evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: The Wanton Hours Flee
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: Chuck/Bryce
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~ 2500
Warnings: I sort of tossed canon and science into a blender and hit “liquefy”.
Summary: How much difference does one person make?
Notes: Response to this prompt over on [livejournal.com profile] comment_fic, though it’s not quite when they “just met.” AU from Chuck S2.

The Wanton Hours Flee

Methinks I see the wanton hours flee,
And as they pass, turn back and laugh at me.
~George Villiers

Bryce checked his watch and muttered a curse under his breath. He was going to be so late. Chuck would understand - Bryce had bitched about his study group at length - but they’d been looking forward to tonight for weeks. They had drinks, junk food, a copy of Halo and a free weekend to break in their newly acquired Xbox. Bryce hiked his books under his arm and broke into a jog, grinning madly. This was going to be great.

“Hey, Larkin!” someone shouted.

Or it would be, if I could just get there, Bryce grumbled internally, squinting into the evening gloom to make out the face of the person trying to flag him down.

“Yeah?” he called back, slowing his pace. “What?”

“C’mere for a second.”

How about not a chance in hell? Bryce smelled setup. There were a few of the frat brothers still holding a grudge over last month’s beer pong upset and Bryce wasn’t going to make revenge easy for them.

“Sorry, dude!” he answered aloud, swinging wide to run past. “I’m already late! Catch you later, huh?”

“I don’t think so,” the guy said as he moved out of the trees lining the path, raising a gun. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Bryce froze at the sight of the weapon. That was no dart gun.

“Look, I think maybe there’s been some kind of misunderstanding here,” he tried with his best placating smile and surreptitiously shifting his books in his arms. Who knew, maybe tv had it right and they’d help stop a bullet?

“Oh, no. No misunderstanding. You’ve caused a lot of people a lot of trouble, Larkin,” the stranger told him. “So we’re going to stop you before you become a problem.”

What the hell? Bryce wondered, eyes flicking side to side as he thought furiously. Reasoning with the crazy guy was obviously out. Maybe he should try throwing one of the damn books. He was mentally measuring the distance when he heard his name being called again, by a much more welcome voice.

“Bryce! Get down!” Chuck yelled.

Seizing the opportunity presented by Crazy Guy’s momentary distraction, Bryce threw himself down and to the side. There was the crack of a shot and a bullet slammed into the path.

“Be careful, he’s nuts and he’s got a gun!” Bryce shouted in belated warning, scrambling for some kind of cover and hoping frantically that Chuck wasn’t close enough to get himself shot.

“That’s okay,” he heard Chuck say before there was another shot and Crazy Guy fell to the ground, swearing and clutching at his arm. “So do I.”

“You - what?”

But it was true. When Chuck hastened to Bryce’s side, he was holding a gun. Mind still stuck on Chuck’s unexpected appearance and even more unexpected armament, Bryce reflexively accepted for the hand Chuck held out to him. Chuck pulled him effortlessly to his feet and Bryce got his first good look at him. In the few hours that had passed since he’d last seen his roommate, Chuck had undergone a drastic change.

Gone were the floppy curls, the flannel and the jeans. His hair was shorter, neater and that was a tailored suit he was wearing. He moved steadily, with confidence, and handled the gun like he’d been doing it for years. And Bryce could have sworn he looked older - maybe old enough that he might well have been doing this for years.

Bryce shook his head in bewilderment. What the fuck was going on here?

“Are you okay?” Chuck asked Bryce, looking him up and down.

“Yeah, sure,” Bryce answered blithely. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He was only going insane, after all.

“I can fix that,” Crazy Guy snarled, bloodied hands groping for the gun he’d dropped.

“Not before I fix you,” Chuck replied grimly, launching himself across the distance between them and kicking the gun out of reach.

“Stay back!” he shouted as Bryce edged towards them, seized by the notion that he should be participating in his own rescue. “You’re the one he’s here for!”

Not that Chuck seemed to need any help. He neatly kicked the weapon out of (Not So?) Crazy Guy’s reach, following it up with a really nifty elbow strike to the face that knocked Crazy Guy back to the ground in a groaning heap.

“How did you do that?” he asked Chuck, fascinated. Chuck was pretty much the best guy Bryce had ever known but he was no kicker-of-ass, taker-of-names. Or at least, Bryce hadn’t thought he was. “And what did you mean, he’s here for me?”

“Hold that thought,” Chuck told him, kneeling beside the dazed gunman.

