Pairing: Mike Carden/Kevin Jonas
Summary: Kevin, a struggling author of a failing crime series of novels, is shocked to find out that somehow, he has lifted his plots and characters straight from reality, and Wentz, the crime boss, is not pleased with him. If he wants to live, Kevin has to depend on his shaky knowledge of crime story cliches and Mike Carden, a potential Hero In Disguise.
Warnings: Okay. Potentially the most ridiculous thing I've ever written up to and not counting my Harry/Draco story about the beanbag chair that comes alive and shits styrofoam beans. I have never been any good at crime plots. I've put off posting this for quite some time, a week at least, because I am deeply, deeply ashamed. But here you go, an FBI Mike/Kevin AU of 10056 words. Please enjoy, at your own risk.
Disclaimer: This isn't real. If you think it is, you've been watching too much Criminal Minds. Oh, wait, that was me. Seriously, it's on like five times a day.
Good Boys Gone Bad
Kevin was getting mugged.
He wondered if repeating it over and over again would make it more real and less like a nightmare, but it hadn’t worked even a little bit yet, so he kept trying.
The hardest part was the fact that the mugging wasn’t going as typical muggings should go. Instead of waving a knife or whatever around and demanding a wallet, this guy was pressing the gun to Kevin’s temple and hissing, “Hands behind your back.” Then he tied Kevin up and said, “If you scream, you’re dead, and so is your brother.”
“What?” Kevin said, startled. It was the first thing he’d said besides terrified squeaking since the man had dragged him into the alley beside his apartment. “Which brother?” He liked to think that it mattered, like if it was Joe, he might have been willing to risk it, but it really didn’t.
“Shut up and get in the van.”
Kevin squinted in the darkness and saw a dark van parked near at the other end of the alley. The backdoors were open, waiting, and when the man cocked the gun pressed to his temple, he took a few instinctive, jerky steps forward.
“Listen,” he babbled. “If this is a ransom thing, I haven’t got any money, and neither does my family.”
“Shut the fuck up,” said the man who was mugging him.
“You can have my wallet,” Kevin said desperately. “I’ll tell you my pin, too. I’ve got nearly three hundred—”
He’d always sort of wondered what being pistol-whipped felt like, for purely professional reasons.
It didn’t feel nice.
He fell forward, landing face-down on the pavement, hands bound behind him so he was unable to break his fall, even if he hadn’t been stunned by the heavy blow of the gun to the back of his head.
When his ears stopped ringing, he could hear gunshots echoing off the old brick walls and he flinched, closing his eyes and fully aware of the fact that this was just further proof that Nick was always right. He’d told Kevin not to risk living in such a dangerous neighbourhood, after all.
But he wasn’t shot, and after some hurried footsteps, the van turned on and roared away, leaving Kevin lying in the dark, breathing harsh, and face grinding against the dirt on the ground.
He flinched, scrambling to his knees as best as he can. There were rocks embedded in his face and he tried to brush them off with his shoulder but it didn’t work. He had thought he was alone, but there was another man, a stranger, who looked somehow more threatening than the first, standing there watching him curiously.
“I was mugged,” Kevin told him, starting to shake.
“Is that what that was?” The guy’s voice was drawling and somehow blank, and he rolled his eyes as he came closer. “Hold still.” He had a knife—he pulled a knife from his boot to be exact-- and Kevin’s eyes went wide as his heart started pounding even more wildly. He wasn’t sure he was any safer with this guy. The guy just knelt beside him and cut the rope from around his wrists.
After his hands were free, he got to his feet, rubbing at the swelling lump on the back of his head, fingers coming away a bit bloody. He stared at them.
“I have to call the police,” he said dumbly.
The guy was suddenly holding a gun, cocking it effortlessly, and saying, “No, I think you need to get in off the streets. Let’s get inside.” He jerked his head at the apartment building next to them, and Kevin should have wondered how he knew where Kevin lived.
Kevin stared at the gun. “Are you threatening me?” he said, voice high with disbelief. “You can’t save me from being mugged just to—”
The guy shrugged casually, like being threatened at gunpoint twice in one day wasn’t that big a deal, and said, “Let’s talk inside.”
At least they were going home, not to some unmarked van, which showed a slight improvement in his circumstances, so Kevin led him inside, up the rickety elevator, and to his tiny one-bedroom apartment. He locked the door but left the security chain off, just in case Nick showed up in a few days looking for his body.
He sat on his couch and the guy rolled his eyes, put his gun away, and went into the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with a bag of frozen peas which he tossed to Kevin without a word, before beginning to poke around the windows and closets. Kevin put the peas on the lump on his head and watched silently. He was judging the distance between himself and the phone, wondering if he’d have time to dial 9-1-1 before the guy shot him.
“Wouldn’t risk it,” the guy said, finally coming back into the living room, dragging a chair from the kitchen, turning it around, and straddling it. His gun was gone, thank god, and he was studying Kevin thoughtfully.
“I need to call the police,” Kevin said again, wondering if this guy was crazy. He certainly looked it.
“You don’t,” he said. “What was that about outside?”
“I told you, I was being mugged.”
“Being mugged doesn’t technically include being bound and tossed in a van.”
Kevin ducked his head, sucking in a shaky breath. “Yeah,” he said, because he was seriously close to freaking out. “So—so what was that? You just happen to wander by when I was being mugged. And have a gun. And a knife in your boot? I need to call the police! I need to call my brother.” And then his eyes went very, very wide. “I don’t think I was being mugged at all!” he gasped.
The guy rolled his eyes. “You’re not half as dumb as you look,” he said, but Kevin was barely listening.
He lunged from his spot on the couch and scrambled for the phone.
He was knocked flat on his back, both hands pinned to the floor before he even had time to hit ‘talk’, staring up at the scary guy who was casually sitting on his hips and holding him down, and smirking a bit while he did it.
“I said not to risk it,” he said.
Kevin swallowed hard. “I need to call my brothers,” he said.
That caused the guy to pause, and he said carefully, “Why?”
“Because I have to make sure they’re okay, the guy—the guy with the gun, he said if I didn’t shut up, he’d kill me, and my brother. What if—what if—” and he had a sudden, terrible image of Joe tied up, scared and alone, by some scary guy he’d pissed off, Joe was so good at pissing people off! What if they hurt him because Kevin had had the nerve to get abducted by someone even scarier? What if—
“Which brother?” the guy asked quietly, watching him closely, and Kevin just shook his head wildly.
