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Logan straightened his back in an attempt to ease the growing ache at the base of his spine. It had been a long night shift and he was ready to fall into bed. The case had taken its toll on him and his partner, Roman, but it was finally solved and the burglars terrorizing the neighbourhood were caught. Both detectives were now on their way to celebrate the closed case in their customary fashion, with hot chocolate at the cafe around the corner of the precinct.

Roman bumped into him as they walked. He tended to forget to keep up his tough guy persona when he was tired and thus became even more affectionate.

Before becoming friends with Roman, Logan had not considered himself the type for friendly cuddles. The fact that he allowed the close contact now was even more surprising, considering how badly things between Roman and him had started. Logan had actually believed their partnership doomed from the moment they met.

***

It had been almost three years ago. Logan had made detective about a year previously and had quickly gained a reputation for being both thorough and effective.

His former classmates had laughed at him when they found out about his career choice, but he had never given their opinion much consideration. After all, they had never given him reason to do so, since they had rarely interacted with him aside from doling out ridicule. He had gotten used to being alone and working alone, and this had served him well as a detective.

His partner had been all but retired and left most of the work to Logan. It had been fine. Logan loved puzzles and mysteries and did not mind the mountains of paperwork.

Unfortunately his routine was shattered when his colleague broke his leg trying to fix the Christmas decoration and chose to retire early. Logan had to get a new partner.

He remembered the day quite clearly. Logan had tried to appear aloof and unworried, but felt that it only made him sit straighter, give even more precise answers and act even colder than usual. He knew all this but had never figured out how to appear more welcoming toward strangers.

He was yanked out of his thoughts quite rudely by a slap on the back that almost triggered his well trained defensive reflexes.

Looking at Logan, few would guess how well he did at hand to hand combat. He had never considered himself the most physical of people, but Logan had easily recognised close combat as just another form of logical thinking and a question of acting accordingly. Take in the situation, determine strengths and weaknesses, choose a course of action and act according to his training. Easy.

His mother had sent him to martial arts classes after he had jumped his first class and thus had to deal with even older and stronger bullies.

The repetitive motions had appealed to him and he had seen the logic behind using your opponents weaknesses against them. While not especially strong or looking particularly threatening, Logan had become quite precise and quick and a force to be reckoned with.
However, he still vastly preferred solving problems with words rather than violence. He had never enjoyed hurting people, even the ones who deserved it.

Not knowing how close the other man had come to flying over Logan’s shoulder and ending pinned on the floor with Logan’s knee pressed against his throat, the newcomer rounded the chair and sat down right on Logan’s well organized paperwork.

Already feeling irritated at the mess, Logan only had a short moment to take in the tall man, leather jacket, green eyes and broad smirk, to determine that he most dearly hoped this man had just gotten lost and was, in fact, NOT his new partner.

“Hello Sanders! I am your new partner! Detective Roman Prince, ready for duty!”

His (apparently) new partner pretty much shouted at Logan, opening his arms wide, striking a pose. Oh No.

 

Things went about as well as Logan had expected. Roman had been brash, loud and manly to a ridiculous extent. He went into danger head first, complained about paperwork non stop and flirted with every woman around him.
As expected of one such as him, he was quick to make fun of Logan’s work ethics and behaviour, calling him nicknames like nerd or calculator watch. As far as he could tell, Roman was not trying to be cruel though, so Logan let it slide.

The worst thing however, were the detective’s attempts at bonding. He kept trying to invite Logan to drink beer with him or watch sport. This did not bode well for Logan.

Even though he was not ashamed of his homosexuality and did not plan to lie about it, he was not outed in the precinct. He knew from painful experience at the academy that close minded colleagues could cause him a lot of trouble for his orientation. Especially a womaniser liker Roman.

***

Remembering their first few months together and his fear of Roman’s reaction, Logan was again amazed at how far they had come.

Once again, Roman bumped into him, this time not even trying to stay upright. Though Logan articulated some token protest, he wrapped a steadying arm around his tired partner.

Which was a good thing, considering the sudden stop they took would have probably sent Roman tumbling onto the sidewalk, had Logan not held him up.

“Out of business?!” Roman wailed dramatically. “What is that supposed to mean?!”

“I would conclude they are closing down their establishment due to personal or economical reasons.” Logan answered the rhetorical question, knowing it would rile Roman up.

Roman glared, as expected, and drew breath to continue complaining. Logan pulled him along before he could work himself into full theatrical drama mode.

“There is a recently opened cafe down the street I believe. I am sure it will serve our needs adequately as well.”

“But the corner coffee was our place!” Roman retorted, throwing an arm over his eyes (and relying on Logan to save him from stumbling into traffic). “We celebrated our first solved case there, and...”

He trailed off, lifting his arm from his face, sniffing hopefully.

As Logan had predicted, the delicious smell of cinnamon, apple and sugar wafting from the open door drew his partner’s attention.

Logan had encountered the newly opened cafe/bakery on the way to work a few days ago. He had not had time to have a look inside yet, but had easily determined that it would appeal to Roman.

While he liked to portray the die hard kind of tough cop, he was actually quite the soft little darling, easily excited by glittering things, lights and sugar.

Unfortunately, this conclusion had initially been hard to come by for the older detective as they had started working together.

***

During those first months, working with Roman had truly grated on Logan’s nerves. Unfortunately he could not even complain about Roman’s skill as a detective. Had the other been incompetent, Logan would not have felt bad about ditching him.

The younger detective however was far less of an airhead than he liked to pretend. He had a way with people that Logan had never mastered.

In the interrogation room, Roman always managed to find the right tone to both get the perp talking and compliment Logan’s style. During investigations, he found angles Logan overlooked and managed to think outside the box, while Logan covered the methodical parts of their research.

Logan had been a very good detective on his own, but with Roman, they were formidable. Which made their personal incompatibility even more frustrating.

Well, giving up would not do. There was nothing to do but find a solution. Thankfully, one presented itself soon enough.

Being the genius that he was, Logan soon noticed inconsistencies about Roman’s behaviour that made him question the persona he portrayed.

Though he flirted charmingly with every woman that crossed his path, he never took any of them on a date or showed interest in watching them. He knew all the lyrics to the catchy songs on the radio, even the ones sung by women, even the musicals, but only sung along when he felt unwatched. And he was such a darling with kids.

Once Logan overheard him retelling the whole plot of The Little Mermaid to a little girl waiting for her mother at the precinct. The only viable conclusion was that Roman was showing a façade. But what was he hiding, and why?

Perhaps, Logan reasoned, Roman felt insecure or uncomfortable around him and therefore hid behind the brash cop persona. He knew from painful experience that his often standoffish manners made people unsure and felt bad for doing so to Roman.

This hypothesis required testing, so Logan came up with a meticulously worked out step by step plan of action. The first of fifteen steps was to get to know Roman in a more personal setting, so he could initiate a more comfortable relationship.

After blowing Roman off so often, Logan had worried the other detective would not agree to his invitation or react with disdain, but he lit up happily upon the suggestion and joined Logan willingly for a drink in his apartment.

Unfortunately, Roman had thwarted his well formulated plan, by getting black out drunk.

Incredibly, drunk Roman was even louder and took up even more space. Blearily, Logan watched the other detective form his spot on the floor as he climbed on Logan’s coffee table and gesticulated wildly, while attempting to retell a story about an adventure he had at the academy.

Logan pulled off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. Had this been a good idea? He wondered if he was just imagining things. All of this might just be hopeful thinking, generated by his pathetic too big brain, which had, against his better judgement, never given up on the hope of finding a real partner to work with. Maybe even a friend. Roman’s talents complemented Logan’s own so well. The idea of actually getting along personally might have become so appealing that in his mind, he had turned Roman into something he was not.

Logan decided then and there that his plan was not fair to Roman. He was a good detective and a good man and Logan should not try to change him out of loneliness and some misguided hope to finally have a real friend.

He opened his eyes, planning to apologize to the other (and get him off his coffee table, seriously.) but found he was not there any more. Logan blinked. How much had he drunk again?

It took him an embarrassing long moment to figure out that his partner had moved to the spot next to him and was dejectedly staring at the floor.

Worriedly, Logan turned to him.

“Roman-”

“Did you know we were at the academy together?” Roman interrupted. “Well, not so much together as there at the same time.”

Roman trailed off, playing with a loose thread in his shirtsleeve. The revelation was news to Logan. Though he wanted to ask questions, he decided to follow a feeling that had served him well during interrogations and stayed quiet.

“You were a few years above me. We met once, while you were assisting the close combat instructor. What was her name?”

“Mitchell.”

“Right. You were showing how to disarm a prep armed with a knife.”

Logan hummed softly, vaguely remembering the lesson.

He had quickly shown a talent for the more complicated aspects of close combat and had become somewhat of a prodigy student of Mitchell. It had been a great honour, considering just how good she was. Being allowed to help train the younger recruits had helped a lot against the bullying he had to endure because of the rumours about his sexual orientation. They had actually stopped circulating after that, as if a man good at combat could not be gay as well. How illogical.

He did not remember Roman though, since he had helped out in that particular course only briefly. Why had he never mentioned anything? Curiously, Logan waited to see where Roman’s story was going.

He stayed silent, waiting. Finally, Roman turned to him and announced very seriously and earnestly:

“You were SO cool.”

Logan’s chin dropped in surprise. That was certainly unexpected.

Roman was already talking again, and he seemed to gain steam.

“The way you disarmed Mitchell was just so … EPIC! I never saw her go down, EVER! And you were so calm about the whole thing, explaining every step like friggin Sherlock Holmes!”

You guessed it. Even surprised and drunk, Logan was preening at this compliment.

“I made a vow that day.” Roman paused dramatically. “I swore that I would become your partner eventually and we would fight crime and evil TOGETHER!”

The last was shouted so abruptly that Logan flinched in surprise, spilling his drink over his lap. Unconcerned, Roman continued spinning his story of woe.

“And I kept my promise. Of course I did.”

He smirked proudly and drunkenly, but after a moment, his smile turned watery.

Logan experienced a brief moment of panic. He did not have the faintest idea about how to handle a crying Roman. The fact that Roman had actually admired him had already left poor Logan reeling emotionally.

Thankfully the other detective managed to pull himself together without his help.
Taking a deep breath, he seemed to steel himself for the grand finale of the story. Logan found himself waiting anticipating his answer eagerly.

“However, I knew that we could only be together (Logan frowned at the odd phrasing) if I managed to fulfil your expectations. Be a proper detective to have your back against criminals and villainous colleagues alike! Someone you could be proud to call your partner. You would not tolerate anything else and I could not disappoint you or make you suffer for my sake. After all, I saw our combined greatness for the moment I met you (and as you know I’m never wrong). So I had to hide myself. But I cannot go on living like this and NEITHER SHOULD I HAVE TO!”

Cue in the dramatic pose, which wobbled only slightly due to his drunken state. Logan was actually amazed at how articulate the other still was. His own thought process was muddled enough to make him take a few moments more than it should have to respond accordingly. Roman clearly expected him to prompt his answer with a question, if his glare was any indication.

“Oh I’m sorry. What did you need to hide Roman?” Logan asked curiously, pushing his glasses up his nose.

Apparently placated by his response, Roman’s voice rose for the dramatic finish.

“I am sorry Logan, but I cannot hide the truth any longer! I have to risk your scorn and the ridicule of the precinct, because I have to stand up for what is RIGHT!”

Cue another dramatic pause. Logan actually found himself waiting with baited breath. What secret was Roman hiding that made him believe Logan would shun him for it?

Moments ticked by.

Finally, Roman revealed his secret.

“Logan, I am gay.”

Logan stared at Roman.

Roman stared at Logan.

Looking pack, Logan guessed he could have reacted with more patience or understanding.

As it turned out, Roman came form a deeply religious family and had had to endure a lot of intolerance and scorn for his orientation.

Right then though, Logan had realised that Roman had played the tough heterosexual cop from fear of how his partner could react to his homosexuality.

His homosexual partner.

Logan couldn’t help it. He started laughing.

He hadn’t laughed like this for a long time. Tears were soon streaming down his face and his sides were aching.

Roman however, did NOT appreciate it. Crossing his arms, he sullenly glared at his partner.

“I fail to see how the story of my life is so amusing to you.”

Oh he had been offended. Not only had his partner not taken his brave revelation seriously, he was also failing to appreciate his performance. Rude.

Logan had hoped to soother the ruffled feathers rather easily with his own confession. Once he managed to breathe again.

“Roman, I am gay as well.” He explained, wiping teas of mirth from his cheeks.

Logan felt… he felt great. Weightless. Better than he had in a very long time. Their troubles had stemmed from a misunderstanding. They could actually be partners. Maybe even friends. Logan had not realised how badly he had wanted Roman’s friendship despite their differences.

His partner had yet to react this revelation though. He sat silently for a long moment.

The pause ended very suddenly in a flurry of movement. Roughly, he pushed himself up and grabbed his jacket, heading for the door. Worried, Logan jumped up and caught up with him in the hallway.

“Roman please wait!”

The younger detective ripped his arm out of Logan’s grip and rounded on him. Logan was shocked to see tears in his eyes. He was the greatest idiot in the world. Roman had bravely opened up to him and Logan had hurt him with his flippant response. Nothing could sober a man quite like guilt.

“Do you think this is funny? Playing with my feelings like this? There is nothing wrong with being gay and I do NOT deserve this!”

“Certainly not! I did not mean to offend you Roman, please give me a chance to explain. It seems we have both fallen victim to a misunderstanding.”

Roman clenched his jaw, clearly fighting back tears. He was brave though. So brave. With a jerky nod he indicated to Logan to continue.

“I did not try to ridicule you Roman, I would never do that. Neither would I expect you to be someone you are not just to please me or keep close minded colleagues off my back. Also, I was perfectly serious. I am, in fact, homosexual as well.”

Logan gazed at Roman imploringly, willing him to believe the truth in his words. The seconds ticked by and Logan grew more nervous with each one. Would this be the moment his partner turned his back on him?

No.

It was Logan’s turn to be laughed at.

Once he finally realised how both men had unintentionally played each other, Roman reacted quite the same as Logan had. Logan endured the laughter thankfully. Seeing Roman bend over, tears streaming down his handsome face and waking up his neighbours with his loud exclamations of happiness made something untie in Logan’s chest.

That night, Logan did not only endure being laughed at, but also being hugged incessantly, having his hair ruffled (“PLEASE desist immediately!”) and actually being serenaded.

Was this what friendship looked like or were they both just especially strange? As Roman started singing and attempting to draw him into a dance, nearly braining them both on the bookcase, Logan decided that the night needed to come to an end or he would regret gaining his first friendship the day he formed it.

Trying to tuck Roman into bed proved more difficult than expected, since his new friend had no intention to let go of his arm.

“Now you are just attempting at irritate me.” Logan groused.

Roman smirked at him, obviously not half as drunk as he had led his partner to believe. Logan guessed his over the top celebration was a friendly way of getting back at him. Roman was not done with his prank though.

The evil smirk he sent the other detective was his only warning. Logan yelped as he was suddenly pulled on the bed and covered with the heavier form of one detective Roman Prince.

“Get off me this instant!” Logan huffed.

“Hmmm. NO!” Roman laughed and got comfortable on his slighter colleague.

Though Logan was the better fighter when it came to style and technique, Roman was quite a bit stronger than him. And he was getting comfortable. After trying to wrestle him off for a few minutes, Logan gave up. This was actually kind of nice. They fell asleep curled up together and awoke the next morning nursing a massive hangover and having made a friend for life.

They chose not to bother hiding their orientation any longer. As expected, some colleagues and superior officers gave them trouble, and the rumour mill worked overtime, but their partnership helped them deal with the problems. Things had settled down now and they had actually become a well liked and respected fixture in the precinct. It was more than Logan had dared to hope for.

***

Logan was shaken out of his trip down memory lane by his friend’s exclamation of delight about the newly opened cafe – the Pat-isserie. His happiness clearly stemmed from the colourful theme, as well as the delicious scent beckoning them inside.

Logan suddenly found himself pulled along by his now wide awake colleague. Once inside, he gently freed his arm from Roman’s clutches and examined the place methodically.

The walls were painted in pastel colours and were covered in pictures of various sizes. All of the tables and chairs were mismatched and colourful. The sofa and armchairs that stood on an elevated part of the cafe at the back of the room were overflowing with cushions and blankets, some of them looking like they were knitted by a clumsy colour enthusiast.

The whole picture was quite overwhelming at first. However, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The room was illuminated by colourful fairy lights stung across the ceiling and every table sported fresh flowers.

Logan cringed at the mess of cables created by the haphazardly stung up lights, but conceded that the place was quite charming in its own way. Roman certainly liked it.

His partner had been drawn to the other side of the room, which was dominated by a large counter displaying all sorts of cakes and baked goods.

“They have chocolate fudge cake, look! And apple cinnamon rolls!” He pointed excitedly.

“Evidently.” Logan answered. “I believe this establishment will suffice for our celebration, as it seems to serve hot beverages as well as your preferred brand of pastries.”

Roman made a face at him, no doubt about to tell him off for replacing their traditional spot so carelessly, however, both of their attention was drawn to the whirlwind of a man entering the cafe from the back room.

“Ohhh, you have something to celebrate? Is it someone’s birthday? Or a promotion?”

The bubbly creature rounded the counter, trailing flour and the smell of vanilla, and beamed at them like an actual ray of sunshine.

This time, Logan’s examination of the newcomer had nothing methodical. Truth be told, he found himself at a loss at what to say, as the other man stumbled over his own feet right before him.

Instinctively, Logan caught his arm to steady the smaller man. He gave a little self deprecating giggle, flushing slightly. Steady now, he looked up at Logan with an expectant look, awaiting an answer.

Logan found himself somewhat distracted by his observation though. The newcomer was shorter than Logan. Softer too. Where Logan was all long lines, straight posture and efficient movements, the other man appeared much less intimidating. Or in fact, not at all.

His pale skin was adorned with a rosy flush on his cheeks. He was wearing a colourful knit sweater which sleeves kept on slipping over his hands the moment he pushed them up to his elbows. His brown hair was tousled and on his nose sat dark rimmed glasses. They sported a bright spot of flour in the middle, where he probably pushed them up when he was baking. His stub nose was also liberally dusted with flour.

Logan examined him only for a moment, but even so, the other man fidgeted with his sleeves and rocked on his toes like he could not stay still, beaming smile firmly in place. He was clearly an energetic mess of a person and against his will, Logan was absolutely charmed.

And tongue tied.

Thankfully, the lack of response did not deter the cheerful creature before him. Spotting Roman at Logan’s elbow, he perked up visibly.

“We do wedding cakes too! You should try our strawberry cream cake! It’s delicious! You’ll loooove it!” he chirped, clearly exited about the idea of an engagement.

“Oh no!” Logan exclaimed despite himself, taking a step back. “We are most certainly not that kind of partners. I fail to see why people always come to this conclusion.”

Logan had crossed his arms and straightened his back as he spoke, towering at this full impressive hight above the other man. He was already too used to warding off this kind of questions from their colleagues and perhaps reacted a tad defensively. He could not help it. It infuriated him that people seemed to believe gay men could not simply be friends.

The other man’s smile faltered in response to Logan’s strict tone and imposing body language. He took a half step back and wrapped his arms around himself in an unconscious attempt to comfort himself. It made him look even smaller. His smile was back after a moment, but it seemed more subdued than before.

Logan, having always been attentive, observed the change come over the other and realised he had, once again, intimidated someone without meaning to. As always, Roman came to his help in his own particular way. He threw an arm around his shoulders and smacked a messy kiss onto Logan’s cheek.

“Awwww, partner, you break my heart!” Pressing his free hand to his chest Roman did a passable expression of a dying swan, relying on Logan to hold him up. “After all these years you deny our love?!”

Fixing his glasses, Logan prayed for patience. Still, even as he spoke, he could not suppress the amused curl of his lips.

“Indeed, I do.”

As expected, Roman pouted at his unwillingness to play along. Logan was feeling generous though. They had closed their case, Roman was a warm weight against his side and he felt the familiar affection for his dramatic partner well up in his chest. Plus, the slow, delighted smile lighting up the pretty face of the smaller man watching them made Logan feel light and funny.

“Also, if you expect me to marry you I would expect you to put at least as much effort into wooing me as you put into flirting with our secretary.”

Roman lit up like a Christmas tree at having been given an opening. Yet, his answer was interrupted by a high pitched squeal from the cute baker. He clearly tried to muffle it behind his clasped hands, but seemed to be too happy to hide it entirely. He really was very endearing.

Logan decided he had had enough drama for today and lightly pulled Romans arm from his shoulders, focusing his attention on the man before him. People were already looking after all. It was most definitely not the bright eyes and ruffled hair that drew his attention away from his poor neglected colleague.

The baker seemed to have gotten over his insecurity caused by Logan’s cool manners with the help of their display of friendship. Still, Logan felt the need to make the other feel comfortable and attempted an apology.

“I am sorry for reacting poorly. Your conclusion was not unusual and did not deserve such a rude reaction.”

Logan nervously adjusted his glasses, hoping his apology would be accepted. He needn’t have worried though.

“Don’t worry at all! I get excited at the prospect of weddings easily, you are right to tell me off or I will start planning wedding cakes before you can stop me! I already have ideas and you are not even together!” He laughed cheerfully, swinging his arms back and forth.

“So what are you celebrating?” He asked, turning wide, curious eyes on Logan.

“We recently managed to close a case. You might have heard about the series of break ins in the neighbourhood? Detective Prince and I have managed to secure the perpetrators last night. After finishing the required paperwork, we traditionally celebrate a successful investigation in a social fashion.”

Even as he was speaking, Logan realised he was slipping into unwanted familiar pattern again. When he was nervous or unsure his tongue ran away with him and he tended to confuse or alienate others with his distanced, emotionless manners. He had become less pronounced since becoming friends with Roman, but people he found attractive still often left him feeling awkward and sounding like a dictionary.

He was quite unexpectedly saved from making more of a fool of himself by suddenly finding his arms full of their new acquaintance, who had launched himself at Roman and Logan with an exited cry and was currently hugging them like a limpet.

Only years of getting used to unexpected hugs thrown at him by Roman kept Logan from freezing up or pushing this strange little creature off him. His partner had no such reservations though. Grinning, he wrapped his arms around both men, never being one to turn down attention or affection.

After the initial surprise Logan managed to decipher the words mumbled into his shoulder.

“Thankyouthankyouthankyousooomuch!!”

He briefly came up for air, beaming at them and making his speech somewhat more recognizable in the process, if not significantly slower.

“My friend was robbed by these horrible people! Shewassoscared! She lives alone! All alone in her flat canyoubelieveit? And they took all of her jewellery, the poor thing andyoucaughtthemI’msoglad!!!”

He paused to take a breath and finally uttered the words Roman had been dying to hear for years.

“You are HEROES!”

Roman instantly puffed up like a peacock, chest swelling, back straightening, getting ready for a monologue.

“Oh please, there is no need to thank us. We are but humble protectors of this fine city. All we want is for the innocent to sleep safe at night! We...”

“Detective Prince is right.”

Logan chose to interrupt before his friend launched himself further into theatre mode. He was already posing.

His agreement brought Roman up short.

“I am?”

“Yes.” Logan answered.

Unsure about how to act in this situation, Logan carefully detached the affectionate citizen from his neck with gentle hands, making him flush prettily.

“There is, in fact, no need to thank us. We are merely doing our job in accordance with our duty.”
Roman pouted.

He was soon cheered up though.

“You are really too modest. My friend will be so glad to feel safe again! And you protect all of us! I feel safer with you here already!”

The smaller man was a flurry of movement again, rocking on his heels and gesticulating widely.

“Oh! You were here to celebrate, how could I keep you with my questions? I’m so sorry!”
He turned around to rush behind the counter, bumping into the corner on his way and nearly tumbling to the ground. Logan reflexively caught his waist in a steadying grip, finding himself once again with his hands on the slighter man. He was starting to get dizzy just looking at the exited man, though he did not mind holding him up at all. He was warm and smelled of bakes goods.

The sudden proximity left Logan flustered and a little anxious though. The smaller man seemed to notice Logan’s unrest and made an effort to calm himself, flashing him an embarrassed smile from under his bangs.

Making his way behind the counter after being released form Logan's hold, the pattisier addressed them in a calmer fashion.

“You should take a seat, please. Everything is on the house.”

Roman perked up at the offer. Logan however, did not share his enthusiasm.

Firstly, accepting such favours would have been unprofessional. Secondly, the baker now seemed to make an effort to appear more quiet and professional, perhaps because Logan had not returned the hug or accepted his gratitude. He did not want the other to feel embarrassed for his enthusiasm or his clumsiness just because Logan was insecure in social settings. Besides, even the man’s clumsiness was adorable on him.

He was unsure about how to reassure the baker though. Wishing he was better at social interactions, he attempted to sooth the embarrassed man once again.

“There is no need for any special treatment, though we appreciate it. You have been most kind to us already.”

Knowing his words fell short, Logan attempted a smile, hoping to put the other at ease. Thankfully the energetic man seemed to be blessed with better social skills than Logan. The smile he gave in return was very kind and genuine. And so pretty. Logan was blushing, he knew it.

“O-kay then! Let’s get your order. My name is Patton by they way! Call me Pat, if you like! Like Pat-isserie?" he laughed at his own joke. "How rude of me! Here I go hugging people before I even introduce myself!”

Patton gave a self-deprecating little laugh, but seemed more at ease around Logan now.

 

Having finished their mutual introduction and having received their order, the detectives finally settled onto the sofa in the corner of the cafe.

Logan leaned back, feeling even more tired after meeting the emotional roller-coaster that was Patton than he had before. His mind was blessedly quiet and peaceful however, as he gazed across the room and watched Patton wipe down the counter, singing under his breath. How curious.

Logan had little time to ponder the peaceful state of his mind though. Roman had settled next to him, stuffing his face with delicious apple cinnamon buns and watching him. Very. Obviously.

“Can I help you?” Logan asked primly, sitting up straighter.

“Me? No I’m perfectly fine.” Roman answered, sipping his hot chocolate, sighing happily.
“What about you?” Roman asked innocently.

“Me?" Logan asked, confused. "Of course I am fine. You are not making any sense.”

Roman only hummed non-committally and shifted his gaze between Logan and Patton.

Choosing to ignore his partner’s oddity, Logan turned to his hot chocolate. It was much superior to the beverage served at their former cafe.

Unintentionally, Logan found his gaze wandering back to Patton. He was currently doing a little dance behind the counter as he was cleaning. Though he was less than graceful, he was plenty adorable. Once again stumbling a little over nothing at all had him giggling to himself. Logan felt light-headed suddenly.

Just then, Patton looked up and caught his gaze. Logan received a cheerful wave for his less than subtle observation.

Tentatively, he smiled back.

Chapter Text

Logan kept his partner in sight attentively as they circled each other, keeping his hands up in a loose defensive position. The grin Roman sent his way looked quite feral, but Logan knew him well enough to catch the playful glint in his green eyes. Their friendly sparring match had already gathered a small crowd of colleagues. Out of the corner of his eye, Logan saw a twenty dollar bill exchange hands. How unprofessional.

 

Roman feinted a left hook and nearly caught Logan with the following right jab. Logan deflected with the palm of his right hand, pushing his arm to the side. Using his friend’s forward momentum against him, he gave Roman’s shoulder a quick push with his left hand, sending him tumbling a few steps to the side.

 

Delighted, Roman laughed and whirled on him. “It is ON! Brace yourself for the full might of my ferocious anger!”

 

Looking childishly excited rather than angry, Roman charged quite suddenly, caught Logan around the middle and brought both tumbling to the floor.

Logan however rolled backwards in an impressive display of flexibility and managed to twist out of Roman’s hold before he could pin him properly under his greater weight.

 

Just as Roman rose and got ready for another jab, they were interrupted by one of their new colleagues.

 

“Go easy on the nerd Prince!” He shouted, sniggering at his own joke. The cops around him laughed and catcalled in amusement, knowing he was in for a surprise.

 

Logan could objectively see the reason for the new officer’s assessment. Roman was a big man, fast, well trained and imposing when he wanted to be (which was not often). In the boxing ring, Roman regularly gave his partner a run for his money if he wasn’t fast enough to tire him out. Strength was Roman’s big advantage, while Logan’s tall slender frame was more suitable for stealth and quickness. His advanced training still made him superior to Roman, though his partner was improving under Logan’s tutelage in leaps and bounds.

Thankfully, as opposed to many male friendship, theirs was not a competitive one, since they complimented each other so well. Both were secretly proud of the other and fiercely protective when one of them was slighted. Like he was now.

 

Feeling that Logan’s honor was wounded, Roman’s eyes lit up with rightful anger. This would not do at all!

 

Logan did not really care about the slight, but saw that it bothered Roman. Though he would deny it with his dying breath, Logan was quite weak for his partner’s whims. The younger detective really had him wrapped around his finger and if he ever realized it Logan would be done for. He shuddered internally, thinking of all the Disney marathons he would have to endure.

 

As they completed another circle around each other, Roman raised an eyebrow at Logan inquisitively. Logan huffed, drawing his eyebrows together. Who cared about this man’s opinion? Roman pouted, clearly hoping for drama but needing Logan to instigate it this time.

 

The older detective knew very well what his partner was asking for. While Logan preferred efficient and safe ways of dealing with threats and had diligently trained for those at the academy, during his martial arts training he had learned flashier moves that impressed with agility more than usefulness. Of course, Roman LOVED it. Logan sometimes indulged him during their weekly sparring sessions, if only to see him light up like a little kid.

 

Falling back on those techniques because of a provocation would be petty and unprofessional. Logan really shouldn’t. But. Roman was pouting at him.

 

The young detective’s grin was like the sun breaking through the clouds as he easily read his partner’s expression. He had caved under the might of Roman’s puppy eyes!

 

Drawing up his fists to give Logan plenty of (unnecessary) time to react, Roman lunched at him, aiming a right hook at Logan’s face.

 

Logan caught his fist in his left hand and twisted it downwards. Using it as leverage, he flipped his body abound and brought his long legs up and around Roman’s neck. Due to the momentum of his movement combined with the sudden weight of Logan’s body, Roman was yanked forward and into a roll that put him on his back. Logan moved with him, keeping his neck trapped between his thighs and pinning Roman’s right arm under Logan’s chest against the floor.

 

Shouts of surprise erupted around them and quickly turned into hollering and applause.

 

Logan quickly released his captive friend and stood to help him up, hoping the bangs falling into his eyes would hide his blush. How did Roman always talk him into entirely unprofessional displays like these? He had not even had to utter a word to do so!

 

As Roman took his hand to be pulled up, Logan felt a brief stab of familiar anxiety. What if Roman did not appreciate being put on the spot like this after all?

 

But Roman’s eyes were bright and happy as he jumped up, grinning proudly at Logan.

 

“That was AWESOME!” He exclaimed. “I never saw it coming! You were like Natasha friggin Romanov! Which of course would make me Tony Stark.” Roman squared his shoulders proudly, reveling in the image.

 

“Please cease comparing me to fictional characters.” Logan groused at him, embarrassed.

 

His partner laughed good naturedly and slung a friendly arm around his shoulders, bringing him close to his sweaty side. Logan huffed, attempting to escape the unsanitary embrace. This was way too much attention for him, but Roman clearly felt like a duck in water, being in the spotlight and not feeling the least bit self-conscious about being beaten.

 

The partners made their way to the showers soon after, and left the building together.

 

***

 

Roman abruptly came to a halt on the front steps, remaining a step above Logan in order to make his pose appear in a more dramatic light, gearing up for a speech.

 

“Once again team Princanders emerged victorious in the face of prejudice!”

 

“Please do not use that ridiculous name.”

 

Logan was ignored as his friend hopped down the remaining steps and grabbed his hand, grinning like a loon. Using his grip on Logan’s pale hand, he pulled his friend down the street, swinging their clasped hands back and forth.

 

“We should reward ourselves! After overcoming these grave obstacles we deserve hot chocolate!”

 

Logan tried unsuccessfully to free his hand from Roman’s captivity, but then predictably gave up with an irritated sigh. After a long moment, he returned Roman’s hold. He drew the line at swinging their clasped hands like children though. That would simply be undignified. Resigned, Logan wondered at how low his standards for dignified behavior had sunk since Roman had barreled into his life.

 

Registering his partner’s words, Logan brought them to a sudden stop. Roman huffed in irritation as his journey towards chocolate and sugar was interrupted.

 

“What are we waiting for?!” He wailed.

 

“Roman, you are making us deviate from our usual social pattern.” Logan informed him stiffly, fixing his glasses on his nose.

 

“We only consume hot chocolate after closing a case. This would constitute an unusual break from our established routine.”

 

Roman sighed rather more forcefully than Logan’s astute objection warranted, in Logan’s opinion. He even threw his hands up in an exasperated gesture, which in turn forced Logan’s right hand up as well, since it remained in Roman’s captivity.

 

“Be a little spontaneous my robotic friend. Like a real boy! I’m sure one small detour will not get your cables in a twist!”

 

Roman giggled at his joke and reached up to ruffle Logan’s tidy hair. Logan glared hard enough to make him freeze in his tracks and drop his hand. He rather liked it and wanted to keep it.

 

Though Logan’s glare was quite frosty, the younger detective was nothing if not brave and determinedly squared his shoulders, ready to convince his friend.

 

By begging.

 

Shamelessly.

 

“Pleeeeaaaase Logan! I am craving an apple cinnamon bun and I must surely perish without it! I have used so much energy in our legendary fight. I might faint without it! I am already feeling lightheaded! Do you feel how cold and clammy my skin is?!”

Bringing their clasped hands up Roman made Logan feel his forehead, adopting a facial expression of acute misery.

Logan groaned, closing his eyes and counting to ten. What had he done to deserve such a drama queen for a partner?

Fighting his need for routine and order for the sake of his friend, Logan conceded. Roman whooped in delight, not faint at all suddenly, and dragged Logan along.

As they turned into the correct street, Logan idly wondered if Patton would be in the cafe today. Inexplicably his heart rate picked up and his face warmed at the memory of a warm soft form in his arms, the smell of vanilla and a smile like sunshine. Logan ducked his head and hoped dearly he would manage not to make a fool of himself.

***

 

Several bells jingled cheerfully as they pushed open the door of the Pat-isserie. The smell of chocolate and sugar hung heavily in the warm air and cocooned them in the comfortable embrace of Patton’s messy little cafe.

 

Before the partners had made it fully inside a joyous cry greeted them from behind the counter.

 

“OHHH look who it is! My favorite detectives Logan and Roman! I’m so happy to see you!”

 

Patton hurried over to them, sliding a little on the hardwood floor in his eagerness and thus coming to a stop very close to Logan. Curiously enough, Roman had given up the lead as they had reached the cafe, and had proceeded to push Logan through the door in front of him, which now put Patton close enough to Logan that the smaller man had to tip his chin up to look at the tall detective.

 

His cheeks were flushed, likely from the exertion of hurriedly crossing the room, Logan hypothesized. Patton grinned at him, rocking back and forth on his heels and playing with his sleeves. Today he was wearing a long sleeved light-blue sweater. Logan noticed how the sleeves were a worn a little thin at the thumbs. Perhaps Patton liked to pull them down to hide his hands under the sweater paws. The hem sported several white stains that appeared to be powdered sugar.

 

Gazing at Patton’s kind and patient face, Logan realized with a start that his attention had once again wandered off upon facing the bright pattisier. He flushed, fearing Patton thought him a simpleton. Did Roman not usually save him by drawing people’s attention towards himself in these situations? His partner however had turned away and was examining the loose threads on what appeared to be a handmade pillow with greater interest than the object warranted.

 

There was nothing to it. Logan attempted to learn from his mistakes and offered Patton a smile.

 

“Good afternoon Patton. I hope your day has been satisfactory?”

 

“Oh yes it has been GREAT! I’ve gained so many new customers! Did you know there is a knitting club in the neighborhood?”

 

Logan had not. It did not seem to matter though, since Patton was already barreling on cheerfully.

 

“They might want to meet here on Thursdays now for their club meeting. They even offered to help me with my knitting. It’s really VERY bad indeed, but you do not have to be good at something to enjoy it!”

 

Patton giggled cheerfully, grinning up at Logan. This information shed some light on all the mismatched pillows and blankets at least.

 

Suddenly, he perked up (even more) and grabbed Logan’s hand in both of his softer ones (Why did people insist on holding Logan’s hands today?).

 

“Oh I almost forgot, I’m so scatterbrained, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached, haha!”

 

Poor Logan had finally managed to wrestle his pale blushing skin under control again, but now it surely was lost case. Patton did not seem deterred though and ecstatically informed him about the reason for his happiness.

 

“I wanted to thank you again, for my friend. The one who was robbed you know? The precinct let her pick up her stolen jewelery yesterday. Some of it even belonged to her mother. She was SO HAPPY! You found it for her!! Your work is SO important!”

 

Patton smiled earnestly at Logan and Roman, looking a little starry eyed.

 

While Roman had valiantly tried to let Logan and Patton catch up undisturbed by his distractingly magnificent presence, a fair young man thanking them for their brave deeds was really too much for Roman to ignore. Even he had his limits.

 

He appeared at the lovely baker’s shoulder like a handsome white knight, if he may say so himself, and prepared to dazzle him with his humble response.

 

“It is really not a problem! Though we face grave danger every day, the comfort of our citizens is always a priority for us. We shall put their needs above our own whenever the wronged and helpless are in need of us.”

 

Roman’s voice rose for the great finish as the gazed into the middle distance theatrically, placing a hand over his chest.

 

“Your dear friend may rest assured that NOTHING may harm her as long as the courageous team Princanders lives to defend her!”

 

Logan groaned loudly, hiding his face in his remaining free hand in mortification.

 

Patton seemed to have no complaints though. He squealed joyfully and threw his arms around Roman.

 

“You are SO brave! Look at you, protecting us so selflessly! And I love the name. It is pun-tastic!”

 

Though Roman definitely enjoyed hugging handsome prospective friends, he had not actually planned to distract him from his partner. It wouldn’t do to make the baker (understandably) fall in love with Roman. Such a development would tragically thwart his brilliant plan.

 

Patton though would never distribute his affection unfairly and turned to Logan to hug him next. Showing remarkable consideration for the detective’s insecurity about social interactions, Patton progressed in a much more gentle fashion than he had with Roman. He telegraphed his movements clearly, giving Logan time to assess the situation or refuse the offered contact, before wrapping his arms around Logan’s neck and cuddling up to him with a happy hum.

 

Logan appreciated the consideration a lot. It helped him immensely to determine the appropriate course of action and execute the required response with adequate timing. He brought his arms up carefully and returned the hug.

 

Nothing could have prepared the detective for the experience of actually holding Patton in a proper embrace though. The pattisier was soft all over. His sweater was fluffy, his hair was silky and the form under Logan’s large hands was pleasantly pliant.

 

As Patton got hugged so gently, almost reverently, a change seemed to come over his usually energetic person. His grip on Logan’s jacket tightened suddenly and a shudder wracked his small form. Logan feared he had overstepped some kind of boundary or that the surprisingly attentive baker had caught on to the detective’s feelings, but a moment later, Patton melted into his embrace like his strings had been cut. Turning his face to hide against Logan’s neck, Patton seemed to relax against Logan’s tall body like a pleased cat, signing quietly.

 

A wave of feeling caught the usually stoic detective quite by surprise. Patton, who was sweet and innocent and pure, fit into Logan’s arms perfectly. He smaller man suddenly felt like the embodiment of everything good and kind in the world. Patton felt small and precious and fragile and Logan wanted to protect him desperately. Something in the way Patton relaxed in his embrace, hiding his face, spoke to the detective’s protective instincts. To Logan, it felt like Patton had needed to be held without even realizing it. Like something was unwinding in his chest at being embraced securely.

 

Though somewhat anxious at the prolonged contact with a man he hardly knew, Logan made sure not to be the first to pull away. If Patton really needed someone to hold him, Logan would gladly offer his help as long as it was required.

 

The moment and the intensity of the feeling passed once Patton finally release him though. With some distance between their bodies, Logan felt foolish for his thoughts and feelings. What had come over him? Patton was already smiling at him again and was clearly no damsel in distress.

Logan berated himself internally for being so pathetically emotional. Of course Patton did not need or want his misguided attempts at protection or comfort, he was a grown man after all. In fact, the baker was suddenly flushing bright red and looked – guilty? Had Logan made him uncomfortable after all?

 

Patton took a step back, bringing more space between their bodies. Noticing the worried gazes of the observant detectives, he quickly plastered a grin to his pretty face.

 

“Oh boy here I go again hugging my friends and not feeding them! You kiddoes are way too skinny! What can I get you brave detectives?”

 

A little floored by the sudden mood swing, Logan answered less than eloquently.

 

“Oh, Ähm – my partner was craving your apple cinnamon buns, so…”

 

“So you decided to pay good old Patton a visit!” Patton chirped happily, clapping his hands together. “And a hot chocolate, for you both, right?”

 

Finally faced with the prospect of food, Roman nodded eagerly. He was grinning from ear to ear now, his hair falling into his eyes.

 

“Coming right up! Anything else? No? O-kay!”

 

Patton was already backing away as he spoke and almost ran over another customer. Surprised, he jumped to the side, colliding with the counter. Logan’s hands suddenly itched uncontrollably with the desire to wrap Patton into a blanket (or bubble wrap sheets) and keep him from getting hurt. The poor thing was so terribly clumsy, he must be bruised all over.

 

The little incident did not darken Patton’s mood though. He apologized sweetly to the woman, leaving her thoroughly charmed. Maybe Logan had been reading his expression wrong after the hug and his big brain was finally making him go mad.

 

After paying, Roman and Logan settled into what promised to become their customary spot on the couch. Patton left his employee in charge, bringing them their order personally. Seeing the pattisier balance a tray full of baked goods and hot beverages, Logan got up to help him, before he manged to hurt himself.

 

“Let me assist you.” Logan murmured quietly, as he gently eased the tray from Patton’s hands.

 

Patton smiled at him gratefully and helped distribute the products.

 

“Oh, Patton I did not order any food.” Logan protested, as Patton places a flaky pastry in front of him.

 

“I know! But Roman has his cinnamon bun and you both need to eat properly to fight crime and I want you to have it! I came up with it myself!”

 

Roman made an endeared little noise at Patton’s enthusiasm, which he tried to muffle as he bit into his bun.

 

Logan knew he should not accept favors, but as Patton beamed proudly at him, the detective found his resolve weakening. He did have quite the sweet tooth after all, even though he did not indulge often. Also, he suspected that Patton had intentionally undercharged Roman for his pastry as well, so at least he did not have to feel bad about being spoiled by Patton.

 

“Well – thank you very much Patton.”

 

“Awww don’t mention it my friend!”

 

Patton had cast his eyed down demurely as Logan thanked him, apparently feeling pleased and a little shy. To distract himself, he played with an uneven edge of a colorful pillow.

 

The kind words fell from Patton’s lips quite naturally, but being called “friend” meant a lot to Logan. Roman’s friendship had changed everything for him and he would die for his partner. Gaining a friend in Patton would be something Logan would cherish deeply. The happy thoughts must have shown on his face, since Patton’s smile increased to much that it almost hurt to look at. He really was as bright as the sun.

 

Roman butted in before Patton could make his escape back to work.

 

“Hey Pat, since the cafe is almost empty, would you mind joining these roguishly handsome fellows and tell us about your knitting?”

 

“Oh I’d love to!” Patton beamed at the invitation. Patton’s cafe would close soon and the last customers had already left, so they were almost alone. Valerie, Patton’s barista, was already cleaning up, knowing the last half hour would not yield many new customers. She left as Patton told her kindly to go home and enjoy the evening.

 

Patton got himself a hot chocolate as well and curled up in the armchair across from Logan and Roman, pulling one of his blankets across his shoulders. Conversation topics came easily to the small group, especially since Roman always had stories to tell.

 

Since Patton was clearly eagerly awaiting his opinion, Logan picked up the pastry gingerly and bit into it. A delighted moan rose to his lips unbidden, as the crust melted on his tongue and he discovered some kind of fruity sweet jam inside. Logan LOVED jam. Humming with pleasure, he devoured the whole thing, for once feeling unselfconscious about the noises he made, until he could lick the crumbs from his lips and his slender fingers. Patton’s baking really was marvelous.

 

Finally realizing that conversation had stopped, Logan turned his inquisitive gaze on his friends. Roman was grinning mischievously. And Patton? He seemed to have frozen with his drink half way to his lips, staring at Logan’s mouth with an attractive blush staining his cheeks pink.

 

Logan raised his eyebrow at him, inquiring “Are you all right Patton?”

 

Upon being addressed, Patton snapped out of his stupor, ducking his head to hide and murmuring something unintelligible. Sensing his discomfort, Roman saved him by picking up the story before Logan could inquire further after his well being. Realizing his friend had saved him from making the baker uncomfortable with his inappropriate curiosity, Logan took the hint and left Patton alone, grateful that his partner once again had his back.

 

Watching Patton from the corner of his eye, he found that he once again looked a little guilty.

 

Confused, Logan attempted to analyze the situation objectively. Taking into account the circumstances as well as his body language, he concluded that Patton might have been watching him and had liked what he saw. Both his blush and his distraction spoke for this hypothesis. Unfortunately, while his initial primal reaction to Logan’s physique had been positive, Patton seemed to reject any possible attraction vehemently once conscious of it. He even seemed to be ashamed of finding Logan attractive.

 

The disappointment the detective felt upon this realization hurt bitterly. Logan dropped his gaze to the floor, hoping to hide how painfully his chest was constricting, as if some invisible force was squeezing his ribcage.

Clenching his jaw, Logan fought to regain control of his treacherous heart. He was being pathetic and he knew it. A romantic relationship with Patton had never been a possibility. Patton was way too good for him. He was kind and loving and pure in every way and Logan would never be able to make him happy.

 

That Patton found him physically appealing was entirely possible of course. Many people found Logan attractive on a purely physical level. Some had even overlooked his distant manners and had claimed Logan for a night. However, no one had ever wanted more than his body or wanted to stay in his life after having had him. Though he had come to expect it, it still hurt every time. Eventually, Logan had given up on finding affection from others, feeling too bruised and weary from past rejections. Something was wrong with him and Patton – smart, intuitive, emotionally competent Patton, clearly knew it too.

 

No. This had to stop. There was no use for self pity. Logan scolded himself fiercely, reeling his emotions back under his iron control. Attempting to comfort himself, he examined the situation from another angle, and found there may actually be no need for so much self pity.

 

After all, he now had much more affection in his life than he had had since the early death of his parents. He had gained real love with Roman. The fact that their relationship had never progressed beyond friendship did not make it any less valuable. In fact, Logan assumed it had made it safer.

 

Daring to look at Patton again, who was currently spellbound by Roman’s story, Logan came to the conclusion that he should be thankful to him. He was clearly the better judge of Logan’s character and their compatibility than the detective could be and probably saved them from ruining their blossoming friendship. This was something to be truly grateful about. Patton was not like all the others that had bedded him and then left him behind. He was so much better than every single one of them, because even though he saw how flawed Logan was, he still wanted much more than to claim his body. Patton accepted him the way he was and wanted to give him his friendship.

 

Even though he was still bitterly disappointed, the thought of creating a relationship similar to his friendship with Roman, something lasting and kind, with wonderful and loving Patton, made tentative warmth uncurl in Logan’s chest. It still hurt. Maybe this ache would never cease completely. But he could live with it. The prospect of having Patton in his life, his to spend time with, to hug and take care of, outweighed the pain. He would get to have the pattisier at his side and he must remember how blessed he was. Patton was already willing to give him more love than anyone but Roman had ever offered him and Logan would cherish that.

 

Yes, Logan would make the best of the situation. Poor Patton must have feared leading him on and thus had felt guilty. That would certainly not do. Logan would make sure Patton knew he had a reliable friend in him and would not have to fear Logan demanding anything he was not willing to give. He would be a good companion and cherish whatever Patton wanted to share with him.

 

Right now, Patton was giving him his time and care and a wonderful evening in his lovely cafe with his best friend Roman. He was thankful. As Patton turned his gaze to Logan, the detective was able to give him a real smile. Delighted, Patton beamed at him, hugging the pillow he was once again cuddling cheerfully. He was achingly beautiful. Logan firmly reminded himself of the plan. Be a good friend. Be useful.

 

Unfortunately, Logan got to prove his usefulness sooner than he had anticipated.

 

A sudden crack broke the peaceful atmosphere abruptly. Someone screeched in surprise as the sound startled them all and the colorful fairy lights above them flickered and went out.

 

Logan jumped up and scanned the room, quickly determining that the situation was not an emergency after all. Patton had plucked all of his fairy lights haphazardly into a multiple socket outlet in the corner, creating a ball of cables around it in the process. The whole thing had started smoldering and then exploded into flames. Logan assessed the small electrical fire quickly and concluded that the overcharge had already blown the safety fuse, rendering the fire relatively harmless.

 

Since Patton had also jumped up and now stood petrified in his surprise, clutching his pillow to his chest, Logan gently took hold of his upper arms to move him to the side so he could access the damage. The detective slipped his jacket from his shoulders and threw the heavy material over the socket to suffocate the flames.

Having pulled out the plugs, he turned to the other men to discuss a course of action, and found Roman – standing on top of the sofa, looking like a spooked cat.

 

The socket had been located almost directly behind the detective and had clearly give the poor thing quite the scare at the sudden explosion. Had Roman been an actual cat, surely his hair would have been standing on end.

 

Looking at his friend and realizing the high pitched screech had in fact come from his courageous partner, Logan helplessly started laughing. Roman’s look turned from startled to indignant in a heartbeat. He drew himself up to his full height (which was impressive, but would have been more impressive had he not still stood on the sofa he had fled onto) and attempted to save his injured dignity.

 

“I – ah – I intended to do that!”

 

Wincing, Roman realized how bad an excuse he had come up with even as he spoke, but valiantly decided to roll with it anyway.

 

Logan hummed, amused. “Certainly you did partner.”

 

Roman indignantly spluttered, gearing up for a rant. Logan had more important things to deal with however, like Patton, who hadn’t uttered a word yet. He still stood were Logan had left him, in the middle of his now darkened cafe, clutching his knitted pillow to his chest. He seemed at a loss about what to do.

