Oh, he really didn’t want to get up.
“Sir, can you hear me?”
What time was it? Why did his head hurt and… why was Kent in his room?
No, no, not his room. Not his room. He cracked an eye open, having to blink a few times to clear his vision. The light was dim, unless he tilted his head upwards, then it was blinding. Overhead light source, then. He tried to bring his arms forward and winced; they were tied behind him around a beam of some kind. Metal, from the feel of it. The back of his head felt damp, sticky against the metal. They were in… well, it looked like a storage room. Boxes and crates and tables strewn about the place, stacked on top one another. Still chasing the last cobwebs from his mind, he rolled his head on his shoulders until he was looking in front of him. Not ten feet away, in precisely the same situation, was Kent. The young DC was also sitting against a beam, watching him worriedly. He ignored the sudden, relieved sigh from the younger man in favor of staring at the streak of red that started under dark curls and ended at the DC’s jawline.
“Are you alright, sir?” Kent asked immediately, leaning forward as far as his bindings allowed.
“Kent, what happened?” Chandler asked instead.
Kent frowned at that, leaning back against the metal beam. “I’m not sure.”
“Alright. Let’s start with the last thing each of us remembers, look for a commonality,” Chandler instructed, wincing at the dull throb that seemed to be localized at the back of his head. His fingers twitched, missing the small container of Tiger Balm they likely would have been reaching for were they free.
“Well… we’d finished up for the night, clocked out. You’d stayed behind… again… sir, and the rest of us left. I drove back to my flat. My flatmates were all gone for the weekend, so I let myself into the flat and walked down the hall to the closet.”
Kent paused, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the beam. Chandler watched, waiting patiently for him to elaborate. Things had been strained between the two of them since… well, since Morgan. Something had broken, some boundary had been crossed, though he doubted either of them could say what it was. It was unfair to blame the DC for her death, and he didn’t, not really, but he supposed that some small part of him did. Kent’s withdrawn behavior since then didn’t help. It was so much easier to assign blame to someone who played the guilty part so well. Between them now, both bound and a little bloody, was probably the most they’d actually spoken to each other beyond what was necessary in weeks.
“I can’t remember anything past hanging my helmet in the closet. Sorry, sir,” Kent said, looking genuinely apologetic.
“It’s fine. I’m finding my own recollection to be a little lacking,” Chandler admitted. “I left late, got into my car, drove home. But I do remember pain. When I’d stepped out of my car, it was sudden, at the back of my head. I fell, hit the pavement. It was wet against the side of my face, it had just rained, and I was looking at the front tire of my car… then nothing. That’s as far as I remember.”
“More than I did anyway,” Kent said. “There’s not much to say about where we are, either. I’d been awake for maybe a half-hour before you woke. You know, you were so still, for a moment I’d thought, well…”
Chandler watched as Kent derailed his own train of thought. It was that boundary again, stopping him from finishing that thought. But a boundary against what? He didn’t know.
“Anyway, no one’s come in to check on us. I haven’t been able to see anything in the room to give me a clue as to where we might be. Only sound I’ve heard was a boat horn, once, about twenty minutes ago.”
Chandler groaned. “Oh, please.”
“Warehouse by the docks. It’s a bit of a cliché, isn’t it?”
That prompted a twitter of nervous laughter from Kent. Chandler’s lips twitched upwards once. Then it was silent. They each retreated to their own thoughts, Kent staring down at his shoes and Chandler staring at the rest of the room. The young DC had been right—there really was nothing within the storage room to tell them where exactly they might be. Eventually, his eyes landed on Kent once again. The younger man looked up, perhaps sensing he was being watched, only to glance away quickly when their eyes met.
“I’m sure Skip and the others will be looking for us by now, sir,” he mumbled.
“Assuming they’ve noticed we’re missing.”
Silence again. Chandler longed for something to count, other than seconds. He knew—knew—that Kent wanted to say something. The inevitable confrontation between them had been brewing since their argument in the corridor outside the Incident Room almost two months ago. This wasn’t the place for that confrontation, but the pain in the back of his head, his anxiety over the strange situation they found themselves in, seemed to be making his temper run shorter. He dimly considered the possibility of a concussion.
