As it was with most of Briar’s relationships, the sex just kind of… happened.
One moment Mason was tagging along after Briar like a lost little duckling, practically stepping on his heels and badgering him about – something to do with that CIA job Briar “owed” him, though to be quite honest Briar stopped listening some time ago. And an instant later, Briar had Mason pushed up against the brick wall by his throat, growling right up in his face in an alpha wolf’s innate demand for submission.
In his defense, he did not like being grabbed. In his defense, nowhere in the file he knew for a fact Mason read did it say ‘not prone to using brute physicality to express displeasure.’
“One,” he said, “don’t you ever touch me again. Two, I am not your partner, I am not your friend, and I do not owe you anything. We clear?”
His hand looked huge and broad against Mason’s pale throat, so rough against that delicate curve of muscle. He could feel when Mason swallowed, body trembling, and the way his breath punched out of him like he’d been struck when Briar leaned in another inch.
Mason licked his lips. He swallowed again. Then he said, voice unsteady but trying so hard not to be, “If you wanted to kiss me, man, you could have just asked,” and Briar growled and crushed their lips together.
Mason responded beautifully, all soft little moans, just melting into it, and Briar rewarded this uncharacteristic obedience by softening his touch, pressing his thumb into the hinge of Mason’s jaw to force open his mouth so Briar could thrust his tongue inside. Michael’s eyes were dreamy and dark when Briar finally pulled away.
“So it’s like that, is it?” Briar said, weaving his fingers through Mason’s thick hair and pulling his head back. He pressed his thumb to the dip of Mason’s lower lip, dragging his mouth open, pleased at the easy, slack drop of his jaw.
“You surprised?” Mason said, and Briar wasn’t. “Wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have a type, capital T.”
Briar chuckled. “A psychologist would get bored parsing out your issues,” he said, and bit down on Mason’s lower lip just to hear him moan. “I’m gonna fill your throat with cock, boy.”
“I thought I,” Michael said, and his voice cracked. Blushing, he soldered on. “I thought I wasn’t allowed to touch you ever again.”
He dimpled up at Briar, letting himself flirt a little, and Briar couldn’t help but laugh again and dip his thumb into his mouth, pressing down on the center of his tongue with it. “Just for that, you’re gonna have to beg real pretty before I left you come.”
Mason’s eyelashes fluttered, and Briar ushered him ahead with a hand at the small of his back, endeared at the way Michael stumbled forward, so vulnerable, so trusting, so soft.
Briar climbed out of bed and walked to the bathroom to dispose of the condom and rinse himself off. He brought back a warm, damp washcloth when he returned, pausing at the end of the bed to admire the panting, glass-eyed, come-streaked pretty boy in his bed.
“Take a picture,” Mason mumbled, “it’ll last –” He cut himself off with a yelp when Briar slapped the washcloth over his chest with a wet smack.
“Don’t be a cliché,” Briar said, then took the washcloth and ran it over his body for him, cleaning him off, gentle over his softening dick. “You hungry?”
Mason raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, I guess?”
“There’s a pretty good doner kebab kiosk right on the corner, closes in fifteen so you’ll want to leave soon to make it in time.” Briar tossed the washcloth into the pile of laundry in the corner.
“Oh,” Mason said, masking his disappointment with a blank expression, albeit poorly. For such a good thief, kid was a terrible liar. Too many tells.
Briar ignored it. The kid couldn’t have actually believed they were going to – cuddle, or whatever. “And don’t bother me tomorrow, I’m working late.” He pulled on a pair of sweatpants and went to the kitchen to forage for food. The situation was pretty bleak. It was going to have to be another microwave burrito night.
“You’re always working,” came Mason’s voice from the bedroom, along with some rustles and thumps as he pulled on his clothes.
“Not on Tuesday,” Briar said, inspecting an apple off the counter. Satisfied, he took a bite.
“Really?” Mason said, appearing in the doorway. He smiled slightly. “Good to know.”
Briar shot him a long look. “Put it back,” he said.
“Put what back?”
“Whatever it is you took,” Briar said. “Now.”
Mason shot him an eye roll, but obediently returned to the bedroom and reappeared a moment later. “Can’t blame a guy for trying,” he said.
