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Hardest Case

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Some days were far harder than others, and for Sam, today was one of the worst days of all. Today he had lost a man--a kid in his eyes--and learning that the person responsible for killing him was someone who was supposed to be one of the good guys was the bitterest blow.

For the second time in five years, he had been tracking an innocent man framed for murder, though this time it was not the fault of incompetent police work but deliberate action by some scumbag in another three-letter Government department. The scumbag was dead, but not before he had killed one of Sam's team. Noah Newman hadn't stood a chance and Sam had watched the monitor flatline as the ambulance raced towards the hospital. Dead on Arrival.

He'd walked right into the bullet that killed him, totally unprepared for the betrayal.

If Sam hadn't had his suspicions regarding Special Agent John Royce then he might have become Royce's next victim. Yet if the job had taught him one thing, it was reading people. It was why he had believed in Richard's innocence, proclaimed so desperately in that spillway tunnel--and why he had acted upon the attraction between them after the case was finally resolved and Richard had walked away a free man.

With that gut feeling kciking in, Sam had switched out Royce's full clip with his empty while waiting in the hospital corridor, before feigning the run to the coffee machine. He'd given Royce the opportunity to prove his true intentions, and when Royce had shown his true colors, then Sam had dealt with that sonuvabitch. Permanently.

Filing reports had taken what was left of the day. Yet how did anyone sum up the loss of a good agent? Except Noah Newman was more than an agent. He was one of Sam's team. One of his men. His responsibility even though Newman was no longer the completely green deputy marshal who had joined his team not long before the Richard Kimble manhunt.

It was mid evening by the time Sam finished a final read-through of his report and hit the send key. He'd sent the rest of the team home hours earlier, knowing they deserved the time off after this particular case. They could spend tomorrow filing their reports. He knew they would all meet up at the bar to toast the successful conclusion of another case with one round, and to raise a glass for their fallen team member with another. Usually he avoided the social gathering, eager to get home to Richard after days focused on a case, but he felt he owed it to the team to be there with them this night. He owed it to Noah too.

Hours later, with several glasses of whiskey burning a hole in his gut, he stumbled into a cab and gave the driver the address. Cosmo had offered to drive him home but the man was even less sober than Sam. Instead, Sam took away the man's car keys. He'd already lost one good deputy and he didn't plan on losing another so soon after for any reason.

The house was dark except for the flickering of the TV in the den, and he sighed softly when he reached the threshold and saw Richard fast asleep on the couch. The harsh light of the TV showed the dark circles under Richard's eyes and Sam hated knowing that he often put those circles there. Having first hand experience of Sam's job--though from the other side of the line--Richard worried about Sam.

He never said anything out loud but Sam knew he had a right to worry. If Sheridan had been the badass criminal that Royce had made out then he would have put those two rounds in Sam's head rather than in his Kevlar vest back in the swamp. It still hurt like a bitch but far better than being dead.

Sam had already decided to leave that small detail from the manhunt out when he talked to Richard about the case, not wanting to add more restless nights. Richard already had more than his fair share of job-related stress anyway, cutting into people in the hope of saving their lives on the operating table.

Sam sank down onto the couch beside Richard, almost sorry that the dipping seat cushions woke him. Richard looked at him with bleary, sleep-filled eyes before yawning and pushing upright. The wince crossing his face proved he hadn't been sleeping comfortably, and that eased a little of the guilt.

Richard smiled softly in welcome.

"I lost one today." Sam hadn't meant to come straight out with it like that. It had to be the whiskey talking, though it could have been worse. He could have blurted out about the two chest shots he'd taken.

"Who?"

"The kid."

Richard nodded. "I liked him."

Sam snorted wryly. "So did I."

"You get the guy who did it?"

"Yeah."

Silence again, and Sam knew Richard could smell the whiskey on his breath. "How the rest holding out?"

"About as good as me." Sam sighed. "I should have come straight back. I'm sorry."

This time Richard reached for him; it felt good to lean into him and accept the comfort so readily offered. None of the several broken relationships and the failed marriage in his past had given Sam the same sense of security and understanding that he had found with Richard. Perhaps, again, it was because Richard had witnessed the toll of the job first hand.

"Let's go to bed." Richard started to pull away gently but Sam pulled him back.

"No. No, I want..." He pressed a clumsy kiss to Richard's lips and slipped his hand down to find Richard hard beneath his palm. His own remained soft, numbed by the whiskey and the day. He knew it would take more than hope and wishful thinking to get a rise out himself but, strangely, that didn't matter. Just touching Richard was enough to shake some of the misery from the day. Seeing would be better still, and he knew Richard would give him that if he asked.

"Please."

Sam leaned back and watched as Richard gave him what he needed, pushing down his pants and bowers, and slowly stroking himself until he was close... so close.

"Do it," Sam ordered softly, and marveled as Richard obeyed, coming hard, his eyes never leaving Sam's face as he spilled across his hand and belly.

Sam leaned in and kissed him again, whispering thanks against his lips before helping Richard clean up.

"Let's go to bed now," Richard said, pushing up from the couch on unsteady legs, and reaching out a hand.

Sam let Richard pull him to his feet and wrap an arm around him as they moved to the bedroom just down the corridor. They undressed quickly and slid into bed together, but Richard spotted the bruising on his chest and worked it out. He said nothing though; simply let his fingers drift gently over the bruises before pulling Sam against him.

Wrapped in each other, Sam could hear Richard's strong heartbeat beneath his ear, and it comforted him.

Noah Newman was dead, and if Sam had not been lucky on one occasion and smart on the next, he might have been lying on the cold slab next to Newman in the city morgue tonight. Instead he was home, safe and secure with Richard's heart beating beneath his cheek... until the next case.

END