The weekend getaway is a success. The opera was excellent, the B&B is charming, and they're sitting out on the balcony. The moon is full, casting romantic shadows over the landscape. Really the only thing left to do is kiss the girl. Hobson. Laura. She leans in to him as he moves to kiss her, smiling up at him affectionately. He is surprised it's taken so long, really. They're perfectly matched.
He kisses her. It is…pleasant. Comfortable. His body stirs at her touch. And if it isn't fireworks, well, he isn't getting any younger. They neither of them are, to be honest. It is ridiculous to feel disappointed.
They would be good together, he knows it. He isn't in love with her, but he's had that once, and it's gone now, and it's greedy to want it again. He and Laura could be happy together, grow old together.
But when he draws back and looks at her, her expression is wry. "It's not going to work, is it?" she says. Her voice is resigned.
"You've decided that on the basis of one kiss?" Lewis asks incredulously.
"Robbie, you know it too. We've been friends a long time. If it was going to happen, it would have already."
"Now, that's not fair. Maybe I was being a gentleman."
"I don't want a gentleman."
"So you'd rather I ravished you against this wall here?"
Laura has the cheek to look intrigued. "It'd be a start."
"I don't understand women sometimes, I really don't."
Laura pats his cheek. "And that's how we like it." She sits down at the table and picks up her champagne glass. "To friendship," she says, holding it up.
Lewis sighs and sits down beside her. He picks up his glass. "To friendship," he agrees. He thinks about how many people he really calls friends nowadays. Most of the people he'd been friends with in the old days have faded away, either because they were Val's friends, or because he hadn't really bothered to make an effort to stay in touch after he'd been seconded. Laura, of course, but other than her he mostly spends his off duty hours with Hathaway.
"You're thinking about our blue-eyed boy, aren't you?"
"You mean Hathaway?"
"Of course I mean Hathaway."
"Yeah, I was. How'd you know?"
Hobson smiles impishly. "I can read minds, I keep telling you," she says.
"Gaah," Lewis says, exhaling heavily.
"Is he seeing anyone?"
"How would I know?"
"Not that I know of. Why, are you interested?" he asks, only half joking. Something seems to have changed between Laura and Hathaway since Hathaway'd rescued her from the grave while Lewis chased down the villains. They never mention that night.
He doesn't like the idea, he realises. He doesn't know why. It's not the age difference, he's quite aware this is the 21st century, thank you. Is he jealous of his friends? Is he that petty?
Laura is smirking at him now. He tries not to feel irritated.
"No," she says at last.
Lewis doesn't say anything.
"Neither is he," she says. She pauses. "At least, not in me."
"You mean there is someone?"
"Oh, I think so."
"Well, who is it? That girl at the front desk who always smiles at him?" Lewis can never remember her name. She seems nice.
Laura shakes her head, looking mysterious.
"Well, don't keep me in suspense, woman."
"Why are you so interested?" she asks.
Silly question. "Because he's my sergeant. My friend. And in case you haven't noticed, his relationships have a habit of crashing and burning. Quite literally."
"Your awkward sod?"
"That's what you said, once. That's he's 'your awkward sod.'"
"Well there you go, then."
Lewis takes a deep breath. Patience. "So who is it?"
Laura actually rolls her eyes at him.
It still takes him a minute to get it. "Me?"
"I think so."
He looks at her incredulously. "I don't believe it."
"I'm not sure. It's not like we exchange girlish confidences when you're not around. But yes, I believe so. Worth thinking about, don't you think?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he's a good catch."
Lewis stares at her, astounded. "I don't want to catch him! I'm not… that way. Gay."
"I didn't say you were. It's just; you two seem to have something special, and in this day and age sexuality's more… fluid, isn't it."
"My sexuality is not fluid or anything else, thank you," he says firmly. He ignores the weird feeling in his stomach at the thought that Hathaway might fancy him.
Hobson takes a sip of her champagne. "My mistake. Forget I mentioned it." She looks up at him through her lashes. "Shame though. I know I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating biscuits," she says mischievously.
"Laura!" Lewis says, in mock outrage.
"What?" Hobson looks at him, all wide-eyed innocence.
"That's enough out of you," he grumbles.
And that seems to be that.
They decide they'll make an early start back to Oxford the next day. Traffic on the motorway is surprisingly light, and they make good time. Lewis drops Laura off with a friendly kiss to her invitingly tilted cheek. She smells like jasmine. She smiles and waves once as she lets herself in the front door. Lewis stifles a feeling of regret as the door closes. It feels like a bloody metaphor.
Back in his flat he finds himself at a loose end. The place is too quiet, that's the problem. Where's a noisy neighbour when you need one?
In the end he goes to Hathaway's. Only when he's parked and opened his door does it occur to him to question what the hell he's doing. Okay, so he and Hathaway are friends. Hathaway quite often follows him home after their shift; they have dinner, unwind.
Yes, Hathaway is a friend, but is he a good enough friend that if you turn up on his doorstep on a Sunday afternoon on his weekend off he's happy to see you? Lewis isn't sure.
Lewis hits the steering wheel with both palms, once. Then he turns the ignition on and is about to close the car door when an arm reaches in, turns the engine off again and removes the keys.
"Oi," Lewis protests, but without too much heat.
Hathaway is leaning down, peering in at him. "You coming in?"
"Oh, why not," he mutters. He's here now, and besides, he suspects that Hathaway's not really asking, and attempting to retrieve his keys would just be undignified.
Hathaway doesn't seem particularly surprised at his unexpected arrival. He doesn't ask him why he's here, but sets about making coffee. Lewis sits on Hathaway's spotless white sofa and looks around at the immaculate flat. The only thing out of place is the guitar propped against the armchair.
Hathaway sits in the armchair and they sip coffee. The silence isn't uncomfortable. After a while Lewis gestures awkwardly at the guitar. "Did I interrupt…?"
Hathaway grimaces a bit, shakes his head slightly. "It's okay," he says.
"No, I…." Lewis stumbles a bit, he doesn't know why. "I mean, if you don't mind, I'd like you to go on."
Hathaway looks surprised but he puts down his mug and picks up his guitar quite readily. Lewis tilts his head back and idly watches the long fingers stroke the guitar, pluck the strings. Hathaway plays something foreign sounding, something melodic and soothing.
He blinks his eyes open to long shadows striping the room. Hathaway is reading something serious-looking in a pool of light from a table lamp. Still half asleep, he watches the pale eyes dart back and forth across the page, watches his mouth quirk slightly in reaction to something he's read. Lewis feels more relaxed than he has in a long time.
After a few minutes Hathaway glances up and catches his eye. Lewis is embarrassed to be caught staring and makes a bit of a show of stretching, as though he's just woken up. Hathaway smiles at him. "I didn't have the heart to wake you," he says. "You looked like you needed the rest."
Lewis wipes a hand across his mouth surreptitiously, chagrined to find he'd been drooling slightly. "Sorry about that," he says. "I should probably get going." He sits up, looks around for his keys.
"I haven't eaten," Hathaway says. Lewis looks at him in surprise. Hathaway rubs the back of his neck. "Fancy a meal down the pub?"
Lewis does. He spares a moment to be grateful that Hathaway apparently doesn't have any other plans and doesn't seem to be sick of his company yet. Laura's words echo in his mind – you two have something special, and worth thinking about, don't you think? He studies Hathaway's face, looking for any sign that Laura was right, but Hathaway is wearing his most inscrutable expression.
They walk down to the pub in companionable silence. They've got their meals and Lewis has just taken a large swig of his beer when Hathaway says, "I thought you and Dr Hobson had plans this weekend."
