It's early, early enough that there's still a hush across the city, a hush across the sandstone and the spires – students all long in bed, or long to be in bed yet – and Lewis had passed only one woman on his way here, lead in her hand and her schnauzer sniffing rather fitfully at the footpath. Even the allotments are quiet, just a few becoming-familiar faces; none of the children, which he knows will appear later, with their chitter-chat and their brightly coloured wellies. For now, it's quiet, the sound of Hathaway's shovel and the soft shifting of earth.
They're doing one last dig through, turning the soil. Digging a bag of organic mumbojumbo into it as they go, because Hathaway had said he should, and Lewis sees no real reason to argue. Hathaway has his coat off, his shirt sleeves pale over the tee worn beneath. His posture is better in t-shirts, Lewis thinks, and he watches Hathaway work; watches Hathaway turn the dirt with quick, precise motions. That, or t-shirts simply don't look as strained, without the pressure put on overwhelmed buttons. It suits him, anyway, being here; the way that his body moves beneath the soft-looking t-shirt cloth, the way the shovel sits in his hands. It is, of course, a bloody weird turn of events, and Lewis suspects that his amusement, his bewilderment, must be broadcasting, when Hathaway rests a shoulder against his shovel and raises his eyebrows.
Lewis grins, but holds his tongue, because it's been a long week. Because he's unsettled by the thought of things getting volatile again or, worse, brittle. Because he's tired, yes, but things are all right, Hathaway is here and things are all right, and Lewis would like to keep it that way. Because all those years of marriage have taught him, at least some of the time, when it's best to shut up.
Hathaway digs his shovel deeper, and rolls his sleeves to his elbows. The material is darker beneath his arms. He says, “I still can't believe you were going to get rid of it, sir, after so long on the waiting list.”
Lewis says, “I still can't believe you're spending your morning digging it.” A retort, with no heat to it but the weight of guilt; a sweet sort of guilt, selfish, glad despite itself. Selfish, to be stealing the younger man's free time, when he already has hold of his work hours. It isn't as though Lewis had talked him into it, though, because this is Hathaway and Hathaway is – Laura's voice pops into Lewis's head, Where's your other half?, and some great, exhausted part of Lewis's... Lewis's soul, perhaps? Lewis's mind? He figures Hathaway would take it for Lewis's soul, more likely than not, heaves a sigh of resignation. Lewis has never been very good at denying things, not in this department, at least, and he knows full well that some part of him is waiting, waiting with a worrying earnestness.
Hathaway is smiling at him, like he knows things Lewis does not.
Well, but that's a given.
Sometimes, Lewis wants to pry his sergeant's head open, just to see what's inside. Sometimes, he thinks it's better not to know. Safer. Sometimes.
Lewis shakes his own head and puts his body back into the business of digging. By now, at least, he's figured out how to dig from his hips, how to dig with his legs, rather than attacking the ground from his shoulders. He pushes down, with the sole of his boot against the square of the shovel's blade. It is kinder to his back.
They work, turning over the garden bed, digging from one end of the allotment each, the expectation of meeting in the middle. Hathaway had been right, about keeping this place. To have Hathaway here, though, a look of quiet not-protest on his face, his muscles pushing into the work, as though it does him good, as though he doesn't hate it the way Lewis had presumed. That, that is something quite different.
“Did you garden as a child?” Lewis asks, because the exertion is making him red-faced and short of breath, and he wants to talk to spite that; then he wants to bite his tongue because that wasn't a question he had meant to ask. Lewis knows to dance around Hathaway's past, because Hathaway himself does.
But Hathaway is shrugging. “A little. Enough to have understood the appeal of Mary Lennox's 'bit of earth'.”
This is a reference that Lewis gets. He remembers long winter evenings, listening to Val reading the book aloud to Lyn; remembers the voices she would make, the dialect. He remembers a fondness for the gardener's son, and an occasional irritation towards the lass. “Well,” Lewis says, “you seem a natural at it. I suppose these things stick.”
Outside, the traffic is picking up; the sounds, the general awakening of the world.
Inside, the caretaker makes his way past Lewis's plot, says, “Mornin',” and raises a thermos in greeting, like a man might tip a hat, before strolling on.
The greenery of one garden over rustles, and a ginger cat walks out, navigating her way delicately through the pale tussle of carrot tops.
The lines of Hathaway's body are soft in the morning sunshine, and Lewis envies, and Lewis wants, and Lewis looks back down at his shovel and the dirt.
