Shadow of the Templar: High-Wire Act
On timeline: some undisclosed amount of time after High Fidelity
Requested from me during one of my infrequent story-prompt-request things over on the Shadow of the Templar Livejournal community!
"Are you certain about this?" Jeremy asked, twisting to check himself out in the mirror.
"No, and hold still." Simon grabbed Jeremy's hips and guided him back into position, then bit into the medical tape and ripped off another strip. "What I am is desperate."
"Really. I never would have guessed."
"Shut up." Simon pressed the flexible gel-pack battery down over the curve of Jeremy's thigh and taped down the top edge, then ripped off another strip of tape and taped down the bottom. It was about as inconspicuous as these things could get, which was to say, not very. "No, seriously, this is a bad idea, and I am totally smart enough to know that, but the guy's got some kind of magical sixth sense for law enforcement--otherwise I'd have just borrowed someone from Sex. See if that'll hold."
Jeremy obligingly stretched out his leg, then brought his knee up to his chest, then let his leg fall again. His balance was casually perfect, like it was no huge deal to stand on one leg and damned near knee himself in the face with the other. It was disgusting, frankly, and also kind of hot. "It seems to be on there well enough."
"Yeah," Simon said, patting Jeremy's bare thigh just under where the battery was taped. "Let's run the wire under the band of your underwear."
Jeremy rolled his eyes at himself in the mirror, then poked the end of the wire into the band of his briefs where it stretched over his hip. "While I am generally happy to hear you say something that contains both the words 'let's' and 'your underwear', I must admit, that wasn't exactly the sentence I had in mind."
Simon stuck his fingers up into Jeremy's underwear and fished out the wire, manfully not fishing for anything else while he was in there. "You know, you're being awfully cheeky for a guy in nothing but underpants and technology," he said, plugging the cord into the battery. "Hang on..." He picked up the headphones and pressed them to one ear. The tiny microphone that was taped to Jeremy's shoulderblade picked up the sound of Jeremy's breathing, loud and clear. Simon nodded and put the headphones back down. "Sounds like you're good to go. Let me just tape down the cord."
Obligingly Jeremy lifted his arm, letting Simon run the cord up along his side (where, hopefully, it would look and feel like part of the seam of his t-shirt). "So all I need to do is keep an eye out?"
"That's all you need to do," Simon confirmed, smoothing down the tape. "If he shows up at all, that'll tell me something. If he's willing to talk to you, that'll tell me something else. And hey, if he comes right out and tells you that he knows where you can find a good time, that'll tell me pretty much everything, and this recording will be made of solid gold, and I'll need to get Upstairs to find me a friendly judge to back-date a court order." He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, his reddened face against Jeremy's bare hip, and forced himself to breathe deeply until the exertion faded from his cheeks. "Okay. Make sure the wire's not going to shake off, will you?"
Jeremy twisted one way, then the other, then lifted his arms up over his head. No ripping sounds ensued. "It seems to be stuck on well enough," Jeremy said, crossing one foot over the other and revolving neatly in place. A good bit of Jeremy's skin went by right under Simon's nose; a moment later he found himself eyeballing Jeremy's navel, which under other circumstances he might not have minded.
Simon caught Jeremy by the hips again, just to be safe. "Okay, listen," he told Jeremy's midsection. "This guy? This guy is so not dangerous. This guy is a nervous little weed. But I can't promise you anything about the other guys in the bar, so be careful, Christ." He gave Jeremy a little shake. "I will come to your rescue if I've gotta, and I'll call you on your cell if I even think you need an excuse to leave, but... but seriously, just... try not to be yourself, Archer. It gets you in so much shit."
Jeremy's hands fell to cover Simon's. "I don't know what to think about this 'knight in shining armor' routine of yours, Simon."
"Yeah, yeah, eat me, fair maiden, and also, get dressed."
Simon's stakeout point was the back of a delivery van, parked behind the florist's shop to which it belonged. It smelled like soil and decaying flowers, but the florist's assistant had dutifully hosed it out earlier in the day; the bare metal floor was only somewhat damp, and Simon (a veteran of way too many pointless stakeouts) had brought along a folding table and chair. It was almost like home, if home had been pitch-black and too small to stand up in.
