The Fine Line


peyton2_icon.gif smedley_icon.gif

Scene Title The Fine Line
Synopsis Peyton crosses the line between business and pleasure and terrorism, and Smedley finds it unfortunately difficult to say no.
Date August 29. 2010


This neighborhood bar in Brooklyn boasts no mahogany or brass. A pink neon sign proclaims the name to be Q's & Booze, the name framing an animated beer pitcher filling a glass over and over again, while an 8-ball flashes it's light 8 on and off. The inside is just big enough for three pool tables and a few small tables for those who are simply there to watch or drink, and a bar that's covered by formica. Peanut shells crunch underfoot and the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke permeates everything.

Peyton's dressed down in a gray t-shirt and dark skinny jeans, black flip-flops on her feet, no purse. She heads to the bar to get two beers while Wes goes about procuring a table. Once she's gathered the two pints of beer, she heads back to him. "I don't really know how to play… shocker, I know, right?" she says with a chuckle, setting the beers on the bumper of the pool table and watching him. "So… you're not getting tired of me yet?" Peyton asks. "I mean, you just saw me this morning…"

"And were you a sight," Wes counters, his eyes widening in mocking, awed disgust as he rubs the block of chalk against the tip of a cue. A grin ruins the expression. He's dressed in his usual fare, but he's gone without the sport coat. With no means to hide his weapons of choice, the smugger is reduced to a blade on one ankle and a more "traditional" pistol on the other. Which, in turn, means leather sneakers rather than boots. "It's Sunday. Time to rest from the week b'fore and prepare for the week ahead." And to Wes, that means one thing - make up for losses.

He walks around the table, picking up a cue for Peyton along the way. But he doesn't stop until he's nearly nose to nose with her, smiling down with a charm only slightly inappropriate for public. "Howsabouts we make this a little interestin'?"

She tips her head up — this close she actually has to look up a little, at least when she's in flip flops. "Oh? How are we going to make it interestin'?" she asks, lowering her voice on the last word and giving it a touch of his drawl to mock him, though her lips curl to show it's all in jest.

"I'm guessing you are better than me, so you need to take a handicap or five," she adds. "Or I get a headstart or something. I don't know if I've ever played a whole game."

"All that means is that you're still apt to have beginner's luck," Wes says with a wink, rubbing his nose against Peyton's for just a moment. Even this close, he only lets his eyes settle on pieces of her face. The curve of her lip, the line of her nose, the corner of her eye, the sweep of her hair. When he steps back to hand her the cue and pick up one of the pints, it's abruptly. But he watches her as he moves back to the other end of the table, tucking his cue under his arm so that he can adjust the rack and remove it from the pyramid of balls.

"We'll play eight-ball. S'easy enough. Go ahead and line up a shot to break." The rack is replaced on its peg in the wall, and Wes leans back against the paneling to watch Peyton. "Just do like they do in all those mobster movies, and you'll be fine."

"That I can do, 'cause I'm not aiming at anything but a big triangle of a target," Peyton says, moving to the end of the table and lining up the shot. It looks like she knows what she's doing — at least to an amateur, until she actually pulls the stick back and tries to make contact, and instead stutters the chalked end of the cue into the felt — she does actually hit the cue ball, if awkwardly, and it's a fairly ugly scatter.

"Right. Beginner's luck…" she says, eyes wide.

But Wes just sniffs and shakes his head. "You ease into it, the luck. Sneaks up on y'like." He sips his beer, then leaves it on the bumper, stalking around the table to find a good shot. There's not many to be had. He's left to clean up after Peyton, re-scattering the balls while sending the ten into the corner pocket it had been hugging.

"I'm stripes then," he announces on his was back toward the cue-ball. As he passes Peyton, he gives her leg a tap with the butt of his cue. "You don't have t'keep humorin' me, y'know. Or ain't you sick'uh me yet?" His second shot - presumably aimed at ball number fourteen, only clips the target, sending it spinning and nowhere useful as the cue bounces purposelessly about the walls.

