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‘I still say this isn’t right.’ Gene stared down the paneled front door with stony resignation.

‘Never said it was, Guv.’ Leaning back against the doorframe, head tilted up and eyes closed, Sam spoke in a voice low and rusted from disuse, having remained uncharacteristically silent on the drive from the Railway Arms to this terrace house on the nicer side of town. They must have made an odd picture in the Arms just now – him barely able to sip his pint for nerves while Sam tossed back scotch like a man dying of thirst. Gene studied his deputy with mounting dread, taking in the pink flush on his lips, the endless stretch of his throat.

Sam’s eyes snapped open, caught him in a glance, and Gene quickly looked away. ‘We can still walk away from this,’ he muttered, largely to himself but hoping Sam was listening, would grasp the chance. Gene reached for his arm. ‘C’mon–‘

But the mad bastard dodged his reach, rapped sharply on the door. Fuck.

He could already hear the slide of the lock, and automatically shifted his stance to protectively – uselessly – shield Sam as the door opened, revealing a distinguished, horribly familiar face. ‘Mr. Hunt. Good evening.’

‘Dr. Lennox.’ Gene clipped the greeting sharply in contrast the other man’s smooth, drawn-out syllables.

‘And…’ Dr Lennox leaned sideways in a sick parody of playfulness, his trim, discrete mouth widening into a pleased smile. ‘Inspector Tyler! Lovely, just lovely…’ He shuffled back and gestured expansively. ‘Please, do come in.’

Bracing himself, Gene stepped inside, sneering impulsively at the pretentious opulence of the broad entryway. Hurling disdain at the nancy knick-knacks felt familiar, and Gene turned around to direct a scathing comment at Lennox, only to freeze abruptly. Their host was relieving Sam of his leather coat, and the picture presented by the gesture made Gene’s blood run cold.

Lennox was standing too close, his extra inches of height allowing his nose to nestle in the crown of Sam’s short hair, greedily inhaling his scent while his long-fingered hands eased the jacket off his shoulders and down his arms. Sam was inscrutably still, though Gene could read the tension in his clenched jaw and narrowed eyes.

‘Mm, very nice…’ Lennox paused with the jacket draped precariously from Sam’s wrists, lightly clenching his hands to suspend the motion as he pushed in closer behind Sam and tilted his head to scent his way down to Sam’s neck. Murmuring appreciatively, he pressed his parted mouth to the stretch of smooth skin.

Sam, visibly startled, flinched and thrashed away. Lennox growled and tightened his grip on Sam’s wrists behind his back, twisting one arm hard enough to make Sam hiss between his clenched teeth. Gene growled even louder and took two rapid steps forward.

Lennox’s sharp eyes snapped sideways, spotting his approach. ‘You’re forgetting yourself already, Mr. Hunt.’ His cultured voice had lost all its warm affectations, quickly becoming the cold deadly thing he recalled from their conversation earlier today. ‘Unless, of course, you’ve come to call off our little arrangement?’

Gene’s hardened gaze wavered, from the open threat in Lennox’s glare over to Sam – it was a frankly short journey, the one still tightly gripping the other. Sam’s chest was rising and falling rapidly, but his dark amber eyes were fixed steadily on Gene, his lips pressed tight in grim determination. Swallowing hard, Gene let himself indulge in the false reassurance written all over Sam’s suddenly-too-young features before shaking his head briefly and taking a shuffling step backwards, forcing his hands into his coat pockets.

‘That’s better.’ Lennox gave Gene a dismissive nod before turning his attention back to Sam, sharply tugging the coat away and making him turn to face him in a single swift motion. ‘As for you,’ he snarled, gripping Sam’s jaw, forcing his gaze away from Gene and up towards him, ‘you’ve forgotten your place, coming over all bloody chaste like that.’ He loosened his grip slightly, his thumb sweeping over Sam’s jaw and pressing against his lower lip, demanding entrance. ‘You agreed to this, my boy.’ His tone softened once more as he avidly watched his thumb moving past Sam’s slackened lips. ‘Tonight, you’re just a whore given into my hands as payment for my silence.’ Lennox slowly withdrew his thumb and smeared the moisture gathered there across Sam’s mouth. ‘And you better start acting like one, or the deal is off.’

And when Lennox leaned down and claimed that spit-slicked mouth in a hard kiss, Sam didn’t flinch. He kept his arms loose at his sides, hands unconsciously fluttering, and Gene stared despite himself as his deputy parted his lips, kept them pliant beneath an assault of tongue and teeth. His own hands shook and clenched deep in their pockets.