“Kent, if you’ve got something to say, for the love of God, would you just say it?” Chandler said with an air of forced calm.
Kent’s head snapped up—he could see the action had made the young man dizzy, based on the way he’d blinked repeatedly—and he stared at his DI for a long moment before his gaze swiveled towards the floor.
“I don’t have anything to say, sir. I’ve told you everything I remember and everything I’ve been able to come up with,” Kent said quietly.
“I’m not talking about the situation we’re in,” Chandler said with an aggrieved sigh. This really was neither the place nor the time for this. It really wasn’t. But somehow his brain-to-mouth filter had malfunctioned; this was why he didn’t like to get drunk. “I’m talking about what happened two months ago.”
He saw the muscles in the younger man’s jaw twitch. “I don’t have anything to say, sir.”
They were interrupted—or perhaps saved, in Kent’s case—from any further conversation as the door at the far end of the storage room opened. Three men walked in, shutting and locking the thick metal door behind them, and as they stepped under the overhead lamp, Chandler realized that he knew them. At one point, they’d all been uniformed officers that had worked at the Whitechapel station. Until the Kray case. Until the Incident Room had been burgled.
“You…?” Chandler said questioningly, genuinely surprised by the turn of events.
“Yeah, us,” one of them—MacPhearson, he recalled, and the other two were Jennings and Walker—said. “Surprised, are you?”
“Rather,” Chandler replied. “What exactly is all this?”
“Just business, boss,” Jennings said, the inflection on the last word light and mocking.
“Turns out your little group makes quite a few enemies. After your investigation into the Krays, we got the boot. Twenty years I’d been on the force, Chandler. Twenty goddamn years and you had to come along and muck it all up,” Walker said with a sneer. “So you can imagine we were only too willing to assist someone looking to make a bit of trouble for you.”
“What sort of trouble?” Chandler found himself asking.
He almost wished he hadn’t. MacPhearson produced a blade—it looked like some kind of hunting knife—from behind his back and weighed it in his hand.
“I suppose you could say we get to have a little fun with one of you. Now, who the lucky boy is going to be, we’re leaving that to you to decide. The other one gets to watch. Prime seating, too!” MacPhearson said, not bothering to hide his glee.
For a moment, Chandler was struck dumb by their words. The moment cost him.
“I’ll do it.”
The words had sounded terrified and yet somehow bold simultaneously. His gut clenched painfully as their captors closed in on Kent like sharks smelling fresh blood. They made a great show of uncuffing him and dragging him to his feet. Jennings grabbed ahold of a hook suspended from the ceiling, levering it down so that Kent’s freshly rebound hands could be hoisted above his head. Jennings levered it up so that Kent was left nearly on tiptoe. Chandler could see every rabbit-quick breath expand the younger man’s rib cage, accentuated by the degree to which he was stretched out.
“Stop. Right now. You’ll stop this and use me instead,” Chandler said, pulling against his restraints as speech suddenly found him.
“Afraid we can’t do that, guv. Not unless young Kent here says so. What d’you say, fancy letting your boss take your place?” Walker asked.
Kent kept his eyes to the floor, shaking his head in response.
“There we go!” MacPhearson crowed, giving Kent a quick pat on the cheek. “Should be just like old times.”
Old times. Chandler didn’t miss the way Kent’s eyes went blank for a moment before the younger man squeezed them shut.
“I said stop,” Chandler ground out.
Truthfully, he hadn’t expected Walker to turn around and whack him across the head with whatever was in his hand. Pain exploded in his right temple and the world abruptly went dark.
It took him longer to come to than it had last time, the process of dragging himself through the fog of semi-consciousness proving to be exhausting. The light was not only bothersome, now it was painful. He had to squint to see. And what a sight.
