“I can’t believe you finished off the coffee again,” Shane grouses, walking to the right and barely one step behind Bergara. His eyes are scanning the skyline, flicking down to the cars waiting for them to cross the street. His right hand hovers near his belt, ready to pull his weapon at the first sign of trouble. With practiced ease, they ignore the rest of the agents on guard duty, caught up in their own banter.
“Hey, who's the ambassador here?” Bergara shoots back. He twists around to grin at Shane, eyes bright and alert from all that coffee. His cheeks are flushed from the morning chill, and he looks handsome and content. Shane fights to keep his face blank, but the corners of his lips twitch.
“That doesn’t give you the right to drink all the coffee in the hotel room,” Shane argues. “Shouldn’t you ensure your bodyguard is adequately caffeinated?”
“I’m sorry, I thought your half hour long shower would be enough to wake you up,” Bergara says easily. Their bickering has the worn, familiar feeling of an age old argument. Given the number of hotel rooms they’ve shared since Shane was assigned as Bergara’s bodyguard so long ago, they’ve long established a morning routine that worked for them - and lighthearted complaints and inside jokes that came with spending nearly every minute of the day together.
“Nothing is a good substitute for a cup of joe,” Shane says. He squints at a window on the third floor of a nearby building. Has there been a reflection of light? He presses a hand against Bergara’s lower back and tries to hurry him along.
“Your coffee just tastes better,” Bergara explains, looking up at Shane with those wide, damnably pretty eyes. Some days Shane missed his previous charge - an old man twice Shane’s age, who drank too much and was passed out by nine p.m. Living in the shadow of someone as beautiful as Ryan Bergara is a constant strain on Shane’s self control. Especially since Bergara wasn’t just a pretty face, but intelligent, funny, and in possession of quality taste in movies and snacks.
Shane opens his mouth to reply, but feels a whoosh of air go by his ear.
He stops, shocked, and meets Ryan’s eyes.
The air around them seems to pause, and then there’s another bullet whizzing by, impacting the side of the building forcefully.
It has Shane moving his hand to the top of Ryan’s head, shoving him down, as his heart begins to pound and adrenaline fills his body. Shane curls around Bergara’s body, protecting him with his own, as he pulls his service weapon from his belt.
“On our six, 8 o’clock,” one of Shane’s men shouts, and he lets them find a place to take cover, to pull their weapons and lay down cover fire. Shane shoves Bergara toward the building, the doors a mere 10 feet away. Around them, the loud retort and echo of guns and the smoky smell of gunpowder fill the air. Movies can never truly convey how chaotic and terrifying a gunfight truly is, but luckily Shane’s men are well trained.
Shane clenches his jaw and ignores the way Bergara is clutching the front of his shirt, dragging him along. It keeps them close, and Shane’s entire job is to stay within six feet of Bergara and keep every inch of his pretty body unharmed.
They duck into the alcove near the doors, Shane pushing Bergara into the corner and crowding close. He ignores the shouts of his men and peers through the glass doors - it looks as though everyone inside had run at the sound of gunfire. Shane can’t be sure there isn’t someone inside, but he has to take that chance - the alcove they’re in can barely qualify as cover.
“Inside,” Shane orders, and grabs Bergara’s arm to keep him tucked close as they hurry to the doors' metal handles. Of course they’re fucking pull doors, swinging out into the street. Shane growls a little, barely noticing Ryan watching him with wide eyes, as he yanks the door on the right open. He follows Bergara in, and all those survival courses are good for something, because Bergara immediately heads to the right, where the hulking receptionists’ desk was situated, where he can tuck himself in while Shane determines the best way through the office.
There’s the sound of glass breaking - another close call as the bullet passes terrifyingly close to Shane. Ryan turns around, eyes wider than Shane’s ever seen them, dark with terror and worry. Shane hurries up to him, pushing him forward with impatient hands, using his body to get Ryan moving.
As they turn the corner, Ryan tucked close to Shane, they run headfirst into a guy wearing dark street clothes. Shane clocks the gun in his hand and steps forward, instinct kicking in as he swings his fist. The guy moves, avoiding a hit to the temple, and Shane clips his nose instead. The guy’s head turns from the force of it, and he swings out wildly.
He knocks Shane’s gun right out of his hand. It slides across the floor, stopping against the wall.
Shane backs out of the assole’s punch range and manages to kick the guy in the gut. He doubles over, groaning.
“Run, Ryan!” He bellows at Ryan’s frozen form. He blinks at Shane, surprised and scared. Ryan snaps out of whatever spell he'd fallen into as his training kicks in, as he darts toward the receptionist desk. Shane takes a couple steps after him as though to follow.
The guy straightens up, hand clenching tight on his gun. He backs away from Shane, swinging it up and to the right -
- right toward Ryan's back.
Any relief at Ryan obeying Shane's order turns to icy fear - it's not good enough. Ryan can't outrun a gun. Shane can try to knock the guy out, but he’s far enough away he can no doubt pull the trigger before Shane can land a hit.
There’s really only one course of action.
Shane leaps, putting himself between Ryan and the gun just as the asshole pulls the trigger.
It goes off.
Ryan screams as Shane’s body jerks at the sudden, searing pain in his side. He lets out an involuntary gasp even as he forces himself to move, closing in on the guy.
Shane manages to knock the gun out of the guy’s hand with the first swing of his fist, but it leaves him open. The guy takes his shot, landing one meaty fist into Shane’s side. Shane lets out a high-pitched, loud yelp.
Behind him, Ryan’s shouting.
Knowing Ryan’s there, depending on him, is enough to give Shane a boost of adrenaline. He attempts to punch with his off hand, weak and ineffective, but the man goes for it.
He blocks the punch, as expected. Shane swings with his dominant arm, and this time his aim is true.
His fist slams into the guy’s temple, and he lets out a low noise even as he crumples. Shane’s not one to kick a man when he’s down, but he has no idea how long they have, so he delivers a swift kick as well, to hopefully keep him out.
