Every Rose Has its Thorn


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Scene Title Every Rose Has its Thorn
Synopsis Wes finds Peyton's when his words are misconstrued.
Date October 9, 2010

Redbird Security

When Peyton mentioned going into the office to play catch-up, Wes knew he'd be hard pressed to find another chance to surprise the woman in any way comparable to how she surprised him. So when she opens the door to her office on Saturday morning, it's to the intoxicating smell of a cup of coffee, made just the way Peyton takes it, sitting between two arrangements of dark red roses.

Because that's what you do, right? You get a girl flowers. It may not be creative, but that's the point. It's simple. It's something he can't screw up.

When the door opens, Wes, who stands against the wall on the side toward which it swings, smiles as he dips his head and raises his own cup of coffee to take a drink, confident he's hidden from sight enough to be able to register Peyton's reaction, if only with his ears.

Usually dressed in business appropriate clothing for work in the office, today Peyton's in jeans, Ugg boots, an Abercrombie sweatshirt, her hair up in a ponytail. She's here to work, not to impress any clients, as none are scheduled. Her breath catches in her throat at the mixed scent of coffee and roses, and she moves closer to pick up the cup — not to take a sip but to see how warm it is. When her fingers touch the still hot cup, her eyes narrow though her lips curve into a smirk.

She does, then, take a sip — luckily she hadn't stopped for her own cup so it won't go wasted, and then she buries her face in the bouquet to breathe in the scent of the velvety flowers.

With one foot against the wall behind him, Wes's smile grows into a grin as he watches Peyton over the rim of his own mug. He's silent for awhile, watching her glow as she enjoys the the gift. When he steps away from the wall, he untucks his free hand from his belt in order to push the door closed.

He closes the distance and then wraps that same arm around Peyton's waist, leaning to inhale her freshly shampooed hair. "Mornin'," he whispers.

She sets the cup down to make sure she doesn't spill on him, before throwing her arms around his neck with a soft giggle — something that he hasn't heard much of, not when she's sober at least. She kisses his cheek gently before stepping back and narrowing her eyes at him playfully. One hand comes up to poke him in the chest.

"Stalker," she teases him, a merry smirk curving her lips upward. "Is it take your cowboy to work day, and I missed the memo?"

Once she's stepped away and his hand around her is forced to slip away, Wes rubs his chest, looking wounded for the few seconds that follow the accusation before his grin leaks back out onto his face. "I'll have you know," he says using his own coffee cup to point in her general direction.

"I'm here on business." But his sternness quickly fades into a vague insecurity, and he swings his cup before bringing it closer to his mouth. "I… made a pot of coffee upstairs, and I…well, you said you were comin' in, and I can't ever drink a whole pot. So I thought I'd share." But that still doesn't explain the flowers.

"Business, hmm?" Peyton says with a smile, moving to pick up the cup again and taking another swallow before setting it back down on her desk. "What business is that? And thank you," she adds, lifting the cup first, then nodding toward the roses. "They're lovely." She reaches to touch the velvet tip of one petal.

She moves to the black leather chair, settling in and nodding to him to take the seat across from her desk. "No one's ever sent me roses at work before," she adds lightly. Of course, this is the first job she's ever had.

"Well, then I'm happy t'be the one t'break that streak." He sits, lifting a booted foot to rest on his knee even as he takes another sip from his coffee. "I ain't gonna lie. There's a bit of pleasure in it." They've never been good at keeping them mutually exclusive. He nods toward first one arrangement and then the other.

"Eenie meanie minie mo," he half sing-songs. "Go ahead. Pick one."

"Pick one?" Peyton echoes, her dark eyes darting left, then right, and left again, as if to discern the difference between the two or which might be the wiser of the two choices. But if there's anything to distinguish one from the other, she doesn't see it.

