Title: Once in a Blue Moon
Series: No
Author: Alyse (alyse@CI5Ops.co.uk)
Archive: CI5 Operational Control (http://www.CI5Ops.co.uk), Britslash
Category: The New Professionals - Curtis/Keel.
Rating: PG13.

Spoilers/Warnings: No spoilers. No warnings.

Summary: Just a gentle romance, for Jan, in which the song Blue Moon plays an important part. Chris comes to a gradual realisation.

Keywords: romance, relationship, songfic

Feedback: Yes please, to alyse@CI5Ops.co.uk. Constructive criticism welcome, flames will be used to melt chocolate, and we all know what I'll do with that :)

Disclaimers: They belong to Brian Clemens and David Wickes Productions. They don't belong to me - if they did we all know what they'd be doing. I don't make any money from this. I have nothing but my own warped imagination and therefore I'm not worth suing. :) The lyrics and music to ~Blue Moon~ are copyright Lorenzo Hart and Richard Rodgers.

Notes: Yes, I know that I said I couldn't write songfics, but Jan wanted something sweet and romantic and claimed that I'd have time to write one while I had a break from Journalese for the end of September (for by now obvious reasons <evil chuckle>), so I wrote this for her.

Thanks to Lou as always for betaing duties.


Once in a Blue Moon

By Alyse

 

~Blue Moon... You saw me standing alone...~

The words spilled out into the room as Chris Keel turned the CD player in his partner's apartment on. He raised one eyebrow quizzically. He'd never figured on Curtis going for this type of thing, not with his new partner's comments about slobs and the cracks he'd made the one time he'd ventured into the Keel abode. Chris was perfectly willing to admit that he was a slob when it came to housekeeping but he did have an appreciation of the finer things in life where it mattered.

He even knew what 'libation of Dionysus' meant, not that he'd admit it to his anally retentive new partner.

He couldn't figure the guy out. First the cool attitude in Tom Perry's hospital room, and then the refusal to leave him sitting on a car bomb in the Marriott's car park. Talk about contradictions.

Still, all in all he could have pulled a worse partner. Curtis seemed cool under fire, logical and yet still not too cautious when it came to the action stuff, Turks with three-foot machetes notwithstanding. So he had hopes of this partnership thing actually working out. They were both professionals, and as long as he didn't end up actively disliking the man they should be fine. And Curtis' main problem, to be honest, seemed to stem more from a natural reserve than anything else.

And speak of the devil, here came his rather reserved partner now, looking anything but reserved in a pair of old sweatpants and t-shirt, towelling his hair, wet from his shower. Hell, maybe there was hope for him if he could relax this much.

"Find a drink?" Curtis asked in his soft voice, his green eyes quizzical but not as cold as when they'd first been introduced.

Chris made a soft sound of disgust, waving his glass of wine in Curtis' direction. "No beer," he said succinctly, watching as the Englishman's mouth quirked upwards in an interesting way.

"I'm sorry," Curtis said lightly, a gleam of amusement in his changeable eyes. "I wasn't expecting to have to entertain the philistine element." His smile deepened slightly. "Guess you're going to have to make do with the libation of Dionysus until I can get some beer in."

The comeback Chris was about to make died on his lips at the suggestion that Curtis would be getting beer in, for him presumably although he was finding it difficult to believe that Curtis didn't drink it at all. The statement, and the suggestion that lay behind it, had thrown him a little. Curtis seemed to be incorporating him in his life remarkably easily for someone who had a reputation for being a loner.

He watched, his eyes narrowed slightly, as Curtis made his way to the couch, dropping into it with seeming relief and a little gracelessly. He didn't miss the slight flinch the Englishman gave as he sank down.

"You okay?"

The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, and on reflection he didn't want to - partnerships were two-way streets after all.

Curtis gave a wry smile. "Remind me not to pick any more fights with cars," he said easily, the confession hardly seeming to faze him. "I lose."

Chris snorted, seating himself comfortably in the armchair opposite his partner. "Having been in a car with you driving, I'd say they bear a grudge."

Curtis chuckled lightly, his eyes tired but still holding that air of amusement as he looked in Chris' direction. "You think?"

"Count on it."

They settled into silence for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts and Chris was a little surprised about how comfortable it was. He felt no urge to fill the spaces between them with some of his trademark wit, the way he had early on in their partnership, instead letting his mind drift over the events of the day, his head resting on the soft, upholstered back of Curtis' stylish furniture.

"We did good today," he mused eventually, out loud.

"We did."

He lifted his head, met his partner's serene face and raised his glass in Curtis' direction, too tired now to do more.

"To partnerships," he intoned solemnly.

A faint trace of a smile graced his partner's face as he returned the gesture, echoing softly, "To partnerships."

*****

"Hey, Sam?"

Chris bounded into his partner's apartment, full of enthusiasm and not a little sugar.

~You saw me standing alone~

He grinned, still not quite able to adapt to the idea of his partner as a jazz fan, mellowing out with a glass of Merlot and Billie Holliday.

"In here."

He followed the sound of his partner's voice, finding Sam standing by his living room window, staring out over the streets below him, a little more picturesque than the view from his own apartment. The inevitable evening glass of red wine was held loosely in one hand, his hip leaning casually against the wall and his top shirt button undone.

Chris couldn't resist.

"You know, Elvis did a version of this."

Sam shuddered and gave him a look that spoke volumes.

"Hey! Elvis is the King!"

"Of Rock and Roll," Sam conceded with a small smile. "This is jazz. And I'm afraid Billie rules the roost there."

Chris pulled a face. "I prefer Elvis," he persisted stubbornly.

"Philistine."

Still with that small smile, Sam turned his attention back out to the vista beyond his windowpane.

"How did it go with Sommelson? You get the pic for your Dad?"

He was only making polite conversation and wasn't quite prepared for the slight tension entering his partner's frame but was observant enough that it didn't go unnoticed. For all his partner's protestations that his life was like an open book, Chris was becoming to realise that it was anything but. He was about to open his mouth again, and probably put his foot into it, when Sam recovered, turning to him with a flawless and easy smile.

