Brian doesn’t know how shitty he looks when he drags himself into the bullpen, but it must be bad because Gabe purses his lips sympathetically and doesn’t run his mouth at all and Victoria winces and starts to apologise.
Brian holds up a hand. “No, don’t. You were totally right to think I’d told him.” He drags a chair over to her desk and straddles it backward. “How’s my house?”
Apparently she saw it after the firefighters put out the flames because a picture of a charcoal shell that Brian suspects used to be his house pops up in her mind.
It’s Brian’s turn to wince.
“Yeah, great.” He fiddles with her stress ball and, for once, she doesn’t take it out of his hands. “What’s the plan?”
“The plan is that you stay the fuck away from this case,” Gabe tells him, coming to perch on the corner opposite Brian. He starts to play absently with Victoria’s hair. She doesn’t seem to notice.
“Yeah, right,” Brian shoots back automatically until he sees that Gabe’s serious. “Wait, what?”
“Someone tried to kill you,” Victoria tells him, like he missed that fact. “That means they think you’re dangerous.”
“They tried to kill you too,” Brian shoots back even though they didn’t, really, just knocked her out.
Victoria purses her lips. “Yes, well. I am dangerous. The best thing to do is for you to lay low for a while.
Right, like that’s happening. “Fuck no. The best thing for me to do is to go out there.”
“For them to kill you?”
“For bait.” Gabe says slowly. He might not be able to read minds, but he pretty much always knows where Brian’s going with something.
Brian clicks his fingers at him. “Exactly.”
Gabe folds his arms. “Yeah, no. No way.”
“Oh come on.” Brian hates when his plans get shut down. “It’ll work, dude, seriously. We know they want me and they’re probably watching.”
“Mm,” Gabe hums. “Everyone wants a piece of you, Schechter.” He shakes his head. “There’s no way I’m letting you do that. It’s way too fucking dangerous.”
Brian opens his mouth to argue then closes it again, angrily. He knows it’s fucking dangerous but he needs to be out, doing something. Bob hates him and Brian really needs to hit someone.
“Go get some rest, Brian,” Victoria says softly. She reaches out like she wants to put her hand on his arm then changes her mind when he flinches. He does not want to be touched right now; he isn’t going to react well to sympathy.
“Where?” Brian demands. “I think my bed might be a little toasty right now.”
“There’s a hotel,” Gabe starts then stops at the look Brian gives him. Brian doesn’t want to go to the hotel and have to choose between sharing a room with Bob and knowing Bob thinks he’s a freak or not sharing a room with Bob and, still, knowing Bob thinks he’s a freak.
“Brian,” Victoria says, gently chiding.
“Get out of my head,” he snaps. He feels bad for yelling a second later but he doesn’t take it back. He should probably get away from people for a while. He turns away, throwing back over his shoulder, “I’m going to the hotel.”
They don’t try to stop him, but then he didn’t expect them to. He’s not actually planning to go to the hotel, he just wanted a reason to get away. There’s a courtyard just outside the NSA building where you’re not supposed to smoke but everyone does. Brian doesn’t even bother to act subtle today, just knocks out a smoke from his packet and lights up.
“Smoking will make your teeth yellow,” someone says and Brian turns around to find Z leaning back against the low wall encircling the courtyard. She’s holding a lit cigarette but not smoking it. “So I heard what happened to your house,” she adds when he doesn’t answer.
“Yeah, let’s not,” Brian says and takes an angry drag on his cigarette.
“Makes you mad when these assholes fuck with what’s yours, doesn’t it?”
Brian shoots her a level look. “We’re looking for Charlie,” he says. He changes his mind, jerks a hand at the building. “They’re looking for Charlie. I’m in the way, apparently.”
Z jaw clenches. “Oh, cry more,” she snaps, angry. And yeah, okay, maybe Brian should take his pity party away from the woman whose kid is missing.
Brian opens his mouth to maybe try to sound like less of an asshole, but he stops when his phone rings. He checks the screen, expecting it to be Gabe or Victoria, checking he hasn’t been kidnapped between their office and the parking lot. But it’s not. It’s Bob.
“Boyfriend?” Z asks, watching him.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” Brian tells her, staring at the screen. He points vaguely at away. “I’m just going to--”
Z waves him off.
Brian thumbs the answer button for another three rings before telling himself to grow some fucking balls already. He accepts the call and steps down out of the courtyard onto the sidewalk. He’s distracted wondering if he should speak first or if Bob will, and it’s totally fucking humiliating, but he doesn’t notice there’s anyone behind him until something soft and sweet-smelling is pressed firmly over his nose and mouth.
If he weren’t too busy passing out, he would feel completely vindicated because this was his plan to begin with. Gabe’s going to be sorry he vetoed it now.
When he blinks his eyes open, he’s strapped to a gurney. Of course he is; that’s only one step up the cliche ladder from locked in a drafty cage. Hey, maybe they can do that next. That’ll be fun.
His mouth tastes sweet and dry from the chloroform and when he licks his lips, they taste of blood. Awesome, someone wasn’t careful with him.
“How are you feeling?” asks a voice and Brian turns his head to zero in on the guy standing on Brian’s left, just far enough away that Brian wouldn’t be able to grab him even if he could get out of these fucking straps.
He’s tall, kind of skinny, wearing a neatly pressed suit under his lab coat, and holding a syringe in his left hand. That really can’t be good.