Kent was no longer trussed up like a slab of meat. Instead, he was seated in a chair pushed against the metal support beam, his hands once more bound behind him. His DC was looking a little worse for wear. The collar of his shirt was torn and his tie askew, a handsome bruise blossoming along his jaw while his nose slowly dribbled blood.
His tongue felt thick and leaden in his mouth. He swallowed.
“Sir, are you alright?” Kent asked, beating him to it.
“I’m… fine, just… what did they do to you?” Chandler asked right back.
“It’s nothing. I’ve had worse,” Kent said, sounding subdued.
“When they come back, you’re going to tell them I’m switching places with you,” Chandler said.
Chandler looked up, meeting the younger man’s eyes. For the first time in two months, Kent didn’t flinch or look away. He held his DI’s gaze, patiently waiting for whatever Chandler was going to say to him. It occurred to the older man that he’d never heard the word from Kent before, not in this context. Any time he’d asked something or ordered it, Kent had only been too happy to comply. This was foreign territory.
“Kent, I’m not asking,” Chandler stated.
“You’re ordering, sir?”
“Then it’s still no.”
Chandler was in no mood to be toyed with, least of all by his youngest DC.
“Kent, would you just listen to rea—“
“I said no,” Kent snapped suddenly, hissing as he leaned forward in his seat, jostling some unseen injury. He stared Chandler down, his gaze one part pleading and one part frustrated. “I’m not going to sit here and watch them hurt you.”
“Do you think I’d rather be the one sitting here watching them hurt you?” Chandler shot right back. “I’m the one they’re upset with. I reported them and had them dismissed. Let them take it out on me.”
“You wouldn’t have known who to dismiss if you hadn’t asked me,” Kent pointed out, the effect of his glare lessened by the blood dripping down his face and off his chin.
“That doesn’t mean… Kent, just stop this,” Chandler said, having to work to get his thoughts in order. The second knock upside the head was not doing him any favors. “You can’t let them do this to you. You can’t.”
“I can if it means they’re not doing it to you,” Kent said. “The team needs you, sir. You don’t understand, it’s… Things have been different since you came around. We were always a team, but we’re a better one now. If you were gone? I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Do you think that we need you any less?” Chandler asked.
Kent wouldn’t answer. That alone said more to Chandler than words ever could. He didn’t break eye contact even at the sound of the door opening. In a moment, they were back to where they’d been before, with their three captors circling Kent while Chandler was left to watch. He breathed harshly through his nose, straining against the handcuffs and uncaring of how they dug into his wrists.
“Now that Sleeping Beauty is awake, I think we can get on with the main attraction,” Walker said, separating himself from the other two to take a knee by Chandler. “Now pay close attention. Don’t want you missing anything.”
Chandler swallowed thickly when he saw Jennings reach into a stack of crates to the left of where Kent was bound. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to see, but the thick metal pipe the former officer produced made his stomach drop. He shook his head as Jennings tapped the curved end in his open palm, eyeing Kent’s left arm.
“Don’t. Please,” Chandler said, feeling his heart making a valiant attempt to leap from the confines of his chest. He shouldn’t be begging, he shouldn’t. But knowing what they were going to do to the young man across from him caused that notion to fly from his mind. “Use me instead.”
“Changed your mind yet?” MacPhearson asked, leaning down until he was at eye level with Kent. The young man shook his head. MacPhearson shrugged as he straightened, looking to Chandler. “Sorry, looks like you’re out of luck. He’s quite the stubborn little upstart, isn’t he? And so quiet! Well, we’ll have you squealing soon enough. Jennings, give it a go.”
Chandler threw himself forward, feeling the trickle of blood from where the handcuffs had bitten into his wrists. Kent had his face turned away, Chandler could see his breathing picking up as he anticipated the blow. Jennings wound back and swung the pipe with all his might, aiming at Kent’s left elbow. There was a sickening wet crunch as the heavy length of metal connected and a fraction of a second later, two screams tore through the air; one of agony from the young man in the chair, and one that formed as the DC’s name on the lips of the man across from him.
“Kent! Kent!” Chandler screamed, thrashing against his constraint of the handcuffs.