“Please, I need to check,” he said desperately.
He was surprised when the guy sat back (still on him) and handed him the phone. “Just your brothers,” he said. “You call the cops and I’m gonna be pissed.”
Kevin shuddered and dialled Joe’s number quickly.
It rang seven times and he was about to give up when Joe picked up. “’Lo?”
“Who did you think you were calling? Hell, Kevin, it’s—what time is it?”
“Like eleven,” Kevin said. “Are you okay?”
“I was, when I was sleeping.”
Joe hung up, but Kevin wasn’t too worried. He was kind of use to Joe being rude when he just woke up, and most other times too. He relaxed, as much as he could with a strange guy on top of him, and said, “Joe’s okay, they must have been lying.”
“What about the other one?”
“Oh, Nick can take care of himself,” Kevin said, because it was true. “Joe’s the one who pisses people off.”
“Call him.” There was something low and dangerous in the stranger’s voice and Kevin obeyed without question, dialling Nick’s number.
No one answered. That was no cause for alarm, Nick frequently dropped off the radar, except Kevin looked up at the guy sitting on him as he carefully turned the phone off, and he wasn’t sure that Nick was okay at all.
“Who are you?” he asked quietly.
“Carden.” He got up and left the room, leaving Kevin to sit up slowly, staring at the phone, fully aware that this was his chance to call the cops. He could hear Carden on the phone in the next room, arguing with someone, though he couldn’t make out the words. His head was throbbing and so was his face.
He went to the bathroom, staring at his face, which was scraped up from the pavement. He wet a face cloth and started gingerly washing bits of stone out of the shallow cuts. His hands were shaking.
Carden appeared behind him in the mirror finally, rolled his eyes, and took the face cloth from him, turning Kevin and picking bits of stone from his face. “You’re fine,” he said. “You should get some sleep.”
“Or you’ll shoot me?” Kevin asked with a hysterical little giggle.
Carden lifted an eyebrow but before he could say anything, the living room window broke, and Kevin could smell something burning.
“Fuck,” Carden hissed, and then he was grabbing Kevin and shoving him from the bathroom, down the hall. “Into your room, there’s a fire escape, hopefully they’re not watching it, c’mon.”
“I—the living room’s on fire,” Kevin said, eyes wide. “Why’s the living room—”
“It’s going to blow up,” Carden snapped. “Hurry up.” He was at the window, tugging it open, and Kevin was still in shock, so he crawled out the window, crouching on the fire escape when Carden told him to. “Stay quiet.”
“There’s been a mistake,” Kevin said.
“Shut your mouth,” Carden hissed. He pulled Kevin down to the ground. “I’m going to get my truck.” He jerked his head, indicating an old orange pickup about half a block away. “They don’t know I’m here, and they’re going to be waiting for you to come out the front door. Wait here and I’ll come back for you with the truck.”
Kevin swallowed hard and said, “I don’t understand.”
“Let me dumb it down for you. The men who tried to take you earlier just tossed a burning cocktail through your window, and they’re waiting for you out front. If you don’t come out, they’re going to come looking, and the only thing you’ve got going for you is that they don’t know I’m here.”
“But how do I know you’re any better?” he asked in a tiny voice.
Carden grinned. “You’re just going to have to trust me.” Then he was gone, walking casually down the street towards his truck.
People were shouting, someone had pulled the fire alarm, and Kevin held very still, crouching behind a garbage can.
Carden had just screeched to a stop at the curb when the gunshots rang out, and Kevin gave into instinct and ran. The passenger door was open and he jumped in, and Carden hit the gas before his feet had even left the pavement.
They drove wildly for a while, Kevin couldn’t even focus, too terrified and aware of the bullets grazing the truck as they did, trying to dodge the car that followed. Finally, around three in the morning, they pulled onto the highway, heading west, and Carden slowed to just below the speed limit, smiled like he was quiet pleased with himself, and turned on the blinker to merge smoothly with traffic.
“Lost them,” he said, satisfied.
“I might throw up.” Kevin winced at the confession but Carden didn’t even turn to look at him.
“Not in my truck,” he said. He turned on the blinker again, gracefully and politely passed a semi, and continued obeying all traffic laws. It was unearthly, after his manic driving from before.
“You need to tell me what’s going on,” Kevin decided. “Seriously. Who are you?”
“Didn’t we cover this? I’m Carden. Mike, actually.”
“Yeah but. Who are you, really? Why were you at my apartment? Why do you have a gun?”
Carden turned to look at him, lifting one eyebrow and looking mildly confused. “I’m a bad guy,” he said. “It’s pretty standard. We have guns; it’s what we do.”
Kevin didn’t want to admit that he had kind of hoped that Carden was somehow a good guy, and instead, he said, “My name’s Kevin.”
“I know.” Carden hit the indicator and drifted easily onto the off-ramp.
“How do you know?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
Kevin blinked. Sure, his head was throbbing, and he was pretty sure he was going into shock from the worst night in the history of nights, but even still, nothing was making sense. “I think so,” he said.
“We’ll see.” Carden sounded grim, and for a while, there was silence, and the dark-light-dark pattern as they passed under streetlights was mesmerizing. Kevin slumped against the window and wondered how bad it would be to fall asleep after having been kidnapped, perhaps for his own good. He drifted off, realized it a moment later, and jerked himself up again.
“Might as well sleep,” Carden said. “Nearest safe house is a few hours away.”
“I could have a concussion,” Kevin told him. “I need to stay awake.”
“That’s a myth.” Carden sounded far too smug. “If you’ve got a concussion that’s worth worrying about, you’ll pass out anyway, won’t be able to stay awake. Nothing we can do. If you’ve got a minor concussion, which you might, than you may as well asleep and let it heal. We’ll only know how bad it is if you wake up or not.” He smirked. “I think you’ll be fine though.”
Kevin huffed a bit, shifted against the window, and fell asleep just to spite him.
The engine shut off and that’s what woke Kevin up. He jerked up before he was fully conscious and blinked, confused. The sun was rising weakly, gray light spilling over an eerily pastoral scene. The safe house was evidently a bungalow in the middle of an older subdivision, on a lazily curving lane. There was a modest country club down the street with a few horses grazing absently at tufts of thistle and clover.
