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Chase the Sun

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He likes the feel of the road underneath his shoes. The sound of gravel crunching underneath the soles, his heart matching the rhythm one step at a time. He tells himself once he gets going, how he needs this. This is his form of therapy. When he runs, it’s him and the road- his mind blank of all things pressing him.  

He spots her coming out of her trailer when he’s done, half her body turned in, the other half out the door- one hand holding onto its knob, the other comforted by the warmth of a steaming cup of coffee. She is led by her assistant, a radio pressed against her mouth and he instinctively glances over to his watch- one hour until prep time. Caitriona glances toward his way, a brief smile overshadowed by the dark circles surrounding her eyes.

“You were running really hard,” she tells him, casually making her way toward him, her voice tired and restless. “Wondering who you were running from?”

He shrugs his shoulders, feet shuffling through the small rocks under his feet, allowing his body to cool down slowly and removing his earbuds.

She stays silent, cocking her head to the side, taking a peek at her assistant who stops briefly to wait on her, a safe distance away. Caitriona stands close, allowing herself to be with him, without regard to time and company. She knows in an hour’s time they will be both be bombarded the busyness of the day and she wants to relish the quiet still between them.

She misses him terribly, his companionship mostly. If the four month hiatus between shooting came as a relief, Caitriona regrets it. She regrets it because even now, sharing the same trailer and living so close to one another, they hardly get a chance for moments like this- just the two of them.  

“Are you running from the legion of fans chasing you?” she teases, softly pressing the rim of her coffee against her lips, looking up, her eyes smiling. She smells the familiar scent of him mixing with the waft of her drink; he smells of musk and sweat, small wisps of body heat visibly escaping. She looks closely and is tempted to wipe a small bead making its way down his forehead but catches herself before looking at another forming, glistening near the base of his neck.

“Who says I’m running from someone?” he asks, swaying a bit before continuing, eyes downcast, fingers fiddling with his phone, a nervous twitch he finds himself more often doing than not, being around her.

He stops, undecided about what he wants to say next, whispering, “I could be the one chasing.”

She squints and feels it then, especially when he finds her eyes to meet his. It’s the same twist and turn in her gut whenever they’re alone, a feeling she’s learned to compartmentalized, separating friend, colleague, peer, and maybe perhaps a possible lover. She wonders momentarily if he’s ever felt the same way, fighting the urge to make something happen, to want to make something happen.

She’s worried he sees it in her eyes and decides to turn away from his face, letting him believe she’s thinking about something else. He swallows hard and purses his lips as he watches her head move again toward the direction of her assistant. It’s a struggle against his will to touch her, a plea to keep her close just a moment longer before they separated for the rest of the day, being surrounded by the rest of the cast and crew.

She lets out a sigh, saddened briefly by their reality, before whispering, “I guess I’ll see you on set?”

He nods and moves to the side, her arm brushing against his as she walks passed him, his eyes shutting in response to the small and brief touch.

“Ummph…” he mutters under his breath before glancing at his watch.

He was going to be late again.

—-    

“I’ll do it,” she blurts out loud, making her way into the room, using her third cup of coffee and the adrenaline she felt rushing through her, as an excuse for the interruption.

She needs to come out with it before she changes her mind. If she thought about it one more time, rehashing on the pros and cons, she would remain undecided and would never hear the end of it. She made it the spur of the moment, a decision made with the help of her elder sister, a tri-athlete mind you and an unfair advocate. An advocate not for her necessarily, but for Sam.

He looks up from where he sits, nestled between two producers, his script before him, red scribble and colored tabs marking the pages. He continues to watch her pace back and forth, hands flaring in over-exaggerated conversation.  

“I’ll do it,” she stops in front of him, finally noticing the rest of the production team, unfazed by their stares and open mouths.

Her dark rimmed glasses she wore off set sat on the bridge of her nose, a bit too big to fit her face properly. Her hands lay on her hips, bunching up the loose over the shoulder sweater that hung over the black leggings she chose to wear today.  

“I’ll do it, but we do it my way,” she points out, unable to make eye contact, “I say how we do it and when we do it. I say when we go and when we stop. No arguments.”

“Okay,” he responds, twisting his position on his chair, moving it slightly toward the table, hands criss-crossed. He bites down on his lip, trying his best from grinning. He knows what she’s talking about, quickly putting two and two together.

She knows he’s not being serious- agreeing just to agree. It’s never this easy she’s thinking and she looks straight ahead, determination set in, placing both hands on the table. Her gaze intensifies, focusing on his blue eyes, letting him know she wasn’t going to deal with anything less.

“Don’t mess with me Heughan,” her voice barely audible to the rest of the team, but loud enough for Sam to hear. “One wrong move and it’s done. I’m out.”

“I won’t. I’m not,” he whispers in response, a smile slightly forming in the corner of his mouth.

“Tomorrow. I’ll be in your trailer, waiting,” she tells him, trying not to let her nerves get the best of her, before heading toward the exit.

She stops for a moment and he’s worried she’s changed her mind. He’s mentally preparing a list to convince her otherwise but is relieved when she opens the door and steps out.  

He lets out a large sigh, finally finding his feet under him, his seat cradling the back of his knees. He fixes his position, breaking the awkward silence with the sound of his chair scraping against the linoleum tiles.

“The half-marathon,” he speaks up, easing the elevated tension in the room. “She was talking about training for the half-marathon.”

The collective sigh and unified ‘oh’ surprises him.

“What did you all think she was talking about?” he asks, curious, eyes looking around the room.

Maril, red faced and slightly embarrassed, laughs, “We don’t ask questions anymore, Sam. We just don’t.”

 

Chapter Text

She fiddles with her phone again, her fingers lingering over the glass.  They hover over his name and she thinks to herself how easy it would be to make an excuse for another day, another time.   She realizes soon enough she knows she can’t.  He knows her well enough to know she’s inside his building, internally debating to walk up another flight of stairs or go back down unnoticed.

Her scenes took longer than expected and she found herself afterwards going to his apartment, their plans changing as quickly as the weather.  Even as time ticked away on set, she became anxious, preoccupied by their impending get together or whatever else they wished to call it.

“You might as well keep walking up,” she hears the low drawl of his voice echoing off the walls. 

She can’t help but smile as she looks up to see his head pop over the banister, curly red locks dangling.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than to sit there, waiting to terrorize your co-star?” she teases, making her way up the stairs, grateful for the flats she chose to wear.  She takes a look at him in jeans and a t-shirt, casually moving from his face to bare feet.  She’s surprised by how she’s never taken notice of how long his toes really were and the thought of them makes her blush, forcing her to look away, “How did you know I was here anyways?”

He smiles before answering, “I have my sources.”

She extends her hand out to him and he naturally places his hand in hers, feeling the warmth of his skin encompassing her slightly chilled hands.  She mentally blames the warm sensation building across her cheeks on the three flights of stairs she recently had to climb. 

He stands up as she tugs at him, moving away from where he was sitting, his size enveloping her smaller stature.

“Traitor,” she replies, eyes squinting, the corner of her mouth slightly turned up.

He tilts his head to the side, confused for a moment until she speaks again, “Finnie.”

Her driver’s name comes out as a whisper to which he grins and nods, confirming her guess.

“He just wanted to make sure you made it in safely.”

She turns her head, looking from side to side, taking notice of the empty hallway.  Her right eyebrow is cocked high and it makes him laugh. 

“You never know,” he replies before reaching out for her bag, his fingers gingerly touching her shoulder. 

She makes a move and shrugs at the strap, letting it fall- allowing him to take her bag, a gesture she’s still not used to.  She turns toward his apartment and attempts to move forward, but she can’t help but stall.  She feels the weight of his hand against the small of her back and she’s scared to admit she loves the feel of it there. 

He reaches past her to grab hold of the door but the faint smell of her perfume momentarily stops him. 

She makes a move toward the kitchen where she finds the nearest stool, her shoes removed, bare feet planted on one of the supports where she waits patiently for him.  She finds comfort in resting her hands on the counter, feeling the cool touch of the marble balance out the rise in her body temperature.

It’s rare she’s in his apartment and even now she finds it a bit odd to be alone with him.  It’s odd because everything about him in this setting is everything she wants, even if she denies it.  Her denial brings back memories of her mother- conversations about love, life, and watching it all pass by.  It becomes more apparent as days go by with Sam in her life, she secretly yearns for a future with someone. 

“I would like to know what you’re thinking about right now,” he says passing behind her, placing his hand just below her shoulders, squeezing it briefly before moving on away from her.

She smiles at his touch and watches as he pours her a glass of wine before leaning back, both hands gripping the counter.  She take a swig from her glass and swishes it around her mouth, taking in the rich bodied red.  He’s watching her and she tries her hardest to avoid his gaze, turning her head behind her to find something to distract her.

She scurries into the living room, dodging his previous statement and pretends to look interested in the collection of books shelved in the bookcase.  She uses her pointer finger to touch their ragged bindings, oddly making a comparison to their relationship- irregular, uneven, and maybe perhaps torn. 

It was nearly two years ago they met, in one of the older studios in LA, the smell of mold lingering on the walls and the lights blinked off and on as she walked through its hallways.  She entered her audition sweaty, messy, and stressed out, delayed by the unexpected traffic caused by construction within the vicinity.  He, on the other hand, was calm and its effect on her was instantaneous. 

It was then, early on in their relationship, she quickly realized what he would be to her.  He would be her calm center.

Caitriona often wonders what a difference a year or two make in a new relationship, a new friendship.  She’s always kept the same circle of friends, always wary and cautious of newcomers.  With Sam, though, it was such a thrill, a form of excitement unfamiliar, at least with someone so new.

It came as a surprise to her when she recognized the telltale signs of attraction, becoming more embarrassed by looking at him and stealing glances whenever she could.  She became more aware of his presence, constantly looking for him in crowded rooms, her body more sensitive to his touch, his eyes, his voice.

“I figured we can make some goals first,” his voice carrying across the room, interrupting her from her thoughts.

She looks up, eyes focused on his face and it makes her nervous.  She can’t explain why but her palms begin to sweat and her throat becomes dry.  She lets out her breath quietly as he moves pass her, unaware she was holding it to begin with.  He’s fiddling through a stack of magazines and literature on his desk, finally pulling out what looks like an old newspaper clipping.  He holds it out to her and she reaches for it, their fingers accidentally brushing each other and they both let go, a small shock running between them.        

They both laugh, relieved of the tension brewing in the tiny apartment but even as they settle down, it begins again- an unexplainable force growing between them.  He’s mentioned it before, in interviews, and his description always left her blushing, shy, and reflective.

