Title: Stormy Weather
Spoilers/Warnings: No spoilers. No warnings. Angst and sex (surprise, surprise)
Summary: The boys finally get some time together
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 Brain Clements 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. :)
Kudos: Many thanks to my excellent beta Lou, for the eagle eyed spotting of typos and soothing of fevered brow and to Ariadne for listening to me rabbit and for letting me try out dialogue and for helping me refine it. And nagging. Did I mention the nagging? :)
Conversations 10: Stormy Weather
But Chris wasn't there and all he could do was sit in the dark and freeze.
Although it was growing dark by the time he finally made his reluctant way back towards the cottage, there were no lights in evidence. His heart sank for a moment, wondering whether he'd driven Sam too far, although he couldn't quite bring himself to believe that his partner would abandon him. And indeed, as he turned around the corner to the front of the cottage, he spotted their car still parked in the driveway, mute evidence to his partner's presence, if not in the building then at least in the area.
In his fury, he hadn't stopped to pick up a key but the front door wasn't locked, opening easily to his hesitant push. Which wasn't like Sam, not to secure the area, not given the ex-MI6 man's borderline paranoia. And speaking of Sam, he'd better go and find him, do some... what? Apologising? Grovelling? More yelling? For all of the soul-searching he'd been doing, he still wasn't quite sure. He hoped that he'd have some idea when he finally laid eyes on his partner. After all, he seemed to spend his life acting on gut instinct and it usually worked out. He'd just have to hope that it would serve him well in this instance too.
It didn't take him long to locate his lover; Sam was sitting in the living room in the dark, his knees drawn up to his chest and his head buried in his folded arms. When Chris flicked on the light, he looked up, startled, the expression on his face bleak. Still, at least this time Chris' impetuous actions hadn't reduced his normally controlled partner to tears, and he was thankful for that. He wasn't sure how he would have coped if he had managed to. He was feeling guilty enough already. Guilty and yet some residual anger towards Sam was still churning up his insides.
They stared wordlessly at each other for a few moments, until Sam swallowed convulsively and said, his voice hoarse and quiet, "I wasn't sure if you were coming back."
There was a world of defeat evident in those few simple words and the tone they were delivered in, and Chris felt his heart contract painfully. He wasn't sure what to say to that, and finally settled on, "Well, I did."
It came out much harsher than he intended and for once he managed to get a reaction out of his lover. Sam flinched. Even worse than that, for Chris' guilt anyway, was the pain that flashed through his lover's expressive eyes and Sam's next words, delivered in a dull monotone. "Have you come back to pack?" It seemed as though the mask had finally shattered.
The anger flared again, fed by the thought that Sam would think so little of him as to believe he'd walk out after one stupid fight. Only the expression of almost hopelessness on Sam's face stopped him from exploding again, and he managed to limit his reply to a cold, "No."
He didn't wait around to see Sam's reaction to that, escaping to the kitchen in an attempt to regain some control over his seesawing emotions; torn between wanting to take the hurt out of Sam's eyes and throttling the man. Although he hated himself for it, there was a small part of him that took some vindictive pleasure in Sam's obvious upset and the man's crumbling barriers because it was a goddamned reaction, and that at least meant that his partner felt something. He just didn't know if it was enough.
He filled the kettle more for something to do than because he was thirsty, vaguely thinking that perhaps making the Englishman a cup of tea might be a peace offering of sorts although it harked back to the morning after their break-up too much for him to be entirely comfortable with it. He had to talk to his partner, get Sam to talk to him, although how the hell he accomplished that he didn't know.
When he turned around, he realised that the time for talking had come sooner than he might have expected. Sam was standing in the doorway, his arms wrapped around himself almost defensively, the expression on his face almost pleading. He opened his mouth as though to say something, but apparently thought better of it, closing it once again and just staring at Chris, his expression now hovering somewhere close to a mixture of fear and hopelessness.
They stood staring at each other again until Sam dropped his eyes, his posture screaming out his misery. Chris sighed.
"What do you want, Sam?" he asked, his voice heavy but lacking the hard edge that had been in it only minutes earlier. "You're going to have to tell me, 'cause I'm damned if I can figure it out."
He didn't think that Sam was going to answer at first, his partner still refusing to look at him, and then Sam's soft voice drifted towards him.
"I want to know what I did."
Chris sighed again. "Sam, we had a fight. It happens..." He was on the point of telling Sam to get over it, which probably wouldn't have helped their situation much, but his partner beat him to it.
"No," he continued, eyes still downcast. "Not today. Last time. I don't know what it was that I said or did and I need you to tell me."
Chris just stared at him, confused by the sudden turn that the conversation had taken. He racked his brain, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what the hell Sam was talking about. While he was still struggling, Sam finally looked at him, the expression in his eyes desperate.
"Last time," he started to explain. "When you... when we... broke up."
"We talked about this, Sam. I told you why..."
"But you didn't tell me what I did, Chris." By now the desperation was clear in Sam's voice as well as his expression. "I must have done something. You don't tell someone that you love them and then eleven days later tell them you were wrong, unless they did something. I need to know what it was."
He didn't know what to say to that, didn't know how to put his lover at his ease and to make this all better. He wasn't even sure he could. His stunned silence didn't help matters and his partner continued, sounding even more desperate and hopeless if that were possible.
"If I don't know what it was, Chris, I might..." His voice trailed off, the expression on his face now almost completely discouraged, probably because of Chris' continued silence. He still persevered though, his tone now dull. "I keep thinking that I might do it again, whatever it is, and..." He swallowed heavily again, his expression now tired as well as defeated. "I watch everything I say, everything I do in case I... in case I drive you away again."
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.
"Trouble is," Sam continued with a humourless laugh almost bordering on a sob, the pain he felt now clear in his eyes, and watching it blossom there almost hit Chris like a body blow, "that I'm watching what I say and do so carefully that I end up saying and doing nothing at all, and that seems to be the wrong thing too."
"Why tell me now?" Chris managed to squeeze out through a constricted throat.
Sam gave that laugh again, the one that tore at Chris' heart. "Because I don't think I've got anything left to lose. 'Cept you, and I think I already have."
"You haven't, Sam," he whispered, the words catching in his own throat as he fought back his grief at his lover's pain. "You haven't."
Sam gave a jerky nod, the arms he had wrapped around himself tightening as he obviously struggled to maintain some control and not, in Sam's eyes at least, humiliate himself entirely. He dropped his eyes again, not looking in Chris' direction, but not before Chris had seen what he suspected was the gleam of unshed tears in them. He couldn't stand it, couldn't stand to leave Sam like that, in such pain, not when it was of his making. He'd known that he'd hurt Sam with his careless actions of two months previously, but never suspected it had been this deeply. Any lingering anger that he may have been clinging to after their fight earlier evaporated in the face of Sam's obvious distress.
He moved towards Sam and wrapped his arms around his lover, saying nothing, not daring to in case he made the situation worse. Words hadn't helped him so far. Instead he let his actions speak for him, just holding Sam and feeling Sam holding him back, his partner's grip hard and once again almost desperate before the Englishman relaxed enough to loosen it, although Sam's head stayed buried in his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," Chris risked whispering. "I'm so sorry, Sam."
Sam nodded jerkily into his shoulder, but obviously didn't trust himself to answer, whether because he was too upset or too angry now, Chris didn't know. He struggled for something to say, anything that would make this all better, but his normal quick tongue seemed to have abandoned him. Instead, he could only hold on, his hands stroking clumsily up and down Sam's back in some vain attempt to give comfort. Finally, Sam pulled back, still not looking directly at him and although his eyes were still over-bright he'd obviously managed to keep himself under control - no tears had escaped. Chris wasn't entirely sure whether this was a good or bad thing. However, he knew that letting Sam continue to bottle all of this pain and fear inside him couldn't be good.
He caught Sam's face in his hands, brushing his thumbs lightly over his lover's cheeks. "Talk to me, Sam," he begged. "Please."
He didn't even try to keep his own pain out of his voice, not sure that he could even if he wanted to, and it seemed to get a reaction out of his partner, Sam finally looking at him, his eyes hollow. Once again Sam opened his mouth and then closed it, obviously at a loss for words. Once again, he lowered his eyes to the floor.
"I don't know what you want me to say."
Oh Christ, it was worse than he thought, Sam's dull tone sending a sharp pang through him. Was this what he had reduced his strong and confident partner to? Someone who didn't dare say what was on his mind in case Chris overreacted? His anger at Sam became anger at himself.
"Is this why you've been unhappy?" he asked, his own voice barely above a whisper. "Because you've been worried that I'm going to walk out again?"
Sam's arms tightened briefly around himself and he gave another jerky nod, still staring at the floor.
"Christ, Sam, I'm not. I love you." His voice cracked on the last phrase and once more he saw a flinch going through his lover at the sound. "I know I screwed up, but I thought that maybe you'd forgiven me."
"I have." It was delivered in a monotone, which didn't do a great deal to reassure the American.
"Then why would you think...?"
"Because you won't tell me what I did!"
There was a snap of irritation about the words, and that, at least, was better than the tonelessness before; he would rather Sam was mad at him than lost in some pit of despair. It didn't last long though, the expression of frustration on his face fading back into tired despondency. Sam sank down to the floor, sitting with his back pressed up against the cupboards. He shrugged helplessly. "If you would only tell me what I did..."