"Yes," Sam replied lightly. "Ms Sommelson was appropriately gracious and accommodating and my Dad's mantelpiece now has a new ornament."

It was only the weeks of working closely together that enabled Chris to catch the slight edge of sarcasm in the last statement, and he raised one eyebrow quizzically, only for Sam to treat him to another rendition of that deflecting smile and sidetracking him with a question about how he thought Phoenix's capture would affect things in the former Yugoslavia, if at all.

"Not sure," he admitted honestly. "Small cog and all that jazz. I think he was a tool if anything."

"Expensive one."

"Yeah."

Sam chuckled softly. "A million pounds a shot. Puts what we do into perspective."

He stilled, wondering where this was coming from, his gaze boring into his partner, trying to figure out what was going on in Sam's complicated mind. He settled on flippant. "Hey, bastions of justice and all that."

It seemed to work, Sam chuckling again but this time there was genuine amusement in it. "That so?"

"Yeah. But there's more."

"Yeah?"

"We get nice shiny badges too."

This time Sam's laugh was full-bodied, his partner's eyes sparkling as mirth shook Sam's body. "Yeah," his partner laughed. "That makes all the difference."

"Works on the chicks."

"Well," Sam continued, devilment in his expression, "that does explain how you ever manage to get laid."

He pasted a mock offended expression on his face that didn't fool his partner for an instant before sighing dramatically and heading to Sam's fridge for a beer.

When he came back into the living room, Billie was still belting out her lovelorn blues and his partner had gone back to looking out of the window. He settled himself on the couch and watched.

"What was Bosnia like?"

The question was out of his mouth before he thought about it, and the tension was back in Sam's form before he could take it back. And so he sat, and waited. Finally Sam turned to look at him, his eyes and expression veiled.

"I wasn't there long."

He gave his partner a long, searching look. "Bad, huh?"

Sam's mouth twisted in a wry grimace. "You could say that. But then, having been a SEAL, you must know...?"

His partner's voice trailed off but his eyes fixed on Chris, rueful now rather than veiled.

"Yeah." He did know what it was like, seeing despair all around you and being powerless to do anything but complete the mission parameters. That was all you could do and remain sane.

Didn't help with the nightmares though. Or the guilt.

Sam was back to staring through the window, his face serious, reflective almost. Catching Chris' look, he gave a small smile and raised his glass.

"To the past."

*****

"Chris?"

"In here."

His partner stalked in, laden down with a couple of carrier bags and gave him a stern look before reaching down and removing the ruler from his grasp.

"Stop doing that."

Chris scowled mutinously. "It itches."

"I know it itches, but I am not taking you back to have a new cast put on you because you shoved a ruler down there."

He scowled at his partner again, to no effect, as Sam placed the ruler firmly out of his reach. Instead he had to settle on lying back and folding his arms, glaring at Sam.

Sam smirked at him, before heading into the kitchen.

"Chris?"

"Yeah?" he yelled back.

"You off the painkillers yet?"

Smart-ass, he thought, debating whether to actually answer his partner or let the Englishman stew. He settled on answering, unsure what other torments Sam would come up with otherwise. "Yes."

The word was sullen at best, but his mood was dramatically lightened by the bottle of Bud that came sailing in his direction, closely followed by the bottle opener.

Bliss, he thought, as the amber liquid slid down his neck with ease. He looked up to catch sight of Sam's smirking face peering around the door.

For this he would even forgive Sam's uncharitable behaviour in removing his favourite scratching implement.

The rustling of plastic bags in the kitchen ceased and by now his fridge was no doubt full of healthy green stuff. He couldn't find it in him to care.

Not when his partner had brought him cookies too.

He pounced on the blue box that appeared, as if by magic, on his coffee table, not even needing to look up to know that his partner's face probably had an indulgent look on it. Oreos. Yes! A taste of home.

It was amazing what you could get in this country. Especially if you were as persistent as Sam.

He paused in his scoffing to look up at where his partner was lounging by the large picture windowpane, watching him with, yes, an indulgent look and having liberated his own libation from Chris' kitchen. Sam stocked beer, he now stocked wine. Simple.

"Thanks."

Sam cocked his head at him quizzically and in answer he gestured towards his prize. They both knew, however, that cookies weren't all he was thanking Sam for.

How did you thank someone who'd carried you miles across the savannah under a burning sun? Who refused to leave you, no matter what? Every time he tried, Sam managed to deflect it with a joke or a flippant comment.

Sam's eyes, though, told another story. They said that he hadn't been sure that either one of them would make it.

He owed more than cookies to his partner's persistence.

Sam didn't let the slightly awkward moment last, straightening up and stalking towards the CD player. Once again, Chris could hear the crackling of cellophane and craned his neck, trying to see from his supine position on the couch.

~Blue Moon...~

He raised his eyebrows at Sam as his partner turned around, smirking again, tossing him the CD case.

The Best of Billie Holliday.

"Thought I'd take advantage of your immobility and educate you," Sam grinned.

Bastard. Smug one too.

Although, he had to grudgingly admit she was growing on him.

He watched as Sam turned back to his perusal of the view and then scratched absently at the flesh at the top of his cast, the itching growing unbearable again.

"Stop that," said Sam without turning around.

Bastard.

*****

~Without a song in my heart
Without a love of my own...~

The soft strains of Billie Holliday echoed through the small hallway as Chris let himself into his partner's apartment. He followed the sound through to Sam's small lounge, leaning against the doorjamb and watching his partner for a moment.

Sam was sitting on the couch, a glass of wine in his hand, staring into space, his expression thoughtful and a little sad.

Feeling like a voyeur, Chris cleared his throat and Sam jumped, rapidly assuming his normal pleasant and cheerful expression.

"Hey."

"You okay?" Chris asked, concern for his partner making him pry where normally he wouldn't. It hadn't been a difficult case, all things considered, so he could only presume that Sam's melancholy was due to personal matters.

None of his business, a stubborn voice in his head insisted, trying to persuade him not to pursue it should Sam deflect this question as he deflected so many other personal ones. He couldn't, however, dismiss the look of unhappiness in his partner's eyes.

