Actions

Work Header

The One Where Ed Lane Has A Sexual Identity Crises

Work Text:

PRELUDE

"Okay, we all need to calm down here, just a little," Greg's voice says in Sam's ear. Sam casts a worried glance at Ed, lying unconscious in a crumpled heap on the floor at Sam's feet and back at the man waving a canister in one hand and a Glock 9mm in the other that Sam has taken to calling Crazy Asshole in his head since the door shut behind the last of the hostages a few minutes ago. Timing says they should have made it down the three flights of stairs to the street. By now they're giving their statements to the cops and being kept away from the press.

The room is muggy and Sam can feel sweat running down his back under his uniform. There's one window and it's behind him and not behind the suspect; there's no chance that Jules has line of sight when Sam's head is in the way. Of course, maybe after this morning there is but he's pretty sure she's not like that, he's not going to go down in a friendly fire incident over it. They'll probably have to talk about their feelings at some point though.

Sure enough Jules' voice comes over the radio, full of quiet frustration. "No solution, I repeat, I do not have the solution." This wasn't supposed to be how this played out. Both of the principle shooters weren't supposed to end up in the same room as a gun toting maniac while their back-up sat on a roof without a clear shot.

He does the math and comes up with an unacceptable answer, he's not going to be able to move fast enough to shoot the guy, jump over Ed's prone form, get across the eight feet that separates him from the subject and catch the canister before it hits the floor.

"Okay, we all need to calm down here, just a little," Greg says again. Sam takes a steadying breath.

"Okay," he says using the same inflections Greg had used. "We all need to calm down here, just a little."

"You need to stop talking, I don't need to calm down," Crazy Asshole says seriously. His arms are trembling minutely and Sam worries that the canister is going to fall.

"Yeah, you do, we need to talk here, you need to understand what you're about to do." Greg says and Sam bites his lip. He doesn't want to set this guy off and it sounds like that's going to set the guy off right away. "Go ahead, Sam, guy like this is going to want to rant, he's going to go classic villain on you and explain his evil plan. It's okay."

"Yeah, we need to calm down," Sam says, he's amazed at how calm his own voice is because inside he's pretty hysterical. Between the two of them, he and Ed have exactly no protection whatsoever and they don't know what's in the canister and he has no negotiating experience whatsoever. This is giving Sam flashbacks to Afghanistan in a bad way and he knows that if … he knows that when he gets home tonight he's not going to be sleeping well. "We need to calm down and talk about this. You need to understand what you're about to do."

"Good, Sam, you're doing great," Greg says calmly. He thinks he hears Lewis' voice in the background, like maybe they've identified the contents of the canister. Identified the suspect.

"I know exactly what I'm doing here," Crazy Asshole says. "This is a holy war, this is my jihad and you and the rest of your friends aren't going to get in my way."

"Do you really believe that this is a jihad?" Greg asks so Sam asks too when really all he wants to do is scream about how this is all fucked up because this guy, he's not Muslim, there's no way he's Muslim and he's not on a holy war, he's some pissed off ex-employee who thought that taking down the people he works with is the thing to do because he got fired.

"You know nothing about my holy war," Crazy Asshole says.

"Peter Noles," Lewis says, his voice is tense and more than a little worried. "Forty-five years old, devout Christian according to family and friends, he worked here until four years ago when he was let go. Employees from that time period say it was for a missing shipment of a gaseous chemical. The chemical isn't listed anywhere as being missing and Noles' dismissal papers list it as a layoff. Friends say he's been going downhill ever since. Started finding new friends that the family is afraid to have around, stopped going to church five weeks ago. Wife says he's been locked up in their basement for the last two weeks working on something and he wouldn't let her down to see."

"Okay, get a team down to the house, evacuate the family and run some tests," Greg says. 

Sam would normally have made a snide remark, even just in his head, at how right his assessment was except that he can feel every fibre of his being freeze at Lewis' words. He can deal with gas, there are procedures for gas, it's not like he's never been threatened or had to take action when gas was involved. He's never been so terrified in his life up to and including being held hostage by insurgents.

"I know that God doesn't want you to do this, Peter, I know that you don’t pray to Allah and that there won't be seventy-two virgins waiting for you at the gates," Greg says. Sam parrots the words at the same time as he hears Dr. Luria's voice break onto the radio.

"No, don't push that, he's not going to respond to that." Sam can see the effect it's having on Crazy Asshole. The flash of anger in his eyes as he points the 9mm at his own head. He wishes Dr. Luria had been on time, hadn't been held up in court.

"This is my holy war," he says. Sam is down on the ground before the gun falls from Peter's limp hand. There's no time for him to get from his position to Peter's falling body to catch the canister but there is time to wrap his face in his jacket, pull Ed's face into his chest tight as he can and hope that's good enough.

SAM

"You are aware we're not charging you with anything, correct?" The investigator is a pretty girl, Irish looking. Green eyes, red hair pulled into a severe bun and pale skin. There's a smattering of freckles on her cheeks that he thinks he would have found attractive at some point but her hair pulls a little at the skin of her face and makes her cheekbones stand out like sharp knives.

"Yeah, well, there's nothing to charge me with." He bounces his knee gently, a habit he knows irritates the hell out of people and one that he can't help. He's a coiled spring of tension and he just wants to move. The next bounce rattles the thin metal table separating them, the hospital cafeteria is quiet.

"We just want an accounting of the situation," she says. She doesn't have an accent, probably not born in Ireland. Her mouth purses in annoyance when he starts tapping the pen in his hands in time with the bouncing of his knee. She stares at him hard until he puts the pen down.

"Sorry," he says, but he's not really. He looks out the window behind her at the sun slowly going down, uses his right hand to scratch at the rash on his left arm, something interacting with something to combat the almost poisoning, combining with whatever they gave him for the cold. Which probably saved his life. Kind of a horrifyingly appropriate. "How's...is everyone okay?" He wants to know about Ed, he wants to. Well he wants a lot of things, things that he has no right wanting, not again and not from Ed. 

"Let's just start from the beginning," she tells him, and she puts a recorder in the centre of the table. He hasn't seen anyone since he woke up and she dragged him down here. He kind of wants answers. There's a lot that happened though, the beginning could be when they arrived at BioGene and found the suspect holding an entire department hostage. Or maybe it was the thing with Ed in the locker room. Probably it all started with this morning's paper, but in Sam's mind it started with a muted rock song and a sore throat.

THEN

Theory of a Deadman's "Bad Girlfriend" startles Sam awake an hour later than it should have and when he opens his eyes he realizes that it's because the music is coming through the paper thin bedroom wall with its peeling floral wallpaper that separates his apartment from his neighbour's apartment. His own alarm clock is blinking 12:00, the power went out again. Sam rolls out of bed with a pitiful moan and checks his watch on the nightstand. It's only 6:00am which means he's not going to be late getting in if he hurries through his shower and skips breakfast but driving through downtown Toronto is going to be awful. 