She reaches down to pick up the clipping, using it as a distraction, to mentally separate herself from what was physically happening.   Her hands were shaking but she forces them steady by skimming through the article.

Her initial reaction to the article is one of surprise- a compilation of races and their dates beside them, the earliest one circled.  She mentally calculated the number of days between now and then; the first race was within one month’s time.   

“This is crazy.  I can’t do this so soon,” she tells him, frazzled, moving from her position to the couch.  She’s focused on the small piece of paper and wishes she could disappear, along with the idea of actually following through with a half-marathon. 

“You’ve ran a 10K recently,” he says it calmly and so matter-of-factly, she’s taken aback it.

Recently?!” she laughs and she’s sure she sounds like a deranged psychopath, “That was nearly six months ago!”

“Your body is still used to it,” he speaks without hesitation. 

She breaks him off immediately and stammers, “I can’t.  Too soon.  I need more time to train.”

“You have good genes.” 

“What?!” she asks perplexed, quickly remembering the twitter session where he fondly recalled how awesome certain parts of her body were.

“I mean, you have a runner’s build.  Long legs, good frame, you know that kind of stuff,” he manages to sputter out, embarrassed.

She realizes his regret by the way he bites his lip.  She doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry but instead shakes her head, “Good genes are irrelevant when you haven’t been using it for months.”

His eyes widen, giving her a sideways glance, and she quickly sees it- the humor behind his eyes. 

It, huh?”

He manages to break the tension between them like he always does, by making her laugh. 

“You know what I mean…” she continues to giggle, shaking her head as she passes the article back to him.  “I need more time.”

He stares at the paper and before he brings up another argument, he finds her eyes looking at him.  He realizes then he’s given in before they began and it’s written all over her face.  He offers a smile, a silent exchange for one of hers and she reciprocates. 

We do it my way.  His still hears her voice resonating the way it did in the meeting yesterday.  

“I guess it’s decided then.  We’ll take it slow,” he finally says, walking over to where his phone laid, attached to an aux cable. “On to more important stuff.”

She follows him with her eyes, before questioning, “Important stuff?”

“Music is key to a good run,” he mentions as he presses play on his Iphone.

Caitriona sat motionless, watching him, before she recognizes the sound. 

“Oh God,” she whispers, rolling her eyes, mouth forming into a great big grin.  The room fills with the sound of synthesizers and electric keyboards, loud bass thumping against its walls.  “EDM.  Just kill me now.”   

 —-

Caitriona doesn’t hate running.  She loathes it.  She will never understand the thrill of it, the euphoria associated with it.  Her sister explained it to her once and so did Sam, but she couldn’t get pass the gaggling arms, the pain in her body afterwards, and the mental anguish getting through the first mile.

If they wanted to get a high, Caitriona knew people.  It would take much less effort and last so much, much longer.

She runs with her elbows tucked in because she doesn’t know what to do with her arms.  She doesn’t want to run any other way.  She’s seen the Friends episode with Phoebe Buffet, her arms flailing about, legs kicking in odd directions, looking like a crazed lunatic recently escaped from a mental institution.  She’s familiar with how Rachel feels, the subconscious idea that everyone is watching her, making fun at the way she runs, long legged- way too much effort with so little results.

She hates it even more that she’s mentally calculating the numbers of steps she’s taking to get to the first mile and at this rate, if she gets there, she would have quit before then.

It’s running when it doesn’t feel like running.

The worst part of it all is the man beside her.  It takes him absolutely no effort and she hates him for it.  Caitriona glances over and wishes he didn’t look so thrilled with himself, his smug face pretending to concentrate on this, what he earlier called, an easy run.  This, for him, is a warm-up.  Caitriona snorts at the thought, the first five miles is probably his warm-up. 

He promises to take it easy their first time and she’s grateful when he slows down after their third mile.  He walks beside her as she struggles to catch her breath, hands affixed on her hips then transferring behind her head, fingers interlocked. 

She wants to stop and bend over but she knows better.  She remembers the last time she did, her blood rushing quickly to her head, making her then to want to pass out.  She searches for it- the gratification of finishing but fails miserably.  She still felt like she was running.  He, of course, is watching her and smiling. 

“I want to hurt you right now but I don’t have the energy,” she tells him, continuing to pace back and forth, trying her best to slow her heart rate down.

The evil eye isn’t becoming of her and he can’t help himself but laugh at the sight.

“I’m so glad you find all this funny,” she says, hands waving in exaggeration.

“I’m sure I’ll be the one taking the brunt of it,” he stalls watching her. 

“You wouldn’t be happy either knowing your body is going to hurt like hell tomorrow.”

He finds a stick to distract himself, making markings on the dirt road.

“There’s an easy remedy for that,” he mutters under his breath before throwing the stick into a nearby bush.

She looks at him in wonderment but he doesn’t say anything.  He’s doing his best to avoid her eyes, now kicking the stones on the path way to the side, making it clear for other runners.  He moves away, walking slowly ahead of her.  He stops when he notices she’s not behind him, lingering a few steps away, waiting. 

He shrugs his shoulders in confusion, his eyes questioning.

“You were talking an easy remedy?” she asks, making her way toward him, only continuing after looking at his confused reaction.

He looks at her suspiciously, embarrassed that she actually heard him.  His cheeks turn a bit red and he feels the warmth of his embarrassment reach the tips of his ears.  He turns around and continues walking, hoping for a split second he could walk fast enough to avoid further questioning.  When she catches up to him she forces him to stop, her hands pressing against his damp shirt.  He holds his breath as her hand settles over his heart. 

He blames the run for his heart’s quickening beat and not from the touch of her hand.  She’s looking at him, searching his face for an answer but his mind remains blank.    

“I don’t think–” he starts but stops when she raises her brows.

“Tell me.”

He’s stalling, trying to find a way out of the situation but she knows what he’s doing.  He bites down on the inside of his cheek then swallows.  She knows him too well.  He worries about her reaction, debating whether or not to lie. 

“What do I need to do?” she asks, stressing each word as they leave her lips. 

He sighs and once again, gives in. 

“My apartment.  Tomorrow?” he hesitates before continuing, “drink lots of water.”

He walks passed her, turning around, walking backwards, eyes fastened to hers, a smile forming at the corners of his mouth. 

His words floating with the slight breeze, “It’s going to hurt a bit but you’ll feel much better. I promise.”

Caitriona knew two things about Sam Heughan and his promises. 

He always kept them.  But worst of all, he always made Caitriona wanting more

 

Chapter Text

He’s nervous just now, looking at the hands of the clock on his wall. He’s watching the seconds pass by and it’s making him well aware after each moment it moves how Caitriona is closer to her arrival. He feels his palms getting sweaty, his heart racing just a bit faster and the clock teases him with every tick, growing louder and louder.

He wonders if he could change her mind without exactly telling her what he had intended to do. She was curious enough that’s for sure. He’s reminded of the look on her face as he walked backwards away from her the other day, shuffling his feet against the dirt road, shamelessly teasing her. The expression on her face explained it all- eyes squinting, head tilted to the side, and mouth slightly left ajar. She was clearly thinking about it and yet he refused to give in just then, letting her wonder throughout the day. He’s seen it before, a mixture of interest and curiosity, but it was usually reserved when they’re both left unguarded, a few drinks in, and exhausted from shooting all week.

He hears the doorbell from his bedroom and walks to the door. He feels like a teenager again, deliberately stalling so he doesn’t seem over anxious. He lets out a long breath and counts to ten before making a move for the door knob. He hopes the counting eases the queasiness he feels in his stomach but it remains unsettled when he hears the doorbell again.

Her back is turn to him but whips around quickly, her phone held against her ear and the look on her face changes quickly from worry to relief.

“I thought you weren’t home!” she tells him, placing her phone back into her purse.

She stands outside his apartment in blue jeans and a light sweater, her sandals snugged against her feet. It’s quite unfair how she’s even more beautiful without makeup, freckles splotched across her cheekbones, a few gathered over the bridge of her nose, the reddish spots more prominent in the light with her lips glistening with the cherry lip balm she always wore.

“Sorry,” he apologizes, making a wave toward the back, answering stiffly, “I was in my bedroom.”

She maneuvers her way through his apartment and lays her purse on the couch, following suit, letting out a ‘whoof’ as she settles herself against the cushions. He fidgets, unsure which way he should go- the kitchen or the living room, deciding the latter and finds himself across the room, in the couch opposite of her.

He keeps his distance, hoping the small amount of space will allow him to breathe easier, to mentally prepare him for what’s to come. Instead he finds the tightness in his chest more constricting and subconsciously crosses his legs and arms, drumming his fingers against his rib cage.

If she’s nervous, she doesn’t show it. Her posture is relaxed, nestled against the cushions behind her. Her legs are crossed as well, a sandal hangs on the tips of her toes and he’s momentarily distracted by it.   She’s looking about the room and Sam wonders for a brief moment if she’s trying to avoid his eyes.    

They both open their mouths to speak and laugh when they interrupt one another. The slight tension in the room breaks and Sam lets out a large breath.

“Maybe this was a bad idea,” he finally opens up, running his hand through his hair, eyes downcast.

“Maybe.”

“Maybe,” he whispers, reiterating her reply, biting down on the inside of his cheek.

She briefly smiles and continues to look his way, her chin tilted slightly up.  

“Were you going to give me a massage?” her question catches him by surprise but he finds himself looking straight, eyes dead set on hers.

“I was,” he tells her, stressing the second word. He’s beginning to wonder how she knows and notices by the glimmer in her eyes she knows what he’s thinking.

“My sister,” she answers without him asking, “She gave me a couple of possibilities. I just took the most awkward.”

He remains silent, nodding along with her response. He should have known she would have ask her sister.  

“Does it make a difference that I still came knowing what might have happened?” she asks, her leg rocking up and down across the other.    

“Less nerve racking for sure,” he confesses and exhales, unaware of the tension in his shoulders. It eases when he sees her smiling at him.

“I trust you.” It comes out more than just a statement and he knows it from looking at her face. It’s sincere and genuine with something else he hopes for, whether as a friend or more so- it’s there behind her blue eyes. She catches his gaze lingering just a bit longer than expected and suddenly he stands.

“I guess I would be doing the cast and crew a favor,” his comment comes out lightheartedly.

“A favor?” she questions him as he makes his way toward her, his hand reaching out for hers.

“I doubt anyone wants to deal with a grumpy Cait?”

When he pulls her up close, she’s only inches away and he stalls before continuing, “Besides, I guess I can take one for the team.”

“Willing to make the sacrifice, huh?” she waits momentarily and when he nods, she continues, “Oh the horror of it.”

He’s grinning now, humor written all over his face, “Yes, the horror.”