Eventually, Lennox pulled back and smirked, a finger lingering on Sam’s wet, reddened lips. ‘You taste exquisite,’ he purred, ‘but that could also be the whisky.’ He dropped his hand. ‘Bathroom’s upstairs, second door on the left. I’ve already drawn a bath for you. There’s a dressing gown on the door, I want you wearing it when you come out.’

Sam managed a stiff nod and cast a guarded, unreadable look at Gene, who forced himself to meet his gaze, to not show shame or disgust or anything more damning still until Sam looked away and walked down the corridor, Cuban heels muffled by the deep pile of the gold shag carpeting. Gene stared after him, watched his slim form diminish up the stairs and disappear.

‘Delicious.’ Gene snapped his head around to glare at Lennox, who was now cradling Sam’s jacket in both hands, stroking the worn leather between his fingers. ‘So delicious…’ He pressed the jacket to his nose, inhaling deeply. Gene shuddered in horror.

So little noise in it, such a quiet little matter with a pillow pressed to his face to muffle any sound. Not that there was so much as a rattle left in the shell that used to be–

‘Care for a drink, Mr. Hunt?’ Lennox had moved past him into the adjoining parlour - as lurid as the front hall, and dimly lit. ‘You’ll have to forgive me for neglecting to offer sooner, don’t have company over very often…’ he prattled as he ducked behind the curving countertop of the bar and selected a bottle from the range displayed in the mirrored shelving. ‘You’re a single malt man, yes?’

Gene frowned distractedly, watching Lennox polish the dust off a pair of cut crystal tumblers. ‘Y’know, I don’t think I want to know how you got to knowing my drinks preferences,’ he grumbled accusingly.

Dr. Lennox smiled thinly, proffered a generous measure of deep amber liquid. ‘We shared a drink before, of course. Out of your hipflask.’

Of their own accord, Gene’s fingers took the glass. The still-swirling whisky was warm, too warm, not nearly cold enough for this.

Numb fingers passing the cool silver flask across the white sheets, distracted by his own bloodless hands, the doctor’s hands so clean as well, there should be blood in this–

Gene drained half its contents in one. The burn was slow to come in the prolonged quiet of the room, but swept in by steady measures, reassuring and invigorating. His instincts rallied around the familiar fire of his rank, his power and his need to protect what was his.

‘Look,’ he said finally, voice hoarse, ‘whatever else you’re after here, if you call my officer a prossie again, I’ll have your fucking scrotum for a coin purse.’

The quirked eyebrow was directed at the second measure Lennox was pouring for himself, the first long since idled away in quiet pleasure. ‘Just needed to remind your boy of what he’s agreed to.’ He looked up sharply. ‘What you agreed to.’

He grit his teeth, ignored the renewed stab of guilt in his gut. ‘My Detective Inspector,’ Gene snarled pointedly, ‘only agreed to this disgusting mess so you’ll keep your gob shut. That’s blackmail, that is. He is not a fucking whore, got it?’ He jabbed two fingers at Lennox for emphasis. ‘And if you hurt him, I swear to God I’ll–‘

Lennox let out a sudden burst of laughter, sharp and bright. ‘You’ll what, exactly? Of course it might hurt a little, where’s the fun otherwise?’ His smile revealed small white teeth. ‘Don’t worry yourself, Mr. Hunt, your Detective Inspector will be in decent enough shape for you to get yours in tomorrow. Later tonight, even, if that’s to your taste,’ he added with a conspiratorial wink.

Gene felt his hand tighten around the cut crystal tumbler, patterns gouging themselves into his calluses from the effort not to punch Lennox in his filthy mouth. ‘That’s not what I meant, you bloody pervert,’ he growled. ‘I am not some flaming, arse-licking poof, I would never, I repeat, never–‘

‘Really?’ Lennox tilted his head curiously, looking past Gene’s broad shoulder. ‘I had assumed… why else would your esteemed colleague here…?’

With a sickening dread, Gene looked around sharply. Sam hovered barefoot and uncertain at the threshold of the room, short hair damp and disheveled, wrapped in a silken dark blue dressing gown. A mixed and mysterious dismay creased his brow as his eyes found Gene’s and quickly looked away, something like shame settling into the withdrawn tightness of his posture.

