"Hot date tonight?"
Hathaway looked up from where he was poking at his keyboard rather randomly, it seemed to Lewis. "No," he said, "Why would you ask me that?" he asked, a puzzled crease in his brow.
Lewis shrugged. "I don't know, because it's Valentine's Day. Because you seem kind of distracted?"
"Do I?" Hathaway said. "Is it?"
"No reason to remember.” Hathaway looked back at his monitor.
"Is that why you're still here?"
"What?" Hathaway said. He was still staring at his screen, but Lewis wasn't a detective for nothing. Hathaway's eyes weren't moving, so either Hathaway was finding something on there particularly fascinating, or he was away with the faeries. "Where else would I be?" Hathaway muttered.
"That was my point." Lewis sighed. Hathaway was hard work sometimes. "It's," Lewis glanced at his watch, "nearly home time. Everyone else who doesn’t have to be here has already knocked off early.”
"You don't have to be here."
“Actually, I’m working back a few hours, covering for Edwards so he can wine and dine his new girlfriend.”
“That’s… good of you.”
Lewis grimaced. “It’s not like I had any plans.” Even when Val… well, they hadn’t really gone out of their way to make a big deal of it; a quiet bottle of wine, snuggling in front of the telly, taking time to appreciate their family, their life together — when Lewis hadn’t had to work, that is. Often as not Morse’d drag him away on some urgent case. In hindsight, Lewis wished he’d said no more often. He hadn’t known, though, hadn’t realised that Val would be gone all too soon, that they wouldn’t grow old together. One of life’s regrets.
“It’s overrated anyway.”
Lewis raised his eyebrows at the disgruntled tone.
Hathaway shrugged. “It may have meant something once,” he said, leaning back in his chair, “but now it’s just another money-making enterprise for corporations and the public are suckered into believing that they have to spend a small fortune on their significant other as proof of love.”
“Not that I necessarily disagree with you, mind, but you’re young to be so cynical.”
"Not that young," Hathaway reminded him, a touch of bite in his tone.
It wasn't the first time Hathaway snapped at him when Lewis'd made some passing reference to his age. Lewis couldn't understand why he seemed touchy about it. It's not like Lewis treated him as anything less than equal. “Not denying being cynical though, I notice," Lewis pointed out mildly.
"Never had any reason to feel any different about it.”
Never had anyone special, Hathaway meant. Never even been in love, maybe. That was just plain sad. Lewis looked at Hathaway’s still face. His eyes dared Lewis to offer some meaningless platitude about how he just hadn’t met the right person yet. Lewis wasn’t that much of an idiot.
Silence reigned for a while. Hathaway slumped further back in his chair. Lewis eyed him doubtfully. His arse was probably half hanging off the edge, by the angle. It didn't look comfortable at all to Lewis, but Hathaway seemed content. Lewis restrained himself with an effort from a lecture on how bad that position had to be for Hathaway's neck. He was a grown man, for heaven's sake. Lewis finished crossing the t's and dotting the i's on his last overdue report and stretched, idly watching the way Hathaway's eyes flickered across the screen. "What’re you working on?" Lewis asked.
Hathaway looked up at him, blinking. "Just a little light reading," he said. "Taking a break."
"Why don't you head off, seriously," Lewis said.
Hathaway blinked. "Like I said, nowhere to be," he said casually.
A suspicion occurred to Lewis. "You keeping me company?" he asked, trying not to sound accusing. Did Hathaway think he shouldn't be alone on Valentine's Day or something, as if he hadn’t been alone the last, Christ, it had been nearly ten years now.
“Why not?” Hathaway put hands behind his head, and seeming to slide impossibly lower in his chair. “Not all cultures exclusively celebrate romantic love on Valentine’s Day, you know,” he said. “In some Latin American countries, for example, it’s known as "Día del Amor y la Amistad," the “Day of Love and Friendship”.