Sam hesitated for a long moment, before twisting his mouth wryly. "Same old story," he said ruefully. "Got dumped."

"Ah." There wasn't a lot he could say to that, without resorting to platitudes, and so he settled himself on the arm of the chair opposite the couch. "Work?"

"Work, play," Sam sighed. "Who knows?"

Platitude time. "Plenty of more fish in the sea, buddy."

Sam gave a small smile, although it was obvious that his heart wasn't in it. "Don't you ever get tired of fishing?" he asked softly before looking up at Chris, his expression sombre.

Chris gave the question serious consideration. "I caught the fish I wanted," he said eventually. "I suppose I accepted a long time ago that I wasn't going to be that lucky again. So..."

"So you always throw them back?"

He gave Sam a rueful smile of his own. "Guess so."

"And you don't mind that?"

There was genuine curiosity in Sam's face and tone and he found that he wasn't offended by questions that from anyone else he would consider prying.

"Mind, I don't know. I suppose I'm resigned to it."

Sam dropped his gaze down to his wineglass, turning it around and around in his hand and staring into the ruby depths. "Your wife..." he began tentatively, still not looking in Chris' direction.

"Died," said Chris shortly, the pain still fresh in some ways.

"I'm sorry." Sam did look at him this time, and there was genuine regret and remorse in his eyes. But no pity, Chris was glad to note. Just the empathy of a fellow human being for his pain.

"It was a long time ago," he admitted softly. "But, yes, I still miss her."

"You always do," agreed Sam, equally softly. At Chris' look he elaborated. "My Mum. Died when I was twelve."

Tough break, he thought. Losing his own father at his wedding had been a cruel blow, but he'd coped, as an adult. Losing a parent at that tender age was something he could only try and imagine.

Changing the subject to something he would feel more comfortable with, he commented, "I didn't know you'd been seeing someone."

Sam shrugged, that slightly guarded look back on his face. "Two years," he admitted, to Chris' obvious surprise. Sam gave him a little self-deprecating smile. "It's been kind of on again off again, if you know what I mean."

Oh. "Maybe it'll be on again," he offered.

Sam shook his head sadly. "No. This time it's off for good."

"I'm sorry," he said, a little lamely, unable to find the words to comfort Sam as so many had failed to find them after the loss of his wife.

"Yeah, well," Sam sighed. "Guess he finally got tired of being messed about."

He. His mind registered the word, and he opened his mouth only to leave it open, words failing him. At first he thought that Sam had let slip something he hadn't meant to, but a quick glance at his partner's tense form and set face convinced him otherwise.

Sam wanted him to know.

His mouth finally caught up to his brain.

"Then he's an idiot," he said simply, watching as the tension drained out of his friend's body and Sam treated him to a slightly shy smile. "Come on. Let's go to the bar - pub," he corrected automatically, earning another smile from Sam, "and I'll buy you a beer or three to drown your sorrows."

Sam snorted, but stood up happily enough, snagging his jacket and following Chris out of the door while Billie Holliday continued to play in the background.

*****

Something was bothering his partner. Something had been bothering Sam for a while, certainly since Richmond and possibly even since Nomine Patri.

He just didn't know what it was, and it was bugging the hell out of him. Sam, of course, was doing that repressed Englishman bit again and bottling it up, and he wasn't prepared to take Sam's beating about the bush any longer. Which was why he was letting himself into his partner's flat, uninvited.

Of course, it was always possible that Sam's preoccupation wasn't work related at all, he realised belatedly as he slid the key into the lock. Maybe his partner had more... personal matters on his mind.

In which case letting himself into Sam's flat uninvited was a really bad idea.

He hesitated, for once second-guessing himself. It wasn't even the thought of Sam being in there with a man that gave rise to his sudden reluctance, although that would be awkward to say the least. And as for women... he just didn't know. Not any more. He'd thought Sam had no interest, for all his flirting with Backup, until Abigail Prentice came along.

That had rankled, and he was at a loss to understand why except that he'd taken an instant dislike to the woman - one that had been borne out by her actions. At the time he'd wondered what the hell Sam was doing paying that much attention to her, unless it was camouflage. But then why pretend around him? He already knew which way Sam's preferences lay. Didn't he?

He just didn't know that either and it was starting to irritate him again.

With a last frustrated kick at the wall beside Sam's front door, discretion won out and he rang the doorbell instead.

"Hey," he said, as Sam finally opened it.

"Hey." Sam's eyes were guarded and his greeting a little subdued.

"You okay?"

"Fine."

Pretty much the conversation for the past few weeks, if Chris were truthful. "Can I come in?"

Sam looked at him for a second, as though wondering what Chris was still doing standing on the doorstep, and then moved silently back from the doorway, letting Chris through.

"There's Bud in the fridge."

Oh great. He trailed in his partner's wake, watching with a frown as Sam sat back down on the armchair by the window, staring out into the darkness. He wasn't at all surprised to realise that Billie Holliday was playing softly in the background, an indicator, if he'd needed one, that Sam was in one of his strangely reflective moods.

~Without a dream in my heart...~

How was he going to broach the subject?

He settled for blunt.

"You going to tell me what's bothering you?"

"Nothing's bothering me."

Sam's reply was soft, and surprisingly non-defensive. He may even have bought it if he hadn't known Sam well enough by now to register the lingering traces of sadness lurking in the depths of those green eyes.

"Uh huh. Wanna pull the other one, Curtis?"

Sam sighed, rubbing his hands tiredly through his hair. "Chris..."

"No," said Chris gently but firmly. "Something is bothering you. So will you just tell me already, buddy?"

For a long second he held Sam's gaze, mentally willing the other man to open up and yet somehow convinced that he wouldn't. Finally Sam sighed and slumped back in his chair, and with an immense relief he realised he'd won. Some innate instinct kept him silent though, refusing to push his partner any further or faster now than Sam was willing to go, knowing somehow that that way Sam would clam up again and the moment, and momentum, would be lost. Instead, he sat forward, letting his elbows rest on his knees, his hands hanging loosely between his legs and just watched Sam.

