TITLE: Getting Harder to Breathe
E-MAIL: eli @ popullus.net
POSTED: Nov. 18, 2003
SUMMARY: Tom's having a crisis; Sark's got some downtime.
NOTES: Anyone else notice how all of our male spies for this Spy Crossover Extraveganza end up meeting in bars? Right smack between MI-5/Spooks 2.08 and 2.09, somewhere after Alias 3.02. Specific knowledge of the MI-5 eps cited above is a major plus; general knowledge of Alias would probably be handy.
THANKS: I'm not sure that I should thank Rez for planting this idea, considering the mindboggling terror it's caused, but I will thank her for the beta. And this never would have left my hard drive without the help of the slash deity (tm Rez) that is shrift.

This night calls for alcohol, and lots of it.

In fact, every night for the last two weeks has made that demand -- impatient, irritated, outraged -- and they've all been disappointed because of that bloody disaster of a mission. That doesn't mean Tom is going to turn this one down, though. You could say he's obliged not to, since tonight's call was bolstered instead of cowed by all of the shouting he just did. He's impressed that all he did was shout at Harry, boss or no.

And then there's the shouting in his head; shouting that says he shouldn't have held back in his opinion of a government that would turn on its own. It would be nice to make it stop.

He slides onto the bar chair and plants his hands on the scarred wood, avoiding the puddle left by a careless touch with an overfull pint. Clearly recognizing a man in need, the barman leaves his regulars to their argument over the night's football match and steps over with an eyebrow raised.

"Scotch," Tom orders. Anything but Jack Daniels, he thinks.

"Would that be a double or a triple you're wanting?"

"The bottle. We'll determine specifics later."

Whether it's the statement or the grim look it's delivered with, Tom doesn't much care; all that matters is that after a "right then" twist of his face, the barman turns, snags the almost-full bottle of Glenmorangie off the back ledge, completes the turn, and sets the liquor down.

"A glass?"


A damp towel swipes the bar in front of him and then there is a perfect tumbler on the wood, just waiting to receive the amber liquid. Tom cups his hands around the smoothness of the glass, keeping himself from reaching for the bottle right off.

He should leave this pub and phone...who? Danny? Zoe? No, he's tried that route. Didn't help. And there's no point this time, not when he can't let them hear anything that might come shooting out of his mouth just now.

He should fill that glass only a few times. He should toss the Scotch back quickly. He should--

"Would it be all right if I...?"

Tom forces his hands to relax before turning his head.

The man gesturing at the bar is young, is his first thought, younger than him. Hair in an almost military cut, body sleekly toned, yet not part of any armed forces, not with that slouch. And the shadows in the blue eyes belie the apparent youth. Tom should know, from the increasing number of times he's seen those shadows while shaving in the morning. But he doubts most would see them in this man's eyes in that second before they're banished, or recognize them if they did.

Cautious, but welcome to anything that could possibly keep him from sinking into the growing darkness in his head, Tom shrugs. The man twists the empty adjacent chair out by its back in order to straddle it with all the care of a university student. Tom's eyes narrow as he automatically notes that the plain slacks, shirt, and long coat -- all an almost matching shade of black -- are a shade too fine a material for a cash-strapped academic.

"I appreciate the seat, but I was speaking more of that very nice malt you're staring at." The man smiles, bright and boyish, and his head tilts in charming invitation. "Shall I pour?"

The carefree fašade would have served as the perfect cover if not for that initial moment of awareness, but...no, that too-innocent smile just pushed caution into warning. "I don't share with people I don't know."

"Well, now, that's easily remedied. Alex Harlow." The man holds out his right hand in greeting.

Tom gives it a glance, but makes no move to take it. "I don't think so."

That spurs an ostentatious show of examining the hand from both sides. "There's nothing on it that I can't see, is there?"

"No," Tom states, beginning to turn away.


Frustrated with the game, Tom shakes his head. "It's the name that's dirty. And," his voice hardens as "Alex" opens his mouth, "don't try to say otherwise."

The lighthearted air drops away. If he hadn't been warned by that earlier glimpse, the cold light that comes into the younger man's eyes would have made Tom brace for a blow. He shifts to free his hands anyway before snapping, "What do you want?"

"Alex" straightens and stretches over the chair back to take the bottle by its neck. The utter gall scrapes at Tom, tearing away whatever buffer he'd managed to erect in the time between slipping out of Thames House ahead of Christine and wandering his way here. When "Alex" reaches for the glass, Tom latches on to the man's wrist and twists, feeling bones scrape together.

The glass clatters against the bar.

Tom leans in. "Maybe you didn't hear the question," he whispers, his voice rough with anger or pain, he can't tell which, it's all one jagged spike in his gut. Now, close enough to smell the musk of skin through the pub's smoke, he watches the other man's jaw tighten. "What. Do. You. Want?"