Gene cursed inwardly. Sam had likely heard every word. Likely didn’t know his disgust for the denial it was.

‘This is curious…’ Lennox had stepped sideways as he continued to regard Sam thoughtfully, his pale blue eyes visibly sweeping up and down the lean figure before him. ‘If that’s not the case… my dear boy, I don’t suppose this might be your first time?’

Sam’s head snapped upward, indignation making him bristle visibly. Gene felt a swell of pride at the flash of familiar, cold disdain he shot at Lennox, even as he ached with anticipation at Sam’s answer. All the possibilities were, in their own way, devastating.

‘Of course not,’ he sneered briskly, defensively. ‘I’m not a virgin.’

‘Of course not,’ Lennox echoed gently, taking a step forward. ‘Handsome lad like you… no doubt a fair few ladies have taken an interest. But no,’ he continued steadily closer, reading Sam’s reactions carefully, ‘I wonder whether any of the gentlemen have noticed you as well. Whether they’ve had a taste.’ Lennox’s approach was downright predatory now, drawn to Sam’s discomfort like a journalist to a murder. ‘Have you ever tempted another man to arousal and passion, made him desire you?’

‘Er... I, that is…’ Sam’s eyes were flashing with mild panic now; Gene found himself subject to that desperate gaze and fought to hold his attention, to somehow give him an answer. You have, Sammy, you know you have.

‘Have you serviced another man with your mouth before, Sam?’ Lennox was close now, his tone tasting of victory. ‘Have you ever let a man penetrate you, or will I be your first?’

Sam squeezed his eyes shut, blocking Gene out, and shook his head once, stiffly to the side. ‘No,’ he whispered. ‘No, I’ve never done… those things, before.’

And Gene closed his eyes as well, something like profound loss stopping his heart.

‘I didn’t think so,’ Dr. Lennox purred. In the sudden silence of the room, Gene could hear the gentle slosh of whisky, a satisfied hum passing pressed lips. Opening his eyes warily, Gene stared down into his own drink and finished it off.

‘My sweet boy.’ Lennox swirled his scotch in its glass as he slowly reached out and drew the backs of his long, age-thin fingers across Sam’s flushed cheekbone; though his eyes were still shut, Sam barely flinched from the touch. ‘Don’t worry yourself, I’m going to take very good care of you… oh, but where are my manners, would you like a drink?’

Sam’s eyes flickered open, confusion plain on his face. He opened his mouth, but seemed at a loss for words.

‘There’s a good lad.’ Raising his tumbler in a subtle toast, Lennox took a generous sip and lowered his mouth to Sam’s, his hand gripping the back of his head as he deepened the kiss. Sam’s throat visibly convulsed, Adam’s apple bobbing as he struggled to swallow the scotch forced into his mouth through the older man’s kiss, and Gene inhaled sharply despite himself, mourning another possibility, half-formed and now utterly tainted.

When they finally parted, Sam looked shaken, Lennox triumphant, and Gene was grateful he had kept his coat on, as its bulk covered the erection stirring in his trousers and the very idea that it dared even think of existing here and now made him ill with self-loathing.

The quick pink tip of Lennox’s tongue flicked across his upper lip. ‘Lovely… although I do miss something about that first taste… there was something about that harsher whisky on your tongue, something… cheap.’ His hand slid inside the drape of Sam’s dressing gown, stroking down his chest and smoothly withdrawing in a single caress. ‘Shall we proceed to the bedroom?’

Sam swallowed again and looked away, unable to notice the sudden movement Dr. Lennox made as he reached out and gripped his jaw with bruising fingers, forcing his gaze. ‘Answer me,’ he demanded coldly.

A brief spasm passed over Sam’s face, and Gene looked away again as he recognized that gleaming gathering across his eyes. ‘Yes,’ he whispered.

‘Good boy.’ He stole a brief kiss before dropping his hand to the back of Sam’s neck and guiding him to turn around. ‘Bring the bottle along if you would, Mr. Hunt,’ he called back, his genial tone back in place. ‘I might fancy another dram myself.’

Hating himself, Gene snatched up the Oban before following the two men to the bedroom.

‘Guv? This doctor Chris and I went to question at St. James’… don’t know what it’s about, but he said he needs to speak with you…’

‘Hello, Mr. Hunt. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?’

‘Excuse me, sir, if you could just wait outside a moment–’

‘…leave it, Tyler. Let the man in, off you go.’

