God she was exhausted.
Erin threw her keys into the bowl next to the front door as she stepped through the doorway of her apartment.
They’d just wrapped a case. A young boy had been found dead, beaten, bloody and terribly abused. It was horrible and tragic and it had taken them over a week and a half to finally catch the guy who did it.
She shrugged off her coat as she stepped into the warmth of the apartment and hung it up on the hook beside the door. She slowly unwound the scarf from around her neck and gently pulled the beanie away from her hair as she let the comfort of her home surround her.
It was the dead of winter in Chicago and that poor boy had been left for dead in the middle of a park, brutalised and exposed, left to freeze to death. What was worse, in the end, was that it’d been someone he’d known. Someone that poor little boy had trusted. And he’d paid for that trust with his life.
She moved down the hall, pulling her sidearm from its holster as she neared the safe. She was keying in the code as the first sounds from the kitchen reached her. She palmed the barrel of her glock, swung the safe door open and carefully placed the handgun inside. She felt relief flood her as she deposited the gun and secured the safe once again, relief that she wasn’t the only one here. Relief that she didn’t have to be alone after the week they’d had. Relief there was someone here who would understand.
She hadn’t been at the scene, but Voight had responded to the initial call and he’d taken Alvin and Jay along with him. She’d seen photos later, and she’d seen the horror and betrayal, the disgust in her partner’s eyes and in her surrogate father’s eyes and she was grateful that she’d missed out on this one.
She moved down the hallway to the kitchen and the sounds from within the house grew louder. She didn’t announce her presence as she rounded the corner, she was sure he already knew she was there; she just moved through the living room and crawled onto one of the stools at the kitchen island, bringing her forearms up around her head and lowering them until they touched the kitchen-top, like she was trying to hide from the world. Which was exactly what she was doing.
A hand touched her head briefly, not caressing or pressing just the brief solid weight to ensure her he was there.
“Hey.” he greeted her quietly, gently.
He didn’t wait for her to respond, didn’t expect one. He let his hand drift away smoothly and turned back to whatever it was that he’d been doing. He didn’t ask about her day, if she was ok; he didn’t ask because he already knew. Her day had been shitty, just like the last week and a half had been shitty, and she wasn’t ok, because a little boy had been murdered by his step-father and there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
But she was better now than she had been all week, at least. They’d caught the sick bastard and he would be spending the rest of his life in prison; in a place where even other sociopathic criminals thought that people that could do that to a child were the scum of the earth and he would spend a lifetime living in fear and misery. Plus, she was here, finally home where she could relax and unwind, with him.
All that was missing was Jay.
She let her arms fall away from her head and lifted herself off the tabletop to look at the back of Mouse’s head.
“Has he phoned?” She asked quietly.
The former soldier didn’t look over at her, just shook his head while he kept his focus on the stove.
She sighed and let her head fall again, this time catching her chin in her palm.
Jay had taken the case particularly hard.
Erin didn’t know why, but Jay always seemed to take the cases with young boys the hardest. Maybe it was to do with the young boy whose sister he’d been dating when he’d been murdered. The fifteen year old who Jay had known, who’d been raped and killed when Jay was fresh out of the academy. Whatever the reason, he’d been impatient and angry and frustrated all week until they’d finally caught the guy and then he was just quiet and withdrawn and she understood. She got the same way sometimes when a case affected her more than she’d like to admit. And she knew he needed his time, he needed to process and work through it and she also knew that a large part of that he would do here, with them; but she didn’t really want to wait him out. She just wanted him here, so they could help him and he could help them.
She let out another frustrated sigh. She had no choice but to wait.
She took a deep breath to calm herself, trying to rid some of the tension in her back and immediately almost groaned at the delicious smell that was starting to permeate the air around the kitchen.
And of course, Mouse plus kitchen obviously meant cooking, but Erin’s tired brain was only just now putting the pieces together and her stomach grumbled as soon as the thought was fully formed in her head, because Mouse plus kitchen equalling cooking, always ended with an overly satisfied Erin because Mouse’s cooking was amazing. Seriously, she didn’t understand how he made things that were so delicious. Even if he took her through it step by step, her attempts never turned out remotely as good.
