|Shooting the Breeze
Author: Guede Mazaka
So what did the last man standing do?
Well, technically it was last couple and technically they didn’t even know if they were in the clear yet, as Jane kept pointedly pointing out. All they’d accomplished had been to shoot to a standstill, and now they had to wait and bite—coolly, though—on their nails while their erstwhile employers decided whether to cut losses and renegotiate or to storm on ahead. They should be taking advantage of their breather to regroup and recalculate. Oh, and John needed to make sure to clean his pistols because she’d heard one click off and if he took care of his guns like he did his transmission, he was going to jam at the clutch.
Outside of a combat situation Jane still reverted to naggish. Frankly, John was inclined to just stagger into the nearest 7-11, grab some beers, and collapse stupidly in a corner. She had some good points, but he thought it was also an excellent point that their agencies were one, feeling just like him, and two, going to have to scramble for clean-up control. He hadn’t been consciously counting, but offhand, he’d estimate at least forty bodies.
“Oh, nice,” Jane said, breaking her rhythm. When John looked up, she was fingering a set of golf clubs. “Didn’t you need a new eight-iron for the Sutters’ party?”
“I…hate…golf.” John heaved himself up, one hand to his side, and took the club from her. He gave it a tentative swing that was aborted when the bullet-bruises on his abdomen reminded him of their presence. “Only reason I ever kept them around was because they’re decent bludgeons.”
The arch swivel of her hips both mocked and attracted him, which, come to think of it, was an excellent summary of their entire relationship. “And the Sutters?”
“The Sutters were all you, honey. You brought home Marjorie from a…what was it now? Tupperware party?” Bits of plaster and brand-name wallpaper samples crunched beneath their feet as they made their way towards a convenient door. One of John’s pistols peeked from beneath a corpse so covered in dust that it looked like a volcano victim; he stooped to retrieve it.
Jane stopped with foot tapping. “You know, we really don’t have time for this.”
“Then you’ll be happy to know that that was the last one.” Standing up threw John’s back muscles into extreme pain, so he took a moment to catch his breath. He knew well enough that it wasn’t really anything other than some bad bruising and overworked muscles, but it was still damned bad. And adrenaline rush usually didn’t work on that kind of injury. “You took almost all of mine. I had to borrow some from Eddie.”
She was completely unrepentant. “Well, under the garden shed? Please, John. Everyone looks there first.”
“Hey. Hey. At least I was trying to work this out. You didn’t see me go rattling your damn Martha Stewart cutlery, did you?” John tentatively tried straightening up. His back whimpered but didn’t scream, so onwards it was. “I’m getting those back, right? Right?”
Even when it was drenched in sweat and caked with dust, Jane’s hair still managed to swing insouciantly behind her. It was the one part of her that she’d never quite been able to cloak in tameness, and during their…rough patch…seeing an unruly wisp escaping from her coif had often been the only thing keeping John from storming out.
Right now, he wanted to yank it. Hard. “Honey? Jane? Jane, that was the collection of a whole lifeti—I want those back. You’re giving me those back.”
She reached the door and carefully eased it open, pistol peeking first. John belatedly fell into a covering position.
As soon as she’d given the all-clear, he fell out into an irritated stalk. “Jane, you are not keeping my guns. You have your own set—didn’t we have this same fight over the towels?”
All she did was smile sweetly around the door. Then her head pulled in and John had to run to grab the door before it closed on him.
He squeezed through and swung around; a rail jumped out at him and he hopped onto it, hoping his reflexes would still be working enough to keep him on it. His heels clipped the concrete a few times, but he made it down just as Jane was snapping her gun towards his face. His hand caught her wrist and twisted their faces to a hairs-breadth apart.
Jane smelled like sweat and smoke and seared cotton. She smelled like heaven. “Jane,” John carefully said.
“John,” she breathlessly answered. Her eyelids lowered as she swayed into him. “Did you sell those paintings I gave you for our last anniversary to buy a new sniper’s rifle?”