‘Forgive me for intruding, but I think Mr. Tyler here should stay. This does concern him, after all…’

‘Sorry, sir? I don’t understand…’

‘…you fucking bastard.’

‘Guv?’

‘Tyler. Get out.’

‘Why? What’s going on…’

‘Sam. Please, just… go. Now.’

‘No.’

Above all else, it was the simple fact of Sam’s skin that figured most frequently in Gene’s carefully repressed fantasies. He greedily drank in the glimpses offered in the day-to-day grind of working together – the back of his neck, his inner arms when he rolled up his sleeves, that promising plane beneath the unfastened top buttons, St. Christopher tempting his eye as though he were really the patron saint of sin. In his guiltiest moments – those nights in the spare bedroom with both hands fumbling beneath his pyjamas – the memory of Sam naked and cuffed to the bed was a cherished treat, but it was also too much, more than he had earned by right, and not nearly enough, not without the ability to conjure the secreted skin pressed to that thin mattress. There was a whole world from heel to nape that Gene could only imagine, and keeping it so unseen preserved Sam’s modesty in some old-fashioned way, made him precious. Kept him at a distance that no friendly punch-up would ever cross.

And even now, with Lennox’s long fingers drawing the blue silk of the dressing gown down Sam’s back and dragging it appreciatively across the curve of his arse before letting it crumple to the floor, Gene’s desire was as fierce a thing as it ever was. Despite his helpless horror, Gene’s eyes took in every inch of newly exposed flesh, this last unknown territory of Sam’s body, hard and glowing in the dimly-lit bedroom.

He had to watch. Because Lennox, pervert that he was, had demanded as much. Because he had to protect Sam, though he knew he was already too late. And the fact that he couldn’t stop watching even if he had a choice in the matter made Gene want to break every fragile thing in the room, starting with Lennox’s filthy hands and ending with himself.

Lennox met his eye over the sharp bend of Sam’s shoulder, and smirked knowingly. Gene looked away and poured another drink.

The whisky Lennox pours from his office bottle is impossibly smooth, far superior to the malt in Gene’s flask, a gift from the missus for making Inspector last month and from the first sip Gene knows he will say yes, yes, whatever it takes to silence this and yes, he knows silence has its price–

Sam didn’t make much noise when he came, biting hard on his lower lip and arching involuntarily off the bed, a harsh tremble coursing through his lithe limbs. If he made any sound at all, it was smothered by Lennox’s lascivious moan, dramatically loud even with his lips wrapped around Sam’s cock. He hummed his pleasure with unnecessarily relish as he pulled away from his prize and crawled up the length of Sam’s body. One of his hands forced the shield of Sam’s shaking arm up over his head, and Lennox swooped down, covering Sam’s mouth with his own and Sam did make an audible noise at that, turning his head away in disgust and catching Lennox’s mouthful of come on his cheek instead.

‘Dirty slut.’ Lennox slapped him lightly, fingers lingering in the mess on Sam’s face, rubbing traces of the fluid over his lips. ‘Like it better here, do you? Maybe if you’re really good, I’ll come all over your pretty face… make you even prettier, you filthy thing…’

The pearlescent slick of semen on his lips caught the faint light of the bedside lamp when Sam recoiled further away, irrevocably catching Gene’s unblinking eye and sending all the heat in his body surging rapidly into his belly and lower.

It left the rest of him cold.

Lennox shifted on his knees, shuffling forward until he straddled Sam’s shoulders. ‘Hope you were paying attention to the lesson,’ he remarked, unfastening his belt.

Fingers loosened the tidy knot of his necktie before Lennox opened his mouth and there was something so calm in it, so reassuring that Gene found his own fingers doing the same, needing to breathe, needing to regain common ground with common man, the healers and not the murderers…

Lennox’s fingers tugged neatly at the ends of his silk tie, tightening the knots binding Sam’s hands behind his back. ‘Much better,’ he murmured, spider-walking his fingers up Sam’s tensed biceps to where his too-white teeth nibbled almost affectionately at Sam’s shoulder. ‘Not going to try anything silly like that again, are you?’

His tone was light, falsely playful compared to the scathing glance he threw in Gene’s direction while surreptitiously daubing at the blood trickling from his nose. There was too little left in Gene to triumph in that bit of fruitless bloodshed, too much of him riveted by the stray droplet that had struck Sam’s skin like a wound. He met Lennox’s disapproval with a mute half-shrug, as though to say that Lennox should have known that any man thinking to bed Sam Tyler would inevitably end up with a bloody nose.