"Do I only get to keep one?" she says with a smirk. "Do I have to give the one I don't choose to Agnes the bag lady who sleeps in the alley behind the building?" Peyton's taken to giving the woman food now and then, even invited her inside once in the rain, but the woman likes her freedom and is claustrophobic indoors. Peyton taps the arrangement to her left and peers at him curiously.

He shakes his head at her question, but then arches an are you sure? eyebrow at her choice. He shrugs, then takes another sip of the coffee. "Reach in," he says, barely containing his mirth until his mouth becomes occupied with the transfer of hot, live-giving liquid from ceramic to mouth.

She arches a brow at him, the look both mirthful and dubious, but she peers into the bouquet, moving flowers as she sees something hidden amongst the foliage and greenery, reaching careful so as not to scratch herself on any thorns.

Peyton lifts up the magazine of 9 mm rounds and raises her eyes to him with a tip of her head. "Does the other one have a grenade in it?" she says a little wryly, though her eyes are curious as she studies his face. "You know we do have ammunition and guns and the like here, right?"

"Sure," Wes says with a nod. "But that's why I was brought in, right? T'keep y'all fully stocked? There's a crate sittin' on Jenny with the rest." Of course, the bulk of the haul has to go to Kain Zarek's operation, but he won't miss an extra crate of handgun ammunition that the smuggler was picking up anyway.

Wes smiles, then winks at the woman on the other side of the desk. "Just lettin' it be known I ain't forgotten my end'uh the deal. That's all. Plus, the flowers were kinda pretty."

"Very romantic. Guns and roses. Should be a band name or something," Peyton quips. "I'll let Card know that you have the others — you need him to help you bring the boxes in?" she asks, picking up the coffee cup and sipping it before nodding toward the arrangement to her right.

"Do I get to peek in that one too, or is it one door or the other, and I'll never know what I could have won, if I'd only chosen more wisely? I always sucked at choosing games. Three card monty might as well have been 52 card monty, you know?"

He's about to answer one question when the other trumps it. He laughs, then shakes his head. "You won't find much," he says, then swallows. "And…yeah. Just the one crate, this time. Still testin' those waters. Anyway, my reg'lar guy kinda…well, he's tied up at the moment. So it might be helpful, if Cardinal's got the time." He coughs, then takes another sip from his coffee, his eyes moving from Peyton and the magazine to the edge of her desk. Ahem.

Peyton nods. "I'll let him know — we have some business to do soon, so I'm not sure what his schedule's like, but I'm sure he can help you sometime." Some business means Endgame business, surely, something less on the up-and-up than what goes on in the offices of the building. Before he can say anything, she lifts a hand in the 'halt' position to cut off any protests on his part.

"I'm just eyes on it, so don't go worrying or anything," she tells him softly. Of course, her 'eyes' have had her an invalid in pain in the past, but that's beside the point.

That hand might as well be made of iron. It cuts off Wes's voice before he's even able to make a sound, and he fidgets in his chair for a moment, not too unlike an antsy child. He collapses back into his chair with a sigh and polishes off the rest of his coffee, drumming the fingers of his other hand on the arm of the chair.

"Cause you bein' eyes ain't no reason for me to worry," he snips, looking to one side rather than at her. "Pey, I know you can handle yourself fine and dandy like, but that don't mean I don't get t'worry. I'm allowed t'worry."

Smiling at his restlessness, Peyton shrugs when he snips at her. Sure, he might be the elder by several years, but there's a boyish charm that she finds endearing. And sometimes maddening. "Yes, dear," she says teasingly, before getting from her seat to come around to his side of her desk. She leans against it while leaning forward to take his hands, setting his empty coffee cup behind her.

"You can worry. But you don't need to. I'll be fine. And it's important — it's for something important, I promise. Okay?" She can't tell him what, not without running it by Cardinal first, but she can promise it's important. Of course, she thinks all of what they do is. She also doesn't say she's not worried about herself because she's seen the way she dies, and this is not it, not unless Danko is working with the Institute. "It'll be okay."

