Cut and run, p.13

Cut & Run, page 13

 part  #1 of  Cut & Run Series

 

Cut & Run
 



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Page 13

 

  “Probably me, too, but they didn’t know how lazy I am. That someone, in case it’s gone under your radar, has access to restricted Bureau areas in a federal building and was close enough to know when to detonate that bomb.

  We pretty much confirmed Burnsie’s suspicions. I’m thinking spontaneously exploding federal property is a long way toward proof that this guy is a Fed. ”

  Zane set his forehead back against the pillow, straightening his neck to relieve the slicing ache. He’d noticed Ty had called him by his first name.

  It sounded odd coming from his new partner. He sighed softly. “So it really is one of us,” he said sadly.

  “At least he isn’t trying to kill us, yet,” Ty muttered and frowned as he glanced over Zane’s nearly nude, bloody body worriedly. “Unless you’d been sitting on the damn thing, a blast that small wouldn’t kill you. It was just enough to take you off the case. ” He continued to stare at the man for a long, thoughtful moment. With a sigh, he decided to go all out and treat Zane like the partner he was going to have to be. For a minute, at least. “My room made me nervous,” he admitted.

  Zane shifted his chin, and his slightly narrowed eyes tracked over to Ty. “Think someone was in there?” he asked. Zane knew Ty wouldn’t say something like that unless it was for real. One good thing about all that trash he talked was that you knew when he was serious.

  “Could have been Housekeeping,” Ty hedged with a shrug. “Could have been me being paranoid ’cause I’m fucking covered in your blood. I didn’t see anything out of place. Just . . . felt it. Probably nothing. But I’m going to sleep here tonight, if you have no objections. ”

  Zane didn’t reply immediately. After a short pause he spoke quietly.

  “I’ll warn you, I’m going to be grouchy as my back really starts hurting. ”

  “And I’ll be on the lookout for that major change of attitude,” Ty responded sarcastically.

  Zane rolled his eyes and quashed the impulse to respond in kind.

  “You probably ought to put stuff on my back after the shower instead of before,” he said regretfully instead, shifting slowly to climb to his knees.

  “Do you need help?” Ty asked as he watched without moving.

  Stopping once he was on his knees, Zane drew a shaky breath as the abused skin shifted and stretched. He cursed under his breath. “Is there glass on the floor?” he asked. “I’d really rather not walk in it. ”

  “Why don’t you stay there, and I’ll clean you off?” Ty answered.

  “There’s no reason for you to have to get up. The bed’s already bloody. ”

  Zane turned his head to study Ty, wondering where this solicitous side had come from. Did he just bury it under so much attitude that you couldn’t normally notice? “I’m going to take you up on that offer,” he murmured, slowly shifting to stretch out sideways.

  “Good,” Ty nodded with a slight smirk. “We’re making progress.

  Now you know I’m always right,” he said over his shoulder as he headed into the bathroom to spread out the contents of his medical kit.

  Zane sighed. He should have known Ty would have some kind of angle, the bastard. Zane reached for one of the pillows and pulled it over, stuffing it under his chest to lie on, his arms wrapped around it as he waited.

  In his medical kit, Ty had iodine and gauze, a tin of Rawleigh’s salve, some tape and bandages, and in keeping with his always prepared mantra, a flask of peach-flavored moonshine all the way from home. None of it was worthy of being called a proper medical kit, but it got the job done. He extracted most of it and laid it out on the long counter. He filled the ice bucket with water, grabbed the stack of hand towels, and headed back out into the outer room. Zane was draped over the pillow, long, bare legs extended out over the bed.

  Ty licked his lips and for the first time took a moment to really look at his new partner. It had been hidden under the suit, but there was no denying that he was impressively muscled, at least. And kind of hot, in a stuffed-shirt, stick-up-his-ass sort of way. When he wasn’t covered in blood.

  He shrugged that thought off and moved closer, kneeling beside the bed and setting the water down next to him. “All I’ve got to disinfect with is iodine,” he told him as he looked up and examined the wounds. “Gonna burn. ”

  “Sure, what’s a little more pain?” Zane bit off tightly, squeezing the pillow tighter.

