As with many a young man his age, Ben Jones wears overalls very nicely. Tom appreciates the sight of a slightly smudged Jones coming around the side of the car but merely as an aesthetic study in mechanics at work. He doesn't realise the tone in which he explains that to himself is the same tone he uses when telling Joyce that he really is thinking about retiring.
Jones' smile when he realises there won't be a trip to the seaside yet is a thing of wonder, encapsulating several emotions that should be conflicting but appear not to be. He recognises it is the prerogative of his boss to do what he wants and within his rights to take his wife with him for a couple of days away. They come back looking a little more relaxed and Jones revels in being invited around for dinner.
Tom smirks when Jones comments about his cooking. It's very homely the four of them preparing to greet the girl who may be useful to their case, who will certainly be an eye opener for Jones. When the ladies are away the perfect retort to the surprise comes to him. "I'll have to cook for you more often then, so you get used to it."
Jones smiles and toasts him with the just poured wine, "You're most welcome to, sir. So long as there's no pressure on me to compete."
"You think I can't handle a little healthy competition?"
"I think you couldn't stand to being beaten. I'd get most horribly smug."
Barnaby smiles, "Oh no you wouldn't. Remind me next time we're working late that I need to cook for you."
"Sounds like a deal sir."
"Oh for heaven sake, try and drop the sir." But he smiles benevolently and Jones turns away.
"Got everything, sir?" Jones levers himself upright from opening the passenger door and smiles in greeting. All his movements are fast but controlled, he turns directly from the smile to glance behind, backing into the road and turning to face the front and accelerating in a smooth motion. Tom always feels safe with Jones driving. He remembers vague undercurrents of apprehension with other drivers- Troy particularly springs to mind- and glances at the capable looking hands on the steering wheel. They are a little larger, a little stronger looking, a little more capable and yet retaining an image of the delicacy which Jones does employ sometimes.
Barnaby has to admit it's not that often, but he knows it's there.
They're seated on the porch, hanging lights above them and the sea a comforting murmur behind Ben's shoulder. Their hosts are wrapped up in being their hosts- one dealing with the drinks and one with the seasoning he's managed to leave inside. Ben smiles at Barnaby, the lights reflecting on his warm hair almost as bright as his eyes. "This is the life, isn't it?"
"No complaints about the weather, Jones?"
"It's not blowing a gale. I think down here that's good weather." He looks sharply at the figure in the chair opposite him, "I thought I was supposed to refer to you by name in such conditions?"
"You do have a memory don't you? You're quite right, Ben."
They're quiet for a while, enjoying the scene, listening to their hosts open and shut cupboards, before Tom says suddenly, "I think I promised you the next time we were together for dinner it would be me cooking. Will you let me postpone the pleasure?"
Ben grins, an answer on his lips, when he is interrupted, "postpone the pleasure? Not doing the dirty on your faithful Jones are you, Tom, making him wait to find his release? That's cruel and immoral."
Tom stares at him, taken aback, and Ben glances between the two of them before the moment is broken by a laugh. "Sorry. I forgot we live in such a PC world we can't joke about it anymore." It's a comment seized upon with more alacrity than is strictly necessary by Tom. The political correctness of the world is expounded at great length by both men but Ben pauses before allowing himself to be swept into the conversation. For a moment there, Barnaby's eyes had shown...apprehensive fear.
Ben can't sleep. His feet are too cold, his back is twisted uncomfortably and there's a niggling thought in the back of his mind that there's something they're missing.
Also, there's far more light out here than you're expect from a small fishing village. The Hatchard home is clearly placed for views, meaning light spills in from various emissions- moon, stars, for all Ben knows phosphorescence is a part of it. Sighing he slides out from the thick blankets on the sofa, stands then wraps them around himself. There's a fireplace several feet away and that is his destination. Finally, some external warmth.
Tom shifts uneasily in the guest bedroom, the fourth room on the ground floor and flush against the lounge. Slowly he's aware of movement, of being in a strange bed and not being able to see. He sits up carefully and reaches for the lamp he now remembers is present. Nothing.
There's more scuffing. Footsteps. Tom levers himself out of bed, throws the blankets back over his pool of warmth and shrugs on his jacket. His feet chill on the cold floor. There are no more sounds.
He sits on the edge of the bed, listening upstairs for the Hatchards, seeing if they are stirring. He can't hear anything through the well- made walls and ceiling/floor divide and gives it up as a bad job. If they wake tomorrow and find themselves burgled it won't exactly help the investigation.