She was distracted from her thoughts of tantalising food a moment later when the sound of the door opening and closing echoed through the apartment, followed by keys clanking in the bowl and footsteps down the hallway, disappearing down the same root she had taken earlier.
She didn’t look around, but she could hear his footsteps falter on his way back, as he rounded the corner and she knew he’d paused in the doorway, leaning against the wall and taking them both in for a moment.
A minute later and he was climbing onto the stool next to her, a warm hand sliding up her back in comfort and then away.
Erin turned her head to the left and shot him a small smile even as Mouse turned from the stove and greeted Jay the same way he’d greeted Erin. Mouse reached out and cupped Jay’s shoulder, just for a moment, squeezing as he said, “Hey.”, and then he turned back to the stove again.
But Mouse was halted in his movements by Jay, who snapped out a hand and gripped Mouse’s forearm, pulling the shorter man back around to face him.
“Hey.” Jay responded, directly into Mouse’s eyes and squeezed his forearm, emotion emanating from his face.
Mouse clapped him on the shoulder again, squeezed once more and then they both pulled away. It was always like this with them; without a single word they seemed to have an entire heart to heart conversation.
A second later and Jay was flashing her a smile back and suddenly their world was back to normal. Well, as ‘normal’ as her life ever got anyway.
Mouse had cooked soup. And of course it’d been amazing.
Jay and Erin had sat in silence for a while after Jay had entered the apartment, while Mouse worked on his masterpiece at the stove and then suddenly there was a steaming bowl of thick, creamy soup sitting in front of Erin’s nose and no one was holding her back from it. Mouse had even handed her a spoon and so she dug in.
And other than being in this apartment with her two favourite men, apart from being home and warm and away from that case, this soup was exactly what she needed.
They’d started eating in the kitchen, the three of them making an odd shaped triangle around the kitchen island, until Mouse suddenly shifted, standing straight and bringing his elbows up off the kitchen-top, grabbing his bowl of soup and heading in the direction of the overly large, overly large couch.
“Should be a game on.” Mouse threw back at Jay and Erin still seated at the island.
Jay didn’t need any more convincing than that; he stood, grabbing his bowl as well and moving to follow Mouse.
Erin watched the two of them for a second, as they dropped down onto the couch, making themselves comfortable and it took only a moment for them to both look back toward the kitchen after her and they both made that concerned little frowny-face at her at the same time and she was off her stool before either of them decided to ask her what was wrong.
She settled onto the couch next to Jay as the 60 inch flat screen TV (Jay had fought hard to get that one in here, but she had to admit it was a thing of beauty when it was on) flickered to life and suddenly the low sounds of baseball filled her ears.
She finished off her soup, pushing the bowl onto the coffee table in front of her and then relaxing into the couch and into the man next to her.
It was so nice being here, all of them together, away from the horrible cold of the Chicago winter that she never quite got used to, away from the horrible cases, that she also never quite got used to and she felt calm and warm and loved and she just wanted to be closer to them both and so she found herself leaning heavily into Jay, her head on his shoulder.
And perhaps he was feeling the same, or just humouring her, because he placed his bowl next to hers on the coffee table a moment later, before sinking low into the couch cushions and lifting an arm, creating space for Erin to move closer, to get more comfortable against him. She wasn’t going to wait for a second invitation.
She huddled up to him, one arm around his waist, her head on his chest and his arm around her shoulders and she began to trace patterns over his abs with her hand.
Jay looked up to his right then, at their other companion, who was still slowly eating his soup and Erin wasn’t sure why Mouse was savouring his own food like this, when really he could eat like this whenever he wanted. He’d cooked it.
Mouse glanced down at the two of them huddled on the couch and noticed them both staring at him and he clearly couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. Erin’s chest tightened; he was so good looking when he smiled. She wasn’t sure how she’d ended up with the two men in the world who were almost prettier than her, but she wasn’t game to question it.
