Initially, Sam and Chris gave no second thought to Malone's congratulations on their anniversary of two years. They merely thanked him, received no reply, and took that to mean that they were dismissed. Back to following up leads on a drugs bust they'd been given after the two previous agents assigned to the case had been injured out for a couple of weeks.
Chris was the first of the pair to think back on it, when he and Sam both looked up, having come to the same conclusion at exactly the same time. Sam had quirked a grin at him, and on their way out of the office Chris had tossed Sam the car keys automatically, and the Englishman had caught them almost without looking. Chris thought: this is what partnership should be like.
That thought had stayed with him all the way to Kings Cross, through the easy banter and sharp turns Sam took that Chris had learnt to just lean into. As they dodged traffic, he watched Sam surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye, not really listening to Sam's complaints about other drivers, and he thought about how strange it was to be sitting here, with Sam Curtis, two years after Malone had announced they would be partners.
"Two years," he said with a laugh, interrupting Sam's diatribe.
"What?" his partner asked.
"We've been together two years, Sam. Did you ever think we'd get to this stage?"
"I never really thought about it," Sam said.
"You must have done," Chris pressed him. "We didn't have the best of starts, remember? Didn't you think we'd get split up pretty soon? I did."
"I just did what I was told to do, Chris." The American frowned at that, and Sam must have caught his expression because he continued; "Don't take that the wrong way, Chris I'm glad Malone put us together. I just never really thought about how long it'd last."
"You don't even think about it now?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, do you ever think about whether this'll still be working in five years time? It's going pretty well, right?"
Sam shot Chris a confused glance. "Our record would suggest so, yes."
"And we get on well, too," Chris added, and waited hopefully for some agreement from Sam. When no response was forthcoming, he tried again. "I'm just saying, Sam, that two years is pretty much a milestone, y'know? If anyone had told me a couple of years ago that I'd still be partnered with Sam Curtis two years from now, I'd have laughed in their face. I didn't think we'd work it out, being so different and all. But it did. We can tell what the other's thinking; we've got each other's backs; we have each other's movements all worked out even before we know what we're going to do ourselves." He shifted in his seat, getting into the whole idea. "We're like Starksy and Hutch, or Cagney and Lacey, or something!"
Sam gave Chris a confused look, and then smiled at him with that expression he always used when he was going to pretend he knew what Chris was talking about but really wanted him to shut up. "Yeah, Chris, we're exactly like Cagney and Lacey," he said.
Chris knew he was being humoured, but grinned anyway. "See, I knew exactly what you were thinking back there. You were thinking, Chris has gone off on one of his crazy ideas and I don't really give a damn about what he's talking about but I'm gonna smile at him and play along anyway so he gets out of my face. Weren't you?"
"Yes, Chris. That's exactly what I was thinking," Sam deadpanned, pulling over at the side of the road.
Chris smiled smugly as his partner cut the engine. "Mock it all you like, buddy, but we're partners!"
"Well, partner, get out of the car. We're here," Sam told him.
Five minutes later, they were pursuing Mickey Daniels, their lead suspect, down an alleyway. Chris had no doubts at all that they were going to catch him eventually, but he was a skinny little guy with a lot of speed and so far they hadn't been able to pin him down. "Let's corner him down Crinan Street," Chris called, then darted off before Sam could answer, confident that his partner would follow his lead.
A short sprint took him in the opposite direction, and crouched behind a stack of boxes to wait for Daniels to appear. It didn't take long. He ran exactly to where Chris wanted him, Sam hot on his heels. Chris grinned. This was going to be a piece of cake. He tensed up, ready to pounce, feeling the adrenaline flood through him, and then sprang.
The next thing he knew, he was blinking away stars, and Sam was calling out to him from a little way away. "Chris? You all right?"
"What the fuck just happened?" Chris spluttered, shaking his head to clear the remaining stars away and then looking around him in confusion.
"I didn't realise you were there. I tackled him into the boxes and knocked them onto you," Sam told him, coming into Chris' field of vision. He lifted a box of the American's chest that he hadn't realised was there, and he groaned in pain. "Anything broken?"
