Title: Trust
Series: Yes - the sixth in the Conversations series, sequel to 'Parameters'
Genre: New Professionals
Author: Alyse
Archive: CI5 Operational Control
(http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~alys4/newprof), Britslash and Rareslash
Category: Curtis/Keel.
Rating: NC17

Spoilers/Warnings: No spoilers. Angst ahead (surprise, surprise :))

Summary: A mission in Georgia goes awry, and it brings Sam and Chris closer

Feedback: Yes please, to alys4@easynet.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 Clare. 


Trust



By Alyse


It was damn hot in Georgia, unseasonably so, and Chris eased his damp shirt
away from the small of his back, grimacing slightly. He needed a cool
shower and a cold beer, not necessarily in that order. Where the hell was
Curtis? With a sigh, he dragged his mobile phone out of his jacket pocket
and hit the short dial, hoping he didn't catch his partner in a bad mood.

CI5 had been requested to investigate militia activities in the States in
light of fears that there may be another Oklahoma bombing. Their search
had taken them to Georgia and to the door of one Shepherd Davies, a figure
who was known locally to be sympathetic to the right wing militias' cause.
While Chris was off gathering further intel, Sam was keeping Davies under
surveillance. They knew from watching for the last few days that Davies
had a set pattern. Around six every evening he went to his local bar, got
wasted and spouted a lot of right wing crap. Around eleven he got himself
thrown out and drove back to his home, weaving precariously the whole way
and oblivious of the two CI5 agents trailing him. A couple of nights of
this, and they'd got bored of watching him, aware of the fact that they
stuck out like a sore thumb in the closemouthed atmosphere of Davies'
favourite haunt. Instead they'd handed the evening surveillance over to
the local FBI, who at least had the accents right, and retired to their
rooms at the motel.

Six thirty and no sign of Curtis. Keel had already admitted to himself
that he probably called Curtis more frequently when they were apart than
the job required, partly because the job was dangerous and he needed the
reassurance that his lover was all right and partly because he just liked
hearing Sam's voice. So far, Curtis hadn't called him on it, but it was
only a matter of time. As he listened to the phone ringing with no answer,
he wondered if this was Curtis' way of subtly telling him that he was fed
up with it.

Still ringing. No, Sam wouldn't do that, knowing that it would worry the
hell out of Chris. If he were annoyed about it, he'd tell him, not leave
him hanging here imagining the worst. Take him to one side and tell him he
was making a fool of himself, and did Chris want Malone to suspect the
change in their relationship before they were ready to tell him? Chris
could hear the lecture in Sam's sardonic voice in his mind, so vivid that
he would have smiled if he hadn't been fighting down the panic that was
gripping his gut.

Six thirty five and this was no joke. He disconnected the futile call, and
dialled Malone.


Sixteen hours and Sam was still missing. The longer he was missing the
tenser Chris got. By now it didn't matter that Sam was a CI5 officer, at
least as highly trained as Chris, or that he'd been one for longer than the
American had. It didn't matter that he'd served in some of the most
dangerous parts of the world and survived. All that mattered was that his
lover was missing, and the longer he was missing the less chance there was
of finding him alive. And that was tearing Chris apart.

Davies had gone to ground, and it looked as though he had taken Sam with
him. Another of his cronies was also missing, the FBI team watching him
having no idea when or how he'd slipped their surveillance. They'd found
Sam's car not far from Davies' home, and signs of a struggle, but no Sam.
A few drops of blood on the driver's door, not enough to suggest serious
injury. Forensics were suggesting that someone's head had been banged
against it. The blood group was Sam's. 

Inside Davies' house, sitting there in plain sight on the dining table were
Sam's ID and his gun. A warning, Malone had originally thought. A sign
that let them know that they had him. His theory was that they were
probably keeping him as a hostage in case they needed one. Chris couldn't
suppress the fear that it was not a warning but a boast. 'Look here,
bagged me a CI5 agent.' Another CI5 assignment gone wrong, and it looked
more and more as though Sam was paying the price for their most recent
failure. 

Sixteen hours and no demands, no word, nothing. Even Malone was beginning
to lose hope. And the FBI were worse than useless. Keel had almost come
to blows with one of their agents already. Only Backup injecting a note of
sanity into the proceedings had prevented him. And now he was on automatic
pilot, pushing all of his feelings down into the pit of his stomach,
allowing nothing more to show on the surface than a man worried about his
partner and friend. Not lover. He couldn't show that, not yet, maybe not
ever. Sam would kill him. Please god let Sam be alive to kill him.

He was sitting in their temporary HQ, his head buried in his hands,
desperately trying to think of something they'd missed, some clue or hint
which would lead them to Sam when the call came through to Malone. When he
heard Sam's name, he snapped to attention. He watched his boss' face
avidly, searching for some clue as to the situation, but Malone's face, as
usual, was giving nothing away and listening to one side of the
conversation was not particularly enlightening. He almost ignored his own
phone when it rang, terrified of missing something, but his training kicked
in and the phone was up to his ear, his voice automatically spitting out,
"Four five," before he was even aware of it.

The relief that flooded through him when he heard Sam's voice on the other
end was better than any drug could be. He sank back into his chair, no
longer paying Malone any attention, just letting the sound of his lover's
voice wash over him. Sam. Alive. Safe. Sam.

"Chris. You still there, mate?"

He found his voice. "Yeah. You okay?"

"I'm fine. Bit battered around the edges, but fine." Another surge of
relief, although he doubted he'd feel completely satisfied until he could
see Sam with his own eyes. 

"Where are you?"

"Tennessee, I think. I wasn't in any position to pay too much attention.
Not much of a view of the scenery from the boot of a car. Is Malone there?
We've got a problem..."

Chris glanced over at their boss again. While Malone was still talking on
his phone, his attention was now focused on Keel, as was Backup's he
finally noticed. He mouthed 'Sam' at both of them, before turning his
attention back to his partner.

"Tell me," he said briskly.

He listened as his partner explained the problem in his normal, concise
tones. He had to fight back his temper with every word. By the time Sam
had finished summing up the situation Malone had finished his own call and
was waiting less than patiently for an explanation, his sharp blue eyes
fixed on his American agent. It was probably only Malone's presence that
prevented Keel from taking matters in his own hands. It was still tempting
though.

"Well?" demanded Malone impatiently. "I take it that was Mr Curtis. Did
he have an explanation for what happened?"

"He was set-up," Chris spat out, his temper still simmering. "Officer
Robinson."

"Janice Robinson?" asked Backup, startled. "Works for the Sheriff's
office, sir," she explained at Malone's raised eyebrow.

"Set up how, Mr Keel?"

"Sam said she came out to the stakeout. Said she had some information she
wanted to share in the name of co-operation, and then pulled a gun on him."

"Very co-operative of her," commented Backup dryly. "What is it about you
two and corrupt cops?"

"Then Davies and his goons showed up..." He didn't need to say any more.
The rest Backup and Malone could work out for themselves. Right now the
need to get to Sam as quickly as possible was warring with the need for
retribution, and the need to do his job. The job won out. "Something's
going down - something big, gotta be. Why else would Robinson risk it?
Attacking a fellow law enforcement officer?"

"They wouldn't have been able to leave him alive," interjected Backup
softly. "Not and risk him turning Robinson in."

"It was a rather stupid move on her part," added Malone. "Even if we
hadn't located Mr Curtis when we did, sooner or later she'd have slipped
up, not been where she was supposed to be, not had an alibi." Chris
disagreed.

"We'd no reason to suspect her," he argued a little heatedly. "We would
have thought that Sam got careless and..." He couldn't put the 'and' into
words.

"Maybe," agreed Malone. "But I'd like to believe that we would have caught
up with Davies and his mob sooner and later, and I somehow doubt there's
any honour among those thieves."

"How did we catch up with them, sir?" asked Backup.

"Luck, Miss Backus. Pure and simple." Malone stood for a moment, deep in
thought. "Miss Backus," he said eventually, his voice brisk, "I'll leave
you here to deal with Robinson. I would ask the FBI for their assistance,
since we are unsure as to the extent of corruption within the local police.
Mr Keel, you're with me."

"Where are we going, sir?"

"To Tennessee, Mr Keel. We have an agent to collect after all."

Malone was a little more forthcoming with information in the car on the way
back to their motel. It transpired that he wasn't joking when he said it
was pure luck that they'd caught Davies and recovered Sam. It was. Davies
and his pal, Jacobs had switched cars, and consequently the APB put out on
Davies' car would have resulted in nothing. They had been already out of
the state and almost through the next one before they were stopped. Sam
probably owed his life to a bored and eagle-eyed State Trooper and a broken
taillight. The trooper had grown suspicious when the occupants of the
nondescript Ford he'd stopped had seemed overly nervous, and his suspicions
were confirmed when he'd heard noises from the trunk.

When Malone informed Chris of the facts in his cold, dry voice, Chris had
had to fight down another surge of fear. Luck was the word. There were
too many 'ifs' in what had happened for him to feel at ease. He knew that
dwelling on the past did no good - god, he'd had enough practice of 'what
ifs' when Annie died - but he couldn't seem to be able to stop the thoughts
running through his mind. The only comfort he could take was that this
time, unlike Annie, the 'what ifs' were the horrors, and the actuality
wasn't. It was a comfort. Would be more of a comfort if there hadn't been
this little thought running through his head - 'next time'.