The younger man was shaking violently, his breath coming in great sobs interspersed with cries of pain. Chandler felt sick. He felt sicker still when Jennings dropped the pipe in favor of helping MacPhearson with his new task. With the hunting knife, MacPhearson cut away the younger man’s tie, tossing the cloth to the side when he’d cut all the way through. Jennings had ripped the DC’s waistcoat open—Chandler heard the sounds of the buttons popping off and rolling along the floor. MacPhearson tossed a grin in Chandler’s direction as he used the knife to pop each of the buttons on Kent’s shirt, slowly one by one. When his task was completed, Jennings pushed the layers of cloth aside, exposing a pale, thin torso.
“Bit like a canvas, wouldn’t you say, DI Chandler?” Walker hissed in his ear. “Could do with a bit of color, though.”
That was all the incentive MacPhearson needed. He dragged the tip of the blade in a six inch line across Kent’s chest. The young man hiccupped as he choked on his breath and his blood, still reeling from the shock of the damage done to his arm. Chandler watched as bright red bubbled up along the line MacPhearson had drawn, heard the pained whine of air that escaped Kent’s heaving lungs. Amid his protests, the process was repeated again and again. Chandler screamed curses and threats, throwing his weight forward until his shoulders burned and his wrists were drenched with his own blood.
“You can stop any time you like. Just give us the word and we’ll play with your boss instead,” Jennings hummed, bent to Kent’s level.
The young man only managed to roll his head weakly from one shoulder to the other and back. No. Chandler begged. He begged them to leave Kent be, hadn’t they done enough? Hadn’t they damaged him enough? Criss-crossed stripes bathed the young man’s front in red. He no longer sobbed, hardly made any noise at all with his head bent forward, submissive and defeated.
“I think we’re about ready to pack it in for the night, boys,” Walker declared, rising from where he’d been kneeling for—… Chandler didn’t even know how long they’d been there. “Jennings, uncuff the lad. MacPhearson, the knife.”
“Stop it,” Chandler breathed.
He watched with a horrified fixation as they removed the handcuffs around Kent’s wrists. He knew what was coming.
“Don’t. Please. You’ve done enough, please,” he said, louder.
The young man sagged forward, unable to summon more than an airy whimper as he wounds were jostled.
“I am begging you to stop. Please. I’ll do whatever you want. Please, for the love of God, don’t,” he said, certain he must be shouting by now.
Walker held Kent upright with one hand on his shoulder, taking the knife from MacPhearson in the other. Without preamble, Walker drove the blade home in Kent’s side, wringing a wet gasp from the DC. He shook, trembled violently at the sudden, grievous wound, his head tossed back and his mouth hanging open as he struggled to draw breath. Walker drew the blade out slowly, releasing his hold on the young DC’s shoulder and letting him slump forward until his momentum carried him to the floor. As the blood began to pool beneath him in a crimson puddle, Kent remained still.
Chandler would be embarrassed later by the fact that he didn’t recall their captives ever having left. He remained fixed on his young DC, unmoving and bleeding on the floor in front of him. The only evidence Chandler had to prove Kent was still alive was the sound of soft wheezing, broken occasionally by a wet cough or whimper.
“Kent. Can you hear me?” Chandler asked working to keep the panic out of his voice as he struggled with the handcuffs that still kept him bound.
The coughs came fewer and fewer, the wheezing growing quiet. The younger man’s face was turned away from him. They were only a few feet apart. His DC was only a few short feet away and there was nothing he could do to help. It felt like something was trying to claw its way out of his chest as he forced himself not to scream in frustration, in pain, in anger. Kent would die and he’d have done nothing to stop it.
Later they would tell him it was the concussion that caused him to miss chunks of time, but he wondered if it was more than that. Suddenly there were hands on him, one on each of his shoulders shaking him insistently. He drew his eyes way from Kent—and now suddenly there were people surrounding him, too—to find the source of it. Miles. Miles was there. Miles was speaking to him, but Chandler could only blink dumbly, his ears ringing. Abruptly the ringing ceased and his ears were flooded with noise. It was loud. Too many people. It made him feel sick. Kent—
“No, no, stay right there, you’re not getting up. Sir, look at me now. Stop trying to—Joe, stop.”