"Sam, you didn't do anything." He followed his partner's example and sank down to sit opposite Sam, his whole posture speaking of his sincerity. "It was my fault..."
"These things aren't one-sided," Sam interrupted him tiredly.
"Okay," he conceded the point. "I got scared, and maybe you could have done something to stop that if I'd told you, but I didn't. I fucked up..."
"We fucked up."
"Okay, we fucked up, but aren't we doing that again?" His partner didn't have an answer to that, and Chris pressed the point home. "I love you. I don't want to lose you and I'm not going to walk out. I didn't mean to imply that I would. I just don't know how to convince you of that. Tell me what to say, Sam. Tell me what you need. Please?"
There was a long silence, and he started to despair again before Sam managed to reply quietly, "I don't know."
He tried to tell himself that at least that was honest, but it didn't stop his heart from sinking. "If you can't tell me what you need then can you at least tell me what you want?"
Another silence, before it occurred to Chris that perhaps Sam didn't know that either. "You said that you stopped yourself from saying and doing things because you weren't sure how I'd react. What things?" Another silence. "Sam, please."
Maybe it was too difficult a question to start off with. His lover certainly seemed to be struggling with it. Sam, however, seemed to find some reserves from somewhere, sufficient enough to attempt an answer anyway. "Pushing."
He kept his voice gentle as he sought some clarification. "Pushing? What do you mean, Sam?"
Sam ran his fingers through his hair, disordering it again. It hadn't taken Chris long to figure out that this act meant that his partner was wrestling with something. "Putting pressure on you. Getting clingy."
"Clingy?" Somehow that was an alien concept when it came to Sam. He couldn't imagine Sam ever getting 'clingy', if the word meant what he suspected it did. His confusion must have shown on his face, because Sam was forced to explain, his face flushed. He was obviously finding this difficult.
"Wanting to touch you all of the time. Wanting to... to hold you..."
"There's nothing wrong with that."
"All of the time?" It was difficult to say whether this time the irritation in Sam's voice was directed towards Chris or himself.
Chris bit down on his instinctive response and instead shrugged. "Maybe if you felt that you could touch me you wouldn't feel that you needed to do it all of the time."
There was no response to that other than a tired sigh from his lover. A sudden unbidden thought popped into Chris' head and he couldn't help but chuckle slightly, even though he knew that wasn't going to improve things. "Sorry," he apologised, not wanting to make things worse. "I just... I just can't imagine you ever becoming a complete cuddle bunny. Me, maybe, but not you."
That earned a ghost of a smile at least. "Cuddle bunny?"
"As long as you're my cuddle bunny."
Sam snorted. Watching his downcast face, Chris decided that it was time for a confession of his own. "Do you remember when... the first time you told me how you felt?" he began tentatively.
"How could I forget it?"
He hesitated, not sure if this was a shot or not, but since Sam's face didn't give him any clues he continued on. "I thought at the time... I mean, I wondered whether the fact that you felt the same way meant that, well that there would be more kissing."
That also got a reaction out of his partner, Sam's head jerking up as his lover stared at him in surprise. Chris shrugged lightly. "I like kissing you," he explained. "And, well, before that I had the same kind of fears. You know, how much is too much and at what point will he get pissed at me?"
Guilt blossomed on Sam's face. "Oh Christ, Chris. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have made you feel..."
"Sam," he interrupted, still gently. "I didn't tell you that to make you feel guilty. I told you that so you would see that I feel the same way, so I really doubt that you could be 'clingy' if that's what you call it. At least, not as far as I'm concerned."
Sam didn't say anything to that, just lowering his head to stare at the floor again. It was getting to be a habit and not one Chris was particularly happy with. Stifling an internal sigh, he reached out and placed a gentle hand on Sam's ankle, stroking his thumb lightly over the skin, the only part of Sam he could reach without invading the other man's personal space. Time for the sixty-four million dollar question.
"Sam? Do you love me?"
His partner nodded again, and then, seeming to think that perhaps that wasn't an adequate answer, managed to squeeze out a, "Yes."
Chris nodded back, immensely relieved on that score at least. "I wondered... I mean, you haven't said since..."
Another look of guilt crossed Sam's face, and his partner said hesitantly, "I know that it's stupid, but after last time... I mean, I told you and then..."
"And then I threw it back in your face." Another reason to hate himself, although it appeared that his partner didn't share his feelings.
"It's not your fault, Chris."
"Then whose fault is it?" Once again his tone was sharper than he intended and his partner withdrew, watching him cautiously. "I can't understand why the hell you aren't furious with me."
"I'm not angry."
"Well, you should be," Chris snapped.
"And what good would that do?" This time there was actually an undercurrent of anger in his partner's voice and Chris welcomed it as it went some way to assuage the guilt he was currently drowning in and put him on firmer footing. "It going to make you take it back? Stop it from happening? Turn back time?"
"You are angry," insisted Chris. Something snapped in Sam's eyes.
"Okay, so I'm angry," he snarled. "I'm angry with myself for caring so fuckin' much. I'm angry with the world for the way things turned out. I'm angry with Malone for putting us under so much bloody pressure without a break that we got so fuckin' screwed up. I'm angry..."
"You're angry with me," completed Chris, as his partner seemed to run out of words.
Sam slumped back, defeated. "Yes, I'm angry with you too. But I don't see how that helps."
"It helps. You were so goddamned reasonable about the whole thing, and I think I would have preferred anger. Anger I could understand, I could deal with. You were so calm..."
"Calm?" demanded Sam, interrupting him again. "Calm? I wasn't bloody calm, Chris, I was numb. I kept thinking, maybe if I don't move, maybe if I don't say anything I'll wake up tomorrow and this will all be a dream. Or he'll tell me he doesn't mean it."
"The next day..."
"The next day it was all I could bloody well do not to throw myself at your feet and beg you to take me back. Break down in front of the entire Ops staff, and wouldn't that have been just great? Tell you that whatever I did wrong I'd put it right, if you would just take it back."
"Which is what you've just said," added Chris quietly, watching his partner's rant intently. At that all of the fight just seemed to go out of Sam.
"Yeah," he answered bitterly. "How fuckin' pathetic does that make me?"
"It doesn't," Chris insisted. Sam avoided his eyes. "Sam, it doesn't. It just makes you someone I hurt very badly and who still has enough guts to give me a second chance."
"Really?" The word was sarcastic and there was still an undercurrent of anger in Sam's voice. Chris decided that he didn't want to go there. He'd said his piece, he was just going to have to hope that Sam was listening and that given enough time his partner would realise that he was right. Or, and this was more likely, file the thought away and tackle it when his partner was more receptive to some ego building.
Instead he settled on a relatively mild but completely sincere, "I'm so sorry, Sam." And he was. Oh Christ, how much damage had he done?
Sam gave him another tired look, the ire fading from his face, and nodded again, apparently not trusting himself to comment. He longed to reach out and touch him, try to convince Sam that he did care, still shaken by his lover's confession. And what was stopping him, he wondered. Up until now it had been the worry that he was imposing on Sam, somehow testing his lover's patience, but Sam had just admitted that rather than not wanting to be touched, he wanted to be, desperately by the sounds of it. How could he expect Sam to be comfortable in reaching out to him when he, Chris, couldn't reach out to Sam?
With that in mind, he finally reached out one hand and brushed that errant lock of hair out of his lover's eyes. "I'm sorry, Sam," he whispered again. "I didn't want to hurt you. I never imagined..."
Sam was watching him, his grey-green eyes wide, although Chris couldn't quite read the emotion in them. He was pretty certain, however, that it wasn't anger or disgust and so he continued. "I didn't know that I had the ability to hurt you, not really. 'Cause I'd managed to screw myself up so much that I hadn't listened to you. I thought you were calm about the whole thing 'cause you didn't really care, and it wasn't until I saw how upset you were... in the garage... I didn't..." His voice trailed off as he moved his hand down to cup Sam's cheek. "I didn't really believe that you loved me until that moment, Sam, and then I thought I'd fucked it up so badly that I'd killed anything you felt for me."
"I told you..."
"I know," Chris interrupted gently. "But I didn't let myself believe it until then. My problem, Sam. That's what it came down to. And I'm so sorry that I hurt you. And if I have to spend the rest of my life making that up to you, then I will."
Another flicker of emotion went through those eyes, so expressive when Sam let his guard down. "That sounds perilously like commitment, Keel."
"Yes," he answered, frowning slightly. "I thought that was clear." Although he'd had his doubts today, hadn't he? It appeared they'd been well founded.
"You never said."
"No, I didn't, did I?" He watched Sam closely. "I'm not fickle, Sam. When I tell someone I love them, I mean it. And I mean it for the long term." He gave a slightly bitter laugh. "I've learnt enough from experience not to promise life. But I'm sorry if I ever gave you cause to doubt that."
And that seemed to be the only reaction he was going to get out of his partner on that particular topic, Sam chewing his lip thoughtfully. He supposed that Sam would need to get used to the idea, especially given his own comments earlier about how nothing lasted forever.
He sat back on his heels, watching his lover closely. Sam seemed a little calmer, a little more controlled, mulling over Chris' words so far. "We still need to talk about things," he risked.