Shane whips out his cuffs and quickly snaps them on, the man’s hands forced behind his back. He wobbles a little when he stands back up, all the blood rushing from his head. He stumbles, and then catches himself. He bunches up the side of his jacket and presses it into his wound, hoping it’ll staunch the bleeding.
He grabs his gun, and the fucker’s, before hurrying over to grab Bergara by the arm. He shoves him toward the receptionists’ desk, his side throbbing and screaming, and hopes it’s just a matter of hunkering down and waiting for the cavalry.
“Down, you idiot!” He yells at Bergara, who drops to his knees behind the counter. Shane follows him, crouching down. He peeks over the counter, but nobody has followed them.
“Are you hurt? Shane, oh my god, are you -”
“Quiet!” Shane interrupts harshly, and Bergara falls silent. Shane takes a deep, steadying breath and tightens his grip on his gun. He ignores the burning in his side and the pounding of his heart.
He’d memorized the layout of this building just last night. The branch off to the left was a dead-end; only offices and no outlet. The main corridor led to elevators and a few more offices, but that would only trap them in this building. Off to the right, however, was an EMPLOYEES ONLY door that led to a set of rooms for the janitors, including a door that led to the back alley for trash disposal.
Would these guys have the back covered, as well?
Shane reaches up with the hand he was using for his wound and pressed on his radio. He barely notices the smear of blood he left along the side of his face. Beside him, Bergara makes a low noise.
“Report,” he snaps, and Celestino comes on the line, his calm voice lending a steadying effect.
“Eight guys on the front entrance,” he reports, “Five down. Bennett reports another two on the rear entrance. Local police have been notified, backup ETA is five minutes.”
Shane let out a sigh. “Hunkering down.”
The line goes quiet. Shane turns to face Ryan, grimacing at the sharp pain in his side. He once again used his suit jacket to try and staunch the blood flow. God damn it, he’d liked this suit. The vest was one of his favorites, and he has never been able to find another with the same color and subtle design.
“Shane,” Bergara says quietly, voice trembling. “Your side…”
“I’m fine,” Shane waves his concern away. “Were you hit?”
“You’re not fine,” Bergara argues, and normally Shane loves to indulge him, but Shane has a fucking job to do, and now was not the time for backtalk.
“I’m fine,” Shane snaps, ignoring the way the pain seems to eat away at him, sinking deeper with each passing moment. He reaches out to run his hands over Ryan’s body, checking him for blood, for spots that made him wince. Ryan lets Shane run his hands over Ryan’s body, watching him with dark, worried eyes. His body is warm under Shane’s hands. Steady.
He seems fine, but a verbal confirmation would be nice. “Are you injured, Ambassador?”
The use of Bergara’s title hits him like a smack to the face. He jerks back from Shane, face full of hurt. And then he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, broad shoulders stretching the beautiful lines of his suit. When he opens them, the hurt is gone, and only calm understanding in its place.
“No, I wasn’t hit,” Bergara reports.
Shane reaches down and pulls a smaller weapon from his ankle holster. He holds it out to Bergara, grip first. Bergara takes it with a grim expression, face puckered with disgust. But he checks the magazine, muzzle pointed away from them both, and flips the safety off with steady hands. Shane gives him a small, approving smile.
“Backup is 3 minutes away,” he shares. “I want you to tuck yourself into the footwell of the desk. Don’t come out unless you recognize the person speaking.”
“I know,” Bergara says quietly, “Any officer will identify himself before approaching.”
“Right,” Shane agrees. He blinks through the dizziness. “Forgot you had training.”
“Shane…” Bergara says his name so gently. He looks scared, and Shane wants to pull him into his arms, tell him everything is going to be fine. He suspects if he tries to move, however, his dizziness will have him tipping over. He rests his chin on the edge of the desk, hoping it’ll act as a reminder of which way was down. The receptionist desk is placed in the corner of the room; it affords him the perfect view of the room.
Nausea twists Shane’s stomach. He grimaces and blinks, trying to make the room settle. He pushes his hand against his wound tighter, letting out a soft moan at the way it made the pain in his side spike. A chill is settling in his extremities, and Shane prays his people will clear out the assholes soon.
If he passes out, Ryan will be vulnerable.
Shane cannot let that happen. He won’t let that happen.
Shane leans more of his weight against the desk. It’s doing most of the work of holding him up now, as black dots dance before his eyes. As the minutes tick by, Shane feels the cold creep up his limbs. His nausea worsens, and he swallows back the saliva filling his mouth. Fuck. Fuck.
“Ryan,” he mumbles. “I think...you’re gonna have to…”
He slides sideways. The movement, combined with the spinning of the room, makes Shane gag. He tips over, onto his side, and curls up against the pain.
“Shane!” Ryan cries out, and the idiot leaves the footwell to scramble to Shane’s side. Shane tries to swat him away, to push him back to safety, but his hands aren’t listening to his brain anymore.
“No, no, no,” Ryan chants, turning Shane onto his back. “You idiot, you fucking piece of shit, Shane.”
“Hey, now,” Shane blinks drowsily up at him, “There’s no need for name callin’.”
Darkness is starting to creep along the edges of Shane’s vision. He blinks to clear it, but it doesn’t do any good.
“Take my gun,” Shane says through lips that feel numb. “Don’t hesitate, okay? Shoot to kill. Run, if you get the chance.”
Ryan presses on Shane’s side and he lets out a shout of pain. Ryan hovers over him, an angel with wet cheeks and a sickly pallor. He reaches out with one hand - alarmingly bloody, Shane notes distantly - to cup Shane’s face. He shifts his body so he maintains the same level of pressure with only one hand. Shane grunts.
“Stay with me, baby,” Ryan pleads.
“‘M not goin’ nowhere,” Shane protests. He turns his head so he’s nuzzling Ryan’s warm hand. “Hey, hey, Ry. ‘S all gonna be okay.”
“Of course it will,” Ryan smiles at him with lips that tremble. He’s trying to speak confidently, but his overall demeanor gives him away. Shane musters up a smile for him.