If necessary, he could make it from here to the bar in about ten seconds' time. Seven, if he busted his ass. It wasn't optimal, but nothing about this goddamned assignment was optimal--Honegger had already made Mike, whose undercover skills were nothing to be sneezed at, and he wouldn't even look at Sandy, and he was legendary at the MPDC for sniffing out rats wherever they were. Not that Simon generally trusted the MPDC's judgment, but he had to admit that they seemed to be right about Honegger, at least.
"Here I go," Jeremy said under his breath, half a block away. "Wish me luck."
Simon nodded, touching his headphones briefly. "There you go," he said to no one in particular, listening to the faint rustle of Jeremy's jacket against the microphone, to the muted sound of the bar's sound system getting a lot less muted as Jeremy pulled the door open, to the peculiar not-sound of Jeremy's footsteps, which weren't there. "Luck," Simon added.
The bar was not exactly a riot of noise. There was music going, sure, but the bar's patrons weren't the shouty type. The mumble of conversation was mostly lost under the sound system. Even the clink of glassware was louder, and from Simon's removed vantage, so was the sound of Jeremy's breathing--"Scotch rocks, please," Jeremy said pleasantly, the loudest thing Simon had heard so far.
The rest of the transaction was as dull as dirt, although the bartender became audibly more cheerful after Jeremy tipped him. Soon enough Jeremy was sitting... somewhere, with his drink and his magazine--an odd touch, but one Jeremy had insisted on, on the grounds that it would at least give him something to do besides stare at the other patrons. Simon sighed and risked turning the laptop's brightness up a notch. If he squinted, he could see the screen well enough to play solitaire. It would pass the time, and that was all he needed.
Simon shuffled cards around and listened to the bar noises with half an ear. No one seemed to be approaching Jeremy at all, and Jeremy was being good (for once) and not taking unfair advantage of his microphone. Simon had been half-expecting to suffer through some kind of one-way sotto voce phone sex, knowing Jeremy as he did. He was mostly relieved that he wasn't. Mostly. It would have livened things up.
A couple of hours dragged by. Simon played more solitaire than any human ever should and listened as Jeremy ordered and nursed drinks, in between long bouts of flipping the pages of his magazine and breathing. "Yeah, around here the excitement just never stops," Simon muttered under his breath, dragging a red jack onto a black queen.
"Hmmmm," Jeremy breathed, as if in answer. The low and sliding little sound made Simon sit up a little and look away from his game, frowning at the van's metal wall. It was a very Jeremy noise for him to be making, but why had he made it now--the sound of someone sinking into the other bench of Jeremy's booth was momentarily very loud. "... yes?" said Jeremy.
"Hey," said someone who was not Honegger. Honegger had never sounded so sure of himself. "So... I don't think I've seen you here before."
The pause that followed couldn't have been as long as it seemed, although Simon was pretty sure he held his breath forever. He half-rose to his feet, ready to bolt, his hand drifting back to touch the butt of his holstered gun. Finally, Jeremy laughed under his breath; the easy little sound dropped Simon back into his chair. "I'm sorry," Jeremy said, in what was ultimately a very familiar tone of voice. "But... is that really the best line you can muster? Really?"
The second pause was longer, just long enough for Simon to blink. Pretty much against his will, he found himself visualizing Jeremy's little smile--Jeremy's new friend laughed ruefully. There was some other sound, slithery-scratchy, that Simon recognized as someone rubbing a hand over his face. "Ouch," the guy said. "Shot down right out of the gate."
"And mixing your metaphors, to boot," Jeremy said, his voice still pleasant. "Didn't your mother ever warn you about that sort of thing?"
"I'm beginning to think she should have warned me about sharp-tongued Englishmen instead."
"Oh, dear. Is it that obvious?"
"Yes, stupid," Simon said to no one, back in the relative quiet of the van. He had both hands cupped over the cans of the headphones now, straining to hear everything. "What are you doing?"
"That you're English? I'd say so," said the other guy, talking right over Simon. "So, do I at least get to learn your name, or are you just going to insult me until I slink off?"
"Get rid of him," Simon urged an unhearing Jeremy, just as Jeremy purred, "With your tail between your legs in defeat?" Simon groaned and slumped back in his chair, throwing up his hands.