—-

He sees her lying on the table, backside up, a white thin blanket covering her. He’s seen her a thousand times in different states of undress but still it takes him a moment to find something to steady him. Her head is turned toward the window, hair gathered in a bun atop her head, but when she hears him enter the room, she moves it in search of him.

He approaches her and lingers, undecided about where to begin, glancing from head to toe, aware of her soft flesh covered by the thin linen . He can’t help himself from looking her over, marveling at the way her skin is nearly perfect.

“What a random piece of furniture to have lying about,” she says, breaking him away from his thoughts.

She moves her arms to feel the fabric underneath her then back to form a pillow for her head.

“Says the lady with the porcelain dog in her apartment.”

She lifts her head slightly, looking at him, “Um, excuse me. Decorative piece and Eddie loves him.”

It. It’s an inanimate object you know,” he teases her, raising his eyebrows.

“Anyways…” she interjects, hiding her smile into her forearms, then returning to the original subject, “Table? Why do you have one?”

“Borrowed and why you ask? Where would you suggest we do this? On my bed?”­

She turns her head slowly and remains silent, looking over at the king sized bed, silken sheets tucked neatly into the sides. He sees the look in her eyes, lost in thought, and tries to stifle a laugh. He recognizes the rise in color spreading across her cheeks, flushed from embarrassment.

He clears his throat, making a move away from the table to gather himself before she decides to turn her head in his direction again. She doesn’t make an attempt to but he knows what she’s thinking. It scares him for a brief moment, hesitation more prevalent. It scares him because he’s thinking the same exact things.  

“God, you’re tight all over.”

He presses his palms against the upper part of her back, slowly moving them upward and in a circular motion. He feels the hard knots scattered throughout and tries to memorize where they’re positioned, hoping to go back again with added pressure. She’s tight where her shoulder blades meet the middle of her back and Sam moves his hands in the small junction that separates the two. She lets out a soft sigh when he uses his fingertips against the blade, tracing the curve and pressing harder than he did before.

“Hmmm,” it comes out as a sigh of content, her body pressing firmly against the table, then continues with another question, “Where did you learn how to do all this?”

“Physical therapy,” he replies before making his way toward the middle of her back, “ I hurt my lower back running a few years back and I had to rehab for a bit.”

He moves the thin white sheet and folds it down, exposing the rest of her back.   He stops just above her buttocks and leaves it resting atop. He smiles at the two small indentations on her lower back at the base of her spine.  

“Ever used this on a girl?”

He laughs nervously and coughs in response.

She gathers what she can of the blanket and suddenly turns, pushing herself up, a few inches off the table. She looks him over suspiciously, before asking again, “Have you ever used this move on a girl?”

“I’m not answering this question,” his face turns red and attempts to push her back onto the table. He stops himself when he sees her face, anxiously waiting for him to answer.

She’s teasing him, a smile forming at the corner of her mouth, “Oh come on…tell me.”

He gives in, defeated, “I may or may not have used it on a girl.”

Caitriona laughs, blanket tucked against chest, loose tendrils falling over her face. She brushes her hair away struck by a sudden idea, “Is this part of your move?”

“What?!” he blushes and purses his lips together, slightly shaking his head, his hands covering his heart.

“Oh come on, you must have a move? Every guy has a move.”

He steps back and presses himself against the wall, arms and legs crossed in defense, “I certainly do not! Not every guy needs a move.”

“So you admit it. Every guy has a move.

“I don’t have a move,” he pouts, his chin up in defiance.

“Just like you don’t have a pick up line?”

“Uh-huh,” he replies but smiles when he sees the large grin plastered on her face.

She returns back onto her stomach, adjusting the blanket as before and starts to laugh, “Liar.”

He finds himself beside the table again, rubbing his hands together before placing them back on her. She responds to his semi-chilled hands, arching her back lightly away from his touch but finding herself leaning against his touch. He whispers an apology and she lets out a small breath, sandwiched between the warmth of the table and his moving hands.

“Thanks,” she mutters against the table, her voice muddled by its surface.

“For what?”

“For this,” her hands move, waving in the air, “It’s helping.”

He lets out indistinct response and she lifts her head.

“Are you going to tell me you know how it works because how good you are with your hands?”

“No,” he briefly answers then continues, “but if you insist on telling me I am good with my hands, I have no problem with.”

She snorts in response and he adjusts the blanket once more. The cold air meets with her skin and Sam immediately notices the goosebumps forming on her body. The small hairs spring up in response and he bites down on his own lip. He tries to keep from laughing before continuing to make his way down, pressing his fingers on the area where her lower back meets her backside.  

“You’re welcome,” he speaks up, hoping the conversation would divert the thoughts he was currently having of her.

“What?” she asks, slightly lifting her head off the table.

“You said thank you earlier.”

“Oh yes, thank you for this,” she tells him and begins to giggle against her arms,“ I guess you can rub me out any time.”

 

Chapter Text

She loves this time at night when the moon is near mid-sky, nestled behind swaying trees and blanketed by a thousand stars.  She listens for anything reminding her of the hours previous before, hurried conversations, trains and cars rattling their way across tracks and cobblestone roadways, and townspeople rushing to get back to their loved ones for the evening.  Instead, she is affronted by silence and nothing makes her more happy.

It’s not hard to find the peace she seeks when she’s at home with her four-legged pal, Eddie, interlacing herself between her legs, purring with content.  She finds comfort in the simpler things, with no real urge to comply with a schedule-a schedule bombarded by rehearsals, fittings, and interviews. She bides her time by catching up with old friends, reading emails long over due, and enjoying a cup of tea and bingeing on old episodes of her favorite TV shows.

She’s taken back by the sight of the moon from where she lays with the soft plush of carpet underneath her, wondering how something so simple can be so beautiful.

It doesn’t take her long until she suddenly hears it-a buzzing sound vibrating across the glass table in the middle of her living room, jostling about the cold surface letting Caitriona well aware someone was calling.  She knows who it is without taking a second glance, his goofy picture splashed across the face of her screen and she finds herself snorting before swiping it with her thumb. 

He speaks before she can say hello, “Let’s go.”

“Well, hello to you too hun,” she teases him, resting her phone between her ear and shoulder, simultaneously rubbing the space between Eddie’s ears.

“Let’s go,” he re-iterates his statement, failing to acknowledge her with a more serious tone to his voice. 

“And where are we going?” she asks, getting up on her knees, slowly making her way to her couch. 

“Look outside your window.”

She’s curious now and walks to the window, panning out for his familiar face.  She pushes back the sheer curtain fabric and sees a pair of blinking lights underneath her apartment.  She sees him standing there, phone pressed against his own ear, hand waving to acknowledge her presence accompanied by a large grin across his face.  She can’t help but smile back in response, trying to surpress her own smile by pursing her lips together, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Let’s go,” he repeats himself for the third time, growing excitment in his voice, his hands beckoning her to come down. 

She slides the windows open and lets the cold air rush in.  She gestures to Sam with her hands, unaware of what his intentions were.  She immediately recognizes his attire: shorts, t-shirt, and running shoes- something out of the ordinary for a cool night like tonight.  It finally dawns on her what he wants to do and for a moment Caitriona believes he’s gone crazy but finds his spontaneity sweet and adorable.

It doesn’t take her long to make a decision and finds herself quickly changing her jeans and sweater for leg warmers, shirt, and her own worn out pair of running shoes.  She bustles her way down the winding stairs and pushes her way through the door, quickly finding him off to the side, his smile hidden by his twinkling eyes. 

“This is crazy, you know,” she says, approaching him, hands on her hips, “it’s nearly nine o'clock.”

He nods in agreement, “I know but that’s what makes this so great." 

He emerges from the dark, holding out a blinking light.  Their hands slightly brush against one another, her still warm hands clashing with his cold ones and she slightly shivers from the brief contact before allowing him to fully put the light into her palm.

She places the blinking light around her ankle, mirroring what he had done with his and looks at him to continue, "I thought it would be a nice night for a run with the moon so full and bright; the stars can help guide us.  I thought it would be something different.”

She watches him as his eyes illuminate, mixing with the lights coming off from the neighboring buildings and street lights, his face open to the sky.  She’s struck by how much he’s changed since she’s met him-a maturity brought in by experiences within the last two years.  Where he had been carefree and open with people, he’s more reserved and cautious.  Admittedly she’s changed as well, maybe more so than he.  But even then, she has moments like this where the same man re-emerges from the screen test when they met years ago.     

She presses her lips together in hopes of holding back how big the smile creeping across her face was, feeling nostalgic of all the times she’s shared with him.  She tries her best to avoid looking at him, embarrassed by the emotions catching up to her so her eyes remain downcast, forcibly making their way from his face to elsewhere. 

She doesn’t have to verbally agree.  She’s already said yes when she answered her phone ten minutes prior, running down the stairs in reckless abandonment.  He’s already known she’s accepted without uttering a single word.

“How far?” she asks, hoping the question distracts her from thinking about him, standing with the moon to his back, making the silhouette of him more prominent. 

He shrugs his shoulders in response, tilting his head toward the direction of where he wants to begin.  She turns to see where he’s looking and for the first time since she arrived on the sidewalk, she feels a twinge of doubt.  The excitement she felt barreling down from her apartment quickly turns into anxiety. 

What if she was unable to keep up with him?  What if he wants to go farther than what she’s used to?

She stalls, fixed in placed by doubt and remains there before noticing Sam had already grabbed her hand.  She feels him squeezing her finger gently and she moves to squeeze his hand in response.  She finds it uncanny at times, a little un-nerving, knowing how much he knows what she’s feeling without saying much.  She had made a career using her face to emote during a successful modeling career and even now as an actress but there’s something more about how he instantly recognizes in moments like these.

“I should be more worried about this run than you, you know?” he finally says, hoping to ease her anxiety.

She turns to him and raises her eyebrows in question but waits for him to continue.

“If Maril found out I took you out running on a chilly night like this, she would have my hide,” he laughs.

Maril, not only the show’s producer but strongest supporter, had taken up the role of surrogate mother/ sister, ensuring Caitriona’s safety and health.  She made it her mission during the shooting season to ensure nothing happen to her beloved friend.

“We have an upcoming night shoot,” Caitriona snorts, laughing at Sam’s anxiousness, “it’ll help us both by readjusting our schedule.”

“Uh-hmmm…but if you get sick."  Sam stalls before turning toward the entrance of her apartment building, hesitation in his voice, "Maybe you should put on another jacket?" 

She laughs at his suggestion, more so by the sheer anxiety he must have felt knowing how their favorite producer put so much fear in him concerning Caitriona.

"Come on, Mr-Let’s-Have-The-Moon-and-Stars-guide-us,” she tugs on his hands toward the opposite direction.

