A/N: Some conversation and sex, set during the season four finale, Night Watch, after Conrad tells Elizabeth to talk to the Russians. Later that night, as they say...
Pushing her chair back from the desk and standing to stretch the bunched muscles in her back, Elizabeth rubbed hard at her eyes to try to alleviate the strain brought on by concentrating so hard in the midnight electric half-light. A pain pulsed in her right temple, a clear sign of both stress and exhaustion.
She was so tired after the events of the day – and yet she knew that even if she went to bed, she didn't have a hope in hell of falling asleep. There wasn't even the fall back option of work to distract her and pass the hours until morning; she had done everything she could to put plans in place ready to meet with Minister Avdonin, and now there was nothing else to do until she was due to leave for her plane at 6am.
The prospect of spending the next six hours doing nothing but waiting and turning over dark thoughts in her mind was already driving her crazy. She couldn't stop her brain from wandering to the memory of hearing the words Code Night Watch and Russell Jackson sounding defeated and the awful feeling of looking at her kids and thinking it was for the last time.
A sob rose in her throat and escaped before she could check it, sounding loud in her quiet home office. It had been so close. She had been so convinced that -
The sound of the front door opening and closing caught her attention and she looked up to see Henry in the foyer dressed in his gym gear, clearly just getting home from a run.
She hadn't even heard him leave the house.
"Henry," she called softly to get his attention from her dim corner of the office.
He turned toward the sound of her voice and came into the office, wiping sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his t-shirt. "Hey," he greeted her, leaning back against his desk to take a drink of water from a sports bottle.
She watched him for a moment, lingering on the way his throat bobbed as he swallowed. "I didn't hear you go out," she said.
"You were on the phone. I didn't want to disturb you." He put his bottle down and shifted to grip the edge of the desk tightly, like he felt the need to cling on to something. Like he was trying to stop himself from falling. He sighed. "I thought a run might help."
She nodded sympathetically, knowing that her husband was struggling every bit as much as she was at the prospect of what had almost happened earlier – at the thought they might have been dead by now, and their children along with them. "Did it?" she asked. She thought that if it did, she was more than willing to delight her DS agents with the prospect of accompanying her on a midnight sprint through the streets of DC.
Henry shrugged. "For the first mile, maybe. Until I settled into it and then I started thinking again." His expression clouded and Elizabeth could easily guess the thoughts that were passing across his mind.
"Yeah." She could understand that.
"You're still working?" He nodded towards the papers that were spread across her desk. His tone was almost envious at the thought she had something to help keep her occupied.
Elizabeth shook her head and prodded absently at some of the papers. "I've done what I can for now. I'm leaving for the Caymans first thing in the morning."
"Avdonin accepted the meeting?"
She smiled but there was little humour in it. "No."
Henry chuckled and it was clear he understood she planned on showing up at the minister's conference regardless. "You'll be reachable while you're there?" He asked the question lightly but his concern was evident.
She got it: after what had happened earlier, she didn't want to be out of contact with him, either. "Of course," she assured him.
"Do you think going to see him will work?"
I honestly don't know, was the truthful answer she wanted to give. Instead she said, "It has to."
Because if it didn't, then – Even the thought of what could happen was enough to get her blood pressure rising and her heart thumping hard against her ribcage. She felt a surge of adrenaline and then a wave of frustration as it had nowhere to go. She leaned one hip firmly against the hard wood of her desk, needing the small bite of pain and the solid anchor.
"Henry, I can't stop thinking about what happened."
Henry's head dropped but he kept his gaze on her, and she knew his mind was going to the same places hers was. "I know. Neither can I." Silence stretched between them for a moment – because really what could they say? – until Henry shifted and moved to pull himself up to sit on the edge of his desk. "What would you have done?" he asked.
She had a feeling that she knew what he was asking but she needed him to say it. "When?"
