Who: Evan and Hunter What: Coffee. No, really, just coffee. Where: A coffee shop When: Recently Warnings/Rating: Ningunos
Hunter probably could have been cleverer about picking a time and place to meet the freak from the hotel, but he wasn’t feeling like being careful. He had been suspicious at first, just like he was suspicious about everybody, but he didn’t think the guy going around murdering girls in the desert was like to be that explicitly gay, and in his own mind he convinced himself that he was safe enough, anyway. As long as this guy didn’t match a name and face to the anonymous name he’d used to show Loren where the body was, it was cool. Even if it wasn’t... Hunter was no little girl.
He showed up a several minutes late, walking under the fuming air conditioner over the coffee shop door and allowing it to force no small amount of dust from his clothes and person. His boss had been giving him hell about one of the horses, a paint with a hard mouth and a temper, but Hunter had heard through the grapevine the man had lost a daughter in the chaos of the previous week, so Hunter just let him rage for a while before leaving. Still, the experience made him grouchy and scratchy as dried sweat. He was feeling mutinous about his appearance, thinking the freak could just deal with him being filthy, or leave.
Hunter rocked back on the heavy boots and stared at the menu, trying to remember which one tasted like the chocolate shake the Chinese girl had given him last time.
Evan didn’t know what the guy from the dark looked like, but he still had a pretty good idea what he was looking for. Young, angry, chip on his shoulder, cheap clothes and a scowl for the whole world. He’d fucked the type a few times, but he preferred to break-in the little academic ones that still blushed when they thought about their dicks. But a few had gotten through, a few angry ones, in the years before jail and drug-enforced impotence. They were always pissed when he didn’t invite them to stay for breakfast. Scrappers, not criers, and he wondered how many of those game rules had changed in intervening years.
Evan showed up at the coffee shop a few seconds late, after spending the better part of the day working on figuring out who his parents needed to throw money at in order for him to get his practicing license reinstated. A piss test, two checks and four-hour test later, he was sent on his way to await a phone call. He knew his parents would need to chip in, even if he aced everything with flying colors; no one wanted to give morphine to a person with a history of addiction. Still he was completely clean, not even a Prozac in his system, but the stress was making him want a drink worse than he had since Cory had started him on the road to forced sobriety. It didn’t help that Eames was maintaining radio silence, man, and there wasn’t any help from that corner at all.
A designer suit, slate gray, a pale blue shirt, a dark blue tie gone loose, designer Italian shoes, and Evan walked into the shop smelling like Acqua Di Gio - jasmine, musk and cedar and without a hint of scruff. He walked up to the counter, ordered himself an Americano, and then he looked at the dirty, young man staring at the menu. “What’re you having?” he asked, equal parts confidence and raw laziness.
Hunter’s head swiveled to his right to stare at the other man. Hunter had sharply defined features, but the sin blistered them to a tan harshness that resembled something like a tawny fox, especially when he narrowed his eyes, which he did now. His first instinct was to take a step back, though he did not. The cologne smelled absolutely enticing, but the man’s appearance was so groomed that the contrast to his own grubby appearance was like black and white. Hunter knew that voice, and he was seized with a sudden, insane desire to really ruin the man’s clothes. With as much dirt as possible.
Hunter licked his lips (not deliberately, little about Hunter seemed deliberate) and did not move. He had absolutely no idea what an Americano was, except maybe something Mexicans called Americans, and glanced at the menu. “Why don’t they just have coffee?”
“They do, man, they just call it stupid shit. You like it black, sweet, light?” Evan asked, hands loosely in his pockets and the not the slightest bit of concern with Hunter’s appearance. Sure, he’d used it to pick the guy out, but that was all he needed it for. Well, alright, so maybe he checked the kid out, but that just his nature, and the look was an appreciative slip of his blue gaze, before settling back on tan features. He could smell the horses on Hunter, and he wondered who kept horses out here, where there wasn’t nearly enough green to make it easy. Must be some shit for the tourists, he decided. They’d fly in an ocean for the tourists, if they thought they could make a buck.
Hunter contemplated choosing something different just so that the guy wasn’t right about him, but in the end he shrugged as if he didn’t care and agreed. “Yeah, black with sugar.” He turned to face the other man, taking in the disgustingly clear blue of his eyes. Oh yeah, this guy could reel in whatever little fish that swam by. “I thought you’d be taller.” He let his mouth take on a slight smile, one cheek creasing a layer of streaked dust that had been there for hours. He’d taken a read on the guy and he couldn’t be less like Desert Killer dude.
