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Though This Be Madness

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Act I

It isn't until a few weeks after Zoe Kenneth, once Hathaway's back on duty, that Lewis dares to mention any of it. Maybe a bit of harmless teasing will jolly him out of the gloom that's settled over him these last few days.

"Yorkie bars," Lewis murmurs, smiling out the windscreen. "What is it they say in Shakespeare, about protesting too much?"

From the corner of his eye he sees Hathaway shift, looking out at the grey, rainy world beyond the window. He is silent for a long moment, and Lewis grips the steering wheel, wishing that conversations were as easy as driving--that they could simply be shifted into reverse.

"I can request a transfer, sir," Hathaway says at last, his voice low. "First thing this morning."

It takes considerable effort for Lewis to keep his eyes on the road. "Why on earth would you think I would want that?"

"Why wouldn't you?"

Lewis pulls up at a stoplight, a bit too sharply, and risks a glance over at Hathaway. He's half-curled in the passenger seat, too tall to sit comfortably, and he's staring out the window with grim determination.

The light changes, and Lewis reluctantly looks away from him, back to the road. "I'd rather you didn't go," he says, struggling to keep his voice light. "Though if it's what you'd like, I'll give you a good word--"

"No."

"You don't want a good word, then?"

"No, sir, I don't want a transfer. I only thought it might be easier for you."

“And why is that? Because I’m too old and hidebound to work with a gay DS?”

“I didn’t mean that.”

Bloody hell. Everything he’s saying is wrong, and Hathaway’s voice is getting quieter and quieter in the seat beside him. Better make it clear, then.

Lewis clears his throat. “I want you--to stay,” he adds quickly, feeling Hathaway turn to look at him. "Regardless."

"Regardless," Hathaway echoes. At the edge of his vision, Lewis sees him nod to himself.

He pulls in at the station and shuts off the car. "Right, then," he says, as briskly as possible. "No more Yorkie bars."

But Hathaway's looking at him with the faintest hint of a smile on his face. "Actually, sir...I just like Yorkie bars."

 


Act II

Hathaway doesn't leave him alone after Monkford's hearing.

At first, Lewis doesn’t notice; after all, he’s grown quite used to the way his DS looms at his shoulder. He doesn’t even realise the moment that Hathaway steps in front of him, leading instead of following.

They stop in front of Hathaway’s car.

“I drove myself here,” Lewis reminds him.

Hathaway shrugs. “I thought I’d drive you home, sir.”

“I’m perfectly capable--”

“I know that. I’m only offering.”

Lewis sighs. "Aye, all right then."

They leave his car behind, and Hathaway drives back to Lewis's flat. Lewis doesn't notice much of the scenery that passes, although it's a fine spring evening and the trees are bright with colour.

The car settles to a stop at last, and Lewis climbs out. Instead of driving off, Hathaway takes the key out of the ignition and follows him up the garden path and into the flat. Lewis glances over his shoulder as he closes the door. "Still here, are you? Waiting for a tip?"

"No, sir," he says, shrugging off his jacket.

Lewis sighs. "Oh, go home, James. There's no need to make a fuss."

Hathaway gives him a dazzlingly blank look, and for once Lewis understands what Innocent means when she accuses Hathaway of being smug. "I'm not making a fuss, sir. I’m making tea.”

And he does, puttering around Lewis's kitchen like it's his own, humming under his breath while the tea steeps. Seeing no choice in the matter, Lewis sits on the sofa.

After a moment, a mug of tea is thrust into his hands. It's hot and strong, with a bit of sugar and just a splash of milk, and it's perfect. Of course Hathaway would have noticed how he takes his tea. He takes a long swallow. He hasn't had a cuppa this good since Val...

His hands tighten on the cup, and the moment passes. He looks up to find Hathaway watching him with that unnervingly gentle look on his face.

“I’m not going to talk about it,” Lewis warns, just to stop Hathaway making some sort of theological observation about justice or forgiveness. Or just to stop him quoting that damned speech from The Merchant of Venice.

He thought he’d feel better for knowing, for having a face to put behind the wheel in the worst of his nightmares. But he doesn’t feel much of anything--only tired. He sips his tea.

To Hathaway’s credit, he doesn’t try to comfort him--or distract him, or provoke him. He just sits to one side on the sofa, long legs tucked up under him, and when the pot of tea runs dry he makes another. He doesn’t say a word, just sits there while the light from the window slides across the table, turning pale and dim. Fading.

***

The click of the front door closing wakes him. He's on the sofa still, with the blanket from the bedroom tucked carefully around him. The tea things are washed and put away. As he listens, a car pulls away from the curb.

He ought to get up. If he spends the night on the sofa, his back will never forgive him. But another few moments won't hurt...

 


Act III

Damn him for asking Hathaway to write that speech all those years ago. And damn Hathaway for writing it so well.

This is the third straight year that Lewis has been asked to speak: it is dangerously close to becoming a tradition.