"No, I don't think so," Chris said after a moment, already beginning to sit up. Sam helped him, and he stretched as he sat, seeing Daniels handcuffed and on the ground a few metres away. After another minute, the reality of what had just happened seeped in, and he fixed a disbelieving stare upon Sam, who was currently checking him over for any other injuries. "Hang on a second, you did this to me?"
"Yes, Chris, like I said. I didn't know you were there. Did you black out at all?" Sam replied distractedly, reaching out to hold Chris' head still and checking his pupils.
Chris yanked sharply away from Sam. "You didn't know I was there? How could you not know I was there?"
"You didn't let me in on that part of the plan, Chris," Sam explained, clearly not understanding what the big deal was. "Did you black out at all? I think your ribs are just bruised."
"After everything I was just talking about; us being partners and knowing exactly what each other's movements were going to be, you're saying you didn't know I was there?"
"I'm your partner, Chris, not a bloody psychic," Sam replied, rolling his eyes. "Come on, get up. You can get checked out properly back at HQ."
He offered Chris a hand up, but Chris chose to ignore it, struggling to his feet by himself. He was almost livid with anger. "Fine," he ground out between clenched teeth. He hadn't been this angry with Sam since the early days of their partnership.
Sam looked at Chris with mounting puzzlement. The American stared back at him grimly, his face flushed red. Sam hoped he hadn't got concussion. He was looking like he did whenever the police crossed their path – like he wanted to say something really biting but had been warned enough times by Malone and himself not to. It had been a while since he had been on the receiving end of that glare.
After what seemed like a long time, Chris finally just let out an angry hiss and stalked off towards the car, leaving Sam to deal with Daniels. He did so automatically, still trying to work out just what was going on in his partner's head, but wasn't any closer to an answer when he slid into the driving seat to find Chris staring fixedly out of the window.
The ride back to the office was almost completely silent, save the grinding of Chris' teeth. Sam almost spoke a couple of times, but decided against it when he caught sight of his partner's furious expression in the wing mirror.
In fact, not a word was spoken between the two of them until they got back to HQ and headed into the building, Chris leading the way with a face like thunder. "I'll go book him in if you go to the inf-"
"I'm going!" Chris snapped back at him before he could finish, and Sam actually flinched slightly at the vehemence in his tone. Backup, who had caught their exchange, went over to Sam with wide eyes.
"What's got him so riled?" she asked.
Sam blinked. "I have absolutely no idea," he replied, and then took off with Daniels, leaving Backup confused.
She was so confused that she waited around in the corridor, pretending to be reading a completely unimportant document, until Chris appeared.
She could see immediately that he hadn't calmed down at all – in fact he had been so angry in the infirmary that he had answered the doctor with one-word answers and had crunched down the pills she'd given him for his ribs without a second thought, whereas usually he would have protested. His manner had obviously unnerved the doctor, who was new to the job and clearly not expecting such stand-offish patients. He'd have to apologise when he was in a better mood – she had been quite pretty.
"Hey, Chris," Backup greeted him breezily.
He glared at her. "What is it?" he asked fiercely.
"Nothing," she said airily. "You just seem a little ... stressed."
"That's because my partner is an idiot," he informed her.
"What did Sam do?" Backup asked, tilting her head curiously.
"It's what he didn't do! Jeez – I mean, I know the guy's nickname was The Iceman, but I never realised how cold he actually was ... not to know I was there? He doesn't need to be a mind-reader, he just needs to have some goddamn emotions!"
Backup looked at Chris in complete and utter bafflement. "Do you realise that you're not making any kind of sense whatsoever?"
She realised instantly that she had said the wrong thing. Chris aimed a glare directly at her, and despite all her training and guts she withered slightly. It gave Chris the time he needed to stomp into the bullpen.
Backup followed, and watched with raised eyebrows as Chris sat down noisily in his chair, refusing to engage in eye contact with Sam, who looked as bemused as she felt. The ex-MI6 agent looked, for a moment, as though he were about to say something, and then, wisely, in her opinion, decided against it, as Chris attacked his keyboard viciously.
An awkward and unusual silence fell upon the corner of the room that Sam and Chris occupied. Their desks faced one another, and usually the two men bickered good-naturedly over the gap; most often about how disorganised Chris was and how anal-retentive Sam was. Even when they were working on a case, they tended to voice their ideas to one another. Backup, seated opposite them next to Spencer, watched in concern as they continued to work in silence. The rest of the room was beginning to notice too.
