. “That’s cheating,” he groaned, finally succeeding in removing the offending shirt, and taking a stumbling step back, eyes roaming over Emmett’s body hungrily. Emmett grinned, obviously unrepentant, basking in the way Brendan’s breath caught in his throat.
“Just look at you,” Brendan muttered, watching as Emmett shifted until he lay in the middle of the bed, arms flung wide, legs shifting further apart in invitation, erection rising proudly from it’s nest of soft, brown curls as Brendan stood and watched, mesmerized. Emmett looked at him, gaze hot and intend on Brendan’s every reaction, before he lay back down, his mouth curving into a sensuous smile.
Brendan drew in a sharp breath when Emmett lifted strong, still sun-tanned hands to run them over his own body in slow, meandering caresses. From neck to hip, to upper thigh, cupping one hand around his cock to give it a quick squeeze, before leaving it bereft again just to lick the taste of his own pre-come from his palm. Fingers caressing his lips before slipping inside, reappearing to tease at small, brown nipples until Emmett’s chest arched up into his own hands.
Unable to resist, Brendan moved, not even aware of what he was doing, until he knelt on the bed between his lover’s splayed thighs. He watched as blue eyes, darkened by arousal opened slowly to gaze at him. Need and love, and everything Brendan could ever wish for written in their depths.
Desire, sweat and slow like molasses made him shiver in anticipation as he leaned over to place a chaste kiss on Emmett’s forehead, watching blue eyes close for a moment to savor the emotions implied by that almost innocent caress before blinking open once more. “Tell me what you want,” Emmett whispered, watching his every move with rapt attention. Brendan loved Emmett’s body, loved how it looked and tasted and felt under his hands. Unable to do otherwise, Brendan gave him the only answer he could.
“You,” he said, closing the distance between them, carefully settling into the cradle of his lover’s hips, elbows braced to support part of his own weight. Brendan’s hands, free to roam at their leisure, moved to caress strong forearms, venturing further to trace the tan lines on his biceps while lips lingered for a heartbeat or two at the hollow where shoulder met neck, lips and hands spelling truth on his lover’s skin. “All of you.”
“Then have me,” Emmett whispered, something new in his gaze that made Brendan’s blood burn. “Yes,” he answered; the word a tender caress against the frantic heartbeat under fragile skin, mouth moving up until their lips could meet once more. Until neither could sustain this slow sliding together any longer, and mellowness gave way to need, bright, and urgent and undeniable.
Brendan drew back, giving Emmett room to turn over. He reached for the small tube of lotion on the bedside drawer, placing it within easy reach as he let his hands and lips roam over his lover’s back. Tasting the salt-sweet place at the small of Emmett’s back, Brendan felt him squirm with silent laughter at the ticklish caress of teeth and tongue, until the inquisitive touch of lotion-slick fingers made it subside, replaced by the need to feel his lover filling him.
When he finally slid into Emmett’s body, Brendan found himself wishing for the first time that one of them shared even a fraction of Freya’s talent; for the first time in his life, he wanted another person, wanted Emmett to know him, inside out. Instead, he settled for what they had found here, tonight.
Groaning, he sat back onto his thighs, pulling Emmett up into his lap, bracing his back against Brendan’s chest. They moaned in unison, holding still for a few, frantic heartbeats. Emmett tilted his head back over his left shoulder until they could kiss, messy and a bit frantic by now. Brendan’s hands knew where and how to touch to coax pleasure from his body, until Emmett couldn’t help but thrust into Brendan’s hands around his cock, his own hands reaching back, pulling his lover’s hips into a faster, more demanding rhythm, release rushing through him, Brendan’s name on his lips, only seconds ahead of his lover.
Brendan held on to Emmett, not wanting to let go of him quite yet. Carefully, he let them sink down onto the bed, his hands moving down Emmett’s forearms, to slip over hands, broader and less calloused than his own. Brendan’s more slender hands sliding over those of his lover, their fingers flexing and holding on as Emmett curled up on his side, wrapped up in Brendan and the blankets with a happy sigh.
“Comfy,” Brendan asked, amused. “Hmmm,” was Emmett’s only reply, so he brushed a quick kiss against his favorite spot at Emmett’s exposed nape, ”Love you,” he told the tiny birthmark, before closing his eyes and following his lover down into sleep.
In the morning, part of their closeness from the night before lingered, as they settled down for breakfast, fingers brushing together while reaching for the rolls or the butter, making Brendan break out into a silly grin every time it happened and not bothered by it in the least.
When they returned from the breakfast room to get the car ready for their trip to New York, Brendan stopped short upon seeing both his lover’s parents waiting for tem by their car. At his back, he heard Emmett’s harsh, indrawn breath. For a moment, Brendan contemplated just getting into the car and leaving the things they had left in their room behind to collect later, but he dismissed the thought almost instantly as he turned to look at Emmett’s face.
