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Your Filthy Little

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McQuaid’s had been closed for a week after a fire had broken out. The police force was dealing with their temporary loss by spending evenings drinking at their own places, morbid little housewarming parties with limited alcohol and an uncomfortable destruction of privacy.

Last week it had been at Maldonado’s. This week it was at Kennex’s.

Richard’s happy hour had never been less happy, beating even that time a man smashed a glass over his head over an arcade dispute he hadn’t even been involved in. He turned up at the apartment, MX in tow, meeting Maldonado at the door. She gave him a look without speaking. Don’t start any fights. He shrugged a shoulder in response. Blame Kennex if I do.

Kennex opened the door. There was a bottle in his hand, half empty. His lopsided grin was strained as his eyes found Richard. It was busy inside, a mix of MXs and cops, all the humans with bottles in hand. Richard had to silently admit it was a nicer apartment than he had expected as he looked around. A bottle was pushed to him, so hard it hit his chest. He glared up at Kennex, who was already moving to give Maldonado a bottle. The taller man glanced at him.

“Don’t start any fights or I’ll throw you out a window.”

Richard’s gaze was sour as he drank the bitter beer. I’d like to see you try.

He could see Kennex’s synthetic over by the wall, blue eyes tracking wherever the man went. Richard felt a strange flicker of resentment for the two of them. As much as he could rely on his MX, he would never get the same sense of backup compared to a human partner. His MX was always there to hold the fort, but not when he had down days. Kennex and Dorian had some kind of friendship that he and his MX could never have. While Richard wasn’t one for friendliness, he found himself watching Dorian and Kennex closer than he probably should.

*

The evening dragged on. The booze was getting to him now, Richard found, sitting in a chair in the corner. He lazily spun his fifth bottle between his fingers. Valerie and Maldonado were talking by the window, the captain laughing as she recounted a story. Dorian was attempting to talk to the group of MXs who were bunched by the front door but it seemed none of them wanted to talk to him.

Richard looked around the busy room. Where the hell is Kennex? He got up, catching himself from staggering on the chair arm. He did another sweep of the room. He definitely couldn’t see the stupid spiked hair anywhere. Time to explore.

He found Kennex in his room, sitting on the bed, elbows resting on his knees. The man looked up as he got to the doorway.

“I almost missed you there.”

“Ha ha,” Richard replied dryly, already bristling at the jab about his height. He was about to go when Kennex waved a hand at him.

“Hey, no ... I actually did almost miss you. I can’t really see straight.”

Richard frowned. “How many damn drinks have you had?”

“Uh, you know, a few.”

Richard lifted his bottle to his lips, brows knitted together. “Of course. Why the hell are you here?”

“I don’t have to host,” Kennex replied, lifting his gaze to meet Richard’s like a challenge. “Just because it’s my house doesn’t mean I’m chaperoning everyone. That’s Maldonado’s job.”

“I guess,” Richard said, half rolling his eyes. His dislike for Kennex was smothered under the warm buzz from the alcohol and he leaned against the doorway, trying to stir it back up. “So this is your room?”

“What else does it look like?”

Richard fixed Kennex with his trademarked hard stare. “Excuse me for trying to make shitty conversation.”

“Look, Rick ... chard ...” Kennex almost shuddered at the nickname he had almost said. “Why don’t you run along back to your MX?”

Richard glanced back. “He’s busy talking to your DRN.”

“Is it going well?”

“What do you think?” Richard asked and they shared a wry smile. It was a strange moment. He had never shared a smile with Kennex. As if he felt the same way, Kennex coughed awkwardly. He drained his bottle.

“I’ve heard you’ve got a back room.”

“Oh, yeah?” Kennex asked, lips curling slightly. “What is that, a euphemism?”

“Psht,” Richard replied, but he didn’t rise to the bait. His eyes fell on where Kennex’s hand was on his leg. “So, your leg.”

Kennex frowned, almost defensively. “What about it?”

“Do you take it off at night?”

“Um. Yeah.”

“Just trying to talk here.”

“Look, pal, I appreciate it, but you and me – we’ve never just ‘talked’ for the sake of it.”

“Take it while you can, asshole, this beer haze is what’s stopping me from cutting you down to size.”

“What, your size?” Kennex replied but he started to laugh.