He focused on the tasks in hand instead, found it easier to keep the panic
at bay that way. Pack his stuff. Move to Sam's room and pack his
partner's stuff - much easier to pack than his had been but then it wasn't
spread haphazardly all over the floor or the bed the way his clothes had
been. Sam always told him he was a pig. Get back downstairs to meet
Malone, who was already tapping his fingers impatiently against the counter
at Reception, and then off to Tennessee. Off to recover Sam.

It took them considerably less than sixteen hours to reach Sam's location,
a small town not far from the state border with Missouri. Where the hell
they'd been headed too was anybody's guess. Malone had appropriated a
light aircraft from somewhere, and Chris was allocated the task of flying
it, which at least gave him something to concentrate on other than the
number of minutes until he got to see Sam. Even so, by the time they
reached their destination, Chris was wound up almost beyond bearing.

The relief surged again when he finally set eyes on his partner. They had
Sam ensconced in an interview room, talking to two agents from the FBI, the
CI5 team were informed, so his first sight of his friend was through cold
glass. Sam appeared to be bearing up well Chris was pleased to note.
There were some signs of tiredness in his face, and there was a bandage
taped to his forehead and some bruising around his jaw line, but his eyes
were bright and his expression focused as he sat reviewing the facts of the
case so far.

"Good man you got there," came a voice from behind them. Chris turned to
find himself being introduced to 'Agent Andrews, head of the field office
here'.

"Thank you, Agent Andrews," replied Malone. "I take it he's being
helpful." Andrews, a very tall and broad individual, snorted at some
secret source of amusement.

"Could say that, I suppose. Turns out our little 'patriots' in there," he
gestured behind him at what Chris could only presume were the cells or
interview rooms containing the suspects, "are talkative souls." Chris
turned his attention back to Sam, allowing the rest of the conversation to
flow over him, listening with only half an ear.

"They've talked to you?" asked Malone, his interest piqued.

Andrews snorted again. It appeared to be a trademark of his. "Not
exactly," he replied. "Seems they spent most of the trip up here boasting
about what they were gonna do and what they done. And your guy heard most
of it from the trunk. Not all of it, but enough for us to pressure the
three of them with."

"Three?"

"Yeah, he says you were watching Davies and we were watching Jacobs. They
picked up a third guy, name of Caleb Adams according to his driving
licence, once they crossed the border into Tennessee. Curtis thinks he
might be the weak link, that we might get to the others through him. Did
most of the boastin', according to Curtis."

Malone nodded, satisfied. "But you've made no progress so far?"

Andrews shook his head slowly. "We only got here 'bout an hour ago, and
we've been debriefing your guy since. Figured we'd wait for you to turn
up, since this seems to be CI5 business. Besides, if Curtis is right about
Adams, and from what I've seen of that weasel I've no doubt that he is,
leaving him to sweat awhile won't do any harm." He turned suddenly sharp
eyes on Malone. "The three of them have been screaming for attorneys.
We've kept them isolated for now. Curtis said something about them tipping
off their compadres?"

"That was always a risk, Agent Andrews. However, you seem to have things
under control. Thank you." Now that the end was potentially in sight,
Malone could afford to be generous. Besides, it was a pleasant change when
CI5 were respected these days, instead of having to fight their corner as
well as the bad guys.

"Guess you'll want to talk to your guy now?"

"If that can be arranged."

"No problems there. I take it you'll share anything else he tells you with
us?"

"Of course."

It was Chris' turn for close scrutiny as Andrews turned his formidable
attention on him. "Your partner, isn't he?"

"Yes."

Andrews smiled briefly, the expression suddenly lightening the harsh angles
of his face. "Guess you'll be pleased to have him back."

Chris found himself returning the smile almost before he realised it. "You
know what it's like," he replied. "They're hell to break in, so when
you've got one trained up..."

"I heard that," interrupted Sam's tired voice from behind him. It took all
of Chris' self control to keep his beaming smile down to a relatively low
wattage.

"You were meant to." Up close his partner looked even more tired, the
bruise on his jaw dark against his pale face. Chris couldn't resist
reaching out to touch him, grasping his chin and tilting his face to the
side so he could see the injury better. He could only cover the moment
with a joke for the benefit of the other two men. "This Janice Robinson,
she's what? Five foot nothing in her stocking feet? Want to explain how
she managed to take you out?"

"She had a gun."

"Lost yours again did you?"

"Very funny, Keel. She also had help."

"Yeah. Two guys? That all? You're slipping, mate."

"Ha ha. If this is your idea of revenge for Richmond..."

"Nah. So, did Robinson black your jaw for you?"

"No, that was Davies."

"Not slipping that badly then. What about this one?" asked Chris,
gesturing towards Sam's head wound.

"Davies again," sighed Sam, smiling slightly.

"That's two we owe him."

"Three," replied Sam. "You haven't seen the bruise on my hip yet."

"I think I'll pass," grinned Chris.

Malone cleared his throat. "When you gentlemen have quite finished..."

"Sir," they chorused, a little sheepishly, trying hard not to smile at each
other. He harrumphed a little, but let it slide, his keen eyes measuring
them. They kept their expressions as bland as they were able to.

"I understand from what Agent Andrews told me that these individuals let
slip some information, is that correct Mr Curtis?"

"Yes sir," replied Sam, all business. "I overheard some things which might
be useful. Nothing specific about what they're planning, not even Adams is
that stupid, but some hints that what they're planning is big, and that it
involves a government building. I got the impression that they don't quite
trust Adams, but that he may know some more that's useful anyway. Maybe
enough to give us some leverage over the other two..." Sam shrugged
eloquently, his eyes fixed on Malone's face. "I'd like a go at him sir."

"You think that's wise, son?" interrupted Andrews, his forehead creasing
with concern. His eyes scanned over Sam's face taking in the sign of
exhaustion and the marks of violence. Chris found himself stiffening on
his partner's behalf, but Sam took the question in his stride.

"I think it will give us an edge. He won't be expecting it, and anything
that throws him further off balance has got to help. Turn the tables on
him. He had me in his control, now it's the other way around."

Andrews still didn't look convinced, and Malone was keeping his own
counsel, his sharp eyes flitting from Sam to Chris. Chris backed his
partner up. 

"He's right. Psychologically speaking, it puts us in control. We can
exploit that, especially if this guy is already freaked."

Malone finally spoke up. "You did say that you considered this to be a CI5
operation, Agent Andrews. I believe that it's worth a try." He fixed Sam
with a hard stare. "If you are up to it, Mr Curtis."

Bad move, thought Chris. There was no way in hell that Sam was going to
back away from that. He was right, as Sam looked Malone squarely in the
eye and coolly stated, "I'm fine, sir."

There was no question in Chris' mind that he would be in on the
interrogation. They were a team after all. Besides, he wanted to get a
good, long look at one of the bastards who had locked *his* partner in the
trunk of a car for sixteen hours. And maybe break his neck into the
bargain. 

Sam paused outside the interview room, waiting for Andrews and Malone to
enter the viewing room next door. "Psychologically speaking? Where did
you learn big words like that?"

"Well, I have this anally retentive English partner. Guess I must have
been hanging out with him for too long."

"Fuck you."

"You already have," grinned Chris. 

There was a slightly awkward silence while they both checked that Malone
and Andrews were out of earshot, before Sam cleared his throat and asked,
"You want to be good cop or bad cop?"

"How about you be bad cop and I be completely psychopathic cop?"

"Same old routine then."

"Fuck you."

"You wish."

"Yeah, I do." He couldn't help it, the happiness almost bubbling up in him
now that he knew that Sam was safe.

Sam covered his surprised start with cough, and gave him a brief smile
before they entered the interview room, their faces automatically assuming
the hard-edged expressions that served them so well in these situations.


Adams was definitely twitchy Chris was pleased to note. Already caught off
balance by the fact that he and his associates had been caught by something
as unexpected as a traffic stop, his level of nervousness only increased
when he saw Curtis. With his facial features it merely had the unfortunate
effect of making him look like a weasel. Small, vicious when up against
good odds, but helpless in the face of two CI5 agents.

Chris settled himself against the wall, leaning back and folding his arms.
He didn't take his eyes off Adams, not having to act to make his expression
menacing. So this was someone who thought that they could hurt his partner
with impunity and get away with it? Not a particularly rational thought,
he knew, not when they were in a job that seemed to result in one or the
other of them getting hurt on a semi-regular basis. He wasn't, however,
feeling particularly rational at this juncture.

Sam sat down at the interview table, flicking idly through a file he had.
Chris knew enough to guess that the file was empty, just for show, but
Adams wasn't to know that. The weasel's eyes flickered between them while
Sam ignored him, trying to read the situation. Chris kept his eyes on him
at all times, never giving him any leeway. That made Adams more nervous,
judging by the way he was swallowing.

Sam eventually placed the file on the desk, folding his hands on top of it,
and looking at Adams coolly. He still didn't speak. Adams cracked.

"I want to see my lawyer," he squeaked.

"Tough," replied Sam.

Adams tried to bluster. "I know my rights..."

