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heartbreak by design

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~

 

 

Jason wonders if he should make up the couch. Offering the bed seems presumptuous; he’s not sure he’s ready for that, not sure if “don’t go” was a response to Sam or to hearing the black and white reality of Kyser’s continued existence, but either way it’s a statement.

He grabs another drink instead.

“God, this stuff is terrible,” he says, downing the rest of his Canadian Club, and Sam watches him pour another anyway.

Jason necks it just to see the vessel in Sam’s forehead throb.

They’ve been at this for the last hour. After his initial apology, Sam had seemed happy to wait and let Jason take the lead.

Except…Jason doesn’t know what that lead is. Part of him’s thrilled that Sam chased after him like something out of the last ten minutes of a Hallmark movie, and the other part still feels flayed open and just wants to crawl into bed and stay there until he’s forced back into work to grovel at George’s feet.

It’s a conundrum alright. This must be what it’d feel like to be a Dalí painting.

Sam’s stomach growls loudly enough to startle Jason from his thoughts.

“Sorry,” Sam says, and the slight blush on his cheeks is unfairly endearing. “I haven’t eaten since last night.”

“Fridge should be stocked,” Jason says with a shrug. “Charlotte’s usually good about that.”

Sam nods and stands, placing his own mostly full glass on the coffee table and blinking when one of the fake flower petals gets stuck to the condensation on his finger. He doesn’t say anything, though, and Jason almost wishes he would if only so they were talking about something.

After a few minutes Sam clearly finds what he’s looking for, and Jason follows the clatter of pans to lean against the kitchen island and watch as he adds pasta to a pot and starts mixing tomato sauce and bacon in pan he’s had to tear the label off of.

“Think you overestimated the amount there,” Jason says, tipping his glass at the stove. “Don’t worry, pretty sure that just makes you human.”

Sam sighs and searches the cupboards until he finds two bowls. “If you’re going to keep drinking, you need to eat too.”

It’s an old argument in two parts. Exhibit a) Jason’s drinking. Exhibit b) Jason’s tendency to forget to eat.

He wishes Sam weren’t right, but even the remaining embers of his anger can’t disagree that he’s tipsy and he’d only made a resolution about that this afternoon.

“Fine,” he says, and grabs some cutlery. He hesitates and then goes to set the table because he’s got company and because it gives him something to do with his hands.

It all reminds him too much of Wyoming, of that last week of domesticity as he finally let himself recover and Sam hovered over him, doting and comforting and safe. He’d been so sure it was the moment everything changed for them, the moment those last walls came down and their paths finally aligned.

Jason couldn’t have predicted Montana back then, though, so he can hardly blame himself for his optimism.

“Food’s up,” Sam says. His voice is soft, like he’s trying not to startle a deer, and Jason wants to be mad at being seen that way, but he can’t pretend he doesn’t feel a little caught in the headlights.

“Great,” he manages, taking the proffered bowl. “Thanks.”

They eat in silence, and after a while Jason tuns on a playlist so it doesn’t feel so stifling.

Sam doesn’t offer to leave again, and Jason thinks maybe that’s an apology, too. He doesn’t think he could ask him to stay a second (third, fourth, fifth) time, but maybe this is Sam’s way of saying he’s finally heard him.

God, he hopes so.

They load the dishwasher and return to the couch. Jason pours Sam another drink and forgoes his own, letting go of a little ground, and doesn’t think he imagines the relief in Sam’s eyes.

There’s a pile of mail on the side-table, and Jason sorts through it, tossing the junk aside and keeping the bills at hand. His fingers catch on expensive paper, and he blinks at the invite in surprise.

“What?” Sam asks. They’re sat too far apart to touch, but Jason feels him lean into his space anyway.

“A family friend’s getting married,” Jason says, running his finger over the embossed lettering.

Lisa England invites Mr. J. West to join her in celebrating the engagement of her son, Adrien English, to Mr. Jake Riordan…

“Adrien,” Jason adds. “My first crush.”

“Yeah?” Sam says, and Jason laughs.

“He’s gorgeous,” he says. “When I was thirteen I swore I was going to kiss him under the mistletoe at the family Christmas party.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, I chickened out. I think he’d gotten a new haircut. I was very overwhelmed.”

Sam huffs out a laugh, and, yeah, Jason really has had too much to drink if he’s spilling all that information out into the world.