And she had the damnedest way of throwing him. Gears snagged, snapped their teeth and ground to a stop in John’s head. “They didn’t match the wallpaper anyway.”
Her eyes rolled heavenwards. She shoved him off the rail.
* * *
“All right, I think we’re secure for now.” John put down his cell-phone.
Jane was still at her laptop. So he went into the bathroom and splashed his face—considered the shower, but gave it up as being too much work—then wandered back out. Their guns took about ten minutes to re-prep for the night. His share was a slightly stale sandwich half that tasted like ambrosia to his gnawing stomach and some lukewarm water.
Five minutes after that, Jane finally pushed back from the desk. “All right, I think we’re secure for now.”
John bit on his tongue. “Hon?”
“Baby, I hate that nickname. It’s so fifties.” Jane tilted back her head and began to run her fingers through her hair, knocking bits of broken wood onto the floor. Occasionally she’d wipe off the accumulated grime from her fingers onto her pants.
“Sorry, babe. You just acted the part so well,” John said. He started to knead the bed.
Her hands froze in her hair. Then she slowly wrung her hair into a long rope that she draped over her neck. Clearly, the noose wasn’t meant for herself. “John. This isn’t our house.”
“Yeah, I know. Spy training 101—you don’t shit where you sleep. Or hide, for that matter.” He flopped back and scratched at his head, only to come away with nails full of dried blood and filth. Suddenly his exhaustion seemed like a palpable thing, thick and faintly nauseating like week-old Chinese. “So you’re Jewish? How come we always celebrated Christmas?”
“I’m Jewish, not Orthodox.” She turned herself around in her chair and folded her arms over the back, then rested her chin on it. Anyone else would’ve looked relaxed, but Jane only looked coiled and smoldering. “You were the one that was always going on about the big fir trees at your grandfather’s farm—”
John snickered and stared amusedly at the ceiling. “My grandfather didn’t have a farm. I never had a real Christmas tree till we bought a house.”
“Which you destroyed,” she muttered.
For a moment, John could only simmer his grumbling in his throat. Then he looked at her, wondering if maybe he did have enough energy to knock her smug little face off her smug little ass. “Why do you always have to do that? You don’t have to pretend to agree with me, but you do and then you do your own thing anyway. And you’re always blaming me, daddy. I seem to remember you had a couple moments with your high-powered—”
“Oh, oh, oh.” Now she was bridling like a wet cat, drawing up her back and unsheathing claws in her eyes. The corner of her lip pulled back to hint at a snarl. “Well, if you had kept maturing after age twelve—”
“—a rocket launcher? Did your agency assign you to take out that whole car instead of just the target, or couldn’t you resist the urge to compensate—”
That was it. John rolled onto his arm and then used it to propel himself off the bed. He hit Jane just as she was rising to block him with her arms. Apparently she’d been expecting a narrowly-focused attack like, say, a punch or a kick. Sometimes the attraction of brute force wasn’t that it was mindlessly fun, but that it was surprising as hell. Everybody expected the hammer, but nobody except the insane expected the wrecking-ball.
The chair tipped back and one of its legs raked past the inside of John’s calf. He had gotten one hand in Jane’s hair, which length was handy as hell in a dirty fight, and his other was scrabbling to get past her arm. Her hip smacked her laptop and she faltered for a second worrying about that, which gave him enough of an advantage to get them on the floor. Though she twisted so he broke her fall.
God, that hurt. Bulletproof vests might have kept him from getting turned into mesh, but they mostly just spread the impact of the bullet into a huge stretch of bruising. Slamming onto those slathered a thick layer of pain that sunk hooks deep into John’s muscles. He groaned and his grip slipped. Jane tried to knee him.
“Jesus!” His free hand reflexively snapped up, the heel of it catching her beneath the chin.
