Crave – Jack’s POV of “the bathroom scene” in Enemies of the State


Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, I’m writing a lovely prompt submitted by Vanessa, who wanted to see Jack’s POV from the “bathroom scene” in Enemies of the State.

***Warning! Explicit content ahead! If you are not of legal age in your location, please do not proceed.


Jack stared at the mirror, his eyes locking on his own gaze. His hands gripped the edge of the dresser.


The shower had turned off a minute ago. He’d heard Ethan step out, close the glass door. He’d heard the towel Ethan used get pulled off the hook, the folds of terrycloth start to ruffle over Ethan’s body.


He’d never gone in the bathroom while Ethan was showering. While Ethan was naked. It was Ethan’s private time, his private space. And, no matter what else they’d done, they’d still never seen each other completely nude.


The towel was probably moving all over Ethan’s body by now. Rubbing up his legs… over his chest… down


Jack’s fingernails dug into the wood. A month ago, if someone told him that he’d be fantasizing about his lead Secret Service detail agent’s naked body, he’d have laughed in their face. But, here he was. Fantasizing… and wanting.


Footsteps, from in the bathroom. Ethan, padding to the sink. Water being turned on. The sound of teeth being brushed.


Ethan would be wearing the towel now. He’d have it wrapped around his waist.


His chest would be bare. Maybe still damp, some of the hairs on his chest catching droplets of water that clung close to his skin. He’d be warm, warm like the shower, and smell like the evergreen soap and fresh mountain body wash Jack used in the shower.


Jack closed his eyes. Images paraded through his mind: Ethan smiling, laughing, winking. Blowing him a silent, tiny kiss across the Oval Office, or in the West Wing. Ethan, shirtless, lying with his head in Jack’s lap as they watched the ball game. Ethan, beneath him on the couch, their cocks straining against their suit pants as they made out like giddy, love-struck teenagers.


His gaze slid toward the closed bathroom door. Would it be alright if he just went in and said hello? Just was there, near Ethan? It was the only place he wanted to be anymore.


Ethan spat, and Jack heard the water turn on. He was done with his teeth brushing.


Now or never.


He headed in.


Ethan froze when he saw Jack enter the bathroom. Jack flinched. Bad idea. He shouldn’t have barged in. He should grab something and pretend like he forgot it, that he needed it in the bedroom. But, damn it, he was already dressed. Tie tied, slacks pressed, starched shirt buttoned, and cuffs on. Nothing to do but go full steam ahead, then.


Jack leaned back against the counter, by his own sink, and crossed his arms. His gaze strayed, dropping down from Ethan’s eyes, his lips, further down, wandering over his chest. Landed on Ethan’s towel, knotted around his waist.


“See something you like?” Ethan’s voice was rough, deeper, edged in an emotion he so rarely heard from Ethan. Nervousness, and a hint of fear. Caution. Trepidation. Ethan held on to the towel like it was a shield. Shoulders tensed, like he was ready to run.


God, what was he doing? What if Ethan didn’t want him in here, really didn’t want him in here?


Jack gaze flicked up, back to Ethan’s. He saw everything in Ethan’s eyes: fear… and expectancy.


Ethan was waiting for the end. For rejection. For dismissal.


Jack’s throat clenched. The words wouldn’t come, not to his own mind, and not to his brain. But his heart was racing, galloping across his ribs hard enough to shatter his own fears. He wanted Ethan in so many, many ways. As his friend, as his confidante, as his mentor. As his partner, and, yes, as his lover. He wanted Ethan in every way.


Slowly, Jack nodded. He stepped forward, reaching for Ethan’s towel. If Ethan stopped him, he’d back off. He’d apologize, retreat, and never make the first move again.


He held Ethan’s gaze, hoping his eyes were speaking for him. I want everything about you. Even this. Especially this.


It’s been so long since I’ve been wanted.


The thought slammed into him, a shotgun blast of realization, despair mixed with hope. It’s been so, so long, since anyone desired me. And it’s been just as long since I desired anyone at all. Since I burned up inside for someone’s touch, or their eyes on me. Ethan, you have no idea what you’re doing to me.


His eyes dropped to Ethan’s waist, to the towel, to where he was slowly tugging it loose from Ethan’s hips. Ethan’s breath sped up, his chest rising and falling faster, each breath shakier than the last.


And then –


The towel fell to the floor, and Ethan – all of glorious, gorgeous, amazing Ethan – was right there. Completely naked, right in front of him.


His eyes roamed over Ethan’s body. Down his legs, over his chest – dusted with droplets from the shower, tiny beads of water clinging to the ends of his dark chest hair – and down again… past his belly button, and past a trimmed thatch of hair… down to his cock.


As Jack watched, Ethan began to harden, swelling and rising under Jack’s gaze. Ethan shuddered, a husky gasp breezing past his lips.


Jack’s heart sped up, galloping faster, pounding out a wild drum beat. His mouth seemed to water and go dry all at once. This was Ethan, the man he adored, the man he chose. The man he craved. He was practically dizzy, reality spinning away as he faced the man he wanted to know as a lover.


He bit his lip. “Can I touch you?”


Please.” Ethan shuddered again, and his eyes squeezed shut. “But only if you’re sure,” he amended, the caution back in his voice and his eyes open again. He was giving Jack an out, an “oops, sorry, I didn’t mean it when I said I wanted to try this.” Or, “I don’t want to go this far.” Or even, “I don’t want to touch or see your body.”


None of that, God, none of that was true. He hungered for Ethan, in every single way.


Touching Ethan’s cock for the first time felt like stroking raw lightning. He felt their skin connect, felt the jolt, the sizzle, pure raw power twined with lust rocketing up the nerves in his arms, sprinting for his heart, and for his own cock. “What do I do?” I want to be good for you.


“Anything,” Ethan breathed. His knees wobbled, almost buckled. “It’s like touching yourself. Just do what you like.” Ethan bit his lip after he spoke.


