Strike Back fic: Lock and Key (Michael/Damien) 1/1

Title: Lock and Key
Author: Jamie Lynn Miller
Pairing: Michael Stonebridge/Damien Scott
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 9,200
Spoilers: Season 5
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, more’s the pity. Just borrowing!
Notes: This is my take on several missing scenes in season five, particularly the series finale.

This is a sequel to I’ll Carry You. It’s not terribly important that you read that one but it will give you an idea of how Michael and Damien’s relationship started and where they thought they were going from there.

Summary: After the events in Black Bear prison that brought them together, Michael Stonebridge thought he had a future with Damien Scott. But then it was over before it ever really began. With Section 20 decimated, all Scott and Stonebridge have left is each other. Is it too late to try and start again?

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Lock and Key

By Jamie Lynn Miller

Damien Scott had been his for five days.

And then Julia Richmond replaced him in Damien’s bed.

Now Julia was dead and Damien was on the brink of death himself.

Michael looked down at his hands, stained red with Damien’s blood. How had it all gone so wrong, so fast?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Happiness is a fleeting thing. One minute you’re lying in bed with a man who you’ve fallen deeply for, smiling, holding twin bags of diamonds, both of you planning a future together. And the next minute you yourself are being dropped, same as those bags of diamonds, left behind in Russia, with no explanation. Watched, hurt and confused as your future turned his back on you and walked away, right into the arms of another, the very next day.

If the military taught him one thing, it was how to compartmentalize. So Michael took Black Bear and those five days, put them in a box in his mind, locked it and threw away the key.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was five weeks before he saw Damien again. After Kamali and the small pox virus scare, all of Section 20 was given some much deserved downtime. Michael needed the space, the separation from Damien. He was the first to leave, getting on a plane going anywhere so he didn’t have to watch Damien and Julia making plans that should’ve been their plans.

The time away did him good. His head was clear by the time Section 20 was reactivated and reunited in Thailand. It wasn’t easy seeing Damien and Julia together, but he’d never seen her smile so much in all the years he’d known her. He knew how she felt. What effect Damien could have on you.

After a split second of awkwardness upon seeing each other again, Michael and Damien fell back into routine like nothing had ever happened between them, a well-oiled machine, their only focus the mission.

Which went both pear-shaped and sideways before Michael could even blink. And now Julia Richmond was dead.

It was still hard to comprehend, even standing there on the tarmac, watching as her casket was loaded onto a plane, taking her on her final journey home. Michael wanted nothing more than to accompany her to her resting place, but the bloody fucking mission always came first and none of them could leave. So instead he stood there in the rain, Locke and Martinez on one side of him, Damien on the other, saluting his fallen comrade, his friend. And if there was moisture on all their faces, they blamed it on the rain.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The remaining members of Section 20 found the first bar they could after leaving the airport. They had shots of whiskey lined up a moment later, a photograph lying between them.

Locke raised his glass. “To Sergeant Julia Richmond.”

“To Julia,” echoed three voices, then there was silence.

Martinez wiped at her eyes as she set her glass back down. She touched Julia’s photo. “Rest in peace,” she whispered, then turned and walked away.

Locke was next, his face drawn as he nodded at both Michael and Damien before following Martinez out of the bar.

Michael turned to look at Damien. His partner’s blue eyes were red rimmed but his face was otherwise completely devoid of emotion, his jaw clenched, staring straight ahead. Michael slid Julia’s photo over between them and rested his fingers on it. His throat threatened to close up over the words he wanted to say, but they were the truth, as hard as it was to voice them.

“Thank you for making her happy. She deserved it.”

Damien looked sharply at him then, surprise on his face. But before he could speak, Michael was walking away, feeling those blue eyes on him until the door closed behind him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hours later, somewhere around 2:00 am, Michael was awakened by the tiniest noise only a trained soldier’s senses would pick up on, even when asleep. There was someone standing outside his hotel room door. Immediately on alert, he rolled over in one smooth move and retrieved his sidearm from the bedside table. He moved silently to the door, listening intently, gun raised. Only to lower it a moment later. Although the person on the other side didn’t speak, Michael was so in tune with his partner after five years he knew it was Damien.

He leaned against the door, listening to Damien breathe. It was heavy and ragged and his grief tore at Michael. He wanted nothing more than to open the door and bring Damien inside, but he held back. It was Damien’s call if he wanted Michael to see him like this. So he waited, hoping for a quiet knock, but it never came.

Michael stood there, head resting against the door for long minutes after Damien finally walked away.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Julia Richmond’s death galvanized the remaining members of Section 20, driving them forward with renewed purpose, and vengeance, to capture Li-Na at all costs. To complete the mission so that Julia did not die in vain.

But in the end, it was all in vain – betrayed by Ridley in the final minutes of the mission. Now Locke lay dead in a crashed helicopter and Michael and Damien were on the run from Faber’s mercenary team, trapped in a ravine with Damien bleeding out from a gunshot wound to his stomach.

Michael looked down at his hands, stained red with Damien’s blood. It had all gone so wrong, so fast…

Damien was breathing hard, in obvious pain. He looked up from where Michael’s hands were covering his own, desperately trying to stop the bleeding.

“What do they say? Those that live by the sword die by the fucking thing. Been a long time coming…” Damien trailed off.

Michael didn’t want to hear this. “You really need to conserve your energy.”

But Damien continued. “You know the first guy I killed in battle…I was shaking, trembling. I even threw up.” He paused, voice hollow. “When did that stop? When did this all become normal for us, Mikey?” He blew out a breath. “Long time coming…”

Michael reached out and put a hand on Damien’s head, rubbed it back and forth. His voice was strong. “Maybe not. Because you’re gonna make it through this. You’re going to survive and you’re gonna go home.”

