Shay Sheridan

When he thinks about it, really considers it, it's almost laughable. Which he would do, he would laugh out loud, but he doesn't want to disturb his partner, who's finally dropped off to sleep. The whole damn thing is one cliché after another, one "I should have expected this" non-surprise hard upon the heels of another. All the elements are here, everything that, added together, has pretty much defined his life since he got into the spy game to Save The World.

He looks around, peers through the gray cold (it's always cold and dark when these things happen), at the slimy basement walls (too thick for a signal to get through), the exposed pipes (the better to hang you from, my dear), the dampness of the floor and the fetid smell (can't the bad guys invest in better plumbing for their dungeons? Christ, it's 1966, get with the program, already!).

He shakes his head and sighs. THRUSH, Mafiosi, KGB, mad scientists, rogue agents – doesn't really matter. Accent changes, type of madness changes, fiendish devices come and go, but it's always just some damn megalomaniac out to rule the world. Same old same old.

He takes stock of himself and, no surprise, his new suit is ruined (is that the Old Man's voice groaning in his ear, yet again, Oh, Mr. Solo, must you be so hard on our expense budget?) and his back hurts, his arms hurt, his wrist chafing in the handcuffs hurts, his legs hurt, his head hurts (oh, shut up, at least you've got your health).

And he does, he has his health, most of it, despite the aches; and that's another cliché, isn't it? He's barely damaged, just uncomfortable, but not really hurt at all, and meanwhile the slick feeling between his fingers is blood, but it's his partner's blood, it's nearly fucking always his partner's blood, and that's not funny at all, not something he wants to laugh about, but rather something he wants to tear a head off about, something he'd like to pump a magazine of bullets into the nearest bad guy about, instead of sitting here, handcuffed, holding his partner's weight against him, shielding him from the slime, the dampness, the cold.

His partner shifts in his arms and he feels blood pump warmly into his hand, so he presses the wound harder, flattens the scrap of cloth against the other man's ribs. There is a little moan, so quiet it is barely a sound. But he hears it, and he hates it, he hates this fucking place, these circumstances, the people who put them here, who shot his partner, who handcuffed them to each other, right hands together. That showed a little creativity, he grants them that, handcuffing their gun hands together. Though it wouldn't normally matter, not with his partner being lethal with his left hand, too, but it's made it nearly impossible to walk, let alone try to escape.

There was only one way to move comfortably, and that was back to front, with him at the back, trying to boost his lighter, spryer partner up to the barred window set high in the wall (and there's always one window, isn't there, he thinks bitterly, just enough to remind you there is an outside world, a faint hope that you could, possibly escape). But there's no escaping this time; his partner could barely move when they were tossed in here, and trying to climb up sapped him of whatever strength he had, and the handcuffs yanked him down, groaning, and they ended up falling, crashing, tangled in a heap on the wet floor.

So there really isn't anything to be done, not now, and all he can do now is hope that the message he did manage to send before they were thrown into this subterranean prison got through, that help is, in fact, on the way. He can't help but think that that's another cliché, the cavalry riding to the rescue, a cliché made for cowboys, not spies, but he's willing to believe, anyway.

He is willing, he'd be happy to believe that they're going to make it, and a part of him does believe that, the part belonging to that other cliché he inhabits: that of the eternally optimistic American. His partner is supposed to be the dour, pessimistic one, right? So he'll hang onto the belief that in the end everything will turn out fine. Sure he believes that, as long as he doesn't listen to the labored breathing coming from the unconscious man he's holding, or feel the rapid flutter of his partner's heart. So long as he doesn't think about the blood covering his hand.

Because something has happened here that wasn't in the script, that isn't a cliché, that's never happened before, and that's what's welling up in his own heart, something beyond the normal concern and affection he has for his cranky, pessimistic, sometimes frankly annoying partner. Something's changed. Something, tonight, shifted between them, when the other man looked up at him and frowned and said "Get off me, you elephant!" after they fell, but smiled as he said it. And it changed more when he pushed the blond hair out of his partner's eyes and kept his hand there a moment longer than was absolutely necessary. And when a left hand, tender and not in the least lethal, reached up to touch his cheek, and a voice whispered "Idiot," but made it sound like a Russian endearment.

And as he holds him tightly in his arms, willing him to stay, waiting for the cliché confrontation with the enemy that will mark the end, one way or another, he realizes they are bound together by more than their wrists, and the bond between them is stronger than steel handcuffs, and much, much harder to break.

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