“Seriously?” he mumbled, because the bulge in Carden’s pants (his gun) made the entire Stepford Wives scenery somehow obscene.
“Up the steps, don’t make me shoot you,” Carden said, far too casually, like he was enjoying himself.
Kevin trudged up the steps and waited, shoulders slumped and eyes blinking sleepily, while Carden rang the doorbell impatiently.
The man who answered was unnaturally tall, skinny, and pretty. He blinked at Carden, flashed a grin, and said, “Wasn’t expecting you. Who’s this?” He glanced at Kevin curiously.
“I’m Kevin,” Kevin told him. “I’ve been kidnapped.”
Carden rolled his eyes, shoved Kevin inside, and said, “I’m pretty sure I told you to shut the fuck up or I’d shoot you in the head.”
“Mike. Mike,” said the stranger. “What do you think you’re doing, bringing business like that--”
“Relax, Bill,” Carden said, rolling his eyes. “If I make a mess, I’ll clean it up, same as usual. We need a place to hide out for a while, figure out our next move. Kevin, that’s William, a friend of mine. You’re lucky, if he wasn’t, I’d have to shoot you both in the head since, evidently, you can’t keep a secret after all, so try to keep your mouth shut.”
William crossed his arms over his skinny chest and looked fierce. “And what sort of next move might that be?” He closed the door behind them with his hip.
Carden waved a casual hand, ducking into the kitchen, leaving Kevin leaning tiredly against the wall. “The usual,” he called.
“I’d like to know,” Kevin said mournfully. “The next move, I mean.” He took his phone out of his pocket, feeling small and dejected, and checked. No message from Nick.
He was startled when William apologetically took the phone from him. “Sorry. But if he’s kidnapped you, you probably shouldn’t have that. Come with me, I’ll find you somewhere to sleep. You look tired.”
Even though William was evidently in league with Carden, Kevin was feeling just lonely enough to bond with his abductor—well, not Carden, clearly. But William didn’t seem so bad.
As he followed William down the hall, he said morosely, “Someone tried to mug me and then Carden forced me into my apartment at gunpoint and someone lit my living room on fire and then they shot at me and Carden keeps threatening to shoot me in the head.”
They were in a homey and pleasant guest room now, and William handed him a pair of clean pajamas. “Poor thing,” he said, sounding sincere. He turned his back while Kevin changed and then held the covers back, smoothing them over Kevin after he’d climbed into bed. Then he leaned close and whispered, “Just don’t cause trouble, kid. It’ll be alright. You’re just going to have to trust him.”
Kevin tried to roll his eyes but ended up yawning instead. “Yeah,” he mumbled sarcastically. “I’ll get right on that.”
William patted him on the head and left and Kevin was sleeping again before the door was closed.
“So, here’s the thing.”
Kevin stared at Carden, vaguely aware that he’d woken up handcuffed to William’s guest room bed, trying to blink the sleep out of his eyes. His head was pounding and Carden seemed to anticipate it, holding a Tylenol to his mouth until Kevin opened it and took the pill, swallowing it dry.
“Thanks,” he rasped.
“Okay. Now we need to talk.” Carden threw himself back into an armchair in the corner, looking broody. “So. Nick’s fucked up, and he’s probably going to die.”
Kevin blinked again, more slowly. “What?”
“Your brother. You know, the one who works for the FBI?”
“Yeah. Well, he fucked up and blew his cover, and now he’s in a lot of shit, and so are you.”
Kevin swallowed hard, bit his lip, and asked hesitantly, “But what does this have to do with you?”
Carden rolled his eyes. “I’m one of the ones he’s in trouble with. Sort of. As are the two idiots who tried to take you yesterday. Basically, Nick’s been working undercover for ages, has learned a lot of shit he shouldn’t have learned, and he’s going to be killed for it. Don’t freak out, and Bill’ll be pissed if you puke on his guest bed, so cut that shit right out.”
Kevin might have been hyperventilating a little bit.
“So, the thing is, we’re not sure exactly what Nicky knows. So he’s going to live, until we can figure out exactly how much damage has been done. In the meantime, there’s you. Who are you?”
“You already know,” Kevin said faintly. He was feeling a little dizzy. “Kevin Jonas.”
That’s when Carden pulled out a well-worn copy of “Do or Die: A Stump Mystery by Jonah Jacobs”.
Stump was Kevin’s protagonist, and the Stump Mystery series was his failing book series and, worst of all, Jonah Jacobs was his pen name.
His eyes were very wide and he said, “How did you—”
“How much do you know?”
Kevin just stared, shook his head, tried to work through the confusion and vague sense of nausea, and said, “Did you read it? Do you like it? It only sold like, four copies.”
“Four copies too many,” Carden said grimly. “Your author picture’s on the back, and your plot? Your bad guy, Wentz? Your setting? It’s all fucking real, you dumb piece of shit. How do you think Wentz fucking figured out that your brother was a spy?”
“I—I didn’t—Wentz’s not real, he’s...” He trailed off. “I made it up.”
“How much did Nick tell you? Think about it real carefully.”
Kevin did. He screwed up his face and thought hard. He remembered a few nights at the pub, years before, when he’d been working on the first Stump book, sprawled at a table in the back of the dark little room, thick smoke and eyes hazy from alcohol. Nick had been there, bright and babbling on about... about... huh. Kevin remembered telling him about his story, and talking about plot, and... and okay, maybe Nick had helped him out with it. Maybe.
“What sort of FBI agent goes undercover with the mob and then tells their brother about it?” he asked weakly.
“A stupid one,” Carden said tightly. “What else did he tell you?”
“I don’t know, I don’t remember, I didn’t know it was real,” Kevin said quickly.
Carden rolled his eyes and said, “What’s the plot of the book you’re working on?”
“Stump goes undercover with Wentz’s operatives,” Kevin said, quiet and staring at the window so he didn’t have to see Carden. “Wentz is planning a national bioterror attack using contaminated water coolers delivered to all the major financial districts in the top five American cities.”
“Fuck,” Carden hissed.
Kevin finally looked at him, eyes wide. “It isn’t real, right? You don’t mean it’s real.”
“I mean that your brother got himself killed,” Carden said coldly. “And you as well.”
He got up and left the room, and it took a long time before Kevin stopped feeling like he was going to puke.
When William came in a short time later, carrying a plate of toast and a glass of orange juice and looking apologetic, Kevin pretended to be asleep.