Chris concentrated on his typing. It wasn't the best outlet for his frustration, unfortunately, as he hated admin anyway and usually left the entirety of the compulsory report-writing to Sam, who excelled at that sort of thing. As it was, the typing was working to make him more and more furious, to the point that he was beginning to feel sick and each breath seemed an effort. He could feel his face burning as he fought the urge to smash his fist through the monitor.
Sam was also finding typing less than therapeutic. Whereas usually he could put down a report quite quickly and accurately, his confusion over Chris' outburst had left him distracted, and as a result his report was full of annoying mistakes that he kept having to go back and change in between shooting worried glances at Chris. He looked absolutely livid, with his jaw chewing in that way it did when he was just about ready to punch something, but there was also a deepening red colour in his complexion that Sam didn't like at all. It was darker and duskier than was healthy, and Chris' eye was twitching the way that it did when he was in pain.
"Chris, are you all right?" he asked, pushing their odd argument out of his mind.
"I'm fantastic," Chris ground out. "Can you let me finish this in peace?"
Sam's frown deepened. Chris' voice had been strained, and it sounded like he was short of breath. "Chris, are you having trouble breathing?"
Chris scowled at his partner menacingly, but it didn't happen quite as he wanted it to, as a wave of nausea hit him and he stood up, ready to bolt for the nearest toilet.
Backup watched this display with trepidation and confusion: was Chris about to hit Sam?
Getting hit was the last thing on Sam's mind as he saw Chris stand and waver on unsteady knees. He got up, too, instinctively knowing what was going to happen. He dived forward and caught Chris just as his legs gave out and the American toppled backwards. He would have cracked his head against the wall, had Sam not halted his fall.
Backup immediately leapt up, telling Spencer to call the infirmary immediately. She darted over to the two agents, fear flooding her veins.
"Chris, stay awake for me," Sam was saying when she got there. The other agents were already gathering round in concern, and she snapped at them to clear the room angrily.
"Don't crowd him!"
Sam was already loosening Chris' belt and talking soothingly to his partner, though she could hear the underlying fear in his voice. "Hey, Chris, take it easy. Just take little breaths. You're going to be all right. Can you tell me how you're feeling?"
In response, Chris retched, and Sam rolled him over deftly so that when he vomited he didn't choke. Some of the vomit hit Sam's beautifully tailored suit, but he didn't seem to notice at all, concentrating solely on his partner's condition.
"What's wrong with him, Sam?" Backup asked in panic.
"I think he's having a reaction ..." Sam replied vaguely, clearly thinking hard as he used his sleeve to wipe Chris' mouth and then checking his airway was clear. "Chris, did you take any pills when you were in the infirmary?"
Chris blinked dazedly at Sam, his eyes glassy and rolling grotesquely in their sockets. Sam slapped his cheek firmly.
"Chris, I need to know if you took any pills down in the infirmary."
The American nodded jerkily.
"What did you take?" Sam pushed. "Did you take Naprosyn?"
"No," Chris choked out, clearly doing his best to stay with it. His breaths were coming in harsher pants now, and Backup could hardly stand the wheezing sound of his lungs working so hard.
"Where are the fucking doctors?" she yelled at Spencer, who was still on the phone.
"Chris, what did you take? Was it Aleve?"
"Yes!" Chris managed to blurt, before vomiting once more, this time so suddenly that Sam's shirt took the brunt of it before he managed to turn him.
As he retched, the door burst open and the CI5 emergency team burst in. Backup immediately retreated, letting them in to do their job. Sam remained, holding his partner steady as he threw up. "He's having a bad reaction to the Aleve he took earlier – he's allergic to naproxen," he informed them, and they nodded, shouting out a load of medical jargon that Backup didn't understand at all before expertly placing him on the stretched and rushing him off to the infirmary.
Sam went to follow, but Backup intercepted him neatly. "You need to change," she said.
"I need to see if Chris is all right," Sam said, eyes narrowing dangerously.