Erin and Jay were both still staring at him as he took another sip of the soup and as he swallowed, he flicked another glance at the two of them and then rolled his eyes at them both.
Mouse leaned forward then and placed his bowl on the table to complete the set of three and Jay turned his head to flick a victorious glance at Erin, his smile full of smug satisfaction.
As Mouse slouched down low into the cushions, Erin felt her own grin full of victory and happiness stretch across her face and she sighed as she allowed more of her body weight to burdened by her partner. Well, partners really, because as she was leaning on Jay, Jay was now trying to get as close as humanly possible to Mouse and was certain he was in danger of being crushed.
Mouse certainly didn’t look like he minded.
Erin’s eyes drifted open sometime later and the first thing she noticed was the casual flickering of the light the TV cast over the otherwise dark room. But there was very limited sound coming from the TV and she wondered how late it actually was and who was still awake.
The second thing she noticed was the very comfortable lap that her head was resting on; her arm hugging a leg clad in a very familiar, very well worn pair of black jeans that she was certain belonged to Jay.
She blinked away the remnants of sleep and inhaled deeply before she pushed herself up gently, trying not to jostle her mattress too much as she moved. She flicked her legs off the couch as she sat up and looked to her right to see if she’d managed to wake her partner with her movements.
His face was serene and slack with sleep and every time she saw it in the state it was, she had this unbearable urge to swaddle him in blankets and take care of him. The ex-soldier looked about five years old in his sleep.
And as she looked at him she realised that there was something blaringly obvious missing from the couch and she looked around, looking for the place her partner’s best friend was hiding.
Not finding him in the immediate region of the living room, she pushed herself up off the sofa completely and went looking for her friend.
It didn’t take long; the slender man was at the kitchen counter, quietly putting away the evidence of their earlier meal.
She stepped up to the other side of the counter and just watched him move for a few moments, watched the sleek muscles of back shift and strengthen as she worked.
“Hey.” She said to the room in a voice barely above a whisper. Her voice was particularly husky right now, thanks to the sleep she hadn’t quite managed to shake off just yet.
He didn’t respond, wasn’t surprised she was there, but he jerked a look over his shoulder at her, a small, insincere smile creasing his lips.
“Mouse.” She sighed out his name. They’d been putting this off for a while. It seemed like maybe they’d put it off for too long.
He stilled, pausing what he was doing as the sound of his own name reached his ears. As the resigned air of Erin’s voice washed over him.
Mouse sighed as well, his shoulders dropping before he steeled himself and turned around.
“I should’ve gone.” He said as soon as he was facing her.
Erin felt her brow furrow in confusion. “Jay wanted you here.” She said softly and even softer still, “I wanted you here. You’re Jay’s best friend.”
And that right there was the issue, and she knew it and she immediately felt guilty as she watched the pointed raise of Mouse’s eyebrows. They weren’t just best friends. They’d never been just best friends. Erin had been skirting around the issue for as long as she could. And, she knew exactly why; she didn’t want things to change. She didn’t want to face the possibility that she might lose one of them. Or both of them.
“Yeah.” Mouse agreed with a sigh, his eyebrows dropping as he resigned himself to his fate and turned back to the counter. “I’m just- I’ll go.” He said as he dropped whatever he was holding, bringing his hands together and she watched him wring them nervously as he glanced at her once more before he made to leave the kitchen, leave the apartment.
It was suddenly clear to Erin that Mouse had long come to terms with the fact that he probably would lose one of them and was now resigning himself to losing them both.
She sighed again. “Mouse, don’t-” She said louder than she needed to, stopping him in his tracks before he could escape the kitchen. “Jay didn’t want you to go,” she tried again, “because you mean a lot to him. A lot more than a best friend.” She paused and thought about what she was going to say next and she knew with absolute certainty that it was true in more ways than one. “He loves you.”
Mouse turned around to look at her dead on once more and he was clearly only surprised that she was the one admitting the truth and not surprised by the fact itself. He didn’t say anything though, because Jay had always loved him and Mouse had always loved Jay and that changed absolutely nothing of their situation as it was right now. He stayed silent.
