This story follows The Date written for the Brendan/Emmett Kissing Meme.
title: Relationship in Waiting
word count: ~4400
legal: neither of these characters belong to me
notes: Beta'd by the wonderful em_kellesvig, but some tinkering afterwards, so all remaining errors are mine
summary: The rush Brendan had gotten when the eighty-foot boa accepted his offering had been more like dodging bullets in a firefight; it had left him buzzing with adrenaline.
Freya set a fresh cup of coffee in front of her partner and waited for him to acknowledge her. "For goodness sake, Brendan," she said, returning to her desk. "You left West Virginia over a month ago. Will you just call him already?"
Brendan glared over the rim of his cup, buying time to think of some snappy retort that would throw her off the scent. Deep down, he knew better. He'd been thinking about calling Emmett all day.
At this point, the thing holding him back wasn't Freya overhearing – she had probably sensed more than she wanted to know in the past month – but the fact that Emmett hadn't picked up the phone either. It would totally suck to hear that awkward break in the doc's voice as they chatted about the weather or sports or something equally mundane.
Safe in the car on his way home – there was no way he was making the call around Freya – he slipped the Bluetooth over his ear, pulled into the crush of traffic and pushed the pre-set number on his cell. The ringing seemed to go on forever until the voice mail kicked in. Damn, it was good to hear Emmet's voice.
Brendan clicked off without leaving a message. The doc was smart enough to see the missed call. It also took the probability of babbling awkward first words off Brendan's side of the field. He'd try again later. Maybe by then he'd think of something to say.
It was the same story after dinner, if one considered spaghetti from a can dinner. Brendan sometimes didn't even bother heating it up. Can opener, fork – no fuss, no washing up, and great for those cozy evenings when nothing would do but standing alone at the kitchen counter.
Brendan flopped down on the couch and turned the volume down on the television. This time when the message beep sounded in his ear, Brendan left a curt, and he hoped coherent, message simply saying who it was and if Emmett had a minute to call him back.
Later, while brushing his teeth, Brendan glared in the direction of his phone. The one that hadn't made a peep all night. Okay, so the doc was probably busy, he could get really involved with his work – hell, he'd even forget to eat if someone wasn't there to remind him. Brendan smiled to himself. Sometimes the doc needed a keeper, just like his snakes. He rinsed his mouth and made a mental note to call the next morning.
When he got voice mail for the third time, Brendan started to get that hinky feeling in the pit of his stomach. Sitting at his desk, he pulled up the Longreen Snake Reserve on the computer database and jotted down the main number.
Longreen Snake Reserve. A little jolt of adrenaline shot through him when the line was picked up… but the voice wasn't Emmett's. Hello? Not even close.
He didn't recall anyone young and female around the Reserve.
This is the—
"Dr. Emmett, please." Brendan wished he could shake off the strange vibes he was getting.
I'm sorry, the doctor can't take your call at the moment. May I take a message for him?
Later, he'd think back and wonder why he hadn't just asked who it was, or even just left a message, but Brendan was at least relieved to know the doc seemed to be all right, just not there. "Uh, no, no thanks, I'll try back," he said and hung up quickly.
Lunch hour was spent at his desk checking flights to West Virginia, his curiosity level at a record high. He clicked over to quickly check his bank balance. If he could curry a bit of favor with Harper, he'd be spending the weekend in Elkins.
The flight from La Guardia to Charleston, West Virginia had been routine, but the hop over flight to Elkins had taken his mind off the voice on Emmett's end of the phone and put the emphasis on actually making it to the reserve. When he could finally see the tarmac of Jennings-Randolph Field, he thanked all the aligned cosmic forces and available deities. Now, if the pilot could just land without incident. Next time, Brendan would drive the two and half hour distance.
His hands were still shaking as he signed the credit card receipt for the rental car. The sheltering sky of blue and orange proved a calming companion on the drive – deepening in hue with each mile closer to the reserve – settling him and giving Brendan room to think.
The neon sign ahead on the right blinked at him in the waning light. He did a double-take as he passed The Hunt Club; maybe old man Darnell knew something.
Darnell recognized Brendan right away and offered to buy him a beer. Brendan pulled up a barstool and wrapped his hand around the cold bottle the bartender put in front of him. Sitting on the other side of Darnell was a man Brendan knew only as Wes; he was one of the regulars too.