Damien’s laugh was brittle. “Back to the real life? Paying bills, mowing the lawn, stopping at a fucking red light? I can’t see that happening.”

Michael pinned him with his gaze. “Being a father to your son.”

Damien shook his head. “After the shit I’ve done? Sure…”

Michael nodded, needing Damien to believe this, to give him a reason not to give up right here. “Yeah, sure.” He wanted to say more, but a flock of birds were suddenly startled and took flight, drawing his attention. Faber’s men had found them.

Michael cursed and put his vest back on. He hated to leave Damien laying there but he needed to climb to the top of the ravine and do recon.

“I won’t be long,” he told Damien.

And he wasn’t. It took him less than two minutes to dispatch of two of Faber’s men. He hadn’t heard any gunfire from below, which he took as a good sign that they hadn’t found Damien. But his heart lodged in his throat a second later when he looked down and saw Damien floating motionless in the water – bloody water.

Michael nearly broke his neck getting to the bottom of the ravine, slipping, sliding down the rocky slope, charging into the water. He flipped the dead man off Damien and dragged his partner onto the shore, immediately checking to make sure he was still breathing. He was, but barely. He shook Damien, clutching at his shirt, slapping his face, cradling his head, pleading with him to wake up. He saw the hint of a smile on Damien’s face and breathed a sigh of relief, only to feel his heart seize up when Damien suddenly went completely limp and his eyes closed.

Michael turned Damien over onto his back, put his head down on Damien’s chest. No heartbeat. No breathing.

“No!” Michael yelled at his partner, instantly beginning CPR, pumping Damien’s chest. “You’re not dying on me, damn you!”

Two breaths into Damien’s mouth. His chest rose and fell, but still no heartbeat.

“Don’t you do this!” Michael commanded him, pushing on his chest once again. “Stay with me, Damien…don’t leave me…” he pleaded.

Two more breaths…and Damien stirred, coughing. Michael straightened up as Damien blinked open his blue eyes. It took him a second to focus on Michael, then a small smile crossed his face.

“Jesus Christ,” Michael breathed, hanging his head in relief. He pulled Damien’s upper body up onto his lap, cupped his face with a shaking hand. “Don’t you ever do that to me again, mate.”

Damien nodded and closed his eyes. “I’ll try not to,” he answered, still smiling.

He gently lay Damien back down on the ground and pushed up his soaking wet shirt, taking stock of Damien’s condition. And it wasn’t good. Michael jogged over to where Damien had originally been sitting and grabbed what medical supplies were left. Moving back over to the wounded man, Michael rubbed his thumb across Damien’s cheek, getting his partner to open his eyes again. “I know you want to rest, but we can’t stay here. Your wound opened up again. You’re losing too much blood. We’ve got to get to the safe house, get that bullet out of you.”

Michael once again used gunpowder to temporarily cauterize the gunshot wound and Damien didn’t even flinch, a testament as to how weak he was getting. Michael put one of the last two pads of gauze over it and taped it as best he could against Damien’s damp skin.

“Ready, mate?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Damien answered tiredly, raising his arms for Michael to help him stand. He wavered as soon as he was upright, sagging against Michael.

Michael immediately draped one of Damien’s arms across his shoulders, wrapped an arm around Damien’s waist, and supported him.

“Okay, one foot in front of the other,” Michael encouraged his partner and they set off in search of help and safety.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Damien was in no shape to climb out of the ravine so they had to take the long way out and get back on track to the safe house. The journey was slow going and with every step Michael’s anxiety rose. His senses were constantly on alert for another ambush from Faber’s team and Damien was getting weaker, leaning more heavily against Michael, his breathing uneven.

“Mikey…I gotta stop…” Damien panted, pressing a hand against his stomach. “Just for a few minutes…”

Michael was about to agree, but when Damien’s hand came away with blood on it he knew they couldn’t waste even five minutes.

“We can’t, mate. C’mere…” And then Michael was swinging Damien up into his arms. He grunted with the additional weight. “Oi, I remember you saying not too long ago that you’d lost weight,” he joked, and it got a chuckle out of Damien.

“He ain’t heavy…” Damien smiled.

“…he’s my brother,” Michael finished with a grin, then sobered. “Damn straight, mate.”

Michael made the best time he could, carrying Damien. If he could’ve thrown Damien over his shoulder it would’ve been easier going, but that was out of the question with a stomach wound.

Despite Michael saying they couldn’t stop, even he reached his limit and he risked dropping Damien if he didn’t take a brief rest. He moved over to a large tree and set Damien down as gently as he could with his back resting up against it. Damien groaned and opened his eyes. His breathing had gotten easier since Michael had started carrying him, but he was extremely pale. Michael pushed up Damien’s shirt and swore at the blood soaked bandage. He removed the last gauze patch and taped it over the first one. His hand shook slightly as he did so, honestly scared that he wasn’t going to get them to the safe house fast enough and Damien was going to die on him.

Damien put his hand over top of Michael’s, squeezed. Michael turned his head and saw the same look on Damien’s face as he’d had in the ravine. Resignation.

“I’m sorry, Michael,” Damien said quietly, sincerely.

Michael’s brow furrowed. “For what?”

“For hurting you.”

Michael shook his head sharply and pulled away from Damien, standing up and turning his back on him. He wasn’t doing this. He’d moved on, made his peace, come to terms with Damien’s rejection. That box was locked and buried.