Brian squints at him. “I know you,” he says because he does, he’s sure of it. He’s a little foggy from the chloroform still and he can’t place him, but he's seen this fucker before.
Evil Scientist Dude turns to face him fully. “You do,” he agrees and smiles. It’s warm and disarming and shit, horribly familiar.
“Dr Norton?” Brian asks, voice rising sharply. He doesn’t mean to sound so shrill except for how, oh yeah, he’s totally and completely scandalised. Dr Norton was the only doctor in Walton House who was ever kind to Brian. “I don’t--” He feels sixteen all over again and hates it.
Dr Norton moves his hand in a small, dorky wave. “Hello, Brian,” he says, still smiling like he’s genuinely pleased to have Brian strapped to his creepy torture gurney. “How do you feel?”
“I feel great,” Brian tells him slowly, despite the fact he has to work his tongue a couple of times just to get it moving. “I could do with a coffee though if you’re offering?”
“Hmm,” Norton hums. “I don’t think so. Not at the moment.” He checks the level of whatever’s in the syringe and steps forward. “I was hoping you’d still be unconscious for this bit. Sorry.”
Brian flinches and tries to jerk away although he can’t, of course, he’s tied down like a fucking lab rat or something. “Um, hey, wait,” he tries. “So, like, how have you been?”
“I’ve been marvellous,” Norton says. He closes the distance between them and presses down on Brian’s shoulder, holding him still while he sticks the needle into the side of his neck.
Fuck. Brian tries to kick but it’s no good; he’s tied down too tight.
“What’s that supposed to-?” he starts to ask but Norton shakes his head.
“Just wait,” he says, softly like he used to when he wanted to try new meds on Brian and Brian would freak out.
“Wait for what exactly?” Brian asks because he’s never known when to keep his mouth shut.
He breaks off with a gasp, startled silent by the sudden flash of pain that flashes through his head, running from the centre of his forehead to the top of his spine.
It’s mindblowingly agonising for a fraction of a second then gone.
“How does that feel?” Norton asks, bending over Brian.
“Fine,” Brian says slowly, distracted. He’s aware that something is shifting in his head, expanding maybe. He can hear the faint drone of voices that weren’t there before and he shakes himself, trying to shake it off.
Norton reaches up to the wall just above Brian’s head and fingers a button there. “Good,” he says. He presses the button and the straps holding Brian down retract. Brian tries to use the moment to punch Norton in the knee and escape but he can’t quite move.
“Try to sit up.” Norton gets an arm under his shoulders, helping him to sit. Brian scrabbles against the bed but his knees don’t work right. It’s like his brain is too busy to worry about petty things like moving his limbs where he wants them.
Brian’s aware of voices, coming closer, there’s nothing from Norton, he’s shielding, maybe, but there are other voices, getting louder and louder, settling into his brain, people talking over each other, shouting and crying and laughing and whispering, living and dying, fucking and fighting and--
Brian turns his head again, trying to shake the voices loose. He tries to pull up his shields, but there’s nothing there. It’s like he’s never had shields, like there’s no such thing as shielding, like a million people have crawled into his head and are fighting for his attention all at once.
“Not a million,” Norton says, “Six billion.”
“What?” Brian doesn’t know if he actually says it because he’s lost track of where his mouth is, where any parts of his body are. He feels like a brain and nothing else.
“Think about it,” Norton says like Brian’s a lazy pupil. “Your range is what, twenty feet, thirty feet usually? Imagine if it was the whole world.”
Brian would go crazy.
“No,” Norton croons and Brian’s really got to get a handle on what he’s saying out loud. “Not once you’d learned control. You could pick out a single thought on the other side of the world. Imagine that, Brian, that kind of control.”
“I control it just fine,” Brian says, thinks he says anyway.
Norton touches Brian’s cheek; it’s kind of creepy and Brian wishes he wouldn’t. “No, you manage it. Once I’ve refined my treatment, you’ll have perfect control. You won’t need the NSA to save you anymore.”
Oh, goody, Norton’s gone all mad scientist. That’s really what Brian’s life needs. “I thought you didn’t believe me about the telepathy,” Brian asks, or thinks he does. He can’t be sure there’s any connection between the words he’s thinking and the words he’s saying. “You agreed when they said it was schizophrenia.”
Norton shakes his head like he’s sad. “Yes,” he says, “I was wrong. After the government took you, I got curious. I looked into your case more closely.” He smiles tentatively like he’s trying to make Brian forgive him.
Shit, Brian always thought he’d kind of imprinted on Norton but it looks like it was the other way around. “I’ve been trying to make it up to you, trying to find a way to help you and all the other people like you. I told your NSA that I could help but they didn’t think it would work.” He draws another syringe full of whatever shit he’s dosing Brian up with. “So I had to test it myself. I thought perhaps it would work best on a child, but that wasn’t to be and his father was far too stubborn to be any use at all. Comparatively, you’re doing very well.”
Oh good, that’s good, as long as Brian’s doing well.
“Wait,” Brian says quickly, eyeing the syringe. He doesn’t want any more holes in his body, thanks. He thinks frantically, trying to remember something, anything to stall Norton. Evil geniuses like to talk about their plans; Brian knows, he’s watched a lot of James Bond.
“Your, uh--” minions? Goons? “The guys you sent to Victoria Asher’s place. Their shielding was perfect. How’d you do that?”