Lewis chokes a bit as the beer goes down wrong. "We did," he says, when he stops coughing. "We came back early."
"Ah," Hathaway says.
"What do you mean, 'ah'?" Lewis asks, nettled.
"Nothing," Hathaway says, apparently looking for the secrets of the universe in his beer.
"No, go on, what?" Hathaway can be so damn enigmatic when he chooses to, and Lewis can't help but wonder what conclusions he's drawing about him and Laura now.
"Look, I'm sorry I mentioned it," Hathaway says and his withdrawal is so palpable it's as if he's folded into himself.
Lewis doesn't like it when he does that. "It wasn't right, okay?" he snaps.
"Is this where I'm supposed to say 'I'm sorry'?" asks Hathaway blandly.
'Oh, really? On what?"
"On whether you are."
Lewis sips his beer while he thinks about that. He's not sure how he feels yet. He considers Hathaway's choice of words. He finds himself wondering what exactly Hathaway means, whether Hathaway does indeed fancy him, as Laura believes. He wonders if it matters, if he should be more bothered about it. Because really, he knows who he'd rather be spending time with, doesn't he, if he's being honest.
"No," he says firmly. "No, I'm not."
Hathaway's eyes widen slightly. He looks down at his plate and suddenly appears to notice his Guinness pie. He picks up his knife and fork and cuts into it vigorously. There's a small smile lurking at the corner of his mouth.
Lewis decides not to think about that smile, whether or not it means anything.
"I've just had an interesting talk with our illustrious boss," Lewis announces a few weeks later, when Hathaway comes in.
"Oh, yes, sir?" Hathaway says encouragingly, handing him a takeaway coffee. Lewis takes it gratefully.
"You know much about the case Peterson and Ng are working on?"
"The one with the gay couples?" Hathaway slumps in his chair. "Not much, why?"
"Three of them." Lewis says. He's surprised there hasn't been more about it in the Press. "Three couples, all bludgeoned to death in their homes in the last six months. They've no leads, apart from the fact that they all frequented The Red Lion."
"That pub we went to before?"
"What did Innocent want?"
"A fresh perspective."
"And she asked you?" Hathaway says a bit snippily.
Lewis looks at him in surprise. Hathaway shrugs an apology. "Both of us," Lewis clarifies. "Because of our extensive knowledge of the gay community."
"I wasn't aware we had any," Hathaway says drily.
Lewis hesitates. "Apparently, our work on the Will McEwan case makes us the resident experts."
Hathaway's face is worryingly blank. "That was over two years ago."
"They're desperate. Apparently Peterson and Ng have managed to put people's backs up. No one's talking to them."
"Well, they're not the most personable of people, are they?"
Lewis restrains himself from a frank opinion on exactly what he thinks of those two's people skills only because their office door is open.
"And Innocent thinks that people will talk to us?"
Lewis grimaces. "Not exactly."
Hathaway looks at him blankly. "Then what?"
"The other thing all the victims all had in common?" Lewis takes a drink of his coffee. It's only lukewarm now, dammit.
Hathaway is starting to look at him suspiciously. "I'm not going to like this, am I, sir?" Hathaway says wryly.
"Age difference of more than twenty years."
"And this has to do with us, what exactly?"
Lewis looks at him.
Hathaway stares at him incredulously. "No."
"It's not an order, but we've been asked to consider it."
"That was definite. Should I be offended?"
"Not everything's about you, sir. But now that you mention it, have you ever been undercover?"
"Once, a long time ago. Look, it's not like we have to play different characters or anything. Just be ourselves… with a bit of hand-holding, maybe."
"A bit of hand-holding, I see," Hathaway says blandly. He looks thoughtful. Suddenly he smiles to himself and nods. Lewis wonders if he should be worried. It never ends well when Hathaway smiles like that.
Whatever his initial objections had been, Hathaway shows up on Lewis's doorstep with a backpack and his guitar, and paper-wrapped fish and chips from the local shop. It smells good. Lewis's stomach growls, reminding him he hasn't eaten dinner yet.
"The couples that were murdered were living together, sir. I'm afraid you're stuck with me for the duration," he says cheerfully as he manoeuvres his way past Lewis in the doorway.
"I've only the one bed," he says.
"I think that's the point, sir," Hathaway says as he hands over the food and disappears in the direction of the bedroom.
"Oh, come now, we don't need to take the charade that far, surely."
"Don't worry, I promise not to ravish you," Hathaway calls out, sounding amused. "But if we're doing this we should make it as realistic as possible, after all, we don't know how closely the killer will be watching."
"If he notices us at all." Lewis decides that wine is called for and opens a new bottle. "I'm beginning to have my doubts about this plan," he confesses, pouring a couple of glasses and handing one to Hathaway, who's apparently finished stashing his stuff in Lewis's bedroom and come into the kitchen.
"Bit late now," Hathaway points out.
Lewis carries the food and plates and cutlery over to the coffee table and sits on the sofa. It's only when Hathaway joins him carrying their wine glasses and the rest of the bottle that he suddenly notices that he's hogging the middle, Hathaway sliding into a corner in a familiar way that makes him suddenly realise that he always does that, that they always sit so close together. Hathaway seems totally unfazed by it.
"Who says he'll even notice us? I don't know what I was thinking, agreeing to this."
"Oh, I think it's worth a try. All three couples were approximately our ages—it's unlikely to be a coincidence that all three killings were of couples with such a large age difference."
"Yes, thank you for pointing out how old I am."
"That's not what I meant."
"I know. I'm joking." Lewis hesitates. Hathaway looks fine, but then he always does, doesn't he? And then the next thing you know he's sleeping with accessories to murder or having to be carried out of burning buildings. Lewis cuts that thought short, feeling vaguely ashamed.
"Look. Jim, I didn't think. That going back to that club might be painful for you, stir up old memories," he says finally. "If you don't want to do this, say the word."
"I'm fine," Hathaway says earnestly. "Really, sir."
Lewis looks at him doubtfully. "If you say so."
"I do." Hathaway sits forward and unwraps the food.
Apparently that's the end of that conversation. Lewis grabs the remote and switches on the news. They eat in front of the telly and finish off the bottle of wine while watching an old Poirot film. Hathaway kicks off his trainers at some point, and with a mischievous look from under his lashes, curls up against the arm of the sofa, his feet resting against Lewis's thigh. Lewis refuses to give him the satisfaction and resolutely ignores the unexpected tingling sensation. He stares blindly at the talking heads on the screen. Eventually Hathaway falls asleep.
It's only when the film finishes and Lewis goes to pick up the remote to turn the telly off that he realises his hand has been resting on Hathaway's foot. He lifts it off hurriedly. He's tempted to throw a blanket over Hathaway and leave him there, but his conscience gets the better of him and he leans over and prods him.
"Oi. Bed, you."
"Hmm?" Hathaway's unexpectedly endearing, blinking sleepily, languidly stretching long limbs.
"I'm off to bed. I sleep on the right side, just so you know."
Hathaway blinks up at him. "I'm coming," he says.
Right. Lewis leaves him to it.
In bed, he can hear Hathaway moving about in the kitchen, the tap running, the clink of a glass on the draining board, then in the bathroom, cleaning his teeth, and then a whisper of sound as he moves around the bedroom, changing into pyjamas presumably. The bed dips as Hathaway slides in and the duvet shifts as he pulls it over him. There's a brief draft of air against his back and Lewis is conscious that Hathaway is lying only inches away. He suddenly wonders whether Hathaway is lying facing away from or towards him and has to control the impulse to turn and see.
"Good night, sir."
