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Title: Crawling Toward the Light

Author: angiepen

Original story: Manipulation by v_angelique

Pairing: David Wenham/Karl Urban, Karl Urban/Sean Bean

Rating: PG-13

Summary: After what Sean did, David is a shaking wreck. He needs Karl but Karl's out playing avenging hero instead of taking care of his boyfriend, so David has to work through it all on his own.

Pre-reveal notes: Unfortunately I couldn't quite manage a perfectly stand-alone story. This'll have a lot more impact if you've read Victoria Angelique's original first.

Disclaimer: The author makes no claims or inferences to reality or truthfulness. Moreover, this story is based upon the work of another author and recognises their creation.


David's voice was lost in the angry stomping and slamming and then Karl was gone and the house was empty.

Emptier than usual because David himself felt hollow inside, as though there were less of him and he took up less space in the universe -- weighed less, mattered less, was less. Just a hollow skin of a man in an empty house filled only with the echoes of furious shouting and needy pleading.

Except it hadn't really been "needy," had it? David was never needy, never demanding, at least not on his own behalf. He'd made an effort to intercede for Sean, who was a mate after all and had been drunk and David probably hadn't protested enough because he never really did. Always a go-along, get-along sort of bloke, that was David. The ultimate low-maintenance castmate, friend, lover. Good old Daisy, one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, nothing ever throws him off for long but he bounces right back, mellow and friendly, just riding the currents of life and never seeming to mind the splashing.

David just stared at the blank face of the closed front door for a moment, then sighed and turned away.

Someone else would've gone charging after their lover, shouting and demanding his attention, snarling outrage at having the conversation unilaterally cut off like that, at having been walked out on, at having his opinion so completely ignored in a situation which was all about him, thank you very much. Harry would've. Sean would've. Hell, even Craig would've, probably throwing things as he went to make sure his lover got the message.

Of course, neither Harry nor Sean would've been in this mess in the first place. Even Craig, who came across as a soft-spoken sweetheart, all smiles and accommodation and with the cutest giggle when he was relaxed and with friends, could glare down the best of them when he was angry and would've bitten the cock off of anyone who'd tried to force him.

Not that David had been forced precisely. Not really.

David walked blindly into the kitchen and filled the electric kettle, getting out the tea and a mug with his hands on automatic while his mind wandered somewhere else.

Maybe Craig was right, maybe he was too nice a guy.

Although Craig had also called him on being passive-agressive once, and when David had protested, Craig had insisted that wasn't a contradiction, that one person could be both at once. David had just eyerolled at the time and gotten them both fresh beers, but it'd become pretty damned obvious that something wasn't working. Craig knew him better than pretty much anyone and maybe he hadn't just been off his face and feeling pissy. So now David thought about it, about both conversations, trying to see how they might fit together and both apply to the person he thought of as himself.

He'd always been a quiet sort, easy to overlook. It was one of the reasons he'd gotten into acting, actually -- he'd gotten tired of always being the last one people thought of and he'd figured acting could teach him how to get people to look at him for a change. That was later, though. When he'd been little it'd been different.

With seven kids charging around the house, the last thing his mum had needed was someone else whining, "I need, I need, me, me, me!" He'd found out later from friends with brothers and sisters that the youngest usually got most of the attention without having to really work for it. But David had always been a sensitive boy and long before that revelation, he'd noticed that everyone else in his own family was busy doing things, planning things, talking about things that they hoped would happen or things that hadn't worked out. The best way for the baby to get a smile or a pat or a hug was to help, even if "helping" just meant staying quiet and out of the way for a while. He'd been everyone's sunny little Daisy -- some warmth and a bit of watering and he thrived happily on his own.

And really, being the Nice Guy usually meant he got what he needed, too. Mostly. He didn't need all that much, after all, and most people were glad to be nice back to someone who was nice to them first. It was a nice give-and-take and it worked out nicely for everyone.

Except when it didn't, because life wasn't always nice and when something decidedly un-nice happened, being nice wasn't enough anymore. David had hoped that with Karl he'd found someone who would know that, who would know him, who'd realize that even someone as mellow and easy-going as David sometimes needed to be the focus of the universe for a while. Of their universe at least.

Someone who'd know what David needed and would focus on him for a while, especially so short a time after a good friend had brought him out to the dark, stinking alley behind a bar and fisted a hand in his hair and fucked his face without bothering to listen well enough to tell that the slurred words gasped out around his cock were protests rather than appreciation. When he still had that good friend's come drying on his shirt, and his hands were clenched to keep them from shaking and he was having a hard time focusing his eyes on any one thing for more than a moment because they just felt this... this compulsion to dart around, back and forth, looking and watching and peering into all the corners and shadows, under and behind the counters and the white-painted table because there might be something there, something he couldn't name or picture but didn't want to see and even more didn't want sneaking up on him so he was looking, looking.

Karl hadn't even noticed because of course his focus was on Sean, not David, and on what he thought needed to be done to Sean, not on what David needed to have done for him.