By the time he's standing under the shower he finally realizes why he's dragging, why his brain isn't kicking in. He can feel it in the back of his throat, that nagging pain down the one side that he knows will be on the other side of his throat tomorrow and then by Saturday is going to be a full blown sinus congestion, headache and fever that will kill his entire weekend. His head is already pounding. He hurries through his shower and he can hear his Corporal in his head shouting at him to get his ass moving. If this were Afghanistan he'd have been doing his second perimeter patrol by this time. 

The shower has steamed up the cracked bathroom mirror, which is a miracle considering he's shivering from how not warm the water had actually been. He dries off quickly, wipes the towel over the mirror to clear it and picks up his razor. Stares critically at himself in the mirror. He's good looking enough at 5'8" with white teeth, thick blond hair and blue eyes that the ladies tell him are 'killer' and 'adorable.' In Afghanistan he'd been the typical image of North America. He doesn't have problems with his sex life, well, if SRU hadn't killed his sex life he wouldn't have a problem with it. Unless of course you counted his apartment building. Sam's certain that if he brought a lady home it would probably end up with her hiding her disgust and faking some sort of critical disease to get out as fast as possible.

Command had promised they'd set him up when he got back home, but that's just another thing they lied about, among many. For a minute he's back in the dry desert heat until a sharp sting brings him back to the present. 

"Shit," he mutters and grabs a chunk of toilet paper for the cut on his chin. Bad enough he's the freakin' rookie but if this doesn't heal up by some miracle by the time he gets to work he's going to be suffering from cracks about not being old enough to shave.

His bad mood continues to the hallway when he realizes the bedroom window is open like it is every morning but that the Chinese woman from across the alley, who's window faces his, is staring at him with wide eyes and that's when Sam realizes he's still naked and his towel is in a pile on the floor of the bathroom. Embarrassment courses through him but he moves quickly to close the blinds and gets dressed. Heads into work.

He's halfway to the station when he realizes he has everything backwards. His street clothes are on his person and his uniform is in his duffel bag. He swears silently and takes a moment in the rush hour gridlock to drop his head back onto the head rest and close his eyes against the pain in his head until the person behind him honks. Today is going to be fun. Not.

***
He drops his gym bag at the front door and winces when it clatters against the metal frame, he scoops up the bag and fumbles the door open. He drags his feet into the break room and makes a beeline to the coffee machine with single-minded purpose. Greg and Ed are sitting at the table and Ed looks as rough as Sam feels.

"Sam," Greg greets. Sam grunts into his cup of coffee as he slumps at the table. Drops his duffel beside him.

"You getting sick?" Greg asks. Sam shrugs.

"Yeah, think so, I'll be fine for the next little while though," he says and great, just great, his throat is already sore. He sounds like he's just spent six hours breathing without a mask in a sandstorm. Ed slides something off the table, finishes off his coffee in one quick gulp and gets to his feet.

"I'm gonna get my gear together," he says needlessly, leaving the room.

"You seen today's paper, Sam?" Greg asks. Sam stares at him over the table with a raised eyebrow. He hasn't seen today's paper and the expression on Greg's face leads him to believe he doesn't really want to see today's paper. Greg pushes the newspaper at him, the front page staring up at him. Sam feels something inside him breaking because it's Jessie.

"God," he whispers. "Jessie." Stupid fucking Jessie who always had to be on the front line, who was supposed to be getting out same as Sam and instead probably re-upped out of a sense of duty. Strong arms around him, huddling for warmth in the middle of the night in a cave in the desert watching their captors guard the entrance. There's a burning pain in his back and Sam shivers with a cold sweat. Jessie pulls him in tighter and drops a kiss to the side of his head. "We'll get out of this, you'll see. It's gonna be okay, man, promise."

Sam looks up from the paper at Greg but doesn't really see him. Instead he sees Jessie's face, covered in grime, hidden in shadows from the small light that leaks into the cave from their captors’ campfire.

"We'll get out of this, you'll see."

"I didn't know you knew him," Greg says and know him? That's...Jesus.

"We were in the same unit," Sam says in a tight voice.

"Is this going to mess up your day?" Greg asks. Sam glares at him and shakes his head. 

"No, this isn't going to mess up my day," he says, angry that he would even ask. Yes, this is going to mess up his day, no he's not going to admit to his team leader that he needs to grieve for the man responsible for keeping him sane during the time they were held in that hell of a cave and the two months of recovery after that. The man he might have loved if Jessie hadn't been married. He pushes himself away from the table and grabs his gear. He leaves the coffee untouched on the table.

***

Ed's finishing up when Sam walks into the locker room and when the older man looks up at him it's clear he's seen the paper. Sam's had about all the sympathy he can fucking take over every stupid asshole stupid enough to get killed Over There that he doesn't think he can take any more of it, even for Jessie.

"You going to the highway later?" Ed asks without preamble. Sam nods and jerks his locker open with more force than necessary; he hides a wince when it smacks loudly into the neighbouring locker and the pounding in his head starts back up. "You going to be okay?"

Sam turns to him and tries to keep his voice even. "Look, Ed, I appreciate the concern but I really don't want to talk about this right now. This isn't going to prevent me from doing my job." Ed frowns.

"That's not what I was asking, Sam," he says. "I was asking as a friend, are you alright?" Sam rubs a hand through his hair and turns back into his locker, pulls the edge of his shirt off without thinking about it.

"I'm fine," he says, voice muffled by the dual layers of his grey t-shirt over a long sleeved, black shirt. "Peachy keen." 

He realizes his mistake too late. By the time his brain asks him why he hasn't waited for Ed to leave before getting dressed, Ed's hand is already on his back, right over the brand.

"Ed?" Sam asks. He looks over his shoulder at the other, licks his lips and tries not to shy away. There's this burning in his gut, and he wants to shudder under the other man's hand but doesn't. Ed's married.

"Ed?" Ed's other hand comes up to the small of Sam's back, resting gently over the raised flesh, and this time Sam does shudder, which of course is when the locker room door bursts open and Jules sticks her head in. Ed jerks his hands away like he's been scalded but it's too late because Jules is standing there in the doorway shocked. She shouldn't be shocked. Sam only has a bullet wound on his chest and she hasn't seen his back and then he thinks about what this looks like, him without his shirt, Ed touching him.

"I, um, Greg wants us all for a team meeting,” she says. She swallows heavily, nods and shuts the door quickly.

"Shit," Sam mutters and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. He's almost embarrassed and he doesn't know why, it's not like she was intruding on some private moment or anything, except that's exactly how it felt.

"No kidding," Ed's voice sounds weird, tight and overly controlled. The other man closes his locker and practically runs out of the locker room. Sam shakes his head and pulls his uniform on. There's a reason he changes at home.

***

"What the hell was that?" Jules hisses at him the minute he sits down at the table. Sam carefully doesn't look at her.

"Quit it, okay?" Sam says. "I don't know," and he can feel everyone's eyes on him. He and Jules could have been something, he had felt it, but now after the locker room, he doesn't know what he's going to do. You don't shit where you eat, and you don't fuck where you work. Especially when the fuck is a married man, but then, Sam has always known his type.

"People? We all okay here?" Greg asks with a raised eyebrow, he's looking directly at Jules.