The incongruity of Hathaway calling him sir now of all times suddenly makes him grin. He shifts over so he's facing the shadow in the darkness.
"You should probably call me Robbie now, since we're sleeping together and all."
There's a pause. "Yes, sir."
There's another pause. "Robbie."
Lewis sighs. "As long as you remember to do it when we have an audience."
"Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir."
Lewis wakes up to the smell of bacon cooking and the sounds of someone clattering around in the kitchen. He stumbles yawning into the kitchen and is greeted by the sight of a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Hathaway in low-riding pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt, singing along to Queen on the radio as he cracks eggs into a pan. Lewis has a confusing moment of being torn between appreciation for, and jealousy of, his youth and beauty. He firmly suppresses both.
"What time is it?" he mumbles, sinking into a chair.
Hathaway looks up and flashes him a smile. "Morning, dear," he says.
"It feels weird calling you Robbie."
Lewis rubs his face. It's too early for this. "And 'dear' is less weird?"
Hathaway shrugs. A plate of bacon and eggs and tomato and a glass of orange juice appears in front of Lewis. It smells fantastic and Lewis is suddenly ravenously hungry. He picks up his knife and fork and tucks in. It's just as good as it looks. "Marry me?" he says jokingly through a mouthful of food.
Hathaway raises an eyebrow at him in a bemused way as he joins Lewis at the table. He has an omelette. There are vegetables in it. Lewis feels an odd warm sensation at the realisation that Hathaway's gone to extra effort to make him his favourite breakfast. He doesn't remember saying anything, but he knows Hathaway well enough to know that he must have mentioned it at some point. Lewis knows better than to ask though. Hathaway would only give him that bemused look. Maybe a shrug. He makes sure he mops his plate and when he passes Hathaway to take it to the kitchen he drops a hand briefly on Hathaway's shoulder.
"This is the same place we came to before?" Lewis says in surprise. "It looks like an ordinary pub without all that rainbow paraphernalia."
"And the people look just like regular punters too," Hathaway says in his ear, in a marvelling tone.
Lewis gives him an exasperated look. Hathaway cocks his head and smiles sunnily back at him.
Lewis automatically heads for a corner table with his beer, but halts when Hathaway takes his arm. He lets Hathaway steer him to a table in a more open area.
Hathaway drops his hand over Lewis's on the table. Lewis stares at it, then looks up at Hathaway. "We're more visible here, sir," Hathaway says, a smile lurking around his eyes.
"What now, do you think?"
"It's a pub. We drink. And since we're technically off-duty, maybe even have more than one. Hathaway widens his eyes dramatically. "Perhaps even a meal." He picks up the menu.
"We should question the bar staff."
"I'm pretty sure that defeats the purpose of being undercover, sir," Hathaway says.
"I'm a bit out of my element here," Lewis admits.
"I suggest we start coming here whenever we can, make it our regular. Let people get used to us. Then we can start 'interrogating' them."
"That could take a while."
Hathaway shrugs and grimaces.
Lewis sees a familiar figure across the room. "Ah hell."
"What is it?" Hathaway says. He doesn't turn around. Good lad.
"That bloke Conan. I interviewed him. There's no way he won't remember us."
Hathaway looks thoughtful. "Maybe he won't say anything."
Conan's on the other side of the pub and Lewis can still hear him, his shrill voice carrying across the room.
"He didn't strike me as particularly discreet."
"He was helpful though. Conan knows a lot of people. If we explain what's at stake?"
"Maybe. Maybe it won't come to that, if we're very lucky he may not notice us."
Of course, at that moment Conan looks up and meets his eyes. Conan's eyes widen dramatically.
"He saw you?"
"He not only saw me, but he's now coming over here."
"Well, well, look what the cat dragged in," Conan says loudly from behind Hathaway. Hathaway winces.
"Will you join us?" Lewis asks in his friendliest manner.
Conan looks surprised but throws himself into a seat. "Inspector Lewis, isn't it, and…." He narrows his eyes at Hathaway.
"James," Hathaway says and smiles charmingly at Conan. He lets go of Lewis's hand and sits back.
"And it's Robbie, please," Lewis says. "We're not on duty."
"Well in that case, you can buy me the most expensive cocktail on the menu, considering the harrowing ordeal I was subjected to at your hands."
Lewis frowns. "If you have a complaint about your treatment I suggest you take it up with the IPCC."
Conan rolls his eyes and sighs dramatically. "I'm kidding!" he says loudly.
Lewis isn't impressed.
Hathaway stands up. "I'll get the drinks," he says, smiling down at Conan. "The most expensive, you said?"
Conan flutters his eyelashes at him. "I'll have a Porn Star, please," he purrs.
Hathaway nods. "One Porn Star, coming up. Robbie, same again?"
Lewis drains his glass. "Yes," he says emphatically, "please."
Conan stares at Lewis while Hathaway is gone, meditatively biting a fingernail. Lewis returns his gaze evenly.
"Whoever blinks first buys the next round?" Hathaway asks, sliding the drinks onto the table. His hand brushes Lewis's shoulder as he moves past him to sit down. The sensation lingers unexpectedly. Lewis watches Conan's eyes follow the gesture.
"No, I don't buy it," he announces a couple of minutes later. "What are you really doing here?"
Lewis looks at Hathaway. "If we can't convince him—"
"Ah, but I knew you before," Conan interrupts, waving his hands about. "Otherwise I wouldn't have guessed."
Hathaway leans forward. "We're undercover," he says quietly.
"I knew it!"
"Keep your voice down, man!"
Conan leans forward conspiratorially. "Is this about the murders?"
"You know about them?"
"Of course, everyone does. People are keeping their doors locked nowadays, I can tell you!"
"We're bait," Lewis says bluntly.
Conan's eyes go round with wonder. "Oooh," he says.
"We need you to keep quiet about us, can you do that?"
Conan makes a zipping gesture across his mouth.
Lewis closes his eyes in frustration. "All right, then," he says with forced calm.
Conan sips his cocktail. Lewis exchanges a concerned glance with Hathaway.
Suddenly Conan sits forward. "What can I do to help?"
"You want to help?"
"I knew a couple of the men who were murdered. Not well, but they were Family, you know? And as long as that madman is out there, no one's safe!"
"Introduce us around. If anyone asks, make sure you tell them that we live together."
"You live together?" Conan asks, distracted.
Lewis opens his mouth to say 'at the moment', but then Hathaway leans forward. "Yes," he says firmly.
Conan's eyes dart between them again. He looks thoughtful.
"In the meantime," Lewis says deliberately, and Conan looks back at him. "Tell us everything you know about the men who were murdered."
Innocent seems amused when Lewis tells her Hathaway has moved in with him already.
"We've been told the victims used to go to a club by the name of Communion."
"That's the one that's in a church, isn't it?"
"Yes, ma'am. It's owned by Henry McEwan, the father of that friend of Hathaway's who killed himself."
"Do you think there's a connection?"
"Doubtful, after all this time, ma'am. It's become mostly a gay club nowadays, the gay club, I believe."
Innocent nods thoughtfully. "If the killer is watching his victims before he kills them, he'll know you're police officers. What makes you think he'll risk going after you?"
"One of the victims was a judge, another one was a lawyer. I don't believe our being police officers will put him off, ma'am – quite the opposite I would say."
"Well, that's good I suppose," she says, doubtfully. "You'll have to be convincing, though, otherwise he might smell a trap."
"I've been reliably informed that we're quite convincing, ma'am. I don't think that's going to be an issue."
"Is that so?" Innocent says, looking intrigued.
Lewis hurries on before she can decide to ask for details. "Plus the fact that we're not trying to conceal the fact that we're police officers probably works in our favour too."