“It’s not really working,” William told him. “Sorry. Do you need to pee?”
He did, so William unlocked the handcuffs and then escorted him to the bathroom.
For a minute or so, the bathroom window looked like a brilliantly promising escape route, but then Kevin realized that he’d get stuck and someone would have to pull him out, and it would be wildly embarrassing.
He washed his hands and meekly followed William back to the bedroom.
“I think this is unnecessary,” William told him as he did the handcuffs back up, leaving one hand free to eat his toast. “But Mike’s a bit paranoid.”
Kevin was too depressed to say anything at all.
“I’m getting cramps in my shoulders,” Kevin said.
It was Carden again, and he arched an eyebrow before setting his gun down on the bedside table and resting a knee on the bed. He leaned over Kevin to unlock the handcuff and Kevin wasn’t sure if he really needed to be that close or if it was some sort of intimidation technique or something. If it was, it was largely ineffective, because his breath sped up but it wasn’t with fear.
It was wholly embarrassing and something Kevin didn’t really want to admit, but this was the closest anyone had been to him in months, possibly years. He didn’t get out much.
“You okay, kid?” Carden asked, sounding more amused than anything. He was still leaning over Kevin, and when Kevin glanced up, their faces were very, very close.
“Yeah,” he croaked. He cleared his throat. “Yes. Did you lose your balance?”
“Maybe I just want to be here.”
Kevin wondered if he looked as skeptical as he felt. “Seriously?”
Carden just grinned and sat back. He picked up his gun and started to do something complex and kind of hot with it (not that Kevin had ever had a thing for guys with guns. Until now, apparently.) He sat up slowly, absently rolling his sore shoulder, and watched for a moment.
“What are you doing?”
“Cleaning my gun.”
“Won’t it just get messy again when you shoot me?”
Carden looked up, a wordless, considering gaze, before turning back to his gun. It was quiet for a moment, and it was really freaking Kevin out. Finally, he said, “Have you ever shot anyone?”
Another glance. Carden snapped his gun back together, shoved a cartridge in it, and set it aside again. “So, here’s the thing,” he said.
Kevin figured this was the part where Carden explained how he had to kill him, random and unexplained sexual attraction aside. He said quickly, “So if my brother’s FBI undercover, and Wentz is the bad guy, and the bad guy sent thugs to abduct me, then what does that make you?”
This time Carden looked at him with a faint and approving grin, like Kevin was finally asking the right questions. “Sorry,” he said, apologetic. “Bad guy. Wentz’s not the only one who has an interest in how much the FBI know.”
“So you saved me from his men just to find out what I know and kill me yourself?” Kevin asked.
Carden shrugged. “If it comes to that.”
“I don’t know if I believe you,” Kevin said, a bit desperately.
“It doesn’t really matter what you believe.”
“Then why haven’t you killed me? Why am I handcuffed here? Why can’t I just go home? Is Nick okay? Can you—can you trade me for him? Would they—”
“No one wants you alive,” Carden said calmly. “Except for Nick. So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to get Nick away from Wentz, and then I’m going to make him watch me kill you, and I’m going to make it last a long time, until he tells me everything he knows. The sooner he does, the more quickly and less painfully you die.”
Kevin swallowed hard. “Why don’t you just promise to let us both go if he tells you?”
Carden stood up, slipping his gun into a holster that hung low on his hips. “Because, for all that your brother’s an idiot and told you shit you should never have known, he’s smart enough to know that I can’t let either of you go. I’ve got some contacts with Wentz and we’ve worked out the details. We’re leaving in the morning.”
“We? You’re taking me with you?”
Carden grinned over his shoulder as he left the room. “Not taking the chance that you’ll bolt. Bill’s far too trusting and he hates when I have to kill civilians.” Then he was gone.
Kevin couldn’t sleep, and he was groggy and disoriented in the morning. William had packed sandwiches and juice boxes for the road, clucking over Kevin and glaring at Carden, but Kevin was too exhausted to find it amusing. He stumbled coming down the stairs and would have fallen had Carden not grabbed his elbow, and Kevin just watched him, wide-eyed, until Carden scowled, rolled his eyes, and stalked off to the car.
“Remember what I said,” William said quietly, helping Kevin to the car.
“Yeah,” Kevin mumbled. “Thanks.”
Apparently they’d arrive at Wentz’s the next day, which meant Kevin had about two days and one night to live. It was kind of depressing, and pretty terrifying, and Kevin didn’t mean to sleep at all because each minute seemed like it should be more meaningful but the sad fact of the matter was that he was tired.
He slumped against the window and woke around noon, blinking blearily. The radio was playing classic rock, volume down low, and Carden was tapping out the rhythm as he drove.
“What’s the ring about?” he asked, without glancing over.
Kevin glanced down at his ring, startled. Normally, he’d tell anyone who asked to mind their own business, but he was too sleepy to think, and said, “Purity ring.”
Carden laughed. “Seriously?”
“You’ve never had sex.”
He shrugged, staring out the window, rubbing at his eyes. “I don’t think you should kill me,” he said.
“Why? Because you’ve never had sex? We’ve still got a whole night ahead of us, you know, and—”
“Because I think you were lying. You’re not a bad guy.”
“Wishful thinking, Jonas.” Carden glanced at him quickly before looking back to the road.
“No, see, a bad guy wouldn’t have gotten me frozen peas for my head or picked rocks out of the cuts on my face. I mean, yeah, you’ve held your gun to my head and handcuffed me to a bed, but honestly, William isn’t exactly the mob-material. Besides, he told me I could trust you.”
Carden was quiet for a moment, easily passing a semi before moving back into the slow lane. “Listen to me,” he said, sounding grimly sincere. “I’m not a good guy. I’m not going to save you. I may not want to kill you, but I’m going to do what I have to do to make sure your brother’s fuck up doesn’t destroy more than it has to. If it makes you feel better, you can blame Nick for this, or you can blame me, or even Wentz if that’s what you want, but the sooner you accept it, the easier it’ll be for both of us.”
Kevin was shaking a little bit, blinking back tears, and he lapsed into silence, staring out the window.
“Why would you think that, anyway?” Carden asked, after a long moment.
Kevin took a shaky breath and then said with a weak grin, “In the books, it’s always the scary looking, hot guy that you think’s the bad guy who ends up secretly being the hero.”