"Do you remember," Sam said slowly, "on Nomine Patri, how you were convinced that everything was going to be all right? That at any second the cavalry was going to come rushing in?"

"I was right," Chris answered quietly.

"No," Sam corrected, shifting around in his seat so that he now faced Chris full on. "The cavalry didn't come, Chris. The only reason that Malone came was to outwit Dane. We were expendable, remember? You, and I, could have ended up as dog meat as far as he was concerned."

Chris frowned slightly, wondering where this was coming from. It was an unsettling reversal of their usual stances - Chris accepting and pragmatic of their circumstances and Sam questioning Malone's motives. Sam usually accepted the politics, and potential expendability, of their situation with, if not grace then at least an acknowledgement of their role in the overall scheme of things, and quiet if frustrated acceptance. On the odd occasions when Chris had wondered about this he'd come to the conclusion that if nothing else Sam's experiences with MI6 had taught him to deal with the less savoury aspects of the work they did.

Sam, however, rarely talked about it.

"And?" He finally broke the silence when Sam failed to continue. His look was serious, searching and Sam turned away, obviously frustrated with him.

"And," his partner ground out through gritted teeth, "what about Richmond?"

Ah. Now they were getting to the crux of the matter. "What about Richmond?" he asked reasonably.

Sam stared at him. "Richmond. Organ trade," he ground out. "You almost ending up on a morgue table like Peter Morgan and Malone not giving a fuck."

"You did though." His tone was still reasonable and Sam just blinked at him. "Sam, I had a job to do and I did it."

"You could have ended up dead."

"Yes. We could have died on Nomine Patri too. Or a dozen times since we took this job. You wanna talk about that pleasant little episode in Novak's crypt? If not for you there wouldn't have been enough of me to make a decent meal for a Chihuahua, never mind anything else."

"Chris -"

He didn't let his partner finish, ignoring Sam's sudden flush. "You wanna tell me what's really bothering you?"

Sam sighed again. "Chris..."

He waited, only to be confronted with the sight of his normally eloquent partner searching for words that never came.

"Sam," he finally said gently. "You didn't let me down."

Sam looked away, his expression strained. "That wasn't -"

"No," Chris interrupted, letting a slight trace of amusement into his voice, "'Course it wasn't."

Sam looked back at him, his face expressionless, and Chris felt his heart give a lurch. He hadn't quite seen Sam look quite so remote since the beginning of their partnership. And then that look disappeared, to be replaced with Sam's normal genial expression, although the tension lines around his eyes remained.

"No, you're right," Sam continued calmly. "I'm worrying about things needlessly. Thanks for giving me the kick up the arse that I needed, mate." He punctuated the last statement with a small smile, taking any sting from the words, but still Chris found himself less than reassured. He watched as Sam turned back to his window, Sam's shoulders slumped slightly as though defeated, at a loss of what to say. The lingering irritation at Sam's behaviour with Prentice evaporated in the face of his partner's melancholy. There was something so alone about his partner's posture at that moment that it tore at his heartstrings.

He opened his mouth, hoping that words would come, but they didn't and then the moment passed, lost, as Sam turned back to look at him with another slight smile, his stormy-grey eyes still shadowed.

"C'mon," the Englishman said, his voice soft. "I think I owe you a beer."

He blinked, taken aback by the sudden change in the subject matter. "Why?" he queried before he could think better of it.

Sam shrugged, and this time his smile had a slightly bitter twist to it. "For screwing up with Abby Prentice, or whoever she was," he replied succinctly. He was on his feet before Chris could phrase a rejection of the assumption that he was holding it against Sam, and picking up his coat.

Silenced, Chris trailed in his partner's wake, worried, the dying strains of Billie echoing in his ears as he closed the door behind him.

It did nothing to ease his own suddenly reflective mood.

*****

~Blue Moon...
You knew just what I was there for...~

Billie was crooning away again in the background again, but this time Chris had settled on the music himself. It seemed to match his mood as he sat on one of the wrought iron chairs on his small balcony, overlooking the cemetery below.

That suited his mood too, which was best described as 'blue'. And as for Billie - well, she seemed to work for his partner when Sam was down, so he'd put her on to see if she'd help for him too.

And speak of the devil...

"Hey."

He looked up from his contemplation of yet another half-empty bottle of Bud. He hadn't heard the door open and yet, here his partner stood in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb and watching him with a slight smile gracing his thin and handsome face.

"Hi," he replied before returning his attention back to picking the label off his bottle. He lacked the energy or will to start a conversation and settled on sighing heavily.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." The word came out dispirited and he didn't need to look at his partner to know that Sam's face would be registering his disbelief at Chris' answer.

Sam said nothing, and eventually Chris felt obliged to look up, to meet his partner's gaze.

It was understanding, as always.

"Just..." He trailed off, not able to explain the odd sense of melancholy he felt. Perhaps it was the fallout from the surge of adrenaline he'd been living off the last few days as he hurtled around Brands Hatch - he'd been bound to crash and burn eventually. Maybe it was the fact that Monique had dumped him. They hadn't been particularly close but the sex had been memorable and now he was faced with the search for someone else to provide him with the kind of physical release she had.

Maybe that was what was depressing him - the fact that these days it only ever seemed to be superficial and physical. He didn't expect to find the kind of connection that he'd had with Teresa - in fact he was pretty much convinced that the love he had felt for his wife was kind of a once in a lifetime deal - but maybe he was reaching an age where he wanted more from a date than a casual fuck at the end of it. Something like companionship, friendship, someone to be there during the bad times as well as the good - although he had Sam for that, didn't he?

As soon as the thought occurred to him he looked up to meet his partner's eyes again. Yeah, he had Sam for that. What the hell was he complaining about?

"Don't I owe you a beer?" he asked.

Sam chuckled softly. "I'll settle for whatever cheap plonk is currently gracing your kitchen cupboards," he said. "No, don't get up," he added, as Chris showed signs of doing just that, "I know my way around by now."

Yeah, he did. Just as Chris now knew his way around Sam's place. Comfortable. That was the word that sprang to his mind when he pondered on it. Not 'dull' or 'boring' but... comfortable.