But Damien pressed on, ignoring Michael’s reaction. “When we had to give back the diamonds, all our plans, that future you kept talking about…it was just gone. It was always easier for you to picture than me. So I just…gave up. But I went about it the wrong way. And I’m sorry.”

Michael snapped and rounded on Damien, furious. “You’re a liar and a fucking coward! I put myself out there for you, more vulnerable than I’ve ever been. And you couldn’t handle having to maybe put some effort into a relationship. Because this, you and me, was never going to be easy. Something you might have to work at instead of sliding into a bed and back out again and never look back!” He took a breath and shook his head. “I was a fool to think you were capable of more.”

Damien was looking at him in shock…and guilt. He reached out a hand. “Mikey…”

Don’t,” Michael warned. “Now get the fuck up. You’re an asshole but you’re my partner and I refuse to let you die on me.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The remainder of the trek was made in silence. Damien was able to walk the rest of the way, assisted by Michael, but by the time the safe house was finally in sight, Damien was shaking and sweating. Michael was about to carry him again when the door to the house opened and Christy Bryant came hurrying out. Michael trusted her as much as he trusted a rattlesnake, but she was all they had right now.

“Michael,” Christy nodded at him as she wrapped Damien’s other arm around her shoulders and started walking to the house.

Damien raised his head at the sound of Christy’s voice, gave her a smart-ass grin. “You and me, together again, eh?”

Michael caught a strange expression flit across Christy’s face and then it was gone. The two of them got Damien inside and over to the bed where they laid him down as gently as they could. Damien’s face was white and his breathing was labored.

“Mikey?” Damien panted. “Can I pass out now?”

Michael grinned. “Yeah, mate, you can pass out now. Would actually be a good idea if you did,” he finished as he watched Christy pulling out medical supplies.

“Copy that…” Damien breathed and was unconscious moments later.

Christy put Michael to work assisting her in getting an IV started in Damien’s arm and then removing the bullet and stitching him up.

“Thank you,” Michael said to her as he looked down at his partner, alive and resting comfortably. “I know you’re not on the best terms with each other but he wouldn’t have survived without your help.”

Again that odd, strained look crossed Christy’s face and Michael’s sixth sense started tingling, distinctly uneasy. Christy quickly turned away from him, busing herself with cleaning up. “Yeah, well…I couldn’t let him die.” She indicated toward the small kitchen. “Why don’t you get yourself something to eat? I’ll watch him.”

It was on the tip of Michael’s tongue to say That’s my job, but in truth he was exhausted, and hungry. So he availed himself of some fruit, cheese and water he found in the refrigerator. He ate quickly then took up position at the window, rifle at the ready, protecting his partner as he slept.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Damien came back to consciousness slowly. His left side throbbed but it was no longer a burning, stabbing pain. And he felt cool and dry, no longer sweating. He carefully blinked open his eyes, making a small noise as the light hit his pupils. Two figures came into focus – Christy and Michael.

“Welcome back,” Christy said.

Damien groaned. “What happened?”

Michael moved toward the bed. “I think the words you’re looking for are ‘Thank you’,” he answered and Damien gave him the finger in reply, causing Michael to grin.

Christy handed Damien an object. “I pulled this out of you.”

Damien held it up. “Bullet with my name on it, huh?” He paused and glanced around. “We safe here?”

Christy nodded. “Best I could do on short notice.”

“We’ll leave here under the cover of dark,” Michael told him, then walked out of the room and outside.

Damien dropped the bullet in bowl on the table beside the bed, then looked at Christy. “You got the passports?”

She gave him a disgusted look. “Yeah, dumb blonde came all this way and forgot to bring them.”

Damien looked directly at her. “Thank you,” he said and Christy nodded and turned away.

Damien narrowed his eyes as Christy walked around the room, her movements stilted, not quite meeting his eyes. Their relationship had been volatile, to say the least. And they hadn’t parted on the best of terms. Which could explain why she was acting so oddly, nervous.

Damien’s unease increased the more Christy talked. He didn’t buy what she was saying for a minute, about wanting back in the Agency. Plus the fact there were no guns at the dam and that Faber’s team had somehow found them there. Did she set them up? There was something going on with her. Which is why when she started to unbutton his shirt he didn’t stop her. The last thing he wanted was to have sex with her. Not only did it make his skin crawl, but if Michael came back and saw them he was loathe to add fuel to Michael’s fire about him sliding in and out of people’s beds with abandon. But Damien rationalized that the ends justified the means in this case. Perhaps he could get Christy to open up, or get her to change her mind about whatever she was keeping from him if the two of them connected again. So he laid back and thought of England. Or more precisely, one Englishman in particular.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In the end, Damien was right. He did get through to Christy, but it was too late. He saw it in her eyes – the apology, the regret at what she’d done.

“There’s still time.”

Three words were all the warning she was able to give before Michael and Damien were plunged into the depths of Hell.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was the longest fifteen minutes of Michael Stonebridge’s life. He and Damien had been in their fare share of firefights over the last five years, but nothing like this. Not so incredibly outnumbered with no hope of backup and both of them wounded. He’d known this was going to go bad the minute he shot Faber. But that fucking bastard had been culpable in the deaths of both Julia and Locke and he wasn’t getting out of this alive. Unfortunately it didn’t look like he and Damien would, either. But if this was the end of the line, there was no one he’d rather have at his side than Damien Scott, neither of them surrendering, going down swinging until the last bullet. Locke once told him that soldiers like them didn’t make good old men. He was about to find out Locke was right. Or so he thought.

