Party turned out to be a truer word than Face, for some reason, had been expecting. He wasn't really sure why; it wasn't the first time Stockwell had provided some entertainment. The others were already there, which was kind of a shame; Face would have liked to see how BA had deflected his, if only for entertainment value. He always did deflect them; he had occasionally been attracted to a client, and then he'd been shy and gentle and amazingly … shiny. But hookers weren't his thing, though he was generally polite and had been fierce over their rights more than once in the past. Now he was sitting at the end of the table nearest the buffet that had been laid out for them, tucking away scrambled eggs with gusto. Face did a quick check – there was more than breakfast food. His last meal – if you could call some granola bars a meal – had been more than eight hours earlier. He headed for the buffet
When he'd loaded up his plate, he sat down in the empty seat next to BA. The blonde (Stockwell was nothing if not thorough; he'd sent them a black girl, a Hispanic, and a blonde, brunette, and redhead) sat next to him. "Hi," she said. "You must be Robert. Or is it Bob?"
"Robert," he said.
"Hi, Robert. I'm Dulcie."
She was, too. Big blue eyes in a triangular face with masses of honey-colored hair. You couldn't accuse Stockwell of not trying. Hannibal joined them, sitting between the brunette and the black girl BA had turned down. The conversation had to be superficial, of course – talk about the Mayan coast and ruins and beaches. The girls were flirty and full of fun, which was to be expected. And a few months ago, Face would have been as happy to accept as Murdock and Hannibal, who were chatting up the other three. But now, it wasn't even tempting; more astonishingly, it wouldn't have been had Frankie not been sitting on the other side of table, uncharacteristically silent. Face was just running on autopilot, waiting for tomorrow, and feeling surprised at how willing he was to do it.
BA finished his meal and stood up. "I'm goin' to bed. See you tomorrow."
"Sleep tight, big guy," Murdock said, grinning.
BA shook his head and then smiled one of his broad, happy smiles. "I ain't gonna waste my breath sayin' the same to you. See you tomorrow."
After a moment, Frankie dragged his hand over his face and said, to no one in particular, "I think I'm going to bed, too."
Hannibal looked up, ready to make a joke, but Frankie forestalled that by telling the dark-haired girl next to him to stay put. "I'm wiped out," he said. "And my head's killing me. See you guys tomorrow." He left, and she shrugged and turned to Murdock.
Face watched him leave, and decided he'd leave pretty soon himself. He did want to finish eating, but he didn't need to sit around with drinks and the girls for another hour or two and then crawl into bed and sleep it off. What he needed was Frankie. Maybe Frankie would still be thinking they were in the field, but even so they could talk. It hadn't been forty-eight hours yet, but it felt to Face like much longer. And the amazing thing was, set against the Team and alcohol and willing women, a game of cards with Frankie was winning, hands down.
He barely recognized himself.
Dulcie leaned over, breast brushing against his arm. "You're not going, too, are you, Robert?" she asked breathily.
He looked at her, catching Hannibal's glance out of the corner of his eye. Earlier the colonel had kidded him about giving notes to Frankie, but this was something that Frankie had taught him. He remembered a conversation from four, maybe five months ago. Somebody always gets hookers for a wrap party, especially in Mexico, Frankie had said, but he'd never met a working girl who wasn't happy to get paid for doing nothing and not mentioning it. But not so soon; he should stay for at least one drink. "No, not hardly."
"Glad to hear it," Hannibal "We were starting to feel slighted, weren't we?"
Murdock nodded, getting up. "I saw flan. Anybody else want some?"
"I do," Face said, his mouth watering at the thought of it.
"A little bourbon to go with it?"
"Absolutely," he said and accepted the glass Hannibal handed him across the table.
After a while a young man came out and cleared away the dishes, two more taking care of the buffet table. The eight of them sat with the bourbon a while longer; you could tell the girls were hired because they barely participated in the conversation, though they laughed a lot. The conversation was general and light, of course, but Face enjoyed it. It had been a while; before Virginia, before Stockwell, they'd celebrated like this sometimes, BA joining them with milk and sly jokes. But celebrations didn't fit the end of Stockwell's jobs, and they just didn't anymore. This was more about him being back than their getting that plane, which might be satisfying on an abstract patriotic level, or a puzzle-solving plans-working-out one, or a visceral we're-still-alive one, but hardly produced the kind of glow that came when you looked at small-time shopkeepers whose livelihoods you'd just saved. Even Hannibal and Murdock were drinking harder and talking more brittlely. But he had to admit, if BA had stayed, then even with the girls, who he had to admit gave it that slightly skeevy Stockwell air, he would have stayed too. But without him, and with them, it threatened to turn into the sort of party he wasn't in the mood for.
He finished his second drink and set the glass down with a rap. "That's it for me, I need my beauty sleep."
"That's probably a good idea," Hannibal acknowledged, pouring himself a fourth drink. He glanced at Dulcie, but Face didn't plan to leave her behind; that would raise too many questions tomorrow.