"Yeah," Jules says. Greg looks at Sam.

"Yeah, we're great," he says and slouches a little in his seat.

"Okay, so long as we've got that straight," Greg mutters and hits the button on the remote for the slide show to start. The images presented on the screen are grainy surveillance photos of an entire residential block.

"Meet the River District, River District, meet team One. We've got some very credible sources that say there's 'a really, hugely big drug operation' going down in the neighbourhood, so we're going to patrol, see what we can see and I don't want to hear any whining about it."

"Team One, gear up, situation at BioGene Industries. One identified subject, with hostages, threatening to release an unknown biological agent. Subject is armed with a Magnum .357." 

"Saved by the bell," Spike says and Sam rolls his eyes at the bad pun while Lewis snickers under his breath. They're geared up and out the door, rolling down the street in the SRU’s large black SUVs in a matter of minutes and Sam's intensely grateful that he isn't riding with Jules. He's not so grateful that he's in the same SUV as Ed. He still hasn't had a chance to regain his equilibrium. From the look of his face, neither has Ed.

"You good to go?" Ed asks quietly from the driver's seat. 

"Yeah," Sam says, nods and looks away He's totally not. "Yeah, I'm good. No worries." If Wordy thinks there's anything weird from their exchange, Sam's positive it will be put down to the paper if he brings it up to anybody.

ED

The papers are sitting on the table mocking him, hidden in the manila envelope with the lawyer's address on it. Ed doesn't know if Clark knows that his parents are divorcing, hell, Ed didn't know that they were divorcing until this morning when Sophie had stopped him before he left the bedroom and handed him the manila envelope. She'd had tears in her eyes and she had told him outright that she was sorry but she just couldn't sign on for 'this' any more.

'This' was a mystery to Ed and he just didn't get why women married cops, married men in the military, married members of the SRU and didn't get that there was a culture. Up until this morning he would have sworn up and down that Sophie understood the culture but he supposes that this is probably why he's sitting at the table in his street clothes at 6:00 in the morning in the SRU meeting room with divorce papers mocking him. He doesn't shove them off the table but it's a close thing. Instead he sits leaning forward, elbows on the table, palms resting on his closed eyes, holding up his head.

Greg is the first person to walk in for the morning, already in uniform, and Ed is expecting him. Ed is usually the first one in and then Greg and then for some inexplicable reason, Sam, followed by the rest of the team at least a half an hour after. If anything, Ed would have expected Sam to be the latest given his sometimes slack attitude.

"You look rough, Eddie," Greg comments. Greg pours coffee from the machine, refills his cup and sits across from him. He doesn't wait for permission to snag the envelope and Ed doesn't protest. They've been friends for a long time, he helped Greg through his shit and he figures Greg will probably help him though this.

"It's been that kind of a morning," he says instead and is surprised at the rough quality of his voice. There's a pressure building up in his head but he'll be goddamned if he's going to cry. He hears the clattering of cups and looks up at Greg's wide expressive face and he's grateful not to see sympathy there. Greg slides a cup across the table, full of steaming coffee, and Ed wraps his hands around it, lets the heat burn at his palms for a minute before pulling away.

"I'm sorry, Ed," Greg says. "I know you don't want to hear it but I am sorry, does Clark know?" Ed's mouth twists into a grimace.

"I haven't had a chance to ask. She gave me the papers on my way of out the house this morning. Probably." Greg takes a mouthful of coffee and nods. There's a clatter at the door and when they turn around Sam is stumbling into the room and towards the coffee machine with single-minded purpose. There's a dark look in his eyes.

"Sam," Greg greets. Sam grunts into his cup of coffee as he slumps at the table. The kid looks wiped out with dark circles under his eyes.

"You getting sick?" Greg asks. Sam shrugs.

"Yeah, think so, I'll be fine for the next little while though," he says. His voice sounds really rough. Ed slides his envelope off the table, finishes off his coffee in one quick gulp and gets to his feet. 

"I'm gonna get my gear together," he says needlessly and heads out of the room.

Ed meets up with Wordy on the way to the locker room, the other man looks troubled and holds out the morning paper.

"Morning, Ed, you seen today's paper?" he asks. Ed sighs because it would figure that if one of them is having a bad day, they're all going to have a bad day. It's like collective PMS, and with their luck, it's probably that time of Jules' month.

"Morning, Kevin," he takes the paper out of the other man's hand and stares down at the front page. Corporal L. Jessin, killed by a suicide bomber on the streets of Kandahar. The front page picture is of a burning Humvee in the middle of a dirt street, thick smoke rising in the sky, obscuring the face of the buildings. He claps Kevin on the shoulder as he walks by.

"Buck up, Wordy, it's gonna be a day, I can just feel it." Wordy's snort of agreement follows Ed into the locker room. Lewis and Spike tromp by him and call out in greeting and then the door closes and he's alone again. He takes his time, it's only 7:30, everyone's in early for once. 

He's doing up the buttons of his shirt, his street clothes folded in his duffel at the bottom of his locker, when the door swings open and Sam comes in. He looks a little worse than he did when he'd first walked in and Ed figures that he's seen the paper now. Heard about the dead Corporal.

"You going to the highway later?" Ed asks. Sam nods and jerks his locker open with more force than necessary and it smacks loudly into the neighbouring locker. "You going to be okay?" Ed asks.

Sam's expression is guarded when he looks at him and his voice is hard when he speaks. "Look, Ed, I appreciate the concern but I really don't want to talk about this right now. This isn't going to prevent me from doing my job." Ed frowns.

"That's not what I was asking, Sam, I was asking as a friend, are you alright?" The guarded look leaves in favour of a weary one as Sam resumes getting ready for the day.

"I'm fine," Sam says quietly, his voice is muffled by cloth as he pulls his shirts off. "Peachy keen." Ed turns to look at the odd sounding response and his eyes widen. This is the first time he's ever seen the other man without at least one shirt on. Sam's back is a map of spidery scars, some deeper than others, they look like lines etched into his skin except here and there where the scars are angry and large, one in particular near Sam's shoulder stands out starkly, a brand of some sort, the skin raised and harsh looking. 

When he moves, it's completely without thought, which is why when Sam says his name in a questioning tone of voice it's the first clue that Ed has that he's even moved, let alone that he has his hand on Sam's shoulder, fingers tracing over the brand lightly.

"Ed?" Sam says again. Ed's other hand comes up to rest on the small of Sam's back, resting gently over the raised flesh and feels Sam shake under his hands. There's a familiar expression in Sam's eyes when Ed meets them, the air feels charged around them. When Sam licks his lips Ed follows the movement something aching inside him, makes him want to reach out and -- and just as suddenly as it starts it's gone as the locker room door bursts open and Ed jerks his hands away but it's too late because Jules is standing there in the doorway shocked.

"I, um, Greg wants us all for a team meeting,” she says. She swallows heavily, nods and shuts the door quickly.

"Shit," Sam mutters, hand on the back of his neck.