Norton smiles like he’s pleased Brian asked. Brian was so right; everyone likes to talk about how clever they are. Norton touches a small black button fastened to his collar. “Sound waves,” he says, “Pitched specifically to provide total shielding.”
Huh, okay. Brian is grudgingly impressed. “That’s clever,” he admits.
“It is. Once I’m finished--" Norton starts to say then breaks off, tilting his head.
Through the daze, Brian thinks he can hear an alarm blare, and he thinks it’s just another noise in his head until he hears Norton curse.
“Stay here.” Norton stops to look at him, eyeing the opened straps before shaking his head and leaving. Brian doesn’t blame him, he’d count himself out too.
Except that’s always dangerous.
It’s hard as hell to roll onto his side, but he manages it. Sort of. He rocks himself too hard and falls from the gurney onto the floor. He’s vaguely aware of the slap of his palms and knees on the glossy linoleum floor, but the noise inside his head is getting deafening. It’s pretty fucking impossible to focus on anything else for long.
He stumbles to his feet, staggering rapidly into the nearest wall. He wants to curl up here and rock; this is going to make him mad, he knows it. There’s a medicine cabinet at foot level and he crashes to his knees, fumbling through the contents, tossing bandaids and bandages aside.
He finds a little brown bottle, can’t read the label but whatever, he’s used to dosing himself on whatever’s at hand, and he hopes this'll do what he needs it to.
He shakes out a couple of pills then, for safety’s sake, adds a third. It’s hard to dry swallow when he’s not totally sure where his throat is, but they don't come back up so he thinks he’s doing well.
It’s such a relief to have the voices go fuzzy and indistinct, easier to think around, that it takes him a while to realise that he’s high as a fucking kite now and that’s just bad on so many levels.
He needs to find Charlie, find anyone else Norton might have been experimenting on and then get them all the hell out of here. He just hopes he can stay on his feet long enough to do it.
Norton didn’t bother to lock the door behind himself because apparently Brian should not be up and walking. Score one for him, he thinks, then walks smack into the wall. Shit, who put that there?
He manoeuvres himself cautiously around the doorframe and takes off at what he thinks, hopes is a run, but might be more a canter, a skip, a sprint, a--
Fuck, but he’s high.
The pills he took have totally fucked up his telepathy not just muffled it. He can’t tell what he’s hearing, whether it’s happening a thousand miles away or just next door, so it’s kind of a massive shock when he stumbles around a corner and runs straight into Bob.
“Okay,” Brian says out loud, reaching up to touch Bob’s face. Stubble, huh. “That’s a really convincing hallucination.”
The Bob hallucination snorts. “Right, like you wouldn’t hallucinate Angelina Jolie in this kind of situation.”
No, Brian's pretty sure Bob's exactly the person he’d hallucinate. He frowns, that stubble is actually really convincingly real.
“Bob?” he asks, just to check.
The Bob hallucination—
No, actual Bob. It’s really and truly Bob inside Crazy Scientist Guy’s lair.
This is weird. He grabs Brian’s shoulders and shakes him a little.
“Wow, you are really fucking stoned. What did they give you?” Bob sounds mad.
Good, Brian thinks, except bad because when Bob’s mad he sometimes likes to punch people in the face and while Brian agrees with that in theory, he’d rather Bob and the crazy people who run this place stayed far, far apart from each other.
Brian finds that if he widens his eyes far enough, he can concentrate long enough to give a coherent answer. That’s a relief.
“I gave it to myself.” He holds up a finger before Bob can get mad. Madder. “It was that or have my brain explode, okay? And--”
“This is a bad place for a chat,” Bob interrupts him. “Your guys are securing downstairs, but there’s still guys up here.” He shoves a radio into Brian’s hand. “Here, talk to Saporta.”
“Gabe?” Brian asks, confused but taking the radio obediently. “What’s-?”
“Fuck on a pogo stick, Schechter,” Gabe’s voice comes loud and distracted through the radio. “You okay?” He barrels on before Brian can answer. “Your boyfriend is even more stubborn than you are. What’s with that?”
“Uh, he’s not my-,” Brian starts but wow, is that not the point right now.
“Look, we can’t get up to you right now. Can you find somewhere secure to wait it out?” There’s gunfire exploding behind Gabe. Brian should be there.
“I can help,” he starts to say, automatically, then stops himself. “Yeah, okay, we’ll wait for you.”
Bob shoots him a look, but Gabe crows, pleased. “Yeah, wait this time, Schechter,” Gabe tells him.
“Copy,” Brian agrees grudgingly and clicks the radio off.
“You’re not going to argue?” Bob asks.
Brian just shakes his head. He’s not sure how much longer these pills are going to work and when they stop, he’s going to be no good to Bob at all. “We need to get somewhere defensible,” he says and starts off down the corridor.
He reels into the wall a couple of times but mostly manages to run in a straight line. A glance over his shoulder shows him that Bob’s following.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he tells him, because he really shouldn’t. Brian never wanted Bob mixed up in this shit.
“Shut up,” Bob snaps and Brian’s about to resent that, but they round a corner and run straight into a tall woman in a very white labcoat, carrying a very black gun.
“Fuck,” Brian hisses and punches the woman in her gun arm before she can react.
The woman snarls but doesn’t drop the gun, dammit. It swings round and Brian launches himself onto Bob, knocking him down to the ground as bullets fly over their heads.