The venue is fancy enough to have a dressing room off the restrooms, and it's there that Lewis has chosen to do his pre-speech panicking. Hathaway, loyal as always, has followed him, and is standing against the far wall, giving him plenty of room to pace.

Maybe he feels responsible for it--after all, if he hadn't written that first bloody speech...

Lewis gives the mirror a baleful glance. "How do I look, then?” he asks, not really caring about the answer.

“Fine, sir. Only...”

Lewis rounds on Hathaway, frowning. “Only what?” he snaps. “Well, come on--out with it.” He watches Hathaway grimace, and he sighs, raising his hands in surrender. “I’m sorry. You know how much I hate giving speeches.”

“Yes, sir, but did you have to take it out on your tie?”

He glares. “What’s wrong with my tie?”

“Nothing! It’s just a bit, er...tight.”

Lewis frowns into the mirror. The knot of the bow-tie is small and tight, leaving the ends too long and a bit floppy. All right, perhaps Hathaway isn’t far wrong. But the thought of doing the whole thing over again is too much to contemplate at the moment. “Oh, just fix it for me, would you?”

In the mirror, he sees Hathaway blink. "Of course, sir." He crosses the small room. "Hold still."

Hathaway tugs at the tie until it comes undone, then sets about fixing it. The backs of his fingers brush against Lewis's shirt. He shivers; there must be a draught in the walls somewhere.

After a few seconds, he's fighting the urge to fidget. If only he had somewhere to look. His entire field of vision is taken up with Hathaway, with his crisp tuxedo and perfectly knotted bow-tie and his face much, much too close to Lewis’s own.

He doesn’t think the draught is to blame for the chills.

Hathaway fumbles with the tie. Maybe it's the awkwardness of tying it backwards...or maybe there's another reason for it.

And his face has gone just the slightest bit pink, hasn't it?

He's never considered himself a gambling man. But if he doesn't do this now, he'll never have the bottle to try it again.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh. When Hathaway looks up from the tie, frowning, Lewis closes the last inches between them and kisses him.

Hathaway’s hands go still on Lewis's tie. He tilts his head, changing the angle, and things go from very good indeed to bloody wonderful for half a minute.

Then Hathaway pushes back, very gently, and shakes his head.

For a moment, Lewis can only blink. He hasn’t been this wrong--he can’t have been. He begins to stammer out something like an apology. “I thought--I thought that you...”

“I do, sir,” Hathaway says, and the quiet words have the ring of a vow. “But we can't do this right now."

“After, then?” Lewis asks. God, what’s got into him?

He’s afraid if he leaves it any longer, the chance will pass. Hathaway will change his mind--perhaps he’s already changed his mind, yes, he’s frowning now.

“Of course after,” he says. And he leans forward to kiss Lewis again, his long fingers cool against the back of Lewis's neck. It’s a rare kiss that could be called reassuring, but that’s exactly what Hathaway means by it.

They're interrupted by a spate of determined knocking, and almost immediately the door swings open. They take a rapid step away from each other, but Lewis knows that if his own face is as flushed as Hathaway’s, they’re caught dead to rights.

Laura stands in the doorway, looking lovely, if uncomfortable, in a dress the colour of her scrubs. But as she glances from Lewis to Hathaway, her lips curve into a slow smile. “Ordinarily I’d break out the champagne, but I’m afraid your adoring public awaits, Robbie.”

"Be there in two minutes, Laura."

She gives them both a look as she closes the door again, leaving them alone.

For a moment neither of them says anything. Then Hathaway clears his throat. "Your tie’s askew again, sir.”

Lewis can’t help chuckling. “Leave it.”

Hathaway grins at him, and suddenly Lewis isn’t worried about the speech anymore.

All he can think about is after.

 


Act IV

The path to the bedroom is scattered with the things that have led them to this point.

One crumpled Yorkie wrapper.

A pair of empty teacups.

Two discarded ties--and other items of clothing, scattered along the hall and on the floor beside the bed.

It's warm and quiet in the bedroom. Lewis has pulled the tangled blanket over them, and Hathaway is curled around him, a drowsy half-smile on his lips.

“How did we get here?” Lewis asks.

“Well, we came in through the front door, and you took off your tie, and then your jacket, and then we came into the bedroom and--”

“I meant in a more general sense.”

Hathaway shrugs; Lewis can feel the slide of Hathaway's bare shoulder against his own.

"Taken us long enough, hasn't it?"

"The course of true love never did run smooth," Hathaway says.

Lewis groans. “Shakespeare,” he announces, “is not acceptable pillow talk.”

“Why not, sir?” Hathaway asks, and oh it should not give him such a thrill to hear Hathaway call him that, not here, not after all that they’ve done. “After all, it is Oxford.”

Lewis sighs, and he smiles. "Aye, that it is."

And just now, there's nowhere in the world he'd rather be.