Emmett looked different from yesterday. Still not happy to see his parents after what had happened the day before, but calm and collected, less ready to be hurt somehow. When Brendan met his eyes, he smiled, albeit a little sadly. “Let’s make our good byes and head back home. I think I’ve had about as much of this place as I can handle for now.”
“I couldn’t agree more. Want to go and get the stuff from our room, or do you want me to give you some space?”
“Go, get our things. I’ll be fine on my own.” At Brendan’s raised eyebrow, Emmett made a shooing gesture towards their room. “Go on, I’m fine, really.”
“Okay,” Brendan muttered, not liking this one bit, until Emmett drew him to a halt with a restraining hand on his arm and simply leant over, and kissed him. His mouth on Brendan’s was warm and loving and made him go back to their room for a repeat performance of the night before.
“Good morning,” the voice of Emmett’s father managed to break through their little moment of self-indulgence, their eyes meeting in a little rueful acknowledgement until they stepped apart to face their respective, self-appointed tasks.
“Good morning, Mr. Emmett,” Brendan replied, not bothering to stop and talk. The sooner they were packed, the faster they could be out of here.
“May I join you?” He asked, “and it is still Peter, please.”
“Don’t you want to join your wife in browbeating your son to change his profession?” Brendan asked, for the moment not caring what the older man thought of him. Throwing their things into Emmett’s backpack and Brendan’s duffle, he stopped after every item, to cast a fast, worried glance out the window. So far, all Emmett and Liza seemed to be doing was stand around while avoiding looking at each other.
“You did a good thing yesterday, Brendan.” Peter said from somewhere behind him, making Brendan aware of the fact that he had let his mind drift instead of applying it to the task at hand.
“What? By telling your wife, what any of you could have told her, years ago?” Where the hell was Emmett’s blue shirt. It had to be here somewhere he mused absently, ignoring Peter as much as he could under the circumstances.
“Yes, we could have, and she wouldn’t have listened to a thing, because no matter how hard it is to accept, sometimes it needs a fresh pair of eyes to point out where we went wrong.” Peter sat down in one of the two chairs sitting around the small desk in the corner. “Liza and Emmett, they are to much alike.”
Brendan watched, as he ran a hand through his hair, making it stand on end just like Emmett’s did, after a long day working on his project. He had to suppress the impulse to try to console the man. “How so?” he could not help but ask.
“Well, surely you know that they are both exceedingly stubborn, at least you should know that about my son. Emmett doesn’t budge when he is convinced that what he’s doing is right, and neither does my wife. So, Liza and he never had a gift for getting along well, but it is only in recent years that it has gotten this bad.” He looked at Brendan and shrugged. “She worries, and sometimes, what she says and what she feels are very different things.”
“So, what? Emmett is supposed to give up his live to make her worry less; so instead of your wife being worried about him, he will be miserable for the rest of his life? Somehow I don’t think this is going to work
But when he looked out of the window, the two figures by the car had moved closer together, Emmett listening intently to what his mother was telling him, until Liza reached out to pull her son into a quick hug. For a moment, Emmett seemed at a loss for what to do, until he hugged her back, before stepping away from her, gesturing towards the room Brendan and Peter were waiting in.
Behind Brendan, Peter relaxed back into the chair, “Thank god for that,” he muttered, watching their progress towards the bungalow’s door.
Brendan thought, he’d rather reserve judgement until he’d had the chance to talk to Emmett, away from prying eyes. When he saw the look on Emmett’s face when he walked into the room, Brendan could not help but hope for the best.
Christmas Eve - One Year Later
Brendan stood behind Freya, a smile on his face as he watched Liza hug Emmett, before walking up to Brendan, leaving Emmett to introduce the rest of the Emmett’s to Freya.
“Thank you,” Liza said softly, her hand warm on Brendan’s arm as they watched Emmett smile at a joke from Isobel, while Freya turned bright red, probably because good old Isobel was providing her with a vivid image of just exactly how misspent her youth had been.
Turning to look down at Liza, Brendan asked, “What for?”
She smiled at him, a little regretful, and a lot happy, “For giving me back my son.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Brendan protested.
“You did plenty,” she said, patting his arm. ”you made me see the man instead of the child that had to be told off for misbehaving.” Rising up to her toes, she placed a soft kiss on Brendan’s cheek before vanishing into the kitchen, the scent of lavender and roses in her wake.
“Something wrong?” Emmett had left Freya to fend for herself and slipped back to Brendan’s side. “You look puzzled, Special Agent Dean,” he teased.
“Your mother is strange,” Brendan said, still bewildered by her claim. “She just thanked me for, well, us being here, I guess.”
Emmett laughed and pulled him into a kiss, “I love you,” he murmured against Brendan’s mouth, before kissing him once more. And Brendan thought hazily, okay, I can live with that, before applying himself to the very important task of kissing Emmett senseless.