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I Like Me Better (When I'm With You)

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The apartment’s warm.

And no. That’s not just speaking in terms of temperature.

It’s warm in the way that Rafe has been chasing his entire life and found only a few fleeting times before it faded away.

It’s warm in the way that this structure can actually be called a ‘home’ and feel like it, instead of being a stop on the way between points A and B.

It’s warm because right now he’s nestled into Samuel’s side; head on his chest and arms wrapped around his waist while his heartbeat sounds in Rafe’s ear. They’re tucked under one of the many fleece blankets lying around and watching some cop show that Rafe really doesn’t give a shit about, but Sam is amusingly entertained by it.

It’s so simple. How long had Rafe been dreaming of something like this and now it’s an almost everyday occurrence? The cuddling, at least. He couldn’t stand the cop shows everyday.

Five years.

Five years since Libertalia. Almost six since Sam had last stayed at this apartment, but this time, Rafe knows he’s staying for good.

They’d worked their shit out. It had taken a hell of a lot of convincing, plus a strongly worded ultimatum from Sullivan that if he didn’t, he wasn’t flying with him and Sam. In the end Rafe decided therapy was probably a good idea. He still hated to think of the monster that he had become back on the Fancy before Nate literally knocked the sense back into him.

Of course, having Samuel’s full support had helped. And after Rafe had gone a few times and talked about how nice it actually was, Sam tentatively went to a session of his own. Rafe supposes almost dying in a fiery grave will throw some things into perspective; namely, that neither of them were the most emotionally sound people and that may have had something to do with the whole ‘trying to one-up and nearly kill the other for the treasure’ thing. Supposedly.

Rafe knows he’s far from being ‘recovered,’ if that’s even a possibility, but he’ll sure as hell take ‘healing’ as the alternative. Sure, he hasn’t lost all of his baggage—he had a fucked up past, what can he say?—but he has come to terms with the idea that he isn’t alone anymore. He no longer wakes up at 3am with a racing heart and a nagging sense of doom when he remembers he isn’t good enough.

Okay, well, that still happens. But if it’s bad enough, he can wake Sam who’ll hold him until his heart and mind settle. Rafe’s done the same for him with his nightmares.

“Oh I bet he did it.” Sam jostles Rafe out of his ruminations as he excitedly points at a character on the screen. Sam likes to exercise his ‘detective’ skills as they watch; Rafe finds it adorable most of the time.

“Obviously.”

“What do you mean obviously? He hasn’t done anything suspicious until now.”

“But they’ve been hinting at it the entire time with camera angles and subtext and shit.”

“Yeah, and? Maybe they did all that to trick you.”

“Well you agree with me, so if it’s not him, then we’re both wrong.”

Sam slumps back down to keep watching and moves his arm up to scratch through Rafe’s hair. Rafe relaxes into the touch and reaches for Sam’s other hand. He smells the melon soap he got earlier this week as he peppers it with small kisses.

He’s warm.

At times, he has a hard time believing it’s real and that it won’t disappear in the blink of an eye. That Samuel won’t—no. It won’t do to dwell on the past. His brain tricks him into thinking he’ll feel better after analyzing it, but all it ever does is make the anxiety worse.

Samuel’s here right now. He’s here, and against all odds, they’re in love.

They’re in love, and fortunately for Rafe that came with a strange set of family members he never intended on having.

Which reminds him. “Did that package for Cassie come in the mail yet?”

“Oh yeah, I got it. It’s in the guest room—don’t give me that look. I was going to tell you.”

“Uh huh.”

Sam laughs and pokes Rafe in the side, earning him a tickle back. “I was. I just hadn’t yet. I didn’t forget.”

Rafe nestles back into him. “You can wrap it.”

“My wrapping looks like shit though.”

“That’s true.”

“That was the last one, right? Everything else is good.”

“Should be. I’ll check in the morning.” Rafe stifles a yawn. “I told you we were leaving at eight on Wednesday, right?”

“Thrice. But I’m sure once more would be just great.”

Rafe head-butts his chest. “Ass. I was being helpful.”

“Or naggy.”

Rafe resigns himself from rolling his eyes and instead threads their hands together, snuggling further into Sam. “I think this is the first year I don’t feel weird about going there.”

“Yeah?” Sam kisses the top of his head. “Good. ‘Cause you shouldn’t.”

“I hope Cassie likes the carousel.”

“It’s bright and shiny. She’s four. She’ll love it.”

“Do you know when everyone’s getting there? Are we gonna be the first ones?”

“I don’t know, I—hey.” Sam angles his head and when Rafe doesn’t immediately meet his eyes, he untangles their hands and gently tilts Rafe’s chin up. “Are you actually not feeling weird, or are you trying to convince yourself? ‘Cause if it’s that, it’s okay.” He squeezes Rafe’s shoulder. “We got this.”

Rafe shrugs and presses the side of his face into Sam. It’s a lot easier to talk when he doesn’t have to look at him. At least for stuff like this. “I’m not sure. I think I’m okay. It’s easier when everyone is there first so I don’t stick out.”

“Stick out? Babe, lookin’ like that, you always stick out.”