Her teeth clacked as her jaw smashed into the rest of her head, and she went over to rattle her arms and back against the fallen chair. Jane’s mouth opened in a hiss as her eyes snapped shut from the pain. She managed to grab one chair-leg before it hit her, but from the sound of things, another one got her right in the ribs. Her head went back quick as a rifleshot and only came down slowly; her hands lifted, then fell limply over the chair. John could understand, since he was planning on staying prostrate himself.
Next door, somebody banged on the wall. Their words were muffled, but John got the general gist of them. He couldn’t help laughing, even though that hurt like a bitch. “I wish.”
Jane just stared at him like she was looking at an alien. Her mouth was soft and slightly open. “Did you really go to Stanford?”
“Is your name really Jane?” John countered.
They both thought about the inevitable corollary to that.
“If Smith’s not your real last name, I don’t think we’re really married,” Jane finally said.
“I never liked the rings you picked out anyway, so good. We can get new ones.” The pain was burning less with every breath that John took, but he still had a feeling that his back wasn’t going to like him very much for the next couple of days. He wondered when he could get in to see his chiropractor again.
Jane made a funny noise. It came from the throat and it was more watery than choked. “You’re crazy.”
“Well, you helped.” John closed his eyes and tried to think happy thoughts. Like having the bones in his spine magically realign themselves. He reminded himself to be grateful that, though Eddie whined endlessly about it, he had that habit of being pigheaded as hell once he’d made up his mind. It helped cut through the bullshit. “Okay. If you’ll excuse the fact that I can’t get to my knees…will you marry me?”
It was silent for a minute. When John looked over, Jane’s eyes were suspiciously wet and she was chewing on her lip like it had to come off in the next five seconds or the world would end. She shook her head minutely, then glanced to the side.
Definitely not getting up. Physical pain was old hat, but this…this clench in the chest, John was getting tired of. He was planning to try again, but he needed a breather.
“I want a honeymoon in Mexico this time, not Europe,” Jane suddenly said. Her voice was wavery, but she wasn’t hesitating much about shoving the chair out of the way and snuggling into John’s side.
“I thought you li—never mind. Mexico it is.”
She kissed his ear. “Culiacan. My first kill.”
He was grinning like a fucking idiot. “Lucky. I had to go to Prague in the dead of winter.”
* * *
“I like Jane. It’s a nice name. It’s simple, and it’s great for the profession, and it’s pretty.”
The pain was down to a dull ache for John, and it seemed to be the same for Jane, so he carefully tried wrapping his arm around her. She squirmed and bit at his ear, so he muttered an apology and moved his arm. Still with the biting. “Look, I’m trying not to hurt you.”
“John’s kind of plain, isn’t it?” she said, ignoring him. Her tongue wriggled into the little nibble-marks she’d just left on him, triggering wriggling sensations in the rest of John’s body.
“Hey, it’s a good, strong name. Biblical.” He tried to get his head away from her, but when that didn’t work, he resorted to frontal attack.
Backfire. Her lips were uneven, soft in some places, swollen in others, and crisscrossed with tiny cuts that he knew had to be touching off like fireworks every time he pressed against them because his mouth was the same way. But she wasn’t moving away, was instead kissing through the pain, and Jane had always known how to do that. She was warm and wet like the fruit they’d had the night they had met, and even if she tasted more like sawdust than like the guava, it was still wonderful to him. He couldn’t get enough of it.
“You couldn’t have dragged us onto the bed?” she muttered, her hands growing urgent on his sides. She slid her fingers into the tears in his shirt and scratched past the dirt, skated over the bruises to set his skin on fire. Her knee came up, rocked over his legs and her hand went down to meet it, only it stopped on his crotch instead to palm his erection.
“Well, you’re a capable modern woman. Be my guest.” He hefted himself onto his side and pulled her as close as he could, given everything. His hand got tangled up in her shirt and he was trying to free it when the damn thing just ripped completely off. “Huh. Manufacturers skimped.”