 

Roman and Logan both noticed his lost expression and worriedly approached him. Roman soothingly rubbed his back while Logan addressed the distraught man.

 

“Patton, are you all right? It was merely a small fire, no one got injured and the damage to your furniture was minimal.” he explained, attempting to reassure him.

 

Patton blinked at him and finally seemed to focus on something again. Clutching his pillow tighter, a devastated look came across his pretty face. Startled, the detectives froze in the light of Patton’s sudden misery. His anguished words shocked them even more.

 

“This is all my fault, I’m soSTUPID! Had you not been here the whole place could have burned! What if somebody got hurt?! How could I have been to dumb?”

 

Tears started filling Patton’s large brown eyes as his whole body started shaking. Oh no. Oh please no! Logan repressed his own anxiety viciously as he realized that Patton was working himself up to a panic attack.

 

“I can’t do anything right!” Patton sobbed, his breaths starting to turn into uneven gasps.

 

Logan was objectively bad at emotions and often tongue tided around Patton, but he had yet to come across an emergency he had not handled calmly and efficiently. Danger had a way of sharpening his reactions and streamlining his thought process like nothing else. Assessing the situation and taking into account what little he knew about Patton’s character, Logan determined the course of action that was most likely to succeed.

 

Gently, he wrestled the pillow from Patton’s hands and pulled the pattisier against his chest. Holding him in a solid but not restraining hold, he brought their chests together and turned his head to whisper directly into Patton’s ear.

 

“It is alright Patton, you are safe. I’ve got you. Breath with me, alright?”

 

Logan soothingly rubbed his large hands up and down Patton’s back, making sure to let the other feel the rise and fall of his chest against his own and the warm air against his cheek as he exhaled.

Curling his larger body around Patton, he attempted to cocoon him in his arms as well as he could, while attentively monitoring whether his hold calmed Patton or made him feel trapped. Roman stepped behind Patton and loosely wrapped his arms around both of them, ensuring the shaking man felt safe and warm.

 

Logan’s decision seemed to have been adequate, as Patton slowly curled into his embrace. After a few minutes of listening to the deep baritone of Logan’s voice whispering in his ear and rumbling against his chest, Patton’s cramped muscles started to ease. His breathing slowly became more even as he managed to match it more and more with the movement of Logan’s chest. Being able to breathe again, he sank against the detective’s body trustingly. Roman had started humming quietly behind the pattisier, soothing the distressed creature further.

 

As they held Patton, the detectives’ eyes met over his shoulder. Both had made note of the way Patton had clutched onto Logan as they had hugged before and had wondered at his apparent need for comfort. This sudden fear, panic and even self hatred had caught them utterly by surprise though. What had happened to the usually so cheerful man to make him react so severely to a small mistake?

 

Their worry only grew exponentially as Patton finally extricated himself from the loving cocoon he had been enveloped in, brushed his tears away and grinned at them brightly like nothing had ever happened.

 

The change in attitude was so sudden that it left both detectives reeling for a moment.

 

“Oh I’m so sorry! I just got startled but I’m alright now! Right as rain!” He laughed in apparent happiness, tear tracks still not dried on his fair face.

 

The effect of this mood swing was jarring and did not reassure the detectives at all. While his expression gave away nothing but cheerfulness, Patton’s hands were still shaking slightly. Quickly, he hid them behind his back, trying not to draw attention to the signs of any negative feelings.

 

The experience left Roman and Logan with some alarming questions. How come Patton felt the need to deny the suffering that he had just now wrestled firmly under control? How had he gotten so good at hiding it behind his so very convincing smile and just how much of his fears and pains did others overlook as they fell for Patton’s bright laughs?

 

As much as they wanted to call Patton out and address their worries, both detectives realized that Patton did not yet know them well enough to confide in them. He clearly wanted to hide his feelings and it would be cruel of them to forcefully confront him. They would need to gain his trust first, and right now it looked like that would be much more difficult than they had originally believed. Patton was not as much of an open book as they had thought. He might need them after all.

 

Right now, all they could do was covertly continue to calm and comfort him though. The partners conveyed their thoughts with little more than look over Patton’s tousled head.

 

“That is good to hear!” Roman exclaimed, plastering a wide smile to his own face. “It is fortunate that all of us react so fearlessly in the face of a crisis!” While he spoke, he jumped on the sofa again and struck a dramatic pose.

 

As he had hoped, the ironic reminder of his reaction to the fire drew a real laugh out of Patton. Playing along, Logan rolled his eyes and attempted to wrestle his partner off the sofa.

 

“Roman! Do get off the furniture! I hope you know you are not actually a cat?”

 

“But I am as majestic and cute as one.” Roman retorted smugly, allowing himself to be pulled down.

 

“While that may or may not be accurate, the sofa is for sitting, not standing or acting.” Logan informed his partner primly, fixing his glasses. “See?” Logan asked, sitting down in a demonstration and casually pulling Patton down with him. Roman huffed theatrically and flopped down on Patton’s other side.

 

“He never appreciates my genius!”

 

Throwing an arm over his eyes, he threw his legs over the arm of the sofa and placed his head down over Patton’s lap. This did not only have the effect of getting him comfortable, but also of once again subtly placing Patton safely between them and offering warmth and belonging.

 

Suitably distracted, Patton cooed at poor misunderstood Roman and immediately stared carding his fingers through Roman’s hair. Roman sent Logan a smug upside down smirk. “See?” He seemed to say. “Exactly like a cat.”

 

As a matter of fact, petting Roman seemed to have a similarly soothing effect on Patton as petting an actual feline. His shaking hands grew steady and his tightly strung up muscles relaxed slowly.

 

Not one to leave all the work to his partner, Logan began a retelling of one of their early adventures. He was not much of a storyteller, but his voice was deep and soothing and the story was endearing and lighthearted. Especially as Roman had still tried much too hard to prove himself back them and had often acted in an outrageously brash fashion. In this case he had actually attempted to save a real cat stuck on a window ledge, instead of waiting for the firefighters to arrive with proper equipment. He had managed to acquire the cat, as well as some scratches (he called them wounds of battle) but had to have been saved himself in the process.

 

Patton was shaking not in distress but with laughter as the story wound to an end. He leaned against Logan’s side as a comfortable silence fell around them. Carefully, Logan brought his arm up and offered an embrace to the slighter man. Patton sighed deeply and sunk against the detective’s chest. Meanwhile, Roman seemed to have melted on Patton’s lap and seemed unlikely to move in the next minutes, if ever again.

Chapter Text

Almost spilling his coffee, another officer scurried out of Logan’s way upon seeing his thunderous expression. None of the cops would be careless enough to cross the imposing detective when he was in such a fearsome mood. Certainly none of them envied the felon Logan dragged along by his arm. He put up somewhat of a token struggle occasionally, but was easily subdued by Logan’s strong hands.

A little incredulously, the officers watched detective Prince strutting after his furious partner, cheerful as you please. He was even whistling.

Logan shoved the young man into the chair next to his desk, glaring him into submission. The perp clearly thought better about the insolent remark he had been about to utter. This detective clearly had no chill.

Roman fell into the chair on the other side of the adjoining desks and grinned at the cuffed man obnoxiously. Since Logan’s fury was not directed at him, he was free to lean back and observe the hilarity of Logan stoically bullying this scumbag into behaving.

His partner’s voice was truly arctic as he curtly started asking for the criminal’s data.

“Name?”

“Bite me.”

Logan turned to the young man slowly, his face impassive. Gradually, the suspect paled and leaned back as far as his chair would allow. He had made a grave mistake.

Logan felt little remorse for intimidating the suspect. After all, he was the reason for his less than cheerful mood. Shifting in his seat and suppressing a wince as the movement pulled at the abrasion on his forearm and hand, Logan distastefully recalled the undignified behavior he had been forced to take part in that had led them to this interaction.

***

Roman and Logan had headed out on a late lunch break to a little vegetarian fast food shop after a visit to the coroner. While Roman was waiting in line, Logan had leaned back against their squad car on the other side of the street, observing the people passing them idly.

An outraged scream jarred him out of his pleasant daydream about the smell of cinnamon and sugar. Jumping to high alert, Logan scanned the area and spotted a man running through the crowd, clutching a handbag that most definitely did not belong to him.

Though there was quite some distance between them already, Logan took off immediately, chasing the thief through the crowd.

“Go get him partner!” Roman had yelled cheerfully from across the street, and proceeded to munch on his vegetable wrap.

And get him Logan did. Being built like a runner and in peak physical condition he caught up with the man as he rounded a corner into a quite filthy alley.

“Police!” Logan shouted. “Freeze!”

Though wheezing already, the perp picked up speed upon spotting the angry detective, not watching where he was going.

Anticipating the fool was about to crash into the next car passing along the street he was racing toward, Logan was forced to tackle the man to the ground roughly.

Which was rather dirty.

And unsanitary.

Logan was displeased.

The detective pinned the man to the ground and twisted his arm behind his back somewhat more firmly that strictly necessary.

The situation combined most of his least favorite aspects of being a cop and put him into a truly foul mood. He was dirty, sweaty, his trousers were ruined and he had scratched his arm and hand on the tarmac. Also this unpleasant individual was insulting him quite obnoxiously.

Speaking over the irritating cacophony of curses, Logan growled “You have the right to remain silent -”

“ - Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law, SCUMBAG!” Roman interrupted cheerfully as he rounded the corner from the direction they had been heading towards. He paused to take a bite from his lunch, observing them contently.

While Logan could commend Roman’s quick thinking at anticipating the thief’s path correctly and cutting off his escape route, his laissez-faire attitude did not improve the detective’s mood. At. All.

Pinning the struggling man to the ground with one hand, he glared at his partner.
“Would you care to explain what you were doing while I was chasing this … individual?” He inquired through gritted teeth.
“Protecting your lunch!” Roman exclaimed proudly, presenting the wrapped package. “Also, running after this pitiful ruffian would not have made a shred of sense, since you are the faster runner, I was farther away and you clearly had the situation well under control.” He summarized his observation with a smug grin.

“So I applied the strategies you taught me and found an alternative solution. Which was obviously to anticipate the most likely route this bird-brain would come up with with his limited imagination and deliver your lunch to my valiant partner who would certainly already have wrapped up the case in his capable hands.”

Roman beamed at him, believing in Logan’s ability so completely and actually looking so proud of him that Logan deflated.

His partner was right. Logan was actually quite pleased with Roman’s logical thinking. Years ago, he would have chased after the offender without a second thought, hollering and probably waving his arms for good measure.

Also, Roman had brought him lunch.

***

The fact that Roman (as usual) had managed to soften Logan’s temper towards him, did not make him any less irritated with the general situation though.

Staring the criminal down, Logan allowed the frigid silence to hang in the air. Then he repeated his question. Very. Calmly.

“Name?”

The man almost squeaked his name in a hurry to answer. Roman sniggered from the other desk, munching a cookie.

Logan turned back to his computer, hitting the keys rather forcefully.

“Occupation?” He asked, curtly, expecting to be answered.

Unfortunately, though plenty reckless, his man clearly was not one of the smarter examples of homo sapiens to ever have roamed the earth, and seemed to have little preservation instinct on top of that.

Flushing angrily at Roman’s apparent mirth, he scratched together all the ill advised courage the imposing detective had not yet scared out of him and geared up reveal the information these presumptuous detectives were clearly missing.

“You idiots laugh now if you want! You won’t be laughing soon!” He hollered, interrupting the activity of the other officers in the room.

“The new gang in town will burn this place to the GROUND! You’ll be sorry for this once the Howling Scorpions come TO GET YOU!” He finished with a loud shout, slamming his cuffed fists on Logan’s desk.

The office went dead silent.

 

Then, quietly, Roman spoke up.

“The … the …. the WHAT?”

Processing the name he had just learned, he threw his head back and howled with laughter.

“The – the howling Scorpions are going to get us?” He inquired, face alight with hilarity. “Did you guys hear that?”

The other detectives sniggered, clearly wanting in on the fun.

“Cool name.” Jake commented. “Was the Screeching Bunny taken?”

Laughing, their coworkers piqued up with their suggestions.

“What about the Shrieking Ladybug? It sounds just as badass!”

“Or the Bellowing Beaver?” Terry responded.

“The Clamoring Chameleon!”

“We have a roll people! Keep the alliterations coming!” Jake shouted gleefully.

“The Bawling Bumble-bee.” Amy offered shyly, reaping whoops of hilarity.

“Good one!” Rosa exclaimed, grinning like a shark. “The Caterwauling Corgi.”

“The Exclaiming Emu!”

“The Declaring Desert Kangaroo Rat.”

Roman was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down his handsome face. He almost lost his precious cookie trying to keep from tumbling out of his chair.

Gasping, he needed two tries to offer his suggestion. “The … the Hollering Hamster!”

He whooped at his own suggestion. The poor thing’s face was staring to turn quite red from his laughter.

Suddenly, the door to the Captain’s office was opened and the dark imposing figure stepped into the room. The detectives fell dead silent, caught like naughty children.

Captain Holt observed them impassively. After a long pause, he chastised them in his inflection-less voice.

“This is hardly the behavior I expect from highly trained detectives such as yourself.”

He looked at all of them in turn, making them cower.

“It is most inappropriate for a detective to make fun of the -”

He paused.

“Articulating Antelope.”

Cheering and roaring laughter filled the room as their Captain joined in on the fun!

 

Logan rose abruptly, his spine ramrod straight, his face emotionless. Laughter died down again, as his colleagues curiously watched the spectacle.

Finding Logan’s stare directed at himself, Roman paled, trying to right himself.

Apparently absolutely calm, Logan stalked around the desks with the grace of a predator and approached his cringing prey.

Coming to a stop before him, he curtly grabbed Roman by the back of his jacket like an unruly kitten and yanked him up quite effortlessly. Poor Roman lost his cookie in his surprise. He made a pitiful sound, but did not dare reach for it. Logan proceeded to drag him around the desk wordlessly and shoved him into his vacated seat next to the felon.

Staring his cowering partner down, he made sure to have his full attention.

“Stay.” Logan growled darkly. Roman nodded vigorously.

Taking his jacket, Logan headed for the door. He had more than enough overtime to leave early. For today, he had despaired enough of his colleagues and was most certainly not willing to listen to them recount the rest of the alphabet. Adolescents, all of them.

Sniggering about Roman’s plight was already rising around him. As Logan rounded the corner, he caught sight of Roman, straining to reach his cookie on the other side of their desks, while obediently keeping his butt firmly placed on the chair Logan had parked him in.

Helplessly, Logan started laughing. His day may have been the worst, but his partner truly was the most precious creature of them all. With affection swelling in his chest, Logan headed down the stairs. As the door closed behind him, he just caught the anewed hollering of his colleagues.

“The Hooting Humminbird!”

The laughter of the detectives accompanied the only adult out of the building and left him light-hearted quite against his will.

***

Having grabbed the toolbox he had brought on the way out, Logan turned towards the Pat-isserie.

After comforting Patton because of the fire, Logan had promised he would fix the lights for him within the week. Patton had protested bashfully, stating that they had already done too much for him.

Logan had not tolerated a refusal though. Somewhat apprehensively, he had confessed to Patton how he had noticed the mess of cables the first time he had come to the cafe and had failed to estimate the potential for a combustion accurately. Therefor, the situation was more his responsibility than Patton’s.

There was no shame in not knowing something, as he had informed the pattisier. Ignoring or underestimating danger however, was a highly reprehensible mistake, especially for a detective. There could be no excuse and he wished to make amends. Seeing how strict Logan had been with himself, Patton had finally been able to accept his help without shame.

It was fortunate, Logan mused, that he had left early. After Patton’s display of vulnerability, the partners had left with the utmost reluctance. Feeling wary about leaving him undefended against whatever may have made him sad, and no one there to comfort him, they decided to install a network of watchers and protectors.

Of course they could not betray Patton’s confidence in them and tell their agents about their mission. They would have to remain ignorant, yet vigilant and also had to report diligently to the detectives.

Acquiring such agents was the work of no more than a few minutes.

All Logan had to do was unleash Roman on his colleagues to allow him to wax poetry about Patton’s cafe, let him serenade his baking and applaud his amazing hot chocolate. He merely had to back up his partner’s opinion with his own assessment to get their fellow detectives to check out Patton’s place. The pattisier would do the rest to catch the officers with his kindness and sweetness - hook, line and sinker.

Within a day, all of them were cheerfully munching on his baking and had become fast friends with the lovely man. And since none of them could ever manage not to gossip even if their lives depended on it, Logan and Roman received regular updates.

Was their behavior intrusive? Absolutely.

Were they going way overboard because their friend had cried in their arms once? Most likely.

Did they care? Not at all.

Both men were deeply shaken from their experience of holding Patton between them as he sobbed and struggled for air. If they wanted to find out what had rendered him so scared and insecure, they would have to gather data, so they settled in for the long haul.

Both knew of course that Patton’s insecurity was likely to stem from experiences of his childhood, which was where the cause of such trauma was most often located in such cases, so their efforts would most likely not be necessary or even helpful, but they decided it was better to be safe than sorry.

The downside of choosing to share Patton however, was the fact that they now had to share Patton.

Obviously.

Since chances of meeting his obnoxious colleagues after work had risen exponentially now, Logan reveled in the chance to get away early and enjoy some peace and quiet before they would inevitable invade the cafe on a quest for sugar and caffeine.

He should have known of course, that he had not taken Patton into account.

A high pitched squealing greeted the detective as he stepped through the door. In his haste to greet Logan, Patton hardly managed to clear the sharp edge of the counter as he dashed around it. Bubble wrap. Seriously.

Though Patton was quite loud, upon laying eyes on him, Logan felt the last of his tension melt away and a real smile cross his lips.

The smaller man had come to a stop before him, only stumbling minimally, and once again initiated his hug with enough warning for the detective. Logan felt better prepared this time though. As Patton stretched on his tip toes to wrap his arms around Logan’s shoulders carefully, the taller man wrapped his free arm around Patton’s back and brought him against his body in a proper embrace. Delighted, his friend gave a breathy laugh at Logan’s progress and snuggled closer.

For a short moment, Logan once again felt Patton lean against him, tucking his face against his shoulder. He still fit against the detective’s body like he was made to be curled against it. Even though Logan had done his best to repress his feelings and rely solely on his logical thinking to keep his emotions at bay, the pain he suddenly felt upon embracing Patton felt like a physical stab between his ribs. Holding him was bittersweet indeed, but he would endure it. For Patton.

While he had the chance, the brilliant detective focused his sharp senses on the form in his arms and checked for any signs of distress, trembling, fear or discomfort. Patton seemed better though.

Pulling back and remaining unaware of the close examination he had just undergone, Patton smiled at his friend.

“Heya Logan!” He squealed happily, eyes bright and hair ruffled. His clothes were slightly rumpled and his cheek seemed to be stained with a smudge of chocolate. He was so pretty it hurt.

“Salutations Patton.”

Despite his observations, Logan managed to return the greeting in a remarkably composed fashion, pleased to note that his focus on Patton’s heath had assisted in warding off his blush. Maybe he was improving at interacting normally with his friend.

The pattisier’s smile suddenly froze on his lovely face, his expression transforming to one of horror.

Oh no. What had the perceptive man seen on Logan’s face that made him react so severely? The detective’s social anxiety skyrocketed abruptly, leaving his previously commended calmness a distant memory.

Patton however, was not observing his face any longer.

“Oh Logan what happened to you? You’re all dirty and IS THAT BLOOD?!”

Aghast, Patton pried the tool box from Logan’s bleeding fingers.

He had switched its handle to his injured hand upon entering the cafe so he would not stain Patton’s clothes in the anticipated embrace. The pressure seemed to have aggravated the abrasions and caused him to bleed once again. He had not even noticed while Patton had been in his arms.

Logan was not worried about a little blood as he had endured much worse in the course of his work, but Patton was working himself into a frenzy.

“You are so pale, come sit down before you fall!” Anxiously, he took hold of Logan’s arm to help him.

Logan had indeed paled. However, the reason had been his fear of Patton’s reaction instead of a moderate amount of scraped off skin. He could hardly confess this to Patton though. Still, the poor thing needed to be calmed so Logan stood his ground against Patton’s helpless attempts at pulling him towards a seat.

He closed his healthy hand around the pattisier’s upper arm and pulled him back.

“Patton.” He spoke intently, forcing the smaller man to look at him. “I am perfectly unharmed. It is merely a slight epidermal abrasion which I aggravated carelessly. There is no need for your concern.”

Logan made sure to adopt a firm enough tone to get through to the frantic man, but to keep his voice as warm and kind as he managed to make it nonetheless.

Patton flushed brightly as his overreaction became apparent to him, withdrawing from Logan.

Knowing how severely the baker had reacted to his mistake in the past, the detective hastily added “I am however grateful for your attention. Being cared for is … appreciated.”

Though he struggled with the honest admission, Logan found it put the other more at ease. Relieved, Patton laughed bashfully and let his bangs fall into his eyes. It occurred to Logan that Patton might still be embarrassed about his recent breakdown and was therefor more insecure around Logan.

This saddened the detective. Patton had been nothing but welcoming and accepting of all of Logan’s flaws. He should be able to expect the same curtsey from others. Logan would have to do his best to soothe him.

Now he wished Roman had come with him. His partner would have made light of the situation effortlessly and made Patton laugh. Mentally calculating how long it would take Roman to process the felon he had left him with, Logan determined he was on his own for now.

Once again, he was unsure about how to reassure Patton, so he employed one of the two strategies which had proven effective. He smiled at Patton.

The pattisier smiled back genuinely, apparently thankful for the offered kindness. Tentatively, he reached out and took Logan’s hand in his softer one and carefully examined the abrasion. While he inspected his friend’s injury, he absentmindedly rubbed circles on the back of Logan’s hand, as if he was unconsciously trying to comfort him.

The detective helplessly tried to suppress a shiver of pleasure. His hands were quite sensitive and Patton was so very gentle with him.

“These have not been cleaned yet.” He remarked, his eyebrows drawing together with worry. Patton gazed up at him anxiously, his wide hazel eyes filled with care and affection. Before Logan heard the question he knew he was going to give in. Patton had him in the palm of his hand.

“May I bandage these for you?” He asked earnestly. “I’m quite good at it, since I always run into things or fall over my feet.” As if the reassurance were necessary for the tough detective, he tagged on “I’ll be gentle, I promise.”

Logan did not doubt his capacity for gentleness or tenderness for a moment. Though unneeded, it softened him further. And he could not deny Patton.

Hoping his voice would remain steady, he responded “Your assistance would be much appreciated. Thank you Patton.”

Upon being allowed to take care of Logan, Patton seemed to be completely in his element. He beamed at Logan and pulled him through the back door of his cafe, leaving his barista in charge.

While being towed energetically through the bakery, Logan got to catch a glimps at Patton’s workplace. Unsurprisingly it was very cozy and cheerful. All of his ingredients were stored in glass jars placed on wooden shelves lining lavender walls and most of his supplies and bowls were colorful. The whole room was unexpectedly clean and well organized. Patton was clearly taking good care of it.

Pulling Logan up the stairs in the back, he showed him a cozy office/storage room. It was filled with shelves full of baking supplies. A comfortable couch stood against one bright yellow wall and another sported a desk overflowing with papers.

Patton asked Logan to take off his jacket as he directed him to the couch. Then he proceeded to acquire a first aid kit out of the small bathroom and almost cause the poor detective’s heart to fail as he knelt down in front of Logan.

Upon seeing the lovely creature in such a position at his feet, Logan blushed uncontrollably, his heart suddenly beating like a bird in a cage. Desperately, he tried to reign in his emotions, cursing himself colorfully. Had he not thought just a few minutes ago that he had been making progress? He clearly was a bumbling fool.

Logan thanked all the deities he did not believe in, and Tesla and Tolkien as well, for the small mercy of Patton’s singular focus on his injury. Patton could not know about how severely Logan had fallen for his friend or he would feel guilty, or worse, uncomfortable around Logan.

No. Logan would be a good friend. Nothing more. A platonic companion. Who did not think about how beautiful Patton’s dark lashes looked against his fair skin or how his position made him appear even more delicate and tempting.

He breathed deeply, focusing on his training. Patton’s tender touch set his nerves on fire as he gently rolled up the sleeves of the detective’s ruined shirt and seriously hampered Logan’s efforts to regain tranquility.

Bending his dark head lower over Logan’s hand and shuffling forwards slightly, Patton diligently cleaned the injured skin while cradling the back of his hand oh so carefully in his own. As he worked, the pattisier started humming a soothing melody.

At this point, Logan exasperatedly gave up on being subtle and squeezed his eyes shut, turning his face away. Patton was already excruciatingly lovely as it was. Having him on his knees between his thighs was more than he could handle.

Employing the last tool at Logan’s disposal, he pictured his partner.

Not the charming, radiantly handsome Detective Roman Prince everyone else got to see though – green eyes sparkling, grinning roguishly, sweeping men and women alike off their feet.

No. He pictured the Roman he knew at his worst – tired, whiny, petulant, nails on chalkboard irritating Roman.

***

The memory was located quickly. His most aggravating day as a detective yet, eight months ago. Dumpster diving in search of a homicide weapon.

Three dumpsters in, the novelty of the situation had worn off and had overcome even Roman’s most aggressive attempts at optimism.

Seven dumpsters in and they were exhausted, wet and covered in old garbage.

Logan had never felt more disgusting. Or hated his partner more.

The sulking had started two hours ago. One hour later and Roman had worked himself into full blown drama mode.

“What on god’s green earth is this? I’ll never get it out of my trousers doyouknowholmuchtheyCOST?!” Roman wailed. “I feel disgusting! THIS is disgusting! WHY are we HERE?!”

“Homicide weapon.” Logan growled through gritted teeth.

“Can’t the officers look for it? I should NOT be here! It’s like leaving a flower to bloom in garbage!”

Gesturing around himself, Roman looked at Logan expectantly, awaiting agreement.

Logan glared.

Roman huffed like Logan was the worst.

“AAAHHHHH SOMETHING MOVED!!!!!” Roman shrieked. Nails on chalkboard.

Logan’s gloved hand shot out lightning quickly and closed around the rat scurrying over Romans feet. Fighting the urge to shove the rodent down his partner’s throat, he set the squirming animal down gently on his other side.

Closing his eyes, he counted to ten, breathing deeply.

Everything was fine.

He was fine.

He was calm and composed.

Opening his eyes, he found Roman looking at him miserably, wailing “Look at ME! I am having the WORST day.”

Scratch calm and composed. Logan contemplated murder.

All the other officers had long fled the scene of Roman’s high pitched complaining combined with Logan’s murderous expression, sensing violence. It would be easy. None of these ignorant fools would ever catch him.

 

***

The aggravating memory clearly served as a sufficient counterpoint to Patton’s beauty and gentle touches, but it did not support his attempts to calm himself.

Unconsciously, Logan’s quick mind steered his thoughts into another direction.

***

It had been a few hours later. Both were sitting tiredly on the wet asphalt. Both looked disgusting and smelled like something had died in their clothes.

Yet, the bloody ice pick lay bagged at their side so the effort had not been in vain.

Roman’s loud exclamations of misery had quieted down with his tiredness and left him mumbling woefully next to his partner.

Logan meanwhile was soothingly brushing his long fingers through his partner’s thick hair, picking out pieces of eggshell and other scraps of garbage. The tender treatment and repetitive motion calmed his friend further.

Though still thoroughly miserable, he felt his younger partner relax under his hands. Eventually, Roman had leaned his head on Logan’s shoulder, sighing quietly. As if his presence alone would make everything better.

***

The beloved memory of holding his tired partner (who had just unknowingly escaped an early death by being flayed with a dirty piece of scrap metal by Logan himself) finally brought the desperately needed calmness.

Finally feeling ready to face the sight of Patton again, Logan opened his eyes and found the pattisier in the process of bandaging his arm. The tip of his pink tongue was sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated. The sight was so adorable and innocent that it thankfully distracted from his position at Logan’s feet.

Moving his arm slightly as Patton was done, Logan found he had done an excellent job.

Smiling genuinely at his friend, he made sure to thank him earnestly.

“Thank you very much Patton. You truly did a commendable job.”

Patton flushed in pleasure at the praise and beamed up at him, unfortunately appearing perfectly comfortable kneeling at Logan’s feet. It gave the detective entirely inappropriate ideas quite against his will. He suppressed them ruthlessly. Bad giant brain!

“How did this happen anyway?” Patton inquired curiously, hazel eyes wide.

“There is not much of a story to tell I’m afraid. By chance I happened to witness a case of theft on the upper part of Edison street and pursued the felon on foot. To prevent the mentioned individual from causing himself bodily harm in traffic, I was forced to tackle him to the ground in the process of apprehending him, which caused the abrasions on my forearms and palm, which you have so laudably attended to.”

Patton’s eyes grew wide throughout the story. Amazed, he gazed up at the detective, clasping his hands rather tightly in his lap.

“I – just – WOW! You are SO brave and – and” In his awe, Patton started stuttering, unable to organize this thoughts.

Kindly, Logan leaned forward and gently uncurled his hands, worrying about how tightly he had clasped them. Something was off. Patton seemed distracted and confused.

“Are you well Patton?” He inquired gently, holding Patton’s cramped hands between his warmer, larger ones.

“Wh- me? Of course! I’ve never been better!” Patton replied, grinning up at the detective.

Pre-warned by their last encounter, Logan analyzed Patton’s facial expression using the technique devised by the French physician Guillaume Duchenne and found his smile lacked the characteristic features of an expression of genuine happiness.

Worried, Logan rubbed the soft hands between his own and attempted to convey his patience and readiness to listen.

After a few long moments, Patton’s fake smile faltered and his shoulders drooped.

“It’s just, ah - “ He freed one of his hands to rub the back of his neck self-consciously, letting his hair fall into his eyes.

Logan gently squeezed his other hand, waiting.

“Um.” Patton shifted slightly, daring to glace up at the detective. Finding nothing but kindness on the tall man’s face, Patton seemed to gain courage.

“You and Roman are just so – so amazing! You are so strong and fearless and competent and brilliant and - and since you came into my life you have done nothing but catch me when I stumble or comfort me when I had one of my stupid stupid pathetic breakdowns. Being my friend is nothing but work and effort and a burden to you. I’m always so foolishly emotional and you should not have to put up with me. I – I feel -”

He paused, clearly heartbroken, struggling to find words.

“I feel so useless and stupid and-”

Logan had heard enough.

Quite heartbroken himself, he slipped to the floor and pulled Patton against his chest. Patton went and clutched his shirt, shuddering helplessly, breath hitching. He felt small and fragile and so insecure.

Logan gripped him tightly, trying to hold Patton’s cracked pieces together by his firm embrace alone. Shifting, he leaned his back against the sofa and let Patton curl up against his chest, safely cradled between Logan’s long legs.

Feeling Patton start to tremble, the detective desperately articulated the first helpful thing that came to his mind.

“I sleep with a nightlight.”

Patton stilled in his arms, clearly confused.

Embarrassed at his confession as well as it’s abrupt delivery, Logan soldiered on nonetheless.

“I have several in fact. They are 3 dimensional prints modeled after the planets of our solar system. I require them to counteract bouts of anxiety I regularly experience upon waking at night.” Logan rambled.

Though clearly unsure where his confession had come from, Patton now looked at him full of selfless compassion, his own feelings forgotten. He had even started to rub his arm in an attempt to comfort the detective.

Flustered, Logan realized he had jumped ahead again and attempted to explain his sudden confession.

“What I am attempting to convey in my rather inapt fashion is that every single human individual experiences fear. Every one of us is subjected to insecurity and doubt. Thus, it is only natural to conclude that feeling embarrassment or shame of a natural emotional phenomenon would be highly illogical.”

Felling he was not getting his point across adequately, and perhaps even unintentionally marginalizing his suffering, Logan huffed in embarrassment and frustration, keenly wishing Roman were here.

“What I mean to tell you is – you have the right to feel sad, or more importantly, to require assistance. It constitutes part of a healthy social interaction between friends. Moreover, you have already, perhaps unknowingly, done a great deal to avert my own social insecurities with your patience and kind willingness to indulge my personal failings.”

Cringing at how clinical he sounded, but feeling hopeful at Patton’s attentive look, Logan gave his pitiful attempts at comfort one more try before he went and buried himself. His face was flushed quite crimson, he could feel it.

“You are a good friend Patton, an extraordinarily good friend in fact, and you make us feel welcome with all of our personal flaws. Please allow us to return the courtesy. There is no shame in needing comfort that is most willingly given.”

Having said all he could think of, Logan fell quiet, nervously hoping his clumsy words would have an effect.

Patton lowered his head, seemingly deep in though.

Then, after a breathless moment, tears started to fill his dark eyes and he latched onto Logan tightly.

Clutching his shirt in his trembling hands, he got enveloped in the detective’s arms safely. Crushed, Logan held onto Patton. His words had been a failure.

What else could he do to make the pattisier feel better? He could not leave him feeling so helpless, like he was not allowed to be weak and need help occasionally. Logan knew it would crush the sensitive creature eventually to have to live like that.

His train of though halted in it’s tracks when a breathy laugh sounded against his shoulder. As Patton burrowed deeper into the detective’s arms he caught sight of his lovely smiling face.

Patton looked so relieved and thankful at finally being told these words he apparently had so desperately needed to hear. This was all it took to make him happy. How could anyone ever have made Patton think caring for him required great effort when he required so little?

As Patton’s body grew weak and pliant from relieve against Logan’s chest, the detective realized Patton was crying from joy.

Logan felt almost dizzy with the weight being lifted off his shoulders. He had made Patton feel better. I felt like closing his fist case all over again.

Sighing with relieve, Logan let his forehead fall against Patton’s.

“That sounds like something I would say!” Patton mumbled in awe, and giggled at the discovery.

“In that case I believe this proves how astute my assessment was, since you have proven your competence in assessing social situations on multiple occasions.” Logan answered, trying to turn Patton’s attentions to his strengths.

“AWWWW thank you!”

Patton beamed at him. Logan examined him closely for a long moment and finally returned Patton’s smile. This was a real one.

Logan marveled at Patton’s strength. He had only needed to be accepted to manage to find his smile again.

“Here I am in your arms again, I feel like a kitten, having to be picked up and carried around all day.” Patton laughed, clearly delighted with the picture of the stoic detective holding a small feline.

A little more quietly, he asked “Do you mind staying like this for a little while longer? It’s fine if you don’t!” He added quickly. Apparently loosing courage, he pulled back. “You probably have better things to do. I’m sorry I asked.”

Logan didn’t. At all.

Unwilling to allow Patton to withdraw because of precisely the insecurities Logan had attempted to counteract, he reflexively caught the smaller man in order to stop him from escaping from the safety of Logan’s arms.

To his shock, Patton hissed in pain and flinched away from the detective’s hand on his hip. Logan pulled away as if the others body had burned him, horrified at having hurt him.

Patton was quick to reassure the detective though.

“Ops! Looks like I hit the counter harder than I thought!” He ducked his head so the detective could not catch an unobstructed look at his face, appearing torn between amusement and embarrassment.

“I hit my hip on it this morning, you know how clumsy I am. Silly old me!”

Logan calmed somewhat at this information. As he had observed the results of Patton’s challenged motor skills on various occasions, he conceded that this was a fair statement. Still, he filed the information away, just to be safe.

“I apologize for hurting you. Would you like me to take a look Patton? Judging from your reaction the bruising appears to be rather extensive.” Logan offered worriedly.

“Aw thank you! Don’t worry though, I already put some ice on it, I’m great!”

Though yearning for the chance to make Patton feel better, Logan conceded. The pattisier might not want the detective to touch him so intimately or undress before him. He did look a little uncomfortable, maybe even ashamed of being called out, so Logan refrained from pressuring him. He would always respect Patton’s boundaries.

“As you wish. To return to your earlier request, I can assure you that there is current nothing more pressing for me to attend to than being here with you. In fact -” Logan required a moment to draw on his courage, hoping Patton would not take his admission the wrong way. “- I am not averse to, ah – cuddling – with you.”

Logan blushed as Patton’s gaze softened. Thankful, the smaller man curled against Logan’s chest, sighing contently. Logan enveloped him in his embrace, careful of Patton’s bruised hip. After a moment of contemplation, the detective started tentatively running a hand up and down his back.

Patton seemed to soften even more under the gentle caresses, shivering and all but purring under Logan’s tender hands. For a moment, the detective allowed himself to revel in the pleasure of holding Patton’s pliant body so intimately against his own.

“You’re a great friend Lo.” He mumbled, voice muffled against the fabric of Logan’s shirt. “You’ll make a lucky lady very happy one day.”

Lady?

Wait a minute – did Patton believe Logan was heterosexual?

Bewildered, Logan reexamined their social interactions. His sexual orientation had in fact never come up after he had so vehemently denied a romantic relationship with Roman.

This misinterpretation did not make a difference though, Logan vehemently chastised himself. His character had not changed and he therefore would not have anything else to offer the bright creature in his arms. Roman had spent many years and invested a lot of effort into teaching him the appropriate behavior required to uphold a healthy relationship between friends. A romantic relationship was so much more complicated though. Logan felt helplessly overwhelmed just considering how badly his fearsome temper, his cold manners and his capacity for misreading situations and emotions could hurt poor Patton.

Yet his foolish brain and even more foolish heart informed him there was no harm in clearing up the misunderstanding.

“Patton -” Logan began, only to be interrupted rather loudly.

“What is THIS?!” Roman bellowed, throwing the door open.

“A cuddling session without me? Are you replacing me with a fairer friend?” He howled, playfully theatrical, throwing an arm over this eyes.

“Oh nooooo! Of course not! Come join us, we would LOVE to have you Princey!” Patton implored immediately, making grabby hands at Roman.

Elated, Roman beamed at them and threw himself on top of their puppy pile with a gleeful shout.

Logan barely managed to manhandle Patton aside so his bruised hip was saved from taking the brunt of Roman’s considerable weight. His partner landed on top of them and immediately drew them both into his strong arms.

Logan huffed in annoyance at being interrupted (and squeezed like a teddy bear).

However, Patton’s laugh was bright like sunshine as he was cuddled aggressively by the tall detective, so Logan conceded that the interruption was acceptable. He could always clear up their misunderstanding at a later date.

***

After fulfilling Roman’s demands for cuddles, the three of them made their way back downstairs. Even before clearing the kitchen, gleeful whoops and shouts greeted them.

“The Yelling Yellow Mongoose!”

Logan groaned miserably, covering his face with his hands. How were they STILL at it?!

Curiously, Patton looked at Roman for an explanation. Grinning maniacally, the young detective grabbed Patton’s pale hand and drew him along, more than happy to offer an explanation and invite him in on the fun.

At a slower pace, Logan followed his friends, cursing his protective instincts which had apparently led the whole squad to the cafe.

Pushing the door open, he spotted a beaming Patton surrounded by Logan’s colleagues, Roman’s arm securely wrapped around his slender shoulders.

“The Wailing Wombat!” Patton exclaimed joyfully.

The detectives cheered.

Charmed against his will, Logan smiled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Doing his best to keep the exasperation from showing in his voice, Logan bravely continued to request the necessary information for his report.

“Can you describe your vehicle Mrs Van der Beek?”

“But of course Gorgeous! I drive a stunning 1967 Ford Mustang GT 500, black and chrome, 349 horse power.”

Inching closer to Logan, she whisperer huskily “I like my cars just like I like my men – dark, strong and fast.”

Logan huffed in annoyance as he, one again, had to capture the well manicured hand trailing up his thigh.

“When did you return to your vehicle?” he asked through gritted teeth.

“At about 10:30am. We had just finished our yoga class, the girls and I. Have to stay fit and limber to keep up with delectable things such as yourself.”

She winked at the detective, smoothing imaginary wrinkles on her leopard print blouse and covertly drawing attention to ...well. Logan was not going to go there.

Roman failed to muffle a snort behind the hands he had clasped over his face, desperately trying not to miss any of the conversation over his laughter.

Logan glared. Hard.

“Where did the damage take pla – MRS VAN DER BEEK would you kindly take your hands OFF my person!” Logan ordered, his voice noticeably higher than usual, as he attempted to escape yet another unsolicited groping.

Roman started giggling, tears of mirth streaming down his face.

“Of course Sugar Plum, if I have to.” Mrs Van der Beek sighed dramatically. (Roman quietly lost it)

“But you must call me Cecilia! The man of my dreams must not refer to me by my last name! Also-” she leaned in again, purring “I am not married.”

Flushing helplessly, Logan straightened his tie, wrestling for control. Never in his whole life had anyone flirted with him so outrageously!

Rosa laughed mercilessly at his plight, nudging Amy and openly pointing at him. Rude.

“You stated you observed the person who tagged your vehicle run away. Are you able to provide a description of the perpetrator?” Logan asked primly, sitting very straight.

“Doll, I’m 83 years old. My eyes don’t work like they used to.” Miss Van der Beek answered. Smirking, she added “Everything else works fine though.”

Roman squeaked with laughter, briefly hiding under the table to muffle it.
Emerging a few moments later, practically glowing with cheerfulness and schadenfreude, he finally took mercy on his partner.

Logan wished he would choose to do so in a less outrageous fashion though. (And earlier)

Coming to his partner’s aid, the younger detective rounded the desks and addressed Miss Van der Beek gravely.

“Dearest Cecilia I am deeply sorry to deliver bad news to an iridescent beauty such as yourself! However I would never allow my scoundrel of a partner to lead you on!” He cried, gesticulating to Logan. When had he become the bad guy?!

“Detective Sanders -” He paused dramatically, “- plays for the other team.”

To underline his words, Roman dropped into Logan’s lap, obnoxiously kissing his cheek.

Logan groaned in annoyance and proceeded to shove Roman off him without pity. He loved his partner more than life but he would not tolerate him sitting in his lap.

In public.

Poor Roman squawked in surprise, landing at Logan’s feet.

“Hey! How dare you you villain?!” He complained, deeply offended. Gearing up for a rant, he prepared to clamor up for maximum effect, when he spotted the bottom drawer of Logan’s desk.

It was ajar.

Squealing happily, Roman forgot about his injured pride and brightly informed his colleagues “Hey you guys, the candy drawer is open!!”

Excitedly, the others gathered around and dropped to the floor next to Roman, plundering the drawer.

Logan was known for having the best chocolate! He wasn’t the type to distribute candy, but they all knew he would let them get away with raiding his stash when he left the drawer unlocked.

Grinning at Miss Van der Beek, Roman handed her a fair trade candy bar as consolation prize. Sighing theatrically, she accepted the chocolate. The elderly lady did not manage to hold on to her grief for long though, since all of the imposing detectives were now milling around an exasperated Logan’s chair, contently munching candy. So cute.

Apparently, Logan had managed to buy his partner’s forgiveness, as Roman leaned his head on the older detective’s thigh and wound an arm around his calf. Giving up on professionalism upon being faced with such childish coworkers, Logan started carding his fingers through his friend’s hair. Roman huffed contently.

As he attempted to awkwardly type over Roman’s head with his remaining hand, a flash went off.

Looking up, Logan found Miss Van der Beek taking pictures of Roman and him with her smart-phone, grinning cheerfully.

“The girls are going to love this!” The elderly lady exclaimed with a lewd grin.

Roman smirked proudly, puffing up his chest like a peacock upon being admired. Logan however, did not share his enthusiasm.

“Miss Van der Beek, Please cease photographing us.” He growled darkly.

“Ohhh, that growl is so hot!” She squealed.

Annoyed, Logan wondered if he had lost his edge. In order to test this alarming hypotheses, he glared at an unsuspecting officer walking past. The poor man squeaked in alarm and scurried off.

Satisfied, Logan turned back to his keyboard, only to be interrupted once again. How was he ever supposed to finish this report?!

“You know, you being homosexual is actually a lucky coincidence – for you that is. I have the perfect boyfriend for you!”

“NO – please Miss Van der Beek -”

“Cecilia!” She corrected him determinedly.

Sniggering started spreading from around Logan’s feet.

“MISS Van der Beek.” Logan repeated, strictly - and a tad desperately.

Undeterred, Cecilia interrupted him once again.

“He is such a delicious little thing! And he DEFINITELY needs looking after from a strong man like you. Us girls actually meet at his cafe.”

Curious heads peaked up around Logan. Oh no.

Blushing crimson, Logan attempted to ward off the approaching tragedy.

“Miss Van der Beek, I must implore you - “

Interrupting again, the elderly lady soldiered on.

“His name is Patton. You wouldn’t believe how precious he is. And so good natured! Sometimes when he passes by I get a pat-in, if you know what I mean.” Miss Van der Beek laughed heartily at her dirty joke. “He thinks I have shaky hands, bless his innocent soul!”

Noticing the detective’s blush, Miss Van der Beek’s grin turned downright devilish.

“But I see I’m kicking in open doors. Good for you!” Fanning herself, she added “Oh I can’t wait to see you two together. The height difference alone, oh my.”

Mortified, Logan gave up on preserving his dignity and hid his face in his hands, groaning.

Roman decided to be a good friend upon feeling the embarrassment become too much for his poor partner.

“They are just friends Cecilia.” He informed her earnestly from his position cuddled against Logan’s leg. Something must have shown through, as Cecilia softened.

“Well that is a pity. I’ll tell you, that one needs a proper boyfriend, and if he already has one he is not coming over often to look after him. Trust me, a woman of my age knows these things. But enough about your juicy love life. Why don’t you detectives make sure to find the rascal who ruined my car?”

Thankful for the reprise, Logan pulled himself together. This, he could do. Still, as he turned back to his computer, maneuvering around Roman’s dark head on his tight, Miss Van der Beek’s words stayed with him.

“Did you take a picture of the damage?”

“Well of course you heart-breaker. I’m no simpleton!”

Swiping on her phone with much less trouble than any 83 year old had any right to have, she produced a picture of a mean black car with a bright yellow tag sprayed onto the side. Roman whistled, impressed.

“You must take me on a ride Cecilia! Imagine the adventures we could have!” Roman raved, delighted.

“Absolutely not.” Logan growled. No way was his partner getting into this beast, especially when driven by an 83 year old lunatic with bad eyesight. Roman pouted.

“Is anyone familiar with the tag?” Logan inquired, turning the phone to his colleagues.

Curious muttering started as the detectives got to play a guessing game.

“It looks like bubbles – and a branch?” Amy guessed.

“My little girls draw better than that.” Terry complained.

“Is that like, a necklace? With leafs on the side?”

After some murmuring, a slow grin started spreading across Roman’s handsome face.

“You guys, I think that is a scorpion.”

Oh not again!

“You mean, a Squealing Scorpion?” Jake asked mischievously.

“Will you stop it?” Logan groaned.

“When I die.” Roman informed him cheerfully.

Exasperated, the detective rose abruptly, dislodging his partner from his thigh. “Heeeeeyyy!” Roman complained pitifully, mewling like a kitten.

Logan was not deterred by the detective’s winy tone though (as he usually would be). He would NOT go through this again. The others were already taking it up.

“Did I just hear about the Chortling Cheetah?”

Yanking Roman up and parking him into his chair, Logan curtly informed Miss Van der Beek of his intentions.

“Detective Prince will continue recording your statement. Since I have most rudely failed to offer you refreshments I will rectify the situation right away.”

Before Miss Van der Beek could complain about losing her eye candy, Logan escaped to the break room.

“I hate to see him leave but I love to watch him go!” Miss Van der Beek exclaimed cheerfully. Cat-calls and hollers of amusement followed her comment.

Running a frustrated hand though his hair, Logan determined that he’d much rather face down the barrel of a gun again than being subjected to this vixen.

“Gina, could you be so kind to bring Miss Van der Beek a coffee?” He politely asked the squad’s secretary.

“Hmm, don’t feel like it, no.” Gina replied, not looking up from her phone.

Not really surprised by her reaction, Logan huffed in annoyance and turned to the coffee maker. He was well aware of the fact that at this point he usually would have lost his temper and frightened everyone in the office. Yet, today nothing could truly seem to bring him down. Logan steadfastly refused to consider that his scheduled meeting with Patton later today could be the cause.

Also, he could not be mad at Gina. Though showing deplorable work ethics, she was actually the only colleague he could not scare into submission, and he respected that.

Handing the coffee to an officer and sending him to the she-devil at his desk, Logan holed himself up with some files.

***

About half an hour later, Scully disturbed his peaceful bubble.

“Hey Logan, don’t you and Roman speak, like, all the languages?”

Slowly, Logan looked up at his colleague, face expressionless.

“Excuse me?”

“I have a witness here who doesn’t speak English. You and Roman speak so many languages, you know it for sure!” He explained confidently. Walking away, he seemed to expect his exasperated colleague to follow him.

Logan sighed in irritation, getting up to see to the witness whose case was surely never going to be solved.

“According to the Summer Institute of Linguistics, 6,909 distinct spoken languages currently exist in the world.” Logan lectured him testily.

“Since Roman and I merely speak seven languages between the two of us fluently, your statement is highly inaccurate. The likelihood of me understanding your witness is microscopic, especially since neither of us speak Mandarin, which at 14.1 percent is spoken by the highest number of people.”

He came to a halt in front of Scully’s desk, observing the dark skinned woman. She had leaned back in her chair in boredom, mumbling to herself “Was muss man tun um hier einen Kaffee zu bekommen?”

Turning to Scully, he informed him primly: “However this woman speaks German in which I am indeed fluent.”

“See?” Scully said, preening as if his earlier hypothesis had made perfect sense.

Scoffing, Logan once again addressed Gina to get the witness her desired beverage.

“Gina, could you get this lady a coffee?”

“Nah, don’t want to.”

Crossing his arms, Logan calmly responded. “Gina, I will tell Captain Holt about The Thing.”

“One coffee, coming right up.”

Pleased, Logan took a seat next to the witness and informed her that he would be translating for her.

“Guten Tag. Mein Name ist Detective Sanders, ich werde ihre Aussage für meinen Kollegen übersetzen.”

Relived, the woman straightened in her chair and started telling her story for Logan to translate, so Scully could fill in the report.

“Ich war auf dem Weg zu meinem Hotel, als diese Gruppe dunkel gekleideter Männer mich überfallen hat.”