“Shut up.” Rafe buries his head further. He would not let himself blush from something as simple as that. Stupid compliments. Rafe was never great at accepting them. Before when they…before, Samuel hadn’t expressed much in the way of admiration. Their relationship had manifested physically and only occasionally dabbled in their emotions. Obviously that hadn’t worked out well, so this time they had taken it slower; really gotten to know one another before jumping back into things, no matter how much either of them may have wanted otherwise. But Sam had picked up the habit of paying him unexpected compliments and despite how much it flustered him (a state Sam seemed to relish in), Rafe was working on accepting and returning them.

“Tell ya what,” Sam says as he lifts his hips and slides his phone from his pocket. “I’ll ask Nate right now.”

“Okay.”

He presses a kiss into Sam’s neck; nothing particularly sexy, just a simple gesture because he loves him and he can do that. The show is nearly over and Sam gives a whooping cheer when it’s revealed they were both correct in their guesses.

Sam’s phone buzzes and he checks it.

“Looks like Victor’s already there. Figures. Charlie’s on his way but has to make a stop? Whatever that means. Chloe and Nadine’ll be there Wednesday too.”

Rafe nods, and the phone buzzes again.

“Most likely,” Sam amends. “Okay so the girls may be the last ones there. Guess we’ll see.”

Rafe hums. “Wonder if Nadine’s proposed yet.”

“What!?” Sam scrambles back and grasps Rafe by the shoulders. “What do you mean? How do you know?”

“Nadine told me about it when we saw them back in Lima,” Rafe says. “I think you two were out drinking.”

“Why did she only tell you?”

“Samuel, I don’t think Nadine would ever tell you something confidential like that. Not first, at least.”

Sam grumbles but Rafe knows he’s not offended by it. “Well it’s been like a month, so let’s hope Chloe’s got a fancy new rock to show off to us.”

“We’ll see.”

Rafe agreed with Sam that a month was ample time to propose to someone, and Nadine had already shown him the ring. It was a lovely band; delicate in style, but practical for their type of work.

But Rafe also knows Nadine from the time they had been together. Sure, she’s efficient in stating what she wants, but she does slow things down when they are special to her. And Chloe is absolutely dear to her and Rafe has no trouble imagining Nadine nitpicking over the smallest thing for a moment that she wants to be perfect. But he hopes she has done it.

He and Nadine had worked their shit out, too. When she first saw him there upon their return from the Western Ghats and very much not dead, well, Rafe had wondered if the surrounding Drake family would be able to prevent her from murdering him. It blew over quickly and this new woman Chloe had followed Nadine when she stalked away. He asked Sam about her later on and according to him, they’d gotten very close very fast and Sam thought it was only a matter of time before they got together as more than partners.

He had been right, and Rafe had been happy for them both. He and Chloe bonded easily; the thief has an incredibly charming and likeable personality. It’s easy to see why Nadine fell for her. And after past transgressions and betrayals had been worked out and forgiven, he and Nadine got along just as well as they had in the beginning. Perhaps even better.

Without the stress of maintaining a new relationship during a bloody race for long-lost treasure, they’d grown close and he considers her one of his best friends. He was honored she had trusted him enough to discuss her proposal to Chloe. Rafe couldn’t wait to hear how she ended up doing it.

How would Sam react if he popped the question one day?

Sam’s never been one to settle down; nor has Rafe, for that matter. But still…

Being married doesn’t mean everything has to stop. They could continue doing what they’re doing; just like Nate and Elena, and now Nadine and Chloe. But would Sam want that? Being together is one thing, but being together on paper is something else…

He could ask someone’s opinion. Nathan would be too weird, as would Sullivan. Perhaps Elena? She’s close to Sam, and she’s never been anything but nice to Rafe. They’ve had handfuls of deep conversations and her encouragement would be helpful. He’ll probably talk to Nadine too, though he imagines she’ll inevitably roll her eyes first.

But marrying Samuel Drake.

Rafe wants that.

“Hey,” Sam pokes Rafe in the side again. “I lost you there. Whatcha’ thinkin’ about?”

Sam will know one day. Just not right now.

Rafe slides up and onto Sam’s lap and wraps his arms around his neck. Sam’s face immediately shifts into something like smug surprise and Rafe can’t help but internally roll his eyes at how much of a giant dork his boyfriend is.

“Not really much,” Rafe leans in. “Just how much I love you.”

“Oh is that so?” Sam mumbles, eagerly accepting the kiss from Rafe. “Well it just so happens that I love you too.”

“That’s good.” Rafe kisses him again.

It’s nice that he can do something as easy as kissing Samuel with no hurry, no need to rush—for they have all the time in the world.

Sam wants to watch the show coming on next, and while Rafe would have preferred going to bed, he’d rather stay out here by him. An attempt at sliding to Sam’s side is made, but Rafe falls asleep mostly on top of him with the blanket keeping in the extra heat.

 

“Hey, wake up sweetheart.”

The familiar pet name is sweet in his ears and Rafe rouses from sleep. A half hour’s past, and Sam looks to be falling asleep as well. He throws Rafe a goofy smile. “Time for bed.”

Rafe grunts his agreement and clumsily climbs off of Sam before obstinately wrapping the blanket around himself. Sam throws an arm around Rafe’s shoulders and they make their way to their bedroom.

Rafe cozies up to Sam the instant they’re both in bed. He’s a cuddler; fuck anyone who tries to tease him about it, and Sam almost always welcomes it.

He’s warm.

He’s warm, he’s got a family now, and he falls asleep every night with someone he loves.

And finally in his life, Rafe Adler can say that he’s happy.