This was one of those stories that started with a single line—and it was a single line that I woke up thinking about. I wrote that line down, looked at it… and the rest of the story poured out. Isn't that odd? Wonder if my dreams are trying to tell me something. And no, once again, the Joes are eating my brain, but they are certainly not mine.
Summary: He's never been good at compromise—maybe that was why they couldn't last. But there are times when it's so hard to be just her friend. BH/CG
They'd tried it out for awhile, early on—almost killed each other in the trying. The only time they hadn't spent fighting was the time they'd spent kissing. And when they'd kissed, half the time it'd been hot and angry—games, dominance, her nipping down on his lip until he jerked away and swore, licking away the blood. Grabbing her hips and pressing his own against her through their clothes until she either moaned and he pushed her away, smirking—or she slammed her fist into his chest and told him to get the Hell away from her.
Sure, they'd always had electricity between them—nothing subtle, that tension, that heat. So obvious that even he'd recognized it, and he'd made a career out of not caring, not noticing. T&A and all that distracting shit was exactly that: distracting. Beach Head had never met a woman who made him feel so wired until Courtney "Cover Girl" Krieger had walked in, and gotten in his face for what she called "bullying."
He'd been disgusted, impressed, appalled: one week on the team, and already she was yelling back in her drill sergeant's face? A bleedin' former model was getting up in his grill? And it hadn't even been for her own sake—someone else's, some pathetic new Joe recruitling who'd ended up quietly washing out anyway.
Beach Head still remembered what he'd said to her, this tall, exquisitely beautiful woman with this fierce expression that only made her more so: "Look, Cinderella, we ain't in a fairy tale—this is the military! If you're waitin' for your fairy godmother to show, you're gonna be waitin' a damned long time!"
It was the first time he'd called her that. Later, some of the others had told him that their faces had been so close that half of the recruits in the back had thought they were kissing.
And to Beach's surprise, it had been all he could do to keep from laughing when she'd spat back, "If I'm Cinderella, what does that make you—my goddamned evil stepmother?!"
He hadn't laughed, though. He'd given her push-ups until she literally hadn't been able to get her cheek off the ground.
But he'd been surprised by just how many she'd gotten in before she collapsed, and he'd been the one to help her walk back to her quarters, his shoulder propping her up.
And they'd kind of gone on from there. Some of the morons on the team had thought it was a good idea to tease him about the heat that burned between them, back before they'd decided to give the relationship a try.
It'd only taken once; no-one had said anything about it ever again. Ever. At least to him. Even after they'd decided to test out the chemistry between them.
Even after they'd failed at it.
Beach didn't know what the Hell Courtney had been thinking—that if they started dating, all of a sudden he'd be all pretty words and 'whatever you say, dear' and holding the fuckin' door for her?! "You don't treat me right?" What the Hell, he'd kept treating her like he'd always treated her! If she'd wanted him to change, why the blue blazes had she started up with him in the first place?!
No. He'd never been good at compromise. He'd never seen the point.
He hadn't wanted her to change, but… but that was another story.
Yeah, it would have been a disaster if they'd ever made it all the way to sex. They'd have done it angry—guaranteed. It would've been amazing sex, he didn't doubt that—but they'd never have looked each other in the eye again.
Thank God they'd fought too much to make it all the way there: neither of them had been willing to break and admit they wanted it. Even though they both had. Neither of them had wanted to be the one to admit that it wasn't just fire between them. That it could have been more, maybe, if they'd just stopped fighting and let it be.
They hadn't let it be.
At the end of the day, they needed to work together. That was what mattered. And in the end, their break-up had been fire and ice and storm and the nastiest words he'd ever said to a human being, bar none. Beach Head didn't even remember who'd started it. He suspected it'd been him. They didn't speak to each other for a couple of weeks.
And exactly one month later, he'd sat down next to her at the bar, and… that'd been it. The moment they'd stopped trying to fake it, they'd made it.
These days, when Cover Girl wanted a chat, she came to him.
Beach half-smiled. If he wanted to talk cars, or vent about a new batch of maggots, or get his chops busted over a drink, he went to her.