Evan ordered a drip, black and sweet, and he took his own Americano when the girl behind the counter held it out. The coffee was warm in his hands, and he always did like the feel of warmth seeping through a cardboard cup. “Want a sip?” he offered before he tasted it, guessing this guy didn’t have a whole lot of experience with the difference between drip and espresso. He laughed at the statement that Hunter thought he’d be taller, because he wasn’t particularly short, and he gave Hunter a crooked grin, tipped up at one edge of his mouth and crinkling the corners of his eyes. “I’ll wear lifts next time. Didn’t know you had a thing for tall men,” he said, a dimple kissing one cheek. Flirting, it was like nothing to Evan, and he reached for Hunter’s coffee when it was ready, and then held it out to him, ever the gentleman.
Hunter took the Americano just because he wouldn’t let a challenge like that pass, and he took a sip while he waited for his own. It wasn’t at all sweet and the punch about killed him. He made a slight face. “That tastes like ass.” He offered it back, ignoring the look the girl behind the counter gave him. He happily took his on his own when it was offered, and he did not dig into a pocket to insist on paying for it. Wandering over to a sticky wooden table, he glanced over his shoulder, long jean and all hip. “Don’t especially have a thing. You’ll do.” Hunter was tempted to straddle a chair but it was too much trouble, and he was aching from too many hours in the saddle and on his feet. He slumped down several inches and let his legs sprawl, curling fingers around his own cardboard cup.
Evan chuckled at the critique of the coffee. “That’s because you like all that sugar, man,” he said, taking his own coffee back and taking a long sip, enjoying the earthy bitterness of it. He paid without question, and he followed Hunter to the sticky table. “Yeah? Thanks. I was worried about not being good enough or something,” he said, pulling out a chair with one hand and taking a seat like he was in one of his father’s boardrooms, all suit and money. That smile was still on his face, the one that said he didn’t expect anyone to tell him he wasn’t good enough. Sure, someone could tell him that, but he’d just count it as their loss, and it wouldn’t be a statement about him at all. He tipped his head to watch the long sprawl of Hunter’s legs below the table, and then he looked up at Hunter’s face after taking in the state of the other man’s boots. “Where do they keep horses out here?”
“No you weren’t,” Hunter said, regarding the crack about being good enough. He wasn’t troubled by it. He was pleased to be talking to a hot guy, any hot guy, almost consumed by old buried jealousy at the idea that his magically reappearing ex, Zee, must have come with the stupid angelic blond. And was lying about it. AGAIN. Hunter brought one thumb up and rubbed it up and down the bridge of his nose, as if trying not to sneeze.
Hunter shifted on the chair. “Trail rides out near the park,” he said, referring to the Red Rock Canyon Park way out past the outskirts of the freeway bisecting Vegas right down the middle. He watched Evan’s face for disdain and said, calmly, “Didn’t get a chance to wash up after.” He slurped at his coffee, having cracked the lid right off it.
Evan lifted one shoulder in a casual shrug, an indication that he didn’t care if Hunter could read him like a dime store novel. It wasn’t a thing, and it didn’t bother him. “No, I wasn’t,” he said, agreeing with Hunter’s assessment and throwing him a grin that might have passed for apologetic if it wasn’t part of that smirk that seemed permanently etched on Evan’s features when the world was going his way.
There wasn’t any disdain in Evan’s expression, and he sipped at his own coffee without any need for the near-apology about the clothing. “Hunting and horses were big where I grew up. Rich people who didn’t need to hunt anything and liked purebreds they could race in the Derby once a year,” he admitted. “Or jump over little white fences,” he added, remembering a few boys in riding pants that had been memorable in his youth. “The tourists sorry they get on within a few legs?” he asked, because he couldn’t imagine that the people who bothered to get on horses out here knew anything about them. This just wasn’t a place to come for horse riding.
“In this weather? Yeah,” Hunter said, casually. “‘Specially since they’re on the animals that get shipped here when your rich people are done with them.” He used the same tone that he’d used when he spoke about stopping to shower. He wanted to know how easy it was to set Evan off, just in case he was one of those ones that liked having their way tested. Hunter wasn’t a huge fan of pain the way some people were, and he noticed that nine times out of ten that kind of thing showed up in the first conversation if you knew what to look for.
Evan wasn’t easy to set off, and a comment about horses wasn’t going to do it. Neither was a comment about his money, because he didn’t much feel like the money had done a lot for him in his life. “Can’t say the people I grew up with cared what happened to the horses once they weren’t useful anymore,” he admitted, but he didn’t sound like he condoned their behavior, and there was even something a little reproachful there. It was a topic he hadn’t touched on in a long time, his family and his place in the family line. “Way to hit on a sore subject right away, man,” he said, raising his cardboard coffee cup in a toast, and very much wishing there was some whiskey to pour into the bitter black liquid.