Right then he really needed to be held, to feel his lover's strong arms around him and a warm, familiar body pressed up against his chest, to be able to look up at eyes that weren't green and hair that wasn't blond and know that his lover was focused on him and willing to kick in the teeth of anyone who tried to hurt him, because even men needed to just curl up and feel safe sometimes.

But that hadn't happened and just then David was feeling alone and abandoned and a bit upset with Karl for not realizing it. And on top of that he was feeling guilty because after all, Karl was on his way to deliver the very teeth-kicking David had wanted him to be willing to give.

Except there was a difference between being willing to kick in someone's teeth if they were coming to hurt David and abandoning the already-hurt David to go do the kicking. There was a difference, wasn't there? David thought so -- it certainly felt different. But maybe there wasn't. Or maybe the difference was that doing was better than mere willingness to do and Karl was actually going above and beyond, in which case just what was David whinging about?

He could almost see Craig snorting at him and rolling his eyes.

Right, that was the wrong question, wasn't it? The right question was, how was Karl supposed to know what he wanted?

Well, because David had told him!

Except he hadn't, had he?

He'd told Karl what he didn't want -- he didn't want him hurting Sean, didn't want him leaving to hurt Sean. But he hadn't actually said, "I need you to stay and take care of me right now, hold me and make me feel safe." He'd never said that, in so many words.

Of course, it was more important right at that moment to keep Karl from going out and beating the shite out of Sean -- that was an immediate danger, not only to Sean but to Karl if Sean had decided to press charges or if Peter decided to fire Karl for pulping Boromir's face too badly for makeup to cover and delayed filming for however long it took him to heal up.

Of course that was more important.

Because David's own need was trivial, important only to him rather than to the movies or the justice system in general. "Don't break Sean's nose" was a more important message to get across than "Sit here and hold me for a while."

The boiling kettle clicked off and David poured water and dropped in the tea, using movements so practiced they were almost a ritual to keep his physical shell -- his empty, hollow physical shell -- busy while his thoughts swirled around in an anchorless, chaotic storm. He sat down at the table with his tea, stirring in honey and trying to pull it all into some kind of order.

It hadn't been anyone's fault, after all. They'd all been drinking and Sean had been feeling like shite ever since coming back from cleaning up the mess with his divorce. He hadn't been himself, everyone knew it, and he and David had been engaged in a low-level play flirt ever since they'd been introduced as "brothers" for the films. It was just a fun thing, an over-the-top playing around with David fluttering his eyelashes and Sean leering and doing the thing with his tongue and everyone having a good laugh. Except earlier that evening it'd just gotten out of hand and Sean hadn't stopped.

Sean had finished his whiskey, however many that'd been, and leaned into David and told him with a slurred whisper that he needed a hand. Always ready to help, David had followed him and when Sean had headed toward the back where the gents was, he figured Sean was feeling sick. Even when he'd passed the loo door and gone all the way to the end of the hall, to the back door that led out to the dark alley, narrow and trash-strewn, David had just figured he didn't want anyone to see Sean Bean -- Richard Sharpe, Double-Oh-Six -- heaving up an evening's worth of drinks.

David had patted his pocket, making sure he had his phone in case he needed to call a cab, and his handkerchief because Sean was likely to need at least a quick cleaning-up when he was done. But instead of bending over in a corner or kneeling or whatever people getting sick in alleys did, Sean had grabbed David by the upper arms and pressed him up against the dirty concrete wall and shoved a hard knee between his thighs.

The teaspoon gave a loud rattle. David dropped it into the tea where it gave one last plop-clunk, then clutched the thick, warm mug between his two hands, sucking in deep breaths and trying to will his heart down from its wild pounding to a slower rhythm.

He needed Karl. He needed him to be right there, within arm's reach, preferably touching. He needed his lover, tall and broad and strong, between him and the world, just for a while. It didn't seem like an unreasonable thing to ask, to have Karl be there with him, taking care of him. He could go tell Sean off, or bloody his nose if he really wanted to, some time tomorrow, right? He'd still be there; it wasn't as though Sean were likely to hop on a plane and vanish in the next twenty-four hours, not with... what? at least six weeks left before his scenes were finished?

David didn't remember how long Sean was supposed to be there and it bothered him that he couldn't. Not that he'd deliberately tried to remember everyone's schedule but he should know Sean's, or thought he should, just because and--

Shut up!

It wasn't until he heard the echo ringing through the kitchen that he realized he'd bellowed it out loud.

Bloody hell.

He tossed the spoon in the sink and took his tea over to the sofa. Curled up in one padded corner, with two sturdy walls behind him and a clear view of the rest of the room, he felt slightly better. He pulled the knitted afghan -- blue and green and yellow, made by his mum a good dozen years previous -- off the back of the sofa and wrapped it around him. It felt like an added layer of safety, even though he knew that was rubbish.

But it felt better and just then it was all about how he felt.

He sipped his tea and tried to relax.