It'd taken them failing at being lovers for them to be friends. Just… how dysfunctional was that?
She'd moved on to Armbruster; he hadn't needed to move on. Who needed women? He'd given it a shot, and it hadn't worked out. Fine. Wasn't anyone else who made him zing like that, so why bother settling for less? And the thought of her with the Zoomie almost made him smirk. Yeah, there wasn't anyone who was more of a gamble than Cover Girl. They were such the damned poster-child pretty couple: the charming pilot Captain, the tank-driving model. If Ace thought he could handle her, well, the flyboy could try.
Beach Head wasn't sure why it bugged him that Ace didn't seem to be trying very hard, and Cover Girl seemed to be pretty happy anyway.
None of his business anymore, obviously. But he noticed it when she and Ace had issues, and he noticed that she didn't come to him with those problems. She didn't mention it, and he didn't thank her for not mentioning it. She and him were friends, yeah, but… but… they were friends. They'd stayed friends through the team being disbanded—though that was more on her than on him.
He didn't know where the Hell she'd gotten the time for so many e-mails.
And when they were both welcomed back on the roster, he'd greeted her with a "Mornin', Cinderella—what, no glass slippers today?"
She'd responded with raised eyebrows, a twinkle in those coffee-brown eyes, and "Morning, Evil Stepmother—nah, I think they're up your ass somewhere."
The rest of the Joes in earshot had erupted in laughter. It'd been hard—damned hard—to keep from smiling with them. Laughing. Yeah, the joke was on him, but she'd always done that to him—the sassy little brat!
Then they'd both turned around to yell at Jaye when she'd smirked, "Oh, get a room!"
They were friends. That was… it, really. Simple.
And he'd almost felt himself die when he'd watched her Wolverine go down in bullets and lightning and fire.
But in the end, she'd carried herself out of Cobra Island—walking wounded, her beautiful face tight with pain and her hand clamped to her bloody side, but walking, leaning on Lifeline. Uncomplaining. His little soldier girl. She hated it when he called her that; it made her so mad that he was one of the few men on the Joe team taller than she was.
So he'd called her "little soldier girl" every time she'd stumbled, watched her pushing herself straight through pure piss and vinegar and a stare full of hate at him every time. He'd known, then, that she'd be okay—as long as she got herself out of the damned war zone. He could deal with her hating him, as long as she kept going—as long as she kept those long legs moving until the med-evac came and got her.
Yeah, sure, the rest of the team had been giving him looks like they couldn't believe he was doing that to her. They didn't get it. He didn't care.
Cover Girl was stronger when she was angry enough to spit. He knew that better than anyone. Maybe that was why they'd lasted as long as they had.
If it kept away the memory of her being thrown from the wreckage of her tank, too small against the fireball and the shrapnel—they way she'd landed, limp, and he'd heard something inside him crack with a pain like bone—then he didn't care.
Beach Head closed his eyes, and found sleep waiting for him.
When he opened them again, it wasn't to disorientation. He didn't know how many hours he'd been out; it didn't matter. He'd dealt with less sleep. More important was dealing with the sounds in his room now—a soft footstep, the warm sough of breath that wasn't his own.
When he moved, it was to flick on his bedside lamp with his left hand, and point his gun at a shadow that didn't belong with his right. There was a reason he always slept on one side of his bed. "Freeze, you bastard," he snarled.
But before the words were out of his mouth, he could see that she'd already frozen to a taut, beautiful statue.
Cover Girl stared down the barrel of his Glock with those huge brown eyes even wider with shock, blinking, dazzled and dazzling in the yellow light. Her hair, messy around her shoulders, had a gleam to it like rain on glass, or wet silk, in the softer light.
He stared. What the fuck—
Then her gaze caught his, and she… smirked. "You sleep with a gun, Beach Head? And in cammie pants? That's… enlightening."
He swore, falling back to his pillow and throwing his gun arm over his eyes. "Fuckin' Hell! You idiot girl, I almost shot you!"
"You wouldn't have," she answered, almost cheerfully. "You don't shoot blind."