Hunter allowed his head to shift to the other side, and he smiled at the toast to his prompt victory. If that was this guy’s response to a sore subject, then they were fine. He quite visibly relaxed, deep rivulets appearing in the blue pattern plaid set about his shoulders and the tawny brown of his eyes easing down toward his cup. “You brought it up.” He took another drink. It was okay coffee, but he couldn’t imagine paying so much for it. He decided to give a little to the conversation, even if it was unasked. “Those are the ones I work with. The ones that can’t adjust.” He hid his mouth behind the cup.
Evan chuckled, and he tipped the cup in a gesture of touché. “Good point,” he said easily, clearly not angered at all by the subject, even if it did make him think of things he would rather not think of. “So we cast them aside, and they come out here to the desert, where tourists ride them. Doesn’t sound like a great retirement to me.” And, admittedly, he’d never given a shit about the horses, just like he hadn’t given a shit about the parties. Well, no, that was a lie. The parties got him laid; the horses didn’t do anything for him at all. He slipped his suit jacket off with the ease of the very wealthy, and he tugged his tie loose after draping the jacket over the back of his chair. “Hotel leave you freaked, man?”
It wasn’t possible to ignore such a person stripping clothes off, and Hunter didn’t even bother. He wasn’t greedy about watching, but he did watch, the cup still firmly set against his chin. Hunter didn’t grow up in a place that encouraged men watching other men deal with their clothing, but nobody had much taken to noticing him doing anything, grubby enough to do anything he wanted in the outskirts. So he looked, but he was quiet about it. After the process was over, he took another sip and replied, “Yeah. But not you?” He could have faked it, but why? There was that angry refusal to attempt to impress again, even more bitter than the Americano.
“No, I’m freaked, but I’m just calm about it. Seen too much to lose it over something where I didn’t hurt anyone, and where I didn’t get hurt. Wasn’t as lucky the last time something like this happened,” Evan explained, and he’d noticed the perusal. Oh, yeah, sure, he’d noticed, and he liked it, and it was on his face that he liked it. He took a long sip of his bitter coffee, and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of imported smokes. He tipped the box at Hunter first, even though he knew it meant they would have to go outside, but Evan was the kind of recovering addict that still had to keep something, and even holding onto the nicotine stick would hold him over for a few minutes longer.
Hunter immediately put a hand out for a cigarette, not because Evan had them but because he really wanted one, and he immediately kicked back his chair to uncoil to full rangy height with the cigarette between his fingers. He snagged his coffee in his other hand and rounded the corner to the glass door, stomping a boot into the edge of it to hold it open for Evan while the air conditioner whirred and he dug into his jeans for his lighter. The collie puppy was flopped in the shade of a bush to one side and gave a happy little yip upon Hunter’s appearance. Hunter gave her a strangely sober expression, comparing her to the calm sight of the mutt that used to wait for him, and then sat on one of the patio chairs in the Vegas heat. “What happened last time?” Hunter asked, as Evan joined him.
Evan followed without needing additional encouragement, and he grabbed the suit and draped it over his arm as he walked out into the dusk. At least nights in Vegas got a little cool, man, but even so, Evan finished tugging that tie until it didn’t even deserve the name anymore, and then he rolled his designer sleeves to his elbows before waiting for Hunter to light his own cigarette, then holding out his own to be lit by the glowing tip of Hunter’s smoke. “New dog?” he asked, catching the way Hunter looked at the puppy. Pretty well behaved for a puppy, he thought, but what did he know about dogs? He didn’t have sex with debutantes or matriarchs, and he didn’t even have experience with small, annoying dogs. “Last time?” he asked, already forgetting the train of the conversation with all that moving. “Oh, yeah, sure. I turned into some wolf thing and tried to eat people.” He smirked, and it made the wolf seem fitting.
The puppy had clearly been ordered to stay put. She’d rolled up onto all four paws and was now inching forward on her belly when she thought no one was watching. Hunter obligingly lit Evan’s cigarette and then passed it back, comfortable with the process, and then he slumped back in his chair. The heat was sticky, but it couldn’t do him any more harm than it already had, so he let it be. Hunter half-laughed before he realized that Evan was serious. “A wolf. That’s you?” He cocked his head and caught the puppy out of the corner of his eye; she stopped inching. Hunter scratched his chin. Smoke writhed around his thoughtful expression.
Evan didn’t sit. Even with the suit draped over one arm, the coffee in one hand, and the night starting to go dark around them. He took a drag off his lit cigarette, and he chased it with a swig of the bitter coffee, as if it was beer or something even more bitter, and then he pointed the fingers holding the smoke at the man in the chair. “You didn’t answer about the dog,” he said, wondering if it was intentional. Maybe it wasn’t, but Evan listened, even when people didn’t say something; it was just part of the job. “And me? Nah. Do I look like a wolf to you?” The question was followed by another lazy smirk, one that answered the question in a very different way.
