The obligatory warning - here be slash, folks: two men in a relationship with each other. Anyone who flames will be hung drawn and quartered, because I cannot be arsed to deal with any of that bullshit. We clear?
Thanks go out to xaritomene, who reads all my stories, laughs at them, and tells me how to make them better, and as always to Von, who has been fantastic helping me with this story, to the point of actually letting me steal some of her lines at the end. You couldn't wish for a more fantastic friend than her.
DISCLAIMER: I think I just saw a flying pig!
Onwards, gentle readers.
When Wolf came round, Alex never bothered cooking a meal or trying to find a decent film for the pair of them to watch together; he didn't try and tidy up his house when he knew the man had leave, and he certainly didn't make sure he was wearing something decent.
They would order in a Chinese, or a pizza, find the latest game on TV or, if the only thing on was cricket – a sport about which neither of them could work up any interest – they would flip to one of the apparently endless re-runs of 'Dallas' or 'Days of our Lives', and quietly mock it. Eventually, one of them would shift a little closer to the other; then one of them would reach out, and brush a hand over the others knee while reaching for the TV remote to turn up the volume when it didn't need to be turned up; next, an arm would be draped unsubtly along the back of the sofa. It always ended up the same way.
In a way, Alex enjoyed being able to predict these visits down to the last action. Waking up at three on his wide sofa, sticky and entwined, offering the use of his shower, even his bed once or twice when he'd been feeling particularly soft and sleepy; Wolf always leaving at three thirty, despite the offer of the bed, freshly showered and likely to be gone for another two or three weeks at the least. He enjoyed the predictability of it all, the rhythm of it. Their relationship was – well, it was all about the sex, basically. The rituals they'd built around it were nice, but they both knew what it was essentially about. When Wolf wasn't there, Alex didn't call him. When Alex wasn't at his flat, Wolf didn't check on him, didn't send flowers, didn't leave a note. They didn't do 'relationships'. It was tension relief, that was all. Just tension relief.
The whole thing had started a couple of years ago, when Alex was twenty two, and Wolf nearly thirty-three; he was a captain in the SAS now, though still working predominantly in the field, and he had been working with Alex on an assignment in Prague. Alex was the Agent in place, and Wolf was coordinating the sting with him; the close quarters had helped to exacerbate the whole thing. Nothing had happened there, they were both too professional for that, but by the end of the week they were both very aware of the tension between them.
As the two ranking officers, as it were, it was deemed sensible that Alex and Wolf share a room – the ten of them were all crammed into two flats in a large complex on the outskirts, and Alex was heavily involved in the negotiations side of the whole thing, meaning that he spent half his days trying to coordinate the sting with Wolf and the two team leaders, and the other half in the city centre, right on sight.
The case itself had seemed simple – a particularly violent case of drug smuggling, one which seemed to be working through the British Embassy in Prague, and which Alex could easily have dealt with if it hadn't been for one fatal element which had been overlooked before sending him in. One of the employees at the Embassy, no doubt one of the people spearheading the drug ring, had seen Alex before. Johanna Scholl had been a member of one of a terrorist group MI6 had disbanded through Alex. She had obviously alerted her superiors, and it had led to the stand-off they were now faced with – a hostage situation in the middle of Prague. So far, the hostages had been in there two days, and all of them knew they had less than a day to come up with a working solution before they started shipping the hostages home in body bags.
Wolf had been all for effectively storming the castle, but Alex had turned that idea down; he suggested a fake frontal attack, pulling resources to perceived threat at the front of the building, allowing the real attack to infiltrate the building from the rear.
"Too risky," Wolf had grunted at him, and Alex scoffed.
"Oh, right, because yours was such a safe suggestion."
In the end, they had gone for an element of both. It was a little rudimentary, and they both knew it, but it was the best they could do. Alex would start a flamboyant attempt to negotiate with them, and would suggest he came into the building, possibly in exchange for any ill, or wounded. While that was going on Wolf and his teams would infiltrate the building from behind. Elite police forces would be coordinated into the scheme, as well, and, all things being equal, they could overpower them without too much difficulty.
Almost everything went to plan. Alex's exchange of himself for two wounded hostages when off without a hitch, the SAS infiltrated the building from behind, elite police forces kept attention at the front of the building until it was too late.