Bryce raised his eyebrows when Chuck produced a pair of handcuffs, snapping them around Crazy Guy’s wrists with the ease of familiarity. Prisoner thus secured, Chuck switched his attention to rifling through Crazy Guy’s pockets, eventually fishing out some kind of handheld device.

“What is that?” Bryce asked, sidling closer. It didn’t look like any tech toy he’d ever seen before - was that a touch screen?

“Oh nothing,” Chuck answered absently, rapidly typing something on the screen before dropping it back into the Crazy Guy’s jacket. “And we should get going before someone comes to check out the noise.”

He was on his feet and moving before Bryce could argue, one hand catching Bryce’s elbow and dragging him along as he hurried away.

“What about the crazy guy with the gun?” Bryce persisted, twisting around for another look.

“Don’t worry - he won’t be hanging around to bother anyone else,” Chuck assured him grimly as they turned the corner.

“But-” Bryce started, digging his heels in and dragging them to a stop.

“Bryce,” Chuck cut across his burgeoning protest, tugging Bryce’s arm until he met his eyes. “Trust me, okay?”

And damn it, Bryce did.

“Okay.” He took a deep breath and swallowed the questions tumbling through his head. “All right. I’ll follow your lead.”

The concession won him a smile that was pure Chuck and he grinned back despite himself, falling into step beside Chuck as he led the way back to the frat house. They passed a few people on their way back, earning a few curious looks and a raucous outburst from a wandering cluster of their frat brothers.

“Looking good, Chuck!” Toby hooted, to a chorus of wolf-whistles. “Big date tonight?”

“Yeah, right up until this guy drunk-dialed me,” Chuck complained without missing a beat, thumping Bryce lightly on the shoulder.

Bryce obligingly stumbled under the gentle blow, beaming indiscriminately at everyone. “Heeey, guys!”

Chuck heaved a long-suffering sigh and looped an arm around Bryce’s waist to keep him steady on his feet.

There was a round of snickers and approving shouts as their brothers streamed past on their way to their own drunken adventures. “Way to get the party started, Bryce!”

Bryce waved after them, letting Chuck steer him back to the entrance to the house.

“You should be okay from here,” Chuck said, turning him loose at the foot of the steps.

“I should - okay, what? The hell is going on, Chuck?” Bryce demanded. “With the guns and the crazy guy and you - you’re not exactly being yourself here.”

Chuck shook his head, fond amusement in his eyes. “Can’t tell you that, Bryce. That’s not how these things work. Though I’ll bet you’ve got some really interesting guesses by now.”

“Sure. Interesting,” Bryce snorted. “That’s one word for it,” he added in a dark mutter.

Impossible and insane were a couple of others. Unbelievable was ranking pretty high in the running, too.

“Go on,” Chuck urged him, waving a hand at the door behind Bryce. “There’s someone waiting for you, am I right?”

“How do you even - no, never mind. I know. You can’t tell me.” Bryce scowled at Chuck’s grin. He didn’t have to look so pleased about it.

“You’ll get your own back,” Chuck assured him drily. He hesitated, expression sobering as he stared at Bryce. “Just promise me you’ll remember something, okay?”

“Sure, why not?” Flippancy was really the only possible answer, Bryce thought.

Chuck’s answering grin was fleeting, eyes dark and serious as he cupped Bryce’s cheek in a large, warm hand. “When the time comes, you do what you have to do, all right? We’ll work it all out in the end, I promise,” he said softly.

He turned and walked away without another word. His hand dipped into his pocket, emerging with another one of those handheld devices as he vanished around the corner of the house, leaving Bryce staring after him in helpless confusion.

It was completely impossible and quite probably insane but...

“If I’m Sarah Connor in this scenario, I am going to be pissed,” he announced to the world at large before heading into the house.

Walking through the familiar hallways was almost surreal after the craziness of the evening and Bryce found himself hesitating just outside the room he shared with Chuck. His Chuck, not the Chuck who’d just walked away from him. He fumbled with his keys, irrationally afraid of what he’d find on the other side of the door. He wasn’t left to worry for long.

“Bryce!” Chuck flung open the door and was on him in an instant, all long-limbed enthusiasm, practically bouncing with impatience. “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting - oh my God! Are you okay? What happened?”

Yeah, this was his Chuck all right and Bryce sighed in relief. Distracted from the night’s brain-breaking events by Chuck’s flustered concern, Bryce glanced down at himself and was surprised to see that he was a mess.

No wonder everyone was so quick to assume he was drunk, he thought as he brushed at the dust streaking his jeans. He hissed abruptly at the fierce stinging that erupted in his hands, staring down in confusion at his abraded palms.