“Hm,” Briar said, walking over and patting him down, eliciting another, longer eye roll. He didn’t find anything except a wallet and phone, but when he opened the wallet and leafed through the contents, he pulled out a creased punch-card to the coffee shop he frequented, nine-tenths of the way to a free drink. “Hm.”
Mason just grinned. “Can’t blame a guy for trying,” he repeated with a wink. “Should have known I’d never get it by you, studly.”
“You should’ve,” Briar grunted, watching Mason like a hawk on his way out to make sure he didn’t touch anything.
Satisfied, he turned back around, looking for his half-eaten apple to finish while he waited for the burrito to heat. It wasn’t there.
“God dammit,” he said, slamming his fist on the counter.
He could hear Michael’s laughter filtering in through his open window.
Three days later, Briar lost his keys. He searched his pockets, then his car, then his office, cursing a blue streak all the while. He was massaging his temples and contemplating how long he could get by just hotwiring his car and breaking into his house through the busted window in the bathroom, when Lacey approached him.
“Janitor found these by the coffee machine. They yours?” She had his keys dangling from her forefinger.
“Christ, thanks,” Briar said, relieved beyond measure. He pocketed them.
People called him paranoid all the time, and yet he didn’t even question this one. Didn’t stop to consider what manner of thief would pick his pocket, take his keys away just long enough to get a spare cut, and return them to his place of work without notice – not for days after, at least.
He caught up fast when he woke up in the middle of the night to a body crawling into his bed, lashing out instinctively and rolling so he had the intruder pinned under him – but Mason just laughed and let his legs fall into an easy spread and stretched up to kiss him.
“So that’s the way it’s gonna be?” Briar said, voice rough with sleep.
“That was always the way this was gonna be,” Michael said, and…
Well, he wasn’t wrong.
At the door to his apartment, Briar looked down and noticed that the grain of the carpet had been ruffled the wrong way, and the doorknob was locked but it wasn’t turned slightly the way he always left it. He eased his gun from its holster, slowly and silently turning the doorknob and then creeping in on the balls of his feet.
Then he sighed and slid his gun back in place. He walked to the bathroom door and banged on it with his fist. “Something wrong with the shower in your apartment that you need to use mine, thief?”
“Sucky water pressure,” Michael called out. “Yours is bomb.”
“Poor choice of phrasing from an accused terrorist,” Briar said.
“Harsh!” Michael said. “You want me to get out of your shower, you’re gonna have to make me.”
Briar tried the doorknob and found it unlocked. He entered the bathroom and was greeted by Michael’s most charming smile, heart-stopping in combination with the wet messy tangle of his hair. Briar, despite himself, felt a bit weak in the knees.
“Get in,” Michael said. “Plenty of room.”
“Not really,” Briar said, but started stripping out of his clothes anyway.
“Plenty of room for what I’m planning,” Michael said in that low purr he sometimes affected that worked embarrassingly well on Briar’s dick.
“Zat mean plenty of room for me to fuck you up against the wall?” Briar said, crowding up close and pressing Michael’s back to the cold tile, making him hiss.
Michael’s smile was all lethargy and sin, and he hopped up just as Briar lifted him, clamping his legs around Briar’s waist. “Means whatever you want it to mean, big guy.”
“I like the sound of that,” Briar murmured.
Michael smirked, mouth opening to tease Briar about his authority complex, so Briar kissed him hard and deep until he forgot what he was going to say, then kept kissing him long after, until the water turned cold as it rained down over both of them.
“You’re not cute, you know,” Briar grumbled without opening his eyes when he heard his front door open.
“I’m adorable,” Michael countered without missing a beat.
“You’re not,” Briar said. “I took out my wallet today to pay for a coffee, and do you know what I found?”
“Cocaine,” Michael guessed. Briar braced himself with seconds to spare before Michael settled into his lap, easy and comfortable. “A treasure map. The black spot!”
“Monopoly money, and no euros,” Briar said.
“Imagine that,” Michael said, and he was grinning wide when Briar finally opened his eyes. “Aw, don’t be such a grumpy-gills,” he teased, tapping the end of Briar’s nose. “I spotted you the cash.”