Hunter considered Evan a little bit. “Yeah, you kinda do.” The puppy had taken to inching with her chin first, and Hunter glanced over and finally gave in, tapping one ankle. She trotted happily over, stayed a cursory second for a pat from him, and then went over to slobber on Evan’s shoes and worship him as the second coming. She did this with everyone. Hunter sighed. “Kinda new. The old one didn’t come back last week.” He took a hard inhale on the cigarette, eyes upward into the purple sky.
Loss was loss, and Evan didn’t give the other man any kind of condescending bullshit line about the dog maybe being alright and hanging out somewhere. “Sorry, man,” he said, reaching down and patting the puppy, which he suspected had been around before the other one went missing, based on that kinda new comment. As for looking like a wolf, Evan chuckled a mirthless chuckle as he set his coffee on the table and stubbed out the cigarette, so that he could crouch in front of the eager puppy and rub both furry ears at once. “Funny thing is I thought I’d stopped being that guy, but I think was just too drugged and drunk to remember who I was,” he said, and he sounded like it wasn’t a good thing, that realization. “Guess you can’t run from yourself. How about you, man? What were you looking for in the dark?”
Hunter brought his eyes back down from the sky to see if Evan’s sympathy was real. He was well aware that most of the world wouldn’t think much of the loss of one dog amidst so much death. Yet it appeared that it was, and Hunter nodded his thanks, losing more of his guarded expression as he watched Evan and the puppy adore each other. He couldn’t trust the puppy’s judgment as he had Daisy’s, of course, but it didn’t hurt. “‘That guy,’” Hunter echoed. “The wolf? Nothing wrong with being a wolf. They do what they’re made to do.” Hunter took his time with the cigarette, thinking about the hotel darkness and who he’d been there. “Don’t know. Just company, I think.” Recognition, he thought, but didn’t say it.
“Men aren’t wolves,” was Evan’s reply as he straightened again, reaching for the cup of coffee he’d set on the table. “Wolves are predators, and they don’t belong in society, man,” he said, and it sounded serious, even to his ears. Evan wasn’t into serious, and he rolled his shoulders, as if he could cast it off with will and movement alone. “Nah, not company. You wouldn’t have left if it was just company,” he reasoned, and he wasn’t intentionally pushing Hunter. It was just a conversation, a way to stop thinking about jonesing and the fact that Eames wanted back through his door, and the fact that Evan knew the other man was being a dick on purpose. Evan couldn’t blame him.
Hunter shifted a little uncomfortably in his chair, making the sun-weathered iron creak. It was still warm from the day, but the concrete was beginning to cool, and a breeze swept past them from the over-worked air conditioner every time a new customer walked into the shop behind them. “I don’t know, then. Good company.” He ashed his cigarette in a tray at the center of the table between them, resting his weight on his elbow and looking into Evan’s eyes again. The wolfish loll of his head was gone, and so was the resemblance. Hunter sat back. “...And maybe wolves aren’t for our society, no. They got one of their own.”
Evan chuckled. “Company? Is that what you kids are calling it these days?” he asked, all tease and lazy warmth in his voice. He suspected the kid wasn’t much younger than him, but Hunter felt young, all that anger and distrust reminding Evan of high school and the rough kids from the wrong side of the tracks.
Evan gave up the fight to remain standing, the shirt already starting to stick to his back, despite the rapidly darkening sky. But the desert was like that. Not enough humidity to sweat, but your clothes still stuck anyway, and Evan thought a long shower and a good fuck sounded like just the thing. But there was Louis, and he was pretty sure he was bound to screw that one up at the rate he was going. “Man, wolves just do what they want. They don’t care about the people they might hurt,” he said, a telling confession in the darkening light.
Maybe Evan viewed him as such, but Hunter didn’t feel young. He had never felt young. Sometimes he’d felt weak, and sometimes he’d felt small, but he’d never felt young. He raised both eyebrows at being called a kid, but he didn’t get fired up or angry about it. It just wasn’t right, and he shrugged slightly.
Again, Hunter scratched his chin with the faintly smoking fingers. He shook his head. “No. Wolves look around for pack to help them out. Pack’s not there, they go a little crazy. How it is. Horses are the same way.” The puppy got white fur all over Evan’s nice pant leg, and then trotted over to put her paws on Hunter’s knee. “Sit.” The puppy sat. Sadly. Hunter looked back at Evan, smooth as anything, as if there had been no pause, and said, “So somebody waiting at home?”
Evan shook his head, slow and unrushed, and the comment that followed was stated in much the same tone. “Then I’m no wolf. Never had a pack. Kind of a loner. A shit loner, but a loner,” he admitted, because he was sure his old habit of bringing something home for the night made him a shit loner. But it had been years, man, and maybe he wasn’t that guy anymore. Maybe he could be different. He wondered, briefly, if being drunk and high made him a better person, a better human being, and the seriousness of his thoughts was mirrored in his features for a second. He covered it by looking down at the sad puppy with a smile. “Heartbreaker,” he told Hunter, a chuckle in the teasing, and he shook his head at that final question. “No, yeah. No definitions, but someone’s crashing with me. How about you?”