All of the hostages were unharmed, except Alex, who, in his attempt to distract as many people has possible, had been beaten within an inch of his life, and was found by Wolf. He was shipped home two days later and put on 'indefinite sick-leave'; to his surprise, Wolf checked up on him fairly regularly.
Unsurprisingly, the tradition of a Chinese and a bad TV programme started long before the sex, which only started the second time Wolf came back from a mission. Alex has only just returned from his first solo mission after being fully cleared for active duty. Wolf had stumbled through the door, and Alex, taking one look at his friend's face, silently offered him a beer, ordered the pizza and found the worst TV show he could.
Ten minutes into the programme – aptly enough 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' – Wolf had turned to him, and said, quietly,
"You just need something to take your mind off it sometimes – you know?"
Alex knew without even having to think that Wolf wasn't talking about the F-list celebrity on TV currently being made to eat camel testicles, and nodded, quietly. "Yeah," of course he knew – sometimes, he felt there was no one in the world who could possibly know better. "but what?"
"I don't know."
After that, Alex would never remember how it progressed to sex, or how it became a regular thing, but he wasn't about to complain. Sex with Wolf was great, if always a little tense, and Alex certainly knew a good thing when he had one. And if he sometimes wondered whether they could have had something better than Chinese, bad TV and sex once every few months, he wasn't about to rock the boat by asking.
Wolf would have been lying through his teeth if he said that he didn't enjoy the times he and Cub met up; after all, the whole thing had mostly been at his initiation, though he still flushed when thinking about it.
He honestly hadn't turned up that time meaning to have sex with the kid – and Alex might have been twenty four, but Wolf had known him when he was fourteen, and felt perfectly comfortable calling him a 'kid', no matter what he might have done with him – and was still a little surprised that the boy hadn't decked him one when he suggested it. And he had never meant for it to be more than a one-off thing; after all, he didn't do relationships.
But now that it had become at least semi-regular, he certainly wasn't complaining. Cub was a normal, natural kind of guy, fun to be around, separate enough from his job to give him a bit of space but involved enough with it that he understood what he was going through at any given time… and it certainly helped that he was a great lay. What on earth did he have to complain about?
He really hadn't expected to get attached to the kid. After all, he didn't have relationships, and he turned up on the kid's doorstep (or, to be fair, the kid sometimes turned up on his doorstep, it all depended), about once every two months, if that. They didn't spend holidays together, he'd never met Cub's family – hell, he didn't even know whether Cub had any family. They weren't in a relationship.
He hadn't been expecting for it to hurt like hell when he rang Cub's doorbell and some other guy opened it.
Some other guy who was obviously intending to stay the night with the kid, from his puffed-lipped, ruffled-hair look, and the way he draped an arm round Alex's shoulders the moment Alex appeared in the hallway from the sitting room.
"Friend of yours, Al?"
Alex met Wolf's eyes squarely, and nodded. "Yeah. James – coming in?"
Wolf shook his head. "Nah, I was just dropping by to see how you were doing, but you're obviously busy. I'll leave you to it." If his words had a sarcastic bite to them, only Cub noticed.
After that, he promised himself he wouldn't go back, but found himself on Alex's doorstep the next time he had more than a night's worth of leave, a deliberately trashy DVD carefully hidden in the enormous pocket of his jacket. Something had definitely changed, because this was the first time he'd brought anything with him for one of these things – whatever they were. They always went halves on whatever it was they ordered in, but whoever was coming over never brought anything with them.
Alex opened to door this time – thankfully alone. "Wolf!" he actually sounded a little surprised, and Wolf paused momentarily, wondering whether this was the right thing to do; before squaring his shoulders and nodding at Alex, offering him what he was sure was a ghastly smile.
"Cub. You busy?"
"Course not, come in," He led the way into the sitting room. "So, pizza or Chinese?"
Alex frowned. "No, that's not how it works. You chose which one, and I chose what we have." He made a show of checking the back of Wolf's head. "You didn't get concussion on this last assignment, or anything, did you?"
Wolf swatted his hand away with an almost-mild glare – which Alex just grinned at. "Fine. Pizza."
"Pizza. Awesome. Margarita OK with you? I need something plain, stomach's a little tender at the moment."
"What happened?" Wolf asked, leaning back casually.