“That’s so old,” Richard muttered but he couldn’t find it in himself to truly be pissed off. From the main room he could hear an MX protesting and Dorian laughing. “I think your boyfriend is trying to get my MX to table dive.”

“My – what? Dorian and I aren’t ... you’d better go stop him, when he wants to do something, he does it.”

“Is he not charged?”

“It’s been a long day and we chased up a huge case, give him a break. Plus he has to fight MXs for charging again since he left Rudy’s place.”

“Why’d he leave?” Richard asked, genuinely curious. Kennex gestured vaguely.

“Something about too much information.”

There was a crash and Richard spun around. Dorian looked surprised from where he was on the floor. It looked like he had tried to swing his arm around Richard’s MX and drastically fallen when the synthetic had moved out of the way.

“You should go help,” Kennex said, and his voice was incredibly close. Richard spun again, alarm flashing on his face as he registered Kennex’s chest and then looked up at his face.

“Heard of personal space?” he asked sharply. Kennex snorted.

“Easy. It’s not like I’m touching you.”

“That’s something to be glad about,” Richard muttered, straightening his tie as he began making his way to his MX. Kennex watched him with a narrow gaze.

*

The force left around midnight, Maldonado barking at them to move so they could get some sleep and charge their MXs. The only protests were of the cops who didn’t want to move from where they had resigned to lying half-drunk across chairs, but nobody was about to argue with her.

Kennex was almost glad to see them go. He had sobered up in the slightest, enough to tell Dorian to go back to the precinct rather than staying. As he shut the door and locked it, he felt relief. Next week was Valerie’s and then hopefully McQuaid’s would open again. He gathered the bottles and pushed them into a pile. He’d deal with them in the morning.

He made his way to his room, rubbing his forehead with a palm. There was a figure in the doorway of his back room, the light on. He froze.

“The hell are you doing here?” he asked. Moved closer. Oh, shit, really?

Richard glanced at him.

“Found your back room.”

“What are you doing here still?” Kennex hissed, glancing at the front door. The guy’s MX was gone. “Why aren’t you off with everyone else?”

“Dorian was pissing me off so I sent my MX ahead with him. Unless you want me to fight your synthetic.”

“Pal, he would destroy you.”

“So all-city for three years?” Richard asked, looking up at the trophies. Kennex shrugged a shoulder, feigning nonchalance, but in reality he felt a flutter in his chest. Nobody had ever really cared about his achievements. They’d pretended to give a shit but anyone he’d ever mentioned it to never really got it. Richard seemed actually interested. Maybe even ... impressed?

“Believe it or not, I did sport too,” Richard said, his eyes travelling across the shiny metal plaques. Kennex bit back a comment on how they were high up on the wall. It wasn’t the right time to be a dick about his height, not when someone was finally caring.

“Oh, yeah?” he replied, raising his eyebrows.

“Yeah,” Richard answered, matching his gaze. There was the hint of something, maybe a smile, in his eyes. “Soccer. And I was damn good, too.”

“I bet you were,” Kennex said, and there was no mocking in his voice. It threw Richard a little. He’d expected a jab about size and had got a compliment. “Why’d you not follow it on?”

It was Richard’s turn to shrug. “Got injured. Went into police work instead. I found it was more my style.”

Kennex turned his attention back to the kitchen. “Want another drink?”

“Sure,” Richard answered. He gave the trophies a final look. There was disbelief in his eyes at how he and Kennex had something small in common. He followed the taller man and took the tumbler of bourbon offered to him.

“Thanks. Bourbon’s my go-to,” he said, avoiding Kennex’s eyes. There was something prickling in his head and he was beginning to get uncomfortable.

“Hey, me too,” Kennex said, a note of surprise in his voice. They drank in silence. The buzz was back in Richard’s head and his chest. Kennex had had even more than him to drink across the evening and he sat at the counter, resting an elbow on it. He glanced up at Richard, who was staring vaguely across the room, glass in his hands. When they weren’t at each other’s throats, they almost got along, just with an undertone of resentment.

Kennex looked away. “Sorry about the, uh ... comment earlier, about your height.”

“It pissed me off, but do you think I’m not used to it yet?” Richard replied, leaning back on the counter. His eyes met Kennex’s. Out of nowhere, there was a wild rush of impulse in Kennex’s chest like he’d touched a live wire, almost painful in its abruptness, so strong he jerked slightly. Richard’s face twisted into a laugh.

