evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: The Life of Spies
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: Chuck/Bryce
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~ 1950
Warnings: I see no reason to let a little thing like canon interfere with my OTP.
Summary: In retrospect, it seemed so obvious.
Notes: Response to this prompt over on [livejournal.com profile] comment_fic.


The Life of Spies

“The life of spies is to know, not to be known.” ~ George Herbert


Bryce had always been a light sleeper and years of covert operations had only heightened his situational awareness. Unexpected noises put him on alert, so the sound of someone pounding on the door of the Agency safe house he was currently inhabiting was more than enough to rouse him. He was on his feet, gun in hand, and padding to the door before he’d consciously processed it. His presence here wasn’t exactly a secret but he’d been keeping a pretty low profile. And while chances were fairly low that anyone with ill intentions would knock politely (albeit loudly) to announce themselves, there was no sense in taking chances.

Finding Chuck at the door was less of a surprise than it should have been. Or maybe it was just that Bryce was glad to see him. Even if he did greet Bryce with a shout of, “How could you do it?!”

Bryce blinked at the unusual greeting. “Good morning to you too,” he returned mildly.

Chuck scowled at his flippancy but muttered a grudging, “Morning.”

“Come on in,” Bryce invited, waving Chuck inside and shutting the door behind him.

“Did you need something?” he asked as Chuck walked past him, honestly curious as to what had brought Chuck here. Bryce hadn’t thought Chuck knew where he was staying.

“Yeah,” Chuck answered promptly, “I need to talk - whoa!”

Chuck startled at the sight of the gun in Bryce’s hand, automatically half-raising his own in surrender. “I come in peace!”

Bryce snickered. “You came and yelled at me,” he pointed out as he headed for the kitchen, surreptitiously stashing the gun as he ducked out of Chuck’s view. “You want some coffee or something?” he called, adding more water to the machine at the “Yeah, sure,” he heard from the living room.

Chuck was perched on the arm of a sofa when Bryce walked out cradling a pair of coffee mugs.

“Uh, was I interrupting anything?” Chuck asked as Bryce handed him a mug, eyeing the t-shirt and shorts Bryce had been sleeping in.

“Not really,” Bryce replied as he settled in one of the chairs, raking a hand through his hair to settle it. He didn’t mind the wake-up call but Chuck was just going to have to deal with him being rumpled. Wouldn’t be anything close to the first time they saw each other fresh out of bed.

“Are you okay?” Chuck persisted and Bryce caught him looking at a fading bruise on his thigh.

“Had a long night,” he answered dismissively. Actually, it had been more of a long week and that healing bruise had plenty of company but that didn’t matter. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Right!” Chuck said, mood darkening as his brows furrowed. “I want you to tell me how you could even do that!”

Bryce stifled a disappointed sigh. He’d kind of thought Chuck had let him off the hook all too easily for what Bryce had done to him. The many things Bryce had done to him. “You’ll have to be a bit more specific,” he pointed out patiently.

“See, that!” Chuck exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at him. “Exactly!”

Bryce gulped a too-hot mouthful of coffee for fortification. “What, exactly?”

“Okay, so I was talking to Sarah,” Chuck said abruptly. “And we got to talking about you.”

Bryce wondered how much of that talking had actually been bitching but that was beside the point. And he did deserve it. From both of them. “All right. Awkward. But I don’t see how that’s my doing,” he complained.

‘Awkward’ was a bit of an understatement when it came to Chuck and Sarah these days. There was a tangled mess of affection and responsibility between them and Bryce didn’t envy either of them the task of finding a satisfactory resolution to it. He’d be inclined to feel a bit guilty over it, what with the part he’d played in muddying the waters of their relationship, but their inability to decide what they wanted from each other wasn’t his fault. Not really.

“It was something Sarah said. Something about how it was weird, how easily you got involved with her. She said you were too - actually, never mind what she said,” Chuck said uncomfortably.

Actually, Bryce did mind and was about to protest the redirection but Chuck barrelled ahead.

“She said she thought for the longest time that someone had broken your heart, probably before you became a spy, badly enough that relationships just didn’t really matter for you anymore,” Chuck elaborated, thankfully not noticing the way Bryce tensed momentarily at the recitation of Sarah’s analysis.

And what the hell did Sarah think she was doing, going on about this to Chuck? Spies raised gossip to a fine art but this was a bit much - and absolutely none of her business.

“I pretty much laughed at her when she said that,” Chuck went on. “I mean, you weren’t exactly lacking for company back at Stanford. A new girl whenever you wanted one. But none of them were ever around long enough to have hurt you the way Sarah was hinting. I know that better than anyone.”

“Exactly.” Bryce forced himself to smile through the fight-or-flight rush of adrenaline that flooded his system, thoughts sharpening as he calculated a way out of this very unwanted line of speculation. “You know how ridiculous that is. You were there.”

He kept his posture loose as he shrugged casually, hands as steady as ever in the face of catastrophic exposure. Chuck probably wouldn’t appreciate the comparison but this confrontation was infinitely more frightening to Bryce than the last time a blown cover had left him dodging bullets. Those were just threats to his life, after all. Thank Christ that Chuck, for all his vaunted visual memory, never had been the most observant of guys.

Not that he’d need much more help to put together the pieces Sarah had so thoughtfully arranged for his examination.

“Yeah, I was,” Chuck agreed and oh, Bryce did not like the way Chuck’s vaguely flustered air sharpened into something far more intent. “I was there for all of it. I was the only one who was there for all of it, wasn’t I?”

Damn. Damn, damn, damn.

“I can’t believe I never - I mean, you practically told me yourself,” Chuck chastised himself.