Lewis realises they've reached the middle. Realises that Hathaway is looking at him again. Lewis rests his shovel to one side and moves to his own thermos, left on an upturned bucket, as though that were all he'd ever had in mind. He hadn't really imagined this is how it would be: Hathaway, here, a morning like this. And yet, part of him must have known, because he's packed two mugs for the tea. He sighs as he pours, and it's hot, steaming, and good. Hathaway is wiping his hands against his arse as he comes over, face bright with hard labour, and he takes a cup when Lewis offers. Lewis sits on the bucket to drink, unthinking, and Hathaway surprises him by settling down on the ground at his side – chairs, a corner of Lewis's mind supplies, those little folding chairs that artists or fishermen use, they need a pair of those – as though sitting on the ground is something that James Hathaway simply does. Hathaway's jeans pull at his knees and he shifts slightly, gets comfortable, liberates a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and lights one up. The smoke colours the morning air; Hathaway's fingers slender, pale even against the white of the butt. The sun rises higher above them and Lewis wonders absently whether his partner freckles in the summer, whether they sprinkle across his face, across the broad of his naked back.
Lewis drinks his tea with determination, lets the hot of it almost-scald down the the back of his throat and root him to the damp earth beneath his boots.
“Oh, how she did like that queer, common boy,” says Hathaway, and breathes out a lazy mouthful of smoke.
Lewis is confused, until he remembers their conversation, and supposes it is a quote from The Secret Garden.
“Could you have loved him?” Lewis finds himself asking, eyes fixed on dirt that Hathaway must have tilled, because it is neatly broken, neatly tended.
Lewis wasn't bringing this up again. He wasn't.
He could swear he can hear Hathaway breathe, even over the wind in the neighbouring gardens. He could swear he can hear Hathaway's fingers against his mug. He watches, as the cat reappears, dolly-steps onto his allotment, sits herself down, and ignores them while she washes a leg.
“Will?” says Hathaway, because he's not stupid, is never stupid, can almost always join the dots of Lewis's mind. “I don't think so. I don't know, perhaps. Perhaps if I hadn't been wired the way I was. Beliefs are powerful things. They way they keep you.”
Maybe a garden is like a confessional. Lewis doesn't have a response, doesn't have the authority to respond, the background to do so. His own beliefs have never been so complicated. He'd believed in Val, in Morse, in, most of the time, the validity of his work. He believes, he supposes, in the basic decency of folk, though he hasn't the faintest idea why, at this point, except that he sees it there, half-hidden beneath the brutality and the blood.
He believes in Hathaway.
He glances down, swiftly, at the man beside him, as though to see whether that Belief has shown upon his face, only to realise that it probably always shows upon his face, is probably some kind of bloody beacon of admission.
Hathaway is watching him, like he does. Hathaway is sipping his tea, and is watching him, cigarette held loosely by his knee, small embers burning in the breeze, and there is a smile teasing at the edge of his mouth. A proper smile, it is, all things bright and beautiful, and wasn't there a hymn about that when Lewis was back in the Easters of his own childhood, his mother at his side and a church pew unforgiving and impossibly uncomfortable beneath his bony child-bum.
Lewis wants to ask, What are you doing here, Jim?
He wants to ask, Why?
He wants to ask, How can it be, really, how can it possibly be?
He asks, “Is the tea all right?”
Hathaway's face towards the earth; smile small, and his. “Lovely, sir.”
Maybe, Lewis thinks. Maybe. Watches Hathaway smoke, watches his hands on cup and cigarette, watches the line of his neck as he leans his head back and studies the clouds. Watches Hathaway's gaze slide in his direction, again, again, and is he knowing or impossible or inscrutable, and Lewis doesn't have the faintest idea, but Lewis watches, and Lewis sits, and Lewis drinks his tea, and Lewis doesn't say a word when Hathaway eventually drains his cup, and stubs his cigarette on the earth, and stands, Hathaway's long fingers splayed across Lewis's thigh to push himself up, as though that, too, is part of the list of Things Hathaway Does. Hathaway's hand goes from Lewis's leg, to Lewis's shoulder, and it lingers, lingers like the expression on Hathaway's face. Lewis can feel the warmth of a finger brush the bare skin of his neck.
Hathaway's mouth asks, “Back to it, then?” but that is not what his eyes are asking.
Lewis doesn't answer. Doesn't answer either question, but he stands, and he stretches. They mark lines in the dirt, rows and gutters, plans and possibilities, and then Lewis kneels on the earth with his sergeant and someone else's cat and tiny pots of living things, and he makes holes with his fingers, presses seedlings home, dirt against his knuckles, dirt against his nails, dirt against the fine bones of Hathaway's wrists. Hathaway's shoulder against his own, and maybe Lewis isn't good at waiting, maybe this simply is.
Hathaway's eyes beneath his lashes, dirt upon his cheekbone.
Lewis rolls his own eyes, and swipes his thumb against the smudge.
Maybe. Maybe soon.