"Hiding in plain sight, you mean?"
"And when are you going to this club?"
"Next week. Hathaway tells me they're having some sort of special event—a 'couple's night' thing. Since the whole point is to attract attention…." Lewis makes a face. "I'm not sure if I should be worried about what I'm getting myself into."
"The mind boggles," Innocent says dryly. The phone on her desk rings and she reaches for it.
That seems to be all. Lewis gets up to leave.
"Robbie, be careful," Innocent says, her hand on the receiver. "Watch out for each other."
Lewis pauses at the door. "Always do, ma'am."
Hathaway is the perfect houseguest. He cooks and even cleans up the kitchen while Lewis is doing the dishes; he's tidy, doesn't play loud music and seems happy to watch whatever Lewis puts on, though he's not above some not-so-gentle mockery when Lewis switches on a gardening show. Lewis gets used to having him around probably too quickly; he never had liked being on his own. Now Lewis mostly remembers to take a seat on one side of the sofa when they settle down for the evening so that Hathaway isn't crammed into the corner. Hathaway seems to take it as an invitation to stretch out with his feet in Lewis's lap. Lewis finds he doesn't mind. It's a role they're playing, right?
One night he starts awake after nodding off in front of Jamie Oliver and catches Hathaway regarding him meditatively. For a moment they stare at each other, and for some reason Lewis feels his pulse rate increase. Then Hathaway blinks and looks back at the television. Lewis does too. Jamie's cooking tips have never been so interesting.
The music is that newfangled techno stuff and deafening, the strobing lights disorientating. It takes Lewis a few minutes to get his bearings as they make their way around the edge of the dancing crowd—if you can call it that—leaping about, sweating, couples grinding against each other, not all of them men, or even the same sex. He glances at Hathaway, who of course looks completely at home, wearing jeans and a tightish t-shirt with some kind of animal design on it. He's looking around with interest, a small smile on his face. He catches Lewis's eye and his smile widens. He leans over to shout into Lewis's ear. Unexpectedly, Lewis gets a whiff of his cologne, something understated, masculine. It suits him.
"We should dance," he half-asks, and before Lewis can reply firmly in the negative, Hathaway has taken his hand and is pulling him into the crowd. Hathaway's hand is warm and dry, curled around his own, unexpectedly… nice… and Lewis doesn't know what to make of that and is relieved when Hathaway lets go, only to feel a rush of disorientation as Hathaway slides long arms around his waist and wriggles to the music. His arms come up automatically and he can't work out what to do with them. The obvious place would be Hathaway's shoulders, but he isn't used to that, he's used to being the taller person, not the…woman. But that's the point, isn't it. Neither of them are women, so he needs to get over it. Lewis tries to relax, tries to move in time to the music, such as it is. Hathaway smiles at him in approval. Lewis gives him a look of exasperation. Hathaway isn't attempting to grind against him, like some of the couples around them, he isn't even holding Lewis particularly close, but Lewis is very aware of the arms holding him, the slim body brushing against his, of Hathaway smiling at him affectionately. It's making him feel… things. Things he hasn't felt in a long time. It's as if his body is waking up. It doesn't seem to matter that the body in his arms is male. If this goes on much longer his reaction is going to be all too obvious.
Then the music changes to something slow and sexy-sounding. The lights stop flashing and the room dims. Hathaway shifts closer and his arms tighten. He tucks his face into Lewis's neck and breathes out and God, Lewis isn't the only one, Hathaway is hard too, and they're barely moving now, the music's far away and Lewis thinks, oh hell, what now? It's only when there's a huff of laughter against his neck and Hathaway's lips against his ear sending a sudden shudder of sensation through him that he realises he's said that aloud. "Whatever you want, sir," Hathaway says, and the way he says it, the way he says it, Lewis feels like a teenager again; if Hathaway were to reach down right now, were to so much as touch him, there's a real possibility he'll come right here, surrounded by all these people. And that thought should horrify him, not make him harder, not make him want to take Hathaway's hand and drag it down.
Hathaway grabs his hand and pulls him through the crowd. Lewis is grateful they're moving, that they're getting out of there and doesn't ask where they're going until he realises that Hathaway is heading towards the gents. "Jim, no," he protests but Hathaway looks back at him with one hot, desperate look and Lewis finds himself dragged into one of the cubicles, the door banging shut behind them. Lewis has time to feel thankful that it at least seems reasonably clean for a public toilet, and then Hathaway is sinking to his knees. He's scrabbling at Lewis's flies. His hands are shaking and he's going to rip something at this rate so instead of protesting—Lewis should be putting a stop to this, God what are they doing?—he's reaching to help Hathaway, their hands getting in the way of each other.
Then Hathaway has him; Hathaway takes hold of him and frees him from his briefs and God that's his mouth. Lewis can't help it, he looks down, looks down at the blond head bowed before him, the beautiful mouth closing around his dick. Hathaway's cheeks are hollowing as he sucks and fuck, fuck, Hathaway is sucking him in the gents of a gay club. Hell, they could probably be fired for this and right now, right now it'd be worth it, because Hathaway's hand is doing something behind his balls, and oh, fuck, that's it, he's gone. He spurts into Hathaway's mouth. Hathaway's not pulling away. Hathaway's swallowing. Hathaway's staring up at him, Lewis's come leaking from one corner of his mouth. It's dirty and it's unbelievably hot and Lewis barely notices that he's biting his hand to stifle a yell, because Jesus, he hasn't had an orgasm this intense in years.
When he can gather himself together he does himself up shakily. Hathaway is still on his knees, his hand between his legs, his head bowed, gasping sharply. Lewis should do…something. It's only fair. "Jim?" he rasps.
"Don't," Hathaway groans. Lewis puts his hand on his head, a benediction, and Hathaway shudders sharply and orgasms. Lewis has a brief glimpse of the come striping Hathaway's fist, then Hathaway falls forward and Lewis finds himself cradling his head as he gasps brokenly, his cheek pressed against Lewis's thigh. He stays like that for long enough that Lewis begins to worry that his knees must be hurting. He wonders what's going through Hathaway's mind right now. He can't bring himself to break the moment.
When Hathaway eventually stands up he doesn't look Lewis in the eye. He washes his hands briskly in the basin. They're shaking. He roughly drags an arm across his mouth in an atypical gesture and heads at a near run towards the club's exit. Lewis has to hurry to keep up. In the car he clears his throat, he knows they need to talk about this, but for the life of him he has no idea how to even begin. But Hathaway gives him a pleading look as he turns on the ignition and pulls out on to the main road. Lewis stares at his profile, intermittently illuminated by passing streetlamps, but Hathaway doesn't look over at him at all. After a while Lewis turns his head to stare out at the rain instead.
Hathaway sleeps on the sofa that night.
Breakfast is porridge. There are black bits in it, and the kitchen smells a bit of burnt oats. Lewis knows better than to comment. Hathaway doesn't take his eyes off his bowl. Lewis puts his empty one in the sink next to the pan soaking there. They ride to work in silence too. Once there Hathaway is very polite and very distant, and Lewis has to bite his tongue a few times on the urge to tell him to knock it off. When the call comes in it's a relief.
Being out in the field is refreshing after the claustrophobic atmosphere in their office. Laura's already inspecting the body when they pick their way down to the river's edge.
"Do we have an ID?" Lewis asks, rubbing his hands against the chill.
Laura indicates the neatly folded clothes over by the reeds. There's a colourfully patterned handbag perched on top of the pile. "It hasn't been disturbed by the looks of things. She hadn't been dead long before a jogger found her."
