Malcolm ran his hands through his hair until it stood on end. It had gone eleven; the building was silent and dark. He hadn’t been home in a day. He had come to the realization that there was nothing Malcolm could do about what Tom had opened his trap about during Questions. He’d run out of bullets to fire at the media on the topic, and fuck him if he thought Tom deserved digging into the blackmail files for the depleted uranium rounds. It wasn’t war, after all, it was nothing more than a fucking stupid tax policy that had the Opposition licking its chops. Tom would have to deal with it.
He sighed. Tom would have to deal with it, because Malcolm was helpless. Fucking useless, he was, a waste of oxygen. A waste of good coffee. Malcolm reached for the paper cup on his desk methodically at this thought, raised it to his lips, and grimaced. Cold. It had been cold for hours.
He threw it at the bin and missed.
No point bothering to pick it up. At this rate he’d be sacked in the morning, his failure to control the press had been so epic. He leaned his hands on his desk and squeezed his eyes shut.
A rustle behind him, a scent he knew. And then a touch on his shoulder. A touch, a human hand. How long had it been since anybody had touched him? Sure, he’d leaned in on men who’d quivered away from him, he’d laid a hand on an arm or a shoulder with intent to terrorize, but how long had it been since somebody had touched him? The feeling in his throat was not a thing he wanted to think about. Sam was touching him, and he wanted her never to stop, but instead he had to chase her away so he could get this done. The thought of it made his chest ache. Fuck.
“Hey, Sammy,” he said, without opening his eyes. “Go the fuck home.”
“Think not,” Sam said.
Malcolm opened his eyes at that and prepared to glare at her. But she was smiling at him. Fucked if he knew why. She was here at work at eleven pip emma, and he had no idea why.
“What?” he said, but there wasn’t any energy in it. He was done.
“I know for a fact you haven’t eaten since breakfast. I’ve got a bit of dinner at home for the two of us.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Liar. I’m hungry, which means you’re beyond hungry. Come on. We’ll get some food into you and you’ll feel better.”
“I can order in. I’ve got hours more here. Fuck off on home.”
“No,” Sam said, firmly. “You’ve been eating that shite for days now. You can’t keep going this way. Real food, and a bit of sleep, and then we’ll get back at it.”
Malcolm rubbed his eyes. He was too tired for it. She was right. She was right and he was done.
“Yeah. Okay. Just-- Fuck. Let’s get out of here.”
Shite chucked into his case. Coat on. He followed Sam out, watched her lock up the door to their offices, and paced alongside her out and down. She had a cab summoned already, and it arrived moments after they reached the pavement. To hers, no demurring. His house would have that cold feeling of a place nobody lived in any more, and his fridge would be full of veggies gone limp and milk gone stale. Malcolm Tucker wasn’t home. Malcolm Tucker hadn’t been home. Malcolm Tucker wouldn’t be home.
Arrival. He hauled himself out of the cab. He paid; no arguments on that point, at least. In, up two flights of steps, to a little flat that was quite lovely on the inside, bigger than it had any right to be in Islington. He set his case down inside the door. Sam put it on the latch. He followed her into the kitchen. It was cheery despite the ungodly hour, with flowers on the table. Somebody lived here. Somebody who lived spent time here. Sam opened her fridge and pulled out some containers. Dinner, right. She’d promised to feed him.
He said, “Can I help?”
“Sit,” she said. “Stop thinking.”
She set a glass of orange juice in front of him. Orange juice, not anything else, because she knew him as well as anybody, and better than some of his exes. He drank it while he watched her move around the little kitchen. If she touched him he’d go up like tinder with a match to it, but it was just pity that had her sitting him down here, feeding him. When she set food in front of him he ate. Stew with lamb in it and a lot of veg, reheated, in a bowl with some parmesan melting into it. The leftover half of a loaf of bread. It was all fucking manna from heaven, as far as he was concerned, almost enough to put the will to live back into him.
He ought to get himself home more often. He was handy in a kitchen if he had the time. Why did he never have the time? He ought to have the time. He didn’t have the time because he spent his weekends flat on his back on his couch, trying to recuperate, if he spent them at home at all. He spent his nights in his fucking office, fucking wiping up hurricanes of piss from politicians who’d never taken to litter-training. Was it worth it? They were in power now, but they wouldn’t stay that way. Tom’s facade was showing its cracks. If an election were called it would be over. Tom would fuck it, and he wouldn’t be able to help.
“Stop it,” Sam said.
“Might as well tell me to stop breathing.”
“Look, if you’re going to fret, you great numpty, do the washing up. I’ll put on some tea.”
