One Door Closes





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He's very nearly there now. She knows him well, her long time occasional lover. She knows what turns him on, holds him back. She speaks the language of his body with as much fluency as she does her mother tongue and takes immense pleasure in the fact. So now she knows that he's about to come.

She's not: oh, she's close, but she's not quite there yet, won't be for a little while, despite enjoying everything about this. The sounds he makes, the gasping breaths and the little grunts of effort as he jerks his hips, pushing his dick deep inside, the sight of his handsome face above her, contorting with effort and biting occasionally on his lower lip as he loses himself in his pleasure, the ridiculous way his sweaty hair sticks together in tufts - she loves all of it. Most of all she enjoys that she gets to see him like this, so at odds with the aura of easy confidence and command that fits his bulky work persona like a second skin. She has power over this powerful man, no matter that he's so much bigger and stronger: here, in their bed, the playing field is level and the thought delights her, never fails to turn her on.

The rhythm changes as he stirs his dick round inside her, grinding his hips hard against hers, sending a jolt of pure pleasure lancing up from her loins as her clitoris feels the change of pace, the pressure. She gasps and surges up to meet him and he takes the time to grin down at her, pleased with her reaction and with himself.

She's surprised at that, she thought he was too far gone. But when she looks carefully she can see the effort that it's costing him to hold back and she feels a sudden uprush of affection for him.

"Yeah, honey, come for me now," she croons.

"You sure?" She can hear the tension in his voice, echoing the tension in his thighs as they tremble between hers.

"I'm sure." She underlines her certainty with a sudden rhythmic tightening of her muscles, a little hooker's trick she learned when she was still in the business of pleasing her husband.

The results are everything she could wish for as he groans and thrusts hard before he comes with a growl and sinks down over her, hot breath gusting against her throat.

She isn't worried though, that he's come and she's not, not even when the minutes stretch as he takes his time to control his breathing again. He's always been a considerate lover, right from the start: he won't leave her hanging high and dry, poised right at the edge, he's never done that. No, he'll put himself out to pull her over with him, share with her the pleasure that she so obviously gives him. It's a point of honour with him. So she's content to wait her turn, enjoying balancing on the knife's edge, and sure enough he eventually raises his head and looks into her face, an unspoken question in his eyes.

His face melts into a soft, lazy smile as he realises the answer and slithers down her body, runs his tongue down the side of her neck and gently suckles the pulse point at the junction of neck and shoulder. Finely judged, this one, he's careful to leave no mark, nothing to embarrass her in the morning, nothing to cause anything but immediate pleasure.

His tongue traces complicated patterns along her collarbone and across her chest then down through the valley between her full breasts, leaving a damp trail that makes her shiver. He doesn't stop there though but carries on his downward progress, sparing only a brief sideways nuzzle for what she's always though of as her best features. He disagrees, always has, has always preferred her ass, which puzzles her as she's always considered it too big. But he says not, loves to knead it and nuzzle it, lick it and bite it, almost convincing her that it's as beautiful as he always says. She believes that he likes it though, especially when he licks around her asshole: the doctor in her has misgivings, but the woman in her can't find it in herself to object, it just feels too damn good.

He takes his time about going down her body, drawing out her anticipation of him actually reaching his goal, stretching her need to fever pitch with each dip and swirl of his tongue and each mumble of his lips against the soft skin of her belly, her hips, her thighs. It has been weeks since the last time, and despite her earlier reticence she has been looking forward to this. She feels a rush of moisture between her legs as her internal muscles contract sharply and her hips rise up to meet him. He smiles against her thigh, she feels the muscles of his face rearrange themselves against her flesh as she reaches down to card her fingers through his hair and gently guide him exactly where she wants him. When his tongue finally flickers softly against her, exploring and savouring as two fingers slide smoothly inside, she gives herself totally to the moment, lets him do what he will and relishes her surrender.

When she comes back to herself she is cradled close to him, as he lies propped up on one elbow beside her, his other hand cupped loosely round her breast, thumb stroking her flesh absently.