“What was that? You sat on something sharp?”

“I realised how in love you are with your MX for the first time and it shocked me.”

“Ha, of course,” Richard said wryly. He lifted to glass to his lips. “More like how much you want to ride your bot.”

“For the last time, Dorian and I aren’t –”

“I’m just messing with your head, Kennex. Stop panicking. It’s not like it’s unheard of. One guy married his damn MX, remember?”

“That wasn’t you?” Kennex asked with a grin. Richard rolled his eyes.

“I’d rather my MX than a colleague. Now, that’s the shit that actually interferes with your job. If you’re with your synthetic, at least they have professionalism. But two people? Terrible idea. If a cop gets killed, their MX moves on. With people, they get way too emotional.”

“Calm down, you sound like you’ve dated the devil,” Kennex said dryly. Richard rubbed his neck.

“I’m divorced. Relationships are a touchy subject for me.”

He frowned then, eyes finding Kennex. “Why the hell am I discussing this with you?”

“Because alcohol makes your tongue loose, apparently.”

“Then I guess I’ll stop drinking.”

“Aw, and take away your happy hour? You couldn’t do that to yourself.”

“Hm. True.”

As if to back up his words, Richard held out his tumbler for a refill.

“You know, this one girl I dated back at college,” Kennex said as he brought the bourbon over, “she was the closest I ever came to never dating again.”

“Oh, yeah?” Richard said. There was curiosity in his voice that made the taller man grin.

“Yeah. Lindsay. Blonde, five six – your height – and she loved to party. Problem was, she always made me come with her.”

“You don’t seem like the guy who’d pass that up.”

“I didn’t. I went along, we drank, made out, the usual. But this one time, she tried to get me to drink this mix of tequila and a new drug, called something like - I can't remember the name, let's call it - Bang.

“Let me guess,” Richard said, watching him closely. “You drank it.”

“Yeah, I was completely drunk, so I didn’t even think about not drinking it. And it made me so – just really, really off. It was the damn worst I’ve ever felt.”

“How did this break you up?”

“The next morning, Lindsay comes to me – and she asks me to do it again. I said, no way in hell. She told me, well, she’d found another guy who was willing to do what I didn't want to.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah,” Kennex said, sighing. “She wasn’t even telling the truth but from then on, I was done. Until I met Anna. And we aren’t talking about her.”

Richard’s gaze was quiet as he sipped his bourbon. He looked at the taller man for a while.

“Look whose tongue is loose now,” he said after a long silence. They shared another tight smile. Something hot was curling in Kennex’s chest, but it wasn’t the slow burn of whiskey. When he looked at Richard, his teeth hurt, like it made him sick. But it was something else.

He rubbed his temples to think of something else. Focus on their fights, not this little private time they were having. They were never going to be friends.

“I never thought I’d be here saying this now, but this isn’t bad,” Richard said. Kennex was looking at him blankly. He rolled his eyes again. “Are you even listening? This is pointless.”

Kennex stood up without warning. Richard stared up at him in unease.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Something I’m going to regret,” Kennex said. Richard’s brows furrowed. In one motion, Kennex took the tumbler from the shorter man’s hands and kissed him. It was open mouthed and awkward, like neither of them had kissed before, and it only took Richard a moment to gather himself and push Kennex off. He looked alarmed.

“What was that?” he demanded, shaken.

“I don’t know,” Kennex replied, and he was telling the truth. He had no idea what had come over him. Richard licked his lips, looking him up and down with a flick of his eyes.

“Well, don’t just stand there. Do it again.”

Kennex stared at him. “What?”

“I said do it again, you –”

Kennex wasted no time pushing him into the counter. This kiss was rougher, angrier than the first now they both knew what they were doing. Kennex’s mouth was hot, demanding, and Richard couldn’t remember the last time he’d been kissed like this. He couldn’t fucking believe it was John Kennex. The thought sent fresh anger burning in his blood and he responded to it by pulling on Kennex’s shirt, making it easier to match their height. Richard’s elbow knocked his tumbler over, bourbon spilling across the counter, but neither of them noticed.

