Title: Pink Houses and Pistols
Warning: a few swear words, as of right now it's only BETA-ed by me so expect stupid mistakes!
In an idyllic neighbourhood, on a tree lined street, in Cleveland, Ohio sat a gray house. The only differences between this house and all the rest of the houses on the block were a few slight design changes and different coloured siding. Absolutely nothing about the outward appearance of the house told passersby that the owner of the house was any different than the rest of the people on the street. But, man, if they only knew.
You see inside this house lived Frank Moses, a retired C.I.A. Black-Ops agent. Frank could be deadly with weapons, but was even deadlier with his mind intelligence. He had many friends in high places, even more in low, and some in no place at all. He had a light blue, 2003 retired police Crown Victoria in his driveway. But usually "borrowed" cars whenever and wherever he needed them. A habit he'd picked up after years on the job. And old habits died hard.
Frank had had a wife once, but it didn't work out. Frank had tried having girlfriends, but that hadn't worked out either. He had pretty much relegated himself to a life of near celibacy and complete boredom.
And then along came Sarah, a wonderful woman who worked as a customer rep for the company that handled his pension all the way in Kansas City. It wasn' long before Frank found himself slowly falling for her and could only hope she was slowly falling for him too. The multitude of tore up pension cheques depended on it.
Unlike his previous relationships, Frank decided he'd take things with Sarah slow. Maybe finally meet up once they had gotten most of the awkward small talk out of the way, he'd checked her out completely, and she'd finally decided she liked him enough to give him her home number. You know, like a normal person would have. And, it had been totally going just the way he planned it.
Until 3 men busted into his house and tried to kill him.
Well, that set his plans for a right tail spin. He had to find his way to Kansas City long before he really wanted to, basically kidnap her to keep her safe, get the team back together, find out who was trying to kill them (who ever was around him had become fair game, apparently), and kill the vice-president. Well, actually, he didn't kill the V.P.; he didn't actually know what happened to him. But, four out of five wasn't bad right? (What do you want from him? He was retired for cryin' out loud) besides, in the end he got the girl and gotten back in the game. That outcome was a hell of a lot better than some others he'd had in his career.
At least, he got the girl for a while. Somewhere between returning from a successful fortnight in Moldova and a weekend jaunt to Eurasia to settle some dispute, and protect whatever American interests there were, between the Russian and Georgians, Sarah stopped returning his phone calls, quit her job at the call centre and moved back in with her parents, John and Mary Ross, in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It hurt, but Frank learned a while ago that that kind of hurt came with the territory.
So, Frank returned to a retired, solo, but not so boring life, patching up cuts and bruises and rebuilding battered relationships (Henry, Victoria, Marvin, Ivan, etc...), and his poor decimated gray house (someone must have pulled some strings for it to still be here and him to still be able to call it his).
The second time William Cooper walked into Frank's life (the first time had been during those few days in Virginia. Turned out, Cooper'd been the one assigned to kill him) Frank was on the ladder, affixing the last couple pieces of siding to the outer wall just below the gutter. In the silence of mid day Suburbia, the oh-so-familiar crackle, snap, crunch of the leaves as they gave way under the weight of whoever stepped on them reached Frank's finely tuned ears in a matter of seconds. He turned his head just enough to eye who ever was below him and then smirked knowingly and turned his attention back to his task.
"Moses," the younger man returned in an even tone.
"Nice weather we're having this time of year, isn't it?"
All it took was the silence to go on a split second too long for Frank to know he was probably going to have to brace himself for whatever came next. Unluckily for him, "whatever came next" came fast. Frank just managed to wrap his fingers around the ladder before it shook once rather violently, and begin to keel to the right.
"The best!" he heard Cooper say with a clenched jaw as he kicked the ladder again.
He managed to loosen his hold and slid easily down along the outside frame of the ladder just before it hit the point of no return. His feet just touched ground when they were swept up from underneath him by a vicious kick to ankles by Cooper. Frank had just regained his bearings when he felt the frozen barrel of a M1911 touch the tip of his nose. He stared at the gun for a nanosecond and then stared back up at Cooper. The unbridled anger burning in the man's deep hazel eyes intrigued Frank; he wasn't scared. The slight wavier in the man's grip told Frank all he needed to know about the outcome of the standoff.