“Yeah,” Shane says agreeably, mind drifting. What were they talking about?
Ryan’s looking so upset. Shane doesn’t like that. He’s a funny guy - he should tell a joke, make him laugh. Ryan puts his whole body into his laugh, clapping his chest, throwing his head back, the sound loud and unselfconscious. Shane loves it.
Shane loves Ryan. But that is a secret, it’s like the number one rule of the job - don’t fall in love with the client. But Shane couldn’t help it. He’s never met anyone like Ryan, someone he clicked so thoroughly with. Sometimes when Shane checks on Ryan at night, he watches him sleep, and dreams about slipping into the bed beside him. About waking him up with his hands and mouth.
Shane likes to think about holding Ryan’s hands. Massaging them, when Ryan had been writing for hours and his hands were cramping. He wants to kiss Ryan’s forehead, and listen to him whine about his sportsball team losing, and sometimes he thinks about vacations together -
“You ever been to Chicago, Ry?” Shane asks muzzily. “I’m from there, you know.”
“I know,” Ryan replies. He sounds far off, like he’s on the other side of the room and getting further away.
“Wish I coulda shown you around,” Shane smiles up at the ceiling. The darkness around the edges of his eyes is spreading inward faster now. He can’t feel Ryan’s hands on him anymore. “I’d show you all the cool spots only the locals know.”
“You still can,” Ryan suggests, his voice thick. Is he getting sick? It’s chilly out, Shane is pretty sure. Did he forget his coat? Silly man. He can have Shane’s, even though he’s freezing.
“Y-yes, Shane?” That was definitely a sob. Shane would do something about that, but he’s feeling kinda tired. Besides, it sounds like someone’s coming - they can comfort Ryan. Just this once, since Shane isn’t feeling up to it.
“....I love you….”
The darkness swallows him up.
His lids feel like they’ve been glued down. It takes an enormous effort to get them open halfway, but he manages. The room is far too bright, and the sounds far too loud. It’s difficult to make out where he is with the glare from the lights and the way his eyes struggle to focus.
He grumbles a little, a small noise of complaint, and it goes quiet around him. That’s much better.
“Shane?” Someone asks gently, and Shane tilts his head just slightly in the direction of the voice.
His eyes slip closed.
He dreams Gordon Ramsey is in his room, yelling about fucking idiots.
He dreams of warm hands and low, quiet words meant for his ears only. He thinks, with confused dream logic, that maybe Ramsey is the one saying them, though he can’t imagine why.
When Shane opens his eyes next, it’s to a drab hospital room. The blinds are up and the sun is shining, and he is far too warm under the blankets. He shoves them down irritably and tilts his head away from the sun. Everything’s a blur of bland colors, but he can still make out the form of a person, sitting in a chair pulled close to his bed. He watches them lean down and grab something before they extend their arm toward Shane.
“Here,” and his glasses are being carefully slid onto his face. He adjusts them until they set right, and blinks to focus his eyes.
A knot in his stomach he hadn’t been consciously aware of relaxes at the sight of Ryan. His clothing is rumpled and there are bags beneath his eyes that could carry all of their travel luggage, but he’s undeniably alive and here. Shane relaxes into the bed and sighs. He presses a hand to his side, wincing at the throb.
“Don’t do that,” Ryan says sternly, pulling Shane’s hand away. “Don’t you know better than to stick your hand in your wound?”
“It was hardly in the wound,” Shane argues tiredly.
“Semantics,” Ryan shrugs. His fingers linger where they grip Shane’s hand. They’re shaking slightly, but Ryan’s always been a shaky guy. Shane squeezes his hand anyway and Ryan lets go, but he’s smiling. A tiny one, but still a smile.
“I’m going to get the nurse,” Ryan says, and stands. Shane feels the burn of disappointment - he doesn’t want to let Ryan out of his sight. He wants Ryan to stay here, where Shane knows he’s safe. Though it’s not like Shane’s capable of defending him were someone to attack.
Still, he’s gratified to see one of the two people stationed at the door disappear from view, following Ryan to the nurses station. He furrows his brow as the second person stays put. That’s not protocol. Hospitals are a logistical nightmare as people come in and out to visit their loved ones, not to mention all the uncleared workers. Two guards are to remain with the client at all times in a place like this.
Shane doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t know the full situation. Perhaps, after the attack on Ry- on the ambassador earlier, they had three people on him here. Though it still didn’t explain one remaining behind.
As soon as Ryan- Bergara got back, he’d ask. If he wasn’t sure, Shane would borrow his cell phone and call his boss.
The nurse bustles in, a bright smile on his face. Ryan- Berg- god damn it all, Ryan didn’t follow him in, and Shane tries not to worry about where he’s at, if he’s safe.
The nurse is cute. Shane tries not to be one of those creepy patients who make the nurses uncomfortable, but he can’t help the joking and the lowkey flirting. Shane likes to make people smile, he likes to make them feel good.
“Can I get a second gown?” Shane asks as the guy packs up his things.
“I want to wear one backwards,” Shane jokes, “To cover my ass.”
He hates hospital gowns and the way they open in the back. He knows it means easier access to the wound, but it’s drafty and Shane’s pale and his ass is really not his best feature. The nurse laughs. He gives Shane a once over and doesn’t seem entirely put off.
“Sorry, no can do,” he says, and Shane sighs dramatically.
When the nurse pulls the curtain back, it reveals Brent Bennett, his coworker and closest friend. It’s not the most embarrassing thing he’s ever caught Shane doing, so he doesn’t wince under Brent’s gaze. He grins winningly instead as he pulls the blankets back over his legs.
“Hey, man! I was expecting a visit from Marchbank.”
Brent shakes his head, his lips twitching. “What’s up, cupcake? How are you feeling?”
“My side hurts,” Shane whines. “It’s cold in this room, and I have weeks of recovery. I’ve been better.”
“Yeah, that’s rough, buddy,” Brent says.
“Wow, don’t hurt yourself with all that sympathy,” Shane drawls.
