Title: What Lies Within Us
Characters/Pairings: Christian Clarke/Syed Masood
Spoilers: Follows directly on from the 6/01/2012 and chronicles what may have happened in the weeks they were offscreen.
Rating: M - because it's Chryed and they're making up -_-
Summary: Christian and Syed love each other. But the unbreakable has been broken; and now they have to pick up the pieces of their shattered relationship and put them back together.
A/N: The first 1,000 words or so of this were very difficult; they didn't seem to flow, but, I think, this tied in with the tentative awkwardness that I was trying to portray in the writing itself. There are a lot of issues hanging around that neither of them are ready to face, although they feel the weight of them in every second that they spend together. I tried to explore that tension in this chapter - I wanted it to be almost like they were a new couple, unsure of each other and themselves, only with the weight of experience and history and memory making that awkwardness even more tense. I hope it worked!
Many thanks again to Jenn for the beta! *mwah*
What Lies Within Us
"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
It feels strange walking into the flat. Over the past few months, Syed has grown accustomed…well, not to the absence of Christian, but to the sensation of something being missing as he crosses the threshold. He's come to expect it; the sense of something being wrong has become so commonplace as to somehow seem right.
But, as he pushes the door open and steps inside, he can hear the shuffle of Christian's feet behind him; feel the warm fragments of breath curling around the back of his neck; hear and smell and breathe in the unutterable sense of his presence. He'd forgotten what it's like to feel even partially complete as he walks into this flat. He can't quite understand why, but the overwhelming sense of there being nothing missing at all - the feeling of everything being in place – is terrifying. He can't quite remember how to deal with it.
Unlike the old flat, these four walls have always been very much theirs. They bought it, they decorated it and they built a tiny, comforting slice of them in the mad hustle of the world. It had been so odd without Christian – incomplete, as if someone had reached in and wrenched half the flesh from its body. The only way to survive had been to adapt.
And now the missing flesh is back.
Only, to sew it back on, maybe he needs to make fresh wounds.
His arms fold automatically across his chest, the keys playing loudly about the tips of his fingers as Christian shuts the door with a tentative click. There is a warmth hanging in the air. He can feel the glare of Christian's eyes on his back; the wobbling gaze of someone who is looking to him for some sort of guidance.
He's never felt so unwise in his life.
In fact, he wants to turn around and bury himself in Christian's chest – hiding deep in the flesh, blotting out all the questions with the gentle thumpa-thumpa of his heartbeat.
He wants to be reassured. More than anything, he wants Christian to stroke his hair and hold his hand and tell him that nothing matters, nothing of the past few months matters one jot because they're here and together and it's right, it's so right, and he forgives him…god, how much he wants to be forgiven.
But he keeps his back straight, shifting on his heel so that he's facing Christian with what he hopes is a confident expression on his face. The muscle along his jaw aches with the effort of keeping his composure; he can feel it twitching at his cheek, disrupting the lines he's so carefully drawn.
"Christian…" the word burns on the tip of his tongue, curling like hot smoke around the inside of his mouth. He's missed saying it. He's missed saying it alone, in this house – with no one to hear it but Christian himself. The privacy of the word; it's like uttering a secret password. It sends an unutterable thrill right through him. It makes him want to say it over and over again, letting the syllables dance across tongue and lips, whispering them into flesh so that the words imprint themselves into the very marrow of Christian's bones…
…no, not yet; definitely not yet.
The key rattles against his twitching fingers, his arms clenching around his chest as if he's holding himself firmly in place.
The differing timbres bump clumsily into one another, each sound thrumming with confusion as they clamp their mouths shut in unison. Syed watches as Christian flicks his tongue nervously over his bottom lip; the flash of pink darting through his mind, scrambling the thoughts into a frenzy.
It's an awkwardness that fizzes with an unbidden heat.
A tentative quiet that wraps them in a blanket of unspoken passion.
It's instinct versus logic; standing so near, enclosed in these four walls, all the knowledge that they shouldn't fighting mercilessly against the want-want-want that invades every single nerve ending…
The lack of sound is overwhelming. More excruciating than any words could possibly be. Syed clenches his fist, driving the bluntness of his nails into his palm. One of them is going to have to speak. One of them is going to have to break the heavy silence…because it's screaming words neither of them are really ready to hear.