"Inside, Moses." Cooper cocked the pistol, and shoved it further into Frank's nose. "Now."
"I'd love to, Coop'" Frank replied easily from his prone position in the leaves. "But I think you might have to help me up," he shrugged his shoulders a bit as the smirk returned to his worn face. "Gettin' old, ya know? The back can't handle getting slammed like it use to."
The younger agent's jaw clicked as he pulled the gun away just enough to grab Frank by the lapels of his jacket and haul him to his feet.
Frank took the allotted few seconds to clean away the leaves from his jacket, before he said thank you to Cooper, and promptly proceeded to grab the wrist of the hand holding the pistol and squeeze till Cooper dropped it. Frank then twisted the wrist violently and yanked the arm behind Cooper's back. "Now," he started, breathing heavily into the man's ear. "Why don't you and I go inside and have ourselves a cup of coffee."
Cooper gasped. "Moses, I-" and then cried out when Frank twisted the arm further up his back.
"You'll love it." He said. His voice tinged with false enthusiasm. "Had to have a completely new kitchen put in after that tiny little attempt on my life." Just for fun, Frank twisted Cooper's wrist a bit more, but stopped just as the bone started to give. "Actually I'm kinda glad. 'was gettin' sick of the cabinets."
"Moses, I-" Cooper tried again. Only to have Frank shush him a couple seconds later.
Before moving from his spot, Frank had a quick glance of his surroundings to make sure no one had seen the interaction. When he was sure no one had seen, he pushed Cooper ahead with a whispered "move."
Once inside the heavily reconstructed kitchen, Frank shoved Cooper into the nearest chair, forced the twisted hand to the base of the chair back, brought his other hand around to meet it, dug in his pocket for the tiny spool of metal wire he'd used on a couple unruly bushes in the backyard, and tied the man's hands together.
He came around to Cooper's front just long enough to tap him on the cheek. "Stay put," Frank then quickly moved out the side door and headed straight to where Cooper's discarded M1911 still laid. Lord knew what the neighbours would say if someone ever found it.
The older man literally sauntered back in the side door with the pistol tucked safely in the waist of his jeans. Cooper looked up at him with misery burning where the anger had once been.
Frank nodded at the man, unperturbed, and rounded the table. He pulled the pistol from his jeans before he sat in the adjacent chair. "This," he held the pistol out in front of him and motioned to it with his eyes before he set it gently down on the table, "wasn't nice." He spun the barrel of the gun towards Cooper and then leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.
Cooper stared at the pistol, and then blinked and looked to the floor in front of him.
"C'mon, Cooper," Frank coaxed quietly after a few tense minutes of silence. He leaned forward and crossed his arm on the table. "This wasn't just a social call. You and I both know you don't dig my instant coffee or my cheery disposition enough to warrant a trip across the country." The younger man shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "What's up?"
Frank adjusted his chair so he was all Cooper could see and then knocked the table a couple times.
Cooper jumped as if a gun had just gone off millimetres from his ear, refocused and raised his eyes to Frank's, and Frank actually found himself swallowing hard on the shock he felt upon seeing the look on the man's face.
As soon as Cooper began to worry the side of his lip Frank knew it wouldn't be long before he got to the reason for his visit.
But, Frank ended up mentally giving the man credit. Cooper stayed silent for almost 23 minutes, 21 minutes longer than Frank thought he'd last, before finally divulging his secret.
"She left me."
Cooper stuttered hard when he reiterated his statement and then blinked as a tear finally broke free and started to bead slowly down his cheek. "She left me and took the kids." He looked away from Frank's scrutinizing stare for a split second and shook his head. "It's come true."
Frank at least had the decency to wait before asking, "What's come true?"