"You're not under arrest... yet. So you have no rights."

"If I'm not under arrest I can leave at any time," shot back Adams
triumphantly. His triumph was short lived, as Sam smiled wolfishly.

"Try it," he growled.

Adams' eyes flickered between them once more. Chris was between him and
the door, and the expression on his face told the militiaman that he would
welcome an excuse for violence. Any excuse. Sam pressed home their
advantage.

"As far as the world is concerned you are here helping us with our
enquiries on a voluntary basis. Right up until we nail your ass. And
believe me when I tell you we have more than enough to do that right now."

"So what you waitin' for?" The belligerence in Adams' tone was belied by
the way his eyes darted around the room, seeking some escape.

"To see if you're more intelligent than you look. Chris here..." added
Sam, jerking his head towards his still glaring partner, "thinks that's
highly unlikely. Personally I'm inclined to agree with him."

"Kidnapping," Chris said suddenly, his voice soft and deadly. "Assault.
Illegal possession of firearms..." Sam smiled again, equally deadly.

"You're going to jail for a very... long... time."

Adams began to panic. "None of that was me. I swear. I just got in the
car, man. I didn't know anything was going down. You gotta believe me.
You gotta."

"You're just a victim, right?" asked Sam softly. "Wrong place, wrong
time?" The militiaman nodded frantically. "You're forgetting something
though." Sam paused just long enough for it to sink in. "I heard you. I
heard everything you said. Enough to tie you into Davies and Jacobs.
Enough, even, to tie you into Oklahoma if I'm so inclined."

Sam sat back, watching coldly as Adams twitched even more. "I think you
were right, Chris. He's very, very stupid." He leant forward again until
their faces were only inches apart. "Boasting like that about everything
you've done when you knew I could hear you. And you knew I could hear you,
you made sure of that. No point in issuing those empty threats of yours
otherwise. Very... very... stupid."

"Hearsay," squeaked Adams. "You can't convict me on hearsay." His voice
wasn't particularly confident on that point.

"It's only hearsay," Chris pointed out, "if you don't say it in front of a
cop."

"He's not a cop!" yelled Adams, his face contorted with equal parts
desperation, suspicion and fear. "Who are you? CIA? NSA?"

"CI5," replied Sam calmly, not expecting that to mean much to their
prisoner. He was surprised.

"You're the bastards who did Slade!" Adams exclaimed, referring to the
rogue Colonel CI5 had come up against in Louisiana.

Chris smiled grimly. "You're more right than you think." Adams glanced
from one to the other again, Keel's words sinking in.

"You..." he finally breathed. "The man was a patriot!"

Sam smirked. "Like you, you mean?" Adams maintained a sullen silence.
"Like Davies and Jacobs? You think that they are patriots? Men who bomb
buildings, kill civilians, their own countrymen and women?" Adams avoided
his eyes, his thumbnail beginning to dig furrows in the table. "If we can
take Slade down, why the hell do you think we'd have any qualms taking them
out? Or you?"

That finally got a reaction, Adams paling and sinking back in his seat,
trying to look smaller. "You wouldn't dare..." he began.

Chris finally lost it, the worry and torment of the last few hours catching
up with him. With a few quick steps he was across the room, his face only
inches away from Adams, intimidating him in a way that even Sam, with his
greater bulk, hadn't been able to. There was pure fury in his eyes. "You
kidnap my partner," he hissed. "Assault him. Lock him in the goddamned
trunk, and threaten to kill him. You wouldn't believe what I'd dare do to
you."

"Chris..." interjected Sam softly. After a long moment, Chris responded to
the unvoiced plea and drew away slightly from Adams although his eyes never
left the man's face. Adams made an attempt to recapture his former bravado.

"Such concern," he sneered, although his voice trembled slightly. "What?
You guys queer or something?" 

Only Sam's arm raised across his chest prevented Chris from tearing into
the weasel. Once Sam was sure his partner had himself under control, he
turned and gave Adams a look of pure contempt. "I would have thought that
after the threats you made that would be a case of the pot calling the
kettle." He felt the start that ran through his partner at his words as
Chris came to the realisation of just what those threats had involved. Sam
kept his reaction reigned in. The last thing he wanted to do was further
rile his partner up, but they were close to breaking the man, and he had an
idea of how to do it. The last thing he needed was for Chris to lose it
completely.

He didn't dare look at Chris though, having to trust him to keep a grasp on
his temper. Instead he kept his eyes firmly on Adams, fixing him with a
steely stare, keeping the other man's eyes focused on him through sheer
strength of will. "But I wouldn't worry about it too much," he continued
with a wintry smile. "I'm sure that where you're going you'll have plenty
of opportunity to indulge. Only I imagine that a pathetic specimen like
you will be on the receiving end. In fact, I intend to make sure of it.
It's the least I can do, after all. You're going to be the belle of the
ball. And by the time you get out, you won't be able to stand upright,
you'll have spent so much fucking time on your knees."

Adams finally managed to tear his eyes away from Curtis, but instead he
looked straight into Keel's. Whereas Curtis' eyes had been cold and
merciless, without even the glee Adams would have felt if their positions
had been reversed, Keel's eyes were simply murderous. Adams swallowed
heavily again, terrified. He believed. He believed utterly. The
loud-mouthed braggart who'd taunted Curtis, threatened him and tried to
intimidate him was gone. Instead there was a wreck of a man. He told them
everything they wanted to know, and more.


"You okay?" asked Chris softly as they left the interview room.

"I'm fine," replied Sam. "Tired and stiff, but fine." Chris wanted to
push him on it, but he was denied the opportunity when Malone and Andrews
joined them in the corridor. Andrews was frowning.

"You realise that this won't stand up in court..." he stated without any
preamble.

"The point wasn't to secure a conviction," replied Sam, exhaustion now
evident in him voice. "The point was to prevent another Oklahoma."

Andrews wasn't appeased. "Is this the way CI5 operate?"

"You may not approve of our methods, but they work," answered Curtis
bluntly. "You still have Adams on the kidnapping and illegal weapons
charges, if you're worried about your conviction rates." He wasn't in the
mood to be diplomatic. Andrews' frown deepened, but before he could say
anything, Malone interrupted him.

"I believe that your agents have enough to tackle Davies and Jacobs now,
Agent Andrews. I've no doubt that confronted with the evidence that Mr
Curtis and Mr Keel have managed to obtain for you that they'll be more than
cooperative. I'm sure that we can leave this matter in the FBI's capable
hands. If you need us again, you know where to reach us. Good day." 

Andrews directed his scowl at Malone, but it had absolutely no effect on
the head of CI5. After a moment he gave up and took himself off to
supervise the remaining interviews, muttering darkly to himself. Malone
turned his attention to his agents. They both returned his look calmly.
"Nice work, gentlemen."

"Thank you, sir," they chorused. Malone nodded to himself, before turning
his full attention on Sam. 

"The threats that Adams made towards you Mr Curtis..."

"Remained threats, sir," replied Sam, unflinching under Malone's piercing
stare. After searching his agent's face for a long moment, Malone nodded
again, although his gaze turned to Keel, searching the American's face and
apparently satisfied with what he found.

"Good," he said, and the matter was closed as far as he was concerned.
"Get some rest, gentlemen. You've earned it." He turned on his heel, and
headed in the direction Andrews had gone in, looking as pristine and
unruffled as though he hadn't been up and active for almost twenty-four
hours. Sam envied him that, as his own exhaustion set him swaying on his
feet. Somehow, however, he doubted that he'd sleep just yet. He turned to
his partner, green eyes meeting blue, and smiled slightly, although there
was little humour in it.

"Think Malone will spring for a decent hotel?" he asked.

"Fat chance," replied the American, the levity of his reply contrasting
with his drawn expression and the obvious concern in his eyes. Sam smiled
again, a little warmer this time.

"Motel it is then."


Chris booked them into a reasonably upmarket motel, as motels went. It had
been recommended as somewhere clean, quiet and respectable by the sergeant
on duty at the local police station, and neither of them was in the mood to
argue. It was quiet, situated at the edge of town, and thankfully a
reasonable distance from both the residential areas and the freeway. No
noise to disturb them as they tried to get some sleep during the day. 

He booked them a twin, getting no argument from Curtis this time about
appearances. He figured that if Malone was curious, he'd tell him he
didn't want to leave Curtis alone when there was a chance that his partner
would just collapse. Somehow he didn't think Malone would ask, although he
was too damn tired to analyse that feeling any further. All he wanted to
do was get to their room, throw Curtis on the bed, crawl into his arms and
sleep for a week.

He almost pounced on Sam as they walked through the door. Although he knew
that his partner was physically fine, the need to touch him, to feel that
he was fine rather than trusting just his eyes was almost tangible, and had
only grown the longer that he'd been denied the opportunity. For once Sam
didn't argue or make any smart remarks. Instead he wound his arms around
his lover and held him back as tightly as Chris was holding him. Neither
of them said a word, just soaked up the sensation of being held by someone
neither of them had thought that they'd see again.

Chris pulled away first, reaching up to cup Sam's face in his palms and
stroke his cheeks gently with his thumbs. "You okay?" he asked softly,
knowing it was a stupid question but having to voice it anyway. Sam pulled
away from him, avoiding his eyes.