Nodding, Logan addressed Scully. “She was on her way to her hotel when she was accosted by a group of darkly dressed men.”

“Es waren bestimmt sieben oder acht. Sie trugen schwarze Lederjacken und verfolgten mich als sie mich auf der Straße sahen.”

“There were approximately seven to eight perpetrators dressed in black leather jackets. Upon spotting her, they proceeded to pursue her down the street.”

Roman joined them while Logan was retelling her words, apparently having processed the bane of Logan’s existence. Seeing how scared the young woman was while telling her story, he pulled up a chair and smiled at her sweetly. Blushing at the attention of such a gorgeous man, she smiled back at him. A little shyly, she fixed her pretty headscarf, clearly charmed.

Somewhat more boldly, she continued explaining her case.

“Nach einer Weile schlossen sie zu mir auf und kreisten mich ein. Einer entriss mir meine Tasche und ein anderer stieß mich auf den Boden.”

“After following her briefly, the perpetrators caught up with her and relieved her of her bag, while another pushed her to the ground.”

“Ich habe mich nicht getraut mich zu wehren.” She tagged on, shamefully lowering her head.

Concerned, Logan leaned forward and kindly told her “Sie hatten recht damit sich nicht zu wehren, eine solche Entscheidung wäre höchst töricht gewesen. Sie haben absolut richtig gehandelt.”

She appeared to feel relieved upon the detective’s reassurance, apparently trusting his words.

Upon his partner’s questioning look, Logan elaborated. “She did not fight back upon being pushed. I explained how such an action would have been most foolish in the face of such disadvantageous numbers and reassured her of having reacted correctly.”

Roman smiled at her, nodding earnestly. Giving him a lopsided smile, she appeared to feel better in the care of the detectives.

“Können Sie die Männer beschreiben, die sie verfolgten?” Logan asked, requesting a description.

Roman listened to her translated description attentively, until she mentioned a familiar yellow patch on their jackets.

A high pitched noise escaped the young detective’s throat upon realizing who they were confronted with again.

“Hey those are the -”

“Will you STOP?!” Logan interrupted.

“When I DIE!” Roman cried indignantly.

The older detective growled in frustration at his unrepentant partner. Thankfully, Roman did not take up his joke again. Actually, he looked a tad worried. So did Logan. They had encountered quite a lot of activity from this new gang in the last few days, much of it close to the precinct. It seemed almost like they were making a point.

The young woman interrupted their thoughts, as she remembered an additional detail.

“Da ist noch etwas. Da war ein junger Mann. Blass, mit violett-schwarzem Haar.”

Logan took up the translation again.

“She says there was a young man – pale, with purple and black hair.”

“Als die Männer gegangen sind ist er zurück geblieben. Er hat mir aufgeholfen.”

Pausing, Logan required a moment to process the gang member’s unusual behavior.

“After the perpetrators had pushed her to the ground and left, he stayed behind and helped her up.”

“Er hatte traurige Augen.” She added somberly.

“He had sad eyes.”

Silence fell after her statement. Roman seemed deep in thought upon learning about this strange young man. Maybe it was time to take this case into their own capable hands.

 

***

After being granted the lead of the Howling Scorpion case, the detectives proceeded to collect all the information they had on the new gang. Apparently, they were already upgrading from stealing handbags to racketeering the local shop owners. This posed a worrying development.

Though clearly caught in the heat of the chase already, the detectives eventually agreed they would not be able to bring down this gang on this day alone. Also, Patton was waiting for them.
Heading towards the cafe, Roman linked his arm with Logan’s thoughtfully. He was unusually quiet today.
Logan choose to leave him to his thoughts, as he was reasonably certain which part of the case had caught his caring partner’s attention.

Both detective’s spirits lifted upon entering the Pat-isserie. Warmth and sweet smells greeted them, and both looked forward to Patton’s loving embrace after such a stressful day. The pattisier however, was preoccupied.

They found him in an alarming position in the back of the cafe. The young man was balancing on his tiptoes on a chair, while attempting to tape round white paper lanterns of various sizes to the ceiling.

Logan groaned in real distress upon taking in the picture before him. It gave him the urge to pull his own hair out. After he had invested hours of his time into taking down the fairy lights, which had ALSO been taped to the ceiling, and reattaching them with proper hooks, Patton was taping things to the ceiling AGAIN. One of the paper lanterns was already wrestling itself free and was hanging on by a thread. Why did Patton not just ask for the detective’s help?

The most distressing thing however was Patton’s precarious position on the chair. The clumsy creature wobbled dangerously as he stretched his slender body in order to reach the too high ceiling. All of Logan’s finely honed senses screamed that this spelled disaster. And where was Roman anyway? Catching a lovely civilian in his strong arms was what he usually lived for.

His partner however had turned away from the scene of the accident waiting to happen and flirted charmingly with Valerie, the barista.

Well.

Logan crossed the cafe with long strides and reached Patton just in time. The pretty pattisier had attempted to fix a lantern to his left and promptly overbalanced. Shrieking in surprise, he topped over, only to land safely in Logan’s arms.

Surprised, he clutched at Logan, looking pale and spooked like a cat that had fallen off a branch. The detective held him securely against his chest though, making him feel safe quickly.

Looking up in bewilderment, Patton caught sight of his savior. A beaming smile broke out on his lovely face. He looked so happy and relieved to see Logan that it made the detective feel quite weak for a moment. He pulled Patton closer to his chest, just to be safe.

“Logan OH MY you SAVED me!!!!!”

Laughing happily, Patton wrapped his arms around Logan’s neck and hugged him close, apparently perfectly content in the detective’s embrace.

“How are you such a HERO?! You are always there when I need you! THANK YOU!!!” He squealed gleefully, holding on to Logan’s strong shoulders.

Logan melted.

Having Patton in his arms like this was even better than hugging him. It left like he could finally keep him safe and warm. Moreover, Patton seemed to like it there.

Blushing once again, Logan answered “It is no problem whatsoever Patton. Your safety will always be a priority for me. However, I must implore you to take the necessary precautions to ensure you remain unharmed. I would not wish to see you hurt.”

A strange look passed the pattisier’s face upon Logan’s words. He looked thankful and vulnerable, and then, conflicted. A guilty expression, which had puzzled the detective before, came across his fair face again. Though his body had been pliant and relaxed in Logan’s arms before, Patton now attempted to extract himself halfheartedly, apologizing.

“Thank you for your concern friendo! I’ll be sure to be more careful. But I – I shouldn’t -”

Logan felt very reluctant about allowing Patton to escape from his secure embrace. His friend had clearly liked being in his arms and felt like he could still use a lot of tenderness.

He would not keep him against his will though. Thankfully, Roman had once again read the situation just right. As Logan attempted to set Patton down, his partner swooped in and stole the smaller man right out of his arms.

Patton yelped in surprise upon suddenly being manhandled so abruptly. Yet, the sound soon turned onto squealing laughter as Roman swung him abound in circles cheerfully.

“HaHA! My scoundrel of a partner thought he could deviously steal all of your attention away from me but HE WAS WRONG!!!”

Coming to a halt dizzily, Roman smacked a messy kiss to Patton’s cheek. Their friend giggled helplessly.

Behind them, a paper lantern hit the ground with a sad thud. Both fell silent, watching it roll past.

Then, they started laughing. Roman had to set Pat down so he wouldn’t lose him as he doubled over.

“Well, that was a rolling success.” Patton giggled.

Huffing in annoyance upon facing chaos, Logan spoke up.

“We would be perfectly willing to assist you Patton. Please feel free to request our help whenever you need it. Roman and I are better suited to handle this particular situation due to our greater physical height anyway.”

Though Roman had finally set Patton down he was still cuddling him with the excuse of holding on to him in order to ward off his own dizziness. He was quick to support his partner’s offer.

“Logan is right! We’d LOVE to help! What are you doing anyway?”

“Oh but you have done so much already! You should take a seat and let me take care of you!” Patton attempted to wave off their offer bashfully.

“Nonsense! This looks pretty, do tell!” Roman beamed at him disarmingly. No one could withstand that look to innocent wonder and enthusiasm. It had even made suspects confess.

Predictably, Patton gave in.

“I’m trying to make a decoration with differently sized white lanterns that is supposed to look like clouds. I want it to look dreamy and cozy you know?” Patton explained a little shyly, bashfully playing with his sleeves.

Upon being faced with a creative idea, Roman was all aboard.

“OF COURSE! It would feel like sitting in a meadow in a faraway fairytale land!” He looked into the middle distance dreamily. “Were you planning to put lights inside? It would look like the sun is kissing the clouds from above!”

Patton deflated slightly at the question.

“I was thinking about it, but I really don’t know anything about safely handling electricity. I didn’t want to make a mess again.” He explained, ashamed to be reminded of the fire he had unintentionally caused.

Well this would not do. Patton should have whatever he wanted as long as it was in Logan’s power to give. The detectives shared a quick look and came to a silent agreement.

“Employing lights for your decorative fixture is certainly an appealing proposition. I estimate it would look aesthetically pleasing. Roman has compiled a rather comprehensive knowledge about light fixtures, since he appears to be rather fond of them. He could acquire the necessary fairy lights for you, while I safely attach the lanterns. I estimate we will be finished within the hour if we cooperate successfully.” Logan proposed, pushing his glasses up his nose awkwardly as he spoke to give his hands something to do.

“Well of course I know all about creating correct illumination.” Roman added to his partner’s explanation. “You need the light to be just right if you want to stay on top of your selfie-game.” He concluded proudly. Brushing his hair back he smirked at a group of teenage girls at the front of the cafe. They started giggling uncontrollably.

Patton looked back and forth between their earnest faces, unsure for a moment. He clearly seemed to like the idea, but was unwilling to bother them. Logan however had his own tricks up his sleeve. He smiled at Patton kindly and promised “I would not at all feel averse to assisting you Patton. We profoundly enjoy our visits to your cafe and would like to support you.”

In the face of such a heartfelt admission and so much enthusiasm from Roman, Patton didn’t stand a chance. Also he really looked forward to decorating with them.

Nodding energetically, he conceded. The motion made his hair fluff up even more and his grin light up his face beautifully.

“Well if you insist! I am SO glad to have such great friends! With you I really am on a roll!” He exclaimed gleefully, grabbing hold of the escaping paper lantern. “I’m sure it will be an all-round success!”

Roman snorted in amusement.

Though his puns were truly bad, Patton laughed proudly, which, much to his own surprise, made Logan chuckle helplessly. He was just so endearing.

Patton quieted, looking at Logan with a soft look in his eyes, a sweet smile fixed on his pretty face.

For a long moment, they shared a look. Logan was still smiling, while Patton seemed content to look at him with eyes filled with affection. He leaned against Roman’s side as he gazed at the older detective, including his friend.

Roman sighed contently, wrapping an arm around the pattisier.

The bell indicating a group of new customer interrupted them and Patton excused himself briefly to help Valerie. She insisted he should not interrupt his very important decorating process, but he waved her off. Her pregnancy was still at a very early stage, but Patton had promised her darling boyfriend Husain to look after her when she was at the cafe. Which of course was something he just loved doing.

Roman and Logan used the time to plan and upon Patton’s return quickly got to work. Decorating together was fun. They joked a lot and enjoyed each others company. Though their climbing the furniture and laughing and the bickering between Roman and Logan should have been annoying for the customers at times, everyone seemed to be quite endeared with the three of them. As predicted, they were indeed finished within the hour.

***

Contently, they curled up on their customary spot on the couch, right under the gently illuminated paper lanterns. Roman had really outdone himself with the light and Patton had once again proven his ability to create a comfortable atmosphere in his cafe.

For a few long minutes, they simply sat and observed their handiwork. Logan felt more comfortable than he thought he ever would before Roman had crashed his routine. His friend was sprawled on his left side, resting his head on Logan’s shoulder and his colorfully socked feet on the coffee table. Patton had curled up on Logan’s other side, taking up much less space than the young detective. He had pulled his limbs close to his body and tucked himself against Logan’s side tentatively. Logan had encouraged him a little shyly, by offering to wrap his arm around him. Feeling Patton relax in the embrace and snuggle closer, the detective held him tighter. He marveled at having two wonderful friends in his life now.

Patton was so pretty at his side, soft and warm and homey. Logan tried hard not to want more, he truly did, but it was hard not to wish to be able to hold the pattisier against his body like this every day. At this moment, his yearning for Patton was almost painful. He had not known it was possible to want something this much.

 

Just as he threatened to get lost in his thoughts, the high jingling sound of the bells at the door interrupted their comfortable moment once again. Or rather more accurately, the harpy entering the cafe did. Upon spotting the newcomer, the reaction of the three men differed enormously.

Logan stiffened, his fight or flight instinct kicking in full force. Straightening his spine in an unconscious preparation for facing a threat, dread uncurled in his stomach.

Roman on the other hand lit up with childish glee next to him, sensing drama to entertain him.

Patton squealed happily and jumped to his feet, greeting the elderly ladies entering the cafe. First, he bounded over to Miss Van der Beek, who had stepped through the door first. The leader of the hyenas, Logan though grumpily.

With growing bafflement and incredulity, he observed her ambling across the room slowly, walking for all the world like any old lady would be expected to. She was carrying a flowery handbag and had thrown a soft pink cardigan embroidered with roses over her leopard blouse, which she had definitely not worn while harassing Logan at the precinct.

“Patton, is that you my dear?” She asked gently, squinting at the pattisier.

“Yes absolutely! It is SO LOVELY to see you! Don’t you look just delightful Cecilia! I LOVE the roses!” Patton leaned in to hug Miss Van der Beek gently, grinning warmly at the other ladies over her shoulder.

She returned the hug like a sweet little grandmother holding her grandson. A moment later however, she allowed her hand to slip lower and caress Patton’s pert backside.

Logan drew himself up furiously as Patton yelped in surprise. She even winked at the detective behind Patton’s back, clearly unsurprised at his presence and able to see him clearly enough.

Patton stared laughing, clearly amused. Subtly drawing her hand back to his hip, he grinned at her cheerfully before greeting the other ladies.

He made sure to get them settled at their usual table and even helped an apparently frail Miss Van der Beek into her seat. “Thank you so much dearest.” She thanked him, pinching his cheek and making him giggle.

Next to Logan, Roman was watching the superb acting he was treated to with quiet ecstasy, clasping his hands over his mouth to muffle his squealing. As Patton turned away to get their order, she even mock bowed to Roman. He laughed in delight.

Logan glared at her fiercely. How dare this vulture pretend to be a nice harmless old lady and abuse Patton’s kindness like this?

Upon being faced with a glare that had left vicious mob bosses pale in fear, the ladies promptly started gigging and whispering among themselves.

“SO handsome.”

“Such a fierce young thing.”

“And isn’t his partner just a handsome little nugget, look at those shoulders!”

The old ladies giggled again, winking at Roman.

The young detective lit up like Christmas had come early, LOVING the attention. He squared his previously admired shoulders and gifted the ladies with his most charming smile.

To his immense satisfaction, they swooned a little bit.

Exasperated, Logan growled at his partner. Roman grinned at him unrepentantly and kissed his cheek once again, just to be obnoxious.

Laughing, he scooted back in his seat upon encountering his friend’s fierce glare. It was hard to take his fearsome partner seriously when a bunch of elderly ladies were squealing about his apparently aristocratic scowling face just a few feet away. It looked like the terrifying detective had met his match.

Their flirting and lewd comments ceased immediately as Patton returned with their orders. “Your new knit socks will look delightful my dear.” Cecilia said, turning to her friend. “I just adore the frilly band, it is quite lovely.”

Under Logan’s watchful gaze, they quickly drew Patton into their conversation about their knitting. The only reason the detective did not stalk over and rescue his poor innocent friend from these two-faced beasts was the conclusion that they were apparently genuinely enamored with him. They kept trying to sneak him money to eat properly or pinch his rosy cheeks. Patton’s cheerful laughter filled the cafe with warmth and happiness.

Logan had a very hard time maintaining his thunderous expression in the face of such loveliness. Predictably, the moment Patton turned to him and gave him a cute wave, he caved and waved back. How was he so weak for this beautiful creature? Patton really stripped away all of his carefully built defenses.

***

Unfortunately, the detectives had to be on their way eventually. In order to help Valerie, they brought their plates to the counter personally and waited for Patton to finish serving a customer in order to say goodbye. While they waited, Roman’s gaze traveled the cheerful flowery decoration on the counter and was drawn to a stack of fliers. Curiously stepping closer, he picked them up.

Patton’s cafe had a special board where people could pin their letters, ads for apartments or notes about lost animals. He even put up all the drawings the children made for him in the lovingly stocked kiddies-corner close to the windows. These fliers however were placed half hidden next to a large cookie jar, like Patton did not actually want them found.

Perusing the glossy paper with growing alarm, Roman easily concluded the reason for Patton’s apparent reluctance. Nudging his partner, who had been watching Patton contently, Roman showed him the flier. Confusion and surprise overcame Logan’s features.

“Do you think he knows what this is?” Roman asked worriedly.

“I doubt it. If he did he would certainly not have left them here for his customers to find. I would however conclude from the placement that he has not been completely comfortable with offering them.” Logan mused carefully.

“If he’s uncomfortable, why leave them out at all?”

“The most reliable way to solve this puzzle would be to simply ask Patton I believe.” Logan offered. He seemed hesitant about the confrontation though, so Roman intertwined their fingers for support and nodded.

Of course the detectives did not want to interrogate their friend or make him feel cornered, so they gently asked to speak to him in his bakery.

Once again proving his talent for picking up subtle nuances of social interactions, Patton drew his eyebrows together with worry, leading them to the baking room through the back door.

“What is it?” He asked them nervously, pulling his sleeves down to hide his hands.

Logan’s worry grew upon being faced with Patton’s nervousness. He had not intended to ever make his friend uncomfortable and felt alarmed about how easily he felt cowed by people he had trustingly snuggled close to just an hour ago.

Sensing the tension in the air, Roman wisely took over the conversation. Smiling at him, he produced the stack of fliers and showed them to Patton.

“We were actually curious about these and wanted to ask if you knew what they are advertising.”

Bewildered, Patton took them from his friend’s hands, awkwardly cradling them against his chest.

“Those are fliers for a business idea I’m supposed to give to my customers. My boyfriend asked me hand them out.” He explained tentatively.

His boyfriend?

Roman stiffened visibly upon the admission. Logan however did not move a muscle. He was frozen by the revelation.

It felt like he had suddenly been punched in the gut, like the floor was dropping our from under his feet. He valiantly tried not to let anything show on his face as a wave of emotions he had thought he had restrained successfully crashed over him and threatened to pull him under. He had thought holding Patton in his arms was painful, but this sensation made him almost curl in on himself from the acute pain behind his ribcage. His thoughts felt sluggish, like they could not move beyond these words. My boyfriend.

Roman recovered well before his partner and bravely plastered on a smile, sensing Patton grow more insecure.

“I – ah – I didn’t know you have a boyfriend?”

“Oh I guess it didn’t really come up. He is away often, on business. He – he works on his own projects a lot.”

“Oh - Okay, great! Ah, about this flier-” Roman paused, trying to pick his words kindly.

“Are you familiar with multy level marketing?”

“Oh. No I’m sorry.” Patton answered tentatively.

“It’s fine. It’s basically when you enlist people to do a job for you, say you enlist five people to market a product for you, and they get money for each product they sell. And these people they sell the products to can enlist other people now, so they get money for each enlisted person as well. But in order to be allowed to sell these products they have to pay an entrance or training fee each.”

While Roman was explaining, Patton’s expression grew anxious.

Gently, the young detective explained “This business model” he indicated to the fliers in Patton’s hands “is called a pyramid scheme. They are just on the right side of legality and they usually cost the people signing up a lot of money they never get back.”

Devastated, Patton put down the fliers. “Oh my god I’msosorry, I had no idea!”

“It’s fine, you know now, there’s no harm done.” Roman assured him gently.

“No I should have guessed, I just didn’t think...” Patton’s shoulders drooped guiltily.

Suddenly realizing that Logan still stood frozen by his side, Patton trailed off, worriedly focusing on him. The detective had unconsciously balled up the glossy paper in his strong fist, as his thoughts suddenly unfroze and started racing.

Patton had a boyfriend.

Patton, who was too shy to ask for comfort, because he felt like it would bother people to give it.

Patton, who believed caring for him required more effort than he was worth.

Patton, who suffered panic attacks because he had made a small mistake.

Patton had a boyfriend.

A boyfriend who allowed Patton to live with all those doubts and insecurities.

A boyfriend who clearly failed to make Patton feel loved and valued and safe as he should.

A boyfriend who had never come to the cafe or given Patton reason to talk about him like he talked about all the things in his life he was proud of and that made him happy.

A boyfriend who was involved in barely legal scams and forced Patton to give away his fliers even though he clearly did not want to do so.

Suddenly, Logan hated this man.

His emotionless mask must have cracked, because Patton’s fair face was overcome with alarm.

Helplessly he attempted to calm the situation and protect his boyfriend from the furious detective like he felt he had to. “I – I’m sure he didn’t know!”

And Logan – snapped. How dare this man make Patton defend him? How dare he put this wonderful creature in such a position?!

“NO ONE does this sort of thing without knowing what they are doing!” He snarled at Patton furiously.

Patton recoiled as if Logan had struck him.

Eyes wide and frightened in his suddenly pale face, he backed away from the tall detective, bumping into the counter behind him.

Logan’s anger drained from him so fast it left him dizzy. Horror at his own actions replaced his fury.

Patton was afraid of him.

Devastated beyond words, Logan took a step towards Patton. Seeing the pattisier’s breath hitch, he stopped in his tracks. What had he done?

He was a monster.

For a long moment, even Roman seemed struck mute by his horror at Patton’s extreme reaction, so Logan had to fix this. He didn’t know if he could, but he would try everything in his power.

Wringing his hands desperately, Logan attempted to put his overwhelming guilt into words.

“Patton – I, I am so sorry – I never wanted to frighten you -” Helplessly, the detective struggled to find words to calm his friend.

“I should not have spoken to you in this fashion, you did nothing wrong and I – I was angry that you felt compelled to do something you did not feel comfortable with – but that is no excuse, I should have never lashed out against you. You don’t deserve to be treated this way. I promise – I swear that I will do everything in my power to never hurt you like this again.”

He trailed off desperately, choking on his feelings, unable to put into words how sorry he was for making the one person afraid he wanted to protect at all cost. He knew he did not deserve Patton’s forgiveness, but he hoped with all his heart that Patton would believe he never wanted to hurt him and that he would never have to fear Logan.

And Patton … didn’t.

Feeling his heart break, Logan observed the insecurity remain on the pattisier’s lovely face. Patton remained curled in on himself, protectively hugging his own body. His eyes were bright with unshed tears.

The worst thing however, was not the fact that Patton failed to believe Logan.

It was the smile he bravely plastered on his face. Logan could see that from the moment he had perceived Logan’s horror, Patton had forgiven him.

He had forgiven him even though he believed Logan would hurt him again.

The detective’s face crumbled, paralyzed and devastated in the face of Patton’s selfless attempts at making Logan feel better about the situation.

“It’s all right, you just – I’ve had -” Patton broke off, took a shaky breath and made his smile more convincing to ease his friend’s distress. “You didn’t mean to scare me, I forgive you, it’s all good.”

As Patton hopefully awaited an answer, all Logan could do was stare at him and try not to break into tears for his friend. He should not forgive him as long as he did not believe he would not be harmed again. Oh Patton, no.

Roman desperately attempted to fix the situation, feeling both of his friends slipping into depression.

“Well then, since we talked this through, how about a hug?” He asked Patton. Though his voice was a little too high and loud, he managed to make his smile convincing enough to lure Patton into his much needed embrace.

The slight pattisier almost launched himself into he tall detective’s arms, releasing a shaking breath upon being enveloped into Roman’s bear hug.

Roman looked at his partner worriedly. Even in their distressed state, their silent communication did not fail them.

Upon seeing not blame but care and compassion on his partner’s face, Logan attempted to compose himself. Roman would surely punch him in the face if he ever managed hurt Patton beyond repair. He would fix this. He could not give up. Nothing had ever been more important than this.

Patton’s shaking was slowing in Roman’s strong arms as the young detective gently hummed to him and rubbed his back. Logan swallowed back tears upon being, for the first time, unable to comfort Patton in his suffering, because he was the cause of it.

The sweet baker seemed to sense his distress and once again prioritized his friend’s comfort over his own.

Turning slightly in Roman’s embrace, he smiled at Logan affectionately. The reminder that Patton still cared for Logan as much as he had before he had snarled at him did not reassure the detective.

It scared him.

Knowing how cruel the world could be, he feared for Patton. His endless kindness made this innocent creature such an easy target. So easy to hurt and easy to break.

“It’s fine.” Patton reassured him softly. “I promise.”

“No it’s not.” Logan told him firmly.

“Patton I need you to listen to me now.” He told him intently, pinning the slighter man with his intense gaze.

“There is nothing “fine” about anyone hurting you, especially someone who made it his responsibility to always keep you safe.” Patton sucked in a sharp breath upon the admission, looking surprised.

“It is endlessly kind of you to grant me your forgiveness, however I understand now that I have yet to earn it. You apparently do not believe that I will not hurt you again.”

Saying these words out loud felt almost impossible, like they would become more real by uttering them. A tear slid down Logan’s cheek upon the admission.

For a moment, Logan had to struggle to compose himself. Upon actually seeing the detective cry, Patton made a noise of acute distress and tried to go to Logan. Tenderly, Roman held him back though, restraining him in his loving hold. “Just a moment.” He whispered to Patton, knowing that his partner needed to say this to Patton’s face. Having him in his arms would likely make him break down and start sobbing uselessly.

“That – that is alright, Patton. You do not have to believe me. I have to earn your trust and I will do my best to do so. I understand that perhaps – perhaps you know me better than I know myself. My temper is - terrible. It is the worst quality of my flawed character and I turned it against you. It won’t happen again. I will not let it. I cannot promise to always do the right thing but I swear to you that I will fight to be the best I can be – for you.”

Finally Logan allowed himself to approach his friend who was still restrained by Roman’s careful hold so his partner could make the pattisier understand.

With utmost gentleness, Logan brushed the tears that had fallen off Patton’s soft, flushed cheek and looked deeply into his eyes.

“You may have given your forgiveness before I deserved it, but I will earn your trust and I will never abuse it. I swear.”

Patton’s eyes were wide upon hearing this promise. He looked – hopeful.

Slowly, Roman released the smaller man. Patton stood for a long moment, gazing up at Logan, the detective’s calloused hand cradling his cheek.

Then, he curled into Logan’s arms. Without asking or hesitating. Logan enveloped him in his embrace immediately, pulling him in tight. Finally he could not hold back his emotions any more and sobbed helplessly, hiding his face in Patton’s soft hair.

Roman wrapped his arms around both of them, grounding and protecting them. They stayed like that for a long time.

Eventually, Patton freed himself and looked at Logan earnestly.

“Okay.” He said, softly.

It was all Logan needed. A chance. Thankfully, he smiled at Patton.

Patton smiled back.

***

They left the kitchen after some more minutes in which they composed themselves and Roman made Patton laugh with his jokes. The pattisier assured them they could be on their way. After being fussed over lovingly by both detectives he seemed recovered. In fact, he looked at Logan in a way that made him hopeful that Patton was cautiously willing to put his faith in him. He did not believe he was completely safe yet, Logan could see that. But despite himself, Patton seemed open to let Logan convince him.

The detective understood that this was a large step. Patton’s reaction was not normal, even through the haze of guilt and fear, Logan recognized that much. Patton had believed and had been hurt. Multiple times perhaps, until he had stopped believing in promises.

Yet, he was willing to give Logan a chance. The detective marveled at how brave Patton was.

Both hugged him again for a long moment before they left. Roman even pressed a kiss to his head before letting him go. Before leaving, he pushed a card into Patton’s hand and made him promise to call whenever he needed anything at all. Roman’s personal and professional numbers were on the it. Logan’s were printed on the back.

Before they left, Logan caught Miss Van der Beek observe Patton with concern, before waving him over and fussing over him with her friends until he giggled.

Logan conceded grudgingly that she may not be so bad after all.

***

Wordlessly, the partners turned into Logan’s street together. It went without saying that neither wanted to be alone after this heartbreaking end to their cheerful day with Patton. Roman took his friend’s hand firmly, for Logan’s comfort as much as his own. He clearly did not blame his partner.

They got ready for bed in silence, Roman using clothes from his drawer in Logan’s closet.

Though Roman usually camped on the pull out couch Logan had specifically bought for him, they would often curl up together in Logan’s bed after a particularly grueling case. As opposed to their usual position, Roman let his friend cuddle in his arms this time, letting him put his head on the younger man’s shoulder.

“We need to look into that boyfriend.” Roman stated quietly.

Logan hummed softly, agreeing wholeheartedly. He knew he could not rush to conclusions of course. Both needed to exercise restraint now, since they were honestly too close to this case to work it objectively and might even make Patton defensive or scare him away. Still, they could not ignore Patton’s behavior.

“At least we know now why he kept looking guilty when he admired you.” Roman muttered.

“What?”

“Well Detective Obvious, he was clearly enjoying being in your arms and liked it a little too much.” Roman teased him.

Logan flushed so brightly it was even visible in the dim glow of his pretty planet lights.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

The silence in the unmarked van was thick enough to slice with a knife, yet neither of the detectives were willing to break it.

Roman shifted in his seat for the third time in the last minute and a half, huffing in displeasure. Logan clenched his teeth firmly enough to make them grind together harshly. How had he ever been able to tolerate this obnoxious unprofessional wreck of a person?

Everything about his partner irritated him, from the perfectly groomed hair to his theatrics and his loud voice, his grating boisterous laugh, his need to be in the spotlight, the mess that always followed him.

The sentiment seemed to be mutual, since Roman was currently glaring viciously at the perfectly tidy interior of the car Logan insisted they keep clean and coldly ignored his former friend.

Logan was requesting a new partner first thing in the morning. Roman’s antics had gone too far, the events of this morning constituted the straw that broke the camels back – Logan was DONE with him.

***

Their fight had started bright and early. Roman had stepped off the elevator, almost perfectly on time. Whistling cheerfully and looking quite fabulous in his own humble opinion, he had turned towards their desks, only to be accosted by his aggravated partner in a rather outrageous fashion.

Logan stormed towards him, spine perfectly straight, expression blank. Oh no.

Aggressively, he shoved a bunch of bundled up garbage into Roman’s hands. Garbage. Into Roman’s Hands.

“EWWW!!!! WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME THIS?!” The poor detective screeched, holding the scraps of plastic and who knew what else as far away from his precious red shirt as possible.

“IS THAT MOLD?!? THIS IS DISGUSTING!” Indignantly, he stared at his partner and wailed accusingly “WHYYY?!?”

Logan had drawn himself up to all of his intimidating height and glared at Roman mercilessly.

“THIS originated from YOUR desk!” Incredulously, he added “The inside of your drawers is starting to LIVE! The mold and fungi are evolving their own flora and fauna in the moist environment of your drawers and it is starting to migrate towards my desk.”

The last words were growled quietly and thus had an even more terrifying effect. An officer who had been about to approach them turned right back around and wisely fled the scene.

“WHAT? Those are ludicrous and false accusations! LOOK at me! My manners are befitting of royalty! I would NEVER-”

Snarling, Logan stepped forward into his partner’s space. Roman wisely fell silent.

Plucking a piece of plastic from the precariously and unwillingly held ball of garbage, the detective waved it at Roman’s face.

“Skittles: Crazy Sour. Consumed three days ago at approximately 11:35am during a briefing on a vandalism case.”

Plucking another wrapper from Roman’s hands, he ventured on.

“M&Ms: Café Moccacino. Consumed eight days ago at approximately 3:00pm while procrastinating on a report I eventually finished for you.”

Another wrapper was grabbed and waved at a screeching Roman’s face. (“IIIKKK MOLD!”)

“Oreo: Red Velvet Cake. Consumed SEVENTEEN DAYS prior at approximately 4:30am during a break in interrogating a heroin dealer.”

“ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT NO MORE!” Roman begged, cowed and intimidated by his partner’s anger and capacity for memorizing even the most insignificant details.

“I’ll clean it up when I get around to it. Just – why does this get your cables in a twist now OCDetective?!”

“NO!” Logan snarled at him, thoroughly worked up and apparently close to losing it right then and there. Roman flinched back.

“You will clean this up right now. Not later, not when you get around to it. RIGHT NOW!”

At his partner’s worried look, Logan pinched the bridge of his nose, attempting to calm down and explain himself.

“When I arrived at our joined desk this morning I discovered that Scully had left the window open. There was a pigeon on your desk, sustaining itself on the crumbs between your files.”

Roman perked up. “OH Pigwidgeon is back! He vacuums my desk for me, since you’re always telling me to clean it up!” He grinned at his partner unrepentantly, apparently pleased to have found such an ingenuous solution to their problem and ready to get on with his day.

Logan’s face darkened impossibly. Oh dear. Seeing his partner in such a terrifying mood, Roman steeled himself for an explosion fearfully.

And here it was.

“IT WAS NESTING IN THE GARBAGE IN YOU TOP DRAWER!!!! THERE WAS A DEAD MOUSE!!!!” Logan screeched, apparently at his wits end.

Absolutely exasperated, he started pulling his hair, gesturing to their desks desperately. Roman took in the familiar sight before him. Logan’s desk, absolutely tidy. Two stacks of files, piled with perfect neatness, all of them labeled painstakingly. His beloved sunset colored Cattleya Orchid placed next to them symmetrically. The pens lined accurately next to each other, his keyboard and mouse set at just the right angle, the surface of the desk gleaming and spotless.

On the other side, Roman’s desk: Files stacked messily in several places to a height that almost hid Logan from his view on the opposite desk, rings formed by coffee cups and sticky spots from spilled soft drinks, papers everywhere. Under one of the file stacks, the corner of a pizza box was visible. The currently opened report sported a smudged bronze spot Roman had created as he had accidentally grabbed a makeup brush instead of a pen. He was not apologizing, cheeks like his deserved proper highlighting. On the corner of his desk he detected a bit of earth(?), beside it a spot of dried clear nail polish shone unassumingly - and was that a squished M&M? Idly, Roman wondered if he could still eat it and then guiltily repressed the thought. Alright, he could see where his partner was coming from. But honestly – it wasn’t THAT bad, was it?

Roman turned to his partner to tell him so, right as the tallest tower of files in the middle of his desk started tilting dangerously. As if in slow motion, Roman helplessly watched it slide sideways and – oh No -

- topple over right onto Logan’s perfectly tidy desk, burying his own files, spreading loose post-its and papers everywhere, making his precious orchid wobble threateningly and sending his pens tumbling to the floor.

Silence reigned for a moment.

Then, Logan clutched the sides of his head in desperation, making an involuntary strangled noise of distress, eyes wild and apparently in the process of completely losing it.

Before his partner started hyperventilating, Roman dropped his garbage (not at all sorry to see it go) and grabbed his partner’s hands, holding them firmly.

“It’s okay, breath with me.” He instructed him intently.

Apparently a second away from an OCD induced breakdown, Logan still managed to focus on his friend’s breathing. Calming down after a few moments, he was pulled into a firm embrace.

“You’re right, I’ll endeavor to clean up my mess right away, I swear on my honor.” Roman mumbled into his ear.

Breathing in his partner’s crisp scent for a long moment, Logan nodded.

*

They cleaned up Logan’s desk together and Roman quickly got to sorting out his garbage dump, lighting up occasionally at finding something he still deemed edible.

“I don’t know what you are complaining about.” he mused cheerfully. “This place is like and adventurous quest, full of secret treasure!”

Logan growled quietly at his partner. But it was alright. He was cleaning up. He loved his friend. He could live with this.

Opening his bottom drawer to reward himself with some much needed chocolate, Logan froze in horror.

He could NOT live with this.

Roman, being attuned to his partner’s moods, noticed the change immediately and stilled in dread like a particularly handsome deer caught in the headlights.

***

The seasoned defense attorney shuffled his papers on his way up to the office to question one of the detectives. Best be prepared. Upon opening the door however, he was greeted by a wall of noise and a bunch of escaping detectives.

“You don’t want to be in there right now buddy.” One of them warned him, dashing away frantically.

Looking past him, he spotted the source of the commotion. Two tall and VERY angry detectives stood in the middle of the office, screaming at each other at the top of their lungs.

“WHO IRONS THEIR SOCKS?! IT’S PSYCHOTIC!!”

“OF COURSE I IRON MY SOCKS, I’M NOT AN ANIMAL!!!”

Quietly, he backed out again. Maybe he’d come back another time.

*

Inside the emptying office, the yelling continued.

“I NEVER GET TO DO ANYTHING - YOU EVEN MAKE ME THROW AWAY MY PRECIOUS ART! I LIVE TO CREATE AND YOU ARE SUFFOCATING ME!!!” Roman howled dramatically, throwing his arms up.

“YOUR “ART” ARE DOODLES MADE WITH KETCHUP ON DIRTY NAPKINS!!!”

“DON’T YOU DARE AIR-QUOTE MY ART YOU FIEND!!!! MY ART DOES NOT DESERVE AIR QUOTES!” Outraged, Roman added “You are OVERREACTING you NEAT GEEK!”

For a moment, Logan appeared too angry to form words. Then, he pointed to his desk and spoke very quietly, very distinctively.

“There is a rat. In. My. Candy. Drawer. Right now.”

Both turned to the offending rodent. It appeared frozen in place between the torn candy wrappers, clutching its disgusting little rat-tail in its filthy little rat-paws, looking at them with its beady little rat-eyes. A Rat. In Logan’s drawer. Because of Roman’s garbage.

He could NOT live with this!!!

***

They had kept up the unbroken silence for a little over an hour now, while both were coldly ignoring the other.

Finally, their hostile stake-out promised to come to an end as a man appeared on the other side of the street. As he cautiously approached the bait they had set up, the detectives discovered that he fit the description of the arsonist who had set fire to several squad cars.

Both Logan and Roman straightened in their seats apprehensively, as the darkly dressed man closed in on the car. Needing to make sure they caught the suspect red-handed, they waited with baited breath. This pyromaniac had injured an officer attempting to stop him when he had gotten away last time. He had made it personal for the detectives.

Leaning forward and squinting at the scene before him, Roman observed the suspect attentively as he started rummaging in his backpack crouching next to the car.

“That’s a fire accelerant, it’s him!” He barked, wrenching the door open. Logan, whose side was closer to the man, did the same and took off down the street.

“Freeze!” He shouted, making the suspect jump. He was fast though. Throwing his heavy bag at Logan, he raced in the opposite direction down a dark alley.

Logan huffed as the heavy bag hit him square in the chest and breathlessly turned to order Roman to cut him off, but his partner was already rushing down the street.

Logan took off after the criminal, tearing down the narrow alley like a wolf in pursuit of his prey. He could just see the man round the next corner and picked up speed to catch up to him. The next alley was blocked by a chain link fence close to its end which he would have to climb. This would cost the fleeing man valuable time. Apparently understanding this a well, the suspect started pushing over trash cans to slow the detective’s pursuit.

Huffing in annoyance, Logan leaped over the first one but quickly found his way blocked by a larger obstacle. Taking a running start, he used the wall as leverage and bounced off it, propelling himself onto the other side.

Landing lightly on the balls of his feet, the detective found his prey in the process of swinging himself over the fence and into the adjoining alley. Oh no you are NOT going anywhere!

Logan sprinted the last few meters and leaped at the fence, catching the top in his strong hands and smoothly pulling himself over the edge.

Turning upon landing on the other side, he scanned the alley. After the fence, if forked onto two possible routes. Logan could not see the suspect anymore.

Mentally calculating the possible routes, as well as the influencing factors, the detective predicted the likelihood of each choice. He took into consideration that the left alley was harder to navigate due to the piled up garbage and led towards an abandoned parking lot, which afforded little cover, while the right path eventually led towards a busy street, as well as the fact that right handed individuals, such as the suspect, were more likely to instinctively chose a right turn over a left, so that was where Logan went.

Running down his chosen path, he immediately spotted marks on the dirty floor fitting the shoe size of the suspect. Yet as he rounded another corner, he lost the marks suddenly. Coming to a skidding stop, he considered the strange phenomenon for a split second. The moment he took to look up in order to find out whether the fire escape ladders were close enough to grab were enough to seal the detective’s fate. Recognizing his mistake a moment too late, he attempted to turn and bring his arm up to his defense, when a heavy object stuck his raised arm viciously.

Going down hard, Logan crashed onto the unforgiving tarmac, getting his breath knocked out of him for a fatal moment.

Gasping for air, he turned on the ground, knowing how defenseless he was as the suspect raised the rusty iron bar high over his head and swung it down fiercely in order to deliver a crushing blow to the helpless detective.

Logan curled up ineffectively to protect himself, but the blow never came. An angry roar shook the alley as Roman caught the suspect around the middle with all of his impressive weight and slammed him into the wall mercilessly. The pipe clattered to the floor uselessly and the arsonist slipped down, dizzy after hitting his head against the brick.

“Stay away from MY partner!” Roman snarled at him fiercely, radiating protective anger. The suspect shrunk back from the man towering above him, clearly terrified.

Ignoring the cowering man for now, Roman dropped to his knees next to this friend and gently cradled him in his arms.

“Logan, buddy – you’re bleeding!” He whimpered in distress, tugging Logan further against his chest.

His partner sighed in relieve, leaning against Roman heavily and tucking his face into his friend’s neck just for a moment.

“’m satisfactory Roman.” He murmured quietly. His arm hurt and his breathing was still erratic, but other than that and a few bleeding scratches from the concrete he was unharmed. Actually, he felt more dizzy due to the emotions suddenly flooding his system.

Helpless to stop it, tears sprang to his eyes and he clutched at Roman desperately. His anger had managed to keep his terror at bay for a while, but now the fear of almost losing Roman’s friendship over his pathetic compulsions made him shake. How could he have risked one of the best things that had ever happened to him? He could not fathom how he had ever thought he could survive such a loss. He was a fool.

Roman seemed to feel the same fear and relieve as he clutched Logan tighter and hid his face in his friend’s hair, cradling the back of his neck in his large hand safely. His breath hitched against Logan’s ear. They were one in that moment - Roman and Logan, sitting in a filthy alley next to a pyromaniac who Logan would certainly scare into never mentioning this encounter to anyone till his dying day, they felt even closer to each other than ever before. The detectives didn’t require words as they rested their foreheads against each other for a long moment and simply basked in having each other back.

***

Both men received a lot of incredulous stares as they entered the precinct, cuffed suspect in tow, chatting cheerfully with each other. Actually, Roman was chatting, beaming at Logan lovingly and waving his arms around in grand gestures. Logan watched him with warmth in his dark eyes, a gentle smile tugging up the corner of his lips.

Shoving the perpetrator carelessly into the cells adjoining the office space, Roman flopped down into his chair, giving his partner a sweet grin. Logan smiled back.

Both looked up curiously, as Captain Holt came to a halt next to their desks. Observing them impassively for a moment, he addressed them calmly.

“I have been told there was commotion caused by a fight between my best detectives. But … everything appears to be in order.”

“Of course!!!” Roman exclaimed cheerfully, grinning at the Captain innocently. “I’d never get into a fight with my favorite Dorktective!”

“Such a behavior would be most unprofessional.” Logan agreed, primly fixing his tie and looking very much above such a distasteful thing such as emotions.

Pleased, Captain Holt nodded. “Keep up the good work. It would be befitting for your colleagues to use your commendable work ethics as an example.”

“Will do Boss!” Roman chirped cheerfully, saluting his superior. Behind his Captain’s back, he sent a cheeky grin at his colleagues, winking at them.

Exasperated, they groaned at his behavior. How did his innocent act always keep him out of trouble?!

The detectives shared a look. Though Logan’s face was perfectly impassive, the twinkle in his eyes revealed his mirth to Roman.

*

The next two hours of their shift was spent in companionable silence, which was only broken by Roman’s increasingly whiny complains about his paperwork.

Exasperated, Logan eventually pulled Roman’s open report to his own desk and started filling it out. His bruised arm gave him some trouble, but his partner had already patched him up carefully, so he had little reason to complain. Also Roman grinned at him thankfully. This was shaping up to be a good day after all.

Just as this hopeful thought formed in his mind, Logan’s phone buzzed in his pocket. Pulling it out, he found an unknown number. Not thinking much of it, he answered the call professionally, and immediately sat up straighter in alarm as he perceived the distressed voice on the other end of the line.

“Valerie, is that you?” Roman looked up sharply from nibbling the chocolate away from the outside of his KitKat.

“Tell me where you are and what happened.” Logan instructed calmly and put her on speaker.

“There are – there are men in the cafe, they are wearing leather and I -I think they are armed! OH GOD Logan, Patton is down there all alone – he – he sent me to the -” Valerie had to break off mid sentence to suppress a frighted sob. “He sent me to the office and – and -”

“It is alright Valerie, listen to me. Does the door lock?” Logan asked curtly, grabbing his service weapon and clipping it to his belt. All around him, commotion started to rise as his fellow detectives grabbed their gear upon hearing about trouble in their cafe.

“Y-Yes?” She answered fearfully, clearly frightened for Patton.

“Good. Lock it now. Then go the bathroom and lock yourself in there as well. Stay quiet and don’t open the door. We will be there in four minutes.”

The detectives made it in less than three. Approaching the Pat-isserie, they quickly made out dark shapes moving behind the windows. Doing a quick head count, Logan counted thirteen people as he pushed open the door. A large group for the simple task of demanding protection money from one little pattisier.

He schooled his face to a calm expression, relaxing his shoulders and strolled through the room at a leisure pace. His colleagues followed his lead without having to be instructed.

The cafe was almost empty of customers. Many tables and chairs were overturned, a few broken. Shattered colorful plates crunched under Logan’s heavy boots. The room was crowded with young men wearing black leather jackets sporting yellow scorpion patches. They were milling around the lovingly decorated cafe like they owned the place, putting their dirty shoes on the furniture and casually pulling Patton’s beloved pictures off the walls and smashing them.

Only one table was still occupied by actual customers. The elderly ladies were sitting in the middle of the battlefield, glaring disdainfully at the men like they were children they had caught spitting on the floor. They did not even give the frightening gang members the satisfaction to stop their knitting.

Logan found Patton on the other side of the cafe, backed against the counter and boxed in by a towering man at least a foot larger. The detective’s blood started boiling with protective rage upon seeing the position his beloved friend was in. It set Logan’s nerves on fire and made him crave violence. How dare this filthy creature touch Patton?! The intensity of his feelings surprised the usually stoic detective.

Patton had made himself very small, clearly frightened as the gang member crowded his slighter body against the counter. His hands were visibly shaking where he was clutching his sweater and his fair face was pale from fear. Yet, his chin was raised bravely. He was not giving in.

Well done Patton, Logan thought proudly. Though he was ready to break bones with his bare hands, Logan knew he needed to react rationally now. Patton’s safety was on the line. He reeled his fury under control firmly and assessed the situation with his quicksilver mind.

First, he had to get the pattisier out of harms way and focus the aggression away from him.

Appearing perfectly calm, Logan approached the man and looped his right arm under the right one of the gang member from behind. Reaching up, he grabbed the jacket at the back of his neck with the same hand and forced his head down, twisting him away from Patton and forcing his arm up in an odd and painful angle against Logan’s chest in the process.

Seeing the apparent leader of their group secured quite effortlessly, a surprised silence fell over the cafe. Logan turned to Patton, ignoring the increasingly incredulous and hostile stares aimed at himself and the other detectives entering the cafe behind him.

“Salutations Patton.” He greeted his friend cordially, making a point of holding the cursing man down easily.

“L-Logan?” Patton asked, wide eyed and surprised at seeing him and all the other detectives he served on a regular basis enter the cafe.

Worried, Logan made a mental note to address Patton’s feelings later. After all, Roman had left their card at the cafe so Patton could ask for help. He should know they would be there for him.

“Would you be so kind to get us our usual order?” Logan asked calmly, fixing his glasses with his remaining hand. The criminal in his hold was starting to become furious, as he realized that this slender detective casually had him in a hold he could not escape from. Logan ignored him.

Taken aback by Logan’s request in such a situation, Patton required a moment to gather his wits.

“Your- ah – Yes! Of course I – I’m on it!”

Backing away from the snarling criminal, Patton stumbled a little in his disorientation, but otherwise made it safely behind the counter. Logan allowed himself an additional moment of examining his frightened friend.

Patton’s steps were unsteady and his small form was trembling all over. It was quite a severe reaction. Logan’s mind came up with a hundred possible scenarios these disgusting men could have threatened his poor friend with on the spot. Beyond furious, he tightened his hold on the gang member, ignoring the pain of his own bruises and twisting his arm further, making him cry out.

Logan estimated Patton needed a hug badly and craved to hold him, along with giving him the reassurance that they would always come when he was in trouble. Right now was not the moment to do it though. The amount of men in the cafe, as well as the closeness to the precinct indicated that this was an attack on the police more than it was on Patton. They were trying to intimidate the detectives. However, they clearly had never played against Logan and his colleagues.

They had entered the cafe after him, laughing and apparently in high spirits and had easily shoved the criminals off the furniture to take their place. Roman had not even had to touch them. Giving them his brightest and most frightening smirk, he had sent the fools occupying his sofa running for the hills. Apparently perfectly happy with the world, he flopped down on his customary place and calmly observed the spectacle. They knew of course that Roman was Logan’s partner, since the thief who had told them about the Scorpions was cowering among the group. Not having his partner’s back was, in this case, a power move. It said that Logan did not require any help, Roman was just there for the show.

Of course the order Logan had given Patton was part of their game of chess. Firstly, it served the function of moving him to the relative safety behind the counter. Secondly, it established Patton as part of the cafe instead of someone they were personally invested in whereas hugging and comforting the distressed creature would have made him a target. Thirdly, ordering their usual and being obeyed even in a situation of a crisis constituted the detective’s way of laying claim on Patton and the Pat-isserie. Patton knew their order, they were here frequently, and they would get what they wanted.

Finally releasing the squirming individual from his iron hold, Logan turned to him as if he had not been worth of his attention before. Pushing up his glasses, the detective examined the man with an unimpressed look. Tall, uneducated, brutal. Boring.