He hadn’t been counting on the stupidity of Faber’s team. Watching their leader gunned down made them reckless. Instead of just waiting it out, for either Michael and Damien to run out of ammunition, or for them to burn to death in the barn that was now nearly half engulfed in flames – instead they charged the barn one after another, making perfect targets. And a source of guns and ammo. One by one Michael and Damien pulled the dead men inside and stripped them of their weapons and turned them against their own teammates. Until finally, miraculously, the two of them were the last ones standing.

“Mikey?” Damien called out from the other side of the car, over the noise of the flames and the cracking, snapping wood. “You alive?”

Michael couldn’t help it. He laughed long and loud from relief. “Yeah! You?” he smiled.

“Fuck, yeah!” came Damien’s enthusiastic reply. “What do you say we get the fuck out of here before this place comes down on our heads?”

A minute later they were both hobbling out of the barn, sporting matching leg wounds. Michael noticed that Damien’s stitches had not surprisingly come open and his stomach was bleeding again. Speaking of bleeding, Michael could now barely move the fingers on his left hand from the massive stab wound that had gone straight through the palm. The hasty bandage he’d managed to wrap around it was stained completely red.

Damien moved over to his side and rested a hand on Michael’s shoulder. The two of them locked eyes, taking a minute to just reconnect and reconfirm that they’d come out of this on the other side. Damien nodded, winked and squeezed Michael’s shoulder. Connection made.

The two of them then quickly surveyed the carnage around them – burning barn, dead men scattered all over the ground and in the house, too.

Michael indicated the barn. “That’s bound to draw attention sooner or later. We need to get out of here.” He held up his wounded hand. “I can’t drive. Why don’t you find Faber’s transport and pull it up to the house. I’ll get as many supplies together as I can.”

Damien nodded. “Copy that,” he answered, then moved off into the dark woods surrounding the house.

Michael made quick work of stripping Faber’s team of everything they were carrying – rifles, handguns, ammo, field medical supplies, money and a couple of cell phones. He piled everything up in front of the tractor in the yard. He moved to the house then and ransacked it as well. Took the remaining fruit, cheese and water from the refrigerator and the blankets from the bed. He was gathering up the remaining medical supplies that Christy had brought when he heard the rumbling of a truck pulling up outside. A minute later Damien was limping in the door.

He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Transport’s here.”

Michael nodded. “There’s a pile by the tractor. I’m almost finished here.”

Damien moved over to where he was, saw the bag on the bed. “This Christy’s stuff?”

“Yeah, we’re going to need all this. We need to get patched up.”

“Wait a minute,” Damien said, then began pulling everything out until the bag was empty. He looked at Michael, anger in his eyes. “This is all she had?”

“Yeah, I don’t see anything else, why?”

Damien blew out a breath and shook his head. “No fucking passports.” He looked down at Christy’s body. “Bitch lied.” He glanced over at Michael. “We’re screwed, buddy.”

“Fuck,” Michael swore. “We’ll deal with that later. We need to get out of here. Let’s get the truck loaded.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They drove through the dark Swiss countryside for as long as they could, until they could no longer ignore their wounds and blood loss. They needed to stop, to rest for just a little while. They needed to make plans.

Damien finally found a barn that looked to have been abandoned for quite some time. He pulled the truck in and closed the doors behind them. They then quickly and efficiently removed what supplies they needed from the truck and collapsed onto piles of hay, taking a minute to catch their breath.

Michael started to unwrap the ruined bandage on his hand and hissed in pain, drawing Damien’s attention. His partner scooted himself over to Michael’s side, bringing the bag of medical supplies with him.

“Here, buddy, let me…we’ve gotta get that stitched up.”

For a rough around the edges soldier, Damien was surprisingly gentle in his ministrations, trying to cause Michael as little pain as possible as he cleaned the stab wound and then sewed together the thin skin on Michael’s palm and the back of his hand. Despite the care, Michael gritted his teeth and wished for a bottle of whiskey to dull the pain. He was grateful when Damien finished and wrapped his hand in a clean bandage.

“Thank you, Nurse Scott,” Michael quipped.

Damien flipped up his shirt to expose the bloody bandage on his stomach. “Your turn, Nurse Stonebridge,” he shot right back.

For the next long while they took turns tending to one another’s wounds. Michael put new stitches in Damien’s stomach first, then they both assessed their leg wounds. Luckily both were through-and-throughs in the fleshy part of their thighs, not causing too much damage. They stitched themselves on the fronts of their legs, then turned over and had each other close up the wound on the backs of their thighs.

Triage done, Michael brought out the food and water while Damien spread out the blankets over top of the hay. They ate silently, each lost in their own thoughts, watching through the slats in the barn as the sky began to lighten. Michael felt like they were the only two people in the world right then. All that was left of Section 20. Faces flitted through his brain like a slideshow – Grant, Kate, Baxter, Porter, Sinclair, Dalton, Richmond, Locke…

Damien tossed his empty water bottle to the side and stretched out on the blanket, turned his head toward Michael.

“What the fuck do we do now, Mikey?” he asked quietly.

Two soldiers with no mission. No orders. No home base.

It was time they made their own.

“You need to walk away,” Michael told Damien. “Go be a father to Finn. He needs you. You need each other. You’ve already missed out on so much of his life.” He paused. “No one knows if we’re alive or dead. Which one do you want to be?”

Damien was quiet for a long moment, gazing steadily at Michael. “And if I pick dead?”

“Then you get a new life. A new name. A new start.”

“And you?”

“I’ll go back to Whitehall, to Ridley. I’ll sell your death…” Michael’s voice hardened “…and tell that bastard he’s next.”

“And then what?” Damien questioned. “You’re giving me a future. You deserve one, too.”