"I'm fine," he replied, his tone short. His fingers started to twist the
buttons of his shirt, a sign that Chris was beginning to realise meant that
his partner was nervous, caught off balance, and he knew how much Sam hated
that. He sighed internally, making sure that his resignation didn't show
on his face, and kept his voice calm, soothing.

"You need anything?" Perhaps he wasn't quite as good at keeping his
feelings from his voice after all, because Sam gave him a sheepish smile, a
faint hint of apology in his eyes.

"A shower," he said wryly. "Hot out there."

"Yeah, I noticed," replied Chris with a smile, moving to draw the curtains
closed and give them some privacy. "Anything else? Food maybe?"

"Not really hungry."

"When did you last eat?"

"What are you, my mother?"

"No, I'm cuter." That at least earned a smile from Sam, but the Englishman
didn't call him on it.

"Fine, whatever," he said, his fingers already tugging his shirt free from
his trousers. "Just not McDonalds, please. I'd have to go without food
for considerably longer before I'd consider eating that crap."

"Picky," Chris teased affectionately. Sam paused and looked him straight
in the eye, his own eyes very green in the dim light.

"Yeah," he replied softly. "Only the best." Chris blushed slightly at the
compliment, making Sam's mouth quirk up slightly in a half smile at the
American's obvious discomfort. On a sudden impulse Chris moved back to his
partner, capturing his mouth in a sweet kiss.

"I'll be back soon," he promised. There was a flicker of something in
Sam's eyes but it was gone too quickly for Chris to identify what it was.
His partner merely nodded, and after a brief hesitation headed into the
small bathroom. Chris stared after him for a moment, fighting down the
urge to follow him, mainly because he wasn't sure how it would be received.
With another sigh he turned on his heel and went searching for provisions.

He was back sooner than he expected to be. Sam was still in the shower,
the bathroom door open and the steam filling the bedroom. He moved to shut
it. The humidity was already almost unbearable without Sam adding to it.

"Leave it." Sam's voice was harsh. He turned slightly in the shower, his
face tense. "Just leave it please." His voice was a little softer this
time, almost pleading. For a long second their eyes met, and then Sam
turned away to face back into the spray. It was on the tip of Chris'
tongue to ask again whether Sam was all right, but something in the other
man's stance told him that this was not a good idea. Instead, disturbed by
the whole exchange, he moved away from the bathroom and settled himself on
the bed, waiting for Sam to finish his ablutions and explain what the hell
was going on.

He didn't have long to wait. Sam was finished in a matter of minutes and
joined him in the bedroom. He hesitated in the bathroom doorway, towelling
his hair dry, another towel wrapped around his waist. He still seemed
reluctant to meet Chris' eyes, using drying his hair as an excuse to avoid
the other man's eyes. Chris waited patiently, which was so unusual for him
it seemed to throw Sam even further of balance. Chris won.

"Food?" Sam asked, looking around the room.

"Thought you weren't hungry," Chris said neutrally. "I went down to the
lobby and ordered some take out. Don't worry, it's not MacDonald," he
added with a smile.

"Let me guess. Pizza?"

"They deliver." Sam merely snorted in response. "Seafood," offered Chris.
"Now I know you like seafood." That earned him a smile, a pale imitation
of Sam's normal grin, but it was a start. "Be here soon," Chris appeased.

Sam settled himself on the bed next to him with a heavy sigh. His posture
screamed exhaustion, and Chris' heart went out to him. Acting on instinct,
he reached out and stroked his lover's back gently, conveying with his
touch what he couldn't with words. Sam swayed into his touch. "Tired," he
admitted.

"I'm not surprised," murmured Chris. "Why don't you lie down for a bit?"
Sam glanced at him, biting his lower lip. "I could use some shuteye
myself," Chris added. "Mind if I...?" 

Sam shook his head slightly, looking a little relieved, and threw the towel
he'd been using to dry his hair in the direction of the bathroom. As he
started to pull himself backwards up onto the bed, Chris reached out and
placed his hand on Sam's forearm, stopping him. He turned Sam's hand over,
examining the marks he'd just noticed on his lover's wrists. They were
ugly, raw wounds, looking almost burned in some places, and like deep cuts
in others. They also wound all the way around Sam's wrists. Although they
had scabbed over somewhat, that only made them look worse. How the hell
had he missed them?

"Nylon ropes," Sam explained at his look. "They're not as bad as they
look. They looked at them at the station, but I had to take the dressings
off to shower." Which explained how he hadn't seen them before. The white
dressings would have blended in with Sam's white shirt, and he'd
concentrated mostly on his partner's face, giving the rest of him a mostly
cursory scrutiny. Time to remedy that.

"Let me see that hip." Sam gave him a bewildered look. "You said, in the
police station..."

"Oh. Right. Sorry, not with it." He reached down to unfasten his towel,
before pausing and giving Chris a mock suspicious look. "This isn't just
an excuse to get me naked is it?"

"Do I need an excuse?" asked Chris, grinning. "Besides, I prefer my sexual
partners conscious. I'm just kinky that way." That got him another pale
smile, as Sam leant back and tugged the towel free, wincing slightly as he
did so.

It was a hell of a bruise, almost the size of Chris' hand. Or someone
else's boot. "Guess they like to kick you when you're down," he said. Sam
gave a humourless laugh.

"Exactly." 

"How's your head?" Chris asked, noticing that Sam had also removed the
small white bandage that had adorned his forehead.

"Never had any complaints yet."

"Funny." He pushed back Sam's dark hair gently, his fingertips skimming
lightly over the bump he found there. Again, the skin was bruised and
broken, but hadn't appeared to require any stitches. "Any dizziness?"

"No, just tired. And I went through all this at the station."

"I want to make sure myself. Humour me."

"No, no dizziness. A bit of a headache at first but that's gone. I'm a
bit bruised and battered, and I have had better days but I'm okay. I'm
just tired Chris."

Chris ignored him and continued to examine his body, pushing Sam gently
over onto his stomach so that he could see his back. There were other
bruises and marks, but nothing else as serious. When he'd finished his
perusal, and met Sam's eyes again, the Englishman's expression was a
mixture of amusement, affection and exasperation.

"I'm fine," he repeated. "Can I go to sleep now?" His latter words were
plaintive in tone, and Chris couldn't suppress a smile.

"Sure," he said. "I'll wake you when the food gets here."

"Thank you," replied Sam with exaggerated relief before crawling under the
covers.

Chris settled himself back on the bed next to his friend, kicking his shoes
off. He knew he should try and get some sleep too, but he was too wound
up. He wondered how long it would take Sam to drop off, and if it would
wake him up again if he touched him once he had. He found the urge to
touch him almost irresistible, wanting to hold him again, just needing the
constant reassurance that Sam was there, was real, was as fine as he
insisted he was. He stifled another sigh, not wanting to either disturb or
annoy his partner.

"Chris..." 

Sam's voice trailed off, that same flicker of *something* in his eyes, but
again it was gone too soon for Chris to read what it was. Whatever it was,
it had Chris asking, "Can I hold you?" before he realised he was going to
say anything. Once the words were out of his mouth, he winced internally,
half expecting a sardonic reply, but he was surprised again.

"I'd like that," murmured Sam softly. Chris shuffled closer, reaching out
for him. A few moments shifting around until Sam found a position which
was comfortable and didn't pull on sore muscles, and then Chris found
himself with an armful of warm, tired and very nearly naked partner. He
ruthlessly fought down any stirrings of arousal. It wasn't hard - he was
almost as tired as Sam. Instead he contented himself with gently stroking
his fingers through Sam's hair as his partner pillowed his head on his chest.

"... s'nice..." his lover muttered sleepily. Chris smiled slightly. Who
would have thought that his practical partner would be a closet sensualist?
Although, he admitted to himself, he should have guessed that with Sam's
love of the finer things in life that the man would be more than happy to
indulge in the sensual. It wasn't something they'd spent a great deal of
time exploring. Maybe they should remedy that.

But now was not the time. His own practical side was exerting itself.
There was something else he wanted to explore first - like why his partner
felt the need to shower with the door open. And he sensed that now was the
time to broach that subject, when Sam was tired and, much as it pained him
to admit it, vulnerable. He spared a brief second to wonder whether this
streak of ruthlessness was down to Sam's influence, or whether he'd always
had it, and then he shoved those feelings as far down as he could. He
wasn't doing this out of prurient curiosity - something was eating at Sam
and he needed to get it out before it festered.

"Sam?" He kept his own voice soft and gentle, his fingers never ceasing
their soothing motions through the other man's hair.

"...mmmm?"

"Want to tell me what that was all about?"

"...what?"

"Why you wouldn't let me shut the bathroom door?" He felt Sam tense up,
but his partner didn't pull away, which was half the victory.

"Silly."

"It's not silly if it bothered you." He wasn't sure anymore whether
pushing was the right thing to do, but he couldn't seem to stop. "Sam?"

Sam shifted slightly under his hand, almost as though he was trying to bury
himself deeper into Chris. "Sam? Something's bothering you. You're
starting to worry me."

"Worried I'm not up to being your partner?"

"Christ, no! What brought that on?" No answer. "Sam?" Another long
pause and then a sigh.