Carden looked at him again, thoughtfully. “Sorry,” he said, sounding sincere. “Don’t think there are any heroes this time.”
Kevin bit his lip and turned back to the window.
If he were writing this story... Carden would be a secret double-agent who seemed like a hardass but secretly had a melty marshmallow core, they’d save Nick together, having a torrid sexual encounter along the way, someone would probably get shot, a silly wound like an arm or calf graze, there would be melodramatic declarations of love, and a happy ending.
Apparently that didn’t happen in real life, and if he were writing it, no one would bother to read it anyway.
They stopped in a small town, at a dingy motel with a scary-looking bar attached, and Carden handcuffed him to the car before going inside to register. There was one double bed with matching floral coverlets, brown walls, generic framed art on them, a lap, a desk, and a tiny bathroom.
“Shower,” Carden said, and Kevin wanted to argue just to prove that he had some control over his life, but he didn’t bother. Besides, he was feeling pretty disgusting.
He showered, taking longer than he needed to because it was apparently his last shower ever, and he was really going to miss showering, among other things. Food, for instance. He was a big fan of food.
He washed his hair and scrubbed at his body and realized that he really, really didn’t want to die.
Nick wouldn’t just go morosely to his death. He’d fight every step of the way. Joe wouldn’t either, he’d try to charm his way out of it. How could Kevin do any less? He had to think of some way to escape, had to.
A surge of adrenalin made him shake as he got out of the shower, rubbing at the condensation on the mirror and staring at his wane, pale face. He could do this. He’d just have to lull Carden into a false sense of security, club him over the head with the lamp, and then escape. Then he’d call the police, they’d come and get Carden, and make him tell them where Nick was, and then they’d go rescue him. And everything would be okay.
And. And if Kevin did have to die. Well, dying a virgin wouldn’t be very fair at all! He knew for a fact that Nick still wore his ring even though it no longer applied, and had his share of theories about Joe, as well.
So he pulled his boxers on and tugged them low on his hips, finger-combed his curly hair into some sort of order, and took a deep breath. How hard could it be to convince Carden that he ought to... well. Make out. Or. Something. And then he’d be all sleepy and content and drift off, Kevin could brain him with a lamp, and escape.
He walked into the room, trying to roll his hips or something and mostly just walking like he had a splinter in his foot.
Carden glanced up, ran his eyes lazily over Kevin, and then laughed. Kevin felt his cheeks heat up, the flush spreading down his neck, over his chest, and crossed his arms defensively.
“Not gonna work,” Carden said, still grinning. He patted Kevin companionably on the cheek. “Nice try though.”
“No, I—” Desperate measures and all that (and maybe Kevin really, really wanted to know what it was like), so Kevin kissed him, a clumsy, awkward, painful kiss that landed somewhere between his bottom lip and his chin. Carden pulled away and sighed.
“Do it right, at least,” he said in a low voice before kissing Kevin, mouth open, wet, against his, hot brushes of his tongue against Kevin’s bottom lip, coaxing and playful.
Kevin hadn’t ever been kissed like that before and his mouth dropped open a tiny bit in shock, which was all Carden needed before he had Kevin backed up against the wall, one hand pressed flat to the wall over his shoulder, the other on Kevin’s hip, his tongue pushing into his mouth.
Carden made a low, growly sound and Kevin shuddered, opened his mouth further, and brushed his tongue shyly against Carden’s.
He was dizzy and disoriented when Carden pulled away, and Kevin wondered for a brief moment if Carden could possibly be as dazed. He stared into Carden’s wide eyes for a moment before he was suddenly shoved onto the bed, wrist shackled to the headboard, and Carden was disappearing into the shower. “Next time, pick someone who actually wants you,” he said over his shoulder, scornful.
Kevin flinched and lay where he’d fallen, one hand cuffed above his head. He was breathing hard, still damp from his shower, and felt flushed all over. Closing his eyes, he struggled not to cry, because the instant Carden had kissed him, he’d forgotten all about the lamp-bashing plan.
Carden didn’t say anything after he left the shower, just shot Kevin a narrow-eyed look and left the room.
If he twisted just the right way and reached as far as he could, ignoring the grinding feeling of the handcuff against his wrist, rubbing his skin raw, Kevin could reach the bedside table. He couldn’t reach the phone, but he could reach the lamp, and the little pad of hotel stationary and a pen. He took those, bit his lip, and started writing a letter.
He couldn’t figure it out. Carden just didn’t fit the profile of a bad guy. Well, he didn’t fit the profile as a good guy, either, but in Kevin’s limited experience, bad guys didn’t care if they hurt you or roughed you up. They didn’t save you from thugs and guns just to carefully transport you to the suburbs, and then kiss you like they were drowning, and then flee the room looking haunted. So Nick was being held by Wentz, who wanted Kevin, had sent people after Kevin, and Carden had gotten there first. Why?
He said he had other loyalties... but to who? He wondered for a wild moment if maybe Carden was like Nick, undercover and—but that made no sense, why would he jeopardize his cover for someone he didn’t even know?
Did it matter? Kevin had absolutely no doubt that he was going to die in the morning. Carden was too apologetic about it for it not to be true.
But Kevin would rather die knowing why, at least. And thinking about it kept him from throwing up in terror.
He fell asleep curled up awkwardly on his side, stationary and pen still clutched in his hand, covered in careful writing.
He woke up some hours later, when Carden slammed the door as he returned.
It was dark and Kevin was disoriented, even more so when Carden suddenly snapped the light on. It was bright and it hurt his eyes and he winced, rubbing at them. When he looked up, Carden was leaning against the door, arms crossed over his chest, glaring.
“What’s wrong?” Kevin asked, clearing his throat. His shoulder and arm were cramping from the awkward position.
“You’re an idiot,” Carden snarled, and there was something different about his voice. He came closer, and Kevin could smell the alcohol on him.
“You’re drunk,” he said, startled.
Carden ignored him, snatching up the letter. He read it and then sneered. “Seriously? You’re going to die and you spend your last night writing a letter to your brother? Full of dating advice?”
Kevin shrugged, looking away. “Joe gets into trouble sometimes and I’m his big brother. Nick’s usually better at helping him out but I don’t think he’ll have time to write a letter. It’s not really fair to Joe, he didn’t do anything, and he’s going to lose us both. Would you—would you mail it for me?”