Jane snorted through her frantic kissing, her hands roaming over and over his back and ass. She had had a thing for squeezing it early on, but later she’d stopped. Probably because it wasn’t done in the country-club set, but hell, he didn’t mind. His fingers were reveling in the roundness of her breasts, the way they plumped up and tried to roll out of his hands so he had to keep stroking and restroking them. He rubbed his thumb over one nipple and drew out a shivery little breath from her that made him smile against her hair. “‘Girly gun’?”
She smiled, showing all her creamy-white teeth. Then her hand shot down into his pants and she squeezed his balls. “Dear, shut up,” she told his groan.
Well, always listen to the lady. He buried his face in her neck, swirling his tongue around the edges of one bruise that lapped her collarbone; her hand stopped squeezing and started rubbing. He groaned again, hunched over and nuzzled between her breasts to lick up the sweat there. He hiked up her skirt and massaged his hands between her thighs, working upward till she was rocking on his hand, his thumb pressed into her warm velvet folds, his fingers tangling in the coarse hair around her clit.
Never one to be left behind, Jane shucked his pants down over his hips and hit at his shoulder with her head till he humped to let her yank them down further. Then her fingers were all over his cock, pulling with just the right amount of pressure to make his vision go blurry. She sucked on his lip like a decadent promise. Good thing he was trained to work solely by his tactile sense.
“You weren’t lying about not wanting kids, were you?” John hissed.
She tweaked his cock and he rose about two inches. Her eyebrow was arched in the perfect curve for his tongue to follow. “My tubes are tied. You?”
“Same.” He felt a flash of irrational embarrassment—somehow it just seemed less manly. Stupid, but even if his pragmatism could get over it, it couldn’t get too far ahead of it. “Ever have to do this with a mark?”
Jane sank her teeth into his shoulder, hard. Her hands abruptly sped up on his cock to an almost painful rate and he twisted, his fingertips slipping in and out of her arching body.
It’d been a flippant question, but now that John was sort of thinking about it, it didn’t make him too happy. He wasn’t furious per se, but his desire to get into every inch of this woman and leave marks had suddenly ratcheted up several notches. “Not that I’m going to be self-righteous about it…”
“I might.” Her eyes flashed as she dropped his cock. Grabbed him by the hips instead and got onto him before he’d even finished his breath. “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to write our own tickets from now on. We’ll do it right.”
“Sensible,” John choked out. Jane’s mouth, all pink and sweet and secret folds beneath, swam into view and he dove for it and couldn’t get away from it afterward. It distracted him so much, licking and nipping at that delicious mouth, that he even almost forgot about fucking her. He slowed down, frenzy sliding into savoring deliberation.
Her thighs, slick and strong around his waist, and her hands slipping from shoulder to back to shoulder again. His hand on the bumps of her ribs, and her half-pained hisses meeting his and mixing into long claiming kisses. He declared with his lips and she answered with a down-push of her hips. Her sweet welcoming tightness, the heat of her core matching his own. He rocked into her and she took his cock, she clutched for him and he filled her.
They’d had their maddened, frantic rediscovery. This was reaffirmation, this deep knowing coupling that was not bodies writhing together but Jane’s head nestling into John’s shoulder, and his hand cradling it. Not a catapult into brilliant exploding blackness but a paired arc into the embrace of exhilaration.
* * *
He swam slowly back to the surface where he found a couple different covers floating there, waiting for him. He took John Smith, shook off the drops and slipped into it to wait for his wife.
Eventually she opened her eyes. Then she closed them again, a quietly satisfied smile stretching over her tired face.
“You know, I never lied about loving you,” he told her.
“Yes.” Jane dragged her hand playfully through his hair. “I love you, too.”
They were filthier and sorer and more worn-out than before, but somehow, it worked. John rubbed noses with Jane, then dropped his head on the slope of her breasts.
“John? You remember Richard that used to play poker with you and the boys? I killed him. Corporate espionage.”
“Oh. I think I did one of your book-club members. Blackmail of a former head of state.”