Well, yeah, but… that wasn't the point at all. "Goddamn it, I should give you fifty, Cover Girl! Don't you know better than to sneak up on a soldier?!" he snapped, pushing himself back up and engaging the safety on his Glock. "How the Hell'd you get in here, anyway?!"
She shrugged one shoulder, casually, spreading her hands. He noticed with a jerk of surprise—she wasn't wearing her uniform. Wasn't wearing much at all. "Picked the lock."
"Picked the freakin'—" he wasn't going to lose his temper this late at night. He wasn't. He really, really wasn't. "Hasn't anyone told you you're a tank jockey, Cinderella?"
She smirked, just a little, and the sound of her laugh was too loud in his room—too familiar. A little mocking. "Yeah, well, you don't know everything about me, now, do you, Beach Head?"
No, apparently not. He twisted to drop his Glock back into the holster hanging off his bedpost. "So you gonna tell me why you're sneakin' into my room, or is it all shits and giggles now, Cover Girl? If you had a nightmare and want me to heat you up some warm milk, or some shit like that, I swear to God, I'll—"
He had his back to her—didn't see what the expression on her face was, but he could damned well hear her voice. She said something that he'd never expected to hear out of her lips.
"I want you to have sex with me, Beach."
His heart almost stopped.
His hand froze. He whirled fast enough to tangle the blankets around his hips. And with the way she was looking back at him, one hand perched on her hip, the other resting lightly on the bare sweep of her collarbone, thumb feathering across her bottom lip… Christ. No other woman. No other woman had ever been able to do that to him—get him going from zero to light speed in zero-point-nothing.
She knew that. Hell, she'd lorded it over him, once—pushed that tight little curve of an ass up against him, smirking, "Come and get it, Ranger Man," until he'd snarled at her.
They'd been in the Motor Pool. She'd known very well his opinions on PDA. She hadn't been offering, she'd been pissing him off and turning him on and… she'd always been very good at that. Still was.
"What happened, you and the Zoomie have a fight and now you're running to your ex? I ain't a rebound fuck, girl," he growled, his hands clamped into fists. In that little tank top and athletic shorts, her 'tags glittering in the lamp light and her hair down and all curls and waves around her shoulders, she wasn't just fuckable, she was… she was every goddamned dream he'd ever had. "Go make up with your flyboy." He dropped his head back onto the pillow and yanked the comforter back up to his shoulders. Yeah, this was the last conversation in the world he wanted to be having with her.
"I haven't…" Cover Girl blinked, and that dark, certain light cleared from her eyes—thank God. He wasn't all that sure how long he'd have been able to hold out with her looking at him like that. She cocked her head in that familiar, inquisitive way. "Beach, I haven't been with Ace in months."
Oh. News to him. Not that it mattered. Did it? "Wouldn't know it from the way he struts," he muttered.
She actually cracked a real smile, at that, genuine. "Brad always struts."
For one long moment, Beach Head wondered: when they'd been together, when she'd talked to her friends about him, had she called him by his first name, too?
"So go give him a better reason to strut." Christ. He couldn't believe he was doing this. The girl who could make him hard as a goddamned rock every time she cut her eyes his way was standing in his room asking for sex, and he was pushing her back to the charming hotshot pilot? Damn, his life was a freaking comedy. "What, you've fucked your Prince Charming before, I know you have. He's not dumb enough to say no to seconds."
She was silent for a moment.
"You asshole," she said, finally, but her voice sounded tight, thrumming. Choked.
The words were familiar. But it didn't sound like her at all.
Beach Head pushed himself up on an elbow and looked at her. "Cover Girl?" he answered, tentatively.
But she was very, very quiet—too quiet, her face downturned—and the floor was under his feet before he'd even realized he was going to go to her.
"Courtney?" he heard his tone with something like alarm—too gentle. "Jesus. What's the matter, darlin'?" the endearment was out of his mouth before he could cram it back down. Before he could keep from wrapping his arms around her, carefully, for the first time in… had it been years?