Ben stirs up the banked fire, places another log on it (a luxury they can afford, given the large stack of them he saw outside) and waits for a steady stream of heat before seating himself in front of it, blanket slightly open to channel heat into his torso. Well he knows the folly of holding out ones' frozen extremities to the blaze.
There's a sound and he stiffens, relaxes. Tom must be shifting in the next room. There's a subtle creaking of bedsprings and Ben lets his mind wander to other activities cause that sound. If he wasn't so tired and feeling slightly out of it among all these people who clearly have no time for him he would never, ever, ever have these thoughts except behind locked doors at 3 in the morning.
Tom has been the only one who thinks he has something worthwhile to say for the last couple of days. A natural progression then to marry the two parts (real and imagined) of his relationship with Tom in his restless mind.
Standing for a second time, Tom moves towards the connecting door, mentally running through the exits he noted on his way through. Old habits aren't ones you need to loose, though they aren't rigorously enforced as they are in some of his old MI6 buddies. Pausing past the doorway he looks for the creator of the sound that woke him.
He finds it with unerring accuracy. How could he not, with his mind so frequently considering that figure?
Sitting in front of the fire, tawny blanket wrapped around his shoulders and shielding him from the floor, is Ben Jones. The firelight is soft, though not the only light in the room it accentuates the natural tones of Ben's face- all brown hues that combine to turn a usually drab colour a vibrant, ever changing image. Tom feels a nebulaec warmth in his middle and stands, just watching, for about three epochs. The log sputters, Ben shies away and Tom stirs, aware of his cold feet and hands for the first time since he entered the room.
Footsteps, and Ben looks up to see Tom walking towards him, blue eyes soft and hair mussed from sleep. He doesn't know if it's love, but he'll take lust if that's what's on offer, which it will be if he plays his cards right. The
knowledge comes from the same place that makes him a good DS.
"Hello." he smiles, "I was cold...." Ben has been told that his smile is something to be proud of, to slide into such situations, and he does that now. A half- twist of the lips, a shy glance down, followed by a broadening of the smile and a steady gaze. It's not a conscious choice he makes, to employ such tactics, not with Tom. His body acts almost out of his control.
"A bed will always be warmer." Tom acknowledges. "Though there's always something comforting about a fire, I've always thought." he sinks down to touch shoulders with the man next to him, tucking his hands in his elbows and feeling the warmth of the fire. Ben scoots over enough to open one arm and hold up the edge of the blanket. Tom shivers in under it and holds the side down firmly. It's not exactly covering his left thigh (and he assumes it isn't covering Ben's right) but there is a warm arm around him and warm blanket and they're undisturbed for the first time in weeks.
"I didn't think our hosts would mind too much if I built it up a bit." Ben murmurs, not needing to speak loudly due to proximity, not wanting to speak loudly due to closeness. "Not as much as they'd mind me climbing into bed with them."
Tom smiles at that, "an orgy without me? I'm ashamed, Ben."
"We'd need someone to make us breakfast." Ben points out, gently, "we'd be far too exhausted, you know."
"So you'd expect me to do all the work tomorrow as well?" Tom rejoins. It's the safest option- he had been going to say something about young, good looking men being worn out by older couples eager for their bit of him. on reflection it sounded tawdry, not what he wanted from Ben Jones.
"Just for a change." Ben smiles. they sit in silence for a while, neither wanting to move, before Tom touched Ben's left knee. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Benjamin Jones."
Ben shrugs and grips his boss' shoulder tight where his left hand is still resting, "Leaves me in a right state without you then, doesn't it?" Then, more quietly, sincerely, "Thank you."
It means a lot to have the support of this man, more than he'll ever be able to say in words, but he doesn't know if any other way is at all acceptable.
Tom considers their position- all but alone for another four hours in their own place of solitude. If it doesn't work, then they can chalk it up to midnight madness while away and leave it at that. If it does...he can't see why anyone would honestly want something permanent with their superior officer, especially one as battered as himself. He doesn't think about the rest of the family. He doesn't love them any less, and they'll always know that. He'll never leave them, Ben already knows that. This isn't about them, they're taken care of. This is about Ben Jones and Tom Barnaby, exploring. Sating.
Slowly, Tom turns to his right, slipping his arm up and around strong shoulders. His voice is soft, lower, richer. "Ben..."
Ben has turned as well, so his breath glances across Toms chin and down his throat, warming him, teasing him. "Tom..."