Hathaway wanders over to the pile and kneels down. Lewis has a sudden memory of the night before, of looking down at Hathaway on his knees, Hathaway staring up at him with such need....
Lewis nearly gasps at the rush of heat that goes through him. He forces the memory away from him with an effort. Laura is peering up at him. "So I hear congratulations are in order?" she says teasingly.
"What?" Hathaway says abruptly, looking up from where he is going through the victim's handbag. It's verging on uncivil, for Hathaway.
Laura doesn't seem to notice. "You two moving in together," she clarifies. She's having trouble keeping a straight face. "Everyone's very happy for you."
"Oh good," Hathaway says, in a tone that makes it clear he means the opposite. "If it's all right with you, sir," he says brusquely, "I'll go and run this ID."
Laura straightens. She looks after the retreating Hathaway in surprise. "What's got his knickers in a twist?"
Lewis checks to make sure there isn't anyone within overhearing distance. "We're not really—you know," he says, though, isn't that a lie, now?
Laura gives him a fondly exasperated look. "Of course I know."
"The Chief told me."
"She told you?"
"Apparently she was under the impression that my feelings might be hurt. Little did she know, eh?" Laura twinkles up at him.
Lewis looks around. He lowers his voice even more. "You were right." He can't bring himself to say anything else.
Lewis looks at her pointedly.
Laura's eyes go round. "Oh," she breathes.
"He told you?"
"Then how…." She looks at him expectantly.
He can't tell her what happened, though he has a horrible feeling his cheeks are reddening. "I figured it out. It's hard to hide things from someone when you're living with them, I guess." There, that was the truth—just not all the truth.
"Oh I don't know. The statistics on infidelity would seem to contradict you."
"Ah, but most people get found out in the end."
Laura shrugs. "And he knows you know?"
"You could say that."
"I take it you didn't fall into his arms and live happily ever after?"
There's an unsettled feeling in his chest. He can see Hathaway striding back towards them. "Not exactly," he says.
Lewis really hopes she doesn't. Hathaway is nearly within hearing range. "Can we talk about the poor dead girl now?" he asks quickly.
Laura looks as if she wants to say something else, but finally nods. She gestures to the body. "In this instance it's mostly likely exactly what it appears to be."
"So, suicide then?"
"There's nothing to indicate otherwise, at least superficially. Obviously I'll need to confirm it once I'm back at the lab."
The girl reminds him of his daughter, a little. What a bloody waste.
After they finish writing up the report, Hathaway announces stiffly that he's going out and won't be home until late. He looks like he expects Lewis to argue. Lewis just nods. Hathaway hesitates at the door. He stares at Lewis, his eyes unreadable. For a moment Lewis hopes that Hathaway's actually going to break the ice.
"I'll see you later," Hathaway mutters, and disappears.
Lewis is torn between irritation and disappointment. He goes home and makes himself a sandwich for dinner. When he realises he's automatically sat down on the one side of the sofa he deliberately shifts back to his old place in the middle. He knock backs a couple of beers and tries not to dwell on how empty the place feels again.
By the time Hathaway comes in, not as late as he'd had been expecting, Lewis is ready to sort this out. All he's been able to think about all night is that they've got to get past this, for the sake of their working relationship, if not their friendship. Lewis doesn't want to have to break in a new partner—he's worked hard training this one up, damn it. And as for their friendship, the sick feeling in Lewis's stomach is probably an indication of just how much he dreads the thought that they might have damaged that. But Hathaway just mutters a goodnight and disappears into the bedroom. Lewis stares at the closed door. Obviously he's not ready to talk about it yet.
To hell with that, Lewis thinks, suddenly angry. He wonders if Hathaway's expecting him to sleep on the sofa this time. Well, that's not going to happen, he's too old for this crap, and he's not risking throwing his back out just because Hathaway's freaking out. Lewis actually feels a bit cheated. If anyone should be freaking out it's him. Hathaway's all young, and… and… metrosexual-like. Lewis is the one who's old enough to know better, who's been happily heterosexual all his damn life thank you very much, and if he can get past this then Hathaway should be able to as well.
Lewis glares at the closed door a while longer, fairly seething with the injustice of it. Then he turns on the telly and stares at it blindly while his mind keeps giving him flashes—Hathaway, agonising: men who commit indecent acts with other men will receive due punishment for their perversion, Hobson, matter-of-fact: Where's your other half? And himself: He's my awkward sod and most of all, he can't help replaying it over and over: Whatever you want, sir, and the image of Hathaway looking up at him, Lewis's dick in his mouth, his pupils dilated, the blue a barely visible ring around the black, his expression for once completely unguarded.
God, he's getting hard again. This won't do. Lewis turns off the telly and gets ready for bed like he usually does, not looking at the still figure curled up on the other side of the bed, his back firmly to Lewis. Lewis would bet money Hathaway isn't asleep, but he doesn't call him on it, he just gets in his own side and tugs until he has a fair share of the duvet. Then he determinedly counts sheep. It takes him a long time to fall asleep.
Hathaway's up first as usual. There are dark shadows under his eyes. He looks as if he hasn't slept at all. Lewis doesn't feel that much better. He sits down heavily at the table and rubs his hands over his face. Hathaway hands him a cup of coffee. There are croissants on the dining table. Lewis wonders if it's a peace offering. He decides to take it as such. "Talk to me," he says mildly, after he's downed half the cup and feels vaguely human again.
Hathaway bites his lip. "I'm sorry," he says.
"Are you," Lewis says flatly.
"I took advantage of you. It was inexcusable. If you want a new partner I'll understand."
"Wait, back up. What?" Typical of Hathaway to blame himself. Lewis should have guessed—he's no doubt been brooding about this the whole time. Lewis had assumed he was embarrassed, regretting it'd happened, but of course Hathaway would go the guilt route.
"Just because someone is aroused, it doesn't mean they give consent," Hathaway bursts out. "You don't want me. It was the atmosphere—I was rubbing up against you, it was just a physiological response to stimulus." The words practically tumble over each other. Hathaway's cheekbones are flushed a deep red.
"Now, just hold on a second." Lewis says. Hathaway's whole body is taut, his face drawn with distress. He can't let him go on. "First of all, I'm big enough and ugly enough to take care of myself. You don't seriously believe that I couldn't have stopped you at any point?"
And that's the real issue here, isn't it? The truth Lewis has been avoiding facing. He'd allowed Hathaway to drag him into the toilet. Hell, he'd helped Hathaway get his trousers open. He hadn't been able to resist Hathaway's pleading expression. And it had been flattering, hadn't it? Hathaway so desperate for him—for him—that had been irresistible.
"Even so." Hathaway says, his hands clenching and unclenching. "I took advantage of you. Of our friendship."
"Stop saying that." Lewis rubs his forehead tiredly. "Look, it happened. If you're to blame for anything it's for making me question everything I thought I knew about myself. Not to mention our relationship."
"And secondly," because he has to say this now. He's been avoiding it long enough, "this didn't come out of nowhere, did it?"
Hathaway looks miserable. "No, sir."
"I know you. You wouldn't have done this with just anybody."
Hathaway's eyes are very wide. He doesn't say anything.
Lewis takes a deep breath. "You fancy me?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir."
Hathaway takes a deep breath. "I prefer not to answer that on the grounds I may incriminate myself."
"If you don't want to work with me anymore—"
"Don't be ridiculous, man," Lewis snaps. "I'm not having this conversation again. For the last time, we work well together. I don't want to have to break in a new partner."
"As for our friendship, I would hate to think we can't get past this."
Lewis rubs his forehead. God, he's had enough of talking about this. "Now, enough of this nonsense about new partners," he says sharply. "Unless you don't want to work with me anymore?"
