Rating: R, for sex and language.
Word count: 4,170
Spoilers: Set between ".07%" and "The Hard Part"; some spoilers for those.
Summary: Stupid, is what it is. Can't undo seven years with a taser and a bit of a grope. Don't know what I was thinkin'. Wasn't thinkin'. Sequel to Probability.
A/N: Massive thanks to fantasticpants, for the title, all the encouragement, endless re-reads, and general taser-pr0n cheerleading. Thanks too to the guys over at 5_years_gone, for Claude/Bennet inspiration. Y'all rock!
" ... so that's it." Noah leans back against the motel-room headboard, recent events neatly summarised.
Claude blinks at him. "You don't think Thompson'll see this comin' a mile off?"
"Then we'll deal with that if it happens."
"Well hark at you, all grown-up middle management."
"I am not—" Noah snarls "—middle management."
"Steady, mate. Touched a nerve there, did I?"
Noah frowns at him suspiciously. "Were you evesdropping outside Parkman's room?"
Claude winks. "Who said anythin' about outside?"
Noah sighs, disapprovingly.
"You know me, mate - insatiably curious."
"You do know what happened to the elephant's child," says Noah, ominously.
"Too late, rookie - reckon this nose is already stretched as far as it'll go." There's a familiar note in Claude's voice - almost cheerful, Noah thinks. Absurd that, after seven years, he's still attuned to the subtleties.
And then Claude stands. "Well, reckon I'll be off, then."
Noah stares at him, startled out of his introspection. "Where are you going?"
"Dunno, but hangin' around while you lot piss about ... 's not really my cup of tea anymore, y'know? You an' your musketeers ... four's a crowd, is all."
The feeling of exasperation that washes over Noah is also very familiar. "You know, you might help us."
"Nah, mate. Don't want anythin' more to do with the Company, whichever side of the fence you're sittin' on today. Time to get the hell out of Dodge."
Claude steps across to pick up his coat from where he left it, before. A lifetime has passed, Noah reflects, since Claude snuck in a few hours ago. Time does peculiar things under the influence of invisible men.
"Claude." His voice, despite his best efforts, comes out strained and anxious.
Claude doesn't know how, exactly, that Bennet manages to close the gap between them, blocking the door.
"Don't be an idiot." Bennet's voice is saturated with barely-repressed impatience; at least some things, Claude reflects, some things stay the same.
"I'm not the one who's off on some crack-brained 'save the world' mission, mate."
"That really isn't what I meant," says Bennet, and kisses him.
It's been several years - longer than he cares to think about, really - and nothing about this should feel familiar. Nothing.
Kissing Bennet is—
—Christ, it's exactly as good as he remembered.
He shoves Bennet against the door and concentrates on trying to maximise the contact between them. It helps that Bennet's only wearing boxers and a shirt; Claude supposes he's got the ridiculously excessive heating system in this place to thank for that.
He can feel Bennet's hard-on pushing against his hip, and presses their bodies together, grinning at the ensuing hiss of breath.
"Ow," says Bennet, wincing, after a moment. "That hurts."
"Survived earlier, didn't you?" Claude mutters, running his fingers speculatively around the back of Bennet's waistband.
"No, really," says Bennet, and Claude can tell from the pained, tight shape of his mouth that he's not joking.
He pulls away, suddenly awkward. "Sorry." Listens to the uneven ebb and flow of breath; skates cautious fingertips under the shirt and across the gauze patch taped to Bennet's abdomen.
He looks up again, conscious of being watched. "What?"
A shake of Bennet's head. "Nothing important."
Unnerving, the way they're already settling back into the familiar groove.
He pulls Bennet, or maybe Bennet pushes him, across the room and onto the bed. "Reckon you still remember how to do this, then?"
"Like riding a bicycle," says Bennet, not looking across at him, not looking at anything. Fingers trailing absently against Claude's thigh.
"You do remember how to do this, mate?" Because if Bennet doesn't want this—
But Bennet does look at him, then, and everything in him, seven long years of not being seen, screams at Claude to look away. To run.
But he can't.
"I remember," says Bennet, quietly.
Bennet shifts closer. "Claude, I'm—"
"Shut up." Claude's voice cracks in the space between them. "Don't— don't fuck this up with words." His eyes meet Bennet's, plead with fragile menace. "Just— don't, yeah?"