Washing up, right, he could do that. He stood up and carried his bowl to the sink. Run hot water, soap. Run the sponge around things, rinse, set their bowls into the rack. Easy enough that even Malcolm couldn’t cock it up. He certainly couldn’t brood while he was worrying about not smashing her crockery. She’d known this would work on him. After, what? seven years together, Sam knew his moods as well as any other person he’d been near had known them. Better than his ex-wife. Sam had been with him longer than his marriage had lasted, now that he thought about it. Either that was dismal and depressing, or a sign that he was doomed. The only way he could keep Sam around was because she was paid to stay.
Unworthy thought. She’d given up a chance to work for a Cabinet minister to stay with him. She hadn’t told him that; Julius had. Not the sort of thing she’d ever have told him; not the sort of thing he’d ever mention he knew.
Sam came up beside him and said, “You’re brooding.”
“Yeah, I am. Fucking cocked up everything this week.”
“You mean Tom has.”
Malcolm grinned for a moment. “Not supposed to say that out loud.”
“But I can say it to you, and you to me.”
“Only person in the world I can trust to understand it when I say it. Anybody else would start feeling me out, looking for angles, trying to get my support. You-- you know what I mean is that Tom is a fucking idiot.”
“Oh, Malcolm.” And Sam touched him again, a hand on his hand, fingers running through his hair. He leaned into it despite everything he was saying to himself about keeping himself to himself, about keeping Sam safe from it all. Sam was touching him and he closed his eyes and made a sound he didn’t want to admit he’d made. She stroked his face and he shivered.
She cupped his face in her hands. Malcolm opened his eyes. That fucking mysterious smile was on her face again.
And she kissed his lips, to his utter shock. He wasted a moment wondering what, how, why, and then was kissing her back. He got his hand up and tangled in her hair, tugged her closer and kissed her again. Thirsty, yes, he was thirsty, but not for any damn thing that came in a glass. He wanted this touch, her hands on his arms, her lips against his, her cheek rubbing against his for a moment, her fingers in his hair. That’s what he wanted, what he craved. She broke away from him and he grasped after her.
“Kettle’s on the boil.”
So it was. Malcolm subsided into her kitchen chair and watched her pour hot water into mugs for the both of them. Herbal tea shite, she said, nighttime blend, to take the edge off the succession of Red Bulls he’d poured down his throat earlier. He had no idea if it would work or not. He assumed not. Tasted like dust and flowers, not proper tea. Didn’t matter, though. He was exhausted now, and feeling it. He wanted to kiss her again and he wanted to run away and where had his swagger gone? He was done. Done for. Undone.
He set his empty mug down on the table and yawned. Sam touched his hand. Touch, again, a touch from her, and he shivered.
“Come on. We’re going to bed.”
“It’s too late for drama, Malcolm. We’re going to sleep, and we’re going to talk about it in the morning.”
Malcolm followed her down the hallway to the little bedroom at the back of the flat. It was as tidy and cheerful as the rest of the flat. Cozy. Very Sam. He emptied his pockets onto the little set of drawers beside the bed, beside the clock that told him it was pushing two in the morning. Shoes off. Sam handed him a toothbrush in its wrapping and a shirt, and told him to change in the bath. He took them from her and followed instructions. Undressed, grimaced at the state of his shirt. Shook out the bundle of clothes she’d given him: a t-shirt with a ragged hem, too big for Sam, so he wondered, rather, but he put it on without saying anything. A spare toothbrush, toothpaste that tasted strange. He rinsed out his mouth and stared at himself in Sam’s bathroom mirror. Who was that man? He was gaunt, haunted. Exhausted. The bristle on his chin was silver and copper. He looked as if he would float away he was so thin. The job was eating him from the inside out.
He was too tired for this. It was too late for drama, Sam had said, and that was wisdom. He’d think about that moment of insight in the morning.
He padded back to her bedroom barefoot, clothes under his arm. Sam was doing something with the bed, folding back the blankets. She was wearing a shirt with no sleeves, little straps over her shoulders, and soft pajama trousers below. Malcolm stared, looked away guiltily. He set his folded suit and shirt onto the floor beside his shoes. He got into bed and watched her move about the bedroom. Lights out. The creak of a strange bed, not at all like the creak of his. Malcolm lay on his back and held his breath. What would happen now? What did she want?
She was sliding over to him. Her hand rested on his chest for a moment. Malcolm turned to her. She kissed him again. Again he froze and then clung to her tight and if he whimpered, he would never admit it. He kissed her back, and again she was the one who pulled away. There was tenderness in her fingers laid against his lips, in the hand that squeezed his for a moment.
“Sammy,” he said. “What’s this mean?”
“Hush,” she said. “Get some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”
How could he sleep? Sam had kissed him, and he’d kissed her back, and it had been like coming home and fuck him, he needed her to hold him and never let go, and what was wrong with him? He shouldn’t need anybody. He shouldn’t ever trust anybody. He’d always told himself that and kept himself aloof from them all, from the politicians and journalists he’d dated and bedded. Couldn’t trust them. Except he did trust Sam. He had to. She was the only one of them all who was always in his corner.