“He’s a good guy, though. I’m happy for him.”

He wants to add that Sam will understand when he meets him, but that’s presumption number two.

He’s racking up quite the list of them tonight.

“It’s late,” he says instead. He’s not sure he’ll be able to sleep, but he knows sitting here until the sun comes up isn’t the answer either, however much he’d like it to be.

“Okay,” Sam says, and lets Jason give him directions to the bathroom before going out to his car to grab his overnight bag.

Jason grabs extra pillows and a blanket and throws them on the couch before he can second guess himself. Sam doesn’t look surprised when he comes back, so it’s probably the right thing even if it doesn’t feel like it.

He’s grabbing a glass of water when Sam comes back, dressed only in pair of soft pyjama bottoms and sporting the glasses Jason loves so much, and he can’t stop himself swaying just a little into Sam’s orbit.

“Goodnight, West,” Sam says gently instead of calling him out on it, and the kiss he presses to Jason’s temple feels achingly sweet.

Okay, Jason thinks and goes to stare at his ceiling until he’s too exhausted to keep his eyes open.

 

 

~

 

 

He wakes to the smell of sausage and pancakes, Sam whistling along to the radio, and for a moment the world feels perfect.

And then Jason remembers that, for all intents and purposes, he and Sam have broken up, he may not have a job anymore, and, oh yeah, he still has a crazy stalker out there somewhere.

Stellar weekend, obviously.

Still.

Maybe he’s being unfair. Sam had left Montana on his heels to declare his undying love. Sure, it had been muddled up in his usual fare of “I didn’t mean to feel like this” which isn’t anywhere near as flattering as Hollywood would have you believe, but Jason knows Sam believes everything he said.

…Jason just doesn’t know if he believes it.

They’ve done this dance so many times now, and it’s always him left out in the cold.

He wants to believe that Sam won’t back away again. That there won’t be anymore lies about being in the same city or walls that even a sledgehammer can’t break down.

Instead, all he can think about is the cold detachment on Sam’s face as he’d written Jason off as a liar.

There’s a knock on the door, and Sam pops his head ‘round.

“Breakfast is ready if you want some.” He glances at his watch. “Well, brunch, I guess.”

“Sure, great,” Jason says, and hopes the crack in his voice comes off as sleep trapped.

“You’re almost out of groceries,” Sam says as they eat, and Jason hums in acknowledgment. “I’ll hit up the store later if you want?”

“Okay,” Jason says, because the obvious question mark is two giant leaps in the right direction, and because he really is going to run out of food soon between the two of them. “We’ll both go.”

It’s a concession of his own. Something normal and mundane that lets them step out of their lives for a little while.

He lends Sam a t-shirt from the back of his closet that’s always been too large for him and watches the way the fabric tugs on Sam’s biceps as he pulls it on, refusing to look away when Sam catches him until Sam’s expression melts and Jason finds he can’t look at him anymore.

It’s barely a ten minute drive to the grocery store but Venice Beach is a nightmare on the weekends, and they end of listening to a shitty radio talk show until a caller annoys Sam so much he practically breaks the console turning it off.

Miraculously the store’s not too crowded, and they wander up and down each aisle, adding things to the cart every now and then. Jason’s got his go-to favorites, and Sam only rolls his eyes a few times which is practically restraint. Somehow Sam manages to add a month’s supply of various protein-heavy foods without Jason noticing, and Jason makes him put at least half of it back with the argument that it’ll only lead to unnecessary waste.

They compromise on a good selection of fresh produce and more coffee than booze, which seems like a development, and by the time they’re at the checkout things almost feel normal.

It’s nice.

Jason hates that he’s still waiting for the catch.

 

 

~

 

 

Jason helps with dinner, chopping the vegetables how Sam instructs and pouring the wine. Sam tells him stories about old cases while they work, and Jason hangs onto every word, still desperate for any insight he can get into the mind of Sam Kennedy.

“Don’t you have to get back to Virginia?” he asks as they eat, and the fork stills halfway to Sam’s mouth.

“Yes,” he says, because he’s brutally honest ninety percent of the time. “But it can wait.”

Jason looks away with a nod.

“Jason,” Sam says around a sigh, sad as opposed to long-suffering. “I’m where I want to be.”

“I…” Jason starts, and trips on his own tongue. He takes a sip of water to center himself. “I want to tell you what you want to hear, I just can’t. Not yet.”