"Yeah, I'm humoring you, that's right," Peyton says with a chuckle. "You're nicer to me than just about anyone else I've ever da-" the word sounds awkward coming out in regards to whatever this is, but she finishes anyway, "ted." Her cheeks flush pink and she lines a shot up. "So how do I not hit the table this time? Or are you not allowed to help me? And what are we betting on, anyway?"

It's a good thing Wes's pint hadn't reached his lips, or he might have done a spit-take at the use of the word. The subject change is welcome. Wes rests his cue against the wall and walks back around to Peyton. He stands behind her and lays his hand over hers to adjust how she holds the cue. "Let it slide, nice and easy. How you hit the ball'l tell it how to go. S'physics. So just… go for straight ones, and then just tap her in the middle. You don't have to punch it hard. Table ain't that big - it'll get where it's goin' without you tryin' to murder it."

He pauses for a moment, his eyes closing as he inhales her perfume. The distraction makes him clear his throat as he backs away again. "What we bet'sup to you, I think. Cash don't seem right," seeing how it's Peyton, and well, money between…whatever the two of them happen to be isn't probably the best idea. "But I'd be willin' to give up a favor, if I happen to lose to your beginner's luck."

"Favors?" Peyton says with a raise of her brow, before letting the stick slide — it's less rough than before, but also a little too light. The cue ball stops just short of hitting her intended target. She pouts a little, but then rights the stick and leans on it. "You already do me a lot of favors," she says, seriously, then winks. "And not just the fun ones, either." After all, last night was much too serious, and she wants him to have fun tonight, not have to worry about her.

"Still, it looks like you'll be the victor, so I can definitely owe you a favor for once. If there's anything I can do that would help you, of course," she adds.

Wes makes a clucking noise out of the corner of his mouth at that, looking overly thoughtful for a moment. But once he settles in to his turn, he wastes no time in sinking the ball Peyton had aimed for, but he isn't able to sink one of his own once he's freed up the cue-ball. "I dunno about that, Pey. But I'll make sure you're the one I call if they ever get a pair'uh cuffs on my wrists - how's that sound?" Bail money. Maybe a lawyer. These are all things a girl like Peyton would have and a guy like Smedley would be in need of.

"I do like the fun favors more, though," he adds, picking up his pint again and winking at her over the frosted brim before taking a sip.
"The fun favors don't count. Those are fun for me too, so they don't really count as a favor," she says playfully, as she moves to line up a shot. "You can call me, sure. I'll pay your bail, jailbird." She gives him a playful wink before narrowing her eyes and shooting for the solid seven ball, managing to finally sink one, though the cue ball goes in along with it.

"Well, shit, I don't think that's supposed to happen," she says with a laugh.

"I don't think I'm even going to have a chance of winning, beginner's luck or no, but my favor … will you take Von?" She looks at him, her eyes suddenly solemn. "You know. If. When. Whatever."

It isn't supposed to happen, but neither is Peyton supposed to ruin a fun night with talk of…that. Wes glowers at her as he fishes the seven and the cue-ball out of the pocket, placing the seven back on the table and then moving to the other end to decide where to place the cue for his shot. He stares at Peyton pretty much the entire time though, his eyes narrowed and brows furrowed. "None'uh that now. Tell you what. No favor - I win? And you're not allowed to talk about that." He sighs, tossing the cue-ball to catch it again as he thinks.

He sets it down on the far side of the table from the twelve, but he only just manages to avoid scratching like Peyton did. With a grumble, he swings around the table toward the girl, slipping his hand into one of her back pockets and giving her a quick squeeze against his side. "But yeah," he mumbles, leaning the side of his face against her head. "Sure."

Her eyes drop, and Peyton nods slowly. She's had to live with the thought of it since June — he shouldn't have to live with her mentioning it over and over again. "Okay. That's the only loose end," she says softly. "I feel better knowing that, anyway. I won't bring it up again. It's…pointless." There's a bright flash of teeth, and she leans forward to kiss his cheek. "No more gloomy gus!"

She turns to the table and aims for a solid orange ball, the cue ball missing it entirely and sinking one of his stripes into the corner pocket. Peyton's brow rises and she snorts. "Am I good or what?"