Belonging.

Disturbed somehow by the way his thoughts were going, he went back to his contemplation of the depressing view, the encroaching darkness doing nothing to improve the ambience.

Maybe he should think about moving. Renting somewhere a little more upmarket, maybe in the Docklands. A riverside view might do more to improve his mood. And maybe his luck in keeping girlfriends.

As if hearing his thoughts, Sam finally settled himself in the seat opposite him, resting his feet on the lower rung of his balcony railings, his grey eyes sparkling in amusement.

"Nice view," he commented lightly, not for the first time.

"Neighbours are quiet," Chris shot back automatically, his mind still wrestling with the concerns that had kept him occupied for hours.

"Too quiet?" Sam asked softly.

Startled he looked up into Sam's eyes, seeing understanding and empathy again. He sometimes forgot that Sam's love life was subject to the same constraints and frustrations as his own - broken dates, work taking up all their focus and energy, having to lie, or conceal what they really did. They were about the only constants in each other's lives.

Although Sam hadn't talked about his love life recently. Maybe he was even worse off than Chris.

Sam was still waiting for an answer, his head tilted to one side while he continued to watch his partner patiently. "Maybe," Chris admitted.

"Monique?"

Sam was too damn insightful sometimes.

He didn't answer at once, settling for sighing heavily again and avoiding his partner's eyes. "You want to talk about it?" Sam prompted gently when the silence continued to stretch between them. He had a strong feeling that if he said 'no' Sam would say 'fair enough' and go back to staring out over the view before steering the conversation with unerring accuracy back to a safer topic.

He found he didn't want that.

"Do you ever get lonely?"

The words came out unbidden and once they were out he found he didn't want to take them back.

"Sometimes," said Sam easily, his eyes intense as he continued to watch Chris. "Everyone does, I think."

"It's not just..." Again he trailed off, at a loss for words.

"Not just sex," Sam completed for him. "No, didn't think it would be."

"Meaning?" The question was curious rather than confrontational.

Sam's mouth curled up in a slight smile. "Meaning I didn't think that sex would ever be something you were lacking."

He wasn't quite sure how to take that. He sat back, watching Sam a little uncertainly as his partner leant back in his chair, staring out over the dark cemetery. "No," he decided on finally. "But..."

Sam turned his attention back to Chris, this time seeming happy to let him struggle to find the right words.

"Do you ever just... I don't know... want something more...? Something solid?"

"Sometimes," Sam admitted, once again going back to staring out into the darkness.

Chris pushed harder. "But?"

After a long pause Sam finally looked back at him. The dim light, spilling through the open French windows along with the strains of Blue Moon on repeat, lit up his face as he did so, and for a brief second Chris thought he caught a hint of pain in the depths of Sam's green eyes.

"If I've learnt one thing, Chris," Sam replied, his voice soft, "it's that loving someone doesn't necessarily mean that they feel the same." He turned again, breaking their gaze. "And they're under no obligation to do so."

There wasn't a lot he could say to that. He could only presume that Sam hadn't spoken of his love life recently because he was still hurting about his break-up with this nameless man.

And Chris found that he hurt for him.

Rising to his feet, he let his hand rest on Sam's shoulder for a moment, squeezing it gently, before heading into the living room and towards the kitchen for a top up. For both of them.

He flicked the stereo off as he did so. No point in rubbing it in.

*****

"Sam?"

He was worried about his partner, had been worried since the last time he'd seen Sam, standing beside Carl Dietrich's grave. And that was why he was, once again, letting himself into Sam's flat uninvited.

The funeral had been even more depressing than these events usually were. He and Sam had been the only 'mourners'. For some reason Sam hadn't been surprised, which only made Chris feel worse about the whole thing.

As though watching Sam standing, expressionless and dry eyed but obviously hurting, by the grave as they lowered Dietrich into it, wasn't already enough.

He'd tried to give Sam some space after that, realising that his partner probably wouldn't have appreciated any company, especially since his one tentative attempt to broach the subject, suggesting Sam come around to his for a meal, had been rebuffed. Cordially enough, it was true, but the emptiness in Sam's eyes had driven Chris' own spirits even further down.

And worried him. And then Sam hadn't answered the phone.

His worry flooding back, he tried again.

"Sam?"

Still no answer and now he was increasingly growing concerned. Perhaps he was overreacting. Perhaps Sam was just in there, getting completely wasted. He wouldn't blame him if he were. To the strains of Billie, no less.

~You heard me saying a prayer for...
Someone I really could care for...~

Sam wasn't, however, drinking. Instead, as he eased into Sam's small lounge, he could see Sam's form outlined against the window, a dark shape against the pale glow of streetlights streaming through into the room.

"Sam?" he asked again, the uncertainty clear in his voice. There was no doubt that Sam heard him - the slight turn of his head in Chris' direction told Chris that - but still his partner didn't answer him.

Being ignored didn't deter him. If Sam asked him to leave, he would - the man deserved some privacy after all. But until Sam did, he'd be there, silent if needs be. It may have come as a surprise to Sam, but he could do quiet.

With this thought in mind, he hung his coat up by the door, and with a last glance in Sam's direction, moved through to the kitchen.

It had been cold in that cemetery.

Making coffee gave him time to regroup, although he wasn't quite sure how next to deploy his efforts. He'd just have to play it by ear. He made the coffee strong, just in case Sam had been drinking, and carried both cups through to the living room.

Sam stared down at the proffered cup, his expression blank, before his hand came up automatically to grasp it. Relieved, Chris leant against the wall on the other side of the window, watching his partner.

Sam had gone back to staring out of the window, and Chris didn't disturb his train of thoughts. They were obviously unhappy; Sam's face was pale and strained with dark shadows underneath his eyes, which were haunted. Sam knew he was there, and he'd just remain there, silent and supportive, until Sam was ready to talk.

If Sam was ever ready to talk.

The thought was sobering in the face of Sam's pain, and all he could do was trust that their relationship, their friendship, had developed to the point that Sam felt able to open up to him, even if it was on a topic far removed from their daily work environment. He trusted Sam, would trust Sam if their positions were reversed. Wouldn't he?