"No kidding," Ed shakes his head and finishes buttoning his shirt with unsteady hands, closes his locker and pretty much retreats as fast as he can from the locker room, leaving Sam alone.

***

Jules sits beside Sam the minute Sam sits down at the table. Ed would have sat beside the younger man but Jules is clearly staking a claim with the way she's glaring at him and Ed's not in the mood for a pissing contest, let alone a pissing contest with a girl. By the time he sits down she's whispering in Sam’s ear and from the look on his face, he's not really liking whatever it is she's saying. Greg is up at the front of the room fiddling with the remote to the projector when Sam's voice draws everyone's attention.

"Quit it, okay? I don't know," he says.

"People? We all okay here?" Greg is looking directly at Jules and Ed figures at least their leader is fearless because the vibes Jules is giving off, he'd rather cut his own hand off than go near that conversation.

"Yeah," Jules says.

"Yeah, we're good," Sam says and his tone reminds Ed of their scene in the locker room and he can't figure out what the hell he was even thinking. Touching another man, let alone a younger man who's clearly in the middle of some emotional shit and trying to get into Jules' pants. He schedules an hour off in his head, when the day is over, to do some soul searching on why the idea of Sam isn't worrying him and then he's going to call a lawyer about the divorce papers. Hell, maybe it's all just because of the divorce papers, because he's always been pretty open, but that's a thought for later.

"Okay, so long as we've got that straight," Greg mutters which Ed finds unaccountably funny, probably just the word 'straight' and then they're staring at a really bad surveillance photo of a neighbourhood.

"Meet the River District," Greg says. "River District, meet team One." Ed rolls his eyes but he has to give it to the man, the level of tension in the room decreased by about a million, or was that just him? "We've got some very credible sources that say there's 'a really, hugely big drug operation' going down in the neighbourhood, so we're going to patrol, see what we can see and I don't want to hear any whining about it." 

"This 'really credible source'," Ed says the words complete with air quotes. "How credible?" Greg just stares at him and Ed hangs his head. Right, little old lady on the block or the guy who's out for revenge against his neighbour for playing loud music all night. Awesome day, just fantabulous. And then it's sweet Kira Marlowe to the rescue with a system wide page.

"Team One, gear up, situation at BioGene Industries. One identified subject, with hostages, threatening to release an unknown biological agent. Subject is armed with a Magnum .357." 

"Saved by the bell," Spike says, Ed smirks. They're geared up and out the door, rolling down the street in the large black SUVs in a matter of minutes which is a credit to their training and also to the quiet days when there's shit all to do but race to see who can get geared up and into the cars the fastest. Spike always looses but then, when the man insists on dragging his prized bomb defusing kit to every call, it's his own fault. He climbs into the driver's seat of Sam's SUV before Jules can make her way over.

"You good to go?" he asks Sam.

"Yeah," Sam says without looking at him. "Yeah, I'm good. No worries." Ed's not so sure about that, hell, he's not so sure he's good to go except back in time to the change room without interruption, because he can't help but wonder where they would have gone and for reasons he still hasn't sorted out, he really wants to know.

***

The outside of BioGene looks like something out of a movie. There are so many squad cars, hazmat teams and even a few CDC vans that Greg has a feeling they're all going to be getting in each other's way. Ed busies himself pulling gear out of the truck and leaves the catch up to Greg and Inspector Stainton. He sees the way that Sam moves, favouring his right shoulder and helps him adjust the pack resting on his back. Irrationally he wonders if he hurt Sam when he touched him.

"Alright team," Greg says, calling their attention to him. "We don't have much to go on, the majority of the staff were evacuated from the building but we've got reports that the suspect is holed up on the fourth floor of the building, he's got the entire floor contained, he is armed and we've got conflicting reports as to what could potentially be in the canister. Any thoughts?" Ed scans the surrounding area contemplating but it's Spike who speaks up.

"I bet we get a good look in there from the roof of the adjacent building," he says. The building next door is five stories and the roof would give them a view through the windows but be high enough up that they wouldn't be spotted by anyone inside.

"Right, Lewis, I want you in command with me. Spike, Jules, go check out the view from on high," Greg orders. "Jules, if you see a shot, set up and radio down and you'll take Sierra One position." She waves over her shoulder to acknowledge the command but she and Spike are already on the move.

"Ed, Sam, Wordy, you're on infiltration, sweep the building, make sure it's clear and then get up to the fourth floor. We need to be able to talk this guy down, according to witnesses the canister could be anything or it could be empty. We don't want to take that chance."

"You heard the man," Ed says. "Let's move." Five seconds later they hear Lewis dictating in their ears.

***

Sam can feel Ed's eyes on the back of his head as he sweeps through another room. "Clear," he says softly. He moves quickly but takes the hall one careful step at a time, his team behind him.

The ground is hardpacked, no signs of any recent disturbance but Sam knows not to trust that. He eyes Charlie, with a blank face but the man beside him is shaking in fear and it's giving the guards the satisfaction they're looking for.

"Don't move," Jessie orders softly and Sam obeys. They were herded out of the cave this morning, driven down a long winding road to this field marked at the edge as seeded with land mines. There are five of them and out of the five, he and Jessie are the only military. The other three are Afghani, probably had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Taliban raided their village. They don't speak English and Sam doesn't recognize their dialect. Charlie does, and whatever it is he's telling them is making the men more afraid. Sam's already figured out what Charlie wants, he figures Jessie already has too.

"Your people planted them, you can find them," Charlie finally says. One of the men starts babbling frantically and Charlie starts to laugh. He shoves the prisoner hard and he doesn't get six feet into the field before tripping a charge. The blast sets off a few others in a chain reaction and Charlie laughs again. He grabs the next Afghani and Jessie's hand wraps around the man's other arm and tugs firmly.

"I'll take point," Sam says and edges in. Jessie does whatever he does to communicate for the others to follow in Sam's exact footsteps, Sam's to busy concentrating on the ground in front of him. Someone throws up behind him, whether from the body burning to their right or from fear Sam doesn't know. The smell of burning flesh doesn't turn his stomach any more. The brand is almost healed.

"You keep staring a hole through my head and I'm not going to be any use to you with brains leaking on the floor," Sam says. Wordy, behind Ed, snorts lightly.

"Sure kid," Ed says but Sam can hear the grin in his voice. At least one of them is having a good day not filled with horrifying flashbacks.

"Sarge, this is Sierra One," Jules says. Sam holds up a hand and the three of them stop to listen. "I have the solution, repeat, I have the solution." 

"Boss, there's a few people making their way down via the fire escape on the North side of the building from the second floor," Spike adds. "And it's gross up here, there's like, bird shit all over."

"So noted, thanks, Spike," Greg says. "Sorry to ruin your day. I'll have uniforms ready for a meet and greet."

"I think they came from the fourth floor, Sarge," Jules says. "Looks like a few of them convinced the suspect to let them out."

"Okay, Ed, you heard the lady, apparently he's in a giving mood," Greg says.

"We know who he is yet?" Sam asks. The second floor is clear, they move up the stairs to the third.

"Not yet, but we'll hopefully get something from the people that are coming out now. We don't even have a line in there, there's no communications in the room he's in."