Hunter shook his head. “I’m sleeping at this rich guy’s house, and my definition is ‘roomate.’ Only no sex. No nothing. I’m just there, sometimes, and he’s there, sometimes.” He grinned a humorless grin, as if he thought the idea of being used as a paperweight should be funny, even if he obviously didn’t. Curious what Evan would think of that, he met his eyes and drew them to his cigarette as he left it to wither in the tray. He didn’t mind being called heartbreaker, and Evan’s smile at the puppy’s treatment took some of the edge off Hunter’s bitter smile-like expression.
“Rich guy have a name? Not that many of us in town, not that go after men like you.” There was a quick correction in Evan’s tone, and it was obvious he’d almost used the word ‘boy,’ instead of ‘man.’ But regardless of the correction, the tone was approving, a compliment in that ‘men like you.’ As for having a roommate that wasn’t sleeping with him, there could be a whole shitload of reasons, depending on the guy. “Maybe I can shed some light, if I know him,” he suggested.
“Blake Thorne.” Hunter didn’t give a fuck about Blake’s privacy right at the moment. He got a funny little smile on his face when Evan edited himself, visibly amused (really, not bitter-fake amused) at the shades between ‘boy’ and ‘man,’ which he figured didn’t have much to do with age. Hunter dropped a ropey arm down the side of his chair, which was long enough to drag his knuckles on the ground, and scratched the puppy’s ears. She rolled over for tummy scratches immediately.
“Ah,” Evan said knowingly, sitting back in his chair with a chuckle. “Blake.” Oh, it was obvious he knew the man in question, obvious that probably had a lot of opinions about him too. “A kindred spirit,” he said of Thorne, who managed to discuss fucking as often as he discussed his own philosophical misery. Evan’s advice here was simple, to the point. “He has a type, and he has a past. He might be worse than me, as far as getting men to stick around goes.” He lifted his coffee cup, and he toasted Hunter with the remains. “Good luck, Heartbreaker. You’re going to need it with that one, man.” That still didn’t explain why Thorne had dragged the kid home, though.
Hunter’s expression folded like origami. “Who says I need luck?” He lifted one round shoulder. “He’s not interested. Why should I be?” Blake had issues, which he very well knew, and whatever Evan thought, Hunter thought the two men were about as like as apples and oranges. Hunter knew Blake’s type, impossible not to know Blake’s type, and yet it was clear he hadn’t figured out why the man wanted to keep him around like a stray dog any more than Evan could.
“Can always use luck with guys that aren’t over the last guy,” Evan said, even though he didn’t have any experience in that. There was no last guy for him, there never had been. No one had ever stood out as anything special, and Louis might be the closest thing to a relationship he’d ever had, and even that was starting to worry him, because he was pretty sure he was on the road to fucking it all the hell up. “Listen, Blake isn’t the type to take anyone home who he isn’t going to fuck and send packing with a thank you in the morning. The fact that you’re still there, it means something.” He shrugged, indicating that relationships were beyond him. “Not sure what, but something.” He grinned, because he spent a lot of his time matchmaking with Jackie and Katie, and why not now. “Feel like being his type for a night?” he asked with a grin.
This conversation was fraught with difficulties. Hunter had been expecting the freak from the hotel, someone inherently, deeply simple. Evan H. was almost as good at reading him as... as Maren, which was really fucking frightening, at the core of it. Hunter shrugged again, though the habitual gesture didn’t seem to reassure him the way it usually did. “Offered, he said no. Not a problem with everyone else that’s his type.” He wasn’t jealous, since he didn’t know to be jealous, just puzzled. He’d waited for Blake to show his hand, and the man hadn’t ended up being a spy, a sadist, or anything that any self-respecting spider should be when luring him into their web. “Said he just wanted a body around. Lonely. Or agreed with me, anyway. All I could think of.” Hunter gave Evan a look as if he was hoping for the other man to interpret this foreign language to him.
Being good at reading people was part of Evan’s job - the one he hoped to get back soon. It was probably the reason he’d gone into the field at all, because he liked people, and he was social, and he was unrushed enough to let them talk until he knew things about them. Most people, Evan knew, did more talking than listening. Most people were in a rush; he wasn’t in a rush. There wasn’t a finish line worth reaching, and the only one out there was inevitable, and no one wanted to get there anyway. “If he took you home and fucked you,” Evan said, “you wouldn’t still be living there, man.” That was said with utter certainty; Blake was like him that way. Louis had only managed to worm his way into the picture because Evan didn’t get a chance to just fuck him out of his system. “He’s lonely all right. Has some guy he lost to someone else a few years back, someone dead somewhere too,” he admitted, not sure if Hunter knew that or not, but he figured it would help. And, hey, Blake had let the kid move in. “Didn’t answer about being his type for a night.”