"Nothing more than a drink. Truly," he insists when Tom's fingers tighten. Lips white with pain, the man keeps his eyes on Tom's. "Call it what you like -- recognizing a fellow soul on a field full of distress and torment, perhaps -- there is no agenda."

This is a man who, like him, lives by his lies, Tom has no doubt. One who is facile enough with them to pull out Dante at a moment's notice. He also hasn't done anything, at least not to him.

With a sigh, Tom drops the man's wrist and reaches into his coat pocket to pull out his wallet. This isn't who he wants to take out his frustrations on, not even close. "Sorry. Bad night."


The man doesn't rub his wrist, Tom notes. Instead, he watches Tom with wry acknowledgement of the confrontation lifting the right side of his mouth. Something about that pushes Tom into an explanation of sorts.

"A disagreement about a...situation at work."

"That doesn't normally shut a man down, leave him drinking alone." The man frowns, curiosity crinkling between his brows. "It's not a woman?"

"The woman didn't let me down," Tom mutters

The man's head-tilt isn't an "ah," or a "so sorry" -- it's simply an acceptance. Reflecting on how welcome that response is, Tom lifts the bottle and waves it at the barman while holding up two bills. The barman nods and Tom sticks the money under his glass. He pushes to his feet, decision made.

"Still interested in that drink?" he asks, watching the other man's eyes carefully. He doesn't think the surprise in them is feigned, or the interest.

When the cold outside air hits him, Tom simply starts walking, heading out, away, much as he had earlier. The other man falls into step beside him. They don't speak until Tom rounds a corner and stops, staring at where his wandering has brought him this time.


Tom could lie, could lead this elsewhere. "No."

A few more steps and they're at his house. Even if he's hardly spent any time here since Ellie left, all the security measures are still in place, and he sees the younger man's eyebrows rise at the reinforced door. Gripping the keycard, Tom pauses.

"I'd like your name before I invite you in."

The man's jaw shifts as he considers, then nods. "Sark."

Tom waits for several seconds. Nothing.



Tom stares at him with an incredulous frown. "You're joking."

"Is this what you want to do?" Sark crosses his arms. "Argue on your doorstep at 1 a.m. about something over which I have no control?"

Tom lets out a bark of laughter at that hint of honest annoyance and slides the card home, leading them into his front hall. He takes Sark's coat in exchange for the bottle and gestures toward the kitchen. "Glasses are in there."

Sark walks off, and Tom takes this first moment alone to wonder what in hell he's doing. He already has, and would again, skin anyone else alive for bringing an unvetted civilian back to their place. Harry would toss in the hot pokers for making it another operative -- witness the explosion only hours earlier. And Christine is a known "threat." Tom sneers at the wall before he catches himself.

The silence from the other rooms is suddenly glaringly obvious. Tom hooks both overcoats on the rack before striding quickly to the end of the hall. Sark is there. All Tom can see, looking down at the top of Sark's head, is the other man's feet propped on the table and a half-full glass held resting against his stomach. It's a picture that stops Tom in place for a moment, trying to remember the last person to lounge in this house. Then he notices Sark's right arm resting on the back of the sofa with the other glass -- filled to the same mark -- extended over his head. Tom takes the drink and comes around to face him.

"You're not civil service." Tom's positive of that.

"Correct. At this moment, I am employed by no country," Sark says with a tight smile.

Tom's eyes narrow at the joke he knows he's not meant to understand. "Who does employ you, then?"

Sark's condescending look is incredibly irritating, as is the knowledge that he is himself acting as contrarily as possible. He'd better decide what he really wants, and quickly, now that he's created this situation.

The other man raises his glass to his mouth and Tom sits on the table facing him, elbows on his knees, examining the liquor between in his hands as if naming its color is the most important thing to do just now. His eyes are drawn up, however, and he watches Sark swallow, watches the arc of his throat as the liquid slides down.

To fill the silence, Tom informs him, "I'll have you checked tomorrow."

"I'm sure you will." Sark shrugs and leans back to throw his arm out along the cushions. "And what good will that do now?"

"I'll keep you here until--"

"If you were going to have me detained, you wouldn't have brought me to your house. And," Sark smirks as he throws Tom's earlier rudeness back at him, "don't try to say this isn't your place."

Tom's anger spikes. "Fuck you." He slams his glass down next to him, but Sark's hand on his knee, warm and contracting in a brief squeeze, stops him from shoving to his feet. He looks down at it and digs within himself for the coldest voice possible, doing his best to ignore the whisper that the risk is what he wants. "You'll want to remove that."


Chest tightening, Tom shakes his head. "What?"

"No, I don't want to remove my hand, any more than you want me to."