"No sir. I mean, yes, sir." Hathaway looks like a man reprieved.
Lewis lets out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. "I'm glad that's settled."
Hathaway hesitates. "I'll sleep on the sofa," he says.
Lewis smiles ruefully. "I think that's probably a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, don't you?"
Hathaway smiles wryly. "I guess so," he agrees.
By unspoken consent they neither of them allude to that night again. They both work hard to act as if everything's normal, as though if they pretend long enough, it'll be as if it didn't happen. It seems to work. After all, the only thing that's changed is that now Hathaway knows that Lewis knows that Hathaway fancies him. When Lewis fails to behave any differently towards him, after a while Hathaway stops looking at Lewis as if he expects him to bring him up on charges.
Occasionally they wake up in the morning tangled together. Hathaway quickly pulls away and avoids eye-contact for a while afterwards. But if he's being honest, Lewis likes waking up with Hathaway in his arms. Once he admits that to himself Lewis realises it's time to think about what they're really doing here.
If Hathaway were a woman Lewis would have kissed her by now. They'd be doing more than just cuddling in bed. And given how often the thought of Hathaway's mouth stretched around his dick intrudes on his thoughts and distracts him at inappropriate times, Hathaway's being a man isn't the problem here. He's had plenty of time to come to terms with that.
It's Hathaway. Hathaway shows no signs of wanting to have sex with Lewis again. To be fair, he has no reason to believe that Lewis returns his feelings at all, but maybe that's not it, maybe Lewis's lack of reciprocation last time put him off. Or maybe it wasn't very good. He doesn't know how to approach the issue, though. After their last confrontation Lewis is hesitant to make Hathaway expose himself again. He's tempted to kiss Hathaway and be done with it, see what happens, but somehow he doesn't quite have the nerve.
Then Lewis wakes one night, uncomfortably hot and sweaty, with Hathaway wrapped around him. Hathaway is pressed against his back, his arm wrapped around Lewis's waist, his knees tucked in behind Lewis's. Lewis edges forward a bit. Still asleep, Hathaway mutters Lewis's name and shifts up against him again, his arm tightening around him, and Lewis realises that Hathaway is hard. Experimentally, he moves again. Hathaway mutters again and shifts again. His dick pushes against Lewis's arse, with only two layers of thin cotton keeping things remotely safe. Lewis doesn't want safe anymore. Without letting himself think too much about what he's doing, he moves his leg forward, creating a space for Hathaway, for Hathaway's dick to thrust into, and pushes back.
Lewis can tell the moment Hathaway wakes up. His entire body goes rigid. Any second now he's going to pull away. This is it. The moment. Heart hammering in his chest, he moves his hand to cover Hathaway's, feeling Hathaway's convulsive intake of breath against his back. Slowly he slides their hands down. Hathaway is unresisting. Lewis is not sure he's even breathing. Lewis's dick is definitely taking an interest now. When Lewis slides Hathaway's fingers to the tie that does up his pyjama bottoms, and Hathaway takes the hint and slowly pulls loose the string, Lewis feels himself harden even more in anticipation. God, it's good to feel this way again, the slow curl of arousal, and more, the wave of affection for one's partner. Hathaway's hand hesitates. "Go on, then," Lewis mutters, and Hathaway's hips jerk and he groans into Lewis's neck. His hand finally wraps firmly around Lewis's dick. Lewis can feel the effort Hathaway is making not to move, not to presume, and he doesn't want Hathaway to be tentative, he wants the Hathaway who pushed him into a toilet stall and took what he wanted. Lewis pushes back against Hathaway's groin again, shifts his leg further forward. He can feel the slide of his pyjama bottoms coming undone, half off his arse now and that's not enough, that's not enough dammit. He reaches back himself and works them down to his thighs. Hathaway is gripping him too tightly now, as though his focus has shifted, as though he's not thinking about Lewis now.
Feeling clumsy, hardly able to believe that he's doing this, Lewis reaches behind him. Hathaway's hardly breathing. He fumbles Hathaway out of his pyjamas. "Robbie," Hathaway murmurs, and his voice is reverential. Lewis gets Hathaway positioned and releases him, his arm is twinging from the awkward angle. Hathaway doesn't seem to need any more encouragement though. He thrusts slowly between Lewis's thighs. It's strangely arousing, Hathaway's dick pushing against his balls like that, but Lewis needs more, and Hathaway seems to have forgotten that he's holding Lewis, so Lewis puts his hand over Hathaway's. Thankfully Hathaway takes the hint and starts jerking him.
For a while there's nothing but sensation but then Hathaway thrusts harder, faster, clutching Lewis even more tightly. Lewis feels stifled, the duvet still covering them is trapping the heat, dragging against their sweating bodies, but it's impossible to think beyond the sensations of Hathaway's hand on his dick and Hathaway's dick between his legs. When Hathaway falters suddenly and groans into his neck, his hips spasming, covering Lewis with his body, his hand tightening on Lewis's dick, Lewis comes too, his hot face pushed into the pillow. He feels squashed, he feels protected, and he feels overwhelmed with something that feels very much like love.
Lewis wakes feeling warm and content. The quality of the light in the room tells him it's early morning. He won't be able to go back to sleep so he might as well get up, make them breakfast for a change, maybe even breakfast in bed. But even as he moves, Hathaway mutters something incomprehensible and rolls over. He throws one long arm over Lewis, mumbles again and snuggles closer, his lean body warm all along Lewis's side, his cheek on Lewis's shoulder. Lewis glances down at Hathaway's face: his eyes are closed; fair lashes a barely-there sweep, his breathing deep and even. Lewis carefully works his arm out from under Hathaway and wraps it carefully around his shoulders. He lies like that, not thinking of very much, just enjoying the feeling of holding someone he cares about in his arms again. He watches Hathaway slowly wake up, watches as his eyes focus on Lewis, at the smile that starts and then fades to uncertainty as memory intrudes.
Lewis is having no more bloody misunderstandings, thank you. He leans over and kisses Hathaway firmly. Hathaway smiles against his mouth. His arms come around Lewis. Lewis has a moment of disorientation as he's tipped back against the pillows. Hathaway looks down at him, and for a moment Lewis catches such a look of tenderness that his breath catches. Hathaway's smile fades. He bends his head and kisses Lewis and Lewis doesn't have any more coherent thoughts for a while.
They're late for work.
Their visits to the club have so far failed to produce any leads on the case, though at least there haven't been any more murders. Lewis can't help feeling like they're on borrowed time now, though. Despite a slight feeling of dread about what it might entail, which Lewis feels is perfectly justified and not at all a manifestation of "internalised homophobia" or some such rubbish, he finally decides that they they'll have to be more proactive. He's actually surprised Hathaway hasn't pointed that out already. "What about joining a club or something?" he says, leaning back in his chair.
"Sir?" Hathaway says, looking up from his computer. He's exceptionally cheerful today. Lewis finds it hard to stop smiling himself.
"You know, for gay people."
"A club for gay people," Hathaway repeats. "Like a bridge club, you mean? Where people go to be gay?"
"You know what I mean. The whole point of this charade is to get the killer to target us."
There's a pause. "I'll look into it," Hathaway says and his voice is very even.
With a sinking heart, Lewis recognises that tone.
"What?" he says, exasperatedly.
"Don't give me that."
"No, you're right," says Hathaway in a monotone, turning back to his computer, "the sooner we can end this charade the better."
Ah, hell. "I didn't mean that, and you know it."
Lewis comes and sits on the edge of Hathaway's desk. He lowers his voice, even though the door is shut. "I'll show you how much I didn't mean it later, at home, shall I?"