He stood and looked down at her with a winning smile. "Shall we, honey?" he asked, holding out his hand. She smiled and gave him hers. "Goodnight, gentlemen," he said with a little bow and escorted her out into the lobby. He rang for the elevator and they got in. She must have picked up on something; once the door slid closed she let go of his arm. She was still standing close enough that the tropical scent of her filled his nostrils, but the physical contact was gone. And he was grateful for that; it had just been confusing the issue.
In the last month or so Face had come to realize things about himself. For instance, he'd had to admit that well before the real turning point in his relationship with Frankie – which had not been the day he got shot; sure, Frankie had only spoken up because of that day, but Face hadn't fallen into his arms just because he'd said ‘I love you', not just because; there had been groundwork laid even if he hadn't realized that was what was happening. No, it had been that day after they'd come back from Florida, that day he'd asked Frankie on their first drive together… But well before that day he'd been aware of Frankie on a physical level. His long legs, his elegant hands, the cinnamon of his skin and the depth of his dark eyes… He'd always assumed most men noticed things like that about other men but just never said so; after all, he'd figured it out early: don't say it. He rarely even let ‘they're a good-looking couple' cross his lips, so much did he want to be normal; but for the longest time he hadn't thought that other guys just didn't notice.
And then he'd finally had to admit that they didn't, and to wonder for a day or so if that meant he was gay. But then Leslie had come along and he'd shelved that whole line of speculation. How could he be gay when he had a girlfriend? Only very recently had he wondered about picking a girlfriend who wouldn't sleep with him, and this right after the Summer of Love. At the time, while his fraternity brothers were getting laid right and left, he'd preened himself on the purity of his girl, which was, of course, as much if not more his Catholic sex-and-women hang-ups (Father Maghill wasn't as easy on sex as Father Engarry, and the nuns? Scary) as anything else. But it hadn't been a real warning because he hadn't been a virgin. A few high school experiences, some frat parties … and then faithfulness to Leslie.
And then Vietnam. The things – all the things, sex, drugs, death – that happened there were almost unreal, until they became all too real, too real to ignore. Not just the camp, though that had certainly colored his existence for years. Murdock, too.
And how many years had he denied that? Denied the attraction and the meaning behind it. Denied what it meant about him.
Father Engarry had helped him put it in perspective, and he'd settled on knowing that Murdock was … well, whatever it was he was. Friend, family, loved one… Over many years that emotion had settled into a quiet, barely felt ache. He'd listened to Jill and he'd had more women than he could, literally, remember, and things had been fine. Just fine.
And then life had sucker-punched him again. If Face didn't recognize himself now, that was to the good, because he had recognized himself all too well over the past year, the black, growing rage that would culminate in something stupid and destructive. He'd recognized it, but of late hadn't been able to do anything to stop it.
And then Frankie...
Now there was something completely incomprehensible.
He blinked, realizing they were in front of his door. He unlocked it, and let Dulcie precede him. She halted halfway from the door to the bed and turned to look at him. She half raised a hand, and then stopped and said, "What do you want?"
"Nothing," he said, glad she was a pro and that he didn't have to soothe any hurt feelings. Frankie had said that, too; pick up a girl in a bar and she wants you, all a hooker wants is to get paid. But an explanation was probably a good idea. "I don't want to get into it with them – they don't appreciate my fiancée as it is. But I can't – well, you know."
She canted her head and said, "And what about me?"
"You'll be paid, don't worry," he said. "I'm not about to say anything. If you're asking what you should do," he shrugged, "you can stay here if you like, or leave as long as nobody sees you."
She smiled at him, and for a moment sensory memory threatened to overset his equilibrium. Frankie thought they were in the field, he was asleep by now, what could it hurt?
What can it hurt?
You. It could hurt you, he'd said. And, If you put yourself in reach, I'll use you.
No, you won't. Frankie had been so certain, so inexplicably and unshakably certain. And at this minute the only thing that mattered to Face was keeping that certainty undamaged. Frankie might be asleep, he might not see him until morning, but when he did he wasn't going to have anything to hide.
He waved at the minibar. "Have anything you like," he said. "Stay till morning."
"I think I will," she said. "It's a nice room. What about you?"
"I'll share with one of the others," he said.
"You don't have to do that."
He looked at her and thought, why not? She might deserve it. "Yes. I do."
She laughed softly. "She's lucky, Robert. I'll slap you if you change your mind."
"I won't," he said. "But thanks for the offer."
She smiled again, not even a little wistfully, and looked around the room. "Don't worry," she said, "I'll be gone early; I'll just take a nap."
"That's fine. Sweet dreams." And with that he left.
I do, he'd said, but he didn't really. The temptation was very small – so small he was startled. He rang for the elevator, and then changed his mind. Two flights weren't too many to climb, and he'd hate to meet Hannibal or Murdock coming up. He took the stairs two at a time, not really caring what exactly was going to happen. Tonight might be celibate, but tomorrow?