It was vicious, it was messy, but, fuck, was it everything Richard expected of him. The hand planted on the counter by his side, the tug of teeth on his lip, it was so predictably Kennex. So why can’t I get enough? Each breath he caught, the brush of knuckles against his chest, it was like electricity in his bloodstream. It was the most dangerous thing Richard had ever done.

Kennex moved his hand to Richard’s waist, pulling their bodies even closer together, and the soft sound Richard made drew his mouth into a smirk. Regardless if they regretted this tomorrow, the damage was done now. Kennex was fueling all his anger and hate for Richard into ruining his life with a kiss. He wanted to leave an impression so Richard wouldn’t be able to think of anything else.

The hold on Richard’s waist made his legs almost give out, and he had to catch himself so he didn’t fall. The counter was digging into his lower back. With Kennex’s weight leaning into him, he was breathless, caught between his own desire and the knowledge that this was a huge mistake. The taste of whiskey on his tongue burned like a warning.

When their lips finally parted, Richard’s mind went blank. Kennex said something but he heard nothing but a buzz. What have we done? This is insane.

“Was that what you wanted?” Kennex asked, a glint in his eye. He relished the image of Richard Paul, workplace asshole, speechless for once. It was as if he had sobered up the second Kennex’s mouth had met his.

“Holy shit, Kennex,” was all Richard could say. It was burning, in the pit of his stomach now – he wanted more, and yet –

“That’s what I thought,” Kennex said as he moved back, his words sending a thrum of the usual irritation through Richard. He can’t take anything seriously.

“Yeah, I bet I’m the first you’ve had in months,” he shot back. He could play this game too. Kennex looked over his shoulder with a careless smile, as if it was hilarious. Richard cleared his throat, straightening his shirt. “So this ... what do we even call what just happened?”

Kennex stopped where he stood, his back to Richard. His head bowed, like he was sighing.

“We can’t take this back to Delta. We’ve got our reputations.”

“What, as enemies?”

“I don’t want anyone to know.”

Richard bristled. “You ashamed of me or something? And you don’t understand me. I’m not trying to take this anywhere. God, I still hate you. More now than before.”

“You can’t hate a guy just ‘cause he takes your breath away,” Kennex said, turning with a grin. Richard’s gaze was flinty.

“Fuck you, Kennex.”

“Easy, we aren’t there yet. Strictly first-base today.”

Richard ignored the comment, grabbing his jacket from where he had left it over the back of a chair. He could feel Kennex’s gaze following him, heavy like a physical touch. His mouth tasted of him.

“What do you mean today? There won’t be another day,” Richard said, his tone cutting, shrugging the jacket on as he laid a cool gaze on the taller man. Kennex returned the gaze so steadily that he almost had to look away.

“You were the one who asked for it, remember? ‘Do it again’, you said.”

“I’m not just some easy fuck, Kennex. Stop treating me like one.”

“No need to get so mad about it.”

Richard turned to leave.

“This can be our dirty little secret,” Kennex said, and he slowed.

“It’s a damn filthy secret,” he replied without turning.

“However you want to see it, pal.”

Richard didn’t spare him a second glance as he opened the door and left.

Chapter Text

Kennex got to work early for once. Since the night before, he had almost been in a daze. He was doing everything he could to forget. His aim to screw with Richard’s head had backfired, because now, all he could think of was the –

“You’re early, John.”

He jumped and turned to see Dorian, who frowned. “Did I startle you?”

“Uh, yeah. But it’s fine.”

They entered the main area of the precinct. Kennex was feeling relatively alright, falling back into routine. He glanced up as Dorian passed him some files on a pad. Behind Dorian, there was a familiar face.

Both Kennex and Richard froze when they saw each other. It was only brief, their eyes skating across the other’s, before they quickly pretended nothing had happened. Kennex’s mouth tasted of whiskey, the ghost of a memory, and he found himself staring at the back of Richard’s head.

“John, are you alright?”

He blinked and found Dorian watching him with concern.

“I’m fine. I just hadn’t got the message across how much I hate Richard so much yet. Gotta fill a quota.”

“Detective Paul is probably aware of that,” Dorian said but he didn’t question it. He was busy analysing what he had just seen – the jump in heartrate, the spike in adrenaline, as if Kennex had seen something that scared him, or ...

He shook it off. He wasn’t one to question human emotions. Since meeting Kennex, Dorian had learned just how volatile emotions could be.