“You just got that off Wikipedia, didn’t you?”
Hathaway smirked. Lewis thought about looking it up, he wouldn’t put it past Hathaway to have made the whole thing up, but there was something soft about the expression in Hathaway’s eyes, affectionate. Lewis decided to take his words at face value.
“So you want to spend Valentine’s Day together out of friendship. Because we’re friends,” he clarified.
Lewis must have blinked because Hathaway’s smile had vanished, his expression folded in on itself in the space of an instant. He sat up, his spine now ramrod straight. “I’d thought so, yes sir,” he said stiffly. “If I’ve misinterpreted—”
“Oh, go on with you,” Lewis said mildly. “Of course we’re friends, man. I don’t invite you into my home and my life when we’re off duty because I think I need to spend more time with my Sergeant, do I?” he continued, a bit aggrieved that he apparently had to point that out.
“No, of course not, sir,” Hathaway said, looking mildly abashed, but pleased, if the barely-there smile lurking about the corner of his mouth was any indication.
“Right, then,” Lewis said firmly. “So what do friends do on Valentine’s Day in Latin America, then?” he asked, playing along.
Hathaway’s eyes slid back to the screen, completely less subtly than he no doubt would have liked. “Perform acts of appreciation, apparently.”
“Like hanging about distracting them from their work, you mean?”
Hathaway looked thoughtful. “Have you eaten?”
Lewis held up his slightly soggy-looking plastic-wrapped sandwich. “I bought an extra sandwich from the canteen at lunchtime.”
“Mmm, yummy,” Hathaway said dryly. His face brightened. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said, and got to his feet, grabbing his jacket.
“Wasn’t planning to,” Lewis said, as Hathaway disappeared through the doorway.
He sat for a moment, pondering the mixture of prickles and affection that made up his relationship with James Hathaway. He was closer to Hathaway than anyone, family even. Mark and Lyn would always be the best of him, but they had their own lives, their own families and that was the way it should be, and Lewis had… Hathaway. Hathaway, who teased him, didn’t let him get away with moping, who supported him unconditionally, who, if he were honest with himself, he loved. Occasionally the unsettling thought would cross his mind that if only Hathaway were a woman everything’d be perfect; even more confusingly, he’d find himself wondering how much that fact that Hathaway wasn’t even mattered.
He reached for the next file in his in-tray.
Lewis was absorbed in trying to work out how the suspected burglar could have been at a football match at Old Trafford at the same time as he was surprising an homeowner in her kitchen in Oxford, with tragic consequences, when Hathaway bustled into the office. He nudged the door closed behind him with his hip and placed several shopping bags gently down out of the way.
Lewis watched, bemused, as Hathaway shrugged out of his jacket and set about clearing his desk completely. He even carefully moved his computer onto the floor near the wall, as far away as the cord would let him, then flipped a white tablecloth open and laid out plates and cutlery. Then he unpacked boxes from the local Indian takeaway, and with a flourish, brought out a six pack of beer.
Lewis forbore to comment that this seemed to be going above and beyond ‘an act of appreciation’ and in fact looked more like the sort of romantic gesture one would expect from a lover on Valentine’s Day. Hathaway looked so pleased with himself; he didn’t have the heart to spoil it.
“Are you mad?” he asked, but mildly. “I’m on duty, for a start. But if you’re busted with alcohol in the station—”
Hathaway held up the bottle, looking innocent. Becks Blue.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose,” Lewis said, knowing he was being an ungrateful bastard even as the words left his mouth.
“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Sir.”
Lewis brought his chair up to the table and sat down again, reaching for the rice. This was the oddest ‘friendship date’ he’d ever had, and not just because Hathaway was a bloke. He eyed the open blinds doubtfully — there were still enough people around that someone could theoretically walk by and see them. And think… things… about them.
Hathaway read his mind. “It’d look more dodgy if you close them.” He shrugged. “Do you care what people think? You’re planning on retiring soon anyway.”
