It was supposed to be perfectly simple day.
Kent and Chandler had a court appearance after lunch, so the morning would be reserved for paperwork. Chandler and Kent had taken extra care in dressing this morning, Joe had a crisp white shirt ready to go (not that that was specifically true on court dates) and his navy blue suit had made an appearance. He had been told that it was reminiscent of the uniform he had worn as a bobby, while lending a certain gravity and authority to him.
Kent meanwhile had used the occasion to debut a brand new grey suit. It was a light grey, a little trendier than most might have advised for a court appearance, but the cut suited him enough that a jury would probably forgive him. He had carefully selected a dark blue tie that morning and a dark grey shirt. He looked great. Meg had made him do a shuffling twirl when he walked into the room that morning, part model, part marrionette. Mansell had had a catcall ready, and just as Kent had finally thought everyone had settled down, Miles had pointedly asked Chandler his opinion. Both he and Chandler blushed their way through the answer.
After that, Kent had assumed that the worst was over.
What a fool he was.
About an hour before he and Chandler were due to leave for the courthouse, Mansell came back from lunch with a half-eaten, badly secured biryani. He aimed to put it in the fridge and have it for dinner.
It inevitably wound up down Kent's front, landing sloppily in his lap.
“Fuck's sake, Mansell! What the fuck?!” Kent leapt to his feet, spreading halfway congealed curry over his desk and the floor.
Miles and Chandler appeared as Mansell advanced on Kent armed with a scrunched up kleenex and half-arsed apologies.
“I've got to leave for court in an hour! Look at the state of me. Not bad enough I look fucking twelve, now I look like I went for a swim in a fucking exploded curry house!”
“Alright,” Mansell grumbled, “I said I was sorry. Settle down.”
It was like waving a red flag at a bull. Luckily Miles knew the signs when one of his underlings was about to give another a black eye. He stepped in swiftly.
“Alright lad, you and the boss can leave early, go past yours and you can get changed before the trial, alright?” Kent eyed Mansell bitterly before he nodded.
“Okay?” Miles asked Chandler, who was taking in the sight of sauce, rice and whatever else all over his incident room, looking like all he wanted was to be somewhere else. He nodded slowly.
“I'm not getting in the DI's car like this.” Kent announced, “ I think I have some spare trousers in my locker. I don't know if I have a shirt-”
“Use one of his.” Miles offered, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder to indicate Chandler.
Chandler and Kent locked eyes then, neither one really sure how comfortable the other was with the plan. Kent raised an eyebrow in question. Chandler answered with a slight nod, before turning and retrieving a shirt from the drawer in his office.
Ten minutes later, Kent and Chandler were in Chandler's car, Kent trying to disappear into the upholstery in his ratty jeans and slightly-too-large shirt. Chandler tried desperately to concentrate on the road, and not the sight of Kent in his shirt.
It seemed rather intimate to Chandler.
He wasn't sure he liked it.
He wasn't sure he didn't like it either.
All he knew was that he was discomfited.
Business as usual then, Joseph, his mind supplied unhelpfully.
“I really am sorry about all this, sir. Especially all the swearing. It was unprofessional.”
“I thought you were going to flatten poor Mansell.” he answered, a small laugh hiding in the words.
“Well, could you blame me?”
“Can't say I could. It was a very nice suit. Looked good on you. A shame it only got one outing before disaster struck. I hope you have a good dry cleaner.”
“So do I.” Kent said, hoping the compliment that Chandler had bestowed hadn't coloured his face too much. They spent the rest of the trip in silence. A slightly more comfortable one than before, but still not totally at ease. Soon they were parked on Kent's street, his house visible from the fortuitous parking spot.
“Would you like to come in, sir? I'll have to have a shower and stuff, so you might be more comfortable on the lounge than in here, getting stared at by the old lady in number 17.”
“What's the lady in number 17's problem?”
“My theory is boredom. Martin, my housemate, reckons she's a witch. Anna, my other housemate reckons we should have better things to talk about than old ladies and their snooping habits.”
“We're policemen. Snooping is our job. She might teach you a thing or two.” Joe answered as he walked beside Kent to the house.
“Not unless I learn Polish, sir. She can, I suspect, speak perfect English, she just doesn't.” He opened the door and waited for Chandler to step into the hall before he shut the door.