“You like that, huh?” he smirks, allowing her to lead him away from her apartment.

“Remind me to find out where you stole that line from,” she tells him, “and all the other lines you seem to conjure up.”

“I didn’t steal it.  I was inspired.”

“Inspired, huh?”

“Uh-huh.  Come on.  I’ll show you.”

She follows him for half a block before turning the corner, where he stops beside a newstand- its wall covered with stickers, advertisements, and leaflets.  She follows his gaze at the side of the stand, avoiding the passerbys bustling beside them and continues to search for anything familiar.  He turns to her with a smile, twisting his mouth, biting one corner and lifts his arms before crossing them across his chest. 

She makes another run through down the side of the stand before something catches her eye and she begins to giggle. 

“Well, would you look at that.”

Not far from the middle of the wall was a four inch sticker of Pocket Jamie with a bubbled conversation atop his head with the inscription: “What would Jamie Fraser do?”

He laughs along with her this time and says in a soft voice, “He is the King of Men you know.  It was only fitting I sought his advice.”

—-

The road forks about two miles away from town and Caitriona is surprisingly giddy.  She sighs with content as she runs with Sam, matching stride for stride, watching the patches of clouds blend in with the bright full moon.  The wind picks up a bit, swirling between the valley in which they find themselves sandwiched in between the mountains but the pace of their run keeps her warm. 

She wonders briefly for a moment if she should have taken his advice about adding another layer of clothing but quickly dismisses the idea; she’s almost certain it would be another ten minutes before she would be hoping for something cooler. 

The amount of vehicles begin to trickle as they make their way past the village entrance, the sounds of the busy city becoming less audible.  He breaks her away from her concentration, his elbow lightly nudges her own, forcing her to turn to the right, going up hill rather than the using the familiar path that leads them to work every morning.  She doesn’t hesitate to follow him, feeling safe and secure in his company, and fully aware that wherever he went she was only few steps behind him.

She quickly notices the pull of the road against her body, a slight incline forcing her body to press forward and he notices it.  He tries to make it less obvious but she knows he’s watching her, noticing in the corner of her own eyes that he’s doing the same.  He slows down a bit making it easier but her breathing becomes more shallow and her pace slightly slower than before.  She begins to count her steps, a mental trick her sister had mentioned before when doubt began to set it, to use the beat of the the music from her phone to match the pace she wants to set.

He doesn’t need to say anything but she knows.  His eyes are on her now, encouraging, pushing her. 

Don’t stop.  Keep your legs moving.  It’ll end soon enough.

There’s a slight motivation twenty yards away.  She notices the hill leveling off and she feels her legs picking up the pace.  He turns to look at her and she’s gifted with a large smile and a wink.  She wants to laugh but shakes her head instead, knowing her chest couldn’t expend the extra energy.  She’s lets out a sigh of relief when she makes it to the top, her reward is a view of the next city, a bridge at the bottom of the hill and euphoria sets in.  She feels like she’s seven years old, catching the wind underneath her hair as she runs faster and faster, picking up the speed and energy she didn’t know she had.

She hears him laughing beside her, his voice carrying with the wind. 

“Slow down, Cait,” he warns her, his voice full of laughter rather than danger.  She tries to surpress the urge to let out a loud, ‘Wheeeee!’ but instead laughs even louder.

Nestled behind a sign is a police car near the bridge, lights swirling in caution.  Caitriona turns her head and makes eye contact with the officer in the car, subtlely acknowledging his presence but Sam tells her to continue.  The bridge begins to sway as she makes her way through it.  The wooden floorboards creaking as she pounds against it one step at a time. 

Two smaller hills await them, plateuing for a brief moment in between, then two consecutive inclines.  Her lungs are on fire, her breathing more labored.  She feels the wind pick up and there’s a quick change in temperature, an effect she thought because of elevation but something is amiss.  The clouds are rolling quicker than what she’s noticed before, lightning flashing ahead.

The scene gives her an eerie feeling, a feeling reserved mostly for horror flicks on big screen TVs and she pauses for a brief moment, grabbing hold of Sam’s arm, quietly suggesting they turn back when she realizes instantly it was too late.   

The rain comes pouring down mercilessly, droplets pelting them furiously on her face, Caitriona’s clothes immediately sticking to her body, drenched from the water.  The water gathers quickly in mud puddles around their feet, trying their hardest to avoid them as much as possible.  She stops suddenly, struck in fear by the flashes of lightning in the distance, rapid succession of loud thunderous noise surrounding her.  She recognizes the danger and so does he.  She feels him pulling on her forearm, hurdling past collections of mud, her socks soaked with water, bits of pieces of dirt and debris on her shins.

She flails her arms to and from, making a fool of herself trying to avoid the water regardless of being drenched all the way through.  Her body is covered with goosebumps, half of the reason being cold, the other half scared of what could happen next. 

She notices his earbuds are off and when she finally reaches for hers to remove, she heard him say it. 

“Shelter,” he told her, slightly behind her, pushing gently along. 

He points to a lone cottage standing to their right, lights flickering off and on inside.  She notices it from a newspaper clipping from the other day, its red and blue bird houses adoring the patio.  It had been a recently renovated bed and breakfast, a retired couple coming back from the United States living their dream of owning one in beautiful Scotland.  She moves quickly over the front steps, jumping two steps at a time, both she and Sam reaching out for the doorknob at the same time, startling both of them of their actions.  She doesn’t know if it was fear, nervousness, or relief setting in quickly but she can’t help but laugh at their own luck.

He grabs hold of the knob again, this time Caitriona holding back, before allowing her to rush right in.  The warmth of the room is overwhelming, the sound of the firewood crackling in the background.  She slightly shivers from the change in temperature and tries desperately to wipe the droplets from her face.  She sees him taking off his jacket, placing it on her shoulders, hoping to add some warmth to her. 

She allows him to pull the hair sticking from her neck before settling it against her and gives him a smile of thanks.  She doesn’t know if she’s turning into gooseflesh because of the cold or the fact his finger tips slightly grazed where she’s sensitive most-her neck.

“Ahem,” an unfamiliar voice breaks her away from Sam and she blushes with embarrassment.

He moves away from her and walks toward the couple behind the counter.  She stands affixed in the foyer, admiring the photos on the wall, black and white images of old time Scotland.  She feels the need to stay on the floor mat near the door, its purpose clear-she’s worried about tracking dirt and mud everywhere. 

She yearns for the warmth radiating from the living area as she inches her way closer, grasping for what she can to increase her body temperature.  She sees him turning toward her, a look of worry across his face, suddenly replaced by a smile when he sees the worry on hers. She’s tempted to go beside him but stops when he walks toward her.

“What’s the matter?”

He looks around before answering her, his voice catches in his throat, clearing it before speaking, “We have to spend the night here.”

“What?” she whispers, stepping in front of him, her back turned away from the front desk.  

“The bridge we passed down by the river…” his voice trails off as he looks about the room, defeated.  “They closed it off.  The area is considered a flood zone and with the storm approaching, there’s no way back until morning.”

“Okay.” The word barely leaves her lips before a loud crash reverberates throughout the cottage. She finds herself crashing against Sam’s chest, the loud noise catching her off guard and slightly rattled.  She grabs hold of his arms before letting go, turning from side to side.  What she was looking for, she had no idea.  The lights flicker one more time before they completely go out, leaving them in the foyer in complete darkness, the only light downstairs coming from the two fireplaces in opposite rooms. 

“I guess we better get to our room and find a way to get you dry before you really come down with something.”

She hints to move forward but turns to him quickly, “There’s only one room?”

The question comes out rushed and when he nods in answer, she’s embarrassed by the relief in her voice, the need to have him close in a strange place.  

“I thought you wouldn’t mind, all things considering,” he looks up and his gaze travels from one end of the room to the other.  “The owner says there’s a couch in the room so it wouldn’t be that bad.”

She responds to his comment with a laugh, “I have yet to see you fit on a couch in Europe properly, Sam.”

“Are you suggesting we sleep in the same bed?” he teases and she instantly blushes. Her face flushes with a deep red followed by the deep contours of her cheekbones made more prominent by her smile. 

She begins her way up the stairs without answering his question, unable to find a correct response without giving herself away.  She uses the light from the candles to guide her, her shadows adoring the walls as she climbs.  He waits at the bottom of the stairs before following, the steps creaking underneath his weight. 

He nearly bumps into her in the hallway, she coming into view only when his eyes adjusts due to the lack of lighting.  He’s nervous just now, a feeling of regret over the decision to share a room.  He turns half way away from her and glances down the hall, back to the stairs.  Maybe he can find another set of accommodations he thinks to himself but decides not to when Caitriona opens the door to their room.  She moves to the side and waits for him to enter. 

The room is dark, with only remnants of light from the storm outside, lighting crashing in the foreground.  Raindrops pelt the opposite side of the windows with trees swaying in the far distance.  He moves past her toward the fireplace and begins to work on providing warmth to the room.  It’s easy for him, living in a house similar to this as a young child, and in no time, their shadows begin to dance on the wall.

She finds him looking suspiciously at the couch near the fireplace and begins to laugh.  The chaise is standard size in comparison to what they’ve seen before but even then she knows his knees go past the length of it.  She envisions his long stature momentarily curled up in a ball trying to fit and she desperately tries to keep herself from bursting out with laughter.  

“I got dibs on the right side of the bed,” she tells him, making a move across the room. 

She sees the large sigh of relief leave his mouth when he exhales.  She moves closer to the fire, rubbing her hands in a furious manner in hopes of gathering enough heat to keep herself warm.  She wants to relieve herself from the wet and sticky feeling of her drenched clothing. 

“I’m starting to smell like a wet dog,” he tells her unexpectedly, mirroring the same actions she did only few seconds before.   “I’m just going downstairs to ask the front desk for something,” he tells her.  “I’ll be back.”

Another boom rattles the walls, making Caitriona jump involuntarily and hurry to his side. 

“Just promise me you won’t go through any stones?” she deflects her anxiety into a joke, her face tilted downwards- half hidden by the shadows in the room, her eyes looking up underneath her long lashes.

His laughter echoes loudly throughout the room blending with the noise from the storm in the background.  He stalls, looking for a witty response, “What if there’s a hot nurse on the other side?”

His comment catches her off guard and she sees the humor behind his dark blue eyes.

“You have the worst luck.  Knowing you, you might end up with a girl like Laoghaire or better yet, the strumpet,” she teases him.

He tilts his head to the side, his forefinger and thumb coming up and stroking his chin.  He pretends to be lost in thought, deciding on what to respond with.

“Two out of three.  Not so bad odds.”

She pouts at his reply, her bottom lip protruding slightly farther than the top, toying with his last comment. 