“I can bring you another blanket,” The nurse offers.
“Give us an hour and then bring one in?” Shane asks, and when the nurse gives him a thumbs up, Shane winks. “You can tuck me in.” The guy laughs as he leaves, cheeks tinged pink, and Shane turns his attention back to his coworker.
Brent is shaking his head, his lips twitching. “You should knock that shit off, Madej. What if Bergara had overheard?”
“He’d be jealous of my smooth lines,” Shane laughs, waving a hand dismissively.
“Oh, I’m sure,” Brent jokes, and takes the seat Ryan had vacated. He has to step over Ryan’s beloved leather bag, and a pile of pillows and blankets next to the chair. He seems unsurprised to find the items there, like their presence didn’t speak to someone sleeping at Shane’s side.
“You should check your doorman,” Shane says in a low voice. He can’t lean closer to speak in a whisper, so a quiet tone will have to do. “He didn’t tail Bergara when he left.”
“He wouldn’t have,” Brent says easily, “Since he’s stationed here to protect you.”
Shane’s so shocked he goes momentarily speechless. Finally, he asks flatly, “How does that make sense?”
Brent’s easygoing smile falls away, and in his place is the solemn face of a man here to do his job. “Things are a bit of a mess, Shane.”
“What’s wrong? What happened?” Shane asks. He clenches his hands around the blanket over his legs. “Where’s Marchbank?”
“Marchbank had to report to his superiors, so he sent me in his stead. I’m expected to get your official take on the events that transpired and pass them along.”
Okay, that - that makes sense. Of course Marchbank’s superiors are going to want to hear, in person, how the attack on a United States ambassador was allowed to happen, and how it resulted in the injury of one of their agents. Shane deliberately kept his breathing even as Brent took out his recorder and turned it on, placing it on the arm of the chair.
“How about we start with you telling me what happened, and I’ll fill you in on everything after,” Brent says. It’s odd being on this side of things with Brent - he and Shane have always been peers. “Whenever you’re ready.”
It’s a pretty simple debrief, all things told. It is easy enough to distill things into basic facts - they were under fire and had retreated into the building, Shane and his charge had run into an enemy, Shane had taken him out - during which he’d incurred some injuries - while Ryan had hidden. Shane had just had the terrible luck of getting shot. It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last - sometimes lady luck looks the other way. Brent nods along as Shane goes back over the events, nodding thoughtfully.
“You did everything right,” He says, satisfied. He holds his hand up, as though asking for a high five, before abruptly remembering he’s supposed to be in charge and drops his hand.
“I know that,” Shane replies, slightly offended. “I can do my job.”
“Mmhmm,” Brent agrees absently. He shuts off the recorder and tucks it into the bag he’d set at his feet. When he looks up, his eyes are softer. Amused. He’s no longer the boss, but once again Shane’s friend. “Turns out your man can also do the job.”
“My - what? What man?”
“Bergara,” Brent says, and now he’s grinning with delight, his full beard moving with the curve of his lips. “You wanna know what happened after you passed out, right?”
“Right,” Shane nods. He pulls the blanket further up his chest and settles into the bed more firmly. The drugs are making him feel a little floaty and disconnected, though he’s coming up on the time for his next dose. Already pain is prickling at the edges of him, and their demand to be noticed will only grow. He hopes this meeting won’t be a long one.
“Bergara had the small piece you gave him, and your service weapon,” Brent starts. “Which is a good thing, as it turns out the group leading the attack had more people at the rear entrance than previously thought. Three managed to get by me - I’m sorry, Shane. There were more than we’d expected, and we had our hands full. They showed up just as you were passing out, and Bergara -”
Here, Brent pauses. He adjusts his glasses while Shane holds his breath. He examines Shane for a moment before shaking his head. He sounds... impressed, when he continues. “He pulled your service piece and took one out fast. The other two took cover and started firing back, but Bergara was fucking deranged, man. Made some risky moves to get a clear shot, and he never once hesitated. I’ve never seen him so pissed off - he’s usually so steady.”
Shane doesn’t know what to think, how to react. He rubs his hands over the rough weave of the hospital blanket as he thinks. Ryan’s an emotional guy, but the nature of his job means he has to exercise a lot of self-control. Shane has the honor of witnessing him losing his shit once they’re locked down in a safe, cleared location. But even then, it was usually some ranting and a little bit of a snappish attitude, nothing like the picture Brent was painting.
“Wow,” he says finally. “Apparently all it takes is an attempt on his life to make him lose his shit. Good to know.”
Brent rolls his eyes. He tilts his head back and looks up at the ceiling, as though appealing to a higher power. “Shane, there have been other attempts on his life. What made this one different?”
Shane squints at nothing. He racks his brain, trying to think of what made this situation so different. He’s not surprised at Ryan’s capability; Shane had been the one to suggest, not long after they met, that Ryan take some self-defense lessons - just in case. That he’d apparently learned them well was impressive.
Shane thinks, however, this may have been the first time he’s had to use them.
“I think,” Shane answers slowly, “That this is the closest he’s ever come to a successful attempt on his life.”
“No,” Brent says plainly. His mouth spreads into an wide, idiotic grin. He was clearly having fun.
“What do you mean ‘no’? What other reason is there?” Shane grumbled. The pain meds were wearing off and Shane was starting to get testy as the ache in his side grew. His floaty feeling was leaking out of him like a balloon with a hole. He shifted slightly in the bed, hoping that would help.
“You’re an idiot,” Brent says fondly, and Shane glares at him. He may be pouting, but Brent’s used to it. “After all enemy marks were taken in, Bergara refused all medical attention until you were seen to, first.”
That sounds like Ryan. Always looking after other people, first. It’s part of why Shane always put Ryan first - not just because it was his job, but because Ryan had so much on his plate and was still so considerate of others. He needed someone to look after him, and Shane was proud that his gentle bullying had yielded some positive results.