Michael wiped a weary hand over his face. “I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’ll figure something out.” He sighed. “Right now we need to concentrate on the more immediate problem – getting out of Switzerland.”

Damien nodded. “I’ve been thinking about that. Hand me one of those phones you found. I think I know someone who can help.”

Michael tossed him a phone and Damien dialed.

“Nina? It’s Damien Scott…”

Michael nodded his approval at Damien’s choice of assistance. He listened for a moment as Damien explained their situation to their Russian FSB comrade before picking up the other phone and making a call himself.

“Martinez? It’s Stonebridge. There’s a lot I need to tell you but right now I need your help,” he began. “Do you have any contacts with the U.S. Marshal’s office? Specifically in the witness protection program? I need a new identity set up for Scott…”

Both men completed their calls at roughly the same time.

“Was that Martinez you were talking to?” Damien asked.

“Yeah,” Michael confirmed. “She’s going to start working on getting you that new identity. What did Pirogova have to say?”

“She’s making some calls to get things rolling, for both passports with fake names and for a place for us to stay until we can get the passports,” Damien told him. “Also…I told her where Locke’s body is. She’s gonna make sure he gets home.”

Michael reached out and put his hand on Damien’s shoulder. “Thank you for that, mate.”

“He was a good man. He doesn’t deserve to be left here.”

They were silent for a moment, remembering their fallen leader, their friend. It was in that minute of quiet that Michael felt the last of the adrenaline rush of the past hour leave his body, to be replaced by complete and utter exhaustion. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept. He felt his eyes start to close but forced them back open again.

“It’s okay, Mikey, get some sleep,” Damien told him. “It’ll be at least an hour, maybe two, before Nina calls back.”

Michael nodded gratefully and lay down on the blanket. Just as sleep claimed him he heard Damien say quietly, “My turn to watch over you, buddy…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

True to her word, Nina Pirogova called back an hour and a half later. She put her contacts to work and new passports were in the process of being created for both of them. It would be another day before they were completed, so she also made arrangements for them to stay at the home of Jens Friedmann, approximately forty kilometers from their current position. Jens was an old friend of her father’s, and also a doctor, which both of them could use, given the current state of their battered and bloody bodies.

Michael and Damien had the truck packed and were on the road ten minutes after Nina’s call. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when they found Jens’s home – a modest cottage in the Swiss countryside. Jens himself was in his early 60’s, short and rotund, balding and wearing glasses. He greeted them with a friendly smile as they climbed down from the truck.

“Mr. Scott and Mr. Stonebridge, I presume?”

“Yes, sir,” Michael replied. “We appreciate you letting us stay here.”

Jens waved a hand. “Anything for little Nina. Her father and I were friends before you two were born. I still owe him much. I’m glad to repay my debt to his daughter.” He clapped his hands. “Now come. The guest cottage is down the road. Very secluded. Nina mentioned you didn’t want anyone knowing you were here. You can follow me in your truck.”

Jens bent down and Michael grinned as he picked up an actual old-fashioned black doctor’s bag that was sitting at his feet. He glanced over at Damien and saw that he was amused as well. The older man climbed into his car and Michael and Damien followed suit in the truck and a minute later they were traveling down the road, into the woods.

As Jens had said, the cottage was isolated, surrounded by trees. He unlocked the door and they followed him inside. It was a modest space with a main room and one large bed, a couch, a chair and a fireplace. Off to the right was a small kitchenette with a round table and two chairs. On the left was a full bathroom.

“I hope this will be sufficient,” Jens said.

“This is more than sufficient, sir, thank you,” Damien replied.

“Please, call me Jens,” the older man smiled. “I stocked the refrigerator with the basics and there is bread in the box. Nina also said you would most likely be a little worse for wear, so I also brought some clean clothes. I have three sons so I’m sure there will be something in the pile that will fit you both. I’ve left everything on the kitchen table.”

“We can’t thank you enough for your generosity, Jens,” Michael said sincerely.

“I was a soldier myself,” Jens replied. “I know how rare it is just to have a bed and a decent meal. I’m happy to help. Speaking of helping…” he held up his black bag. “From the condition you’re both in, you’d best let me take a look at you.”

For the next little while Jens gave Michael and Damien a thorough once-over, inspecting their wounds.

“With what little resources you had you both did a remarkable job with your field dressings,” Jens said. “The stitches are holding well, so I’m not going to remove any of them. But since you’re both filthy from head to toe I’m going to give you a penicillin injection to prevent any infection.”

He removed the medication and two syringes from his bag as Michael and Damien rolled up their sleeves. Injections finished, Jens then pulled out fresh gauze, bandages and tape from his bag, which he laid on the bed.

“These are for after you get yourselves cleaned up,” Jens explained, then he closed up his bag and headed for the door. “Nina said a courier would be coming by early tomorrow. I will send them down to you. If you need anything, just come up to the house. If I don’t see you before you leave, God speed on your journey.”

Michael and Damien each shook his hand.

“Thank you, Jens. We won’t forget this,” Damien told him.

Jens nodded and smiled. “Give my love to little Nina.” And then the door closed behind him.

Damien turned to face Michael. “I’d do rock-paper-scissors with you for first dibs on the shower, but we all know how that’d turn out,” he joked.

Michael grinned. “No, mate, go ahead. I’m going to bring in a few things from the truck, do some quick recon outside. Just leave me some hot water, eh?”