"Emmett's not in any more danger is he?" old man Darnell asked, then turned up his own bottle. "Sure would hate to see anything happen to him."
Wes hummed and nodded and took a long pull from his beer.
Brendan reassured them and settled on saying that he was in the area on other business and decided to drop by. He took a sip of beer and twirled the bottle back and forth between his thumb and forefinger, leaving wet circles on the bar. "Yeah, I called but I didn't speak to Emmett. Someone else answered at the reserve, she said the doc was—"
"Emmett's been away on a hunt," said Wes, pointing to some far off place over his shoulder, and old man Darnell grunted his assent.
"A hunt? The doc didn't give me the impression he lik—"
"A collection trip, gives him a chance to get some new specimens for the reserve." Darnell looked up at Brendan. "That'd be Monica at the reserve. I miss my guess, she's Betty-sitting. Ain't that what you figure, Wes?"
Wes glanced up and nodded before going back to his beer.
Emmett had told him the story, had mentioned working with her and the FBI, but Brendan hadn't gotten the impression it had been anything as personal as a relationship, more to do with the tracking implants and her work with dolphins. "What about Spencer?" Brendan asked Darnell. He tried not to think about the type of relationship where someone would leave Miami in November and come to West Virginia to feed a snake.
The old man nearly choked on his beer. When he had his coughing fit under control, he squinted at Brendan through red-rimmed eyes. "Son, that kid's got a yeller streak a mile wide. He just looks after the regular feedings." Some of the other men around them laughed. "That boy'd shit his pants if he ever come face to face with Betty."
Brendan grinned back, feeling a little better. He supposed there weren't too many people around with that choice tidbit on their resumes: care and feeding of giant scarlet queen boa, experienced only. "So that's Monica Bonds? I think Emmett mentioned her."
"Yep. She and Emmet worked together when he was helping the FBI with that thing in…" He turned to Wes. "Where was it?"
Wes wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Philadelphia. Came back here after, stayed with Emmett for about six months." The men shared a brief, but weighted look. "The next thing we knew, she was gone."
"Emmett was kinda mopey for a while, but he got over it. I reckon a man's work makes up for a lot of things."
Mopey? The word made it difficult for Brendan to swallow his beer. There was no way he'd read Emmett's signals wrong. After all, Philadelphia had been a long… "Wait, before—you said he's been on a hunt, you mean he's back now?"
"Got back this morning." Wes offered.
Brendan thanked the men and laid a few bills on the bar to pay for their drinks. The night air bore the pungent but familiar scent of burning leaves as he walked to his car and drove the few miles out of town to the reserve.
He didn't see Emmett's truck as he pulled into the reserve, but there was a shiny, yellow Corvette parked around back. Brendan's stomach dipped seeing the Florida tag. He'd still had a glimmer of hope it was someone else.
Mopey? He studied the brightly colored plate in the beam of his headlights – one of those specialty items to support the protection of wild dolphins – and wondered if he shouldn't just turn the car around and get a room at the inn in town. Call Emmett first to say he was there instead of barging in on him. Only his curiosity was getting the better of him – as was his memory.
Looking up to the porch stretched out in front of the renovated tobacco barn, he thought about that night, the doc handing him the keys, how his face had looked in the dim light, the way his lips felt when he'd pushed Brendan up against the side of the house. How Emmett hadn't wanted to hear about duty or talk about 'the job', and how he'd finally given in, knowing he shouldn't.
That night, the doc hadn't wanted anything more than some good, old fashioned necking, which had left Brendan feeling like that time with Lori Ann Kirkwood, when she'd been so willing right up to the point where she'd cut him off and said she was late for her curfew.
He smiled at the memory. Later, he'd taken Emmett's boots off and let him sleep on the couch, Emmett insisting that Brendan could 'watch' him better that way.
Brendan had watched, that night and every night after that for another week, when Emmett's threatening caller had been apprehended. When it was time to say goodbye.
He swallowed down a pang of guilt; he'd told Emmett he'd call. But with work and one thing and another… he'd let a whole month go by. And now…
The blue ocean and gray dolphins faded to black behind Brendan's eyelids. He shut off the car, heaved a sigh, and got out. Slinging his overnight bag over his shoulder, he marched up to the front door and knocked. He hoped for the doc, but instead, he got a pretty, petite blonde with a terrific tan and an amazing smile.
