Author's Note: First of all, thank you so much for all your lovely reviews! They really do inspire me to keep writing.
It's funny. Just a few weeks ago, my fantastic beta, moviemom44, commented to me that she was a little disappointed that Sydney hadn't kicked Gage in my Deadly Situation chapter. She said that she'd always wanted to know what Sydney had been thinking that would cause her to do such a goofy thing. I responded that I never could figure out what she was thinking to the extent that I would be able to write about it, hence the Rogers kicking Gage alternative. Then a few days after that conversation, this story suddenly started writing itself in my head. So although I promised Reel Rangers, here is another one for Deadly Situation.
And now that I've gotten this one out of my system, I'm going back into Reel Rangers and will do my best to get it up as soon as possible. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this chapter.
Deadly Situation Take 2
Sydney was glad that Gage had cleared it with Lieutenant Shell for them to use the Sage City gym while they were in town. It had been far too long since she and her partner had had a good sparring match. It was her favorite way to work out, and from the smile on Gage's face as he dodged the series of kicks she sent his way then threw a few of his own, it seemed as though he felt the same way.
"So, we gonna talk about it or what?" Gage asked.
"Talk about what?" Syd asked a little breathlessly as she threw a punch.
"Syd, you kissed me, come on."
He said it so casually, she had trouble understanding what he was referring to for a fraction of a second. Then she exhaled hard. That was pretty much the last thing she had expected him to say. The idea that he wanted to talk about that kiss scared her half to death. In the two months since it had happened, it had been pretty much all she'd thought about. And she'd come to realize a couple things in the process. She wanted more than partnership and friendship with Gage, and she could never let herself have more with him.
Unfortunately, in all her thinking on the subject, it had never occurred to her that he would ask her about the kiss, so she wasn't prepared with an answer or explanation that would get her out of this situation. She had a feeling that she was going to screw this up somehow.
So when she finally began to respond, she did so slowly as she struggled to find the right words. "You know, Walker and Alex - they landed safely. I was excited." She hesitated a moment, and then continued with more confidence, "It was a celebration kiss." As she spoke she sent another punch towards his stomach that he dodged.
"Uh huh, yeah?" Gage said, still smiling broadly.
"Yeah," Syd replied softly, watching him cautiously, not just for his next physical attack, but because his smile was making her nervous. Why was he enjoying this so much? This particular conversation felt like walking through a minefield to her.
"It didn't feel like a celebration kiss," Gage threw back at her, just as he returned her punch with his left hand, then used his right arm to grab her around the waist and pull her tightly into his side.
She inhaled swiftly at suddenly finding herself pressed up against him. It was especially disconcerting given their current topic of conversation. She forced her thoughts away from how wonderful it felt, and wrapped her right arm around his waist. She looked up into his eyes and decided the best way to reply to his challenge would be to issue one of her own.
"Trust me, if I ever kissed you for real, you'd know the difference," she said with false confidence, then used his hold on her to try to force him to the ground.
Unfortunately, he knew her far too well and went with the movement until he could twist and kick her legs out from under her. She squealed as she went down and ended up flat on her back. Gage was above her, his right arm, which he had used to help soften her impact, still wrapped around her, and his left arm holding his body off of her. She smiled brightly up at him as she started to just enjoy sparring with her partner once again, figuring that the conversation was finally at an end.
Gage hesitated a moment above her, his smile faltering slightly. She started to feel uneasy again as it seemed as though he was trying to get up the nerve to speak.
"Why don't you let me see if I can tell the difference?" he asked, his voice a little tentative.
When she realized what he was asking her, Sydney's smile faded as she looked up at him. "You want me to kiss you?" she asked, breathless not just from the workout but from the panicky fear that had invaded her the moment she realized what he was asking of her.
Gage leaned forward, as if he was going to kiss her, and as he did so, she involuntarily parted her lips a little bit more, but then he pulled back from her completely and sat a couple feet away. "That's your call."
Before she had really thought anything through, she felt her leg moving through the air, felt her foot impact his jaw, as, Oh God, she kicked him full across the face. She quickly got to her feet as she realized exactly what she'd just done. Oh God. Okay, she just had to find a way to turn this into a joke. That was the only way she could see to get out of this. She forced a smile onto her face and said, "There's your kiss."
Her heart plummeted as she watched him stand, as she saw the hurt expression on his face, as she heard him mutter, "That wasn't funny, Syd."
"Come on," she said, throwing a playful punch towards him, trying to get him involved in their sparring match again to keep him from leaving. She knew she had failed as she watched him turn away from her and leave, muttering again, "Wasn't funny, Syd," as he went.
And she knew that it wasn't in any way funny, and as he left the gym, she stopped trying to convince herself that it was. She sank down to the mat, unable to stand anymore as she thought about the pain she had seen on his face, the pain that she had put there. She had hurt Gage, and that was something she never ever thought she would do. She had hurt him, not physically, but emotionally, and God, that was worse.