"Earlier, at the golf course," he clarified. "Would you have advised Conrad the same way? If you'd been there?"
She heard clearly the unspoken question her husband was asking of her. Would you have told him he should order Armageddon?
She crossed her arms over her chest in an unconscious gesture of self-defence and worried briefly that she might disappoint him with whatever she said – until she remembered that in the insane situation in which they had found themselves, there was no good answer. Still, she had tried to stop her mind dwelling for too long on how things might have gone if she had been with Conrad and the others at the golf course, on what she would have told the President to do – she figured that way madness lay. She couldn't change anything now it was done.
"Babe?" Henry prompted.
"I don't know." She thought about it for a moment and shifted uncomfortably on the spot. "I… maybe would have suggested placing a call to President Salnikov first, or Minister Avdonin. You know, casually ask them if they had any special plans today. Sound them out before committing our nuclear arsenal and destroying the world…" Her arms dropped back to her sides. "Not that I can really say in hindsight. Who knows if I would have thought to do that? Who can really say in the moment what they would do?"
And that was half the problem; in that moment when faced with the decision as to what to do, reality became a war game. The short timeframe in which to make a decision meant that diplomacy was abandoned in favour of orders, and humanity got lost somewhere in the mix.
There was so much riding on her meeting tomorrow with Avdonin.
"Yeah," Henry agreed.
A wave of guilt washed over Elizabeth at everything her husband had gone through today. "Would it have been better if I hadn't told you? If you were in the dark?" She had spent the day so glad that he was there alongside her, that he knew and understood what was going on, but maybe it had been the wrong thing. Maybe he would have preferred not to know what almost happened. Elizabeth thought she could handle going crazy with worry by herself if it meant that Henry could rest easy.
"No," he said, emphatically, and it was clear he was telling the truth. "No, babe. It's… we're in this together. We go down together."
"OK," she said, because there was no way she was going to disagree, even as she wished she could have spared him their current anguish.
Henry's voice was almost too low to hear when he said, "You stayed with us."
He carefully clasped his hands together in his lap like he was trying to keep himself contained. "Your DS agents were supposed to put you in the car and take you to the helicopter." His tone was hard to read.
"Oh. Yeah." She took a couple of steps towards him to stand in the pool of light spilling from a floor lamp, determined that he see the seriousness of her answer. "I was never going to go, Henry." How could she? She was never going to leave her family behind.
The thought crossed through her mind that if it had been a different DS agent on duty, an agent more prone than Jimmy to slinging her over his shoulder and whisking her away, things could have been very different. What if they'd insisted and taken her off and she'd abandoned her family? Tears rose in her eyes at the thought. What if the attack had been real and she had lived and they…
Elizabeth gasped for breath as the prospect filled her mind and tears that she had so far mostly contained started to spill down her cheeks as she pressed her hand to her mouth. She couldn't leave her family. She couldn't. The thought of them being left while she…
"Hey." Henry pressed up from the desk, standing heavily at the sight of her tears, one hand reaching out towards her. "Hey, Elizabeth."
Even as he comforted her with the soft tone of his voice, she could still hear his distress and sense the way that he was practically vibrating with tension in front of her. She knew he was thinking about how close it had been, how the experience had thrown them both and left them unable to rock back into normal life. Elizabeth felt like she was drowning, or falling. Careening through space with nowhere to land. She needed something to cling to. Needed something to make things real again. Needed –
"I…" She started, then stopped when there were no adequate words she could find to explain.
In two quick strides, she closed the gap between them and pressed her lips to Henry's.
She held his face firmly between her hands, fingers curling in his hair as though it was the only way to keep him close to her. His arms automatically banded tight around her back as he hauled her up against him and returned the kiss, their shared desperation spilling out of them and into each clash of lips and teeth and tongue.