"Everything!" Cooper retorted as he turned his attention back to the retired agent with fire once again burning just beneath the surface. "Everything you said about loosing everything. It's come true!" He shifted suddenly and tugged his bindings with a renewed sense of vigour. "It's all come true! And it's all your god damn fault, Moses!"
"Look, I have to say, I'm sorry to see your relationship end. From what I saw you appeared to have your shit together pretty good. But, I will not take one iota of blame for its end."
"It was your fault, you bastard! You breaking; putting their lives in danger-"
"Please," Frank cut in, rolling his eyes skyward.
"It got too close. She got scared."
"Mm," Frank slid easily from his chair and headed toward the counter. He made sure to keep Cooper in his sights, even if only in his peripheral vision. He could still take him if he tried anything.
He filled the kettle slowly and wiped the area clean before setting it down and switching it on. He cast one look in Cooper's direction before he turned back and opened the cupboard. "You knew as well as I did when you entered this life, Cooper. Keeping up appearances only works for so long before that too is blown to shit."
"Fuck you, Moses!"
Frank turned his body toward the restrained man, leaned one hip against the side of the counter and stared into his empty mug. "Sticks and stones, Coop'."
"She was my life! And you took that away from me!"
The handle of the mug he held in his hand shattered into several tiny pieces when it was slammed down on the counter just as Frank stomped over to Cooper. He slammed his open hand against the table and leaned into Cooper until their noses almost touched.
"Wrong!" he spat. "She was a cover! The Agency's your life and it will always be your life. You made the choice a long time ago. So don't you fuckin' try ta lay your bullshit on me! So you had a relationship, so it didn't work out; so what! That's life! That's your life –" he pressed two fingers into Cooper's chest just enough to hurt and then turned the hand and tapped the side of his forehead, "and that's my life." He straightened in a flash, looped his foot under the bracing spindle of the younger man's chair, and with a quick twist and lift, the chair and man fell backward.
Frank didn't even give Cooper time to catch his breath before he was back in his face. "Fuckin' deal with it!"
The fight in Cooper seemed to die a hard death within the blink of an eye and Frank once again found himself staring into the face of misery personified. He contemplated righting the chair and maybe letting the younger man go, but then the kettle clicked and ...damn if he didn't like scalding hot coffee. Cooper would just have to wait.
He poured the boiled water carefully into the mugs, all the while sneaking glances at the soles of the man's shoes for any movement. Movement meant Frank would probably have to use that M1911 and he really did not want to do that.
"Milk or sugar, Coop'?"
The bound man stayed silent for so long Frank lifted the mug and had it poised to dump out in the sink, but stopped suddenly when a voice so low even he had to focus to hear it answered, "milk."
He nodded curtly, set the mug down again, and turned toward the fridge.
The steaming mugs thumped ever so slightly as Frank set them down on the kitchen table. He sat casually in his chair, stretched out, crossed his legs at the ankle and then lowered his attention and eyed Cooper's unmoved feet. Surprisingly, after only five minutes of staring, Frank actually began to feel guilty. He uncrossed his legs and sighed heavily as he stood, "dammit."
With no warning whatsoever, Cooper found himself righted again and just a little nauseous (maybe he was getting old). He blinked, slammed his eyes shut and turned his head to the left and then slowly to the right in an attempt to ward off the inevitable head rush.
"You ok?" Cooper wasn't looking at the older man. His eyes were still firmly closed. But he knew he was smirking that god damn smirk he was so fond of. He could hear it in his voice.
"Yeah," he opened his eyes just to prove he was, "fine."
"Mmhm," was all Frank said as he brought his mug to his lips.
Cooper's attention turned immediately to his coffee and then back up to Frank. With a quirked eyebrow he asked, "How do you expect me to drink this with my hands still damn well tied behind my back?"
"Oh!" Frank jumped from his seat and turned toward the counter again.
He came back a few seconds later with a slight skip in his step and a straw in his hand. Frank made a big show of dropping it into Cooper's drink, his grin firmly in place. "Look," he said. "It's bendy too." Just to show what a nice guy he was Frank bent it.
