“How'd you two meet?" Eagle asked.
Alex shot Wolf an amused glance as he finished making his tea, and Wolf actually grinned. "Same way you met him."
"I've never met him before in my life." Eagle frowned.
"Yes, you have." Wolf corrected him, calmly. "Neal, Davie – let me re-introduce you. This is Cub… you may remember him."
There was a long, long pause. “What the hell?” Snake asked finally. “Seriously, James, what the hell?”
Eagle was staring at Alex. “Cub? Little Cub? Little double-o-nothing?”
“That’s Agent Rider to you,” Alex told him, still amused, “and don’t you forget it.”
Eagle scoffed. “I don’t think there’s much danger of that,” he pointed out. “So you really were working for SIS? It wasn’t some kind of wind up?”
“Hell of a wind up, from my point of view,” Alex said lightly. “Look, Wolf and I worked together one time-”
“Prague,” Wolf nodded, as though this might mean something to his former team-mates, who barely paid attention to him anyway.
“-and things progressed from there.”
“Heat of the moment, I could understand,” Snake said slowly, and pretended to ignore their faintly incredulous looks – Snake was nothing if not avowedly straight. “Luring Wolf into a life of domesticity and ‘oh no, we’ve run out of milk’ is something a bit different.”
“OK, so they progressed a long way,” Alex conceded. Wolf glanced at him – his mouth was slightly quirked and his eyes half-lidded, and yeah. Alex was enjoying this just a little too much.
Deliberately, he leant forwards, and covered Alex’s hand with his own, giving him a soppy, adoring look. “Aw, baby,” he said, the words sitting a little awkwardly on his tongue. “Don’t you want to share the details of our courtship?”
Snake raised his eyebrow at him, but Eagle was staring with unashamed shock. “I don’t believe it,” he said in a hushed voice. “Rider, you actually unearthed James’ sense of humour.”
Wolf grinned, leaning back in his chair and Alex laughed outright. “He only brings it out on special occasions,” he confided, and Eagle huffed a laugh.
“You know, Cub, I think I’m going to like you.”
It was, though Wolf would never have believed it, actually kind of nice to have people around who knew about their pseudo-secret relationship. It wasn’t like he wanted to lay a claim to Alex – couldn’t have, even if he’d wanted to – but he did enjoy being able to relax, put his arm around Alex, not have to worry about hiding things in front of people. It was... relaxing. His relationship with Alex was at once both the easiest and the most complicated thing in his life.
This was once again brought home to him when Alex, on the evening before he headed out to God-knew-where on one of his assignments, turned to him and said with a frown, “you know, I should probably have you listed as my next of kin somewhere. In case I land in hospital or whatever.”
Wolf glanced up from the football. “Huh?”
“Next of kin,” Alex repeated. “So you can come and visit me in hospital.”
“Oh,” Wolf paused. “How?”
Alex bit his lip. “I don’t know. I’d probably have to have it listed on record with MI6, but I don’t want them barging in on – this. Us.” He thought for a second. “And, hell, I should probably make a Will. Make sure this place doesn’t go to some second cousin when I die.”
“‘When’?” Wolf repeated, only half joking. “I thought you said you were going to be careful?”
Alex thumped down heavily next to him on the sofa and nodded. “I am. But I’m not immortal. Someday, I’m going to die, and I’m assuming you’ll still want to live here?”
“I’m older than you,” Wolf said uncomfortably, deliberately avoiding the question. “You’ve already said that I’ll probably die first.”
“And so you will,” Alex agreed comfortably. “Here’s hoping, anyway.” The hand he intertwined with Wolf’s gave the lie to his words. “Maybe we could get the deed for the house put in both of our names?”
Wolf spoke without really thinking. “We could always get married.”
Alex stilled next to him, then glanced up incredulously. “Did you – did you just propose?”
Wolf thought back on his words. Shit. He had, hadn’t he? “Um. No?” he tried.
“You did! I heard you!” Alex looked delighted, and Wolf knew that rarely ended well for him. “I was talking about legal rights, and then you said ‘we could always get married’.”
Wolf winced. “Spur of the moment thing. It was stupid.”
“It was,” Alex agreed, and leant over to kiss him, the angle making things awkward. “Worst proposal I’ve ever had.”
“Oh, and you’ve had so many,” Wolf returned waspishly.
