So–it was Wednesday, which normally is sort of a big day for me, but it was raining and I was crampy and I sort of skipped aqua. I mean, still kids after school activities, but I have to admit, the extra time was put to good use!
So, got some writing done, and since the most exciting thing to happen to us was Squish getting a soccer ball shaped bruise on her thigh from playing goalie again, I think it’s safe to say it’s time to escape into fiction.
Everyone, enjoy Part 6!
Hiding the Moon–Part 6
Burton set up security measures at the windows and the doorway, including mirrors in the high corners of the windows to see if anybody was approaching their front facing hotel who shouldn’t, and setting up his laptop so he could tap into the lobby camera footage and see if anybody was crossing the front who looked suspicious. Then he checked access to the ventilation system through the ceiling vent in the bathroom, and set tiny charges in a hole configuration in the closet–if the doors and the window were both blocked, Ernie could hide in the ventilation while Burton escaped through the closet.
Three exits and a contingency plan–Burton had been an A student in special ops, and he didn’t let shit hang.
Finally he was done securing their locale, and time to make a decision.
Digging through his duffel he pulled out his emergency phone and set it up to charge, then sat for a second, staring from one to the other.
Both of them were smartphones, but one had been outfitted for him by his op commander and given to him by his handler and he’d trusted both of them to have his back.
The other one he’d outfitted all on his lonesome, and it was set to bounce off a number of satellites and receiving stations with every call.
One of these was untraceable except by friends.
The other assumed he had no friends in the one place he was supposed to have brothers.
He looked at both phones and then looked at Ernie, asleep and as trusting as a child.
Ernie needed him to give up any illusions to safety and to trust a murderer and a thief with his well being.
God, Burton hated ambiguity.
With a sigh he picked up the untraceable phone and called Jason’s number.
“Who in the fuck has this numb–“
“Jason!” Burton hissed. “Stop talking and call me Snider.” Their code name, over the years. Don’t contact me unless Snider calls, was code for, I’m out unless there’s a death in the family or a military coup of our nation. If Burton wanted Jason to call him Snider, then shit had hit the fan.
“Snider,” Jason said, voice cooling to glacial. “So good to hear your voice. We thought everything was proceeding normally.”
“The target was… unviable,” Burton told him, which was a little bit of a lie, but not too much if it kept Ernie off his radar. “I walked away. He was wearing uncomfortable pants, if you know what I mean.”
C’mon, Jason… remember all the people their unit considered enemies.
“Not denim?” Jason asked carefully. “Something heavier?”
“Yup–but still making head lines, right?” A child’s joke– corduroy pillows making headlines, but Burton was pretty sure Jason would get it.
“Fuck,” Jason rasped. “Seriously? Those kinds of pants? Not, like, linen?”
“No, Jason, not linen pants. Jesus. Who gave you that fucking contract?”
Burton could hear Jason’s caught breath. “A naval commander from San Diego,” he said softly. “But I’ve done some digging of my own, and I seriously think he’s pulling a Bob’s-in-the-bathroom here.”
They’d joked about it. When a target had been too hard to find, when too many people had claimed to have seen somebody who eluded surveillance again and again, they’d told the story about the high school student who’d never gone to class and had all his friends tell people that Bob was in the bathroom. 98% of the time the target was just lucky. The other 2% he was already dead. Bob was never, ever in the bathroom–he was just damned hard to find.
“Seriously–he’s stationed in San Diego, but he’s having all his calls routed to a number in Nevada. He used to be in charge of a unit called Behavior Modification–but there was some sort of… I don’t know. Scandal. Nobody’s talking and everybody looks fucking uncomfortable when it’s mentioned. And this guy is everywhere except in his office doing his fucking job. “
Burton chuffed out a breath. “Well he tried to use the Marines like a sledgehammer on a baby seal’s head, and I want blood.”
