The third time Detective Payne meets Louis Tomlinson, he stares with his mouth open before the other shoe drops and he shuts his mouth with a small click. He puts on an expression of disdain and tries to turn his stare into a glare.
“No. Absolutely not,” Liam says, crossing his arms in an attempt to look more assertive. He hates that he still has to try – it wasn’t easy training in criminal investigations to become a detective, he shouldn’t have to look assertive – he just should be.
“Oh, yes he is,” Captain Rebecca Ferguson says, a non-nonsense expression fixed firmly in place.
Louis actually bounces on the balls of his feet and smiles at the both of them, his hands shoved deep into his ridiculously red pants.
Liam can feel a headache coming on at the thought of – oh god – he’s not going to win this one. He tries to plead with Captain Ferguson without speaking, drawing his eyebrows up in the way that he especially hates but always falls back on. He is not using puppy eyes at the ripe old age of twenty-three.
“My god, I have never seen a human being resemble a puppy so much in my life,” Louis says, an awed look taking over his smile. Before Liam can snap at him, he’s taken a photo on his phone with a snicker.
Liam reaches to grab his phone but stops when Captain Ferguson raises an eyebrow at him.
“Captain, can I talk to you for a moment?” Liam asks not so subtlety, “Alone.” Liam turns to glare at Louis who shrugs at him innocently, phone still in his hand. Liam waits till Louis walks off towards Detective Horan and Styles.
“Payne, look, I know it’s not what you expected but he’s friendly with a mayor – and a happy mayor results in a happy – well happier – me,” and with that Captain Ferguson pats Liam on the shoulder with a half-sympathetic look on her face which is a such a feat Liam forgets to carry the complain further. She walks away in her horrifyingly high Italian heels and leaves Liam to gape by himself.
When he musters up the strength to turn around and walk back to his desk, he’s hit with an overwhelming sense of defeat spurned on by Louis sitting at his desk, grubby sock-less feet propped up against the paper work he’d only been working on all morning. Louis wiggles his eyebrows at him and pointedly refuses to move. Liam feels like his lungs are going to give out with how much sighing he’s been doing.
“So. Detective Payne,” Louis says and it sounds like he’s making fun of Liam just by the way he says his name. “Guess we’re going to be spending some time together, huh? Care to make it interesting?” he says and wiggles his eyebrows again.
Liam grits his teeth and places a hand gingerly on Louis’ ankle peeking from his trousers.
“I can break the bone in your ankle four different ways with this thumb,” he says instead and Louis hops off his desk easily enough.
Liam actually can’t, he can hold up his end pretty well during his sparring sessions but he’s not a ninja trained in bone-crushing martial arts in some secluded mountain who abstained from speaking for four months.
The springs in his seat creaks heavily when Liam sits down and Liam grimaces. He dusts his desk down unnecessarily with a stormy expression on his face. Liam would like to think he wasn’t a generally rude or volatile person, sure he was ambitious and very goal-oriented but overall, he thought he was a polite, nice man. For some reason, Louis Tomlinson tends to bring out the worst in him.
Louis relocates himself by plopping himself on the side of his desk, legs crossed at the ankles as he leans back to fiddle with a pen. “That wasn’t a ‘no’ then.”
Liam tries not to succumb to his inner thirteen year old and actually put his head down on his desk with a groan.
The first time Louis meets Niall and Harry, he figures out they’re pretty much in love.
“Are you really Louis Tomlinson?” Niall asks him in the break room, a cup of sincerely terrible coffee between two palms.
“Wait, how do you know who Louis Tomlinson is?” Harry drawls, leaning against the doorway. He’s smiling just for Niall and it’s so easy and comfortable that Louis feels like he’s intruding on something. He later learns this happens a lot.
“I read,” the blond says defensively, head tilting back slightly, amusement apparent in his bright blue eyes.
“Since when? I didn’t know you could read,” Harry says, teasing smirk pulling up the corner of his mouth.
Niall laughs, throwing his head back and screwing his eyes shut then tries to kick at Harry who dances out of reach, the action familiar and practised.
“Ok, alright, I saw him on TV that one time,” Niall says, “you had whatsherface on your arm, the model.” Niall clicks at the air, trying to remember. He looks to Harry for help but Harry just shrugs. “Well, anyway, I’m Detective Niall Horan.”