So far Evan hadn’t said anything he hadn’t already knew, except for the someone dead part. Hunter had already figured out the lost part a month ago, since it kind of fit the profile. He quirked a brow. “Yeah I did. I offered. He said no.” Hunter eyed his cigarette, which had died out, and lifted his hand from the puppy to lace his fingers over his stomach. “And my type doesn’t change on different nights,” he added, informatively. Hunter wasn’t in a rush, either. He’d gotten off of work, been fired from the smoothie place (which he thought might have been one of the Hulk’s casualties anyway), and was not in any great hurry to go back to the weirdness of Blake’s apartment. He should talk to his sisters, but he didn’t want to start a conversation with either.
“Nah, man,” Evan said easily. “I mean we get you washed up and dressed like someone he gets hard for,” he said, and maybe Hunter would be offended, but he wasn’t worried about it. The offer was made with that same casual whatever tone that was trademark Evan, and he lifted a dark brow as he looked Hunter over. “Can’t be the way you look out of the clothes that’s the problem. Maybe make him realize there’s more underneath.” Because however casual this angry kid seemed, Evan knew there was more beneath the surface. Blake could be a challenging ass, and he might not see it. Evan was more than willing to get this kid in some clothes that would make him look like anyone’s wet dream. He shrugged, as if the offer was just that, an offer, and no big deal if Hunter turned him down.
Hunter bristled at the idea of cleaning up for anyone. Blake might have issues caring about people, but Hunter had those too. He didn’t want to be seen as begging for anything, and putting effort into his appearance smacked dangerously of entrapment, which made him want to fight something. It was a very visible and devastatingly apparent failing, as at its root it was all certainty that there wasn’t much to aspire too. Zee’s reappearance with Jules on his arm (in Hunter’s head, anyway) only compounded that secret lack of confidence. “Why? He doesn’t want me in bed, then fine. Besides, you said then after he kicks me out.” It was too hot for the coffee, even with evening coming. Hunter wanted one of those chocolate coffee shake things. He wanted to leave. He wanted to ask Evan if he could use his shower, since he didn’t want to see Blake. He wanted Daisy back. He rubbed at his neck, leaving streaks of sweat and dirt under his fingers.
The bristling was obvious, and even if Evan wasn’t good at reading people, he would have noticed it. “Nah, man. If he hasn’t kicked you out yet, then he’s not going to do it now, just because you’re wearing designer duds. We’ll tell him you have a date with me. He’ll believe it,” he said, so sure and smug, a wink and a grin, and he shoved his chair back. “Anyway, it’ll entertain me, and I want a drink so badly that I might start drooling soon. Distracting me is good,” he said, and he sounded earnest then. He was earnest then. “She do alright in a cab?” he asked of the dog, not worried about having to pay extra to cart the puppy around, sounding like it was all a done deal.
Hunter looked blankly down at the dog, then back up. “Yeah. I got my truck, though. Why do we need a cab?” He got the whole jonesing thing, even though he’d never known anyone able to actually go dry successfully, but this was all moving fast for him. “Designer? I don’t want to buy... a date with you? You don’t want to date me.” Why was he having to point out so often that people weren’t interested? Even to their faces?
Evan chuckled as he stood, and he clapped a hand to the back of Hunter’s neck as he moved around behind Hunter’s chair. He leaned over Hunter’s shoulder, next to no pressure in the long fingers that rested there. “We’re trying to get you in bed with Blake, man, not with me. I wouldn’t bother changing your clothes if I was the one taking you home,” he said, mouth close to Hunter’s ear, his voice a low grumble there as he straightened. “Consider it a trade for the ride home. I hate cabs.” Which he did; that wasn’t a lie, at least.
Hunter didn’t object to the touch, though he found it strange. The men he worked with were dearly attached to their masculinity, and while this far west few made much of his clothing, nails, and therefore obvious preferences, they didn’t make a habit of touching him as if they were good friends, worried he would get the wrong idea. He didn’t take it personally, preferring a certain amount of distance between himself and strangers anyway. He couldn’t quite prevent a little shiver that was no doubt Evan’s intention.
Hunter’s face took on a cast of definite dismay as he bent down and caught up the puppy under one arm, hefting her like a sack of grain rather than doing any shop girl cradling. Most of his attention was on Evan. “You’re going to get dog hair all over you,” he pointed out.
