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If It's Not You

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Sam staggered as he pushed the door to his apartment closed, exhaustion hitting him like a tidal wave, the world seeming to sway in front of him. He had watched his skin reform in front of his eyes — blood so dark it almost blended in with the shadows pulled back into a closing wound — but just because it didn’t leave a mark, didn’t mean it didn’t still ache.

 

The memory of pain was like a ghost twisting through his skin, and his hands curled into fists reflexively, but this wasn’t an enemy he could fight in the traditional way.

 

A low whistle echoed out of the darkness of his small apartment — Sam closed his eyes, the tangled web of emotions flooding his chest were almost too much to bear — and a familiar voice followed it. “Well, you look like shit.”

 

“Faraday,” Sam sighed, torn between wanting to flick the light on to see the other man properly — he’d positioned himself deliberately in the pooled shadows between the two large windows, the bastard — and collapsing onto his bed and finally succumbing to sleep. In the end, the choice was made for him as Joshua pushed himself up from the sagging chair he had dragged up five flights of stairs to Sam’s appointment, and strutted over to him. 

 

“Long day at the office?” Faraday’s words were light, teasing Sam to try and pull a reaction from him, but his eyes searched Sam’s face — there wouldn’t be physical signs, there never was, but Faraday knew him better than that, even after everything. His touch was hesitant, giving Sam time to pull away, just like he did last time they met, but Sam couldn’t bring himself to.

 

Faraday ran his palms, fingers splayed and blunted by heavy callouses, up Sam’s arms, passing over unmarked skin, to his shoulders. He paused for a moment before stepping closer, bumping his nose against Sam’s, and wrapping his arms around the others neck. Faraday’s touch — light as it was — burned against the edge of the raised scar that wrapped around his throat, and Sam’s hands flew to his hips, a warning in his touch as he steadied Faraday.

 

“Sorry. Guess I’m out of practice.” Faraday’s eyes glittered as he spoke, and Sam was uncomfortably reminded of their first meeting: the tang of iron filling his mouth as a new tooth pushed through the soft flesh of his gum, but the pain still radiated through his cheek bone because Faraday — a stranger to him then, but with the greenest eyes Sam had ever seen — just had to get the last word in his argument with the bouncer.

 

“You shouldn’t be here,” Sam said, locking the rest of the words he wanted to say behind his teeth. He couldn’t stop his thumbs from running over the crest of Faraday’s hips, the other man’s skin warm and inviting. “How did you even get in?”

 

Faraday had thrown his copy of the key neatly back onto the hook before he stormed out, mouth set in a scowl as he slammed the door of Sam’s apartment a few weeks before. It still hung there, a reminder of the choice Sam has made. An unsuccessful choice given Faraday’s presence in his apartment, but still.

 

“Your lock must be broken,” Faraday said with a shrug, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, barring impossibly long eyelashes at Sam, “It opened right up when I tried it.”

 

Sam sighed, adding fixing the lock to an already impossibly long to do list, and stepped back from Faraday. He broke the other man’s hold easily, but his thoughts still remained as clouded as they had been when Faraday’s fingers first brushed against his skin.

 

“You shouldn’t be here,” Sam repeated, voice firm.

 

“And yet,” Faraday snapped back, shoving his hands into his pockets, “here I am.”

 

“It’s dangerous.” Sam turned away from Faraday and stumbled over to his bed, limbs stubborn and unwilling in the chilled air, collapsing onto it with a chorus of dying springs. 

 

“And?” Faraday followed him, sitting on the edge of the bed and Sam felt the distance between them open up like a chasm. “Life is dangerous. Your friends are dangerous. The angry one threw a knife at me when we first met.”

 

“Billy missed,” Sam reminded him, unable to keep the grin from his face at the memory. The bar was gone for the moment — burned down during one fight or another — but the ground had already been broken for it’s rebuilding. It had been a beautiful throw, aimed at the steadily decreasing gap between Faraday’s head and Sam’s, the blade singing as it flew through the air. It was all the more impressive given that Billy lacked any powers, his talent honed by practice and dedication rather than a perverse twist of fate.

 

“You aren’t a danger to me,” Faraday insisted, echoing his previous argument, old memories ringing hollow in Sam’s ears.

 

Sam turned, blood rising in his chest, warring with the exhaustion that made him just want to give in, to pull Faraday close and kiss him until the other final shut up, and watched the tail end of a storm flickering across Faraday’s face. He portrayed a mask of a careless gambler, always ready with a quick word and a quicker laugh, but cracks began to show the longer Sam spent with him.

 

He knew of Faraday’s mother and her long battle with illness, and could pick out the scent of her perfume on his skin every Sunday. In turn, Faraday knew of Sam’s sisters, both lost to him for many years until he finally found them again.

 

Sam loved him and was loved in return. And because he loved him, Sam had to keep him safe.

 

“What happened last time—“

 

“—was a fluke,” Faraday cut him off with a wave of his hand that didn’t quite encompass the fear Sam felt following the explosion. 

 

Sam had picked himself up from the ground — dirt and bone mingling in his healing cuts, nerves lit on fire but he was still moving — and stared into a world cast in the greyscale of ash and the flickering reds of fire and blood. There was a chasm yawning where he had just been standing, and his ears popped and crackled as they healed to hear his own voice, hoarse and breaking, yelling Faraday’s name.

 

“You were lucky,” Sam told him, unable to meet his eyes, choosing instead to drop his gaze to his own clasped hands. “You can’t get lucky like that a second time.”

 

Lucky was a small word to describe a miracle. A single section of road untouched due to a fault in the wiring, the section Faraday stood on with debris lying at his feet and face pale but unharmed.

 

“I—“ Faraday broke off to laugh, a humourless sound, shaking his head as one hand reached into his jeans pocket, “I sort of need to get that lucky again.”

 

The note he passed to Sam was a simple one, a clearly printed sentence on a small square of paper no bigger than a business card.

We know your secret .

 

“What secret?” Sam asked Faraday, feeling his back straighten as he structinised the note, turning it over and over in his hands. He saw the flicker of movement of Faraday shrugging out of the corner of his eye.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Sam nodded slowly, rising to his feet and shoving his feet back into his boots. “Come on, we’ve got some work to do.”