“I believe we have not been introduced yet. I am detective Logan Sanders.” Logan explained in a cordial tone, offering his hand politely. The unexpected civil behavior clearly surprised the criminal and left him stumped for a moment. In his bewilderment, he unwittingly took Logan’s offered hand. The moment he realized what he had done, Logan had already trapped his hand in his iron grip.

The pleasant smile on the detective’s face never wavered as he calmly pulled the resisting criminal closer to his body.

“It looks like you and your friends have gotten lost. May I offer my assistance to ward off your confusion as to the places are or are not supposed to be?” He asked quietly, softly.

Furiously, the gang member tried to rip his hand out of Logan’s. The detective held his hand and his gaze captive for a long moment, before allowing him to escape. The fool did not go far, however. He got right into Logan’s face.

“We know exactly what we are doing detective. You don’t know who you are dealing with.” He growled menacingly. His nose had been broken in several places. Under his left eye, a black scorpion tattoo threateningly raised its tail.

Appearing perfectly unconcerned by the proximity of a violent criminal, Logan titled his head to the side inquisitively.

“This might constitute an astute criticism. Perhaps you could assist us in warding off our confusion. Was it the Stammering Spittlebugs?”

The other detectives started hollering and cheering.

“You got it wrong buddy, those are the Chiding cat fleas!”

“Seriously? I thought you guys were called the Gushing Gerbils!”

Upon being mocked so carelessly, the criminal facing down Logan started to turn an alarming shade or red. Balling his large fists, he appeared a breath away from smashing it into Logan’s face. The detective held his ground fearlessly. His anger was alive and sizzling under his skin, a twisting, hissing thing urging him to tear, to scratch, to fight, and Logan fed into it. It was the only thing managing to root him to the spot instead of pulling Patton to his chest and soothing him.

Logan knew he was playing a dangerous game. Being disrespected was the worst thing you could do to monsters like the man before him. Nothing brought out the senseless brutality in them like feeling inadequate. At this point however, there was no going back. The joke they had played on this gang had clearly incensed them against the police and made them target the area around the precinct in an attempt to find out how far they could push. The only answer they could give now was: not one more inch. Backing down from their game would be seen as a sign of weakness.

*

Meanwhile Roman was watching the proceedings lazily from his spot sprawled on the sofa, allowing his body language to show how little the gang threatened him. It appeared like Logan had everything under control, so he allowed his gaze to wander the cafe and collect as much information as possible. He examined every individual, strengths, weaknesses, whether they were they armed with a gun or a hidden knife, which station they held in the gang, who would cave under pressure.

His examination was subtle and methodical, until he encountered him.

The young man with the black and purple hair. He stood next to the entrance of the cafe, hands buried deep in his pockets, slender shoulders hunched insecurely, gaze focused firmly on the floor. His jaw was clenched tightly and his eyes were bright – with tears? He was studiously avoiding looking at Patton like the sight of him hurt the young man physically.

His eyes truly were sad. The witness had been right about that. What she had failed to mention however, was that he was beautiful.

Roman had never encountered a man as captivating as him. He was pale like moonlight, slender and graceful with large dark eyes deep enough to get lost in. The dark eyeshadow underneath them made him look even more mysterious and vulnerable.

Thankfully not completely blinded by the young man’s beauty, Roman noticed that the make-up on his angular face was smudged in places, as if he had rubbed tears from his eyes angrily. And he was thin. Roman could clearly see the pale skin stretch over the graceful arch of his collar bones or how slender his long delicate neck was under the collar of his rough jacket. He was also favoring his right leg, as if his left one hurt to stand on.

One thing became clear for the compassionate detective right away. This stunning creature of fairy-tales did not belong with these villains. They must have confused him or drawn him in against his will and Roman would make it his mission to save this captive beauty!

A dry voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Logan reminded him that neither tears nor beauty constituted sufficient evidence to storm a secret super villain hideout with swords drawn and guns blazing to save any prospective damsels in distress, which was of course how Roman imagined the mission. Since this was unfortunately true, Roman gathered his wits and examined the young man and his relations to the rest of the gang, drawing up a quick sociogram in order to evaluate the social and emotional relationships between the gang members like Logan had taught him.

The man squirming under Logan’s icy stare was clearly this group’s leader. From the moment Logan had grabbed him, the whole bunch had lost its footing. The second in command stood just a few feet away, a red headed goon with an empty expression the others now looked to uselessly for orders. The rest of the group was separated into clusters according to their rank. The prospects stood off to one side, trying to fit in but being to scared to join, while the rest of the gang members had come together in small groups, clearly seething with anger and humiliation but too intimidated to act on it. Proudly he noticed that no one dared to come within Logan’s reach.

And the young man with the sad eyes? He stood all alone. His body language closed him off from all communication to the rest of the gang, no one looked to him or tried to include him. Roman’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. The younger man was wearing the patch of the Scorpions, but nothing else seemed to connect him to them. He had never encountered a dynamic like this in a gang. Some gangs kept young men or women in their periphery, for reasons Romans did not like to consider, but they would never be granted the honor of wearing a patch.

Oh wait, there it was – one of the prospects dared to look at him. Roman was taken aback by the hate and disgust he saw in the criminal’s eyes. This did not bode well. The young detective’s worry skyrocketed.

Roman would have to find a way to offer his help. He would not let this helpless beauty remain in the clutches of these fiends!

 

“THAT’S ENOUGH!!!!”

The sudden roar interrupted Roman’s musings. Apparently the group’s leader had reached the end of his short fuse and was about to give Logan a piece of his mind. Or a beating. His rough hands were balled into fists trembling with rage. He snarled at Logan like an animal about to rip his throat open.

“NOW YOU LISTEN TO ME YOU -”

“No.”

Flummoxed by the calm response, the criminal hesitated for a moment. Now it was Logan’s turn to talk.

Fearlessly, the detective once again stepped closer to the feral man so their chest were almost touching. The other was slightly taller, but Logan’s eyes were cold and hard as stone. He managed to stare him down easily. As he addressed the thug, his deep voice was soft and quiet, steel wrapped in silk. A voice that got obeyed.

“You may not understand this concept yet, but you will. This is our city, and every attempt to harm any of your citizens will be met with extreme prejudice. You will find that our determination will last much longer than your arrogance or the fear you instill in others.”

Baring his sharp teeth in a mockery of a smile, Logan almost purred at the suddenly intimidated man “Should you ever forget, we will be eager to remind you.”

His threats were not empty. Logan was absolutely willing to do whatever it took to keep Patton from becoming a target again and it showed. The gang member swallowed visibly, leaning back from the quite, lethal predator he had angered. Logan did not allow him to gather his wits, he had heard enough.

“May we assist you in finding your way home? I am certain my colleagues would be more than happy to show you the way, after a brief detour to the precinct of course. I imagine they might have some questions.”

Though articulated in a pleasant tone, Logan’s words clearly were no suggestion. There was little they could do but allow the officers to take them in. There was not much they could be charged with, but the detectives had made their point. Also, Logan wanted them out of the Pat-isserie now.

Knowing he was beaten, the Scorpion spit on the floor at Logan’s feet and glared at him furiously. Upon turning towards the exit however, he found the way blocked by a single female detective, leaning against the door.

Rosa Diez’s glare had never failed to leave even the most hardened criminals cowering in fear. Logan and her were the most feared interrogators of the precinct for a reason.

Nodding to the broken plates on the floor she calmly asked “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

This was a story Roman would be telling for many years. The hardened criminals, sneaking past Rosa and Logan and meekly throwing their money on the counter to pay for the broken furniture in order to buy their way out. It was unusual police work, but they weren’t apologizing. They loved Patton. No one would get away with hurting him.

Though closest to the entrance, the young man with the purple hair was the last to leave. Roman sighed as he saw him turn to the door. He was still so young. His hands were so delicate and soft where he gripped the door. How was Roman so smitten by this enchanting creature in such a short time? He wanted to hold his damsel in distress and protect him badly.

As if sensing his thoughts, the young man looked up and caught the detective’s warm gaze head on. Their eyes locked for a long moment and Roman felt himself fall. The threads of destiny connected him with this lovely being, he was sure. Then -

- the young man bared his sharp white teeth at him and snarled at the detective like a wild beast. His dark eyes flashed like a wildcat’s, fierce and dangerous.

Roman gulped.

Maybe he had gotten this backwards after all.

*

Most of the officers who had accompanied them left with the Scorpions to process them, while Patton’s closest friends stayed behind to help him. The moment the gang members were out of sight, Logan felt all of his rage drain from his body. Patton. He had to take care of Patton.

Rushing behind the counter, he found him working on the large coffee machine to deliver their order. Though the threat was gone, the pattisier did not stop with his task. He looked disoriented, like he had not even noticed they had left. With dread, Logan found himself reminded of veterans suffering from PTSD getting stuck in memories of traumatic experiences.

His hands were shaking so badly that Patton fumbled upon attempting to take hold of a mug. Before Logan could reach him, he burned his hand under the scalding steam of the coffee machine. He didn’t even react.

Logan hurried to his side, terrified for his friend, and wrapped his arms around him from behind to draw him away from the steam. Patton flinched in surprise.

“It is alright Patton, you are safe. They are gone. We need to cool your hand in order to ward of additional damage.” Logan murmured gently, drawing his tense form to the sink next to the coffee machine.

Turning the tap on cold, he took hold of Patton’s slender wrist urgently to draw his burned hand under the water.

Patton’s whole body stiffened. With a frightened hitch of his breath, he frantically tried to draw his hand back as if Logan had attempted to force it under scalding water. Having no where to go, his smaller form collided with Logan’s body behind him. Freezing upon finding himself boxed in, Patton whimpered softly, helplessly, curling in on himself. His mind clearly was not here with Logan.

Logan froze, horrified, feeling like ice had been poured into his veins. For a long moment, he was too shocked to find words.

Patton’s noise of distress and the sight of his burned hand cradled against his chest protectively forced the detective to push his fears aside and react. Patton’s skin needed cooling or he’d risk further damaging it.

Gently, the detective took hold of his friend’s wrist again, leaning close to speak directly in his ear, letting him feel his breath, like he had upon soothing his previous panic attack.

“Patton listen to me please, you are safe.”

Slowly, he pulled the pattisier’s hand away from his chest. He resisted for a moment, but seemed to give up suddenly, his limbs going slack in Logan’s grip. The detective’s heart broke.

“I am not going to hurt you. Never. I promise.” He whispered to Patton, letting the deep baritone of his voice rumble against his friend’s back as he pulled his wrist towards the water.

“I am here to keep you safe. No one will harm you while I am here to protect you.” He promised earnestly.

Patton was still uncharacteristically quiet against his chest, frozen and frightened and clearly trapped in some form of illusion or memory. As if every noise was reason to hurt him.

Before making contact with the cold water, Logan let his larger hand enfold Patton’s, bringing his own fingers under the cold water first and allowing Patton to feel the cool spray on his burned skin. The feeling seemed to make his friend pause. Logan dared to pull both of their hands under the water and cradle Patton’s hand in his own in a loose enough hold so he knew he could escape.

Patton didn’t.

Disoriented, he blinked his dark lashes and started to look around, finally seeing the world around him again.

“L-Logan?”

With some difficulty, the detective forced a smile as Patton turned to him in his embrace, clearly recognizing him for the first time.

“Yes Patton. You are safe. Everything is alright. You did well.” He informed him warmly, hugging him close to his body and offering protection and affection.

Upon seeing Logan and hearing these words, all the tension seemed to drain out of Patton and he sank into his protector’s embrace thankfully, half turning around to bury his face in his neck. Logan held his friend closer, laying his cheek on his dark head and attempting to shield him from the world.

The detective clenched his jaw, fighting tears of grief and horror. He had an idea about what had just happened. Roman and he had of course thoroughly dug into Patton’s boyfriend, but had found little apart from a bad sense for business. He was well educated, donated to charity, never even got a speeding ticket. Unwilling to give up, they had guiltily started perusing Patton’s family background. And had found a possible explanation.

While there had been no reports of domestic violence, his father had had a record for driving under the influence several times, until he had died in a car crash of his own making when Patton was twelve.

Patton’s boyfriend may not be as good as he deserved, but their research indicated the likelier source of his trauma lay in his childhood. A drunk father turning violent perhaps? Granted, Patton still reacted unusually harshly to stress today, but it was possible he simply was a sensitive soul. It was the most likely explanation.

Still, it left a bad taste in the detective’s mouth. Patton was so easily comforted and so brave, he should have gotten better in the hands of a caring partner.

Patton meanwhile let out a shuddering breath against Logan’s neck, trusting his friend to hold him up. Keeping up his stream of reassurances, the taller man whispered in the baker’s ear. “All is well now Patton, we are here for you.”

He held the smaller hand under the water for another moment, before wetting a soft towel and wrapping his hand safely in it. Patton clearly had had enough stress and needed to preserve his strength, so Logan turned off the tap and gently pulled his friend down with him. Leaning his back against the counter, he cradled Patton against his chest, allowing him to curl up safely between his long legs, the way he had enjoyed the day he had patched Logan up.

Upon finding himself in this position once again, enveloped by strong arms and shielded from the world beyond their little bubble behind the counter, all tension seemed to drain from Patton. He sighed, growing pliant and heavy against Logan’s body. The detective held him close and kept up a deep, quiet stream of reassurances and praises.

“You are doing so well Patton. I am proud of you. Everything is all right now. You are safe here.”

Patton made a little noise of satisfaction upon hearing these words. He needed so little and was so strong. Logan felt his smaller form shiver slightly, from the coldness of his hand this time instead of fear. While still marveling at Patton’s ability to focus on the best in every situation, Logan carefully took hold of his chilled wrist and rubbed it with his larger hand in order to warm the soft skin. Judging from the involuntary noise that escaped the pattisier, he seemed to like it.

Logan flushed upon hearing this little sound of pleasure. Thankfully, Roman’s appearance offered a suitable distraction. Rounding the counter quietly, he crouched down and draped a colorful blanket over Patton’s body. Catching his partner’s look, the young detective took a seat beside them and started rubbing additional warmth into his friend’s back. Patton all but started purring under the loving attention of his friends. His relieve upon being saved had clearly left him weak and shaken, but he felt safe and cared for now and was starting to calm down.

While their colleagues started sweeping up broken glass and righted the furniture, Logan and Roman continued to cuddle Patton on the floor. Being unable to handle being left out for long, Roman eventually curled up against this smaller friend’s other side, peppering his face with kisses and telling him playfully how he was the fairest of them all. Patton giggled helplessly.

Upon finding Patton blanketed warmly by his partner’s large body, Logan freed a hand and started carding his fingers though the pattisier’s soft hair. He had a LOT of experience in this since Roman always wanted his head petted and rubbed like a cat. The poor detective however found that he had not thought this course of action through properly. Upon being touched so skillfully Patton seemed quite unable to repress a startled moan of pleasure. Shifting against Logan’s body, he pressed back against the taller man’s hand, innocently asking for cuddles.

Logan blushed. Badly.

Being trapped with Patton’s soft form cradled so intimately, his sweet smelling hair brushing Logan’s cheek and his flushed face so close, he found both his crush and his social anxiety working against him, making his heart beat fast. Roman of course noticed his blush and grinned at him obnoxiously. He even stretched up and kissed the tip of Logan’s nose. Just then, Patton looked up, saw the display of friendship as well as Logan’s scowl and started laughing.

The sound rung through the cafe like tingling bells, filled it with sunshine.

Logan was helpless to suppress a laugh on his own.

One of their colleagues briefly visited them and left the first aid kid with them, so Roman extracted himself from their puppy pile and grabbed a burn salve for Patton’s hand. As his partner gently cradled Pat’s burned hand and rubbed the salve in, Logan made sure to keep petting their friend, keeping him relaxed and happy.

After they had seen to his hand, Charles, their resident foodie, took over the coffee machine and made tea for Patton and coffee for the rest of the squad. They could hear them milling around in the main part of the cafe, flirting with Cecilia and the other ladies and puttering around with the furniture. After such a terrifying afternoon, it was a surprisingly warm and cozy atmosphere. They basked in this atmosphere for a long while, until Patton spoke up.

“You came.” He murmured softly. He sounded – awed.

Concerned, Logan held him closer.

“Of course we came Patton. We will always come when you need us.” He promised, willing Patton to understand how much he meant those words. Roman nodded earnestly, squeezing his arm gently.

“There is no evil we would not protect you from. You are our friend and we care about you.” The young detective added.

The look on Patton’s pretty face was hard to describe. He looked – amazed, thankful, overwhelmed. A few tears escaped his eyes, but he was smiling as he wiped them away.

“I don’t – I don’t know how to thank you.” He whispered.

“AHH but there is no need to thank a valiant knight for his work as it is what he lives for and strives on!” Roman exclaimed suddenly, straightening and opening his arms wide, giving Patton his most dazzling grin.

Successfully having lightened the mood, he made Patton giggle as the other detectives cheered upon hearing Roman’s theatrics.

They were interrupted by the jingling of the actual bell at the entrance as a huge bearded man crashed through the door.

“Valerie! Where is my sugar-muffin?” He asked frantically. The other detectives had of course checked on the pregnant barista right away and reassured Patton of her well-being during their cuddling. They had also called her boyfriend Husain, who may have been bigger than even Roman, but was quite the teddy bear.

While the detectives showed him up, Logan’s heart sank. He realized he did not have the right to keep Patton all to himself. He was in a relationship after all. How could they not even have offered to call his boyfriend? Steeling himself, he turned to the baker in his arms.

“Patton, would you like us to call your boyfriend?”

“NO! Ah – I mean, that’s fine! He – he is away on – on a trip. You don’t need to bother him.” Patton stammered.

Incredulous and shocked, both detectives froze.

Seeing their looks, Patton quickly attempted to smooth things over.

“It’s fine, really.” Shyly, he added, “I – I have everything I need. Right here.”

They examined their friend closely and found that this, at least, was said with perfect sincerity.

“All right. Please tell us if you need anything at all Patton.” Logan implored him carefully, cupping Patton’s cheek in his calloused hand to make sure he looked at him, and heard him. The pattisier flushed at the intensity of Logan’s stare, his breath hitching slightly.

“Okay.” He promised.

The group spent the next several hours at the cafe, leaving it as tidy as possible and chasing away all the shadows the day had cast on the Pat-isserie.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

“Did you know his eyes are the color of the night sky after a storm? Clear and dark, yet filled with inner turmoil?” Roman asked dreamily, recalling his dark damsel’s features.

“Indeed.” Logan muttered, not looking up from his computer.

“They are dark like obsidian when shadowed by his raven lashes, yet they flash like lightning when passion overwhelms his fierce heart.” He described poetically, allowing his voice and chest to swell with emotion.

“So you have told me.” His colleague murmured distractedly.

“His skin is as fair as freshly fallen snow, like porcelain. As if even the sun has not yet dared caress his soft features.“

“Mhm.”

“He is so ferocious though. Like a ravenous wildcat, craving a counterpart to challenge him.”

“Certainly.”

“His hair looked so soft, it shone like a ruby and violet sunset.”

“Absolutely.”

“And his lips! They look like the softest petals of roses.”

…..
Roman looked up in irritation, disgruntled at being denied his very much needed audience. Was Logan ignoring him serenading about the love of his life?! So rude.

The young detective slipped down in his seat and remorselessly kicked his partner’s foot under their joined desks.

Logan’s head shot up upon being pulled out of his concentration. For a moment, be blinked at Roman like a startled owl.

“Oh – yes of course, rose petals. Precisely.”

Satisfied, Roman nodded and return to waxing poetry about his exquisite damsel, dreamily gazing into the middle distance.

“His temper is so fiery! Behind his petal soft lips he hides sharp teeth and an even sharper wit. I knew it the moment our eyes met. Destiny put him in the path of this shining knight.”

“Destiny. Yes of course.” Logan muttered, already having gone back to his typing. Roman nodded wisely upon gaining the agreement his astute observations deserved.

His smart little spitfire had gotten away from the detectives before they could process him, somehow slipping through their fingers like a slippery lynx. Since Roman did not have a name to call his gorgeous hissing kitten, he had to make do. Thankfully, he was creative that way.

He had put all his CIs on the case to make sure he would find him. Right now, all he could do was wait and dream. And dream he did. Extensively.

In fact, he had fallen into his daydreamed future with his worshiped little minx so deeply, he was already considering the flower arrangements for their wedding. He was thinking about a gorgeous mixture of deep reds, pinks and purples representing both of them. Maybe a wedding in spring in a clearing? The trees alight with fairy lights and himself in a gorgeous white tuxedo. He could see it all clearly. The besotted smile on the lovely face of his passionate vixen as he dipped him to place their first kiss as a wedded couple on his pink lips. He would sigh dreamily as his stunningly handsome husband would whisk him off his feet.

All of his grand romantic notions aside, Roman did have a professional interest in finding the delinquent. He was not allowing his fanciful heart to run away with him at all.

Well, maybe a tiny little bit.

Roman was a brilliant detective because his instincts were never wrong. Never. The young man had needed his help. He did not belong with this gang. Roman had seen it in his defensiveness, in the way he had tried to hide himself, in the way he had so very clearly hated what the gang had done to Patton. In the way he had hated himself so much for the way they had frightened the pattisier that he had not even been able to look at him. Roman may want to seduce this beautiful creature into his arms and live happily ever after with his spirited wildcat, but first and foremost he wanted to help.

Alerted by the uncharacteristic quietness on the other side of the desk, Logan turned his attention to his partner. His brows pulled together with worry upon observing his expression. Roman usually went from one passing fancy to the next, falling in love every other day and flirting lovingly with some lucky person. He just had a big heart and loved people in all shapes and sizes, whether it was platonic or romantic. He had long ceased fearing the loss of his friendship to one of those who caught Roman’s interest. He always returned to Logan like a faithful golden retriever.

Yet there was something different about his infatuation with this young man. It was certainly as ill advised as many of his crushes were, and he was behaving just as outrageously and illogically as he was raving about the imagined advantages of this stranger. But this time, there was something in his eyes. A softness he had not seen before.

Logan feared for his partner. He had such a gentle heart. Strays of any kind made him weepy on a regular basis. He unfailingly cried during sad movies. When someone needed him, he worked until Logan made him sleep or he had solved the case. And Logan knew how desperately he wished for love. He yearned for someone to cherish and protect. Someone he could shower in his adoration and passion. Once he found that person, Logan knew he would give them anything they could ever wish for.

The fact that he seemed convinced this gang member of all people was the appropriate partner for him was highly alarming. Logan trusted his commendable instincts. Statistically, he had proven himself to be highly reliable. Yet he also suffered from a disconcerting nativity. Despite copious evidence of the opposite, he believed people to be inherently good. He was all too willing to place his emotional and physical well-being in this stranger’s hands and it made Logan feel nauseous to think of the possible consequences. Roman had cried in his arms after numerous heartbreaks, yet he never appeared to adjust his hopes and expectations.

He needed to at least warn his partner. Adjusting his tie nervously, Logan straightened in his seat. As soon as his attentive partner turned his green eyes on him, he felt a damning flush climb up his cheeks. He was so very unaccustomed to talking about emotions. He feared not finding the right words, not getting his point across, or offending his partner. The possibilities for failure made his heart beat uncomfortably fast and his palms sweat.

Roman read his partner like an open book. Smiling at him kindly, he leaned over their desks and grasped his clammy hand in his tenderly. Ashamed, Logan tried to pull it back, but Roman only held him tighter, soothingly brushing his thumb over the back of his hand.

Logan took a deep, calming breath, reminding himself who he was talking to. Tentatively, he addressed his worries.

“Roman, please know that I only wish to support you in whatever choice you make and that I will respect them no matter what you choose to do.”

His partner gave him a small half smile, quietly encouraging him to make his point.

“However I must implore you to proceed with caution concerning the young man who has apparently captured your attention. I do not mean to distrust your instinct.” He added hastily. “You have shown commendable skill at judging individuals I could never hope to aspire to. Nevertheless I must ask you to take the necessary steps to ensure your physical as well as emotional health. We know distressingly little about the personality or the circumstance pertaining your – ah - love interest. Please do not be offended when I beseech you not to allow your fantasy to run away with your common sense. I can see that this person is of considerable interest to you and I will support your choices, even though you are giving this individual a great deal of power over yourself. Just – please try not to allow this man to hurt you. I fear that the world is not as kind as you deserve.” He trailed off quietly, hoping he had not hurt or angered his friend.

Roman appeared deep in thought for a long moment. Logan anxiously waited for a reaction. He was calmed by the gentle grip Roman still had on his hand though.

Finally, his partner met his gaze and smiled warmly at him. “Okay. I’ll try.”

Seeing Logan’s relive, he squeezed his hand and smiled wider.

“Thank you for worrying about me.”

Primly, Logan pushed his glasses up his nose. “I routinely experience concern for your well-being, since you appear to neglect its proper care on a regular basis.”

“AWWWW love you too Microsoft-nerd!” He squealed, pulling Logan across the desk by his hand. Not giving him the chance to voice his complains, he smacked a messy kiss to his cheek. Logan spluttered in annoyance, instantly wiping his cheek on his pocket handkerchief.

Roman returned the withering glare with an obnoxious grin and pulled out his mirror to fix his subtle lip-gloss.

Huffing with a mixture of irritation and affection, Logan returned to his report.

They worked in amicable silence for a while, until Roman got bored and got up to get both of them some coffee from the break room. He wondered idly if his stormy little beauty had a sweet tooth as well as he returned to their desks.

Placing Logan’s coffee down before him, he waited for his well deserved show of gratitude. Logan however, was bent over his bottom drawer, his candy drawer. This was not at all unusual. However, he seemed deep in concentration, mumbling softly under his breath and not even noticing Roman’s return.

Feeling a little curious and a lot neglected, Roman leaned forward.

“Looooo? What are you hiding that is more interesting than your selfless partner?” He cried in a heartbroken voice.

Only now noticing the return of his friend, Logan straightened abruptly. “Nothing at all.” He answered. His expression was very calm and nonchalant. Interesting.

Roman’s curiosity was diverted however as a flurry of color drew his eyes to the entrance to the office.

Logan turned to the source of the commotion and was greeted by an extraordinarily lovely picture. Patton had entered the room, bringing nothing less than absolute sunshine with him. He was wearing a thin light blue sweater that caressed his slender form and was loose enough to shift with every move he made. Its collar hung lose from his frame, exposing his pale collarbones. Around his shoulders he had draped a light blue scarf with pale pink flowers printed on them. His hair was tousled and his pale cheeks slightly flushed. In his hands he held a large basket covered with a pink towel.

He was exquisite.

Logan’s heart rate skyrocketed upon spotting his captivating friend.

He wondered if the sight of him would ever cease to leave Logan a nervous mess.

Roman on the other hand gasped in delight upon seeing the baker. He shot up from his seat and immediately wrapped a proprietary arm around him, stealing him away from the other detectives. They instantly had started circling him like vultures, sniffing the air hopefully.

Indeed, the basket the was carrying smelled delightfully like sugar, vanilla and fruit. Patton grinned at Roman cheerfully as he placed it on the desk.

“Heyja Roman, you look frien-tastic today! Get it? Because you are such a fantastic friend!” He giggled at his joke. Roman laughed and kissed Patton’s cheek, just because he could.

Squealing, Pat exclaimed “Why – aren’t you cheeky today!”

Logan only noticed he was smiling because his own cheeks were starting to hurt. Patton looked so happy today. He was safe and sound in Roman’s arms, being kissed and cuddled and feeling perfectly comfortable. They were his favorite sight in the world.

Patton finally turned to Logan and grinned at him brightly. “Hello there Logan! I am so glad I managed the log-istics of bringing you your gift!”

Biting his lip to unsuccessfully suppress a smile, Logan rose to greet his friend.

“Salutations Patton. It is a welcome surprise to see you here.” He was pleased with how steady his voice sounded. His heart was beating fast though as he faced Patton. His grin was so bright and he smelled divine from up close, like everything good in the world.

Pat blushed slightly upon gazing up at the tall, handsome detective, playing with the long sleeves falling over his wrists.

Their budding conversation was interrupted by a loud and rather hungry exclamation.

“Do I smell Vanilla?! AND BLUEBERRIES?!” Jake cried, coming to a sliding stop next to them. The other detectives had also moved closer inconspicuously and Roman was curiously sniffing the basket like a greedy pet.

Patton bashfully smiled at all of them and took hold of the basket. “I thought I’d bring you some muffins to thank you for your help the other day. It’s not much, I know, but I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate all of you and how thankful I am to you.” He explained shyly, offering the basket.

He was immediately swarmed by ravenous detectives, getting hugs and kisses as the basket disappeared in the crowd.

Patton giggled in delight upon seeing the general happiness he had caused. Roman on the other hand was positively heartbroken as the baking was plundered without him.

His cheerfulness was all the greater therefore, as Patton turned and presented him and Logan with the lovingly decorated boxes he had saved from the basket. They were hand-painted in red and blue respectively.

“Gifts!!!” Roman squealed ecstatically and snatched the box from Patton’s hand. Opening it, he found four mouthwatering cherry cupcakes with pink icing and golden sprinkles on top of them. Delighted, he immediately started devouring the first one, getting frosting all over his mouth and nose.

“Twith ith awazinw!” He cheered, his mouth still full of baked goods.

“Don’t let them muff-le your beautiful voice kiddo!” Pat exclaimed, beaming at the compliment. He seemed more than happy with the enthusiastic reception and swiped the icing off the detective’s nose with his thumb.

Licking it off innocently, he turned to Logan to hand him his box. The poor detective required a moment to come to his senses as he watched the pink tongue sneak out to lick off the icing. Blushing hotly upon staring so obviously, he accepted the box Patton handed him much more carefully than Roman had.

Thankfully, his blush seemed to have gone unnoticed, as Patton had bashfully lowered his head himself to hide behind his bangs. He seemed nervous about Logan’s reaction.

Logan examined the box attentively, finding delicate flower patterns drawn on the lid in different shades of blue. The lines were a little shaky in places, but the detective found it beautiful.

Anxious to reassure the shy pattisier, Logan attempted to put his appreciation into words.

“This is quite – aesthetically pleasing Patton.”

The baker looked up hopefully upon hearing the complement. Seeing how gently Logan cradled the box in his strong hands seem to give him confidence. The detective opened the lid carefully, unwilling to damage it, and found four perfect blueberry-vanilla cupcakes inside. They were covered with light blue icing on top of which rested a glazed violet each. Logan melted at how delicate and thoughtful his gift was.

Helpless to stop his foolish emotions, he suddenly had to blink back tears. Swallowing and hoping this feelings weren’t too obvious, he turned to Patton. Who had seen everything.

His gaze was very soft and thankful. Though deeply embarrassed at his reaction, Logan saw how much it seemed to mean to his friend and did not attempt to hide it.

“These are truly very beautiful Patton. I appreciate the effort and thought you have invested into their production deeply. Thank you.”

Now it was Patton’s turn to blush. The smile making his lips curl was truly lovely.

“I’m happy you like them.” He mumbled bashfully.

“HITCHCOCK I SWEAR TO GOD STOP HOARDING THE MUFFINS!!”

Pat jumped in surprise. Behind them, a commotion had broken out over his baking. An incredulous laugh bubbled up in his chest as the detective squabbled over the last muffins.

“THAT’S IT! WE’RE PLAYING FOR THE LAST ONES!!! BRING OUT THE RIOT GEAR!” Jake announced with perfect seriousness, clambering on a table to save the leftovers.

Roman started laughing mischievously, proudly cradling his very own cupcakes to his chest.

“As much as I would love to see this, I better get back.” Patton explained regretfully.

“Would you be amendable to allow me to accompany you to the cafe? I would prefer not to be present for their … recreational activities.” Logan asked hesitantly, hoping his offer would not annoy Patton or make him feel smothered.

The pattisier brightened visibly at the suggestion however, spreading his arms happily. “Of course! I’d love the company!”

Smiling with relieve, Logan turned to Roman to invite him along. He was typing on his phone however, a focused expression of his face. “You go ahead.” He muttered “I have a lead I want to follow up on.”

“Are you certain? I would be perfectly willing to accompany you. We could escort Patton to his cafe on the way.”

Roman grinned at him, waving him off. “Don’t worry, this hero is going to stay on the safe side as long as his admiring sidekick is running errands.” He promised, winking at them.

Logan huffed in annoyance, but complied. “Please do not take any unnecessary risks and call me if you need any assistance at all.”

“Will do!” Roman sing-songed, saying goodbye to Pat with a quick hug and whisking off with this cupcakes. Patton watched the exchange, looking visibly touched by Logan’s brusk show of care.

The detective carefully selected a cupcake for the way and made sure to lock the rest away securely in his top drawer, before taking the basket from Patton’s hands to assist him.

His friend appeared surprised at his help.

Finally gaining some peace and quiet once inside the elevator, Logan dared to taste his cupcake. He nibbled at the side gently, savoring it. Groaning in pleasure, he let the icing melt on his tongue. It was creamy and not too sweet, perfectly fruity and fresh, while the cupcake was light and fluffy and filled with real blueberries.

Delighted, the took another bite. He lived for Patton’s baking.

Patton was suspiciously silent at his side, watching him with wide, dark eyes. Logan remembered the first time his friend had watched him eat. He had looked so guilty back then. Logan had assumed Patton had feared leading him on. Considering the information he had now, it was more likely he was simply loyal to his boyfriend and felt bad about enjoying to look at another man. It did not matter though. Logan had lost the right to regret not having Patton the moment he had frightened him with his temper.

Still, he had wanted to inquire about his partner for a while now, but had never felt like the right moment had arrived or had felt too insecure to breach the topic.

His reaction after the Scorpions had attempted to scare him into paying protection money had alarmed the detective though. Patton had apparently not wanted his boyfriend there in his hour of need. They could have fought before of course, Logan did not know that. Therefor he required additional data. The idea of starting a conversation about emotions and relationships had him shuddering though. Did he really want to put himself thought the torture of not only humiliating himself like that but also having to listen to Patton talk about his relationship with another man?

Upon recalling his friend’s pale face the other day with perfect clarity, he knew there really wasn’t a question about what he had to do. He wished Roman had been able to come though.

Finishing his cupcake on the way out of the precinct, Logan made sure to tell Patton how much he had liked it, much to the pattisier’s delight.

They enjoyed the way to the cafe. At least Patton did. He was skipping slightly at his side, describing things he liked about the street they were walking down. The colors, the flowers, the people walking past them. He was so pure and beautiful. Logan loathed to disturb his mood.

Not knowing any graceful ways to ease them into the conversation, Logan chose to cut right down to the problem.

“Patton, the day we assisted you with the Howling Scorpions, I could not help notice you felt reluctant to ask your partner for support.”

His friend’s smile wavered for a moment, before coming back full force. “I did not want to bother him! He always has to clean up my emotional messes, I just have a lot of feelings! There really was no need to call him because I got a little spooked.” He laughed, turning his face away from Logan to look at a display.

The attentive detective however saw his expression clearly in the reflection of the glass. He looked tense and uncomfortable.

With difficulty, Logan swallowed the urge to tell Patton he had hardly been “a little spooked”. He had been threatened physically and emotionally and had even injured his hand. Where had he gotten the notion an experience like that constituted as “getting a little spooked”?

“I am no expert in the topic of relationships. Far from it in fact. However I would assume your partner should be willing to aid you in any situation, whether they constitute an “emotional mess” or not. Your feelings ought to be considered no matter how often or with what intensity they occur.” Logan offered quietly.

He knew he was threading on thin ice. He did not know Patton’s partner and really had no right to intrude in his personal business. Truthfully, Logan was afraid Patton would be angry at him. He still had to try to talk to him though, in case he needed help. Nervously clutching the basket, he awaited his friend’s reaction.

Patton did not respond for a long moment. He turned his face away and clenched his jaw. Was he that angry at the detective?

As he turned his pretty face forward again, he was smiling once again.

“It is kind of you to worry friendo, but I am fine. He really is very patient with me, I could not ask for a better boyfriend. He always tries to help me be a better person and I am so thankful to him for going through the trouble.”

Pat grinned brightly at the thought. He avoided looking at Logan directly, instead focusing on the shop-windows on the other sides, pulling his shawl around his narrow shoulders more tightly. He was uncomfortable with talking to Logan about this. The detective swallowed a whole lot of words upon hearing this confession. Personally, he did not think Patton needed to become a better person at all.

“That – sounds very nice. It is just that I believe you should feel secure in having all the support you require.” He mumbled tentatively, not wanting Patton to become defensive. Before he could continue, Patton cheerfully chirped.

“It is nice! I am so lucky to have him Lo. I really love him.” Logan missed a step. He should have gotten used to this feeling by now, but it hurt. He sounded convinced. Earnest. Logan swallowed back an abundance of emotion this time, feeling his eyes burning.

Requiring a moment to compose himself, he looked at Patton’s face, his clenched jaw. Whereas he usually turned to Logan like a flower following the sun, he was now studiously looking away. That hurt as well. He did not have the strength to continue this conversation and offend Patton further. Hesitantly, he tried to make amends.

“I am sorry for prying Patton. Your relationship is truly none of my business. I may not understand it, but I will always respect your choices. Please forgive me?” He tagged on in a small voice.

Patton looked up in surprise, not having realized how much the detective had worried about him. Making a noise of distress, he instantly stood on his tiptoes and threw his arms around Logan’s neck.

Upon being hugged without warning, the detective needed a moment to gather his wits. Then he wrapped his free arm around Patton, bringing him close in his warm embrace. Breathing out in relieve, he hid his face against the pattisier’s neck. The younger man shivered pleasantly upon feeling Logan’s warm breath against his sensitive skin.

“There is nothing to forgive!!! I love that you care about me Logan!” Patton chirped against his ear, hugging him tighter. “It means – a lot to me, truly.” He whispered, more softly.

Logan rubbed his back gently, thankful for being forgiven for his prying. “I am glad. I only want you to be happy.”

Patton breathed in shakily upon this admission, curling closer to Logan. He did not answer.

***

Arriving at the corner his CI had described, Roman stepped out of his car, unsure where to start. The air was damp and smelled of an approaching storm, crisp and fresh. Roman turned in a circle slowly, breathing in and letting his bright green eyes scan the neighborhood. A woman was pushing a shopping cart filled with her belongings. A man, whose shoes had seen better days, stumbled out of the bar on the other side of the street. A dark skinned mother was just picking her two boys up from public school, watching everyone around her like a hawk. Clutching the hands of her boys, she made it clear that anyone looking at them wrong would have to go through her. Roman smiled at her sweetly as she passed. Quite surprised, she smiled back.

After handling a few bills to the woman with the cart and exchanging some kind words with her, Roman slowly made his way down the street. His tall, well dressed form caught some hostile looks from the residents, but Roman was not deterred. He waved and smiled at them and frequently stopped to chat.

After a while, he had started to get a feeling for the kind of people living here and knew what he was looking for. Attentively, he considered the citizens and houses around him, the children playing in the streets with no where to go. The teenagers with nothing to do and no one to give them purpose. Was this how his wild beauty had grown up?

Ah, there they were. Roman perked up as he encountered the dark skinned elderly ladies sitting in a small well kept front-yard. They were keeping busy knitting or reading, chatting with each other leisurely. A group of young men was approaching them. The majority stayed back respectfully while one of them, the applicant, hesitantly approached the women. He took off his hat and politely waited until the ladies acknowledged him. They listened to him nervously make his case. After a moment of consideration, they smiled kindly – to his visible relieve. Pinching his cheek, they seemed to give him the answer he had hoped for.

There was a saying in South Africa. Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo. You strike a woman, you strike a rock. Though traditional cultures and those developing under Apartheid had been especially harsh on women and often left them with few legal defenses against domestic violence or chances to build an independent life for themselves. Yet it had always been women who had been the ones to keep going in the face of adversity. They were unbroken, unbreakable. The African culture honored this.

These women were the matriarchs of the neighborhood, even on the other side of the globe. Though they let the men believe they were the dominant ones in the house, they organized everything, knew everyone and could take care of almost everything. In a disadvantaged, predominately black neighborhood, these were the people to turn to if you wanted to find someone.

Taking a deep breath, Roman approached them respectfully and came to a stop a few feet away, recognizing their right to address him first. Turning curious, all seeing eyes on him, the ladies examined the handsome detective from head to toe. Though usually thriving on any form of attention, he felt as if these ladies could look right through him. It made him flush a little, especially considering his interest in the wildcat he was stalking was less than perfectly professional.

After a long moment, they beckoned him closer.

“What do you want othandekayo?”

Cranking up his charm, he smiled at them sweetly.

“I was hoping for your assistance. I am looking for a young man whom I believe needs my help.”

They observed him impassively. Seeing his genuine, hopeful expression, but also the badge clipped to his belt.

“What to you wish to do to this young man once you have found him?”

Mortified at himself, Roman flushed brightly.

“I – ahm – I think he has been trapped in a gang he does not belong to and I would like to offer him a way out. Nothing more, I promise!” He tagged on, finding his voice higher that usual.

The lady sitting closest to him gave him a long look over her glasses. Don’t bullshit me boy, it said.

“Um, actually I could not help but notice that he is - really rather attractive, but I swear I am not a creepy stalker! I genuinely want to help. I don’t expect anything in return!” He vowed frantically. He had not expected the conversation to turn out like this when he had attempted to charm these ladies!

They turned away from him and calmly discussed him in quiet Zulu, apparently in no hurry to relieve the insecure detective.

“Are you talking about this new band of ruffians by any chance?” The lady with the glasses asked eventually. “These … what was their name? Prowling Puppies?”

Roman lit up so brightly it seemed to startle the ladies.

“YES! The Quiet Quails, exactly!!!”

They could not help chuckling at his childish enthusiasm. It seemed to endear him to them.

“Judging by your reaction, you are looking for the pretty one with the purple hair?”

“OH YES!!! Do you know him? Isn’t he the fairest creature of them all? And so fierce!” Roman had tired to play it cool, he really had. But how was he supposed to help himself when he had finally found someone else who appreciated his wild little lion cub’s beauty?

The ladies started snickering. Let them. Roman sighed dreamily. His reaction was perfectly understandable.

“You may have bitten off more than you can chew with that one my dear.” They warned him.

Bravely, Roman squared his shoulders. “I don’t care if it is hard! I will fight for this lovely wildcat as long as he lets me, whatever it takes!”

The ladies started roaring with laughter as the nickname escaped Roman quite unintentionally. Ops.

At least their entertainment softened them towards his cause. They gave him a place to look, but not a name. “Names have power, besotted one.” They told him wisely. “You have to earn it.”

He would!

Heading in the direction of a more derelict part of the neighborhood, Roman was more resolved to gain his moody kitten’s trust than ever.

As he turned into the correct street, a shadow fell over the detective. Looking up, he found dark thunderclouds gathering overhead, darkening the sun and the shadows around him. Pulling his jacket tighter around his shoulders against the cool wind, he ventured into the maze of gloomy, narrow alleys between the closely build sheds and houses.

Attentively, he examined every passing figure, hoping for a glimpse of him.

A drizzling rain had started to set in. Roman pulled the collar of his jacket up and squinted against the darkness. He rounded another corner. There.

A slender figure was walking ahead of him. Though the hood he had pulled over his head hid the color of his hair from view, the well trained detective recognized the narrow, hunched shoulders, the way he bowed his head, the way he favored his right leg.

It was him. His fierce little damsel.

Roman fell into a light jog to catch up to him. His attentive wildcat immediately noticed his pursuer and cast a brief look over his shoulder.

And apparently felt spooked by the tall figure stalking him in a dark alley. Who would have guessed?

He took off immediately, putting his head down and sprinting down the path as if his life depended on it. Roman had no choice but to chase after him.

“Hey – WAIT!” Fearful of not only losing his lovely little minx but also making him injure his leg further, Roman called out to him. He was fast though.

Darting over the adjoining street and nimbly climbing a fence, he landed on a narrow path between industrial buildings. Roman used his longer legs to jump the railing, closing in on his quarry.

As the younger man looked back upon rounding a corner, the detective caught sight of wide, frightened eyes. Roman had to put an end to this. It would not do for a valiant guardian to frighten those in need of his protection!

Tearing down the alley like lightning, the fleeing gang member almost managed to shake his well meaning pursuer. However, upon attempting to jump a stack of wood haphazardly piled in his path, the poor thing’s injured leg failed him. He stumbled and was caught.

Closing his strong hand around the young man’s upper arm, Roman finally secured his prey.

And almost had his throat cut open.

Yelping in shock, he leaped back as a silver gleam whizzed past his neck, cutting through he air. Sidestepping again just in time, he barely managed to avoid the blade his feral little beast wielded to defend himself.

Jumping out of reach, the shocked detective assessed the situation. His sweet sweet creature of fairy-tails was twirling a razor sharp butterfly-knife between his long slender fingers, snarling at him threateningly. He had honestly not seen that coming.

He needed to get the knife out of his hands before someone got hurt. Considering just how well he wielded the graceful weapon it just might be Roman if he was not careful. Since fleeing had not served him well, he had apparently chosen to fight, and to do so aggressively.

Roman guiltily prayed they would be laughing about this eventually. As the young man swiped his knife at Roman’s arm, the detective shifted his weight out of the way and kicked the side of his smaller opponent’s injured leg.

Crying out, he crumbled on the unforgiving concrete. Roman brought the side of his hand down hard on the wrist holding the knife, forcing him to drop it.

His lovely vixen wasn’t done though. Though clearly in pain, he snarled at him furiously and tried to fight back, swiping his sharp nails at the detective’s face.

Okay. Roman was done.

He captured the slender wrists in his large hands and wrestled his angry kitten to the ground. Being taller and stronger than the younger man, he easily overpowered him, pinning him like a butterfly.

Though the detective had fancifully imagined pinning his ferocious little minx under his body just this morning, he had not envisioned it quite like this. While he had dreamed of laying him down on silk sheets and rose petals, he now straddled his smaller form firmly and forced his shoulder-blades onto the wet, hard concrete, holding him down forcefully. He had planned ways to coax the love of his life into his arms just an hour ago, but now he considered sending him to prison.

Roman may have been smitten beyond words by this beautiful creature, but he was first and foremost a detective. It broke his heart, but his wildcat was dangerous.

Armed assault on an officer was not something he could ignore.

Hardening his heart, he leaned over the struggling gang member and spoke to him clearly.

“Please stop struggling, I am not going to hurt you.”

His words had no effect whatsoever. In fact, the restrained young man hissed at him furiously, writhing and twisting under him. Jesus, he was like a rabid beast.

In his attempt to free himself, he yanked and stained against the detective’s hold, forcing him to tighten his strong hands around the slender wrists, bruising them.

Appalled, Roman tired to calm him. He may have to arrest him, but he did not want to harm him!

“Please stop! You’ll hurt yourself!” He pleaded, distressed by the younger man’s injury. Yet he did not seem to hear him. His struggles became increasingly desperate.

Alarmed, Roman looked closer at his captive. His chest was heaving with gasping breaths, like he could not draw enough air into his lungs. He was kicking his legs uselessly, all of his muscles tensed to the point of pain. His pulse was hammering under the vulnerable skin of his neck, his hair sticking to his forehead with rain and sweat. His face was white as a sheet and his eyes were wide, wild, terrified.

His poor wildcat was afraid for his life.

His helpless attempts to breath turned into heaving sobs racking his body, his eyes filling with frightened tears. Desperately, he tried to free himself from the towering stranger pinning him to the ground in a deserted alley.

Roman was – he was so stupid. The overcast sky and the shadows of the closely build houses on either side of them cast his face in shadow. He had even turned up his collar against the wind, which hid his features even more. Due to all of these factors, the young man pinned under him had not recognized the detective from their brief encounter in the cafe and Roman had even failed to identify himself as a cop. Like a fucking rookie. He must have panicked upon being followed by a stranger and even more upon being chased and now Roman had caused him to have a panic attack.

Finally realizing he was making it worse, the detective released the bruised wrists and clambered off the frightened creature. Immediately, he scrambled away from the taller man, colliding with the wall behind him. He tried to get up, but could not seem to draw enough air into his lungs. Shaking and heaving for breath, he crumbled to the ground. Hot tears washed bright lines into his dark make-up as a frightened sob wrenched itself from his chest. Trembling with terror, he curled in on himself on the dirty ground, trying instinctively to present a smaller target.

Roman felt as if his heart was wrenched from his chest. He had never felt more helpless as he did watching the anguish he had caused this person he had been so certain he was going to save. He had honestly, proudly, stupidly thought this young man had only been waiting for him to come and sweep him off his feet and be the white knight that whisked him away from his troubles. Instead he had caused him to break down and suffer a panic attack that was worse than any Roman had ever had to witness. A panic attack that was starting to become dangerous. It was all Roman’s fault.

Frantically trying to help, Roman fell to his knees in front of the young gang member, making sure to give him enough space and not touch him.

“Please listen to me!” He spoke intently and clearly, showing his open hands. “I am not going to hurt you. I am a detective. I am so sorry I frightened you, but I swear I only wanted to talk to you and help you.”

He winched as his frightened wildcat managed to look incredulous despite his panic. He deserved that and much more.

“I -I know! That could have been handled better! I am so so sorry – words can not express my remorse. I am obviously a blundering fool, just – please allow me to help you!” Roman pleaded with all his heart, allowing the depth of his feelings to shine through his voice and his churning guilt to show on his face.

His poor kitten was still breathing erratically, curling in on himself and hugging his body with trembling hands. His blind terror of Roman seemed to have receded though. He had recognized him finally. Still, he was struggling for every painful breath.

Slowly, Roman reached out, telegraphing and explaining his movement.

“I am going to help you, all right? I’ll take your hand now and put it on my chest so you can feel my breath.”

Gently, the detective clasped the shaking, cold hand in his and brought it to his chest, pressing it flat over his heart and holding it there under his warm palm.

“Now breathe with me. In for four, out for four, do it with me. That’s it, match your breathing with mine. You are doing so well my dearest.”

He made sure to rub the back of the young man’s hand tenderly, soothing him. The endearment fell from his lips quite naturally in his warm and deep voice.

“That’s it, in and out, listen to my voice, feel my breath. Well done.”