“Do I look like I care about dog hair?” Evan asked, and he was laid back enough, even in those designer clothes, to seem like he didn’t care about much of anything. He could buy new clothes if he needed to, and he tossed his used coffee cup into the garbage can before scratching between the puppy’s ears, as Hunter hoisted her up. “Why do you take her to work?” he asked, because he assumed that’s where the puppy had been, that Hunter hadn’t bothered stopping along the way anywhere. Oh, and he’d caught that shiver, and he was still grinning from it. It felt good to be back in the game, man.
It was getting to the point where Evan was hoisting Hunter’s defenses up and down like a castle drawbridge, and he was starting to forget which way he meant them to be. No, it didn’t look like Evan cared about dog hair, and Hunter didn’t either. He’d brought it up because if they weren’t going somewhere to have a quick fuck he didn’t know what the hell they were doing. He didn’t know if he even wanted a quick fuck, or the alternative, which was apparently designer clothing he didn’t think was worth a ride in his truck--or a quick fuck either, come to think of it. “She was stuck in my room at Blake’s during the fucking chaos a while ago, and today they were going to steam clean the place, so she came with.” And it made him feel empty to call for Daisy and find empty air glaring at him through the Vegas heat.
Evan didn’t know the effect he was having on Hunter’s defenses, but he wouldn’t have cared very much if he had known. “Steam clean, huh? Figures Blake has his shit steam cleaned,” he said, a little mocking, a little fond, a lot entertained. He was curious about the dog, but there wasn’t any particular reaction to the explanation, even if he didn’t buy it. He figured it had something to do with the dead dog Hunter had mentioned earlier, so he left it alone. Instead, he pointed in all possible directions. “Which way are we heading?” he asked of Hunter’s truck, assuming that puppy was getting heavy. He did cast a sideglance at Hunter then, a question in those blue eyes. “You cool with this? If not, you can just drop me home, and we can do it another day.” It was an out, and it came with a quirked brow. “Or we can have you and Blake to dinner.” Which sounded like a plan.
Hunter indicated his truck with an upnod, sticking his scruffy chin in the air toward a rusted old two-door made twenty years ago with the functional in mind. It was just the kind of vehicle you would expect someone like Hunter to drive. He didn’t know what to say about Blake steam cleaning things, since he didn’t want to imply knowledge of the man he didn’t have. He sputtered when they got down to dinner invitations. “We’re not a couple. Stop matchmaking!” He frowned at the idea of anyone thinking he needed to be matched with anyone. He frowned even deeper at the thought of it actually happening. Ten years ago he thought he had his Romeo or whatever. Turned out that wasn’t the way things went, and he wasn’t going to lie to Blake about it. Was that what the man wanted? Some... weird platonic long-term relationship? The whites of Hunter’s eyes were starting to show.
Evan raised his hands in the universal gesture of hey, man, it’s cool. “Sorry. Habit. I spend most of my time matchmaking my two best friends. I’m empathic. What can I say?” he asked with a smirk, one that clearly said he was harmless. “Nah, listen, you’re right. How about I just walk you to the truck?” he asked, not wanting the kid to storm off, not when he was showing the whites of his eyes like someone who was hearing terrifying news. “I spend most of my time these days with a kid who hates me. You’re a good distraction,” he said, and it was unthinking and blunt enough that it came across as entirely true, and not as something he was saying just to say it. No matchmaking. Got it. No Blake. Sure, he could handle that too. People were complicated, and Evan wasn’t the kind of guy that had any interest in changing them. In his estimation, some clothes didn’t count, man. But he wasn’t having a great week when it came to interpersonal relations, so, yeah. “That one?” he asked, indicating the truck that Hunter had clearly motioned to.
A flicker in Hunter’s expression that he actively tried to hide (the first thing, really) revealed that he didn’t know quite what empathic meant. He did not ask and turned his head away so that Evan wouldn’t correct or expand on the statement. Hunter didn’t mind being a distraction, nor did he look quite angry. He felt kind of like he’d just come across some animal that wasn’t supposed to exist, like a jackalope. He didn’t know how to deal with it. “A kid that hates you,” he said, blankly. He gave Evan a look that was pure surprise, derailed temporarily from his own problems. “You married?” he asked, blinking twice and obviously trying to see it. Early mistake? Hunter stopped in front of the truck, hoisted the dog on one hip, and pulled the cab door open. “Get in,” he said, giving the dog a little toss up onto the seat that she enjoyed way too much.
Evan caught the flicker, but he caught that look away too, and he didn’t clarify the word or do anything to indicate he’d noticed anything at all. Nope. He hadn’t seen a thing. Instead, he chuckled at the question. “I don’t have the kind of sex that results in that kind of a kid, and I don’t know if it’s legal for two men to get married in Nevada. Is it?” he asked, his tone saying maybe he did know, maybe he didn’t. “No, man, remember? Someone crashing. No definitions. Nah, you know the accident I told you about, the one where someone died? The girl’s boyfriend.” That explained Cory in a nutshell, as far as Evan was concerned, and he watched the dog get tossed up on the seat. Somehow, he was expecting Hunter to be a “dog in the truckbed” guy, and he hummed in surprise as the puppy happily took her place.