He stands still for a moment, his eyes searching her face, before letting his voice comes out, slightly louder than a whisper, placing his hand on her arm, "I promise I won’t be long.“

She doesn’t know if he meant for her to hear him but she lets him know she did with a half smile.  She bows her head briefly, hiding whatever embarrassment she had creeping over her chest and face.  She feels it again, the small pull between them, their brand of electricity brewing.  They both fight the urge, she staying fixed near him while she fiddles with her fingers, intertwining one with another while he stands across from her, back facing the door.

She looks up at him with uncertainty, wondering what would take him away from the room this late at night.

"The front desk,” he starts, his right eyebrow cocked higher than the other, “I’m sure they have something we could use while we let our clothes dry out."  He stops and she recognizes the look on his face, a devil’s humor masked by his eyes. "Then again, maybe we can just strut…”

She quickly ushers him out the door cutting him off before finishing his statement.  He turns around slightly, his head halfway looking back over his shoulder and snickering. 

“As I said before, you’re not that lucky, Sam,” she tells him, her small hands pushing against the middle of his back.

He fully turns around when he crosses the threshold, his eyes dancing with what little light is from the room and into the hallway, his demeanor less humorous. 

“I beg to differ on that one, Cait.  I say I am pretty lucky.  I mean…I have you, don’t I?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Sam sees her in bed, her head turned away from the doorway, shadows from the trees outside lurking over the quilt that covered her body. He briefly glances over to see if she’s asleep, hoping to see the steady breathing he’s accustomed to when she’s lost in slumber. He wonders how long it took her to decide to get into bed, to succumb to the exhaustion brought on by another early morning. 

He sees her clothes by the fire, neatly placed atop a luggage rack, evenly sprawled out for a quicker dry and makes a move to do the same.  He’s quickly reminded how wet he is by the sheer damp cotton fabric he feels across his chest, his shirt firmly sticking in place.

He tosses the extra towels he received from the front desk, not exactly what he wanted but it would work regardless, the soft terry landing against the back of the chaise lounge and finds himself sitting firmly on the piece of furniture. He suddenly realizes how tired he is as well, taking his first opportunity to settle comfortably against the back of the lounge. He turns his head from side to side, swaying his legs in position and debates briefly if he could find enough comfort for one night on the lounge. The prospect of sleeping near Caitriona was making him anxious more and more as the time to do so drew near.

“You might as well stop dwelling on it,” he hears her voice in his head, chastising him for debating once again. “You’ll never be comfortable.”

He snorts in response, marveling at how well she knew him, and begins to takes off his shoes, piling away the mud and dirt he acquired on their run. He finds relief in the cold wooden floor as he plants one foot at a time and gradually makes a move to take off his shirt to find the warmth of the fire spread across his chest. 

He regrets it just now, the idea of them sharing a room let alone a bed, and it makes him slightly embarrassed. It shouldn’t have but he couldn’t help himself. The setting is familiar enough, a room, and a bed with Caitriona. Yet, here in the dark, where secrets live and thrive, there’s an obvious reason why he feels the way he does.

He wanders near the fireplace, taking a swift glance at the clock on the mantle, noticing the amount of time left until day break. Five hours. He watches as the second hand ticks pass the number six, subconsciously willing it to move faster then finally turning around to see the small figure laying on the right side of the bed.

He quickly makes a decision to stay on top of the sheets, admitting his slightly damp shorts was a poor excuse but the idea of her skin near his leaves him both afraid and excited. He’s fooling no one but himself knowing what kind of electricity laid between them. 

Caitriona shifts when he presses down against the mattress, his weight causing her to move slightly toward him. He listens for her breathing, trying hard to hear the soft escape of air from her mouth but there is none. He realizes then she’s not quite asleep. 

What’s going through her mind? 

Sam’s sure it mirrors his. He wonders if she’s thinking of it too-how unexpectedly intimate laying beside one another in the dark like this was, even if they had done it a hundred times more or less.

He’s reminded of moments as a teenager, sitting on playground benches with school crushes, fingers tapping away near one another, daring the braver one to make the first move. The younger Sam would have taken her hand already, fitting his own against her smaller one. He would have turned his body toward hers, perhaps already gathered her firmly against his chest. But this Sam wasn’t sure he was brave enough. A small sense of rejection and quiet doubts linger inside him.

He lays there in the dark, eyes roaming to and fro, across one end of the ceiling to another, waiting for time to quickly pass. He loses the battle he’s struggling with, and it surprises him when he turns his head to find her looking at him, his body wanting to mirror hers on the bed. When he smiles at her, she responds with one of her and lets out a long sigh, making the eerie quiet of the room more tolerable.

“It’s strange isn’t it?” she quietly asks. “To be here like this.”

He understands what she’s asking and slowly nods. “Strange with all the quiet you mean.”

The words don’t completely come out when another flash of light appears outside their window, a loud crash immediately following in succession. She jumps a bit, the unexpected noise catching her off guard. She laughs nervously then continues, “Yes, the quiet. Whenever we’re in bed together, there’s lights, cameras, people. Noise. This feels…different.”

Intimate.

“Not so much,” he whispers. “Some things are very much the same. To me at least.”

He lays in the dark with her by his side, contemplating of what he wants and if he should tell her.

He wants to tell her he needs no reminders; some things are very much the same with her, an unexplained familiarity, just like the first time they met.  How comfortable he is with her,  how much joy and happiness there is now with her in his life. To want to be with her always.

It takes him a while to decide, but when he does he finds himself on his side, face to face with the woman it took no time to fall in love with. His heart is in his throat when he finally notices how close she is, inches away, a small shy smile creeping over her face. Her hair is a mess, the curls still intact from this morning’s production, unruly strands of hair halfway covering one side of her face, the rest sprawled out over her pillow. For him, she is beautiful.

He cannot help notice the way her body is positioned, both knees bent, one on top of the other, her left arm under her face while the other arm lies dangerously close to him. He wants to reach out to her face, to slowly trace the lines of her jaw and cheeks, to brush his knuckles across her mouth, to feel the soft skin against his, and to watch her tilt her face toward the press of his hand. Instead he watches with the longing he’s accustomed to all these years, abiding his time with stolen kisses and touches, wondering if, at all, she ever wanted the same thing.

It surprises him when she makes a move to touch him, to touch his hand lying between them, a sign he subconsciously brought forth in hopes of a connection. He cannot help from squeezing her hand, a question of permission before interlacing his fingers with hers. He brings up their interlocked hands, an even distance between their faces and in that moment, time stands still. He can’t see her face just now but he notices the subtle change in her breathing and much like his own, it’s slower and deeper than before. He feels her pulse echoing against his, wrists bound, their beats dancing and finding the steady rhythm with one another.

He lies in the dark with her, questions in his mind swirling as quickly and loud as the wind outside.

“I want to,” she whispers, knowing its safe for secrets in a place where darkness swallows all fears and inhibitions, to allow them to say what they want without worry or regret. “I just don’t know how it–”

He exhales with a loud sigh and inches closer. He lowers their hands and allows for Sam to lean in closer to Caitriona. She nods her head, her face scratching the surface on the linen of their bed. He catches a glimpse of her eyes, mixed emotions brewing behind the dark blue. They must have mirrored her own because she pulls back slightly, fully aware of the danger that awaits them.

“I know,” he tells her, fully turning away, returning to his original position on his back, his eyes steadfast on the ceiling above.

He could feel her beside him then, affixed to her position, watching and deciding her next move. When she makes a move to pull away her hand, he holds on tighter and shakes his head ‘no’. He takes a risk just then, finding the courage to do what he wants to do for the first time and takes it for what its worth. He pulls on her hand cradling the way he always meant to do and places it where he needs her to be, above his chest near his heart and where the sound of its beating lulls them both asleep.

Two weeks later

She’s more nervous than she is excited.

She’s been trekking around town, making her way in and out of shops and finding ways to distract herself rather than worry. Caitriona aimlessly walks down aisle after aisle, picking up and setting down knick knacks, pretending to be interested, making conversations with store clerks but to their dismay, leaves without making any purchases. Her race is tomorrow, eighteen hours to be exact and she can’t wait to get started. She’s been antsy all week, trying her best to convince Sam to do a practice run, begged every day for the last three days but he’s refused.

“You need to save your energy,” he laughs when she entered his trailer a few days before, following him like a puppy trying to persuade him to do a run with her.

He’s told her numerous times already how prepared she is, a plan set up to run with her, side by side, to make sure she doesn’t over do it, to take her time and use it well. 

“The only competition you have to worry about is the one you have with yourself,” he’s told her. “Forget everyone else around you.”

Her restlessness brings her to his neighborhood, familiar architecture of brick stoned buildings adorning wide cobblestone walkways, trees lining up enough to give pedestrians ample shade when it’s hot but enough to provide shelter during storms. She sees the bookstore he raves about, not particularly for the collection of literature but for the cafe nestled inside. For Sam, it’s their collection of sweets and cakes that make it inviting.

She’s tempted to give him a call, to invite him to share a cup or two but her phone is at home a few blocks away, unintentionally leaving it behind on top of her kitchen counter. She wrestles with the idea that maybe subconsciously she wanted to see him again, her excitement for tomorrow’s events were merely just an excuse. She hesitates momentarily, whether or not to make an impromptu visit but quickly decides when she sees a familiar neighbor exiting the building. He holds the door for her, aware of who she was, nods then briefly smiles as she makes her way up the stairs to Sam’s apartment.

She shuffles slightly, adjusting her hair in place-tucking the loose strands behind her ears, fiddling with the light sweater bunched on her hips before letting her fingers graze across the doorbell. She watches as her tips move across the small bright light and lets out a sigh before pressing hard against it. She hears the small echo of foot steps on the opposite side of the door and turns away in anticipation, wondering for the first time maybe she shouldn’t have. He could have been busy or wanted peace and quiet after a hectic schedule this week.

She suddenly panics and makes a move toward the stairwell when his door opens, Sam standing under the threshold, a look of surprise on his face. She stammers, hands gesturing from side to side, offering a story made of half truths. She stops when he smiles at her. She blushes suddenly and makes a move to greet him, her eyes looking downwards, remaining on her feet. He bites his lip, holding onto his door, his body half in, half out, undecided about what to do next.

It’s a familiar ritual between them. The initial part of their meeting is the same as their first one so many months ago, shy smiles, eyes unable to meet, a sudden flush rising up to their faces. She should be used to seeing his face, he being such a natural part of her life now that it surprises her every time she feels the way she does whenever they meet.