Bennet nods, slowly, and Claude slides across the bed towards him.
Kissing would be so much better if Bennet wasn't simultaneously studying him and exuding a careful determination not to talk about it.
"Quiet," Claude growls, in one of the brief intervals during which they can both breathe.
"I can hear you thinkin', Bennet."
He receives a muttered retort about the propensity of certain specials to claim more than their fair share of unusual abilities, and a poke in the ribs. "Oi!"
Bennet blinks at him, unruffled. "You're wearing too many clothes," he observes.
Fuckin'— "Well, help me then, rookie."
Bennet purses his lips in an expression that Claude privately recalls meaning "I distinctly remember telling you about that", but nonetheless disposes of Claude's shirt and pants with commendable efficiency.
"You're hairier than you used to be," Bennet notes.
"It's called a beard, you wanker."
"It's very ... fuzzy," says Bennet dubiously, fingertips skimming Claude's jawline.
"Yeah, well, it beats shavin' every day." He swats Bennet's hand away. "Get lost."
But Bennet refuses to be discouraged. "It makes you look older. More—"
"—If you're goin' to say 'distinguished', I'll bloody kill you."
"Actually, I was going to say 'more hairy'," says Bennet, primly.
"Shut up," mutters Claude, aggravated, and kisses him, a long, slow, vicious press that leaves Bennet sprawled against the pillows looking faintly bewildered.
Which suits Claude fine, really.
He eases down the bed, trailing fingernails against the inside of Bennet's thigh; there's a certain sense of smugness at Bennet's sudden and very noticeable lack of commentary. Well, good.
Bennet's boxers are halfway off when a hand arrests Claude's chin, pulls him up again to meet Bennet's eyes. Claude sighs, less than patiently. "What?"
Bennet's face is a map of misgivings. "What, exactly, are you doing?"
"I'd think that'd be obvious, mate."
But Bennet can't seem to let it be; can't seem to let them be. "Don't you— Claude. Shouldn't we talk about this?"
"No, Bennet," Claude grits out, feeling the frisson between them wavering, threatening to dissolve. "I don't think we should talk about it. I don't bloody think we should talk about anythin'." Don't you soddin' kill this now, Bennet. Don't you dare.
"Is that right," says Bennet neutrally.
"Yeah," Claude asserts, but there's something nagging at the edges of consciousness, a familiar feeling that—
In one quick movement, Bennet yanks Claude's arm from under him. Before Claude can even react, Bennet's hips shift, and Claude executes a perfect face-plant onto the mattress. A barely audible chuckle warms his neck.
—Yeah, that was it. Stealthy bastard. He hooks a leg out behind him and there's a very satisfying "Mmff!" as he catches Bennet's thigh, bringing his former partner sprawling down across the bed. It helps that Bennet's hobbled by the boxer shorts around his ankles.
They struggle, pulling the sheets into further disarray. Claude manages to pin Bennet down briefly, but after half a minute or so, it's pretty clear that he's no match for the advantages of regular meals and regular sleep. Bennet is heavier, faster, and ultimately, victorious.
Claude sighs, and acquiesces, Bennet straddling his chest. "All right, you great bloody thug. Christ."
Bennet eyes him, amused. "I'm sorry, did I just kick your ass?"
"Yeah, yeah. Sandra still cooking your lardy arse back into the 1950s?"
"My wife," says Bennet, firmly, "is an excellent cook. As I think you know."
"I don't have to know, mate. Exhibit A is currently ironing me to death. Keep sittin' there an' I reckon I'll have the dimensions of a bedsheet by breakfast."
"I am not fat." says Bennet, tetchily.
"Never said you were." Claude grins at him. "Sensitive, are we?"
Bennet says nothing, but reaches out and pinches Claude's nipple. Hard.
Bennet's eyes have acquired a sheen of satisfaction; Claude slaps his hand away. "Oi!" Morally grey nipple-pinching, he can live without. "You got a plan? We just going to piss around here all night, or what?"
"Oh, I have some ideas," says Bennet, loftily.
"Yeah, that's you all over," Claude scoffs. "Ideas. Big whoop." He runs a finger thoughtfully up Bennet's thigh. "Now, implementation ... that's the real challenge, innit?"
Claude squints up at Bennet, wondering if this is somehow going too fast, but Bennet appears to be briefly hypnotised by Claude's wandering finger, his mouth hanging fractionally open. Entirely distracted.