“He was pretty upset,” Brent says, leaning forward to meet Shane’s eyes. He seems to be trying to convey something, but Shane’s brain, preoccupied as it was with the growing pain in his side, wasn’t catching the nuance. “Insisted on riding with you in the ambulance, and he had to be pulled away when they went to wheel you into surgery.”
Shane opens his mouth, and then closes it. He knows Ryan cares about him - they were friends, and spent damn near all their time together. But it was humbling to hear how much Ryan cares, an honor of which Shane did not feel worthy.
“Oh,” Shane says finally, still stunned. His cheeks feel warm, and he can’t stop the goofy smile taking over his face. He is going to tease Ryan so much about this.
“With Bergara going… feral… over you getting injured,” Brent goes on, “You can understand how that might make things a little complicated.”
Foreboding chased the warmth that had been filling Shane’s chest. It was a good thing Ryan had taken out those coming for him when Shane could not. But Brent had mentioned Ryan being upset at Shane’s injuries and making risky moves to take his enemies out. That very much was a problem. Emotional entanglement made people stupid.
Dread forms a ball in Shane’s throat. Fuck. Shit, shit, shit…
All amusement has drained from Brent’s face, leaving behind only sympathy and reluctance.
“I - I was informed that -” Brent rubs the back of his head nervously. “You’re being removed from Bergara’s protection detail, effective immediately, per TJ’s orders.”
“No!” Shane says, far too loudly. He sits up abruptly before letting out a groan as the dull ache in his side sharpens into a stabbing pain, and he curls up against it, moaning. Distantly, he’s aware of Brent standing, reaching out to hold Shane steady against the surge of pain in his side.
“Ow,” He wheezes, “Ow. Goddamn it, this really fucking hurts.”
“Breathe through it,” Brent suggests, awkwardly patting Shane’s shoulder. Shane does as he’s told, and the pain subsides back to bearable levels. He reaches out with one hand to grab Brent’s arm.
“They can’t do that,” Shane says desperately, “Brent, they - they - they can’t. Please. I - I have to keep him safe.”
“I’m sorry,” Brent says helplessly, looking pained. “You know a member of a security detail can’t get involved with their client.”
“We’re not involved!” Shane protests, but it sounds weak and frantic to his own ears.
“Shane,” Brent sighs, shaking his head. He sounds long-suffering, like he’s over Shane’s attempts at denial. “You don’t have to lie to me - we both know that’s not true. Bergara told us everything.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” Shane shakes his head, confused. He clutches at his side and grits his teeth against the pain. “Where is Ryan, anyway? Or am I not allowed to know if he’s in the country or not, anymore?” Shane’s gaze falls to Ryan’s bag, abandoned next to the chair. If Ryan’s gone, he’ll need his things. He’ll have to make sure Brent takes it with him when he leaves.
“I can’t believe you hurt yourself,” Brent sighs, rather than replying. As Shane’s grip on him loosens, he retakes his seat. “I knew Marchbank should have been the one to tell you.”
“I didn’t hurt myself,” Shane protests, “I merely exacerbated my injuries a bit. Stop changing the subject - I want to know about Ryan’s status.”
“I’m not,” Brent argues. “I’m making sure you’re calm before continuing. I’m a little surprised you’re being so whiny.”
“I am not,” Shane pouts. “This injury isn’t so bad.” It’s not the injury making him like this. It’s the idea that he won’t see Ryan again, that circumstances have played out such that Shane won’t even get to say goodbye. Ryan has probably been moved to another secure location by now, and Shane is - he turns away from the thought. What’s it matter, anyway?
“Is this because Bergara isn’t here?” Brent asks, sounding understanding. “He wants to be, but he has an important meeting tomorrow morning, so he needs his sleep. He’ll be back after that, though.”
“Ryan’s coming back?” Shane asks, excitement lighting him up.
“Uh, yeah. I mean, his - uh. Partner? Whatever you are, you’re in the hospital.”
“His partner,” Shane chokes on a laugh. That’s right, this is what he needs to address, before Brent distracted him, before his head went all floaty. The actions they were taking are terribly familiar, though Shane’s used to being on the other end of it. From a security perspective, they’re treating him as if Shane’s the spouse of their charge.
But the guards are unnecessary - nobody is targeting Shane. It’s not like he’s Ryan’s husband, which is really the only comparable situation. In the grand scheme of things, he is a nobody, merely an obstacle to overcome in the eyes of those who want to kill Ryan. Shane being granted all the privileges of being his spouse...he isn’t sure what to think of that. He knows how he feels about it, though - pleased and a little bewildered.
“Yeah, that’s not - we’ve never even kissed.”
“Right,” Brent says, though it’s not really an agreement. “Nobody’s going to believe you, you know.”
“I'm not lying!” Shane argues, frustrated. He throws his hand up, careful to keep his other still so as to not irritate the injury on his side again.
“Bergara told us everything,” Brent repeats. He pushes his glasses up with his pointer finger and shrugs. He seems willing to just lay it out on the table now that he’s gotten Shane’s verbal report, and told him the news of his unemployment. “And even if he didn’t, we’d know just from how batshit crazy he went protecting you. You know, he’d make a pretty good bodyguard, at least if it’s for you.”
Shane makes an incoherent noise. So that’s what Brent had been trying to get at earlier - what a ridiculous notion. Ryan’s always been protective of - of his people. And what exactly did Ryan say that had everyone so convinced? Over the word of one of their own, too. Charming bastard.
“What did Ryan say?” Shane asks, tilting his head to the side. More information, that’s what he needs.
“That you’re in love,” Brent explains, waggling his eyebrows, and all of Shane’s thought processes get jumbled. In his head, Shane pictures the engine of his brain sputtering out, a smoking ruin. Ryan really said in love? “That you’ve been together for a while, but didn’t want to say anything until you knew it was serious. You should have seen him, man! He really put his foot down - he refuses to go anywhere without you. Stubborn fucker.”
“I,” Shane says, “What. He.”
“Oh,” Brent says suddenly, with the tone one uses when they’ve figured something out. “Are you embarrassed? I know you’re a pretty private person, but I gotta say, nobody was exactly shocked by this. We’ve seen how you look at each other.”