The young gang member seemed to calm down slowly, as he was able to match his breathing more and more with the detective and focus on his words. The more his panic receded, the weaker he felt. Roman noticed it and gently nudged him forward, allowing him to lean his forehead against his shoulder. Rubbing calming circles across his back, he whispered his soothing words into his ear and continued to encourage him to breath. The younger man was still shaking against him, completely drained. The detective resolved to hold him as long as he needed him.

Unfortunately, the delinquent did not permit himself as much comfort as he required. As soon as he was able to sit without fainting, and think somewhat clearly again through the fog of fear and agony, his comforters words seemed to finally register properly. Aghast, he pushed the other away firmly, bringing distance between their bodies.

“SERIOUSLY?! You’re a cop?? Are you a fucking idiot? I could have killed you you – you – imbecile!”

He looked at the detective with wide, incredulous eyes, apparently flabbergasted and frankly astonished at Roman’s stupidity. Honestly, Roman could relate to the feeling.

He cast his eyes down guiltily, his shoulders drooping. He was right, Roman was a worthless idiot. He had been so incredibly arrogant and prideful and hurt this precious creature so badly. He had thought he would be the white knight riding in to save his damsel in distress and instead he had become the villain and made his life so much worse. He had frightened him, pushed him to the ground and even bruised his fair skin. He had thought of this as a game where he could objectify this young man with his nicknames and plan a future without his input. He had been selfish, created a picture in his head in which he could be the hero, save the day, get the boy. It was – it was the worst thing Roman had ever done. Guilt and self-loathing overwhelmed him like a vicious wave, dragging him under. He was utterly useless, a despicable, proud fool.

With tears prickling in his eyes, he helplessly attempted to find words to alleviate the pain he had caused.

“I – you are right. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just – I saw you at the cafe and thought – I thought I could help you and wanted to find you but – I hurt you. No one should ever harm you and now I kicked you and bruised you ohmyGOD your wrists –“ An agonized sob wrenched itself from Roman’s throat from horror at his own unintentional actions. “I am so sorry. I am such a worthless fool, please tell me what I can do to make it better. I never wanted to hurt you I swear.”

He looked at the young man with sorrowful green eyes, tears streaming down his handsome face.

The gang members eyes widened in alarm at suddenly being confronted with tears.

“Wow dude please don’t - don’t cry! It’s fine. I mean – you’re obviously a clueless idiot, like, a real fucking moron, but I’m okay, just – please don’t cry!” His voice became a little higher at the end, clearly he was very uncomfortable with people crying on him.

“But it’s – It’s not okay!” Romans mumbled pitifully. “I SCARED you so BADLY!” He wailed suddenly.

The young man jumped in surprise at the outburst and glared. “Dude.” He growled in annoyance.

Roman tried do calm down, hanging his head and looking chastised like a small child.

“Just – stop with the pity party man, after all I almost cut you.” His eyes widened suddenly at the realization. He immediately backed away from Roman, his breath coming faster again.

“Oh fuck I attacked a cop!”

Terrified of sending him back into a panic attack, Roman scrambled to reassure him.

“No - please don’t be afraid! I frightened you, it’s my fault, I won’t arrest you!” Seeing his baffled look, Roman tagged on ruefully “You’ll have to give me the knife though. I cannot let you walk away with a weapon like this.”

Suspiciously, the young gang member examined the detective for a long moment, searching his face. He picked up the knife from where it had fallen close to his feet and handed it to Roman slowly. The detective accepted it and slipped it into the inside pocket of his jacket. Distrustful, dark eyes followed the movement. He seemed skittish, like he expected Roman to use his weapon against him any moment.

“All right. Now I only need one more thing from you.” Roman told him carefully. The young gang member’s face closed off immediately, like he had expected the detective to demand something bad and his expectations were fulfilled.

Roman hastily voiced his request. “I need you to promise me not to attack anybody again. Or I cannot allow you go in good conscience.”

A look of surprise came across his pretty face.

“That’s it?!” He asked, incredulous. He looked down at Roman, believing him to be a naive idiot, the detective could clearly see it on his face. Heartbroken, he accepted the judgment. He deserved it.

“Yes.” He said softly. “That’s it.”

“Uh, sure I guess. I promise.” He answered tentatively, rubbing the back of his neck anxiously.

They sat in silence for a long moment. Roman could not help but fall deeper into the pit of loathing he had discovered for himself. He had imagined this encounter vastly differently. He would surely not be trusted now.

The young man seemed to sense his painful thoughts and shifted uncomfortably on the damp ground.

“Hey...” He allowed his hair to fall over his blushing face, attempting to hide from the detective. “I really mean it. It’s fine. You tried to help. I mean - you failed epically and crashed and burned, but at least you tired or whatever.”

In his shyness, he had focused intently on his hands he had tucked into his sleeve and had missed the grateful, delighted smile that broke out on the detective’s face.

“Thank you for giving me another chance! You will not regret it, I swear upon my honor as a detective and as a Prince!” Roman exclaimed joyfully, wiping the tears from his cheeks energetically.

The dark young man looked up at him dubiously, clearly confused by his strange statement.

“OH! How could I have been so rude! My name is detective Roman Prince, at your humble service!” He exclaimed, performing a little mock bow and offering his hand to shake.

After examining him for a long moment, the young gang member slowly extended his hand, as if he was not quite sure it was a good idea to allow the appendage close to this dramatic weirdo.

Grinning at him lovingly, Roman shook his hand warmly. Upon releasing it however, his eyes widened as he spotted the darkened circle his strong grip had created around the slender pale wrist. With a horrified gasp, he attempted to snatch the retreating hand to examine the damage. The fierce young man would have none of it though.

Hissing angrily, he swiped his sharp nails at Roman’s grabbing hand, scratching him.

The detective yanked it back against his chest protectively, and looked at him with wide, hurt puppy eyes. His lower lip actually trembled as he gazed at the young man. “WHY?!” He wailed dramatically.

“DON’T touch me!” He snarled fiercely, eyes flashing.

Roman gulped and leaned back wisely. Message received.

“Okay.” He murmured. “I’m sorry about your leg.” He added guiltily.

The young gang member seemed to soften in the face of Roman’s non-aggressive response. He sighed and ran a frustrated hand though his hair. He started to say something, but appeared to need a moment to gather his courage. Roman waited patiently.

“Um. My – my name … is Virgil.” He muttered, his pale cheeks flushing pink again.

Roman brightened like the sun. Did this mean he’d get another chance to prove himself? The young man – Virgil leaned back in alarm, clearly unsure what to make of Roman’s mood swings. Roman tired to rein in his emotions and attempt to make his case. Logan would have been so much better this!

“Look Virgil, I know I may not be your most favorite person right now -” Virgil scoffed at him. Roman soldiered on nonetheless. “- but I truly came here to help you.”

“What makes you think I need any help?! From you of all people especially?” The young man interrupted aggressively, finally feeling steady enough to push himself to his feet.

“Please wait!” Roman begged, getting up as well. “Hear me out. I know you don’t belong into this gang -”

“What the hell man?! My life is none of your fucking business! Leave me alone!” He seemed very angry and defensive suddenly. Tears sprang into his lovely dark eyes. Roman clearly had hit a nerve.

“You have no idea why I – I have to – I have my reasons, okay?! You don’t get to judge me!”

Scoffing angrily, he attempted to cover up his vulnerability with a fierce glare. His voice was shaking however.

“I’m trying – I’m trying my best, and I know it’s not – it’s not good enough but you don’t get to judge me after having grown up with a silver spoon up your -”

Hastily, Roman interrupted him.

“You are right! It’s true, I won’t pretend to know why you do what you do! I’m sorry for offending you! I just want you to know that I saw you in that cafe. I saw that you were not with these men and I saw that you felt bad for what they did to Patton. I saw that you cared. And I believe you do not feel like you belong with them either.” Softly, he added “I just want you to know that I see you.”

Virgil looked taken aback. For a long moment, he was silent as he studied the detective’s earnest face. Then he seemed to soften. A new found respect appeared in his eyes. Despite himself, he looked – touched.

Emboldened, Roman continued.

“I know you don’t know me yet, but I want you to know that I will aid you however I can. You do not need to believe my promise right away, but at least take my card. Call me if you need help. I will come. I swear.”

Imploring the pretty gang member to take his card, he looked at him openly, laying everything bare for the other to see. All of his hope, his sorrow, his guilt and his care.

The young man seemed taken aback upon hearing this promise. He appeared at a loss at what to say. Yet, his weary doe eyes seemed – hopeful. Cautiously so, as if he could not allow himself to believe this promise. Roman smiled at him kindly.

After a long, breathless moment, he reached out. Virgil reminded Roman of a skittish animal, ready to bolt the moment something moved. He held his card very still.

Their gaze met over the paper, as did their hands. Virgil’s skin was cold. Roman yearned to take his slender hands in his and warm them. They looked into each others eyes for a long moment. Roman could not help but be overwhelmed by the beauty that was Virgil. He was so pale and graceful. His dark make-up was smeared from his tears, yet he was so brave and fierce. Maybe there was a chance after all. Hope uncurled in his chest. He felt so connected to the young man in this moment. Roman sighed dreamily – and snatched his hand back abruptly.

Rose petal lips had curled back from sharp white teeth in the beginning of a growl while the detective had swooned over their romantic moment. As much as he adored Virgil, he did not want to get bitten, thank you very much.

Clearly uncomfortable with Roman’s weirdness, Virgil backed up a step. Still his eyes seemed to warm a fraction upon being grinned at brightly.

He lowered his head, shuffling his feet on the dirty ground. Roman felt he needed to get something off his chest and waited.

“Listen, about this guy at the cafe -” “Patton.” Roman supplied helpfully.

“About Patton – I – I’m really sorry. I know that doesn’t make anything better, just – would you tell him. Please?” His voice broke a little on the last word. He finally looked up at Roman, pleading with his expressive eyes.

The young detective was taken aback by how upset Virgil looked. Like the guilt had been eating away at him for days. Roman had been right about him. He was a good person.

Softening his voice, he assured him gently “Of course I will tell him. I’m sure it will mean a lot to him.” Virgil did not appear convinced. The memory of Patton seemed to cause him great pain.

As he learned more about Virgil, he realized how vain and shallow he had been. Roman was deeply ashamed of himself. He had dreamed about their future without knowing the man he had been dreaming about. He had not known what he wanted, what he needed, but had fallen for a picture of him he had created in his fanciful mind. The wildcat he had dreamed about was a real person though, with real problems and feelings Roman had carelessly disregarded. Upon having his trembling form pinned under his body and finding him afraid of Roman, he had been shocked into properly seeing him for the first time. Upon being scathingly insulted he felt like he had started to get to know the real him. The real Virgil.

He was even more beautiful than the mythical, one dimensional creature Roman had created in his extravagant fantasies. He was a unique, fascinating individual with a stunning, tortured soul shining through his dark eyes and a sharp, cutting tongue paired with a hidden well of compassion. He knew he was looking at him like a lovestruck fool again, Virgil’s glare showed him clearly what he thought of his daydreaming, but the loving detective could not help himself.

Roman had been a foolish boy with a crush before, who fancied himself in love. But now, as he looked dazedly at the withering glare directed at him, for the first time, he truly felt something warm and soft uncurl deep in his chest. Down there, where only Logan’s friendship had ever truly touched him, Virgil had awoken something small and fragile. It was … frightening.

Roman realized that for all his grand talks about romantic love and fiery passion, he had never truly been in love before. It was not what he expected at all. It wasn’t a grand revelation with fanfares and drum-rolls. The sun didn’t break through the clouds and there was no choir singing or flowers suddenly blooming. His life wasn’t turning upside down. It was a small, tentative change in his heart. Something shifting, deep within him, making room for itself to grow.

Roman felt very shy and self conscious suddenly. It was an entirely new feeling for him. His stormy fairy-tail creature had truly gained a hold over him.

Yes, he had leaned his lesson about objectifying Virgil.

Yes, he had learned his name and would cherish it.

Also yes, now that Virgil had found him worthy of his name, he would most definitely continue to gift him with his most loving endearments anyway. His radiant thundercloud only deserved the most tender and gallant of treatments.

Also Roman lovedit.

He grinned at him like a smitten fool as Virgil pocketed his card and backed away. Roman even waved at him cheerfully. Shaking his head in bewilderment, the younger man turned away. Hunching his shoulders to make his body seem smaller, he slipped into the shadows. Roman imagined he had caught a slight upturn of his soft lips though. It would carry him through his day.

Singing cheerfully under his breath, Roman’s steps led him to the broad main street. The sunlight started to peek through the clouds and bathed the radiant detective in its warm light, making his hair shine and his skin glow golden. Virgil’s name felt light in his mind, the knife with his prints heavy in his pocket.

People turned around to watch him as he walked past. His steps were light and his handsome face bright with happiness. In his euphoria, he presented a lovely picture that brightened everything he passed. Pedestrians started smiling at his joyfulness. A little girl giggled at the sight of him and squealed happily as Roman bowed to hear gallantly.

His cheeks hurt from smiling as he reached his car. He could not wait to curl up with Logan and tell him everything.

***

Virgil slipped deeper into the shadows of the maze of narrow alleys, hiding from the glare of the bright sunlight.

His bangs hid his eyes. His steps were uneven and heavy. His bruised leg ached where the detective had kicked him.

Squinting against the darkness, he could make out shapes moving deep inside the messy garages he was heading towards. Slipping through the open door, he growled at a young man standing in his way. He backed off, a sour expression on his face.

“Boy, where have you been?!” A dark voice growled from the back-room. Virgil headed towards the foreboding sound, deeper into the Scorpion’s layer. Their leader expected him with a thunderous expression. He was an imposing figure. Tall, muscular, his long hair streaked prematurely gray. His arms were tattooed liberally, depicting vulgar scenes of naked women intertwined with midnight black scorpions. Under his left eye, a crudely shaped tear was inked into his skin.

Virgil came to a stop before him, feeling all eyes on his body. The gang members tasted the air like snakes, thirsting for violence.

“I ran into a detective. He chased me, tried to take me in.” He explained honestly, hiding his hands deep in his pockets.

The leader crossed his large arms, making his scars twist viciously on his skin. “Well, how’d ye get away?” He snarled.

“Faked a panic-attack.” Virgil allowed a contemptuous sneer to curl his lips.

“The moron is a bleeding heart. He fell for my helpless act like a fucking imbecile.”

The booming laugh of the Scorpion’s leader thundered through the building. He grabbed Virgil around the shoulders and yanked him against his side, hugging him close and proudly displaying him to the other gang members.

“Listen to this one you brainless bastards and learn something. That kind of cunning is why he’s my second in command!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Cheerfully, Roman stepped off the elevator (only a little bit late. Again). His hair was laying just right this fine morning and his new leather jacked hugged his broad shoulders delightfully. His magnificent existence was a blessing to this drab city.

Perceiving a lady with long blonde hair heading to the elevator, he reached out to keep the doors from closing. ‘Cute shoes’, he thought. He also thought how much of a gallant knight he was, but that was neither here nor there.

His good mood could be attributed to his dashing looks, to the bright sunlight streaming through the windows, or to his very pleasant dream about a certain pale beauty. He had confessed his undying love most charmingly and eloquently in his dream, spinning his words like silk and painting the most romantic picture for his radiant thunderstorm.

Of course his speech had gained the recognition it had deserved!

Well, mostly.

All right, he had gotten hissed at and had been called a delusional weirdo who broke out of a Disneyland attraction. But. His wildcat’s eyes had flashed so captivatingly. Roman sighed dreamily. He adored Virgil’s passion. He knew his wildcat was a lot more complicated than he had thought. Nothing about their courtship would be as straightforward as he had dreamed. But he believed Virgil was worth the effort. After his botched attempt at helping him, he might not want to be with Roman at all, and Roman would accept that with a heavy heart. After inadvertently hurting him, he was more eager than ever to support the poor thing. Additionally, there was still a chance for their epic romance, so he had the right to dream a little.

Roman turned towards his partner’s desk to regal him with his daily reminder of how enchanting the moods of his little panther were, and did a double take.

Stopping in his tracks, he stared at his partner’s back, completely baffled. What. Was going on here? Had he woken up in the twilight zone?

He blinked repeatedly. Nope. Still there.

The poor detective willed his brain to reconcile the mismatched picture before him, trying to make sense of what he saw. Logan and -

No. His brain seemed to slip into screen saver mode. Can not compute.

“Hey buddy.” Jake chirped happily, slapping Roman’s back and turning towards Logan to head over and greet him.

He too, stopped in his tracks and stared.

“What the ...”

“Oh good, you see it too?” Roman asked weakly.

“The ...” Jake asked, gesticulating and apparently unable to put the picture into words.

“Yes.”

“On his ...”

“Yes.”

Both stared for a long moment, united in their confusion.

Detective Frey passed them, shooting a bewildered look at the detectives standing in the middle of the precinct and staring at Logan like hungover owls.

He placed the phone records his colleague had asked for on his desk, apparently completely at ease with – it. His read hair was especially messy today. Roman had done a great job cutting it for him after The Fence Incident, yet it still seemed to have its own mind.

Logan signed a quick thanks to the detective and went back to his report.

“Did he not see it?” Jake asked, incredulous.

“He’s mute, not blind.” Roman mumbled.

They stood for another long moment and stared.

Finally, Jake voiced a brilliant theory.

“Do you think he knows?”

Roman made a distressed noise at the thought of his beloved partner unknowingly harboring -

He shuddered, thinking of his friend’s reaction to his last encounter with it. But – that was impossible, wasn’t it? It was right there! Yet, all the others were ignoring it. Rosa was hitting her monitor with a terrifying expression. Gina was loudly having a private conversation on her phone. Hitchcock was cutting his toenails - ew!

He would solve this mystery!

Bravely, he squared his shoulders. Jake patted his back in support, making a “go get him” gesture.

Hyped up and brave, Roman readied himself to tackle the situation head on fiercely and fearlessly!

Quietly, he crept around the desk and addressed his friend cautiously.

“Hey there partner.”

“Good morning Roman.” Logan answered pleasantly, not looking up from the report he was marking.

Stumped, Roman stared for another moment. Jake made an encouraging gesture at him. Yes yes he was working on it, geez!

Sitting down carefully, Roman examined his partner for a long moment. His was sitting perfectly straight, his face was calm, his hands graceful around the marker, his shoulders with the – his shoulders were perfectly relaxed.

“Are … are you feeling okay partner?”

“My constitution is satisfactory. Are you well this morning?” He asked politely.

Before he could answer, Captain Holt passed their desks. Yes! He would not tolerate any weirdness in his precinct!

The impassive Captain however simply nodded at them in passing, not showing the slightest reaction to it.

“Greetings detective Sanders, detective Prince.” He spoke calmly, heading to his office.

“Captain Holt.” Logan acknowledged him, nodding to him in return.

Seriously?!?

Flabbergasted, he addressed his partner directly, having had enough of beating around the bush. He was a fearless detective after all!

“Um, partner? Buddy? Looooogan?”

“Hmn?”

“Do you know that you have a –“ He cleared his throat and started again.

“Are you aware that you have a - a rat on your shoulder?”

Blankly, Logan finally looked at him. It was his ‘I can’t believe I am working with this idiot’ face. Incredulously, Roman leaned back as the rat on his partner’s shoulder ceased trying to stuff its nose into Logan’s ear and turned a – Roman would swear to this dying day it was true – identical expression of ‘are you an idiot’ on him.

For a moment the three just stared at each other, locked in a stalemate of resignation and bafflement each.

Finally, Logan spoke curtly.

“Of course I am aware of the rat on my shoulder. I am, after all, in full possession of a fully functional sensory input system. If I had not noticed I would have likely suffered from a stroke or a similar medical condition impairing my visual and haptic sense of perception, which would have been accompanied by other notable symptoms such as a speech impediment.”

Shaking his head slightly at Roman, he returned to his report.

What in the name of the fairy godmother?!

Roman was at the end of his rope. This situation defied all logic. WHY was Logan-I-disinfect-my-desk-every-day-Sanders not freaking out? WHY was no one reacting to the frigging rat on his partner’s shoulder? In a police precinct? WHY was this walking pest sitting on his shoulder in the first place?!

Roman’s temper started to boil as he thought the frigging rat sent him a smug look and nuzzled close to his partner’s neck. No one got to do that but him!!! (and Pat)

Feeling like he was losing his mind, he nevertheless got ready to rant at this rat in order to defend his beloved friend, since it clearly was an evil sorcerer bewitching his partner, when he heard a muffled snort from one desk over.

Turning in bewilderment, he caught Amy duck under her desk, desperately trying to hold back her laughter. Her muffled giggles set off Terry, who clasped a hand over his mouth.

Nooooo way!

Incredulous, Roman looked at his partner. He had turned his handsome face away, trying to appear nonchalant, but the corners of his mouth were turning up and his dark eyes were dancing with amusement.

Upon perceiving the look of growing disbelieve on Roman’s face, the dam broke and the other detectives started howling with laughter.

“You – you tricked me?!?” Roman wailed dramatically, clasping a hand over his heart.

Logan’s attractive features had started to morph into an expression of helpless mirth. His face was alight with a rare sort of glee as he grinned at his friend. The rat had gone back to sniffing his ear, bracing its little paws on his neck. Logan shifted slightly as the soft whiskers tickled his sensitive skin.

Roman was speechless for a long moment, his feelings warring between astonishment and pride at his partner. He had so many questions!

“Why- How did you get Holt to agree to a rat in the precinct?! Where did you get it?!? You hate rats!!” He whined in a high pitched voice.

“On the contrary. You dislike rats while I am merely not partial to dirt or disease. This specimen however is perfectly sanitary. Moreover, this animal constitutes an instruments to improve our work efficiency since it is an officially registered therapy animal used to support trauma victims.”

“Bullshit.” Roman exclaimed emphatically.

Logan furrowed his brows.

“The concept of therapy animals is not at all – bullshit – as you called it so distastefully. The goal of Animal Assist Therapy is to improve a patient's social, emotional, or cognitive functioning as well as provide a calming effect on individuals suffering from stress.”

“No, I meant -” Roman huffed, shaking his head at his partner. He saw right through him and was ready to call him out.

“THAT is the rat from your candy drawer. The one I attracted for you. OUR rat! THAT’s what you were talking to the other day! It came back and looked at you with its big eyes and you caved, didn’t you?” He asked smugly.

Logan turned up his nose at him, looking perfectly offended. Which meant Roman was right!

He gave him the ‘don’t bullshit me, boy’ look the ladies had used on him the other day. He had practiced in the mirror and was very proud of it. And it worked! Roman mentally cheered.

Logan flushed slightly and protectively covered the rodent with his large hand. It immediately started nuzzling his fingers.

“It is an officially registered therapy animal.” He rumbled defiantly.

Roman amped up the look. Logan caved again. “Because I registered it with ‘Pet Partner’.” He confessed, embarrassed.

An incredulous laugh escaped his friend. Logan was so precious. Still, Roman could not get over the fact that he would allow a rat from the streets to sit on his expensive dark suit jacket. The sight was so strange. But in an odd way, it suited his partner. His sleek, elegant style was complimented by a little bit of wildness.

After a moment, Roman realized why he could not manage to reconcile the image of the scruffy rat in the drawer with the picture of his composed partner with the grayish, glossy animal on his shoulder.

“Did you bathe it?” He asked incredulously.

“Of course I bathed him. After all I shower twice a day as well. Nicodemus is fond of water and sits at my feet to wash.” The rat proudly displayed its shining fur, preening. Roman glared, not liking to have to share his partner’s attention.

“You’ll dry out your skin, I thought we talked about this?” He complained in a high pitched voice, despairing of his partners beauty program. Did he not know the importance of proper skin care?

Wait, what?

“Wait, it – Nicowhatsitsname -”

“Nicodemus.”

“It showers with you?!” Roman squeaked.

“Yes.”

“And you managed to hide this from me and rope our colleagues into pranking me?” Roman cried, disbelieving. In an amazed tone, he added “I don’t know you anymore.”

He had meant it as a compliment of course. He loved that his partner was coming out of his shell. Logan had always yearned to have a pet, but had allowed his insecurities hold him back, since he had believed he was incapable of caring for it properly. Roman would have wished for a less entitled stray to have found its way into Logan’s life, like a nice, well mannered turkish angora cat, but knowing Logan, it had to have come this way. He was too shy to approach anyone and had to be adopted. Which the rat had apparently done.

Roman thought it looked very proud of itself. The little hairy beast.

Though Roman’s thoughts were loving as always, Logan appeared to have misinterpreted his tone. His expression closed off and he stiffened visibly, looking unsure.

“I believed, perhaps mistakenly, that you would appreciate a surprise. I attempted to conduct myself in a more spontaneous manner, since you often lamented my lack thereof. I apologize if my attempts to accommodate you have made you feel less than pleased. I was my intention to be a more enjoyable friend to you, but I fear I have misjudged.”

Though attempting to look calm and unmoved, Roman could clearly see the tension around his mouth, the slight tremor in his hands – he feared to have upset his partner.

Making no attempts to hide the noise of concern escaping his throat, Roman rushed around the desks and grasped Logan’s face in his hands, leaning their foreheads together.

“You are the dumbest smart person I know.” He rumbled affectionate as his partner leaned into his embrace. Logan spluttered indignantly, but did not try to free himself from the loving hold. The brown-gray rat curiously sniffed Roman’s hand where it cupped his partner’s jaw. He suppressed a squeal at how soft the whiskers were. It might have an insufferable character, but for a pest infested vermin it really was quite cute.

Roman tried his best to make his partner see how much he cared for him and accepted him. He hated seeing him this insecure!

“You do not have to change anything about yourself C3PLo, I love every infuriating detail about you. I love how you organize your books by genre and alphabetical order. I love how your clothes are perfectly divided by color and shade in your closet in labeled drawers. I love the fact that you use an actual handkerchief like a frigging Victorian gentleman. I love how you keep track of the growth of your plants in this little notebook with graphs and all. I love that you won’t eat meat because that chicken allowed you to hug it in first grade but you still pretend it is because you think eating meat is illogical.”

“It truly is! The amount of water and plant matter used to create a kilo of meat could nourish -” Roman interrupted his friend’s well known rambling by obnoxiously smacking a messy kiss to his lips. He laughed as Logan started spluttering in annoyance, finally attempting to free himself.

“You are perfect just the way you are you exasperating idiot. I would never want you to change.” He told him earnestly and warmly, locking eyes with his partner.

Logan blinked, his eyes bright. Though he was still wiping his mouth in annoyance, he appeared to be reassured.

“I do not appreciate being called an idiot. That was rather uncalled for and quite inaccurate.” He complained primly, clearly attempting so save his dignity after being publicly cuddled. As if anyone here was not used to it yet.

Roman grinned at him sunnily.

“But it was! How could you think I would not love this surprise? Or you?” Obnoxiously he tried to pinch Logan’s cheek. His partner’s hand shot up and grasped Roman’s appendage, twisting it effortlessly with an annoyed expression.

“Ow! Uncle! UNCLE!” Roman squeaked with a high pitched voice. The rat was laughing at him, he knew it!

Upon being freed, he attempted to glare the rodent into submission.

Innocently it looked back at him with its beady little eyes, curling its tail around its body and grasping it in its rat-paws. Roman melted helplessly.

Clearing his throat, Logan attempted to return his partner’s affection in his more reserved way by addressing his previously voiced concerns. “I appreciate your concern for the health of my integumentary system. However I regularly use the moisturizer you have gifted me in order to ward off damage caused by excessive contact to water.”

Understanding the poorly worded display of friendship, Roman grinned at him.

Though he tried valiantly to hold a grudge against this tiny thief of attention, he could not help but want to make use of their moment as well as Logan’s mellow mood.

“Can I touch it?” He asked hopefully. He really wasn’t fond of rats, but it looked so soft.

“Certainly.”

Roman reached out carefully, allowing the little menace to get used to his presence.

Curiously, it placed its tiny paws on his hand and sniffed him. The whiskers felt ticklish on his skin. After a moment of deliberation, the little pest appeared to accept him and licked his fingers with its pink little tongue. Roman barely suppressed a squeal of happiness. So adorable!

 

Roman and Jake had to endure some teasing over the rest of the morning, but the young detective enjoyed every minute of it. His partner had played a trick on him! He was so proud!

However, he still had some trouble getting over the new addition to the office. The furry plague was drawing a lot of attention and allowed itself to be handed around by the endeared officers. Roman sullenly thought its affection was rather cheaply bought. He was pleased to find that it clearly loved Logan most though. After playing with Terry and Amy for a while, it got to return to Logan’s shoulder, where it immediately continued to focus its attention on nosing at Logan’s ear. The older detective caressed its back absentmindedly. A smile was lifting the corners of his lips. The furry creature on his well dressed form added to a rather attractive picture as it curled its tail around his neck almost protectively.

Yes, Roman could learn to tolerate this infuriating little plague.

His paperwork was starting to annoy him though. He considered stealing Scully’s and Hitchcock’s jewelery theft case for Logan and himself. The guy was apparently wanted by Interpol. It sounded much more appealing than his vandalism case where some little social justice warrior had destroyed a statue in the park.

Deciding he required some caffeine, he headed to the break room, brushing his fingertips over soft fur on the way. The rat squeaked at him cheerily. He dodged a tall, handcuffed suspect on the way, who was being pulled along by one of the officers. Roman wrinkled his nose at the combination of a striped training jacket and military boots. Did he not have a mirror at home?

Thankfully, Gina was there to supply him with the latest gossip. Apparently Rosa was seeing a girl from accounting. Roman gleefully stowed the information away for blackmail purposes. She so hated it when they knew anything about her private life.

Both fell silent abruptly like deer caught in the headlights when Rosa stalked into the break room, gave both of them her customary glare, and briskly informed him he had a visitor.

Curiously, he headed towards the entrance of the office, only to stop in his tracks. It was him.

His wildcat has wearing a black oversized hoody over hunched, narrow shoulders. His sleeves were pulled over his hands to hide them. He looked tense and pale and very young. The light made his hair shine like the brightest thing in the room, illuminating him from behind and making him look quite lovely and angelic.

He was also passionately berating an officer.

“These don’t belong on the recycle bin you moron!” He growled, waving the disposable coffee cup he had fished out of the trash in front of his face.

“Now calm down young man, that thing is made of paper.” The officer responded, crossing his arms over his chest and already looking quite willing to arrest this rude little troublemaker.

“Actually disposable coffee cups such as the ones produced by Starbucks are lined with a thin layer of oil-based polyethylene plastic.” Logan, bless his nerdy soul, had apparently spotted Roman’s wildcat and had come to his aid before he dug himself into his hole any deeper. After all the flowery descriptions, he could hardly overlook him. In full teacher mode, he concluded “Since they frequently clogs paper mills, they are usually disposed of in landfills.”

Surprisingly, he appeared to be in tune with the young delinquent in his concerns. Though Virgil took a startled step back upon recognizing the fearsome detective from the cafe, he seemed to read Logan’s non-threatening body language correctly. His convictions apparently made him brave, because he dared to continue Logan’s train of thought.

“That means 4 billion single-use cups get thrown away every year, for which you have to cut down one million trees, just so brainless slaves of capitalism can use their coffee fix to wake up their underused brains without having to worry about having to carry one fucking cup.” He complained scathingly.

Logan took over once again.

“Precisely. In addition, imperfectly disposed off waste can lead to severe environmental problems, such as the gradual breakdown of plastic particles in the oceans. So called ‘microplastics’ can be ingested by animals and release toxins into the environment.”

“Which leads to seagulls and fish starving miserably with a stomach full of plastic because you were too full of yourself to consider anything beyond the span of your own short lived cravings. But go ahead, why would you care about the 14 billion tons of trash ending up in our oceans every day, when all you want to do right now is get your fucking caffeine infusion?!” The dark young man added seamlessly and angrily.

The officer blinked in bewilderment at suddenly being berated not only by this strange emo, but also by the infamous detective Sanders, who for some reason was carrying a rat on his shoulder? Finding the unlikely alleys staring at him strictly and patronizingly respectively, and curiously in the case of one rat, he decided he did not get paid for this enough and fled. With his cup.

Now don’t get him wrong, Roman was truly blessed to find the love of his life and the best friend of his life getting along so unexpectedly well, but this was slightly terrifying. He did get berated enough by Logan as it was.

They had turned to examine each other for a long moment, until Virgil spoke up grudgingly.

“Cool rat.”

“Thank you.” Logan inclined his head politely, pushing his glasses up his nose. Nicodemus chirped a greeting.

Apparently despite himself, a corner of Virgil’s mouth curled upwards, his gaze softening.

Though he was in good hands, Roman knew he ought to stop staring and find out how he could help his darling wildcat. He was worried, since had honestly not expected him here of all places. His colorful thundercloud had a history with the police after all.

Despite having taken his card, had not yet called him, but Roman had not expected him to do so easily either. Which was why he had created his backup plan. Running the prints from the knife he had taken under the pretense of naively attempting to prevent him from harming someone, he had found an outdated address, some minor charges for shoplifting, and a full name. Virgil Raine.

He had chosen not to dig any deeper, considering he had encroached enough on his personal space in their last meeting already. The fact that he had neither violent nor drug related charges had reassured the detective considerably. Drugs were a sore topic for him.

Considering his criminal record, it was really no surprise his daring kitten was uncomfortable in a precinct. Roman resolved to quickly find a place that put him at ease. He needed to find out what had happened to make him seek Roman personally. Increasingly dreadful scenarios were spiraling out of control in his mind.

Approaching his spirited little lynx, he greeted him with his kindest smile, hoping to put him at ease.

“Virgil! What a surprise to see you here! At the precinct. Where the police is. Did something happen?”

All right, this had not been handled very smoothly, but he was really worried, okay?

His angelic little storm front did not seem to mind that he cut right to the point. Looking both nervous and glad to have been found, he pulled his sleeves further over his hands and ducked his head.

“Detective Prince, I’m sorry to disturb you, I know I shouldn’t be here. But I – I was wondering if you had a moment to talk. Privately?” He flushed as he quietly asked the last part. The poor thing appeared to be very uncomfortable.

Roman frowned and shared a concerned look with his partner. This timid and polite behavior was a far cry from their last encounter.

“Sure. You’ve met my partner Logan Sanders?” He asked, nodding towards Logan, who politely inclined his head. “There is an empty office down the corridor.” Reluctantly, Logan allowed them to go.

*

Roman closed the door behind them, sealing them in silence. He examined the young man before him attentively. Something was wrong. He had been swinging between shy and defensive before, but now he looked like this was the last place he wanted to be. It stung, but this was not about Roman. His feelings could take a step back when Virgil’s safety was on the line.

Attempting to soothe him, the young detective approached him carefully, making sure to speak to the young man gently and telegraph his movements. Stepping away from the door, he left enough space for the jittery creature to escape if he wanted to.

“You do not disturb me at all Virgil. I am glad you came. Please call me Roman, if we go from ‘moron’ to ‘detective Sanders’ I’ll get whiplash.” He smiled charmingly, hoping to ease the tension. Virgil’s lips quirked up for a small moment.

“I -” He broke off, hugging his body firmly, as if he was very cold. “I need your help.”

“Of course! How can I be of service?”

“Um – there is a man who got arrested. He is – a friend, of sorts.”

Roman frowned. Did he not want help for himself?

“He had a – a minor misunderstanding with a friend. They came to blows and he was arrested. The problem is – this isn’t his first transgression. He got into some trouble as a teenager and -” He rubbed a hand over his face roughly. It was shaking.

“They’ll put him in prison over this! I cannot let that happen! I have to – he does not deserve that!”

Feeling dread uncurl in his stomach, Roman squared his shoulders, hoping it would give him the confidence he felt slipping away.

“You mean the man in the striped jacket?”

Surprised, Virgil looked up. “Ah – yes! How did you -”

“Aside from fitting the profile of a gang member, he sported injuries created by an altercation with bare fists.” Hardening his voice, Roman added “He was also carrying a hitherto undiscovered package sewed into the lining of his jacket.”

Yes, Roman had noticed all this from their brief encounter. The tattoos peeking out from the collar, the bruises on his face and knuckles, the flat bulge in the jacket and the few small, untidy stitches that had broken the outside fabric when the pocket had been sewn in. The arresting officer had obviously done a sloppy job. Roman had not been worried, Frey or Logan would have noticed if he had not gotten the chance to mention it.

Virgil paled visibly at the accusation, shocked at the detective’s astute observations. “I – I know, it is nothing dangerous though! Just- money he makes from poker with his friends. It’s nothing bad, I promise!”

He seemed so earnest, looking at Roman with his large, dark eyes. But something didn’t feel right.

“What do you expect me to do?” The young detective asked cautiously.

Virgil bit his lip hard, lowering his head so his purple bangs hid his face. His hands were holding on to the fabric of his hoody tightly, as if he needed the grip to keep himself from falling apart.

“C- can you let him go?”

“No.”

Roman’s voice was harder than he had ever thought he’d address the love of his life. He tried to harden his heart, tried not to allow the bitter feeling rising up from his stomach to overwhelm him.

Virgil’s eyes widened. He seemed frightened suddenly. His reaction was not something Roman had expected from someone as fierce and wild as him.

“I’m sorry! I know I should not ask this of you - you are right, you shouldn’t – I’m sorry.” His voice was starting to sound frantic – desperate even. “I didn’t know what else to do, you are the only one I could turn to.”

Roman had trouble reading him properly, his heart felt slow with disappointment, the taste bitter on his tongue, the weight of it threatening to crush his sensitive soul and making him bow his shoulders. His thoughts struggled to move past the feeling of being used by this man he would have willingly given his life and his heart. How could he ask something like this of Roman?

Yet the butterflies in his stomach were beating their wings hard, urgently, pushing him to acknowledged the fear of the gang member, the shame in his eyes, the guilt, the pain.

Even through the haze of disappointment he could tell those feelings were real.

Virgil was close to giving up, he could see it. However, he steeled himself for one last attempt. His voice was shaking.

“I know you don’t understand. But – he is important to me, I’m not trying to help the Scorpions! He – he is the only one who cares when they -”

He appeared to choke on the next words, holding onto his arm tightly and curling around it protectively. He looked as if he expected to be struck at any moment. His eyes were haunted.

Roman felt his disappointment being overwhelmed by worry.

“When they do what Virgil?” He asked cautiously.

The young man seemed to fight his own instinct for a moment, before turning his face away and slowly pulling up his sleeve. The first thing Roman saw were dark bruises around delicate wrists, put there by his own hands. Guilt churned Roman’s stomach. It jumbled his thought process and made his brain feel sluggish with remorse, like weights were holding him down.

As Virgil pulled the sleeve up further, the sight of his arm overwhelmed all chance of rational thinking with a wave of horror. Roman’s whole body felt cold all of sudden, like he had been plunged into freezing water. He could not breathe.

His whole arm was a gruesome watercolor picture of red, purple and black. A fresh bruise was making the slender appendage swell and discolor darkly. Blood was still trickling from a torn part of his soft skin that had hardly had time to scab over. It was no clean cut. The skin had been broken forcefully by slamming his arm into a hard object with an edge sharp enough to cut him. The wound was not deep, but it had been created with utmost brutality.

All thoughts screeched to a halt. All consuming fear for his Virgil overwhelmed Roman.
He was cradling the arm close fearfully, clearly in pain and apparently deeply ashamed. His eyes were bright with tears. he clenched his jaw viciously, trying to hold onto his composure.

The young detective reached out with a shaking had, wanting to make things better somehow, wanting to hold Virgil and shield him from the world, wanting to protect him.

He stopped before he could touch the mangled arm. Virgil had told him did not want to be touched by him. He would never overstep his boundaries again.

Helpless to do anything to comfort the broken young man he asked shaky voice “Who did this to you?”

“It - it doesn’t matter, I -” A deeply sad and strangled sound escaped his throat. “Trust me, I deserve this.”

Roman’s heart shattered at hearing these words. Some rationally working part of his brain informed him that this was no lie, Virgil believed he had earned this pain. The thought made hot tears fill his eyes.

“I know I – I shouldn’t – I am so sorry for asking you this but you were right. I do not belong with this – I don’t know how to do this and I want out, but I need his help! He is the only one in the world who looks after me and I -” He broke off as a tear rolled down his cheek. His face was flushed with shame.

Brokenly trying to reassure him, Roman tried to make him see that he was not alone!

“You do not deserve this Virgil! I will do anything I can to help you leave this gang, you are not alone -”

“Then prove it! Please. I cannot leave yet, and I cannot do it without him. If I go back there alone -”

He broke off, turning away from Roman as if he could not bare to be looked at any longer.

His offer being cast aside in favor of a criminal hurt. But his feelings were of no consequence. Roman felt disoriented with pain and fear, his thoughts felt heavy, like we was struggling to move through water. He could not move past the agony in Virgil’s dark eyes. All he heard was his pleading, desperate voice. “Please.”

He had to help him.

“You don’t have to go back! I can protect you -”

“No. I have to go back, and you can’t make me stay.” Virgil snarled defensively. “Are you – are you going to make me go back alone?”

No.

He was right, Roman could not make him stay, he had made up his mind. He looked ready to leave. The thought made Roman frantic. Scenarios of what those horrible creatures could do to Virgil flashed through his mind.

If he would not let Roman protect him, there was only one thing he could do. Earnestly he approached him, looking into his eyes deeply.

“Virgil listen. I am here if you need me. Whenever you need me. I will come to your aid. No matter what happens or what you think you deserve, I shall protect you from anything.”

“Wait behind the precinct.” He added quietly, slipping out of the office.

He knew he had to act fast or he would lose his nerve. The more rational part of his brain tried to get his attention, tried to call him through the ringing in his ears, sounding a lot like Logan. But Roman was too far gone.

Plastering on a smile, he entered the office and strolled to the holding cells. Opening them, he nodded his head at the suspect. “You’re with me buddy.” His voice sounded bright, calm.

He cuffed him, and casually pulled him along. It was no unusual sight, so no one paid him any mind. Reaching the corridor, Roman easily evaded the cameras and upon finding themselves unwatched, pulled the man into the stairwell.

“What the hell?” The perp complained in surprise.

“Hush.”

The look on Roman’s face apparently was enough to make him shut up.

The detective led him down the stairs. He stopped in his tracks before the door leading to the back exit. He heard voices approaching.

Roman pulled the suspect back up a flight of stairs and hid them in a storage room, making a sign to be quiet to the confused man.

The voices came closer, and stopped right outside their door. Roman could discern the voices of two older officers.

After a moment that felt like a lifetime, they moved on.

Roman let out a quiet breath and quickly steered his charge to the back door. Turning him around, he unlocked the cuffs. Leaning close to the man’s ear as he did so, he whispered harshly “You make sure he is safe or I will find you. You will not enjoy it if I do.”

The man gulped as the imposing detective threatened him. He looked disoriented, but nodded.

Roman pushed the door open quietly, cautiously peeking out. Virgil was there, huddled into his hoody and looking very small. Roman’s heart clenched painfully.

He pulled the man outside behind him. Virgil’s expression upon spotting them was hard to describe. His face crumbled with conflicting emotion.

He looked at the silent detective for a long moment, taking him in as if we was seeing him for the first time. He stepped close to Roman.

“Thank you.”

He stood on his tiptoes and kissed the detectives cheek. Breathing the words in his ear, he whispered “I’m sorry.”

A moment later they were gone, as if they had never been there at all. Roman was left in the deserted alley, alone with what he had done. His thoughts were silent.

Then, they started racing. What had he done?

Panic started rising in his chest like a storm, making his throat close up. His heart started racing. He had broken the law. He had interfered in an investigation. He had allowed a criminal to walk free. Roman gasped for breath, terror overwhelming him. The consequences – he clenched a hand over his chest, steadying himself on the wall of the precinct. What was he supposed to do now? He felt like a child, helpless and frightened.

Home. He needed to get home.

He did not know how he made it, he did not remember moving. Strong hands gripping his arms startled him so baldy he flinched. His face was white.

Logan. Logan was before him, looking at him frantically. He had made it home.

“Roman, tell me what happened.” He demanded firmly. He had pulled them into the corridor, away from prying eyes.

“I-” Roman tried to form words, but choked on his panic. Logan. He had broken the law. He would lose his partner. The thought almost made him crumble. Strong hands held him up.

“Roman. Tell me.”

“I – I did something bad.” He whimpered. “Virgil – he was hurt. They hurt him. He wouldn’t – he wouldn’t let me – I wanted to - to help him but he wouldn’t let me and -”

“Breathe.”

Roman did. Tried.

“He was – he asked me to let him go. He was the only one to protect him and I just –” He had to force air into his lungs with a desperate gasp. “I couldn’t let him leave alone -”

“The suspect in the striped jacket officer Simmons brought in?”

Roman nodded.

“You – let him go?”

Logan’s voice was devoid of emotion. His face closed off.

Roman’s face crumbled.

“Logan – please -”

“Leave.”

“What?” Roman asked weakly. His jumble thoughts were shocked to a halt.

“Go to my apartment. Now. Tell people you are feeling sick if they ask.”

Roman’s eyes filled with tears, his hands trembling as despair threatened to overwhelm him. No. He had to pull himself together. Logan had given him an order. He took a deep breath and composed himself. Bravely, he clenched his jaw and nodded. Logan let go of him. Roman struggled not to beg him to hold him.

He stepped back. Before he could leave, Logan grabbed his hands and shoved something inside.

“Careful.” He ordered curtly. Roman nodded obediently.

Once again, he had on idea how he managed to get to Logan’s apartment. He fumbled with his key, dropping it twice. His sight was blurred by tears, his hands trembling.

Finally, he succeeded in letting himself in, coming to a halt in the middle of the apartment. Lost. The place which was usually so comforting for him, with the myriad of books, the warm wooden beams and the multitude of healthy plants was now a stark reminder of what he was about to lose. He had always prided himself in being a good detective. Since he had realized the could not actually become a knight, he had wanted to be a police officer, put criminals behind bars, serve the law, protect people. He had failed on all three accounts, with just one decision. He had besmirched his badge and allowed Virgil to go back to people who abused him. He had thrown away his life and had helped no one with it.

His career wasn’t the worst thing he had lost. His whole body was wrecked with shivers as he recalled the steel in Logan’s eyes. He had always tried to deserve Logan, since the day he had seen him at the academy. This slender nerd who had baffled all of them. Logan was everything in a detective he had ever wanted to be. He was his best friend. He was his whole family. The only one he had left. And Roman had ruined it.

Logan must hate him. His thought spiraled out of control. He felt weak, lightheaded. Logan would come back and – he wouldn’t scream at him. What he had done was so bad, it would deserve Logan’s cold, unforgiving fury. His frantic mind conjured up the memory of his partner looking down on the worst of criminals, his face filled with disgust. He could see it with crystal clarity. Logan looking at him with this look in his eyes. Logan slamming the door hard. Logan telling him to pack his things, get out of his life, telling him he was a disgrace. Logan hating him.

Roman wanted to fall to his knees. He wanted to beg. Please don’t send me away. But he deserved this. He could not do anything right. He was a burden. He was worthless. His parents had been right. He did not deserve Logan.

A high pitched noise penetrated his anguished thoughts. This – this was not his ring tone. Had Logan forgotten his phone? No – Logan needed his phone! Roman started to look around frantically, trying to find his partner’s phone. What if Patton called him?! He needed to bring it to him! His thoughts stuttered to a halt. Devastated he realized that he was not allowed to find Logan. He did not want to see him.

He could not even do this right. The pain in Roman’s chest felt like a physical thing, hot, burning through his ribs. He curled in on himself, feeling himself lose control.

A sharp pain in his hand made him yelp.

He looked down at his bleeding finger. His thoughts were halted in their tracks.

Nicodemus was sitting in his palms, cradled carefully and frantically squeaking to try to get his attention. There he was, this tiny sign of his partner’s love. Logan had shoved his precious pet into his hands to calm him.

A breath escaped him that was more a sob than anything else. He curled his tall body around the little animal, desperately trying to hold on to what it represented. His partner’s love. His partner loved him. He loved him.

Roman repeated the words desperately in his mind. Over and over again. They were more plea than certainty.

He froze, hearing the key turn in the lock. It felt like the trigger of a gun being pulled. Like the next few seconds would decide about life and death.

Logan stepped into his apartment. His spine was straight. His face tense. His eyes cold. His gaze turned to Roman. There was no emotion in his dark gaze. It was cold and hard as stone.

Roman’s knees buckled under the weight of his body and his despair. He crumbled into a heap of misery on the floor. A sob wracked his form that was more intense than any he had ever felt before. It felt like it was ripped from his chest, along with his heart.

Logan’s face morphed into horror in the blink of an eye. The facade he had barely managed to uphold in the precinct since learning what Roman had done fell off instantly, the moment he had managed to process the picture before him. He had been so curt with Roman, but the situation had taken precedence. He had to act fast in order to save his partner’s career and had not had the time to try to comfort him. But his friend needed it badly.

He rushed to Roman, fell to his knees in front of his best friend and pulled him into his arms. Nicodemus squeaked in alarm and climbed on Roman’s shoulder as the older detective hugged his partner hard, trying to hold him together desperately.

“It is alright Roman, I fixed it. Please don’t be afraid. I took care of everything, you are safe.”

A horrified sound wrenched itself from Roman’s throat. “NO! Please – you can’t -”

Logan held him tighter, rocking him tenderly and speaking directly into his ear. “Hush now. Yes I can. I love you and I will always protect you. This was my choice and you would have done the same for me. You are more important than my job or – or the rules.” He choked a little on the last part. Breaking rules was not something he was known for. But he meant every word.

“You – you could get fired Logan. Oh my God I did this to you. I’m sorry.” Roman sobbed helplessly, clutching Logan’s dark blue coat as if his life depended on it. This was so much worse than he had imagined. He had pulled Logan down with him!

“Stop. Right now.” Logan’s voice was strict. The voice he knew Roman would listen to. He gripped his chin and made this partner look at him. “I won’t and neither will you. And if we did, it wouldn’t matter, as long as we have each other. You are my brother Roman. Nothing matters more than this.”

He ended his speech by placing a tender kiss on Roman’s forehead. And Roman – he couldn’t take it any more. The fear, the stress and the pain caught up with him. He crumbled in Logan’s embrace, leaning against him weakly. Logan held him up, held him together. He ran his hand through his hair, rocking him and soothing him. His voice was deep and warm as we whispered calming, loving words to his little brother.