I will make this good for you. Jack wrapped his hand around Ethan and stroked, firmly, his hand a constant pressure, up and down. He added a twist to his wrist and Ethan gasped. Sounded like he almost swallowed his tongue. Jack rubbed his thumb over Ethan’s cock head, swiping away a bead of pre-come and smearing it on Ethan’s skin. Ethan moaned again, loudly.




Ethan was close. Jack could feel it. The way his body quivered, the way he bit his lip. The way he whimpered, just barely, with every breath and every stroke. He was doing this to Ethan, him, Jack. He was making Ethan come undone. Exhilaration shot through him, a mad mix of delight and wonder and frenetic energy. His own lust, his own desire, roared.


Ethan pitched forward and his hands rose, grabbing Jack’s shoulders. Buckling, Ethan seemed to try and crumple into Jack, fold himself into Jack’s reach and his hold. He hissed, clenching his teeth together, and held Jack’s gaze.


Warm come drenched Jack’s hand as Ethan trembled, as he bucked, as he exploded, coming apart beneath Jack’s touch.


Holy God. Jack stared at his hand, at Ethan, shattered and dragging in deep gasps of air, and at the come covering his fingers. He could smell Ethan, Jesus, he could smell his musk, his scent, the power of his soul


“Are you okay?” Ethan’s eyes were wide, fear firmly back in place even stronger than before. His face was red, flushed.


What could he ever say after that? He couldn’t even form words in his brain, couldn’t line up the letters of the alphabet to be coherent.


He, Jack, had brought Ethan to orgasm. This must be how Eve felt, tasting forbidden fruit. I can never get enough of you, Ethan.


He grabbed Ethan and pulled him close, dragging his naked body hard against his suit pants and dress shirt. Ethan’s hands landed on his hips, roamed up his sides, down his back, and squeezed his ass as Jack captured his lips. The kiss turned filthy fast, tongues dueling, lips battling, sucking. He wanted to crawl into Ethan’s arms. He wanted to be naked, all the way naked, now. He wanted to feel everything, absolutely everything, with Ethan.


His hands dropped to his fly, working the button, the zipper. The sound was too loud in the bathroom, a siren in between their kisses and sighs.


Ethan pulled back, enough to catch a breath between their lips. “Jack… Are you sure?”


“Yes! Touch me! Ethan, please!”


Ethan backed him up roughly against the counter and then batted his hands away from his zipper. In a moment, in between one kiss and the next, Jack’s pants were undone and his boxers were pulled down, his cock jutting free and arching to the sky. Ethan dropped to his knees, groaned, and nuzzled Jack’s crotch, his nose buried in the hairs above his cock, his cheek brushing over Jack’s shaft.


Jack fumbled on the counter, searching for a handhold before he collapsed. God, Ethan’s mouth, his lips, his breath


He knocked over his deodorant and toothpaste as his hands scrabbled over the tile, fingernails digging into grout. Ethan’s lips dusted up his shaft, and then—


Jesus, none of his dreams, nothing he’d imagined, none of the furtive, desperate strokes and gasps he’d buried facedown in his pillow could ever compare to this. Could ever compare to the feel of Ethan, Ethan on his knees in front of him, nuzzling, sucking, swallowing—


He moaned, some breathy kind of grunt mixed with a howl. A primal noise, something that came from somewhere deep, deep within him, something that hadn’t ever been touched. He looked down, and found Ethan looking back up at him. Jack reached for him, one come-wet thumb stroking over the hollow of Ethan’s cheek.


Ethan moaned and closed his eyes, and then swallowed him whole.


It had been two too many decades since he’d had a blow job, and Jack had exactly zero stamina for this kind of soul-shattering pleasure. Ethan’s moans, his tongue, that look in his eyes when he gazed up at Jack, like he’d been yearning for this, had been aching for Jack, like every part and piece of him was tuned into to making every atom in Jack’s body sing – everything came together in a heartbeat.


He came with a shout, his orgasm surprising him. Like a hurricane moving through him and being sucked out of his cock, his orgasm shredded him, ripped him to the four corners of the earth by Ethan’s lips and tongue.


Ethan moaned and his eyes rolled back, closing. Just barely, Jack caught sight of Ethan furiously stroking his own cock. Ethan shuddered and shook, gasping around Jack like he was coming again, too. But that was just too incredible to think on. Ethan, coming again because he’d blown Jack?


His thoughts wouldn’t add up. Jack floated, the universe and everything in it reduced to the feel of Ethan’s lips sliding off his shaft, the delicate kiss pressed to the side of his cock head. Ethan’s face, his cheek, resting against his thigh. Warm breath on skin no one had ever kissed.


Jack collapsed, falling to his knees and sliding down the bathroom cabinets right in front of Ethan. His pants were ruined, crumpled and wrinkled. His shirt was disheveled, and his tie was undone, askew. His cock was still hanging out, softening.


“I’m sorry.” Ethan’s voice was rough, gravely in a way Jack had never heard. “I shouldn’t have done that.”


That had been exactly what he’d wanted. Exactly what he’d craved without even knowing it.


Maybe he’d pushed the envelope. Maybe starting this in the middle of their morning routine wasn’t the most ideal time. Maybe they should have talked first. But, he wanted to be closer to Ethan, closer in every way.


He wanted to be Ethan’s lover. Wanted to make love to Ethan. Wanted Ethan to make love to him.


“Shut up.” He grinned. “And kiss me.”


Ethan surged forward, wrapping him up in both arms and kissed him deeply, tingles running all the way down to his toes, bursts like fireworks going off in his heart.


This is working, Ethan. This is so working.


We’re going to be lovers.


And I’m going to fall in love with you.



Timestamp: Enemies of the State, Chapter 27. While Jack and Ethan are secretly dating in the White House.


Shattered – Adam and Faisal move to Bahrain


Welcome to this week’s Bauer’s Bytes!