"He will be. They know what's wrong, thanks to you. Give them a few moments to work on him while you get out of that suit." She gestured at his soiled outfit, and he looked down as though he hadn't even noticed. "Come on," she said, more gently, and he nodded, seemingly in shock now that the crisis had been taken out of his hands.
She waited outside while he changed in the men's locker room, and raised an eyebrow when he emerged wearing what was clearly a pair of Chris' black jeans and a scruffy t-shirt. "I used my change of clothes last week and didn't bring in a new lot," he explained self-consciously. "I know Chris' combination, so ..." He fingered the loose-fitting t-shirt briefly.
Despite it being neither the time nor the place, Backup couldn't help but appreciate how good-looking Sam really was. Although she knew that there could never be anything between her and Sam save a mutual appreciation of the other's looks, she was enjoying the rare sight of a casually-dressed Sam. Chris was broader than Sam, and slightly shorter, so the jeans hung low on Sam's lean hips and were slightly too high at his ankles, but the view was still unmistakeably enjoyable.
Sam's expression, however, was more devastated than devastating, and Backup took pity on him and went down with him to the infirmary. A young doctor with blonde hair met them as they arrived.
"Where's Chris?" Sam asked her immediately.
"He's in Room 3,"she replied. "He's going to be fine. Once you told us about the naproxen, we were able to reverse the side-effects quite easily."
"Who administered it in the first place?" Sam demanded, and the doctor blushed.
"Actually, I did," she said quietly. "I'm Amanda Jeffries, it's my first day-"
"That's hardly an excuse," Sam snapped, and Backup placed a firm hand on his arm. "It's written on his file," he continued, although with slightly less venom in his tone.
"Give her a break, Sam. She's new, and with the mood Chris was in earlier, there's no wonder she didn't see that one note in a huge file. Right?" Backup said to Dr. Jeffries, who nodded energetically. "See?"
Sam nodded, looking stricken at the reminder of Chris' bad mood. Backup frowned.
"Can we go in and see him?"
"No problem," Jeffries said, looking relieved at the dissipation of Sam's wrath. "He'll probably be out of it for a few hours at least, though."
Sam was already halfway into the room and Backup thanked the doctor and then followed, only to find Sam looked mournfully at his partner from the foot of the bed. "Sam, what's going on?" she asked, moving to stand beside him. "Did you guys have an argument?"
"I should have known what he was going to do," Sam told her, not taking his eyes off Chris' still form. "I mean, it wasn't like he gave me much information, but I should have known. We're partners. Cagney and Lacey, only I screwed up."
Backup blinked. "You sound exactly like he did half an hour ago," she said.
"The two of you are as bad as one another. You don't make sense."
"Today's our two-year anniversary," Sam said, as though he hadn't heard what she'd said.
"What, are you two married now?"
"We've been partners two years. Chris was talking about it in the car, and I didn't really understand. Then he got angry because I pushed those boxes on top of him, and I understand now," Sam said, looking guilty, scared and triumphant at the same time.
"Well, you're really beginning to channel Chris now, Sam, which may not be the best thing ever, but I think I've caught on. And you don't need to worry about a thing, Sam. The box thing was an accident. Every partnership has them. Even yours and Chris'. You guys are legends around here, did you know that? You're a team with the same status as Bodie and Doyle. So you don't read each other's minds constantly. You still finish each other's sentences, know exactly who's going to drive, and generally act like an old married couple. Sit with him for a while. I'll let Malone know the situation." She squeezed Sam's arm, and he gave her a grateful smile as she left the room.
Once she was gone, Sam sat down in the chair by Chris' bed. Everything that Backup had said had been true, he thought. Unfortunately, he had also realised what he had done wrong. He hadn't taken the anniversary thing seriously at all, and that had hurt Chris' feelings. Two years ago, he wouldn't have cared – hell, even one year ago, he wouldn't have cared, but he and Chris had gelled as a team and seeing Chris nearly choke to death on his own vomit up there in the office had confirmed something he'd been denying for some time now – he cared about Chris a lot. More than he had ever allowed himself to care for a partner before, and certainly more than he had cared about a man for a very long time.
Sam sighed heavily, tiredness seeping over him from both the fading adrenaline and the emotionally fraught day he'd had. He took Chris' hand in his and prepared himself for the wait until Chris woke up.