"Hi. I'm, actually, I'm here to see Emmett, Dr. Emmett," Brendan stammered, holding out his hand. "Brendan Dean."
The woman eyed him a few moments, then her eyes sparked with recognition. "Oh, yes. Emmett's mentioned you. That you were his bodyguard or something." She took his hand. Hers was soft but strong. "I'm Monica Bonds."
"Yes, ma'am. I'm with the NSA, but that's not—" Brendan swallowed hard. That was all Emmett had told her? He followed her inside. "I was, uhm, down this way for the weekend and hoping to catch up with Emmett." Boy, was than an understatement.
"Oh, sure. He's over in the reserve cataloging the new catches. He prefers to do that alone, so…" Monica gave him a knowing look. Her voice was the same as her handshake, sort of like silk and steel.
They stood at the kitchen island. "He's here, then, I thought, since I didn't see his truck…"
"Oh, he dropped that off at Jackson's on the way in. Apparently, he knocked something loose during his trip." She smiled, her eyes shining in that way when someone knows someone really well, and it made Brendan's stomach go sideways. She glanced at his bag. "You'll be staying for supper then?"
"Well, I'm not—I wouldn't want to—"
"Of course you will," she said turning around, apparently going back to whatever she had been doing. "I'm sure Emmett will be glad to see you."
Brendan's lips curled on one side. Goddamn right he'll be glad to see me. And then he noticed how easily Monica moved in Emmett's house, with such a familiarity it made Brendan wonder: will he?
Shaking that thought away, he looked for a place to set his bag. As he did so, the door opened. "Monica, who…" It was Emmett. His face went blank, then broke into a nervous smile. "Agent Dean!"
The words hit Brendan like a rock… 'Agent Dean'?
Emmett was across the room in three steps, his hand extended. But Brendan concentrated on the eyes, sky blue messengers that delivered a lot more that words. His heart pounded as the doc held on longer than a normal handshake.
Then Monica was there, practically between them, babbling about Brendan calling and being down for the weekend. Emmett looked a little sheepish, apologizing that he had gone out that morning without his cell phone.
The pieces had all fallen into place for Brendan – except why Emmett seemed to be tiptoeing around the girl.
Talk during dinner ranged from the new additions to the reserve to the government's latest use of Monica's implant system. It was hard not to be impressed with her – even harder not to like her.
But Brendan couldn't help noticing how attentive she'd been during dinner. To Emmett. Quick but seemingly significant touches, her small hand on his upper arm, the looks and the smiles. Brendan tried hard to keep his features schooled – and he was good at that, had lots of practice – but by the time Monica shooed them away to clean up, Brendan was grateful… just, grateful. Actually, he may have sighed with relief.
He and Emmett took their half-finished beers out onto the back overlook, which was just a wrap around walkway a step down from the back deck. It took them right out over a small creek and an endless carpet of lush green, all with a backdrop of mountains. Still a sight Brendan thought he could grow to love.
"Monica's a bit touchy-feely," Emmett said. His voice was low and hummed deep inside Brendan's chest. Brendan didn’t really answer, preferring a quasi-shrug and a mumbled, "no problem, doc."
Brendan felt Emmett take a few steps closer. "One of the nice things I learned from her." There was an awkward cadence to the words and Brendan couldn't help wondering what other things Monica Bonds had taught the doc. "She's good with Betty. Really the only other person Betty feels comfortable with. Spencer would—"
"Yeah, I know… and then Betty would give the kid a whole new meaning of 'feeding time'… I get it. Monica knew how important the trip was to you—she's a good friend."
Okay, yes, he got it, and he knew it was stupid, but he had to blow this out of his system or it'd eat him alive. "So… Agent Dean?
Emmett's chuckle carried on the crisp, dark air, settling in Brendan's ears just as arms circled him from behind. "Damn, doc." He resisted the urge to stretch like a cat in Emmett's arms, leaning back into him instead as the last dregs of daylight slipped past the tree line.
"Sorry…" Emmett whispered, nuzzling behind Brendan's ear before pressing his lips to the curve of Brendan's neck. The warmth was back in that voice, and it slid hot down Brendan's spine, pebbling his skin, hardening his nipples and making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. "I haven't told her about you—about us—"
"There's an us?"
Brendan folded his arms over the ones around his waist, sure the doc could feel his heart pounding. He started an apology for not calling, but Emmett stopped him. "I had two grant applications to process after you left and then I got the offer to go to South America. I've been away almost three weeks."