He hadn’t realized he’d tried to get up until the room had tilted violently and he heard his name in Miles’s angry voice.
“Let the paramedics work. You’re going to hospital, we’ll be right behind you,” Miles informed him slowly. “Lestrade’s people are working the case. Just focus on staying awake and keeping that wrist still. And stop moving for the love of Christ, you’re going to make yourself black out.”
Wrist. His wrists. Chandler looked down to find the handcuffs had been removed. The skin was torn and bleeding where the handcuffs had been previously, staining his shirt cuffs a bright red. One of his wrists was bent at an odd angle, but strangely, he felt very little pain.
“Where’s Kent?” he asked, the simple words taking considerable effort to form.
Even he couldn’t miss the dark look that passed over Miles’s face.
“Riley and Mansell are with him. They’ve already taken him out. Let’s just worry about getting you seen to, yeah?”
The trip to hospital was lost to him. He found himself sitting propped up in a hospital bed. His right wrist was in a thick cast—he’d broken it. Trying to get free, he’d broken his wrist and not even realized. There were stitches here and there, some along his hairline, a few at the back of his head. They’d run him through every test known to man to assess whether or not there had been any severe damage to his brain due to the two blows to the head. Although they had been satisfied with the results, he was being kept for a few days for observation. The dizziness, headache, memory loss, those were all common, he’d been told, but warranted observation nonetheless.
It had been three days. No one had said a word to him about Kent.
When there was a knock at his door, he called for them to enter. Seeing it was Miles and Lestrade, he sat up a bit straighter. He’d met the older DI once or twice, but he couldn’t say much about the man apart from what he heard through the grapevine or read in the papers. Miles seemed to place a great deal of stock in him, however, which was good enough for him.
“I know you’re still resting and all that, but Miles figured you’d like the specifics of it all sooner rather than later,” Lestrade said, leaning forward in the seat he’d taken.
“And he’d be right,” Chandler replied.
“Right. Well, we’ve laid hands on Walker, MacPhearson, and Jennings,” Lestrade informed him.
“Excellent. What are they saying?” Chandler asked.
“Nothing. Fished them out of the Thames this morning,” Miles answered.
Chandler let that fact sink in, the disappointment evident in his expression. Lestrade took that as the signal to go ahead.
“Forensics hasn’t told us much yet. Each of them had a round placed in the back of the skull, so they were dead before they went in. All we can theorize right now is that whoever may have hired them must have seen them as a liability or didn’t want them talking. Likely both,” Lestrade explained. “We’re still investigating, of course, but we haven’t gotten many leads as of yet. This one may take longer than we’d first thought.”
“Thank you. I appreciate the effort you’ve given our case,” Chandler said. Our case. Suddenly the fate of their captors was the last thing on his mind. He looked from Lestrade to Miles. “Any news on Kent?”
Lestrade and Miles shared a look. The grey haired DI rose from his seat, offering a hand to Chandler. “I’ve got a SOCO to speak to, so I’ll leave you two alone. Ray, let me know if you want me to give your medical examiner access to the bodies.”
“Right, sure. I’ll let you know, Greg.”
Lestrade wished Chandler a speedy recovery before disappearing out the door. When it had closed behind him, Chandler swiveled his gaze towards Miles and waited. He’d wait as long as it took. The older man sighed.
“He woke up just last night, Kent did. His injuries were severe. For the first two days, they weren’t sure if he’d pull through, but he has, and they expect he’ll recover. But it’ll take time. A lot of time. The bones in his left arm were smashed to pieces. He broke a rib. There’s the stab wound of course, and all those other smaller cuts,” Miles rattled off.
Although he felt immense relief at the knowledge that Kent had not only lived, but would recover, he couldn’t help but feel there was something more that Miles wasn’t telling him. He needed to know. Whatever it was, he didn’t need to be protected from it.