It's almost too easy: Claude's hips lift up off the bed and Bennet lurches forwards. It's child's play to roll aside at the right moment, and there's a very real satisfaction in pressing down on top of Bennet, crushing their bodies together, and fuck if he doesn't feel exactly like a horny bloody teenager. To hell with taking it slowly.
"Dirty," Bennet murmurs, from beneath him.
"Shut it, or I'll bloody show you dirty." Claude shunts his hips against Bennet's and is rewarded with a sigh and a glazed look that's achingly familiar.
"You already tried to kill me," Bennet points out, mildly, after a moment. "I think that's about as dirty as it gets."
Claude snorts. "Still livin' the sheltered life, then?"
"Yes," says Bennet, dryly. "I've just escaped from the Company with a telepath and a radioactive man, and I'm on a mission to drive across the country and take down the Walker system to save my genetically-mutated daughter, whose whereabouts has been erased from my memory by a man from Haiti, from a life spent on the run. It's remarkably tedious."
"Sounds bloody tedious to me, mate."
"You have no imagination," says Bennet solemnly, as he insinuates a careful hand into Claude's boxers.
Well, that's a bit bloody unfair— but interrupting Bennet right now would probably just lead to some kind of earnest discussion about the nature and history of tedium, and Claude's never been one to pass up a hand-job. Beggars can't be choosers. He slides sideways off Bennet onto the mattress, retaining just about enough presence of mind to avoid pressing on the perversely clean white gauze taped across Bennet's stomach.
Evidently, Bennet has no difficulties in the imagination department: his fingers flex, repeatedly, and Claude's breath catches in his throat.
"Quiet," Bennet warns him, fingers still moving, but with one careful eye on Claude. "I'm implementing."
Claude's laugh is punctured by a gasp as Bennet's mouth, unexpectedly hot and wet, does incredibly distracting things to his cock. He's melting, getting lost in the soft wet slide. Yes. Christ, yes.
But then it stops. For a moment, Claude doesn't really notice; assumes that Bennet is simply shifting, getting comfortable. But after a few seconds, when the dampness of his skin is starting to cool and Bennet still hasn't ... done anything, Claude looks up. "What?"
The expression on Bennet's face is hard to read.
"Well?" Claude snaps "Don't fuckin' stop now." Because that's all he needs, Bennet getting cold feet right in the middle of things. Christ, just— A couple more minutes would've been enough. How long has it been, for fuck's sake, and now Bennet is making him wait?
Bennet's got that look, though. Earnest fuckin' boy-scout.
Claude sighs, lets his head flop despondently back against the lousy motel pillows. Great.
Bennet clambers back up the bed and sprawls beside him. "Claude." Bastard at least has the decency to look slightly apologetic.
"What, Bennet?" Because he's not, at this point, still all that well-disposed towards his big fucking cock-tease of a former partner. Half a mind to finish it myself. His hand drifts southwards—
—And is grabbed firmly at the wrist. "No, Claude." Bennet gives him a look that manages to be both stern and lewd. "That's my job."
"Job?" Claude gives a derisory laugh. "Is that how you think of me?"
Bennet seems to be having some difficulty meeting his eyes. Fuck it. Should've bloody known; Company man, through and sodding through Apparently, some things never change.
He pushes himself upright, back against the headboard. Ready to run. Stupid, is what it is. Can't undo seven years with a taser and a bit of a grope. Don't know what I was thinkin'. Wasn't thinkin'.
"Claude." A hand on his shoulder; the eternal boy-scout trying to make everything all right. Bit fucking late for that, though.
"Leave it, yeah?" He stands, casting around for the rest of his clothes. Maybe he'll go to the West Coast. Or Canada. Or France. France is good, if you ignore the bloody French.
Bennet is faster than he expects: across the bed and in front of Claude before he can even pick his trousers up off the floor. "Claude, wait."
"Why?" He grabs Bennet roughly by the shoulders. "So you can have your fun and then go back and tell Thompson all about it? Get a fucking gold star and a pat on the head?"
Bennet flinches, but if Claude notices, he doesn't care. "Or d'you still get off on freaks like me, is that it?"
At that, Bennet recoils as though slapped, mouth twitching in silent, halting protest.
"Please, Claude." Bennet's voice is low.