His hands swing slightly with hers before squeezing her fingers and dragging his eyes to hers. "You say that," he says, squinting at her, "but when you come crashin' back in with a headache, I ain't gonna feel sorry for you."

He tugs at her then, drawing her closer and potentially even into the chair with him. After all, the co-owner of a company can do what she wants behind closed office doors, right? Once she's closer, he lets his hands slip around her waist again, but he doesn't look away from her face.

"Y'know," he says after a moment, searching her rather than just looking at her, debating whether or not he wants to continue this line of thought. "Cardinal did the whole, 'if you hurt'r, I'll kill you' thing. Maybe I should'uh told him the same thing."

There is a soft smile as he tells her he won't feel sorry for her, though Peyton knows he will, and will take care of her should she need him. It's what he does. Her arms move up to his neck and she perches on his lap, looking amused at this new arrangement, but then he brings up Cardinal.

Her brows knit together and she gives a shake of her head, lips parting as if to speak, before closing again. She swallows audibly, glancing down as she removes her arms from around him and drops them into her lap.

"Why-" she begins, then shakes her head. "Don't," she says, the word vague in context — don't tell Cardinal the same? or don't do this?

See? He knew it was a bad idea. Wes frowns, leaning back a little as his own hands settle on the tops of Peyton's thighs. The open book that is his face clearly reads the disappointment in himself before he shuts it with a sigh. He rubs his hands against the fabric of her jeans, then drums his fingers against her legs.

"Sorry," he murmurs with a shake of his head, dropping his eyes from her face to her abdomen. "I shouldn't'uh told you."

Her brows stay knit together, her eyes downcast, and she shakes her head again, getting up from his lap and moving to the window. "Why did you? Do you want me to feel all touched that he cares enough to threaten you, to maybe think something's there, so that I step aside from whatever this is, and try to pursue that?" Her words are flat as she stares out the window, the light striating her face through the blinds.

"Because if you're trying to push me away, that might do it. But not for the reasons you'd think," she adds, her voice soft, pained, as she keeps her back to him.

Wes's deep breath is audible when he leans forward, placing his elbows on his knees and threading his fingers together and resting his face against the side of his hands. "Because I don't know when t'keep m'mouth shut," he grumbles out, tapping one booted foot against the floor.

In another moment he's on his feet and turning toward the door. He wrenches it open, but rather than throw it all the way open to make a dramatic exit, he slides his hand up the wood and grips the side. Then he looks back at her, his face creased with a frown. "He asked me," he says, his voice choked, each word coming with a significant amount of effort.

"I went t'see if he still remembered you, t'make sure I wasn't goin' crazy. And he asked me how… how I felt about you. And… Pey, it was like when I'd meet the guys datin' my kid sister."

She glances over her shoulder when she hears him get up, hears him open the door, her mouth parting to say wait — but then the grave is dug all the deeper with those words. Kid sister.

Her mouth clamps shut and she stares at him for a long moment before her face contorts with pain he doesn't mean to cause.

"You don't think I don't know that he doesn't see me like … like he sees Liz?" she says, her voice flat, neutral, despite the hurt in her eyes. "I know. I've accepted it. I'm not sitting around waiting for him, am I? You didn't need to point it out, though. And if all he is to me is a big brother, you don't need to go threatening to kill him for hurting me, do you? So this whole conversation is pointless, unless you wanted to piss me off."

She looks back out the window, shaking her head. "Congratulations. You succeeded."


But the stereotypical exaltation is empty of joy or triumph. Instead, the single word swells with sarcasm. Swallowing hard enough to make his ears pop, he starts to go out the door, but he stops himself, letting it shut instead. If he walks away now, even to give her space, there’s no telling what will happen.

“I can’t unsay what’s said,” he grumbles, turning and leaning against the door with arms folded across his chest. “Can’t make you forget it. Can’t make you not mad as hell at me. But I can tell you I didn’t mean it…whatever way you’re takin’ it.”

