A summons first thing on a Monday morning did not bode well for the rest of week. The look on Chief Superintendant Jean Innocent’s face was even less promising; Lewis finds himself hoping for a conveniently timed murder, if only so he can avoid her for another few hours. But Oxford criminals rarely have the decency to strike when a good investigation would be just the thing to derail his boss in the middle of her morning spiel. Standing through them with his face arranged him a way that did not offend her was more than any man should have to face, let alone bright and early on Monday morn. Small blessing, however, came in the form of his still-absent Sergeant, whose cheeky smirk always distracted Lewis and invariably got him into trouble for not paying enough attention or for not taking the subject at hand seriously enough – the sod always managed to have his face perfectly blank whenever Innocent looked at him; or perhaps Innocent had merely joined Laura on the “dishy” front; unfortunately, Lewis can’t rely on his own face for the same effect. Either way, the damned man seemed to have wormed his way into Innocent’s good books.
Nevertheless, Lewis is a man who values his head (and his job) and dutifully makes his way into Innocent’s office, sending a longing look at the cooling cup of coffee sitting on his desk. One desperate attempt to school his features into a blank, respectful look later – he really must get Hathaway to teach him to do that – he knocks on the door and steps inside, hoping the set of his shoulders will be taken as “obediently attentive” and not “wilfully defiant”. Innocent barely looks up from her computer in greeting. Finally, she sighs heavily and stands, plants her hands firmly on the desk in front of her, and stares at Lewis pointedly.
“We will be having guests,” she says with deathly calm, and Lewis badly represses a wince; he’s never dealt well with politics in his police work, new theories on old turf that still works just as well. Makes him feel old, and Hathaway does that often enough on his own. “Don’t give me that, Inspector. We will be having guests, from Scotland Yard – a Detective Inspector Lestrade and,” Lewis watches the pull of her features wearily and prepares for the worst, “Some Consulting Detective and his... partner.” The distaste in her voice is clear, and for a moment Lewis is glad Hathaway isn’t standing beside him to hear the implications of the way she says “partner”, until he realises the derision comes from the idea of a consultant to the police force, and not at… well. Innocent is nothing if not proud of her officers doing their jobs. And nothing but their jobs. “You are to look after them during their stay, and aid them as fully as possible.” Lewis opens his mouth and she shakes her head. “If a case comes along and they are in the way, I will re-assign them for a time. They are, however, your responsibility.”
Lewis nods, “Yes, Ma’am.” He has been dismissed, with a clear warning. Just as he opens the door, however, Innocents calls him; he turns, and sees Jean rather than Superintendent Innocent.
“Look after your Sergeant,” she says, worry furrowing her brow. “This... consultant. He has been known to share secrets without consent or concept of propriety. Warn James.”
Lewis nods, and leaves. He doesn’t care about police relations, about maintaining a good image. He doesn’t even care if he comes out of it with a criminal record, or loses his job; he ran into a burning building for James (and would again), and he has no problem breaking the jaw of anyone who thinks he can get away with hurting Hathaway on his watch. James has his secrets for a reason, and they’re his to tell.
Back in his office, Hathaway is sitting as his desk; there is a fresh cup of coffee next to the old one, and Lewis spends a moment thanking the universe for Sergeants who bring caffeine to their boss-inflicted Inspectors first thing on a Monday morning. They settle into a comfortable quiet for a moment, and Lewis wonders how to broach the subject with Hathaway – Hathaway, who hates being pitied, or coddled, who hates people assuming he is some delicate flower who needs protecting. Or the idea that someone knows him well enough to realise he is. He takes a breath and turns to Hathaway, only to find that his Sergeant has already done the same; Hathaway lifts his Blackberry a little, wry smile in place. “I got the e-mail. I’ve done my research. He’s very good.”
“Aye, I’m sure he is.” In fact, Lewis sounds anything but sure. Hathaway chuckles, quietly. Lewis nods, and turns back to his computer, glad on the one hand that the conversation was over fairly painlessly, and regretful, on the other, that he had missed a chance to offer the verbal support he wanted to pass onto his Sergeant and friend – best friend, in all honesty.
“Sir?”Lewis turns to look at him, and is greeted by Hathaway’s downturned head, features hidden in shadow, and he is forcibly reminded of a long night Hathaway spent organising a time line for a cold case simply because Lewis couldn’t let it go.
Lewis nods, and turns back to his computer. He thinks he sees a small smile on Hathaway’s face out of the corner of his eye, and he thinks he has done his job well done.
