“Tell me again why this was a good idea, sir?"
“Oh, shush, you,” Lewis sighs, fondly frustrated. They’re both covered in dust and other material best not thought about from head to toe and it’s frankly a miracle they’re still upright. Well, at least it is for him, what with his bad back and all.
“This, Hathaway,” he explains slowly, as if he’s talking to a man slow on the uptake, earning him the expected annoyed look, “was a good idea because our Lyn needs a bigger bed and I don’t need this one anymore, what with my orthopaedic monster having finally arrived, but she needs to have her baby before she can come down from Manchester and get this. So I’m storing it in the attic for the time being.”
“That still does not explain neither why I’m the one putting all the work in getting it up the stairs not to mention this rickety thing nor why we couldn’t take it apart first,” comes the drawled reply from higher up the ladder. Lewis shoots him a glare, but refrains from answering immediately, as they’re pushing and pulling again, finally getting it all the way up and onto the attic floor. There it off all things skitters along the somewhat moist planks laid over the Rockwool. “Or why there was a ton of other stuff from the garage that needed to go up here as well, come to that.”
“Nobody asked you to help, lad,” Lewis points out with a huff as he leans on the top of the ladder and tries to get his breath back. “I’m glad you did show up, mind, but there was no obligation.” You ought to have better things to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon than help your superior, is never said but it hangs in the air between them.
Hathaway looms over him, standing as he does at the opening, feet almost touching Lewis’ hands where they’re gripping the wood of the ladder. There’s a weird expression lurking on his face for a moment, but as with all expressions on the blonde’s face that even rings close to true, it’s gone before he can even blink.
“I’m always happy to be of service to the ones in need, sir,” is the deadpan answer and Lewis knows his sergeant has just neatly sidestepped another question, although unspoken, about his private life and the reasons he does the things he does. The older man knows he really ought to dig deeper into this, but he does not want another row as a result – just look where digging had led him last time – and it really is none of his business. Even if he often gets involved in Hathaway’s business, whether by the sergeant’s design or not, that does not give him any right to pry.
Still, it is sort of funny that out of all the things he could be doing, the younger man had opted to spend the day with his superior. He had not even known Lewis had intended to shift the bed today. But it’s true; he really is grateful that his sergeant has so little of a social life that he can help moving the bed, because without him, the inspector’s back would definitely have needed a week’s respite in the new, orthopaedic bed. Hell, he probably would not have been able to move at all. Also, the company is, as always, a pleasant change from his loneliness.
“Are you alright, sir?” The tone is still dry, but the amusement is hidden in plain view in it.
“Yes, yes, fine, lad, fine. Just a bit winded, that’s all. These old bones are not what they used to be. Now how about we both crawl down from here and I go and make us some dinner while you take a shower? You’re so covered in cobwebs and dust you look like a vampire just risen from the grave.”
This gets a smile. “Why, sir, are you afraid I’ll get tempted to bite you? I must say, you have an exceptionally nice-looking neck and jugular...”
Lewis snorts, though liking the banter, and Hathaway leans forward some more, apparently to try and make an attempt at biting his neck, which is just Typical Hathaway; proving a point without any need to. But he clearly hasn’t thought this through, as his balance tips too much and he staggers and falls forward, down the ladder. On the way down he collides with Lewis, who unsuccessfully tries to grab him and stop his tumble, and they fall down together in a jumble of limbs, ending on the floor with a heavy thump.
Robbie groans from his position on the bottom. If his back hadn’t been killing him already, it definitely is now and other places are hurting as well now, what with the ones not digging into the hard floor of the hallway being dug into in turn by the gangly body above him.
He looks up, a quip about wrong place to try cartwheels on his lips, but it dies as he sees another strange expression on Hathaway’s face. On impulse, he tries to get closer to see what it is before it, too, fades away. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but as an old codger of a copper he reckons he is safe enough.
This turns out to be a wrong assumption; when he leans closer, Hathaway’s head comes down and their lips meet. It’s nothing more than a chaste lips-on-lips, most likely just the accident that it would seem, but it sends a jolt of something down Lewis’ spine and out into every part of his body.
It certainly lasts a lot longer than it should if it was indeed a mere coincidence, but finally Hathaway lets up and gets up without looking at Lewis, careful not to touch anything.
The atmosphere is suddenly crackling with something that was not there before; to Lewis’ knowledge it has never been there before now, but he could be wrong. You never know with Hathaway. He clumsily raises himself up on his elbows, his body screaming at him in pain...and something else entirely.
Lighten the mood, that’s what he’s got to do. It may be entirely possible that was deliberate on his sergeant’s part, but they would both be better off without acknowledging it. It would only do harm to the younger man, whatever it is, and the inspector does not want anything other than happiness for his sergeant.
“If you were aiming for the throat, James, your aim was slightly off,” he says, forcing a chuckle and holding out his hand to be helped up. “I don’t believe a vampire would go for the lips as a source of food.”
“Oh, I don’t know, sir. If you’ve ever bitten through your lower lip you’ll know how much it can actually bleed. It must be quite hard to control the flow of it, though – kind of like stuffing your mouth, I should imagine. ” As dry as ever, that tone, but with an undercurrent to it that had not been there before, either.
Hathaway grabs the hand and pulls his superior up as gently as possible. He still refuses to meet Lewis’ gaze, however, and with a wave at his clothes, he disappears down the hall and into the bathroom. After a couple of minutes Robbie hears the faucet being turned on in the dead silence of the house and then splash of water.
He closes his eyes and debates whether to go stand in front of the closed door, ask if the younger man is okay, much like he had when Lyn or Mark had thrown a tantrum or had just been upset when they were teenagers. But Hathaway isn’t a kid, and certainly not his. However much he cares for him, Lewis has to accept that it is up to James to decide what he wants to do or not do. It’s his decision to make.
So he walks down the hall, down the stairs and into the kitchen. He has promised to make dinner and he will, though his mind is not really on the task; at least Hathaway is used to his ‘culinary shipwrecks’ as the blonde fondly terms them.
As he stands in front of the stove, feebly trying to make an omelette and not blackened scrambled eggs, he quietly decides that whatever happens next, he will deal with it. If James never mentions the mishap again – which is for the best, really, even though Robbie’s body does seem to want a repeat performance – they will continue as they always have and if he does...well, best set him straight, once and for all. About what exactly, Lewis isn’t entirely sure.