And she’d kissed him. Taken him to her bed and kissed him. They were in her bed, and all Malcolm could do was burrow his face into her shoulder and cling to her.
“Hush,” she said again. “Get some sleep, Malcolm.”
Sleep? Tom had murdered sleep. But nonetheless, Malcolm slept.
He woke more than once in the night, startled, confused. Then he remembered where he was, and whose warm body it was next to his. He was with Sam. He was safe. He didn’t have to think about anything. He didn’t have to get up. He shifted closer to her, close enough to touch her with a hand, not so close that he’d risk offending her. She smelled good. Her bedroom smelled good, like flowers or something like that. The blankets were warm and pleasantly heavy.
When next he woke the gray morning light limned the edges of the curtains, and he needed to get up. Toilet across the hall, light on, eyes closed against the brightness. Cock out. He enjoyed a nice long piss. Flush, wash, steal a long drink of water from the glass on the sink. Light off, ah, sweet darkness. Pad back into the bedroom and climb into bed again.
Sam stirred and reached out to him, touched his face. Malcolm kissed her palm.
“Hey,” she said. “You okay?”
“Go back to sleep.”
“Would you mind a bit of cuddle?”
“No, you idiot. Cuddle away.”
She did, and Malcolm snugged himself up behind her, an arm over her waist. She had a lovely warm bottom, and his hips were pressed up against it. Should he be aroused? Would she mind? Was it what she expected of him? He was too thick with exhaustion to work out what it was he should be doing, so he let himself drift down into sleep again, down through warmth into soothing dreams.
When he woke again he was still pressed up against her, and now he was aroused for sure. He was awake enough that he knew he wanted to be aroused, wanted to do more than lay his head on her shoulder. He wasn’t a cunt; he would get out of bed without doing anything more than this if she didn’t want more. But he would ask. He would ask, and maybe she’d say yes.
He kissed the nape of her neck gently, cautiously, testing the waters to see if she was awake.
“Mmm,” she said.
“Morning.” He kissed his way from her neck to the strap of her sleeveless shirt. He pushed that aside and kissed her shoulder. She smelled wonderful to him. Warm.
“You’re feeling better,” she said, and he could hear the amusement in her voice.
“Is it all right?”
“Mmm,” she said, again. “Yeah.”
She turned in his arms and shifted over close to him. He was on surer ground now. Sam wanted him. She’d said yes. He could kiss her open-mouthed and pull her tight against him. He could press his erection against her. He slipped his thigh between hers to give her something to push against in return.
Kisses and touches and his hand against her bare back, her hand sliding up under his shirt, resting against his chest. Touch, all the touch he starved after, all his right now. Kissing her, holding her close, rolling with her so he was on top, rolling against so she was on top. Watching her shed that shirt, reaching up and touching her breasts. He was trying to work out what she liked, but she seemed to like everything.
More clothes off, and now they were pressed against each other, skin to skin, and Malcolm at last let him believe in it. He lay over her and kissed her breasts, kissed her belly, let his fingers explore. She was ready for him, and he couldn’t wait any longer.
“Do I need a condom?”
“Top drawer,” she said.
Malcolm obediently crawled over and fished the box out. Opened, maybe two or three used, and he hated himself for noticing that. But Sam was a lovely woman, had never had trouble finding dates, and neither of them had ever been shy about telling the other when they’d been occupied with a partner. It hadn’t been as often for him as he might have wished, and he’d be hypocritical if he begrudged Sam the pleasure. The pang of jealousy was real despite it all. Well, he’d make her forget whoever’d come before him, that was all he could do.
Over her again, kneeling up between her spread thighs, sheathed prick in hand, oh yes. Nudging against her, pushing inside her, the sweet feeling of it, his body inside hers. Sammy, his Sammy, making a sound of pure satisfaction as he pushed into her.
He let himself lie over her, just like that, not moving yet, simply luxuriating in her. She encompassed him. A grand word, yes, almost too grand for his early-morning self, but there no other word for it, for this feeling, of Sam utterly surrounding him. Arms around him, heels tucked into the backs of his knees, lips against his unshaven cheek. Sam.
He found his voice. “Okay?”
“Mmm,” was all she said.
If you’d asked him, he’d have said he knew Sam, knew her well. He knew what made her laugh, what she liked in her coffee, how she spent her weekends, what she liked to do on holiday. Now he understood he’d only seen a tiny part of her. Sam herself was much more than that shallow bunk. She was the woman who’d touch his cheek when he’d finally cracked under the strain, who’d take him to bed, who’d sigh with satisfaction when he entered her. Maybe now she knew him too. Maybe that was pure fucking bunk, sentimental tosh from a man who was overwhelmed right now by how good she was making him feel, by how good it was to be close to somebody like this.