He shifted uncomfortably, realising that although he'd shared some details of his life before CI5 with Sam, there were whole swathes of his past that Sam didn't know about. Things that he'd never got around to sharing, or things that were still too painful to share. It seemed that Sam now felt the same and once again he wondered how to broach the subject, words failing him when he needed them the most.

In the end words weren't what was needed. He was still watching Sam closely when he caught sight of a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. His gaze fell to his partner's hands. They were shaking, clenching and unclenching convulsively. He raised his gaze to his partner's face, seeing the tension in the jaw line, the over-brightness in the green eyes. Sam's lips were thin lines, the creases at the corner enough evidence of how tightly wound he was, how hard he was finding it to hold himself together. It suddenly dawned on Chris that the only reason that Sam was holding himself together was because he didn't want to break down in front of Chris. That tore Chris' heart apart.

Acting on instinct, he moved forward, leaning down to place his cup on the floor as he did so, and then fell to his knees on the floor in front of his partner, pulling Sam into a rough bear hug. Sam's frame was rigid in his arms, the tension still there, and he rubbed reassuringly up and down Sam's back, trying to imbue Sam's chilled body with some warmth, some comfort, some hope. For a long moment Sam fought him, the tension not easing, and then, finally, Sam went limp, unresisting, his body suddenly heavy against Chris'. Sam's hands came up to clutch convulsively at the front of Chris' top, his face seeming to find a natural home in the crook of Chris' neck. His body was shaking against Chris', but if he was crying, and Chris could only assume that he was, he didn't make a sound.

Somehow that was worse than if he'd howled.

Chris found himself instinctively taking up a gently rocking motion, his hand still stroking up and down Sam's back while the other buried itself in Sam's thick, dark hair, anchoring his partner against the pain that was consuming him. He said nothing, because words couldn't make this better, not now. Words never could. He knew that from his own bitter personal experience. So instead he contented himself with holding his partner, and grieving with him, albeit at a step removed.

All too soon, Sam was pulling back, scrubbing impatiently at his face with his sleeve and refusing to meet Chris' eyes, muttering a rough, "Sorry," his voice still hoarse with grief.

"For what?" Chris asked gently, automatically softening his voice. "For grieving for someone you loved?" Sam still refused to meet his gaze. "You did love him, didn't you, Sam?"

He thought he'd gone too far, pushed into too personal territory, but eventually Sam turned back to face him, his eyes still wet and red. "Yes," he admitted, the look on his face raw and despairing. "I did once."

There was nothing he could say to that either, and so he settled himself on the floor, waiting, watching Sam's face while Sam went back to avoiding looking in his direction.

It seemed as though Sam couldn't take the silence any longer, finally sneaking an unhappy look at him before saying, "I'm sorry," again. For breaking down so comprehensively, Chris assumed.

"Don't be," he said again. "Sam, I do understand. I lost my wife, remember?"

Sam shook his head, sadly or in denial, Chris couldn't tell. "It's not the same."

"Why?" Sam remained silent and the light dawned. "Because you and Carl were both men?"

This time Sam's look was tired, defeated and still unhappy. "Some people would think that," he said quietly.

"I don't." His reply was firm, and Sam gave him another slow, almost empty look, before glancing away and sighing. At a loss, he could only make the same offer as Sam had, the first time that Sam had witnessed one of his nightmares. The first time - it hadn't been the last.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

He sat back, leaning on his hands with a sigh of his own, and watched his partner, frowning slightly. He didn't want to pry, but didn't know how to tackle this situation. Wasn't sure that it could, or should, be tackled.

"He was the first."

Sam's words were so soft that it took a second for Chris to realise that he'd spoken. He still said nothing, not wanting to interrupt Sam's flow of thought, glad that his partner was opening up now even though Sam was still not looking at him, staring out of the window instead. Silence had served him well so far. His mind, however, was racing. First person Sam had ever loved? First... man?

"It was over a long time ago." Sam's voice was dull, his face almost empty of expression now, signs of the pain that his partner must be feeling. "I let him down."

"No," Chris said, unable to keep silent. "You didn't."

The look Sam shot him this time was angry, but he didn't take offence, knowing that it was born from grief and guilt and not directed at him personally. "He came to me for help and now he's dead."

"He came to CI5 for help," he corrected gently. "And yes, maybe CI5 as a whole could have done more but on the information we had we did the best we could - more than procedures say we should. There was nothing to suggest that they'd really try a hit on the hospital. Hell, we didn't even know what it was all about."

"He's still dead."

"Yes," Chris admitted painfully, "he is. But that's not your fault, Sam."

"Wilmot's dead too," Sam added, his voice back to empty and expressionless. "And I sent him there."

"Wilmot screwed up, wasn't paying attention to the task that was assigned to him. If he'd taken it seriously instead of reading magazines, he'd probably still be alive. Malone isn't blaming you for it, and believe me if he thought that you were in anyway responsible he would have kicked your ass for sure."

Sam looked at him again, that air of defeat still hanging around him. Chris could tell by the look in his partner's eyes that Sam wanted to believe him, desperately wanted to believe him, but didn't. Couldn't bring himself to.

Unable to bear the pain in the depths of those grey eyes, he leant forward, squeezing Sam's knee gently. "The only people to blame," he insisted softly, "are Kinsal and his ilk. And we'll get them, Sam. Believe me, we'll get them."

That, he was pleased to note, Sam finally believed. Chris couldn't bring himself to believe it was anything more than a cold comfort, however.

There was another, slightly awkward silence while he left his hand on Sam's knee, unable to offer more support than that. The silence stretched between them as Sam buried his face in his hands, but he didn't pull away from Chris' touch. Finally, Chris couldn't stand it anymore, and cleared his throat. Sam glanced up, startled, almost as though he'd forgotten that Chris was there.

"Tell me about him?" Chris requested gently, somehow instinctively coming to the conclusion that Sam needed to talk about it, about Carl. Only time would tell if his instincts were right.

Sam shook his head, not denying Chris' request, but almost in despair. "Like I said, Chris," he began hollowly, "it was over a long time ago."