Bob makes a surprised oof sound but he somehow manages to make sure that neither of them crack their heads on landing.
“Your life is crazy,” he says, presumably under the impression that Brian hasn’t noticed that already.
“Yeah, I noticed,” Brian tells him and tries to kick the legs out from underneath the woman with the gun. His depth perception is all messed up so it takes two tries but on the second kick, she falls awkwardly, bashing her head into wall and Brian scrambles up, grabbing the gun from her in case she’s not all the way unconscious.
She is. In fact--
No, Brian’s not going to check if she’s dead; Brian doesn’t want to know.
“Shouldn’t we-?” Bob asks then stops, shaking his head. “Never mind.”
“Shouldn’t we what?” Brian snaps. “My telepathy’s fucked. I have no idea what you want to say.”
Bob’s pale but he meets Brian’s eye. “What if she wakes up and comes after us?” he asks and oh, right.
“You want to kill her, be my guest,” Brian says, starting down the corridor again. Bob catches up with him a second later.
“Yeah, no,” Bob says and Brian shoots him a quick grin.
“Glad we’re on the same page.” He’s got a gun in his hand now, and maybe that should make him feel better but he really does not do guns.
“Bob,” he says softly, holding it out.
Bob looks surprised. “You don’t want it?” he asks. Brian doesn’t know what shows on his face but Bob dismisses his own question with a nod. He takes the gun out of Brian’s hand, fingertips brushing Brian’s, and holds it down low by his thigh.
They move forward slowly and Brian knows he should let Bob go first because Bob’s the one with the gun, but he really cannot see himself letting that happen. Brian can handle himself in a fight, but he can admit that he mostly cheats by reading his opponent's mind. It’s scary as hell not being able to do that.
“If you hear something, tell me,” he orders.
Bob nods, seriously. Then he stops. “I hear something,” he says and he’s already pressing himself flat into the shadows against the wall before Brian can tell him to. Good, Brian thinks, distracted.
There are two guys running toward them. They’re dressed as security, not doctors, and either way it doesn’t matter. Everyone working here has shown a sincere lack of morals when it comes to trying to kill Brian.
“Stay back,” he tells Bob and launches himself at the first guy, just before the guy would have spotted them.
They fall to the ground in an undignified heap of flailing limbs. The guy gets in one really good blow to the side of Brian’s throat and Brian rears back, gasping for breath. He gets a fist in the stomach and, shit, he misses his telepathy something fierce. He hates fighting fair.
“Brian,” he hears behind him and oh, right, of course Bob’s gone and gotten himself involved. Brian can hear sounds of a scuffle, punches and swearing, the familiar crack of bones but he can’t spare the time to look right now.
There’s a knife in the guy’s utility belt and Brian doesn’t have time to be squeamish; the other guy might be about to kill Bob. He pulls the knife out and stabs hard. His guy crumples to the floor, leaving Brian with the knife in his hand, soaked with blood from blade to handle, Brian’s hands slick with it too.
He spins around, knife still raised, prepared to take down the guy Bob’s fighting too, but Bob, wow, Bob apparently has it covered.
As Brian looks on, Bob ducks a blow and lifts the gun, shoots his guy in the face. Blood flies everywhere. Blood and other things Brian doesn’t want to think about. It mostly sprays backwards but Bob’s forearms end up soaked.
Brian staggers over to him and Bob’s wide eyes meet his.
“Huh,” Bob says, looking down at his bloody hands.
“Okay?” Brian asks, meaning to put his hand on Bob’s arm but ending up with fingers on his wrist. Both their hands are bloody but none of it’s theirs. Brian will take that.
“Yeah,” Bob decides and apparently that’s it for his freak out.
Or, not actually, because he’s suddenly advancing on Brian, shoving him back into the wall. “Before anything else happens,” he says and kisses him.
It’s not a reassuring kind of a kiss, it’s full-on, hungry, want-you-now. Brian’s already feeling wobbly and this doesn’t help. If he winds his arms around Bob’s neck, it’s because he needs the help to stay upright, not because he’s feeling stupidly relieved that Bob apparently doesn’t hate him or anything.
Eventually though, he does have to untangle them. He doesn’t want to, but he has to. Getting shot to death because he was making out with Bob isn’t... Well, it’s not the worst way to die, actually. But not dying at all is still better.
“Come on,” Brian says. He ducks and grabs a keycard from Bob’s dead guy’s belt. “I have had enough of this shit. Let’s hole up somewhere and wait for the suits to do their thing.”
“Aren’t you a suit?” Bob asks, keeping pace with Brian along the corridor.
Brian laughs. It’s not a totally genuine laugh but it still feels good.
“Please,” he scoffs.
They’ve reached a locked door at the end of the corridor but one swipe of Brian’s keycard has it open.
It’s a storeroom. Not too big, but plenty big enough for the two of them to hide in for however long this is going to take. They slip inside and Brian grabs the edge of one cabinet, trying to tip it over in front of the door. It’s heavy as fuck and Bob huffs a laugh, coming to take hold of the other end.
“I can do it,” Brian argues, even though he can’t; adrenaline counteracted the pills earlier when he was taking down those guys but it’s fading now and he’s starting to feel even loopier.
They push the cabinet up against the door, hopefully keeping it shut and, if not, at least providing themselves with some cover and then Brian’s legs won’t support him any more.