The hospital room is sterile white. Jessie came to visit, just the once, with his wife and kid. Told them "this is the guy that saved my life." Sam had been hard-pressed not to do anything stupid. Like cling to Jessie when the man pulled him into a careful hug, or cry. He really wants to fucking cry. He wonders if that's the reason there's no phone in here. When he asks the nurses they tell him he's not authorized to talk to anyone until he's well enough to be debriefed but he figures it’s so he gets his head screwed on right and stops wanting to call Jessie. Stops watching the door for the other man to walk in.

"Sam?" Wordy asks. Sam shakes his head.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he lies and moves on. 

***

There's a woman hiding in the supply closet on the third floor, she's got a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Her eyes are glazed with pain and she can't catch her breath.

"He shot me," she gasps out when she sees him. "I can't believe he shot me. It wasn't my fault."

"The guy with the gun, do you know him?" Ed asks urgently. She stares at him, brown eyes liquid with tears, whatever courage she'd had to get her into the closet and away from the suspect is gone in the face of the police. Her hands are covered in blood, there are tears and snot on her face.

"Oh, god, it hurts," she says and starts to cry. Ed steps aside and lets Wordy in.

"Boss, we've got a woman, mid thirties, she's been shot in the shoulder. We need the paramedics up here."

"Negative," Greg says and he sounds angry. Greg always gets angry when they don't get there before people get hurt. "I can't send paramedics in. You'll have to bring her out."

"Roger that, I'm sending her out with Wordy." He nods at Wordy who has already got the woman up and leaning heavily on him, his gun in his other hand. "Keep close to her though, she's in shock now but I think she knows our suspect," he says.

"Great work, Eddie," Greg says. Ed gestures to Sam to take the lead and they take the stairs to the fourth floor two at a time and pause at the door.

"We're in position," Ed says softly. The door opens and they find themselves staring at a very frightened looking girl, mid twenties, black with her hair pulled behind her in a bun. She's crying because their suspect has the barrel of his gun against her temple.

"Well, since you're here, why don't you come in," he says.

"Ed?" Greg asks, worry evident in his tone.

"Why don't we," Ed agrees and steps inside. Sam follows behind him a moment later and Ed has a moment, a clear thought, that this one's not going to end well.

***

"We have a problem, Sergeant," Greg looks at Inspector Stainton leaning his head into the command unit.

"Aside from the man with the gun and the possible bioagent and the lines of press three deep beyond out perimeter, what else could possibly go wrong?" Greg demands. Stainton's face looks grim.

"One of the people who climbed down the fire escape confirmed that they were on the fourth floor and they were released."

"That's good, so we have information on our suspect, what is it?"

"It's not good," Stainton returns. "The fourth floor is security. He's been able to watch our every move." He's half hearing Stainton, half hearing a faint voice talking indirectly into the com system.

"Ed?" Greg says, worried. He doesn't get a proper reply.

***

"You think you can stop me?" the man demands. Sam names his Crazy Asshole in his head. Crazy Asshole, 5'7", slim build, Caucasian male, blond but balding, blue eyes that are overly bright and shining. Crazy Asshole is a true believer but his hands are shaking like a junkie who needs a fix. He's late forties, early fifties and Sam wishes he could relay all of this to Greg. He has no idea how he managed to shoot the gun in his hand with the shaking he's doing. The gun is a Glock 9mm, not a .357 magnum as reported, eyewitness accounts are for shit.

"We're not here to stop you," Ed says, he holds his hands up in front of him placatingly. "We just want to talk." 

"Talk? I don't want to talk, this is my jihad and I won't have you interfere," he hisses.

The man stares at Sam, just stares at him, for a good ten minutes and Sam does his part of their impromptu staring contest and stares back, doesn't move, until finally the man speaks.

"You are a victim of my jihad," he says. He has a cultured voice, speaks English very well. Corporal Jessin is unconscious beside him. He mouthed off one too many times and one of their captors had knocked him on the side of the head with his AK. "You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or perhaps the right place and the right time, if Allah wills it to be so. I think you Americans call your enemy Charlie, yes? You can call me Charlie." 

"We're not Americans. What do you mean?" Sam asks. The man smiles brightly at him, eyes burning with some kind of frantic energy behind them that makes Sam's stomach clench in fear.

"Do not lie in the presence of Allah," Charlie says. "Allah has brought you to me, Allah only ever brings me those who truly believe in the cause or those who must truly be punished. So now, my friend, the question is not so much what do I mean, but more, who are you and what do you want?" Sam figures this is probably not going to end well and he is forever going to damn the fucking weekend warriors who were supposed to be his squad's backup but didn't show.

"Does it count if I truly believe that what you're doing to these people is wrong?" Sam asks. Charlie's smile turns hard and cold.

"Not in the slightest, my friend."

"We don't want to interfere," Ed says. "How about you just give me your name? My name's Ed and this is Sam. We just want to get everyone out of here safe and happy, including you." Sam freezes when the girl gets shoved out of the way and falls to the floor. She crawls under a desk covered in computer monitors and he realizes that this is the security centre. Crazy Asshole’s been watching them all along, he's relieved when he realizes that the cameras in the alley aren't picking up on Jules and Spike.

"Shut up," the man snarls. He points the gun at Ed and Sam takes a minute step forward. The gun doesn't waver though.

"Just a name, just something for me to call you," Ed says soothingly. The man screams in frustration as he pulls the trigger. Sam moves but it's too late, Ed is crumpled on the ground. He can see the bullet burn where it grazed Ed's helmet but the man is out cold on the floor and the gun swings to point at him. Sam checks Ed's pulse and it's there, it's a little fast but it's steady. Fucking asshole.

"Get up!" Crazy Asshole screams. "Get on your feet!" Sam complies when another bullet is fired into a computer monitor near him.

"Shots fired, shots fired!" Jules says. "Officer down, I repeat, Officer down!"

"Do you have the solution?" Greg demands. "Who got hit?"

"Ed's down, no solution, I do not have the solution. Goddammit, Sam, move your fucking head!" Sam doesn't move though.

"This is what happens when you interfere with the will of Allah." Sam stares down the barrel and doesn't move.

"You don't need them to complete your jihad," he gestures to the people under the table. He doesn't know how many of them there are, but he sees at least four sets of shoes.

"They are all part of Allah's will."

"But you don't need them," Sam repeats. "You don't need them because you have us, I'm not leaving without my partner, let them go, you can keep us."

"Don't do that Sam!" Greg orders. But Sam can see the man thinking about it. 

"You let the others go, why did you let the others go?"

"There were too many to keep track of," he says. Crazy Asshole is starting to sweat, profusely, and Sam is starting to worry about his hold on the canister.

"There are still too many of us. You can let them go, and then there are only two of us and one of us is unconscious."

"Stop it, Sam, we negotiate but we don't make trades like that. I need you to think."

"You've gotta think, Sam," Corporal Jessin 'call me Jessie' says. His lungs are rattling from congestion. They're pressed together for warmth at the back of the cave. The guard lit a fire for them but they're not allowed close enough to it for it to do any good. "They're not going to do anything but hurt you for it."