Two decades of denial gone by the board, in a handful of weeks. Sure, Frankie knew the magic words, but Face didn't really believe in magic. ‘Let me stop you being lonely' didn't get a straight guy into a gay man's bed no matter how lonely he was.
And here he was, hardly able to wait to get there.
Maybe mummers never recognized themselves.
He laughed out loud. The flat fact was, he didn't care. About any of it.
He eased open the stairwell door and checked the hall. Murdock probably wouldn't care if he did see him, but better safe than sorry, and it was Murdock who set up the distance that existed between them now. Not that he blamed the pilot. And not that this was something he cared about, for that matter.
He knocked softly on Frankie's door. If Frankie was asleep he could get through the door, and would, but best to knock. After only a few moments Frankie appeared, enticingly disheveled in an unbuttoned shirt, which he began buttoning as soon as he saw who was at the door. That, unfortunately, answered that question, but Face pushed past him anyway. He'd figured on it, after all.
"What are you doing here?"
"Checking up on you," he answered cheerfully. "How's your headache?"
"Like you bought that," Frankie said. "Aren't you tired?"
"No," he said honestly if a little surprised at himself. "Too late, or early, or something." Before Frankie could say anything, he added, "What about you?" He glanced at the bed, which was still made up, a book lying open face-down on it. "Doesn't look like you were in bed. Yet."
"Face, we're still on the clock."
"Frankie, we're done," he tried. "Tomorrow we leave. Far as I'm concerned, we're on vacation."
"We're still in Mexico, Face. We're still in the field."
Face sighed. "Why are you so, so –" He couldn't think of the appropriate word.
Frankie shook his head and then laughed. "Look, I'm just remembering what you said."
"What I said? What? When?"
"Paraphrasing: that unless somebody was standing over you with a gun you might not do the smart thing."
"Now you pay attention …" Face sat on the desk and looked at Frankie. His lover was uncomfortable, Face could tell that, on the verge of asking Face to leave. He didn't want that asked; if it was he'd have to, and he wanted to spend the rest of the night with Frankie one way or the other. He looked away, his gaze settling on the brilliantly-colored painting of a Mayan ruin with parrots that hung on the wall, twin to the one in his own room. And suddenly he knew exactly what to say. "Let's go watch the sun rise."
Frankie looked relieved, and then puzzled. "Dawn's not for a couple of hours yet."
"Not here. Let's go," Face said. "Let's watch the sun come up from the temple."
"The temple?" Frankie was startled, but Face heard the undertone that said he really wanted to.
"The temple. It's what, 75 miles? That's about right… We find a driver –"
"Johnny said to stay in."
"Frankie, c'mon. We've done this sort of thing before –"
"No, I mean, we can't charge a taxi to the hotel without him knowing."
"Oh. Well, yes, you're probably right about that, but we don't need to. I've got cash." To Frankie's lifted eyebrows he explained, "I never go anywhere without cash. Especially not for Stockwell. I didn't use any of it, so I've still got five hundred dollars, in tens and twenties. I figure if I offer a cabbie, I don't know, a hundred? he'll be happy to drive us there and wait to bring us back."
"For a quarter of a million? I imagine so."
"No, I said a hundred."
"Temple, one dollar is over twenty-five hundred pesos." Frankie took in his surprise. "You didn't know that?"
"No," Face said defensively. "It was like thirty the last time I looked, a few years ago. Hell, it was only twelve when I was in high school. Twenty-five hundred? That's worse than lira, for crying out loud."
"No kidding," Frankie said soberly. "Last time I was here, like eighteen months ago, it was well over two thousand, and it's a lot worse now. It's been in freefall since '82." He shook his head. "I mean, we'd be down here filming, you know? And we'd need something, or they'd just come out and try to sell us stuff – food, maybe, or stuff for the set – and we'd know it cost them about a hundred pesos, 'cause we'd see it in town, or hear them talking, but they'd be offering it to us for, like, a thousand. I mean, that is an outrageous markup, ten times the price, but it was still not even a half dollar, so you couldn't even get mad. Sometimes you'd just go ahead and give them a dollar for it, which was twice what they were asking or more, but still… It always made me feel like … Hell, I don't even know how to explain it. It was unbelievable." He shook his head. "The country's going to collapse."
"We can't stop it," Face said. He couldn't have explained how listening to Frankie was making him feel right now. Angry, and a little amused, and something that felt oddly like pride… "Not personally. But we can give a hard-working driver a nice windfall, and still have plenty left over to get inside Chichen Itza." He smiled winningly. "Hannibal won't be up till ten, if then. We can have been there and back for hours."
Frankie hesitated a moment longer, and then capitulated. "I need to change," he said. "And you need a jacket."
Face didn't argue it, just nodded. "I'll meet you at the elevator," he said.
He let himself into his room. In the bed, Dulcie turned over and murmured something he couldn't make out. "Nothing," he said, "I just forgot something. Go back to sleep." How odd that she was, he thought; sleeping around strangers was just … Well, he didn't do it. She, on the other hand, apparently did, as he heard nothing more. Odd.