Damien laughed as Michael opened the door. “Shoulda done rock-paper-scissors!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Damien closed his eyes and sighed gratefully as the hot, soapy water cascaded down his body. It stung where it flowed over his stitches and all of the other cuts on his body but he didn’t mind the discomfort if it meant washing away the blood and dirt of the last several days. He didn’t remember the last time he felt this clean. He wouldn’t have minded standing under the shower’s spray for another hour, but he knew Michael was just as eager to wash the grime from his own body, so he rinsed himself off and stepped out of the shower. He hadn’t bothered to close the door, so was standing there naked, reaching for a towel when Michael came back inside and saw him.

They both froze for a moment and Damien saw a myriad of emotions flit across Michael’s face, a crack in the armor for just a heartbeat, before Michael looked sharply away and walked over to the bed. Guilt once again assailed Damien as he snagged a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Guilt…and longing.

There was an awkward silence as the two men orbited around one another in the main room – Damien going through the pile of clean clothes and Michael removing his, down to his underwear, getting ready for his shower. Damien nearly offered to help as Michael struggled a bit with his wounded left hand, trying to undo the buttons on his pants, but then thought better of it. Michael left the room without a word and a moment later Damien heard the shower turn on. He tossed a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt down on the bed and sat down heavily beside them, blowing out a breath and resting his face in his hands.

He listened to the sound of Michael washing and was immediately assaulted with the memory of the two of them in the shower of his hotel room back in Russia. His breath caught as he remembered sliding inside Michael as the warm water and the steam enveloped them. His fingers flexed as he remembered the feel of Michael’s slick, wet skin and his cock twitched at the memory of the sounds Michael made as he took him to the edge and over.

The sound of the water shutting off broke the spell and Damien raised his head, feeling his heart beating faster than normal. If he was going to do this it had to be now. He had to try and make things right. Before it was too late and Michael was gone from his life forever.

Without giving himself time to change his mind, Damien rose from the bed and walked toward the bathroom. Michael was just walking out, a towel around his waist as well and looked at Damien questioningly as he approached. When Damien moved right up into Michael’s personal space his partner’s eyes darkened but he didn’t attempt to move away.

The air was immediately charged with unspoken emotion and so many words still left unsaid between them. Damien could feel the heat from Michael’s body, his skin still wet from the shower, could smell the clean, soapy scent in the air. He reached out and rested a hand on Michael’s hip.

Michael flinched, a muscle in his jaw clenching and he shook his head. “Don’t…”

“I have to,” Damien told him. “I need you to listen to me, Michael.” He swallowed hard. “You were right. I was a coward,” he admitted. “I used losing the diamonds as an excuse to walk away because I was scared. Scared of how intense my feelings for you were.”

He blew out a breath and put his other hand on Michael’s other hip. His voice was rough. “I don’t know how to do a relationship, Michael. You should know that about me after all these years. I was afraid I’d just fuck it up. And you deserved better than that.”

Damien gently squeezed his hands, rubbed his thumbs on Michael’s bare skin. “But that future is ahead of us again. A second chance. And I want to try. Because I was wrong and I’m willing to try. To work at it because you’re worth it. We’re worth it.” He paused, voice low. “Give me a chance to prove it. Please.”

Michael was silent for a long moment, his face unreadable. When he spoke his voice was strained. “Tell me this isn’t just because Julia is gone. Tell me I’m not a consolation prize.”

Damien shook his head strongly. “Jesus, Michael, no. This is me finally being honest with myself about what I want. Who I want.”

Damien leaned in then, waiting for Michael to either pull back or push him away, but when neither happened he closed the distance between them and touched his lips to Michael’s, his eyes sliding closed at the contact.

The kiss started off tentatively, remembering the taste and feel of one another, then like a switch flipping, Michael took control. He cupped one hand around the back of Damien’s head and the kiss went from gentle and exploratory to hard and demanding. Michael’s mouth slanted across Damien’s, tongue delving deep and Damien groaned. His hands gripped Michael’s hips as Michael’s other hand came around to grab Damien’s ass and pull him flush against Michael’s body.

Michael started walking then, moving Damien backwards until the backs of his legs hit the mattress. The aggressive kiss went on and Damien continued to let Michael lead. He wanted him to. Wanted him to get out his anger. He could take whatever Michael dished out. He deserved it. And truth be told, he liked it. Making love to a woman was all well and good, but you had to hold back. But not with a man. Damien liked being able to let go, to be surrounded by muscle and power – and Michael had that in spades.

Michael squeezed his ass again and Damien’s cock jumped. Michael broke the kiss then, biting at Damien’s lip before releasing it. Damien’s breath caught at the hungry look in Michael’s eyes as his partner first pulled off Damien’s towel and threw it across the room, then his own. Michael placed a hand on Damien’s chest and pushed, toppling Damien backwards onto the bed.

Fuck…” Damien breathed, his cock now fully erect, his heart starting to pound in his chest, beyond aroused at seeing Michael like this.

He reached for Michael but his partner turned and walked away, back toward the bathroom. He returned quickly, tossing a small tube of hand cream on the bed. Damien pulled himself up fully onto the bed as Michael climbed on next to him, looming over him and once more capturing Damien’s mouth in a bruising kiss.

Michael’s right hand wandered down Damien’s body, gripping and flexing, pinching a nipple and rolling it between his fingers until it was pebble hard. Damien’s body jerked at the sensation, his pulse racing and he tried to deepen the kiss even further as Michael’s hand traveled lower.

Damien was helpless to stop the sharp groan as Michael’s hand wrapped around his erect cock and started stroking, hard, his thumb pressing against the sensitive bundle of nerves right below the head. Michael picked up the pace and Damien was instantly on the edge of orgasm – when Michael stopped and pulled back from Damien.