There is a pause. The light plays across their faces, adding to the flush, then they stand as one, still huddled in the blanket. "It's far too cold to do anything else." Ben offers, half sounding as if he believes it. Tom nods, but
removes his arm from those warm shoulder to touch first Ben's neck and then his cheek. "At the very least." he agrees, "and we wouldn't want to upset the fates, either."
Really the next coherent, unfettered thought Ben has is something about warmth. Not very coherent, but it's hard to think straight when you have arms full of Tom Barnaby and a mind that has been well and truly blown away. Swollen lips smirk at the double entendre and then fade as bright eyes note the time. Too late to do anything but slip into the lounge and the cold, lonely, couch there. Too early to actually get up.
Tom stirs and blinks up at him. "You're thinking." he accuses. The words are spoken with a voice rough from passion and Ben nods sheepishly. "It'll be cold in the lounge." His voice lowers as his head does so the last two words are spoken directly into Toms mouth, "and lonely."
"We have to work later." Tom finally points out, lips swollen and neck bearing signs of definite kissing. "Though it hardly seems fair."
"It is the reason we came down here." Ben points out. Tom shifts, ostensibly to get more comfortable, in reality to try and climb inside the wonderful man lying next to him, eyes still so full of promise. "Isn't it?"
Maybe sleeping with another detective isn't a good idea. Tom had thought he was the subtle one.
"It's the main reason." he agrees, tangling his fingers in brown locks, "but if I had hopes of sharing a cold, cramped room with my beautiful Ben, can I be blamed?"
Ben flushes as he shakes his head, giving in to temptation and again plundering the mouth so near his own.
Stirring from upstairs brought them out of a semi- trance. Neither was asleep, but neither was fully awake, either. "That's my cue to leave, I'm afraid." Ben murmurs, "see you at breakfast." And he is gone, having shuddered into pyjamas when they first thought there were sounds of life upstairs. Tom can't complain, given the frigidity of the air, but he is looking forward to laying Ben out and exploring him in detail with all his senses.
"We're just going to take a short detour on the way home, Jones." Barnaby announces as they pull away from the Hatchards.
"Where to, sir?" his voice still sounds as polite and interested as ever, but there's a note in there that Barnaby is sure has also entered his voice- one of knowing, awareness....he can't fully describe it and he doesn't want to. Not yet.
Ben looks good in a suit.
They pull up in front of a series of semis, all bleakly looking the same way, sloping down with the road and separated from immanent traffic danger by a low brick wall. There's not exactly a garden anywhere and Ben is bemused. The paper had been slipped into Toms bag as they left the house and had been pored over when Ben drove.
"What's it for, anyway?" he wasn't sure what he wanted the answer to be.
"Well Jones, one day..." Barnaby pulled a face.
"What, retirement sir?" That wasn't something they talked about, though it would no doubt come up if they ever talked about their...adventures.
"Well, has to happen sometime." He was trying for light-hearted mixed with stoic, Ben thought, and he almost made it. Only those who knew how much policing was part of this man's life would realise the utter wrench it would be. Gardening and cooking only made up for some of the time he'd have on his hands. Ben half- shrugged, regretful but answering to the teasing with some of his own, albeit truthful. "And I was just getting to know you."
Tom turned to face him, bemused but eyes intense "Look I meant at some indeterminate point in the future." Placated, Ben grinned with all the fervour of earlier that morning, happy that he still had Tom Barnaby around for years yet.
Sitting on the edge of the well, looking up as Ben downed some water (line of throat is a delightful thing to look at in Ben, as was pretty much his entire body...) Tom had to admit how well his sergeant had done throughout the case. A quiet moment while work was being done. Sitting close in the sun waiting, the desultory conversation that takes place at such times.
Then Ben tipped over his water bottle and took charge. Tom stepped back. Ben taking charge was good, at the very least for challenging Toms self control. They'd have to work something out, he couldn't go walking around mooning over his subordinate taking complete and utter control over every facet of his life.
Unless, of course, the sale went through on the semi and they ended up there for a weekend....
The tool box arrived just in time.
Turning from his crouch, grasping the gold pitcher, Ben forced his eyes to meet Barnaby's, though they would have travelled far more slowly if he'd had less of an audience.
The grin he got, the half- moved hand, made the whole case that much better. He couldn't even groan at the terrible pun his boss made. After all, there was a whole line of teasing running on from there.
Jumping into the passenger seat he turned to Tom as they left the driveway. "Well, well, well sir? An invitation for me to plumb your depths, perhaps?" Detectives were known for their observational skills, after all. "Control would be a pleasure, Tom." he added.