"But you stayed friends, obviously." It was a faint comfort, but he wanted Sam to remember that there had been good times, that Carl had still trusted him, turned to him in his hour of need and perhaps convince Sam that he hadn't been wrong to do so.

Again, Sam shook his head sadly. "It was perfectly... amicable," he answered, although, unless Chris was mistaken, there was a faint trace of bitterness in his voice. "We stayed... friends."

Friends? He wondered what that meant, whether he'd miscalculated in trying to get Sam to remember the good times. Maybe there hadn't been any good times.

Apparently sensing his hesitation, Sam looked at him, and any bitterness seemed to leave him as rapidly as his tension had earlier. He just looked tired and heartsick and Chris' heart went out to him again. He squeezed again gently, and Sam sighed, his eyes lost. "Remember what I said about people not necessarily loving you back?" He attempted a smile, which only served to highlight the misery evident in his expression. Again, it left Chris at a loss for words, searching for the right thing to say. All he could do, again, was to sit and wait for Sam to open up.

Sam sighed again, this one seeming to come from the very depths of his soul, and turned back to the window, his face tight and unhappy. "I was old enough to know better," he admitted quietly. "Twenty-four and hardly green, even if up until then it had been with women." He gave a sad chuckle, his heart obviously not in it. "I suppose I owe Carl for opening my eyes to that possibility at least."

"I'm sorry." The words were genuine if inadequate, and Sam shook his head again.

"Don't be. We did have some good times. He taught me a lot." Sam nodded in the direction of the stereo with a faint smile. "He introduced me to jazz as well as gay sex."

Chris snorted, relieved to see Sam's normal sly humour reassert itself. "Something to thank him for, then."

"Yes." The smile this time was more genuine. "A lot actually. It wasn't his fault I wanted more than he was willing to give."

Chris tried to imagine loving Teresa, and not having her love him back, and failed. It was a loneliness beyond his comprehension, thankfully. "That must have been hard," he murmured, subdued.

"Yeah," said Sam quietly, his expression still a little lost, melancholy now rather than the intense grief of earlier. "But I don't regret it. Not really. Another thing he taught me, without realising it, was that love is a gift. You can't give it and demand something in return. No matter how you might wish otherwise. Although, strange though it sounds, knowing that it still took me a while to get over him, no matter how amicably we parted." It didn't sound strange to Chris at all, but Sam hadn't finished. "And then I go and do the same again," he sighed, more, it seemed, to himself than to Chris. Once again, he seemed to be drifting, hardly aware of Chris' presence again.

"Sam...? You okay?"

Sam jumped slightly, before turning to him, his eyes infinitely sad. Once again he managed a small smile. "Don't worry, Chris. I just seem to be developing this bad habit of falling for men who are never going to feel the same way."

Unsure what to say to that, he patted Sam's knee awkwardly before levering himself to his feet and taking Sam's by now cold coffee from him. "I'll make you some tea," he said, aiming for light. "You Brits seem to think it's a universal cure all, so I'll have to try it."

"You don't have to stay."

Sam's voice was soft, his eyes still sad and remote as he stared back down into the street below. Watching his face, Chris could see the dampness still clinging to the long, dark lashes, the dark shadows underneath the translucent lids. His heart gave a painful lurch at the reminder of Sam's pain, and almost against his own volition his hand rose and ruffled Sam's hair, softly and affectionately.

"I know what it's like to grieve alone," he said quietly but firmly. "With no one who cares about you there to help you through. No way in hell am I leaving you to do that. Not alone. Not when I'm here."

This time Sam's eyes had gratitude in them as well as sadness, and Chris let his fingers slide through the silky dark strands once more before moving away.

It looked like being a long night. And he'd be there every step of the way. Willingly.

*****

"Sam?"

Wincing slightly, he let himself into his partner's apartment. Despite his exhaustion, the desire to find his own bed and sleep for a week, he felt he owed it to Sam to call in, knowing that although his partner had been kept apprised of Chris' situation he wouldn't be able to sleep either until he'd laid eyes on Chris and saw for himself that he was okay.

Just as Chris wouldn't be able to if their positions were reversed.

"In here."

There was relief in his partner's voice and Sam met him halfway, reaching the door to the small sitting room the same time as Chris did.

"You okay?"

"I'm fine."

The words came out at the same time, question and answer mingling together in the cool night air. Sam smiled, genuine pleasure in his expression, his eyes already moving over Chris' form, cataloguing the damage - the visible injuries anyway. Just as Chris was doing to Sam.

Seemingly reassured, and apparently suddenly realising that he was still standing in the doorway, blocking Chris' entry, Sam moved backwards, throwing over his shoulder, "Beer or coffee?"

He debated the question as he sank gratefully into Sam's sofa. In his current exhausted condition a beer, even just one, would most likely knock him straight out. It wouldn't, of course, be the first time he'd fallen asleep on Sam's sofa but right now, with the still tender areas aching dimly and reminding him of their presence, that would be a huge mistake.

Of course, even coffee might not stop that from happening.

Sam was still waiting for an answer, watching him sympathetically and he finally mustered enough energy to request coffee.

It was wonderful to be back in familiar surroundings and Sam's apartment was certainly that. Warm and cosy after the swampland he'd been tramping through for the past few days. It was late evening, yet the only concession Sam had made to the darkness outside was to switch on his table lamp, that even now was casting a soft, golden glow over the room, making it seem comforting, homely. He didn't need much more than that, not when the moon hung, full and bright, outside the window - probably why Sam had left the curtains open.

And to counterpoint the view, Billie was crooning again in the background.

~ Blue moon,
You saw me standing alone~

He snorted, amused. Alone described the past forty-eight hours, certainly. Working without Sam had been strange to say the least, both of them teamed up with different agencies on this information gathering exercise, not knowing what was happening to the other until after the event. It had left him twitchy. How much worse had it been for Sam?

A cup of hot coffee was suddenly in his hand and he grasped it gratefully, breathing in the heady aroma. He was feeling better already. He glanced up at Sam, who was settling himself onto the arm at the other end of the sofa, watching him with a small smile on his face. There was a small, white bandage on his brow, just visible under a dark lock of hair that had fallen into Sam's face, and Chris frowned.