He was quickly learning to hate the little pauses that peppered this conversation. "Oh, teaching me how it's done, huh," said the guy. "And by 'it', I mean--"
"Metaphors," said Jeremy. "Obviously."
"Hey, great minds think alike. So... come on. What's your name?"
It was Jeremy's turn to pause. Simon extra hated that particular loaded little pause, even though he suspected Jeremy was just casting about for an appropriate name to use. "Ugh," Simon said, "go for something like 'Eustace', come on, just get rid of him--"
"It's Brendan, actually," Jeremy said. By dint of the microphone Simon could hear him shrug, as the leather of his jacket slid up and back down. "Awful, isn't it?"
"--yes, terrible," Simon muttered.
"Not at all," said Jeremy's new friend. "Now, you want bad, my name is Steve--"
"How terrible for you," Jeremy said.
"Steve?" Simon had to put his head down. "Oh, Christ, how can you sit there and flirt with someone named Steve--"
"I suppose it would be out of the question to call you 'Stephen'," Jeremy said.
Pause. "Hey, not if you play your cards right, Brendan," said Steve. "So... what are you drinking? Can I buy you one?" Without waiting for an answer Steve raised his voice, going a bit muffled as he looked away from Jeremy. "Hey, can we get another round here?"
"But I've barely begun this one," Jeremy said, amused.
"Eh, you need a new one anyway, the ice in that one's half-melted."
Jeremy considered this for a moment. "So it has," he said. "Well, then, since you've already ordered for me, I suppose I have no choice but to accept. Thank you, Stephen."
Steve blew out a breath. "Yeah," he said. "From you, I think I kind of like it. 'Stephen' it is."
Back in the safety of the van, Simon clawed at his temples. "Jesus, Archer, if I have to listen while you drag this guy into the bathroom and blow him--" Simon stopped there, his gut turning over. "Hate you so much," he muttered.
"Oh, from me," Jeremy said. "I suppose I ought to feel special."
"Yeah? Do you? Feel special, that is. How do you feel?"
There was a little ruffle and a thump as Jeremy finally dispensed with his magazine. "I suppose that would be my cue to ask if you'd like to find out--"
"I am sitting right here," Simon announced to the inside of the van, in aggravated shock.
"--but I'd hate to let my fresh drink go to waste." Jeremy's jacket rustled against the microphone as he shifted, resettling in his seat. "Even if the well scotch here is foul."
"He knows that I'm hearing every word of this," Simon added. He wasn't sure who he was complaining to, but he couldn't stop.
Steve chuckled, the sound oddly intent. "I guess that would be my cue to ask if you'd like to go some place with a better selection."
"Oh? Not going to go for broke and tell me you have a little bottle of twenty-five-year-old something back at your place?" Jeremy's raised eyebrow was audible. Simon made a choking sound.
"But we hardly know each other!" said Steve, miming shock. Their drinks arrived, with a clatter, and the barmaid thanked Steve before thumping back off. "Thanks," Steve called after her, then let his voice drop. "How could I trust you with my bottles of twenty-five-year-old something?"
"I suppose you couldn't," Jeremy said lightly. "I've never been trustworthy around twenty-five-year-olds." They shared a pause and a knowing little laugh. Simon folded up and tented his arms over his head. That was it; he was done; he listened numbly as Jeremy took a sip of his new drink and sighed out a long, half-shuddering breath. "However," Jeremy added, "I've always thought that 'knowing each other' was... overrated? Unnecessary?"
"A buzzkill," prompted Steve, his voice soft with something that was either sudden lust or the love of the hunt.
"The man is wearing a wire," Simon told Steve, or, at least, told the card table his head was resting on. "He is leading you on, because somewhere in that twisted little mind of his, he thinks this is going to get me hot--"
"A buzzkill," Jeremy repeated. "Exactly so."
"--at least, he'd better just be leading you on," Simon finished. "Because otherwise, I will kill him."
"But you're right," said Steve. His voice got a little louder and a lot more intent: he'd gotten closer. "Maybe we could stop beating around the bush, since we seem to be on the same page here, pardon my mixed metaphor. I don't have any twenty-five-year-old bottles at my place--"
"But you'd like me to come see it anyway?" Jeremy finished for him. "I don't know. I do judge a man on the quality of his... bottle."