"You're sick, I am thinking," Sam says. He's thinking that Jessie's been incredible to him the entire time they've been here. And if he can't have Jessie the way he wants, at least he can have Jessie healthy and whole. Charlie comes into the cave and steps forward. Sam can feel the watchful eyes of the guards. 

"My men say you wanted something,” he says.

"My friend is sick, he needs a doctor or medicine," Sam says. Charlie smiles at him.

"You have nothing to bargain with, friend. Nothing that will endear you to me. You are infidels and if Allah wills it, he will die." Charlie leans down and touches Sam's cheek softly with the tip of his fingers. Sam swallows hard but he's learned the hard way not to flinch away and Charlie's smile widens.

"Good," he says. He stands and gestures to the guards. "Bring my friend. He needs to learn his place."

The first few whippings had been beyond any pain he'd ever been made to endure. The branding iron was a special hell, all of its own.

Crazy Asshole gestures at the table with his free hand. "Get out of here," he orders. It takes a minute for them to fully absorb that they're being released but when they do they scramble out from under the table as fast as they can. Seven people for him and Ed, he figures it's a fair trade.

***

"Where the hell is Dr. Luria?" Greg demands. "I need someone here, right now. Sam, you and I are going to have words when you get out of there, buddy." Sam doesn't answer. "Jules, status."

"I still have no solution," Jules says. She sounds tired and frustrated.

"Alternatives?" Greg demands.

"That's a no, Sergeant," Spike answers. "There's only one window into the room that isn't blocked by something and Sam's in the way."

***

"Okay, Sam, you're going to have to do this, don't worry, I'll be right here. I'll tell you what you need to say." Sam controls his shock at the words. Nothing like trial by fire. He hasn't been solo before, he doesn't know what to do and Crazy Asshole's hands are still shaking.

"What's in the canister?" he finds himself asking. Asshole stares at him, the gun pointed at the ground.

"None of your damned business," he says. "Shut the hell up."

"Ask him if there's something he wants, Sam, find out what his demands are."

"Do you want anything? Is there something I can have them bring you?" Sam asks.

The gun swings back up to him and the guy screams "Shut up!" so loud it echoes around the room for a moment.

"Okay, we all need to calm down here, just a little," Greg says. Ed is still unconscious on the floor at Sam's feet and Crazy Asshole is sweating so badly now that he has to keep adjusting his hand on the canister. If he's timed it right the hostages should have made it down the three flights of stairs and out to the street.

The room is muggy and Sam can feel sweat running down his back under his uniform. There's one window, closed, and it's behind Sam and not behind Crazy Asshole.

Sure enough Jules' voice comes over the radio, full of quiet frustration. "No solution, I repeat, I do not have the solution." This wasn't supposed to be how this played out. Both of the principle shooters weren't supposed to end up in the same room as a gun toting maniac while their back-up sits on a roof without a clear shot. Especially Ed, Ed's not supposed to be on the ground unconscious, Ed's supposed to be okay.

He does the math and comes up with an unacceptable answer, he's not going to be able to move fast enough to shoot the guy, jump over Ed's prone form, get across the eight feet that separates him from the subject and catch the canister before it hits the floor.

***

"Okay, we all need to calm down here, just a little," Greg says again. Sam takes a steadying breath.

"Okay," he says using the same inflections Greg had used. "We all need to calm down here, just a little."

"You need to stop talking, I don't need to calm down," Crazy Asshole says seriously. His arms are trembling minutely and Sam worries that the canister is going to fall.

"Yeah, you do, we need to talk here, you need to understand what you're about to do," Greg says and Sam bites his lip. He doesn't want to set this guy off and it sounds like that's going to set the guy off right away. "Go ahead, Sam, guy like this is going to want to rant, he's going to go classic villain on you and explain his evil plan. It's okay."

"Yeah, we need to calm down," Sam says, he's amazed at how calm his own voice is because inside he's pretty hysterical. Between the two of them he and Ed have exactly no protection whatsoever and they don't know what's in the canister and he has no negotiating experience whatsoever. This is giving Sam flashbacks to Afghanistan in a bad way and he knows that if … he knows that when he gets home tonight he's not going to be sleeping well. "We need to calm down and talk about this. You need to understand what you're about to do."

"Good, Sam, you're doing great," Greg says calmly. He thinks he hears Lewis' voice in the background, like maybe they've identified the contents of the canister. Identified the suspect.

"I know exactly what I'm doing here," Crazy Asshole says. "This is a holy war, this is my jihad and you and the rest of your friends aren't going to get in my way."

"Do you really believe that this is a jihad?" Greg asks so Sam asks too when really all he wants to do is scream about how this is all fucked up because this guy, he's not Muslim, there's no way he's Muslim and he's not on a holy war, he's some pissed off ex-employee who thought that taking down the people he works with is the thing to do because he got fired.

"You know nothing about my holy war," Crazy Asshole says.

"Peter Noles," Lewis says, his voice is tense and more than a little worried. "Forty-five years old, devout Christian, according to family and friends, he worked here until four years ago when he was let go. Employees from that time period say it was for a missing shipment of a gaseous chemical. The chemical isn't listed anywhere as being missing and Noles' dismissal papers list it as a layoff. Friends say he's been going downhill ever since. Started finding new friends that the family is afraid to have around, stopped going to church five weeks ago. Wife says he's been locked up in their basement for the last two weeks working on something and he wouldn't let her down to see."

"Okay, get a team down to the house, evacuate the family and run some tests," Greg says. "Someone get the wife down here, maybe she can talk to him."

Sam would normally have made a snide remark, even just in his head, at how right his assessment was except that he can feel every fibre of his being freeze at Lewis' words. 

He can deal with gas, there are procedures for gas, it's not like he's never been threatened or had to take action when gas was involved. He's never been so terrified in his life up to and including being held hostage by insurgents.

"I know that God doesn't want you to do this, Peter, I know that you don’t pray to Allah and that there won't be seventy-two virgins waiting for you at the gates," Greg says. Sam parrots the words at the same time as he hears Dr. Luria's voice break onto the radio.

"No, don't push that, he's not going to respond to that." Sam can see the effect it's having on Crazy Asshole. The flash of anger in his eyes as he points the 9mm at his own head. He wishes Dr. Luria had been on time, hadn't been held up in court.

"This is my holy war," he says. Sam is down on the ground before the gun falls from Peter's limp hand. There's no time for him to get from his position to Peter's falling body to catch the canister but there is time to wrap his face in his jacket, pull Ed's face into his chest tight as he can and hope that's good enough. 

The bleach smell is almost overpowering even through the material of his shirt and he coughs and tries to drag Ed backwards, but it doesn't work, he'll end up breaking Ed's neck if he tries to keep them both covered. He takes as deep a breath as he can through the jacket and holds it, burning in his lungs anyway. He pushes his jacket onto Ed's face. Even unconscious Ed is starting to cough. Sam wraps his arms around Ed and lifts and keeps lifting until he can get Ed onto his shoulder and stumbles out of the room to the stairs. He has to take another breath eventually and it still tastes like chemicals on his tongue but he's okay enough that he can breathe a little clearer, he can hear everyone shouting all at once in his ear.