A half-shrug, and another drink. Lennox scowled, then turned his attention back to Sam, moving his tremulous body with the clinical familiarity of a man who knew the intricacies of human anatomy, knew exactly how to make him bend and fold face-down over the waiting pillow like a specimen, like a corpse. It was that easy, now that Sam had stopped fighting back.

Sam was that easy…

Gene’s stomach clenched with disgust, forcing him to set his drink aside, hand shaking with the shock of his betrayal.

The hand that drew the pillow away was so steady, so calm when Gene’s hands just wouldn’t stop shaking, it was a wonder he had done the thing in the first place and he began to hope it had gone wrong after all, the sort of wrong that would be alright in the end but the pillow was gone and no no no no oh god no

Sam’s lips were moving feverishly against the sheets, soft mutterings spilling over the bed, shifted and pressed by Lennox moving over and into him. Each sharp thrust forced a louder exhale from his prone body, a breath that amplified his words and carried them to Gene’s horrified senses.

‘Wake up…’ Sam gasped, eyes squeezing shut. ‘C’mon, wake up, wake up, wake up…’

‘Wake up…’ Gene growled at the cooling, insensate face, still creased by the pillow. ‘Goddamnit, you bastard… fuck, please, wake up... fuck, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, just wake up…’

‘Wake up, wake up, wake up…’ The mantra continued at an undertone as Sam opened his eyes, distant and lost and staring straight through Gene as though he weren’t there. ‘Wake up, this isn’t real, it’s not real…’

Lennox growled and fell forward, covering Sam completely and clamping a hand over his mouth. ‘Mad little thing, aren’t you?’ he panted. ‘Fuck… you sweet, mad little boy… Daddy will take care of you, shhh…’

The sight of Sam’s fresh tears breaking down his cheeks was quickly blocked by the back of Lennox’s head as he leaned in closer, kissing and murmuring as he continued to move against the body fully pinned beneath him.

Gene hoped to hell that not seeing his body meant that Sam had disappeared completely.

‘Gene. At the risk of coming over all Dorothy, I can help you. Everyone's traceable, even in this day and age. I reckon we could find your brother.’

’I already did, Sam. Just not in time.’

‘Sam.’ Gene hovered uncertainly at the foot of the bed, dressing gown held awkwardly outward. Lamplight shivered down the drape of silk, expanding like an earthquake from his trembling hands, throwing reflections across skin stained with sweat and other slick remains that Gene wasn’t prepared to think about anytime soon.

Slowly, methodically, an arm unfurled itself from the curl of limbs, a hand seeking purchase against the soft mattress. Sam’s weight turned against the support of his propped hand, legs shifting beneath him to gain his knees, a flash of inner thigh revealing a trace of blood cutting through the copious white. Impulsively, Gene stepped forward and draped the dressing gown around Sam’s body, tugging insistently at the slippery silk as it fell down his supporting arm.

Sam froze at the touch and Gene cursed inwardly, prepared to retreat and give him the space he no doubt needed; he felt another flare of shock when Sam pressed back into the hand resting on his shoulder. Uncertainly, Gene gave the shoulder a slow squeeze and something he hoped was a reassuring pat before stepping back. ‘Sam,’ he said again. ‘C’mon, we’re done here. Time to go.’

Rubbing his wrists, Sam nodded absently and shifted his legs off the edge of the bed, a grimace creasing his neutral mask as he forced himself into a seated position before pushing up onto his feet. He swayed slightly, and Gene moved closer to steady him only to freeze as a renewed rigidity of purpose made Sam draw himself upright and pull the edges of the dressing gown securely around his slender body, hands fumbling to cast a triple knot into the silken belt. Something in the way of words seemed appropriate, but Gene doubted anything would get past the great lump caught in his throat so instead he snatched up the half-empty bottle and, after checking twice, his own tumbler – he didn’t want anything else of Lennox’s touching Sam – and poured out a strong measure that he mutely held out towards Sam. He could see Sam’s eyes flicker towards it and back to the floor before he held out his hand to accept the drink and bring it to his bruised lips.

The sight of his long throat moving as he drank was as distracting as ever, but now a nauseous wave of guilt forced Gene to look for details elsewhere. He watched with dismay the eyes pinched shut and knuckles white as he breathlessly forced down the whisky without tasting it.