That explained Emmett's not calling. "But you're back now…"
"Yeah," Emmett breathed, "I'm back."
"She'll probably hang around and leave on Sunday." Brendan stiffened. "Is that a problem?"
"I'm just here for the weekend." Brendan turned in the doc's arms. "I mean… oh, I haven't even… I just assumed…"
Emmett smiled. "You're staying here, of course," he said, leaning in. Brendan worked himself up handfuls of the doc's fleece jacket and began to pull him closer, but Emmett drew back and may just as well have poured ice water down Brendan's front. "Monica's in the room you used before, so you can take the other guest room at the end of the hall."
Later, Brendan would freely admit that 'spooked wildlife' was probably not the best look for him, and he had tried to recover, but ended up stepping all over his "…yeah, okay, that's fine." Which must have been piteous, because Emmett leaned in again, so close…
"God, Brendan, it's good to see you again."
…so close, Brendan could already taste the kiss, when a shrill bleating split the air between them. Emmett's watch timer. Emmett looked at him with raised eyebrows. "Wanna help feed Betty?"
The first time Brendan met Betty had been amazing. The first time Brendan met Betty – up close – was, well… he could sympathize with Spencer. But Emmett had everything in hand, including a few Bush Vipers. Seeing Betty take the snakes from Emmett, then slither away beneath his hand, Brendan had felt a moment of total awe. And then it had been him holding one the vipers, pinched behind the triangular head, just as the doc had shown him.
There had been just a moment's hesitation – a moment when he thought 'what a stupid thing to do' – when Betty had recoiled, tilted her head and seemed to study him. Then Emmett had stepped up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. The rush Brendan had gotten when the eighty-foot boa accepted his offering had been more like dodging bullets in a firefight; it had left him buzzing with adrenaline.
The doc had crooned his approval in Brendan's ear and Brendan would have backed him up against the nearest wall right then and there, but that kind of distraction in an enclosure with a giant constrictor probably wasn't the best of ideas. Seconds later, Monica's voice rang through the intercom.
Now, lying in bed – the guest bed – with the night music outside cut short by the chilled air, the electric blue numbers of the alarm clock hummed, taunting Brendan. 12:44, 1:18, 1:35.
The sound of a door opening in the hallway sat him upright, his heart thudding dully against the walls of his chest. The feeling was like hot lead in his stomach as he got out of bed. But it wasn't Emmett. He heard a soft knock, then the sound of hushed voices in the hallway.
Cold air swirled around Brendan's ankles, anchoring him to the spot, even as heat flushed across bare shoulders and up the back of his neck. Friends, he repeated to himself. Just good friends.
Then why was he still standing there? Why was he trying so hard to make out what the muted voices were saying? Why was there giggling coming from Emmett's bedroom? That's all it took to break the spell and free his feet to move away from the door. But he didn't bother with getting back in bed. He glanced over at the numbers floating over the nightstand thinking he could still get into the inn in town – it had soft beds and the best pecan waffles he'd ever have.
He only needed two minutes to pull on his jeans and shirt – he thought his jacket was still downstairs. Easing his door open, Brendan stepped quietly into the hallway. There was a loose floorboard just ahead, he recalled, so he picked his way carefully. He could still hear the voices as he passed Emmett's room, low and hushed, and he hurried by the door.
Normally, light from the moon would fill the skylights. Obviously a cloudy night, he groped along until he felt the cold steel of the spiral staircase that would get him downstairs and out of there.
Relieved, he made it down the first three steps before he got his feet tangled with his overnight bag. The choice was an easy one as he gripped the rail and listened to the bag tumble down the metal steps. So much for leaving the house unnoticed – but it was still worth a shot. He took the stairs two at a time and just reached the bottom when he heard a door open upstairs.
"Brendan?" The word caught him, like snagging his jacket on a nail, but he just grabbed his bag and kept going.
Emmett called his name again followed by the sound of him hurrying down the stairs.
"God damn it, Brendan… where are you going?"
It dawned on him when he got to the door that he should have spent a little more time thinking this through.
"And how were you going to leave without a key?" The doc's smirk was alive in those words. Brendan didn't need to see it.
He glared at the deadbolt and let out an exasperated sigh. His face a glowing ember in the darkness, and he was at least glad of the cover as he turned around.