Briar grunted, just barely mollified, because he never kept cash in his front pockets and he’d known it was Michael’s handiwork when he found the fiver while patting himself down in one desperate last-ditch attempt, apologizing to the cashier all the while. “It’s not spotting me the cash if it’s my cash, thief,” he said, anchoring his hands around Michael’s slim hips, thumbs digging in hard.
“It’s not your cash once it’s in my wallet, G-man,” Michael teased, head lolling back on his neck at a nudge from Briar, baring the whole expanse of his throat to taste, suck, bite.
“You’re not cute,” Briar said again, but given that the words were slurred into Michael’s skin, he couldn’t really blame the boy for laughing.
Briar skimmed a light hand up and down Michael’s side, lazily interested in the goosebumps that sprung up in his wake. So sensitive, this boy.
Michael blinked his eyes open after another minute, eyelashes sooty and dark against his cheeks in the dim light. “Penny for your thoughts,” he said. The gravel in his voice would have stirred Briar’s cock if it weren’t completely worn out already.
“You ever been to Baltimore?” Briar said.
Michael raised his eyebrows. “Once, yeah. Why?”
“S’just curious. What’s it like?” Briar squeezed his ass, casually possessive.
Michael shrugged. “Depends where you are in the city. S’nice by Hopkins, and by the Harbor. Then a lot of it’s not so nice.” He smiled at a memory. “Once saw a guy jack a car in front of a policeman, and the cop didn’t lift a finger. I fit in there. It was a good month.”
“Drug kingpins and petty criminals, I’ve heard,” Briar said. He smoothed a disheveled curl from Michael’s eyes. “You do fit in there.”
“Fucker,” Michael said, wrinkling his nose. “Seriously, why?”
“Nothin’,” Briar said, squeezing his ass again. “You want first shower or me?”
Michael’s lazy gaze cleared and he sat up. “I’ll grab it,” he said. “I got a few errands to run on the way home anyway.”
“Errands?” Briar echoed. “Errands of the variety that I’m allowed to ask about?”
“Probably not,” Michael said blithely. “See you later, handsome.”
“See you,” Briar said, propping himself up on an arm and watching him leave. It was a damn nice sight, and when Briar laid back down, he threw his elbows over his eyes and tried not to register how empty the bed felt with only one body in it.
Briar checked the carpet grain at his feet instinctively, and pulled up short when he realized something. It wasn’t surprising that his house had been broken into, again. No, the surprising part was how very unsurprised he was.
Christ. “Get out of my house,” he said, opening the door.
“Kay, but the Indian takeout I brought is coming with me,” Michael said from the kitchen.
And… Briar was pretty hungry. “Fine, you can stay,” he said, sliding behind Michael to get to the fridge without disturbing him as he arranged the takeout on the counter. “Want a be–”
Michael handed him an open bottle of Corona, lime wedge jammed into the open lip.
“You need to stop going through my shit,” Briar said.
“Going through your shit is right, do you know how hard I had to look to find that bottle opener?” Michael said. “Most of us don’t keep our bottle openers in our bedrooms, but hey, I’m not judging. Whatever does it for you.”
“You’re fucking terrible,” Briar said. “I really should shoot you in the face one of these days.”
“You do that,” Michael said, unconcerned.
“And I don’t need a bottle opener,” Briar added belatedly.
Michael looked to the fridge with his eyebrows raised. “Yeah, again, most of us don’t keep beer in the fridge for purely aesthetic purposes, but –”
Briar fought the strong urge to roll his eyes, because that was a bad habit of Michael’s that he refused to pick up, however tempting. “Look,” he said, taking out a spare Corona. He set it against the edge of the counter and banged the heel of his down against the cap, which popped off.
He looked up at Michael, who was staring at his hands, eyes dark.
“Oh, come on,” Briar said.
“What?” Michael said, looking up guiltily.
“You’re so easy,” Briar said, anchoring his hand around the back of Michael’s neck and drawing him close, nuzzling at his temple, jaw, his high cheekbone. “You gonna cream your pants when you see me open a bottle with my ring?”
“Take me now, stud,” Michael deadpanned, but he was gratifyingly pliant in Briar’s arms, and his breath hitched when Briar nipped at the shell of his ear with his canines.