It wasn't that bad, really. It wasn't as though he'd never sucked off a bloke before, and Sean was a mate, not some grotty stranger. And he'd gotten worse bruises on set. His trousers weren't torn or anything -- just a few stains on the knees and they'd wash out, he was sure.

Plenty of folks even liked their sex on the rough side. There were probably any number of men who'd have loved what Sean'd done, all dominant and taking control. So it wasn't that he'd done something wrong, so much as he'd done it with the wrong partner. Just bad luck, really. Or bad judgement at worst. And after all, he'd been drunk and you couldn't really expect a man to think straight after that many whiskeys. Sean just needed to find the right partner, someone who wanted to be tossed around a bit and urged on a little more than most people would prefer.

David wasn't into that. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but he really couldn't see the appeal beyond the intellectual understanding that some people did like it. David preferred gentler encounters, though, and that was what he loved about Karl. For all his size and strength, he was a gentle man and a tender lover and David always felt cared for -- like Karl believed he was worth caring for -- when they were together.

He sipped his tea and thought about that.

Really, the cause of this whole row was Karl's very desire to take care of him, wasn't it? He wouldn't have gone charging out after Sean if he didn't care or didn't think David was worth bothering about.

Looked at properly, it was such a tiny thing, such a slight deviation from the way David had wanted it all to go. It wasn't at all reasonable to make such a fuss when his lover was so close to perfect, so nearly what he wanted. It was just a timing thing, that was all. When Karl came back he'd come over and cuddle, he'd give David exactly what he needed.

Right -- like he had before?

Part of David started making excuses again but the annoyed part -- and David was rather shocked to find he even had a part of him that could get annoyed with someone who loved him and was trying to take care of him, but he did -- that part smacked down the gentle, easy-going part and insisted on arguing.

Karl might've meant well but he hadn't given David what he'd needed, now had he? He'd tried, but sometimes trying wasn't good enough. He was supposed to get it right, especially when it was something this important.

And how was he supposed to know what was right? asked the annoyed part of David, except this was a different annoyed part because it was annoyed with him instead of with Karl and was sounding pretty sarcastic at that point. How the hell is he supposed to know what's right, what you want and what you need if you won't bloody tell him?!

David just stared out into the room. He felt both parts of his brain sort of mentally glaring at him while he hid in his afghan with his tea, curled up in the corner and feeling more insecure than he ever had, because everything Craig had been trying to tell him those times -- and other times, he could see that now -- had suddenly come into focus.

He had this idea in his head that if someone loved you, they knew what you wanted and what you needed. That if this person was really The Right One then they'd just know, they'd give you exactly what you wanted and needed, purely on instinct. That was part of fitting together with the right person, of really-and-truly being in love -- the fact that whatever they instinctively gave was what you wanted, and whatever you gave them was what they needed, and everything was perfect because you were in love and were meant to be together and suited each other perfectly.

He'd never really thought about it before, not in so many words. It was just one of those things that'd always been silently assumed, one of those foundation blocks of how the world worked. But now that he took it out and examined it, it seemed to be rather flimsy, like something pretty out of a fairy tale that no one with a real brain in their skull would actually believe in.

The emptiness of the house pressed in on him and he shivered even inside the snug afghan. He'd been completely unfair to Karl, expecting the impossible from him, expecting Karl to read his mind and be the perfect boyfriend. He wondered whether Karl had resented that, whether Karl had sensed that David was unhappy and unsatisfied, and whether maybe that was part of the reason why he'd left so quickly -- not only to pound on Sean for what he'd done but also to get away from his passive-agressive, needy boyfriend rather than stay around and be made to feel inadequate because he couldn't read minds.

David could feel his face heating up in a shamed flush. Looking back through his memories he could see dozens of times he'd just sat there and waited for Karl to figure out what he wanted. He'd told himself he was being patient and low maintenance and not fussing, but really he'd been hoping -- expecting, waiting -- for Karl to do what he wanted. It was a miracle Karl was still with him at all.

He finished his tea and unwound himself from the afghan. There was no reason to be hiding in the corner; no one was there and no one was going to be, except for Karl when he came back. David was determined to pull himself together and be ready when he did.

He folded the afghan and draped it across the back of the sofa, then went and rinsed out the mug and put it into the dishwasher before going upstairs. He needed to take a shower, brush his teeth and put on something clean. Not only to get past what'd happened that night, but to wash away the old David, the one who expected the perfect fairy-tale boyfriend and never asked for what he wanted or needed.

With the hot water pouring over him, he realized that Karl was the perfect boyfriend for him. Even aside from being tall and built and handsome, he was the perfect sweetheart, at least with David. He'd always appreciated that, but when Karl got home he'd make sure he told him, straight out. And he'd ask to be taken to bed, to be cuddled and held and cared for. He might even need someone to cry on and he was sure Karl would be happy to give him that too.

Because Karl was like that, kind and gentle and loving. David couldn't imagine him any other way and was determined to make sure Karl understood that, that David loved him exactly as he was and didn't want him to change at all.

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