"Peachy," Wes says as a general response. To punctuate it, he brings the palm of his hand against her backside in a quick slap. "You get another shot." It isn't just that he doesn't like hearing it, but he doesn't like knowing Peyton focuses on it so much. Then again, how could she not? What would he do if it were him?

To push the questions out of his head, Wes picks up his beer again, chugging the level down a good inch before he lets it rest on the bumper once more. "See? Your luck's pickin' up already. Sink another one, now."

"Really? But it was your ball, and I wasn't even aiming for it… What is with men and their silly games that make no sense…" she says, but she shrugs and aims for the orange solid again, though all she does is nudge it further away from the pocket and at an even more awkward angle.

She moves to the end of the table that her beer sits at and picks it up for a couple of swallows, nose wrinkling slightly since she's much more of a mixed drink sort of girl. "So… you know, that stuff I do? We could use more help. If you wanted to help."

When it seems the serious talk isn't going to go away anytime soon, Wes steels himself. Visibly. Peyton is, after all, turning the dial from pleasure to business. "My kinda help?" he asks in a lower tone, his eyebrows lifting. It's true Cardinal was more of the burgling than the smuggling type, but still - the man knows his way around Staten Island well enough to ensure any friendly neighborhood terrorist outfit proper provisions.

Wes swallows, looking from Peyton to his beer, then the table. "Tuesday's creepin' up. I could use some help to."

Her brows rise and she nods, slowly. "I'm pretty sure we can help with that part. We're already keeping a couple of people off the grid," she murmurs quietly. "I can tell you a little more, see if it's something you want to do, something you believe in, and arrange a meeting with the leader." She doesn't use Cardinal's name — he can reveal himself as the leader of the "Terrorist" group if he agrees to meet with Wes at all. Her eyes study his face, and suddenly she shakes her head.

"Don't do it just for me, okay?" she asks, suddenly nothing but serious, none of the teasing or flirting or coyness as she moves closer to him, her hands moving to either of his shoulders. "Don't do it because you think I need watched over, or whatever it is you think. I adore you for that, Wes, and I don't want you to say yes to something like this just because you think I need protected. If you do it, you need to do it because you agree with it, or because it gives you something in return that you need. You scratch our back, we scratch yours, I can do that, but I don't want you to get entangled in something that's potentially dangerous because of me."

There's a moment when his gray-blue eyes actually meet her brown ones, but Wes blinks it away and lifts his chin. "I may jump 'n awful lot for you, babe, but I've got my lines same as anyone. N'when I do work, I expect to be compensated." Getting more than passable identification is just one kind of payment for one kind of job. Like a signing bonus.

Wes leans forward to rest his cue against the side of the table, letting his face pass alongside Peyton's. As he draws himself back up, he pauses. "What's say we move this little business meetin' elsewhere, though?" The bar may be quiet, but that just means whatever they say in this corner of it will be easy to hear. His eyes move from one seemingly harmless customer to the next before he turns his face just enough to brush a quick kiss on her cheek. For show? Maybe. Or maybe to remind her what the night was supposed to be.

Somehow she keeps ruining things with talks of death, politics and terrorism. "Yeah, all right. I forfeit, you win," Peyton says with a rueful smirk, turning her head so his light graze of her cheek eventually meets her lips and kissing him more fully then he intended.

She moves to the wall to set her stick back in the rack, and then reaches for his hand, interlacing her fingers with his and squeezing lightly. "It can wait. I'll fill you in, and if you want, we'll set stuff up, and if you don't want, I'll never bring it up again," she murmurs quietly as she heads for the door. "I promise."

With kisses like that, it's hard to keep business separate from pleasure, but Wes somehow manages. It might be just sheer force of will. "Far be it from me t'turn down work I ain't got the full story on," he says by way of an answer as they walk, giving her hand a squeeze before he lifts it to the crook of his arm, keeping it covered with his own.

He lifts it to push the door open and to call a cab, but then it's right back there on top of Peyton's. "'Sides, I'd rather here it from you than whatever high-pressure sales-guy you got tucked away someplace." That, and if it comes from Peyton, he might have a better chance at sorting out the various threads involved in a decision.