Kennex allowed himself one more glance in Richard’s direction before he forced it out of his head, burying the memory. It wasn’t the time, at work especially. And they had sworn to keep it their dirty little secret.

Maldonado called a meeting in the middle of the precinct. The officers and their synthetics grouped around her as she relayed orders.

“Not a word,” Richard hissed. He was standing closer to Kennex than he would have liked. His MX was behind them, silent, gazing flatly ahead. Kennex looked down at him.

“I wasn’t going to say anything, but now you’ve reminded me,” he muttered in response. Richard threw a dirty look his way.

“Just seeing your face reminded me.”

“Hey, pal, you’re the one who asked for it last night,” Kennex said, turning his attention back to the captain, his voice only audible to the shorter man. Richard visibly stiffened in anger.

“I can’t wait for this to be done so I don’t have to look at you.”

“Did I leave that much of an impression?” Kennex said, triumph in his low tone. “Honestly, I’m flattered.”

“You kiss like you don’t know what you’re doing,” Richard said. It was like a game now, keeping this conversation out of synthetic earshot. Kennex had a grin on his face.

“I don’t remember you complaining.”

“Is there something you want to share?”

They both noticed Maldonado looking at them.

“Uh, no. Sorry.”

“Okay. Pay attention. The perp’s apartment has been located. Paul, assemble a squad. It may be wired. Kennex, Dorian and Stahl, you’ll be there as backup.”

*

The elevator door opened. Kennex’s heart dropped. Richard walked into the space, looking down at the phone in his hand. He pressed the button for the floor he wanted and looked up. The dread on his face was laughable. As if in panic, he looked at the closing doors. They slid shut with an almost suffocating clang.

“Should’ve looked up before you stepped in,” Kennex said, keeping his eyes on the ticking floor numbers. The air between them was hot.

“You should’ve said something before I did,” Richard replied. Tugged on his tie, almost nervously. He glanced at Kennex sideways. “Where’s your bot?”

“Already at the top. I had to grab my phone from my car. Where’s your MX?”

“Getting me a coffee.”

They fell silent. An elevator ride had never felt so stifling. Richard leaned back against the wall, wishing he had taken the stairs. Kennex found himself tapping his fingers on his crossed arms, scanning the metal walls. No mirror in this elevator, no window. No cameras.

“I bought another bottle of bourbon,” he said after a short while. Richard gave him a look that said, why should I care? Kennex raised an eyebrow by a fraction. “You know what I’m saying.”

“No,” Richard said without hesitation. “That was – we said it was the end.”

“No, we just said it would be our secret. Neither of us said it was a one-off.”

“Don’t tell me you’re catching feelings.”

“I’m not.”

“Then stop fucking around.”

“If you want me to.”

Richard didn’t reply. Kennex was watching him with a strange look. “You do want me to stop, right?”

“Just stop talking, Kennex.”

Kennex closed the gap between them, his hand over Richard’s shoulder. Just a casual lean, leaving plenty of space for Richard to move away. But he didn’t. The way Richard looked up at him, not with anger, but – challenge – sent fire through Kennex’s body.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Richard said.

“I never pass up a dare,” Kennex replied. His mouth met Richard’s and it was like a burst of fire, of danger, pressed up against the cold metal wall. Richard managed a ‘fuck you’, but it was breathless, as if he had anticipated this, words dragging against Kennex’s lips. Almost as quickly as it had happened, Kennex was pulling away and the elevator doors were opening, leaving Richard alone with the trace of a smile. Everything he felt was quickly flooded with anger. Kennex was screwing him over just for the fun. He couldn’t believe he’d been taken in by the bullshit.

After waiting to rein in his temper, he left the elevator too, taking his coffee from his MX with a brusque ‘took long enough’. When he saw Kennex over by the wall with Dorian, acting like nothing had happened, he clenched his fist hard enough around the Styrofoam cup for the lid to bend off, spilling coffee onto his hand. The heat was nothing compared to his loathing.

“I detect extremely negative emotions coming from Detective Paul,” Dorian said quietly to Kennex, who didn’t even answer or acknowledge his words. “John, it’s directed at you.”

“I know,” Kennex replied.

“Did you get the elevator together?”

“Why?”

“You arrived at almost the same time, so I’ll assume yes. John, did something happen while you were in there?”