"What things?" Sam wanted to know.
"Things like what I can do to repair the damage I did. And things like when you realised that you did care for me, why you got involved with me in the first place. Those kind of things."
Sam gave him a slightly suspicious look. "That seems awfully one sided, Chris."
Chris shrugged again. "That's because that's what I want to know. So I'll make you a deal and anything you want to know you can ask me. And I'll try to answer as honestly as I can. Deal?"
Sam hesitated again. "We need to get this sorted out, Sam," Chris added persuasively. "I don't want to be having this conversation again in six months time because we didn't talk now. At least if we tackle this now we can make a start on fixing things."
"And if they can't be fixed?"
There was an undercurrent of something that sounded like anxiety in his partner's voice and so, rather than losing his temper again or taking it personally, Chris replied with as much confidence as he could muster, "It can be. We want it to work so we'll move heaven and earth until it does."
That earned him another faint smile, which was a start. "Come on," he said briskly. "Bed."
Sam sighed. "I don't think sex is going to fix this, Chris."
That hurt too, but he fought back the bitter words, knowing it was at least partially deserved. "Who said anything about sex? We need to talk and I've noticed you do that better lying down. Don't know why, maybe because you feel more comfortable that way. Maybe because you can't see my face. But if we're going to talk, it's gonna be there. Unless you want to lie down on the kitchen floor?" Another faint chuckle. "No? Didn't think so, somehow."
He reached down and held out his hand to his lover. Sam hesitated for a split second, so briefly that Chris was left wondering whether he'd imagined it, and then grabbed the proffered hand, using it to haul himself to his feet. Chris kept hold of it, not willing to let go because on some primitive, instinctual level, he'd managed to convince himself that if he let go he'd lose Sam. He tried to convince himself that it was a stupid, groundless fear and unworthy of him but he didn't let go until his partner was safely settled on the bed. Even then he stayed close to Sam, pulling his partner into his arms and letting Sam rest his head on his chest.
There was a long, slightly awkward silence while Sam fidgeted until he was comfortable. Chris risked another touch, lightly stroking his fingertips through his lover's hair.
"We need to talk about sex too," he said quietly, feeling Sam tense against him for a moment.
"Sex isn't a problem, Chris," his lover finally said, his voice subdued.
"Sam..." He wondered how the hell they were supposed to get past this if his lover wasn't even going to acknowledge what their fight had been about.
Sam sighed again. "Sex isn't a problem, Chris," he insisted tiredly. "It's all of the stuff around it that's a problem."
"What about earlier? What you said..."
Sam's voice sank almost to a whisper. "I'm sorry I said that, Chris. I really am."
"Forget the apologies, Sam. Just talk to me, please. "
His lover sighed. "I was sore and I was pissed off because you didn't see that. But I should have just told you instead of losing my temper like that." Chris squeezed him lightly and attempted a shrug.
"People get pissed sometimes, Sam. Say things they don't mean. You know that, right?" His voice was hesitant, hoping that Sam understood that he'd said some things too that he didn't mean. Like calling Sam 'inconvenient'.
Whether Sam understood it or not, he continued to try and explain. "Sometimes," he stumbled, "I just want... this." The arm he had draped over Chris tightened for a moment. "And sometimes," he continued, his tone matter of fact rather than cautious or annoyed, "the sex is just a way of getting there. But that doesn't mean... Oh Christ, I don't know what I mean. But I don't think that means that sex itself is a problem. I enjoy it. Really. I just don't want us to be just about sex."
He was forced to admit that maybe Sam had a point. As he'd thrown in his lover's face earlier, he'd begun to believe that sex was about the only place there wasn't a problem. It appeared that whatever the problem was, and he was now convinced that one underlying cause had to be his lover's apparent insecurity, not to mention his own insensitivity, it was starting to carry through to the bedroom rather than the other way around.
Sam. Insecure. It was a concept that had never occurred to him before, and he still had some difficulty in reconciling it with his normally calm and controlled partner. And when he tried, all that did was bring the guilt back. He had to fix this damage, had to.
"Talk to me, Sam. Please?"
He could feel Sam tense slightly again, obviously still uncomfortable with the idea of baring his soul but his lover seemed to accept that this was inevitable. Either that, or Chris had driven him so far that he felt that he had no option. "About what?"
Chris realised that he was going to have to tread carefully, not pry for the sake of it if he didn't want it to come back and bite him on the ass. He knew how much Sam valued his privacy and while he didn't want to violate that they had to start some kind of dialogue. "Anything, Sam," he said, a hint of desperation in his voice. "Tell me what you liked best at school, what your Dad does for a living, anything. Tell me what you got for your twelfth birthday. I don't care."
There was another long silence, and then Sam's voice drifted up from his chest. "It wasn't a good birthday."
Shit. He was on the verge of telling Sam to forget it, tell him something else, or even forget the whole goddamned idea when Sam spoke again.
"Mum was sick."
"Oh? What was wrong?"
Another telling silence and then, "Breast cancer. Didn't know that then. No one told me. I just thought she was going to get better, because that's what happens, right? People are sick and then they get better?"
"Sometimes," replied Chris, squeezing his lover gently.
"Yeah, well. That's what you think when you're twelve anyway."
Chris swallowed heavily. "I take it she didn't?"
Sam hesitated again. "She died two months later."
Oh shit, indeed. He wrapped his other arm around Sam, holding him tightly, Sam's head still pillowed on his chest. "I'm sorry, love," he whispered, the words catching in his throat.
Sam shrugged as well as he was able to, cradled in Chris' grasp. "It was a long time ago," he said.
It was Chris' turn to hesitate before biting the bullet. "And you and your Dad don't get on?" he asked cautiously.
Another abortive shrug. "There's no big drama there, Chris. He didn't know how to cope with two young kids, and Hayley didn't exactly make it easy on him."
Now why the hell had Sam never mentioned having a sister? Admittedly, Sam wasn't one to talk about his private life, even before they'd become lovers, but to never mention a sister?
"I take it you don't get on with her either?"
Sam snorted, although there was no real amusement in it. "I don't not get on with her, it's just that we have nothing in common so we only really exchange Christmas or birthday cards. She only gets in touch when she needs something. Which, thankfully, isn't as often as it used to be."
"What did she need?"
"Money, mostly." Sam sighed again, burying his head in Chris' chest while the American continued to card his fingers through the dark, silky hair. "You want to know all of the sordid details I suppose?"
"Sure. Knock yourself out."
At least this time there seemed to be a little more genuine amusement in Sam's snort. "Well, the abridged version is that I was my Mum's favourite, Hayley was Dad's and when Mum died things didn't change much. Dad tried, but you know what they say about the squeaky wheel getting the oil? That was Hayley. She went off the rails, got knocked up at fifteen so there was a new baby and even less time for me. Feel sorry for me yet?"
There was a self-mocking tone in Sam's voice and he wasn't entirely sure how to respond to it. He settled on a relatively cautious, "It can't have been easy."
"Yeah, well. It wasn't that big a deal. I got over it." Did you? wondered Chris. Did you really? "No big drama or anything. I had some trouble with my schoolwork, acted up for some attention and all Dad said was did I want to end up in a dead end job like him? I decided I didn't, knuckled down, was the first person in my family to go to University and the rest you know."
And that was it. Sam Curtis' life summed up in a few neat sentences that made it all sound so innocuous when it couldn't possibly have been.
"You sound like a little angel," he joked.
"I was far from an angel, Chris," Sam chuckled. "Believe me."
"Oh, I do. If I had any doubts on that score, what you did with Spencer's access code would have put me straight."
"Chris," Sam replied with exaggerated patience, "signing him up for a few mailing lists was nothing to what I could have done."
"Yes, but where the hell did you find those mailing lists?"
"It's amazing what you can find..."
"On the internet," completed Chris with a chuckle of his own. He hugged Sam a little tighter. "Still," he said, returning to the matter in hand. "It can't have been easy."
"You've said that already."
"Yes, and I stand by it."
"A lot of people lose loved ones, Chris, and they survive." Sam froze, seeming to realise what he'd just said. "Shit, Chris, I'm sorry..." he added sounding very distressed.
"Shh," his lover soothed. "It's okay, you're right. You do survive."
Sam hesitated again - Chris could feel that in the stillness of his lover's body pressed against his, and that forewarned him in part about what was coming next.
He should have expected it really, knowing that he'd told Sam to ask him anything he wanted. At some point Sam was going to want to know more about Annie's death than the American had shared so far. It was inevitable, but even so there was a surge of sharp pain, almost fresh in its intensity. "One day at a time, Sammy," he breathed. "You just do it one day at a time."
"It must have been tough," said Sam, his voice subdued. He wanted to snap, 'Of course it was goddamned tough,' but what good would that do? Sam was obviously working up to something, the tension still evident in his body. He took pity on him, deciding that it was only fair that he repay Sam's confidences with some of his own.
"It wasn't easy. I think that's why I joined the SEALs really."
"A death wish?"
It was an honest question and it deserved an honest answer. "Not consciously. I got reckless for a while, but..." He shrugged, finding it difficult to put into words. "I guess an outright death wish isn't in my nature. I got angry a lot, threw myself into my work, tried to hide from the pain, but of course you can't. Mainly though I was adamant that I didn't want anyone else to go through what I went through. So that gave me a purpose."