“What else aren’t you saying, Miles?” he questioned.
“Not much else to say,” Miles answered.
“There is. But you don’t want to tell me,” Chandler reasoned.
Miles seemed to contemplate whether or not to say anything. Whatever it was, it was obviously something that was weighing heavily on his mind.
“Kent’s told us he’s leaving,” Miles said simply.
“Leaving… He put in for a transfer?”
“No. Leaving the police. He’s asked Riley to help him write a letter of resignation,” Miles corrected him. Chandler could see that Miles wasn’t happy about it; if anything, he looked conflicted. Chandler had a thousand things he wanted to say, but he could only make himself say one of them.
“I need to speak to him.”
He expected Miles to tell him he couldn’t, to talk him out of it. He was pleasantly surprised.
“Let me get the nurse to discharge you first.”
When Chandler peered into Kent’s room, he was met by the sight of Riley seated by the young man’s bedside, holding his hand in both of hers. He was sleeping. The DI quietly cleared his throat as he stepped in the room. Riley looked up, a spark of understanding in her eyes as she removed herself from Kent’s side, pausing just long enough to press a brief kiss to his dark curls before offering her seat to Chandler.
“I understand you’re upset, but do be gentle with him, sir. You’ve both been through a lot,” Riley said quietly.
“I’m not here to force him to change his mind. I just want to talk. And to see if he’s alright,” Chandler answered.
“He isn’t,” Riley answered with a sad smile.
“No. I don’t suppose he is,” Chandler said with a sigh.
Riley laid a hand on his shoulder. “Just tell him the truth. Let him decide.”
He nodded with a small smile as she left him alone in the room. He used the time that Kent slept to think about just what the truth might be. What was he going to say? What exactly was he so desperate to talk about?
It was another half hour before Kent awoke. His sleepy eyes eventually found Chandler, rousing him to wakefulness. He looked guilty as he turned his head slightly, averting his gaze from Chandler. Guilty. Why did he always look so guilty, Chandler wondered?
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Fine, sir,” Kent answered softly. “And you…?”
“I’m fine. Clean bill of health,” Chandler assured him. “However… I know you’re not fine. Not really. Miles told me you’ll be leaving us.”
“I’m sad to hear it. But since you’re leaving, I was wondering if we might discuss something.”
Kent didn’t say anything, but he tensed visibly. Chandler didn’t waste any time, knowing that if he didn’t have this discussion now, they might never have it at all.
“I want to apologize. Morgan’s death was… difficult. For me. I thought I had found someone who could understand my… who could understand me. And despite only knowing her a short time, losing her was immensely painful,” Chandler explained. “But I’ve been taking out my frustrations on you. Because of your accusations, I think. It was easier to be angry with you than to have to deal with whatever emotions came from that loss. But it was wrong. I was wrong, Kent, and I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing wrong and for the second time in our association, I’ve treated you unfairly.”
“Sir, it’s not… I understand. I know. I just…”
Kent took a deep breath. Chandler knew he was about to hear something the younger man had kept closely guarded, that no one else had heard and likely might not ever hear.
“When I apologized to Morgan, I said that… being the bad cop wasn’t really me. She said that it might be more me than I think. I was… At first, I was so angry. I couldn’t get it out of my head. But then I… started to think. The more I thought, the more… the more right she seemed. Any time someone tried to get close to you, I tried to push them away. I let my emotions get the better of me. I’m… I’m a bad cop. Because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone taking you away from the team.”
Chandler was quiet, studying Kent carefully. They were on a tightrope; the slightest thing said wrong could send them both tumbling to the ground. He weighed his words carefully in his head, not sure he could speak them. But he needed to. They needed to be heard.
“Taking me away from the team… or taking me away from you, Kent?”
Kent let out a breath that was something more like a sob.
“I’m sorry. I’m so s-sorry. I should have… transferred myself. I didn’t realize, until Morgan had said it… how much I was letting my feelings affect my work. I can’t stay.”