“Dorian, leave it alone. We’ve always been like this.”

Kennex’s voice was sharp now, warning Dorian to stop asking. The DRN frowned. He got readings of dopamine – in both Kennex and Richard. Something was definitely going on. He and Kennex joined the MX team, surveying the door.

“Team assembled to enter,” an MX said. Richard, barely managing to restrain the burning anger in his chest, put his thumbs in his belt loops, pulling his composure back enough to reply in a steady voice.

“Go.”

Kennex gave a low whistle. Richard’s face was thunder.

The door was charged down. As he moved to follow the tactical team in, Richard motioned for his MX to stay. “Keep the others out. It could still be wired.”

People are less expendable than MXs.

“He’s exhibiting 300% more hostility than usual,” Dorian said once Richard was gone.

“Fascinating.”

Dorian tilted his head. “That doesn’t surprise you?”

“It’s not new,” Kennex replied, but he was avoiding Dorian’s eyes.

“It’s clear,” Richard’s MX unit said, allowing them access to the room. Dorian told Kennex to go ahead, saying he needed a moment to scan the premises.

“Have you noticed Detective Paul acting strangely recently?” Dorian asked, sidling up to Richard’s MX when Kennex had entered the room. The MX didn’t even turn.

“Detective Paul’s emotions are not of my concern.”

“Yeah, I know you MXs haven’t got the same personality as me, but surely you’re equipped to notice drastic changes.”

“It is not –”

“Come on, man. John has been acting weird too. If it’s linked to Paul …”

The MX looked at him, its face plastic and neutral.

“How Detective Kennex and Detective Paul are acting does not concern me unless it is interfering with their ability to work and cooperate.”

Dorian shrugged, giving up. “I guess I’ll have to figure it out on my own then.”

He focused his gaze to where Kennex and Richard were in the room. The shorter man appeared like he was trying to avoid Kennex, talking to another cop with his back to Kennex. When the talk ended, Richard turned around and said something that made Kennex grin. He glanced in Dorian’s direction and it faded slightly. Richard looked over too, almost defensively.

“See what I mean?” Dorian said to the MX. He gave no reply, instead leaving Dorian to go into the crime scene. Sighing, Dorian rejoined Kennex, who was pulling gloves on. He was serious again.

“The perp is gone, that’s clear. And they left a body,” he told Dorian, gesturing with his head to the bathroom of the apartment. Dorian moved over. Richard was crouching by the body, examining it. It was a woman, lying on her side, limbs contorted so her body fit into the bathtub.

“Stabbed in the back of the neck. Wounds indicate the killer took her by surprise then left her to bleed out in the tub.”

“Cindy Marquis, twenty six. Accountant,” Dorian relayed, scanning her face for details. “Went missing two weeks ago. Reported by her mother.”

“Well, we found her,” Richard muttered, lifting the woman’s hair away from her neck.

The blonde hair was stuck in clumps by the dried blood, trails slicked down the white curves of the bathtub, congealed underneath her. He dropped his hand to his side, frowning.

“Scan for prints.”

*

Kennex sat heavily on his bed, resting his chin on his hands. It had been a long week. The sunlight died and the light in his apartment dwindled. The knock at his door was unexpected. He locked his leg back on and made his way to the door.

It was Richard Paul. Kennex stared for a moment before moving to close the door. Richard caught it with his foot.

“Hear me out,” he said, his tone low. Kennex looked down at the ground so he wouldn’t have to meet his eyes, listening. “You still owe me an apology for that elevator bullshit you pulled the other day and I’m willing to take it as a drink.”

He wasn’t budging. Heaving a sigh, Kennex opened the door and let him in. Richard moved past him without sparing even a fleeting glance. It was if he had turned up out of obligation rather than will. Without a word, Kennex brought his new bottle of bourbon out.

“A peace treaty,” he said dryly as he filled a tumbler for Richard. The shorter man took it but didn’t drink it, leaving it on the counter, his hand resting against it. Kennex uncapped a bottle of Bud Light before he frowned slightly. “Don’t come here asking for bourbon if you won’t drink it.”

Richard said nothing, just staring flatly past Kennex. Kennex touched his arm and he tensed.

Talk to me. I didn’t let you in for you to just blank me.”

“Honestly, Kennex, just let me drink in my own damn time.”