He shook it off and contemplated the dresser where he'd put his suitcases. Whoever had packed for them (he was doing his best not to think about that and what it meant, because, really, what was the point?) had put in two jackets, his camel sports jacket and a pale blue windbreaker he didn't remember ever seeing before. But since the camel one was badly wrinkled (first thing he'd do on the ship was have the steward get things cleaned), he put the blue one on anyway. It was probably better for this, for that matter… and it fit. He zipped it up halfway and made sure he had his wallet and key before he headed for the elevator. As he opened the door he paused and then thought, What the hell, and dropped forty dollars on the bedside table.
He stood in front of the elevator but didn't ring for it. After a few minutes, it went past him up to the fifth floor, and then began to descend again. At his floor it stopped and he got on, joining Frankie, who'd changed into jeans and that green Henley shirt he loved, with a brown leather jacket Face didn't remember. Somebody had done a lot of shopping, he reflected. Nice shopping, too: Frankie looked sexy as hell. Somewhere along the way, Face reflected, whatever he'd been doing with his life, he'd managed to get very lucky.
It was a little bit scary. He could lose it all so easily, and that would be the thing that tipped the balance and sent him straight to the Dark Side – or Hell. He shook it off. Just watch your step, Templeton, and it won't happen.
The door opened onto the lobby and Face took a quick look to make sure Hannibal and Murdock weren't coming before he and Frankie crossed the tiled floor to the big door. It was very dark outside; Merida was fairly big, but they were on the outskirts and it wasn't nearly as light-producing as Washington. A couple of cabs were parked in the square outside the hotel. "Get us one," Face said and watched Frankie go up to one, lean in and talk to the driver.
So very sexy…
Frankie straightened and waved him over. "Raul will take us out and back for one fifty."
Face eyed him. The price was almost certainly Frankie's idea, but what the hell. It was a dollar a mile, and waiting free, which was hardly out of line. He'd been squirreling money away for years, so if tonight cost him a hundred more than he'd first thought, big deal. Besides, he could almost certainly get it out of Stockwell over the next few months.
"Up front," Frankie added. "Plus, he says it'll probably cost us fifty to get one of the guards to let us in."
Face was pulling out his wallet. "I hadn't thought of that. I guess it will be before opening. Well, get in. We don't want to be late."
Frankie grinned and opened the back door of the cab. Face handed eight twenties to the young, bearded driver and waved off any change. Then he slid in next to Frankie. The driver looked back over the seat at them, grinning. "Chichen Itza!" He revved the engine and took off.
The drive took ninety minutes. They didn't talk, just sat in the dark and looked out at the Mexican sky. It was full of stars, the kind of sky Frankie liked. Face could take it or leave it, but he found himself enjoying watching Frankie look at it. The road signs went by – Hocchel Kantunil, Libre Union, Piste – and they turned off. Several more miles and in a sky just beginning to turn light Face could make out the huge black shape of the pyramid. The driver slowed and turned into an empty parking lot; he pulled up next to the guard.
"Let me have the fifty," Frankie said. "I'll talk to him."
"Here," Face handed over sixty. "Give him all of it. It's worth it."
Frankie's teeth flashed. "I am so glad this was your idea."
"You'd better hurry; dawn's on its way."
Frankie grinned again. Face got out of the car and stretched, and then leaned in to say to Raul, "Espera en al alba," hoping he'd remembered the verb right.
Raul gave him a huge smile. "Si, senor," he said. "I wait." He held up a tattered paperback.
Face nodded and walked over to join Frankie by the chain across the entry.
"Does that say what I think it does?" Face gestured at the signboard.
"Yes, it does. Yes, eight dollars. It also says it opens at nine. The sun will be long up."
"Not complaining," Face said. "It's still cheap."
Frankie cocked his head and then laughed. "You are enjoying this. Good."
"It was my idea," Face protested.
"I know. But I was worried you just wanted to because I wanted to."
Face looked at him. "I do want to because you want to. Not ‘just' but if you want to, there must be something to it."
"You won't regret it. Come on."
The guard unhooked the chain for them; as they passed he said something with one of Face's Spanish words in it – cuidado. "Be careful of what?"
Frankie laughed. "He said, be careful; don't fall off."
"Very funny. Where is it?"
Frankie led the way. It was too dark to see much, but the huge bulk of the pyramid dead ahead off the parking lot was impossible to miss. "This place is bigger than I thought," Face said after a few minutes.
"It's a city," Frankie pointed out. "Okay, it's a pre-Columbian city, but still. It's not just a couple of buildings. You could spend all day here." He laughed. "Some people can, anyway."
"At least you've already been here," Face said, coming to a halt. "My god. How high is that?"
"Twenty seven meters. But there are stairs."
"Twenty seven… A meter is three inches more than a yard, so every four meters is another foot, so … almost thirty yards. Eight stories."
"There are stairs," Frankie repeated. "If we're going to watch the sunrise…"
Face shook his head. "Suddenly the ‘don't fall off' advice seems more reasonable."