Cooper could only stare dumbfounded as Frank turned back to his chair.
For the longest time, the only sound heard was of the leaves on the large maple out the back rustling in the mid-afternoon wind. Sometimes a rogue branch would get caught up in a gust of wind and scratch, unimpeded, along the siding just above the kitchen window. The sound, to an outsider, would probably be something akin to the Hookman's blade as he ran it along the wall while slowly advancing toward on his victim, but to Frank it was little more than an annoyance – the Hookman had nothing on anything he'd ever seen in his career.
Frank sat, quietly sipping his coffee and staring at the man across from him still bound and miserable looking. Cooper's attention hadn't lifted from his mug; Frank knew from experience that it'd be no good once, and if, he ever decided to drink it.
When Cooper finally decided to speak, Frank had been working on getting to last drops of coffee from the bottom of his cup and startled ever so slightly at the new sound. But, if Cooper did notice he didn't say a word. Probably because he knew it would have cost him more than just a clean shirt. Smart kid.
"How'd did you do it, Frank?" He asked, not moving his eyes from the mug. "Hell," he huffed, "how do you do it?"
"Uh…do you wanna give me a clue here, kid?"
At Frank's question Cooper raised his head and immediately locked eyes with him. "How did you just let them go?"
Something tightened in Frank's throat for just a split second and then loosened. But, oddly enough, not all the way. There were still some things that affected him more than he would ever like to admit. If it was one thing Frank found that Cooper was good at, it was finding the tiny things that affected him most and dragging them to the forefront.
"Damn, Coop'," he slapped his thighs hard as he rose to his feet. "Didn't we go over this?"
"You can't tell me you just break up with them, or vice-versa, and that's it. No feelings. No emotion. We're not god damn machines."
"It's how we're trained though, isn't?" Frank shot back without missing a beat. "Execute a mission and move on. Execute and move on, execute and move on," he spoke with his hands as he rounded the table toward Cooper. "After a while it's all you do, in whatever you do, no matter how hard you try not to." He stopped on a dime once directly in front of the agent and fixed him with a steely gaze. "What you are becomes who you are. It's as simple as that. No use in tryin' to fight it 'cause it ain't gonna work."
"I-" a sharp pinch to the inside of his wrist and suddenly Cooper's hands were free. He rolled his shoulders slowly and grimaced as he focused all his attention on not moving a finger of either hand until he had them cradled gently in his lap. "You keep sayin' that, Moses."
"It's the truth."
Frank reached for the pistol, lying forgotten on the table, on his way back to his seat. "Just gonna keep this for now." He said casually, taking the magazine from the chamber, and shoving the empty pistol into the waistband of his jeans once again.
Cooper made no move to stop him, just watched.
For the first time since Cooper appeared on his front lawn, Frank voiced his opinion on the other man's appearance. "You look like shit."
All he got for his trouble was a groaned laugh as Cooper swiped a pale hand over face.
"I don't think I've slept longer than 15 minutes since she left."
"Michelle said I'll be getting the papers in the mail sometime next week." His eyes slipped out of focus as he continued, "no going back."
Something in the way Cooper spoke told Frank that maybe the man had been expecting the outcome. Frank had just become the unlucky victim of misplaced anger and disappointment.
"Does she know you're here?"
"Nope, she's somewhere in Florida right now-"
Curiosity pushed Frank to ask, "You don't know where she is?"
"I know where she is." Cooper answered quietly. "At her parents place. It's where in the state I'm not too sure of. Never did learn where they lived." His laughter is rough and drawn, even to his own ears. "Her folks never did like me. The feeling was entirely mutual." His eyes were sharp once more when he locked eyes with Frank. "Should have taken that as a warning, I guess."
Frank's smile was one of complete ease as he stared back. "Just so we're clear here, kid, are you planning on doing anything while you're here or can I get back outside?"
Cooper's right eye twitched for a split second before his shoulders relaxed and he exhaled. "You're off the hook this time I guess."
For the first time since arriving, Cooper's face splits into a smile. "I'm sure."
- END -