"And that's why you joined CI5?"
"In part, yes. I know that this sounds corny, Sam, but I really wanted to do some good. I don't know..."
He trailed off but for once Sam saw straight to the crux of the matter. "Make up for living?"
"I guess," he answered thoughtfully. "In part."
There was a tone in Sam's voice that suggested that the conclusion wasn't just an academic one. That maybe, just maybe, Sam was acquainted with that feeling. There was so much about his lover's time with MI6 that he just didn't know about. Now, however, didn't seem to be the time to ask him about it, not when there were so many other things that he wanted, needed to ask. And after all, they'd have a lifetime for the other stuff. He hoped. It was time to give his lover a chance.
"Anything else you want to know?" he asked Sam quietly. There was another brief hesitation on his lover's part and then Sam shook his head. "Sure?" he prompted gently.
There was another pause, and then Sam's tentative question came. "When did you know?"
Know what? he wondered. About Annie? About Sam's unhappiness? He could wonder for weeks and get nowhere. "About?"
"When did you know... how you felt about... well..."
"When did I realise I was in love with you?"
Sam only breathed the word, and Chris squeezed his arm around him again. The question deserved an honest answer. "Seems like forever," he said. "But it probably wasn't, although it was a while before I told you. There was no big flash of lightning, or anything. It kinda crept up on me until I couldn't imagine being with anyone else." He gave another little chuckle. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't quite fall in love with you at first sight." He paused before adding thoughtfully, "I did think you were cute though."
"Puppy dogs are cute, Chris. Children are cute. I am not cute."
He had to chuckle again at the note of almost disgust in his partner's voice. "I thought you were cute, Sam. In a 'I wouldn't mind seeing that man naked' kinda way not a puppy dog way. And I have to say that there is definitely something in a naked Curtis."
"Usually you," muttered Sam.
Once again he wasn't sure if that was a shot or not and this time he wasn't willing to let it slide. "Meaning?" he asked softly.
"Nothing, Chris. It was just a joke."
He pulled himself out from underneath his lover, moving down the bed until his face was level with Sam's. "We need to talk about this too, Sam. Now, if you have a problem..."
"I don't have a problem," his partner insisted, rolling onto his back to stare at the ceiling rather than looking at Chris, but not before the American had seen the brief flash of pain through his lover's eyes. "I just don't see how wanting to switch places every so often can be considered a problem."
"No, but not telling me might be considered a problem."
"What? You mean like telling you I'd much rather do it face to face than on my hands and knees?"
Oh fuck. He must have said that out loud too, because Sam turned his head to give him a slightly irritated look before returning to his contemplation of the ceiling. "I'm sorry, Sam. It wasn't deliberate, believe me," he pleaded. "It's just with everything else that happened..."
He really couldn't blame his partner for being pissed at him. If their positions had been reversed, he would have been steamed too. Sorry didn't even begin to cover it. "Not exactly forgot..." he tried to explain. "Just... got so caught up in other things..." It sounded pathetic, even to his own ears. "I'm sorry," he repeated sincerely. "Next time I do anything that selfish and stupid, you are well within your rights to slap me about the head a few times. I sometimes need it."
Sam just shrugged, still staring at the ceiling.
"Sam? Talk to me, please?"
His partner finally looked at him, his eyes tired. "What about, Chris? About how I make a simple request and you 'forget'?"
That stung. Before he could attempt to defend himself again, Sam spoke up once more. "'Sides it's not that I mind being on the bottom... I just..."
"Don't want to be there all of the time," Chris completed.
"It's not even that," Sam protested. "I don't have a problem with it, but I would have a problem with it if you did."
He must be tired because that went straight over his head. His confusion must have shown clearly on his face because Sam gave a quick glance in his direction and then sighed. "What you said earlier, about me maybe considering being on the bottom the weaker position. I wasn't lying when I said that thought had never occurred to me, but obviously it has occurred to you. And... I don't want you to think of me like that, Chris..."
"Which is why you never told me why you were unhappy?" Chris guessed. "Because you didn't want me to think less of you?"
"Partly," admitted Sam. "But also... I'm never going to be particularly good at talking about how I feel, Chris."
"I don't think less of you, Sam."
"Chris..." Sam sighed again.
"Sam, that wasn't my attitude. I was just... with someone once who thought that and I wasn't sure if maybe you felt the same and that was part of it. Thing was, he wouldn't even consider being on the bottom because of it and you do. But I thought, maybe you just weren't comfortable with it... emotionally I suppose. I mean, it's got to be difficult for you. Until I came along you thought you were straight, and I've pretty much turned your life upside down. And I've never really given you any space to get used to it, have I?"
Sam seemed to give this some thought. "Not really."
Chris finally managed to put voice to the question that had been plaguing him for months. "Why did you?"
"Why did I what?"
"Change your mind? After that first kiss. I mean, it didn't take me long to figure out that you were new at this." He shrugged again. "At first I thought that you may have had some experience that you hadn't told me about, but..."
"But I wasn't exactly skilful."
"No," protested Chris hastily. "You were! I mean..." He trailed off, blushing as Sam raised one eyebrow at him quizzically. "Oh Christ, Sam, you know you're good in bed!"
That forced a chuckle out of his partner. "Well, it's nice to be told it."
Chris gave him some time to gather his thoughts, but eventually had to push. "So why?" he asked again rather tentatively.
"Honestly?" The grey-green eyes burned into his for a second. "I weighed up all the pros and cons, tried to figure out what the effect of giving in would be compared to not giving in, and decided that on balance it would be less of a fuck-up if I just went for it."
"Oh." Well, he hadn't expected a declaration of love, not at that point, had he? It still hurt a little though and he tried to push that away.
"And you were unhappy," completed Sam quietly, still watching him intently.
"You were unhappy." Sam glanced away, appearing a little disconcerted by the way Chris was looking at him. "I don't know why the hell you wanted me but you seemed to and you were unhappy." His voice dropped a little. "And I couldn't bear that, not when I could do something about it."
"Sam?" His voice seemed to be coming from a very long way away. "When did you fall in love with me?"
Sam looked even more uncomfortable. "I finally admitted it to myself about a month or so before I managed to tell you," he murmured.
"Not before?" Still that strange, almost strangled tone in his voice, and it seemed to be worrying Sam, his partner darting him a quick, wide-eyed, concerned look.
"I told you, Chris..." he faltered.
"Yes, but you've also just told me that from the very beginning you were more worried about me being happy than about how it would affect you. Were willing to do whatever it took to make me happy, even if you weren't. I mean," his voice started to rise with frustration. All that time they'd wasted! "What the hell do you think love is?"
"Bloody painful," his lover snapped.
Okay, he deserved that. He chewed his lip thoughtfully, watching Sam's rigid form and knowing that he couldn't let the other man retreat back into himself. He reached out and placed a gentle hand on Sam's waist, trying to get Sam to at least look at him. He was rather surprised when Sam actually rolled over and pillowed his head back on his, Chris' chest. He didn't hesitate though, wrapping his arms around his lover and burying his face into Sam's hair, breathing in the scent of the man, luxuriating in the vast feeling of contentment that filled him at the simple act. For a few minutes he was content to just lie there, snuggling for want of a better word, but it seemed his brain just wouldn't quit. Neither would his goddamned mouth.
"Why couldn't you tell me how you felt?"
"I told you..."
"That you were scared to, I know."
He wasn't sure how to continue past that point but Sam beat him to it. "You stopped saying it."
He could feel Sam's sigh reverberate through his lover's body. "I thought I'd just tell you how I felt when you did, you know? Just say it back, but you stopped saying it. And I wondered if that was because you'd stopped feeling it."
"No, I didn't. I just didn't think you wanted to hear it," Chris answered honestly.
Sam's head jerked up off his chest, and his partner stared at him, a frown creasing his forehead. "What do you mean?" he asked slowly.
This time Chris was disconcerted. "Well," he replied, flustered, "you didn't seem to want to know. You'd get that look in your eye, the one that says 'don't push it, Keel', so I'd back off."
Sam's frown deepened. "I never said I didn't want to hear it, Chris."
"You never said, no."
"But you got that impression?"
Chris avoided his eyes, shrugging again, tongue-tied. "Yeah, well..."
"Yeah, well, nothing, Chris," Sam snapped. "It wasn't that I didn't want to hear it, it was..." He hesitated. "It was just that every time you said it, all I could think was how much it must hurt not to hear it back. And I didn't want to hurt you, Chris. But I wasn't going to lie to you either. Not about something that important."
"So when you did know..."
"You'd stopped saying it, and I couldn't say it into a void. So I tried to show you instead."
A look close to embarrassment flitted across his partner's face. "I've never let anyone else do that before, Chris, and I never will."
"Oh." He processed the thought. "In Tennessee?"
No wonder his partner had been upset in that hotel room when Chris turned him down at first. Not able to work up the courage to say the words, he'd made that offer instead and Chris, idiot that he was he cursed himself, had rejected him. Okay, maybe that was being a bit hard on himself, because his main concern had been that Sam would regret it, but he could see how they'd got their wires crossed.