You’d think I’d remember that happening, at least.

“Come on, Bryce, talk to me,” Chuck prodded anxiously. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Bryce assured him. “Sorry - ran into a bit of trouble on the way home. Just let me get cleaned up and we can get on with it.”

“A bit of trouble?” Chuck echoed fretfully. “You look like you got rolled across half the quad! Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m sure,” Bryce promised, gently shoving Chuck out of the way so that he could get some clean clothes. “And don’t think this means I won’t kick your ass at Halo!”

Chuck scoffed. “It’ll take more than a few measly scrapes to make me go easy on you!” he shot back, worry fading as his attention turned back to their gaming plans.

Bryce hid a grin as he dragged his shirt over his head. He could use a bit of normal just now. There’d be time enough to worry about the rest of it later.

* * * * *

Bryce lifted his head when he heard the knock at the door to his hotel room. Sarah’d called him earlier in the week with a warning that someone had it in for him, moreso than usual. Bryce had thanked her for the heads up, done a bit of mental math factoring in the truly weird rumours he’d heard recently, and then booked a flight for L.A. He’d checked Team Bartowski’s status when he arrived, then sent a single text to Chuck: the name of his hotel and the room number. Bryce padded across his hotel room and opened the door, unsurprised to find Chuck standing there in a suit Bryce last saw him wearing eight years ago.

“You’re here,” Chuck breathed as soon as the door opened, staring at him in wide-eyed relief.

“That I am,” Bryce confirmed, leaning one shoulder against the doorframe.

“And you’re - you? With, you know, everything still there?” Chuck anxiously waved one hand beside his temple.

“Far as I can tell,” Bryce replied. “Stanford, Sarah, the Intersect, two too many bullets and all. Though how I’d know if anything was missing is kind of an interesting questio-”

Chuck didn’t let him finish.

“Jesus Christ, Bryce,” he burst out, shoving his way into the room.

Bryce let himself be swept out of the doorway, heard the door slam as Chuck kicked it shut. His back hit the wall with enough force to jar the air from his lungs, not that the fierce kiss Chuck dragged him into would have left him with a lot of breath to spare.

“So, do I finally get to hear why you stopped in for a visit back in college?” Bryce asked after Chuck let him up for air, one hand hooked around the back of Chuck’s neck while the other was splayed across Chuck’s back. “Or can I just assume that Project Zero Hour had something to do with it?”

There was a huff of air against his throat. “I thought I was supposed to be the one with the top secret database,” Chuck complained feebly.

Bryce shrugged as best he could while pinned to the wall under Chuck’s weight. “You have the Intersect but I have contacts,” he said.

“Yeah, well, your contacts were right. The project head had you figured for the linchpin for the trouble we made for Fulcrum and the Ring so he sent someone back to deal with you before you became a threat.”

“Nasty,” Bryce remarked. “Thanks for the save. I take it there’s nothing left of the Zero Hour research?”

Chuck nodded tightly. “Not taking any more chances, not after I almost lost you before I ever had you,” Chuck muttered into his ear, a faint tremor still shaking the hands that clutched at him.

Bryce tightened the clasp he had on the back of Chuck’s neck in silent reassurance. “I guess this wouldn’t be the right time to start debating how much danger I was actually in if you’d already saved me?” he asked lightly.

“Really really not,” Chuck agreed with a shaky sigh, arms tightening their already desperate grip. “We can argue temporal theory later, if you really want.”

Bryce hummed absent agreement. “I think I can probably suggest a better way to keep occupied,” he offered, rocking his hips forward.

Chuck was already flushing, licking his lips as his eyes dropped to Bryce’s mouth. “Sometimes you have the best ideas,” he answered, grabbing a fistful of Bryce’s shirt as he pulled away from the wall and sent them stumbling towards the nearest bed.

* * * * *

Much later, tangled up in each other and ruined sheets, sufficient reassurances had been traded on both sides to permit for simple enjoyment of each others’ closeness.

“Have I ever told you how hot you are when you’re being a badass?” Bryce murmured into Chuck’s neck.

Chuck laughed sleepily. “Always nice to hear it again,” he mumbled, tugging Bryce closer as his eyes drifted shut.

Bryce let his own eyes close, draping himself comfortably against Chuck’s side. He could understand the desire to change things. He’d lost five years with Chuck to hostile silence and another two years of fumbling their way back together. There was a time he’d have given almost anything to change how things had gone between them. But now? With Chuck dozing beside him, arm holding Bryce tucked close...well. Some things were worth the time lost to win them.



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September 2014

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