Carden stared at him like he was absolutely crazy. “Aren’t you scared?” he asked harshly. “Shouldn’t you be begging for your life, or trying to escape? One pathetic attempt to seduce me and that’s it? That’s all you’re going to do? You’re not even going to try?”
Kevin blinked at him. “I’m handcuffed to a bed,” he said quietly. “What do you expect me to do? Besides, I was... I’ve been thinking. I don’t think you want to hurt me.”
“It doesn’t matter what I want,” Carden snarled.
“No, I know, it’s just—it’s just, the men before, they didn’t care, they hurt me and they didn’t care. But you didn’t hurt me. You gave me frozen peas for my head and helped me clean the scratches on my face, and you kept me from getting shot. And I just—that’s almost worse. I mean, I’m going to die, and that sucks, I don’t want to, but I really don’t know how I’m going to get away. I’ve been thinking, but I’ve got nothing. I mean, I’ll try! But aside from that, I don’t really know what to do. So. I was thinking and at least I’ll be dead after; you’re going to have to live with having killed me for the rest of your life.”
Carden shook his head very slowly. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” he said carefully. “I’m not gonna give a fuck about killing you. It’ll make my life easier. You’re so fucking irritating. You’re fucking going to tell me that you’re spending your last night writing a fucking dating advice letter to your fucking brother and feeling bad for me?”
“Reluctant bad guys are incredibly tragic,” Kevin said quietly, eyes wide. “I know you’re just doing what you have to. I mean, if you let me go, they’d probably hurt you worse. William said I should trust you, and I do.”
“You’re insane,” Carden said roughly, looming over him threateningly. “You’re idealistic, irrational, and a fucking virgin. You can’t actually believe that this is gonna turn out like one of your books? Stump’s not gonna find some last minute way out of here, no one’s gonna turn up for a last minute rescue. This isn’t a novel and it’s not going to end with hot sex and a wedding!”
Kevin beamed. “You did read it,” he said.
“Shut the fuck up,” Carden snarled, and then he was kissing Kevin, rough and angry. Startled, Kevin tried to jerk away, but he couldn’t get much leverage with his wrist still shackled above his head, and after a moment, his initial panic was gone. He kissed Carden back, more hesitant and less practiced, and didn’t even freak out when Carden climbed up on the bed, straddling him but barely touching.
Carden broke the vicious kiss and stared down at him, panting and looking haunted, startled again. “Tell me to stop,” he said roughly. Kevin just licked his lips and shook his head, eyes wide and frightened.
“I don’t want you to,” he said.
For a moment, he thought Carden would stop anyway, would roll off of him and disappear again, but then he gave in with a scowl, and leaned down to kiss Kevin again. “You don’t know how to kiss,” he mumbled against Kevin’s mouth.
“Then teach me.” It was hard to pout into a kiss, but he tried, and Carden just bit his bottom lip and licked into his mouth until Kevin was loose and whimpering against his tongue.
Carden came down on top of him then, pressing him into the mattress, and Kevin arched against him, the haze of sensation overwhelming, distracting. It was rougher than he’d ever wanted his first time to be, if he’d ever thought about it (which if course he had, he’d been a teenaged boy once, after all), rough rather than romance, but Carden was shaking on top of him, hands trembling and mouth desperate and it seemed to make it okay.
“I know what you are,” Kevin said breathlessly, as Carden pressed hot kisses to his throat, licking the line of his pulse.
“What?” he asked, distracted, shoving Kevin’s shirt up, hands sliding down Kevin’s stomach, to his jeans.
“You’re my biggest fan,” Kevin said, eyes widening, voice squeaking when Carden shoved his jeans down and pushed a hand inside his boxers. He looked up, crooked grin and swollen lips.
“Yeah?” he asked, wrapping a hand around Kevin’s cock and squeezing. Kevin’s entire body jerked in reaction, head falling back.
“Y-yes. Read my books and—and came to save me from your mob boss.”
“Yeah?” he asked again, softer now, almost gentle.
“You aren’t going to hurt me,” Kevin told him firmly, as Carden moved back up, stretched out on top of him, weight pushing him down and pinning him, hand still stroking him carefully.
For a long moment, Carden just studied him and didn’t say anything at all, and then he kissed him, careful and gentle now, which did more to Kevin than the rough kisses had. He went absolutely weak and breathless beneath him, melting into it, free hand sliding through Carden’s hair, tangling in it and pulling him closer as his knees fell open, so Carden’s hips rested between them.
His hips were rolling, pushing up into Carden’s hand, and he was panting, each breath exhaling in a weak and desperate sound. He was far too much a virgin for this to last very long, but before he came, Carden was sitting up and tugging Kevin’s jeans off, tossing them to the floor.
Then Carden was gone, digging around in a duffle bag he’d brought in from the car, and coming back with lube and a condom and Kevin sat up suddenly as best he could, still handcuffed to the headboard.
“Wait, what,” he stammered.
“I’ll teach you,” Carden promised, and there was no way Kevin could say no to that, or to the hot, desperate kisses that followed.
Afterwards, Kevin couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t panic or regret or anything, but there was terror there, because Carden—Mike? Do you call him Mike after he’s been inside you? Kevin didn’t know—was on top of him, pinning him to the mattress, he was still cuffed, and Mike hadn’t moved much since he’d come. There was something gross and sticky cooling between them, and Mike was panting against his throat, still shaking a little.
“Did I hurt—”
“No,” Kevin said quickly, and Mike lifted his head, looking skeptical. Kevin smiled nervously. “I told you that you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Mike said, nodding once and rolling to the side, exhausted. He was still dressed, jeans undone around his hips, and Kevin still had his shirt on, bruises on his hips and his wrist and his mouth. It wasn’t how he expected his first time to go at all, but he didn’t mind, watching as Mike hugged a pillow to his chest, nuzzling it, eyes dark and glazed. Kevin wondered how drunk he was, if Kevin had taken advantage of him, and then he remembered that he was the one handcuffed to the bed.
“You’re not?” Kevin asked him.
“I’m going to protect you,” Mike said, and then, before Kevin could think of anything to say, he was sleeping deeply.
Kevin could not sleep, and he lay there studying Mike’s sleeping face for a long moment before reaching, gently and carefully, into his back pocket, pulling out his wallet. Mike didn’t wake, the whiskey Kevin had tasted on his breath keeping him out, and for a moment, Kevin just stared at the wallet. He knew what would happen, he’d open it and find Mike’s FBI badge and find out that he was undercover, just like Nick, and he was going to fix this somehow.