Today, we’re diving back into Adam and Faisal, and where we left off after Enemy Within. How is Adam dealing with all of the massive changes in his life? How are Faisal’s family treating him? What’s on the horizon for them both? ***Spoiler Warning! If you have not read Enemy Within, this Byte is not for you!!***





The Island Kingdom of Bahrain, eighty-six islands governed by a king, connected by a causeway to Saudi Arabia. Home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf.


Adam had been there before, when he was a Marine. He’d been in Juffair and strolled on the cornice, sweated it out under the Persian sun. Eyed the one or two men who made him ache for Faisal, with their slender bodies hidden in thawbs as their mirrored sunglasses reflected rainbows across the sand and sea.


Now, he was in Bahrain as the Saudi Arabian ambassador’s husband.


He felt adrift, like a hot air balloon that had lost its tether, and he was floating high into the sky. What world had he stumbled into? When would he wake up from this dream? Surely, he was still on the ice in the Arctic. Surely, he’d taken a bullet, maybe to the brain, and he was living a lifetime in the last gasping breaths of his real life, spinning a fantasy of his perfect dreams that could never, ever come true.


Sometimes he stayed up, watching Faisal sleep through the long hours of the night. He tracked the moon across the sky, watched the stars twirl in constellations. Don’t ever, ever end, he pleaded to the darkness. I don’t care if I’m mad. If I’m insane. This is the life I want.


Faisal would always stir and catch him, sleepily nuzzling closer and pulling him into his arms. “I’ve got you,” he would whisper. “It’s okay. I’m here, habibi.”


When he did sleep, there were nightmares. Endless stretches of ice, Arctic wilderness, and Cook’s dead eyes. Cook, rising from the ice like a zombie punching out of his grave, clawing his way back to the surface. Sneering, boasting about how he was going to kill Faisal and drink his blood, slobbering and snapping like a wild, feral beast. That moment in the RusFuel station, and this time he wasn’t fast enough, and Cook pulled the trigger. Faisal, dead on the deck, a growing pool of blood spreading around his lifeless body. Faisal’s eyes always stared up at him, pupils blown wide in death, and full of shock. Betrayal. How could you do this to me, habibi?


“I’m here, habibi.”


Sometimes his tears soaked the back of Faisal’s neck as Faisal slept. He kissed each one away, every tear and every kiss a promise of another lifetime at Faisal’s side. Forever and ever and ever. In shaa Allah.


The first week, they stayed at King Faisal’s massive palace in Riyadh. Adam walked like a cat in a room full of angry rocking chairs, rocking chairs with shark teeth that were waiting to eat him. Never before had a westerner been in the Saudi Arabian king’s residential palace. Spent the night, and dined with him in the morning on his private terrace, eating dates and nuts and drinking yogurt and fruit juice. Prayed at the king’s side, listening to his wizened voice whisper prayers for Faisal and himself amidst the salat, the daily prayers.


Never before had a western man made love to the Saudi crown princeling in the king’s palace.


Faisal kissed him on the terrace at breakfast one morning, and he was certain he’d lose his head by the afternoon. But King Faisal and Uncle Abdul just smiled and chuckled, clucking before they turned back to their dates and morning briefings on Kingdom security and global politics. Faisal squeezed his hand tight, relief and love and so much more bursting from his gaze.


If he really thought about it, he was probably in seventeen different kinds of shock. His soul was yoyoing, flinging between memories of the Arctic and the aching emptiness he’d felt, the way the whole universe had seemed empty at the thought of Faisal’s death. There was no point in the sun shining, in the earth spinning, if Faisal was gone from the world. No point at all.


From the Arctic to the desert, and being flung into the deep end of the Saudi Arabian monarchy. Whispered words and gentle footfalls on marble, servants that scurried always out of sight, gold everywhere he looked. He couldn’t quite bring himself to sit on the gold toilet, or the gold bidet. In his whole life, he’d never earn enough money to afford one gold toilet. There was one in every bathroom he saw.


Wealth that was impossible to imagine. A culture that, even for being with Faisal for years, was still alien to him. The slowness, the way the days bled together, the hours smearing. A conversation started over breakfast could wile away the day. As a Marine, he’d done a thousand different things before lunch. Here, he was lucky to be dressed.


A faith that was new in his heart, and prickly on his bones. He prayed whenever it got too quiet, whenever he started to hear himself think. Allah, I give everything in my life to you. My life is a top that is spinning and spinning and spinning. Let it spin forever.


Help me be a good husband.


Help me know what to do now.


He didn’t know what he thought would happen with Faisal’s family – with their family – but they welcomed him in warmly. He prayed beside King Faisal and Uncle Abdul, prostrating together with them, listening to whispered prayers, and felt his soul rise in time with theirs. Afterward, they held his hands, kissed his cheeks, and called him son.


His hot air balloon floated higher and higher, and the air he breathed seemed to get thinner.


Finally, and all too soon, he and Faisal were on their way to Bahrain. He didn’t want to leave the palace, at first. The king and Uncle Abdul had become more family to him, in just a week, than his own family had ever been. He saw the same twang of loss in Faisal’s eyes as they said their goodbyes, and, for the first time, he understood exactly how much Faisal was willing to give up to stay with him. He almost ran for the nearest gold toilet, the shame slamming into him like lightning. He swallowed down his bile, his rising vomit, his guilt. Allah, I’m not worth that much. I am not. Help him see that.


Help me be worthy of his love. Of his devotion. Because I am not now. Allah, guide me.


An hour-long flight on the king’s private jet took them to Bahrain. Manama’s skyline, shark teeth skyscrapers against the Arabian blue waters and the scorched sand, stood out in shimmering heat waves. Green grass, manicured and curated, gleamed alongside the mosaic walkways of the cornice and the promenades. Islands snaked around the capital, spits of sand that boasted a thousand homes each.


Faisal leaned in, pressing his cheek against Adam’s, and pointed out the window. “See that little island, shaped like a nine?”