“Woah, hey,” Bob says, sitting down next to him, their backs pressed to the cabinet. He puts his hand on Brian’s knee, hesitates, but doesn’t remove it.
That’s got to be a good sign, Brian decides. He tries to lean his head back against the cabinet but it’s cold and hard, not at all comfortable so he tips sideways and leans against Bob instead. Bob’s always comfortable.
“Explain to me the logic of getting wasted?” Bob asks, but he loops his arm around Brian’s shoulders.
“There’s a crazy scientist dude,” Brian tells him, aware there are better ways to start this story. “He injected me with some shit that like--” He shakes his head. Fuck, but it was horrible. If that’s what happened to Ryan, Brian’s impressed he isn’t still catatonic. “It like, I don’t know how to explain it, but normally I can read people’s minds if they’re within about twenty-five feet of me, right? With whatever he injected into me, it was like I could read everyone’s mind, everyone in the world.”
“Shit,” Bob breathes. He turns to face Brian suddenly. “Wait, getting wasted cuts off your telepathy?”
Brian winces and nods. Bob was kind of busy getting over being on fire for the very worst of Brian’s addiction but he still caught a good chunk of the lead-up; Brian has no idea how Bob’s going to react to this.
He doesn’t expect Bob to laugh, even if it’s a pained, hysterical sort of laugh. Bob drops his head toward his free hand but stops before it makes contact, making a face and trying to wipe the blood off on his pants.
“You seriously could have told me,” Bob tells him. “Popping pills because of the voices in your head is so much more understandable.”
Brian shakes his head. “No,” he says, “It’s just a reason. It doesn’t stop me being an addict.” Shit, Travis is going to be so pissed at him for this. Having a telepathic sponsor kind of sucks.
“But you--” Bob cuts himself off. “You really could have told me,” he repeats.
Brian’s quiet for a minute. Eventually he thinks fuck it. It’s not like they’ve got anything else to do. They might as well have a heart to heart in a stationery closet.
“You remember you asked me what Walton House was?” he asks, “Back before we--” He waves a hand to convey made out, fell asleep and woke up to the house on fire.
“Yeah,” Bob says slowly. There’s not much light in this closet but it’s still easy to see his flush.
“It’s a psychiatric hospital in Detroit,” Brian hears himself saying. He fiddles with the laces on his shoes rather than look at Bob. “I stayed there for eight months when I was sixteen.”
It could have been longer; it was years for Victoria before the NSA found her. One of Brian’s best memories ever is that day that Gabe, barely older than Brian and clutching his brand new NSA badge, knelt down in front of him and promised that he wasn’t crazy.
Bob looks like he would have sat down heavily if he wasn’t already sitting. “What the actual fuck?” he asks.
“They were treating me for schizophrenia.” Shit, Brian should not be telling him this; he’s never talked about this with anyone really.
“You’re not schizophrenic,” Bob says immediately, not like he’d turn away from Brian if he were, just like he trusts that Brian would have told him. Yeah, isn’t that ironic.
Brian quirks his lips. “No. I just had voices in my head.”
“Oh shit,” Bob breathes, like he understands.
“Yeah.” Brian shrugs. “I told my mom my dad was cheating on her and I told my next door neighbour that her grandson was stealing from her and I always knew the answers in class because I could read the teachers’ minds and no one wanted to believe any of it so they told me I was crazy instead.”
Not that he’s bitter. He’s totally over it.
Bob’s arm tightens around Brian suddenly, possessively. “Shit, Brian,” he says then laughs harshly at himself. “I have no idea what to say.”
Brian shakes his head. “I’m over it,” he says, promises, lies. “But you get why I kind of don’t tell anyone right? Even--” He stumbles there because he can’t bring himself to say even people I might love. “Even you.”
Bob nods slowly. “Yeah, I do.” The hand he has on Brian’s shoulder is tracing patterns against the grain of his sleeve. It tickles but Brian doesn’t want him to stop. “So how’d you end up with the NSA?”
Brian closes his eyes. Fuck, but he’s tired. He’s so used to lying about all of this, but there’s no need, he realises, he can tell Bob if he wants and it turns out that he really does want. “Yeah, okay,” he says and starts to tell Bob the whole damn story, Travis and Gabe and Walton and all of it.
“I had my own plans though,” he concludes, “I wanted to tour so I fucked off as soon as they’d taught me enough that I could pass for, you know.” He quirks a smile. “Normal.”
Bob shakes his head, right on cue. “Schechter, you have never been normal,” he says with a grin. Then he goes back to being serious, the same kind of serious he’s been listening to Brian’s whole sorry story with. “So why’d you change your mind?” He doesn’t ask why did you leave us? and Brian thinks he should get a lots of points for that. It had taken Bob and Patrick a long time to forgive Brian for abandoning them right when they were getting started, but it still hadn’t taken as long as Brian thinks he deserved.
“Because it kept getting stronger and I tried to self-medicate, but it didn’t help. You remember when I went to rehab?”
“Yeah, well I didn’t. I came here. I was totally fucked up and Travis didn’t say I told you so or anything, just got me clean and showed me what I could do if I worked with them and-- Bob, I know you’re pissed at me, but I’m doing good here, I swear.”
Bob rolls his eyes, hard enough that Brian can swear he nearly hears it. “Don’t be stupid. I’m not pissed that you’re like, some superhero saving the world. Although, fuck, Schechter, you’re a superhero saving the world. That’s hilarious.”