Thinking about it he could also see another reason why Sam would be so upset about the way their roles had been recently. If he was confusing that kind of giving with a declaration of love, and Chris hadn't been reciprocating, then he was bound to feel hurt and insecure. And that was probably why he hadn't said anything earlier as well - fear of another rejection.
Sam was looking at him, his expression concerned and, unless Chris was mistaken, a little anxious. "Just thinking," he reassured him. "And Sam?"
He kept his voice very gentle. "I don't need to hear it back. It's wonderful to, but sometimes it's just that I need to say it, okay?"
"Okay." His partner rested his folded hands on Chris chest and placed his chin on them, continuing to watch him closely. He seemed to be considering something carefully. Chris tried to look encouraging without trying to force his partner's hand, a difficult thing to do at the best of times never mind when you were flat on your back staring into beautiful green eyes...
He wasn't going to go there either. Like Sam said, sex wasn't going to fix this.
Sam had obviously finished mulling over what had been bothering him because he reached out with one hand and stroked it lightly down the side of Chris' face, making the American's eyes widen. Whatever Sam had been thinking about, it had obviously resulted in him deciding to let his guard down briefly. There was a softness in his gaze that Chris hadn't seen before.
No he had, he finally remembered. That day in Sam's flat on Sam's couch, when his partner had finally told him how he felt and then Sam had kissed him, touched him so gently. Once again a chill ran through him when he realised what he could have thrown away.
Sam's finger caressed his lip briefly before he let it fall to Chris' chest again. "I like looking at you," he breathed softly.
Chris swallowed heavily. "You can look at me all you want," he answered, his voice husky with emotion. And indeed Sam could as far as he was concerned. It did things to his insides that had nothing to do with arousal.
Sam smiled gently and shook his head. "I like watching you during sex," he elaborated. "That's why I want..."
"Oh," Chris sighed, his heart still doing that backflip.
"I like watching your face, and knowing that the pleasure that's there is because of me. No one else. Me."
"Possessiveness?" Chris asked quietly.
Sam frowned slightly. "No, not like that..."
"Because I wondered..." Chris hesitated and then bit the bullet. "I wondered if maybe that was part of the problem too?"
"You've never really come across as possessive, Chris," Sam stated quietly.
"Maybe possessiveness isn't the right word." Sam gave him a searching look and he struggled to explain, still wrestling with the idea himself. "I wonder... if that's why I wanted to be on top, subconsciously I mean. Because, as long as you let me then you were mine. And so I wouldn't have to worry about losing you either."
"Were you worried?"
"Yeah," Chris answered honestly. "For a little while, I think I was. I didn't know if you'd regret taking me back, but everything seemed fine so I pushed it to one side."
"Consciously," interjected Sam softly.
"Yeah, but... maybe I wasn't as confident about it as I kidded myself I was. I know that once I realised that you were unhappy, all of those fears came straight back, almost like..."
"Almost like they'd never gone away?"
He grimaced. "Maybe."
Sam watched him for a moment, his grey-green eyes unreadable, and then leant down and kissed him very, very gently before pulling back to gaze at him again.
"I'm not leaving you either, Chris." His voice shook very slightly. "I've been without you and twenty four hours was enough."
He searched Sam's face for a moment and then pulled him back down, almost fiercely, winding his fingers in his lover's sheaf of dark hair and pressing his lips desperately against Sam's.
"Oh Christ, Sam," he gasped when he finally pulled back for breath, still holding the Englishman hard against him. "I love you so goddamned much. I'm not going to lose you. I won't."
Sam said nothing, holding him back as tightly, his face buried in Chris' neck. He seemed content to stay there, safe in the circle of Chris' arms, just as Chris was safe in his.
When Chris woke, his arms were still wrapped around his lover, although Sam's head wasn't resting on his chest. Instead, he was spooned around Sam, his face pressed into the back of Sam's neck and his knees tucked behind Sam's. It didn't take him long to realise what had woken him up, the heavy pelting rain against the window pane setting up a staccato rhythm that he thought rather facetiously would have woken the dead.
However, Sam's steady breathing told him that his lover was still fast asleep, and that was hardly surprising, even given the foul weather. They'd talked late into the night, about everything and nothing, finally opening their hearts to one another and he'd watched as the tension seemed to drain away from his partner, lightening his own heart in the process. Finally, Sam had drifted off to sleep, exhausted, after admitting that he hadn't been sleeping very well recently; once again a side effect of his unhappiness although he didn't say so in so many words. Chris had watched him for a while, just for the sake of looking at him, and then crawled out of bed to change into his sweatpants and t-shirt, deciding that while Sam would be perfectly comfortable in the loose clothes he'd been wearing around the house, a night in tight jeans did not make for a comfortable morning after.
And then, much happier, he'd crawled back into bed to curl up with the man who seemed to have become the focus of his life.
He was awake now though, and much as he would like to spend the day in bed, curled up with Sam, his own personal 'cuddle bunny' he reminded himself with an inner chuckle, both his bladder and his stomach were complaining. He hadn't had anything to eat since their abortive fight yesterday lunchtime and he doubted that Sam would have taken time out to dine. In fact, although he hadn't asked the question, he doubted that Sam had even moved from the couch in the time between when he'd stormed out full of righteous fury and had finally crawled back with his tail between his legs.
He needed the john and then he needed food, in that order, and he had the beginnings of an idea too.
He was humming happily to himself in the kitchen when he realised that he was being observed. Sam was standing in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb and watching him closely, his face still having a slightly shuttered look to it but to Chris' surprise he found that now he knew what was behind that mask he didn't mind quite so much. It was there when Sam felt anxious or nervous or needed to feel in control and it was inevitable that after last night he'd feel a little raw and awkward. Chris did himself, staring at Sam for a moment and wondering what to say to break this silence.
He settled on, "You're up!" which was a remarkable observation since it was obvious that Sam was up. Thankfully his partner didn't comment, just continuing to watch him, and now that Chris knew a little better how to read him, and see past his own insecurities, he could see a trace of anxiety in Sam's eyes. "I was going to bring you breakfast in bed," he hastened to add, waving the spatula in his hand in the direction of the stove.
Sam smiled almost shyly. "There's no need for that," he said quietly.
"I wanted to." Chris' tone was soft and sincere and Sam glanced away, seeming a little embarrassed, or maybe just touched by the affection in his lover's voice. "Besides," Chris added. "It's not like it's anything too special - you know what my cooking is like. Bacon..." He lifted the lid off one of the pots on the stove to peer into the contents. "Scrambled eggs and toast. Sound good?" He gave Sam a hopeful grin and it was returned with another hesitant smile.
"Good. Want it here or do you want to go back to bed and have me bring it to you?"
That earned him a quiet chuckle. "Here's fine. Do you want me to do anything?"
"Sure," he said brightly. "You wanna grab the orange juice out of the fridge? It's almost ready."
Sam complied with his request, also grabbing some glasses and cutlery while he dished up their breakfast and fetched the coffee pot, and then they settled down in silence at the kitchen table. Chris was aware that Sam was still watching him out of the corner of his eye, obviously a little uncomfortable and he supposed that he should have expected that really. He said nothing but when he reached for the coffee he let his fingertips trail lightly over the back of Sam's hand. Sam turned his hand over and briefly caught his fingers, squeezing them gently before releasing them, which went some way to reassuring Chris that his partner wasn't having any regrets about letting Chris see some of what lay behind his shields. Well, not many anyway.
"Weather's foul," he commented rather inanely, to break the silence that had fallen between them.
"Yes," answered Sam softly. "Woke me up."
"Hmm. Have to say this is more like the English weather I was expecting when I first moved here."
Sam chuckled again. "Glad to know you aren't disappointed," he said lightly. "If you like we can make up a flask and go and sit in the car by the beach, just so you get the full effect of a British seaside holiday."
Chris raised one eyebrow at him disbelievingly. "In this weather? You Brits are crazy."
"Well, Chris, this is what you get when you holiday by the seaside in November." Sam glanced out of the window at the heavy streams coursing down outside. "It might brighten up in a couple of days. It's too heavy to last very long."
"Can I have that in writing?"
"I'm not that stupid, Keel."
Chris put his fork down by the side of his plate, placing his chin in his hand, his elbow resting on the table top and stared at Sam thoughtfully.
"So if we can't go anywhere, what do you want to do today?"
"Is this where you suggest going back to bed?"
Sam's joke fell a little flat, mainly because his own smile seemed strained and he glanced away from Chris as he said it. Another thing for Chris to mull over, and the American finally came to the conclusion that Sam's embarrassment stemmed from their fight yesterday rather than anything since. After all, Sam had admitted that sex itself wasn't a problem, it was the stuff around it, but he must still be a little ill at ease at having to reveal his discomfort. Still watching him closely, Chris answered lightly, "And waste this perfect day?"
A half-grin from Sam, and then his partner said seriously, "I have no idea. I would suggest staying in unless you really want to try and find somewhere that's open at this time of the year. Suppose we could see if we can find a pub later that's open, have some lunch maybe? Other than that, read, watch TV, play cards..."
"With you? I know how you cheat. I'd end up broke. Or naked. Or broke and naked."
"Amazing, isn't it," sighed Sam melodramatically, obviously deciding to play along. "I suggest cards and you immediately think strip poker."