When he makes to grab a cab, Peyton shakes her head but Wes is already talking to the driver and opening the door for her. She glances toward the subway station at the corner, but she lets herself be led inside. She is quiet and pulls out her cell phone from her pocket, her hand gripped around it and one hand on the door handle the entire ride. When it pulls up at her apartment building, she puts a bill with much-too-large a tip, not waiting for change as she jumps out an hurries to the building.

Only once she's in the apartment does she seem to breathe, bending to embrace the bundle of red fur that comes to greet her in the shape of Von. "Sorry," she whispers, over her shoulder at Wesley, if he's wondering what on earth has come over her.

Wes takes the time while Peyton is absorbed the task of greeting Von to lock the door and lean back against it, folding his arms across his chest. "Sorry? What kind a girl your age wants to take the subway this time of night?" It's not too late, sure, but still. The subway is…the subway. And Peyton is Peyton. He studies her, then bends to crouch beside her and give Von's ears a good rubdown. "Somethin' to do with what happened?"

The question is asked in a low tone, as if the words weighted down Wes's voice. He doesn't qualify the statement, but the tightness of his jaw and the way his had moves rhythmically over the puppy's fur is enough to do it for him.

"I only take cabs I call for myself. I use a service I trust," she murmurs, standing and not looking at him, heading to the kitchen to grab him a beer and herself a water from the refrigerator. She brings both out, handing him the bottle, one left from the six-pack he'd brought the night before only to find her with a migraine.

"They took us in a cab. It's okay. I need to get over it… I mean, the odds of a cab just happening by that would be somehow connected to them are really really small, but…" Peyton moves to the couch and flops down, twisting the cap off her her water bottle and taking a long drink. "I need to get over it. It's okay." It sounds like she's assuring herself more than him.

"So anyway. This group… it's not Messiah or Pariah or even Ferry or Phoenix. We have allies in those groups — well, Ferry and Messiah, anyway, but we're not about … terrorism, not like Messiah is anyway."

"You'll forgive me if I only have a less than workin' knowledge of the other teams on the field," Wes says with a sad attempt at a grin. He doesn't join her on the couch, but rather stands leaning a shoulder against a wall. He pulls out a rather meager looking keychain and uses the church-key hooked to it to open the bottle, tucking the cap back into his pocket along with the opener. He takes a swig of the beer and breathes deep, relishing the taste for a moment. She doesn't want to talk about what happened any more than he wants to hear it, so that's fine. But the wall between them on that matter just got one brick higher.

He rolls his shoulders back and starts toward the couch then, sitting on one end of it rather than right next to Peyton. "So what, then? You need my help, so you must need either transport or supplies. And you know I don't deal in too many food baskets." Medical supplies, ammo, weaponry, yes. Canned foodstuffs…not so much. Not that he couldn't.

Peyton frowns a little at the distance and shakes her head at his assumption. "No, I … that's not what I mean. I don't mean we need your help because of what you do specifically, but because… because what we do is important, and we need as many people that we can trust in the group for it to work," she says. She might add, but she promised not to, that when she dies, there will be one less person, and if she brings one in, then she's not leaving them in the lurch. Not that he can do what she can do, but he is useful in other ways.

"So. The group is called Endgame. The way he explains it, we murder the futures that we don't want to happen. It means we try to find out where things are headed, and keep the bad shit from hitting the fan before it does," she murmurs, kicking off her flip flops and pulling her feet beneath her on the couch. "Obviously, we haven't succeeded yet…" she adds wryly.

Which means they've got a precog, or else they're relying pretty heavy on the visions reported. Visions like what Peyton had. Of course, it could be both. Wes leans to rest his elbows on his thighs, rolling the bottle of beer between his palms. "Seems noble," he says after a moment. "But as noble as it seems, you know the very last thing I need next to getting my brains blown out is trouble with the law." He pauses, taking another swig of beer before he sets it down on the coffee table and leans back, one arm draped over the back of the couch.

"Still. You're little bridge club's either kept it's nose clean enough not to get noticed by the news, or else you're a brand new operation." All business now, Wes settles the hard-bitten glare of a negotiating smuggler on his host, or rather, on her left eyebrow. "So which is it?"