Adam’s breath stuttered. He nodded. It was an island paradise in every sense of the word. Spacious villas that dotted the curly end of the island, front yards pointed to the private lagoon, back yards to the ocean. On the other side of the tiny island, promenades and cafes, shops and restaurants, and a marina filled with classic dhows and Gulf superyachts. A millionaire’s island, wreathed in luxury, drenched in sunshine, and resting in the diamond blue waters of the Persian Gulf.


“We live there.”


He squeezed Faisal’s hand until his knuckles went white.


Their driver took them from the airport to the island shaped like a nine, Reef Island. A private causeway separated their island from the mainland, and even in the road, mosaics had been laid with care. He expected diamonds in their driveway, more gold, maybe emeralds and rubies on their fenceposts.


His breath faltered again as they drove into the high-walled gated yard surrounding their villa. Almost a compound, but not quite. Sprawling would be putting it mildly. His and Faisal’s new home stretched around the bend of the island, facing the sea. Sailboats lazily drifted in the distance. Marble and gold filled the home, and Middle Eastern accents, relics of history from a dozen civilizations that museums the world over would pay millions for. Pottery from Sumer, art from the Assyrians. Tablets of the Babylonians. Swords from Arabia. Mesopotamian statues. Framed papyrus from ancient Egypt. Silk chairs and couches, linen and gauze curtains. Even the air he breathed felt expensive.


In the back, an infinity pool reached for the sea, tumbling down a short waterfall at the edge of the yard, as if he could swim from the pool to the ocean and back. Decks and gazebos were artfully hidden behind overflowing blooms of flowers, private niches where they could hide and be undisturbed.


“Our bedroom is here.” Faisal guided him down one hallway, off the three-story foyer and grand sitting room. A gold filigree map of Saudi Arabia hung on one wall. The sun glinted off the sea through massive windows, sparking the golden threads within the map. Sparkles followed them everywhere.


He’d never seen a more massive bed. He could live his whole life in the silk sheets, in the continent of the down mattress, and within the folds of Faisal’s arms.


Faisal squeezed his hand and led him back through the house, pointing out the kitchen – which they wouldn’t use – the dining room, and the prayer room. Mosaics covered the walls, and banners proclaiming the shadada hung in black and gold filigree. A niche in the wall pointed west, toward Mecca, and a plush rug had been laid out for their daily prayers.


“Do you like it?” Faisal still held his hand. “I wanted to get something nice for you.”


“Nice?” Adam chuckled, still struggling to breathe the expensive, ornate air. “This is more than nice. This is the kind of wealth I— No, I actually don’t think I ever imagined something this grand. I… I don’t belong here.”


Faisal frowned. “Of course you belong here.”


“This is far, far, far too good for me.”


“Every star in the sky is not enough for you. Every pearl in the ocean, or diamond from the earth is not enough for you, Adam.”


“Oh, God.” Adam turned away, covering his face with his hands. His thawb bunched at his elbows, and his keffiyeh tickled his neck. “Don’t say that, please. I’m not worth that much.” I almost got you killed. Loving me almost ripped you from your family. I’m nothing but a drain on you, and I always will be.


Faisal’s gentle hands pried his away. He smiled, his radiance shining on Adam, and one delicate hand ghosted down his face, over his lips. “Habibi. Ya rouhi. Enta habibi ya hayati.”


Adam flinched, gasping, and his eyes screwed shut. Faisal’s hand cupped his cheek. “That’s what you said to me on the ice. After we married. When I was—”


The memories played like an Imax film, perfect clarity, perfect sound, perfect emotions. Like he was back there, reliving every nanosecond, every heartbeat. Every one of Faisal’s tears. His decision to die, and the agony of saying goodbye to Faisal for this life. Goosebumps rose, the chill of the Arctic flooding his soul.


“I will say those words to you every day, every hour, until the nightmares fall away, habibi.” Leaning in, Faisal pressed his forehead to Adam’s, nuzzling close. “I’m here, with you. For you. Ya rouhi.”


“This really is too much,” Adam breathed, after a moment.


Nothing is too much for you.”


“You don’t see it, do you? The wealth, the expense? You come from a completely different world than I do. It’s… overwhelming, habibi.”


Faisal smiled, and his hands rose again, cradling Adam’s cheeks. “I see it all.”


“I don’t know if I can get used to this.”


Hani, I see it, but I never let it have power over me. These things, they don’t matter. I want to give you the best at all times, but that doesn’t mean the best of wealth. Or of trinkets. The best is us, together, wherever that may be. Here, in this ridiculous villa.” He smiled, and sneaked a kiss on Adam’s lips. “Or in a studio in Paris. A flat in London, over a pizza place or an Indian restaurant, where we always smell of curry. A farm in America, where we hide from the world. A tent in the desert. A cardboard box on a street corner.” Another kiss. “Nothing is too much for you, habibi, because everything of me is for you. Is yours. For all time.”


And that was the end of his control. Adam sagged into Faisal’s hold, the tears flowing freely, burying his face in Faisal’s neck as he clung to him. Faisal held him close, stroked his skin, and whispered words of love into his ear. Soft Arabic on warm wind, the feel of sun on his skin, Faisal in his arms. Perfection. Perfection in every single way.


When he pulled back, he finally took a deep breath. His throat didn’t close, didn’t reject the golden air, and as he took in the villa, the wealth, the majesty, he saw it with new eyes. It was a beautiful home, a stunning backdrop, but the true wealth, and where their lives truly centered, was in the space between them. The juncture of their hands. The meeting of their lips. The curves of their hearts, nestling together, and the way the folds of their souls merged and joined whenever their eyes caught and held.


“Thank you,” he whispered. “For everything.” Thank you for waiting for me.




Ana bahibak.”


Faisal beamed. He held out his hand. “What shall we do first? Swim? Eat? Make love? Run naked through the house and the gardens?”