Physically, he was a strong man, and he could take a punch or a kick from her without any problem, even if she hadn't pulled the kick. But, emotionally, it was a different matter. She knew, given the abuse he'd suffered at the hands of his foster parents, just how hard he found it to open up to someone, to let himself be completely vulnerable. And just now, just now, he'd laid his heart bare in front of her, asking her for a kiss, and she knew, asking for more than a kiss. And how had she responded? She kicked him. And God, wasn't that the worst possible way she could have responded?
She'd watched him close up and lock down, hiding everything he was feeling, where just moments before he'd been an open book. Everything had been there for her to see: his affection, his attraction, his nervousness, his hope. It had all been there, and she'd just thrown it all away. She'd rejected Gage. And the way she'd rejected him was pretty much the most terrible way she could imagine: physical violence followed by an attempt to turn everything he had been offering into a joke. Why had she done that? The only answer she had was that she was afraid, and it was an instinctive response. She hadn't thought about it before it had happened, and, God, she wished she had. Because she never would have done it. Would never have hurt him that way.
What were the chances that Gage was going to be able to just forgive her rejection? If he couldn't forgive her then she had just cost herself her best friend, and that thought made her feel sick to her stomach. Oh God, she had to try fix this, and she had to do it now. She got quickly to her feet and rushed out of the gym after Gage.
The knock came at the hotel room door a lot sooner than Gage had expected it. Actually, he hadn't been expecting it at all. Knowing his partner, he had figured that she would just ignore what had happened between them and hope that it would just go away. After all, that's how she had dealt with their kiss at the wedding. He supposed he should have left it alone; his heart would still be in one piece if he had.
Since he had made no move to get up off the bed and answer the door, the knock came again, a little louder this time, and accompanied by her voice. "Gage? It's Syd."
Gage sighed, unsure what to do. He really wasn't ready to deal with her yet. The sting of her rejection was still too strong for him to be able to pretend that everything was okay, and he knew that was what she would need him to do. To just go on being the best friend and partner, and never admit to wanting more or being heartbroken at being rebuffed.
Just as he was deciding he could probably get away with pretending to be in the shower, Sydney banged on the door again. She waited a moment and then called out to him more quietly. "Gage, please let me in. I really need to talk to you."
He could hear her voice trembling, and that was what ultimately made his decision for him. Was she crying? Afraid? He didn't know what exactly was upsetting her, but he didn't have it in him to turn her away when she was upset, no matter what the reason. He slowly got to his feet and walked to the door. He rested his head against it for a moment, trying to collect himself a little before he swung the door open.
He didn't say anything, just let her in and then went back to sitting on the edge of his bed. She followed him across the room and stood facing him for a moment, but then seemed to change her mind and turned to sit on the bed a few feet away from him, staring at the same empty wall he was starting at.
Gage had hoped that Sydney would take the lead and explain why she had come, why she sounded and looked upset. He didn't want to embarrass himself any further by bringing up what had just happened if she was there for a different reason, although he couldn't imagine what else would bring her to his room this way. However, as they sat in silence for a few minutes, it looked like Syd was not going to be starting the conversation. With a sigh, Gage asked, "What do you need, Syd?"
"I need you to know that I am so so sorry. You have to know that I would never intentionally hurt you," Sydney said in a rush.
Gage didn't reply immediately. She was sorry; he knew she was, believed her when she said she didn't want to hurt him, but he wasn't quite ready to just accept her apology. Not without understanding first. "Then, why? Why did you kick me?" He hesitated a moment, and when she didn't immediately answer him, he asked, "Was it really just a joke to you?"
"No!" Syd replied emphatically. "I know it wasn't funny. I didn't even know that I was going to kick you until I felt myself do it. Then I just panicked, and that was the only way I could think of to explain away what I'd just done, to try to play it off as a joke."
Okay, he could understand that. In fact, it made a lot more sense to him if her actions were instinctive rather than deliberate. It also hurt less, knowing that she hadn't meant to kick him, knowing also that she wanted to fix whatever hurt she may have caused. It seemed that what had happened might have less to do with him than he had initially thought. Now he just had to try figure out what was actually going on.
"But if it wasn't a joke, then why did you really do it?" he asked gently, knowing this was hard for her.
Sydney sat in silence for a minute, and when she finally spoke, she did so haltingly, as if even she wasn't sure of the answer. "I was scared." She gave a little shrug. "That's the only thing that I can say for myself. I was scared, and that's what I do when I'm scared. I kick or punch or just generally attack whatever is scaring me. And you were scaring me, so I lashed out at you physically."
Gage was confused at first when she admitted to being scared, until she added that she had been afraid of him. Then he was horrified. He couldn't stand the thought of having Sydney feel unsafe with him. He gently used his hand to turn her face towards him, forcing her to look him in the eye for the first time during this conversation. Then he asked, "Were you afraid because I had you pinned to the mat? Did you think I would, I don't know, take advantage of having the upper hand?"