“Kitchen is on the left, living room is on the right. I'll be upstairs. Help yourself to some tea. There might be some green tea there somewhere towards the back of the cupboard.”
Then he was gone and Joe was left to wander into the living room.
“Oh, and... sorry about all the ducks!” he called down from the stairs. Joe didn't have much time to wonder what it meant before he knew.
Kent's entire house seemed devoted to ducks. They graced the wallpaper, the cushions, there were duck bookends, and a trio of flying ducks graced a neatly painted square over the lounge. Joe walked into the kitchen, only to find a different duck-themed wallpaper on these walls and further ducks. The whole thing was mad, but all the fixtures and furnishings were good quality, and the mixture of textures and colours made for a pleasing decoration.
“Duckorations...” He mused before he quietly kicked himself, glad no one was around to hear it.
“Duckorations. I like it.” Kent laughed behind him. Joe turned, the other man smelled of soap, but was fully dressed in another suit – this one black. His shirt beneath looked familiar, but Joe pushed the thought away while he watched Kent's slender hands work the tie around his neck into a neat knot. Joe must have stared in awed horror at all the wallpaper for much longer than he thought.
“Is there a reason there are so many ducks?”
“Mad landlord. Some kind of scientist. Not a biologist. I think he was a geologist or something. Totally barmy, wanted to become an interior decorator. I don't think he was completely unsuccessful, but he certainly keeps with a theme. To be honest, we might have added a few. In for a penny and all that...”
“I like it.” Chandler announced, as though that was relevant. Kent beamed.
“Well, if you're ready, we should be going.” Joe cleared his throat. He'd been staring at Kent again. Kent had been staring back. Sometimes they caught themselves doing it, usually after everyone else had noticed. Joe was glad the only ones to see it this time were inanimate ducks.
“I am. Completely curry free and ready to put some villains away.”
It was a successful day in court, both Joe and Chandler gave their evidence beautifully. Something Joe attributed to the fact that it wasn't until he sat watching Kent under cross-examination – his own task discharged – that he finally recognised the shirt Kent wore.
It was the one he had loaned Kent this morning.
It was then that he realised that he felt a delicious sense of ownership, as though by wearing his shirt, the man also became his.
The inner-Miles that took up part of his internal monologue gleefully reminded him that Kent had pretty much been his from the moment they met. If only he had the ginger to reach out and take him.
“You did well, Kent. The jury seemed to like you. No wonder, that suit makes you look very professional.”
“I especially like your shirt.” Joe kept his eyes fixed on the road.
“Oh. UH. Sir... I...”
“It's perfectly alright, Kent. I assume that you merely wanted to save time?”
Kent stayed silent, his eyes reddened slightly.
“Unless. Unless there's some other reason. Some sentimental reason? I wouldn't mind. I might prefer that, really.”
“I... I like you in that shirt, Kent. It... It made me feel something, something I haven't felt in quite some time. Or at least, something I've denied feeling for a while now.”
“Sir?” Kent looked like confusion and hope were warring within him.
“Would you let me buy you dinner? I know it's not necessarily the done thing, and technically against protocol-”
“Yes.” Kent breathed.
“Yes.” He was almost breathless, a slow smile spreading across his face.
“Excellent.” Joe smiled too.
The last two hours of shift were hellish, and were only improved by the look on Miles' face when Joe and Kent walked out on time, and going in the same direction.
“Bout bloody time, eh Skip?” Mansell said, watching the glass doors as though he could still see Chandler and Joe walking away.
“Not wrong, Mansell. Might have something to do with the fact that he's still wearing His Nibbs' shirt, despite having the opportunity to change it. I think the boss would have liked that in his own strange way.”
“They're both barmy.”
“You've been married so often, I always assumed you were a romantic.”
“There's a fine line between being romantic and being pathetic.”
“Nah, give 'em a chance. They'll always be fighting an uphill battle. Especially on the job. Mum's the word, eh?”
Kent hadn't known what to expect, now that he and Joe were going out. He was a little worried about someone seeing them, but Joe had it sorted, taking him to a quiet pub. They had parked Joe's car at Joe's flat around the corner. Kent didn't want to be presumptuous, but he had wondered if Joe had meant anything by it.
“I thought this would be preferable to a curry.” Joe joked as they sat opposite each other in a quiet corner booth.
