It was Friday, it was the morning after, and it was--seven-thirty, Vaughn realized, eyes snapping fully open. He sat up in a mild panic, swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and rubbed at his hair to wake the top of his brain up. "Fuck," he muttered, then yawned widely.
He shambled like the undead into the shower and then hurried, half wet, into his clothes before heading to the kitchen. Jack sat at the table reading the paper and eating cereal. He had no suit jacket, no tie.
Vaughn's instinctive rush slowed as he tried to synchronize his mental calendar with the sight before him. "It's not Saturday, is it?"
"Friday. We're taking the day off. The weekend, actually."
Bemused, he sat and pulled the cereal box to himself on automatic pilot. "Cool." He had a slight hangover, but even so, his mood improved with the news. "You have a plan, I'm guessing."
"Live the cliché?"
"Hmm," Jack said into his paper with what might have been agreement.
There was still some chilled toast on the table and Vaughn buttered a piece, musing. "I didn't like that hotel we stayed at last time. The rooms were small."
"Yes, that was a mistake. I've booked us a suite at the Clift."
He'd never heard of it, but knowing Jack, it'd be swank. "There's no other mission, is there?" he asked as the possibility struck him.
Jack looked over at him with mellow regard and smiled. "No."
The weather was nice, which turned out to be one of the least important factors of the weekend's success.
"That's--I like that," Vaughn said with breathless surprise when Jack dug his fingers in deeper and twisted them. It was amazing that he could speak. "You sure you've never done this?"
"Roll over," Jack said gently, ignoring the question, easing his fingers out. "On your side." When Vaughn obeyed, Jack settled the length of his body against his own and pushed both fingers in again, deeper this time.
"Jesus." Vaughn pushed his knee up, giving Jack's hand better access. It was getting really good, all the details of the afternoon converging: the light through the drapes, the knowledge that the phone wasn't going to ring and force them back to the office, the weird new ache of pleasure Jack was raising inside him. He lay in a relaxed splay of limbs and realized gradually that he didn't have to do anything but breathe and let Jack take care of things.
Though he was aware at every moment of lying naked in a hotel room with a male coworker on what was essentially business, the situation was blurring at the edges into something more personal. Which was the whole point, so he let it happen.
He was sober this time around. That made it better, but also more difficult. He was highly self-conscious of his body and what Jack was doing with it, and of Jack. They had both showered but were now working up a sweat. The anxiety of being stripped raw in front of someone else was worse because it was Jack. It would be unbearable if, months down the road, Jack smirked at him during a meeting, and Vaughn was forced to remember that he'd once been naked with the other man's slick fingers in him. He'd have to shoot the guy, and that would be hell on Sydney.
Vaughn grabbed a handful of three-hundred thread-count sheets and groaned with a sense of desperate want as Jack's fingers picked up a hard, sharp rhythm. "Stop," he said, almost panicking, and Jack did.
"Did I hurt you?" Jack sounded concerned.
"No, I just. I need to catch my breath." He didn't release his twist of sheets. He was glad he wasn't looking Jack in the face.
"You understand," Jack said, "that there's nothing we *have* to do."
"I know." He breathed deeply and relaxed his shoulders. "This is okay." He paused. "A woman I was seeing wanted to do this once, but she had fingernails, and...well, it wasn't pretty."
"Was she a stupid woman?"
Vaughn smiled at the disapproving judgment. "No. Scary smart. But attached to her fingernails."
"Should I start again?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry." It was funny, strange funny--he got the impression Jack wasn't a man who usually asked a lot of questions during sex--actually, that wasn't quite right. He got the impression Jack didn't often *need* to ask, because he knew just what to do, and how to do it, and for how long, even when he hadn't done it before. Under all that skill, he had talent. But it was difficult to completely trust him yet, especially when he was doing things to parts of Vaughn's body usually handled only by doctors.