Laughing, Adam kissed the back of his hand. “We’d swim naked at your old palace. That always led to good times.”


“Swimming it is, then.” Faisal stepped back and pulled off his keffiyeh, and then his thawb. He left both on the marble floor, piles of white cotton, and stood before Adam, completely nude. He winked. “Your turn.”

Timestamp: Adam and Faisal, post Enemy Within.

Faith (Part II) – Scenes from Enemy Within


This week, we’re concluding the first person switcheroo scenes with three from Enemy Within. *** If you haven’t read Enemy Within, this Byte is not for you!***

How did Levi handle discovering Scott’s secret? What was Ilya thinking, keeping the faith in Siberia as he waited for Sergey? What went through Scott’s head as he made his final decision?

Happy reading!



Wondering, at the White House


It can’t be. It can’t be.


But of course it can. Madigan has shown us all, over and over again, that we cannot trust our own friends. Our own minds.


But Scott? No… it can’t be. Scott is Ethan’s best friend. They have more history together than a high school textbook. They’re salt and pepper shakers, a matched set, the dynamic duo, the wonder twins, the terrible twosome. There’s nothing those two haven’t done together. They’ll probably be in the same retirement home, the two of them together, still, bitching about the satellite and cracking jokes, and telling stories about the good ole days.


Scott would be the perfect man to turn, for Madigan. If Madigan can turn Scott, he can shred Ethan’s world. And Spiers’s world. The entire world, right from the center of the heart.


If Scott turns, that will be it. The world will be over. For Ethan, for sure. For Spiers. For everyone. Scott would be the key to Madigan’s victory. He could destroy everything. Everything.


Has he been a plant all along? How many years has this been in the making?


Jesus, the walls are fucking moving, shrinking in on me. I can’t fucking see right, can’t hear. There’s a Goddamn train approaching, coming up behind me, but I can’t see it. I can’t see anything. Not even the obvious.


Where the hell is Scott’s background investigation?


What is he hiding?


What the hell do I do?


If Scott has turned, then it’s over. The world is over. I can’t fucking stop it, not here, not now, when I’m in DC and Scott is a million miles away, right beside Ethan and Spiers, racing… to Madigan… at the top of the world.


How will Scott do it? How will he kill Spiers? Betray Ethan? Will he look Ethan in the eyes? Or will it be a knife in the back?


I puke before the images come, just the thoughts, the dread, enough to make me grab my trashcan and hurl.




It can’t be. I don’t care what the evidence says. I cannot believe that Scott will stab Ethan in the back. There is no evidence, no calculus, no facts and figures or probabilities that can override what my heart is saying. Scott, Goddamn it, is Ethan’s best friend.


He has to be on our side.


I rest my forehead on the edge of the garbage bin. Black plastic digs into my skin. I can smell my sour vomit, see flecks of my cereal in the bile.


Fact. Scott has no background check.


Fact. Madigan has a traitor in Ethan and Spiers’s inner circle.


Fact. Scott is Ethan’s best friend.


Fact. Madigan has proven that we can trust no one.


Not even best friends.


I stack all the background check folders again, and I crumple the sticky note with Scott’s name on it. Toss it into the trash, on top of my vomit.


Accessory after the fact. Accomplice. I’m neither, but if Scott’s a traitor, and if civilization is around to try me after this, that’s what I’ll be tarred and feathered for. Covering up Scott’s tracks. Not turning in a traitor. Not saying something, when I damned well should have.


Please… please be on our side.


* * *



Waiting for Sergey in Siberia, just before Sasha arrives with Kilaqqi.


Siberia is a cold, heartless place.


I’ve always known that Siberia is a tomb, a graveyard of hopes and dreams, built on bones and frozen tears. If I tried to calculate all the people who vanished into Siberia, all the prisoners, all the victims, my mind would shut down at the scale of the numbers.


Will it be my tomb, as well?


Is it already Sergey’s tomb?


Every day, I stand on the snow-covered track – only the most generous person would call it a road – and stare into Siberia. I smoke my cigarettes into the wind, clinging to the edge of town, as if the embers of my cigarette are a lighthouse for Sergey to follow home.


He’s out there. I know it. I’ve spent thirty years at the man’s side. I know him better than he knows himself. I know all his faults and foibles, his blind spots and his weaknesses. How he plays the jokester just a little too long. How quick he is to anger, a short fuse with a hot temper, but how that peters out in moments, leaving him like a sagging parachute.


How lonely he’s been, since Natalia. Probably since Irina, his first wife. Natalia was a political move, both into and out of his second marriage.


How he never knows what’s going on in his own heart.


Sergey has been wedded to Russia for years, ever since our wild-eyed fantasy of a better country slowly became a reality we could work for. Moving up the ranks, carefully. Positioning ourselves, in Putin’s crazed, criminal state. Ready to take advantage when the cards came tumbling down. Sergey was smart not to be the first president after Putin. Of course that one was going to be assassinated. No, he was the second president. The one who lived.


And he put all his hopes into our plan. Scheming, calculating, building up the evidence. Preparing for the final day when it was enough, when he could sign the arrest warrants and order the strike, and change Russia more in one day than any president had in almost a hundred years.


After the sweep, Sergey was different. How could he not be? Everything he had dedicated his life to had come to pass. The big moment, the event he’d worked toward for years had come and gone. He was left on the other side, a seasoned man with exactly one friend and an empty home.


Was it any wonder that he’s fixed his attentions on Sasha?


A new project, I thought. His and President Spiers’s friendship was breaking the airwaves. He is truly serious about equality, and care, and changing the country, I said.


Sasha was a difficult friend to make.


As gregarious as Sergey is, Sasha is silent. As joking as Sergey is, Sasha is withdrawn. Dour. But I watched that twinkle in Sergey’s eye, the one that came when he was trying to wheedle conversation out of Sasha, or a story, or even a smile.