"We should climb on the north side."
"Why is that?" Face asked, following Frankie around a corner.
"There are ninety-one steps on the other sides. And the stairs on the north side are the main ones. Here, feel this carving."
Face did. It was some of that elaborate stylized work and he had the feeling he might have had to ask in daylight; at least the darkness was an excuse. "What is it?"
"Coatl," Face remembered. Weird to a Catholic boy, or at least an Anglo one…
"Right. This is Kukulkan's temple – he's Quetzalcoatl in Mayan."
Face began climbing. "Which reminds me: why was Coyote Mountain a perfect choice?"
"Oh…" Frankie sounded a bit embarrassed.
Face made an effort and remembered something from his freshman year at UCLA. "The Trickster, right?" He'd paused to catch his breath under cover of thinking and now he resumed climbing a couple of steps behind.
Frankie took a couple more, and then paused himself, though as far as Face could tell it was more to wait for him than because he needed to. "Well, kind of. I mean, yes, he is, but he's more than that. Coyote was there at the beginning. He helped make people, and the holy ones… 'No one knew what to do, so they asked Coyote'."
Face shook his head, grateful for the dark and the distance. "You ask advice from a Trickster, it might not be that good … and if you know he's a Trickster, you might deserve what you get."
"If you know he's a Trickster," Frankie began, paused, and then said, "you might want what you get."
Another pause followed, during which Face tried to think of something to say that wasn't a joke or a seduction. He failed. They climbed another thirty or so steps and Face stopped again. Frankie, five risers ahead, stopped too and turned around. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Face said; to prove it, he closed the distance between them. "Stairs are different from the flat. A whole different set of muscles. But don't tell Hannibal, okay?"
Frankie laughed, and then said seriously, "Don't overdo. It would be bad for you, and Johnny would kill me."
"I'm fine," Face repeated. "I just need to catch my breath a bit more often, that's all. Come on, we don't want to miss it." He led the way and Frankie caught up after only a couple of steps.
The top of the pyramid was crowned with the temple, its door facing the north and them as they reached it. Had it been light, Face might have gone inside, but instead he walked around the corner to the eastern side. He looked down the white stone stairway with its plain edging and turned to Frankie, an eyebrow raised. "That doesn't look longer."
"What?" Frankie asked.
"Don't pretend you don't know what I mean. There are ninety-one steps on the other sides, you said. I should have counted… There are ninety-one on the north, too, aren't there?"
"Actually, there are ninety-two."
Face had to laugh. "Some trickster."
Frankie joined him and they sat on the upper stair. The sky ahead of them was beginning to lighten but true dawn was still some little time away. The Yucatan night was still dark – sunrise was close but twilight here would be that swift, subtropical twilight, that fleeting thing Face remembered from Vietnam – and it was warm. Above them the stars were still clearly visible, bright and numerous. Frankie leaned back, bracing himself on locked-elbow arms, and looked up the sky. "This view is worth it, though, isn't it?"
Face looked at Frankie's profile against the sky and said, simply, "Yes."
They were quiet for a while. Face watched the twilight grow, revealing the shapes of the nearby buildings and the trees on the horizon. They were close enough that he could smell the scents that he had learned so well over the past month, Old Spice and Vitalis and that faint scent that was Frankie after climbing ninety-two steps on a warm night. Who would have thought that combination would be so comforting? The silence between them was an oddly charged thing that he wasn't sure of; it didn't feel like sex was imminent, but it was different from the silences they'd shared before they started sleeping together. He supposed sex and long-term relationships changed everything. He was also aware how absurd it was to say this was a long-term relationship, but the fact was, badly as it reflected on him, that he had in fact been with Frankie longer than anyone since Leslie, which made this unique. Maybe this was the right time to bring things up, because he simply wasn't sure any more that he'd been right. Frankie wasn't trained. Compartmenting might not be possible, let alone easy. The sky was white over the trees in the southeast where the sun would appear. "Why did you leave so early?"
"BA left earlier."
"Yeah, but BA doesn't much care for booze and girls. One or the other and he'll sometimes stick around, but you must have noticed that when Hannibal and I start ‘boozin' and whorin'' BA tends to leave. You, on the other hand… you don't mind drinking and you at least pretend to like the girls. So why'd you leave?" When Frankie didn't answer right away, he sighed and said, "Was it me?"
"We're in the field," Frankie said. "You said about Johnny, you had to behave the way you usually do."
"When he's watching," Face said. "I took my hands off her the minute we got into the elevator. We're not in the field as far as I'm concerned, and even if we were, that wouldn't have been advancing the mission. Franklin, trust me –"
"I do," Frankie said.
"I just didn't want to watch it. It was making me crazy, and Johnny might have spotted that."
"Stuff like that shouldn't make you crazy. There's never anything in it, and there won't even be any it from now on."
"I know. I should know, anyway." Frankie looked at him. "It's just … I got a little crazy, looking at her. I mean, that sergeant, that was one thing. That didn't count – I wouldn't have cared about that even if we hadn't talked yesterday."