"It's chlorine, it's just chlorine," he coughs 'just chlorine' like chlorine won't kill them if they don't get out. "I'm heading down; the suspect shot himself in the head. Have EMS standing by, Ed's still unconscious." He makes it down to the second floor and by then Greg and Lewis are there helping him. They take Ed and Sam finally sits down and just coughs and coughs. Eventually someone slips an oxygen mask over his face and he closes his eyes when the first few breaths start to feel better, the pain in his chest easing.

"You want medical attention for your friend?" Charlie asks him. He takes Sam by the arm, the arm conveniently connected to the shoulder that the asshole just branded. Everything feels like it's still on fire. Sam's head hurts and when Charlie pulls him upright black spots dance in front of his eyes. Charlie pulls him to another place, somewhere he hasn't been before. "I want medical attention for my people, who will help them?" he demands. Sam stares at them, fifty or so in various states, most of them wounded from shrapnel and bullets. A few are on oxygen but they still seem like they can't catch their breath.

"We don't always get what we want, my friend," Charlie says. "But I guarantee you, that if you ask for something so stupid as this again, I will kill your friend to put him out of his misery and I will put you to work in the mine field in the dark."

NOW

"So you're saying," the investigator says. "That the suspect shot himself because he believed he was in some form of holy war?" Sam stares at her. He's pieced the day together as best he can and that's all she came out of it with.

"Yeah," he says. His chest still feels tight, and he's fighting the urge to cough after all the talking. "I'm still not sure why you're here. It's not like there was an officer involved shooting, and you can see the transcripts of the tapes, I didn't set him off. Dr. Luria confirmed he would have done it anyway." The investigator smiles, a little brittle motion.

"That's unclear," she says. "Internal Affairs simply wants to be sure that your words didn't lead to him killing himself."

"You know," Greg's voice is like an angel's voice singing down from heaven right then. He claps a firm hand on Sam's shoulder and smiles down at him before looking at the investigator, his 'calm the civilians' expression firmly in place. The clap on Sam's shoulder sets off a round of coughing and he almost misses Greg's next words. "I think that you'll probably determine that the subject was mentally unsound, but aside from that, Officer Braddock needs to get back up to his room. His doctor's are looking for him, and after having been the victim of a Chlorine attack, he shouldn't be off his oxygen." The polite smile turns a little sharkish for a moment when he adds. "I'm sure you wouldn't be responsible for dragging my officer out of his sick bed and away from life saving treatment just to get a statement, would you?" 

"I think we're done here," she says instead of answering. She looks at Sam, not at Greg. "I'll be contacting you for a formal written statement in a few days."

"Sure thing," Sam says and pointendly doesn't watch her pack away the tape recorder. It's more a power play on her part, but he can understand it, Greg may not look it, but he's certainly a very intimidating man up close. They wait until she's gone before Greg clasps Sam under the elbow and helps him to his feet. 

"C'mon Sam, the doctors really are looking for you," Sam coughs all the way back to his room until Greg fits the oxygen mask over his face.

LATER

"So, I just wanted to assure you, you know. That you're not actually going to be charged. Internal affairs has decided that the shooting wasn't committed by you, and that your words did not incite the man into shooting himself," Greg says. Sam stares at him silently. "That was supposed to get a smile," Greg says and Sam shrugs and continues tying his boot. He's being released from the hospital. Finally.

He's tired, his lungs are burned from the chemical fumes and no one has bothered to tell him anything since the investigator left. "How's Ed?" his voice is a hoarse rasp that makes Greg wince in sympathy. Ed's been acting weird since the thing in the change room, with the staring and the overt concern, it's making it hard for Sam to remember that Ed is a married man and he's not going there, not again. Not after Jessie. He thinks about calling Jessie's wife, but she's never really had the patience for him.

"He's going to be fine, the helmet stopped the bullet and his head was hard enough." Greg gives a small relieved smile. "You're both going to be fine."

Sam nods. "They wouldn't discharge me otherwise," he says. “Is he awake yet?"

"Yeah, he uh…"

"He woke up like, an hour ago, and you were still unconscious," Ed says. He's leaning against the door behind Greg. He's even in his uniform. There's a very harried nurse hovering behind him.

"You can't just sign yourself out of the hospital," she says. Ed smiles at her brightly. 

"And yet clearly, I can," he says. "Look, it's nothing personal, but these places creep me out, and if you're going to release the one of us who breathed in the chlorine gas, you can release the one of us who got shot in the head and doesn't even have a headache." She frowns at all three of them and Sam feels distinctly like a child being scolded.

"You shouldn't be leaving either," she says and he has a feeling there's a 'young man' that she's holding her tongue on. "At the very least the both of you should stay overnight for observation."

"I feel fine," he says.

"Besides," Ed adds. "Since I'm staying at his place he can make sure I don't burst a vessel in my brain and die, and I'll make sure he doesn't hack up any of his important organs." She lets out an irritated 'humph' sound but lets it go at that and a muttered 'damn macho men' comment.

"Staying with Sam?" Greg asks. Sam stares at Ed in a kind of horror. Ed shrugs.

"Well, it's either that or a motel," he says.

"I'm just saying, I've seen Sam's apartment. You might want to consider my couch, or you know, the alley behind the station even."

"Hey!" Sam says, "my apartment is not worse than the alley behind the station." The effort at defense almost makes him start coughing again and he stops to catch his breath.

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Ed soothes. "You need to stop being such a mother hen, Greg." Greg rolls his eyes.

"Well, I can see when I'm not wanted, come on, I'll give you both a ride back to the station."

***

It doesn't seem right somehow, Ed thinks, to be having his existential crisis on a crappy floral pattern couch that sags in the middle with an odd spring that's guaranteed to massacre his back by morning and with Sam asleep in the other room. He doesn't feel wrong about wanting Sam, that's not what this is about. Mostly Ed's worried that it's just a rebound thing, a kneejerk reaction to having divorce papers handed to him. He doesn't want Sam to suffer, Sam's suffered enough and, from the sounds of it, he's still suffering in the middle of a nightmare. It's the startled shout that comes from the bedroom that makes his decision for him. Fuck it, Ed heaves himself off the couch and onto his feet.

In the bedroom Sam is sitting up, sheets pooled around his waist. Ed's eyes are kind of drawn to Sam's chest, the definition of it, the way it's covered in a sheen of sweat and he forces himself to admit that maybe this is just a Sam thing, but he still promises his brain he'll give it time to figure this all out later.

"You okay?" he asks, leaning on the door frame. Sam stares at him for a moment silently.

"Yeah," he says finally. "Sorry about that, didn't mean to wake you." Ed scoffs and pushes out of his slouch.

"Right, because I'm really getting a good night’s sleep on that torture device you call a couch," he jokes. "I think one of the springs was trying to get a little too friendly with my backside." Sam doesn't laugh but he cracks a little smile and Ed takes that as a good sign.

