“I’m just saying... people are going to talk, Greg.”
“Bloody let them, then,” Greg answered as he flipped through a stack of records in his lap. He clearly had better things to do with his time than entertain the bullshit concerns of their co-workers.
Iain brought him a cup of tea, and an annoyed scowl. Greg looked up and pursed his lips. “What?” He asked, a shade too sourly.
It was a testament to the Iain’s respect for the surly older detective that he didn’t roll his eyes. They were having an off-day -- it did happen from time to time. When he was feeling uncomfortably insecure, and Greg was just his usual obnoxiously blunt self, their mutual happiness tended to deteriorate rapidly. It didn’t help that they were both bitterly sarcastic by default, and rubbish at conflict resolution.
They could give a little -- a loving glance, or a cup of tea -- but that was bloody it.
“You say you don’t care that anyone knows you’re gay, but you won’t even tell Anderson that we’ve moved in together,” Iain explained for what felt like the hundredth time. “Any straight couple would’ve told the whole bloody office and expected a party--” Greg cut him off.
“What do you expect me to do? Walk into the building wearing a neon shirt that says ‘I’m bumming Stupid’?”
Iain made a very disgruntled face. Greg stared up at him, three records in one hand and tea in the other, utterly unapologetic for what he’d said. “I don’t know why you’re offering,” Iain replied after a short, cold silence. “You wouldn’t do it.”
“Because my-- our personal life doesn’t belong in the office!” Greg explained slowly, trying to gesture with his hands without spilling scalding tea down the leg of his trousers.
“You were shagging a man you brought to crime scenes,” Iain retorted, voice raising to match Greg’s. “How is that any better?”
“We weren’t shagging on the damn job.”
“Neither are we!”
“Exactly! It doesn’t-- fucking-- matter!”
Both detectives went silent and glared at each other as they realised they’d worked themselves full circle -- right to the start of the argument they’d been having for a week straight. Greg put down his records -- he’d been trying to sort through them, figure out which ones he was missing from various collections -- and stood up slowly.
“I’m going to bed.” He put his untouched tea down on the coffee table.
Iain fumed silently. Only after Greg had slipped into the bathroom did he march into their bedroom, grab a pillow and the duvet from the bed, and retreat to Greg’s stupid, horrid, squashed, old couch. He quickly cocooned himself into the blanket and settled down into a cosy nest just as the bathroom light went off. As he shut his eyes, he heard an annoyed grunt from the bedroom -- the result of his lover-turned-unhappy-flatmate discovering the newly barren bed.
But if Greg had anything to say about it, he kept it to himself. Iain heard the bedroom door shut.
All those sullen, self-conscious feelings of regret and indecision silently came creeping back in the darkness of the sitting room. His stomach turned, and he buried his face in the pillow -- questioning his own stupidity, cursing Greg’s stubbornness, and demanding to know why the universe couldn’t just bloody let them get along like they usually did. They were so good about not fighting -- they bickered, but they didn’t get into separation-worthy feuds like this.
Well, not until recently, he admitted. But there had to be a first time for everything.
Closing his eyes, he desperately tried to focus on the warmth of the duvet wrapped around him, and not the heartache that covered every inch of his temporary bed. That fucking awful couch smelled just like Greg; it was all smoke and a certain kind of soap, and probably dirt and grass and sweat, too -- not that he was actively trying to get a whiff of those last three. Maybe shoe polish, because Greg was an idiot and spilled things.
Iain frowned. They were both idiots.
He took a deep breath -- held it in for a moment -- and forced himself to ignore the creeping pain in his stomach as he slowly drifted off to sleep.
Back in the bedroom, Greg stared up at the shadowy ceiling. A hint of light slipped through the curtains from the street lamps outside, casting strange shapes across to the closet doors. Ordinarily they didn’t bother him -- he could hide his face in a pillow, or against the back of Iain’s head, and be bloody unconscious to the world in a matter of minutes.
Tonight he just watched the shadows bounce around as cars passed on the road.
Minutes slipped by. Eventually hours, and he still just kept watching the light -- angry with himself for not dragging Iain’s arse back to bed. Angry with Iain for sleeping on the god damn couch in the first place. Angry with both of them for thinking a stupid, silly argument was worth sleeping apart.
He rolled over, closing his eyes. He’d pulled a thin blanket from the closet, but it didn’t matter. There was a big, empty space next to him that he wasn’t used to anymore, and he hated it. It was cold, and lonely, and wrong -- so wrong.
He climbed out of bed, feet moving swiftly across the cold floorboards as he quietly pulled open the bedroom door and peeked out into the darkness. He could see a vague outline of the couch, and knew exactly where the coffee table was by default -- it’d been in the same damn place for ten years, and it was never going to move. He slowly walked out into the sitting room. If Iain was awake, he didn’t have anything to say. Greg sighed.