"That was awful," Simon muttered.
"I'm sorry, that was awful," Jeremy said, right on cue.
"Sounds like that means something to you that I'm missing," said Steve.
Again, Simon heard Jeremy shrug. "In a roundabout way, I'm telling you that I admire your nerve."
"Oh, hey, now that sounds promising."
Jeremy laughed. "Oh, I make so many promises I have no intention of keeping."
"Okay, that's it," Simon said, sitting upright and grabbing for his phone. "I'm getting you out of there before I come in and kill you both." He'd just pulled up Jeremy's latest number on the laptop and started to dial it when Jeremy said, "... I beg your pardon, but that fellow there seems to be trying to attract your attention?"
"What?" Steve said, foggily, like he was emerging from a very nice dream. "... oh, hell, excuse me--what?"
Anton Honegger's voice was a frantic mosquito whine that jerked Simon bolt upright in his chair. "Steve, I gotta talk to you, it's important--"
"This isn't a good time, Anton," said Steve, his voice gone ominous.
"I know! I know! I'm sorry!" Honegger's voice went muffled as he cringed away. "But Larry said to tell you that no one's answering the phones up at the house, and the girls are supposed to be back by now--"
Steve growled and scrubbed a hand over his face, producing that slithery-scratch sound again. "Bet Angela's gone and fucked it up again," he said. "Shit. Okay. Go call Larry and tell him to get up to the house. I'll finish up here and go see if I can't find her."
"Go," Steve said, and Anton apparently did, because the next thing Steve did was laugh ruefully. "So much for that, huh?"
"That was a buzzkill, as you'd say," Jeremy agreed. "Ah, well. Some other time, perhaps."
"Yeah." Steve heaved out a breath. "Yeah, maybe. You got a phone number?"
"Not an American one, I'm afraid. If you'd like to give me yours--"
"Yes, please," Simon said fervently, emerging from his shock. "By all means, give the nice Englishman your number, Steve."
The click followed by the sound of scribbling was just about the nicest thing Simon had heard all day, and definitely the best thing he'd heard in the past two hours. "That's my cell," Steve said. "Any time, day or night. I keep odd hours."
"Don't we all," Jeremy said approvingly. "So... Stephen what, precisely?"
"Zeriakis," said Steve. "Z-E-R-I-A-K-I-S. Don't bother remembering it."
There was a slither, like cardboard being slipped into a pocket. "Oh, I probably won't," Jeremy said, his voice still pleasant. "Why on earth would I want to remember you?"
By the time Jeremy tapped at the back door of the florist's van, Simon had himself well under control again. He popped the door from the inside and Jeremy climbed in, his magazine still rolled up in his hand. "Well!" said Jeremy, pulling the door shut behind himself. "I think that went well--"
Simon grabbed for the button of Jeremy's pants and popped it open. Jeremy's eyebrows shot straight up and he opened his mouth to say something else, but Simon forestalled it by clapping one hand over Jeremy's mouth while he forced down the zipper of Jeremy's pants with the other. Jeremy fell back against the metal wall of the van with an audible and ringing thud.
Once Simon had Jeremy's pants open, he stuck his hand down one leg, blindly groping for what he knew was there--his fingers closed on the wire that led to the battery pack and jerked it free. The microphone went dead. "You think you are so cute," Simon said.
Jeremy reached up and peeled Simon's hand away from his mouth. "Actually, yes, I rather do," he said.
"I cannot believe what a lucky sonofabitch you are," Simon said. "If you hadn't somehow managed to pull that out in the last inning, I would be strangling you right now."
"But I did," Jeremy pointed out, with a little smile. "And I'd like to point out that you still have your hand down my trousers."
"Maybe I'm just checking to make sure no one else's hands are in here," Simon said. "What, do you want me to remove it?"
Jeremy paused, glancing over Simon's shoulder at the rest of the van's interior. "Not particularly," he said. "You have put your hand down my trousers in worse places."
"I don't know where you got the idea that that shit turns me on--" and Simon dragged Jeremy down onto the bare metal floor of the van.