The stroking pressure of Jack inside him started up again, making Vaughn squirm and rock needily in place. He liked how Jack's hand was wedged between his thighs, knuckles brushing him in incredible ways along the seam of his body. With a surge of comprehension--this was how it worked--he clamped down everywhere to hold that feeling in place and rocked harder until he was gasping.
"Easy." Jack drew his fingers out again.
"Fuck!" he complained. Or had that been a whine? That was just embarrassing. "What are you doing?"
"Putting on a condom," Jack said matter of factly.
"Oh." Ambivalence tumbled his thoughts around in circles. Yes yes, oh hell no, bad idea, good, good idea. Not all of him was thinking, though, and he pushed his knee up further in anticipation, a reflex he hadn't known his body was capable of.
"Relax." Jack shifted back against him, touched his hip, nudged a leg between his thighs.
"Easy for you to say."
"You'll have your turn."
"I will?" That put a new spin on things. Briefly caught up trying to picture this, he didn't remember to freak out when Jack's dick began working against him like pestle to mortar, the way Alice used to grind herbs when cooking, except more gently. And wow, he hadn't just had that train of thought, had he? He really wished he hadn't.
The light friction went on and on until Vaughn's thighs were trembling. "More," he finally rasped. It was maddeningly good, and Jack was so patient. Vaughn's hands were damp, creasing his pillow and sheet. "Please."
Jack pushed in and they both choked out low sounds at the same time and then he was in deeper, opening Vaughn up. "Push," Jack said.
"Me?" But he did and then cried out and did it again, harder. "Oh my god."
"Easy." Jack's hand clasped his hip, then slid around to hold his dick, stroking it in time to his thrusts.
Vaughn lost his words in swirls of disjointed vowels. He braced one arm against the bed and then his free hand, and shoved back. Jack gave a sharp, breathless cry and Vaughn wondered who the last person was to hear him make that sound. He hoped Jack liked what he was doing with his hips, because it felt fucking incredible from his side. He ground his ass back and arched and panted and drove forward into Jack's hand and it got better and better until he spilled with toe-curling spasms that didn't want to stop.
A minute later Jack finished, fingers digging hard into Vaughn's hip, breath warm against the back of his neck, warmer when his noises got louder. Vaughn shivered with aftershocks, still liking it.
Later, showered and dressed again, they wandered downstairs and out for dinner. They made a sincere effort to find pot roast and failed, and ended up somewhere overlooking the water, eating sea bass and scallops.
The rest of the weekend was pretty good too.
In the office on Monday, Vaughn felt rested and satisfied. The mission was back on track. Also, there'd been sex. Good sex. He couldn't find any angle from which this didn't work out well for both of them. He felt a little sheepish, knowing this was a complete turn-around. Sex had a way of doing that. Showing someone a good time had a way of doing that, especially when they were making a real effort to show you a good time in return.
Damn. He stared blankly at an insignificant e-mail in his inbox. He really did like Jack. Jack was an okay guy for a psychopath once you got past his defenses. In fact, he might not even be a psychopath. It was a disturbing realization.
"Hey," Weiss said, coming up to his desk. "You disappeared on Friday. We had a great meeting. Three hours. Did you know that 'homeland security' anagrams to 'Alice donut rhymes'? Also, 'clued rhino steamy'."
Vaughn nodded with a straight face full of regret. "Sorry I missed that."
"That's okay, I took notes. So where were you? Walk with me. I need caffeine. Non-government caffeine."
"Jack and I went to San Francisco."
They reached the elevators. Weiss didn't say anything until they were inside and moving. "What, work?"
"No. Just to--" He shrugged. "Relax."
"'Relax' is the universal code word for sex."
"It is not," Vaughn said, giving him a dry look.
"Oh, yeah. Along with 'cigar' and 'monkey'."
"You're insane." Vaughn laughed.
Weiss was looking at the floor with a half frown, hands in pockets, and didn't say anything right away, then glanced sidelong at him. "I thought you were insane, you know. All that stuff you told me about being with him. Just, wham, out of the blue. I really thought you might be brainwashed or that I'd have to stage an intervention."