“Hrm,” Shane says, shaking his head. Ryan said they were in love?
“Yeah,” Brent agrees. “And so here we are.”
“But - but - I’m sure I’d remember us being together,” Shane says stupidly. No no, he wasn’t forgetting anything. He’s one hundred percent certain he and Ryan Bergara are not a thing. But he could see Ryan lying about it to ensure he gets top medical attention and bodyguards while he’s unable to protect himself.
What a sweet idiot, Shane thinks.
“Man, they got you on some good drugs,” Brent says admiringly. “The other day you were talking to Gordon Ramsey. You should get some sleep.”
Shane gamely lies back down as his thoughts continue to sputter. He blinks at the ceiling, dazed by the drugs and the turn his life has taken. He has no idea what’s going on. It feels like everyone’s been given a script that he was absent for, and he’s stumbling after them, flubbing his lines.
He needs to talk to Ryan.
Despite his earlier conclusions, he’s still not certain why Ryan would tell his boss that they were involved, and there are no answers to be had from Brent. He knows what he hopes it means, but...
Tomorrow, then. Answers. And hopefully coffee, if Ryan is feeling generous.
Shane sleeps, impatient for the new day.
There’s nothing calm or collected about the way Ryan enters the room the next day. He enters in a flurry, long coat swirling around his calves, and his eyes immediately lock onto Shane. His shoulders fall down to a more natural position, and his fingers relaxing means he drops his phone. He simply lets it lay, stepping over it to make it to Shane’s side. He steps over his discarded bag, and stands awkwardly at Shane’s side.
Ryan’s hands hover in the air between them, like he wants to reach out and touch but isn’t sure he can. Finally, he reaches out to clutch at Shane’s hands, carefully watching Shane’s face for any negative reaction.
“You are a fucking moron,” he says, but his eyes are wet and his smile is so wide it has to be hurting his cheeks. This close, Shane can see the toll events have taken on Ryan - he looks rumpled and much more undone than Shane is used to seeing him. Shane hopes the meeting this morning was a phone conference and not a video one, or Ryan’s red, tired eyes and unshaven face would have given the game away.
“What a thing to say to your sweetheart,” Shane says, and twists his hands to give Ryan’s a strong, pointed squeeze.
Ryan falters for only a moment before he collects himself. He sniffs, and it sounds a little congested, to match the watery eyes and shaky voice. “My sweetheart is an absolute idiot. A buffoon, who flirts with the nurses when he already has a - a person.”
“First of all, rude,” Shane huffs, smiling up at him. “Second of all, I wasn’t aware I had a beau at the time of said flirting. I can’t be held accountable!” Ryan lets go of one of Shane’s hands to grab the chair behind him. He doesn’t look, and it takes a couple tries before his hand lands on the wood, and then he’s dragging it closer and settling into it, one hand still clinging to Shane’s.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Ryan says, blinking rapidly. Shane pats Ryan’s hand with his free one, uncomfortable.
“It’s not the first time, won’t be the last,” he reassures. He isn’t sure if Ryan knows Shane’s been reassigned, or if it’s been left to him to break the news.
Ryan mutters something, but Shane misses it. He leans closer. “What?”
Cheeks turning a gentle pink, Ryan looks away from Shane for the first time since he’s entered the room. “Nothing, never mind. How are you feeling?”
“My side hurts,” Shane grumbles, squinting at Ryan suspiciously. “I want to get out of here, drink some good coffee, and take a nap.”
“Oh, I -” Ryan startles. He bites his bottom lip. “I brought you a cup of coffee, but I think - I might have been in too much of a hurry to get up here. I think I forgot it in the car.”
Shane sighs heavily. “Existence is a burden without the sweet, sweet taste of coffee.”
Ryan rolls his eyes. “My doctor suggested recently I cut it from my diet, actually.”
“Get a new doctor,” Shane jokes promptly. He’s a little disappointed he isn’t getting a treat, but now that Ryan’s here, he’s certainly not going to send him out for something as ridiculous as coffee. Shane tightens his grip on Ryan as though the man had made a move to stand.
“Shane,” Ryan laughs, shaking his head. “He has a point. It upsets my tummy.”
“We don’t want that,” Shane replies, and he means for it to come out teasingly, but instead it’s just transparently fond. He’s going to miss Ryan so much.
“I wish your tummy didn’t hurt,” Ryan says. He reaches out to rest the tips of his fingers against Shane’s side. Shane can barely feel the touch through the bandages and his gown, but just the sight of it has Shane feeling like he’d just drank some hot chocolate, warm and sort of melty.
“It’s not really my stomach,” Shane says, and rests his hand on top of Ryan’s. His hand is warm and soft under Shane’s. “And I’ve had worse.”
“I hate that that’s true,” Ryan frowns. Shane shrugs. This certainly isn’t the path he’d ever seen himself on when younger, but Shane can’t deny he’s good at his job and he enjoys it. Most of it. He’d like a quieter life but the crazy, unexpected journey that had led him to this job has also brought him to Ryan.
His job holds little interest, now that Ryan won’t be around. Maybe this is his chance to try something else. Shane will have time to think about his options as he heals.
“I’ll be down for a while,” Shane says, and hesitates. He rubs a thumb across Ryan’s hand. “So, it - I’m not - I’ve been removed from your protection duty. I’m - I’m fired.”
“Oh, that.” Ryan seems hesitant. He lets go of Shane’s hand to twist his own together nervously. “That’s my fault.”
“Don’t beat yourself up,” Shane replies gently. He hates seeing Ryan look like that, all hunched and miserable. “It’s - it’s - it’s nice that you, ah, care about me. I care about you too, man.”
“But if I hadn’t - if I’d just - and you were lying there, unconscious!”
“Things are clearer in hindsight,” Shane explains calmly. “Despite the training you’ve gotten, you haven’t been taught how to remain clear headed during a firefight. An emotional reaction from you is hardly a surprise.”