Roman’s sobs shook his trembling form for a long time before they turned into ragged breathing and painful hiccups. Logan gently wiped the tears from his cheeks with his thumbs.

Lovingly, he mumble against his hair “There is nothing you are capable of doing that could make me stop loving you, you exasperating idiot.”

Hearing his words from this morning parroted back at him brought a watery smile to Roman’s handsome, reddened face. Nicodemus braced his little paws on his neck and nosed at his ear. Startled by the softness of the small nose and the whiskers, as well as the ticklish sensation, an unsteady laugh escaped him.

Logan smiled encouragingly.

A shiver wracked Roman’s body suddenly. The shock had left him vulnerable and weak to the coldness seeping through his clothes from the hardwood floor. Gently, Logan manhandled him to the sofa and allowed his partner to curl up in his lap, hiding his face in his neck. He nested for a few moments, stacking pillows behind Roman and wrapping a blanked around his shoulders. Roman would swear no one knew the feeling of complete safety until they had been in Logan’s arms when he was in full mother hen mode. He sighed, tension draining further from his shoulders.

Logan allowed him some more time to relax, before Roman felt a shift in the air. Cautiously, he pulled back to look at his partner, ready to hear and accept whatever he wanted to tell him. Feeling the baby detective’s fear and guilt, Logan cupped his cheek and smiled at him. Roman smiled back tentatively.

“I want you to make me a promise.” He demanded clearly.

Roman nodded. Anything.

“Do not ever make any decisions concerning Virgil Raine on your own again. I know you are not ready to let this go, but you will not do it alone any more. Is that clear?”

His voice accepted no discussion. Roman nodded. “I promise.” He said, softly. Helpless to contain his worry, he added “I am so sorry. You are right, but I cannot let this go Logan. You should have seen his arm, they hurt him!” He explained the encounter to Logan, leaving nothing out, hoping he would understand.

His partner was silent for a long moment. His face was dark, strict. Roman had seen concern as he had described the injury, something like that would not fail to touch the detective’s gentle heart. Yet, he was clearly distrustful and angry. His tender hand carding through Roman’s hair showed him he was not angry at him though. He was angry at Virgil.

Feeling frightened on his poor kitten’s behalf, Roman pleaded for Logan to understand.

“He is in danger. I have to help him.”

“No.” Logan answered decisively. “We have to help him.”

Relieved and thankful beyond measure, Roman curled up against his partner, feeling all residual tension drain from his muscles. What had he done to deserve such a friendship? They would fix the damage he had done to the case together. If anyone could, it was them.

Nicodemus climbed from his shoulder to Logan’s arm, coming to a stop before Roman’s face. They examined each other for a long moment, before the little rat climbed under his chin and curled up in the safety of their embrace. Feeling himself surrounded by love and warmth, Roman closed his eyes and fell asleep in his partner’s arms.

***

Virgil entered the garages serving as a front to the Scorpions’ headquarters at a brusk pace.

Turning to the man whose freedom he had invested a lot of effort into, he snarled angrily “Get out of my sight you worthless piece of shit.” With a sour expression, the minion slunk off with his precious mystery package.

Virgil stalked through the garage into the back room, slamming the door shut behind himself viciously. Spying an open drawer on the filing cabinet he had used to injure his arm, he kicked it closed with a vengeance, making it rattle. His plan had succeeded. He had recovered the package as Hector had asked, along with the fool carrying it. Usually he was filled with pleasure at being able to support his leader. This time, he tasted nothing but bitterness on his tongue.

He stood for a long moment, surveying his kingdom. The office was small and dark, but all of his files were perfectly in order. This was the place where he organized the gang’s finances, where he came up with ways to launder the money made by selling stolen merchandise, where he planned supply routes and kept everything running smoothly. Planning, cunning and anticipating problems of every kind was his area of expertise. He was the problem solver.

Why did he feel like he had created more problems than he had solved today?

Hearing his name called, dread welled up in his chest.

He turned to the main room where Hector and the rest of the gang had holed themselves up. He liked to rub the others faces in his success to motivate them. His pride was the only form of affection in Virgil’s life since – he swallowed hard. Thinking about it was still too raw, too painful. Even though pleasing Hector had become the only thing worth anything to him anymore, Virgil hated the attention, the anger, the envy. He tried hard not to think about before. His life had been so different.

Still, it had been worth the sacrifice.

This time it would be worse though. This time, he did not know what would happen. It was a feeling of insecurity Virgil despised deeply.

He slunk into the room, facing the shark like grin of his leader. “There he is!” He boomed, pulling Virgil in. “Jacky here tells me you have that cop wrapped around your little finger. This is ye’r greatest trick yet, boy. Ye keep it up and secure that one and ye’ll do me proud.”

Virgil was tense. He felt all eyes on him. His voice was not as firm as he would have liked it to be.

“No.”

Hector’s grip around his shoulder stilled, then tightened.

“What was that?”

“I’m sorry Hector, but – I cannot do this any more.” Virgil muttered, lowering his head against his better judgment. Even if he was flushing, he should always keep his chin high. Rough murmuring was starting around him.

Hector turned him in his one armed embrace. He was smiling at him. “Why’s that boy?” His grip on his shoulder became uncomfortably tight. Virgil’s heart started beating harder in alarm, making his blood pump faster under his skin. His bruised arm throbbed painfully. “Are you telling me you can’t do a job on ye’r knees? Because we both know that’s a lie.”

The words felt like a punch in the gut. He paled, humiliated. Still, he tried to explain himself. He was upsetting his leader!

“N – No! B – but-” Mortified, Virgil mentally cursed the return of his stutter. He could not be seen like this! Laughter started rising around him cruelly. He had trouble putting his objections into words. They sounded weak as he spoke them, but felt insurmountable to him. “This man – he really cares.”

Hector took a long, calming breath. Virgil felt his anxiety grow. His leader let go of his shoulder.

And clapped him on the back, grinning. “I respect ye’r wishes. You know I am very fond of you, right?” Discontent grumbling rose around him. He silenced it with a look.

Virgil has taken aback by this leniency. He had worried for his position after Hector had not bothered to tell him what the package contained he had been sent to secure. He had never kept things from him before.

But now he was smiling at him. He clapped him on the back again. Then, he struck him across the face harder than he had ever been hit before.

His slender body crashed into the wall with the force of it. His shoulder and injured arm took the brunt of the collision. He crumbled to the ground, disoriented. His ears were ringing. The pain was so sudden and intense it made nausea rise up in his throat. Everything was spinning around him. Virgil felt blood run down his arm and his chin.

For a long moment, his whole world was narrowed down to pain and shock. He was unable to hold a coherent thought. Finally, he managed to grasp hold of a single realization. Hector had hit him.

Through the haze of shock, his lizard brain frantically alerted him to Danger. Now. Close. He curled up in terror, recoiling from Hector, who had crouched down in front of him. The room was utterly silent. His expression was thoughtful, almost kind.

He gripped Virgil’s chin in his rough hand, titling his bleeding, ashen face into the light.

“Ye get to make ye’r own choices boy. But if ye don’t follow my orders you are no use te me as my second, ye understand? That’s fine. You can work ye’r debt off in other ways.”

His grip slid from his chin to his throat, closing around it almost tenderly. He allowed Virgil to feel a moment of baffled horror, before he closed his hand around the pale throat firmly, cutting off his airways and making him choke. Leaning close to his face, he purred darkly “As I said, I am very fond of you.”

Blind terror filled Virgil. His heart was racing frantically, futilely trying to supply his body with the air he could not draw into his lungs.

It was over suddenly. The hand was gone, Virgil drew in gasping breaths of air, trembling.

The moment he was able to speak, he desperately tried to reassure the only man whose approval meant anything to him in this world. “No! I’ll – I’ll do anything! I am loyal to you!”

His voice was barely more than a rasping, coughing whisper through his bruised throat. He forced the words out painfully.

The world had narrowed down to Hector in front of him. The gang members behind him had turned into blurry, demonic shapes, watching him with cruel, gleeful eyes. Finally this entitled child got what was coming for him. The man with the scorpion tattooed to his face spit on the floor with vicious pleasure. This worthless, soft bitch had stolen a position that was rightfully his. And he dared speak about loyalty when he hid behind him while he did the dirty work. His brain and planning would not save him much longer.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

“What … the heck?” Roman exclaimed incredulously.

Logan briefly looked up from feeding an apple slice to Nicodemus. “Is something wrong?”

“The print from the window ledge got a match.” Roman groused, scrolling through the file with growing disbelieve.

Logan frowned and pulled Nicodemus against his chest, cradling him carefully. “I am confused. A match to our database constitutes good news, yet you display none of your usual signs of happiness.”

“The match belongs to Xiao Chen Wu.” Roman rumbled. His expression grew progressively darker.

“Yes?”.

“She is a Chinese woman.” Roman replied through clenched teeth. His expression was stormy. Logan shifted uncomfortably. After poaching the interesting diamond theft case from Hitchcock and Scully, Roman had experienced the initial phase of happiness at encountering a challenge. However, the many dead ends he had hit made this case start to grate on his nerves, which in turn put his partner on edge.

“I fail to see the problem. According to your theory, the perpetrator entered the store through a narrow window at the back of the building. Chinese females display an average height of 160.1cm. Considering the suspect would have to posses a narrow build, as well as a considerable amount of flexibility, a woman of Chinese descent constitutes a viable suspect.” Nicodemus gave a squeak from Logan’s breast pocket. Irrationally, he liked to think his pet agreed to his astute assessment.

However, his partner’s face darkened even further. Logan had rarely seen him this irritated. He did not like it.

“She is 89 and in a wheelchair.”

“… oh.”

“Yes.”

Considering the window was positioned 3.2 meters up and had to be reached by climbing and leaping a quite impressive distance, their match could not possibly be a more unlikely one.

Reading his friend’s face correctly, Logan started to understand his annoyance. “You believe the prints were planted in order to -” “TO MOCK ME!” Roman howled, slamming his fist on his desk. A stack of files wobbled and slipped sideways, spilling on the floor.

Roman actually growled. From the tall and usually so sweet detective, this was a terrifying sound. At this point, Nicodemus had wisely buried his head in Logan’s pocket. This atmosphere was not conductive to his mental health.

Instead of cleaning up his files, Roman ran both hands through his hair and gestured at the mess dramatically. “Will you LOOK at THIS! This is HIS fault, he drives me up the wall!!!” He screeched in despair. “He has broken into three jewelery stores and we’ve got NOTHING!”

Logan failed to see how the burglar was to blame for the spilled files, but wisely stayed silent. Roman clearly was not done yet. In fact, he was fluffing up his ruffled feathers, straightening up and adopting a fierce expression. “He thinks he can play with the valiant detective Prince but he has NO IDEA about the forces he has provoked. I vow that I shall find this villain who dares to taunt this guardian of the law. I shall apprehend him and ensure he receives the punishment HE DESERVES!” The office fell silent briefly to give his speech the well deserved attention. Roman was quite proud of it.

Having gotten his anger out if his system, he flopped down on the floor and started collecting his files. Having delivered his marvelous speech, he was docile once again.

Until Scully walked past their desks and mentioned smugly. “Looks like you regret switching your vandalism case with ours already.”

Roman shot up so fast he became dizzy. “You did not even solve that case!” He cried out indignantly.

“Neither did you.” Scully replied, looking very pleased with himself. Roman spluttered with righteous anger.

Sighing, Logan rounded the desk and dropped his pet rat into his aggravated partner’s hands. Nicodemus directed a betrayed expression at him for being pulled from his hiding place so rudely. Roman seemed calmer however, since he got to pet his little rival.

Logan scooped up the files and turned to his partner. “Listen Roman. You will find them, this simply constitutes a minor setback. I believe in your abilities.”

His friend beamed at the praise, trusting his partner. “You are right, I will catch this despicable criminal! My triumph shall be even sweeter after winning his game!”

“Certainly.” Logan agreed easily, endeared by his partner’s quickly evoked enthusiasm.

“We should grab some ice cream tonight – look at things from another angle!” Roman exclaimed. He had curled up in his chair and attempted to fluff up Nicodemus fur on top of his tiny head.

“I am not free tonight, since I am doing taxes.” Logan explained distractedly, bending over a file. Roman huffed at being brushed of for something so boring, and at the entitled little rat trying to escape his grooming attempts.

“I know you love doing mind numbingly dull stuff like your taxes, but this is important!” He complained.

“I am doing your taxes.” Logan mumbled, uncapping his marker. He looked up briefly as Roman yelped. He and Nicodemus sat, glaring at each other – one with fluffy fur on top of his head, the other with a bleeding finger. Logan turned back to his file.

“Wait, what? My taxes?”

“Hmm.”

“Oh. Thanks! But taxes aren’t due for another six months, you can do them whenever!” He whined obnoxiously.

“Your taxes were due two days ago.” Logan murmured.

“WHAT?!”

“I already applied for an extension.”

Receiving no reply, Logan finally gave his partner his full attention. Roman looked small and unsure. They way he cradled the rat in his large hands, it looked like he was holding on to it for safety. Logan set down his marker worriedly and waited.

“You – you have to clean up a lot of my messes lately. I don’t know why you put up with it.” He confessed softly.

“That is not true. You know why.” Logan reminded him firmly, warmly. “I care for you. You are worth the effort I put into cleaning up your – finances.”

Roman gave him a small, hopeful smile. “Are you sure? After all the trouble my – finances – caused you were -” “Worth the effort I invested.” Logan impressed on his friend.

Both broke off as they heard a snort next to them. Detective Frey had appeared next to their desk in order to drop off a file. He signed something which made Logan flush and laugh softly.

“Whaaaat?” Roman complained.

“Apparently we are “weirdly passionate” about taxes.” He explained. Roman giggled.

“Speaking of finances - did he find the paper trail of their money?” Roman asked curiously after Logan had time to peruse the file. His partner’s brow was furrowed.

“No, we have nothing.” He growled. “This does not make any sense. The attack on the Pat-isserie was crude. The Scorpions showed no finesse during its planning or execution whatsoever.”

“Okaaaay, what is different about the Wheezing Wildebeests finances?” Logan directed an unimpressed look at his friend. Giggling started up in the background.

“Yeah, what about the Prognosticating Platypuses?” Jake chirped.

“Did the Bellowing Butterflies do something interesting?” Rosa asked gleefully.

“The Howling Scorpions” Logan enunciated primly “show a completely different modus operandi concerning their finances. They are organized in a much more – elegant fashion. I can find nothing that ties any of them to any illegal endeavors. Whoever organizes their business and launders their money is leagues ahead of the rest of the gang. We might be dealing with a financial genius.”

“Well, you are a genius as well. You’ll catch him.” Roman assured his friend kindly. “I’d love to chat with someone smart enough to make you work that hard though.” Just as the young detective finished his sentence, a call from a withheld number distracted him.

Excusing himself, Roman found a quiet corner in the corridor to take the call. He felt his heart quite literally skip a beat as he recognized the voice of the mystery caller.

“Um – this, um, this is Virgil. I’m sorry for disturbing you ...”

“You are not.” Roman told him clearly, making his deep voice just firm enough to be taken as more than a suggestion. “Are you alright?” He asked worriedly.

“Ah – sure, I’m – I’m good – fine.” He did not sound fine. “Listen, I need to meet with you. Something changed. I can’t let them – they promised they couldn’t -“ He stopped himself from revealing more, but the sounds from Virgil’s side gave the detective more information than he knew. Roman stained not to miss anything. His aggravated thundercloud sounded like he was running a hand through his hair, pacing, aggravated. He heard footsteps echoing through a vast, empty room. Most likely concrete floor. Distant voices. Hydraulics. An engine purring. Roman imagined he could hear his fiery kitten’s heartbeat through the receiver. Frantic and fast as a hummingbird.

“Of course I’ll meet with you, just tell me when and where and I will be there.” He vowed earnestly.

“This is a bad idea, I’ll get into so much trouble – I shouldn’t – I must be crazy.”
Suddenly, he snarled “This is entirely your fault.”

Despite his growing worry, Roman’s lips curled into an affectionate smile. “All right.” He answered, not even trying to keep the warmth and fondness from showing through his voice. His gentle response brought Virgil up short. Clearly he had been hoping to make Roman aggressive and gain a way out of the conversation. He did not seem to know how to deal with his patience and kindness.

After a long, startled moment of silence, Virgil responded quietly “I – I don’t know if I can do this.” He sounded very small. “They’ll – oh god, if Hector finds out I even talked to you about this –“ Virgil’s breath started to come more quickly. Roman filed away the name that had escaped the gang member apparently unconsciously and reacted quickly.

“It’s okay Virgil, breath for me.” He made his deep voice warm and soothing, as if he was speaking to a startled animal. “I won’t do anything against your will. We’ll just talk, all right. You’ll meet with me and we’ll have a chat and see what happens. I’ll accept whatever choice you make and help you see it through. You are not alone Virgil. Trust me.”

The fact that Roman did not attempt to force or pressure his wildcat seemed to soothe him somewhat. The young detective had been right, Virgil got defensive and frightened when he was cornered and lashed out. He wondered what had happened to him to cause these intense reactions.

Another long moment passed in which Roman could hear Virgil pace, mumble to himself intelligibly, consider his offer. He gave him the time he needed.

“Okay.” He whispered. His voice was weak, defeated, but his response was final. He seemed determined to go through with their meeting, no matter the cost. Roman feared they would be drastic if he got caught. Virgil apparently considered turning on his gang. Such attempts were punished swiftly and brutally. Roman’s heart leaped into his throat, bringing nausea with it, as images of Virgil’s pale and lifeless body flashed before his eyes with shocking clarity. Virgil, dumped carelessly in some alley, his thin limbs twisted cruelly. Virgil, small and beaten, his body growing cold. Virgil, bloody and broken and all alone.

His fear made him clutch his phone hard in his strong hand, trying to suppress his trembling. This was what he had hoped for all along, but it was a dangerous game they were playing. The longer he stayed, the greater the danger. Roman took a deep breath, trying valiantly to reign his nerves under control. Pushing for a meeting would scare Virgil away.

“Okay.” He repeated steadily. “We’ll figure this out together, I promise Virgil. I will look after you.” A sharp intake of breath sounded from the other end of the line. He heard Virgil clasp his hand over his mouth hard, shakily breathing through his nose. He was trying hard to hold himself together.
Yes. Roman was more certain than ever. Virgil was suffering so intensely because he was about to turn away from the Scorpions. I was a huge step. Gang structures drew you in. They did not allow for much contact outside of their confines. Once you were part of them, turning away meant losing everything. Your livelihood, your family, possibly your life.

“When do you want to meet? I’m free as soon as you want to see me.” He assured the distraught young man.

“I – “

Virgil fell silent suddenly. His whole body stilled. He held his breath. Something was out there. Something that scared him.

Roman fell utterly silent, allowing him to hide, viciously fighting the urge to beg Virgil to allow him to pick him up, bring him to safety. To allow him to place his body protectively between Virgil and his demons. To hold him until everything that frightened him disappeared.

After a few long moments, Virgil dared to draw air into his lungs again. His breath was loud and uneven over the phone. The danger had passed his hiding place, but his fear hadn’t.

“I have to go! I ‘ll text you.” He whispered roughly. The line went dead.

Roman stood quietly, holding his phone to his ear and listening to the blood rushing in his ears, helplessly considering all the things that could be done to Virgil in the absence of his protection. His thoughts taunted him painfully until Logan found him. Giving him a quick once over, he gently pried the phone from his hand and drew him against his shoulder. Roman curled into his friend’s arms, focusing on his breath, his smell. Warm and familiar. Safe. It would be alright. He would tell Logan about the call and they would figure everything out together.

***

Right now, all he could do was wait. He did not have to do so calmly thought.

Logan eventually chastised him about his illogical urge to pace and mutter and stare at his phone. “Stop now.” He told him firmly, capturing his shoulders and making him look at his partner. “You will help no one if you aggravate yourself uselessly. You can however assist Patton in his endeavor to replace his broken furniture and thus make yourself useful.”

After walking him to his cafe the other day, Logan had noticed how empty the space looked after Patton had thrown out all the broken chairs and plates, which he had usually stacked on open shelves behind the counter, where they looked mismatched and cheerful. Patton had mentioned how little money he had had to open his cafe, and how he had bought most things on flea-markets and painted them himself. He could afford to replace the broken furniture with new ones now, thanks to the money Rosa had made the gang leave for him, but he had decided to invest it in his cafe and once again look for second hand objects. He liked how they told a story, he said. Like they had been loved in a previous life and brought this love into his cafe. Logan had been charmed and offered to help. Patton had apparently planned to attend a market this evening and somehow transport his findings on his own, since his boyfriend was out of town and also apparently was “not fond of my old stuff and clutter” as Patton had shyly told him. This would not do of course. Patton would take weeks to replace his broken furniture on his own. Of course they would help.

Roman had not minded being volunteered at all. He found flea-markets romantic and nostalgic and often made Logan go with him. Though he disliked the crowds, the kitsch and the dust, and was also not fond of energetically being pulled along by his arm, Logan usually left with an armful of old books himself, so he could not complain. He was a flea-market veteran by now.

Knowing his partner was right, Roman jumped at the opportunity to get out of the precinct. He could do little for Virgil and his jewelery theft case was stuck like a teenager to their smartphone. He needed to clear his head.

It was a sunny evening. The days were getting longer and warmer and the sun painted everything in warm colors. They dropped off Nicodemus in the apartment on the way, not wanting to lose him in the crowds. After parking the car they had brought, Roman linked his arm with Logan’s as they walked the rest of the way, because he could, and because he knew how jittery his partner got whenever they were about to meet Patton. He tried not to think about whether Patton’s boyfriend ever felt this much nervousness or elation at the prospect of seeing the pattisier’s smile. Such bitter thoughts were not for today.

Patton was just getting ready to close up his cafe as they arrived. The van of the local homeless shelter was parked in front of the door, since Pat liked to donate his leftover food to them after hearing about the idea from a colleague. Roman gallantly gabbed the sweet smelling box the young man who ran the shelter was carrying and flashed him a charming smile. He blushed quite helplessly at the polite attention of such an attractive man.

Leaving Roman to charm another citizen, Logan entered the cafe and found Patton finishing his cleaning. He was just sweeping up the last of the crumbs, dancing around with his broom and giggling as he almost stumbled over the tool as he twirled around it. Not noticing Logan, he made another cheerful turn and came to a sudden halt right in front of the tall detective. He startled noticeably upon finding himself face to chest with another man and quickly titled his chin up.

The smile that broke out on his lovely face felt like the sun breaking through the clouds after a week of rain. Logan almost felt the warmth on his face, however illogical this fanciful thought may be. His own answering smile came without prompting, helpless and endeared. Patton brought out those reactions he usually had to work hard for completely naturally.

“Logan!!! I’m so happy to see you!” He squealed joyfully. Logan’s heart felt funny, like he had missed a step and was falling. “Salutations Patton. I am please to see you as well.”

Patton stood on his tiptoes to give a fair warning before he threw his arms around Logan while still awkwardly holding the broom between them. He laughed slightly as he tried to maneuver around the piece of wood to properly snuggle into the detective’s arms. Logan huffed a laugh against his cheek and gently pulled him away.

“Allow me.” He rumbled quietly, taking the broom from Patton’s hands and leaning it against the wall. Feeling the pattisier’s disappointment at being removed gave Logan some courage. He looped his strong arm around Patton’s waist and pulled him against him, embracing him properly. The poor detective suffered through a moment of acute anxiety caused by taking such uncharacteristic liberties with his friend. Patton was more than happy to be manhandled though and gleefully curled into the taller man’s arms.

“Well this is much better! I’m glad you swept away this pesky obstacle.” He giggled happily at his wordplay, enjoying Logan’s amused huff against his neck. “With the broom between us, our greeting sure felt wooden.” The detective groaned and hid his face in Patton’s hair to hide his smile. Patton was very warm in his arms. Over his lavender shirt he wore a loose blue wool cardigan that looked like it had been handmade. The material was soft under his hands, like the body underneath it. It was the most pleasant thing he had touched all week, with the possible exception of the soft fur behind Nicodemus’ ears. He allowed himself another moment to run his palm over the line of Patton’s spine, knowing he liked to be touched this way. He estimated their moment would be interrupted in three, two…

The jingling of the bells at the door was drowned by Roman’s booing voice. “Are you hogging all the cuddles again?! You thieving – thief!”

Patton laughed and pulled Roman in eagerly. “Princey! C’mere, there’s plenty of cuddles to go around!”

Trying to hastily untangle himself, Logan stammered “I should let you -” “NO WAY, you are not going anywhere!” Roman hollered cheerfully, capturing his retreating partner around the waist and squishing both him and Patton in his embrace. Logan swore colorfully in German as he was squeezed quite a bit more obnoxiously than Patton, who got cuddled sweetly. The pattisier squealed at their antics and promptly had a kiss pressed on his nose.

Before leaving, Pat enthusiastically introduced them to his new employee Redmond, who he had apparently hired on the spot. He was looking to hire more personnel to replace Valerie, since her pregnancy would not allow her to continue working for much longer. Both detectives gave the handsome young man a very thorough once over. They had to make sure Patton did not employ any unsavory characters after all.

Eventually, they locked up together and took Logan’s car to flea-market. Because he had annoyed him, Logan banished Roman to the back seat, which made Patton feel bad and climb in with him. As the only adult in the car turned into the correct street, he wondered when his life had taken a turn in this strange direction. Looking into the rear view mirror, he found Patton and Roman playing patty cake while trying to sing over the voice of the other. He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the cheerful caterwauling, and looked for a parking spot. He had not stopped smiling since starting the car.

*

The flea-market was a lot larger than they had imagined. The stalls stretched in several directions and into different side streets. The place was packed with people. Logan straightened his tie, and his glasses as well for good measure. Too many people tended to make him nervous. Patton noticed his tension immediately and turned worried hazel eyes on him.

“Are you sure you want to help me with this? I can take the bus home, it would be no trouble at all. Roman and you have already helped me way too often. This is more than I could ever ask for.” His voice became quiet towards the end. Logan could see guilt and insecurity set in.

“Please do not worry Patton, I regularly accompany Roman on recreational outings such as this. He has a fondness for accumulating decorative miscellaneous objects of questionable usefulness, so he should be all too willing to assist you in this endeavor.” As he spoke, he spied Roman two stalls over, fawning over a set of silver mirrors.

“What about you?” His smaller friend asked insecurely. He had pulled his wool cardigan around his shoulders more firmly, hiding his hands in its folds for safety. Logan did not like his hunched posture at all and clumsily tried to put his appreciation and into words.

“I enjoy assisting you. I have found spending time in your presence has a – soothing effect on my mental constitution.” He mumbled awkwardly, feeling a flush rise to his cheeks.

Patton, bless his emotionally intelligent heart, seemed to understand what Logan tried to tell him. “I enjoy spending time with you too!” He chirped and tentatively wrapped an arm around Logan’s. As the detective did not shake him off or tense at the contact, Patton grinned at him and pulled him after Roman.

*

They wandered the market for more than an hour. Patton and Roman teamed up and enjoyed themselves tremendously. Their laughter could be heard down the whole street. The attentive baker seemed to have sensed Roman’s need for distraction and kept him busy and in good spirits. Meanwhile Logan relieved them off their treasure so they would have their hands free to find more. Whenever they bought some larger furniture they took a trip to the car to drop off their findings.

Roman complained loudly as Logan finally captured him and forced the excited detective to hold still so he could put sunscreen on his reddening nose. The sun was still burning down on them and Logan would not expose them to any unnecessary cancer risks. He put the sunscreen on Roman himself, since his partner always managed to miss a spot and subsequently complain about his apparently disfigured features. Roman’s treasure hunt would have to wait.

The younger detective escaped the moment Logan released him, excitedly dashing away towards unknown mysteries. He turned to Patton to offer the sunscreen tube to him, and found him watching the detective with a warm, affectionate look in his eyes. The soft smile on his face was the prettiest thing he had seen in a long time and Logan once again found himself at a loss as he was faced with his friend’s loveliness.

After a long moment, the baker relieved him of his awkwardness and stepped closer. With a teasing grin he titled his chin up. Did Patton actually want him to – Logan choked a little.
The poor detective felt his heart race as he was faced with the prospect of being permitted to touch his friend’s face. Darwin, would he ever stop feeling so jittery around the pattisier?

Patton’s eyes danced with amusement as he let Logan gently apply the sunscreen to his nose and cheeks. He bit his lip to hold in a squeal as his friend’s brow furrowed in concentration. For such an imposing detective Logan sure was adorable!

Logan was not apologizing for his diligence. He had to do this properly or Patton’s fair skin would burn!

Once he was done, Pat snatched the tube from his hands and cheerfully chirped at him. “My turn!” Oh dear.

Logan held very still as Patton touched his face. His fingertips were so soft, his touch deliberate and careful. Touches like these had no right to feel this intimate! The tip of the pattisier’s pink tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated, just like the day he had knelt in front of Logan to – this was an image he did NOT need at the moment!

“Oh no, I think you already got a little burned, your face is quite warm.” Patton lamented worriedly. Yes. His face was definitely heated because of the sun.

Finally ready to face the sunshine and the other shoppers once again, they turned into the direction Roman had disappeared in, wandering past the stalls in companionable silence. Until Patton’s spooked gasp broke the quiet atmosphere. He backed up in fright, getting caught securely by Logan, who had noticed the young man in a leather jacked and yellow t-shirt at the same time. Clearly, the sight had set Patton off.

Leaning down to speak to him directly, he soothingly reassured his friend. “Everything is alright Patton, this man does not belong to the Scorpions, however your confusion is highly understandable. After the trauma you went through, some remaining insecurities are quite natural.”

Patton blushed hotly and ducked his head anyway. He attempted to smile at his words, but it was a twisted, sad thing. “You are so sweet Logan. But there really is no reason to – to be so overly sensitive. You should not have to take care of me all the time. I really hardly remember anything about the day between you coming in and – and you hugging me. It’s all – hazy.”

“You were in shock.” Logan told him gently. Patton shrugged a shoulder uncomfortably.

“I guess so. I was told you were quite impressive, I’m sorry I missed it.” He attempted to smile away his unease.

“You did not miss much, I assure you. I am not fond of such – distasteful activities. Your reaction was perfectly within the expected parameters. In fact, I believe you conducted yourself with admirable courage. Sending Valerie away and facing those unpleasant individuals on your own was an impressive feat. You did well and I – I am – proud of how well you conducted yourself.”

Logan meant those words very much. His hand on Patton’s upper arm tightened for a moment, before he gently rubbed his skin through his cardigan. The repetitive motion seemed to give Patton comfort and enjoyment. Logan had found before that his back and arms were sensitive and he liked to be petted like a large cat. Apparently, he did not get enough sorely needed tenderness. He was not above using this information to dispel any unpleasant thoughts Patton might have. His friend was a very physical person, so Logan adjusted his behavior accordingly.

Patton blushed at the reassurance. His grin was bright as the sun. “Aww you think so? That is soooo kind of you!” He gushed, beaming at Logan. He was already rocking on his heels again in elation. It truly was easy to make him happy. The detective felt a smile tug on the corners of his lips unbidden.

They stood in the middle of the flea market, smiling at each other, until Roman got bored of watching the adorable display from the vantage point he had picked. Honestly, they truly were most precious, but Roman needed his sugar. And by sugar, he meant attention.

Remorselessly, he crowded between them and grabbed both in a hug, demanding cuddles. Logan spluttered in annoyance as he was tugged under Roman’s arm once again. Patton squealed in surprise and delight and immediately curled close.

“My wise partner is right, we are but humble admirers of your courage. Take my badge, brave citizen, and defend us against the evildoers of this cruel world!” He swooned on the spot like a dying swan. Logan yelped and grabbed him around the back before he could drag all of them down in a puppy pile on the street. Patton giggled helplessly and played along.

“Fear no evil my valiant friend, I shall vanquish your foes by throwing my muffins in their general direction. I am very bad at throwing things!” He squealed happily as Roman gave a delighted shout and hoisted him in his arms and smacked a kiss to his cheek. “My savior!”

Though they were by now thoroughly blocking the narrow path, the small crowd around them was not complaining. People were laughing about their antics, endeared by a bunch of grown men playing and cuddling. Still, Logan made sure to allow people to pass, after inconspicuously snapping a picture of his happy partner with a laughing Patton in his arms. He liked to document things, alright?

Their moment was interrupted by a cheerful ring-tone that certainly did not belong to the detectives. Patton’s whole face lit up as he fished his phone out of his pocket. “Would my favorite detectives excuse me for a moment?” He chirped and moved away a few steps. He looked cheerful.

“Trevor, I’m so happy to hear your voice!” He listened attentively for a moment, his smile turning sweet and gentle.
...
“I missed you too! I think about you all the time. I wish you were here.” The response made Patton perk up like a puppy. “Really? When will you be home? I can pick you up! We have to catch up on so many dates! I’ll cook all your favorites and -” A sheepish expression came over his face as he was apparently interrupted. He hunched his shoulders slightly, looking chastised. “Sorry, I got excited. Just – happy to have you home.” He listened for another moment, trying to be more composed.
...
“Oh I was doing fine. I always miss you, but Logan and Roman helped me with the furniture. They are so supportive!” Patton’s voice was loving and thankful as he spoke of his (inconspicuously listening) friends.
...
“Yes, they sure do help me a lot! Roman helped me install the lights for the decoration I told you about and Logan fixed my messy cables.”

Worriedly, the detectives saw his smile dim and fall away after a moment of attentive listening. He paled suddenly, his face crumbling. “Oh – I -” Apparently being interrupted once again, he fell silent immediately.
...
“But - I would never -” He sounded stricken, suddenly pleading with his boyfriend. Logan only noticed that he had moved as he felt Roman’s hand on his shoulder, holding him back. Patton was shaking his head in agitation. A guilty look overcame his face.
...
“I – I’m sorry! I did not want to – I didn’t think -” He ducked his head, hiding behind his bangs as he listened once again.
...
“Of course I understand. I never wanted to make you feel this way. I’m sorry I was stupid.” Patton’s voice was very small.

At this point of the conversation, Logan and Roman had given up on subtlety and were spying on Patton with open fear for him. Absorbed in the conversation, Patton failed to notice his audience.

He looked very small, hugging his body as he spoke. “You are too good to me, but it really was stupid of me. Of course I trust you know what’s best. Thank you for looking out for me.” Softly, he tagged on “I love you.”
...
A tentative smile crossed his lovely face. It was a bittersweet expression. “You are so sweet. Of course I’ll be good.” Trying to sound more upbeat and making his smile look more real, he tagged on “You know me! I’m always good for you!”

“Okay. I’m looking forward to it. I love you very much.”

The call ended. Patton stood for a long moment, alone in the crowd.

He took a deep breath, plastering on a smile, and turned to his friends. They were standing two stalls away, emerged in a discussion about the merits of buying another antique leather suitcase for Roman’s flat. Patton stared at them for a long moment, trying to gather his strength, make his smile more real, do the right thing. He must not hurt his boyfriend. He had to behave properly, fix his mistake. Trevor knew what was best. He did. Patton was sure.

Still, his feet were rooted to the spot.

Roman apparently noticed that his call had ended and smiled at Patton in his warm and loving way that usually made Patton feel so loved and happy. Trevor knew what was best, he reminded himself. He always did. His hands were shaking. He held hard onto his phone and his smile.

With concern dawning on his attractive features, Roman approached Patton, reaching out to draw him into an embrace. Behave! Patton told himself firmly, strictly, and pulled back before Roman’s comforting hands could touch him.

The young detective stilled immediately. A hurt look crossed his face for a fleeting moment, before he covered it up with a sunny smile.

This was the right thing to do, Patton reminded himself. His vision was blurry.

“You okay there Pat?” Roman asked casually.

“Sure – just – I guess I should get going, I’ve kept you too long.” Move, he told his feet. Why were they not moving? Why could he not do this properly? Why could he get nothing right?

At this point, Logan had seen enough.

He approached Patton carefully, keeping his posture open and nonthreatening. He handed his phone to Patton. Confused, he took it from the detective’s hand, gazing at the picture it showed. Roman and him, cuddling and giggling just a few moments ago. Patton’s smile crumbled.

Keeping his voice as friendly as he knew how to make it, Logan asked.

“I could not help noticing that you usually enjoy the physical contact Roman offers you. Did something happen to make you draw away now? We will respect your boundaries, whether we understand them or not, but perhaps you would like to talk about what has changed?”

Patton averted his gaze. His eyes were bright with tears. “You are right, I’m sorry. I just – I didn’t notice how – how inappropriate my behavior was. You are so kind not to call me out, but Trevor explained it to me, so – so I’ll try to do better.” His voice was barely audible in the end.

Logan exchanged a lost look with Roman, pocketing the phone.

“Patton, I am afraid I don’t understand how your behavior could be considered inappropriate. Would you mind elaborating on what – Trevor – explained to you?” Logan asked gently.

“Well, you know how I’m in a relationship? So – I – I should not ask you for help so often, or spend to much time with – with other men while my boyfriend is not here, you know? Trevor explained how – how I could give people the idea that I want – that I want to -” Patton swallowed past a lump in his throat. The thought of the impression he must have given his friends made shame burn hot in his stomach and tears burn in his eyes. He hastened to explain himself to them.

“I didn’t realize how inappropriately I was being, I swear I never wanted to invite anyone to – or make Trevor feel bad because I -”

Logan grabbed Patton’s arms, gently interrupting him. “Please calm down Patton. We did not think anything of the sort, I assure you. What exactly did your partner criticize?”

After a long moment, Patton pulled his arms free of Logan’s hold reluctantly. He seemed to want his reassurance very much, but felt he was not allowed to have it. “He - he told me that spending so much time with other men while he is away made him worry, because it would make them think that I – that I wanted – that I was interested in them.”

Logan was quiet for a long moment, trying not to get swept up in his emotions, mulling over Patton’s words. He felt Roman radiate fury next to him, so he needed to approach this rationally.

“I believe I can understand his position.”

Patton recoiled, hunching his shoulders guiltily. He hastily rubbed away a stray tear as he turned his face away. Apparently he had misinterpreted Logan’s words, taking them as agreement and additional condemnation of his actions.

Logan mentally cursed himself colorfully and hastened to reassure his friend. The fear of losing Patton to his boyfriend’s jealousy and seeing him suffer once again brought out the worst in him. Because of his insecurity, he had a hard time properly articulating his feelings. This was how he scared people away, by being most distant when he wanted them closest. He could not do the same to Patton.

Logan gathered his courage. His friend had turned his gaze away though, clenching his jaw hard to keep his emotions at bay. Gently, the detective reached out and titled his pretty face up with two fingers under his chin.

“I misspoke Patton, please allow me to explain.” He asked earnestly, keeping his voice low and warm, the way he knew Patton reacted favorably to.

The slighter man hesitantly locked shame filled eyes with the detective’s, giving him his attention. His pale hands were clutching his arms firmly in an unconscious attempt to comfort himself. Logan yearned to hold him, but he needed to get this out of the way first, even though his own insecurity burned a hole into his stomach.

“What I meant to convey was my understanding of your partner’s fear of the interest you could evoke in others, through no fault of your own, and his subsequent fear of losing you to those individuals. It is a natural reaction to be protective of something one cares about. You, in particular, are likely to evoke such fear, as you are someone worth having and worth coveting.”

Patton’s hazel eyes widened at hearing those words. His breath audibly caught in his throat. Logan felt a blush climb up his neck, but bravely held the pattisier’s gaze anyway. He looked very small and fragile. Logan allowed his calloused hand to cup Patton’s cheek, anchoring and reassuring him.

“Would you answer a hypothetical question for me?” Logan asked quietly. Patton nodded, careful not to displace the warm hand cradling his face. He appeared in need of its comfort.

“Would you ever be with another man behind your partner’s back?”

Patton’s eyes grew wide and frantic upon hearing this question. His shoulders tensed immediately. Logan’s heart clenched hard as the slighter man captured his larger hand and held it shakily against his face, begging not to be pushed away.

“No! I swear, I would NEVER to that to him – I – I’m sorry I made you think -” Worriedly, Logan stepped closer, cradling his face more securely and hushing him gently. “I believe you.” He told Patton firmly. He uttered his next words clearly, trying to impress their importance on Patton.

“You cannot control what others might want or do, but you can control your own actions. You would never willingly hurt or betray your partner. Therefor you have done everything in your power. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”

After a long, tense moment, Patton’s desperate grip on Logan’s hand eased. He seemed to turn his words over in his mind as if they were an entirely new concept for him. Logan brushed his thumb over Patton’s cheekbone and smiled at him softly.

“While your partner’s anxiety might be understandable, it is his own problem and there is no reason to direct it at you or ask you not to spend time with your friends. You are a loyal partner. Considering the data gathered by our previous interactions, I would conclude that he has no rational cause to fear your infidelity. There is nothing you have to blame yourself for or he should blame you for.”

There was a lot he felt like adding about this man’s possessive behavior, but he was weary of making Patton feel defensive. He had drawn away from Logan before because he had felt the need to protect his boyfriend from Logan’s considerable wrath. He had to watch his temper around his sensitive friend.

Thankfully, the tightly wound muscles in Patton’s shoulders were indeed loosening. He released a shaky breath and leaned his cheek into Logan’s palm tentatively. Weighting Trevor’s words against those of another was a strange thing to do. He never had any reason to doubt his boyfriend, but Logan’s words made sense. After all, he would never hurt Trevor intentionally, no matter what others might want from him.

Upon deciding, for the first time, to trust another opinion above Trevor’s, his relieve felt like a physical weight falling off his narrow shoulders. The pattisier’s lashes fluttered as he tried to blink back tears. The amount of feeling flooding his body surprised him. He felt conflicted and guilty over not believing his partner, but the idea of giving up his friendship with the detectives had felt so wrong – more than he could put into words.

Feeling Patton’s need for comfort, Logan let his hand slip securely around Patton’s neck and drew him against his shoulder. His friend curled up against his chest eagerly, hiding his face in his favorite spot against the detective’s neck. Logan kept cradling the back of Patton’s neck and brought his free arm around him to shield him against the world. A little, watery laugh escaped the baker.

“I - I guess you might be right.” He mumbled. He felt hopeful as he spoke those words out loud. Logan was the smartest man he knew. Surely he would not get it wrong and he could keep his friendship with both men. He would explain it to Trevor without upsetting him. Somehow.

“Indeed. He is lucky to have you.” Logan enunciated quietly. His hold on his slighter friend tightened, partly due to his desire to comfort him, partly to keep his own pain at bay. Patton could indeed not control what others wanted from him. And Logan wanted. His uncharacteristic lenience stemmed from his painful awareness of how much he craved to be in his place. Logan knew he truly was very inept in finding the right words for Patton, or behaving in the right ways. But despite this knowledge, slowly, he felt a treacherous thought creep into his mind.

Would Patton not be better off in his arms?

He would certainly feel weary about losing him every single day, especially because Patton was, realistically, way too good for him. But he would never take such feelings out on him. If he left him, he would do so with good reason, and Logan would let him go, even if it killed him. Any little time with Patton in his arms would be better than none and he would cherish it till his dying day. He would never make him feel unloved or worthless. His first thoughts of every day would be for Patton, as would his last. He would never touch him with anything but reverence and tenderness. He would lay the world at Patton’s feet.

Logan swallowed hard as those acidic thoughts broke through the iron hold he had kept around his heart. His arms tightened around the lovely creature in his embrace, pressing him against his chest. Patton shivered in his arms and sank against him more heavily, trusting Logan to hold him up.

Those were dangerous, shameful thoughts, fueled by the way Patton yielded to him. They hurt like a burning knife, twisting in his chest. He had frightened Patton with his temper. He had unintentionally enhanced his shame mere moments ago. His friend even still believed Logan would judge him so harshly. He was not good enough for Patton. How dare he entertain such thoughts about the pure creature in his arms? Patton was in a relationship with a man he loved. A man who had good reason to feel concern, even though the directed it at the wrong person. He was right in this instance. Logan desired something he had no right to have. Humiliation at his cravings burned hot in his veins and left a bitter taste on his tongue. He turned his face into Patton’s hair, hiding from the world. It was very soft and smelled of vanilla and sugar. Like belonging and home. He had no right to enjoy Patton’s body like this, he knew it, but he was weak, and hugged the small, soft form as long as he was allowed.

His friend thankfully appeared to feel safe and content in this loving embrace. He trusted Logan’s arms to hold him and Logan’s words to soothe him. For a few minutes, the world beyond the detective’s arms disappeared. Patton’s breathing grew even against the his friend’s neck. He nuzzled close, liking the strong grip the taller man had on him. It made him feel safe and secure, like nothing could touch him. Not even his guilt. While he was held like this, he could not even muster the decency of feeling bad for how much he liked to be pressed against this strong body, or the large, warm hand cradling the back of his neck, or how much he enjoyed the protection and care his friend provided. Nothing mattered as long as he was held like this. Nothing had ever made Patton feel this way before.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Roman paced anxiously, looking at his watch once again. Almost time. He had to drive for 10 minutes and walk for another 5. If he left half an hour early to account for traffic and maybe another 10 minutes earlier to grab a drink for the meeting he could leave in half an hour. Or should he include more than half an hour for traffic? What if there was a holdup. What if his car didn’t start? Did he have enough time to run back up and grab Logan’s keys? Maybe he should leave right away, just to be certain he wouldn’t miss him. He anxiously ran a hand through his hair, stopped, groaned in irritation. Now he had messed up his hair! If he showed his face looking like a cat in a blender he would hardly make a professional impression!

Logan frowned at his partner’s antics. He had rarely seen him this nervous before. For the fifth time, he considered excusing himself from the court hearing he had been summoned to. He knew he could find a way to weasel out of it, but – his testimony was needed to insure the incarceration of a truly despicable man – a notorious drunk who had beaten his wife bloody on a regular basis. Logan’s blood boiled just thinking about it. No. He could not postpone this testimony. As much as he hated it, Roman would have to go to meet Virgil alone.

After a whole day of fretting and nervousness, the text had arrived yesterday. Virgil wanted to meet Roman. His message had been curt, sent from a burner-phone he had thrown away after sending it. He had asked to meet in a public place, some distance from the precinct.

The young detective had been a mess after receiving the text. Not that he had shown it. He had been even more boisterous and charming than usual, involving the squad in games, flirting with a retired janitor who had come in to make a statement and delightedly exchanging make-up tips with the drag-queens a colleague had brought in as witnesses. He had been a ray of sunshine and glitter and Logan had disliked it immensely. Clearly, his partner was scared out of his mind for the safety of this young man he was so taken with. After dealing with his enthusiasm for the better part of the afternoon, he had taken matters into his own hands.

Growling at the group of interested officers who had been drawn to his radiant partner like flies to honey, he interrupted Roman’s story remorselessly. Wisely, the men and women fled in the face of Logan’s possessive rage. Roman yelped as he was suddenly grabbed by the back of his jacket and pulled to the elevator. Logan had driven him home, put Nicodemus into his cage (from which he would escape within the next few minutes anyway, not that Logan minded) and thrown his running gear at his partner. After chasing his friend around the park for an hour, he drew him a bath, wrapped him in a blanket afterwards and made Roman’s favorite vegetable lasagna with lots of cheese.

Exercise, warmth and comfort food finally seemed to bring Roman’s nerves down to manageable levels. They had talked about his fears for his “angelic storm-cloud”, as Roman called him, until the younger man had fallen asleep on his partner’s shoulder. Feeling beyond tired, Logan had lain him down on the couch and tucked him in properly. If this little wayward delinquent dared to hurt his partner even more after all the care and worry the hopeless romantic had invested, Logan would be forced to wring his pale little neck and get rid of the body.

Roman was in deep over his head, and it worried Logan profoundly. His romantic notions and nicknames were beyond ridiculous, but his compassion and protectiveness were very real. As was his affection. He hated not being able to accompany his friend. He did not know the motives of this young man and though he explicitly trusted his partner to judge his character correctly, he detested that this gang member held a such great deal of power over his gentle heart. Power that could easily be abused even by a good person if their circumstances were dire enough. Power Logan was not comfortable sharing with anyone else yet.

He knew, as a friend, he had no right to be this possessive over his partner, but he believed they were close enough that he was entitled to be protective and to demand a suitor to prove himself to him before he would willingly let them anywhere near his best friend. Roman was his to protect.

Which brought them to the here and now. Where Roman was freaking out over a meeting that was over an hour away. Logan turned serious eyes on his rat and addressed him deliberately, feeling only a little bit stupid. This was worth being irrational over.

“Listen Nicodemus, I require your expertise now. You are an officially registered therapy animal and this is an emergency.” The little rat interrupted his grooming and gave him his full attention. “Roman is currently experiencing heightened levels of stress and I need you to calm him down. Do you understand?” He asked the tiny rodent, who most definitely did not understand him. He must be losing his mind. The situation made him worry for his partner though, so he jumped at any chance to support him. He had already discussed every conceivable possible course of action with his friend and had thus exhausted all of his rational options. Therefor, the imposing detective was reduced to conversing with his pet rodent.

Feeling quite a bit of incredulity at himself, he scooped up the rat and approached his partner. Brusquely, he tucked the little animal against Roman’s chest and wrapped his partner’s large hands around his companion. “Sit.” He ordered.

Feeling his friend’s distress, Roman meekly sat down to be chewed out for being a menace. He felt bad immediately. This was his mess and he had pulled his partner right in with him. Not only had he made Logan take care of him yesterday and clean up his mistake the other day, he had probably annoyed him with his pacing on top of that. He felt very young suddenly.

Logan took a seat on the table in front of Roman after pushing some files and candy wrappers out of the way with an irritated huff. The young detective hunched his shoulders further.

However, Logan did not start berating him. He grabbed his occupied hands in his warm ones and gently unclasped his wristwatch, pocketing it. Capturing his partner’s gaze with his serious one, he told him earnestly “You do not need to look at this anymore. You have plenty of time. I will tell you when you need to get ready, alright?” Meekly, Roman nodded.

“Good. Now listen. We have planned for all likely and unlikely scenarios, you are well prepared for this meeting. You are a good detective. You have done this plenty of times before and you will do it again successfully. I trust you.”