Hathaway's eyes widen as he stares up at Lewis. Lewis watches in fascination as his pupils visibly expand. "At home," Hathaway agrees huskily, and arousal shivers through Lewis at the look of him, the sound of him. God, is this what it's going to be like now?
They're supposed to be working. What was it Hathaway was saying about clubs? "Do they have gay bridge clubs?" he asks hopefully. Now that sounds more like his speed.
Hathaway looks at him out of the corner of his eyes. His mouth twitches.
Lewis rolls his eyes. "And no jokes about gay bridges, thank you."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Hathaway says solemnly.
"No, of course not."
Silence reigns for a while as Lewis works on a report that was due several days ago. It's a welcome distraction when Hathaway gives a soft exclamation and sits up straight in his chair.
"Tell me you found something."
"I was thinking about something Conan said, about how one of the victims, Tim Thompson, was keen on tennis, so I looked up where he played. It's the Oxford Tennis Club."
"Thompson was a member. And in each of the other two cases, one of the victims had been the guest of a member of the club."
"A bit tenuous, maybe?"
"It's something to go on."
"Right then – sign us up."
Hathaway blinks at him. "Do you even play tennis?"
"Does it matter?"
Hathaway looks pensive.
"For that matter, do you?"
"I've played a bit."
"Is this like how you 'rowed a bit'?"
Hathaway smirks. Lewis gives him a dirty look.
Of course Hathaway just happens to own tennis whites. He looks good. Lewis is only just starting to appreciate how attractive his partner is.
Hathaway is charming the very young man at the front desk, who's introduced himself brightly to Hathaway as 'Andy'. Andy is looking at Hathaway as if he's the best thing he's seen in a while. Lewis doesn't blame him.
"I was wondering if there's a court available now," Hathaway asks, leaning confidingly over the desk. "I joined online this morning. My partner and I have been looking for a place to play for ages."
Andy's smile dims a bit. "Your partner?"
Hathaway turns and smiles at Lewis, and ostentatiously takes his hand. Lewis has a sudden flashback to sitting on a bench outside that bloody headmaster's office, of Hathaway taking his hand then. Then Lewis had snatched his hand away. This time he returns the clasp, trying to seem like they do this all the time.
Andy looks at him in surprise, then back at Hathaway. He knows how they look. Andy probably suspects Hathaway is his toy boy. Hathaway is staring at Lewis in a besotted way. Lewis can see the smile lurking around his eyes.
Andy looks back at his computer screen. "There'll be one free in half an hour," he says. He looks back up at them, a friendly smile in place. "You're welcome to have a drink at the bar while you're waiting."
They take their drinks to a table on the patio overlooking the courts. There Hathaway plays the role of doting boyfriend. "Laying it on a bit thick, aren't you?" Lewis says, as Hathaway picks up his hand and kisses it. With a sense of resignation Lewis realises that he's going to have to get over feeling self-conscious about playing a gay couple. Because they're not playing anymore, are they?
"The whole point is to get noticed. If the killer has issues, maybe we can provoke him into acting rashly."
On the court, to no one's surprise, Hathaway thrashes him soundly. Lewis could really do without the way Hathaway vaults the net and rushes over to lay a solicitous hand on his shoulder when all Lewis is doing is bending over and resting his hands on his knees for a minute while he catches his breath. "Ah, give over, I'm not that decrepit," he grumbles and looks up to see Hathaway looking genuinely worried.
"Sorry, sir," Hathaway says. "I thought you might have put your back out again."
"I'm fine," he says, his annoyance vanishing at Hathaway's evident concern. He even gets into the spirit of it a bit when Hathaway smiles wickedly and decides to demonstrate the correct way to swing the racket by plastering himself against Lewis's back and holding his hand over Lewis's while they practice the swing several times. Lewis tries not to feel self-conscious about the spectators he can see watching them. After all, they're supposed to be drawing attention to themselves. He just hadn't counted on its being in such a public way.
In the changing rooms after, someone catches his eye and smiles at him. Lewis nods and tries to keep in mind that they're supposed to be getting to know people.
The man waits until he's finished dressing, then comes over and holds out his hand. "Hi, I'm Derek," he says. "You're new, aren't you?"
"Yes, my partner and I joined today," Lewis says, shaking hands. "I'm Robbie and this is James."
Hathaway looks up from where he's pulling on his boots and smiles.
Derek grins. "I saw you out on the court."
"Sorry, he can be a bit… demonstrative," Lewis says, glaring in what he hopes comes across as playful.
Hathaway makes a face at him.
"Oh, it's fine. Nobody here's going to judge you. The club's not exclusively gay, but it's definitely gay-friendly. Anybody who doesn't feel that way doesn't last long."
"Good to know."
"Listen, why don't you two join my friends and me for a drink," Derek asks. "We're harmless, promise," he says, smiling charmingly.
"We'd love to," Hathaway chimes in.
Derek's friends are equally as welcoming. They're a surprising mix of ages and there are even a couple of women. Lewis is surprised to see Andy sitting with them. Andy notices his surprise. "Oh, I'm only part-time; I actually go to uni here."
Lewis smiles and nods encouragingly at him. "Of course he does. God forbid we have one case that doesn't involve the bloody university somehow," he mutters to Hathaway.
"Well, we do live in a university town, Robbie," Hathaway murmurs back, smiling around at the table in general.
It turns out quite a few of them are students, but by no means all. Lewis finds himself discussing classical music with a 40-something kindergarten teacher called Erin and realises when Hathaway smiles at him over their second beer that he's not having a half-bad time. Then a bloke a couple of seats down pulls a suspicious-looking cigarette out his pocket. Lewis frowns. He leans past his neighbour.
"Philip, isn't it? Is that with one 'l' or two?"
Philip looks at him in surprise at the question. "One, why?"
"Oh, I'm going to need to know it shortly, if you light that up."
Philip looks at him uncomprehendingly.
"Mate, it's the fuzz," Andy calls out. He seems to find it hilarious.
Lewis frowns repressively. "We're police officers; that's correct."
"How'd you know that?" Hathaway asks Andy blandly.
"Oh, I do the registrations," Andy says.
"Thanks for the heads up," Philip grumbles. He's holding the joint as if he's not sure what do with it.
"Put that away and we'll say no more about it," Lewis says mildly. This isn't what they're here for. "After all, it's our day off."
"Plus, the paperwork…." Hathaway shrugs.
Lewis wonders if things are going to be uncomfortable now; it wouldn't be the first time. Or the twentieth. It's amazing how many people don't seem to be able to act normally around police officers. But then Derek stands up. "Right, my round, I think," he says jovially, and everyone's attention is distracted. When Hathaway's hand covers his on the table, Lewis returns the clasp. Hathaway smiles at him.
After that they go to the tennis club at least once a week. It's not like they have any other leads. Lewis's game improves, with more 'instruction' from Hathaway. People know them now and they tend to get indulgent looks. They stay for drinks sometimes. Derek's often there with his partner Richard who's closer to Lewis's age and a fire-fighter. Richard and he get on like a house on fire, so to speak. And Andy's usually there, of course. He seems a little taken with Hathaway. Andy's very good-looking. When Lewis mentions that to Hathaway, the blank look Hathaway gives him is oddly reassuring. Derek overhears and informs Lewis in an aside that Andy doesn't mean any harm, he's just flirting, that Andy is still getting over a bad break up. He obviously means to be comforting. They're good people. Friends, even. Maybe after the case is over he and Hathaway should consider joining the club for real.