"Was it only yesterday? Damn," Face said. "And that didn't even happen, not in real life."
"I know," Frankie sounded certain of that, anyway. "But this … It's why I said we're in the field. If we're not, then –"
Well, damn, and yet it was funny, too.
Frankie kept talking. "– then is this... does this mean that's what you really want? I can deal with being number two; but number two billion?"
"Two billion?" Face couldn't help exclaiming.
"You know what I mean. Sure, probably half the women in the world are too old or young or …" Frankie blew out an exasperated breath. "Anyway, like I said, it was just a momentary attack of crazy."
"You should know how crazy," Face said. "You're the one who made me realize how exactly opposite it really is."
Frankie looked at him with eyes as dark and brilliant as the sky over the brightening horizon, high over the first colors of the sunrise.
"You, Franklin. You can trust me. I will never betray you."
"You sound so sure. How the hell can you be so sure?"
"I know you."
"How? I don't recognize myself," he said. "I'm not like this."
"Yes, you are."
"I never have been." Not since Leslie, if in fact he'd been like that for her.
Frankie smiled. "You are. It's why I love you, Temple."
Temple… "With you I am."
"If that's true – and I'm not saying it is – I'm not going anywhere." Those dark eyes grew concerned. "What? What about that scares you?"
Damn his quickness. But he could answer this. "Nothing scares me. I'm just confused as hell. No, that's not true: Confused isn't the right word. Surprised is better."
"Why? I know you walk away a lot, but who's walked away from –" Frankie stopped abruptly. "Damn. I'm sorry."
"What for?" Then he realized. "Oh, Bancroft. No, he doesn't count. Really. There was a girl… in college." He sighed, remembering those days, those feelings. "She just … disappeared. I guess I took a while to get over that." If indeed I am, but that was going unsaid.
"I’m not going anywhere. You can trust me."
"I don't know why."
"Oh, Temple. It's so easy." Frankie smiled at him. "Coyote created the stars."
And that made it impossible to keep on keeping his distance. He reached for Frankie and pulled him close, feeling his arms close around him, holding him tight. They sat quietly, his cheek on Frankie's chest, for a timeless interval. Then, "Temple?"
"Hmmmm?" He didn't move.
"Look at that," Frankie said softly.
Face turned, not letting go, and saw the sun cresting the trees in a blaze of gold under the red, crimson, purple, and deep blue bands reaching up into the sky over their heads. He sighed. "Pretty," he acknowledged. Frankie laughed softly.
Birds had been calling for some time, and as the sun rose higher they broke out into a real chorus of screams, calls, and hoots. Parrots, he supposed, and other tropical birds. There were wild parrots in LA, but he'd never been around them first thing in the morning. He sat up and looked down the side of the pyramid. He let go of Frankie and, putting his hand on the leather-clad shoulder, leveraged himself to his feet. Stretching, he walked around the corner to look around.
"This place is huge," he said to the approaching Frankie. "I had no idea." He waved his hand outwards. "I thought there was one pyramid, one temple, maybe a few other things. This is enormous."
"It is." Frankie sounded a bit proud. Face filed that away for later teasing. "Like I said, you could spend all day here, or more."
"Yeah, no kidding. But not today, unfortunately."
Frankie looked at his watch. "No kidding. It's almost 6:30."
"We've got plenty of time still," Face said. "But okay, we'll go." He walked along the edge of the platform, looking along the view to the west and then the northwest.
"That's the Ball Court," said Frankie. "It's the biggest one they've found."
"I should have brought the camera," he said. "Oh, well. Maybe we'll get back here."
"We don't have to," said Frankie.
"No," Face said, looking at him. "No. No, we don't. But I'm glad we came." Without waiting for an answer he started down the ninety-two steps on the north face. Frankie followed him silently, catching up a quarter of the way down. At the foot of the steps Face stopped for a good look at the stylized feathered serpents on either balustrade, running his hands over the curves and angles. Frankie tapped one of them gently and murmured something too soft to hear, and then looked over at the cafeteria building.
"It's too early," Face said. "They'll be serving breakfast when we get back to the hotel."
"Well, then, let's go."
Raul was sleeping, his paperback draped over the steering wheel. "Despiertate, Raul," Frankie said. "We need to get back."
Raul sat up and rubbed his face. "The sunrise," he said, "very beautiful, no?"
"Very beautiful, yes," Face said. "The whole place."
Raul beamed and started the car.
The return trip only took seventy-five minutes, as Raul could now see the roads. They didn't talk much, because there wasn't much to say they wanted Raul to hear, just leaned back against the seat and looked out at the scenery and each other looking at the scenery, and every now and then just at each other. The traffic got heavy when they got to Merida, but Raul bulled his way through it, horn and accelerator getting about three times as much work as the brakes. He came to a screeching halt in front of the hotel. "Gracias, senores," he said as they got out. "I thank you very, very much, and hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in Mexico."
Frankie said something in Spanish, and on impulse Face pulled out another twenty. "Gracias, Raul." The driver grinned again, took the money, and screeched away.