A warm feeling uncurled in Roman’s chest upon hearing these words. It felt like constricting ropes had been cut away from his torso, allowing him to breathe again. He did, deeply, smelling his partner’s scent of black tea and home. “Okay.” He said softly. He felt calmer.

Logan nodded, clasping him on the shoulder briefly. “Satisfactory. Now I want you to make yourself useful and teach Nicodemus to ask for treats. A therapy animal has to display proper training to be employed effectively.” He dropped a bag of treats on Roman’s untidy desk and returned to his seat.

Roman laughed under his breath, endeared at his partner’s obvious attempts to distract him. Obvious, but effective. The little attention thief in his hands was quite greedy and easily motivated by food. Making him work for it would be proper payback for hogging his partner’s affection. (Also he was so frigging adorable when he stood on his little hind-legs.)

Setting him down, Roman immersed himself in playing with Nicodemus and teaching him to touch his hand with his little paws in order to get treats. He felt giddy when the little rat eventually managed the trick without any prompting.

“Time to go.” Logan’s deep voice rumbled against his side, as his hand was suddenly captured. His partner clasped his watch back on, ran a critical hand through his hair and declared him ready to be on his way.

***

Figuring his courageous kitten was of the anxious sort, Roman stopped at the cute Broadway themed cafe on the way. He brought his unicorn-bamboo travel mug and had it filled with herbal tea to help sooth Virgil. Though pleasant enough while in the sun, the day was on the cool side, so he figured it would help warm and calm the delinquent.

He was pleased to have remembered to bring his cup. Logan already looked like a was hiding an aneurism every time he forgot it and showed up with a disposable one. Considering their display of solidarity and his fiery wildcat’s passion, he guessed his darling thundercloud would be even more vocal than Logan. Roman did not mind. He liked how animated and engaged the younger man became when something mattered to him.

Cup in hand and looking dashing, yet trustworthy, Roman arrived at the agreed upon corner a few minutes early. He smiled slightly at Logan’s perfect planning. Letting his green eyes wander, he attentively examined the people passing him. No one paid him any mind beyond the usual appreciative looks. No concealed weapons he was able to spot, no people waiting around, no Scorpions as far as he could see. Good, he did not want Virgil to walk into a trap after all.

The sunlight made Roman’s hair shine and his bright green eyes sparkle. A group of teenagers giggled as they walked past, obviously checking him out. He sent a charming grin their way. The clock a few streets over struck two. It was time.

The young detective rolled his shoulders, trying to look calm and approachable. His nerves were jittery, his heart beating fast. He was very nervous about this meeting, but eager – very eager to finally meet Virgil again and help him. After seeing his arm, bruised and sliced open, violated by his own people, he had been able to think of little else.

Shifting, he resisted the urge to look at his watch. It would not do to look impatient, he could not scare his erratic lynx off. Strange. Virgil had struck him as the type to arrive early. Roman swallowed his worry. A few minutes were no reason to be scared.

There! The young detective perked up. Though he had tried to play it cool, his face lit up helplessly. A flash of purple, a slender form, dark clothes. Straightening to his full, impressive height, Roman got ready to employ all of his glamorous charisma – in vain.

The young man he had spotted turned out to be a punk girl of similar build and hair-color. Roman deflated. Now he had used all this dazzling charm for nothing. He pouted. Oh well, there was plenty where it had come from.

He brought his other hand up to warm it against the cup. A cool wind had set in, blowing his hair into his face. He brushed it back in annoyance, wishfully thinking of Logan’s warm hands grooming him. His leather jacked hugged his broad shoulders in just the right ways, while his thin white shirt complimented his chest. Neither afforded much warmth though. As the minutes passed, clouds started to draw in and darken the busy street. Roman shivered.

His tea was growing cold. He could not offer cold tea to Virgil.

The young detective tried to hold on to his optimism, thinking of charming ways to break the ice once his distrustful minx arrived. However, even those fantasies of Virgil’s face lighting up reluctantly at his jokes could only entertain him for so long. Finally, he brought his cold hand up and looked at the time.

Twenty minutes. Virgil was twenty minutes late.

The realization brought his carefully maintained optimism and control tumbling down around him. Roman gripped his pink mug tightly. Where was he? Had he gotten held up? Or had he decided that the detective did not deserve his trust after all? Roman had messed up their first proper meeting rather badly after all. Perhaps he had lost faith in him.

Finally finding himself unable to uphold his facade, Romans started pacing. His anxiety grew with every turn and every passing minute. He attentively scanned the street, the sidewalk, the pedestrians passing him. Still, no one was watching him, and no Virgil approached him.

The longer he paced, the harder he found it to hold on to the thoughts of his own failure and not turn to more dire alternatives. The clouds grew thicker overhead, and as the day darkened, so did the detective’s thoughts. This was bad. Very very bad.

If Virgil had gotten caught sneaking out – if he had gotten caught sneaking out to leave the gang, to meet a detective – Roman stumbled. His legs suddenly felt unsteady. His head felt dizzy. A memory of an early case he had worked with Logan ambushed him with ruthless clarity. A young man, not much older than Virgil. He had attempted to leave a biker gang – a one percenter. 99% of biker gangs were harmless, upstanding citizens. These were not.

They had dumped him behind a diner. The procedure was always the same in such cases, and it would be the same with Virgil. First, they would symbolically sever his ties to the gang. Somewhere on his pale skin, there would be a gang tattoo. They would hold him down and cut it off his body. Afterwards, he would be fair game.

Suddenly, the face of the man behind the diner morphed into Virgil’s face in Roman’s mind. Virgil, with the skin peeled off his back, burns and bruises on his slender body, clothes torn and eyes lifeless.

Roman’s knees bucked. Cold tea spilled over equally cold hands. His tears were hot on his face. This is what could be happening to Virgil right now. He had no way to reach him. No idea where to look. He had been brave, believed Roman’s promises – trust me – I will look after you – you are not alone – but he was. Roman had failed him. He had promised to be there, had made Virgil dare to leave and had sealed his fate.

A sob wracked his body so hard it hurt. He curled in on himself, lost on the sidewalk, cast in shadows. There was nothing he could do. Virgil was alone. They were hurting him. He had done this to him. It was his fault.

Roman felt more helpless than he ever had before.

“Are you alright Mister?”

A soft voice broke his spiral of terror abruptly. Startled, he looked up. The blurry shape of a dark-skinned little girl stood before him. She was wearing a pink princess dress with black boots. Her dark curly hair was pulled up into two cute buns and at her side she wore a plastic sword. One hand held onto her mother, who looked down at him with kind, worried eyes. The other clutched a stuffed unicorn in a princess dress.

“Oh – yes, of course your highness.” Roman did his best to smile charmingly at her and hastily wiped his tears away. She giggled upon being addressed properly.

Roman’s smile was not as firm as he would like it to be. He bit his lip hard, trying to compose himself. This innocent little girl did not deserve to know about the cruelty of the world just yet.

“Why are you crying?” She asked carefully, examining him with attentive, dark eyes. He had to look away for a moment, take a deep breath. The contrast between this sweet girl and the images in his head was jarring and left him disoriented.

“I -” He cleared his throat, tried again. “I am worried about a friend of mine.” His voice cracked at the end. With eyes filled with compassion, the young mother leaned down and handed him a tissue. He smiled at her gratefully and tried to wipe his tears away. His make-up was shot to hell, he thought with a touch of hysteria.

The little girl was still there though, so he could not fall apart just yet. His smile felt like a painful, tortured thing, but he held on to it bravely as the little angel before him mulled over his words.

“I’m sorry you are sad.” With a look of resolve on her face, she held out her unicorn to him. “This is Prince Sparkles. He has a superpower.”

“That is very cool. What can he do?”

“He can make sad people smile. You can have him.”

The generous gesture startled the detective right out of his despair and made his thoughts tumble to a halt. “Oh. Are – are you quite sure your highness?”

Yes.” With even more conviction, she pushed Prince Sparkles closer to his face. He mother tried to stifle a high pitched noise of utter pride and endearment. Roman could relate.

For the fist time since he had broken down, a real smile tugged up the corners of his lips. He laughed helplessly as he noticed it.

“Look at that, this works!” He gushed. She gave him a gap toothed grin.

Carefully, he took the unicorn from her hands, cradling it reverently in his cold hands. He tried to express his gratefulness properly as he spoke to her.

Thank you. Your kindness means a lot to me.”

She beamed. It was a pure, beautiful thing and warmed Roman’s face. Or was it the sun whose rays of light started peeking though the clouds?

“Can’t you go to him and help him?”

Though he felt better, clearer, the innocent question felt like a punch to the stomach. How could he tell her there was nothing he could do for his friend? That he was all alone, left in cruel hands that sought to break him? Desperately, he looked down at his hands, one which was holding the unicorn prince, the other the unicorn cup Logan had bought him.

Logan.

He would finish his testimony about now. The young detective stilled. His mind started racing. What was he doing here, crying and giving up!? He had a partner to work with – as long as he had not pulled Virgil’s cold body out of some dumpster there was a chance. He was wasting time!

Roman shot up. “You are right! You are a genius your highness, I will look for him right now!” The little girl giggled in delight, especially as the young detective bent down and kissed her cheek, and her mother’s as well for good measure. He heard her laugh as he rushed to his car, clutching the Prince to his chest. If he hurried, Logan would beat him to the precinct by only a few minutes.

***

He had never driven so fast in his life. Upon trying to launch himself out of the car, he almost brained himself on the concrete because he had forgotten to undo the seat-belt. Calm the heck down Roman.

Feeling way too hyped to wait for the elevator, Roman took the stairs two at a time. They had to find him before it was too late. He had failed his wildcat once by allowing him to go back to the Scorpions, but he would not do so again!

Clutching Prince Sparkles hard and feeling almost nauseous with fear, he burst into the office – and stopped in his tracks. For a long moment, he found himself unable to process what he was seeing. As his brain finally connected the dots, his relieve hit him so hard it made him stumble into the desk behind him.

He was here.

Virgil was not being beaten and tortured by the gang that had cut his arm. He was here, at Logan’s desk. His partner had found him. He had too many emotions suddenly. Roman had to work hard to repress a noise that was half laugh and half sob. He clenched his teeth together and breathed deeply through his nose. He was so silly. Everything was well.

Having gained some control over his jumbled feelings, his training kicked in and he examined the situation properly. Only then did he notice the tension in his partner’s body. He sat ramrod straight, clutching his pen almost hard enough to snap it. Both were partially turned away from him, but he could make out that – that Virgil cowered away from Logan. His shoulders were hunched, tense, his hands clenched in his lap. He shifted – were those handcuffs?!

Roman straightened. Why had his partner cuffed the love of his life?! He started to approach the desk when Logan noticed him. He rose immediately and crossed the room in long strides, grabbing his upper arms firmly before he got far. His face was ashen, and hard as stone.

“Logan, what -” Roman choked on his next words. Virgil’s gaze had followed the detective like an animal of prey keeping a predator in sight. The sight of his face made the younger detective’s heart stutter. His cheek was colored red and black, his soft lip slit, his throat – his throat was bruised darkly in the shape of a large hand closing around it. A strangled, tortured sound escaped Roman. He looked so frightened.

Upon spotting Roman, his poor, abused darling tried to talk to him, tried to explain.

Logan cut him off before he could utter a single word. “Don’t you dare address him.” He snarled. His voice was colder than Roman had ever heard it. Virgil shrunk back, his face white. Clearly, he was terrified of the detective.

Roman was horrified and confused at his partner’s cruelty. He did not understand! Why would his Logan scare his poor, injured Virgil like that? He opened his mouth, desperately trying to plead with his friend to explain, but no words came out. Logan’s gaze softened with worry.

“Looks like he was right about you.” A sneering voice interrupted his train of thought. They turned to the man sitting next to them on a bench, waiting to be questioned. A scorpion was inked under his left eye. It twisted as he let his eyes travel the length of Roman’s body with a leering smirk. “He did say you were a bleeding heart, but I did not think they’d let a faggot like you work here.”

Roman could practically feel the fury radiate off his partner as his hands tightened on his arms. The young detective felt numb, confused. He followed the gaze of the cuffed criminal to his hands, which were still clutching the cup and the unicorn prince. He felt worn thin. The insult finally drew through his haze of worry and hurt worse than it should. He hunched his shoulders, trying to process the man’s words. “He – he said what?”

The criminal laughed condescendingly at him. “That you’re a bleeding heart. A fucking moron. Pity they grabbed him with the package before he could give it to me, it looks like you’re not smart enough to get your lover boy out of this one.” He spit on the floor. “God knows the little whore had you convinced to do his bidding before.”

Roman’s eyes widened at hearing such cruel words spoken so callously. Some part of him instantly wanted to jump at Virgil’s defense against being called a whore, but his mind stuck on the words “fucking moron”. Those were words Virgil had called him to his face. Before Roman had – before he had allowed a man to walk free for him. But. No. It was impossible.

Desperate, he turned to Virgil, hoping to clear up this ridiculous misunderstanding. He would not allow this scum to besmirch his fierce innocent angel like that.

Roman’s thoughts stuttered to a halt. His gaze fell on the package. It sat on Logan’s desk, small and unassuming. A plastic packet of pretty, white crystals.

For a long moment, he heard nothing but blood rushing in his ears. For a clear, terrible moment, he was back on that day. In that room.

Logan reacted when Roman couldn’t. He grabbed the criminal by the arm roughly and yanked him up. His expression was so thunderous that even the hardened gang member lost his smirk. Logan’s look promised violence.

“You’re coming with me.” He growled, pushing him ahead of himself. Somehow he kept the hand on Roman’s back gentle as he steered him along. The door of the interrogation room fell shut, sealing them in silence. Roman ran shaking hands over his face, trying to pull himself together. He was a cop. He could do this. Even after years of therapy, the sight of those crystals made bile rise in his throat.

“Explain.” Logan ordered.

The criminal laughed in his face. “For the best detectives of this damn precinct you are pretty fucking stupid. This is what happens when you get close to a scorpion. You get stung. Especially this venomous little whore. He strung this fag along so easily with his little sob story, didn’t he? Booohuuu the big bad Scorpions hurt me.” He laughed cruelly, revealing yellowing teeth. He imitated Virgil with a grating, high pitched voice. “They hit me, look at me, I’m such a helpless little doll. Please save me.”

Roman’s world stuttered to a halt as their interactions were parroted in such a twisted fashion. No. He felt those words cut deep into him like a knife carving into his chest. Virgil would never do that to him.

“You are lying.”

His voice was strong and full of conviction in his head, but what came out of his mouth was little more than a rasping whisper. A plea.

“Ya think, Sissy? Didn’t he make you free Little Jimmy? How did he do that, eh? Did he get on his knees and suck your dick? Or did he make those big doe eyes at you and tell you he needs your help? That you are the only one who can save him, you fucking gay knight in pink armor? Gotta give him that, he may be a little bitch, but it takes conviction to cut yourself to manipulate a naive idiot like you.”

Logan’s fist slammed onto the table so hard it made the floor shake. He got into the man’s face and snarled at him with a deadly quiet voice. “Do not address my partner this way.”

The criminal leaned back, unable to hide a shiver of fear. This cop was a fucking psychopath! He was fueled by hate and humiliated rage though. This fucking bastard had made him look weak in front of his men at this damn café while the little traitor had hidden behind him. Now he had gone behind the bosses back and tried to sell them out to the same cops who had made a mockery of him. He would enjoy breaking the little bitch who had stolen his rightful place and he would break this weepy, pathetic excuse for a man in the process, even if it was the last thing he did!”

“Wait-” Roman spoke up. “What do you mean by – cut himself?”

“His arm. He cut it on the filing cabinet in his office to get the drugs back. Even got that idiot Jimmy out as a bonus. Pity you caught us with the product today. I guess his work on ye was useless after all. Ye’re an unlucky bastard. He was probably about to meet ye to soften ye up further, you might have gotten a good fuck out of the meeting.”

Logan swallowed hard and leaned close to Roman, whispering in his ear. “An officer picked them up for suspicious behavior half an hour before he was supposed to – to meet you. They were involved in an altercation. Mister Raine was carrying half a pound of uncut methamphetamine on his person.”

Roman clasped a hand over his mouth hard, trying to hold back tears. The cup clattered to the floor. Virgil had – he could not wrap his mind around the concept that Virgil was supposed to have used him – used him to save drugs from the police. It warred with his memory of Virgil’s tortured face. The pain in his eyes. His fear. His guilt. He had not pretended to feel those things, he was sure of that much. He had to trust his instinct.

“I don’t believe you.” His voice sounded steadier as he thought of the way Virgil had looked at him, full of tentative hope. The way he had asked after Patton. He was not a bad person.

The look of gleeful contempt on the face of the gang member did not waiver however. It made fear twist in Roman’s stomach.

“Is that so? Then why do I know he had a panic attack the first time you met?”

Roman drew breath to contradict the man. To tell him he was wrong. To give him proof of Virgil’s innocence. He came up short.

Why would he know about the panic attack? If Virgil did not trust the Scorpions he would hardly have made himself vulnerable by telling them about such a moment of weakness.

“Talk.” Logan ordered coldly. His voice left no room for discussion. Apparently sensing how thin the ice he was threading on was, the criminal refrained from stalling further.

“I know because he came back and told us all about it. The little slut boasted about a bleeding-hearted moron cop who fell for his act of helplessness. Boss ordered him to keep working ye and he did. So sorry man to burst yer bubble man.” He sneered gleefully at the heartbroken detective as he spoke those words that cut Roman to the bone. “He had ye all figured out the moment he met ya, didn’t he? You thought he’d need to be saved, is why he cut himself. I guess he had big plans for ye today, since he asked the boss to beat him good. Couldn’t do that himself. Little whore shoul’a asked me, I would’ve done a better job.”

He laughed in Roman’s face. The cuffed man started to grow blurry in Roman’s sight. The world was narrowing down to this ugly criminal, to those uglier words. Roman felt his knees grow weak. A strong arm was wrapped around him and he was pulled into the adjoining observation-room. The door fell closed with a loud bang. The sound was final, like a door closing on the tentative, soft feeling that had nested in his heart.

He felt the Prince slip from his numb fingers and leaned heavily against the wall. His thoughts were loud, almost deafening. Through the cacophony of sounds, one realization broke through clearly. This was his fault. He had allowed a criminal to manipulate him – to use him. He had allowed his fanciful thoughts to cloud his judgment, to make him forget his duty. The beauty and apparent helplessness of Virgil had made him abandon all rational thoughts, made him think of nothing but wanting to save the poor young man with the tortured, lonely eyes.

For a short, ludicrous moment, he almost felt bad for the way he had judged Virgil. He had thought he was a helpless damsel in distress, in need of someone to hold him and protect him, but he clearly was much stronger than that. A creative, brilliant, manipulative, stone cold criminal. He had underestimated him.

He had fallen for his “act of helplessness” and allowed him to smuggle a gang member and his package of drugs out of the precinct. He was responsible for letting a man leave who had later sold those drugs to helpless kids, to single mothers who could not cope with the stress, to people who had suffered too much to handle the cruelty of the world and had turned to drugs to numb their pain, to ordinary citizens, who had become addicted to painkillers and had to turn to drugs because they could not pay for expensive opioids, to naive teenagers who just wanted to try something new and got swept um in a spiral of addiction.

The exact package the man had been carrying had been enough to make people addicted for the rest of their lives. It had been enough to end a life. A life like hers.

Suddenly, it was like no time had passed. Like he was a frightened, abandoned teenager again. All alone and cast out, because he was a failure. Once again, he felt the exact same feeling of bone deep relieve, as she rushed out after him, clutching a hastily stuffed bag, still wearing all black from the funeral. He heard her voice with more clarity than he had remembered it in years. “Did you think I would let you go alone, baby prince?”

He saw her smile, loving and beautiful and edged with anguish. They had lost everything. He, because of what he was, and she, because she chose to follow him. It had been them against the world. Two kids, barely grown out of their teenage years, with nothing but each other and enough money to buy whatever they wanted. At least they had not had to worry about a roof over their head.

But the money had become their curse. They had been so heartbroken, so lonely and shocked, so lost in the world. Lost in his pain, Roman had failed the only person who had loved him. She had chosen him over them, over a life of warmth and ease, a life where she knew who she was and where she was going. He had not been enough to anchor her in this new life. She had started looking for purpose, had started to party, and had found marihuana. It had started with a harmless night of experimenting, and had led to trying more, trying different things, to trying to forget that she did not know what to do with her life, now that she had thrown it away for him. He remembered the pain on her face as she had realized that she was hurting her baby prince, the horror of the withdraw symptoms as she had tried to stop, for him. Her desperation and guilt as she had realized that she could not stop. He had fought for her, for over a year, trying to draw her back, trying to be enough, but she had wasted away in his arms. He saw her gaunt face so clearly, her shallow skin, her tortured smile as she tried to tell him it could be okay, that she loved him, that it was not his fault, that she was proud of the man he was and the man he would become. He felt her ice cold hand in his like the day he had found her, the hand of his big sister.

His knees crumbled under the weight of his body and his anguish. He had helped spread this poison on the streets he had sworn to protect. His sister had been wrong to be proud of him. They had been right – he was a disgrace. He destroyed everything he touched.

Logan caught him in his strong arms before he could hit the floor, pulling him close. Logan, who had given him hope without knowing it. Logan, who had given him a goal at the academy, when he had only gone out of duty to a promise he had given his sister. Logan, who had given him a family. Logan, who had had to break the law to help him. Logan, who would be pulled down by his dead weight, just like her.

A sob wrenched itself from his chest that felt like it tore his heart out with it. He pushed Logan away. He could not touch him! He was filthy. He was a waste. He was disgusting. Their voices cut into Roman like the day they had flung those words at his face. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block the words from reaching him. But they were right! They -

A stinging pain in his cheek made his eyes snap open. His jaw dropped as he realized what had just happened. Logan had slapped him! Immediately, Roman started bristling like an angry cat, his righteous outrage breaking through his misery. How dare this ruffian slap his gorgeous face?!

Logan’s look warred between worry and guilt. However, as he saw Roman’s hackles rising to instinctively defend his honor like the dramatic prince he was, even in moments of greatest despair, he felt an affectionate smile tug on the corner of his lips. Before Roman could start complaining in an undoubtedly high pitched voice, Logan grabbed his face in his hands.

“Stop.” He told him clearly. “Listen to me and trust me. All of the thoughts going through your head right now are unreasonably enhanced by your excessive emotional response and therefor should be discarded immediately.” Roman started fuming instantly, as Logan had hoped. Making him exasperated was his best hope of breaking through his circle of depression, so Logan took a page from his friend’s book, who never failed to make Logan feel exasperation himself. He leaned in and smacked an obnoxious kiss to his lips. As he drew back, he made sure to ruffle his hair thoroughly, making Roman yelp and squirm away. His face was still wet with tears, but his outrage at the disrespect shown to his hair overshadowed his anguished memories. Due to his partner’s devoted and loving nature, Logan had never failed to draw Roman’s full attention to himself. Now he needed to make use of his brief distraction. He grabbed the Prince and put the stuffed unicorn in his friend’s hand with the instruction to “Hold this and listen.”

“Apparently you have misjudged a situation and have thus made a mistake. This constitutes a regrettable circumstance, but cannot be changed in retrospect. I understand that you feel – considerable regret over this lapse in judgment, especially considering your personal history. However, I implore you to remember that you are more than the sum of your mistakes. Do you recall the first homicide we investigated together? We had just met and were still getting to know each other. During the interview with the widow of the homicide victim, you pulled me aside. Do you remember why?”

Roman clutched the stuffed toy close to his chest and nervously fiddled with the lacy fabric of the dress, trying to remember the specific day. “You … yes, you were questioning her about her husband’s eating habits while she was crying over his passing. I remember, you asked her to be more specific if she wanted you to be able to solve her husband’s murder.”

Logan flushed at the memory, feeling shame over his unintended, calloused behavior even after all these years. “Correct. You had been working with me for all of two weeks. After a display like this you would have been right to demand a new partner, but instead you took me aside and patiently explained the situation to me. You even helped me find the right words to comfort her instead of doing it yourself. My severe lack of emotional intelligence caused me to make many mistakes over the years, and still does so. These mistakes have caused pain, which I regret deeply. However, you told me that day that mistakes are made for learning. Instead of giving up on me or blaming me for my personal failures, you have spent every day of the following years to guide me and help me improve. You have turned me into a different person. Let me return the favor now.” He pleaded gently.

Running a tender hand through Roman’s hair, he implored him so believe him. “You are allowed to make mistakes. I will be there to help you fix them. The only thing you can do now is examine the situation logically and attempt to learn from it.”

The young detective took a deep breath and leaned into Logan’s hand. For a moment he was stuck by pride at how far his partner had come. When they had met, any sort of physical contact had made him uncomfortable. He had struggled to read emotions and had tried his best to repress any and all emotional responses himself. Many people had been intimidated by him back then, or had been insulted by his cool manners. But Roman had seen the man who now was before him in the cold and efficient detective. He had seen the gentleness he had tried to hide, the loneliness, the care for the people he had protected. Investing effort into helping him grow into this potential had never felt like a burden to Roman. Teaching him and learning from him in return had been a privilege. And now Logan was here, comforting him and cuddling him easily. He was incredibly proud if his nerd.

Logan had given him good advice, unsurprisingly, since it was originally his own advice, so Roman tried to follow it. Attempting to compose himself, he looked at the situation rationally. He started with the testimony of the criminal next door. The fact that he used Virgil’s words to describe Roman was suspicious, the fact that knew about the panic attack even more so. Judging from the even cadence of his voice, the eye contact, the confidence, Roman had to conclude that he had not lied. He considered the strange feeling he had experienced when Virgil asked for the man to be released. A man he had called a friend but had not described in any familiar terms. He considered the way his behavior had been so docile, so needy, tailored so perfectly to his protective instincts and so at odds with the fierce, independent creature he had met in the alley. He considered the way he had revealed his wound at just the right time, using his guilt over his bruised wrist expertly. He knew, in his heart, that he had been used.

The realization finally hit home with a vengeance and made his throat close up. Memories of the dreams he had spun of the two of them together flashed before his eyes, the lovely pastel colors turning bitter and dark before his mind’s eye. The way he had smiled at him, the way he fit into his arms, the way he had playfully insulted him while his eyes still held warmth for Roman. Something broke in his chest. It left sharp, jagged edges behind that cut into his heart with every breath. He felt it with cruel awareness, cutting away at the soft, dreamy, romantic part of his heart. The part of his heart that had naively thrown itself into giving Virgil everything he had, everything he was. The part of his heart that had believed that this was it. He was the one he had been looking for to be complete.

Despite his best attempts to be guided by logic, he felt a sob break through his iron hold. He felt himself shaking, felt the pieces of his broken heart turn fragile, like he would fall apart at any moment. He turned pleading, green eyes on Logan, needing him more than ever.

His partner almost launched himself at him, yanking him into his arms and hugging him hard. “I’ve got you Roman. You are not alone.” His voice sounded choked with tears. Logan tugged him under his chin and rocked him for a long time, mumbling soft reassurances into his ear as Roman cried himself out.

They were disturbed briefly by a tentative knock on the door. Apparently recognizing the cadence and anticipating the reason for the visit, Logan tugged his friend’s face to hide against his neck and called Amy in. The sensitive detective entered quietly, giving them a look of utter compassion. Wordlessly, she placed Nicodemus on Roman’s shoulder and dropped a kiss to his head before leaving quietly. The young detective eagerly cuddled his rival close to his chest, next to the stuffed prince. They were signs of human kindness and he appreciated them dearly. They gave him the strength to untangle himself from Logan eventually and wipe his eyes with the offered handkerchief.

Bravely, he offered prince and rat to his partner. “I have to see him.” He explained. Logan allowed him to go reluctantly, understanding his need for closure. However, if his partner ended up sobbing again, he might be forced to commit murder in a police precinct. Knowing his fellow detectives, they might even help him cover up the crime. He tried hard not to linger on these tempting thoughts as he observed his friend compose himself valiantly.

Roman knew his eyes were red from crying, but he held his head high as he entered the holding cell Virgil had been left in. Facing him was hard. Harder than he had thought. His loving, tender feelings had not disappeared without a trace. The bruises all over his pretty face made Roman feel painful, conflicting urges to soothe his pain, make everything better. The fact that this pale, graceful creature had been turned into someone who let his leader beat him to manipulate another made Roman loose fate in humanity. As Virgil straightened and turned dark, wide eyes on him, Roman could not help but mourn the man he could have been, the future they could have had. He allowed it to flash before his eyes one last time, before burying it.

Virgil stayed quiet as the detective entered the cell. His body was as tense as it had been in the alley, ready for fight or flight. The memory pulled Roman out of the nostalgic, gentle thoughts. How much of his fear had been real? How much had been cold calculation? Had his reluctant smile been genuine? His compassion for Patton? Had he faked caring for the pattisier’s pain?

The thought of Virgil using sweet, innocent Patton for his mind-games felt like acid. It burned the truth right into the young detectives heart. This beautiful siren had seduced him for his own, selfish, criminal plans. He had made him a puppet.

The worst thing was that he felt his call, even now, even after he had leaned how he had spoken about him, how he had manipulated him. His pain looked so real. His fear called out to every instinct in Roman’s body. And he knew, if he allowed him to speak, his foolish, splintered, twisted heart could be swayed again. And he would hurt Logan and the people he was supposed to protect even worse.

Virgil appeared to gather his courage in the face of this tall, unusually silent man – such a good actor, he looked so anxious, yet so resolved.

“Roman, I know this looks bad, but -”

“No.” He cut him off. This sweet voice was dangerous. Roman knew he must not listen to him. He had come to bury this stupid, romantic part of himself, not to be played again.

“But – please listen to me! I wanted to -”

“NO!” He roared at him. Suddenly, he was furious. His veins were flooded with liquid fire. After everything he had done, he still tried to poison his mind with the words falling from those petal soft lips. After everything, this exquisite siren still tried to seduce him.

Virgil shrunk back upon Roman’s outburst, backing into the wall. His lovely face turned white with apparent fear. It hurt the sensitive detective to see him so afraid of him.

No. Even now, he was manipulating him. How could he – how dare he try to use his protectiveness against him after all the pain he had caused. After he had almost cost Logan his career, after he had made him hinder an investigation that could have stopped the Scorpion’s drug business before it properly began. After the had caused lives to be ruined.

Roman felt anger flare up hotter, brighter. He fueled it, nourished it. It was the only thing that kept him standing. He allowed a growl to rise from his throat, deep, dark, terrifying. He could see real fear fill those dark, expressive eyes as he stalked towards Virgil, loomed over him. “I am done listening to you spin your lies, you twisting snake.” The insult felt wrong on his lips, so unlike the sweet names he had uttered in his mind.

Virgil shook his head hard, pleading “I’m not lying! I wanted to tell you -” His whole body filched with terror as Roman’s face contorted in fury and he pulled his fist back to strike him. A frightened noise escaped him as he felt the force of the impact in the wall pressed against his back. Roman had hit the brick next to his face so hard his knuckles split and bled. He leaned very close to Virgil, pressing him hard against the cold concrete with his bleeding hand and snarled at him. “Don’t ever speak to me again.”

He dropped him suddenly and turned away. He never looked back at the young man that caved under the pressure of fear and despair as the last person who had believed in him left him behind in a cold, dark cell. Trembling, Virgil crumbled to the ground. He drew his knees up and buried his face in his arms. A helpless sob wracked his body.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Roman walked blindly, numbly weaving his way through crowds of pedestrians. He did not know where he was going, what he was feeling. His thoughts raced too quickly to process. Virgil’s face kept appearing before his mind’s eye, crying and pleading, laughing and taunting.

How could he have let things get so out of control?

He did not know how long he walked. The streets started to grow unfamiliar, the faces strangFe and far away. He had left Logan behind at the precinct, needing to be alone with his shame and his sadness.

Eventually, his frantic steps slowed. He was so – tired. Had felt so much. He felt empty, like he had no strength left to feel or fight anymore. He wanted everything to stop. He came to a halt at a crossroad. It felt symbolic somehow. Everything he had known and worked for lay behind him. All of his mistakes too. The criminals he had aided, Virgil, his shattered heart. Before him lay an unfamiliar city, a new start, a way out, to forget. For the longest moment, Roman considered just walking, just leaving it all behind.

He turned back. Towards his mistakes. Towards his regrets. Towards his colleagues, his job, Patton and Logan.

He did not know what time it was. His hands felt too heavy to move to look at his watch. The thought of having to face the precinct, his colleagues, the place where Virgil was locked up, it felt impossible. How could he go back there?

There was only one thing he was certain of now. He wanted Logan. And perhaps Patton when he felt less fragile, like he would burst into tears at the slightest provocation. A hug from Patton would be nice now. He was always so soft and caring and made Roman feel accepted and loved. It was a feeling he had never stopped craving. Like Patton would love him despite all of his flaws. But Pat would have to wait. It would not do to break down in his arms and alarm him.

Logan would know how to make sense of his feelings. Right now, he felt loose, untethered, like a gust of wind could carry him away. Going back to the precinct was out of the question, so Logan would not be there either. He would find him.

Slowly, the unfamiliar, narrow streets opened up again to allow him to breathe. He started to recognize buildings and street names and suddenly knew where he was going. The door was sticky under his hands as he pushed it open. Even on a bright day, the inside of the pub was dark. The wood paneling on the walls swallowed up all the light, giving the room a feeling of perpetual twilight.

It was the kind of place Roman had believed cops to frequent as he had started his career. The strong alcohol they served, the silent, brooding patrons, the moody barkeeper perpetually cleaning glasses behind the bar. It felt like the movies he had liked to watch. He had dragged his reluctant partner there after their first cases to drink scotch in silence and look dark and charismatic. He had felt very valid and grown up, even though he had never fit in at all. Finally feeling secure enough of Logan’s respect to ask for hot chocolate had been a relieve after all. He was no hardened, vengeful cop like the ones in the movies.

There were days however, where this dark place fit them just right. They were few and far between, but today definitely qualified.

Roman slumped at the bar, ordering a scotch. He drowned the glass, pulling a face and coughing. God this stuff was disgusting. Waving the glass, he ordered another. As the tumbler was filled again, a tall figure slid onto the seat next to him. Logan nodded at the barkeeper and ordered a Frozen Pink Panties cocktail. The man raised an eyebrow at the strictly dressed detective, and grabbed the ice cream and frozen strawberries to mix the drink. Receiving his order, Logan placed it before Roman and stole his scotch, drowning it without trouble. The barkeeper chuckled and refilled his glass, before giving them some privacy.

Roman felt his shoulders relax as he closed his hands around the cocktail that was much more up his alley than this vile manly drink. The cold glass felt good on his injured hand. Logan’s wordless sign of care and acceptance warmed his numb insides. He could feel his partner had something on his mind though. Taking a long sip of his sweet and creamy beverage, he steeled himself. Logan felt tense and miserable. This whole nightmare clearly wasn’t over yet.

His partner drew breath to speak, held it for a moment and let it escape with a long sigh. His shoulders were hunched uncharacteristically. Words did not usually fail him. Roman did not like it. He waited patiently until his darker friend had collected his thoughts.

“I am sorry, Roman.” He mumbled eventually, leaning their shoulders together. He had more to say, but the younger detective eagerly leaned into the comforting weight anyway, needing the warmth before he was ready for whatever his partner had to say.

“I must confess that I was – distrustful of Virgil from the start.” He continued reluctant after a moment. Roman looked up, hurt and surprised. What the hell? Did he have to rub it in? Also, how had they gone from distancing language like “Mister Raine” to “Virgil” in his absence? He was not ready for any more emotional turmoil. He felt worn thin, like any pressure could snap him in half. Logan felt his nervousness flare and wrapped a steadying hand around Roman’s cold one. Since waiting for him on that corner, it had felt like they had not been able to get warm anymore. Like he would never be warm again.

Logan’s hand was warm though. Even if Roman could not generate any body-heat himself, his partner would share his warmth and comfort with him. Even though he would not look at Roman. He knew that expression. It was the one that told him Logan felt more emotion than he knew what to do with and tried hard to reign them in. His voice was perfectly inflection-less as he continued.

“However, I chose to support your pursuit of him, because I trust your instincts more than anything else.”

“I suppose you got disappointed then.” Roman interrupted bitterly, turning his face away. This was not how he had imagined their conversation to go.

“I am not. I trust you explicitly. Which is why I started making inquiries to verify the recent developments. I could not fathom how you could have been so wrong.”

Roman did not answer. He did not have the strength. He listened though. If his partner thought it worth putting him through this conversation, he must deem it important.

“I tracked down one of the women who helped you locate Virgil in the first place, since they appeared to be in possession of some background information. I eventually managed to converse with Mrs. Ebele Noah. After screaming at me for ten minutes for incarcerating Virgil, I was able to lean quite – enlightening facts about his history, which I have spent the last hour verifying. I think – I think you should hear them.” His voice softened towards the end. Roman gripped his drink hard, trying to pull himself together. He was a cop, damn it! He blinked back tears and look a long swallow of his drink. As he failed to answer, Logan leaned over him conspicuously, pulled his collar up and placed something against his neck. Roman felt little feet and soft fur, tickling whiskers and a little nose smelling him. A watery little laugh escaped him. His partner had smuggled a rat into a bar for him. Feeling this little pest, who was slowly invading all parts of his life, get comfortable at the back of his neck, he figured he might as well settle in for a long story. He had put his own feelings first often enough when he had thought all of his actions had been about Virgil’s interests. It was time to actually put his job first. He nodded.

Logan took a mouthful of his vile drink, steeling himself. “Apparently Virgil has lived in the neighborhood you found him in all his life. His mother raised him there alone after his father abandoned the family when he was six. Since then, Miss Raine had been working two jobs to support her son. They had no extended family, she shouldered everything herself – work, their household, and raising an extraordinarily talented son.” He allowed the information to sink for a moment, apparently deep in thought himself.

“After struggling in school during the first few years, he was diagnosed with an exceptionally high IQ and transferred into the gifted class of the local school. His mother could not afford to send him to a better equipped institution, but she invested as much as possible into his education. He appeared to have become an engaged student who not only excelled in his studies, but dedicated his time and attention to various projects. Most of them involved the protection of the environment. He started attending protests as he grew older, organized clubs at his school and eventually discovered an interest in engineering. He won several local and national prizes during his high school education, mainly for inventions dedicated to clearing the oceans of micro-particles and plastic waste. He wanted to save the environment. I examined his admission for the International Science and Engineering Fair. It is – quite ingenuous.”

Logan took a deep breath and another mouthful of scotch. He was stalling. Roman didn’t rush him. His head was reeling with conflicting feelings as it was.

“His mother had a hard time supporting such a brilliant youth’s education. He was not only constantly working projects and traveling to science fairs, but was also an unusually gifted gymnast. She took a third job in order to support him, denying his attempts to find employment himself or reduce his expenses. She must have been very proud of her son.”

Logan left the statement hanging for a long moment. Both detectives needed a moment to gather their thoughts. This was nothing like Roman expected. He tried to reconcile the image of the hissing, dangerous gang member with the vague idea of this brilliant little nerd who traveled the country to protest environmental pollution and won prized with his engineering. A genius and gymnast and now a gang member? His head was spinning. It sounded… impossible. But. The more the intuitive detective thought about it, the more he could see this young man in the criminal in their holding cell. The passion for the protection of their planet, the quick, all-seeing eyes, the smart, cutting tongue, the grace in his movements, the brilliantly spun stories. Yes, it dawned on Roman that this young man might have been this idealistic teenager at some point. With dread curling in his stomach, Roman wondered what could have led such an extraordinary young man to a gang like the Scorpions. Though curiosity was starting to make his sluggish heart beat faster, he was afraid of the answer.

After a long silence, his partner reluctantly took up the story once more. “At age seventeen, he was accepted at MIT in Environmental Engineering with a full scholarship.” Logan paused for a moment after frankly baffling revelation, turning the glass over in his hands. “His mother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer the same year.”

Roman took a sharp breath. The stabbing pain he felt at this horrible information was so sudden and so intense that he curled in on himself helplessly. How was he still capable of feeling so much with this broken and fractured heart of his?!

Logan soldiered on, apparently trying to get the story over with. Which meant there was more to come.

“She was growing worse quickly, so he immediately abandoned his plans in order to support her. Her...” He ran an aggravated hand through his hair, looking troubled. “Her insurance tried to scam her. They paid much less than they should and soon failed to cover the full cost of her treatment. Lacking the money to pay the legal expanses to sue, Virgil took jobs wherever he could. However, he soon found himself lacking both the time to support her and the funds for the medication. By the time he had turned nineteen, the family was in debt and he was at a loss at how to pay for the hospital bills.”

Roman found himself frozen in horror as the story progressed. Just imagining the desperation Virgil must have felt… His anger had long bled from his veins. His mother had been dying and he had been solely responsible for her. He must have felt so helpless. The young detective thought he could imagine how the story would continue.

“Virgil eventually turned to illegal means. It was during this time that he gained the charges for theft and other petty crimes. Since her illness progressed rapidly at this point, so did his criminal development. Eventually, he was picked up and arrested -” He broke off. Started again. “He was arrested for -” With a frustrated growl, he ran a hand over his face. Signaling the barkeeper, he had his drink refilled, only to drown the whole thing in one gulp.

Roman was starting to feel legitimately afraid. His partner was not one to beat around the bush. He believed in stating things clearly and working out the problems. Whatever he tried to tell him hand made him truly distressed.

Finally, Logan steeled himself, cleared his throat, and uttered the words that excelled even Roman’s worst expectations.

“He was arrested for - for prostitution.”

Silence fell, cold and heavy, and blanketed them in horrified stillness. Roman could not breathe, could not think. His mind refused to process his partner’s words. Virgil, the fierce, wild, vulnerable creature he had left all alone in a cold cell, had been forced to sell himself to strangers, at the age of nineteen nonetheless, in order to pay for the treatment of his mother. It was – it was the most devastating thing he had ever heard.

He stared at the wall, trying to process the horror – the images of Virgil, younger and more innocent than he was now, standing at the side of the street, alone and unprotected in the dark. The images of him getting in a car with some faceless man, being at a stranger’s mercy, being forced to -

He could not picture the scene further. His mind shied away from the things Virgil had been force to endure. It felt like he was shutting down. The fear, the pain, the humiliation - Oh God. Oh God no.

Roman buried his face in his hands, a strangled, animalistic sound of pure anguish escaping him. He had thought – he had thought Virgil had turned to the Scorpions to make quick money, but the had - of course he hadn’t. He had been an idealistic, frightened nerd at that time, trying to take care of his mother. Violence would not have some easily to him, so he had chosen to use the means at his disposal instead. Since he had had little formal education yet and no time to start a proper career, he had chosen to sell himself. It was a job he could perform at night, while his mother needed less care. He could make a lot of cash quickly, depending on – depending on what he was willing to put himself thorough. For someone so young and beautiful, finding clients would not have been difficult. His occupation would explain how he had become so good at reading men – reading Roman – and showing him what he wanted to see. He had needed to learn quickly if he wanted to survive.

Though Roman had believed he had used up all of his tears, a sob escaped him. Compassion for the young man he had cut out of his life so forcefully just hours ago crashed over him. He felt dizzy, the whiplash of emotion made him feel like a leaf in the wind, being whipped around before he had the chance to process what he was supposed to feel. The next sound that escaped him was an incredulous, watery laugh. He must be losing it.

A strong hand gripped his shoulder, anchoring him. Logan was silent, clenching his jaw hard. His eyes were bright. Roman covered his friend’s hand with his and drowned most of his froopy, colorful drink. He needed all the sugar and alcohol he could get.

“Fuck.”

The uncharacteristic curse escaped him with a vengeance. His old and new feelings for Virgil tumbled together in a web that ensnared him helplessly. He was at a loss at what else to say. He did not know what to do, what to feel.

“Indeed.” Logan agreed quietly.

He cleared his throat eventually, wanting to get it over with. The words he still had to utter burned a hole in his stomach. He did not want to burden Roman further, but he needed them out, now. It felt like they were slowly poisoning him with regret and bitterness. He did not trust Virgil. Far from it in fact, but he felt for him. Now that he understood that he was a victim of his desperate circumstance, he knew why had lashed out and manipulated Roman. He was trying not to drown.

“Upon being arrested, he was deemed a flight risk and bail was set. Bail which he was unable to pay, since he lacked the money as well as the family to turn to. Meanwhile, his mother was at home, waiting for him. At this point the cancer had spread thorough her body, to her limbs and her brain. Her eyesight had dimmed, she had trouble articulating herself properly and getting up had become dangerous. He tried to explain the situation to the officers, but -” The words seemed to choke the caring detective for a moment. He wiped his eyes roughly. “Apparently they failed to believe him. As you can imagine, Virgil must have been – he must have been - desperate. In this hour of distress, Hector Jenkins appeared in his life. He paid his bail and made the charges disappear, which is why we could not find them in the official files. He did not demand anything in return. Instead, he brought Virgil home and told him to take care of his mother. Apparently, they had been high school sweethearts before he became involved in less than legal activities. He seemed to have retained a soft spot for her.”

Roman was hard pressed to stay in his seat instead of rushing off to find those officers who had put Virgil through this hell. He must have been so terrified. His mother, the only family he had left, all alone in her flat, helpless, afraid for her son, unable to ask for help because the cancer had started to eat away at her communicative and motor functions. He must have feared for her life, expected her to have fallen and been unable to get back up while he was locked away. She might have died in his absence, alone and afraid, and he would have had to come home to bury his mother.

Roman only noticed that he was crying as he felt Logan pull him against his shoulder. His tall frame was shaking like a leaf. A heaving, agonized sob wrenched itself from his chest.

It hurt.

He felt like he would break down at any moment. Loose his hold on his emotions and shatter into sharp, jagged pieces on the sticky floor of this pub. However, he did not permit himself the time. A fresh urgency gripped him. He had left him all alone in a cell that undoubtedly brought him right back to the memory of his last incarceration. He needed to hear the end of this story and decide what to do with Virgil. He needed to find out how deeply he was involved with the Scorpions. If there a part of this young man who had taken care of his mother remained, he would not leave him to his fate.

Logan made himself speak, gripping Roman tightly for comfort. “Apparently, Virgil realized that he could not afford to be arrested again. At this point, his mother’s illness had progressed beyond any hope for a cure. He could only attempt to give her the best possible palliative care he could afford. Considering he did not dare to, um” Logan cleared his throat awkwardly. “to work on the street anymore, and feared leaving her, he turned to the only man who had offered him any help.”

“Hector.” Roman rasped miserably.

“Indeed. He begged for a loan and offered him anything he wanted in return.” A strangled, frightened sound escaped Roman at the thought of what he must have been forced to give to this stranger.

“He didn’t!” Logan reassured him hastily. “He did not ask him for – for his services. Instead he gave him the money and told him to be with his mother for as long as she needed him. Once she was gone, he would give him a job in his office. As you can imagine, Virgil was – beyond thankful. The loan allowed him to stop working on the street and be with his mother full time, giving her the pain medication she needed. Apparently he told her he had gained a sponsor for one of his inventions, so she would not have to worry about his future. Due to this loan, he was able to take care of her at her home and be with her – be with her until she died three months later.” Logan’s voice was shaking badly now. Roman disentangled himself from his arms and pulled his partner into his embrace himself, holding him tight.

“This is why he became so loyal to the Scorpions, isn’t it? They used his plight to bind him to them by showing him kindness when he was most desperate. All they needed was some money and patience at the right time to buy themselves a devoted genius.” Roman rumbled bitterly. “He mentioned the name “Hector” over the phone. He is their leader?”

“I would assume so. Mrs. Noah found out about the full scope of Virgil’s situation only after his mother’s death, and attempted to offer him a way out of the quickly growing gang. However, she found Virgil absolutely devoted to Mr. Jenkins. He tried hard to fit into the gang and support his leader. Which is – understandable. He must have been his last link to his deceased mother and the only person who cared for him. He allowed her a dignified death and chose to return his dignity to Virgil as well, instead of using him further. After the things he had been forced to do, he must have believed there was no chance to return to his previous life, so he did his best to live up to Mr. Jenkins’ expectations, to make him proud.”

Both detectives fell silent, held onto each other and tried to work through what they had learned. Roman felt the loss of the life Virgil could have had with devastating clarity. Had his mother not grown ill, hell, had her insurance not scammed her, with his almost 21 years he would be an MIT educated engineer now. He’d finished his bachelor degree, might be studying for his master and have his hands full working on his inventions. Big companies could already be fighting over hiring him and bringing his plans to life. He would be part of the MIT gymnastic team and dazzle his audience. He would be snarky and smart and confident and spend his nights in the library or in his lab, studying and tinkering on ways to clean up the planet. His days would be spent in the sun, raving against lobbying and pollution with his friends and attending lectures. He would believe in what he could do and the things his brilliant mind and skillful hands could contribute to the world.

Instead he was wearing a dirty leather jacket with a sulfur yellow patch, had a midnight black scorpion inked somewhere on his pasty skin like a brand of possession a criminal had imprinted on his body and sported a watercolor painting of bruises on his thin face and slender neck. He was locked away in a cell, alone and afraid. He had learned to read and please men out of sheer desperation and to use them for his survival. He carried a butterfly knife instead of books and had reduced his attempts to make the world a cleaner, better place to ranting at officers for throwing their cup into the wrong trash bin. He led a life of violence and fear, slinking along the dark edges of society instead of walking in the light.

“We cannot leave him behind with them, can we?” Roman asked brokenly after a long moment.

“No.” Logan answered. His voice was steadier than Roman’s. It gave the young detective hope. He could not let Virgil’s story end like this. It would destroy him. It would destroy both of them.

However, he could not make the same mistakes again. His fluttering heart felt rusty, painful. Like an old piece of a once delicate machine. The gears were catching and screeching against each other, leaving a crating, bitter feeling in his chest. Roman was grateful for the pain. If this was what it took to reign in his emotions and turn him into a rational detective, he would gladly live with the grinding burn of every heartbeat.

“We cannot forget that he still did all those things.” Roman muttered regretfully. Voicing those thoughts was hard, very hard after what he had learned. He wanted to rush into the cell and -

No.

“Manipulating me was no crime, that was my fault, but he was dealing. We -” Roman swallowed, wiped his eyes. “We might be able to ask for a deal, considering his circumstances.”