Sam didn't answer, just snorted with amusement again, his mind obviously back on thinking of things to do and in a way it was a relief to see him entering into the spirit of things. "Jeff is a bit of a film buff. Got a reasonable collection of black and white classics. They're probably here actually, since he's always complaining that this is the only place he can relax. So if reading is too intellectually taxing, and even you need more mental stimulation than that provided by day time television..."
"... We could always dig some of those out. The Blue Dahlia, Hitchcock, film noir..."
Chris perked up. "Bogart and Bacall?"
"Probably," his lover answered. "Like those do you?"
"What's not to like? The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not..."
"Lauren Bacall wasn't in The Maltese Falcon..."
"I know that! But it sounds ideal. A day in the warm, watching real movies..."
"I thought by your definition of a real movie there had to be lots of running in front of explosions," interjected Sam dryly, his attention fixed on buttering some more toast.
Okay, he'd asked for it. "Curled up with my cuddle bunny..."
Sam gave him a long, flat look. Chris grinned unrepentantly, wondering if he dared risk asking him if he could whistle. Discretion won out. "Sounds like it could be lots of fun," he completed.
Sam grunted but didn't comment further, munching thoughtfully on the remnants of his breakfast while Chris busied himself with finishing his second cup of coffee and watching him. It seemed to make his lover a little nervous, Sam glancing briefly in his direction with one eyebrow raised but saying nothing. To put him at his ease, Chris smiled, and put his empty coffee cup down almost regretfully.
"With the action packed day we have planned I think I'd better go and have a shower." Sam smiled back at him, and he was sorely tempted to ask the Englishman to come and wash his back but, in spite of his best efforts, Sam's reluctance to make love yesterday still rankled a little and made him a little chary of making a move. And so, a little hesitantly, he limited himself to leaning over and kissing Sam gently on the lips and letting his hand trail lightly over his lover's shoulder as he walked past him towards the bathroom.
Sam watched him go, the expression on his face serious.
The warm water streamed over his head, washing away both the sweat and dirt from the day and the tension of the night before. He turned his face into the spray, letting it invigorate him, thinking of nothing. He was so involved in the pure physical sensations that he almost missed the sound of the shower door opening, and even then the warm arms that wrapped themselves around his waist came as a little bit of a surprise.
He leant back into Sam, the man's sheer physical presence as much a source of pleasure as the feeling of the hands ghosting over his skin, balm for his soul.
Sam turned him around and he looked straight into his lover's serious silver green eyes, alight with a hint of arousal and, more importantly, love. It was a look he'd seen in Sam's eyes more than once and if he'd been smarter he would have realised that before now. Now was not the time for self-recrimination, however. He'd been doing more than his fair share of that recently. Instead of dwelling on the past he fully intended to focus on the future and right now the future was looking very rosy indeed.
He leant in and kissed his lover fiercely, enjoying the flavour of Sam's mouth, even when masked by the minty taste of toothpaste. Sam's tongue invaded his mouth, exploring and conquering in a way he loved, in a way that sent a shaft of heat straight to his groin. He melted into his lover's embrace; let Sam pull him closer, the Englishman's hands moving possessively up and down his back, digging firmly into his flesh. He was already erect and let Sam know that, grinding his groin into his partner's hip while Sam continued to devour his mouth.
Finally Sam pulled back with a small, satisfied sound, those remarkable eyes searching his face. And then Sam lowered his head to nip and suck at Chris' neck and throat, the American letting his head roll back on his neck to permit his lover access, the bucking of his hips at each touch and the low moans escaping him ample indication of his enjoyment.
Sam didn't stop there, moving lower and lower to lick and mouth at the skin of Chris' chest before taking each pebbled nipple into his mouth, one after another, to suck gently on them. Too gently. He wanted more, wanted Sam to mark him, own him, leave him in no doubt who he belonged with, belonged to. He growled low in his throat, pushing hard against his lover's mouth and Sam took the hint, his gentle lapping turning to the sharp nip of teeth. It sent a surge of sheer sensation through the American, Chris' knees almost buckling under the onslaught. By the time that Sam's swirling tongue finally reached his groin, he was almost ready to beg for what he knew was coming rather than have to wait a second longer.
Seeming to sense his urgency, Sam didn't tease or torment him, falling gracefully to his knees in front of his lover and leaning in to take Chris into his mouth. Chris almost cried out from the sheer joy of it, his knees buckling again at the feel of Sam's hot, wet mouth surrounding him like a furnace. He looked down, and the sight of Sam on his knees in front of him, the water turning the silk of his hair so dark as to be almost black and Chris' length sliding in and out between his lover's lips was almost enough to send him careening over the edge. Only the grip that Sam's hand had around the base of his erection staved off his imminent orgasm. When he was satisfied that Chris wasn't going to come there and then, Sam's hand released him and slipped between the American's legs to stroke gentle fingers over the entrance to his body.
Chris let out a low groan which reverberated throughout his body, turning to a whimper as the very tip of Sam's finger slipped inside. Oh god, yes, he'd missed this.
Sam released him, and looked up the length of his quivering body, a question in his eyes. Chris nodded almost frantically, drowning in the sensation of Sam's finger still pressing against him intimately. His lover's lips curled up in a slight smile and then Sam was rising to his feet, still with that innate grace, and capturing Chris' lips with his own.
Once again Chris let his lover plunder his mouth, the thrusting of Sam's tongue in and out soon to be echoed, he hoped, with a more basic kind of claiming. When Sam pulled back, once again staring deep into his eyes, Chris didn't hesitate, turning away from Sam to brace his hands against the wall of the shower unit in a blatant invitation.
The blast of cold air as the door to the unit opened and closed almost chilled his heart as well as his body until he realised what Sam must have left for. And indeed his lover was soon back, clutching a small tube and foil packet and looking almost sheepish for not bringing along such essentials for a seduction scene. Chris didn't care. Chris didn't care about anything at that point but the burning need to have Sam in him, buried deep within him and making him whole.
The lean, hard length of Sam's body was pressed tightly against his back and he let out another low moan as searching fingers, this time slick with lubricant, found the opening to his body and pressed there gently, slipping in easily despite the length of time since they'd made love like this. Sam took his time preparing him, obviously anxious to minimise any discomfort and he loved him for that, for caring that much despite the heat singing between them. One gentle finger became two, a scissoring motion opening him up while Sam occasionally thrust his fingers in to brush against Chris' prostate, a forewarning of the ecstasy to come.
He was driven to the point of begging again, begging Sam for completion, the words spilling unheeded from his mouth, a litany of need. And at last his pleas were answered, something much larger and hotter than fingers pressing against him, filling him, the slow burn of Sam's entry turning to intense pleasure as Sam pressed hard against his prostate, making him see stars.
He swore and pushed back, rewarded when the move resulted in Sam slipping deeper into him and another wash of pleasure coursing through him. Sam rocked against him, each motion pushing him in deeper and deeper until at last he could feel Sam's groin pressed flush against his ass. And then his partner caught hold of his hips, holding him steady while he pulled out and then thrust hard back in again.
Chris' knees almost gave way again as fireworks shot through his body. Dimly he heard cursing and realised it had to be him. Sam's hand snaked around to the front of his body and grasped him firmly, pumping him in time with the pounding rhythm he was setting in the rear. Chris gave control over to him, happy to merely drown in sensation, letting the pleasure in their coupling swallow him whole. The precipice beckoned, and he leapt wholeheartedly, a hoarse cry dragged from his throat as his hips bucked and he spilled his hot seed into Sam's hand, to be washed away by the warm water.
His lover held him upright when this time his knees did fail him, turning to jelly, one of Sam's arms wrapped around his waist while the other braced Sam against the wall as the Englishman continued to pound into him. Sam was close. He could feel it in the tension of his lover's body, still pressed against his back, in the harsh panting in his ear as Sam thrust in and out and in the steely grip Sam had on him. And then it came, Sam's climax, the Englishman tensing hard against him and then jerking as he spent himself deep within Chris' body.
Sam's legs finally gave out and the pair of them slid gracelessly down to the floor, both of them breathing heavily. Sam pulled off the condom, tying off the end and dumping it on the floor beside them while he continued to pant.
"Okay?" he asked breathlessly.
"Oh fuck, yes."
The sheer bliss in Chris' voice had his partner chuckling softly, and then Sam was watching him, his eyes warm. Chris had a goofy smile on his face, he just knew he did and he didn't care. Sam didn't seem to care either, because even if his grin was goofy Sam was returning it with that almost shy one of his own.
"Love you," he managed to gasp out and once again he was rewarded; Sam's smile deepening happily, even though the Englishman didn't say anything.
Sam still had that little smile on his face an hour later when the pair of them finally got around to curling up on the couch. He knew it and didn't care, not anymore. Instead, he was filled with a sense of deep contentment. Chris loved him. Chris wasn't going to leave him and even now Chris was curled up beside him, his arm draped casually but possessively over Sam's chest while his head rested on Sam's shoulder.
Now this was a holiday.
Chris seemed to be of the same mind, if the satisfied sound that rumbled through the American's body was anything to go by. It sounded remarkably like a purr, and he had to stifle a grin as Chris rubbed up against him in a move that was distinctly catlike.