"Poison," Alex shrugged, succinctly, and Wolf felt a momentary twinge somewhere in his chest, but dismissed it as heartburn as quickly as he could. "Nothing serious."
"OK then. If you're sure," There was a moment's silence. "So – that man…" Alex flushed immediately, and Wolf allowed himself a moment of rather guilty satisfaction that that night had obviously played on the kid's mind, as well as his. "Who was he?"
Alex paused for a moment, before shrugging a little. "I'm sorry you met Joe – I didn't mean for you to bump into him."
"So he's a permanent thing, then?" Wolf asked, determined not to get worked up over it, even though he felt rather as though he'd like to bash someone's face in – preferably this Joe kid's. Violence might be a dysfunctional way of dealing with things, but it had worked for him for the past thirty-odd years.
"No! God, no," Alex shook his head, vehemently. "He was – part of a mission."
Wolf frowned, darkly. "And you slept with him?!"
"We had to distract him!" Alex said, rather defensively. "And that was the only thing he seemed to want to do, so, you know… Job first, and all…"
Wolf's frown only darkened at that. "What if he'd been – I mean, did you even check…?"
"Oh, credit me with some sense!" Alex snapped. "I asked, and we – he used…" he turned away, and picked up the TV remote, movements short and jerky."I'm not having this conversation with you," he said flatly. "If it makes you feel better, I got myself tested right afterwards. And," he added rather ruefully, "the whole thing was dreadful."
It didn't make Wolf feel better – in fact, he felt like a total bastard – but he had practice skating over things like that. "And you're-" he'd been about to say 'OK', but Alex beat him to the punch.
"'Clean'?" he asked, his voice a little bitter. "Yeah. I tested negative for everything."
"Good. That's good." Wolf nodded, before realising how bad that could sound as Alex's shoulders tensed. "I mean, I'm glad you're OK," he amended, quickly. "I- yeah. I'm glad you're OK."
Alex's stance relaxed slightly, and he turned back towards Wolf with a sigh. "Look – I'm sorry about Joe, OK? Really, I am. I didn't mean for you to – get put in that position."
"Bound to happen sometime, I s'pose," Wolf shrugged. "I mean, it's not like we're…" he let it trail off. It might hurt a little, but he could deal with that. People got hurt in his line of work all the time.
Alex glanced at him. "'Going steady'?" he said, with a hint of a smile, and Wolf nodded jerkily.
"Yeah. We're not – exclusive."
"Mm," Alex turned away to put the DVD in, and glanced up at Wolf from in front of the TV. "You ever think maybe we should be?" Wanting to say 'yes' didn't make it any easier, Wolf found, struggling to get the words – any words – out. Finally, he just shrugged, and Alex sat back, flicking through the menu options on the DVD without looking back at him. "Well, think it over, OK?"
Wolf managed a nod, but that was the last they spoke of it then.
As it turned out, though, he couldn't stop thinking it over. He liked Alex – he knew that, he'd known that for a while – but Wolf had never been a monogamous sort of person, and he tended to go for whoever was willing and took his fancy.
Except that hadn't been true for a while, had it? he thought to himself. Not for months, not since he and Alex had started things up more seriously.
Not much given to soul-searching, he tried to avoid the topic, but found himself coming back to it at odd moments, when he should have been focusing on other things. Never when he was on assignment, but when he was on downtime in the middle of nowhere, wondering about Alex, thinking back of their relationship – such as it was – trying to answer Alex's question for himself in a way that felt normal.
He knew, though, that things had changed for good the next time he went over and found Alex bruised and sore and in no condition to get up to anything more energetic than make a pot of coffee and flop in front of the TV. Three months ago, he would have made some excuse and run a mile; now, he found himself going in, settling Alex on the sofa, making the coffee himself and shoving in the crappy DVD he'd brought which they hadn't watched before. They spent a long, lazy evening, and Wolf left at ten, without even attempting anything more sexual than Alex's mockery of the screen kisses, which he demonstrated on Wolf with surprising enthusiasm.
The time after that, Wolf actually took Alex up on the offer of a bed to sleep in, and, two and a half years into their not-relationship, they got to their first morning-after; a cup of coffee and a bowl of Sugar Puffs, before Alex shoved him out with a cheerful grin, saying,
"Now, bugger off, I've got work to do."