“Detective Harry Styles,” Harry says, spinning around as if he’s just noticed Louis’ presence. He reaches forward to shake his hand, a smile dimpling his cheeks.
“Well,” Louis says, clapping his hands together in front of him. He’s not used to not being the centre of attention which he knows is ridiculous because he’s twenty five. It still feels abnormal. “Greetings, lads,” he continues, “I am the Louis ‘Tommo’ Tomlinson, her name was Eleanor and I just have to ask – whose dick do I have to suck to get some decent coffee around here?”
Harry bursts into these giggles that shouldn’t be as dignifying as it is and Niall laughs again, loud into the break room.
“Trust me, if someone was capable of improving the coffee around here, Styles here would already be on his knees,” Niall says and flicks at Harry’s dimples.
The second time Liam meets Louis, he’s got him bent over the hood of a shiny red car, roughly closing hand-cuffs over the skin of his wrists. Louis wiggles against him, laughing breathlessly and he says, “You’re usually supposed to buy me dinner before this.”
“Louis Tomlinson you are under arrest for the murder of Liliana Dee,” Liam says, tightening his hold on his wrists so Louis yelps in pain.
“Wait, what?” Louis asks, trying to twist around to see Liam’s face.
Liam pointedly ignores him, hauls him up and recites the Miranda rights, being rougher than necessary when he ducks his head into the waiting police car.
He’s had a long day and he doesn’t feel like dealing with his shit.
It all turned out to be a misunderstanding, something Louis likes to bring up now and again when he’s feeling especially asshole-y. The thing is, Louis Tomlinson writes novels for a living and he’s a pretty good fucking author, if he could say so himself. He’s written 22 novels before he’s met Liam Payne and a majority of them have been best sellers. It just happened that he had a copy-cat serial killer who committed murders right out of his book, hence the misunderstanding.
Louis ends up solving the case – okay, fine, slotting in the last jigsaw puzzle – and they save the girl and she lives and he watches the line of Liam’s shoulders stop quivering and he gets it. He needs him to write.
Liam fascinates him endlessly and he wants to crawl into his skin and wants to watch the world from his eyes. He settles for pulling strings with the mayor with his wit and charm and gets put on Liam’s team. He thinks he can learn from this, write from this.
It’s never fun to have writer’s block – especially when you’re living with your editor. It’s been a while since he’s finished his last (wildly popular) book series and he’s getting more and more anxious every day. Zayn hides his toms and steals his hair product in an attempt to get him to start writing again. When Louis tells him he has a new idea for a series starring the determined Detective Lance Poole, Zayn almost cries and buys him waffles for breakfast.
It’s not like Liam to hate somebody but when he thinks of Louis Tomlinson (which is way too often for his liking) he needs to take a deep breathe and try not to choke on it. He’s worked so fucking hard to get here, to lead his team, and he’s lost so much. He’s not going to let some privileged asshole that’s been spoon-fed for most of his life ruin his career. They don’t need him. Liam and his team have been solving cases long before he showed up with his brilliant theories and bright eyes.
They solve another case together and another. Louis walks in through the doors with two cups of coffee in Styrofoam cups and Liam closes his eyes and closes his heart.
“Morning, Payne!” Louis chirps, handing a cup of coffee to Liam.
“Tomlinson,” Liam responds, taking a sip and breathing out slowly. They’re office coffee is truly horrible and the coffee Louis brings, probably from some expensive gourmet coffee shop, is probably the best thing to have ever happened to Liam’s mouth.
“If there aren’t any murders to solve today,” Louis says, leaning against his desk like he does every day, “I think you should give me a gun.”
“How does that logic even work?” Liam asks, squinting up at Louis. As he rolls the liquid around on his tongue and swallows, he thinks he probably would murder Louis in the mornings if he didn’t bring such great coffee.
“Well, we can’t go shopping for a gun if we have a murder to solve,” Louis says slowly as if he’s talking to a toddler. He reaches over casually into Liam’s personal space to pick up his paper work before deeming it boring and tossing it back in its original place.
“You’re not getting a gun and since there’s no murder to solve – bugger off,” Liam says, turning away from him so he could hide his reluctant smile behind his coffee. Liam’s learnt that someone like Louis definitely doesn’t need encouragement, especially if shitheads like Niall and Harry have fallen in love with him and hang onto his every word.