Oh, he wasn't an idiot. He knew that there was a long way to go yet before the pair of them felt entirely at ease with one another, but at least now he knew that they were going to have time to do that. So they'd just take that time. What was it Chris had said last night? One day at a time? It seemed as good a credo for living as any that he'd heard, even if Chris had meant it in a different context.
So instead of worrying about it, as he'd spent the past couple of months doing, he concentrated on nothing more strenuous than cuddling on the couch with Chris and watching old movies. It had been ages since he'd done something so... decadent he supposed. Or self-indulgent. His little spare time was usually spent working out or, before Chris, trying to maintain a laughably sparse social life. But this? This he could get used to.
There was another one of those happy sounds originating somewhere from near his shoulder and this time he did grin.
"Hmm-hmm," came an affirmative noise, Chris rising up on one hand to smirk at him, dimples well and truly in evidence. "Very comfortable. Like this."
He risked a tease. "So I gathered, if the purring was anything to go by."
"Purring? What do you mean by purring?" Chris's expression was put out but the mirth in his eyes gave him away.
"That wasn't you purring?" he enquired, the picture of innocence.
"Must have been someone else curled up on me then..."
That earned him a dig in the ribs and he squirmed slightly, laughing, before Chris pulled back and leant over him, still resting his head on the palm on his hand, staring down at him with a smile on his face. "I like this," he repeated softly, affection clear on his face. It made Sam squirm a little again, not because it didn't make him feel good - it did - but because he still wasn't quite used to it. Wanted it, but wasn't quite sure how to handle it when he got it, he supposed.
He settled on smiling back, and it was obviously the right thing to do; Chris' smile deepening into a beaming grin, throwing the contours of his face into glorious relief. Oh god, he was beautiful when he did that, and Sam had long since ceased trying to fight the wave of mingled lust and pleasure that went through him at the sight. And love, he admitted.
Chris spoke again. "Snuggling," he elaborated, in case Sam was in any doubt about what exactly he liked.
"Snuggling?" Sam crooked an eyebrow at him inquisitively. "Is that what this is?"
"Yup. Definitely snuggling. And before you start, I know that is not a purely American term."
Sam tried his best to look innocent, but he was sure that the smirk he couldn't quite hide was giving him away. "Strange. I always wondered what the difference between cuddling and snuggling was..."
"I bet it kept you awake nights, didn't it, Curtis?"
"Oh yes. You know how I worry about the semantics of these things."
"Uh huh." Chris was still smiling down at him, apparently enjoying their banter as much as he was. "So..." the American asked, his eyes sparkling. "Would a demonstration be called for?"
He pretended to give it some thought. "The difference between cuddling and snuggling?"
"Hmm. Possibly. And I think you'd better throw hugging in there just to make things crystal clear."
"Just to be on the safe side, huh?"
"Of course. We're CI5 agents. We need to be very clear on these things."
That earned him another dig in the ribs, and he subsided with a splutter.
"Okay," Chris said, with a smirk of his own. "This is hugging..."
He wrapped his arms around Sam and gave him a strong, but chaste squeeze, nimbly avoiding Sam's arms when Sam tried to pull him closer.
"This," he said, leaning in again for a more languorous embrace, "is cuddling. And this..." He tightened his grip a little and buried his face into Sam's neck, rubbing it gently against Sam's skin. "Is snuggling..." His voice was a little muffled but there was no mistaking either the laughter or affection in it.
Sam let himself enjoy it for a while, and then asked, still aiming for innocent, "I always thought there was more kissing involved in snuggling."
Chris' slightly flushed face popped back up again, the grin still very much in place. "You did?"
"Oh, yes. I definitely thought there was... Humph..."
His words were cut off when Chris' lips settled firmly on his. His partner was still smirking - he could feel it in the way those firm and mobile lips were curled up against his. Bastard. Wonderful bastard. His wonderful bastard.
Chris pulled back, his face even more flushed now and his hair standing up in small spikes. "That kind of kissing?" he murmured.
"Hmm," Sam murmured back, reaching for the American again.
He wrapped his arms around his lover, stroking them gently up and down Chris' back while they kissed. Their lovemaking earlier, when Sam had finally taken his courage in both hands and made the first move, had taken any urgency from it now, meaning Sam was able to simply enjoy the touching without any pressing need to take it further, and Chris seemed to be of the same opinion, for once not rushing things. Instead they traded hot and sweet caresses, alternating between slow, open-mouthed kisses and the brushing of lips across cheeks, brows and eyelids.
When they finally parted it was with a small, satisfied sigh on Sam's part and another smug grin from Chris. "So, do you feel snuggled yet?" asked the American rather cheekily. Sam responded by swatting him on the buttocks, earning himself another chuckle. "Would that be a yes or a no?"
He just snorted, watching Chris as his partner raised himself back up onto one elbow and stared down at him again, a smile still dancing around the corners of his mouth. He watched it deepen, the dimples becoming evident, and just knew that Chris was working up to something.
Chris let out a yelp as he landed on his backside on the floor, straddled by a very determined CI5 agent. Sam tried to look pissed off, he really did but a grin slipped through in spite of his efforts, mainly because Chris was lying beneath him looking flushed and still chuckling.
"Watch it... Tigger."
The word slipped out before he was consciously aware of it and certainly before he managed to stop it.
Oops. Note to self, he thought as the world abruptly spun on its axis. Even when teasing, do not take your eyes off this man. He's fast. He knew that, although he'd never actually been on the receiving end of Chris' speed and agility before. He struggled half-heartedly to escape, but Chris had him securely pinned down.
"Tigger?" Chris asked again, grinning. He turned his face away, knowing that it was burning and the knowledge only added to the embarrassment he was suffering. "Where did Tigger come from?"
"Never mind," he muttered, once again twisting to try and throw Chris off. Chris wasn't having any of it.
"Hey!" his lover teased him, his voice gentle. Sam avoided his eyes, his face still hot. "Come on. Spill."
He wasn't going to be allowed to get away with it gracefully, not when Chris was like a dog after a bone. "You bounce," he muttered, still avoiding Chris' eyes, not wanting to see the... what? Glee in them at this sign of complete soppiness? Mockery?
"I do not bounce!" Chris protested. That put Sam on the defensive.
"You do sometimes," he insisted, looking at Chris for the first time since this ridiculous conversation had started. "Besides. Could be worse. Could be Cuddle Bunny!"
Chris gave what only could be described as a whoop of sheer glee and launched an all out assault. Sam squirmed underneath him as long and firm fingers found his most vulnerable spots, sliding up under his shirt to touch bare skin. He bucked and thrashed to no effect, not managing to dislocate his lover. And the laughing wasn't helping either. So undignified. Thirty years old, a cool, calm and collected professional law enforcement agent - who was ticklish. If this ever got out, he would never live it down.
Chris finally took pity on him, grinning down at him like a loon, his laughter obviously being infectious. And then he placed both hands firmly on the ground, one on each side of Sam's head, and leant down to kiss him again, pulling back to comment, "I love it when you giggle. I haven't heard that before."
"I do not giggle."
"You were giggling."
"I was not."
"A giggling cuddle bunny..."
The low warning growl worked as intended, Chris laughing and finally rolling off him, although the look he gave Sam held an underlying hint of wickedness. "I like it," he said, still smiling.
"Giggling?" The word was torn out of him reluctantly and the disgusted tone in his voice drew another chuckle from his infuriating lover.
"Well, that too," Chris replied in his soft American twang. "But actually I meant Tigger."
There was amusement in his face, but Sam was tuned enough into Chris now to realise that it wasn't aimed at him, not exactly. "No jokes about Eeyore, all right?"
Chris laughed again. "I wouldn't dream of it. Besides, if anyone was Eeyore it would be Spence. Or maybe Malone."
"No, Eeyore's too self effacing to be Malone."
"May be right there. Not you anyway." Chris didn't elaborate on that statement, just watching him with warm eyes. He reached out with one finger and traced it down Sam's face before leaning in to kiss him. "I love you..."
Please, not cuddle bunny.
Sammy, he thought as he pulled Chris' head down for another kiss, he could live with. He just wished he had the courage to say it back.
What a day. What an absolutely perfect day, doing nothing but snuggling on the couch with his honey, although if Sam had any idea that he'd even thought of him in that context he would be one dead ex-Navy SEAL. Although... Tigger. He had to chuckle at that. Who would have thought that his lover had a secret pet name for him, and Sam had shot back with that far too fast to have come up with it on the spot. Had to have thought of it before, had to. Once again, his partner's complexities had caught him on the hop. Peel back one layer and find another. His own personal Russian doll, and he was having immense fun playing with him, idiosyncrasies and all.
Hell, he loved the man, emotional baggage notwithstanding. And he had his own baggage, didn't he?
Sam had disappeared off to the bathroom, and he was left here on the couch in the dim lamplight, curled up as he had been all day, watching some old and irrelevant black and white movie and waiting for his lover to return. Hell, counting the minutes until his lover returned would be more accurate. Sam was addictive, especially when tousled and relaxed as he had been today, and he was definitely becoming a Sam-a-holic. Had been for a while.
There was a prickling in the back of his neck that told him that he was being observed, something that had kicked in on numerous missions and saved his ass more than once. Glancing up, he spotted Sam leaning casually against the doorframe, watching him closely, his remarkable eyes unreadable.
"Hey," he said softly.