Yeah, it had been years. It shouldn't have been this easy. She wasn't shaking, but her skin was cold, and he wasn't the one who gave her comfort when she needed it, but—
But then she made it easy by pressing her face against his shoulder, both her arms wrapping around his waist, too tight. She shook her head. Her hands were fists against his back. "Nothing. Nothing. I just… I woke up, and… it wasn't Brad I wanted," she whispered against him. She sounded scared. Her voice was so soft that he wondered if she'd expected him to hear it. "You know? It wasn't."
Yeah, that was a Hell of a scary admission.
Beach Head squeezed his eyes shut and forced them open again. He could make fun—it'd be simple. 'Aww, little model girl woke up horny?' But the vulnerability in her voice wasn't a joke. The fact that he could feel that her face was damp against his bare shoulder wasn't a joke. Cold-damp—not fresh tears—she wasn't crying now. Wouldn't cry around him. Somehow, that was worse. "Courtney, we've been—" a disaster. So hot together, but so destructive.
"I know." But she nuzzled her face against his skin, his bare shoulder, her lips brushing the chain of his dog tags and his breath caught in the rush of small sensations. "But I don't want a Prince Charming. I want… I want."
God. God, yes. But he didn't answer; she knew the answer. She could probably feel it, pressed up against her through those tiny damned shorts she was wearing. "This is a bad idea," he warned.
"Yeah. Yeah, I know." And he could tell from the rueful sound of her voice: she did.
"Why, Cinderella? I just… I mean…" he blew out a breath. Inhaled the scent of her hair tickling his nose. Felt the way her fingertips were stroking, almost absently, the dip in his spine. Now she was shaking. Maybe he was, too. "I ain't sayin' 'no,' just… why now?"
Not just plain 'why.' Never 'why.' The answer to that question was in the nipples he could feel, hard against his chest, making his mouth water with want—the bulge she could probably feel right up against her belly. Desire had never been the problem.
"We almost died out there," she murmured against him—then she nibbled his collarbone, and he closed his eyes. He'd forgotten how soft her lips could be. "I almost died out there. It just… it hit me, you know? And… yeah. You, Wayne. Not anyone else. You."
He looked down at her—the only girl he'd ever wanted with this kind of crazy heat, this insane warmth. The only woman he'd ever wanted deeper inside him than just skin and laughs. Yeah, he got it. Cobra Island. POWs. The cage, the escape, the intensity of it all… yeah. She wouldn't go to 'Block, or Lifeline, or Rock n' Roll. They weren't close, not that way. Snakes—hah. And Armbruster… Armbruster had been high in the sky over Cobra Island. Not where she'd been. Not where they'd been.
Yeah, he got it. He got it too damned well. He'd watched her fall. Yelled at her until she kept walking through the pain. Understood that maybe she'd never forgive him for it.
But this wasn't about forgiveness. Maybe there was nothing to forgive.
Carefully, carefully, he skimmed his fingers down her side. He could feel the thick strip of gauze padding right through her tank top.
She hadn't said that she wanted to make love. She'd said she wanted to have sex.
Well, maybe, for her, there was actually a difference.
"Your ribs still hurt?" he asked, quietly. She'd had stitches. A lot of stitches.
"Yeah." She wouldn't lie about that, and he was glad for it. She leaned against him and sighed, her arms tightening around his waist, and she pressed her mouth to the side of his neck. Her tongue was a wet sweep; he felt all his muscles tense. "Less now, though."
Beach wondered what exactly she meant by that. They'd all been hit often enough to know that healing could hurt worse than the injury itself. She tasted salty and bitter, like swallowed tears, when he finally tilted her face up to his and kissed her.
But she felt the same. His Courtney felt like a challenge—she strained up against him the same way, and her tongue was just as fierce when it met his. She tried to take control of the kiss, her lips moving hard against his, all sex and stubbornness—he kept her down with his height, with a hand yanking her closer, bowing her backwards. It wasn't a dance as much as it was a fight. It'd always been that way between them.
But he'd always loved fighting with her, and he could feel her grinning against his lips.