"I got claustrophobic."

Whatever he'd been expecting it wasn't that. Sam Curtis admitting a
weakness? He half expected the world to end.

Sam was still tense expecting... what exactly? Chris tried to choose his
words with care. "Because?" As soon as he asked it, he knew the answer.
"Because you spent a long time locked in a confined space. Christ Sam,
it's only to be expected that you'll be a little skittish for a day or two.
I'd be more worried if you weren't. No-one expects you to be untouched."

"Malone does."

"Fuck Malone."

That got a reaction, Sam's chuckles rumbling against his chest. "Your type
is he?"

"Not a chance. One repressed Englishman's enough for me thanks."

"I'm not repressed. I'm stoic."

"Stoic Englishman then."

"I think Malone's Irish."

"Sam?"

"Yes?"

"Shut up."

They lapsed into a companionable silence, Chris resuming his slow
caressing, until Sam spoke again, his voice so quiet that Chris had to
strain to hear him. "I thought they were going to kill me." The words
made him shiver.

"So did I," he admitted huskily. "I wasn't even sure... I wasn't sure we'd
even find your body." He fought for some control, to keep the floodgates
up and not subject his partner to an outpouring of his fears. "I... I
just..."

"I know."

"Do you?" He tried very hard to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"Richmond," replied Sam, his voice muffled against Chris' chest. "You went
missing, and I had this vision of being sent out to view another mutilated
corpse only to find out it was you. I had nightmares for weeks," he added
matter of factly.

"I didn't know," offered Chris a little helplessly. He hadn't even thought
that Sam would have been worried, his partner had seemed fine the next day,
and since Chris had spent most of the night in a drugged stupor, he hadn't
even been that worried himself.

"You didn't know because I didn't let you know. But that's history, so
let's not rehash it just now, okay?"

"You okay?" ventured the American.

"I'm fine. You're fine. We're both fine. Now will you shut up and let me
get some sleep?"

It was on the tip of Chris' tongue to point out that Sam had brought the
subject up, but luckily he retained enough sense to think better of it.
He'd managed to crowbar some information out of Sam, and he could only hope
that after some sleep his partner opened up more. Pushing any more would
only piss Sam off and scupper any chance he had of Sam confiding in him.
Instead, he continued to stroke his fingers through Sam's hair, and reached
out with his other hand to gently rub Sam's back until his partner drifted
off to sleep. He wasn't long in following.


He was rudely awakened by the banging on the door. Swearing softly to
himself, he eased his way from under Sam, being very careful not to wake
him. His shirt was damp where Sam's wet head had been resting and his arm
was numb. He staggered towards the doorway, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
Food at last.

Sam didn't stir while he paid off the deliveryman, not even the sound of
the door slamming enough to disturb his slumber. Chris slumped by the door
for a moment, watching him. The last time his partner had slept this
soundly to Chris' knowledge, they'd been in South Africa, and Sam had spent
the previous day carrying him to safety. That time they'd both slept on
oblivious to the rangers approaching their position, and that kind of
carelessness could have gotten them killed. However, they'd both been
exhausted past the point of caring at that point. This time no one was
chasing them or trying to kill them, the door was locked, and the bed was
beckoning Chris with a siren song. Pausing only to pull off his damp
shirt, he succumbed. Food could wait.

Fate had other plans. His settling back onto the bed managed what the door
couldn't, waking his partner up. Sam blinked blearily at him.

"Food," he explained quietly. "Want some? Or want to go back to sleep?"

There was a long pause while Sam tried to get his brain into gear.
Eventually, his stomach decided for him, grumbling loudly. The two men
exchanged wry smiles. "Food," replied Sam, his voice rusty.

"Food it is," said Chris, opening the pizza box with a flourish. Sam sat
up, rubbing the backs of his hands across his face before eyeing the
contents dubiously.

"Anchovies?"

"You don't like anchovies?"

"Not particularly, no."

Chris stared at him. "Let me get this right. You'll eat Kermit, but you
draw the line at anchovies?"

"I'm not fond of them, that's all." Sam's tone was defensive. "I'll just
take them off, okay?"

For some reason, Chris found the whole conversation ridiculous, and he
couldn't help it, he started to laugh. Sam's offended look just made him
laugh harder. This was so surreal. A few hours ago he'd been wondering if
Sam was alive and now the pair of them were arguing over anchovies on a
pizza? Life was just too strange sometimes. You had to laugh or cry.

After a few moments, Sam studiously ignored him, retrieving a slice of
pizza and concentrating on removing the anchovies from it and flicking them
back into the box. When Chris' laughing fit showed no sign of letting up,
he started to flick them at his partner instead.

"Hey," yelped Chris as a soggy fish hit him square in the middle of his
bare chest. "Anymore of that and I'll make you eat them straight off
there." Sam wiggled his eyebrows at him suggestively.

"Kinky," he leered. The light-hearted teasing did more to reassure Chris
of his partner's state of mind than any amount of protestations on Sam's
part had. When Sam turned his attention back to relieving his pizza of any
remaining anchovy influences, Chris took the opportunity to examine his
partner more closely. Sam did look more rested, although there was still
some tension evident in the lines around his eyes. Sam caught him looking,
and threw him another smile. "I'll have you know I don't do kinky," he
added off the cuff, suddenly straight faced.

"No?"

"No. I'm a nice boy."

"Is there anyone in the world who actually believes that?"

"My grandmother."

"I refuse to believe that even your grandmother is that gullible."

"Probably not, but she pretends that she thinks I'm a nice boy, and I
pretend that I am, at least when I'm around her," Sam smiled.

"And that works?" Chris asked dubiously.

"Seems too," replied Sam, taking a bite out of his pizza. "And if it ain't
broke, don't fix it," he added with his mouth full.

"Pig," teased Chris, pleased to be able to throw the affectionate insult
back into his partner's face at last.

"Been hanging around with you for too long." Sam sounded completely
unconcerned, snagging another piece of pizza and examining it for
anchovies. "Bad habits are obviously rubbing off on me."

"Shouldn't speak with your mouth full," Chris began, "unless..." Sam gave
him a quizzical look. "...it's full of me," he continued beaming. 

Sam rolled his eyes. "One track mind," he muttered under his breath.

"When it comes to you, yeah," Chris admitted cheerfully. He reached for
his own slice of pizza and they spent a few companionable minutes dealing
with hunger pangs.

Sam finished first, throwing his half eaten third slice back into the box
and wiping his hands on one of the napkins provided. He settled back onto
the bed, reaching behind his head to thump the pillows with his fist until
he'd beaten them into a more comfortable shape and then sinking back into
them with a sigh. Chris continued munching away, a little self-conscious
when his partner's eyes settled on him. When he finally finished and wiped
his mouth and hands with another napkin, he gave Sam an enquiring look.
Sam just smiled at him, the expression in his eyes unreadable. Chris
fought back the urge to ask him once again whether he was all right. His
partner had been pretty patient with him so far, but Sam's tolerance
wouldn't last forever. Besides his partner looked fine, considering. In
fact he looked better than fine, lounging back on the bed, his head
pillowed on one arm and the sheet pulled haphazardly up to his waist. No
wonder he had a one track mind whenever he was around the man.

"Want anything else?" he asked. "I think there's a chocolate machine in
the lobby. And I definitely saw a soda machine." Sam shook his head, his
expression still unreadable. "Are you sure there's nothing you want?"

Sam stared at him for a heartbeat, his eyes very dark, and then he murmured
softly, "Make love to me, Chris. Please?" The soft, almost pleading tone
had Chris reaching for him before conscious thought kicked in.

Whatever had prompted the request, it wasn't simply arousal. It wouldn't
be the first time that they'd dealt with the fallout from a difficult case
by losing themselves in each other's body, and Chris doubted it would be
the last. And now that Sam had suggested it, he found himself wanting to
make love desperately, rapidly becoming erect at the mere thought of it
when if anyone had asked him ten minutes ago he would have sworn that he
was too tired.

Sam wasn't having any difficulty in overcoming his exhaustion either, an
answering hardness rising to meet his as he pressed himself against his
partner. He had this insane urge to get as close to Sam as he could,
probably a reaction to the realisation that he'd almost lost him, almost
lost this. An urge to mould himself against the Englishman, press against
every inch of him, hell he'd probably crawl inside his skin if he could,
bury himself inside the other man. He told Sam this, in disjointed words
and phrases between desperate kisses, probably not making much sense as he
did so but unable to stop himself from speaking.

His lover was equally desperate, meeting his kisses with the same fervour
as he gave them, and initiating his own, his arms wrapped tightly around
the American. They were almost devouring each other. 

And then Sam pulled away, his eyes searching his lover's face, that self
same flicker back in his eyes. "If that's what you want," he said softly,
reaching around Chris to slide his hand into the back pocket of Chris'
jeans where Chris kept his condoms. He handed the packet to his friend.
Chris took it, giving him a blank look as he mentally reviewed what he'd
been saying.

"Oh," he finally said. "Sam, when I said I wanted to bury myself inside
you, I didn't mean..."