"You enjoyed that."

His voice is rich and heavy with satisfaction and the look in his eyes is soft and warm as she smiles up at him, heavy-limbed and sated. "You need to ask? Or does your ego need massaged as well?"

He snorts with quiet laughter. "No, not really. You definitely gave the impression that you might have enjoyed yourself. My ego can sure take the massage though, it's always good to hear you say it."

She smiles fondly at him, raises one lead-weighted arm to briefly stroke his cheek. "You know you're good. You know we're good together."

"I know it. That we're good together that is…"

He sounds thoughtful, wistful, if that's not too fanciful a term for this man, and her attention sharpens. She's good at reading him, all of his moods as well as the language of his body, thanks to their long familiarity. There's something more here, she knows it and despite her best intentions, her heart contracts a little in anticipation of a different kind

. "But? Don't try to dodge the bullet, Jack honey, I definitely heard a 'but' there."

He looks a bit shamefaced and his eyes almost slide away from hers, before typically, endearingly, she sees him mentally square his shoulders and take a deep breath before looking back into her eyes.

"I've been thinking."

He falls silent for a while, his mobile face troubled and grave, forcing her to prompt gently, "And?"

He takes another deep breath. "I suppose I'd better just come out with it – there's no good way to say it."

He tails off again, a slight flush spreading up from his neck as he chews once more on his lip. She shrugs mentally: she knows what's coming here, knows this had to come, sooner or later. There's sparkage there between them, passion and connection, has been always – there's even commitment, of a deep and abiding sort. But never the whole nine yards, not from either of them: a mutually pleasurable arrangement, a history of eagerly anticipated and thoroughly enjoyable encounters, deep and comfortable affection: but it stops just short of the desire for permanency on either side. They love, but they're not in love. Both of them have been burned in the past, neither of them is completely willing to take the chance again.

Until now, she guesses. Maybe she guesses wrong, but on the whole, she thinks not.

He's obviously floundering, and she's first and foremost his friend, fond enough of him to want to help him out whatever the circumstances.

"There's someone else." She makes it a statement, not a question, and he flashes her an appreciative look.

"Well… yeah. There is. Sort of."

She raises an eyebrow at this. "Only sort of?"

She sees his small spurt of irritation as it scurries through his eyes. He hates these kinds of declarations, always has in her experience, possibly always will, although she's shrewd enough to realise that it probably wasn't the case before he got so badly hurt. He was maybe always private, but never shuttered, or so she thinks. That's collateral damage, fallout from rigorous training, compounded by bitter experiences, a wrecked marriage and an unlooked-for divorce.

"I haven't done anything about it yet. It's… complicated. And I wanted to set us straight first. I didn't mean for us to… you know," his hand leaves her breast for a moment, flaps vaguely back and forth in the space between them before dropping lightly to rest on her hip, "not tonight. Not before I told you… tonight I thought we'd better talk." He gives a lopsided smile and drops a quick kiss against her forehead. "Didn't happen that way though. Sorry."

"For what?"

"Oh…for thinking with my dick, I guess." He chuckles self-consciously. "For doing this the wrong way round. It's not generally my style – at least, it never used to be, I don't think. It's been so long that I can hardly remember exactly what my style was."

She chuckles in her turn. "Oh yeah. I know that feeling. Seriously, sugar, you have nothing to apologise for. Trust me, I'm a doctor." She grins wickedly. "Besides, you know what they say – two heads are always better than one." Her hand drifts down and pats his groin for emphasis. " Your dick does some good thinking."

He laughs outright and squeezes her hip. "So, what are you saying here? You prefer me with my brain in my shorts?"

"Only when it's appropriate." She stretches luxuriously and snuggles up closer. The awkward moment is over, thankfully, and she can say lightly, "So, who's the lucky winner? Anyone I know?"

He shakes his head, a small, private smile tugging at his lips. "'Need to know' basis at the moment, baby."

She chuckles again. "Very mysterious. Jack, honey, you've been in the military too long."