They turned to walk into the hotel and pulled up short on seeing BA, gleaming with gold and wide awake, striding toward them. It was way too late to pretend they were just going out.
"Good mornin'," BA said.
"Morning." Face said. "Is everybody up?"
"Faceman, don't you be crazy now. You know Hannibal didn' go to bed till way late. Ain't no way he be up at eight."
"No. Of course not." Which was a relief, as far as it went.
"You two have a good time?"
"Good. I'm goin' shoppin'. See you later."
"BA," he put out his hand and stopped the big man. "Don't you want to know…" That trailed off, and he tried again. "What are you…" He couldn't figure out how to ask it.
BA looked at him and shook his head. "LT," and BA didn't often call him that now, and it was significant when he did; Face wasn't sure exactly what it signified, but he'd learned to pay attention. "LT, you back now, and you safe, and that really all that matter. Long as you stay careful, I ain't gonna have anything to tell Hannibal." He canted his head and looked at the two of them for a long moment, and then smiled his sweetest smile. "Now. I'm gonna go buy something for Momma. Hannibal have a noon wakeup. See you at lunch."
He left the hotel and Face watched him, wondering exactly what he meant.
"Well, that settles it," Frankie said, his voice almost creamy.
Face forgot about BA's intentions. "Settles what?" he asked, and his voice sounded breathless even to himself.'
"If BA doesn't care that we left the hotel when Johnny didn't want us to, and if he's leaving himself, and then the mission really is over."
Face turned away from the door to see a look in Frankie's eyes he'd resigned himself to not seeing till they were on the boat, if not back in Langley. "It's definitely over," he agreed.
Frankie raised his eyebrows and headed for the elevator. Face followed him, jostling him as they entered. Frankie elbowed him back, a rough purposeful contact that sent a shock through Face's nerves. He pushed the button for 3, several times. Frankie laughed and then leaned in and kissed him. It was a quick, hard kiss, and it left Face's nerve ends singing and him flatfooted when the door opened again. Frankie beat him out of the elevator, but had to wait for Face to fumble the key out of his pocket. The door opened and Face pulled Frankie inside and pinned him up against it for a long kiss.
Frankie responded eagerly, his hands all over Face, mussing his hair and then unzipping the jacket and dropping it onto floor, sliding under the polo shirt, warm against Face's skin. Face tried to mirror the action, but though Frankie's jacket was unbuttoned, his shirt was snugly tucked into his belted jeans. Face tugged to no avail; he'd moved his head and Frankie was now biting his ear gently, and Face growled softly and then licked his throat. Frankie shivered and then pushed Face away, towards the bed. Face registered that it was unmade and, fortunately, empty; he'd forgotten all about Dulcie, and she didn't stay on his mind for more than a moment now, since she was gone. Shedding his jacket Frankie pulled his shirt loose and began to pull it over his head; Face reached to help him, but when the lean torso was bared he let go of the cloth and leaned in, running his hands along Frankie's ribs and sucking on a nipple. Frankie gasped and grabbed at him; his arms were still swathed in shirt and Face had to fight out of it. When he had, Frankie grabbed him and overbore him back onto the bed. Face went down eagerly and pulled Frankie in close for another hungry kiss, pulling away only long enough for Frankie to yank the polo shirt over his head. Bare skin met as they clung to each other, mouths seeking and finding those places they were learning on each other's body – Frankie's throat, and that spot over his collarbone, Face's shoulder blade shivering under Frankie's nails drawn over them. They were lost in each other and Face lost track of for how long.
After the first frenzy, as though they'd been apart for weeks instead of a few days, they slowed, gentling their grips into caresses. Face leaned over Frankie, bracing with one hand, and kissed him thoroughly. Then he sat up and reached to untie the laces of Frankie's desert boots. He chucked each one off onto the floor in turn, and then pulled off the thick white socks. He'd meant to go for the jeans next, but instead he held Frankie's left foot in his hands and rubbed the instep, and then bent his head and licked the length of it, holding firmly against the reflex – Frankie was ticklish – and sucked on the big toe. Frankie relaxed and moaned softly, a sound that fired Face's hunger. Now he did move upwards, kissing Frankie's stomach while he unbuckled his belt and unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans. Frankie helped him by raising his hips, and then, as Face stripped the jeans off, Frankie reached to loosen Face's khakis.
As soon as they were naked, Frankie pushed Face onto his back and stared at him, his eyes soft and luminous. "God, Temple, you are so beautiful."
Face pulled him down for another kiss, and felt his body warm against his own from head to toe. Warm and also eager: Frankie's hands were caressing his body and his cock was pushing against Face, prodding and rubbing against Face's own. They hadn't been together long enough to have a routine – Face didn't even know if he wanted that or feared it – but today he knew what he wanted to happen. He ran his own hands down Frankie's back to his ass, digging his fingers in. Frankie's hands tightened on Face's shoulders and he gasped Face's name, the name only he used. Face rolled him over and spent a couple of moments sucking on his nipples, moving from one dark nub to the other. Frankie buried his hands in Face's hair and moaned in pleasure. This couldn't last.