"You okay?" he asked.

Sam snorted, still watching him with something like affection in his grey-green eyes. "I'm fine," he said. "I'm the one who made my extraction point, remember?"

He grimaced, letting the soft jibe pass by uncommented on. It was merely a by-product of his partner's concern for him. As long as Sam didn't push the joke at his expense too far over the next few days.

"You knew I'd make the next one though, right?"

Sam gave him that faint smile again. "I knew you thought you would, but I also know that you have this uncanny knack of getting yourself into trouble." He snorted again, watching as Sam's gaze tracked over his face, coming to rest on the bruise on the side of his chin.

"And I see you managed it."

He was too tired to come up with a snappy comeback and so settled on scowling at Sam instead. His partner completely ignored it, reaching out with gentle fingers to catch his chin and tilt it to one side to give him a clearer view of the injury.

Chris' heart stopped.

Sam's face was inches away from him, his focus fixed on Chris' chin, but there was a softness to Sam's gaze that he'd never noticed before, a gentleness to his touch.

~I just seem to be developing this bad habit of falling for men who are never going to feel the same way.~

Sam's words came back unbidden, and his heart started beating again, hard and fast. At the time he'd thought Sam was talking about his ex, but now...

"Chris?" Sam's voice drew him back, and he stared, speechless, into his partner's eyes, his heart still thundering in his chest. "You okay?"

There was a frown forming on Sam's face, concern in the depths of his green eyes and in the tone of his voice. He forced himself to answer.

"Fine. Just tired."

He felt like a louse for lying like that, but it seemed to put Sam's mind at ease, and bought him valuable time. Sam's face relaxed and his partner smiled at him again, his eyes and expression warm.

"I bet. Listen, finish that coffee. I'll make you something to eat - airplane food is never enough is it?" Chris made some kind of affirmative response, his mind still reeling, but no matter how vague it was it seemed to satisfy Sam. "Good. Eat then I'll drive you home and you can collapse."

And then Sam was gone, leaving him staring into space.

The moonlight was still streaming through the window, but instead of cosy it now made the room seem unfamiliar - uncharted territory, strange and exotic. Billie was still singing, only this time, now that Chris actually listened to the words, they didn't seem as unhappy or as hopeless as the first verse suggested.

~And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms will ever hold~

He shivered - not from fear or trepidation, but as though someone had walked over his grave. Or maybe over Teresa's. The thought of his wife, however, didn't bring the usual pain. Hadn't brought it for months, actually, now that he thought about it. Not since he'd had Sam to talk to, to confide in.

To care about.

~Love is a gift.~

Sam's voice again, echoing in his memory.

Yes. It was. And not one to be rejected out of hand.

"Here."

Startled, he stared wordlessly at the proffered plate of sandwiches, until Sam placed them on the floor next to him, crouching down to peer into his face, his brow creased with worry.

Without thinking, acting solely on instinct and impulse now, he reached out with shaky fingers and echoed Sam's gesture earlier, brushing the hair back from the small, crisp, white bandage on his partner's forehead.

Sam's eyes went wide, vulnerable. If he hadn't already guessed, already seen how Sam felt about him, he would have known then, in that one moment.

~I heard somebody whisper, "Please adore me."~

Sam looked away, swallowing heavily, the expression on his face now almost panicked. He stood up, made as if to move away but Chris stopped him, catching hold of his hand, saying nothing because there was nothing to say.

When Sam's eyes met his again, there was fear lurking in the jade depths, mingled in with confusion. Chris couldn't bear that. Not fear. Never fear.

He rose to his own feet, his face now inches from Sam's, holding his partner's gaze. And still holding his partner's hand. He stared wordlessly at Sam, his own mind still in turmoil, only knowing that he needed to take that look out of his friend's eyes.

Needed to take that fear out of Sam's heart.

"Dance with me?" he asked simply.

Sam seemed dazed by the turn of events, and it took a gentle tug on his hand from Chris to get him moving, stumbling into Chris' embrace. He was trembling slightly when Chris wrapped gentle arms around him, getting the pair of them moving to the beat. It seemed to be due to a combination of trepidation and shock and then, as Chris continued to guide them in a slow, sensuous sway, Sam's body relaxed against his, the tension leaving his partner's body in a slow exhalation. Sam's head found a natural resting place on Chris' shoulder and Chris' fingers moved up to stroke through the soft, silky hair, so familiar to the touch now, first in pain and grief and now more. Hope. Love even.

Chris let out a soft sigh of his own, closing his eyes, letting go of the past, losing himself in the soft music flowing over him, the feel of Sam in his arms.

~And when I looked,
The moon had turned to gold.~

He lifted his cheek from Sam's hair, pulling back to look at his partner. Sam's head came up too and once again their gazes locked. The pale light caught Sam's hair, turned his eyes, eyes that were even now searching Chris' for some answer, into silver.

Beautiful. How had he never seen it before? How had he been so blind?

Acting on an irresistible impulse, Chris leant forward, feeling the sharp intake of breath from Sam as much as hearing it.

Sam's lips were soft, opening up under his as though it was the most natural thing in the world, to be held like this, kissed like this by Chris.

It was.

With a sigh of his own, he pulled back, meeting Sam's eyes again and seeing the love there, the love that Sam no longer bothered to hide, no longer feared to reveal, before resting his forehead against Sam's.

He wasn't at all surprised to find an echo of that love in his own heart.

And then, simply, easily, their bodies moulded together, moving to the music in a rhythm older than time.

Dancing together in the moonlight.

~Blue moon,
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.~

The End

The full text of the lyrics:

Blue moon,
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.

Blue moon,
You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Somebody I really could care for.

And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper, "Please adore me."
And when I looked,
The moon had turned to gold.

Blue moon,
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.

Copyright Lorenzo Hart and Richard Rodgers


[BritSlash Contents Page] [BritSlash Fiction Archive]

 

 


 

[BritSlash Contents Page]  [BritSlash Fiction Archive]