She hears her then, a small call for his name in the background, a woman entering the room, refreshed from a shower, her feet bare. She appears behind him, the familiarity with his apartment apparent as she walks surprised by an unexpected visitor. Caitriona stands transfixed for a moment, imagining the different scenarios she’s walked into, each thought causing a small ache in her stomach. His voice drowns with the white noise she hears, a loud thumping banging against the drums of her ears. She wants to move but finds herself stuck, the weight of her legs heavy and pressed against the spot before him.

When he turns to glance behind him, she panics and runs down the stairwell, the sound of her footsteps echoing off the walls, her hands pulling against the rails as she makes her way to the exit. She regains consciousness as she hit the bottom step and forces her way out the door, jerking it hard before hearing it slam shut behind her. She looks left and right before deciding which way she can hide, the scene before her turning into a blur, images moving fast in either direction.

She quickly decides to walk away from his building, quite aware he would come after her and he does. When she feels a tug on her arm, she’s afraid to look back, to see him standing there offering an explanation. She pulls her arm free and continues to make her way home but he doesn’t take no for an answer.

“Stop.”

“No.” she tells him, dodging his stance by walking around him.

He quickly moves to grab her hand but she snatches it away, hurdling his hand back at him.

“What are you doing? Why are you upset?” he asks, finally catching up to her, matching stride for stride, walking backwards, causing people to adjust around them, trying his best to make eye contact.

The look on her face quickly stops him in his tracks, a familiar sign of her getting angry, her eyes turning dark with her lips pressed tightly, her nostrils flaring. He continues to watch her walk away before loudly asking another question without hesitation, “Are you upset about the woman in my apartment?”

She lies when she responds with a ‘No’, her voice catches at the back of her throat, the taste of bile trying to find its way up.

“Then what is it?,” he asks, his question forcing her to slow down.

She stops and finally sees him. His hair is messy, a little blonder than usual, small wisps of curls catching the wind in small spurts, the ends flying across his face. She has to mentally and physically stop herself from fixing him, a natural act on her part to sweep the bits away from his face. She realizes he is waiting and decides to answer truthfully, “I don’t know.“

She staggers from side to side, trying to find any reason to explain what she was doing, why she was behaving the way she was. She knows exactly why, but even then she can’t reach far enough in her to confess.

He looks at her speculatively and wonders for a moment, giving a chance for her to reason, an unexpected courage rearing inside him, "You said we couldn’t. That this couldn’t happen.” 

Her face turns from confusion to anger, making a move to cross her arms across her chest, a final act of defiance, “So it’s my fault then? That I’m upset.”

“So you are upset…and that’s not what I meant.”

“Yes it is,” her voice louder than expected, a bit judgmental. She makes a move to continue again but briefly stops before returning, the lie slipping away from her tongue. “I don’t care who you’re sleeping with.”

“Caitriona,” her name barely comes out as a whisper while he struggles to keep his emotions at bay, biting on the inside of his cheek. He wants to reach out for her but he knows better. He needs to give her some space, a moment before he can touch her. He’s been in situations like this before, seen the same fire in her eyes when people cross boundaries.

“Don’t Caitriona me,” she tells him, using every opportunity to say each word out loud. With her chin lifting slightly higher than normal and her eyes cutting toward his direction, she mentions it again, “Just don’t.”

She finally steps back, taking another look before heading home and immediately regrets it. She sees it, the look in his eyes, the sun making them brighter, lighter, the haggard lines on his face more prominent. She feels her heart sinking, knowing that perhaps she’s being unreasonable, how she’s done with games at this age and so was he. He’s hurt just as much as she is.

What they have between them wasn’t a relationship built on crushes but of mutual respect and friendship, but most of all, love. She opens her mouth to apologize but spots it then, a blatant reminder of the woman in his apartment, the crushing moment she felt when she saw her behind him. He had forgotten to put on his shoes when she abruptly left, giving him no time to respond but to run after her. His long bare toes grabbing hold of the loose gravel underneath his feet, hardened by his attempts to slow her down, to talk to her before letting go.

She sees the woman as she sees him, completely taken aback and uninhibited. She sees her feet, bare soles against his hard wood floors, a sense of familiarity between the two. A familiarity so strong there was no mistaking there was a relationship of some kind, a relationship she realized she had wanted all along.

2:42.50

Caitriona sees the numbers flash on the board beside her as she crosses. She follows in steps behind other runners, spectators screaming out their congratulations in spurts. She continues to move because her mind has yet to tell her to stop, her legs heavy, her heart continuing to thump against her chest. She tries to catch her breath while making her way through the crowd, looking for familiar faces. She quickly hears her name, Maril’s deep voice easily carrying with the wind. She turns around and finds a small group of friends offering their heart felt congratulations but instantly recognizes one particular absence. 

She doesn’t fault him for not showing up or at least she shouldn’t have. It would have been awkward, to say the least, to offer encouragement and run with her, unresolved feelings harboring between them. As stubborn as she was, she knew she would have ignored him, his advice as useful as she was now, exhausted and tired. But for a brief moment she tries her best not to look hurt, a sudden glance behind the group to see if, just maybe he was lurking or perhaps lagging a few steps in the opposite direction. 

Maril catches her searching eyes and places her hand on Caitriona’s shoulder, letting their friends walk ahead.

“He’s not here,” Maril whispers, shaking her head in disappointment. “He never made it.”

Caitriona offers Maril a small smile, pretending she knew. 

“He had pressing business to attend to.” she muttered under her breath, eyes darting from side to side, unable to look Maril in the eye.   “He would have been here if he could.”

“I was just hoping…” Caitriona’s voice trails as he continues but quiets down, looking into the sun with her eyes closed. 

Maril offers an arm around her waist, making their way through the crowd.

“I know,” Maril pulls on her. “We were all hoping too, in more ways than you’ll ever know.”

 

Chapter Text

It was her place of refuge.  The solid white color on the walls mixed in with the sterile smell of polished floors and hushed voices echoing throughout the hallways.  She moves effortlessly, her ballet flats gliding over the tile flooring, coat over her forearm, slowly glancing from one art piece to another.  She goes unnoticed here, no need for obscure glasses,hats, or inconspicuous clothing to hide her from prying eyes.  Everyone here is just as lost as she, lost in thought and marvel with every piece of art positioned in each room.  

Around the corner she catches a glimpse of a familiar face in the foreground.  The woman, half a foot shorter than the people in the existing crowd, is easily distinguishable from the group.  Her shorter hair was the only notable change since the last time Caitriona had seen her.  The sweet smile and unforgettable voice and laughter were the same.  Hoping to escape the woman’s notice, she slips behind a couple, then makes a dash toward the exit.  For a moment her escape seems successful, but the clicking sound of approaching heels confirms otherwise.

“Hello, my dear,” the familiar voice calls to her.  The woman softly touches Caitriona’s elbow, gently bringing her to a stop.

Chrissie Heughan is unlike her son in a number of ways.  She is quiet, reserved, and calm where her son is outgoing and sociable.  She is not incredibly tall, her frame slightly coming right above Caitriona’s chin but her stature reflects a confident and independent woman.  She is an artist, much like her son, her platform slightly different than the theatrical stage he prefers. She should not have been surprised to see his mother here.  Like Caitriona, museums were a place to call home.      

“Hullo,” she responds cheerfully, lifting her hand in a half hearted wave, turning half way toward her in an awkward and shy move.  She turns her head swiftly from side to side, a bit anxious to see if Sam had accompanied his mother this  Saturday morning. “I didn’t know you were going to be in town.  Sam never mentioned it.”

What she doesn’t say to Chrissie makes her nervous just now, worried about how transparent her face was- how emotional she’s been for the last few days, how the dark rings under her eyes were not only because of long night shoots. She holds back to mention how everything reminds her about her son, how she tries her hardest to keep certain emotions at bay but fails miserably.

“Oh, I come and go as I please,” she tells Caitriona with a slight giggle, “ I don’t bother him too much with my business.  God knows how interested he is with his mother’s life." 

She momentarily stops to look at Caitriona, giving her a quick once over, her stare lingering over her face slightly longer than usual.  Caitriona knows she’s thinking then, wondering about what to say next but surprises her when she abruptly turns her head to the sculpture nearest to them. 

"New exhibit,” she points out, redirecting the subject away from her son.

Chrissie begins to walk toward the end of the room, silently calling Caitriona to follow her.  She finds a corner,an area off to the side, a means for privacy from the slowly gathering crowd. 

Caitriona takes a nervous gulp before taking a spot on the bench beside her, keeping her eyes forward at the painting across from them.  Her eyes glance up and down, finding a place for them to focus rather than making eye contact with Sam’s mother.

“Up and coming artist,” she tells Caitriona, referring to the painting.  

Caitriona acknowledges with a nod, looking over the woman in the portrait, her mind blank and unable to concentrate.  She hesitates to tell her she’s seen it before, a few days ago when sleep was hard to come by after a long night of filming in the cold rain.  She pauses for a brief moment remembering the few days prior to the shoot, working with little to no sleep, thoughts lingering on Sam and the woman in his apartment.  She had come to the gripping realization how it bothered her more than what she expected, their confrontation immediately spilling over the next few days.  She knew almost instantly- awkward silences, shy touches, and distance.

His absence at her race was more of a confirmation for her- the woman meant something to him and Caitriona couldn’t help the aching feeling of betrayal and loss, even if she knew she had no claim on him.

“Yes, it’s beautiful,” she whispers, hoping the catch in her throat went unnoticed, letting out a long sigh.  

It takes a moment for her to repress the memories from the night of the storm.  How she wanted nothing more than to brush her lips against his when he leaned in and to tell him she wasn’t afraid anymore.  She wanted to reassure him of how things would work out if they just let it be, that love would conquer all doubts and nothing would stop them from being happy just as long as they were together.  But she didn’t and all is but lost between them.

Caitriona feels it then, a small hand brushing against her knee, a small squeeze of comfort.  She feels Chrissie’s hand softly patting against her leg causing Caitriona to glance down to where the woman’s hand lingered.  She attempts to ignore what Chrissie’s small gesture meant, trying her best to hold back the tears threatening to spill over.

“You know, she’s just a friend Caitriona,” Chrissie says in a soft and barely audible tone.  She doesn’t turn her head toward Caitriona but remains focused on the art work ahead, the elder woman realizing if she did, Caitriona would have lost it.

Caitriona immediately turns her head, her hands on her lap fidgeting over the pieces of jewelry on her fingers.  Her heart begins to beat a little quicker, her breathing more labored, “I don’t know–”

Her voice trails off before Chrissie interrupts, her determination to tell Caitriona the truth more evident, “My son.  His greatest attribute is his biggest fault.”