He got that same twinkle in his eyes with both of his wives, early on.


But the idea was ludicrous, the thought preposterous. Sergey…? No. I would have known, if so.


Sasha is as obvious – to me – as a billboard erected on the Garden Ring, proclaiming his free fall for Sergey, his massively deepening crush, in screaming neon colors. Sidelong glances that flick away and back, like he can’t bear to look or look away. The way his whole body angles toward Sergey, as if his center of gravity is Sergey’s heart and soul. The way he tries to run from his feelings, stoic and ferocious in his silence and his nearly-invisible yearning.


Sergey is as blind as ever. Or, I  think, perhaps it’s his silent way of saying no.


Whatever is going on between them, Sergey is happy again. As happy as I’d seen him in years. I thought no further than that.


In Russia, I’ve learned to accept happiness when it comes, as it so very, very rarely does.


Wherever they are, they are still together. I know that in my bones, in my blood. As I smoke my cigarette, and watch the smoke mingle with the snow and the fog, the ever-present gloom of Siberia, I know at least this much. Sasha will never leave Sergey’s side. Not unless Sergey dies.


Or unless he goes to die for Sergey.


What would Sergey be after Sasha?


Two men, two unlikely men, who have now become entirely fused. At least, in my mind. What about in the world?


Sergey, damn you, where are you? The country needs you. Crawl out of the wasteland, the tomb of Siberia. Come back. I’m doing everything I can, putting the country back together piece by piece, for you. For you. There is no other man who I will give Russia back to. Come back.


Sasha, wherever you are, bring him back. I know you’re together, side by side. You’d never leave him, Sasha. Never.


Sergey wouldn’t know what to do if you did.


I stand in the snow, staring down the fog-covered track into Siberia, willing two men to appear from the dead, from the graveyard of Russia. My smoke swirls with the gloom, indistinguishable from the haunting, ever present malaise.


Come back, both of you. Together.


* * *



After Jack goes to Ethan on the Veduschiy.


Save yourself, Jack said. I promised I’d bring you back to your family.


Go. Flee. Escape. Save your life.


Let Jack and Ethan die.


Ethan’s screams had raked down my bones, clawed through my brain. Made me want to rip out my hair and gouge out my eardrums. Tears stream down my cheeks, every step taken away from Jack, Ethan and Madigan a knife in my back, in my spine. My tears freeze on my face, cracking as I try to breathe, my inhales quaking, my soul trembling.


Ethan is my best friend. And Jack is my president. Ethan’s husband.


I close my eyes. My wife, my daughter, flash in front of my eyes. I love you so much. So, so much. Remember me.


Turning around, I head back for Madigan’s base. For Jack. For Ethan.


Ethan is my best friend. I will never leave him behind.


Timestamp: Enemy Within

Faith (Part I) – Scenes from Enemy of My Enemy


This week, I’m giving you something a little different. I’ve strung two shorter Bytes together to form the first part of a multi-part series where we look into specific moments in the series, told from another character’s point of view. This week, two scenes from Enemy of My Enemy.

How did Scott handle the attack in Sochi? How does Uncle Abdul deal with Adam coming back into Faisal’s life?

Spoilers for Enemy of My Enemy! If you haven’t read Enemy of My Enemy, do not read ahead!

Next week, we’ll look at moments in Enemy Within.

Happy Reading!






It happened again. Jesus fuck, how can it happen again?


In training, at the Secret Service Academy, we’re all taught the numbers. The statistics, the probability. The likelihood that you’re going to take a bullet in the chest for your protectee. We get the street rep for being tough bullet-sponges, but in the history of the Secret Service, not many have had to face that. We’re too anal-fucking-retentive on the back end to get surprised on the front.


But we got spanked in Ethiopia. After, we realized we weren’t playing with a full deck, and Ethiopia was always going to happen, no matter how tight Ethan’s planning was, how secure his operation to protect Spiers had been. How can you win when you’re going up against traitors inside your own government?


But this… Jesus Christ. Sochi was supposed to be a retreat. You can’t call it a vacation when two world leaders are planning massive military operations and a rogue general is sinking Russian naval ships. But this wasn’t supposed to be dangerous. Russia, and Puchkov, are our allies now.


So why the fuck am I running with Ethan and Spiers and ducking bullets… again?


It can’t happen twice. I told myself that every fucking night, after Ethan moved back to DC and into the White House. It just can’t happen twice. There can’t be two attacks on a president. The numbers, the statistics, they don’t support it.


Still, I went apeshit with protections, once I had command of the detail full time. Triple the number of agents, closed ranks, tighter security cordons. I kept Spiers in, too. He didn’t travel. Not unless he absolutely had to.


What if it does happen again? What if they’re both attacked? I kept myself up at night, my brain like a hamster on crack, spinning its wheels until the screws in my head came loose. If what happened in Ethiopia happens again, who the fuck will I throw myself in front of? Who will I catch a bullet for? Spiers? The fucking president? Ethan’s love of his life?


Or Ethan? My best friend, my brother, my fucking knuckleheaded shitshow brother who went and fell for the Goddamn president of the United States. Fucking Ethan…


It can’t happen again, I said. Every night.


Now, Ethan is shadowing my moves, acting like he’s some kind of Secret Service agent again. God, I wish he was. I wish he was still Ethan, still the other half of me in these kinds of fucked-up situations. I wish I could predict what he’d do, how he’d move, where he’d go next. But everything is fucked now. His focus isn’t on the mission or on me, his battle buddy. His focus is on Spiers. Just like Ethiopia, and Saudi, and the fucking White House, all over again. He’ll give everything, sacrifice everything, to this man. Damn it, Ethan.


Olympic Stadium is in sight. I can see it. The chopper is coming in. We’re almost fucking out. I swear to fucking God, we’ll never leave the White House again. Spiers will be the first homebody president. House arrest. I can fucking do that, after all this shit. I can bench him. It’s a digital world now. Spiers doesn’t have to go anywhere. He can tele-fucking-commute.


