Hathaway is giving him a Look again, for about the seventh time since the investigation began. It’s distracting, and Lewis wishes he would stop. It’s difficult enough to focus as it is. He begins to hope Hathaway will just say something and get it over with, but he won’t, clearly. Not his way.
Hobson, when they see her that afternoon, has no such qualms. She does a quick double-take at him and frowns. “Good lord, Robbie. You’ve caught that bug making the rounds, I see.” She turns on Hathaway. “Are you looking after him?”
“He doesn’t need looking after,” Hathaway says promptly. “He’s perfectly fine. Told me so the minute he got in the car this morning.”
If looks could dissect. “He isn’t actually indestructible, you know,” Laura informs Hathaway. “And he isn’t twenty-five. He’s not even fifty-five.”
Lewis is supposed to object at this point, but he’s feeling too ragged. “When you’re through,” he says to Hobson, only a bit croakily, he thinks. “The report?”
She tilts her chin at them both, sharp and disapproving, then rattles off the details. Some of them make sense. Hathaway will catch the bits he doesn’t, like puzzle pieces falling down a chute. Lewis shuts his eyes for a moment, the better to concentrate, but snaps them open quickly again when he begins to sway on his feet.
“Are you running a fever?” Laura demands. She looks to Hathaway again. “Is he?”
Lewis is nettled. “Why ask him?”
“Probably,” Hathaway tells her. “Thank you, Dr. Hobson. We’ve got the situation well in hand.” His hand is on Lewis’s upper arm while he speaks, briefly steadying, gone before Lewis can pull away or object.
At the pub, Hathaway brings him tea instead of a pint. Lewis gives him a warning glare, but in fact he’s been dying for a cuppa all day, so he sips without comment. He sighs and shuts his eyes again, huddling over the mug and giving in momentarily to the dizziness now that he’s no longer in danger of falling over. A light touch on his hand jerks him back to the unwelcome reality of sunlight and stone.
“You are rather warm, Sir,” Hathaway apologises, leaning back in his chair and looking ridiculously long and cool.
“I’m holding a cup of hot tea,” Lewis says, waving him off. “Don’t you start.”
Hathaway doesn’t start. They discuss the case, confirming details, turning bits of information round to see where they might fit. There’s not much to go on yet. The single mother of a delinquent teenager: ex-boyfriends and personal complications galore. Hathaway scribbles down lists and ticks things off, makes a rough map of homes and offices to visit. Lewis loses himself in the details, drinks down a second cup of tea, then stands up too quickly and has to clutch hard at the edge of the table.
Hathaway is on his feet so fast his chair tips over, hand on his arm again. “Sir,” he says, a one-word plea.
This is a battle Lewis is going to lose, he realises. His knees are jelly, his throat is a column of fire, and his skin feels too small. And he’s not twenty-five, more’s the pity. The look on James’s face makes him feel stubborn, though. Surely he can fight off the inevitable for a bit longer. “The social worker’s office is less than a mile from here,” he says. “Ready?”
“Sir,” Hathaway protests again, hanging back, but Lewis is heading for the car already, moving with purpose if not speed.
The social worker gives them another handful of assorted bits and bobs, dark and murky with no conclusive edges to them. There’s an ex-boyfriend they’ll definitely need to speak to, and a godmother in Drayton. Lewis lets Hathaway do most of the talking. His ears are beginning to ring, and he can’t help sighing with relief when they’re back in the car and he’s off his feet again.
“I could kip on the A34,” he suggests halfheartedly.
Hathaway just gives him the Look, eloquently reproachful, until Lewis relents.
“You’re a nag and a bully, James,” he says. “All right. Drop me off home, then go track down the godmother. You’ll go to Drayton first. I don’t want you talking to the ex-boyfriend without backup.”
“But I can take on Alice McKinley, late fifties, sculptor and cat breeder?” Hathaway says, with a small smile now that he’s won. “Those sculpting tools can be a lethal business, Sir.”
“Not to mention the cats,” Lewis murmurs, but he can’t even banter, really. Everything is beginning to hurt. Hathaway touches his hand again, and he doesn’t pull away; he looks out the window and pretends he hasn’t noticed. He doesn’t let Hathaway escort him into his flat when they arrive, though, not even just up to the front door. “Phone me when you get back,” he instructs, getting out of the car.
“Rest and fluids, Sir,” Hathaway says primly, and drives away before Lewis can think of a proper retort.
Paracetamol, a generous shot of whisky, and a warm duvet. It should help, but doesn’t. His temperature mounts and mounts. By evening he’s in a half-delirious daze, cocooned in pain and tormented by visions of endless puzzles with no edges and pieces that refuse to slot neatly into one another as they should. He tumbles them over and over in his mind, trying to make them fit while listening for his mobile to ring. It was an ugly murder. Aren’t they all, though? And James can take care of himself. Except when he can’t.
The vague bumblebee buzz in his head has turned to angry wasp-shrilling. He wishes the television were on--anything to distract him right now--but the remote is over on the bureau for some obscure reason, and the thought of getting up and crossing the room is impossible. Fever always did strike him hard, if infrequently. What in bloody hell has become of his sergeant? He should have been back this hour or more.
He thinks he’s dreaming the touch at first, long cool fingers gentle on his face, his wrist. “Agh,” he says, twitching away. “You were going to phone.”
“I did,” Hathaway tells him. “You didn’t pick up. I brought things. What do you need?”
Lewis just shakes his head. It’s humiliating, being seen in this state, isn’t it? Val had always left him alone, set up camp on the sofa for a night or two. But he’s almost past caring.
Later, he only has strange impressions of that long night, like the heat-wavery visions of a mirage. A cold cloth, damp against his pulse points; the taste of chamomile; old black-and-white films merging into nightmare distortions of themselves; James reading case notes to him, old cases long solved, his voice droning on and on, steady, carving a trail of order through the darkness of his hot and jumbled brain.
Toward morning, he cools, and things begin to nestle back into their proper places. Hathaway is asleep in the threadbare green chair in the corner of the room, stretched out long with his socked feet propped on a file box and an open book resting on his stomach, face-down. One of Val’s old favourites, something by Jane Austen. He’d never read it. Lewis studies him drowsily, watches the book rise and fall with his breath, watches his nicotine-stained fingers twitch as he dreams of god-knows-what.
Hathaway is standing next to the bed when he wakes again, frowning and pale, pressing the back of his hand to Lewis’s face. “Get off, go on with you,” Lewis tells him--mildly, he’s still wrung out--and Hathaway looks pleased.
“You had me a bit worried, Sir,” he says. “Tea?”
“Aye,” Lewis says. “In a bit. Tell me about Alice McKinley first. If you said anything about it last night you’ll have to repeat it, I’m afraid.”
Hathaway looks more pleased still. And something else. Amused? Fond. “All right,” he agrees. “Move over,” and gets right up onto the bed next to him, to Lewis’s surprise, making room for himself, folding up his long legs and settling in as if he means to stay. He leans over and plants a quick, light, incongruous kiss on Lewis’s forehead, then leans back against the headboard, clasps his hands loosely around his knees, and begins to speak.