"Anyway," Ed adds and moves towards the bed. "I figure you'll do a better job of making sure my brains don't leak out my ear if I'm in here with you so shove over." He makes a shooing motion with his hands and Sam, confused and a little bit wary looking, slides over to the other side of the bed to let Ed lie down.

"I don't know what you're expecting," Sam says and Ed feels a wash of relief, because at least they're maybe on the same page.

"I'm not expecting anything right now," Ed answers. "We've both had a really rough day and we both need some sleep, we can figure the rest of this shit out tomorrow."

"Huh," Sam sounds amused, probably a good sign, Ed figures. "I was just going to let you know that the bed isn't any better than the couch, but if you're really careful, and don't roll over too close to the edge, the springs shouldn't do too much damage."

Ed reaches over without thought and smacks the top of Sam's thigh through the blanket now covering them both. "Don't be a smartass," he orders. "Go to sleep."

"Yes, Sir," Sam says and even though it's dark in the bedroom and Ed's not looking at him, he can still hear the smile in the other man's voice.

Ed's not surprised when sleep hits him like a freight train. He is surprised when he wakes up feeling fresh as a daisy that's been run over by a monster truck at 6:00 in the morning to the sound of someone's alarm going off. Really bad music is pouring through the paper thin bedroom wall and he frowns at it even though it hasn't even phased Sam. He thinks about hitting the wall but before he can move his arm, the alarm shuts off.

Sleep isn't going to come back no matter how much he wants it to, once he's up, he's up, so Ed carefully rolls out of bed and grimaces when two of the springs jab his side. He'll see what there is for breakfast, and he'll figure out what he's going to do.

The kitchen is woefully lacking in, well, anything edible, but there's a dozen eggs in the fridge and a pound of bacon in the freezer and a jar of instant coffee on the counter and an oven that has definitely seen better days.

***

When Sam wakes up, Ed is gone, for a second he figures he must have dreamed the whole thing, he certainly feels bad enough to have the stupid dreams that come with cough medicine, and then he smells the bacon and figures he's probably still dreaming. He lies in bed for few more minutes before he decides that the clattering means that yesterday, last night, did happen and he'd better just get himself up and face the awkward morning after. Hell, he didn't even get laid.

Ed's standing at the counter, draining bacon grease into an empty dish when Sam makes it into the kitchen. He realizes he hasn't put on a shirt, but it's not like Ed hasn't seen all that Sam has been trying to hide yesterday.

"You made breakfast?" Sam asks. God, his voice sounds awful. Ed smirks at him and gestures to the table.

"You're a little slow in the mornings aren't you?" Sam narrows his eyes.

"You might have cooked breakfast, but it's probably not the best idea to be insulting the man whose apartment you're staying at."

"Eat," Ed orders. "And really, I have to go with Greg on this one, I wouldn't really consider this an apartment." Sam would argue that now Ed has insulted both his host and his host's living environment but then again, no one's cooked him bacon and eggs in years.

"So," he says around a full mouth. "About last night." Ed looks at him across the table, Sam shifts and their knees bump, there's a blush staining his cheekbones.

"Yeah?" he asks.

"What exactly was I supposed to be expecting?" Sam asks. "Because I know what I'm in for, but I can't, it's just - you're married, you know?" Ed meets his eyes and Sam worries his bottom lip with his teeth before giving him and dropping his gaze back down to the table. Ed doesn't say anything and Sam's just about to shove another forkful of eggs into his mouth just to have something to do when he feels Ed's fingers on his chin, raising his head to meet Ed's eyes again.

"Sophie and I are getting a divorce," he says, quiet and matter of fact. "And I don't know what you should be expecting, because I haven't figured out exactly what this is yet." 

"So I'm like, your rebound?" Sam asks incredulously, shock making him give name to what's happening between them. "That's going to be kind of awkward at work."

"Yeah," Ed says, and he sounds really certain. Sam tries to work himself up to a righteous anger but Ed's next words take the metaphorical wind out of his sails. "That's not the way I'm looking at things at all." Sam should have been prepared for it, but it still comes as a surprise when Ed leans across the table, Sam's chin still held firmly in hand, and plants a kiss on Sam's lips. He pulls barely an inch away, Sam doesn't remember closing his eyes but when he opens them and sees Ed looking at him, he surges up to meet him again.

The chair clatters to the floor and Sam's back, lungs and sense of cleanliness protest his landing on the kitchen floor but with Ed heavy on him, he can't bring himself to really care. Ed's lips on his are firm and insistent, Sam opens to his tongue without a real thought to consequence and the heat pooling in his belly ratchets up a notch. Ed kisses like he's on a mission, kisses like he's taking over, owning, and Sam shudders under him at the realization that this is what he wants.

Ed buries his hands in Sam's hair, just holding his head still, kissing and kissing and Sam's hands, almost of their own accord, slide down until he can push up under Ed's shirt and reach the warm bare skin there. He can feel Ed hard against his thigh and grinds up against him as much as he can. Ed chuckles into his mouth and pulls away for a second, eyebrow lifted.

"Was there something you wanted?" he asks, his voice is smoky, deeper than usual. Sam grunts and shoves and rolls them over.

"You to shut up," he says. He wraps his hands around the hem of his own t-shirt and pulls it over his head. His entire body shifts when Ed sits up to do the same, and then it's just the two of them on Sam's dirty kitchen floor in their boxers. Ed's arms wrap around Sam's back, one hand in Sam's hair, one hand on the curve of Sam's ass as he rocks up. Sam can't help the small huff of sound at the friction. It's a mess of hot and wet, Ed's mouth attached to Sam's neck, Sam rocking down against Ed until they're shaking with it. Ed cries out, a deep throaty sound, when he comes that sends shivers up Sam's back. Sam has an insane desire to see what he looks like but for the life of him and the white bright lights flashing behind his eyelids, he can't make himself. Ed's hands clenching tighter on Sam's body, holding him impossibly closer as he sinks his teeth into the tendon in Sam's neck. It's the feel of it. The sting of the bite and the soothing of the tongue working the flesh in Ed's mouth that pulls Sam over so hard and quickly that he's not even sure he's actually come until he's back to himself, head resting on Ed's shoulder, mother of all hickeys on his neck.

"I could probably get used to that," Sam says. He can feel more than hear Ed's laugh.

"Yeah," Ed says, "but we're getting a new mattress." This time Sam doesn't hesitate to reply as he pushes himself up off the floor, they've both made a disgusting mess of their boxers and breakfast is getting cold.

"You know you've managed to insult me, my apartment, my couch and my matress in the last 12 hours? You're not a very grateful guest." Ed wraps an arm around Sam's waist and pulls him closer.

"I can very grateful," he says seriously, voice husky. Sam licks his lips.

"Yeah?" he asks. "How grateful?"

"Grateful enough that we're going to pick out a new matress today," Ed answers and slips past Sam. "I call the shower first." Sam feels justified in not warning him about the fact that the hot water takes a minute to really get going. Cold eggs, worth it. The startled shout, priceless.

/end