“I what?” Bryce asked. He’d been aiming for dry amusement but from the almost shaken look Chuck gave him, he’d missed by a mile.

“You told me that you did it for me,” Chuck said softly.

Oh. Jesus, he had, hadn’t he? Only he hadn’t quite said that.

“Actually, I said I was looking out for you and had been all along,” Bryce corrected.

From the startled expression on Chuck’s face, the fact that Bryce not only recognized the conversation to which Chuck was referring but remembered it verbatim was not lost on him.

Bryce risked a direct glance at him, took in his wide-eyed uncertainty and gave in with a sigh. “But you pretty much had it right, just then,” he admitted quietly.

Chuck stared at him in disbelief. “So, what? You really did do it all - getting me kicked out, the Intersect, everything - because you had a thing for me in college?” he demanded unsteadily.

Bryce considered lying for a few breathless seconds, then figured he was pretty much all in already. "I didn't have much room left to maneuver," he finally said. "Ruining your life seemed a fair trade for keeping the spy life from ruining you."

“Oh my God,” Chuck breathed. "I can't believe this. I can't believe you!"

It took every ounce of Bryce’s control to control his reaction to that, letting the discomfort leak through as he shoved the hurt as far down as he could. He got to his feet, carefully putting his coffee down on the table as he paced a few steps away, needing the distance.

He kept his back to Chuck as he spoke. “Look, it was a long time ago, okay? We were both dumb kids. Some of us did stupider things than others. Can we just forget it?”

None of Bryce’s well-practiced spy reflexes gave him any warning before Chuck’s lanky body was pressed to his back, long arms wrapping tightly around him from behind. He stiffened in shock but Chuck didn’t give him a chance to get away.

“How did I miss that, Bryce? How could I not know?” Chuck sounded almost agonized and Bryce hated himself just a little bit more for hurting him again.

He squirmed uncomfortably in Chuck’s grip, stilling reluctantly when his arms tightened around him. “It’s not like I was trying to be obvious about it!” he protested. “You weren’t supposed to know.”

Chuck snorted into his ear. “You always were too good at keeping secrets,” he complained.

“No such thing,” Bryce countered. “Could you maybe let me go now?” he added plaintively, tugging fretfully against Chuck’s determined embrace. He’d have to hurt Chuck to get loose and he wasn’t that desperate yet.

“Hell no,” came the prompt response. “If I let you go now, you’ll do something stupid like go yell at Sarah or disappear off the face of the Earth or try to convince me that you don’t still have a thing for me.”

It was said so matter-of-factly that Bryce almost missed it but the last item on Chuck’s list choked off Bryce’s lighthearted promise to behave himself in his throat.

Oh no. They were not going there.

“Okay, Chuck. Enough,” Bryce grated. “Let go. Now.”

“I said no,” Chuck repeated stubbornly, wriggling himself impossibly closer.

Bryce squeezed his eyes shut and let a breath hiss between his teeth. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d be this cruel about it,” he remarked lightly but instead of the hasty denial and release that he was expecting, Bryce froze under the unmistakable press of lips just below his ear.

“Chuck, what are you doing?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice even.

“I know I’m not as suave as you are,” Chuck replied playfully, teasing almost hiding the nervous tremor in his voice, “but I’m not that bad a kisser, am I?”

“But you don’t - we never,” Bryce protested, uncharacteristically inarticulate. He’d been avoiding this conversation for the better part of a decade, so sure that Chuck wasn’t his to have.

“No, we never,” Chuck conceded. “I never thought of, well, this. But now that I am thinking about it? It’s a nice thought.”

It was, Bryce agreed helplessly. It really was.

“And you can’t honestly believe I was ever indifferent to you,” Chuck continued, less certainly. “I mean. No one else ever got as close as we were. And you’re you.”

Bryce laughed, reaching up and back to tangle one hand in Chuck’s curls. “Quite the endorsement,” he commented, disbelieving happiness bubbling up in his chest. “Even after everything?”

“Even after everything,” Chuck confirmed, leaning his head into Bryce’s touch even as he spread his hands across Bryce’s chest. “Having you back makes up for...a lot.”

And hearing that made up for a lot more, Bryce admitted to himself. But there were still other factors to consider.

“As much as I hate to ask...what about Sarah?” Bryce asked cautiously.

“Sarah’s the one who sent me over here,” Chuck reminded him. “I think maybe she got tired of waiting for us to figure it out.”

“Maybe. I may have to send her some flowers or something.” What was an appropriate gift for the ex-girlfriend who set you up with the guy you'd been quietly in love with for years who was also her fake boyfriend, anyway?

Bryce wasn’t sure which one of them started laughing but the snickers spread quickly and before long, they were leaning against each other just to stay on their feet, sucking in desperate gasps of air between bursts of hilarity.

“Ready to let me go yet?” Bryce finally managed to get out.

Chuck’s arms tightened immediately. “I thought we were past this,” he grumbled, a trace of worry lurking under the complaint.

“We are. It’s not that I want to get away,” Bryce explained patiently. “It’s just that it’d be a lot easier to kiss you back if you let me turn around.”

Chuck’s arms loosened on a surprised gasp and Bryce wasted no time twisting around, wrapping his arms around Chuck and leaning up into his mouth. It took a long time before either of them let go again.

Fin

End Note: Chuck’s mistaken memory of the conversation in the courtyard in episode 2.03 (ie: “I did it for you” instead of "I was looking out for you") is actually exactly how I misremembered the conversation. Oops. I, unfortunately, do not have a Bryce to remind me - I just googled the dialogue intending to include the exact line, laughed at myself for slashing up the episode and then wrote in Bryce’s correction. :D

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