Unfortunately, no conveniently-timed murder has taken place, and as such Lewis finds himself standing in the foyer beside Innocent; Hathaway is a tall, stoic figure at his shoulder, a step behind and to the side. Climbing out of a taxi is an exhausted man, hair greying at the temples and suit askew despite the apparent need to smarten up; he appears to be standing through sheer will power alone – and lots and lots of coffee; God knows he’s felt the same often enough. Lewis immediately feels a sense of kinship with him and recognises him as a fellow police officer – this must be DI Lestrade, and Hathaway’s nudge to his shoulder tells him yes, it is. Next comes a shorter man in a faintly alarming jumper, face pinched in the universal expression of “Oh for fucks’ sake,” and the long suffering air of one used to dealing with petulant toddlers or, alternatively, young men far too clever for their own good. He guesses this must be the “partner” Innocent was referring to, and who Hathaway had later told him was, in fact, an ex-army Doctor recently invalidated home from Afghanistan; he observes the man and sees the steel hidden beneath comfortable clothes, the tightly controlled movements that reveal a man constantly on high alert. Five minutes pass, and as the Consulting Detective they are waiting for fails to emerge from the car both men standing outside in the grey noon air grow increasingly frustrated – their movements seems to suggest that this is a well-rehearsed argument that they have all been through multiple times. Finally, a tall figure in a long coat steps out of the car, and any further observations Lewis could have made are overshadowed by the tension he can feel radiating from Hathaway; he fights down the urge to turn around, or leave, or in some way get the lad out of there. A niggling sense of resentment towards Innocents take up residence in the back of Lewis’ mind – how dare she threaten this place, where Hathaway feels safe? What right does she have?
This Detective, however, merely slides his grey eyes over all three of them and away again, barely waiting long enough to murmur a haunt “dull,” and disappears into the station, collar turned up. Lewis’ teeth snap together on reflex, and the taunt line of his Sergeant at his back makes it a lot harder to bite down on the desire to tell Innocent she can stuff if, he isn’t working with him. Instead, he turns his attention to the other two – the Army guy, who’s making hurried apologies but already edging after the other in a manner that Lewis recognises as thinly veiled annoyance and concern. He disappears, a Police escort at his back, and they are left to deal with the Detective Inspector.
“Bugger,” Lestrade says, and then winces. “Sorry,” he passes a hand over his face and through his hair, as though trying to wipe away all the tension and weariness away. He extends a hand to them all in turn, and introduces himself; Hathaway relaxes minutely behind him and Lewis sends thanks for small miracles. “He comes across as a bit of a dick, but we need him,” Lestrade says, and Lewis is struck by the frankly parental look in his eyes. “I know I can’t convince you, but he’s a good guy really. Deep down, at least. Really, really deep.” He somehow manages to address both Lewis and Hathaway at the same time, as though recognising them as a cohesive unit. He turns to Innocent and is led away, and Hathaway and Lewis slowly make their way back to their office.
Of course, Lewis’ life is never easy, and he heaves himself out of his chair when Hathaway fails to return from what should have been a quick smoke-and-sandwich break. The guests – John Watson, DI Gregory Lestrade, and Sherlock Holmes – have been making a nuisance of themselves. To be fair, it’s mostly been Holmes causing fuss, with John as his unwilling accomplice and/or baby sitter, Lestrade mostly tagging along just to prevent anyone from killing each other, a job he seems used to, probably from experience. He hasn’t seen any of them for a while, not since Holmes broke into the cold case files and Innocent spend half an hour shouting bloody murder the likes of which Lewis has never heard. Apparently neither had Holmes, for he was found a short time later camped out under some poor officer’s desk, case files scattered in a loose pile all around him. Watson was pinching the bridge of his nose and nodding at Innocent with an expression usually wore by the parents of particularly… spirited toddlers. Hathaway had mostly been hiding in the office with Lewis or doing things far, far away from the station. Lewis suspects he’s been to church, and lets it go.
He eventually finds both his Sergeant and one of their guests just outside the station, in a small space around the side often used by smokers. Hathaway has crushed a box of cigarettes in one hand, and the other is twitching restlessly at his side – it brings back memories of their fight during the Will case (which makes him think of smoke, and fire, and Hathaway lying small and pale in hospital sheets) and his stomach lurches – in anger and sadness both; he spends half a moment undecided, and then a twitch in Hathaway’s jaw makes the decision for him and he strides forward; this is enough, and Holmes sends one condescending look in his direction before slopes off, cold and distant; Hathaway is trembling minutely and his face is carefully blank except for a fleeting moment in which he quirks one side of his mouth up for Lewis’ benefit. They move back inside, and Lewis fends off Innocent’s frown; once Hathaway is seated and working at his computer, safely tucking into his sandwich, Lewis touches one hand briefly to his back before retreating. Whatever’s going on in that head of his, Hathaway needs some quiet to sort it out; Lewis trusts that if he is needed, James will find him and there’s always the pub at the end of the day.