When he had drained the tumbler, Sam lowered his hand and stared into its emptiness as though to confirm that the job was done, but otherwise didn’t move. Gene waited. He lifted the bottle to his own lips for a quick, grounding pull and winced as he swallowed, hating the sound of scotch sloshing in the silence of the room. Sam still wasn’t moving, wasn’t speaking. Wasn’t damn well blinking, far as he could tell.

‘Right.’ Gene squared his shoulders, gathering strength enough from his brief swig off the bottle to pluck the glass from Sam’s loose fingers, off-handedly tossing it across the carpet. He didn’t want to tell Sam what to do, not after this, but the poor bastard needed to get out of here. ‘All your stuff’s still in the loo across the hall. Go get dressed, alright?’

Sam nodded at the bedside lamp. Gene nodded back on its behalf. ‘Alright.’ He dug into his coat pocket. ‘Out to the car once you’re ready. I’ll be there as soon as I can.’ He passed his keys into Sam’s open palm, his fingers still shaped to the ghost of a crystal tumbler. At the first, slightest touch, Sam’s fingers closed tight around his own, clasping his hand with a convulsive strength. The hard plastic and metal of the Cortina’s keys bit uncomfortably into Gene’s hand but he held tightly, accepting his share of the pain, rather wishing it were more.

‘Sam,’ he said again, softer still. Sam was staring downward now, either at their joined hands or simply at the floor so Gene hunched his shoulders slightly and ducked his head, peering into his face. His expression was blank, mouth slackened, tears spilling down his cheeks and along his nose.

‘Shit.’ Gene closed his eyes, shutting down the instincts threatening to overtake him. He wanted to hold Sam. He wanted to stroke that tremor out of Sam’s limbs, ease the tension away from his back, ease that horrible dressing gown away from his body.

What Gene wanted most of all was a bed that wasn’t tainted by the scent of Lennox’s aftershave and some way to travel back in time. Both were impossible.

Taking a deep breath, he coaxed Sam’s fingers around the keys, savouring the prolonged contact before withdrawing his hand. ‘Ready?’

Damp eyes flicked upward at him, setting another surge of pain shooting through Gene’s chest. Sam nodded again and gripped the Cortina’s keys firmly, his other hand dashing away the tears on his cheeks with a slightly frustrated gesture. He gazed upward for a moment, taking slow steadying breaths, before shuffling away, towards the door and out of the room.

Once Sam was gone, once the bathroom door across the hall had clicked shut, Gene dropped back into the armchair, his legs gone dead. Something still thrummed away beneath his skin, pinpricks of disgust and shameful arousal and horror, all smothered beneath a blanket of numb silence.

The thing that scared Gene, more than anything, was Sam’s silence.

’He wasn’t alive anymore… not in any real sense of living, y’know. I just thought… well, I didn’t think, did I? Just couldn’t stand it, seeing him like that, not knowing how long… fuck. Fuck.’

‘Shhh… Gene. Please, just sit down…’

‘Nope, gotta… gonna turn meself in. Should’ve done years ago…’

‘You’re not turning yourself in. I won’t let you.’

‘Fine. Alright then, Gladys, let’s sit cozy here then while I wait for Lennox to go to the Chief Constable, shall we? Bugger that, I’m not waiting for ‘im to make the first move…’

He won’t have to. Not if I–‘

‘Don’t you fucking dare say it, Sam.’

‘I’m not letting you go down for this.’

He found Lennox downstairs, returned to his parlour. Freshly washed. Neatly dressed. Pouring another drink. The bastard was practically glowing, and the sight of it sharpened Gene’s smoldering rage, knowing that the glow did not belong to him. He had stolen it, stolen so much…

‘I saw Sam go by not long ago.’ Lennox gestured to the doorway behind Gene’s shoulder and he stupidly found himself glancing back through to the hall before he could stop himself. ‘I didn’t bother to say good-bye.’

Gene grunted, stared down at his loafers because the sight of Lennox was already making his hands tremble and clench inside his coat pockets. ‘No need,’ he muttered.

‘Not at all.’ The agreeable tone of voice made Gene’s gaze flicker up in confusion. ‘We’ll be seeing each other tomorrow evening, after all. I was thinking somewhat earlier, perhaps six? Seven?’

‘What the hell are you on about?’

‘Dinner, Mr. Hunt,’ Lennox drawled patiently. ‘You’re welcome to accompany Sam, of course. Think of it as a good-will gesture for your co-operation.’