She took his hand in hers and squeezed reassuringly as she answered him. "No, God no, Gage. I've never been physically afraid of you, and I can't even imagine a situation in which I would be. I know you'd never physically hurt me."
She hesitated a moment before she continued softly, "It was an emotional fear. You were changing everything between us, and that terrified me. And I lashed out, and you left, and I was still afraid. But then I realized that the other thing I do when I'm scared is turn to my partner, because you're always there for me. Except that when I turned to you, you weren't there, because I'd driven you off, I'd hurt you. And that scared me more than anything. I can't lose you, Gage," Syd said earnestly, wiping away a rogue tear. She looked up at him, letting him see her fear, silently pleading with him.
Gage quickly pulled her into a hug. "Shh... Syd. I'm not going anywhere." He held her tightly for a few minutes, letting her calm down. No wonder she'd come running to his room so upset, she had clearly thought her actions had cost her his friendship. The thought had never crossed his mind. He'd been terribly hurt by what he'd perceived to be her rejection, and he'd wanted time to deal with it on his own, but he'd never once considered ending their friendship.
As he finally pulled back from her, he said again, "I'm not going anywhere. But Syd, you've got to help me understand this. Why are you so afraid? You said that I was changing everything between us, but all I did was ask for a kiss. And if you'll remember, you were the one who kissed me first. So why exactly does the idea of a second kiss change everything?"
"You weren't just asking for a second kiss. You were asking for a lot more than that," Syd said, and she seemed much calmer and more confident now that he had reassured her she wasn't going to lose him. "And that would change everything."
"Okay," Gage said, realizing he had to be just as honest with her as she had been with him through the conversation so far. "Yes. All I asked for was a kiss, but I wanted a lot more than that. But even so, that doesn't change everything. No matter what else happens, we will still be partners and friends."
"How can you be so sure about that?"
"Our friendship is far too important to me to let anything happen to jeopardize it. And I think it's just as important to you." She nodded and squeezed the hand she'd grabbed onto after he'd pulled away from their embrace. He squeezed back, then asked, "So why would you think anything would change that?"
"I don't know. If we change things between us, and it all goes wrong, then it's going to be really hard to stay friends. I guess I think that no matter how hard we tried, there's no guarantee we'd succeed. And even if we did, it wouldn't ever be the same," Sydney explained.
It was clear to Gage that she'd thought about this before now. Apparently, he wasn't the only one who had been contemplating the possibility of this particular change in their relationship since the wedding. Only, it seemed as though his partner had only seen negatives, where he'd only seen positives. "I will admit that I see your point, but why are you so sure something will go wrong?"
"I'll screw it up. I always do. I'm... not very good with men," Syd admitted. "You said it yourself, I tend to intimidate them."
Gage laughed out loud, he was so pleased with her answer. It wasn't that she wasn't sure of her feelings for him, or she wasn't attracted to him, or anything to do with him and their relationship at all. He could tell she was confused and a little hurt by his laughter, so he was quick to explain. "Syd, I'm sorry. I'm not laughing at you. I'm just so happy that's what's bothering you, because it's such an easy problem to dismiss."
She looked at him skeptically. "What do you mean it's easy to dismiss? From where I'm sitting it's a pretty big problem."
"Sydney, it's easy because you don't have to be good with men," Gage replied still smiling. "I'm not men. It's just me. It's Gage. And you are very good with me."
He could almost hear her thinking to herself, "Could it really be that easy?" so he repeated himself for emphasis. "You are very good with me. And you only intimidate me about five percent of the time and it's usually when you find out I forgot to do our paperwork, so I think we'll be fine," he said, glad to see her smile. "Of course, I can tell you one thing, I won't ever be asking for a kiss again," he teased her, rubbing his jaw where she had kicked him even though they both knew she hadn't hit him hard enough to bruise.
Sydney's smile dropped, and she suddenly looked horribly disappointed. "Oh, you won't?"
"Nope." Gage leaned towards her, used a hand to gently tip her face up and pressed a tentative kiss to her lips, asking her for her kiss with his actions instead of his words. He waited until she began to kiss him back to pull her into his arms and deepen the kiss.
Gage finally pulled back from her to say, "We'll take it slow. Okay?" Sydney nodded and tried to pull him back down for another kiss. Gage laughed softly but still resisted her. "And from now on, if you get scared, please promise me you will tell me with words."
"I promise. And I also promise that from now on, if you ever should decide to ask for a kiss, I will use my lips, not my feet, to give it to you," Syd replied, smiling brightly up at him.
"That would be very much appreciated. And in that case," Gage said, as he turned and used his body to press her back onto the bed, pinning her there in much the same way he'd pinned her to the mat earlier. "Why don't you let me see if I can tell the difference?" Gage asked with a gentle smile.
Sydney smiled brilliantly up at him as she realized what he was doing. "You want me to kiss you?" she asked, breathless this time for an entirely different reason.
"That's your call." And this time, she didn't let him pull away from her, and she didn't kick him, and she didn't even let him up for air for a long, long time. And it was exactly as it should have been the first time around.