He comes across the Army guy – John – sitting awkwardly in chair outside Innocent’s office, looking the entire world like a wrongfully accused schoolboy resigned to taking the blame. Lewis sits down next to him – more than used to Innocent’s glares and disapproving stares – and smiles in greeting. John smiles back, and offers a one-shouldered shrug.
“Sorry about him,” he offers, nodding to where Holmes has his back to them, looming over whatever some poor uniform is trying to do on a mostly decrepit computer. “He found the mortuary – apparently your pathologist is less accommodating then the one back home.” He sounds tired, but fond in a way Lewis identifies with – frustrated with the mystery that is his Sergeant but entirely too happy with him to want to change. “He’s just bored, and he doesn’t deal well with people almost as clever as he is.”
Lewis is momentarily offended, ready to jump to Hathaway’s defence – but he looks over, and he can’t really begrudge him that. This Holmes man possesses the sort of intelligence generally only seen in story books, the heightened intelligence of a tortured, tragic hero trapped in an average world. Perhaps he is, if the fragments he’s put together from John and Lestrade are any indication; still, that doesn’t mean he has a right to bully other people, and while many people make Hathaway uncomfortable and tense (and he makes a fair few uncomfortable and tense in return), downright threatening and intimidation is rare, and never okay.
“I know you think he’s a bastard,” John says, and Lewis turns to find himself being observed. “And honestly, you’re mostly right – he really is. But that’s not all he is, not really...” Lewis understands and nods, feeling close to John, even if he has nothing in common with him, not really. He’s said the same about Hathaway, once or twice – he’s distant, and clever, and haunty. Yet. “Apologise to your Sergeant for me, he’s a good sort,” he says, and then he’s off, following on the coat tails of his Consulting Detective.
Innocent peers around her door at him, as if unsure whether to praise him or reprimand him; his stomach growls, and instead Lewis walks away, wondering if Hathaway has eaten the other sandwich yet.
They stand in a loose circle around a body which lies face down in the mud of the riverbank. It’s the body of a student, probably – right age, right books in his bag – but until they get a positive identification there’s no way of knowing for sure. Holmes – this “consulting detective” – has said of course he’s a student, ‘obvious, look at his shoes, man, are you blind? And his belt buckle, really! You’re all so vacant!’ But Lewis prefers good old fashioned evidence, and while this man’s deductions are all well and good, they’re not going to help them get a conviction (or a name), not without the physical proof. Hathaway has begun to develop tics in most of his facial muscles, and one in his hand, too – the first one started when Holmes refused to put on the scene suit and the second one arrived some thirty seconds later, when he insulted Hobson in the same breath as he declared Lewis’ presence a “waste of time and good brain cells”. Eventually the man had been bullied into one, mostly on the promise of body parts to experiment with and a close encounter with one very angry Sergeant, as well as a threat to the safety of the very expensive woollen coat he insisted on swishing around the place. All things considered, things are going fairly well – no-one has been killed, no-one has been beaten over the head with their own magnifying glass, and none of the surrounding spectators have yet broken down in tears at the level of tension rocketing back and forth between the two genii in the general vicinity.
Hobson is leaving with the body (standing protectively between it and Holmes) and sending Homes a disapproving look that clearly states she thinks this is all his fault (when really, its Innocent’s, that isn’t fair) and also that he should be taking better care of his Sergeant, which he can perhaps agree with, if only the insufferable, awkward git would let him.
On the walk back to the car, however, things go downhill very quickly; Hathaway has reverted to his customary place slightly behind and to the side of him, shoulders curled over defensively as they discuss details of the case, lines of investigation – Lewis is mostly tuning the Consulting Detective out, because that voice is annoying beyond the normal limits of his sanity. They are mostly quiet, until Hathaway stops short, entirely still and silent and Lewis’ attention become riveted on his Sergeant (best friend, confidant) who is staring at Holmes, whose steely eyes are doing a very good job of pretending to be uninterested.
“What I don’t understand,” Holmes says smoothly, and Lewis’ world narrows down to Holmes smug smirk and Hathaway, trembling beside him, “Is what someone so intellectually superior is doing taking orders from that.” Holmes’ tone is mock disgusted – he’s vaguely aware of John saying “Sherlock,” in a warning voice, but Lewis no longer cares. Hathaway’s hands are making flickering movements – Lewis can see the tendons held taut.