He trailed off when he saw the hurt flash across Sam's face, but it was too
late. The damage was already done. Sam had his 'impassive' face well and
truly in place. The Englishman rolled onto his back and stared
expressionlessly at the ceiling. "It's okay if you don't want me like
that," he said, his tone subdued. He avoided looking at Chris while he
said it.

"It's not okay," said Chris, grasping Sam's chin in his hand and turning
his partner's face towards him. "And I want you in ways that probably
haven't even occurred to you yet. But what I don't want is for you to hate
me in the morning because I pushed you into something you weren't ready for."

Sam jerked away from him. "You are not pushing me. It was my bloody idea
wasn't it? I'm not a child. I'm older than you are, and I don't get
pushed into anything I don't want to do. For fuck's sake, if you don't
want me at least have the balls to tell me."

Chris kept rein on his own temper with a great deal of difficulty.
Stubborn, bloody-minded, prickly, touchy, defensive... Sometimes he didn't
know whether to kiss Sam or kill him. "I do want you," he said, keeping
his voice even. The quick half-hopeful, half-miserable look Sam flashed
him had him adding, a little more gently, "God, do I want you. But I want
to make sure that you want this too. That it's not because of what Adams
threatened."

That earned him a snort. "I started working for MI6 when I was twenty and
in my year out abroad," snapped Sam. "In the last ten years I've been
threatened with that more than once by considerably more dangerous men than
Caleb Adams. And strangely enough it never made me want to go out and get
fucked up the arse by the next guy I met. So credit me with some bloody
sense."

Deep breath. Count to ten. Do not kill him. "Why then?"

Sam shrugged. "You seem to enjoy it." There was a slight pause before he
added, "Let's just forget it and get some sleep." He rolled over to face
away from Chris.

'Great,' thought Chris. 'Fucked up again.' He was annoyed to say the
least, but whether at Sam or himself he couldn't tell. Everything had been
going great and he'd had to open his mouth and spoil it. But why the hell
did Sam have to be so defensive? Sometimes he wondered why he bothered.

The reason he bothered was lying next to him, resolutely facing away from
him, and if his tone had been argumentative the stiff posture of Sam's body
fairly screamed fury. Grovelling time by the looks of it, although he
couldn't understand why the hell it should be him grovelling when Sam had
completely overreacted. Mentally preparing himself for another
tongue-lashing, Chris raised himself up on his elbow and peered down at Sam.

He'd been wrong about Sam's mood. His face, in the brief glimpse Chris
caught before the mask went back up, was miserable not angry. The
realisation that he'd been wrong, that he'd hurt Sam, even unintentionally,
made apologising much easier. "I'm sorry," he murmured, using his free
hand to brush the hair off Sam's face. "I didn't mean to have a go at you."

Sam turned his head to look at him, and after a moment gave him a faint
smile. "I guess I overreacted." 

"A bit."

"I have a habit of doing that don't I?" Chris maintained a diplomatic
silence. "I'll make you a deal," Sam continued. "I'll try not to
overreact if you promise to try and stop second guessing me."

"Deal," agreed Chris, a little relieved that Sam was being so reasonable.
He couldn't, however, resist defending himself again. "I just wanted to
make sure you weren't going to regret it."

Sam rolled back onto his back to look up at him. "When I was in the boot
of that car," he began, stumbling slightly over his words. "I thought,
really thought, that that was it. The end of the line." He paused to
search Chris' face for understanding, and found it. "And as well as being
scared shitless," he added wryly, "there were a couple of things I wished
I'd done. And this was one of them."

"What were the others?" asked Chris, intensely curious.

"God you never quit, do you?" Sam's voice was incredulous rather than
annoyed, and Chris muttered a sheepish 'sorry'. "I haven't had a blinding
revelation. I'm not suddenly going to become a missionary in Africa or
anything. It was just..." He shrugged, at a loss for words to continue,
but Chris understood his drift.

"Can we start again?" he asked. "Pretend I wasn't such an asshole as to
second guess you and accepted your offer with the enthusiasm it deserved?"
Sam gave him a long steady look, and then the corner of his mouth quirked
upwards slightly.

"How much enthusiasm?"

"How about," replied Chris, leaning in to press a brief kiss on his
partner's lips, "there is nothing I would rather do than make love to you
like that." He kissed him again. "Or, I'm honoured that you would let
me." Another kiss, earning a smile from Sam. "Or how about, wanna fuck?"
The last words were said in a mock bright and cheerful tone. "Enthusiastic
enough?"

Sam laughed. "You smooth talking bastard. No wonder women can't resist you."

"That's me. Irresistible." Chris smiled at him, his dimples showing.
"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure."

"Have you done this before?"

"No. Is that a problem?"

"No. I've just never seduced a virgin before." Sam glanced up at him,
catching sight of the dimples again.

"You seduced me four months ago," he groused. "I think it's a little late
to be worrying about it now."

"I'm not worried. Just pointing it out, that's all. Just a couple of
points." Sam sighed.

"You're not going to make me take notes are you?"

"No, but pay attention. There may be a test later."

"Written or verbal?"

"Practical demonstration."

Sam chuckled. "Okay, I'll pay attention." When he glanced up at Chris
again, his partner's face was serious, although his eyes were warm.

"First thing is that it's kind of like you would imagine losing any
virginity would be like. It's going to hurt a little at first. If it's
too much, tell me."

"Sure."

"I mean it."

Sam sketched a salute. "Yes, sir."

"We'll go slow, give you time to get used to it." Another salute. "Sam,
take this seriously."

"We're going to have sex, Chris. We're not planning a military campaign.
And we'll be using condoms and everything, like the responsible adults we
are. I've got it. Anything else?"

That coaxed a reluctant smile out of the ex-Navy SEAL. "Just one thing. I
love you."

Sam met his eyes, and held them for once. "I know, and I... I'm grateful
for it. Every day." It wasn't as if Sam had fallen into his arms, but the
sincerity of the words touched Chris nonetheless. For once Sam hadn't
shrugged off his admission, and he was thankful for that. In fact his
partner was just watching him, looking a little unsure of himself. It was
a good look for him.

Chris took advantage of his unusual hesitancy, leaning in to steal a kiss.
One kiss turned into two, turned into several. Chris settled himself on
top of Sam's body, pressing him down into the bed, letting his tongue have
full rein exploring his lover's mouth. Sam always tasted so good, a clean
strong taste, smooth like honey and whiskey combined. And smelt so good
too, he thought burying his face in Sam's neck and inhaling deeply. He
licked the soft skin, enjoying the slightly salty tang. Giving into
temptation, he sucked the skin into his mouth, marking Sam as his. A basic
impulse perhaps, but one more bruise wouldn't be noticed.

Sam hissed at the sudden sharp pain, but his only reaction was to drag his
fingernails down Chris' back, settling his hands on his partner's rear and
pulling the other man hard against him. Chris moaned softly as their
erections ground together. As much as he would love to take this slowly,
his passion was rising too quickly for him to be satisfied with foreplay
for long. He rolled to one side, and fumbled with the fastenings of his
trousers, wriggling out of them quickly. His boxers soon followed, landing
on top of his trousers on the floor. And then he too was sliding
underneath the sheets, coming to rest in the arms of his equally naked
partner.


Bliss. There was nothing quite like being naked and held by someone you
loved. The slide of their bare skins against each other was an aphrodisiac
in itself. After kissing Sam again, Chris went on the prowl, sliding down
his lover's sweat slicked body, nibbling and nipping as he went. He paid
special attention to Sam's tight pink nipples, knowing how sensitive his
partner was there. He alternated between them, sucking them to hard aching
points, listening to Sam's moans of pleasure. He paid equal attention to
the Englishman's torso, swirling his tongue around Sam's belly button, and
down the dark trail of hair towards his groin. He ignored the straining
erection completely, focusing his attention instead on the inside of Sam's
pale thighs, again nibbling and sucking, sometimes hard enough to leave
marks. He slid his hands upwards from Sam's knees along his inner thighs,
forcing them apart and settling between them, lowering his head to lick
around his lover's velvety sac. His tongue flickered over the puckered
entrance to Sam's body once, twice, and Sam gasped and twisted in his
grasp. Smiling softly to himself, Chris rose up on his elbows and slowly
licked the entire length of Sam's erection, listening to Sam's panting.

He pulled his way back up his lover's body, pressing another kiss against
Sam's half open lips. Sam's eyes met his, glazed over with passion. "Roll
over," he growled, knowing that Sam was as aroused as he was, and not
willing to wait any longer. Even so, he was rather surprised at Sam's
willingness, as his partner quickly rolled onto his stomach. Condoms he
had, he needed lubricant. "Sam? Lube?"

"Wash bag." 

His lover sounded breathless and needy, a feeling Chris was familiar with.
It speeded his steps as he retrieved the small tube from Sam's luggage, and
in virtually no time he was back on the bed next to Sam. Sam turned his
head and gave him another kiss, one that almost melted his bones it was so
sweet and hot and sexy at the same time. "Ready?" he asked when they broke
apart, his own voice sounding breathless now. Sam nodded once before
turning his face back into the pillow and sliding up onto his knees to
allow Chris access.