“I don’t know what happened to you two over- I don’t know why you two never-” She waved a hand at the air in front of Mouse and hoped that he understood what she meant. “But I know that he wants you here now, and I know that he doesn’t want to push me into anything, and all I know about myself is that I don’t want you to leave.” Well, that was step one.
She watched Mouse duck his head again and wring his hands some more and his knuckles were as white as sheets and she knew he was about to tell her that, that wasn’t enough and he couldn’t stay in a two sided triangle of a relationship. That, a situation like that would inevitably lead them back to where they were now, with Mouse leaving.
She floundered for a moment, watching Mouse continue to wring his hands, but she really didn’t know how to get the next part out. The really important part. So instead she moved, walking around the counter and losing sight of him as the pillar of the island blocked her view, but then she rounded it into the kitchen and she didn’t stop until there was barely a foot between them.
She tipped her head to look him in the eyes. “Mouse.” She whispered again, and he looked torn and terrified, but then it seemed like his legs had a mind of their own and he stepped towards her, once, twice and now there was barely an inch between them and the electricity crackled around them.
“Erin.” He mirrored her, whispering her name back to her and then suddenly his hand was in her hair and her eyes were closing and his mouth was on hers and his tongue was teasing at her bottom lip and she couldn’t resist but to let him in, let him have her.
Her hands flew to his chest, his shoulders, and he was smaller than Jay, but solid, solid muscle under his baggy t-shirt and she squeezed her hand slightly, appreciating the power he held in his scrawny package. And she could feel it ten fold when the hand he didn’t have in her hair, wrapped around her back and gently jerked her against his own hard body.
His kissed her softly, his tongue flicking against hers, loving and soft and then he pulled back. Kissed her chaste once more and then put air between them, his hand slid from around her to rest on her hip, the other falling from her hair to hang at his side. He breathed heavily as he stared into her eyes, trying to figure out where to go from here.
She stared back.
And she watched as guilt and terror replaced the torn and terrified look he had before. So not much of an improvement then.
“Huh. Well, please don’t stop on my account.”
Jay’s smug voice came from their right, and when she glanced to him he was leaning against the counter with a shit-eating grin on his face.
And while she barely reacted to the intrusion, Mouse wasn’t so calm. His body jerked in surprise and his hand snapped away from her hip as he flicked a quick glance toward Jay and then dropped his gaze to the floor like a terrified puppy and she really wished she could stop that look from his ever crossing his face agian.
“Ah, shit. Jay…” Mouse swore and he looked up with a pleading look and it broke Erin’s heart a little. And apparently it broke Jay’s as well, because her partner’s face fell and he strode around the counter, passed Erin and moved straight into Mouse’s space. He gripped the smaller man’s shoulders and then suddenly Jay was kissing that horrible, guilty expression off of Mouse’s face.
The kiss was fierce and passionate and Erin thought it was probably about ten years in the making.
Mouse seemed to melt against Jay’s hands, where the taller man was still gripping his shoulders and a moan emanated from somewhere between the two of them.
A slow burn seemed to encompass Erin’s entire body as she watched them and her lips tingled at the thought that now she’d kissed them both.
Jay pulled back after a moment, once he was sure the guilt had been washed from Mouse’s face and leaned his forehead against the smaller man’s as they both breathed hard.
“Hey.” Jay whispered and Mouse stared up into his eyes as a small grin stretched over his face. And then Jay rocked his head slightly until Erin was in his field of view and he smiled, extending an arm toward her and she couldn’t help her smile, couldn’t help the few steps it took to reach them both. She ducked under Jay’s outstretched arm and stepped up close to his side, even as he dipped his head down to her and put his lips against hers, where his oldest friend’s had been just a few minutes ago.
She melted into the familiar kiss even as she reached a hand out and found a grip once again against Mouse’s arm and then Jay was pulling away for breath and the three of them stood there, in the kitchen of the small apartment, in an awkward triangle, smiling stupidly and just a little bit high on happiness.