“You have been through more than anyone should have to go through in this line of work. I’m angry and frustrated with the fact that I failed to protect you. Again. You have every right to leave and no one would think less of you for it. It would be selfish, in fact, if I asked you to stay,” Chandler said.
He thought back to the night at Buchan’s, during the Kray case, and what he’d said to Kent. ‘Leave your ego out of it. All that matters to me is the truth.’ The truth was what mattered now. It was high time they were both honest.
“That being said… if the reason you’re leaving is simply because of what you’ve just explained to me… then I have no choice but to be selfish.” He took a slow, deep breath. “Stay. Please.”
For the first time since they’d begun speaking, Kent looked to him. The younger man seemed to be searching his face for something.
“Sir, I can’t. You’ve seen firsthand that… I’ve let my emotions get the better of me. On multiple occasions.”
“What I see is a good policeman, one who is loyal and diligent, who has perhaps grown frustrated with the fact that the person he cares about is completely oblivious,” Chandler said slowly. “I’ve been convinced that I’m… incapable of that sort of relationship, that if anyone took the time to know me, know my demons, then they would leave. I never thought it would be possible to find someone who understood. Mina understood my compulsions, but not my team. Morgan understood both. But the thing of it is, she wasn’t the first. Someone had learned to understand and accept the parts of myself that I was sure that no one ever could and I’d been too blind to see it. I didn’t want to see it.”
He looked down at the cast on his wrist, aware that Kent was watching him carefully.
“I’m not sure what I’m even trying to say. If you’re determined to leave, I have to respect that decision. But if you do leave… I would still like to see you. I would like to keep seeing you,” Chandler said, looking back up. “If you’ll allow me, then I’d like to… try. This. Whatever this is.”
He knew that it was wrong. On so very many levels it was wrong, he shouldn’t be asking, they shouldn’t be discussing this. He was Kent's boss, there was the age difference, and the fact that Kent was, well... male. Not that there was anything inherently wrong with that, but it was foreign territory for him and, frankly, not something he had ever considered before. It was strange that he'd come to accept the younger man as a constant without having realized it. There were so many reasons why he shouldn't be saying any of these things, or feeling them, but it didn’t stop his stomach from jumping when Kent nodded, teary-eyed.
“And you’ll stay?”
Chandler knew he had no right to ask it of him, not when he was so broken. But having to walk into that Incident Room every day and not see Kent at his desk, or the whiteboard, or to miss the sight of that hideous orange Vespa in the car park seemed unthinkable.
"I'm sorry. This isn't a good time to be asking you that," he said. "But please give it at least two weeks before you hand in that letter of resignation. If you'd still like to leave, I'll deliver the letter myself."
It was plain to see Kent was struggling between pain and exhaustion, trying to remain in the conversation.
"Do you honestly think... that I should stay?" he asked.
Chandler bit his tongue. He'd said enough, he couldn't say anything else that could push Kent into making a decision that he might not want to. The truth. He just needed to speak the truth. "I think that we wouldn't be the same without you and that if you asked anyone else, they'd tell you the same. And probably do a better job of it."
Kent swallowed thickly, tears slowly leaking from the corners of his eyes. “I’ll... I'll stay.”
Chandler's hand somehow migrated to the bed during all of this, his fingers barely touching Kent's. The younger man looked to him for permission, but none was needed. After a moment's hesitation, he covered his DC’s hand with his own, slotting their fingers in the spaces between. He didn’t know what this was or where it was headed, but he supposed that was something they’d have to figure out along the way.
Kent would have nightmares on occasion, during some of the nights that he spent at Chandler’s flat. The DI never pushed him to explain, only patiently waited to see if the younger man wished to talk about them. If anyone noticed that Chandler seemed protective to the point of possessiveness, none of them mentioned it. (Except for Mansell when he was feeling like being a tease.) And if anyone noticed that a touch to the shoulder or a gentle squeeze of the wrist from Kent in the privacy of the Incident Room seemed to have replaced the snapping of a rubber band, they never mentioned that either.