“Not that soon, I’m not.”
“Good,” Hathaway said matter-of-factly, piling food onto his own plate, not looking at Lewis as he tucked in.
All his favourites, Lewis realised, as he started eating. Well, it was supposed to be an act of appreciation for him, apparently. Of course Hathaway remembered his favourite food — brought him non-alcoholic beer, even if it was a poor substitute for the real thing.
He took a swig. Huh, not bad. At least it tasted like beer and not piss. “Cheers,” he said, holding out his bottle.
Hathaway clinked it with his own. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, solemnly, his eyes crinkled with amusement.
“So is this what the kids today call a ‘bromance’?” Lewis said, gesturing at the table, suddenly remembering hearing the term on the radio the other day, on some gossip show before he’d impatiently changed the station.
He watched as Hathaway’s eyes widened, keeping a straight face with an effort.
“‘Bromance,’ sir?” Hathaway asked evenly.
“I believe it refers to a close friendship between a couple of straight men?” He watched as Hathaway’s eyes flickered and slid away from his.
Resisting an urge to roll his eyes, Lewis amended, “Between men of whatever orientation, who share a close relationship that does not involve sex.”
“Very PC of you, sir,” Hathaway said, in a determinedly light voice. Then he seemed to shake off whatever dark thoughts he’d been having and raised his glass again. “To bromances, then,” he said, and his smile was genuine and uncomplicated for once.
Lewis touched his bottle to Hathaway’s, returning his smile gladly, but he wondered what he’d got wrong this time.
Back at work, he couldn’t concentrate on the football-mad burglar. Hathaway was back at his desk, the remains of their dinner tidied away and whatever he was amusing himself with on his computer it obviously wasn’t work, to judge by the occasional grin or smothered laugh that escaped him. Lewis wasn’t going to ask though. He had less than two hours left before Edwards came back to relieve him, and Lewis wanted to see if he couldn’t make some headway with this case. It had been gnawing at him for days.
Hathaway had clearly decided that it was his duty as his friend to see out this Valentine’s Day shift with him, so he figured he might as well get him to run through the logistics of the alleged burglar’s alibi again. He was just about to say something when his email pinged, a little red ‘important’ flag attached to it, from Hathaway.
You have received an ecard from James
He glanced up at Hathaway in disbelief, caught the tail end of a mischievous smile and then Hathaway was staring poker-faced at his computer, not acknowledging Lewis’s glare at all. Despite his better judgement, Lewis clicked on the link.
Instead of some tacky bear holding a heart or some such, that the shops had been full of these last weeks, the card displayed a tasteful view of Oxford, a light dusting of snow falling over it. Still, Hathaway had been up to something. He clicked to open.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I love solving crimes
For a moment he just stared, gobsmacked. Hathaway had sent him a Valentine’s Day card. How was he supposed to respond to that? “Not exactly Shakespeare?” he joked uncomfortably.
Hathaway looked up in all pretended innocence, but Lewis could see the tense set of his shoulders.
“Never mind,” Lewis said, and went back to studying the file. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hathaway shooting him glances, waiting for the penny to drop, presumably. He wondered what reaction Hathaway was after, sending him ersatz love poetry. A joke, obviously.
Hathaway had gone out of his way to be with him on Valentine’s Day. Had bought him dinner. Had given him a Valentine, for God’s sake.
All neatly, plausibly presented so that Lewis could ignore it. Lewis knew he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box when it came to these things; if it wasn’t for these distracting feelings he kept having for his sergeant, he might have been oblivious to whatever subtext was going on here.
Hathaway had stopped looking at him now. Lewis took the opportunity to study him. He didn’t look like he was really interested in whatever was on his computer, his fingers fidgeting with his pen. Lewis bet he was dying for a fag. A dull red shaded his cheekbones. Because he was aware Lewis was watching him? Or because he’d realised that Lewis had figured out what he’d been not-saying, and thought Lewis was deliberately ignoring it.