Tom closes his eyes, feeling the warmth start its way up his thigh, driven by a twinge of what is definitely desire. Is this what he'll do in order to face tomorrow?

He looks up when he senses motion. Sark shifts forward to place his glass next to Tom's on the table, a move that brings him close enough for the alcohol on his quickening breath to warm Tom's face. Sark's head drops to the right and Tom closes the gap before he can think too long on just how insane this is.

Neither of them is careful, there is no testing. Tom doesn't know, or at this moment care, what Sark's reasons for being here are, but the instant their mouths meet his own frustration peaks.

This isn't Christine, he doesn't have to be gentle; he is, in fact, damned well not going to be gentle because it's not her.

His hand comes up to grasp Sark's chin, holding the other man's head still so he can force Sark's lips open and sweep his tongue in deep to take the lingering scotch he himself never got to drink. It's good, the burn, good enough to search every corner and texture for the last little hint -- and then further, sucking on Sark's tongue before he realizes he's doing it because the burn, Tom finds, isn't just from the alcohol.

Breathing harsh and fast, Sark twists his head, trying to free himself. Tom's fingers tighten automatically. It's a not-unpleasant shock when Sark sinks his teeth into Tom's lower lip and the sharp tang of blood is added to the mix.

The pain does draw Tom far enough out of the headlong rush to gasp in shock when Sark slides his hand up until it's hot on Tom's cock through his slacks. Tom instantly goes hard. No, he wasn't prepared for that. Can you prepare? He groans and drops his free hand behind him to brace against the table, feels Sark's lips curve against his, hears the murmured, "Ah, that's it," through the buzz in his ears.

Smug bastard.

Sark's hand begins to move and the buzz strengthens, becoming numbing white noise. Panting, focusing his concentration to bore through the blanket of sound, Tom slides his hand from Sark's chin to the back of his skull. He shapes it, relishing the novel sensation of short fuzz tickling his fingers.

Then, determined to retaliate, Tom uses that hold to pull Sark's head back and latch his mouth onto the neck he exposes -- licking, sucking, driven to taste what had caught his attention from the first. The smoke that permeated Sark's collar in the time that he was in the pub fills Tom's nostrils, makes him fight a sneeze, but it can't begin to compete with the tang of Sark's skin: sharp and even better than Tom expected.

He drags the linen aside with his teeth and traces that flavor with his tongue from the soft spot behind Sark's ear to the warm hollow of his throat and back up. Sark's breathing fractures and his hand tightens briefly before resuming its rhythm, and Tom murmurs his approval of both reactions.


Tom bites down without finesse on the tendon joining neck and shoulder, needing to leave a mark, a sign that he was here, as opposed to all the places he never exists. It's a moment of triumph, a sign of his own control, when the other man lets loose an unintelligible cry.

The cool air of the room brushing across exposed skin is the first hint that Sark's attention hasn't been completely captured by the attack. Tom jerks when Sark's fingers close hot around him, drawing his cock out of his pants and stroking slowly now, lingeringly.

Needing to hold himself down, to keep from pushing up into that warmth, Tom's other hand joins its fellow and clutches at the smooth wood beneath him. In that moment he is suddenly more vulnerable than he thought possible and words tumble from him -- don't-do-do that-harder-stop-oh god-never -- while his mind screams.

His eyes squeeze closed and he snaps his mouth shut, stemming the stream of nonsense. Blind, his senses narrow down to Sark's rough palm continuing to draw up, down, applying pressure at just the right time, the exact right point. Tom hangs onto the table, his nails digging into the wood as he fights the attempt to drive him over the edge.

Sark knows, shit he knows just what to do, really knows, any man should, but fuck.

Tom's pulse throbs in his cock and reverberates up his spine, threatening to send control so far, far away that remembering to breathe isn't the priority it should be. Trying to regain some measure of control over himself, if not the situation, he pries his hands from the table and reaches out to fumble the buttons open on Sark's shirt.

He can't imagine removing all of their clothes -- hell, he's still sitting on a bloody table -- but he runs his hands along the damp skin revealed by the gaping cloth, fascinated by hard, sleek muscle and thrilled when his fingers discover spots that make Sark tremble and stroke faster.

And he's flying, cushioned from the world in a wonderful high-spiraling freefall when Sark grabs his hands and holds them at his sides, lacing their fingers together as Tom tries to pull away.

Voice harsh in Tom's ear, Sark taunts, "Is this as far as we go?"

Tom's head snaps up to stare into blue eyes so dilated they're almost indigo. Sark's breathing is nowhere near even, but his gaze is steady and the challenge in that look makes Tom pause.

Is it? Can he stop? Should he?

His eyes drop to Sark's erection, which is making a distinct bulge in his trousers. Sark looks down with him. His lips twist when Tom doesn't move, then he untangles his right hand and reaches to release himself.