Jason’s brutally honest ninety percent of the time, too.

Sam smiles, and it’s heartbreaking and forgiving and apologetic all at once. Jason’s not sure he can remember how to breathe in the face of it.

“It’s okay,” Sam says. “You already did.”

Don’t go.

Jason guesses he’s right.

 

 

~

 

 

They watch a movie on cable, sat at opposite ends of the couch, and when Sam gets up to refill their drinks during a commercial break they forget to take it back off mute. Jason doesn’t know what the plot is anyway.

“Hey,” Sam says into the dusk, the back glow of the lamplight illuminating his hair until it looks like a halo. “I love you.”

Jason’s fingers fumble on his glass and Sam takes it from him, setting it aside.

“I told you yesterday, but I figured I should tell you again today, and tomorrow if you’ll let me,” Sam says, matter-of-factly like it’s not the most romantic thing Jason’s heard outside of an Austen adaptation.

“I love you, too,” Jason says, because that’s never been in doubt. He’s loved Sam Kennedy since Massachusetts and mermaids, after all.

“You asked me to stay,” Sam says, and Jason can hear his own sorrow reflected there. “If you’ve changed your mind, you can tell me.”

Jason hasn’t changed his mind, but he hasn’t made his mind, either, and they both seem as cruel as each other.

“I’m still angry,” he says at last, and Sam nods, unsurprised. “But more than that, I’m still hurt. You have the uncanny ability of being able to shatter me, and this isn’t the first time you’ve done it. And when you say that’ll change, that you won’t pull away anymore, I want to believe you so badly, but…” He takes a deep breath. “Romantic gestures are easy. Big declarations are easy. It’s the day to day that I’m scared about.”

Sam takes a deep breath of his own and reaches for Jason’s hand, running the pads of his fingers over Jason’s palm and sending electricity pulsing through his bones.

“I know,” he says eventually. “It’s selfish of me to ask for another chance. But I love you too much to let my own issues sabotage this without at least trying. So this is me trying. I should have done it a lot sooner, and I’m sorry for that. I think I’ll always be sorry for that. But all I can change is the future, and I promise to keep trying every day.”

“God,” Jason says, using his free hand to wipe at his eyes. “You really can be a romantic asshole, you know that?”

Sam’s ears redden, and Jason reaches out to brush his finger along the shell. Sam leans into it, and the last of the ashes in Jason’s chest burn out.

“Okay,” he says, and it’s a promise to himself as much to Sam.

“Okay?” Sam asks, and the disbelief is almost overwhelming. It may have taken Jason a beat to get here, but he doesn’t understand how Sam thought they’d end up anywhere else. Since Massachusetts and mermaids, after all.

“We’ll both try. If you promise to talk to me, to be angry if you’re angry and hurt if you’re hurt and not just shut down then yeah. Okay.”

If he was worried it was the wrong choice, the relief of it is enough to set him back on track.

Maybe he’ll get hurt again. Maybe they’ll crash and burn in spectacular fashion.

Maybe they won’t, though, and Jason’s never wanted to try and reach that maybe so much for anyone else in his life.

 

 

~

 

 

When their eyes get too heavy, Jason leads the way to his room, only stopping to turn out the lights. His bed’s still unmade, and he tugs at the sheets halfheartedly until Sam squeezes his shoulder, wondering why he feels so awkward.

Sex between them is always outstanding. Easily the best Jason’s ever had.

But.

But.

Sex is also easy for them both.

Those moments when they’ve been too tired for anything, when Sam’s still come to him, wrapped him in his arms, and just been. Those are the few and far between, and Jason suddenly wants it so much his tongue feels swollen on the request.

Sam must see it in his eyes, though (and of course he does, of course, of course, what doesn’t BAU Chief Sam Kennedy see about people, Jason’s pain aside?) and just toes off his shoes and climbs on top of the sheets, waiting for Jason to follow suit.

“Hi,” Jason says, when they’re curled towards each other.

“Hey,” Sam says, tracing his fingers along the curve of Jason’s cheek and brushing a strand of hair off his forehead. “I love you.”

Jason squeezes his eyes shut for a beat. “Say it again.”

Sam’s smile is as honest as Jason’s seen it.

“Every day,” he says, and Jason thinks maybe it’s enough that he believes him.