Brian smacks him on the leg. “That’s not why you’re pissed?” he asks doubtfully.
Bob makes an awkward shrugging motion. “Okay, I’ll admit I was pissed when you first told me and, yeah, I was kind of freaked out. Now I’m just kind of embarrassed.”
“Embarrassed?” Brian prompts when Bob doesn’t say anything else.
“Yeah, well, you’ve been able to read every thought I’ve ever had,” Bob mutters, not quite meeting Brian’s eye. “And like, everything I’ve ever told you, you’ve already known.”
“Yeah, mostly,” Brian agrees, avoiding Bob’s other point, because what can he say? It’s true. “I, uh, I liked that you told me though,” he admits, just to make them even on the embarrassment stakes.
Bob drums his free hand on the floor. “About, um. About the things I’ve thought about you?” Shit, he sounds so hesitant, this is going to be painful.
“The good stuff or the bad stuff?” Brian asks.
Bob doesn’t rise to the bait. “The bad stuff, I meant,” he tells Brian dryly. “No, I mean the other stuff.”
“Is this where you tell me you didn’t mean it? And it was only a fun fantasy in your head?” Brian’s had that before.
“No.” Bob’s chin comes up and he looks right at Brian. “I meant it.”
Brian tries not to grin like an idiot, but probably fails. “Cool,” he says hoarsely.
Bob’s own smile starts to appear then. “Cool?”
Brian nods slowly. “Oh, yeah.”
Things are getting embarrassing enough with all the smiling and the implication of feelings that it’s almost a relief when the first trickle of other people’s thoughts start coming back to Brian.
It starts with Bob’s and that’s okay, that’s surprisingly fine actually and a couple of the things he’s thinking are enough to make Brian want to smile again but then there’s more, ones he recognises at first, like Gabe moving closer and Victoria punching someone in the mouth.
Go, Victoria, he thinks because that was a fucking good punch.
Then there’s more, people he doesn’t recognise. He presses his hands to his ears like that’ll block it out and hopes like hell that the nightmare of earlier isn’t about to start again.
“Telepathy’s coming back,” he tells Bob before Bob can ask. “It’s. Ow.” Someone just got their arm broken, no one he knows, hopefully one of the guards, but he can hear them swearing up a storm.
“What can I do?” Bob asks. He’s shifted to face Brian, hands on Brian’s shoulders.
What can he do? Brian needs to get a grip on this so he can pull up his shields, but that’s impossible to do from right in the middle of the chaos.
“I’m really sorry,” he tells Bob, “But I need to get in your head.”
To give Bob credit, he doesn’t even flinch. “Okay,” he says, “Do I need to do anything?” He makes an awkward, abortive gesture toward Brian’s face and Brian rolls his eyes.
“Dude, it’s not a mindmeld,” he says but he grabs Bob’s hands anyway, just because.
It’s hard to focus just on Bob when Brian’s got all these other voices clamouring for his attention, but he knows Bob’s brain voice well enough by now that he manages to find the thread, following it in and in, keeping his breathing slow, his grip on Bob’s hands steady and--
Brian’s head snaps up. He scrambles to his feet and flings the door open, ignoring Bob yelling his name.
Yep, just like he saw. Gabe’s walking down the corridor toward him, a bounce in his step and a shit eating grin on his face.
“Schechter!” he yells, “We got those motherfuckers.”
“Yeah, not quite,” Brian tells him and twists left. He’s not exactly auditioning to be the next Penn or Teller here but there are a lot of empty nights on tour and he can throw a knife.
The guy groans and falls to the floor, Gabe spins around, his gun rising, and Bob whistles from right behind Brian.
“Okay, that was pretty badass,” he says.
Brian grins. The guy on the floor is still groaning. Brian rolls his eyes. “Shut up,” he says. “I hit you in the shoulder.”
“Thanks,” Gabe says slowly, shaking his head. He steps forward, kicks the guy’s gun away and glares. “Not classy, dude,” he scolds then looks up at Brian. “Didn’t I tell you to wait?”
“When does Brian ever do as he’s told?” Victoria asks from behind Gabe and it makes Brian grin to see him jump.
Then he gets a good look at Victoria. She’s standing there, Z at her side, and the both of them are banged up and dirty, blood smeared across their clothes and through their hair. They’re both grinning their faces off, though, and Charlie is sitting securely on Z’s hip.
He waves at Brian.
Feeling an hysterical laugh start to bubble up in his throat, Brian waves back.
Brian and Bob are weirdly tentative around each other when they finally get to the hotel the NSA is putting them up in.
It’s a damn nice hotel, but Brian’s too tired to really appreciate it right now. It also doesn’t make up for the fact that his house burned down, but he’s trying not to think about that.
Brian’s telepathy is still doing weird things, zoning in and out. It freaked him out bad enough that he actually let one of the annoyingly pokey doctors look him over at the NSA. She seemed pretty sure he’d be back to normal by the morning.
He hopes she’s right. His telepathy has caused a fuck load of problems, but he wouldn’t actually be without it, as weird as that is to admit.
“You need anything?” Bob asks. He’s being solicitous and it’s creepy.
“Fuck sake, Bryar, I’m not an invalid,” Brian complains, toeing off his shoes and padding over to the window to close the heavy curtains. So, he’s paranoid. Doesn’t mean they’re not after him or that Dr Norton isn’t still out there somewhere.