Hunter had no fucking clue if it was legal to marry another man here. He’d never been with anybody but Zee longer than a couple months, and neither of them had ever thought about living longer than the next week even while they were together. Hunter didn’t even have a fucking bank account or own a television. He shook his head, clueless.
Hunter put a wrist on the top of his steering wheel to turn and face Evan, obviously waiting for him to get all the way in. In the meantime he could be disbelieving. “You killed some kid’s girlfriend and now he’s hanging around with you? Why?” The puppy put both paws on top of the dash and attempted to command both men to start the wind blowing. There wasn’t as much hair in the cab as one might expect; probably because there was a round, decently clean doggybed tied down in the truckbed behind the cab’s windows, and it was most tellingly empty.
Evan climbed the rest of the way in after a few seconds, giving Hunter a chance to change his mind first. But Hunter didn’t, and Evan settled beside the eager puppy, and he laughed an honest laugh, one that was quiet and didn’t sound much like a chuckle at all. He was pretty sure he’d never been as happy as that dog, even when he was a kid, and the thought made him go a little serious as he looked out into the truckbed and noticed the empty dog bed. He wanted a drink, man.
“Turnberry Towers,” Evan said, giving directions after, in case Hunter didn’t know them. It was, obviously, not the direction to a store, to anyplace that sold clothing. He leaned back against the seat, and he rubbed his hands over his face. Being sober sucked, and without Eames there to help, it was a real bitch. He decided, right then, to let Eames go through the door as soon as he got home. Maybe it would calm shit down.
The puppy blundered into Evan’s lap, climbed him like a ladder, and stuck her head out the passenger side window. Hunter was not so happy. Blake lived in the ‘Towers, naturally, and he shot Evan a look that was half “aw mom” and half pure adult annoyance. “Why don’t you just wrap me in Christmas paper and leave me on the doorstep? Are you neighbors, or something?” He didn’t actually think that this was a set-up, not nearly so suspicious or angry as all that, but he wouldn’t put it past Evan to show up with a grin, Hunter in tow, just to say hey neighbor and borrow a bottle. The truck bounced out of the Starbucks lot, growling like a massive, injured animal. Needless to say, the air conditioning did not work.
Evan had never actually been to Blake’s apartment, and he was so busy laughing at the dog and spreading his thighs to accommodate her, that it took a few seconds longer than it would have to catch the look Hunter was throwing his way. “I’ve never been to Blake’s place, man. I didn’t know he lived there. We met in a bar, and we’ve talked on the journals.” And all that was true. But, huh, now that he knew, he’d have to drop by. He scratched at the dog’s fur, and he looked back out the window as the truck made sounds that reminded him of work and dying things. He grinned belatedly, and he was smirking by the time he looked back at the kid behind the wheel. “But I’ll gift wrap you, if you want me to,” he said, dimples and trouble.
Hunter really wanted to stay annoyed, but he glanced at the dimples, back at the road, and then at the dimples again. He almost smiled. And then he really did. Aw, fuck it, that kind of smile. He sighed and put both hands on the wheel, slumping back into the seat and letting the heat and the evening air take some of his crabby annoyance away. “No, I think that would kind of...” he hesitated over the phrasing, “you know, defeat the purpose.” It sounded awkward when he said it, even though he must have heard it somewhere. He shifted on the seat again, this way and then that way, and decided to leave it there.
Evan laughed. He threw his head back, and he laughed. It wasn’t the kind of laugh that was directed atHunter. No, it was his own mirth, and he was glad he’d come to this coffee place, glad he’d met the kid at the hotel, and glad he hadn’t hurt him in the dark. “It would defeat the purpose,” he agreed honestly. But those dimples were still there. He scratched the dog’s ears, and he went quiet as he watched the city, the unforgiving heat that didn’t abate until much later in the day. Alright, maybe he could stay sober another day. He’d let Eames through the door, and it would be fine. Impulsively, he reached out a hand and brushed some windblown hair off Hunter’s cheek. Yeah, he thought. it would be fine.
The touch was bizarrely affectionate, and Hunter turned his head and lifted both eyebrows as if there soon would be yellow subtitles under Evan’s chin to explain this strange behavior. There’d been a certain sparseness in the amount of affection in Hunter’s life, and the last six months hadn’t been an exception. Even the sudden reappearance of all his siblings hadn’t changed that, and there’d been too much yelling and pain in their family to really encourage a great deal of touching. Of all of them, Hunter was probably the touchiest of all of them, and he did it with six inches space or six seconds’ duration. He hesitated as if he would have liked to say something, probably something like “what the hell does that mean?” but he didn’t know how, so he just drove.