Their fingers touch when Kent hands him his tea, and the DI freezes. His posture becomes a little more stiff, and his hand stills. Though he doesn't abruptly jerk his arm back, his discomfort is written in every fibre of his body if you know where to look – and Kent does.
Stupid, he thinks, mentally kicking himself. He knows that the DI doesn't like to be touched, has witnessed too many occasions when superiors, journalists or witnesses invaded Chandler's personal space with some random casual gesture and evoked a reaction much less subtle than the one Kent carelessly provoked just now.
The apology comes automatically, unbidden, and it's only when he hears the words spilling from his lips that he realizes that he probably wasn't supposed to acknowledge the DI's awkwardness. He only just manages to restrain himself from apologizing for the apology, knowing he'd only draw more attention to it and make it worse. He's put his foot in his mouth quite enough for one day.
"It's fine," the DI says, offering Kent a thin, barely-there smile before he focuses his attention on the file on his desk again.
Kent recognizes the wordless dismissal for what it is. He slinks out of the office and back to his desk, where his own tea has gone cold in the meantime. When he pushes it away a little too viciously, it topples over, spilling on the files piling up next to it.
"Oy! What happened to you?" McCormack says from the other side of the room, chuckling. "You look like someone's kicked your puppy."
Kent flips him off and goes to work, burying himself in the files, going over them, one by one, to look for similarities to their current case. He's too engrossed in his reading to notice the DI approaching until his voice jerks Kent back to the here and now.
"Do you have anything?" Chandler asks, right behind him.
What startles Kent more than anything, though, is the unexpected, warm weight of a hand on his shoulder. From anyone else, the gesture would have seemed perfectly casual and the knowledge that this is not – the idea that the DI must have thought this through, probably weighted the pros and cons and then decided to deliberately reach out – is making Kent feel giddy with relief and… and something else. He swallows thickly and forces himself to relax.
"Not yet, sir," he says. His voice sounds a little breathless. "I'll keep looking."
He turns and throws a quick smile at the DI, trying not to let his gaze linger on the long fingers resting lightly on his shoulder, the pale skin a startlingly alluring contrast against the dark shirt.
The DI seems perfectly at ease, none of the awkwardness that was written all over him before visible in his stance or his features now, nor does he let on that he's stepping out of his comfort zone.
"Good. Let me know if you find anything."
He gives Kent's shoulder a brief squeeze, and Kent can't quite stop himself from leaning into the touch or his smile from growing a fraction wider.
"I will, sir," he agrees, probably a bit too enthusiastically, considering that there's hours of boring research ahead of him.
And then the DI is gone again, and Kent listens to the sound of his footfalls fading away. He can still feel the phantom weight of the hand and its warmth seeping through the cotton of his shirt.