He takes a deep breath, trying to restrain another potentially earth-moving series of words. In vain. “I’m standin’ here, Pey. I’m standin’ right here, and I’ve made myself as clear as I can about us.” Whatever they are. But whatever it is, it’s in stark contrast to something that isn’t. Someone who isn’t here. He pauses, the lines in his face deepening. “For what it’s worth, m’sorry.”

She stands still at the window — the door shutting makes her think he’s left and her shoulders rise in hitched breath. When he speaks, she turns to face him, her eyes wet with tears. Peyton doesn’t know how to do this — how to fight and resolve things, how to forgive or take back words. None of her experiences with men have been deep enough, intimate enough in things that matter to actually argue, not unless you count which bar to go to or what club has the best dance music as significant questions.

“I know you are,” she says softly. “You just… you made me feel like you don’t think I want you there. It’s that dumb thing boys do, right, where they push people away so that they don’t get pushed away first?” Peyton swallows and unwinds her arms from around her waist where she’d been hugging herself, stepping closer to him as she studies his face.

“Maybe I took it wrong — I just don’t know why you’d bring it up, unless you’re trying to figure out where I stand with him. But you know,” she takes his hand, her smaller, finer boned fingers curling through his, “just because I care for him doesn’t mean I don’t care for you. It’s not an either or. And if you’re trying to protect me from him — the only way he hurts me isn’t his fault at all, it’s mine. And I’ll get over it. I’m getting over it.”

He doesn’t resist the movement of his arm or even her hand in his. But it isn’t until she’s halfway through the second part of her speech that he squeezes her smooth palm against his calloused skin. “You do what y’do because you feel it’s necessary,” he muses, looking down at their hands rather than at Peyton, his other arm still held across his chest, his fingers curling around his side. “Y’do it because y’want to, and I can’t hold him accountable for that.”

Still, it’s good to hear Peyton talk like this - as if she has a life without a glaring expiration date stamped on it. Rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, he lifts it to press her knuckles to his lips in a kiss that has more to do with pressure and simple contact than anything else. “I ain’t a boy,” he murmurs against her fingers, his brows furrowing, “and I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Oh. Peyton’s brows lift as she realizes, too late, the motive behind his mentioning of Cardinal. That he didn’t mean it how she took it at all — that he was speaking of the dangers inherent in whatever “business” Endgame has.

Her cheeks color as she realizes her mistake and she shakes her head, huffing out a soft approximation of a laugh.

“I’m an idiot,” she murmurs, squeezing his hand in hers. “I jumped to conclusions, and it wasn’t fair — just because I’ve been in that frame of mind so long, you know? I’m sorry. It wasn’t… I know you wouldn’t hurt me, Wes.” Her voice grows softer with each words, until the last is a mere whisper, and she tips her head to kiss him lightly, sweetly.

Wes slips his hand from hers in order to wrap an arm around her, holding her closer. The other is sadly still occupied by an empty coffee cup. He hums at the close of the kiss, only to steal another one from her. Making up after a fight is always sweet he’s learning, even if the fight is brief. “I’ll forgive yuh,” he murmurs, lifting his chin to kiss her forehead.

“But only if I get t’pester y’with lunch,” he says, lips still pressed against her skin so the words come out muffled. There may be no rest for the wicked, but that doesn’t mean that smugglers don’t have the occasional lazy Saturday.

She closes her eyes, letting the warmth of that one-armed embrace envelop her, soothe away the anger and hurt that was never intended. She nods, her head moving against his lips as she does so.

“All right. Come back at noon. But now I’m kicking you out so I can do some work,” Peyton says with a smile. “I can’t work with you standing there looking all handsome and distracting, and I have a lot to catch up on.”

He may get a lazy Saturday, but the business woman Peyton Whitney has turned into has work to catch up on — unexpected two-week “vacations” mean there’s no such thing as a day off.

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