He held his breath when he opened Mike’s wallet, but there was no FBI badge there, just a driver’s license, a bank card, a credit card, and a hundred dollars in cash. He drew a shuddering breath, closed his eyes, and then a small key fell out of Mike’s wallet, and Kevin, picked it up.
It was for the handcuffs, of course, and for a moment, Kevin almost put it back and pretended it hadn’t happened. Mike had said he wouldn’t hurt him, but that didn’t help Nick, and if Mike wasn’t really FBI, wasn’t really a hero, hadn’t lied, then he would be in so much trouble if he didn’t do what he was supposed to with Kevin.
So it was for Nick and for Mike that Kevin quietly unlocked the cuff around his wrist and snapped it around Mike’s. After all, he could hardly help Mike if Mike came running after him, and that struck him as the sort of thing a reluctant hero might do.
He almost took the gun, but it wouldn’t be dangerous, would it? After all, he was going to get away, find a phone, call the cops, get in touch with Nick’s boss, report everything, and they’d go and save Nick, and everything would be okay.
He took Mike’s car keys, though, and sneaked quietly out of the motel room.
He made it to the car, got the key in the lock, before someone grabbed his shoulder, spinning him around.
“Well, that was easy,” said the same man who had mugged him before, right before he punched Kevin in the face, hard enough to send him wheeling backwards, falling, striking his head hard on the pavement, and blacking out with a sickening lurch in his stomach.
It was dark, and he couldn’t breathe very well. Every exhale rasped strangely, and the air was hot and humid. It took a moment for Kevin to realize that it was because there was a hood over his face, because evidently, a simple blindfold wasn’t enough or something.
He whimpered, and the sound was loud inside his hood. Shifting a bit, he could tell that he was lying on his side, hands tied behind him, and he struggled a moment before managing to sit up carefully. His head spun sickeningly and he could feel something sticky along one side of his face. Drool or blood, he wasn’t sure.
“Hello?” he called faintly. No one answered.
He really had to pee, but he always did when he was nervous. There was something totally different about imagining these sorts of scenarios for his books, and waking up to find himself in one of them.
Time passed. It felt like hours but was probably only about five minutes, and suddenly someone was there, pressing something that was probably a gun into his forehead through the hood. “On your feet, Jonas,” they spat, and Kevin had to swallow a giggle for the clichéd dialogue that his editor would have freaked out about.
He staggered to his feet, the gun moved to jab him in the back, and he walked blindly and clumsily for ages until finally he was shoved to his knees.
“Oh fuck,” someone said, and his head snapped up.
“Nick?” he whispered.
“Kev—Kevin, it’s going to be fine.” Kevin could tell by how high pitched Nick’s voice was that it very much was not going to be fine.
“Of course it is,” a stranger said, soft and soothing. “Tell us everything we need to know, Nicky, and we’ll let him go.”
Kevin didn’t have to be an undercover FBI agent to know that there was no way they were going to let him go. Not if he knew as much as Mike had claimed he did.
“I can’t see,” he said quietly. “Can I—can I—”
Someone must have kicked him. He couldn’t see it coming, only felt the impact in his side and the disorientation that came from flying about three feet and crashing to the ground. It wrenched his shoulder and he moaned in pain, blood rushing in his ears. When it cleared, he could hear Nick shouting, someone laughing, and then a low, casual voice that made him go cold all over.
“Surely that’s not how Wentz wants us treating our guests.”
Mike was here. Mike was in the room, watching, while Kevin got kicked, was going to be there watching while Kevin was killed. It wasn’t fair, Kevin left him handcuffed in that room for his own safety, what was he doing here—unless he really was as bad a guy as he’d claimed to be.
Kevin pulled his knees up to his chest and made himself as small as he could, because nothing that had happened so far had hurt as much as that had.
“I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, just let Kevin go,” Nick said desperately.
“Nicky,” Kevin called quietly. “Don’t tell them anything.”
“Shut the fuck up.” Mike’s voice was cold and deadly, furious.
Kevin snapped his mouth shut.
“If he’s ready to talk, go get Wentz,” Mike said curtly, and Kevin heard someone walk away. He wasn’t sure how many people were left, the sound of his own breathing loud in his ears.
He did hear the sick sound of flesh slamming into flesh and a quickly cut off cry. He whimpered, struggling to get up—someone was hurting Nick and he had to help!
He was helpless though, flinching whenever the sounds of struggle got too close, and it was over quickly. The sudden silence was more alarming than the fight, and then suddenly, his hood was ripped off.
He winced at the sudden light, and then someone was cutting at the ropes around his wrists.
“Get him out of here, as quickly as you can, and somewhere safe, we can—” Kevin barely had time to register the fact that Mike was letting him go when he heard a gun being cocked and looked up to see Nick pointing it at Mike, who had suddenly gone really still.
“Get up,” Nick said coldly.
“Nicky,” Kevin said, eyes wide. “What are you doing?”
“Get out of the way, Kevin,” Nick said, and Kevin didn’t move, kneeling between Nick and Mike.
“He saved us,” Kevin said.
“What happened to your face?” Mike asked quietly, and Kevin turned to stare at him over his shoulder, startled. Now was so not the time to ask why Kevin’s face was covered in blood, surely Mike knew that?
“I left you handcuffed to the bed,” Kevin hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“That was pretty rude of you,” Mike admitted, rolling his eyes. “You need to get out of here.”
“Not without Nick.”
They both looked at Nick, who looked pale, exhausted and shaky. There were bruises along his jaw bone that stood out starkly against the chalky pallor of his face.
“Nick,” Kevin tried again. “Mike helped us. He saved me. He—”
“He went after you because I offered to pay him,” Nick said tightly. “I don’t know what he told you, but the only reason he was there the night they tried to take you was because I offered to pay him. He’s not a good guy, he’s a bad guy willing to do whatever the highest bidder wants, and apparently that’s Wentz. Don’t you want to know how they found you the second time, Kevin? Because Carden called them.”
Kevin had gone very still, staring at Nick, and then Mike touched his shoulder and said quietly, “I told you I wasn’t a good guy.”