She slid a hand down between them and touched herself while he moved inside her, which was fine by him. Whatever felt good for her. He didn’t know what she liked yet, and he wanted to feel her come, hear her make those sounds. She liked it when he kissed her neck, that he could tell. She liked it when he whispered sweet things to her. She smiled at him when he pushed himself up on straight arms over her and moved as slowly as he could bring himself to move.
Sweat and flushed faces and sloppy kisses and half-gasped words of encouragement to each other. Sam’s breath was coming short and her eyes were closed.
“Yeah,” he said to her. “Sammy. My Sammy. Go ahead.”
She was coming around him, and it felt good, so good. He allowed himself to let go and feel it, to stop fighting it. She whispered something in his ear, something encouraging, his name, affectionate nonsense, and it was all so good. It was on him, inevitable now, building, and all he had to do was let himself feel it, let go and feel it, let go and come with Sam’s arms around him. It was all too much. Orgasm, a good one, and when he opened his eyes again it was to the sight of Sam smiling up at him. Sweaty, red-faced, hair everywhere, fucking gorgeous. A minute of lingering, tender kisses on her lips and the end of her nose, and then he extricated himself from her like a gentleman.
He climbed back into bed and pulled blankets up over them both. He scooted over to her until he was clinging to her again, his head on the pillow with hers.
“You good, darling?” he said.
“Mmm, yeah. That was good.”
She was smiling, eyes half-closed, so he let himself believe it. Burrowed his face into her shoulder again, but this time it wasn’t desperate.
When he woke a third time, he was alone in bed and sunlight was poking through closed blinds. He rubbed a hand over his face. Awake. Not dreaming. In Sam’s bed, which smelled good, like her. The pillow under his head was hers. That glow he felt was the satisfaction of having made love to somebody. He groped for his phone on the nightstand, next to his keys and wallet. Nearly gone eleven: he’d slept in proper late. Where was Sammy? He cocked his head and listening, trying to sort out the sounds of an unfamiliar flat. Quiet for a moment, then footsteps from down the hall, and water running in what must be the kitchen.
He considered getting dressed. He could skulk off, pretend none of it had happened. That would hurt her, and he couldn’t bear the thought of hurting Sam. Not after all that. But maybe she’d be the one to hurt him. That was usually how it worked. She’d very kindly put him off at some point.
Or he’d check messages to find himself sacked, and he’d be too busy coping with that to pay attention to her, and he’d muff it. That was most likely by far.
Might as well get on with it, then.
Malcolm swung his legs out of bed and found his boxers on the floor, next to the discarded t-shirt. He pulled them on and sat back down on the bed.
The door creaked open, and Sam peered in.
“Hey,” he said, and felt his face flush.
“You’re awake. Was coming to roust you, but–”
She came all the way into the room. Dressed, he saw, and felt a moment of disappointment that was followed immediately by guilt. Then he noticed the cup in her hand, and smelled the coffee.
Sam set the cup down on the nightstand.
Malcolm picked it up and tasted. Black as sin and stronger than sin, obscenely better than the stuff they had in the communications staff building. Sugar in it, because Sam knew how he took it. Fucking Downing Street had good coffee, and the PM’s assistant knew how he took it. Hadn’t offered him any last time he’d been there, two days ago. Sign of his fall from grace? Sign of Tom’s fall from electoral grace? Fuck, what were the headlines like this morning?
“Stop it this instant,” Sam said to him.
“Thinking about work.”
Malcolm sighed and drank more coffee. She meant well, she did. But she might as well be asking him to stop breathing. But then she was kneeling up beside him on the bed and fussing with his hair, smoothing it down.
“Are we meant to talk now?” he said, to his coffee cup.
“Am I meant to deduce from that that you want to talk?”
Malcolm shrugged. He buried his face in his cup again, to avoid having to answer. He had a thousand questions for her, ranging from would she do it again with him please to did she regret it and oh god don’t turn me away now which was a fear he did not dare speak.
“Malcolm. It’s okay.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I-- fuck, need to get to fucking Whitehall. Missed five meetings already.”
Malcolm squeezed his eyes shut and counted days. Questions, the fucking miserable story in the Telegraph, Tom’s absolutely cunting performance on radio, the Times followup.
“Fuck, you’re right.”
“If you want to sleep in longer, you can.”
“Only if you’re with me,” he said, and summoned up a smile that was a ghost of what it ought to have been. But she bent and kissed his forehead, and then further and kissed his lips as he reached up to her.
“It’s okay, Malcolm,” she said, and this time he believed her.