“Well, Felipe did ask me to come and live a life of sin and idleness with me on his Caribbean island,” Alex said thoughtfully, “but I had to turn him down.”
“Because of me, right?”
“Because of you,” Alex agreed. “And he was an evil mastermind living off drugs profits, but it’s the thought that counts, right?”
Wolf pursed his lips at him, squeezing the hand he was still holding just a little too hard. Alex just laughed. “Yeah, well. Drugs billionaires and their islands aside, just give it some thought, yeah?”
There was something soft in Alex’s eyes as he glanced at Wolf. “Yeah. OK then.”
When he got back from his assignment, Alex mostly looked tired, but Wolf was prepared for that. His mama had always told him that if he was going to do something, it was worth doing properly, so he had the evening planned out. He sent Alex upstairs to have a bath and shoved all of his clothes into the washing machine before heading up to their bathroom with a cup of tea and a rather pained smile.
“What’s all this in aid of, then?” Alex asked, accepting the tea with a tired smile of his own.
“Did some thinking, while you were gone,” Wolf told him quietly, perching on the toilet, lid down, and trying not to notice the bruises Alex had acquired whilst he was away. Now wasn’t the time to talk about them – Alex wouldn’t bring them up until his report was written and the events were safely relegated to dry fact.
“Mmm,” Wolf nodded. “Thought I might give up field work, if they’ll let me.”
“You don’t do that much anymore anyway,” Alex pointed out, his voice soft with tiredness. The hot water was clearly doing some good on muscles Wolf knew from personal experience would be stiff and sore in the aftermath of all the adrenaline.
“Exactly,” Wolf agreed. Since his promotion to Major a couple of years ago (and murmurs of a further promotion in a few years, provided he kept up his service record), he’d done a lot of tactical work for the SAS, but not all that much field work. “Thought I might see about cutting out field work altogether. They might not let me, but...”
“Might be good,” Alex definitely sounded sleepy now. “’f you’re sure you won’t mind me going off and doing field work whilst you stay here.”
“Shouldn’t think so,” Wolf said frankly. If he had ever been seriously jealous of Alex, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they had. There was plenty of reason to be jealous of Alex, he freely admitted – Alex was effortlessly brilliant at his job where Wolf had to work and work to get anywhere, but Wolf found he just didn’t have it in him to begrudge Alex that brilliance when it had kept him alive for so long, and was the result of so many years of exploitation.
“I’d like knowing that you’re at least kind of safe,” Alex admitted, relaxed enough to say things like that out loud.
“And I was also thinking,” Wolf hurried on, before he could lose his nerve, “that maybe we should actually get married. You know. Because then I’d be your next of kin, and we wouldn’t have to worry too much about Wills and all the rest of it.”
Alex’s eyes opened wide, and he shifted in the water (Wolf kept his eyes firmly on Alex’s face because celebratory sex was best left to times when there was something concrete to celebrate) to stare at Wolf. “You really want to get married?”
Wolf paused, then nodded. “I really want to get married.”
“Then I really want a proper proposal,” Alex leant back, shutting his eyes with a grin on his face. “You can’t spring that on me in my post-op bath, s’not fair.”
Wolf grinned. In Alex-speak, that was a solid acceptance. “Proper proposal, huh?” Alex nodded without opening his eyes. “Fine,” he knelt down by the edge of the bath, and fished briefly for one of Alex’s hands, water splashing a little over the front of his T-shirt. (And if he missed a couple of times, well. Refraction. It was difficult to see Alex’s hands clearly whilst they were underwater.) “Alex, I would be absolutely honoured if you would consider marrying me,” he said as solemnly as he could manage.
Alex opened his eyes, and met Wolf’s dead-on. “Well... go on then,” he agreed, and Wolf surprised himself by laughing out loud. Alex freed his wet hand from Wolf’s and dragged him down for a proper good long kiss. “Sealed with a kiss,” he joked, and Wolf sat back on his heels, one hand coming up to stroke gently down Alex’s cheek.
“Glad to hear it, sunshine,” he said quietly, then stood to head downstairs. “Is pasta OK with you? I haven’t been shopping in about a week.”
“Pasta’s fine, fiancé,” Alex called after him. “And don’t think I won’t be telling your team-mates you proposed to me whilst I was in the bath, you unromantic git!”
Wolf headed downstairs without answering, still grinning like a fool. He never thought he’d say it, but he was looking forward to getting married.