“Not to be a buzzkill,” Jay’s voice was loud in the quiet kitchen, in their still little bubble. “But it’s really late. We should, ah, move this to the bedroom.” He obviously meant to sleep, but he couldn’t help the suggestive raise of his eyebrows and Erin could only roll her eyes at him.
She looked to Mouse again. “You’ll stay?” She asked him quietly.
Mouse looked at Jay, checking that before hadn’t been all a trick and that he was still welcome and wanted by the taller man and Jay responded by lifting a hand to his cheek and caressing once, all the answer the slighter man needed.
And then Mouse looked to Erin, and the want and need and hope were all written on her face and she watched as a small smile stretched his lips and he nodded. And suddenly the hand on his face was tugging him forward and then Jay was kissing him again.
“Ok, ok.” Erin butt in after a few moments. “Bedroom, boys.” And she nudged them enough that they were forced to pull apart, Jay stumbling back a step.
“Oh, so this is how it’s going to go, huh?” Jay eyed her deviously, quirking an eyebrow at her and she could see the calculating look in his eye, even as she took a wary step back from him.
“Jay.” She warned, and she was so focussed on her partner that she was absolutely surprised when she was suddenly hoisted into a bridal carry. “Shit! Mouse!” She exclaimed and then cackled as she was carted toward the bedroom by the last person she expected.
Erin blinked into the blackness that was the bedroom, her mind foggy with sleep, unsure as to what had awoken her.
She breathed deep and blinked again, shifting her position in the bed slightly, testing her body and checking her surroundings.
The room was heady with warmth and she wasn’t the slightest bit cold, there was no urge from her bladder to head to the bathroom and she shifted again as she settled on the fact that nothing had awoken her, she was simply just awake. And so she could relax and just let sleep consume her once more. She moved her arm gently forward, searching for Jay, and coming into contact with his shoulder at the same time as she realised that there was a heavy, warm weight behind her that was clearly a body. And clearly not Jay.
The evening’s events flooded her mind and she couldn’t stop the grin from spreading over her face as she rolled slightly in order to make sure Mouse was, in fact, real.
She was careful, but obviously not careful enough because as she rolled, the jostling of the bed had Mouse shifting, freezing and then rapidly flicking his eyes open. He relaxed and grinned as soon as his eyes settled on her shadowed face, mirroring her own smile, both of them slightly giddy at this new development. Erin couldn’t help herself from shuffling an inch closer to him, until she could press her arm into his front.
His grin only grew at the contact and a second later, his lips were on hers in a gentle, drawn out kiss that she immediately melted into.
And once again they were startled by their third party as he rolled in the giant bed, shifting up behind Erin and wrapping a strong arm around her midsection, his face buried in the back of her neck as he groaned. “Why are you two awake?” He mumbled into her hair.
The only answer Erin and Mouse had for him was guilty smiles and quiet chuckles.
Jay’s arm that was around Erin’s middle, shifted until he had a hand resting lightly on Mouse’s forearm. He turned his head to look back at the alarm clock. “If we go back to sleep now, we can sleep for another whole three hours and still have time for… this… before we have to be at work.” He squeezed the pair of them gently with the one arm.
And again, Erin and Mouse just chuckled at him.
“Sure, Jay. ‘This’ in the morning then. Go back to sleep.” Erin instructed at him, still smiling at Mouse; pressed in close to him.
“Yeah, Jay.” Mouse added, “Go back to sleep.” And put his mouth back where it had been before they were rudely interrupted.
Jay groaned again. “No.” he whined. “You two can’t exclude me from this just because I’m tired. It’s not fair.”
They both chuckled at Jay again, Mouse reluctantly pulling his lips away from Erin’s in acquiescence. “Ok, ok. But in the morning…” He left the thought hanging.
“In the morning.” Jay agreed and then it was clear that he was asleep again.
Erin grinned at her new partner again and she was tempted to go back to what they were doing a second ago, but she was really tired and they did have work in the morning and three was surely going to be better than two and so she nudged Mouse with her arm, still smiling and he got the message, shifting even closer before he leaned in to kiss her forehead as her eyes drifted closed again.