Then suddenly Henry's hands were on her hips and he pressed her back, breaking the kiss and looking down at her with eyes flashing dark. She met his gaze, sucking in a shaky breath and seeing the unspoken flicker of hesitation – was this the right thing to do when they were both feeling so lost and on edge? Then Henry's fingers flexed against her, stroking warmly along her hips and his mouth was back on hers, his arms around her and his body pressed tight up against hers, hesitation entirely gone.
Good. She needed it. Needed him, something to make her feel normal again. She thought he needed it, too.
She had thought they were going to die in that arcade.
The question crossed her mind whether they would have heard the bombs before they hit, whether there would have been time to be aware of the act of dying before they did.
She needed to chase those thoughts away, and busied herself with divesting Henry of his sweaty running shirt, wanting to feel skin against skin, as though it made his touch more real, somehow. He was still slightly clammy with perspiration from the run, making her palms alternately slip and stick as she slid them up his chest and started to push him towards the comfortable chair in the corner of the room.
She briefly entertained the idea of pushing him towards the stairs in the direction of their bedroom, but the adrenaline was still flashing inside her in need of an outlet, and she could already feel needy desire starting to swirl in her gut, and getting Henry upstairs would take time she didn't want to waste.
Today had been a terrifying lesson in the importance of not wasting time.
They'd just have to take the chance that they wouldn't be interrupted by one of the kids.
It seemed Henry was on the same page as he changed their direction slightly without prompting to keep them on track, and then he broke their kiss as he flopped heavily into the armchair to sit looking up at her with his eyes full of desire and a shimmer of desperation that told Elizabeth he was still fighting his way back to normal, too.
Henry leaned forward as he reached out to cup the backs of her thighs in his hands, fingers wrapping firmly around her to pull her the last half-step between his legs, her knees bumping the soft covering of the cushion and her hands reaching out to steady herself against his broad shoulders. She could feel the heat of his hands through her slacks, skin tingling as his fingers trailed purposefully down the inside of her legs and then back up, only to land higher than before.
Her whole body was humming with need – for her husband, for something to hold onto, for an outlet, for something normal. Something real. No games. All emotion.
She sank down onto Henry's lap, her knees straddling his thighs and squeezing so she could pull herself tighter against him, feeling his erection stirring against her stomach. His hands cupped her hips briefly before sliding under her shirt to skim up her back, fingers tracking against the slim column of her spine and thumbs bracketing her ribcage.
It was the most secure she had felt all day and she leaned into him, seeking out his kiss once more.
Elizabeth was just starting to lose track of the train of thoughts and worry that had been plaguing her since that morning, finally starting to get a handle on her runaway mind, when a floorboard creaked loudly upstairs.
She tore her mouth from Henry's and by silent mutual agreement, they both held themselves stock still for long seconds as they waited to see whether the noise would amount to anything more. One of the kids out of bed, perhaps?
Silence greeted them.
"False alarm," Henry whispered after fifteen seconds or so had passed.
"Yeah," she agreed.
Henry tilted his neck up so he could kiss her again, lips teasing hers distractingly.
But not distractingly enough to stop the thought: if the attack had been real, how long would it have taken the kids to realise something was wrong in the arcade?
Maybe they wouldn't have known at all until it was all over. Maybe they would have carried on playing air hockey and never would have realised.
But maybe they'd have looked up and seen the DS agents gone and their parents looking worried, and it would have made them wonder, made them curious. Maybe –
"Babe?" Henry drew back to cup her face in one hand, holding her face a few inches from his so he could look at her.
"I can't forget it," she said in answer to his unasked question. And then, before he could agree or otherwise come up with anything reassuring to say, she said, "Make me forget it."
He studied her for a moment and the look in his eyes matched how she felt. Then Henry nodded and surged against her, kissing her fiercely as he brought his hands in between them and struggled to shove down his running shorts and boxers. Elizabeth slid her hand down to stroke his erection as soon as he'd pushed his clothing down as far as he could, wrapping her fingers around him and enjoying the groan he gave at her touch.