Alex came to his flat the next time, and they found themselves watching the most terrible film they could find. Alex had enjoyed the whole thing hugely, and even Wolf had cracked a smile, mostly at the expression on Alex's face; his arm was round Alex's shoulders, Alex's hand was resting casually on his knee, and it was almost perfect.
And that night, it was slow and sensual, and they woke hopelessly tangled in Wolf's duvet, giving each other frankly stupid grins before starting to disentangle themselves and get ready for the rest of the day.
Over the next few months, it became increasingly like that – slow and familiar, until Wolf stayed over one time at Alex's, and found that he had his shampoo in Alex's shower, and his spare toothbrush in the tooth-mug by the basin. It wasn't all bad TV and Chinese anymore, either, they actually talked about things occasionally; particularly bad assignments, rows with friends and family; Alex was thinking of moving out of the big house in Chelsea because it was just too big for one person, and kept discussing it with Wolf. Alex was Wolf's first port of call when he got back from a mission, and he'd find messages stuck through his letter box from Alex, telling him when he'd be back, if the other man was off on an assignment of his own. But that didn't make it a relationship – right?
Finally, though, he pulled himself together. They'd broken their normal pattern and gone out for dinner, just down to Alex's local, which was when Wolf came to his senses. Alex had been flirting with someone over by the bar, and Wolf had been sat at their table for a good five minutes, seething quietly and reminding himself forcibly that he had no right to go over and tell the woman to back the hell off. He wasn't a jealous guy – or, at least, he rather suspected that he was, but he couldn't exactly fault Alex for being friendly anymore than he could fault the woman for being attracted to him.
In any case, Alex extracted himself from the woman with his usual easy smile – hiding so much more than anyone would ever guess – and returned to Wolf with a much more personal, familiar smile, and that was what mattered.
"Look," Wolf said gruffly, taking a long pull of his drink before gearing himself up to speak, "I've been thinking."
"Did it hurt?" Alex asked sympathetically, and Wolf threw him a filthy look. Alex threw up his hands, in the manner of a fencer acknowledging a hit. "Alright, I'm sorry. What've you been thinking about?"
"What you said. Ages ago. About us."
Alex feigned disinterest, picking at his beer mat, though Wolf was familiar enough with him by now to know that he was by no means as calm as he looked. Not to mention, Alex rarely forgot anything said to him – his phenomenal memory was at once impressive and slightly frightening. "Oh? What did I say?"
"Don't try that with me," Wolf growled, thoroughly ill-at-ease.
Alex left off playing with his beer mat, and looked at him, his expression open, eyes direct. "Alright then, I remember. What about it?"
"Well," Wolf cleared his throat, awkward. "Maybe we should. Try, anyway. Being – whatever it was you said. Exclusive."
Alex paused. "I've been 'exclusive' for quite a while now," he said quietly, and Wolf scoffed.
"Oh? What about that Joe character, then?"
"That was a one-off," Alex said without heat. "I don't sleep with people to get my job done, James, I don't have to. Not normally. But that was part of my cover on that case, and I was in danger of it being blown, so. Needs must." He looked up with a quick smile. "You helped, actually."
"Oh?" Wolf said, surprised, before remembering the job at hand. "Never mind, I don't care – no, I do care. I'm – not very good at this," he finished lamely, irritated at himself for being so inarticulate. He wasn't good with words, and he was still less good with emotions, but he'd make a push, for Alex. "OK, look, I've been – exclusive – for a while now, too." He shrugged, uncomfortable with the sudden turn of Alex's expression, the unexpected, naked look of hope on Alex's face. "I think maybe we should stop pretending this whole – thing – of ours is anything other than – what it is."
"What is it?" Alex asked intently, and Wolf shrugged.
"I don't know. No, really, I don't. I'd say a relationship-"
"-but the word brings you out in hives," Alex finished for him, smiling just a little.
"Exactly," Wolf leaned back, huffing out a breath, relieved at the sudden release of tension in the air. "I just know that I'd like to give – whatever it is, a shot. A proper one."
"I'd say for a relationship that isn't, it's going pretty well so far," Alex said, still smiling. "Wouldn't you?"