"Hey," Sam replied. His lover started to play with the buttons on his shirt, twiddling them between his fingertips while he continued to watch Chris closely. Once again, he seemed to be considering something very carefully and there was a hint of trepidation in his gaze. "I'm not sore anymore," he said, his eyes darkening and his fingers moving to the top button on his shirt, unfastening it.
Chris' heart gave a sudden lurch, mainly, he thought dazedly, because all of his blood had rushed somewhere else.
Sam's lips curled upwards in a seductive smile while he continued to watch him.
It was a close call as to which of them made it to the bedroom first.
He made sure that it was slow and careful, watching Sam's face closely the entire time for any hint of discomfort. He could do that because he also made sure they made love face to face. They'd missed out before with Chris' - not insistence, perhaps conservatism might be a better word - by making love on their hands and knees. No kissing that way and finally watching Sam's face was a joy. He hadn't noticed before how his lover's eyes changed colour when he hit that spot, or did something that just drove Sam out of his mind. Hadn't had the opportunity to see how Sam bit his lip to try and hold back the cries their lovemaking drove out of him anyway. Hadn't seen the love and desire shining clearly on Sam's face and in his eyes or felt Sam's hands on him, running over his back and down to his butt to pull him in deeper. And hadn't been able to watch as Sam came.
Afterwards, he lay entangled with Sam, his head resting on Sam's chest and listening to the soothing beat of his lover's heart. "Happy?" he asked softly.
"Well, that was nice."
Sam chuckled softly. "Just nice?"
"Great? Fantastic? Wonderful?" And it had been all of those and more. He twisted his head up so that he could smile at Sam, before letting it fall back onto Sam's chest. "You okay?"
Sam wriggled slightly. "A little. Nothing worth writing home about."
Honesty. Wow, they were making progress. And strangely enough, there was no guilt on his part either. There was no doubt now in his mind that Sam had initiated this and that his lover had enjoyed every second of it. "But you won't be, will you? Writing home about it, I mean."
Sam snorted. "I can just see my Dad's face at that."
He hesitated and then spat it out anyway. Honesty. "I'm sorry about your Dad."
Sam shrugged, he could feel it in the shifting muscles underneath him. "I'm not."
"You're not?" That was a surprise.
"I mean - if it came down to a choice, I'd tell him all over again."
"None. Not about that. He'll come round, or he won't and I wouldn't give this up," a squeeze to demonstrate what, "for anything."
Chris held his tongue, deciding that what he really wanted to say - good - wouldn't go down very well. Instead he let his fingers trail along Sam's side, saying rather aimlessly, "It's stopped raining."
"Hmm. Might only be temporary, but you never know. Maybe we can get out tomorrow. See the sea and stuff. Be real tourists."
He couldn't suppress a chuckle at that. "Maybe." He was finally beginning to trust that, where Sam was concerned, tomorrow would take care of itself. It was strange that he was the one who leapt in without worrying about the consequences during their working lives and yet he was also the one who seemed to be the centre of calm in their maelstrom of a personal life, soothing the ruffled waves the way Sam did so often at work. The dichotomy made him think, once again, of Sam and his reluctance to rock the boat at home and yet still managing to get in his face when he felt Chris needed it at work. It niggled, nagging at him like an aching tooth and he couldn't leave it alone.
He asked Sam about it, a little hesitantly but still needing a reason, deciding that the worst that could happen would be Sam refusing to answer or fudging the question. Somehow, so deep inside he couldn't vocalise it, he knew that the question wasn't going to be enough to drive Sam back into his shell.
Sam went very quiet for a long moment, so long he was tempted to take back the question, assure his lover that he didn't need an answer. He held back though, a combination of prurient curiosity and genuine concern forcing him to keep silent. Finally, Sam opened up enough to say, his voice so low and soft Chris had to strain to hear it, "The worst thing that could happen if I got in your face, at work or out of it, is that you could leave me." His arm tightened around Chris briefly, as though the very thought was painful. "Out of work, the worst thing that could happen if I didn't push was that I would lose any self-respect for myself." He gave a reluctant little chuckle, but Chris could tell there was no real humour in it.
"And in work?" he prompted gently.
"The worst thing that could happen there is you could die, Chris. Or I could."
There wasn't a hell of a lot he could say to that, and so he settled for non-verbal agreement, once again 'snuggling' up to his lover and letting his actions speak louder than words ever could.
Sam was right about the weather. It was only temporary. It rained steadily on and off for a couple of days, heavy and miserable, making the days so dark that dawn, daylight and dusk were barely distinguishable from each other. And as much as he loved 'snuggling' in front of the television with Sam as they worked through the classic and not so classic films in Jeff's collection it got to the point where Chris was virtually bouncing off the walls. He decided that the only reason Sam wasn't making Tigger jokes was because the Englishman was wary of a retaliatory 'cuddle bunny' attack.
He almost suggested that they visit the nearby village and sample the warm and watery liquid that passed for beer in this country, he was so desperate to get out of the house, even though he knew that Sam would never let him live it down. Not even the bottles of Bud that Sam had managed to procure on his provisions run made up for the sheer inactivity.
Well, there wasn't much to complain about in terms of inactivity on the bedroom front, he had to admit, and that was probably the only reason he hadn't gone stark, staring mad from cabin fever. And now that they were taking turns, although they weren't as scrupulous about it as they were at work, it meant that Sam didn't get sore or cranky, and neither did he. In fact, some mornings they made love without either of them being on the bottom, and Chris had almost forgotten that a slow slide of bodies against each other, or a mouth or hand could still feel fucking fantastic. Without the fucking.
In short, the only storm clouds on his horizon were literal ones.
But finally, just after lunch one day as he sprawled on the floor next to the couch, his head resting on Sam's leg as he stared at the TV, bottle of beer forgotten, he heard it.
He tilted his head and listened again.
"Sam," he ventured. "I think it's finally stopped raining."
Sam finally pulled his head out of his book. "I think you might be right."
He bounced to his feet, catching the amused look on his lover's face and just knowing that the word 'Tigger' flashed through his lover's mind. He scowled but let it slide, too excited by the possibilities that a rainless day held. "So, let's go for a walk."
Sam sighed dramatically, but didn't comment, placing his book down on the couch and pulling himself to his feet. "You do realise," he commented as he headed towards the bedroom to put his shoes on, "that it will probably start raining again any second."
"You're an eternal optimist, do you know that, Curtis?"
"I think that's called experience."
Sam didn't grumble much, however, and what little there was seemed to be mostly for show. He didn't begrudge Sam that, enjoying the feel of the cold and still damp air against his face too much.
"Where to?" he asked Sam, not really expecting an answer. Personally, he didn't care which way they went as long as they went somewhere.
"I think the beach is only about half a mile away. Want to go and look at the sea?"
Sam shrugged and smiled, starting to shove his hands into his jacket pocket. Chris gave him a thoughtful look that Sam returned quizzically, and then reached out and caught one of Sam's hands with his.
Sam flushed slightly, but didn't object as Chris watched his reaction, his own face serious. Sam looked away, but his hand remained in Chris', warm and comfortable.
It was such a simple thing and yet it made Chris feel so content it was almost ridiculous.
They walked in silence for a while, each lost in their own thoughts, following the simple track in the direction of the coast. It may not have been the most direct route for all Chris knew, but he didn't care. It was nice to be out in the open and walking for the sake of walking rather than because they were in a hurry to get anywhere.
The path led them partway down the dirt track leading to the cottage, the one they'd driven down when they arrived, then veered off over some rough grassland before twisting through cultivated fields. They ambled along the footpath for a while, still with their fingers entwined, until he could smell salt and ozone, the harsh and pungent smell of washed up seaweed and knew they were close. It didn't matter, seeing the sea. What mattered, all that mattered in the world was right here, walking alongside him.
Sam finally released his hand to clamber over a stile and he followed suit before moving to shove his by now cold hand into his pocket. He doubted somehow that Sam would want to continue to do something as soppy as holding hands for long, even when there was no one around to observe them. Sam surprised him, however, reaching out for his hand again, not even looking at him. Instead his sharp eyes were searching the horizon and following the path of a seagull as it drifted lazily above them in the chill afternoon air.
There was something so perfect about that moment, Sam reaching out for him without thinking about it and more importantly without it even seeming to occur to him that Chris wouldn't be right there, waiting for him.
Sam turned and smiled at him, one of those full blooded and full bodied smiles that got his heart pounding with sheer love and lust combined. A smile that was for no one but him.
"So. Want to see the sea?" he asked softly, a hint of his cockney accent slipping through as it always did when he was totally relaxed.
Chris smiled back and nodded, saying nothing because words couldn't enhance this moment. He was wrong.
As he started to move forwards again, Sam held back, a slight pressure on his hand stopping him in his tracks. It was his turn to look at Sam quizzically as Sam tilted his head to one side and gave him the same kind of intense scrutiny he'd been giving the seagull. The look in his eyes, silver in the low afternoon light, turned Chris' knees to jelly.
"I love you," Sam said.
His face hurt, he was smiling so much, and after a moment Sam returned the smile. For once there were no shadows in those eyes. "C'mon," the Englishman said. "Let's go and be touristy. Tomorrow I'll bring a flask of weak tea and we can do this properly."
Which sounded like absolute bliss to Chris.