Chrissie remains quiet, debating on how much she should tell, before she begins again, “Loyalty.  Hannah. The woman in his apartment.  I’ve known her as a child and unfortunately, trouble finds her more often than not. I won’t go into too much detail but my son is perhaps one of the only people she trusts.  And my son, regardless of what he may sacrifice in doing so, will not betray her trust.”

The sound of people behind them causes Caitriona to break her thoughts away from Chrissie’s face, forcing her to look down at her hands, tears slowly trickling down her face.  Caitriona takes a big swallow before she hears Chrissie voice over the sound of hushed whispers surrounding them.

“He doesn’t tell me much about his relationships, particularly the one he shares with you but I know.  He doesn’t have to tell me.  A mother knows.  I hear it in his voice, seen it on his face, how he carries himself whenever he’s around you. A mother can never be too proud of her boy.  He’s a good man, but with you, it’s different.  He’s even better.”

Caitriona completely undone now, the change in her voice apparent,“ I don’t know why you’re telling me this.”

Chrissie looks over to Caitriona for the first time and leans in closer, grabbing hold of her hand before giving it a slight squeeze,“Yes you do.  We’re both grown women Caitriona.  You and I both know how my son feels about you and, your feelings I’m sure, are no different than his. He misses you.  And you miss him.”

Chrissie turns her head in the direction to where she hears her name.  She nods briefly at a colleague looking for her then returns to look at Catriona, shifting her body to face hers.  She lifts her hand to wipe the streaks away from Caitriona’s face, moving them upwards to her arms, offering comfort and reassurance. She doesn’t say anything then but instead gives Caitriona a slight smile and begins to make a move to leave.

“Caitriona,” the sound of her name immediately catches her attention again and causes her to look up at Chrissie, “before I forget.  Congratulations on a great run.”

Caitriona tilts her head to the side, brows furrowed, unable to fully grasp what she was being told.  Chrissie was at her race, leaving Caitriona completely unaware. “It was nice seeing you finish strong, especially after such a long hard race.”

“You were there?”

Chrissie makes a move to nod her head and smiles before making eye contact with Caitriona, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  You know how I feel about you.”

Caitriona feels mildly embarrassed and shrugs her shoulders, slightly relieved when she feels Chrissie hand squeeze her own.  

“I would imagine my son felt the same way.”

“He wasn’t there,” she whispers softly, hoping to hide the disappointment.  She presses her lips together, her gaze finding an inconspicuous spot on the floor, anywhere to keep her eyes focused on anything but Chrissie.  

“Of course he was there,” Caitriona hears her respond with a slight giggle.

Catriona’s head shoots up to look at her before replying, “No, he wasn’t.  He never made it.  He had other commitm-”

“Don’t be silly,” Chrissie’s mouth curves into a smile, lifting her hand to pull back the strands that covered Caitriona’s face, looking straight into her eyes, “ Of course he was there.  I should know.  He was standing right beside me.”

 

Chapter Text

He likes running in the cold, where the wind nips him in the face when he runs hard against the ground, frozen solid from the freezing temperatures the night before. He tries his hardest to ignore how numb he really is, forgetting about how he should have put on another layer of clothing before setting out at 4:30 in the morning.

He pulls on the nightcap he chose to wear, his fingers brushing against his ears, the cold flesh intermingling with one another and Sam knows. He knows he should have stayed indoors this Sunday morning, to try to get some sleep before another start of a hectic work week but he can’t. He finds no comfort in lying in bed all night, tossing and turning in restlessness, his mind wrestling with ‘he should have or could have’. He chooses instead to face his troubles on the road, where his feet hit the ground hard and his heart no longer feels the pain of missing her.

He could have easily remedied the situation, ran after her that Saturday morning to tell her she’s got it all wrong, how it was all a big misunderstanding.   He could have told her then about the woman in his apartment, a childhood friend who needed a place to stay from a relationship turned bad and a safe place before moving on.  

But he couldn’t. Why he couldn’t- the question still lingers in the back of his mind.

He grew up with Hannah near the stables in New Galloway during a time when he needed a friend most. Life was complicated enough with family and her friendship was his way to forget, even if it was for a few hours in a day. Long nights were spent underneath the stars atop abandon buildings, where friends confided in one another of wistful dreams and endless possibilities without being judged. Problems faded away just as quickly as the sun setting at dusk.

Hannah’s father was an alcoholic, spending whatever wages he garnered throughout the week at the local pub. She was often sent to fetch him when her mother desperately needed him home, Sam tagging along for companionship. Life drew them apart eventually, Hannah’s family moving in with a distant cousin up north, and Sam’s thirst for theatre sending him off to London. They remained friends all these years, as childhood friends normally did, word from acquaintances telling Sam of the kind of trouble that seemed to follow Hannah every which way she went.  

Hannah’s appearance, although a surprise, was a welcomed one. She never asked him for anything, albeit a place to stay. It was all she needed and perhaps someone to listen to- life’s unforgiving journey. But when he came back that Saturday morning, visually distraught, she had pleaded with him to go after Caitriona, to find a way to make amends but words fell on to deaf ears. He failed to stay connected, Sam kept to himself the majority of the day, locked away, with his time spent behind empty eyes and forced smiles.

The café across from where he stops his run is bustling with vendors, fresh pastries from neighboring bakeries going in and out, with white smoke billowing from the stack above, letting him know it was an hour at least until sunrise. He knows in due time, the now empty streets will be bustling with traffic, doors will open, and people would wake up to the draw of a new day.

He hurries quickly across the cobblestone walkway and into his apartment building, where he slowly moves one step at a time before turning the corner to his stairway. He feels his hamstrings begin to tighten as he makes his way up, quietly reminding himself of the need to stretch. He feels her just then, even before he could have physically seen her, and it makes him stop immediately in his tracks.

He remembers the first time he felt it. He was early to an engagement hosted by Sony, networking with other actors and production personnel. The hairs on his forearms suddenly began to prickle, his heart began to race without reason. He blamed it on the temperature but the slightly warmer weather in Los Angeles was far from what would have caused it. When Sam felt someone grab his waist from behind, he was greeted with Caitriona’s soft face and sweet smile. By then, he knew. He knew what he felt was an unspoken connection.

He doesn’t notice it right away, but when he pushes the hard oak entryway into his apartment, he does. A white posted note flutters down between his door and its jamb. It lands on the hardwood floors and stays slightly opened, its familiar script noticeable even from afar. He doesn’t have to open the single folded note to know who it’s from. He instantly recognizes the neat intricate lettering on the inside- the ink delicately displayed in her cursive handwriting.

I’m sorry.

                -Caitriona

The message is simple enough, and yet his heart breaks a little, knowing Caitriona came to see him so early in the morning, only to find his apartment closed up and him gone. His mind races in an endless loop wondering what she may have been thinking when she found no one home. He immediately acts on impulse, beginning his race down the stairs, moving rapidly step by step, hoping he could still catch her walking down the street.

It doesn’t dawn on him until he’s half way to her apartment. What he would say to her? Silent conversations run through his head, but he only worries about saying the wrong thing. When he sees her, her noticeable lean frame walking down the street, the care of idle conversation is of no matter.

It’s been a while since he spoke with her one on one, and it makes him quite nervous. The calming center they once described as their relationship has now become nervous twitches, awkward silences, and constant fidgeting.

When he calls out her name, she abruptly stops to the familiar sound of his voice, her body standing still underneath a lamp post before slowly making a move to turn around. He sees her face flush from her walk, the dim light showing how her cheeks were slightly reddened by her fast pace. She pulls on her coat, tightly securing it against her body. It was either she was looking for more warmth or subconsciously trying to protect herself from Sam.

He tries his best to slow his breathing as he makes his way to her. He watches her lift her hand up to brush her hair back with her fingers, tucking the loose strands of hair behind her ears. She twists her body from side to side, looking for things to distract her. He’s fully aware how nervous she is and perhaps for the same reasons, he is too.

She speaks before he reaches her, her hands moving in conversation, “I came by your apartment but you weren’t there…or you were busy.” The later part of her statement coming out in spurts.

“I saw,” he tells her, slowly reaching into his pocket and pulling out the note she left behind.

The sudden pink tinge to her cheeks and her inability to look at him directly makes him wonder if she is regretting her decision.

“I…” she stammers, unable to continue without looking up from her feet, “I wanted to tell you I was sorry. How I shouldn’t have been so upset.”

Caitriona,” he whispers.

“No…wait,” she says, cutting him off with a wave of her hand. “It doesn’t matter at this point really. What’s done is done.”

She moves to look at her watch, visibly surprised by the time, “I had plans to meet Maril for an early run and I’m already late. I’m sorry. Maybe over lunch later this week we can talk?”

He doesn’t try to persuade her to stay for a moment but helps her instead to hail a cab. Once she’s settled in the vehicle, her eyes slowly look toward his direction standing by the curb. His hands are in his pockets with shoulders hunched over, bracing the cold behind his back.  

Sam sees the ends of her mouth turn up in a small smile, and for a brief moment, hopes she changes her mind to exit. But instead Caitriona offers him a slight wave goodbye and he watches the cab start on its way. He’s disappointed with himself for not having the courage to stop her- to let the opportunity to tell her he loved her, pass him by once again.  

----

He’s surprise to see her waiting atop the landing outside his apartment, the lights in the stairway adding a soft glow around her. He doesn’t question how or why she’s there. He lets out a large sigh, his shoulders giving in to relief. He stops for a moment, afraid that what he sees is another dream and worries she would disappear if he closed his eyes.

Her arms are crossed against her chest again and he wonders what she’s thinking. She lets out a loud sigh before speaking, trying her best to keep her voice steady.

“You were there,” she says almost critical, her voice slightly above a whisper, hands dropping to her side, eyes downcast and away from his face. “You were there at the race and you didn’t tell me. You let me believe you didn’t...”

Caitriona’s voice cracks at the end of her statement, tears slowly forming- her eyes glassy.

He slowly walks up the stairs, his legs heavier now from two runs, and stops a step below her. He watches her, focusing solely on her face. When he looks to her side, he sees her hands fidgeting with the hem of her sweater dress. Her hands continue their repeated action- opening and closing in nervousness.

He takes a leap of faith, his determination due in part because of exhaustion and moves his hand to grab a hold of hers. He pulls her hand away from her body, allowing his fingers to interlace with hers, their palms meet one on one. He watches her bite down onto her bottom lip as he leans closer, doing the only thing that comes to mind, placing his forehead against her chest.

He sighs before asking, murmuring, “Do you? Do you think I don’t love you?”

Sam’s question was a response to all the lingering doubts she had in her head. He had been at her race, regardless of what had happened between them the day before, not out of obligation, but because of how he felt about her.