He swallows hard, catching Christian's eye for a flash of a second – in that moment, the beseeching plea that shines forth from those irises tells him everything he needs to know.
He has to take charge.
Christian is the one who left and, whatever reasons lay behind his leaving, it's like he's a guest in Syed's territory. He can see it in Christian's silhouette; the way he's holding himself, the depth of the hands in his pockets, the tautness of his shoulders, the uncertain, awkward, uncomfortable flutter that shakes his face.
No, Syed is the one who has to decide what to do.
He doesn't want to.
But neither does Christian.
And they can't stay like this forever – a wave of uncertainty crashing against a wall of fear.
Syed takes a deep breath, finally uncrossing his arms and letting them fall limply by his side as he sweeps his gaze across the flat. He takes in each and every corner, as if weighing up the situation (or, at least, giving the impression of decisiveness), before letting his eyes rest on the line of Christian's jaw; tactfully avoiding the mixture of hope-fear-love that's shining from his eyes.
"It's late," the words are nowhere near as solid as he had hoped them to be, a slight tremble clinging to them as they leave his mouth. "We should think about…I mean…we need to decide where we're going to…"
Understanding dawns in Christian's eyes – the unspoken thing, the awkwardness that has hung between them, dissipates slightly now that the topic has been broached. Something about Christian's whole demeanour seems to collapse in on itself, crumbling comfortably and allowing the briefest brush of a smile across his lips.
"Yeah," there's a tremor there, but it's faint, the words thrumming with the confidence that they can do more than stand in silent ineptitude. "We need to think about that."
Syed feels something surging through him: they're talking…they're discussing…they're not arguing! For the first time since they stepped over the threshold of the flat, and were forced to face the jagged remnants of the relationship they had somehow managed to ruin so badly, he begins to feel a blanket of comfort wrap around his heart.
They can do this. They can pick up the pieces.
He never stopped loving Christian, but somewhere along the line he had begun to feel that perhaps love wasn't enough. But now, as a tiny smile tugs at the corner of Christian's mouth and bounds with a fervour belying its size onto Syed's chest, he begins to believe that it is enough. They both want it.
The sudden jolt of confidence seems to reconnect the synapses that had shorted out; he feels renewed, alive, able to think coherently despite the thrumming mixture of uncertainty and need that fires through his veins.
"I can take the spare room," it's a decision that jumps out at him from nowhere – he doesn't care where it came from, all he knows is that whatever it is the right thing, for now - he knows it in his bones. "She…I mean…Amira has been sleeping in there and it's full of baby toys, so I think I should probably…"
The decisiveness suddenly dissipates as the elephant in the room decides to stamp his – or her – foot into the proceedings.
These things are not going to go away: Yasmin is in his life now, and he's never going to let her go. She is imprinted on his heart just as much as Christian is; she's his daughter, his blood, the most precious thing that has ever come out of the dark for him.
He still doesn't know how Christian is going to take to that, especially as Yasmin comes with…
"I don't mind sleeping there. She doesn't bring me out in hives or anything…"
Christian's trying for humorous diplomacy, but it falls flat. Syed's seen the looks exchanged between the two of them; he saw Christian's face in the pub days before when Amira kissed him; he knows that the last thing either of them need is to have any of that intrude on them…at least not now, not their first night back together.
That will come in time – but he doesn't want to face that now.
All he wants is to fall asleep knowing that Christian is under the same roof as him.
Knowing that they have a chance.
Knowing that he loves and is loved and that that's the only thing that matters here, now, in these few fleeting hours before the rest of the world will batter at their doors.
"No," he smiles, tipping himself towards Christian slightly before sliding back – venturing into the territory that hasn't been his for so long he wonders how he ever survived. "You take the main bedroom, tonight. I'll sleep in the spare. I never did like sleeping in a double bed…on my own…no, I mean…I didn't mean that…"
Christian steps forward suddenly as he fumbles over his words, reaching out a hand and ghosting his fingers around Syed's elbow; as if he's holding him in place, reassuring him against the unbidden syllables that are tumbling from his mouth.
