With thanks to my beta reader Roa1
Craig's mind was running along familiar tracks. He was thinking about his reaction to Richard, when he'd met him outside Tremayne's office, just after escaping from the interrogation room. Every time Craig thought of that interview he wondered why he'd reacted the way he had. Why he'd felt angrier with his friend than with Tremayne. He should have been as furious with Sharron; but it was Richard who he was most annoyed with and who he had wanted to hurt. Hurt as much as he, Craig, was hurting. Was it just that he had come so close to breaking and he'd wanted to hit out at someone and Richard had been nearest? After all Tremayne was his boss so he couldn't really give free rein to his anger with him. That didn't fully explain his actions though. It wasn't just about who he'd verbally attacked it was about his feelings at the time. As he'd left Tremayne's office and seen Richard he'd perceived the discomfort and sense of guilt emanating from his friend and he'd played on it.
'I'd hate to think that I'd do what you did,' he'd said
Craig had put as much contempt into his mind and voice as he could, wanting to hurt his friend and he had succeeded. He'd deliberately chosen words and thoughts that he knew would cause the most distress and, when he'd felt the torment in Richard's mind and seen the pain on his face, he had been glad. At the time Craig hadn't acknowledged the reason why he'd wanted his friend to suffer too. The pain of betrayal had been so intense. Thinking about the situation afterwards Craig was forced to acknowledge to himself that Richard had been right, it was hard to think of anything that he and Sharron could have done but the fact that Richard had been helpless hadn't lessened the anguish of how alone he'd felt, how abandoned. It still hurt now when Craig remembered that feeling.
So, a few weeks later, when Richard had gone off alone to Wales, without confiding his intentions, Craig hadn't had much inclination to put himself out to help. His confidence has been severely shaken by the way he'd so nearly cracked in the interrogation room. As a result he felt pessimistic about the whole thing. Sharron had carried him through. It wasn't until he'd felt Richard's joy that he and Sharron had come to assist, coupled with the shock of seeing the holes in the doorway from the bullets that had almost cost Richard his life, that he'd begun to feel a little better about his friend. Those two things had gone a long way towards building bridges between the two of them.
His mind ran on. He thought back to just after he'd removed a collar full of explosives from around Richard's neck. They'd both been terribly shaken by the whole experience and, while Richard's words - 'Craig be right' - were still ringing in his ears, his friend had thanked him very quietly. It had been extremely hard for Craig to stop himself throwing his arms around Richard and holding him tight. He hadn't trusted himself to reply, so had given his friend just the briefest glance in acknowledgement, then busied himself putting equipment away.
Probably the worst moment of his life was when he was in Australia and he'd believed Richard was dead. He'd felt a terrible emptiness and had held onto the wall for support, it had been all he could do to stay upright. Sharron had been able to use long distance CPR to revive their friend but they'd nearly lost him again very soon afterwards when Richard had almost failed to diffuse a bomb. The relief Craig had experienced when he'd realised that Richard had succeeded was indescribable. He'd put his left arm around Sharron, holding her tight, his right arm by his side. In his mind he'd longed to hold Richard in that empty right arm. He'd felt a burning desire to get out there and see him but he'd closed his mind to the reason behind the need and pushed his true feelings for Richard back underground - until now.
His mind fought against acknowledging the truth but, eventually, Craig had to accept what it was telling him.
He was in love with Richard.
The thought stunned him. He'd always considered himself solidly heterosexual, almost aggressively so at times. Maybe that, in itself, should have given him some clue. Perhaps he'd been covering up his true feelings by always having a girlfriend around and never missing an opportunity to compete with Richard when there was a woman in the vicinity. On the other hand it was possible that he'd tried to get in first because he couldn't stand to see Richard with anyone other than him. He remembered the strange feeling he'd had after rescuing Sharron from a freezer. He'd stood by and watched her enthusiastically hug Richard. At the time he'd put the slight twinge of discomfort and jealously he'd felt down to the belief that she should have hugged him too, after all he'd been the one who had carried her to safety.
How long had he felt this way about Richard he wondered? He cast his mind back to the missions that they'd shared. He remembered the first time they'd worked with Sharron. He'd been sitting in the cockpit alongside Richard trying desperately to control the stricken plane. The two of them had exchanged a glance that needed no words - they'd always been in tune with each other's thoughts and feelings from the very first time they'd worked together. That was how the first seeds of affection must have been sown. The powers they'd been given after the crash had simply enhanced their ability to tune in to one another.
He thought about situations when, with hindsight, it was possible that his friend felt the same way and had been trying to give him a hint. A picture of Richard drinking through a straw, just after giving him a glance fraught with meaning, came into Craig's mind. He remembered staring at him mesmerised, unable to divert his gaze, until Richard had looked away. One night, in the jungle, his friend had lain on his back smoking and looking up at him. Richard's expression had given Craig an odd feeling in his stomach – almost a pain - that, at the time, he had put down to anticipation of the coming fight to defeat Hartington. There were also numerous brief touches they had shared. A quick incursion into one another's personal space. Just a fleeting touch, a desire to be in physical contact. Right now he wanted desperately to hold his friend and be close to him.
He wondered if Richard knew; if the realisation that had hit Craig so forcefully had transmitted itself. Craig speculated about how his friend would react if it had. Was it possible that his feelings were reciprocated? He wondered if he'd ever have the courage to broach the subject with Richard.
He was startled out of his reverie by a knock at his door and hurried to answer it. His visitor stood there smiling gently. Craig's heart leapt.
"Come in, Richard." he said.
The follow up to this story, entitled 'Realisation Revisited', is also on this site.