Chris complied with the unspoken request, moving closer to run his hands
down Sam's back and over the smooth globes of his buttocks down his thighs.
He leant forward and placed a gentle kiss on Sam's shoulder, before
flicking open the tube of lubricant with one fingernail. He couldn't wait
any longer. Squeezing some of the contents onto his fingers, he stroked
down Sam's cleft, smoothing the cool gel around the entrance to his lover's
body. Without any further preamble he eased one slick finger into Sam's
tight heat.

Sam tensed slightly but showed no other reaction, his face still buried in
the pillow. Chris continued to slide his finger in and out of his lover,
loosening him for their joining. He avoided brushing over Sam's prostate,
because, although he would have been unable to put it into words, there was
part of him that wanted to save that sensation for when he was buried to
the hilt in his partner's body. He wanted this to be as good for Sam as
possible, partly love but partly because he wanted Sam to want this again.
He needed Sam to want him as much as he wanted Sam.

He replaced one finger with two, concentrating on loosening Sam further
with a gentle scissoring motion. Sam still said nothing but began to rock
backwards into his thrusting fingers. Three fingers and Sam tensed
slightly at the discomfort. Chris leant down and kissed his shoulder
again, his free hand stroking along Sam's flank. He continued to move his
fingers in and out slowly and carefully until Sam relaxed and he felt that
Sam was as ready for him as possible.

"Okay?" he whispered to the Englishman, unwilling to break the mood by
speaking any louder. Sam nodded briefly, and braced himself against the
headboard as Chris moved to position himself behind him. Chris grabbed a
condom, tearing the packet open with his teeth, and rolled it onto himself
with a quick practised motion. He guided his erection to the opening of
Sam's body, and gently began to ease his way into his lover, placing one
hand on Sam's hip to steady him as he did so. He placed his other hand on
the bed by Sam's head, bracing himself.

Sam tensed underneath him, the muscles in his back locked rigid. The
tension translated itself into other tightened muscles, and Chris found it
difficult to push into the other man. He was reluctant to be more
forceful, worried about causing his lover pain, but at the same time he was
almost shaking with the need to possess Sam, fighting the urge to simply
thrust into him, claim him in the most primitive way possible. Before he
could come to a decision, Sam spoke, his voice harsh.

"Chris... Stop."

Chris experienced an almost crushing sense of disappointment. For a brief
moment he hesitated, battling his more basic instincts, but common sense
reasserted itself. He pulled away, settling himself on the bed as Sam sat
up, running his fingers through his disordered hair. "Did I hurt you?"
Chris asked neutrally, trying to hide his disappointment. He wasn't sure
if he was entirely successful, but if he wasn't Sam didn't appear to notice.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," hissed Sam, more to himself it seemed than to his
partner. His grey-green eyes were sparking with anger. Chris could feel
his own temper rising, and fought it back with an effort. Before he could
open his mouth, and maybe make things worse, all of the fight seemed to go
out of the Englishman. "No," Sam sighed, "you didn't hurt me." He paused
to run his hands through his hair again, pushing it back out of his eyes.
"But I should have shot those sons of bitches while I had the chance." He
looked very tired all of a sudden, and older than his years. He avoided
looking in the American's direction, fixing his attention on the small
print hanging above the bed.

Chris meanwhile was frowning slightly as he tried to figure out what the
hell was going through his partner's mind now. "Sam...?"

"Sorry," muttered Sam, finally looking at him. He looked miserable and
beaten. "Stupid letting it get to me like this. What use am I? Can't
even shut the shower door, can't bear you on top of me..."

Ah. So that was it. Chris felt a sudden surge of relief. Claustrophobia
he could handle. He wasn't so sure he would have been able to handle
rejection. "You're being too hard on yourself. It will pass."

"And if it doesn't?"

"We'll deal with it."

Sam gave him a wry smile, which didn't quite reach his eyes. "We?"

"We," reiterated Chris firmly. Sam's smile was more genuine this time. He
looked as though he wanted to say something, but hesitated, and instead
leant over and kissed the ex-Navy SEAL thoroughly. As his tongue stroked
along Chris', forcing a moan out of the other man, Sam moved to straddle
him, pushing him back into the bed. Finally releasing the American's
mouth, he moved back until he was resting over Chris' groin, Chris'
erection nestled between his buttocks. His eyes met and held his lover's.
"Sure?" asked Chris, his mouth dry. Sam nodded, easing further downwards
so that Chris' cock pressed intimately against him. Chris sighed raggedly,
fighting the urge to thrust wildly up into Sam. Instead, he reached up and
grasped Sam's hips, pulling his partner down slowly down onto him. There
was some resistance at first, until he breached the tight outer ring of
muscles, and then at last he was sliding into his lover.

Damn, but it felt good. His eyes fluttered shut as he absorbed the
sensation, his breathing uneven. Better than good. Hot and tight and
incredible. And he was only just inside his lover. God, what would it
feel like when he was fully embedded in the other man? He was prepared to
savour that feeling, holding Sam steady, waiting until Sam was used to the
intrusion but Sam had other ideas, placing his hands firmly on Chris' chest
to steady himself, and pushing back hard so that in one movement Chris was
engulfed to the root.

"Oh Christ," gasped the American, his eyes flying open as shudders of pure
bliss coursed through his body. "Oh fuck yes." When he could focus again,
he noticed the tightness around Sam's mouth. Somewhere in his brain the
connection was made that the rapid movement must have hurt Sam, and he
tightened his hold on the other man's hips, holding him place. "Wait," he
breathed. "Don't move yet. Just relax. We got all night." Sam nodded
jerkily, his eyes closing and his breathing harsh. His erection had faded
too, Chris noted, and he moved to remedy that, stroking his hands along
Sam's thighs and up over his abdomen before grasping his cock in one hand,
stroking it lightly. The feather light touches began to have an effect,
Sam swelling under his fingertips and hardening rapidly. He kept his eyes
on the Englishman's face, watching it slowly relax under his ministrations
as the pain eased, then tighten again as the pain was replaced by a
different kind of tension. "Okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," breathed his partner.

"Good." His own breathing was growing ragged as the need to move grew.
"Cos I gotta move Sammy. I just gotta." Sam nodded once, and then rose up
off him again. That felt even better, to Chris at least. He knew from his
own experience that it probably wasn't particularly comfortable for Sam,
familiar with the burning ache that Sam was probably feeling now. And
indeed, when he looked at Sam's face Sam's eyes were closed again, and he
was biting his lip. He let Sam move on him once or twice, until the
jerkiness was gone from his partner's movements, replaced by a smoothness
that had him wanting to twist under the other man, call out his name, curse
even, then he caught hold of Sam's hips once more, tilting Sam's pelvis
towards him so that the next thrust hit just so, raking across his prostate.

It was Sam's turn to swear as a burst of blinding pleasure shot through
him. His eyes widened and captured Chris', the look of dazed pleasure in
them causing Chris' mouth to curl upwards in a slow smile. He did it
again, and again Sam swore, his short, blunt nails managing to dig sharp
crescents in Chris's chest as he panted heavily. Chris' smile widened into
a grin. "Okay?" he couldn't resist asking.

"Fuck yes," Sam breathed, his eyes closing again. "I'm beginning to see
why you like this so much."

"Gets better," murmured Chris, unable to completely keep the triumph out of
his voice. 

"I'm not sure I could survive better... Oh Christ." The latter was forced
out of him as Chris pushed up against his prostate again, chuckling softly
to himself. 

Chris reached for his lover's neglected erection, intending to bring him to
completion, but Sam stopped him, instead removing his hands from Chris'
chest and clasping Chris' hands in his, twining their fingers together and
bracing himself against them. He used the leverage to sit up straighter,
meaning that each thrust pushed Chris deeper into his body. The position
also meant that almost every movement brushed against that magic spot he'd
just found inside. He soon found a rhythm that made Chris' face contort
with pleasure, and he watched his lover's face fascinated, as Chris'
breathing deepened to near sobs of pleasure. Finally, unable to bear any
more, Chris tore his hands away from Sam's and grabbed the Englishman's
hips hard enough to bruise, bucking up into him hard. That hurt again, but
he ignored the pain, focusing on Chris, rocking back equally hard against
him as the American screamed his name and came, an almost shocking flood of
heat, even felt through the condom.

He was close himself, but for now was satisfied with just watching Chris'
face smooth out in the aftermath of his orgasm. And then Chris' eyes
opened again, startlingly blue. Chris' hands on his hips were gentler this
time as he pulled Sam up his body, slipping out of the other man as he
guided Sam to straddle his chest. Sam leant forward and braced himself
against the wall as Chris took him into his mouth.

It was a slightly awkward position for Chris, giving him a slight crick in
the neck, and for that reason he was pleased that it didn't take long to
bring Sam to orgasm. Sam held his eyes right up until the end, looking
down at him, watching as Chris slipped him in and out of his mouth. It
could have been the eroticism of that which brought him to completion so
quickly, but whatever it was it only took a few thrusts before he was
forced to close his eyes, fingernails digging into the plaster, as he came
into his lover's mouth. For Chris it was a truly beautiful sight, his
partner driven beyond endurance watching Chris pleasure him, his hair
falling into his face as he bit his lips to stop from screaming as Chris
swallowed everything he gave.

Sam slid off his partner, rolling to lie on his back next to him, his
breathing gradually evening out. "Okay?" asked Chris again. Sam could
only find the energy to nod, nodding again as Chris muttered something
about cleaning up.