Lewis got up and perched on the edge of Hathaway’s desk. Hathaway didn’t react.
“Jim,” he said. Only Lewis got away with calling him that, he knew. He’d heard Hathaway coldly correct other people who’d tried, as though they’d presumed some unforgivable liberty. It made Lewis feel special, and he liked it, liked to think that it meant he wasn’t the only one, that Hathaway felt that closeness… that intimacy, too.
“Sir?” Hathaway’s eyes dragged up to his, along his body, and Hathaway probably didn’t mean it that way, but Lewis’s body reacted as it would to someone attractive checking him out. God, he’d be embarrassing himself in a minute.
“You writing me poetry, now?” he said, willing his body to behave itself.
Hathaway rolled his eyes. “That wasn’t poetry. That was a joke.”
“Of course, what else?”
Lewis resisted the urge to sigh loudly. Why was the lad making things difficult now, after all the effort he’d gone to? Insecurity, maybe. It wasn’t like Lewis had thrown himself into his arms. But he was here, wasn’t he? What more did Hathaway want of him? He looked at the pale blue eyes staring at him, meeting his eyes, and he realised that it had taken all of Hathaway’s courage to bring them this far, to expect any more would be unfair to both of them.
“Look, all this,” he said, waving his arm to encompass, “if I’m wrong, we’ll just forget the last couple of hours…” he trailed off, not sure how to put it without spelling it out, not with Hathaway still staring at him, refusing to give anything away.
Then Hathaway drew a deep breath, and said, “Yes, sir?” and Lewis could see the way his fingers were wrapped tightly around his pen, knuckles white.
“I believe there’s one more Valentine’s Day custom left,” he said, and his voice rose uncertainly at the end there, despite himself.
“Come on, then,” he said, and this was it, wasn’t it? Hathaway could take that invitation any way he liked, if Lewis had got completely the wrong end of the stick, then—
But Hathaway surged to his feet, cupped Lewis’s face none too gently with strong fingers and brought their mouths together, without fear, without hesitation and god, yes. Yes. He was being claimed, it felt like, and was okay with that, more than okay — god, Hathaway’s strength and determination was turning him on faster than anything else had in years. Hathaway’s body was pressed the length of his, and Lewis found himself trying to pull him closer still, ceding control of this, whatever it was, unreservedly. It crossed his mind briefly that the office blinds were still open, that anyone could see them, see this, and that he should really put a stop to it, but then Hathaway was drawing away, just far enough to rest their foreheads together. They were both panting, gasping for breath.
Lewis forced himself to let his arms drop, and Hathaway sighed and stepped apart from him, staring at him, looking just as wild-eyed as Lewis knew he himself must.
“I think I'd better go,” Hathaway said, sounding unsure.
“Aye,” Lewis agreed, somewhat dazedly.
“So, I’ll, um, meet you back at your place?”
God, yes. Lewis fumbled for his keys. “Here, if you want to go ahead, wait there?”
Hathaway took the keys and stared at them. His fingers were trembling slightly.
“Don’t get any more funny ideas, mind,” Lewis said, striving for some normality.
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve already wooed and won me… I don’t want to find myself making love in a bed of rose petals, or something like. Can’t stand the bloody smell, for a start."
“Understood,” Hathaway said, grinning lopsidedly.
Lewis watched Hathaway walk away and then tried to get back to work. He couldn’t concentrate and in the end gave up and put the file away, turned off his computer and occupied himself with thoughts of Hathaway waiting for him in his flat… in his bed maybe, naked already. Anticipation thrummed along his nerves and he’d no sooner caught sight of Edwards approaching than he was up, reaching for his coat.
“Hot date?” Edwards asked jokingly as Lewis strode past him.
“Of course,” Lewis said smugly, enjoying Edwards’ look of surprise. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”