“So you didn’t want to talk about the other day. The elevator.”

Richard’s face twisted into a bitter sneer.

“Oh, that. When you pushed me into a wall and then ran.”

“Hey, the doors opened. Unless you wanted your devoted MX buddy to see us, I had to pull away.”

“You think I’m buying that bullshit?”

“I’m not – listen, Rich – Paul. If you want to believe that, fine. If you don’t, fine. It’s not like I care if this continues.”

Richard’s eyes darkened.

“I told you I’m not one to be used.”

“I’m not – I wasn’t using you.”

“That’s a joke,” Richard muttered into his tumbler as he lifted it to his lips. Kennex was slightly resentful at him.

“You’d rather we made out in an elevator with MXs watching?” he asked. Richard had murder in his eyes when he next looked across.

“You know that’s exactly not what I mean.”

“We said ourselves that this can’t go anywhere.”

Richard drained the tumbler and set it down roughly.

“I know,” he said brusquely. “I’m just warning you to stop chasing this up like you can use me. This isn’t serious, so don’t fucking pretend it is.”

“So it’s a not-serious thing?”

“What?”

“So it’s like a, uh ... work colleagues with benefits thing?”

“I’m not sleeping with you.”

“You’re halfway there.”

“Don’t say that to me.”

“Stop being so pissed off and listen to what I have to –”

“No, Kennex, you listen,” Richard interrupted, jabbing Kennex in the chest with a hand. “We’ve taken this too far.”

Kennex was bewildered. “What – since when did you think that? You were the one who just showed up at my door, and you were the one who asked for this –”

“You acted first, and we were both half drunk –”

“We weren’t in the elevator.”

“Kennex,” Richard said, his voice a warning.

“Don’t twist this on me. Half has been you. You can’t just turn around and say it’s too far for you to handle.”

“This was meant to be a secret. It’s a damn disaster.”

“Then why did you show up at my place?”

“I’m never going to feel anything for you, Kennex, so you can drop that cute little idea right now.”

“I can change that.”

“You think you can change that? Don’t act like you’re so irresistible. The last person you dated hasn’t shown since you went into your coma. If she cared so much, she’d have showed by now.”

“Don’t bring her up.”

“Then don’t pretend you’re a fucking charmer. You only person you’d attract is your bot, ‘cause you’re both so broken –”

“Leave Dorian out of this. This is our problem. Be a bigger man and stop trying to blame me.”

“Blame you?” Richard asked, almost laughing in contempt. “You kissed me first. You fucked with my head.”

“We both know that we wanted it to happen.”

Richard had nothing to retort with. His anger was nothing compared to the dull ache in his chest. Something in him wanted to fight this, argue with Kennex, break it off. It was nothing but carnality – there was no love, nothing good, between them.

“You’re staring at me like you’re fixing to say something,” Kennex said. He could see the look in Richard’s eye, borderline familiar at this point. This entire argument had been a self denial. They were both lying through their teeth. Each false word felt like he was stoking embers inside his chest. He drowned the thought in a mouthful of lager. It was almost pitch dark in the room, the sun below the horizon. Rain streaked down, a soft hush.

“I’ve got nothing else to say to you,” Richard answered, his eyes tearing from Kennex’s, the lie almost painful. He tugged on his tie, like he was suddenly warm. Kennex was resisting the urge to make a move. He couldn’t just give in to – whatever this was, he had to at least try and deny himself it. If only for the sake of his pride.

“I guess that’s me,” Richard said, his voice dismissive. He’s leaving.

“I’ll see you out.”

“I only had one drink, Kennex, I’m not a lightweight.”

“It’s common courtesy or something,” Kennex said. He followed Richard to the door and opened it. Felt the burn in his chest come alive. Son of a –

“I’ll be seeing you at work then,” Richard said, turning to face Kennex. The hand that touched his shoulder stilled him.

“Nobody can know,” Kennex said.

“Exactly,” Richard replied. He looked almost reluctantly at the door. With his free hand, Kennex pushed it closed. They were silent in the dark for a moment before Richard muttered, “Kennex, turn the light on.”

“No.”

A hand pushed at Kennex’s chest. He frowned. “What?”

“Why ‘no’?” Richard asked, that old pissed-off tone to his voice.

“Because like this, I can’t see your face properly, so I can pretend you’re someone else.”