"You're serious. You acted like--"
"I *know* what I acted like. I'm telling you now. I freaked a bit, man. Sydney had to talk me down."
Imagining that conversation made him wince at the painful absurdity of it all. He didn't look forward to the day when he'd have to confess the truth. "I'm sorry. You could have told me, you know."
"I didn't want to harsh your buzz unless I had to."
Vaughn hid a smile. "That's nice of you," he said, meaning it. "Thanks, Eric."
"De nada. I'm just glad it's working out." Despite his apparent sincerity, there was a smoothness to his face and speculative focus in his eyes that made Vaughn suddenly wonder what the drift of his conversation with Sydney had been. For all he knew, he and Weiss could be going at it façade to façade, friends playing the game with each other just because the agency said they had to. The possibility sucked, but for now he was stuck with not knowing.
"From monitoring Darien Frye's calls, we've learned he'll be meeting tomorrow in Paris with Keran Demarkian, another of the Authority's directors."
Making it casual, Vaughn glanced across the table at Jack as Dixon spoke, but Jack's face gave nothing away. No one other than Dixon knew that they were already under cover to eventually infiltrate Demarkian's organization. The mission, whatever it was, had to relate to that goal, even if it was only tangential.
"Sydney, Jack, and Vaughn--you'll be going to Paris. Your objective--"
"Wait," Sydney interrupted, frowning. "It's against policy for Michael to work with my father in the field."
People projected different levels of discomfort, Marshall and Weiss the most. Vaughn suspected that if the relationship had been real, he'd be thinking of Sydney right now as one of those prim girls in class who always had to be a stickler for the rules, and yet she was the farthest thing from that. He wondered if she just had an axe to grind, or if there were other motives at work. Whatever the case, the soap-opera tension in the room was thick.
"A policy against married agents working together exists," Dixon said. "After further discussion with the director, this has been waived for Vaughn and your father. It's a grey area."
Sydney's lips compressed and she gave her father a piercing look. "For the record, I don't think that's wise, sir," she said, turning her attention back to Dixon.
"Your concerns are noted." Dixon remained impassive. "To continue, your objective while in Paris is to shadow Frye to the meet and find out everything you can about a project called 'Drifter'."
"Drifter," Vaughn repeated. The name meant nothing to him.
Jack took over smoothly. "We don't know if it's a person, or plan--or even a new technology. But the keyword frequency in communications captured by ECHELON indicate it's very important to the Authority."
"You leave in two hours," Dixon said.
"What was that back there?" Vaughn said, cornering Sydney after the meeting. "Did you really have to undermine us in front of everyone?"
"It's better than going behind people's backs." A straight arrow from her posture to her honesty, Sydney was unrepentant and unintimidated, even though Vaughn was in her face.
He eased off. It was impossible to sustain a front of offense that was basically false. "I'm just saying that could have been handled better."
"You need to stay detached on this mission. You're already making it personal, Michael."
He blinked, trying to read her. Was she serious, or was she still unconvinced by the cover--his gut said it was the latter, but at this point he couldn't tell any more. "I'm not the one making this personal." He heard the words come out of his mouth as if someone else spoke them.
Sydney's whole face drew in on itself with incredulity. "You think *I'm* making this personal?"
"I think you like to embarrass your father." The knowledge clicked into place even though he'd never articulated it before. "You shouldn't do that to him."
"Oh my god." She stared at him and her eyes welled with tears in a single, long, terrible instant. "You really are sleeping with him."
A flush spread through his face and into his ears, and he began to speak, but had to swallow convulsively before he could manage it. "Sydney--"
She turned and strode away, her movements jagged as if emotion were flashing in lightning arcs through her muscles. Vaughn watched her go, knowing he couldn't run after her. His chest ached, and the bridge of his nose and sockets of his eyes flared with sympathetic pain. He couldn't cry in the corridor in the middle of a government agency. Sydney could, but he couldn't. He couldn't cry at all.