"Please, Claude," he mimics, hating himself even as he does it. "Christ, Bennet — grow a pair, will ya?" He turns away and picks his shirt off the floor.
He doesn't see the punch; doesn't feel it, either, 'til he's already on the floor, looking up at Bennet and wondering how the fuck he got down here.
"You're not listening to me," Bennet says, so calmly that Claude can hear the words reverberating in his own skull. Though maybe that's concussion.
"Steady, mate," he protests, though he couldn't rightly say which of them it's aimed at. "What the fuck was that for?"
"You'd know if you'd been listening," says Bennet, archly.
Claude sighs, sprawled on the floor. "Well, I wasn't, yeah? So bloody well run it by me again, all right?." In a minute he'll get up off the floor and leave this godforsaken hole of a motel.
But then Bennet surprises him by kneeling down. Claude blinks; leans away.
"I'm not going to hit you again, you idiot," Bennet says acidly. "But you're really not hearing me."
"Oh? Well, enlighten me then, rookie."
Bennet looks at him speculatively for what feels like a long while, until Claude itches to turn invisible. "What?"
"I'm not letting you go," Bennet says. "I made that mistake once; I won't make it again."
Claude laughs, a short, dry bark. "So, what — you're goin' to woo me with flowers and serenade me under my soddin' balcony?"
"If that's what it takes," says Bennet evenly.
"I don't— Christ, Bennet, don't you get it? There's no fuckin' happily ever after. You've got a wife, a mission."
You don't need me.
"I think," says Bennet carefully, "we deserve a second chance."
He snorts. "Yeah, we're Romeo and fuckin' Juliet."
"I do hope that I'm Romeo, in this little ... scenario of yours," Bennet says, dryly.
Claude shrugs, feeling somewhat at sea; the conversation isn't going where he thought it would. "Who knows? There's no certainty, friend, 'cept death and taxes."
"Death and Texas," Bennet mutters, under his breath.
Claude stares. "Was that a pun, Bennet?"
"Oh, hush." Bennet leans forward. "You know, sometimes you talk too much."
"I talk—?" The rest of Claude's protest is swallowed as Bennet leans over and kisses him.
Oh, bloody hell.
But Bennet's hanging back; doesn't want to rush him.
"I'm not made of paper, rookie."
Bennet raises an eyebrow at the metaphor, but concedes the point; resumes his earlier implementation.
There's a jitteriness under Claude's skin; the urge to run, get the hell away from here, fighting against the growing sensations brought on by Bennet's tongue and hands. He doesn't know whether to shove Bennet away or lie there and scream blue bloody murder.
Bennet settles that for him, in the end. He who hesitates— Claude lets it take him; expels a forceful and heartfelt "Fuck!" Making sure Bennet has something to talk about over breakfast with Chico and Harpo in the next room is the least he can do, after all.
" 'S enough," he says abruptly, and shoves Bennet back onto the floor.
"I don't seem to have missed your bedside manner," says Bennet mildly.
"Yeah, yeah." He sprawls between Bennet's legs. "You goin' to talk through this, or what?"
Bennet demurs; leans back on his elbows and exhales in a long, slow shudder as Claude, without preamble, sucks him in.
He almost can't believe it that Bennet's actually letting him do this. Trusts him. Idiot.
Christ, it feels good.
It's gratifying that he remembers what Bennet likes; delivers it in slow, measured movements of his mouth that have Bennet's fingers clawing at the carpet, and a pleasing stream of quiet invective leaking out from between ragged breaths. Bennet's hips push and strain against him, but Claude teases the moment out, makes Bennet work for it.
Eventually, he spits, and grins. Kneels up and wipes his mouth on a corner of bedsheet, watching Bennet's breathing slow and settle.
Bennet's head lolls towards him, eyes still unfocused. He tries to roll over towards Claude, but quickly arrests the movement, wincing. "Ah. I think I may have torn my stitches."
Claude leans up on one elbow, and reaches across with his other hand. Takes the corner of the dressing between thumb and forefinger, and pulls. It tears away from the skin on Bennet's stomach with a pleasing fwwwp
"Aah!" The cry is torn from Bennet's lungs as the dressing peels off, taking hair and skin-cells with it, and his stomach tenses under Claude's other hand. "Jesus." He takes a deep breath through his nose and fixes Claude with a firm stare. "Was that really necessary?"
Claude grins. "Yeah." His expression fades quickly at the sight: recent stitches, the skin pinched and bruised, but the blood is fresher still. "Christ."