Bob holds up his hands. “Oh?” he says, “Fine. Here I thought someone had been screwing with your brain and one of your six senses was on the fritz. My mistake.” He turns toward the bathroom. “I’m gonna go shower.”
For a second, Brian thinks he’s actually managed to hurt Bob’s feelings, but he knows Bob, even without the telepathy. That little upward curl of his lip means he’s fucking with Brian.
“Asshole,” Brian says and grins when Bob flips him off before closing the bathroom door.
Brian means to call Gabe to check on everything at NSA, really he does, but he sits down on the bed for a second and wakes to Bob’s hands on his belt.
“Um,” Brian asks sleepily, raising his eyebrows. Not that he objects to Bob undressing him, but he’d kind of like to be awake and consulted.
Bob continues what he’s doing, sliding Brian’s belt out of its loops. He doesn’t go any further than that and, now he’s awake, Brian’s kind of disappointed about that. Bob’s still pink from his shower and little droplets of water are running down his throat into his t-shirt, which is white and going nicely see-through in places.
“Just thought you shouldn’t sleep in your belt,” Bob tells him, keeping his voice low. “Go back to sleep.”
Yeah, Brian would like to. He’s completely disgusting though, so instead he flaps a hand at Bob until Bob relents and pulls him upright.
“Shower,” Brian mumbles and stumbles off toward the bathroom.
“You gonna be able to stand up that long?” Bob calls after him.
Brian pokes his head back around the bathroom door. “Why, Bobert, are you offering to hold me up in the shower?”
“Yeah,” Bob tells him levelly. He ruins it with a self-conscious little smile. “That’s all I’m offering to hold though. Tonight.”
That’s all Brian would be able to accept tonight too, he’s way too tired for anything else, but his stomach still rolls over lazily at Bob’s little smirk on tonight. “Yeah?” he asks.
Bob nods seriously. “Yeah.”
“Hold that thought,” Brian tells him. This is a bad idea, getting together with Bob is still such a bad idea, but Brian wants it so much. Maybe there’s a solution, he’s just too tired to think of one right now.
He stays in the shower just long enough to make sure he’s no longer completely rank, then crawls into bed beside Bob.
There’s another bed in the room, it just doesn’t occur to Brian to use it until he’s already dropping his arm around Bob’s waist, fitting his hand to the curve of Bob’s hip.
“I thought I was holding my thought,” Bob mumbles. His eyes are only half open and his mouth is smushed against his pillow.
“You’re so sexy, I can’t keep my hands off you,” Brian tells him dryly. The fact that that’s kind of true is really not the point.
Bob snorts. Oh yeah, so sexy. “Shut up and go to sleep,” he says, rolling onto his side and reaching back for Brian.
Brian laughs. “Are we spooning?” he asks, incredulous.
Bob smacks him lightly on the thigh but relaxes when Brian presses against his back, when Brian can’t quite stop himself from brushing his mouth against the exposed nape of Bob’s neck. It’s not even a come-on; he’s just happy to have Bob here.
“We’re sleeping,” Bob tells him and they do.
When Brian wakes up, he feels achy but warm and comfortable. Someone – a Bob someone – has an arm around his waist, stroking his belly evenly and breathing softly on the back of his shoulder.
Brian stretches and mutters something even he doesn’t understand, pressing his face into the pillow and wondering if he can stay in this moment forever.
Bob’s arm tightens around him and, “I can hear you laughing at me, asshole,” Brian mutters.
“How do you feel?” Bob asks. He kisses the back of Brian’s neck and oh, Brian likes that.
“Really good,” Brian sighs then realises hey, shit, his telepathy’s stabilised. That is so much better. He rolls over and grins at Bob. “Yeah, good.”
“Cool,” Bob says and kisses him.
Morning breath, Brian thinks but Bob doesn’t so Brian just goes with it. It’s not like it matters, they made out yesterday while covered in other people’s brain gunk. Actually, that’s kind of gross.
Brian pulls back. “Are you okay?” he asks, “I mean like. With everything yesterday.” That you had to kill someone? He doesn’t think he needs to spell it out.
Bob makes a face. “I’m way better when I don’t have to think about it,” he says. Brian wants to have a look in his mind and see if he’s telling the truth, but even if he’s not, Brian probably owes him the right to lie about it.
Brian starts to sit up. “So, do you think this place has breakfast?” he asks, ignoring how he’s half hard in his boxers. He’s so used by now to repressing and denying himself sex that he’d think it would be easier to keep doing it. This is Bob though so it’s kind of incredibly hard. Pun intended.
“Hey.” Bob reaches over, squeezes his thigh. “I kind of thought we were going in another direction.” He thinks SEX in big, block capitals and Brian laughs, startled.
Bob shrugs. “Just in case you weren’t getting it. I know how you are before your coffee, Schechter.”
Brian shakes his head, doesn’t quite meet Bob’s eyes. “I don’t--" he starts. “I kind of-- It's hard for me to have sex.”
Bob’s eyebrows shoot up and Brian smacks him.
“Not like that. Asshole. Just, would you seriously be comfortable with having me in your brain while you were like, fucking me or something?” The idea of Bob fucking him does capital t Things to Brian and, apparently to Bob, but Bob does him the courtesy of thinking about what he asked as well.