She was the one who tore away. But she was the one who stripped off her shirt, toed off her shorts, so quickly it left him breathless.
Courtney was… he didn't have the words. Even bandaged and bruised, he didn't know what to say. He'd never known what to say to make her happy. All he could do was raise his hands to her, stroking her shoulder, her belly, cupping her, holding her. Tweaking, teasing—maybe a little; she had small, dark Hershey-kiss nipples, and her moan was better than chocolate when he lowered his lips to them. He admired the way his hands looked on her skin, dark and rough on her warm cream when he traced his way over those sleek muscles, the elegant arch of her waist into her hips, unmarred by cloth or underwear.
The bandage on her was almost too white, but it was just about the only thing that wasn't perfect. She had old scars, small and not-so-small, pink and white, but why wouldn't she? She was looking down, watching him as he traced them, mapping out her old battles. My little soldier girl.
"Shhh," he whispered, when she opened her mouth. He kneeled down and drew his lips across those lines, finding them—one across the high, fine arch of her hipbone, another across her stomach, smaller ones scattered on her arms. Her new-penny hair slid forwards, curling over one breast, and he caught his breath at the sight of it.
He didn't have the words to describe the way she sounded when she liked what he was doing, either, but he didn't need them. Didn't need anything but his hands, his mouth, her body. Then he stood and drew her close again, one long, unbroken line of incredible satin skin against his own hard planes… and kissing was different, knowing where it was going. Where they were going with this. Her nails dug into his back, and even that little pain felt amazing.
Then he remembered that this was real, not just a familiar dream.
"Ah. Fuck." He broke off, leaned her forehead against hers. Closed his eyes. "I ain't got anything on me, Cinderella."
"Mmm?" She blinked—the look in her eyes was a little dazed, but not lost. Not anymore. Then her gaze sharpened to that fierce twinkle he'd always admired. "Oh! No worries, Ranger Man, I'm protected." The smile she gave him would have put Eve to shame, and the tip of her tongue was between her teeth when the naughty little grin widened. "What? Beach Head unprepared?"
"I'm just sayin'," he growled. "'Cause once my pants come off, I ain't taking 'no' for an answer."
She didn't answer. Or her fingers answered. He wondered why it didn't bother him, how quickly and expertly she got the fly of his BDUs open. It definitely didn't bother him when she discovered he wasn't wearing anything underneath, and her voice was a low moan, a heartfelt sound against his skin. She pressed her face against his neck, and he hissed when her hand cradled his cock. Stroked him. "Jesus, Beach. Don't let me say no."
No. No, he wouldn't. Couldn't.
They were too impatient—going too fast. This had been so many years coming. It wasn't right—but in so many ways, it was exactly right. Touching and tasting, twined and standing naked in the middle of his quarters. His fingers inside her, deep—God, she was so wet. Her hand around him, those calluses against his skin. Damn. Yes.
In the end, he was the one who broke. The one who couldn't wait. "Get on my bed, Courtney," and it wasn't the drill sergeant that he heard in his own voice.
She swayed towards his army-issue double; the sheets were rumpled like she and he were on their way out of the bed, not heading in. His breath hissed as she leaned over, crawling onto the comforter, giving him a long glance over her shoulder with her hair cascading over her cheek. She looked good like that—looked good like anything, but like that…sweet Jesus. He waited for her to turn over. She didn't—went down on her elbows instead, and her back and rear and spread thighs were a long, fluid curve of muscle and temptation.
"Like this?" she purred, her hips high. God, she was a sight, squirmin' on his bed on her hands and knees, waiting for him. She wanted it from behind, huh? She wanted the animal she could see in him; he almost wanted to give it to her. He took two steps towards her and ran his hands, hard, down the rear she'd been teasing him with for years, his fingers dimpling her skin.
"No," Beach Head growled, and grabbed her, pushing her to her back. She licked her lips as she looked up at him—watching him. He could feel his eyes darkening at the sight of the thick bruising across her ribs, edging past the bandages. She needed gentle—she was still healing, and she should have had gentle, and he knew he wasn't going to be. He couldn't be. "I want to look into that pretty face while you're screamin' my name."