Jason grunted. “You…” He took another deep breath. “I can grant you leave,” he said after a moment. “Six month’s leave. In six months, come back looking rested and able, or turn in your papers. And don’t tell me about your tip to Tahiti and there’d better not be any fucking pictures, understand?”
Burton understood completely. HIs job was to take care of domestic terrorists under the radar. If someone in the U.S. Military was working as a terrorist–or just as a cog in a mercenary assassins guild–the military didn’t want to acknowledge a fucking thing.
But they wouldn’t mind if Burton took care of the problem, either.
Burton looked over to where Ernie was sleeping again, except Ernie was regarding him soberly with big brown eyes. He didn’t say a word, just blinked slowly, like he was trusting Burton to take care of the scary things so he could focus on the tiny little rituals that Burton was starting to suspect kept him sane.
“I’ll turn this phone on again in six months,” Burton said coldly.
“Take care,” Jason told him. “And out.”
The line went dead and Burton shut off both the phones. He made a mental note to buy a couple of burners, including a set that went from him to Ernie and Ace without stopping to pass go.
“You chose me,” Ernie said softly.
“Kid, you’d better have a good story to tell.” Seriously–Burton hadn’t even heard all of it.
Ernie closed his eyes and nodded. “When I wake up,” he said distantly. Then, “No bad men, Cruller. Nobody but us. Can you hold me? I’m frightened.”
Burton blinked in surprise. He was built like a tank and he cultivated his silence. He didn’t like to be messed with, so he worked to make sure nobody messed with him–worked hard at a preemptive shutdown of any friendly overtures, but Ernie didn’t seem to notice that.
“It’ll be okay,” he said softly, but Ernie shook his head.
“Touch,” he said simply. “Let me touch ‘okay’.”
Burton stood from his crouch on the floor, by the outlet where he’d charged his phones, and stretched. “For a minute.” He tried and failed to hold back a yawn.
“Take off your pants,”Ernie said mutinously.
“I beg your–“
“They’re full of metal and deadly things and they have edges and buttons,” Ernie told him and Burton could not help but stare at him in surprise. He was armed–heavily–but not many people guessed that.
“But what about–“
“Ankle holsters, knives, and the gun in the small of your back.” Ernie was scowling now like Burton was being obtuse. “A knife under the pillow I can live with. I want you to hold me, dammit. You took me away from my city and my cats and my donuts and you owe me.”
Burton wanted to argue that he’d already saved the kids life, but he swallowed the retort with another yawn.
No bad guys.
Burton had done everything he could–and this could be the last good sleep he got in the next six months. With a sigh he stripped down, setting all his weapons on his desk and taking the hunting knife–as ordered– and shoving it under the pillow. He crawled in under the covers and pulled the scant sheet and blanket up over his shoulder, reaching out tentatively to put a hand on Ernie’s arm.
Ernie scooted back until his bottom was nestled up agains Burton’s groin, and Burton’s sleepiness disappeared as his eyes popped open.
“Not now,” Ernie yawned. “Later. Hold me.”
Unbidden, Burton remembered the last time he’d been in bed with Ariana, his childhood sweetheart. How her skin had been so soft and she’d smelled so sweet. Ernie smelled like sweat and like donuts, oddly enough, and like cats–not like Ariana at all. But still, his warmth was appealing, and the thought of holding a human being so close–male or female–that his heart felt warm–soothed a cold spot that he hated to admit he had.
But it was there.
And Ernie was warming it now, body flush with Burton’s, and Burton sighed and relaxed against him, resisting the urge to run his lips over the back of Ernie’s neck.
“This is good,” Ernie murmured. “I can sleep now. You should too.”
Burton’s eyes closed of their own volition, and he double checked his computer screen before he could doze off completely.
Well, he’d already thrown his career to the four winds–he was going to have to trust in Ernie for the next few hours.
He found himself falling into the comfort of the young man’s body, and realized that wasn’t going to be as hard as it should have been.