“I’m not talking about my reaction to the gunfire,” Ryan snaps. He runs a hand through his hair, ruffling it. “It was more...the part that came after.”
“After - after the attack on you?” Shane asks, confused. He had thought this was about Ryan picking up a gun and taking unnecessary risks to save Shane’s life. “What are you talking about?”
A pink flush spreads over Ryan’s cheeks. He ducks his head down to look at his hands like they’re the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen. His words, when they come, stutter a bit. “After - after everything calmed down, your team was pretty insistent I get to safety. But I didn’t - I couldn’t leave you there. They kept promising me that you’d get medical attention, but I couldn’t make myself walk away.”
“Ry…” Shane says, softly. Ryan curls his shoulders in and continues to stare at his fingers, tracing the lines in the palm of his hand.
“I wouldn’t go to the hospital to get checked out unless I was allowed to ride with you in the ambulance,” he admits. Shane makes a low, encouraging noise. “But when - it - it was pretty obvious you were seriously injured, so when they went to wheel you into the surgery suite, I kind of - I was. I was really upset, man.”
Shane scrambles for something to say as Ryan waits, clearly waiting for some sort of reaction. The air is tense and Shane shifts under the awkward, uncomfortable silence - so different from their normal, easy air.
Shane reaches out to push gently at Ryan’s shoulder. “Aww, you do care about me,” he jokes, hoping it’ll make Ryan smile. “Grew on ya like mold.”
It does get Ryan to look at Shane, but his eyes are wide and dark, his face solemn. His mouth is a downward slash across his face, and there is a wrinkle between his eyebrows. Any further jokes die on Shane’s tongue.
“I think,” Ryan says deliberately, holding Shane’s gaze, “that ‘hysterical’ might be a more apt description. I lost my shit, Shane. A full-on meltdown in the ER.”
Shane’s eyebrows raise. Ryan was impeccable at controlling his reaction - he had to be, in his line of work, when diplomacy was the name of the game. Shane had overheard people saying the most reprehensible shit to Ryan’s face, while the man shrugged it off with a smile.
“Oh,” Shane responds, at a loss. “I see.”
“They wouldn’t let me follow you,” Ryan went on, “Until I told them that you were my - my partner. I said that we were lovers, that I had to be kept in the loop. I begged to stay with you, and I was maybe, uh, kind of intractable about it.”
“Wow,” Shane says dazedly. “Uh.”
“When I wouldn’t calm down, they sedated me,” Ryan continues, as though he hasn’t already sent Shane’s brain into a tailspin, with the same awkward, earnest sincerity, he displayed during heartfelt moments, “And when I woke up, they told me you were being removed from my security detail. But because... because I said you were my lover, they were offering you a protection detail too, and I jumped on the opportunity.”
“I don’t need one?” Shane means to state, but it comes out more like a confused question. “Nobody’s after me.”
“You’re injured!” Ryan argues. “And I haven’t exactly been lowkey about how much you mean to me. What if someone comes after you?”
“But - they wouldn’t. You’re the target.”
“I’m not taking that chance,” Ryan shakes his head, his face falling into that stubborn look he gets whenever they discuss ghosts or Speed Racer. Shane knows the more he argues, the more Ryan will dig his heels in. He lets it go.
“So...what now?” Shane asks.
Ryan looks at him with those big, dark eyes. “That’s entirely up to you.”
“I don’t - uh, I’m not sure. I don’t have any plans,” Shane admits. He thinks about what Ryan confessed - the meltdown in the ER when they tried to separate him from Shane, his insistence he be kept in the loop. The tired, sad look in his eyes as he watches Shane from his chair beside his bed. Shane sucks in a small breath, and lets it out slowly. He counts to five, and then he says, “I don’t want to be separated from you. You’re my best friend, and you’re - I’m, I’m very -”
“Yeah?” Ryan breathes, leaning forward. It may just be the lights hitting his eyes at a different angle, but Shane swears they’re brighter now. Hopeful. “Is this - are - do you remember what you said? Before you passed out, I mean?”
Shane scrunches his face as he thought. He remembers saying something about Chicago, though the details of that are hazy. He doesn’t think that’s what Ryan’s getting at, however.
“I don’t, sorry.”
A little bit of the hope dies in Ryan’s eyes. But he doesn’t lean back in his chair, still clinging to some of that hope, and instead gives Shane a shy smile. “You - you said you love me.”
Shane’s mouth falls open a little bit. He licks his lips. “Uh, I - I did?”
“Yeah. It was the last thing you said before you - you lost consciousness.” Ryan bites his bottom lip. He rubs his chin nervously. “Did you... mean it?”
Shane spreads his hands, helpless in the face of Ryan Bergara’s tentative smile. “I - I - I do, yeah. I love you, Ryan. I’ve been in love with you for like, a year and a half now. The idea of you going out in the world without me there to watch your back makes me... you know, it’s, I, feels like struggling to breathe through the panic kinda thing.”
Ryan’s smile widens. “Me too, big guy. I love you, too.”
Shane takes in another breath and lets it out slowly. He returns Ryan’s goofy smile and the two of them just stare at one another. Shane feels light, like he could leap up and dance, like he’s been filled with energy. A small giggle slips out of him, and Ryan crinkles his nose as he starts to giggle too, high-pitched and overjoyed.
“So am I - am I traveling with you, then?” Shane asks, beaming.
“I’d like that very much, if you want to,” Ryan says brightly, and then his face dims a little. “Obviously, it won’t be an easy life. We’ll be in foreign countries most of the time, and the security detail means we’ll never have complete privacy… going out on dates will be such a hassle, we’ll probably have to stay in most of the time...”
Ryan seems to really work himself up. “I can’t imagine it’ll be fun for you, at all. What will you even do? I got you into this mess without even asking, and now you have your own bodyguards and all that. If you - if you change your mind and d-don't want this... this life, with me... then... I - it'd be safer, for sure, and - and I would understand if... if you..."