She slowly shakes her head no, her free hand moving to the base of his skull, weaving her fingers through his damp hair. Caitriona finds the warmth underneath the cap momentarily before settling in the space behind his ears.

“No,” she tells him, making sure he understood loud and clear. There’s a sense of urgency in her voice, a need to tell him there was no reason for doubt.

He pulls her closer, moving his hands to the small of her back, placing his face to the crook of her neck. He rubs his nose against her, relishing in the slight smell of perfume as he feels her arms reaching up around his shoulders, her own hands making their way behind his head.

“I’m so tired,” Sam whispers, not knowing why exactly he chose to say what he did other than it being the truth. When he feels her head nod in response, he’s suddenly relieved, knowing she too was feeling the effects of the hectic work week and perhaps more so with what had happened between the two of them.

“Me too,” she replies. Her cheek rests against his head and her fingers begin stroking the lobes of his ears.

He feels a wave of exhaustion coming over him, the way his shoulders give in underneath her arms. He pulls away a tad when the sound of a neighbor’s door above them opens. His eyes linger momentarily on hers, then he puts her hand in his and makes his way to unlock his door.

  

Chapter Text

He allows her time to decide to come into his apartment, leaving the door open while he makes his way in. She doesn’t make a move to leave but when she shuts the door behind them, her soft push causes the door to meet the jamb with a small click.

The room is quiet enough. The world outside slowly and restlessly stirring awake, welcoming a new day. The street lights across the way are still bright. It won’t be long before they begin losing their own illumination against the colors in the sky.

She stands still in Sam’s foyer, her eyes focused on the empty hallway. She doesn’t see him but hears him shuffling about in his bedroom.

It takes her a moment to realize how nervous she is.   She tries to find a diversion, hoping it would bring a kind of temporary peace to the growing anxiousness surrounding her. It only heightens when she hears the clock ticking above her, falling in rhythm to the sound of her heart beating against her chest.

She carefully drags her fingers along the wall, finding the touch of the rigid texture against her tips a welcome distraction as she makes her way toward the back end of his apartment.

When he sees her enter his bedroom, he stops what he’s doing and makes an attempt to cut his eyes away from her. He tries his best to hide his embarrassment by fidgeting, sputtering in incoherent sentences and focusing his eyes on anything but her. His hands move to and fro in low spoken conversation and for Caitriona, all she hears is white noise and his voice slurring.

He pulls back the black silk sheets and motions her to climb into bed. When he moves to leave, she suddenly grabs a hold of his arm. Caitriona blushes when he turns to meet her face, her eyes smiling under long lashes and flushed cheeks. She slowly follows the length of his arm with her hand and finds a place of comfort as it settles against his, palm to palm.

She doesn’t quite let go- her pinky finger hooking onto his pointer, finding a way to stay connected.

It’s a quiet question asking him where he was going, silently pleading for him to stay. He turns his body back toward her again and watches the shadows play across her face.

He moves forward and presses a small kiss against her temple, “I’m going to wash up and I’ll be back. I promise.”

She knows she’s tired but how tired she doesn’t realize until she’s underneath his sheets. Her body relaxes almost immediately when she feels the sleek fabric provide a cool touch against her skin. She revels in the soft and lush cushions behind her head, realizing it won’t be too long before she’ll be in a deep sleep.

She places her hands over her body, flattening down the sheets against her frame before moving onto her side. She watches the skies in the distance begin to change color; there’s a mixture of red, pink, and orange.

It doesn’t take long before she hears him enter the room. She turns over to watch him in the dark, her eyes adjusting to the white towel wrapped around his waist and wet hair, still damp from his shower. He rummages through the drawers of his dresser, looking for something to wear and when he brings a shirt over his head she can’t help but watch the muscles on his back ripple with every movement he makes.

It’s nothing new to her. She’s seen him in several states of undress before and yet it’s like she’s seeing him for the first time.

He moves next to the bed and presses his weight against it. The mattress sags underneath him and finds more than enough room below the covers. He reaches out for her hand and when he finds her, he tugs at her. He’s surprised enough to know how willingly she comes to him, pressing her lean frame against the length of his body, tangling her long legs with his.

When he turns over onto his side, he’s reminded of the night of the storm. He remembers vividly how intimacy won out within close quarters with nothing but the rhythmic sound of their bodies lying in wake in the dark together.

The sun begins to rise in the distance, the shadows on the walls moving as time passes on. Its rays slowly making their way through the sheer fabric of curtain, providing enough light for him to notice the little details of her face.

“Tell me,” he whispers, his thumb stroking her knuckle, finding the repetitive task a calming relief to him as it was to her.

“Tell you what?”

“Tell me what you’re thinking.”

It’s in that moment a ray of light settles over his hair and Caitriona can’t help noticing what she’s known for so long. She’s seen it many times, watching him in the morning light when filming started too early or lasted too long into dawn. She blushes, feeling self-conscious by the number of times she found herself staring, over the course of their relationship.

“Do you know your hair has this deeper color of red when the light touches it?”

She moves to touch his face, her fingers gingerly making their way down near his jawline.

“No, I didn’t,” he whispers in response. “Maybe it’s because it’s wet.”  

She shakes her head, leaning closer, their faces only inches apart, “Your eyes are brighter and your lips. Your lips have this shine to them.”

She traces the lines of his lips, her fingers barely grazing, causing a trail of gooseflesh to form on his forearm.

“Lip balm,” he teases, his mouth forming into a smile.

She giggles at his response, ducking her head slightly before looking up again.

Maybe. Your skin though. More bronze than before. Could it be from all that tanning?”

She’s teasing him, a small fit of laughter brewing in her chest.

“Pfft. Running, Balfe. All running.”

“Oh, I remember,” she laughs, recalling a conversation months before, “Running from your legions of fans.”

He pulls back slightly, making enough room between them. He brings up his hand and uses his fingers to brush her hair back.

“Do you remember what I told you then?” he asks her, moving closer, finally dipping his head to meet hers.

I could be chasing someone.

He’s being serious now and Caitriona holds back her teasing. She nods instead and presses her lips together, the brisk and cold morning still rooted in memory. Her legs begin to move, her limbs riding against his, subconsciously looking for him to provide her warmth from the morning so long ago.

“Your turn,” Caitriona asks, “Tell me.”

She rests her hand on his chest, her eyes focusing on a spot where the tip of her finger continues to stroke.

He pulls back away from her face, forcing her to look up, allowing their eyes to meet. He swallows before speaking, already deciding on what he wants to tell her.

“This is where I want to be every morning,” he confesses, pulling on her waist and wrapping his arms tighter. “It has always been what I’ve wanted.”

He bites down on his lip, waiting for her to respond. He looks for it in her eyes, round and large with surprise. There’s something soft behind her light blue eyes and he’s locked on them. Her cheeks are slightly red, embarrassed by how much she longed to hear it and grateful for what he’s said. She moves her hands away from his chest, lingering slightly on his hips before pulling herself up against him.  

She’s a natural fit to his larger body, the way her legs rest firmly on his. His hands move instinctually, finding their place around her small frame. Caitriona’s hand comes up to stroke his face, touching the soft skin with the back of her hand and following his jawline, listening to the friction of the bristles against her fingertips.

“Tell me another,” she whispers again, craning her head to hear him speak.

He stops and looks at her face, his eyes take notice of the way her pupils turn larger against the light.

“Have I ever told you how much you’re like the sun?”

Caitriona laughs at him, her eyes crinkling with amusement.

“No?” she says in half question, half statement.

“Hmmm…it’s the same every time I run in the morning,” he stalls before continuing again, “When the grass is still wet from the dew and the fog rolls through the valley, the sun warms my face when it starts to peek over the horizon. Then it rushes over me like a fever when it’s comes up completely. It’s the same with you. When I first see you, whether at work, somewhere, anywhere, there’s this subtle warmth. But when you walk toward me or stand close, it’s like I’m being consumed by this fire.”

She feels the tears wet against her cheeks but doesn’t move her hands away to wipe them. She sniffles slightly, her sob catching in the back of her throat and lets out a loud sigh.   He lets go with one hand, gingerly moving his thumb across her face, removing the streaks that began to form.

He settles her underneath him, partially placing his weight on one elbow and looking down at her. Moments pass between them, the only sound in the room audible is their steady breathing, soft exhales escaping in hushed tones.

He smiles at her, one side of his mouth curling up before deciding himself to ask her, “Tell me.”

She stalls for a moment, her eyes slowly following the lines of his face to the base of his throat. She sees his pulse throbbing at the side of his neck and lets out a loud sigh before deciding on what to say. She slightly adjusts herself below him, embracing his weight pressed against her body.

“I’ve always loved you.”

He pulls back slightly, his emotions slowly catching up to what she’s confessed. He suddenly feels it in his heart- the immediate pull. There’s been only two other moments he’s felt it: the first day he met her and the second was the night of the storm.

Caitriona bites her lip, her eyes soft with worry, and waits for his reaction.

He moves his free hand and softly grazes his fingers against her collarbone. She closes her eyes at the sensation and waits. She only opens her eyes when he stops, his finger resting in the space above her chest. He adjusts himself again, this time his face completely over hers.

“Tell me again,” he asks.

“I’ve always lo--.”

He presses his lips against her mouth before she finishes. He tastes her words and delights in the feel of her hands reaching behind his head, pulling him against her. He smells of a clean shower and musk, all the while tasting remnants of toothpaste and a little bit of saltiness.   She begins to lift her head away from the cushions behind her, eager to taste all of him and when they separate, he leaves her breathless and she him.

Always?” he asks her for reassurance, his eyes closed shut and breathing ragged.

“Always have,” she whispers, grabbing his face with her hands. She strokes his jawline with her thumbs, rubbing his forehead with her own.   “Maybe even before you.”

He laughs, the lines near his eyes, deep and plenty. “It’s always a competition with you, isn’t it?”

She smiles and nods, remembering his comment in an interview long ago.

“Only when you’re involved.”

“I guess that settles it then.”

“What do you have it mind?” she asks, her curiosity piqued.

“Perhaps a game…”

Caitriona cocks her head to the side, unsure of what Sam had in store.

“Let’s see who tires first,” he jokes, lifting his eyebrows in playful banter.

She lifts up and rolls over Sam, straddling her legs around his hips. “Well, we know who’ll win this one. After all, you did tell over a hundred thousand of your faithful, I have the stamina for everything.”

“Everything.”

Everything,” her words slur as she raises his hands to the area above his head.

“Well, I expect nothing less at this point. You did just ran a marathon.”

“I had a very good trainer.”

“You sure did,” he stalls for a moment before whispering her name, “Caitriona?”

She looks down and watches as the rays from the sun reach his face. His face is relaxed but the tone of his voice is serious.

“I love you too.”