"I joined in last fall. It's a small group, not like the Ferry. It's not nationwide or anything. And it's not … we don't do shit like Messiah does. It's a lot of intelligence work and what we do, you're not likely going to find out about. Our goal isn't to throw propaganda out there — we don't go tagging up walls with our symbols or anything, or get our names in the news. We do work sometimes with the other groups, but we don't answer to them." She frowns, knowing that her explanation is weak. It's hard to explain. "We helped with the thing on Staten, for example. There were people in that building that needed rescued, and they did it." With a lot of lives lost in the process, she doesn't add.

She runs a hand through her hair and shakes her head. "Look, if you don't want to, it's fine. I just need you to promise not to tell anyone I told you this much. I'm … I'm not usually the one to recruit, but I trust you, and there aren't a lot of people I trust, and you're a good guy, and we need all the good guys we can get."

Wes swallows, his business-man act faltering as he looks away from Peyton and drums his fingers on the back of the couch. "Look," he says after a moment, his head rolling a bit before he slides down in his seat, his arm falling to his side, and stares at the ceiling. "I'm not exactly… ever…. lookin' to far ahead of myself. Life's got a rhythm to it." He sighs, letting his eyes close. After everything, if he can't talk to Peyton - Peyton who has shared so much with him - who can he talk to? "Ever since I left home. You plan as far ahead as you got the cash for, and hopefully by then you'll have more." Lather, rinse, repeat.

He opens his eyes and turns his head toward Peyton, searching her face for some sort of crutch to lean on. "Then you had to come along'n gum up the works. I ain't never thought things through that far, and now… now I'm tryin' to… Tryin' to stretch stuff out. Make it last." Make it worthwhile. "So, as much as I'd like whatever future happens to be a nice one, I… I ain't got that many strong feelin's about it." He reaches a hand out to the empty chasm that is the cushion between them. "'Cept maybe where you're concerned."

Her brows knit together as he talks about not looking forward and Peyton nods, her eyes dropping as she prepares to tell him once again to forget she asked, to disregard it all. She'd made a mistake.

Her eyes fly back up to his face when he brings her back into it, and her lips part. She looks stricken. Those dark eyes fill with tears and she shakes her head. He was a stranger, which made him safe. He was a bad boy, not someone who was supposed to give an actual damn about her. She hadn't told Cardinal the things she'd told Wesley because she didn't want to be a burden to Card…

Instead, she's become a burden on Wesley.

She brings a hand up to her face, the palm scraping from eyes to brow and then down through her hair as she considers what to say. Her hand finally drops to take the hand he's offered, curling her fingers around it.

"I'm sorry," she finally manages, the word a breathy confession. "I shouldn't have…" shouldn't have done so many things. "I shouldn't have asked."

"But you did."

There's a soft smile curled around the words. Wes gives Peyton's hand a squeeze and then a pull, trying to get her closer without having to move himself. "Ain't no call to be sorry," he says, his brows furrowing in mild concern. "You didn't do a damn thing wrong." After a moment, one corner of his mouth hitches into a smile. "'Sides. Ain't such a bad idea, really. A man spendin' what days he's got afforded him trying to make what comes after better."

"You don't have to," Peyton says hurriedly, moving across that cushion to throw her arms around his neck. Apparently she's not very good about splitting business and pleasure. "You can listen to what he says, and if you don't think you want to join, I promise I won't think any less of you. There's nothing wrong with wanting to stay out of it, either, and I respect that. My friends… they didn't really agree with what I did, but they were still my friends." Were. Aaron and Wendy, each out of her life for different reasons.

"That's all. No more business talk, okay? No more serious talk. Not for the rest of the night, I promise," she says, moving her lips to his jawline and reaching up to stroke through his hair. "I keep ruining all your nights."

"I wouldn't say that," Wes murmurs as he wraps his arms around Peyton and returns the affection in kind. He does take a moment to pull her onto his lap, if only so he can bury his own face in the hollow of her neck and breathe deeply between sporadic, hard-pressed kisses.

"I ain't seen the wrong side of a bullet in weeks."

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