Then, the hostage. The man in the street, taunting Spiers, seemingly summoned by Madigan’s voice over the comms.


Ethan was all out of fucks to give. He executed the man, a single shot to the center of the forehead, and dropped him. Ethan is terrifying, when he gets into this mode, this beastly protective warrior mode; he’s ruthless. That ruthlessness has saved my life more times than I want to count. We’ve never talked about it. It’s just something inside Ethan, some cliff edge that he can leap off of and do anything – fucking anything – to save the people he cares for. Some edge of his soul, and a yawning darkness, a pit inside of him, that waits.


I get agents to the hostage before the body hits the ground. What is this? What are we dealing with? Is this a bomb? A booby trap? A suicide bomber in disguise? My agents weren’t gentle. They rip off the hood and strip open the jumpsuit, roughly patting the hostage down as fast as they can. There’s no time. The chopper is coming in, and we have to go.


I need to get Ethan and Spiers out of there. Right fucking now.


And then Spiers is running, taking off like a bat out of hell for the hostage, screaming at the top of his lungs. Ethan, damn him, is chasing the man, and everyone looks like they just saw a fucking ghost.


“Les! Les! It’s me! It’s Jack!”


Leslie Fucking Spiers.


It’s a clusterfuck hurricane after that. Spiers is a prick and won’t listen to anything we say. He’s 200% focused on his dead wife, holding her in his arms, carrying her to the chopper, ignorant as fuck about the raging gun battle still going on around him. Or of Ethan, watching the love of his life gaze down at his dead wife with tears in his eyes.


Ethan was as still as a statue, creepily unmoving. Like if he moved, he’d shatter. He just watched Spiers with the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen on him. What the fuck is going through his head? I’ve known him for years, decades, and, for the first time, I can’t imagine what he’s thinking. What he’s feeling.


He and I are last in the chopper. I should be with Spiers. I should be with the president. I’m the fucking presidential detail lead.


But… I can’t pretend Ethan doesn’t mean more to me than Spiers does.


Spiers is a job. Ethan is my brother.


Jesus, I can’t even look at that asshole Spiers right now. He’s holding his dead wife and sobbing, and he hasn’t once fucking looked at Ethan. Does he even fucking care? Fuck him. Fuck Spiers.


“Are you with me?” I leaned into Ethan, trying to shout into his ear over the roar of the rotors.


Ethan said nothing. He grabbed a rifle and racked the slide, chambered a round, and then leaned out of the edge of the cargo hold, scanning. If only there was something to shoot. Goddamn, I’d have given anything for something to fucking destroy, for the two of us to shred with bullets, as Ethan screamed and raged into the night.


But there was nothing. I stayed at Ethan’s side the whole flight, our backs to Spiers, and as the roar of the battle faded, Spiers’s quiet sobs were the only sounds in the chopper. I felt Ethan stiffen beside me. Felt the pull of his energy, that dark, dangerous force that was Ethan’s soul, draw inward. I reached for him, grabbed his leg, and held on. He trembled beneath my touch.


Ethan was in freefall. He’d leaped off the fucking edge. He was gone, fucking gone.


And I didn’t know when – or if – he was going to hit bottom.



Uncle Abdul


You!” My blood boiled, hotter than the sands of the Rub’ al Khali. “What are you doing here?”


It was him. That man, the one who’d –


I shook my head. No. Don’t think it. Don’t bring it to life. Don’t give it power.


Before me, Adam Cooper hung weakly in my guard’s grasp, hefted up by his neck and pressed against the wall. His wide eyes pleaded with mine, and his fingers scratched at my guard’s hand, closing around his throat.


Yallah.” Drop him. This worthless man wasn’t worth the headache that would come from his untimely death in the hospital. “You… you pretended to be that journalist.”


How dare this man, this American! After everything, to come back here? Now? I wanted to murder him. I wanted to give into my rage, my frustration, give into my need for an outlet. A target. A reason.


And I wanted to pretend he was nothing. That he didn’t exist. That he never, ever had existed.


I watched him stand, slowly. Unsteadily. His eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, like he’d been crying. “Your Royal Highness, Governor of Riyadh, Prince Abdul al-Saud,” he grunted. “I’m here to see your nephew.”


“It is forbidden!” Never again. Never again would I allow these two men together. If I could, I’d forbid them from being in the same country together. This man should be refused entry to the Kingdom. He should be ejected, deported, packed onto the next flight, never to return. “Faisal told me it was finished! That you had left him!”


Adam cringed. “It was. It is. But he’s hurt—”


“And you think you have some kind of right to see my nephew? After what you did! Wallah! You should stay away from him!”


“I love him.” Adam breathed, the tough exterior he was trying to cling to shattering. His face twisted, and he gasped again. A sob strangled his voice. “I love him!” Tears built in his eyes.


No, no, this man did not love my nephew. If he loved him, if he truly loved Faisal, then he wouldn’t have left. I would not have had to watch Faisal turn to a shell, a wraith that stalked the halls of the palace with dulled, lifeless eyes. I would not have had to pretend not to notice his tearstained cheeks every morning. I wouldn’t have had to carefully rearrange everything so that I was constantly at Faisal’s side, never leaving him alone.


We said nothing, never spoke of it, these long months, as spring rolled to summer, and then autumn, through winter, and back to spring. A whole year of mourning. A year of Faisal’s broken heart, day in and day out.


Faisal tried to hide himself from me. He dried his eyes, made excuses for his lack of appetite. I watched, and I waited, and I stayed. I stayed.


That is love, caring for someone, even if you cannot say why. Even if you cannot speak the words, cannot break open the secret binding your souls. I love my nephew. I always, always will.


This man, this pretender, this infidel. He is nothing. He is less than nothing. He hurt my blood. And for that, he will never be anything, ever again. “That makes it worse!” I grabbed him and hauled him down the hallway. He followed like a broken toy. “Do you not understand? The mutawwa’in could kill him! He is not safe from their punishments, just because he is royal. Not anymore!”