"Hey! You've got your secrets…'sides, you'll know soon enough anyway, if it comes to anything."

"True enough, scuttlebutt being what it is."

An odd expression flashes through his eyes for a bare instant – she's obviously being fanciful, she thinks for a moment it looks almost like fear. But he only says mildly, almost thinking to himself, "Well, there is that, of course. If it happens, it happens," and then in a stronger voice, "I was thinking more of you being smart enough to figure it out for yourself. Or me telling you. If it happens."

No need, she thinks, I've got it already. Sam, it has to be Sam. No great surprise, it's been in the wind for long enough. So the grapevine got it right this time- well, half right. Knowing him as she does, she thought the other theory was laughable all along.

She won't let on she's guessed; she'll let him think his secret's still just that even though she suspects he's going to be disappointed. Sam may flirt, a little, but she's too enamoured of her career, too untouched by bad experiences, to take the chance of blowing it for whatever reason. But there are some things that friends just cannot do, better not say, even in a friendship such as theirs – especially not in a friendship such as theirs – so she'll hold her peace.

With a brief pang of regret for needlessly burned bridges, she says, "I wish you well - you know that. But I can't deny I'll miss this. I'll miss you."

"Yeah, we were good together, weren't we? Every single time."

Already the past tense, she notices, and can't help feeling bereft: dumped once again for the blonde, although to be fair, not a bimbo for once… But it only lasts a moment before her practical side reasserts itself. This was never forever, never for keeps. An arrangement, not a grand amour. A satisfactory way to scratch an itch, they both knew it.

No, that's too simplistic; it was always more than that, just never quite enough. Worse, that sounded clinical, bitter almost, and she's grateful that she didn't say it out loud. She's certainly not bitter – hell, not at all. If she has to put a name to what she feels right now, melancholy might come close. A door is shutting gently that can never be opened again and she's going to miss the intimacy, she can't gainsay it. This has been a pleasant rut to settle in – but then again, maybe it's time she thought seriously about climbing out of it herself.

"We were indeed," she says softly, and stifles any small sorrow as she sees the gratitude in her…what? Her good friend, as of now, she supposes, no longer her lover… in her good friend's eyes.

"So. No regrets then? You're sure? We're still gonna be friends?"

Typical of him, she thinks with wry fondness, to want things set out in black and white, to want a declaration even when he hesitates to give one. But when she looks inside herself, she can honestly give him that: "No, no regrets. We were friends before we were ever…" her voice tails off, unable, no, unwilling to voice the crudity that pops unbidden into her mind, so she changes tack and finishes, "before we were ever anything else. That stays, no matter what."

He looks relieved and touches her face gently, gives her a soft kiss, says simply, "I'm glad. It's always been more than…y'know? For me, at least."

"Me too, sugar, me too." And she kisses him back, without heat, letting him go with her blessing.



*****


Later, months later, when it finally becomes obvious to her after long and careful covert observation that she was wrong, way off beam in her assumptions, she thinks back to that last night together as lovers, only night together as the best of friends. It's strange, she thinks, that you can know someone so well and miss something so fundamental, except with hindsight. Not that all the signs weren't probably there, she just didn't read them right. She's reading them right now.

Outwardly, Jack is much the same as ever: sarcastic, cranky, flippant, argumentative, same old. He and Daniel still bicker, still outright disagree loudly and at great length, still manage to remain friends, still spend the bulk of their downtime together; that much hasn't changed. Nothing new to see, nothing to spawn more gossip than usual, nothing to give them away. Hiding in plain sight.

Inwardly though, she sees the change, just occasionally, in the odd unguarded moment. He never has told her, never come right out and said it, and she's sure as hell not asking. She doesn't need to anyway; she still understands him as nobody else does, with the one exception now, of course. Her good friend is content, relaxed and glowing, inwardly at peace in defiance of the disturbing nature of his daily work, in a way he never was before. And despite one last small prick of wounded pride that it's Daniel that has done this for him and not her, she can't find it in her to grudge him his happiness.









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