Wolf took another drink and said nothing, nodding instead. Alex knew him. Alex knew that he was terrible with words – he was always better off sticking to actions. And Alex knowing that made would make this whole thing so much easier. He could be comfortable around Alex in a way he never could be with any of the other people he'd been involved with.
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
Sometimes, Alex really just wanted to smack Wolf very hard across the back of the head. He loved him, of course – and wasn't that a turn up for the books? – but that didn't mean the man didn't infuriate him beyond all belief.
How many more hints did the man want him to drop? 'This house is TOO BIG FOR ONE PERSON, don't you think, James?' 'I couldn't possibly LIVE HERE ON MY OWN, could I, James?' 'Don't you think it would be MORE SENSIBLE FOR ME TO GO SOMEWHERE SMALLER, since this house is TOO BIG FOR JUST ME, James?'
Sometimes, Alex was convinced the man was being deliberately obtuse about the whole thing. But then sometimes, he'd catch Wolf look at him, or he'd find a message on his answer-phone when he got back from an assignment telling him that Wolf had been by and had missed him, and he'd know that the man just had no clue what Alex was thinking about him.
Finally, he resorted to subterfuge.
"Tom," he started, slowly, the next time he met up with his childhood friend Tom Harris, "Can I ask a favour?"
After leaving school, Tom had gone to Loughborough University to study sport sciences, and was now teaching PE in a school on the outskirts of London, but it was the school summer holiday at the moment, and he was quite happy to play along with Alex's scheme. He hadn't even been shocked by his friend's revelation that he was trying to get 'this guy' to take their relationship seriously, laughing, and saying,
"It's always the people you least expect. Shit, Alex, if you'd asked me in school, I'd have said you'd be married with two kids by now…"
Thankfully, Tom's fiancée, Jess, a girl whom Alex knew quite well, found the entire situation hilariously funny, and gave her consent instantly to letting Tom stay with Alex for a week or so, providing she got a blow-by-blow playback of the whole thing.
So when Wolf appeared on Alex's doorstep a couple of weeks later, it was to have the door opened by Tom. He'd called ahead, and Alex had said that it would be fine for him to come over, but could he give him an hour or so just to finish up the paperwork for his last assignment? Apparently, Wolf thought grimly, making a fantastic leap to the nearest conclusion, Alex had had other things to 'finish up' as well. And after all their talk of being exclusive...
"Hi!" The rather short, dark young man grinned at him. "You must be James. It's great to finally meet you."
Was it Wolf's imagination, or was this boy giving him a rather critical check? "Yes, I'm James. Who are you?"
"Tom. Tom Harris," he grinned up at him, sticking out a hand, which Wolf took rather reluctantly.
"And you're a – friend, of Alex's?"
"You could say that," Tom nodded, smiling, and stepping aside so Wolf could get him. "I live with him."
Wolf almost choked.
Alex was in the sitting room-come-office, printing something out and putting it carefully into a folder when Wolf appeared, arms folded over his chest, face like thunder.
"Oh, you've met Tom," Alex nodded, giving the young man at Wolf's side a warm smile, which Tom returned ten-fold, his expression almost adoring as he gazed at Alex.
"Yeah, we've met," Wolf grunted. "You didn't mention you had… You didn't mention him."
Alex shrugged. "Yeah, well – I did say we had things to talk about."
Tom grinned. "I think that's my cue to leave isn't it? I'll leave you two to it." His eyes lingered on Alex for a moment, before he disappeared upstairs, and Wolf glared after him.
"Oh, stop it," Alex told him, with a grin. "You should know better to look like that at people who can't defend themselves against your Glare of Doom."
Wolf promptly turned his glare on Alex. "So, who is he?"
"Tom? He's my lodger. Didn't he tell you?"
"Just said he lived with you," Wolf growled. "I-" suddenly, he felt rather ashamed of himself. He knew Alex, he knew that this was one area of Alex's life where he wouldn't lie or deceive as a matter of course.
"You jumped to conclusions," Alex said, raising an eyebrow. "I've told you about that."
"I'm sorry," Wolf said, awkwardly, still not used to apologising. "I wasn't thinking."
"I can see that," Alex said, but smiled, and leant over to give him a kiss. "Look, it's nothing to worry about. I've been saying for ages this place is too big for just me, you know I have, so I figured it made sense to take someone in while I maybe look for somewhere smaller. It's nice to have two people in the house, you know? Doesn't feel quite so – empty."