“What? No fair,” Louis says and Liam doesn’t need to look up to know he’s pouting. The man is twenty five. “At least let me fire yours,” Louis says and waggles his eyebrows.
“That doesn’t even -.” Liam stops himself. Reasoning with Louis’ logic never bodes well for anyone. “If it gets you to shut up, we’ll go to the firing range.”
Louis hops to his feet and strikes a pose. “Success!” he says and releases the ridiculous pose, grinning at Liam in triumph. Louis high-fives Niall on the way out of the department and Liam glares at Niall for betraying him. Niall shrugs and bites into a jam donut.
When they get to the firing range, Louis has been prattling on about James Bond for about five minutes now and Liam slaps a Glock 17 into his hands.
“Why do I have a feeling I’m going to regret this?” Liam asks, fingers warm against the cold weight of the gun.
“Pow pow,” Louis says in return, holding the gun like he’s one of the Charlie’s angels.
“I’m going to regret this,” Liam says as he grabs the gun off Louis. Louis watches his hands as he efficiently loads the gun, snaps it into place with steady practised fingers. He slaps on a pair of the bulky head pieces to protect his ears and faces the front, steady arm stretched out in front of him, one eye squinting shut. He takes a breath and squeezes the trigger as he exhales, hits the bullseye where the heart should be with frightening accuracy. He shoots a couple more rounds into the silhouette before he slides the safety back into place.
“Wow,” Louis says, eyes round as saucers. “My turn!”
Liam rolls his eyes and says, “There are rules, Tomlinson, you can’t just go guns a-blazing.”
“You did,” Louis points out with a raised eyebrow.
Liam ignores him and says, “Firstly, don’t be an idiot,” Louis shrugs innocently, “Secondly, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Thirdly, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction until you’re ready to fire. Fourthly, don’t be a fucking idiot.”
“What was the first one again?” Louis asks. Liam rolls his eyes but he can’t help the miniscule quirk of his lips.
Louis holds the gun carefully in his hands and holds it towards the target. He hasn’t put on his head piece yet and he can feel Liam talking from behind him.
“Your left fingers should overlap your right, left thumb alongside the slide,” Liam says, reaching forward to adjust his fingers. “Left heel of hand against the grip, right thumb on left thumb knuckle,” he says barely against his hear, air puffing against sensitive skin and Louis shivers. “You don’t have to do this,” Liam says, mistaking it for nerves, fingers hesitant on Louis’ wrist.
“Scared I’ll out shoot you?” Louis asks, cracking a grin. Liam responds by slapping the headpiece over his ears and muffling out every other noise but the beating of his heart. Liam takes a step back and Louis feels like he can breathe again.
He turns the safety off, lines up the shot and squeezes the trigger. There is incredible pressure at the back of his right hand and the heel of his left hand, dying out slowly and Louis doesn’t know when he’s closed both his eyes. He clicks the safety back into place and looks back at Liam who’s laughing, only he can barely hear him. Louis fumbles with the head piece in time to hear Liam’s laugh dying out into that squinty eyed smile.
“That was rubbish,” he says but it’s not unkind. “Alright for your first time though.”
“Was your first time like this as well?” Louis asks, shaking his hand.
“Not really,” Liam says and trust the bastard to be a natural born shooter. “Here, try again.”
Liam steps up behind Louis, presses himself against his back and moulds him into the proper stance. His finger tips are pressing lightly into his hip, the other hand prospering the angle of his wrist. He holds him steady and tells him to squeeze the trigger on the exhale as he slaps the headpiece back on.
When Louis opens his eyes, he’s shot the silhouette in the shoulder. He sets the safety in place and places the gun down, breathing. The moment passes fleetingly and Liam steps back, clapping him on the shoulder.
Louis doesn’t turn around for another moment.
This one time they don’t get to the little girl in time and all that’s left of her is a wisp of smoke and the line of Liam’s shoulder breaks and Louis feels helpless.
They’re undercover in a packed club and Liam tells himself he can’t ever get distracted on the job again. But Louis shows up in a maroon sweater and tight jeans and Liam has to make sure the lines don’t blur. He’s playing a character when he leans in towards him in the flashing lights, breathes in the smell of sweet alcohol clinging to his pores. He keeps his eye on the security guard when he takes Louis’ hand and starts tugging him towards the roped off VIP area.