Kevin flinched away from his touch, Nick’s gun went off, strangers were shouting, and Kevin fell when a bullet slammed into his chest, spinning wildly and landing hard. He tried to sit up and he couldn’t. He tried to speak and he couldn’t. He closed his eyes and thought it might be a nice time to sleep, he was tired and dizzy.
When he opened them again, it was because Mike was cursing and shouting at him. He blinked up at him and tried to smile.
“You’ll be fine,” Mike said.
Somewhere, a gun went off, and Kevin tried to look. Nick was shouting, everyone was shouting, and he just wanted them to shut. up.
“You’re fine,” Mike said again.
“Bleeding,” Kevin said. “Mike, you’re bleeding.”
Mike stared down at him for a moment, incredulous, and then he grinned, reckless and bloody, and said, “Shut the fuck up, Jonas, and try not to die. It’s not my blood, your fucking brother just shot you.”
“Accident,” Kevin managed, and then he giggled, and that jarred something in his chest, something that was off-center and broken, and the shock that had prevented him from feeling the pain was suddenly gone, and he opened his mouth to scream. Instead, a weak, breathy moan was all he managed before the room tipped sideways and dripped away.
“Jonas,” Mike said. “Kevin!”
Kevin was gone.
He dreamed that his body had been run over by a garbage truck, carrying all the copies of his novels that had been returned to the distributor. Crushed, he remained strapped to a bed, unable to move or breathe on his own, but thinking, feeling, and watching. He couldn’t speak.
He grew more and more claustrophobic and woke suddenly when a twitch sent a shot of pain through his body.
In his books, the hero always woke up with a loved one hovering worriedly, dozens of flowers, and a doctor ready to explain the prognosis.
Kevin woke up alone. There were monitors beeping, voices in the hall, and he had to wiggle his fingers and toes over and over again to prove to himself that, despite the bandages and lethargy, he wasn’t paralyzed.
A few moments later, Joe wandered in, holding a Styrofoam cup of coffee and humming. He blinked when he saw Kevin was awake.
“Dude,” he said. “Nice work.”
Kevin said, “Huh?” It was the best indignant ‘excuse me?’ he could manage.
“The whole getting shot thing. Mom and dad are pissed, Nick’s in so much trouble.”
Kevin frowned. He remembered the last few moments of terror vaguely, through a haze of adrenalin, fear, and then pain. “Nick?”
“Oh. He’s gone. FBI shit, you know how it is. Says he’ll call when he can. Apparently his mission was compromised.” Joe grinned. Kevin wasn’t amused.
He took a deep breath, tried to resist, and then asked in a small voice, “Mike?”
“Who?” Joe flopped back in the chair at Kevin’s bedside. “Dude, you should see it, there are two armed guards outside your room, apparently you’re a ‘high risk witness’, you’re lucky they’re even letting me in here, Mom had to call and threaten them, made their boss cry.” He grinned.
“Mike,” Kevin said again. It hurt to talk. “Was with me. After.”
Joe stared. “I don’t know. When the FBI guys raided the place, you were alone. Just you and Nicky.”
Kevin closed his eyes, and Joe kept talking about how cool it was, how the FBI guys had guns, how they’d let Joe see their badges, but Kevin didn’t care. He drifted off into a drug-induced haze, and refused to admit that his disappointment was anything more than the realization that he’d never know who Mike really was.
Joe stayed for three days before he had to go back to work, and before he left, he set a cell phone on the pillow. “Disposable,” he said meaningfully. “Untraceable. Nick’s got the number. I’ve already told him you were gonna be okay, but he said he’d call.”
Nick phoned later that day. “Kev?”
“Hey, Nicky.” The drugs were pretty sweet.
“How’re you doing?”
He managed to take four minutes of Nick begging forgiveness before Kevin interrupted and said, “Hey, Nick? What about...”
There was silence for a moment, and then Nick sighed. “Mike Carden was trained as a marine, but never went into active duty, evidently. He was supposed to be deployed overseas and went AWOL instead, dropped off the radar. He turned up three years later, working for Wentz on drug-running schemes and the like, making a profit off it. When we caught up to him, he offered to turn informant in exchange for a pardon for going AWOL, discharge from all military duty, and police protection. He’d been spying for us for an entire year. I didn’t know.”
Kevin digested this for a moment, and then said, “But where...” he trailed off. “Where is he?”
“I don’t know, Kevin. His cover was blown, same as mine. It’s different for an agent, he’s a civilian. An asshole, but still a civilian. Witness protection, probably. They’ve nearly built a case against Wentz now, they’ll need Carden’s testimony.”
Kevin closed his eyes. “And me?”
“Protection,” Nick said. “At the very least. Witness protection, if they don’t catch Wentz this time.” A beat of silence. “I’m sorry, Kevin, I’m so, so sorry.”
Kevin lasted two minutes this time before he claimed exhaustion and hung up.
He kept the phone, though Nick did not call again. Kevin knew he’d be in touch when he could be, was used to Nick disappearing for days at a time, but still, he kept the phone, keeping it charged and turned on. No one called.
It was two weeks later, the day before he was due to be released, taken into FBI custody, and relocated for his own protection, when the phone suddenly rang.
He stared at it and answered on the fourth ring.
“Mike,” Kevin said faintly.
“Heard you needed a body guard.”
“Yeah, I guess so. That’s what I hear. Where are you, are you—”
“I told you I’d protect you.”
Kevin was quiet for a moment, and then said hopefully, “Yeah?”
The next morning, standing beside one of his guards while the other went to get the car, Kevin waited impatiently. When the beat up pickup truck squealed to a stop after half-jumping the curb, he took off at a run as fast as his gunshot wound would let him, and Mike had the passenger-side door open before he got there, was slamming his foot down on the gas before Kevin got it shut again. His guard was shouting and chasing but Mike just laughed and gunned the engine, speeding away from the hospital while Kevin struggled with his seatbelt.
Mike looked at him, flashed a crooked grin, and said, “You look like shit.”
Kevin smiled happily, rolled down his window, turned his face up to the wind, and said, “Hey, Mike?”
“I’ve been thinking about my next book.”
Mike smirked at him. “Another Stump mystery?”
Kevin turned his face back to the window and said, “No, I’m thinking of starting a new series.” He grinned. “I think might prefer anti-heroes.”
Mike laughed and left the ramp, merging smoothly with the midday traffic, shifting gear, and following all posted traffic signs and speed limits as they drove off into the distance, the horizon open before them.
THE END. Please forgive me.