"How long is he staying for?" Wolf asked, trying for casual and missing by a mile.
Alex shrugged carelessly. "I don't know. I mean, as long as he wants, I suppose. I'm so rarely here, it's bound to take me a while to find somewhere to move to, so… Anyway, he's paying me rent on a monthly basis, so he's here for at least a month."
Wolf gritted his teeth. "Right."
Over the next few days, Wolf found himself increasingly over at Alex's, but it was intensely frustrating with Tom constantly there as well. He wasn't jealous – he didn't need to be, Alex wasn't interested, he could see that much, and even if he was he would talk it over with Wolf, not go behind his back – but it made sense to protect one's assets, and Alex was his asset. The man seemed almost obsessed with Alex, sitting with them when they watched a film, apparently oblivious to the rather possessive arm Wolf draped over Alex's shoulders at the slightest provocation.
Finally, Wolf snapped, when Tom made yet another borderline-suggestive comment at Alex – something to do with 'already sharing a house' – and he just couldn't take it any longer.
"Oh, for God's sake!" he actually almost exploded with frustration. "Just back off, would you? Jesus!"
Alex frowned lightly. "James? Is everything alright?" Tom, catching Alex's quick significant look, gave him a nod from behind Wolf's back, and disappeared from the kitchen.
"Just – find another lodger, would you?" he sighed, dragging a hand over short hair. "I can't – he's bloody well obsessed with you, Alex, can't you see that? I don't want to be the jealous boyfriend, but I'm not a bloody saint. I'll move in with you, if that's what it takes!"
Alex stilled a little. "Seriously?"
"What do you mean, 'seriously'?" Wolf snapped.
"Would you seriously move in with me?"
Wolf frowned a little himself, going over what he'd said. "Well…" he shrugged, rather awkwardly. "I suppose. I mean, if you think it's a good idea. If-" he thought it over for a few minutes longer. "OK, sure. Why not?"
Alex grinned. "Awesome."
It wasn't all wedded bliss from that moment on. They had to work out how they were going to pay the bills, Alex moved from his normal room to the bigger room his uncle had slept in, so he and Wolf could share a room, and they had their fair share of fights. Wolf was more than a little annoyed to find out that he'd been manipulated into this whole thing, and even more annoyed when Alex had calmly told him that 'he'd been dropping hints for months that Wolf just hadn't seen'.
Neither of them were the easiest to live with either – some of Alex's habits drove him absolutely mental, and he was willing to bet that some of his drove Alex to distraction, too, but after a while they managed to come to an amicable agreement about the things which irritated them most, wearing down the sharp edges of two people not used to sharing space with anyone but themselves.
It took a couple of months, but it got to the point where Wolf couldn't imagine inot/i living with Alex, not sharing space with him. Sometimes, Wolf would come home to an empty house, sometimes Alex would, but knowing that Alex would be home at some point, that Alex would almost always be around, was a happy thought, a comfort he'd never thought he'd have.
Sometimes, Wolf would reflect that this was absolutely nothing like what he had expected from a relationship – not that he knew anything about relationships, since the most he knew about them came from Alex. He'd been expecting something a little less… comfortable. He knew himself well enough to know that he wasn't always easy to get on with, and he couldn't help but wonder what it was allowed Alex to do so.
About six months into what Wolf privately termed the 'proper' part of their relationship, he broached the question.
Alex looked a little surprised at that. "Why do I like you?" he shrugged. "Why wouldn't I like you?" He went back to reading The Daily Mail.
"But – why are you in a relationship with me?" he asked, more persistently.
"Would you rather I wasn't?" he asked, casually turning a page and coming face to face with an article about woman who'd managed to have one white and one black twin.
"No." Wolf frowned, grasping for the right words. "But – I just don't understand why we work."
Finally, Alex shut the newspaper with a small sigh. "Look, James. Is something wrong? I mean, is there something you're trying to tell me?"
"Look," he frowned. "I know I'm not an easy sort of person to get on with, and I just… how do you?"
"Long-term practice?" Alex offered, dryly, then relented. "Look, I don't know why we get on, and I don't know why our relationship works. I mean, hell, it wasn't exactly love at first sight, was it?" Wolf acknowledged the point with a small, reluctant smile. "But it does. And we could try and pinpoint exactly why that is, or we could go upstairs and do something a little more exciting. I mean, it's Saturday and it's sunny, and I know which I'd rather do."