He must have seemed too eager, something about the way his shoulders sit that shout ‘COP!’ because the security guard eyes him and starts moving forward, shoving people out of his way.
“Kiss me,” Liam says, turning back around to Louis, leaning in close to be heard over the thundering beats.
“What?” Louis asks, his face screwed up in confusion.
Liam doesn’t wait another second, grabs Louis’ face and crashes their mouths together. He doesn’t skip a beat, doesn’t wince as their teeth clash. Liam’s hand cradles the back of his neck and it’s like a dam breaks the way Louis surges forward, presses himself along Liam’s front and practically melts into him when he runs a hand down his spine. Liam doesn’t open his eyes, doesn’t check to see if the security guard is still coming for them because he has his hand tangled in Louis’ hair and another burning hot against his collarbone.
When he pulls away, Louis’ eyes are hooded; pupils blow wide, lips wet and shiny against the odd lights in the club. He has to look away before he does something equally stupid.
“The guard,” Liam says simply and realises he’s still touching Louis, fitted together perfectly from head to toe. “Shit, it’s Murdoch!” Liam says and the tension changes into something else. Liam pulls himself away from Louis and starts to edge his way out of the crowd. They’re here to their fucking jobs.
They’re a good team, there’s no denying that. Liam is efficient, hard-working, and capable - he’s a damn good detective while Louis thinks outside the box and sketches out endless theories with his hands and fingertips. They balance each other out. Liam doesn’t burn himself out like he used to, doesn’t take as long as to recover from a bad case. Liam likes to pretend he’s sick of putting up with Louis but he’s not fooling anyone. He needs to pretend because he knows he needs Louis far more than Louis needs him.
Louis finds one of his books under a stack of paperwork and his fingers still. He’s waiting for Liam to haul himself out of the gym because Niall’s got the CSU report back and they should go see the pizza place across the street from where the murder happened and he can’t help leafing through Liam’s stuff. Liam is endlessly fascinating and Louis can’t get enough. He just hopes this devotion to finding out about Liam, what makes him smile and why he frowns that particular way when he sees kittens and how he likes his coffee, turns him into a stalker.
He finds his fourth best seller on Liam’s desk and when he flips it open, the whole thing is dog-eared and falling apart at the spine. It’s not even one of his best books and he thinks it might be a mistake because this is Liam. He flips to the front page, maybe it’s someone else’s, but he sees Liam’s name written in his neat handwriting and he feels his chest tighten in the worst way possible. Underneath he makes out his own signature scribbled inside the cover and frowns.
“Hey,” Liam says, towelling his hair dry. He slings it over his neck, holding onto the ends, flushed from his shower. “Are you looking through my stuff again because I swear to god Tomlinson, if you hide my badge one more time I will stick it so far up -.” Liam stops when he sees the book in Louis’ hand.
Louis smiles at him, blinding, and wiggles his eyebrows to make this seem less important to him than it is. “You’re a fan, then.”
Liam rolls his eyes but doesn’t deny it. He grabs the book out of Louis hand and shoves it in his drawer. “I thought we had a lead,” Liam says, grabbing his jacket.
Louis tries to tell his insides that they have absolutely no business going all warm and thirteen year old on him by the way Liam says ‘we’. Louis raises an eyebrow and says, “Yes we did but if we can just backtrack about sticking things up my-.”
Liam reaches over in one of his rare bursts of physicality and clasps his hand across Louis’ mouth. “Let’s go,” he says, a small smile tugging at his mouth before it’s all over and Louis’ smile is still printed on his palm.
Things go south – and not in the fun way Louis would’ve preferred - and somehow or another Louis manages to get himself kidnapped. If he’s being honest, he’s not having the time of his life and he doesn’t like the glaring faults he’s probably made in his last book where Detective Lance Poole had been kidnapped. This is definitely not as fun as it was to write. He’s arms are cramping from the way they’re tied up and he’s cold and pretty sure bleeding from a knife wound to the stomach.
It gets boring after the first couple of hours, painful and excruciatingly uncomfortable, but boring. He’s scared shitless, of course, that’s kind of a given but so is the thought that Liam’s going to find him. So he sits it out, bleeds onto his shirt and leans is head against the dirty concrete walls and tries to think of Zayn picking out the random quotes from ’50 Shades of Grey’ he’d worked in his last manuscript.
