It's been a while, so this is bound to be rusty. I've been writing, just not fiction (but plenty of articles for the college newspaper woohoo) so that's fun.
This is set somewhere in S3, but pre-Tim-breaks-all-his-bones. Inspriration is from a tumblr prompt, and I hope you enjoy! Please leave reviews, they mean the world.
It had started out innocently enough, but over the course of the week the bickering had gotten to the point where they didn't really even know who or what had sparked the argument in the first place.
It was one of those weeks: where Elizabeth spent nearly all her waking hours in the State Department and Henry made frequent trips to the FBI at increasingly absurd hours, because doomsday cults didn't seem to operate on a neat nine-to-five schedule. It meant they hardly saw each other, which in turn left them both in rather irritable moods, as Elizabeth's staff was accustomed to at this point. When the Secretary was away from her husband for too long, she got grouchy. And when said husband was at work in those precious moments where she was free or at home herself? That was a recipe for minor disaster.
Elizabeth and Henry's separation, coupled with a particularly stressful week — and two teenage kids in the house who were really acting like teenagers and doing their own share of bickering — meant both of them were on a hair trigger. It truly didn't happen often, but every once in a while they had to let it all out and the closest person just happened to be their spouse.
"Ouch," Henry hissed as he reached down to grab his foot and rub his toes. He'd just gotten home, and upon entering the bedroom, stubbed his toe on the leg of a chair. He winced and fumbled for the doorway to the bathroom. It was nearing two in the morning and he didn't want to wake Elizabeth up, so he'd decided to forego turning on the lights altogether. Coupled with the drinks he'd shared with Mo following a particularly testy day, and it was safe to say that Henry's coordination was lacking.
He'd nearly made it to the bathroom when he collided with the dresser, sending two books crashing to the floor. Shit. He heard Elizabeth groan and roll over, and he held his breath to see if he'd woken her. Once he heard her breathing become steady again, he took a deep breath himself and padded into the bathroom.
Henry made it a full five minutes without causing a ruckus before he, not so elegantly, whacked a pair of his wife's heels off a shelf in their wardrobe, and they clattered to the floor. He cursed under his breath and hoped she hadn't heard this too.
Damn it. He pushed open the door and poked his head out from the closet, careful to minimize the light that spilled out from the bathroom.
"What time is it?" He could see Elizabeth push herself up and scrunch up her face as she adjusted her eyes to the light. Her hair was frazzled and she was clearly only half-awake.
"Uh, 's about two," Henry managed, still considerably under the influence of the shitty bourbon he'd shared with Mo just hours earlier.
"Are you drunk?" Elizabeth was gaining consciousness, propping herself up properly now and giving her dishevelled husband a good look over. His hair was tousled, his tie was askew, and he looked a bit wobbly on his feet.
"Just a li'l tipsy. Mo had bourbon; we were strategizing."
"Until one-thirty in the morning?"
"The doomsday cult…"
"Henry! You can't honestly be telling me you were strategizing at a bar." She pulled the covers tighter around herself as she sat up straighter. "And you missed tonight, which is fine if you had to work but Henry—"
"That was tonight? Babe, I'm 's sorry," he slurred, shucking his suit jacket and slacks. He stumbled out toward the bed to apologize to Elizabeth, bracing his hands on the mattress and looking at her like he'd been soaked with a bucket of water.
Elizabeth had been forced to attended one of those endless State Department dinners, complete with schmoozing and diplomatic posturing, and Henry was supposed to accompany her. With their current hectic schedules, tonight had been the only time they could squeeze in some semblance of a date night — even if they'd be sharing their date with a delegation from Paraguay. They'd take what they could get.
She knew how much Henry had been working in the past few months, and had already factored in that he'd have to cancel because of work. She understood, if for no other reason than she'd had to cancel on him countless times herself. But she'd really thought that he would prioritize her over a glass of cheap liquor.
"Baby, I completely forgot, please forgive me," he plead, his eyes wide. He reached for her hand but she pulled away, retreating into the defensive. Forgot, my ass, she thought. She turned away from him, just wanting to lay back down, sleep and pretend this whole exchange hadn't happened in the first place. She was still irritated with him for some (quite possibly unclear but in her mind definitely justified) reason, and this was not helping.
Deep down, Elizabeth knew there had to be some reason why her husband hadn't shown up, something that preceded the bourbon, but right now, at two in the morning, she couldn't bring herself to think of it or let Henry off the hook.
Henry, in his current state of inebriation, had lost much of his ability to accurately read his wife's body language. Normally, he could read her like a book, sense whenever she was upset and needed to be comforted, or when she wanted someone to keep their distance. Right now was definitely shaping up to the latter, but Henry was none the wiser.
He began climbing into bed, moving closer so he could wrap his arms around her and bury his face in the crook of her neck. He was surprised when Elizabeth flinched at his touch and rolled over to face him. Her expression spoke volumes, and they most certainly weren't filled with loving sentiments.
She took a deep breath and cringed as she smelled the odour that radiated off him — a mixture of shoddy liquor, sweat and possibly cigars — all indicative of her husbands fierce dedication to his extra-curricular FBI assignment.
"Henry, you reek," she muttered.
"Hmm, what?" He was already halfway to sleep, and Elizabeth groaned. Her irritation hadn't faded, and a sleeping, smelly Henry was not helping the matter.