“Hey, darlin’, no,” Shane says instantly, firmly. “That all sounds great. I was already living in foreign countries, except now I get to hold your hand and kiss you. I don’t need outside dates - I like what we were doing before, watching movies and playing games. ‘Cept now I get to eat the fancy food you’re served instead of watching you eat it, and I get to sleep in the same bed as you.”
Ryan looks mostly convinced, with only a shadow of worry lingering in his eyes. “What will you do to pass the time?”
Shane shrugs. “I’ll figure something out. Did you know when I was younger I wanted to write a book? Ooh, or maybe I could make some funny little youtube videos - I’ve been told I have a nice voice -”
“You do,” Ryan agrees, grinning. He looked so much better like that, all happy and glowing. Shane’s favorite Bergara look, hands down.
“- and I have a ton of weird facts saved up here,” Shane tapped his temple. “Maybe I could research and make a story out of ‘em.”
“Sounds fun, baby,” Ryan replies encouragingly, and Shane grins at him. Maybe his ideas won’t work out, but Shane isn’t good at sitting around. He’ll definitely figure out some way to pass his time.
Ryan cocks his head to the side. "Maybe we can take advantage of your recovery time to visit Chicago."
Shane gasps with delight. "Really? That'd be amazing. I could show you around!"
Ryan's smile is a little funny, a hint of pain in it, but he sounds sincere when he says, "That sounds fantastic."
Shane wiggles his feet happily. Ryan giggles at his joy, which just makes Shane wiggle them more enthusiastically. When Shane glances down, he's wiggling his feet too, copying Shane.
“Plus,” Shane says cheerfully, as the thought occurs to him, “I can protect you better by being with you.”
“No!” Ryan retorts, much too loudly, “No danger!”
Shane blinks at him. “What - don’t be ridiculous, Ry. It’d be a stupid waste of resources not to utilize me in some capacity. My safety isn’t as important. I don’t care about myself being safe as much as I care about you being safe.”
Ryan glares at him, jaw clenched. He reaches out to grip Shane’s hand tightly. “How - how can you say that, after what happened? How dare you say that to me. I need you safe. If you're not safe, I’m not safe, because I love you. You're a piece of me, you fucking imbecile. If you died, a part of me would die too!”
“Oh,” Shane replies softly. “Oh. Of course, Ry, I’m sorry. I - I love you too, I hate it when you’re in danger. I didn’t think about how it’d be the same way for you.”
“Big surprise,” Ryan mutters, surly. “The past two years have been the best and worst of my life. I didn’t know how much I needed you until I found you. And you were always putting your life on the line for me, and it never got any easier.”
“I’m sure,” Shane says softly. He braces his bad side and slowly scoots over. He grimaces at the pain and ignores Ryan’s admonishments, his fluttering hands and orders to just stay still, asshole. When there’s enough room for Ryan on the bed with him, Shane pats it with one hand. “C’mere.”
“No,” Ryan says stubbornly, crossing his arms over his chest. He doesn’t look at the empty space beside Shane.
“It’s not my bad side,” Shane entices. “You can lie next to me, no problem.”
Ryan’s arms drop to his side.
“If you lie on your side, you can be tucked right next to me. We can get some sleep - I really want to sleep next to you, Ryan. Do you know how often I’ve checked on you in the middle of the night and wanted to climb in next to you? You look like a cuddler.”
The corner of Ryan’s mouth curls up. “I am a cuddler.”
“I knew it!” Shane laughs. “Good. Can’t wait to be wrapped up in your arms, sweetheart.”
Ryan walks slowly around the bed, to the other side. “Are you sure it’s okay? I don’t want a jealous nurse to haul me out of here.”
“Absolutely,” Shane says, with a surety he shouldn’t have. But it really can’t do any harm, as long as he doesn’t hit Shane in his bad side, which Shane will have protected anyway. He takes one of the two pillows on his bed, tucks one under his arm to cover his injury, and then moves the other one over just enough for Ryan to share.
Shane holds up the covers while Ryan kicks off his shoes and carefully climbs in. He rests his head on the pillow, arms bent and tucked between them. He sighs, content, as he peers up at Shane.
“Good,” Shane says. And then he pauses. “Hey, Ry.”
“Where is my kiss from my boyfriend whom I love so much? I am tired and hurt and in need of kisses.”
Ryan laughs, his breath warm on Shane’s face. “You weirdo.”
Shane starts to hum the tune to Kiss The Girl from the Little Mermaid. Ryan, as a big Disneyhead, recognizes it instantly and he chuckles.
“Dork,” he murmurs, and presses a gentle, lingering kiss to Shane’s mouth. Shane kisses him back just as reverently, and the kiss deepens just a little. Ryan relaxes into the bed, pressed against Shane, and it turns into a series of smaller kisses, the brush of lips and the sharing of breath. When their lips are red and a little sore, they part for the last time. Shane rubs his nose against Ryan’s, eyes half-lidded with sleep.
“Hey, Ryan…” Shane mumbles.
“Wha’?” Ryan yawns, tucking his face into Shane’s shoulder to cover it.
“Sorry our first time sharing a bed isn’t more fun. Got lots of - lotta -” Shane yawns, turning his head away so he doesn’t do it in Ryan’s face, “- lotta plans for what we can do.”
“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan says, sleepily. Shane can feel his smile pressed against his shoulder.
“Shadow puppets,” Shane lists, “Telling scary stories under the covers. Sex. That last one has an entire subsection of ideas -”
“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan laughs, putting one hand over Shane’s mouth. Shane immediately licks it, but Ryan doesn’t move his hand. “How can you be thinking about sex at a time like this? Rest. We can talk about this later. And you better not flirt with any more cute nurses, ever.”
Shane nods, and Ryan can feel the way his smile is pressed into his skin. He moves to rest his hand on Shane’s chest, feeling it move as he breathes. It falls silent, and Shane feels the pull of sleep. He curls his hand around Ryan’s, giving it a little kiss before settling it back on his chest. His eyes close.
“Sex first thing, right?” He teases.
Ryan sighs tiredly, fondly. “Sure, after you make coffee.”