Damien’s eyes opened and he tried to catch his breath, his mouth tender from their heated kiss. He watched as Michael reached for the tube of cream and coated his fingers and his hard cock. Damien’s heart thudded against his chest in anticipation. In the five days they were together, Damien had always topped. But now Michael was in charge and it was his turn. And dear God, Damien wanted it. Wanted Michael inside him.

Damien bent his legs at the knee and spread them eagerly as Michael moved between them. He wasted no time, his fingers at the small puckered muscle, pushing against it. With Michael’s state of mind, Damien expected the stretching to be hard and fast. And it was, to an extent, but Michael took care not to hurt him, filling him with one, two and three fingers before Damien could take no more, arching his head back against the pillow.

“Michael…” he panted.

“What do you want?” Michael growled, his eyes dark with desire.

Damien pressed down onto Michael’s fingers. “Please…”

“Tell me what you want,” Michael commanded again and Damien’s heart pounded and his stomach flipped.

“I want you to fuck me,” Damien ground out.

A satisfied, smug grin crossed Michael’s face at Damien’s words. He swiftly removed his fingers and replaced them with the head of his cock. Damien blew out a breath as Michael steadily pushed inside him, not stopping until he was all the way in. Michael paused then, locking gazes with Damien, his features softening, taking in this new sensation, this new connection between them. Then he was moving, shifting his hips backwards, nearly pulling all the way out before pushing all the way back in.

Damien groaned sharply and let himself be swept away by the feel of Michael inside him for the first time, filling him so completely. He wrapped his legs around Michael’s waist, deepening the penetration.

“Harder…” Damien encouraged his partner. “It’s okay…let it out…c’mon, harder…”

He saw the hurt and betrayal in Michael’s eyes – emotions Damien himself put there and that Michael needed to exorcise – before Michael squeezed them shut and pistoned his hips, slamming into Damien over and over.

Damien gripped Michael’s arms as his partner’s cock pressed against his prostate again and again. He could barely catch his breath, his heart pounding against his chest as his body raced toward orgasm at lightning speed.

Michael’s aggressive rhythm faltered then and he sucked in a sharp breath. “Fuck…Damien…”

“Christ, Michael…do it…wanna feel it…” Damien ground out, sitting on the precipice himself.

Michael pressed in hard and deep once, twice before his entire body went taught, his back arching. He cried out sharply an instant before he came, filling Damien with hot, wet heat in long pulses. The feel of Michael coming inside him was Damien’s undoing and he let go, his orgasm racing through him, his release painting his chest in thick, white streams.

The only sound in the room was their harsh breathing, both of them shaken by the intensity of what they’d just done. Damien could see the switch being flipped off in Michael’s eyes as he came back to himself, saw guilt start to creep in.

Michael pulled out slowly and looked away from Damien. “I’m sorry…I don’t – “ he began but Damien cut him off sharply.

“No. Don’t you apologize,” Damien told him. “That needed to happen.” He squeezed Michael’s arms in reassurance and sat up. He cocked his head and gave his partner a smirk. “Besides, I liked it. You’re fuckin’ hot when you lose control.”

Michael barked out a surprised laugh and gave Damien the finger, releasing the tension in the room. He rolled off the bed and picked up one of the discarded towels and cleaned up himself and Damien’s chest then tossed the towel back onto the floor.

Damien felt his eyes starting to slide shut as Michael lay down next to him. He still had a million things he wanted to say to Michael but he was clean, he was in an actual bed, and he’d just had some of the best sex in his life. And one look at Michael’s tired face and he knew he wouldn’t be able to string two words together, either, so Damien let sleep win this battle. There would be time for talking later.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael was pulled gently from his sleep by the sensation of fingers ghosting up his side and a soft kiss on the side of his neck. He sighed, eyes still closed, and leaned back against the warm body behind him, encouraging the ministrations. He left himself drift as Damien kissed down his neck and shoulder, as a thumb rubbed over his flat nipple, as a hand brushed over his cock and cupped his heavy balls, gently rolled them in their sac. Michael pulled in a breath then and opened his eyes. He made to turn over but Damien stopped him.

“No…let me,” Damien whispered. “Please…”

Michael acquiesced without protest, closing his eyes once again, letting Damien bend his top leg, exposing him completely. Michael clutched the bed sheets as Damien’s wet tongue swiped across the puckered muscle, his breath catching in his throat at the unfamiliar, yet arousing, sensation. He pushed back and Damien licked him again, this time barely pushing the tip of his tongue past Michael’s entrance.

Before Michael could ask for more, Damien was moving back and a slick finger was pressing inside him, then two. Michael raised his leg higher, and Damien took advantage, removing his fingers and slowly sliding his cock inside Michael. Damien rolled them both back onto their sides and Michael groaned as Damien slipped deeper inside him as he molded his body against Michael’s.

Their lovemaking now could not have been more polar opposite to what transpired between them just a few hours ago. This was gentle and unhurried. Damien drew out Michael’s pleasure for what seemed like days, taking Michael higher and higher until he finally spilled into Damien’s hand, his partner finding his completion inside Michael at the same time.

They lay together, still joined, for long minutes, their breathing and heartbeats quieting, Michael once again marveling at the caring and compassion Damien tried so hard to hide behind his hard-ass exterior.

All too soon Damien shifted and slipped from Michael’s body and Michael rolled over onto his back to look up at his partner.

“I heard you the other night, talking with Oskar,” Damien began, voice quiet. “About your future. About not having to love or care for anyone. And I know I’m partially responsible for you feeling that way, and I’m sorry.” He swallowed hard. “After the way I treated you I know I need to earn back your trust. I have no right to ask you to come with me, with me and Finn. But I’m asking…”

Michael heard the sincerity in Damien’s voice, saw it reflected in his blue eyes and that locked box buried deep inside Michael’s mind tried to open. But it was missing something. Could he find it within the man looking down at him with hope and expectation?