But one big difference: it didn't have to.
Face pulled away and reached into the drawer. Whoever had packed for him had raided his bathroom; just as Frankie had gotten his Vitalis and Old Spice, Face had gotten his selection of hair sprays, his Fabergé and Aqua Velva and the rest, all of it dumped into the small bag along with toothpaste and so on. Including the small jar of Vaseline which he had hopefully put within reach when unpacking. He pulled it out and handed it to Frankie.
"You're sure, Temple?" Frankie asked, sitting up and putting his hand on Face's shoulder, his fingers caressing the back of Face's neck.
"I want you in me," Face said, leaning forward until his forehead touched Frankie's. "I want you…"
"You got me," Frankie said, kissing him quickly and then uncapping the jar. "You got me." He laughed then, adding, "And I'll get you, my pretty."
Face laughed, too, watching Frankie pick up a dollop of jelly. He turned around, resting on his forearms and lifting his ass; suddenly, just as Frankie touched his hips he snickered and then said, "Arf arf."
Frankie laughed helplessly; Face braced as his lover collapsed, leaning on his back for a moment. Fortunately for Face's patience, Frankie was at least as eager and slipped his hand between Face's legs even before he'd recovered from the joke. Face drew in his breath sharply as one of Frankie's long fingers pushed inside him; he shivered with anticipation as his lover pushed his finger in and out several times. Then the finger was gone, almost immediately replaced by two, the Vaseline cold this time but warming up quickly. Frankie worked at preparing him, scissoring his fingers. Face tried to relax, but he was too keyed up. He couldn't wait any longer. "Now," he said, "now, please."
Frankie hesitated. "Are you sure, Temple?"
"Now, Frankie, dammit, please…"
"You sound sure," Frankie said hoarsely. He pulled out his fingers and Face felt the head of his cock pushing against him, and then into him. There was a momentary pain, nothing at all, and then his body relaxed and yielded to Frankie and flooded with pleasure. Frankie reached for him and pulled him upright, caressing his stomach as he found his rhythm. Face locked his hands around Frankie's other arm and leaned back, his eyes closed. Frankie's hand drifted down across Face's abdomen to his cock, and he added that pleasure to Face's almost overloaded senses. "God, Temple," Frankie said, and repeated it. Face only moaned as the pleasure seethed through him, building until he came, shuddering and triggering Frankie's answering spasm, his arm tightening around Face, whose fingers were clutching it with bruising force. For a long moment they remained on their knees, and then they collapsed, Frankie pulling them sideways away from the wet spot. Face lay face down, gulping for air, and managed to turn over and collapse on top of Frankie, who tightened his hold and sighed deeply. Face lay, listening to his lover's heartbeat and wishing he'd thought to set the alarm for a wakeup.
After a moment Frankie dragged the covers over them, muscling Face off the bed for a moment before he almost unwilling moved his legs to help out. "Lazy," Frankie murmured.
"Worn out," he answered. "Can you reach the clock?"
"Just sleep," Frankie said. "We'll be okay."
Face started to sit up. Frankie tightened his hold. "I'll get it," he said, stretching out his arm and snagging the clock. "I can't see it, he said, "you'll have to set it. 11:30, probably."
Face did and Frankie put it back. "Teamwork," Face said.
"Yeah," Frankie agreed, wrapping his arms back around Face. "But you'll wake up anyway. We'd have been okay."
"We will be," Face said. "But no harm in being safe…"
"Ummm," Frankie not quite said; his breathing was slowing and he was three-quarters asleep already.
But even though Face hadn't slept either, despite everything he wasn't tired. He probably would sleep some, but right now he was content to lie there, happy in the knowledge that he had managed to do what he needed, somehow, to keep this man in his arms.
In his life.
They'd meet Hannibal, Murdock, and BA for lunch, and whatever was up with BA wouldn't come up, since not telling Hannibal seemed to be the key to it, and later they'd go to Progreso and their cruise ship. And someday they'd go back to LA… He hadn't looked further into the future than a few months in literally decades; even that long a forecast had generally been non-existent or depressing. But now that dark future was as luminous as the night sky, or Frankie's eyes: the darkness of an exciting unknown, not a terror or a nothing. Face knew he was going to have work his ass off not to screw it up, because he had no idea what to do to keep someone around, but he was pretty smart, if he said so himself. He could figure it out.
He could make this work.
He closed his eyes and listened to Frankie's heartbeat.
What happens in the field, the sergeants had always said, stays in the field. And maybe things could get attached, so you couldn't keep them entirely out of the field. But if you brought it to the field, you could take it home with you. That was the thing, wasn't it? If you couldn't leave it behind at home, you couldn't leave it behind anywhere.
He sighed. Frankie's arm tightened briefly. Face smiled and relaxed utterly.
|Part One||Part Two||Part Three||Part Four||Part Five||Part Six|
|Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans|
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