“Asshole.”

Richard’s hand still resting against his chest, the heel of his palm digging in. When he next spoke, his voice was unsteady.

“You’re something, Kennex.”

There was no admiration. From the dim city lights, half of his face was lit with the faintest hint of blue. He was looking away, eyes under heavy lids.

“I’m something?” Kennex asked. The hand slipped away.

“You’re something,” Richard repeated. He gave a harsh laugh. “I should leave.” Kennex’s hand hovered over the light switch. Debating whether he should turn it on, end this here. He could be making a huge mistake. Richard said nothing but his eyes slid up to meet Kennex’s.

“No-one can know,” he repeated, as if it was a reassurance to himself.

“They won’t find out,” Kennex said. He was close enough that he could feel Richard’s breath on him. The shorter man’s eyes flicked down to his mouth.

Richard felt that ache eating into him, burning under his skin. His heart was pounding. He had been ready to leave, and now –

“We’re both sober right now,” Kennex said, moving back. “What’s your excuse?”

“Always have to ruin the moment,” Richard replied, annoyance in his voice. Kennex went back to the counter and picked up his bottle, grinning.

“We were having a moment?”

“If you think –”

“I’m just messing with you,” Kennex said, seeing the anger on Richard’s face. His smile faded. “Maybe we can make this work.”

Kennex’s tone was cryptic and Richard didn’t like it.

“Make what work?” he asked, almost suspicious.

“Us.”

Richard’s face was struck with such a stunned expression that any other time, Kennex would have laughed.

“Us? No. We can’t.”

“Judging by what just happened, pal, you want it to.”

“I don’t – love you. Don’t get the wrong idea, Kennex.”

“But we have to admit this is something a little more than how it started.”

Richard moved away from the wall, watching the rain run down the windows. He hated himself for it, but he knew everything Kennex was saying was true. “It would be a stupid idea.”

“Only if we got caught,” Kennex replied. They were practically known in the precinct for being at each other’s throats. If it came out that they were – the word together made a bitter taste in his mouth, but that was the reality. He had to admit the only reason he wanted this a secret was to defend his ego.

Plus it’s a little hotter when we’re trying not to get caught.

He put his bottle down. “I mean, if you’re against the idea, then we can’t do this again. It can’t be some on-off thing.”

Richard didn’t reply. Kennex reached him, arms crossed. They looked out of the window at the night lights.

“It’s a terrible idea,” Richard said, watching a low-flying drone glitter across the skyline.

“It is,” Kennex agreed. Richard sighed, a strangely defeated sound coming from him.

“Nobody can know,” he murmured, an echo of before. His shook his head slightly, as if he couldn’t believe his own words. “This is ridiculous.”

“Hey, you’re insulting me here.”

“Nothing’s new then.”

Kennex couldn’t help a wry grin. “So this is past the colleagues-with-benefits level now?”

“Stop saying that,” Richard said sharply, but his voice lacked the old vehemence. “Whatever this is, I’m not sinking that low.”

“Is that a metaphor or an innuendo?” Kennex asked, enjoying the look in Richard’s eye.

“A metaphor and you know it,” was the biting reply. A pause. “You’ve got a dirty mind, Kennex.”

“That’s the first compliment you’ve ever given me.”

“And the last.”

Kennex drew his gaze from the window to Richard’s face. In the pale blue light, he looked almost tired. With a jolt, Kennex realized what he felt was far removed from the initial desire. This night had changed it all. He felt something – more. He didn’t want to think about it too much.

“What?” Richard asked, the faintest hint of a smile as he spoke. Kennex leaned in and kissed him and for the first time, he meant it. It was slow, soft, without the drunken urgency of that first night. For a second, Richard’s hand was unmoving, just in the air, but then he rested it on Kennex’s arm. The room was silent apart from the sound of the rain. It was the first time since his wife that Richard felt something again. It wasn’t necessarily love, but it was something.

Kennex broke it off with almost a grimace. “I shouldn’t have –”

“Kennex.”

The rain was pounding the glass now, sheeting down, blurring the city lights. Richard looked down, shaking his head. He let out a slow exhale. Then he pushed Kennex’s shoulder.

“We’ve really fucked up now.”

We’ve crossed a line. That kiss wasn’t how this started. Now it’s serious.