She felt the answering throb low down inside her, and even though he'd hardly touched her, she didn't think it would take much. She was so wound up from the events of the day and her surplus adrenaline was quickly converting into arousal – a much better outlet than anything else she could think of in her search for a release.
Henry's hand gripped her wrist then and drew her hand away from him. The set of his jaw as he continued to kiss her suggested that he wouldn't need much to tip him over, either. She settled for smoothing her hands over his chest and taking comfort from the strength of him while he regained his composure.
She almost lost her own composure when Henry's hands moved around to her breasts beneath her shirt and stroked her nipples through her bra, the rough lace rasping against her skin and sending darts of heat sparking through her. She could feel coherent thought starting to abandon her and figured that was a good thing, considering. She didn't want to break their kiss, enjoying the feel of his mouth against hers, but she did want him inside her and so she forced herself to pull her mouth away from his and push back from the armchair so she could quickly shove down her slacks and underwear before climbing back over her husband.
Bracing her arms against Henry's sturdy shoulders, she caught his eye as she hovered above him. His throat bobbed as he swallowed and she was overcome with a wave of love for him.
The thought of Henry not being in the world –
Tears welled in her eyes and she leaned forward to kiss Henry sweetly before he could ask the reason for them. "I've got you," she whispered as she pulled away and moved to take him inside her, feeling the stretch as he pressed his hips up into her.
"It's okay," he whispered as she paused for a minute once he was buried all the way inside. "We're okay."
He kissed her again and then she started to move, her legs clamped tight around his as they rocked together in the small space. A part of her wanted to move slow and steady, hold Henry's eye the entire time, make it an affirmation.
Most of her – the part still fuelled by stress and adrenaline and desperate, urgent need – wanted it fast, was straining for the release. And so she started to move faster, feeling the burn in her thighs as she raised herself up and then lowered back down, the delicious pull of Henry moving inside her sending her eyes clamping shut and hiding any tears she might have been tempted to cry. His hands fell to her hips to help guide her and she could feel him already tensing beneath her, his legs trembling like he was struggling to hold on.
"Let go, Henry," she said, as she dropped one hand between them to press against her clit, rubbing in tight circles as she chased the release she so desperately needed.
Henry stilled beneath her and bit down on her collarbone as he came, using her to muffle the cry that left his throat. The sharp sting of his teeth was just what she needed to bring enough clarity to her muddled mind that she was able to push all of her thoughts out of her brain for just long enough to send herself over the edge while Henry continued to pulse gently inside her.
She was silent when she came, back bowing and then arching, fingers gripping Henry's shoulders hard, muscles clamping and sweat breaking out across her body. She could feel the need leeching out to hang cloaked in the air around them as she gradually came back to herself.
They fell limply into each other, Henry's lips dropping to her hair and his arms wrapping around her as she slumped awkwardly against his chest. Elizabeth could feel his heart thumping hard against hers and knew that the rapid pace was not entirely due to the sex. Neither was the fast pace of her own heart, although as she came down from her high she thought that she felt at least slightly lighter now.
She stroked her hand along Henry's side and pressed a kiss to his chest. She let out a slow breath, feeling the fog of adrenaline clearing a little. "Mm, that helped, I think." She sounded almost certain.
"It did." He sounded sure. Henry's arms flexed against her and the drowsy tone of his voice suggested that he might even be able to find some sleep soon.
Elizabeth spoke before her brain could filter the thought. "We didn't know it could have been our last time. If the attack had – "
"Don't go there, babe," he cut her off, lifting her chin with one finger so he could see her face. He shook his head.
She nodded in acknowledgement. He was right – there was no point going there now. And yet. "The sun's going to rise tomorrow," she said. "Everything's the same, but…"
They couldn't deny that everything had changed, too. Not that most people even knew it.
But at least they would be around to see it.
Elizabeth thought that for now she could be content with the prospect of tomorrow.