I won’t let this man’s arrogance, his Americanism, his ignorance of everything, lead to the end of my nephew’s life.


“We were careful-”

“This is not careful! Storming into the hospital? How many saw you? How many will ask questions?”


I turned away from him, my hands clenching the gold-braided edges of my robes. My teeth clenched. I wanted to strangle this man. “When Faisal’s father and mother died, I promised my brother’s memory that I would raise his son and care for him. That he would be safe, and he would be loved. Faisal is my blood.” I turned back, my gaze hard enough to cut diamonds. I could feel my wrath pouring from me, outward, like swords stabbing Adam until there was nothing left, and his influence had vanished from our lives, and the hurt of his abandonment had fled from Faisal’s soul. “My blood. My family.”


“Please,” Adam whispered. “Please… Can you tell me if he’s all right?”


How dare this man! To keep pressing— I recited sūras in my mind, du’a for patience, for guidance.


What do I do? What do I do, faced with a man I pretended didn’t exist? When faced with a man who has hurt my blood so fiercely? How do I navigate this? What is the right path? Allah, guide me. I spoke carefully. “His liver was punctured. Almost all of it has been removed. He’ll need a new one cloned and another surgery. But…for now, he is resting. They say in time, he will recover completely.”


A sob burst from Adam’s chest. Tears built in his eyes, and he turned away as he buried his face in his hands. He heaved one shaking breath after another, seeming to sob out his soul into the palms of his hands.


Finally, after an age, he wiped his eyes and faced me again.


Misery. Dejection. Loss. Aching loneliness. Despair.


I have seen these emotions. I saw them every day in my nephew’s watery eyes. In the slump of his shoulders. In the quiet sigh of his anguished prayers.


What happened between these men? What happened that sent my nephew into a depression that has lasted for a year, has rooted an unshakeable gloom on his soul?


Why this man? Why this choice? Faisal has the Kingdom and the whole world in the palm of his hands, and yet he mopes for this one bedraggled American. Why?


Faisal claims he loves this man. He loves Adam. Loves him enough to tell me no, he will not agree to an arranged marriage. He will not marry any woman. Will not follow the path laid out for him, the one that led to the crown.


“I will marry him, if he’ll have me,” Faisal had breathed, once.


Why Adam? Why this man?


I frowned. “I thought that he was merely exhausting his lust. It’s not unheard of for young, virile men to seek out a willing body for their needs, provided they end up with a wife in the end.”


Adam looked away. “It was so much more.”


“It would be easier if it was just lust. Love makes it complicated.”


Faisal… Do you still love Adam? Do you still dream about this man? “Are you familiar with Abu Huraira?”


“A bit. Faisal used to speak of him. He was a scribe of Mohammed?”


′Alayhi as-salām. Yes. There is a hadith that speaks of Abu Huraira’s torment as a young man. His lack of desire for women and marriage, namely. He went to the prophet, begging for advice. Four times he asked for the prophet’s guidance, and on the fourth time, the prophet spoke.” I took a breath, and prayed. Faisal… May Allah guide my words and thoughts, my actions and deeds. Everything I do… I do for you. I only want your happiness. “‘The pen is dried to what you are experiencing,’ the prophet said.”


I held Adam’s stare. He wasn’t getting it. Of course. He was only an American. “What is fixed is fixed. A man’s fate is sealed when the pen’s ink over his life dries.” I rubbed my forehead. Chewed my lip. Faisal… Allah help me, I hope I am doing the right thing for you.Al-hamdu lillah, my nephew’s ink may be dried in this matter.” I swallowed. “Faisal has refused all talk of marriage. He’s refused all of the brides I have arranged for him.”


Adam flinched, and he hunched like he’d been punched in the gut. He closed his eyes, took a shuddering breath. I watched him, for a moment, reveling in the anguish rolling through him. Multiply that anguish by months, by sleepless nights and hollowed eyes, and he’d feel a portion of what Faisal had felt, after he’d left.


Inshallah, he says he is waiting for you.”


I only want my nephew to be happy. Happy, and loved. Is that this man’s purpose? Is he the one to love and cherish my Faisal? “We have been talking at great length.”


I scowled. This isn’t the life I imagined for Faisal. This isn’t the choice I wanted to make. This isn’t how I imagined anything would play out.


“He is my blood,” I snapped. “My family. And I will do anything for my family.” Another glare, fixed to Adam, as I looked him up and down, as if I could see into Adam’s soul and read his fault lines. Read the cracks and tears that had made him weak in the past, had made him walk away from Faisal. Never again. “You will never bring him harm. He will never hurt, ever. Not from the body, and not from the heart.”


“No,” Adam breathed. He licked his lips, his breaths coming fast, practically a frantic pant. “No, never. Never again. Your Royal Highness…”


“This is not concluded. We have much to discuss, Faisal and I. I do not condone this, or you. Especially not you. What you have done. What you left behind.”


I sighed, like my soul was being crushed. My blood, my family, my life. Faisal, my favorite of my children. His life has always been planned, and he never resisted that, my interference in his existence, my shaping and molding of his path. We’ve discussed him – his truth – exactly twice.


I’ve never seen Faisal look as alive as he did, those two times. Speaking his truth. No matter the consequences.


“He is my nephew. And he speaks only ever of you. Wallah.”


Adam pressed his trembling lips together. “Please, Your Highness. Can I see him?”


“You will find the men that did this to my nephew. You will make them suffer.” I stared at Adam.


I hope I am doing the right thing. I hope this is what Faisal wants. Allah, I place everything in your hands. Take care of my nephew… and this man he loves. Al-hamdu lillah.


“Faisal is down the hall. The recovery suite.”


Timestamp: Enemy of My Enemy, Sochi & post the assault on Faisal by Madigan’s forces.