Damien cocked his head to the side at the expression on Michael’s face. “What are you looking for?” he asked softly.

“The key…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

True to Nina’s word, the passports arrived bright and early the next morning, along with airline tickets for them both and some cash, which they hadn’t been expecting. Michael and Damien were going to be in Nina Pirogova’s debt for a long time after this.

Damien’s flight back to the States was leaving in only a few hours, Michael’s to London not until late evening, so he was going to remain at the cottage while Jens drove Damien to the airport.

Damien reached out and placed one of his dog tags in Michael’s palm. He curled both their hands around it. “I don’t like this, Mikey. You shouldn’t be going in there and facing Ridley alone. I should be watching your back.”

“Yeah, well, you’re dead,” Michael joked.

Damien squeezed Michael’s hand. “I’m serious. He shot Locke in cold blood. You be fuckin’ careful.”

“Don’t worry about me, mate. It’s Ridley that should be worried I’ll change my mind and blow his fucking brains out as soon as the door opens.”

The beeping of Jens’s car horn drew their attention and an uneasy silence fell over them. Michael’s cryptic non-answer from the previous afternoon still hung in the air between he and Damien, and Michael could once again see the question in those blue eyes. Will you come with me? When he remained silent Damien gave him a small nod, disappointment written on his face. He moved over to the bed and picked up his small bag then walked to the door. He took one step outside then turned back around and kissed Michael hard.

“See you soon, Mikey,”

Then he was gone. Michael stood in front of the cottage watching the little yellow car drive away until it was swallowed up by the trees. He stood there in the quiet of the forest for a long time, thinking. About blue eyes and the promise of a future together. Could he trust Damien this time? His head and his heart were telling him two different things. He needed to decide what path he was going to take – alone or with someone at his side?

He finally went back inside to pack up his own few things and a dark object laying on one of the pillows caught his attention. His eyes widened when he realized what it was. What Damien had left him.

A key.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Five days later Michael was roaring down US Route 97, his motorcycle growling beneath him, eating up the miles, bringing him toward the end of his final mission. Much had transpired over the last several days.

Once back in London his first stop was Whitehall and Charles Ridley’s office where he threw the pile of dog tags onto the traitor’s desk and made him look at the names of all the people he sent to their deaths. And then he put the fear of God into him. Of course I’m going to kill you. Live with that hanging over your head twenty-four hours a day, you son-of-a-bitch. Because one day Michael would deliver on that promise. Guaranteed.

His next meeting was with both the British and United States military and informed them of Damien’s “death” in an explosion in Switzerland. Nothing left of the body to recover. They began processing the paperwork and three days later Damien Scott was officially declared dead. And now he and his son could move on with their lives.

Speaking of moving on, the British military actually had the balls to offer him another position in Intelligence, as if he could just put everything that had transpired behind him like it never happened and continue working for the government that betrayed him. He told them to shove their offer up their asses and resigned his commission on the spot.

He got his affairs in order, packed up a few things, emptied out his bank account and got on a plane to the States – a man with no home and an uncertain future. His words to Oskar echoed in his mind “Part of me hopes I die a soldier because without this life I’m nothing. This is all I have, this is all that I am.” But perhaps that wasn’t true. Maybe he could be more than a soldier. He’d had an offer to start a new life. Question is, did he want it?

Michael came around a bend in the road and spied a figure standing next to a motorcycle. The end of his mission was in sight. It was time for Michael to make a decision.

He pulled up next to young Finn, shut off his bike and removed his sunglasses.

“Well, it’s official. Your dad’s dead,” he told Finn. Then he glanced over to the other figure crouched down next to the other motorcycle, tinkering with the engine. “Oi! Did you hear that? You’re dead.”

Damien popped up with a smile and a laugh. “Feels pretty good to be dead.”

Michael indicated Damien’s bike. “Need a hand?”

“Nah, it’s a work in progress,” Damien grinned.

Michael looked from father to son. “So where are you headed?”

“Well I was gonna take Finn on some historical, cultural, educational trip…”

“Which means…” Michael trailed off, knowing the answer before Finn even said it.

“Vegas, baby!” Finn answered, smacking Michael’s outstretched hand.

“I thought as much,” Michael replied with a smile as Finn walked back over to the other motorcycle.

Damien looked steadily at him. “What about you, Mikey? Back on civvy street? What’re you gonna do?”

Michael paused for a moment. “Shit, Damien, I don’t have a fucking clue,” he finally answered and they both laughed.

Then Damien sobered, the unanswered question in his eyes one last time. “Well if you need me, Vegas is that way.”

Michael gave him a small nod. “Roger that.”

A fist bump between them and then Damien and Finn were on their bike, roaring away in one direction while Michael pointed his own bike in the opposite direction. And it immediately felt wrong, like a punch to the gut.

Almost of its own volition, Michael’s hand reached inside his jacket pocket and his fingers curled around the key Damien had left for him. A symbol for a life together if Michael wanted it.

And suddenly his decision was clear.

He had trusted Damien for five years with his very life. It was time to trust him with his heart.

And with that, Michael felt the box in his mind suddenly unlock and spring open, freeing himself from memories of the past and allowing him to look forward, to create new ones.

He turned his motorcycle around and broke the speed limit to catch up with his partner, who turned to Michael with a laugh and a smile that was brighter than the desert sun.

This was the direction his future was in. Side by side with Damien. As always.

THE END

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