He looks at Bennet and back again at the blood. A couple of hours old, at most. Shit. Because that was him. Right here in this sorry excuse for a hotel room.
Claude swallows. " 'M sorry about that, yeah?"
Bennet shrugs. "These things happen."
Claude can't help it; his mouth twitches.
Bennet looks at him askance, which doesn't exactly help. "What?" An earnest, clueless gaze that entirely misses the bloody point. Daft bugger, and he knows his shoulders are already shaking.
He stifles it; manages to squeeze out "These things happen?"
Bennet's frown deepens.
Laughter threatens to split him apart. It feels good. Strange, but good. He hasn't laughed like this in a bloody long time.
It almost hurts, in a good way.
It takes him a moment to realise that Bennet is laughing too. A smirk, then a chuckle, and then an all-out guffaw, a sound Claude wasn't sure he'd ever hear again, until they're both lying there, weak and shaking and clinging to each other, half-paralysed with exhaustion.
"Jesus, Bennet. You fuckin' slay me." Claude slumps back against the floor, his hand stretching out almost of its own accord and resting on Bennet's chest. Feels it rise and fall in quiet, lingering spasms, long after laughter has left them. "You all right, mate?"
Bennet tilts his head towards Claude, eyes glassy. "Yes. No. I don't know." He sighs and wipes his eyes. "I don't even know where she is, Claude."
"Yeah, mate." There's nothing else he can really say, so he just lets his fingers play in the fuzzy hair on Bennet's chest. They're both older and hairier, it turns out. Still not any bloody wiser, though.
"I'm going to get into bed," Bennet announces after a while. "You can join me if you like."
"Pansy." But he climbs in anyway. Maybe he's just getting old.
"Sticks and stones," says Bennet primly, adjusting the aging pillows and rolling over.
At some point, Claude must have nodded off, because when Bennet speaks again, it doesn't make any sense. "What?"
"I said, if you include D'Artagnan, there were actually four musketeers," Bennet says.
What the— "Oh, for Christ's sake," mumbles Claude irritably, face squashed into the pillow. "I'm not goin' to join your bloody Viking raiding party."
Bennet's forehead creases fractionally. "You know, most people don't appreciate that the Vikings were actually quite a sophisticated race."
"What— did they have reality TV?" He missed goading Bennet; there was always something perversely endearing about the rookie's stratospheric level of earnestness.
Bennet, however, doesn't rise to the bait. Claude can feel him stretching the length of the bed, yawning. Hears the slight creak of springs as Bennet turns and settles next to him.
"Incidentally," Bennet says, after a minute, "our Haitian friend turns out not to be mute after all."
Claude emerges from beneath the pillow and blinks at him, unperturbed. "Yeah. So?"
Bennet frowns at him. "You knew."
A shrug, and Claude shifts against the sheets, tasting the feeling of Bennet's discomfort. Somehow it doesn't quite satisfy the way it used to.
"You knew, and you didn't tell me?" Bennet's voice rises, impatient. Disappointed, Claude thinks. They'd shared everything, once upon a time. Well, nearly everything.
"Wasn't mine to tell, mate."
"It— He was—" Bennet glares.
"Everybody's got secrets," says Claude, eyes scanning Bennet's face carefully.
Bennet sighs and shakes his head. "You are unbelievable."
Claude grins ironically. "Who'd have believed an invisible man?"
Bennet's jaw sets in a way that's half-belligerent, half-regretful. "I used to."
They lie there for a while, not saying anything.
It's getting light outside, the room's inadequate curtains beginning to glow with a tired grey lustre, and Noah reaches over and turns out the pale yellow bedside light. After a while, he turns over again, sprawling, relaxed, beneath the comforter. One foot brushes against Claude's leg, and Noah is oddly gratified when Claude doesn't pull away.
He closes his eyes, wondering where the hell they're going from here. It's complicated, but that's not exactly new. It was always complicated.
God, he missed it.
Noah rests his hand carefully against Claude's hip, and falls asleep.
He wakes to a room now fully light, and the implacable void of the sheets beside him.
In the end, that's all you can really say: that nothing is certain but death, taxes, and the absolute and infuriating unpredictability of invisible men.
Noah finds the room key, straightens his tie, and goes down to breakfast.
Whew! That only took me four months to write >.<