“Oh, please. I never want to see another biryani for as long as I live, Joe.”
“I'll try to remember that, Emerson.”
“ You can call me Em. My family have always called me Gus, but I'd prefer Em, if you don't mind.”
“My parents, not satisfied with naming me Emerson, they followed it up with the middle name Augustus. I swear, people in the early eighties shouldn't have been allowed to name children.”
“Gus. I like it, but I see why you prefer Em. And I assumed middle names were meant to be embarrassing.”
“Yeah? What's yours?”
Joe coughed nervously, and hoped to divert attention by pondering the menu aloud.
“Joseph.” Kent warned.
“Jonquil.” he murmured.
“As in a daffodil?”
“Joseph Jonquil Chandler...”
“Yes, Emerson Augustus Kent?”
“I'm glad you asked me out tonight.”
“It had to happen eventually, didn't it? I mean, I could only prevaricate so long before I plucked up the courage, or you got sick of waiting for me to get my act together and moved on.”
Kent was shocked at Joe's forthrightness, but then, Joe seemed to share that feeling, suddenly very interested in folding and unfolding his paper napkin. Finally Kent reached forward and stilled Joe's hands. The blonde man dragged his eyes up to meet Kent's before he blurted something else, and surprised himself once again.
“I'm not very hungry, Em. Let me take you to my flat. We can continue our conversation there.”
Kent just swallowed thickly and nodded. Taking Joe's proffered hand. Joe smiled, bright and nervous.
Once they were inside Joe's flat, Kent removed his jacket, and couldn't miss the sweep of Joe's eyes over his torso, taking in the sight of his shirt on Kent's frame greedily. He licked his bottom lip. Kent watched the swipe of the tongue with great interest.
“May I kiss you, Joe? It's just you keep looking at me like that.”
“Like you are terrified and turned on, and like you have some kinky thing with me wearing your shirt.” Kent stepped into Joe's space and stayed there while Joe's pupils grew darker.
“I rather think I am. I rather think I do. Is it wrong that when I saw that you were still wearing my shirt – even though you didn't have to – it all finally clicked into place? That I finally allowed myself to realise not only how you felt about me, but how I felt about you? Is it wrong that it seems like physical proof that you, in some sense, belong to me – or, perhaps more correctly, belong with me?”
“Oh, Joe...” Kent finally closed the space between them and pressed his lips over Joe's. He kept his eyes open for the first few seconds, his vision filled with blue eyes and his mouth tasted the toothpaste Joe must have used before they clocked off. He closed his eyes and Joe made a small noise, one that pushed Kent to open his mouth and run his tongue over Joe's bottom lip.
They began to move their hands over each other, until after a short amount of time they were grappling towards the lounge, Joe's jacket and tie discarded, his shirt unbuttoned and his opened belt clinking with every movement. Kent went to shed the shirt he wore when Joe stopped him.
“Leave it on. I want to see what you look like in it after, thoroughly debauched.” he breathed into the space behind Kent's ear. Joe wasn't exactly sure where this had all come from, but assumed that his libido had kicked into overdrive to help him make up for lost time. He was saying things before they had become fully formed thoughts and was beginning to feel like he was one of the men in the videos he watched online sometimes, when it was late at night and he was lonely.
“Oh God, Joe. You're going to ruin me, if you haven't already.”
Suddenly Joe picked Kent up and carried him bridal style towards his bedroom, kissing him along the way, Kent's arms wrapped around his neck.
The next morning Joe woke first, his body aching in places that hinted at his new intimacy with Kent. His mind, however, was relatively still. The dark haired man was asleep, still wrapped in Joe's unbuttoned shirt. He somehow still had one sock on, Joe thought it was beautiful and ridiculous and it reminded him of a quote from Napoleon.
Joe had expected that when he finally gave into his feelings for Emerson he would be a nervous wreck afterwards. He assumed he would feel just s wound up as ever, and that he would probably be needing a talking to. He had, to use Miles' parlance, expected to have a wobble.
Instead he snuggled into Kent's side, lips brushing the bony rise of his collar bone and sighed contentedly. He was happy here, in this bed, with this man, and for now, it was more than enough.
He fell asleep wondering how Emerson Augustus Kent liked his eggs. Vowing to himself to make them both a hearty breakfast. If everything went the way he wanted it to, they might need their strength.