Hathaway lets them into the flat with the key Lewis lent him when they first started this, the key that he won't be asking to be returned. They've had a good day. Nothing special, just some good solid police work, tying up some loose ends. Hathaway turns and smiles at him. Lewis registers the raised eyebrows, the innuendo in his voice as he suggests they shower together. He starts to smile back, feels the smile falter as he catches sight of movement in the hall mirror. Hathaway must see something in his expression because he starts to turn, instinctively stepping back and it's this that saves his life as the tyre iron impacts his shoulder instead of the back of his head. Hathaway staggers. He falls back against the wall, slowly sliding down it but Lewis can't think about that now—the man is coming at him with the tyre iron raised. God, it's Andy, from the club. Andy who was so helpful and unassuming and pleasant. He's none of those things now, his face twisted with rage and desperation. Lewis manages to duck the swing and then he's grappling with him. Andy's younger and fitter than him, and more heavily muscled. Lewis isn't going to win this one. He's being overpowered and the way Andy is clutching his arms, he can't free himself, can't gain any kind of leverage.
Lewis is being bent backwards now and his back twinges warningly. Even as his brain is cataloguing the flushed face, the manic look in Andy's eyes, a tiny detached part of his mind is kicking himself for allowing himself to be distracted, for not following their normal security checks as they entered the flat. It's no consolation at all that Hathaway was equally distracted, and oh God, Hathaway's injured, how could they have been so stupid—and then there's an arm around Andy's throat, Hathaway's grim face appears over his shoulder as he physically hauls the man backwards. Lewis gets his feet under him and with no finesse at all knees Andy in the balls as hard as he can. The angle isn't great and it doesn't put him down, but it distracts him enough that he lets go of Lewis and claws at Hathaway's arm. Lewis fumbles for his cuffs and manages to lock them around Andy's wrists.
"Got him," he gasps, and fumbles for his phone and calls for back-up as Hathaway uses his height and weight to force Andy to his knees.
Like most of the villains they catch, Andy can't wait to explain his motivation. His makes even less sense than most. The boy is clearly unbalanced. Lewis keeps a firm eye on him while makes sure Hathaway's comfortably settled on the sofa with an ice pack. Andy sits slumped on the floor; all the fight seems to have gone out of him, but Lewis isn't taking any chances, even handcuffed he could still be a threat.
The uniforms are leaving with their prisoner when Innocent shows up. She watches them go. "Good result," she says.
"Depends on your definition of good," Lewis says grouchily, as Hathaway gasps and winces at something the paramedics are doing to his shoulder.
Innocent follows his glance. "He is okay, isn't he?"
"Bruising, nothing broken, thank God."
"Then yes, it's a good result. One more murderer off the streets."
"Do we have an ID on him?"
"Name's Andrew Meriwether. Works at the tennis club. We were friendly with him."
"Unclear at this stage, ma'am. His background check came back clean; we had no reason to suspect him. Apparently there's something about a much older boyfriend who treated him badly—very badly—and then dumped him for someone younger and prettier. I imagine the psych will have a field day."
"No doubt," Innocent dryly. "So, your plan worked. To be honest I thought it was a long shot."
"So did I, ma'am," Lewis admits.
Innocent purses her mouth at that. She raises her eyebrows. "Well, no doubt you'll be glad to get back to your normal lives."
"Yes, ma'am," Lewis says. Hathaway is looking over at him. He feels himself starting to flush.
Innocent leaves soon after, but then Laura arrives, which gives Lewis something to do other than hover worriedly nearby while the paramedics are still examining Hathaway's shoulder. They're starting to give him annoyed looks.
"News travels fast," he says, rubbing his neck.
Laura looks at him worriedly. "Are you all right? How's James?"
"I'm fine. Hathaway's taken a blow to the shoulder, but it's mostly bruising."
"Could have been worse."
"That's an understatement," Lewis says. He's not going to forgive himself anytime soon. They could have been killed. Hathaway nearly was.
The paramedics finish up and Lewis shuts the door behind them with a relieved sigh. Laura is inspecting Hathaway's shoulder for herself, reassuring herself that he's fine. Hathaway gives Lewis a long-suffering look, but puts up with it.
He could do with a whisky but that wouldn't be fair to Hathaway, who's been given painkillers. "Cuppa, anyone?" he asks instead.
Laura gets up. "I'll make it," she says. "You must be knackered."
"I am, a bit," Lewis admits, sinking onto the sofa beside Hathaway. It's times like this he feels his age. Then Hathaway's head tips onto his shoulder, his hand slides into Lewis's and the years seem to fall away again. He's still knackered though.
Laura puts the kettle on and comes to lean in the doorway. Her eyes widen as she takes in their position. Lewis thinks he should probably feel self-conscious but he can't be bothered. It's not like Laura didn't call it in the first place.
"This isn't a wind up, is it?" Laura says.
Lewis looks at her ruefully. "What do you think?"
"I think I wouldn't put it past you. Either of you."
Lewis looks down at the head resting on his shoulder. "What do you think, Jim?"
Hathaway raises his head and stares lovingly into Lewis's eyes. Lewis can't quite decide if he's taking the piss. "Definitely a wind up," he agrees, and kisses Lewis. Then he puts his head down on Lewis's shoulder again and closes his eyes.
After one more wide-eyed glance, Laura disappears back into the kitchen. Lewis catalogues his sore muscles. He's grateful to have got off so lightly. He starts a little when the mug appears in front of him. He smiles his thanks. Laura pulls over a chair and sits down opposite him. They sip silently for a few minutes. Hathaway seems to have drifted off to sleep.
"Do you love him?" Laura says abruptly.
"Yeah," he says. If he can admit that to anyone, it's Laura. "I do. God help me."
To his surprise Laura grins wickedly. "I get to give you away," she announces, "since it was my idea."
Lewis stares at her uncomprehendingly. "I beg your pardon."
"At the ceremony."
"You'll look lovely in white, sir," a drowsy voice says.
"I thought you were asleep!"
Hathaway blinks up at him. "I am."
"I can't wear white," he points out, because he can't resist. "I've been married before."
Hathaway yawns against his shoulder. "Okay, I'll wear white," he says agreeably. His eyelids are drooping again.
Laura is looking at Lewis speculatively. "Anyway, who said anything about… marriage," he says. If she's getting any ideas in her head, best nip that in the bud now.
"You've got to make an honest man of me, sir."
"We're not getting married."
Hathaway smiles up at him dopily. His eyes flutter closed. Lewis has an urge to kiss him, but Laura's presence deters him. He's not quite that comfortable with being 'out' yet.
"Well, I'll leave you to it," Laura says, getting up. Clearly her mind reading skills are as good as ever. "Let me know when you pick a date, so I can keep the day free."
"We're not getting married!" Lewis repeats emphatically. He carefully moves Hathaway's head from his shoulder to rest against the back of the sofa. Hathaway doesn't wake.
He gets up to see Laura out. At the door she gives him a hug. "Be happy, Robbie," she murmurs.
"I am," he says. It feels like a confession.
Lewis contemplates the logistics of getting the unconscious Hathaway into bed. He doesn't fancy his chances, not without doing himself an injury.
Instead he gets himself another cup of coffee and a packet of biscuits and comes to sit down on the couch with them. He switches the news on.
"By the way," Hathaway says. Lewis looks across at him. Hathaway's eyes are half open, focused on Lewis.
"I thought you were asleep."
"I've been awake the whole time. Well, sort of."
The whole time?
"I just wanted to say, I love you too, sir."
"I know," Lewis says. He's known all along, really. He can admit that, now. He lifts his arm invitingly and Hathaway snuggles under it. On the telly the weather girl is brightly announcing a fine day tomorrow.