“You mean like, if I was pretending to be really into something but then you got inside my head and knew that I was faking?” He looks hard at Brian. “Jesus, Schechter, has that actually happened to you?”
Brian shrugs and shakes his head. That’s only one of many reasons why he doesn’t have sex. The other ones are definitely worse.
Bob sighs and sits up. “Brian,” he says seriously. He puts his hands on Brian’s knees. “I’ve wanted you for what feels like half my life by this point, okay?” He turns pink; Bob never talks about his feelings. “You are welcome in my head.”
Brian looks at him. He doesn’t know if this is worth it. As much as he’d really like to do this, he doesn’t know if it’s worth messing up their friendship.
“Welcome,” Bob says again and oh. Okay.
Brian slides seamlessly into Bob’s mind. There’s no resistance there at all. He slips past the general surface thoughts like, is he in my head right now? and shit, don’t think about sex, he’ll think that’s all I want and this bed is crazy comfortable, I’m never getting up to the place that’s all feelings, no words.
Half a second in there and Brian can’t suppress a small, startled gasp because shit, Bob kind of feels a lot about him, apparently. Like, a mega lot. Way more than Brian knows how to deal with this early in the morning.
“Bob,” Brian says, because he doesn’t know how to say shit or me too or seriously? me? He reaches out shaky hands and reels Bob in, kissing him until they’re both just panting helplessly into each others’ mouths.
Bob pushes forward and Brian goes with it, stretching out on his back because he’s still inside Bob’s head, can see where Bob’s going with this and, yeah, Brian is totally on board.
“Get naked,” Bob breathes against Brian’s neck. He licks Brian’s tattoo and Brian twists, distracted. “Naked,” Bob says again and this time Brian does.
Skin on skin is amazing. It’s been so long, Brian had mostly forgotten the thrill of this, just making out, someone else’s skin and hair and sweat rubbing together with his.
Bob is hard against Brian’s hip and Brian’s hard against his and Brian can’t think of anything better than this. He can feel everything that Bob’s feeling and it magnifies everything, makes it more than twice as good.
He’s not sure it’s fair though and, “I should--" he starts to say, talking against the corner of Bob’s mouth.
Bob shakes his head. “No, stay,” he says even though there’s no way he should be able to tell that Brian’s there.
“Can you feel--?” Brian asks and Bob shrugs, distracted and sweaty and not really committed to this conversation at all. “Kind of. I kind of like it.”
He kisses Brian again then, cutting off any arguments even though Brian doesn’t want to argue. He can feel what he’s doing to Bob when he reaches down and squeezes Bob’s ass and he can feel what Bob’s doing to him when he palms their cocks together and it’s like an infinite feedback loop of really hot sex.
Brian meant what he said about Bob fucking him, but he doesn’t think they’re going to get there right now. Bob’s squeezing their cocks together, grip strong and rhythmic and it’s so fucking good, Brian can barely stand it.
“Shit,” he mumbles, feeling heat start to build in his belly even though it’s way too soon. He reaches down between Bob’s legs, rolling and squeezing his balls because if he’s going to come embarrassingly quick then he’s not going to do it alone.
Bob’s thoughts jump and fizzle in a really happy way at that touch, but Brian can feel there’s something else, something he wants more and, for once, Brian doesn’t feel bad about chasing those thoughts until he can read them properly.
He drags his hands up over Bob’s chest, going exactly where Bob’s thoughts are telling him to go. Bob’s nipples are hard and dusky pink and he makes broken, startled noises when Brian pinches one, hard.
“Shit, you like that,” Brian mutters and does it again. Bob’s rhythm stutters for a second before speeding up and Brian ducks his head, bites at Bob’s chest, his nipples, tugs a little on his chest hair.
“That is really fucking cheating,” Bob groans, sounding appreciative all the same. The hot splash of his come over Brian’s cock is basically all Brian needs and the he’s joining in, clinging to Bob’s arms so tight he probably leaves bruises.
The combination of feeling Bob’s orgasm from the inside out plus Brian’s own orgasm is a heady fucking trip of awesomeness for a couple of seconds, but then it’s too much and Brian pulls back, shaking through his own aftershocks.
“Wow,” Bob says after a while. He rolls off Brian but flings out an arm, hand on the centre of Brian’s chest. “Is it always going to be that good?” He sounds sleepy and curious, not like he’s demanding that it has to be.
Brian can’t help it, he starts to grin and can’t stop. “I guess it could be,” he says, not really talking about the sex so much as like, everything.
Bob shifts over onto his stomach and traces a finger idly around the patterns of tattoos on Brian’s arm. “So this whole secret government agent thing?” he asks.
Brian tenses automatically. “Yeah?”
“Do you get to drive an Aston Martin? Because I always thought I’d make a pretty good Bond girl.”
Brian laughs, started and relieved. “Bryar, I promise if they give me a fancy car, I will buy you a pretty dress.”
Bob reaches up and wallops Brian with a pillow, which Brian thinks is totally uncalled for; Bob started it. Brian snatches the pillow out of his hand and rolls up onto his knees, straddling Bob while he smacks him firmly in the chest. Brian is a specially trained government telepath after all; he can totally win a pillow fight.
One of Bob’s hands slides up Brian’s thigh, distracting him from what he was doing and oh, maybe not. Bob squeezes and Brian thinks he might be fine with letting Bob win.
Just this once.
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