It turned out that – contrary to all expectations – Wolf was the worrier in their relationship. Alex found it much easier to roll with the punches, possibly because he'd been rolling with the punches since he was fourteen years old, and had had a great deal of practice at it. Wolf, despite being a tough, stolid, emotionally stunted sort of man, found anything to do with emotions so unspeakably confusing he was far more likely than Alex to get all worked up about it.
"Alex," he tried, about two months after their first conversation. "Aren't you a bit – young for me?"
Alex quelled that question by raising his eyebrow at him. "James. I'm twenty eight, and we've been together – more or less – for four years. It's a bit late for that conversation, don't you think?"
"So… I didn't take advantage of you? I mean, that first time?"
The eyebrow managed to rise a little bit higher. "Do you really think I would have let you take advantage of me? I was very much a part of the advantage taking." He frowned at him. "I'm perfectly happy with my decision. Very happy, even." He paused momentarily, and grinned. "And, y'know, you're only ten years older than I am, it's not like it matters. It just means you'll die before I am, and I'm OK with that."
All in all, though, the transition into a proper relationship was smooth – so smooth, in fact, that Wolf sometimes caught himself wondering how the hell it happened. Not that he ever regretted it, though – for whatever reason, their relationship worked, despite all the reasons that it shouldn't, and he was finally learning to be grateful for that without questioning it.
"We're nearly out of milk," Alex addressed him that morning, during one of the increasingly rare times when they were both on leave. "I've got to head into the office, finish off a report, so I'll pick some up on my way back. D'you want anything from Sainsbury's, while I'm there?"
Wolf grunted over his newspaper, and Alex grinned at him, ruffling his hair in a way he knew the other man particularly hated.
"Don't scare any children, OK? I'll be back in a couple of hours."
Wolf had finished the newspaper; bored and without else to do, he had pitched battle against a flat-packed TV stand Alex had ordered from IKEA about three years ago and never assembled. The TV itself was turned on, stood on their current rather rickety old table, and he was trying to understand how to 'attach Part B to Part D with Screw 9' when the doorbell rang.
Muttering things under his breath he certainly wouldn't have repeated in polite conversation, he stomped to the door, and pulled it open. "Can I help?" he asked, with a singular lack of grace.
"It's nice to see you haven't lost any of that old charm," Eagle grinned at him, and Wolf actually risked a small smile – living with Alex had mellowed him somewhat.
"Neal. Davie – c'mon in."
The reason they gave for their turning up was easy enough to understand – his two old team-mates had checked his status and address on his data page, and had decided to drop by, since they both had leave. Eagle had a couple of weeks off after his latest assignment, and Snake had been permanently 'grounded' after a nasty hostage situation went wrong. It had involved children in an International British school, in the middle of a compound in Saudi Arabia, and the man had been understandably scarred by the entire thing, not least because he'd been in charge of coordinating the mission. It hadn't been his fault, but Wolf was the last person who needed to be told that Snake would probably blame himself for it for the rest of his life. After failing the obligatory psychological profile, he'd opted to take to the medic's side of things in the SAS, and was currently running the refresher courses in the London HQ.
Which was how he'd bumped into Eagle, and they, in turn, had decided to look up their old team mates. In their words, Fox had 'whored himself out' to MI6, and, as such, his status was highly classified, but Wolf had been easy to look up.
Momentarily, he wondered whether it was a good idea for his address to be so easily available, when he lived there with one of MI6's top agents, one rumoured to be earmarked to take over from Blunt before too long – but dismissed it. He and Alex would discuss that when they had the time, and the privacy.
"Got any orange juice?" Snake asked, casually, appropriating one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
"Demanding, aren't you?" Wolf returned, smartly, but poured him a glass. "Neal, you?"
"Tea'd be great, thanks."
He did them both a mug, and they chatted idly for a few moments, before Eagle interrupted his and Snake's disinterested conversation about rising house prices, saying,
"Well, you're hardly one to talk, James – this place must have cost you an absolute fortune." He grinned. "You finally pop the question? Who was the lucky girl? How often does she go and stay with her family when you're in a temper?"
