TY PULLED the FBI sedan into the parking lot of the Commodore Perry Travel Plaza just as the sun was setting. It wasn’t snowing, but even on the Ohio turnpike there was at least six inches of snow, and when the frigid wind kicked up, the top dusting flew in their faces and stung anything that wasn’t covered.
They bowed their heads as they fought through the cold to the brand-new travel plaza building. It was mostly empty inside, with lots of open lobby space in a hexagonal shape around a center convenience shop.
Zane held tighter to Julian’s arm.
“Ooh, Starbucks,” Cameron said as he leaned toward the row of shops to their right.
“I thought they over roasted their beans,” Ty grumbled.
“I’d like to get some gum or something,” Julian said to Zane as Ty led Cameron toward the restrooms.
Zane glanced at him and hummed as he studied the narrow aisles of the convenience store. “Try anything in there and I’ll put you down.”
Julian gave him a single nod.
Zane walked him over to the store, giving the restrooms a last glance. He and Julian meandered through the aisles of the convenience store, Zane watching Julian and Julian looking for something he didn’t seem to be finding. When he reached for a pack of gum, his linked hands knocked over an entire row of condom and tampon boxes.
Julian cursed under his breath, glancing at the clerk as he lifted his hands to show Zane that they were empty. Zane sighed and glanced at the clerk as well. She was watching them with a wary frown. Zane waved at her and smiled, and when he looked back at Julian, the man was stooping to pick up the boxes. Zane watched his movements closely, making certain he wasn’t doing anything nefarious. Then he plucked a pack of gum off the rack and led Julian to the desk.
Five minutes and a bathroom break later, they met Ty and Cameron in line for coffee.
“Everything okay?” Ty asked.
Zane spared himself a moment to just stare at his partner. He nodded before Ty could grow worried. They locked eyes, and Ty began to smile before he looked away.
They could not get home soon enough.
They filled the car with gas, Zane letting Julian stand in the cold wind to stretch his legs so he’d stop complaining, and then they hit the road again. An hour later they were closing in on Cleveland. Zane watched the Erie County water tower pass by, and he realized he was growing drowsy. He rubbed at his eyes and glanced at Ty.
“You doing okay?”
Ty jerked his head to the side and nodded. “Couple more hours we’ll get something to eat, some caffeine. I think we can get to DC tonight if we both drive.”
“Sleep,” Ty whispered. “I’ll wake you when it’s your turn.”
“Aw. That’s sweet,” Julian said in a wry voice.
Ty and Zane both ignored him.
Zane reached to lay his chair back, preferably on top of Julian’s head, but as soon as his fingers found the button, the car made a sputtering sound.
Ty raised his hand off the wheel and looked at the gauges.
“What was that?” Cameron asked. The car jerked and began to slow.
Ty managed to get the car off the highway before it died completely. It chugged and grumbled and lurched to a stop. The engine went quiet, throwing the car into the otherworldly silence of a landscape covered with snow.
“What?” Ty said in irritation.
“Did our car just die?” Cameron asked, an edge of panic to his voice. “Are we going to freeze now?”
“Yes,” Ty answered as he ran his hand over his chin.
Zane looked around them. The moon was out in full force, reflecting off the blanket of snow. They could see for miles, and it wasn’t a comforting view. There was nothing around them. There wasn’t even a glow of lights in the night sky that would signify a shopping center or small town within a few miles. “F*****g Ohio,” Zane muttered.
Ty exhaled, and the slowly cooling air frosted with his breath. “Cross,” he said, voice deceptively calm. “What did you do to it?”
“I haven’t touched the vehicle, Agent Grady.”
Ty looked at Zane, clenching his jaw. “What did he do in that travel place?”
“Got some gum. Knocked over some condoms. Took a piss, and stood in the cold.”
Ty rubbed his eyes, lowering his head. “Did you put a condom in the gas tank?” he asked Julian.
Julian was silent.
“You put a condom in the gas tank.”
Zane turned to look back at Julian. “How do you even do that?”
Julian looked away, meeting Cameron’s eyes.
“If we start freezing, we’re eating Cameron first,” Ty grunted before unbuckling his seatbelt and climbing out of the car.
JULIAN had to restrain a smirk as the two FBI agents got out of the car. He could feel the cold seeping through the glass of the windows, and while it wasn’t ideal to be stuck where they were, it would have to serve.
“Did you really kill the car?” Cameron asked in a low voice.
“You have to give me some credit for being subversive.”
“Yeah, freezing to death in the middle of Ohio really turns me on.”
Julian grinned, chuckling as he looked out the window at Ty and Zane. They stood at the front of the car, Zane calm as he spoke, Ty gesticulating wildly instead of using words. They were discussing something quite heatedly.
“What are they fighting about?”
Julian could take his guesses. “I would say Grady wants to shoot me. Garrett is telling him no, too much paperwork. Then Grady will move on to how to get help. Garrett will suggest calling for a rental, Grady will be more… illegal, and likely want to go steal one.”
“Listen, Cam. When I make my move, I want you to aim for the pressure points like I taught you and then run.”
“I’m serious, love. These men are delivering us to our end. Either I’ll be killed, or I’ll be conscripted back into service, and either way, you won’t be allowed to come with me. Do you understand?”
Cameron met his eyes, swallowing hard as he nodded.
Julian let his eyes linger on his lover for a few moments, and then looked back at Ty and Zane. To his surprise, Ty had turned and was walking off across the white field of snow toward a side road on the other side of a fence.
“I’ll be damned,” he whispered as he watched Ty put a hand on a fencepost and leap over the barbed wire.