"You smell like alcohol," she said matter-of-factly, loud enough for him to fully comprehend and snap out of it.
"Shower?" He posed it like a question, and she almost wanted to laugh. Almost. Until she remembered he'd essentially stood her up for some young FBI guy with hipster glasses and shoddy booze, and the anger came back again.
"Yes. But since you showering at this time of night is gonna cause even more noise than you've been making so far, I'd suggest you postpone."
Henry nodded, content with not having to move, and snuggled deeper into the pillows.
"Hold on there, buster. You still reek. You're not sleeping here."
"Henry, I have work in a few hours and you do to. Let's make this easy, you're sleeping on the couch and you'll shower in the morning."
She turned away from him with an air of finality and pulled the covers up, shutting her eyes and willing him to go away. She realized she'd just effectively banished her husband to the couch, and the guilt was already there. They had made it a rule never to go to bed angry, and she'd just broken it. She knew she'd relent as soon as she turned around and opened her eyes, so she kept them firmly closed and focused on the anger she'd harboured over the past week, coupled with the stress from work and the fact that she'd been ditched tonight.
Henry's brain scrambled to keep up with what just happened. He too thought he'd made an agreement with Elizabeth not to go bed angry, and now he was being exiled to the living room. He knew he should ask what was really the matter, but the alcohol was preventing him from much coherent thought and he thought it was better to heed her order than risk a middle-of-the-night row where one of them didn't have all their mental faculties.
Resigned, Henry rolled out of bed and grabbed a pillow. He stumbled toward the bathroom and turned off the light before slipping into the hallway and heading downstairs. He found his sofa of choice and sunk down in the soft cushions before pulling a blanket over himself. This would have to do. He shifted and sleep claimed him quickly, his system working overtime to rid his body of the toxins.
Elizabeth had a harder time falling asleep — the guilt was nagging at her and she kept thinking she was overreacting entirely. Henry had stood her up, but really, was a State Department dinner really the date night they'd been looking for? They would have inevitably spent at least half the evening apart, and even together, they'd have had to entertain a host of dignitaries. Not exactly the romantic evening of her dreams.
Still, he hadn't even told her he needed to work late. It was completely justified to leave him hanging, after all, he'd done the same just hours previous. Right? Somehow, payback seemed unnecessarily cruel, and she tossed and turned, her mind refusing to quiet. That little voice in the back of her head screamed that she should head down and keep her promise to him.
Eventually, Elizabeth felt herself get up from bed and slip out of the room, down the hall, drawn to Henry. Call her pathetic, but she couldn't manage to stay angry enough at her husband to pass up an opportunity to spend what little time they both had these days together.
She stopped in front of the couch, taking a minute to observe Henry as he slept. His face looked so peaceful, and she smiled at the way he clutched at the blanket he'd draped over himself. She knew that in the morning, when he nursed his inevitable hangover, he'd provide a reasonable explanation, or at least a sincere apology for the events of the evening.
Either way, the sight of him sleeping on the sofa melted her heart. Even drunk, he'd immediately given her all the space she needed, no questions asked. She still had no idea what she'd done to deserve him sometimes. Elizabeth bent down and stroked a hand over Henry's forehead, smiling.
She tried to crawl under the blanket next to him as quietly as possible, holding her breath as she hoped he'd stay asleep. She was mildly successful, Henry released only a small groan as she wrapped herself around him. It was a tight squeeze on the couch, and he still smelled like booze, but she loved him for better and worse. If worse meant this, she decided it was worth bearing.
"Whatcha doin'? Henry mumbled, brushing his lips over Elizabeth's cheek.
"Couldn't sleep without you."
She could feel him smile and pull her tighter at that, sighing contentedly and drifting off again.
"Love you," she whispered before succumbing to sleep herself.
"You guys realize you have a bed upstairs, right?"
Stevie stood in front of the couch, coffee in hand, chuckling and shaking her head at the sight before her. Her parents were, for no good reason, squished together on the sofa. Her dad's hair was sticking out at all angles, and her mom looked a little worse for wear. They turned their heads and looked at their eldest sheepishly.
Henry and Elizabeth pushed themselves up, groaning as they felt their joints ache and creak. Henry had also woken up with a pounding headache, and his head swum as he sat up in a vertical position.
"We were looking for a change in scenery," Elizabeth quipped. When Stevie broke out into laughter, she just shooed her away good-naturedly. "Do you have any more coffee?"
"Yeah," Stevie called over her shoulder, walking back upstairs. "There's a whole pot in the kitchen."
Henry reached out and took Elizabeth's hands, turning to face her. He looked her in the eyes, and through the obvious headache, she could tell he felt genuinely bad about last night.
"Babe, I'm so sorry about missing last night. I remembered when I was already out with Mo, and at that point the bourbon had gotten to me already and it was too late."
"Hey, it's okay. I'm sorry too. I've been pretty crabby all week."
"I think it's just been a bad week all around."
"Sorry for kicking you out, roommate," Elizabeth said, smiling shyly. Henry grinned and pulled her close, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.
"Love you," he murmured.
They stayed there for a little bit, until Elizabeth loosened his grip.
"I love you too, and I love this, but Henry, you still reek."
They both couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing. Henry stood up, swayed a little, and walked to the stairs.
"I'm gonna go shower, babe. And tonight, can we sleep in our nice, comfortable bed, roommate?"