“Later, maybe,” Briar said. “Dinner now.”
Michael mocked a heavy sigh, and Briar cuffed the side of his head with his hand. Little brat.
The way Michael watched him…
Briar knew what he looked like, how he turned heads walking down the street. How every ear in a crowded shop would perk up at the sound of his voice. He knew the effect that he had on women.
But god, the way Michael watched him. Equal parts challenge and worship, rapt in the way that sometimes he seemed like he couldn’t stand to look straight at Briar’s brilliance but couldn’t bear to look away at the same time. Have you seen you? and all. Briar got off hard on the way Michael looked at him.
Briar got off hard on most things about Michael. Sure, there was the way he sucked cock, but there were a lot of people who sucked cock well. Briar knew a woman once who could hum the alphabet song without taking a breath while she was nose deep in his pubes.
No, more than that, it was his eagerness, his enthusiasm, all of that carefully manufactured suavity melting away into a truly sincere, truly gratifying need. Briar liked him best naked – sweatpants never stayed on for long when they were both in the apartment, and shirts even less. He liked to fuck Michael from behind while Briar was still dressed in a full suit, his belt buckle leaving bruises on the backs of Michael’s bare thighs. He liked Michael pliant and eager, liked when he was drunk and Briar was sober, liked when Michael had already come and he was whimpering and sensitive and Briar can sink into him so easily and fuck him right to make him cry.
That was Briar’s very favorite thing, when Michael was crying for him. It broke his control every time, made him fumble with the condom and haul Michael up and fuck him strong and deep and ravenous until Michael was leaking tears and spilling come everywhere, shuddering like Briar’s grip was the only thing keeping him together.
And, however much Michael blushed and hid his face in his arms after, Briar knew he liked it too.
Almost as much as he liked being petted and cossetted, liked when Briar pressed in close against his back while he filled him with cock, liked when Briar crooned to him about how good he was being, how perfect, how tight around Briar’s cock, such a good boy for me, god, baby, you’re going to make me come so hard.
That was what Michael liked best, and Briar pretended to grumble about it, but he was sure Michael knew he liked it too.
One day, he got home and the grain on his carpet wasn’t turned the wrong way, and disappointment hung thick and heavy in his chest. He forced it down, swallowing back the weird, tight feeling in his throat.
But when he opened the door, and Michael looked up from the couch and smiled, there was no denying the warmth that spread through him like a flame, starting small but burning, building. “Hey,” he said.
“Took you long enough,” Briar muttered, dropping off his suit coat on the back of a chair.
“Huh? Oh, the carpet?” Michael rolled his eyes, and Briar tried and failed not to be swept over by fondness at the sight. “Okay, yeah, but the doorknob trick took me like two days and you know it. I just didn’t expect you to be that paranoid.”
“That’s the kind of thinking that’ll get you killed in the field,” Briar said.
“Thanks, CIA informational pamphlet,” Michael said.
Briar sat on the coffee table in front of him. “Now, explain to me why you’re naked?”
“’m drying off,” Michael said. “Your water pressure’s bomb but your towels fucking suck. They’re so scratchy, it’s like scrubbing yourself with steel wool. I’m delicate. I have needs.”
“You’re delicate all right,” Briar agreed. He ruffled Michael’s hair, twirling a damp curl around his finger.
“You look tired,” Michael said after a minute. He shifted forward a little on the couch. “Wanna talk about it?”
“Can’t,” Briar said. “Classified.”
Michael pouted. “Still no hope on the job front?”
Briar opened his mouth to answer, then hesitated. There was a position opening up – and it was even there, at their Paris field office. But he didn’t want to talk about it, not yet. “Keep giving me regular massages and we’ll talk.”
Michael smiled. “Sweet,” he said. He reached up to Briar’s face, rubbing his thumb over his cheek. “Seriously, though, you looked wiped. Want me to go out and grab dinner?”
Briar grunted noncommittally.
Michael stood and went into the bedroom, coming back a few minutes later fully dressed. A brief look of disappointment flashed over his face when he found Briar putting on his coat. “Are you going out?” he said.
“Yeah,” Briar said.