Chris came to about three hours later, and he immediately felt better than he had before. His limbs felt heavy and his ribs still hurt, but it was no longer near-impossible to breathe and the horrible nausea had left him. He flexed his fingers and toes to get some feeling back into them, and was surprised to find that his left hand was encased tightly in a familiar hand. He squinted down his limb to see Sam sprawled out on the side of the bed, bent over his arm and sleeping in what looked like a very uncomfortable position.
Despite his remembrance of the grudge he was holding against his partner, the sight of Sam snoozing at his bedside was decidedly adorable, and he couldn't help but smile affectionately, especially when he realised what Sam was wearing.
"I see you've decided to rejoin us," a voice came from the doorway, and Chris looked up to see Malone. The silver-haired leader of CI5 crossed surprisingly quietly to the foot of Chris' bed, and the American was sure that he caught a look of affection in the old man's eyes as he glanced at Sam. He'd always known Malone had a soft spot for Sam. "You gave your partner, not to mention the rest of CI5, quite a scare."
"Didn't mean to," Chris said, his voice slightly croaky.
"Your partner, luckily, identified the problem quickly. He probably saved your life." Chris frowned, trying to recall the events up in the office clearly. "I hope you know his medical records as well as he knows yours."
"Of course I do," Chris said automatically. It was the truth, too. He could name every single bone Sam had ever broken, and he knew which ankle was the weak one, as well as which anaesthetics made him sick and which didn't.
"I thought so," Malone said. "Good work today, Mr Keel. Your doctor informs me that you will be fit for work after a day's rest, and for that reason, I am giving both you and Mr Curtis tomorrow off. See you Thursday." With that unexpected show of generosity, the old man glided out of the door, leaving the pair in peace.
Sam woke up as the door clicked shut, and sat up with a groan as his back popped loudly. "Chris," he began uncertainly as soon as he was more awake.
"Sam, don't bother. I heard you saved my life again. Thanks." Sam nodded, keeping his mouth shut as per Chris' instructions. "And I know you're probably feeling guilty because I went off in a bad mood. I'll explain it to you – I know I kind of went all girly on you over the whole anniversary thing. But it's just because I really like being partners with you, Sam. And I know you hate all this emotional stuff, so you can just go ahead and be all masculine and I'll forgive you 'cause I know under it all you care too, all right?"
Sam pondered this for a moment, and then squeezed the hand that Chris had forgotten his partner was holding. "You've got me all figured out, partner," he said after a minute, and Chris grinned. Sam smiled in response and then his eyes glinted the way they always did when he was about to make a joke – usually bad, Chris thought. "Always knew you were the woman in our relationship."
Chris responded to that by digging his nails into Sam's palm, which he thought was an appropriate comeback.
Sam drove Chris home as soon as Dr Jeffries gave him the all-clear, neither of the two agents willing to give Malone the chance to change his mind about their day off. In the car, they both breathed huge sighs of relief to discover that their easy-going relationship had been restored, as Chris teased Sam mercilessly about how he looked dressed in his spare clothes until Sam retorted that Armani hadn't designed their suits with Chris' projectile vomit in mind.
Chris had grinned at that, and the sentimental part of his brain went all warm at the thought that Sam cared about him enough not to care about him throwing up all over him.
And later that night, when Chris had drifted off to sleep from the effects of the painkiller Sam had given him – one that definitely did don't contain naproxen – Sam sighed wistfully at his partner's sleeping figure, and thought that he'd not actually cared about anyone enough recently not to care that they'd been sick all over his favourite suit. Of course, that raised a whole new range of problems, because Sam Curtis had made a promise to himself some years ago that he wouldn't let himself care for someone that much ever again, and somehow he was going to have to work out a way to get rid of the feelings he was experiencing now.
That night, however, as he shut the door to Chris' bedroom and prepared to sleep on the sofa, he only thought about how bloody glad he was that Chris Keel hadn't gone and died from an allergic reaction to a stupid painkiller on their second anniversary.
Summary: It's the boys' two-year anniversary. Chris has thoughts, Sam doesn't, Chris has allergies, and Sam understands. Makes sense, I promise.