Chris cast one last look at his partner as he headed into the small
bathroom. His mouth curled in a smile again as he watched Sam sprawled on
the bed, one arm flung across his chest and the other over his eyes. His
partner looked well fucked, for want of a better description. He hummed
happily to himself.

His happiness lasted just long enough for him to realise that there was
blood on the condom. Not a great deal to be sure, but enough to have him
heading back into the bedroom, grabbing the small medical kit Sam always
carried on the way. "Roll over," he demanded when he reached the bed. Sam
removed the arm flung over his face, and gave him a puzzled sleepy look. 

"Again?" he asked a little plaintively. "Where do you get the stamina from?"

"Very funny. You're bleeding," Chris explained, a little more softly this
time. Sam's look of puzzlement increased, as he brought his fingers up to
the bump on his head bringing them away clear. "Not there," Chris added,
rolling his eyes.

The penny dropped. "Oh." Sam finally obliged, rolling onto his stomach,
and letting Chris examine him, but unable to resist adding the now almost
obligatory, "I'm fine."

"Yeah," agreed Chris finally. "You are." He placed the unused medical kit
on the bedside table, ignoring the half amused, half irritated look Sam
gave him, and headed back into the bathroom to wash up. When he came out
again, Sam had succumbed to sleep, sprawled across most of the bed. Poking
him in the side to get him to roll over and give him some room, Chris
crawled in next to him.


When something woke him later, it was starting to grow dark. He lay there
for a moment, disorientated, until the sound came again.

Sam. His partner was twitching next to him, a soft whimper driven out of
him. It didn't take Chris long to figure out it was a nightmare. He'd had
plenty of personal experience of them. He shook Sam gently, until Sam half
woke and then curled himself around the other man, easing him back to
sleep, nightmare forgotten.



The second time he woke it was to an empty bed. It was completely dark
now, only the streetlights shining into the room through the thick curtains
providing any illumination. His first thought was that Sam had had another
nightmare, one that had woken him completely, but there was no sign of his
lover in the room. Sam's clothes were still piled up on the chair in the
corner, and from what Chris could see of the other man's suitcase in the
dim light it didn't look like it had been disturbed. So Sam hadn't got
dressed and gone out, and he was hardly likely to be wandering about naked.
That only left the bathroom, but there was no sound coming from there, and
no light was coming from underneath the door. So either Sam was sitting in
the bathroom in the dark or he really was wandering around naked, which
might be a bit difficult to explain to Malone when they had to bail him out.

With a sigh, Chris pulled himself out of bed, and staggered on sleepy legs
to the bathroom.

When his eyes adjusted to the dim light he spotted his partner. He was
sitting in the corner, in the dark, his arms curled around his knees and
his face buried in his arms. Chris sighed, and flicked the light switch
on, wincing as his eyes adjusted. "You gonna tell me why you're sitting in
the dark?" Sam shrugged without raising his head. Chris moved closer,
crouching down in front of his partner, resting his forearms on his thighs.
"Sam? You going to talk to me, or am I going to have to hurt you too?"

Sam chuckled softly and finally lifted his head to look at him. He looked
terrible, desperately tired, and the skin under his eyes looked almost
bruised it was so dark with exhaustion. "I needed to do this."

"Because?"

Another shrug. "I had to know I could."

"Sit in the dark on the bathroom floor? What use is that?" The look Sam
gave him now was almost contemptuous.

"I needed to know that I could stay somewhere small, dark and confined and
not freak out."

"You ask me the fact that you are sitting here suggests you have freaked out."

"Thanks for the support."

Chris sighed again. "Sammy, I'll support you in anything you want to do.
Even if its something as nutty as sitting in the dark on the bathroom
floor. But I think you are being way too hard on yourself. I know you're
feeling... vulnerable right now, and I don't see how this is going to help."

"I managed it." Sam's voice was stubborn, with that underlying hint of
steel he got when he felt he was facing up to difficult odds. With a
mental sigh, Chris admitted defeat.

"Yeah, you managed it. Can we go back to bed now? And stay there? It's
cold in here."

Sam gave him a wry smile, the expression looking very odd on a face as
drained of colour as his was. "Sure. Give me a hand up?"

His partner's hand was very cold. The air conditioning had chilled the
room noticeably in the time they'd been asleep. Chris heaved him to his
feet, catching him when he stumbled. Sam's torso was also cold, and
judging by the way he was moving, the cold hadn't done his stiff muscles
any good.

"We need to warm you up," he stated briskly. Sam smiled at him again.

"What did you have in mind?"

"Bath. Get some stiffness out of those muscles."

"I'm fine." There was the slightest edge in Sam's voice, and Chris was
rapidly losing patience.

"You are not fine. You're stiff, sore and stubborn beyond belief." They
glared at each other. Sam was the first to look away, exhaustion evident
in the way he moved.

"You going to insist on mothering me?"

"Right now? Yes. Enjoy it while it lasts. It'll only happen when you
spend sixteen hours locked in a trunk."

"Well, I'm not planning to do again that in a hurry," replied Sam, keeping
his voice deliberately light and smiling again. Chris wasn't fooled.

"I'd rather you didn't," he answered seriously. "I'm not sure I'm up to
thinking the worst for that long." Again there was that flicker of
*something* through Sam's eyes, although Chris was too tired to figure out
what it was. "Bath," he reiterated. Sam hesitated, and Chris braced
himself for another argument he really didn't need at this time of night. 

Sam surprised him, his mouth lifting in a slight smile as he asked, "Wash
my back?"

"I'm not going anywhere," replied the American, his voice gentle as he
answered the unspoken question too. Sam nodded, apparently satisfied
although he avoided Chris' eyes as he sat down on the closed toilet lid,
watching the bath fill instead.

It didn't take long. One advantage of almost living in hotels and motels
was the unlimited supply of hot water - at most of them anyway. There had
been one or two such establishments that Chris still shuddered to recall.
When the bath was full he waited until Sam got in, his offer of assistance
refused with a frown. Back into touchy mode obviously.

He settled himself behind his partner, relieved when Sam leant back against
him. Wrapping his arms around his partner, he contented himself with
smoothing his wet hands over Sam's chest, getting the circulation going
again, until the warm suffused his partner again. Then he pressed a brief
kiss against his partner's hair and settled in for the long haul.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Not really."

Deep breath. Count to ten again. "Let me rephrase that. Tell me what's
bothering you or I'll dunk you."

That earned a chuckle from Sam. "Although I'm not sure that this bath is
big enough for that, I'd rather not wrestle at this time of night. What do
you want to know?"

Chris kept his voice deliberately soft and even. "You said you could hear
them..."

"Planning how to kill me, you mean? And you want to know if it bothered me
at all? Hell, no. I'm a CI5 agent, remember? We take that type of thing
in our stride."

"Bullshit."

Sam stirred the water gently with one hand. "It bothered me," he admitted
quietly. "But what Adams wanted to do to me first bothered me more."
There was a long silence before he added, "I felt so fucking useless Chris.
Trussed up like a bloody Christmas turkey while that piece of slime talked
about how he wanted my arse." He laughed, although there was no amusement
in it. "Davies actually shut him up, you know. It appears that he wasn't
too keen on the idea. Queers turn his stomach, apparently. Weird, isn't
it? I was actually grateful for his homophobia."

"Remind me to send him a Christmas card," commented Chris dryly.

"Yeah," sighed Sam. "He just wanted to torture me to find out who much we
know."

"I hope you told him you don't do that on a first date."

This time the laugh was more genuine, as Sam said affectionately, "You have
some really sick ideas, do you know that Keel?"

"Yeah, and most of them involve getting you naked." Another laugh, and Sam
settled back against him, the last of the tension draining out of his body.

"I'm so tired," he said. Another long pause, and then out of the blue, he
added, "Thanks."

"For what?"

"Everything. Being my partner. Putting up with my shit. Everything."

Chris struggled for something to say, very touched by the remark, and the
emotions he sensed were behind it. He settled for, "You're welcome."

They lay there for a while, letting the heat seep into their bones, before
Chris broke the companionable silence to ask, "Sam?"

"Mmm?"

"Before... Why wouldn't you let me touch you?"

"What? Oh, needed to concentrate. Couldn't do that if you touched me.
Didn't want to come too soon."

"That's it?"

"Yeah. Why?" 

Chris shrugged before realising his partner couldn't see him. "I just
wondered if it was, you know, because of what happened."

Sam shifted slightly, getting more comfortable. "If that was the case," he
sighed, "we wouldn't have done anything at all."

"Oh. Good point." Sam chuckled softly, but said nothing more, shifting
against his lover again, pillowing his head on Chris' chest. "You're not
going to sleep are you?" Chris asked.

"S'okay," murmured Sam sleepily. "I trust you not to let me drown."

Whether he meant something as simple as the bath, or whether he was being
less literal and meaning in what had happened, Chris couldn't figure out.
He settled for pulling Sam closer against himself and pressing another kiss
against his hair. "I won't, love," he murmured.

There was no answer, Sam's breathing already easing into the deep rhythm of
sleep.

Oh yes, Chris decided. He was definitely in for the long haul.

The End


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