  Ty was silent as he carefully wedged several towels under Zane’s body to catch the mess the water was going to make. “Takes a lot of strength to say no when you don’t have to,” he finally murmured as he began cleaning the blood with a moistened cloth. “I respect that, if that matters to you. ”

  Zane was quiet for a long minute as the cool rag wiped carefully over his back. “Thank you,” he finally said quietly. Wouldn’t a glass of whiskey or a handful of Vicodin be great right about now? Hell, even some ibuprofen.

  Maybe he’d think a little more seriously about taking the ibuprofen. There were other things he said no to, as well . . . most of the time. Things he’d do better not to think about at all. Like the man behind him. Zane could feel the heat coming off him.

  He fell silent for a bit before speaking again. His voice wasn’t self-deprecating or self-sympathetic; if anything it was a little cold and clinical.

  “There’s a lot of things I say no to,” Zane murmured without thinking about Ty’s reaction. “But there’s certainly no one to care. ”

  “You saying you don’t care?” Ty asked curiously.

  Sighing, Zane pressed his cheek to the pillow. “I do care. But it’s the bare minimum of motivation. Like I won’t pick up a bottle because I want to keep a job I love. That doesn’t necessarily translate to caring if I pickle my brains or not. I guess I’ve gotten a bit self-concerned since my youth. ”

  “Nothing wrong with self-concern,” Ty said as he wiped one last time at Zane’s back, then set the cloth aside and reached for the iodine. “I could just do salve,” he offered as he looked at the iodine doubtfully.

  “Compromise,” Zane said. “Put iodine on the worst ones so they won’t get infected. Salve on the rest ought to be fine. ”

  “All righty,” Ty rumbled, then he quickly spread iodine on the deeper gashes. “Why’d you drink?” he asked suddenly.

  Zane’s shoulders tightened in response.

  “Don’t have to answer,” Ty went on with a careless shrug. “Just curious. ”

  Zane pressed his lips together tightly. “My wife was killed in a car accident,” he said tonelessly. “I was across the country at the time. Had been for a month. ”

  Ty pursed his lips and continued with the iodine, his eyes drifting to the ring on Zane’s finger. “My condolences. ”

  Zane let out a pent-up breath. “I kind of got . . . a little out of control.

  Clichéd, I know, but there it is. ”

  “Happens,” Ty responded with another emotionless shrug.

  “So here I am; widower, alcoholic, addict, all-around asshole turned squeaky clean by force of will, threat of jail, and sheer terror. I suppose it’s no wonder your ‘pansy-ass’ comments get in my craw,” Zane muttered.

  “I wouldn’t think much of you if they didn’t,” Ty answered, frankly a little surprised at Zane’s self-description. “And we all have our sob stories.

  Nothing to be ashamed over. Being a pansy-ass, that’s something to be ashamed over. ”

  “I’m not a real pansy-ass,” Zane objected. “I just act like one sometimes. ”

  That caused Ty to laugh. Hard. “If you say so, man,” he practically giggled after he’d gotten control of himself.

  Zane thwapped his knuckles back against Ty’s ribs. Hard. “Asshole,”

  he said, in a vaguely fond fashion.

  “I’m not an asshole,” Ty objected officiously. “I just act like one sometimes,” he added slyly.

  Zane chuckl
ed tiredly and laid his head back down. “I can live with that,” he murmured after a short pause.

  “Oh yeah?” Ty asked in slight surprise.

  Zane wondered why Ty sounded like he didn’t believe him. “Yeah,”

  he said simply as he lay still under Ty’s hand, which was spreading some sort of awful-smelling salve over the myriad nicks and cuts. Now that he knew what to expect—mostly—from Ty, he could ignore the worst of it. “You got a problem with that?”

  “Maybe,” Ty drawled with a smirk as he dipped more of the salve out onto Zane’s back.

  Zane’s lips twitched. “Like what?”

  “Give me a minute, I’ll think of something,” Ty answered as he finished up with the Rawleigh’s.

  Zane’s expression was torn between a slight frown and an amused smile, and something glittered in his eyes for a change.