"No." Tom tightens his grip on the hand he still holds.

Sark looks up, eyes hard. "It doesn't appear you're going to help, so I'll do it myself. You can sit there and watch if you'd like."

"No." No, that's not what he meant, what he wants.

Tom places both hands on Sark's shoulders and pushes, tumbling the younger man back on the couch. The shock that widens Sark's eyes threatens to overwhelm Tom as he shoves the table back and kneels in one motion, but he concentrates on the task of opening buttons and zippers as quickly as possible -- and then he's holding the other man's cock, heavy and hot.

He looks up and sees that Sark's eyes have narrowed to bright slits, intent on his face.

Not stopping to think, Tom bends down to take Sark into his mouth, tasting the salt and musk, and adjusting to take him deeper. Sark has frozen -- body, heartbeat, breath -- gone completely still. Then his mouth falls open and a groan rumbles up from his chest, "Oh, god."

Tom would swear the words vibrate through him. He lays his hands on Sark's hipbones, pressing down to make sure that he feels any other sound, no matter how slight. When Sark wriggles, Tom presses harder and starts circling his thumbs there, soothing.

It's also damned arousing. Heat radiates palatably from Sark, but Tom knows it's his own fever raising the sweat that sticks his shirt to his back and his chest, making the cloth catch every time he shifts in response to the flesh dragging against his tongue.

Needing air, he inadvertently tries to inhale through his mouth and Sark shudders under his hands. Tom does it again, deliberate this time, and then thrusts forward against the couch, whimpering and almost coming himself when Sark's hands slide roughly into his hair.

Need more, even more.

Whether it's Sark or him -- saying it, thinking it -- it doesn't matter. Tom just knows he has to...

Tom's eyes are open now to see Sark's head jerk back against the couch when Tom draws up to run his tongue around the head and then needing, needing the fullness again, returns to envelop as much as he can. The other man's hands clench hard enough to send a spike of pain down Tom's neck.

On the next pass, Sark's hips come up off the cushions, pushing his cock against the back of Tom's throat, and Tom chokes. He adjusts to bring the head against the roof of his mouth where it fits, perfectly, but Sark's eyes open at the muffled sound. His hands drop to wrap around Tom's biceps and he yanks, the unexpected act forcing Tom to release him.

They stare at each other -- this is happening -- and Tom sees his need reflected in the tightness of other man's face. He runs his tongue across his lips and Sark's eyes fix on the path as Tom tastes.

In another flash of movement Sark pulls and flips at the same time, pushing Tom deep into the cushions.

"Damn, I should have appealed to your competitive streak earlier," Sark breathes. He leans down to lick at Tom's lips, humming as he takes the trace of himself that he prevented Tom from wiping away.

His movement rubs cotton against flesh so painfully sensitive that Tom slaps his hands against Sark's chest and pushes back, fighting not to explode. Suddenly their bodies align -- thighs, chests, cocks -- and Sark thrusts, startling a cry out of Tom.

Shit, who knew? Not the kind of thing you're going to share with mates in a locker room, but you should, you really should.

Tom pants as he braces his feet on the floor and tries to time it so that he pushes up just when Sark thrusts down.

"Is this...what you'd hoped for?"

Tom opens his eyes and fights to keep them open when Sark decides to twist instead of thrust, which is even better and if he does it again, oh... There's a hint of a smirk on Sark's lips and Tom is excruciatingly aware of his need to gulp for air.

"This is...what I needed." He has the chance to catch his balance when Sark pauses, surprise in his eyes, and he brings his hands up to pull Sark's hips in to his. "Now fucking move."

They're both still mostly clothed, but the skin that's bare is rubbing, sliding, making it harder and harder to breathe.

That's almost enough. Almost.

Then Sark reaches back and pries Tom's hand away, draws it down between them. The extra friction, the sensation of holding both their cocks together, even for just a moment, makes Tom arch off the couch. His mouth opens but no sound emerges, his lungs seizing as he comes hard, so hard that the harsh moan sounding in his ear is his only clue that Sark has, too.

Good, Tom thinks as he falls back, numb. Good because he can't move, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't, particularly.

Sark pushes off and collapses beside him on the couch, arms flung out. Tom can feel himself sinking into the space between the cushions, but it doesn't matter as he tries to push thought as far away as everything else seems right now. That works, until--

"You'd never done that before, had you?"

Tom concentrates on the ceiling. He's never really looked at it before. It needs to be patched, over in that corner. "No."

The pause is long. Eventually, it's no longer a pause, it's Sark straightening his clothes, sending Tom a look that's not entirely blank when he doesn't move at all to stop him, and leaving.

Listening to the door click shut, Tom wonders if here, now, is any better than where he was.


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