‘You’ve got to be joking.’ Gene’s heart thundered in his chest.

‘Just for dinner and drinks, mind, I know you’re a busy man.’ Lennox smiled indulgently, even apologetically. ‘Sam and I will need some time to ourselves, he’s not going to be an easy one to break in, but oh, my…’ He trailed off, a hand idly swirling his scotch as something darkened in his pale eyes. ‘Good thing I’m on leave the rest of the week,’ he murmured, raising his tumbler for a sip.

‘No.’

‘Excuse me?’ Lennox swallowed, stared back at Gene.

‘This was a one-off,’ he snarled, loud enough to hear himself over the blood pounding in his ears. ‘One night, Lennox. One. You had your fun, but if you so much as lay a bloody finger on him again…’

‘You’ll what?’ Congeniality always slid so easily from Lennox’s surface, quickly replaced by a frosty disdain. ‘My God, are you so stupid… did you honestly think I would let the whole thing go for one shag? When I could keep having that night after night?’ He laughed scornfully. ‘Your boy was a good fuck, I’ll give him that, but not good enough to make me forget what I know. I still own you, Mr. Hunt.’

The truth of Lennox’s advantage sliced cleanly through Gene, but those were not the words that made anger rise like fire up his spine. ‘Don’t you fucking dare talk about him like that,’ he warned, no longer able to speak above a hushed growl.

Lennox’s mouth twisted cruelly. ‘I’ll talk about your dirty tart of a DI any way I like,’ he taunted crisply. ‘He’s mine now, and I’ll train him to answer to whatever I wish to call him, whenever I-‘

Gene kicked the door shut before he moved forward. He needed to keep this quiet.


* * *


‘Pathologist reckons it happened a couple days ago,’ Ray drawled, pausing to chomp thoughtfully at his wad of gum, ‘but can’t do much about time of death with what’s left. He wasn’t due back to work until next week, seems no one noticed anything amiss until the meter man came ‘round this morning.’

‘Poor sod,’ Chris chimed in morosely.

‘Yeah, gave the meter man a right turn, that’s for sure.’

‘Nah, I meant the dead bloke… hasn’t he got family, like?’

‘Don’t be a div, Chris.’ Ray snorted, shook his head. ‘Anyway, it’s the bullet to the head that did the job, but the internal bleeding from the cracked ribs would’ve gotten him sooner or later. Not to mention the second gunshot to his knackers.’ He made a sound that was half disgusted, half impressed as he reached for the edge of the sheet. ‘I mean, just look at–‘

‘Ray.’ Sam cut him off quietly, hands gripping the opposite edge of the slab with white knuckles. ‘Could you and Chris wait outside, I need a word with the Guv.’

It didn’t sound remotely like a question, but Ray still looked inquiringly to Gene, who nodded his agreement despite the trepidation gnawing at his insides. He stuffed his hands in his coat pockets and stared down at the corpse on the slab while he waited for Ray and Chris to leave the room.

Funny how he was easier to look at now that death and two days had rendered Dr. Lennox nearly unrecognizable.

Gene studied the bloated waste of Lennox’s face with detached curiosity, an ear open to the sound of receding footsteps in the mortuary’s tiled corridors. Sam must have been listening as well, waiting for the sound to echo away into nothing before he spoke.

‘You did this, didn’t you?’ There was just enough tentative hope in Sam’s voice to make that one a question, so Gene answered steadily, meeting Sam’s eyes with his own.

‘Yes.’

Sam nodded once, an incomplete move that dropped his chin wearily to his chest, eyes cast down upon Lennox’s body. ‘So I do mean that little to you,’ he muttered bitterly.

‘You what?’ Of all the reactions he had imagined, this wasn’t one Gene had expected, impossible as it was.

‘If this is how you really wanted to deal with… him,’ Sam finally looked away from the corpse, indicating Lennox with a shaking hand, ‘you could’ve at least done it straight away, before he… Well. Y’know. Saved us a bit of bother, yeah?’ A dry little laugh was edging into his last words, just deranged enough to make Gene freeze with concern.

‘Sam…’

Don’t,’ he snarled, and Sam was transformed in a heartbeat, eyes alight with rage, body poised for a fight. ‘Don’t you dare, after what I did for you and it was all for nothing, was fucking worthless, wasn’t it?’

Gene swallowed tightly, fighting for speech, for any sound.