“The biggest mystery,” Holmes carries on, in the same irritating, smarmy voice, “is why you’re even here at all – Daddy issues? Perhaps a history of abuse,” he drawls the word with such derision and mocking, and Lewis feels every muscle in his body lock. “Or maybe, it’s because poor little Jim never had enough love –“
Holmes stops speaking; mostly because he is bleeding heavily from his mouth and face, apparently from where Lewis landed a punch Lewis isn’t entirely sure where it came from – the sudden explosion of violence – but he knows he won’t regret it, not for a moment. Never mind the criminal charges, demotion – hell, even expulsion from the Force; no-one gets to share secrets like that, especially not about his Sergeant. Not in a way designed to hurt, over a petty rivalry. Hathaway’s hands are trembling still when the lad takes Lewis’ hand and expects it, checking the knuckles for swelling, his fingers for damage. He thinks about shaking him off – he’s fine – but thinks better of it, leaves his hand there, just for a moment. Let him take his comfort where he can get it.
Eventually he knows he has to face the proverbial music, and turns to face their “guests”, careful not to dislodge Hathaway; Lestrade has a studiously blank face that means “I didn’t listen to any of that, ignore my existence,” and John is poking at Holmes’ nose with not a little frustration. Evidently, however, the man has not learnt his lesson, because he murmurs something sulkily and John applies a bit more pressure than is probably necessary. Eventually John straightens and turns to them – he has a determined look on his face, one Lewis immediately feels his back straighten in response to. Hathaway doesn’t fight it; Lewis can feel it, standing as closely together as they are, Hathaway almost using him as a human shield.
“Pretty bad accident,” John says conversationally, a laugh rumbling just under his words, while Lestrade looks disinterested a little way away. “Tripping over that tree root. Foolish, really,” John stresses, and Holmes grumbles. Lewis has a feeling that “do not aggravate police officers” is a conversation that happens with exhausting regularity, if the slightly bored look on Lestrade’s face is anything to go by.
“Sir,” Hathaway says suddenly, tone hushed, “I... well. Thank you. But putting yourself on the line like that…”
“Lad,” he starts, intending to explain this as quickly as possible without giving into the desire to just give him a hug as the adrenaline begins draining out of his system.
“Sergeant,” John says instead, gently, interrupts him, and the both turn. “He bloody well deserved it, and it’s about time someone did something about it.”
Hathaway nods, once, and his shoulders curve over again; with one last touch to his arm Lewis walks away, flexing the aching joints of his right hand. Lestrade follows after them, hands in pockets, deceptively calm face running interference between the two crime fighting teams.
Innocent looks highly suspicious the next time she sees them, glancing distrustfully between the cut on Holmes’ mouth and the bandage over Lewis hand; she isn’t stupid. She doesn’t, however, say anything, and soon retreats back into her office to answer some phone calls Lewis is rather glad don’t pass his way.
Its evening – the sun is setting – and Hathaway has gone to band practise. Lewis is sitting alone in the mostly dark police station when John Watson knocks tentatively on the door – and since no coated spectre follows on his heels, Lewis waves him in.
John smiles at him, tiredly, and Lewis wonders just how much of an effort keeping up with Holmes really is; he gestures the other man into Hathaway’s empty chair and leans back on his own, sighing deeply and stretching. John stifles a yawn, and they share a wistful smile in the semi-darkness.
“Sorry about him,” John says, for what feels like the hundredth time. “How’s yours?”
Deciding to ignore the possible implication of that sentence (he’d ignored it with Innocent, and Hobson, and even Lynn, he isn’t going to start doing otherwise now), he just nods. “Okay. Hard to tell, sometimes, with him.”
John nods, and they fall into silence, the clock ticking gently in the background.
“Weren’t you curious?” John asks, suddenly, after more than fifteen minutes of silence. “I mean... you must have known there was something, in his past. Or you wouldn’t have reacted. But he’s unlikely to tell you... at least, not in so many words.”
Lewis thinks it over in his head. “Would you be?” he settles on finally, decides to take his measure of this man.
“No. Yes. I don’t know.” John sighs, and sags, and all the tension – every line of duty, every carefully constructed wall crumbles to dust at their feet. “I’d want to know, but to... to... to help, you know? I just... I want to be there.”
Lewis nods. “You never really know what’s going on – in there.” He taps the side of his head.
John breaths out. “Yeah.”
Silence reigns for a few moments more, as they mull it over.
“He’s an awkward sod, at the best of times – but he’s my awkward sod, all the same. And despite it all, I feel like I know him. Who he is, I mean, rather than... what he is, or those trivial things most people seem to think show whether you know a person. I don’t know what he dreams about, or what his Mum would call him as a lad. But I know that all of those things – in the past – they made him this James. And that’s all the matters. That’s all I need.”
“The sum of all their parts. That’s who we love.” John agrees
“That rest... the rest is just circumstance.”