His thoughts drift inevitably to Liam and the way his hair curls around his ears after he’s had a shower. How he smells a little bit like sunshine and outdoors in the afternoons and the callous that juts out of his middle finger. The smooth expanse of his back and the muscles in his arms when he spars with Niall or Harry .
Somewhere along the 29th hour Louis’ been missing, he thinks he might actually die. He’s not bleeding anymore, he’s not actually sure but he’s shirt’s caked and gross and he can’t reach his stomach anyway to check. Louis doesn’t see his entire life flash in front of his eyes or anything silly like that. He just feels tired, his bones are numb and his eyes are aching to be shut.
He closes his eyes and thinks he probably should’ve told Liam he loved him.
He regains consciousness for two seconds and all he sees is Liam – well, all he sees are eyebrows at this point but he’s fairly sure they’re attached to a Liam – and he closes his eyes again.
When Liam realises Louis is missing he knows he’s done the exact opposite of what Liam’s said. He knows he went after the man with blood under his finger nails and now he’s gone. Liam feels so fucking selfish because in that moment, between the clawing, dizzying, chocking worry he realises without Louis he’s all alone.
Liam finds him, of course Liam finds him, and he’s too late. Liam’s drenched in blood, some his own, some not, when he bursts into the tiny room where they’re holding Louis. The world shifts out from under his feet when his eyes focus on the huddled figure in the middle. His hands are tied behind his back and he looks impossibly pale and small.
It feels like he’s been gassed the way he can’t seem to hear anything or get any air into his lungs. He stumbles forward and kneels besides him and reaches forward, gets a shaky hand pressing urgently for a pulse and Louis opens his eyes. Liam can feel the sob threatening to tear out of his throat as Louis’ eyes close again.
Back-up arrives and Louis is bundled off into an ambulance and Harry and Niall has to hold him back before he can do anything stupid.
It feels like Liam’s the one that’s been stabbed over and over again, bleeding out all over his clothes, being drained empty.
The first time Liam had met Louis was at a book signing on a sunny Saturday. His breath had caught in his throat when Louis had smiled up at him, asking for a name. He’d scrawled a note and signed the inside of the book and handed it back, smiling the whole time. Liam had walked out of the bookstore afterwards, fingers clutching at the hardback cover, his blood warm.
“I was expecting a candy striper’s uniform, Payne,” Louis croaks, blearily opening blue eyes.
Liam jumps up and the seat goes falling behind him. He ignores it to reach forward and before he can stop, his palm is resting against the side of Louis’ face, just skin against skin until Liam can breathe again.
“Hey,” Louis says softly after a moment, quiet as if he’s talking to a spooked animal.
Liam scoffs because it should definitely be the other way around. He reluctantly withdraws his hand but still hovers over him, biting down on his lower lip.
“Why do I keep you around?” Liam says and he’s trying his best to frown at him.
“My wit, charm and arse, I guess,” Louis says and he shrugs. He immediately winces.
Liam’s not going to lie: he looks like utter shit. But then he supposes, being held captive by murderous lunatics for a day and then some does that to a person. He doesn’t move away though, inches closer and closer.
“Why didn’t you fucking listen to me?” Liam says and his voice is almost a whisper.
“Gotta keep you on your toes,” Louis tries to go for light-hearted but by the look on Liam’s face, he doesn’t succeed.
“I’m sorry,” Liam says his eyes downcast. He can’t seem to hold Louis’ eyes anymore.
“You imbecile, why are you sorry?” Louis says and he struggles to sit up.
Liam hurries forward immediately, closing the last minute inches so he could help him up. He has a hand on Louis’ back, the other clutching his arm and when they’ve ceased, Liam looks up to see Louis staring at him, uncharacteristically serious.
“I knew you were coming for me,” Louis says, looking down and Liam would think he was embarrassed if Louis was capable of such thing.
A flash of pain crosses Louis’ face as he grabs his stomach, head bowed. Liam moves closer till he’s almost on top of him, hovering, terrified for so many reasons, hands still warm on his body. Louis looks up then and Liam catches a quick smile before Louis is whispering, “Gotcha,” and pulling him closer, pressing his lips against Liam’s.
Liam kisses him back, tries to convey everything through his skin and exhales when they part. It’s in Liam’s nature to keep prodding at the sore to keep it bleeding but Louis reaches out, threads their fingers together and kisses him again, warm and alive.