“Oh,” Michael said. “Well…”
“C’mon,” Briar said. “You want Italian or Thai?” He spread his hand out on the small of Michael’s back and propelled him out the door.
Michael stayed adorably befuddled for another minute. Then, “Shit, really?” he said, and his excitement was even more adorable. “Thai, I love Thai. Jesus, you sure?”
“Keep asking and I’ll take it back,” Briar grumbled, but he wasn’t the best liar himself, and he had his tells.
“Wow,” Michael said, still grinning. “Maybe you’re not the worst sugar daddy of all time after all.”
Briar wrapped his hand around the back of his neck and shook him. “Seriously, shut up.”
Michael dimpled up at him, but stayed obligingly silent until they reached the restaurant.
The next day, the cash in Briar’s wallet was gone.
When he got home, he found a pile of fluffy white towels on his bathroom counter with a note in artful cursive resting on top: Thanks for the towels, daddy.
Little shit, Briar thought, but he had to admit that drying off with one of those towels was like being massaged by a million tiny angels.
“I told you what would happen next time I found you going through my things,” Briar said when he woke up in the middle of the night to an empty bed, and groggily stumbled into the living room to find Michael hunched over furtively tapping away on his laptop.
“Yeah, you’d shoot me in the face, let me know how that goes,” Michael said, but all the normal humor was absent from his voice. He sounded almost… angry.
Briar warily lowered himself into a chair across from him. “How’d you even get on that one?” he asked after a minute.
“Password’s on your phone,” Michael said, still so detached.
“And… how’d you do that?” Briar said. He knew Michael was a good thief, but this was next level.
“Used your finger to open it while you were asleep,” Michael said, not missing a beat. He looked up finally, jaw clenched. “You’ve been weird lately. Kind of… clingy.”
“Bullshit,” Briar said.
Michael shrugged tersely. “Fine, use whatever word you want. Sweeter than usual. I just wanted to know why.”
“And?” Briar said, heart starting to pound.
“And when were you going to tell me you’re getting transferred to Baltimore in a week?” Michael said, going loud right as everything else seemed to go very quiet to Briar.
“Don’t be dramatic,” Briar said.
“I’m not stupid, I get it,” Michael said, ignoring him. “You’re getting what you want and giving me what I want before you leave – I get it. Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.”
“Nobody thinks you’re stupid,” Briar said.
Michael gave a humorless laugh, and Briar winced. “Then answer, god dammit! Were you ever going to tell me?”
Briar had never taken well to being yelled at, but he was even worse about being grabbed, and when Michael seized his wrist he saw red for a moment. “I do not have to answer to you, boy,” he said, steady and cold, jerking his hand away. “I do not have to tell you my every secret, and I certainly don’t have any obligation to inform you about the goings on of my daily life. Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” Michael said, shoving up out of his seat. His voice was angry, but the corners of his lips twitched down and Briar knew – knew – that it was taking everything in him not to cry.
This thief, this brat, this boy. The need to comfort him was more than an urge, it was written into Briar’s very bones, and he was up and enfolding Michael in his arms before he made it halfway across the room, his hold both tender and restricting.
Michael went still for a second, and then he struggled, grabbing at Briar’s arms and attempting to wrench them off. “You’ve made it pretty fucking clear that –”
“I want you to come with me,” Briar murmured into this hair.
Michael went still instantly.
“I’ve wanted you to come with me,” Briar corrected, “but I didn’t know how to ask.” To ask, not to demand. If Briar ever knew how, those days were long gone.
“Are you serious?” Michael said, twisting around, and this time Briar relaxed his hold enough that he was able to turn around in his arms to face him.
Michael never could lie. His face was an open book, and in this moment more than ever – so vulnerable, so open, so raw. I thought we were a team, echoing in a tone of betrayal Briar could still recollect with perfect vividity, and why he had ever trusted Briar again after that level of heartbreak… He was such an easy mark. So much sweeter than he would ever have wanted to admit.
His thief, his brat. His boy. “Come with me,” Briar said, and he buried his face in Michael’s hair, breathing him in. “I’m asking.”
“Dude,” Michael said, and the smile curled his lips like a sunrise. “Like, duh.”