"It's okay," he says quietly, almost whispering as they both feel the contact burn through Syed's jacket. For a brief moment, Syed thinks that Christian is going to close the gap between them; he tips his chin upwards, the movement instinctive, baring his lips for the kiss he's sure is going to come. The fingers at his arm tighten…Syed feels his spine stiffen in anticipation…
And then they fall back, their eyes sliding away from each other with murmurs of 'it's late', 'we should sleep' and, then, after a brief moment of awkward silence, a hushed 'goodnight' that sends them scurrying almost sheepishly to their separate rooms.
Syed takes in a breath as he clicks the door shut behind him, resting his back against it for a second and letting hot air push its way from his chest.
They had been so close. Dangerously close.
'Not yet,' his lips form the silent words as he moves from the door, stripping to his underwear before clambering into bed. "Not yet…not yet…"
It's like a mantra, coating his erratic thoughts with a sugary layer of conviction. The darkness seems to close in on him as he draws the sheets to his chest, well aware of the cloying smell of Amira's perfume that hangs in the air. It brings home a million feelings that he can't possible begin to sort through: guilt, anger, affection, annoyance, fear...
…oh god, he is so pathetically scared…that she won't let him see Yasmin, that in finding Christian again he has somehow lost his daughter…
…or, maybe, he will keep hold of that jewel, keep it clamped to his chest where it's supposed to be, but, in that process, he will lose Christian again…
The heavy weight of almost-sleep weighs on his brain, magnifying every fear until it looms over him like a vampire in the night; draining him of his confidence, of his surety, of the very things that he needs to keep his soul afloat.
Things will go wrong and Christian will leave.
Christian will stay and things will go wrong.
He'll never see Yasmin again.
Amira will take her away.
He'll never be able to share the two most precious things in his life – Amira will never let Christian see Yasmin, never, he could see it in her eyes.
Then what? Where would they go from there? Where do they go from here?
He'll always be torn.
Shattered into a million pieces.
He can't…not again…
The morning will bring with it something far scarier than anything he has faced in trying to rekindle this relationship; everything has led to this point, and now, to have to think beyond that, into the future…
A gentle creaking noise disturbs the thin membrane of his tortured slumber; somewhere in his groggy brain, he realises that the door has been opened, that someone has taken a tentative step into the room and is now leaning against the doorframe.
There's a breath. The sound of a tongue licking nervously against dry lips. The tense thrumming of a question unspoken, waiting to be asked, awaiting an answer…
Syed doesn't make a sound.
Instead, he scoots across the thin stretch of the bed, pressing himself against the wall and pulling the covers with him – leaving a cold space behind him that waits to be filled.
A weight dips down onto the mattress, a warm heat smarting gorgeously against his back as Christian pulls the covers up and over them; there's not enough space for them both, not really, but the heaviness of Christian's arm as it slings across his waist is not something he wants to fight. Not something he'll ever want to fight. He presses his hand onto the fingers that splay across his stomach, shuffling back until they are sandwiched together, slotted against one another in a way that is so immensely awkward yet so utterly, utterly right.
He can't smell the perfume anymore. All his senses can register is: Christian Christian Christian.
There's nothing else in it but comfort. The heat of Christian's chest wraps around him like an electric blanket, pressing down on him until the last vestiges of consciousness are squeezed from his brain.
Before he goes to sleep, however, he feels the tentative press of lips to his hair; the subtle vibrations of words whispered against his scalp.
I missed you.
And that's enough.
Tomorrow is a whole other day. He still fears it. He still waits for it to come with dread in his heart. They'll have to face it, when it comes; face it in all its fury.
But that's not now. This is now.
And, for now, this is enough.
Thank you for reading! I thought maybe it got a bit sentimental near the end, but Syed himself did say that being in the proximity of Christian and not being able to touch him causes an actual physical reaction, an actual pain. So I felt they needed to touch. I hope you enjoyed, and if you have any comments I would love to hear them! They still have such a long way to go...