Carefully -- silently praying that Iain’s astonishing ability to sleep through natural disasters would hold out -- he wedged himself onto the couch, and pulled the younger man, in his cosy blanket-nest, over top of him. It wouldn’t be the most comfortable place in the world to sleep.
But it was the right one.
Waking up the next morning was the single worst thing that either of them had experienced in years. Iain looked back on many a night of passing out on a bathroom floor with fondness; Greg could recall a broken ankle, sprained shoulder, and cracked rib that didn’t leave him feeling quite so sore. Sleeping beside each other was heavenly. Sleeping on top of each other, well -- they just weren’t really cut out for that.
Iain grunted as he woke up -- hating Greg’s ugly couch with a passion. What kind of stupid piece of furniture gets stiffer the longer you sleep on it? He should have been sinking straight through the bottom -- but he felt like he’d camped out on a wooden log.
Albeit a very handsome wooden log.
Greg was sweating, and struggling to breathe in the little sauna he’d accidentally squirreled his way into. Between the over-insulated sofa, the duvet, his own body heat, and Dimmock -- he felt like he was actually about to spontaneously combust. He’d have kicked the blanket off, but -- there was a dead-to-the-world detective in his way.
Luckily, that was an occurrence he was quite familiar with.
He groaned, gripped the back of the sofa with one hand, and the front with the other, and slowly levered himself up into a sitting position. Iain -- just coming into consciousness, despite Greg’s assumption that he was still fast asleep, despite the sound effects -- mumbled and rubbed his face unhappily.
“Why’s there an earthquake?”
Greg rolled his eyes and smiled through the stiffness, the aches, and the little popping noises as his bones settled back into place. “Shut up,” he muttered. “You know where you are.”
Iain snuggled deeper into the couch, very intentionally using Greg’s lap as a pillow. The older man shook his head and ran his fingers gently through Iain’s hair.
“You’ll have to get up eventually.”
“Five more minutes.”
Greg snorted. “Five more hours, more like.”
“That’ll work, too,” Iain mumbled into the leg of Greg’s pyjamas. Greg’s smile widened.
But if they were going to go back to sleep, Greg was determined to do it in bed, where they’d both be comfortable. He tugged gently on Iain’s hair, until the younger man grumbled and looked up.
“C’mon,” he coaxed. Iain frowned -- and Greg relented, because after everything they’d gone through the night before, he’d lost the will to be stubborn.
He brushed his fingers over Iain’s jaw. “You can tell anyone you want,” he said after a moment.
Iain’s eyes snapped open. There was a faint glimmer of frustration -- not because he was tired of the subject, but because bringing up something so important before breakfast should honestly have been a crime. He was on the verge of falling asleep with his head on Greg’s hand, and the other man’s mental clarity just wasn’t fair. He rubbed his eyes with a huff.
“I will,” he answered, as if that should have been obvious -- and frankly, it was.
“And if anyone asks me about it, I’ll tell them.” Iain opened his mouth, but Greg pinched his cheeks together so that he couldn’t speak, and continued. “But I’m not going to make any kind of announcement. I’ve never made a show of it, and I’m not going to. You, and Sally, and Jones can bring up personal things in the office if you want to. I’d wish you didn’t, but it’s none of my business, and I don’t care.”
Iain tried to speak, but could only make incoherent noises through the grip Greg had on his face.
“Does that make sense?”
Iain shook his head.
“I just-- don’t-- care.” Greg repeated, emphasising each word.
Both men stared at each other in silence. Eventually, and still with some reluctance, Iain lowered his head. It was too early, Greg’s fingers were digging into his cheeks, he felt sore -- it wasn’t worth it. It hadn’t been worth it last night, but in the light of a new day, he just didn’t have the heart to keep arguing.
They’d both come to the realisation that they didn’t have to agree on everything. They talked about it; they were at odds. It was time to move on -- preferably somewhere a bit more roomy.
Greg let go and Iain sighed gratefully, stretching his mouth. But no sooner had Greg released him, than the grey-haired DI dropped his hands under Iain’s arms and forcibly hauled him up out of the little crater Iain had built between Greg’s legs. He pulled Iain upright until he was sitting much more comfortably in Greg’s lap, wrapped up snugly in both blankets and Greg’s warm embrace.
It was the best Greg could do to comfort him. He understood why Iain cared so much about being open -- why he fretted about not hiding the fact that they were living together, even if that wasn’t really the issue. But he couldn’t find the right words -- now, or the night before, or ever, usually -- to express his support, and his love for the witty, handsome, slightly foolish man in front of him.
Words weren’t really his strong suit. People were.
Greg pressed his nose against the bare skin of Iain’s neck. It was a nonsense gesture, but Iain snorted and squirmed. He pressed both hands against Greg’s chest, pushing away, but the older man held him tight and made ridiculous smoochy noises at him, rubbing his face against Iain’s neck, shoulders, and arms, all the way down to his wrists, which Greg struggled to reach, but very gently kissed.
Iain gave up and leaned against him, resting his head against Greg’s shoulder. Greg smiled.
All was forgiven.