  “There,” Ty huffed finally as he stood up and looked Zane’s back over. “Don’t roll over; you’ll never stop. That shit’s worse than Astroglide,”

  he warned. “I might take a shower,” he added musingly as he looked down at his hands, still covered in blood and now salve that wouldn’t come off without serious scrubbing.

  “Help yourself. My clothes should fit you if you don’t want to go back to your room,” Zane murmured, eyes tracking the other man.

  Ty merely nodded, not admitting that he was hesitant to leave Zane alone. “Your clothes would fit me like a burlap sack. I brought my bag,” he muttered as he wiped his hands off on the towel at Zane’s side. “I’m going to go get you some ice first. I’ll be back,” he added as he picked up the key card to Zane’s room. He’d rather not leave the door open again.

  “Hey, give me my gun, would you?” Zane asked as he shifted, only to wince as the skin pulled.

  “Why, you planning on shooting me in the ass when I turn around?”

  Ty asked sarcastically as he reached for the holster.

  “Tempting, but you’d probably get off on it,” Zane said, holding out his hand.

  “Maybe so,” Ty drawled again, grinning widely as he placed the gun in Zane’s hand.

  Zane’s palm covered the gun, and his fingers curled firmly around Ty’s hand. His eyes had gone serious when he looked up at the other agent.

  “Why did you help me?”

  Ty looked down at their hands and then up at Zane with open confusion. “Why wouldn’t I?” he asked.

  That certainly wasn’t the answer Zane expected. He figured he’d get yet another smartass remark. His face softened slightly, and he nodded slowly, letting go of Ty’s hand. “Thanks. ”

  “Don’t thank me,” Ty responded with a smirk. “Just don’t get your prissy ass hurt again. ”

  “Better watch it, Grady, I might get to thinking you’re taking a liking to my prissy ass,” Zane said, sliding the gun under the pillow.

  “I’m sure I’d like parts of it,” Ty shot back as he headed for the door.

  “Be right back. ”

  Zane grinned and pushed his face into the pillow to muffle his chuckle. Maybe Ty wasn’t quite so bad as he’d thought. Still an asshole, though.

  Ty was gone for perhaps five minutes, quickly filling the ice bucket and grabbing himself a drink from one of the machines. He couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched, no matter how many times he assured himself that he was alone. When he returned to the room, his entire body was tense again.

  Zane slid the gun in his hand back under the pillow once he saw Ty.

  “Everything okay?” he asked.

  “Yup,” Ty answered succinctly as he set the ice down and reached for his bags. “How’s it feeling?”

  “Annoying as hell,” Zane said frankly. “It’s not killing me, but I’m certainly feeling it. It’s not too bad if I don’t move a lot. ”

  “Well, I would suggest not moving, then,” Ty drawled as he set his bags on the other bed and began stripping off his clothing.

  Zane just raised an eyebrow in wry acknowledgment, watching idly.

  Ty yanked off his shirt and tossed it to the floor. He toed off his boots and kicked out of his jeans, sighing with the realization that they’d have to frequent a laundromat if they expected to stay smelling decent.

  He bent and began rummaging through his bag for clean clothing. His body bore the evidence of a life lived in the trenches, and it was easier to see now in the afternoon light streaming through the sheer curtains. Zane got a closer look at the tattoo and realized that it was a drawing of a bulldog wearing the distinctive white cover of a Marine. Two guns crossed behind the dog, the smoke from their barrels forming the letters “USMC. ” It wasn’t possible to make out the finer details. Zane would need to get closer to appreciate the artwork. A lot closer.

  The rest of Ty’s body was covered with battle scars. There were wounds that Zane recognized as gunshots and knife gashes, and several older, more interesting patterns along his side that might have been caused by barbed wire. The one that was most recent was the one he had noticed before, low on Ty’s belly. Zane knew it went all the way through to the back.

  None of it detracted from his physique. Not in Zane’s eyes. Zane had his share of “mementos” from the job. But to him, the Bureau was just a job, albeit one he loved. Ty lived it. Ty did the job because he believed in it, though Zane suspected Ty would never admit it. It was a stark difference, and Zane lowered his chin to the pillow to mull silently over his own choices.
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