‘WASN’T IT?’ Sam charged around the mortuary slab and pushed Gene hard in the chest, eyes hard and shining. The angry blow seemed to stop his heart, punched it dead, and Gene flinched and turned away, desperate to protect his tired body though there was nothing left in it. Desperate to protect Sam from himself.

WASN’T IT?’ A fist landed in his left kidney. Gene huffed at the pain, did nothing. It was worthless.

‘Damnit, Gene.’ Hands clawed and tugged at his coat, and Gene thrashed away, closer to the tiles, hoping their cold would drain away the prickling heat beneath his skin.

‘Don’t you fucking dare ignore me now, you bastard.’ A hand caught his arm, nearly wrenched it out of its socket, and Gene reacted without thinking, as he always would have done before, clutching at Sam and twisting hard around until Sam slammed into the cold tiled wall and Gene slammed into Sam.

It was the heat and solidity of his body that reminded Gene why he shouldn’t be allowed this closeness anymore. The feel of Sam’s body beneath his hands, the sound of Sam’s harsh uneven breath, and Gene was helpless again, heart pounding fast and dick growing hard against Sam’s thigh. Disgusted by his lack of self-control, even now, Gene cringed, waited for Sam to thrash and panic and shove him away but Sam wasn’t fighting back. And he wasn’t cringing with the shame that had made Gene hesitate.

If Gene had to find words for it, he could only say that Sam was waiting for something, watching and waiting with eyes that had gone dark with some unspoken challenge.

Whatever it was, Gene didn’t feel remotely equal to it. He grit his teeth and pushed away from Sam with several unsteady steps backward.

‘I couldn’t do that to you again,’ he blurted out. ‘D’you understand? It wasn’t gonna stop, he… he wasn’t gonna stop. He didn’t have to, not with what he knew… he could just keep on…’ Something hard and bitter got caught in Gene’s throat. ‘I had to stop this. And I did, but I did that for you, Sam–’

Sam drew a sharp, soft breath, his eyes widening and his lips parting, but Gene kept speaking, unable to stop now.

‘–but I’ve still gotta deal with that,’ he jabbed his fingers at the slab. ‘And I cleaned up my bloody mess the best way I know how, but it’s only a matter of time before you and your fancy Hyde ways will have at the truth anyway, but at least it’s over-’

‘No.’

Something in Sam’s face had twitched unpleasantly at the mention of Hyde, but he remained otherwise composed, too calm, leaning back against the wall. ‘I won’t find anything,’ he promised. ‘You just said it, you cleaned up afterwards. And if you missed something… I can make it go away, can’t I?’

‘No,’ Gene snapped, trying to sound firm and failing horribly. ‘No more hiding. I can’t do it anymore. Ten years of this shit, and I just…’ He sucked in a deep breath, nearly gagged on the inadequate preserving agent wafting up from the slab at his back. ‘No.’

Yes.’ Sam leaned forward from the wall. The gleam in his eyes had changed to something dangerous, triumphant. ‘Don’t you see? This is why you need me, isn’t it? It’s alright, I can still help you, Gene.’ He smiled, the first smile Gene had seen on his face in days, but it was wrong, somehow. ‘I can keep it quiet.’

The solemn, whispered vow was like a fist closing around his windpipe. ‘Sam…’

‘I said it before, I’m not letting you go down for this.’ His gaze drifted over to the slab again, his smile fading to the mute slackness of expression that had masked Sam off from him since that night. Gene blinked, could picture tears streaming down those pallid cheeks so easily now. ‘My world,’ Sam muttered. ‘This is my world, my mind… they’re not taking you away from me, I won’t let them…’

Numbing terror shuddered through Gene’s veins. It had been so long since he had seen Sam like this, speaking as though to no one at all. Speaking as though to Lennox’s vile ghost, leaving Gene the outsider to some unspoken pact.

‘Gene.’

He looked up. He wasn’t sure when he had been forced to look away.

‘Come here.’

The clap of his loafers in the echoing room was too loud, almost as obscene as the flare of approval in Sam’s eyes, the slip of his hand inside Gene’s coat. It was that easy…

‘You know why I agreed to it, don’t you?’ Sam asked earnestly. ‘That night, with…’ he seemed to choke on the idea of his name, pressed on more urgently, ‘you understand now, why I would go that far, for you?’

Gene managed a stiff nod. He understood, all too well.

When Sam leaned in to kiss his mouth, Gene bowed his head to meet him halfway. After all, silence had its price.