"I'm going back to town, doc. I just wish you'd told me I was interrupting something... I could be in my own bed by now." He didn't quite understand the look of utter confusion on Emmet's face.
"Why would you… interrupting someth… you mean Monica?"
Brendan's face grew hotter at the way Emmett's tone made it sound so ridiculous.
"Why, Agent Dean," he said, taking a few steps closer. "Are you, c'mon, you can't, you're not…" Emmett's grin broke to one side and slanted downward, and there was no way that was supposed to be sexy, but… damn.
"I'm glad you find this so amusing."
Emmett shook his head slightly. "No… it's just… Monica was just saying the same thing. Seems I didn't need to tell her anything." The doc slipped a hand over Brendan's hip and hooked his thumb inside the waistband of his jeans. "She gets chatty when she can't sleep. I can't throw her out and well, I can't, you know, with her in the house… but there's nothing, I mean there was something, we tried and it didn't work. Too much alike, I suppose. But, Brendan, that's over. "
He eyed Emmett, floundering for the right words. Turned out, Emmett didn't seem to need any. He cradled Brendan's face in his hands and kissed him. Brendan dropped his bag to the floor and followed the warm skin up Emmett's back, firm muscle curving in his hands, leading the way like an arrow to those shoulders.
When Emmett pulled away, Brendan could breathe again. Breathe in that sleepy, unbearably sexy scent. "Yeah, me and my incredible timing."
"Nothing wrong with your timing. I'm really glad you're here." Even in the dark, the doc's eyes shone, like the numbers on the clock upstairs. "Besides, this is something I don't really want to hurry—not that I don't want to spread you out on my bed and keep you up 'til daylight—I'd just really rather take this slow. Not sure my ego can take another relationship disaster."
Boy, did Brendan hear that. He was just getting used to the image of being spread on the doc's bed, when Emmett's lips were back, warm and teasing, opening Brendan up, then pulling away, keeping Brendan barely on this side of ripping clothes and forgotten modesties.
Slow. Sure, he could do slow. He pressed himself along the length of Emmett's body. Slow like the build of their kiss, slow like waiting days, weeks to see each other, slow like the heat churning inside him. Only, he was in danger of spontaneously combusting at any moment. Even if they had been alone, Brendan could see himself going off like a rocket the first time Emmett touched him. So not cool. So, yeah, maybe slow was just the thing. He tried to think of icebergs and New York in January as he broke the kiss.
"Okay, doc, whatever you say." Brendan smiled. "I think I can still enjoy my weekend."
"Best thing about weekends…" Emmett nudged himself way too close. "Every week's got one." He leaned in and licked along the side of Brendan's mouth making him groan. Hot and brilliant. What a perfect combination.
Brendan looked up as Freya approached his desk. "Did Terri give you those warrants?" he snapped as he stood up.
"The ones you asked for five minutes ago? No, Brendan, there are procedures to follow, you know."
Brendan was already making a face and gearing up for a rant when Freya handed him a white overnight tube with blue and red labeling. He stared dumbly at it. "What's this?"
Freya shook it and scrunched her face into a question mark. "I'm afraid that is beyond my abilities. Why don't you open it and find out?" When he continued to stare, she added, "It's from El-kins," in a sing-songy voice.
Brendan snatched the tube and tried to ignore the furtive glances among the guys. "You could have just said that to begin with." His cheeks pinked at Freya's smile. "I'm going down to see about Terri," he huffed, and grabbing his jacket from the back of the chair, he hurried off down the hallway.
Ducking into the first empty conference room, he slipped a penknife from his pocket and slit the tape encasing the top of the tube. He peered inside the cardboard cylinder, then turned it up to spill out the rolled papers.
It appeared to be a set of blueprints. He smoothed them out on the conference table. The drawings were of some sort of conveyor-type mechanism, with a chute feed. Brendan immediately recognized the panel in the drawing as one of the side panels of Betty's enclosure.
Flipping over a few pages, he found himself beaming down at the table. A smiley-faced stick figure labeled "Spencer" was holding a crudely drawn snake over the chute. In the top right corner of the page were two more stick figures sprawled across a bed in a large box labeled "Brendan's Apartment."
He rolled the drawings up and slipped them back into the tube. It was going to be kind of nice having such a smart boyfriend. Now, to find Terri and get those warrants.