And he did.
God, he did, going down in fire and wet sweetness and the feel of her going tight and hot, bucking under him, her coffee-dark eyes even darker, looking straight into his.
And she did.
She did, his name, over and over. His name, and no-one else's.
He knew his real name had never sounded so sweet, and this time, when he kissed her, she didn't taste like tears anymore.
Beach let himself down on top of her, by the time he could breathe again—half-expected her to grumble and shove him off, but Hell, she felt so good like that, under him. He certainly didn't expect her to nuzzle against him with a little 'mmmm,' or tilt her chin over to kiss the corner of his lips. He felt himself smile through the haze of heat and pleasure and bittersweet triumph, and the feel of her feet sliding along his calves.
It wasn't until a few minutes later that she bit the side of his neck—hard—and complained, "Ranger Man, you weigh a ton."
But when he rolled off her and growled, "You bite me again, Cinderella, and just you see what it gets you," she laughed, and curled up against him, her hand on his chest.
The next time he glanced down at her, she'd pretty much just dozed right off, her leg thrown over his, with a muttered, "G'night, Beach."
Another thing he could tease her about, if he felt like teasing.
Beach Head found himself stroking her hair, almost absently—she smelled of sweat and girl, and she felt like just about the best thing he'd ever held, cuddled up against him. She was still buck naked, totally unashamed of it—one long caress of smooth skin over sleek muscle and femininity. He glanced down again, and ran a thumb over a mole he'd never known she had, right there on her hip.
No, they hadn't had sex before. As long as it was fighting, and fun, and games… dating was just… dating. Friends were… friends. But he wasn't casual about sex—lovemaking—whatever. Never had been. Maybe it was old-fashioned, but Beach Head didn't care. He never made exceptions about that.
She'd needed him. He got that.
She'd be gone tomorrow. He got that, too.
They weren't meant for happily-ever-after.
Yeah, he understood that perfectly fucking well.
And if his heart broke because of this… well… he looked down at that sleeping face, with her mouth open and those little snorting snores coming out of her nose… God, she looked adorable. Touchable. Peaceful, the pain gone from the lines of her body, the tears and the loss and that terrible fear gone from those clear, feisty eyes. He still wanted to kill someone when he looked at the bruises, the bandages on her, but… but that wasn't new. That wasn't new at all.
Beach Head stretched out to turn off the bedside lamp, then tucked her a little closer when she wriggled. "Sweet dreams, Cinderella," he whispered.
She sighed against his arm, and turned into him, mumbling something that wasn't his name. It sounded like "ooooh, Barracuda!" and he almost smiled. Gently, he brushed a few strands of that copper hair out of her face, and leaned down to kiss her cheek.
For a second, she looked perfectly happy to be in his arms in a way she'd never been awake, and he closed his eyes.
If his heart broke because of this, well… what was one more time?
June 7, 2009
This story is for my dear friend Jayni, who says--and I agree--that people say "I love you" too easily. She's not a G.I. Joe fan, and she actually doesn't like het fiction, but the fact that she was willing to read this over and soothe my insecurities about it probably tells you how good of a friend she is. ^^
The title comes from the Japanese expression 二律背反 (niritsu haihan): 'two principles, one contradiction.' Antinomy refers to just that: a fundamental and unresolvable conflict between two principles that are, otherwise, equally valid. And the initial line that started this whole story was "The moment they'd stopped trying to fake it, they'd made it."
Of course, I'm not entirely sure how that turned into angsty sex. Aiyah, poor Wayne. –shakes head in disbelief- So, I ask you: Beach Head thinks Cover Girl came to him for sex and for forgetfulness. –smile- What do you think?
Yes, the Cobra Island reference is from ARAH, where Beach and the crew were prisoners of war, and Cover Girl was WIA. And why Ace? –laugh- Truthfully, I haven't the faintest. I wanted someone who wasn't quite as much one of the big-name guys, and someone who wouldn't have been on the ground at Cobra Island. He's a gambler—I can certainly see the guy being charming, can't you?