Wolf silenced him with a glower. "I'm not going into that with you," he said firmly. "None of your business."
"James, ol' buddy, ol' pal, we're your training companions," Eagle drawled. "You know you can tell us anything."
Wolf was saved from giving the other man an answer which would quite possibly have alienated a long-time friend by the sound of the front door opening.
"Oh, even better!" Eagle all but crowed. "We get to meet the lucky lady in person!"
Quick footsteps brought Alex into the kitchen, and Wolf shrugged by way of reply to the look his – partner? – gave him.
"James," Alex's voice was carefully neutral. "Sorry, am I interrupting something?"
Both of them knew that the policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' was firmly, though unofficially in place in the SAS, despite all the equality rhetoric the army liked to spout, and Alex wasn't about to out the other man for the sake of it – not if Wolf didn't want him to, anyway.
As it happened, though, he didn't need to – neither Eagle nor Snake were slow on the uptake.
Snake was the first to speak. "You mean – hang on. Sorry, you're… you – and him?" his eyes were fixed firmly on Wolf, who glanced momentarily at Alex, before nodding.
"Yeah. Me and him."
There was a long, uncomfortable moment, before Eagle, proving once again that he was far more astute than he let anyone give him credit for, shrugged.
"Well, I'm not about to out you to High Command, if that's what you're worried about. And you always kept your eyes to yourself, I guess, so…" he trailed off. "Mind you, of all the things I thought I'd be able to accuse you of, robbing the cradle isn't one of them. Kid, you're what, twenty five, twenty six?"
"Twenty seven," Alex answered, looking thoroughly amused by the whole situation, now that most of the danger seemed to have past. It was clear that neither Snake nor Eagle recognised in Alex the kid who'd spent ten days with them during their training, thirteen years ago. "Seriously, don't call me 'kid'. I've had way more than enough of it from – people like you."
"What's your name?"
For a moment, Wolf could actually see Alex toying with the idea of telling them exactly who he was, but finally, he just said, "Alex. Alex Rider. You?"
Snake frowned. "Alex Rider? The Alex Rider?"
"My reputation precedes me," Alex said, frowning a little. His name wasn't exactly supposed to be instantly recognisable. "How do you know?"
Snake waved a hand. "I was on assignment in Burma when you were the ranking agent, but – that was seven years ago. You'd have been-"
"Twenty, yeah," Alex said over his shoulder, as he re-boiled the kettle and shoved a tea bag into a mug.
Snake seemed totally lost for words for a few moments, then frowned. "That's not possible. You can't even get accepted into training for that kind of thing until you're twenty-one, you're- "
Alex frowned into the fridge. "A special case," he said absently. "Dammit, I forgot the milk." He gave Wolf a sheepish look. "Are you going out today?"
"Wasn't planning on it," Wolf said, and grinned when Alex glowered at him, pouring the last dregs of the milk into his tea with a dissatisfied look.
Eagle grinned. "Feet of clay after all, hmm? Some special case." He nudged Wolf. "And if what Snake's saying is true – and I don't doubt it is, since Mr. Encyclopaedia here's never wrong – you've done pretty well for yourself. How'd you two meet?"
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."
After that meeting, Eagle and Snake – and even Fox, on occasion – were regular, if sporadic, visitors to their home. It was nice to have friends round occasionally, and friends they both knew and liked at that (Tom was a welcome visitor, as was his now-wife Jess, but Wolf couldn't get the memory of Alex's friend staring at the blond man with adoring eyes out of his head), though both of them valued their privacy above almost anything else.
On the whole, Wolf reflected once or twice, they worked damn well together. He wasn't about to get pissy when Alex came into the house in mission-focus, packed a bag, kissed him and left for the next six weeks, just as he knew Alex would be the one handing him his Bergen and helping him to get together all the essentials for his next assignment. And it was nice to come home to someone sometimes, cheesy as he felt admitting that. It was nice to have a properly open relationship with someone, to know that he could say anything to them and not have them freak at it.
When Wolf came home, Alex didn't bother cooking a special meal or trying to find a decent film for the pair of them to watch together; he didn't try and tidy up their house when he knew the man had leave, and he certainly didn't make sure he was wearing something decent.
But that was OK. He didn't need to.
I hope you enjoyed it! Do tell. ^_^