“Actually, I am not so certain he was planning to have those drugs distributed.” Logan disagreed.
Roman was embarrassed at how quickly he perked up, jumping at every chance to see Virgil in the light he had pictured him in. The light that softened his edges, made his smirk look warmer, made him so beautiful. Would he never learn?

“I might be able to shed some light on your interaction with him.” Logan explained hopefully. “Mrs. Noah’s had a long conversation with Virgil about the dangers of joining a gang and the damage they could inflict. However, he swore that Mr. Jenkins had promised to avoid unnecessary violence. He also promised the Scorpions would never be involved in distributing drugs. Those were his only conditions upon joining them and he believed his leader’s word unconditionally. Since Virgil had been forced to buy opioids illegally to medicate his mother, he has apparently become familiar with the damage addiction could cause and refused to support it.”

Roman lit up. “He did mention something about a promise that had been made to him on the phone!”

“Indeed. It is a conceivable hypothesis that Mr. Jenkins changed his mind, which made Virgil turn to you despite his loyalty. He might have attempted to bring the methamphetamine we discovered on his person to you so you could use it as evidence.”

Roman saw where his partner was going and started to connect the dots. This scorpion-dude -” “Victor Adams.” Logan interrupted.

“This dude, yes, he might have caught him as he smuggled the drugs out and confronted him!”

“Virgil would hardly have agreed to return, which would have provoked a fight.” Logan added.

“Which the officer noticed, so he searched them and found the drugs!” Roman exclaimed, growing more animated. He could feel their dynamic, connecting their thoughts smoothly. Logan took over seamlessly.

“Upon realizing he was caught, Mr. Adams must have chosen to use the situation to his advantage and instigated a plot against Virgil, who he clearly holds a grudge against. If he had indeed chosen to get rid of him, he would first have to remove his protector.”

“Me.” Roman mumbled. He felt the pieces fall into place. “He must have also seen a way to hurt you, to get back at you for humiliating him at Pat’s.”

“He spotted a chance to hurt me, by hurting you.” Logan trailed off. He looked troubled, guilty.

Roman leaned their foreheads together in a comforting gesture, feeling Nicodemus stretch to sniff Logan without leaving the warmth of his spot behind Roman’s collar. He squeaked quietly.

“Hush!” Logan whispered, embarrassed and anxious of being discovered. The ridiculousness of the situation lightened their mood somewhat. Roman smiled at him bravely. “You were frigging awesome in the Pat-isserie, I was so proud of my nerdy, bad-ass partner, don’t you dare apologize. I bragged with you for days.”

Logan huffed a laugh. It sounded strangled, brittle, the way Roman’s smile looked.

“If he actually wants to leave the gang -” “as evidence suggests” Logan added supportively. “Yes. If he actually wants to leave … “ “Then Mr. Adams knows about it now. The moment he manages to contact his leader -” “He will be fair game! They’ll kill him for this!!” Roman screeched, panic flooding him. Nicodemus squeaked in alarm.

Logan gripped his shoulder firmly. “No they won’t. He is safe in his cell. The best thing we can do now is confront him and listen to his version of the events in order to find out how much of Mr. Adams’ claims are truthful. Then we will figure out how to proceed and protect him. He is our key witness in this case, we will use all the means at our disposal to keep him safe.”

Roman deflated, knowing his partner was right. His pulse was still fluttering though. He needed a moment to just – think. The last hours had been too much, too overwhelming. His feelings upon working out their hypothesis were hard to describe. He saw Virgil in an entirely different light. He was flooded with hope so intense it made him lightheaded. The chance, the possibility, of Virgil doing something so utterly courageous made awe uncurl in his chest. The relieve he felt clashed hard with his darker feelings though. He had not only insulted the young man who had come to him for help, he had threatened him with physical harm and left him to fear for his life. He would fix this. He has to.

***

They were actually thrown out of the pub a few minutes later, courtesy to Nicodemus growing displeased and attempting to climb on Roman’s head. They walked to the precinct in silence, trying to work through their feelings. Roman wanted to run, heck, he wanted to dramatically commandeer a bike and rush to apologize to Virgil, but even he knew that he needed to get a grip first. Virgil was going nowhere and an overabundance of emotion had caused them nothing but trouble.

They took the stairs quietly. Roman counted them, trying to focus on nothing else. His mind had other ideas. He had tried to reign in those warm, unwise, powerful feelings, but every step closer to him brought them closer to the surface. His cracked heart fluttered helplessly. He wanted to help and soothe and hold. He would let no harm come to Virgil. He felt that he could not hate him for the pain he had caused him. Not when he needed Roman so desperately. Not when he was so brave, so selfless.

Logan unlocked the door to the holding cells and let Roman slip through. He breathed the scent of sweat and metal in deeply – feeling nervous, guilty, sad and hopeful at the same time.

The cell was empty.

*

“Where the hell is the suspect from 902?” Roman screeched. His eyed were liquid fire. Where his thoughts had been soft and caring before, white hot anger fueled his actions now. Virgil had been failed too often. Not again.

The officer shrunk back in surprise at suddenly aggressively being accosted by the usually to sweet and gentle detective Prince. He had never seen him this way before.

“Ahem – he – he was -” Nervously, he leafed through his files, hoping the tall, seething man would not bite his head off in the meantime. “Ah! He got picked up along with Mr. Adams, by his stepfather.”

Roman took a step back, paling. “What? He was supposed to be held till the prosecutor filed charges! He couldn’t -” He broke off, apparently having trouble breathing. Logan grabbed his shoulder to anchor him and turned his laser focus on the poor officer. The man gulped. Sanders was intimidating even on a good day. This was not one of them.

“Why was he released and what can you tell us about the man who took him?” He asked curtly.

“He – ah – he had all the necessary paperwork, the stepfather I mean!” He stuttered nervously. “I had to let him go! He – that is – ah – the, the stepfather, he was a big guy with a tattoo on his face – a spot, or – or -” “A tear.” Logan growled, turning away.

“He took him! Logan he took both of them! Scorpion-dude is going to tell him Virgil betrayed him HE’S GOING TO KILL HIM!!!” Roman cried helplessly. His hands were shaking. Logan grabbed them quickly, holding them tight.

He looked afraid.

Looking at Logan, the horrible truth sunk in for Roman. They had no address. Hector would not be stupid enough to bring Virgil to any place they had on file. They had no lead. They had no idea where he was.

There was no way to help him.

*** WARNING! GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT ***

Victor took vicious pleasure in dragging the little whore deeper into the garage, where no one would hear him scream. He had put up a fight as he had grabbed him, which meant he had finally gotten to punch his smug little face as hard as he could. He was sluggish now, dizzy from the impact. Blood was running down his chin from his split lip.

He shoved him on the concrete floor hard and watched him crumble with glee. He had waited way too long for this. Finally Hector would give this little imposter what he deserved. His leader was circling the cowering bitch with an impassive expression. He had not shown any emotion since he had told him about the betrayal. Finally he would get the place he deserved. He had stood by Hector since the founding of the Scorpions, had believed in him, had been his most loyal follower. He had proven his devotion time and again. Had kept his men in line, roughened up shop owners and that baker, had faced that detective for him. No task had been too grueling or dangerous for him. He had even proven his sincerity by inking a tattoo into the same cheek Hector wore his tear tattoo. However, he had chosen a larger, darker motive, to show his pride. A scorpion – the symbol of their strength.

But then this little slut had come along and Hector had let him organize everything, their finances, trade, logistics. He had even used Victor to hide the vicious, dirty side of their business from this soft crybaby, just so he would continue doing his job. But that was over now. It was finally his turn.

 

Virgil felt Hector’s steps more than he heard them. His ears were ringing. Desperately, he tried to clear his head. He felt nauseous. Concussion, his frightened mind helpfully supplied.

He knew what was in store for him. He would not leave the garage alive. When he had followed Victor and Hector out of the precinct like an obedient sheep being let to slaughter, he had known it too. He had thought he had accepted it. After he had chased away his only protector with his pathetic lies, his fate had been sealed. They would have made prison a living hell for him and would have only delayed his death. He had no where to turn to, nothing to do but accept defeat. The saddest thing was that he had felt it coming for a long time. Though he had tried his hardest to find a purpose with the Scorpions, to pay back Hector for helping his mother, he had felt that Virgil Raine had died with her that day. He had been living on borrowed time, and today, it was running out. He wished he would have faced the end more bravely.

But alas, his heart was pounding as hard as if it was frantically trying to use its remaining time to the fullest extent. Blood and terror were pumping through his veins. He was so afraid.

The Scorpions were forming a circle around him, silent and bloodthirsty like rabid dogs.

Hector came to a stop before him and waited. Virgil felt his breath come in quick, shallow busts. Shame flooded him, as he felt every eye on his cowering form. Pull yourself together you pathetic fool he told himself viciously. He could not die groveling.

Hector stood above him, looking down at him with impassive, cold eyes. He reminded him of a shark. There was no humanity in his gaze. Virgil swallowed the humiliating urge to plead with his father figure. Disgusting. Foolish. Worthless.

“So this is it, son?” He asked. The endearment hurt like a physical wound. I used to mean so much to him. “I take ye in, give ye my trust and my patch, and this is how ye repay me?” He nodded at Victor, who stepped forward all too willingly.

He grabbed Virgil by the back of his slender neck in a bruising grip and ripped the jacket from his shoulders. Feeling a burst of courage, Virgil hissed at him fiercely, baring his teeth at the scumbag. He had always hated that guy. He was backhanded hard for his insolence. Victor’s ring cut his cheek and made him bleed, but it was worth it.

“Ye do not deserve this patch any longer, or the ink.” He added coldly. The goon next to him held a large, jagged knife, ready to hand it to his boss.

Virgil felt as if he had been doused in ice water. The tattoo between his shoulder blades burned hot in contrast, as if a knife was already cutting into his skin. He clamped his jaw shut, clenching his teeth hard. He would not beg.

He wished Hector would just get it over with and kill him. He was cold. He felt vulnerable and naked, kneeling in the middle of the circle of men who wanted his blood. He was tired. So tired. But Hector seemed to insist on taunting him.

“I took ye in out of generosity, to honor the memory of your mother. And ye betray me like a snake.” The words cut Virgil deep. In a few hours, the only people who had looked out for him had cast him out in disgust. First Roman, who he had hurt so horribly, and now Hector, who had become the only male role model he had ever known.

This time, he expected the boot that was rammed into his chest, forcing the breath from his lungs and making him crash to the floor. He lay for a moment, dizzy and wheezing, laughter and hollers sounding in his ears like the distorted howling of wolves, coming to get him.

As he lay curled up on the floor, from the dirty window high above him, a stray, lonely ray of sunshine hit his face.

Remorse twisted his stomach into knots as it suddenly made him recall the radiant face of the detective he had hurt. His handsome form had been bathed in sunlight as they had met in the precinct. For a brief moment, he had looked at Virgil like he was pure, good, beautiful. Before Virgil had lied to him, had devastated this gentle giant and abused his endless, naive compassion.

The ray of sunshine was overcast by dark clouds and plunged his face into shadows. Where he belonged. He had crushed this romantic fool. The memory of his handsome face twisting with betrayal and anguish, of his kind expression crumbling with rage hurt worse than the blow that had brought him to the ground. He had become a monster, a twisting, vile thing, a snake in the dirt. He had no right to wish to see this bright, sweet, ridiculous man one last time. He had corrupted him with his venom, turned him into a broken, violent mess. This was his legacy.

Virgil twisted to his side, spitting out dark red blood. It made him realize with devastating clarity that even in moments of acute, torturous pain and rage, Roman had not struck him. He had preferred to injure himself instead. For the first time, tears burned in his eyes. He would die without apologizing to this stupid, gorgeous, loving moron. Roman would have to live with the believe that he had been mistreated so cruelly. He did not deserve this!

But Virgil did. A boot was driven into his stomach with startling brutality, making him cry out brokenly. All thought was impossible for a moment, as his world exploded in pain.

He deserved this.

There was only one accusation he did not deserve, and he would not go down without fighting it. Gathering the last of his dwindling strength, he pulled himself up on his elbows. His arms were shaking. Once again, he felt blood pool in his mouth from where he had bitten his tongue. Cruel voices taunted him as he struggled. They felt impossibly tall over him.

Though he felt humiliation burn hot on his cheeks, he gathered the last of his broken confidence, and spat the blood on Hectors boots. “Fuck you.” He hissed.

Hector was on him like a beast. His slender body was flipped onto his back suddenly, facing the towering criminals over him. The people he had tried so hard to fit in with. They cheered at his pain.

Hector’s hand gripped his collar hard, twisted it with rage that was burning is his eyes. Before Virgil could speak, a knee was pressed against his chest, constricting his slender rib cage, bruising his chest and pressing his shoulder blades into the dirty, unforgiving concrete cruelly. He could not draw air into his lungs. Spots started to appear before his eyes as he helplessly gasped under the crushing weight. Something in his chest gave way under the pressure audibly.

For a taunting, confusing moment, his foolish brain showed him the last time he had been pinned to the floor, the last time he had feared for his life. He saw it much clearer than he had that day. Roman, kneeling over him, gripping his wrists in a hold that was as gentle as he dared to make it. Roman, imploring him to calm down, horror in his eyes as his hands had unintentionally bruised him. Roman’s green eyes.

The contrast was jarring, mocking. He had actually thought he would die that day, when it actually was the face of his leader, the man he had trusted so much, that would be the last thing he would see.

Being able to breathe again was a shock. The weight disappeared from his chest. He drew in rattling, agonizing gasps of air. He felt something grind in his chest. Hector had cracked several ribs. It drove the fact that his adoptive father would kill him home further. Somehow, it strengthened not only his terror, but also his resolve.

The moment he could speak again, he interrupter Hector’s snarling.

“Don’t you dare speak about my mother you disgusting piece of shit.” He spat, his eyes burning with tears and anger. “You took me in because you knew you could use me, because we needed help and you were at the right place at the right time, you wanted me for my skills, not because you cared! You don’t deserve to talk about her, you-”

His rant was cut off with his air supply as Hector’s rough hand closed around his throat. He laughed in his face. “Ye were always a smart thing, son. Of course I wanted to use ye. Ye owed me after all. And yer debt isn’t payed yet.” He released Virgil’s throat and trailed his hand down the narrow, heaving chest. “Ye’r wrong about one thing. I cared fer yer mother. And I care fer ye.” The sound of the material of his shirt being ripped open down the middle was the most terrifying thing he had ever heard. Cold panic started to flood Virgil’s veins.

The cruel touch trailed down over his stomach, his hip, gripping him possessively, forcefully. Blindly, he tried to squirm away from the hands groping him. “No, please-” His bravado crumbled like a sandcastle under the assault of Hector’s touch. He was back on that first, desperate night, on his knees behind a dumpster, a different night, on his back in the backseat of a car, another night, pressed against a crumbling concrete wall, hands in his hair, hands pulling at his clothes, a bitter taste on his tongue – it was all blending together. Real hands were gripping his bare shoulders, digging into the skin, shoving him down – Victor was above him, smirking down at him with vicious pleasure, his scar twisting like a beast, holding him down for his boss. Please. Not again.

“We’re gonna have a little fun together.” Hector purred at him, as his hands reached between Virgil’s legs, groping him hard.

“Sounds like we arrived right on time!” A bright voice cut through the dark garage, cheerful and out of place. All action drew to a sudden halt. “I love fun!”

Virgil blinked hard, disoriented, incredulous, as – as Roman sauntered towards them, his intimidating partner in tow. He was grinning at them happily, not a hair out of place, looking radiant and enthusiastic like he had arrived at his own party fashionably late. What – the hell?

Virgil did not understand. Had – had the Scorpions payed him? Was he working for them? His jumbled mind rejected the idea as if is had burned him. Not Roman. It would not make any sense. But why was he here?

The Scorpions were shifting around him, confused and unsettled. Both detectives appeared calm, even though there was no back-up in sight. They were armed with nothing more than their service weapons and were therefor grossly outnumbered. However, the most grotesque thing was Roman’s smile. Pleasant and bright like sunshine, he grinned at all of them while they pinned a bleeding Virgil to the ground so they could gang-rape him. His behavior was bizarre and frankly, it frightened the Scorpions.

Detective Sanders hung back, looking them over with a calm, almost bored expression, clearly feeling quite unafraid.

The gang members closest to him moved back like gazelles from a lion as Roman sauntered towards them, hands in his pockets and delighted expression firmly in place. “Looks like you were having a party without us! Guuuuys, you really should invite us, we are so much fun!” He drawled.

Without warning, he smashed his fist into the side of the closest criminal’s temple with the force of a freight train. The man crashed into two other Scorpions, knocking them down with the strength of his punch and leaving him sprawled lifelessly on top of the other men.

Immediately, three other gang members drew their knives and rushed towards the young detective.

The most bizarre thing happened.

Roman did not bother to defend himself. He just beamed at the men, towering over them with his impressive height and his bear like strength and looking like he was having a blast with his friends. Unsettled, the men stopped in their tracks.

Nothing in the way the detective held himself spoke of anything but joy and friendliness. Yet, somehow, there was not a doubt in any of their minds that this man was ready for murder. Feeling the fear of God in their hearts, they backed off slowly, unable to comprehend the duality of cheerfulness and violence the detective presented. He felt unpredictable – unhinged.

Like Roman intended.

As if he had just noticed Virgil cowering on the ground, he lit up as his gaze fell on him. “Oh! Logan, look what they found! Looks like I lost that one, silly me!” He giggled adorably, looking right into Victor’s eyes.

To his immense shame, Victor yanked his hands off the little whore he had pinned beneath him. His head was spinning with confusion. He did not recognize this man. Nothing about him resembled the sobbing faggot he had taunted in the precinct. This psychopath looked ready to rip his face off and laugh about it.

Roman winked at the criminal, as if they were old friends. With a pleased hum, he bent down to gather his bruised delinquent in his arms.

Helplessly, Virgil shrunk back in alarm as Roman reached for him. He was confident in his hard won ability to read men – which guy was lonely and looking for company and which guy wanted to bruise him. He had been certain he had Roman all figured out – this dreamy, romantic, naive sweetheart that could not hurt a fly and was easily strung along by his protective instincts. Right now, he did not recognize this man. He had shut down all involuntary displays of emotion, showing only what he wanted them to see. How had he underestimated him so badly?

He tensed like a deer in the headlight as Roman wrapped an arm around his almost naked torso and another under his knees. He lifted him like he weighted nothing at all. Virgil’s ribs protested, but he viciously suppressed his whimper. Humming a cheery tune, Roman sauntered to his partner and set Virgil down in front of him. His kneed buckled under his weight immediately. Strong arms caught him and held him against a dark blue coat. Keeping his face impassive and his attention trained on the gang, Logan turned to the frightened young man in his arms. “You are safe now. Trust us, all will be well.” He whispered, allowing the deep baritone of his voice to soothe him. Virgil held onto his shoulder weakly, observing Roman and the gang. His sight was blurry. At this rate, he would not be conscious for much longer.

Roman had turned back to the criminals, facing them alone with apparent enjoyment of the situation. Back-up was inbound, they had to stall them a little longer or they would not walk out of here alive.

Their leader was apparently no fool, since he hung back and examined Roman attentively, trying to make sense of him. Scorpion-dude however, did not share his restraint. Once again, his humiliation made him first insecure, then angry and caused his fury to overwhelm his rational thinking.

He separated from the safety of the group and got into the manically grinning detective’s face. He hated that he had to look up at him. He did not let the bitches height stop him from taunting him, trying to get a reaction he could understand.

“What made ye come here princess? Miss yer little boy toy? Is he that good in bed that ye forgot how the little whore played ye? Or did he suck yer brain right out through yer dick?” His crude words would get a response, he was sure. Just a few hours ago, the fag had trembled and bawled like a fucking girl.

The detective laughed. He threw his head back in delight, turning to his partner. “This guy is funny!” He told him, eyes sparkling. Turning back to him, he told him earnestly. “You’re a funny guy, buddy.”

His knee shot out so fast, the Scorpion only noticed it as he doubled over in pain. Horrified, sympathetic groans echoed through the garage. Before he had any hope of composing himself, he was suddenly dangling above the ground, suspended by an iron first twisted in the collar of his leather jacket. The detective’s smiling, handsome face was very close. Against his best intentions, the criminal froze. The rumbling voices of the gang behind him stopped abruptly.

The young detective purred at him, voice low and smooth like honey. “I love to laugh. Why don’t you tell me some more of your jokes, friend?” He had never seen anything more attractive or terrifying.

**** END OF VIOLENCE****

Sirens, suddenly close by, and flashing blue and red lights at the end of the street interrupted them. Roman dropped the Scorpion with a delighted noise. “More friends, how delightful! The more, the merrier. We should say hello, don’t you think?”

Calm as you please, he returned to his partner and the young man he was holding up. The Scorpions were torn between taking out the witnesses and the traitor quickly, and saving their skin before the cops arrived. The detectives had to use their moment of confusion before they chose the former.

Having his back turned to the gang, Roman’s face betrayed his horror at Virgil’s condition for a brief moment. The blood on his face, the torn shirt hanging off his arm and shoulder, the darkening bruise on his torso. His mask slipped for a second only, but Virgil saw. Relieve rushed through him. He recognized Roman again.

He did not flinch this time, as strong arms gathered him against the taller man’s chest with more gentleness than he had ever been held with. Roman tugged him close, holding him securely. Throwing a cheery smile over his shoulder, mask firmly in place, he chirped “Don’t go anywhere!”

His words acted like a spell. Scorpions started scattering like cockroaches in the light. No matter, their colleagues were already surrounding the building and their escape was preferable to a knife in his back.

They slipped out in the chaos, Logan guarding them protectively. Black clad members of the SWAT team rushed past them, their footsteps echoing through the darkening evening, quick and heavy. The three men made it to Logan’s car unimpeded. Both breathed an audible sigh of relieve as the heavily armed men separated them from the Scorpions. Time to get out of here, they had what they had come for.

Logan opened the door for Roman. Instead of bundling the delinquent into the back seat, he slipped into it, careful of his charge, and let Virgil curl up in his lap. Though he was bruised and bleeding, traumatized and weak as a kitten, his hard won defensive instincts flared up briefly. Weakly, he tried to push against the detective’s chest, complaining “What the hell man?”

For once, Roman ignored his struggling, clearly seeing the need Virgil tried hard to ignore. He held him close in a gentle grip, pulling Logan’s dark blue car-blanket over his defensive wildcat’s exposed shoulders. “Hush, I won’t hurt you.”

Virgil actually hissed at him. Knowing that showing weakness had been dangerous to his little lynx and therefor understanding his reaction, Roman ran a soothing hand though his hair, giving him a gentle smile. Virgil glared. He was so tired though. He could hardly believe that he was alive. He did not know how to feel about it. Everything hurt and he was so cold.

Roman radiated warmth from both his body and his expression. Defeated, Virgil let the fight drain out of him. He sank against Roman’s chest as if his strings had been cut. Hiding his face seemed like a good idea, so he tucked it against the detective’s neck. He smelled good, like some expensive cologne and leather. Virgil breathed in deeply. A large hand carefully caressed his back over the blanket, mindful of his bruises. He had not thought he would get to experience something so tender ever again.

He knew he did not deserve any of it. Did not understand why he got to feel it, but for a long moment, he was too tired to care. He just closed his eyes and allowed himself to feel. The memory of terror, humiliation and brutal hands was still fresh in his mind and made him tremble, and still he could not remember the last time he had felt so safe.

The car slowly passed through the closed off perimeter, soothing him with the noise of the rumbling engine. Roman’s heart was beating fast under his ear. He never wanted to move again. But he had to. Growing comfortable meant vulnerability, danger. He had to stay alert. His ribs hurt like a knife to the chest as he sat up to look at his savior. At this illogical, confusing mess of a man who had almost gotten himself murdered for him. The thought scared Virgil, galvanized his motivation.

“What the HELL, MAN? You could have been killed, why didn’t you wait for back up?” He realized in how much danger this beautiful fool had put himself in. He felt – he did not know what he felt – too much. “Are you suicidal?!” He screeched hysterically.

Large, warm hands gripped his face. His split lip had started bleeding again. Roman’s look was full of fear and compassion. “Are you joking dearest? We had to help you!”

Don’t call me that!” Virgil snapped reflexively, blushing brightly.

“Roman is correct. A delay would have resulted in a 93% chance of you receiving permanent injury. Waiting would have been counterproductive to our rescue effort.” Logan explained from the driver’s seat, not taking his dark eyes off the road.

“Your rescue – What?!” Virgil cried incredulously. His head was spinning. The last time he had seen those idiots one had been about to covertly murder him, while the other had almost broken his skull with his bare fist. Both would have been deserved.

“Why – why would you care? You want a witness? I could have still testified if – if Hector -” He broke off, feeling nausea rise in his throat and tears in his eyes. “You shouldn’t - have -” The sob that wrenched itself from his throat jarred his cracked ribs so painfully that he almost blacked out. He gasped, desperately trying to breathe through the pain.

Logan pulled the car to the side of the road, trying to avoid jolting him in his aggravated state. “You have to calm him, he must not have a panic attack.” He instructed Roman clearly.

His partner pulled Virgil close, running his hand through his hair and hushing him gently. “It’s okay kitten, breathe with me, like last time.” His voice was so warm and tender. Virgil shouldn’t, but was drawn to those kind, green eyes, felt comforted by his smooth, deep voice. After torturous moments, his pain and breathing eased. The second he could speak, he growled incredulously. “Do not call me that!”

“Not that one either? Okay, I’ve got lots more.” Roman teased him playfully.

“Why?” Virgil asked again. His voice was weaker than he wanted. Why was Roman here? Why did he hold him? He had hated him the last time they had met. He was so confused.

“Well, we – ah – that is – Logan here did some research. I think we – we understand your motives better now.” He explained carefully. Virgil reeled back as if he had been slapped. No. They knew.

Shame flooded him, hot and suffocating. He had never wanted this pure, trusting man to know how dirty, how disgusting he was. How he had been used. How could he stand to touch him?!

“No! Please, it’s alright. You don’t need to be ashamed!” Virgil turned his face away. Apparently, he was an open book. He could not bear to be seen like this. In his mind, he looked just like he had when he had snuck home early in the morning, before he had managed to wash off the traces of their touch, the salt of his tears. Before he had covered everything with make-up and a smile.

But Roman did not allow him to hide. He gripped his blood smeared chin, soiling his clean hands with Virgil’s filth. He wanted to beg as his face was turned back into the light that was Roman’s gaze. Please don’t look at me. Words failed him. Their eyes met, and Virgil’s breath caught.

It was that look.

The look Roman had given him in the precinct as he had asked for help, in the alley as he had asked after the baker. The look full of warmth, tenderness, awe.

“You don’t need to hide, little thundercloud. You were brave and selfless and you are strong and beautiful. Your scars and trials do not diminish you.” His words were spoken so honestly, so earnestly, that there was only one way Virgil could answer.

“Do not call me that you imbecile!”

He felt like a broken record and absolutely blamed Roman. The detective laughed, bright and happy and edged with pain. He was devastatingly handsome. “Okay, this isn’t the right one either? Noted.”

His kindness broke Virgil. Everything came tumbling out in a jumbled mess of words and tears. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I hurt you! I’m not – I’m not those things! I shouldn’t have – I’m a monster, a snake youwereright - but I promisehelied I did not fake the panic attack! I shouldn’t have used you, I didn’t know what was in the package – that’s no – no excuse, I was too weak to demand an answer, it was all myFAULT! But I wanted to -” Roman tried to hush him frantically, worried about the frenzy he was working himself into. To no avail. “- I wanted to bring you the drugs, I never wanted to deal - I would never – I wanted to help you -”

“STOP.” Roman told him firmly. “I know. I believe you. That is why we saved you. You wanted to help and leave the Scorpions and risked your life. That is an amazing thing to do and I am so proud of you, okay darling?”

Virgil stuttered to a halt, stumped by his response. How could he say those things after what he had put him through? He wanted to shake this idiot, show him how toxic he was, how much hate and disgust he deserved.

But.

He couldn’t fight him, lacked the strength. Drained, Virgil sagged against the detective’s chest.

Logan turned irked eyes on Roman. “I told you to calm him.” He complained scathingly. Roman shrugged a shoulder sheepishly. “Ups?”

“Do not fucking call me that.” Virgil mumbled against Roman’s jacket tiredly. The young detective huffed a laugh. It was all fond amusement and anguish.

“Okay.” He agreed softly.

Imploringly, he added “You don’t see yourself the way I do, the way I did from the moment I saw you. That’s fine, I got confused for a moment as well. But I’ll help you see, my ruffled lion cub.” He promised quietly, tenderly cuddling him in his lap.

Helplessly, Virgil’s muscles relaxed in the embrace. He firmly believed he had no business being in the arms of this infuriating, delusional, gentle idiot, but he needed his embrace so badly. Roman was so warm. He felt so good. His tall body surrounded him, embracing him from all sides, keeping the horrors of the world and his memories at bay. A tender hand brushed his hair from his face, avoiding his bruises. Roman touched him like he was unbroken, unused, like had was worth something. It was a feeling he had forgotten, but it tasted sweet on his tongue. Sleep pulled at him, heavy and welcoming. Before it claimed him, he softly mumbled into Romans neck.

“Don’t call me that either, moron.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

“NO.”

Logan dropped his forehead against the side of the car, growling quietly. His day had been long and stressful and his partner had gone through a rollercoaster of emotion. He did not like it. Also, he had been forced to drastically reevaluate his feelings for the little delinquent responsible for said partner’s emotions. Logan was not overly fond of feelings in general, but the amount of things he had been forcefully confronted with today had left him drained. First, he had hated Virgil with a passion he had rarely experienced, then he had come to feel compassion and protectiveness for him, and now he wanted to grab the insolent little criminal, throw him over his shoulder and preferably gag him as well.

The feeling intensified as he heard Roman’s distressed whine from the backseat.

Virgil had folded himself against the opposite car door from the one Logan had opened and grabbed the “Oh shit” handle above him in a vice grip. The movement clearly put a stain on his ribs. His face was white from the pain. Still, he was the most stubborn, exasperating creature Logan had ever had the displeasure of taking care of. And he had taken care of Roman.

“I am NOT going to a hospital.” He snarled, grinding his teeth together hard. His eyes were wild. Roman worried for him very much. His kitten had awoken as Logan had opened the door once they had arrived. The moment he had realized where they were, he had dug his heels in.

“You need to see a doctor, sweetheart -” “DON’T -” “Yes, alright! Just – please let me help you -”

Roman yelped as Virgil actually took a swipe at him, scratching the well meaning hand he extended towards him. “WHYYY?” He wailed, turning wide, hurt puppy eyes on Virgil. Who hissed at him.

Disbelieving, Logan leaned down to address their charge. “Your ribs are very likely cracked and you might have received a concussion. You need to allow a professional to examine you.” He ordered strictly.

Roman did not like this tone. His partner was done, so he needed to resolve the situation somehow or one of two outcomes where to be expected. 1. Logan would walk around the car, open the door his wildcat was currently cowering against, grab him from behind and drag him inside. 2. Virgil’s body would finally cave under the pressure and he would lose consciousness or even damage himself further. Not wanting any more lies or misunderstandings between them, he examined the young delinquent closely. His dark eyes were wide, frightened. He was trembling like a leaf, either from pain, stress or exhaustion. His breathing was shallow and quick.

The sensitive detective considered the experiences Virgil must have had in hospitals, perhaps even this one. The illness of his mother, countless, painful treatments, the bills, the despair, all of it during a time where he had been forced to commit unthinkable things to pay to have his mother and himself put through all this. He deflated. His wildcat may be brave, but he looked like he just couldn’t take any additional fear and misery. The thought of strangers touching him with cold, impersonal hands must be unbearable to him, after the things this – Hector had put him through. There was no need to collect evidence from his body, since the detectives had seen everything and the place had been stormed quickly after. He’d send Virgil’s clothes, or what was left of them, to evidence and focus on making sure his darling firefly would not break beyond repair.

Logan may not have a lot of compassion left for Virgil, because he had most likely used it all on Roman, but the younger detective could not ignore the aggressive, yet desperate plea of the former gang member.

Since his puppy eyes were clearly not working on Virgil (must be the concussion) he turned them on his partner. Logan leaned back abruptly, not liking where this was going. He was very weak for this look and knew this spelled trouble. Could this day not finally end?

“Looogaaaaan?” Roman simpered, looking up at his partner.

“No.”

Roman gasped, affronted at this unfairness. “You do not even know what I wanted to ask youuuuu!” He wailed, looking like a very pitiful victim.

“On the contrary. You were about to propose the ludicrous idea to bring Virgil home with us where we can hardly offer him the necessary medial care and run the risk of worsening his condition further.” He answered strictly, crossing his arms and adopting a stoic expression. He would not budge on this.

Roman looked heartbroken.

“Gottverdammte...” Logan cursed quietly. “You have to see that this course of action would bring more harm than good!” He pleaded with his friend exasperatedly. Who looked even more crushed.

Suddenly, his partner grabbed him by the tie (“Please refrain from manhandling me!”) and pulled him down so he could look into the car with them. Virgil looked ready to collapse. The blanket had slipped from his bare shoulders, leaving him shivering from shock and stress. He was pressed against the door like a frightened cat. All of his aggression gave him the look of a terrified kitten stuck in a tree, needing help getting down, but hissing and scratching in terror when someone tried to pick them up. Logan deflated.

“How do you propose we take care of him?!” He hissed at his partner.

“I know a guy we can call, he went to med school. If he says we need to take him to a hospital we will, okay? Please.” Roman did not wait for a verbal answer, he saw his partner cave. With a relieved smile, he leaned up and kissed Logan’s cheek. “Thank you!” He chirped, grinning like actual sunshine.

His cheerful look seemed to confuse Virgil as it was directed at him. He had been too tired and sore to follow the conversation. “We’ll take you home, okay? No hospital if we can avoid it. I swear on my honor as a Prince!” Roman vowed earnestly. Relieve made Virgil’s tense shoulders fall. He – he could not have taken being brought in there. He was so thankful to the detective. In his tiredness, the allowed the older man to gently gather him in his arms again and let him lean against his broad chest. A long, fatigued breath escaped the delinquent. Roman was so warm, so gentle with him. His tired mind could hardly believe he had not forced him to comply, had taken his childish tirade seriously and was taking his wishes into account. Why did he treat him this well? He did not understand.

The moment Roman bundled him in the blanket and pulled him close, sleepiness washed over Virgil. The detective ran gentle fingers through his hair, humming a soft, deep tune to the injured young man. “Thnk yu” Virgil mumbled into his shirt. Roman tenderly brushed his hair out of his face while Logan started the car. “Anything for you, my starry night.” He counted this one as a win, since Virgil didn’t protest. He was asleep on his shoulder.

*** [Link to song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShZ978fBl6Y]

The next time Virgil came to, he was finally warm. The air smelled of laundry detergent and old paper and a scent that was familiar, though his tired mind could not place it yet. He felt smooth, clean sheets on his naked skin and a soft pillow under his head. Muted, colorful light shone through his closed eyelids. Barely awake, he felt a touch on his face that was more gentle than anything he had grown used to in the past years he had served the Scorpions. It was a testament of how much he was starved for tenderness and affection that his tortured body did not make him shy away immediately. He was too drained to fight.

Careful, calloused hands titled his face up. He felt a warm, damp cloth brush his cheekbones lightly, washing away the traces of blood and tears. Though he was bruised everywhere, the touch was so soft and careful that it still felt so good. He had needed this more than he had known. But – this wasn’t right, his mind lazily protested, his defensive instincts slow to come online. He should be freaking out, reach for his knife, fight. Someone was touching him. No touch was safe. Especially a man’s touch meant danger, pain, force. But – the feeling wouldn’t come and he was too tired to chase it down. Another realization helped him understand the situation. He was finally able to place the scent that was so familiar. Expensive cologne and leather. That was why he was not freaking out.

Roman smoothed the soft cloth over Virgil’s forehead, washing away the sweat and traces of another’s touch, of being pushed to the dirty floor, wishing to take away the memory of being held down, being touched against his will. He wished it were that easy. The perceptive man noticed a light change in his kitten’s breathing – he was waking up. Hoping to soothe him, he started to sing quietly under his breath.

“There goes my heart beating
'Cause you are the reason
I'm losing my sleep
Please come back now.”

His voice was deep and smooth, filling the room with its warm melody.

“There goes my mind racing
And you are the reason
That I'm still breathing
I'm hopeless now.”

His feelings seeped into the song, he was helpless to stop it. Virgil looked so small, so lost.

“I'd climb every mountain
And swim every ocean
Just to be with you
And fix what I've broken.
Oh, 'cause I need you to see
That you are the reason.”

He swallowed hard, feeling tears prickling in his eyes as he remembered how he had found Virgil. How he had left him in that cell.

“There goes my hands shaking
And you are the reason
My heart keeps bleeding
I need you now.”

His hand was indeed shaking as he brushed the cloth along Virgil’s jaw. So was his voice.

“If I could turn back the clock
I'd make sure the light defeated the dark
I'd spend every hour, of every day
Keeping you safe...”

He trailed off, his unsteady, rich voice growing quiet. Virgil was stirring. His lashes were dark on his pale, bruised skin. They fluttered softly, opening slowly. Consciously, he had heard little of the actual lyrics, but the song had been sung so sweetly, it had lured him into waking with such care and tenderness. Roman did his best to smile at him. It was not his most successful attempt. “Hey there little bird.”

Virgil groaned, hiding his face in the cotton fabric of the pillow. “Just DON’T you dork.” It was a surprisingly tame insult, considering. Tiredness and warmth had obviously mellowed his moody little fox. “Okay, no bird then.” Roman rumbled softly, felling the beginnings of a real smile. He withdrew his hands, allowing Virgil to gather his whits and take in his surroundings.

The young delinquent indeed did peek out of the pillow after a moment, letting his dark, quick eyes scan the room. He found himself in what could be a bedroom, or guestroom. The wall to his right was filled with books, old and new, of every size and color. Some where stacked on top of each other. On top of the shelves, lush plants let their vines and leafs spill over the top rows. A wooden dresser was placed between the large windows on the other side of the bed. More plants were set on it, as well as several, round, planet like lamps of different colors, a greyish small Moon, a reddish glowing Mars, a blue Uranus. The curtains were drawn over the windows, so the room was bathed in soft, indirect light. Through the dim illumination, Virgil spotted the prints of swirling galaxies and colorful galactic nebulas on the dark curtains. On the desk at the foot of the bed sat a beige and brown glowing, larger model of Jupiter, propped up on some books so not to roll away. The walls were painted a soothing crème and bare, except for the one over the desk, where anatomical drawings of plants on old, off-white paper where framed in different sizes. The dark, wooden beams stretching along the ceiling at even intervals gave the room a warm, cozy atmosphere.

“Where the hell am I?” He mumbled, pulling the white cotton covers higher around his shoulders for the illusion of safety. Which was when he noticed that he apparently was – naked. No comforting touches or gentle voices were able to keep his terror at bay this time. He was alone in an unknown location, apparently undressed in bed next to a man who could easily overpower him. Though the disappointment he naively felt hurt bitterly, he was not surprised that the detective would expect some compensation from him. Yet this rationalization did little to reign in his fear.

“What the hell? Did you undress me you fucking pervert?!” He screeched. No, he had to pull himself together! He knew he was completely dependent on Roman’s mercy and needed to choose his actions wisely. There was no one else left he could turn to and he was in more danger then ever. He had betrayed the Scorpions and now had undoubtedly a target painted to his back. He needed to stay in the detective’s good graces, no matter what he demanded, or he was as good as dead. Considering his own temper, and the strange mood swings of this man, who was chasing and bruising him one moment, sweetly comforting him the next, almost sacrificing his career for him and then, understandably, almost smashing his head in, this would be no easy task. He had to calm down or he would be in a cell with the rest of the Scorpions before he knew it. The young delinquent may have cuddled in the detective’s arms, and had felt safe with him, cared for even, but now, in the light of day, he understood his situation better. Roman could have – should have left him in the hospital, cuffed to a bed and waiting to be questioned, before the threw him in jail. Virgil did not understand his tenderness in the slightest, but he understood what men wanted from him. Roman liked something when he looked at him, he had seen it, he wanted something. It did not feel like the looks he was used to, the looks that undressed him, proprietary and demanding, especially when he spoke to him so gently – but it changed nothing, he chastised himself viciously. Roman may be too kind to force him, but he must expect – something from him.

Virgil tried to breathe, tried to calm down. He could do this. Roman was a gentle man, he would not abuse him. And yet the memory of his utterly cold, cheerful smile broke through his thoughts, making him shiver in fear. He clearly remembered how the detective had grabbed Victor. He had just lifted him up by the collar. The young delinquent realized with a jolt that this detective was strong as a bear and Virgil needed to pull himself together before Roman finally lost his patience and hurt him. He would deserve it, but did not know if he could take any more without breaking into jagged, battered pieces.

Those thoughts shot through his quicksilver mind in the time it took for Roman to work through the misunderstanding. Once he did, he rushed to reassure the poor thing.

“Wh- NO! Of course not! Just – we needed your clothing for – as evidence since we did not take you to the hospital. But you are wearing your underwear and I did not – look or – or touch you in any way, I swear!” He promised frantically, seeing the rising terror on Virgil’s bruised face. “I have some of Logan’s old clothes here, you can wear that, I’ll help you put it on right now if you want! You’re in his guestroom and he is right next door. You are safe!” Distraught, Roman grabbed the bundle of dark clothes from the leather chair in front of the desk, offering it to Virgil.

“I would never touch you without your permission or assume anything about you. I – I would rather die than hurt you intentionally again. Virgil, please believe me, I brought you here to help you, because I knew you needed me and you deserved my help. But then I – I know I – messed up.” He broke off to wipe tears from his eyes. Virgil leaned back in surprise. What the hell was it with the moods of this man?! He hated when people cried on him. It twisted something in his chest and he never knew how to make it better.

The young detective laid the clothes between them very carefully, like an offering, and looked at the delinquent with serious, earnest eyes. Though he resented how unpredictable Roman seemed to be to him, Virgil found himself, against his better judgment, comforted by this look. He looked at him the way he had in the car, like Virgil was – precious. Like he deserved to be cradled gently, touched with care and love. He shivered under this intense gaze. He felt like – like Roman was touching him even now, like this look was more intimate than any of the things all those strangers had done to him. Like he saw him. Or what used to be him, under the layers of filth, pain and deception. Like the idealistic, untouched teenager he used to be was still there, somewhere.

Roman reached out, oh so carefully, and offered his hand to Virgil. The young man swallowed hard, suddenly wanting to feel the warmth of his skin, wanting the detective to cradle his hand in his larger one, he felt like the contact would help anchor him, like he had been slipping away, fading for years, and Roman would try to hold him here, catch him safely when he fell. It was a ludicrous thought, he must be concussed worse than he thought, but – he was hurting and abandoned and just – too weak to fight this comfort that was offered to him, even if it would turn into something he felt too fragile to give. Tentatively, like a wild animal, he reached out and put his slender hand in Roman’s. The detective smiled at him lovingly, and closed his fingers around the pale appendage, stroking the back with his thumb. Virgil released a shaky breath he had been holding, having unconsciously expected to be grabbed and hurt after all. But this – this felt nice. If this was what it would be like to pay back the effort Roman had invested, he would be fine. The detective had promised not to do anything against his will, which was comforting. He could do this, even if Roman invited his scary partner as well, he – he would make himself useful, he had been hurt worse and had still gone out to work.

Virgil breathed deeply, willing the words to be true. He felt dirty suddenly, as he imagined what he would have to do. He pulled his hand back. It felt like his filth was rubbing off on this kind man. He did not want to make Roman as dirty as he was. Not after everything he had done for him.

Roman frowned, trying to understand Virgil’s closed off expression. “Virgil, I am sorry.” He murmured. The young man looked up at him, through tangled, purple bangs. A face painted with cuts and bruises. Unfailingly lovely in Roman’s eyes.

“All of this is my fault. I promised to help and yet I failed you.” He swallowed hard, dropping his gaze to his hands, twisting them in the fabric of his shirt. The knuckles of his right hand were scabbed over. “You have every right to be – distrustful. But I will not fail you again. I have made many wrong choices, but – I will do my best to – to be what you deserve. To put you first and support you in any way you need, not just the way I think you need. I will listen.”

What are you talking about?” Virgil growled. Though he refrained from calling this confusing man an exasperating idiot, it must have shone through in his tone anyway. Was he unconsciously trying to get killed?!

But Roman did not appear to be angry at his insolence. He smiled at him, like he – like he was special. Had his mother dropped him as a child?! Still, the fact that his savior, for some unfathomable reason, seemed to like him even when he was nasty and impossible made some of the tension seep from his shoulders.

“I did not listen.” Roman explained gently. There was pain in his eyes. Virgil did not understand it. “You were trying to help, and while you endangered yourself to support our investigation I lost control of my emotions and believed a lowly criminal over you. I got you hurt.”

The young man shifted uncomfortably, trying to make sense of the responsibility this man seemed determined to carry on his shoulders. It had never occurred to him to blame the detective. He was the one who had lied, who had hurt him, who was a failure. “You are saying that like I’m not a lowly criminal too.” He replied scathingly, trying to distract him. He did not know what to do with so much compassion. Roman laughed softly, sadly. “No, you are much more than that.”

Mortified, Virgil felt a flush creep up his cheeks. He ducked his head, feeling something flutter in his chest as the handsome detective complimented him so earnestly. Roman seemed to feel his embarrassment and gave him a moment to compose himself, opening the painkillers and taking the glass of water on the bedside table and offering them to Virgil. He took them gratefully, his ribs were acing with every breath and he felt like his whole chest was bruised to the bone. Trying to avoid the topic of feelings and this man’s ridiculous messiah’s complex he did not know how to deal with, he aimed for a distraction. “How did you even find me?”

For a diversion, this had been the right question. Roman fluffed up like a bird of paradise displaying his plumage, proud and confident. Virgil hated him a little for how unfairly and distractingly gorgeous he was. With his warm, brown hair, sparkling green eyes and broad shoulders he was the perfect poster-boy for a prince or a dashing hero.

“It is a rather dramatic story, so get ready to be dazzled by the cunning of these brilliant detectives!” He raised both arms, striking a pose, and looked into the middle distance dreamily. Virgil snorted. Scratch the above, this man was a complete dork. Roman looked a little affronted, but decided to ignore his rude audience. He would not allow this little rascal to ruin the performance he was treating him with!

“After following the villain’s path on several CCTV cameras around the city, we quickly lost their trail, so we needed to gather the evidence we had. It was to be expected they would not be dumb enough to commit a crime in a place registered to one of them where we would certainly look or send crime scene specialists. First we needed a direction to start looking. I recalled Mrs Noah -” “Wait, you know that old-” “LADY!” Roman interrupted in a high pitched voice. He knew she could not hear them, but he was slightly terrified of speaking badly about her for – superstitious reasons? She was intimidating! Virgil tried to hide a laugh at Roman’s rumpled expression. The look of mirth was a good one on the little emo. He looked younger, and so pretty. Roman repressed a star struck sigh.

“Anyway!” He boomed, trying not to turn into a blushing fangirl. Not what Virgil needed from him at all! He did not want him to think he expected anything from him because of his mental gushing. “Mrs Noah had sent me in your direction the day I found you and – ah -”

“Chased me.” Virgil threw in drily.

“Yes, that.” Roman admitted meekly.

“And assaulted me.”

Actually I was trying to -”

“To scare me to death?”

“To keep you from further harm!”

“By attacking me in a dark alley?!”

Roman winced, looking guilty. “Admittedly, despite my best intentions I did not handle the situation ideally.” He conceded. However, as he peeked through his bangs at Virgil, he saw an amused glint in his nervous, dark eyes.

Emboldened, he once again gathered the threads of his story. “Anyway, once I found you and, um, greeted you-” Against his better judgment, Virgil snorted. He could not help himself, Roman brought out his most honest and ill advised reactions with his patient responses. Even now, he did not seem angry at being interrupted again. Instead he huffed at him, like he failed to recognize the value of his storytelling.

“After I greeted you, I found you chose an ill advised path in terms of an efficient escape route. Instead of heading straight, to the well traveled main street, you turned into an abandoned industrial complex. Human instinct dictates we head to safe and known places when endangered. Since gang structures allow for little interaction outside their confines, I figured you must have been heading towards one of their properties. Considering Mrs Noah believed you were likely to be found in this district, it was to be expected that the headquarters were located there, which gave us a general area and a direction.

Virgil conceded reluctantly that he was right. “That’s a pretty huge area to search though.” He murmured curiously. Upon finally gaining his interest, Roman perked up adorably. “It is! Which is why we needed to narrow it down. Thankfully, we knew what type of building we were likely looking for.” He grinned roguishly, enjoying Virgil’s dubious expression. Finally he got to show off a little for his ferocious little shooting star. “You unknowingly gave me the information during our phone call.” He explained gently. Understanding started to dawn on his pretty face. Roman felt warmed by pride for how quick his mind was.

“You heard...” “An engine, hydraulics, the echo of your voice suggested a vast room. Your footsteps indicated a concrete floor. Ergo, a garage. There were five garages registered in the district. Three in the general direction you were heading in. We knew the identity of several gang members, including Hector Jenkins.” Roman paused, seeing Virgil hunch further under the covers upon hearing the name of the man who had put those bruises on him. The delinquent glared at his gentle expression, trying hard not to look weak. The detective smiled at him reassuringly.

“The profile I created suggested he liked to be in control, so it was likely the garage would belong to him in some form. There was no real estate listed under his name, but his cousin, who was suffering from gambling addiction, owned a garage in our targeted part of town. Viola. We requested the SWAT team and were on our way.”

Unexpectedly Virgil was – he was impressed. He had not expected this gentle fool capable of such solid police work. Still, there was an issue he had waited to chew him out for, even if it earned him a fist to the face. Just thinking about the danger this man had put himself in, only to save him after he had made him cry bitterly the very same day, made Virgil anxiously wonder how he had survived this long.

“And then you decided to enter a building full of heavily armed gang members out for your blood, while armed with nothing but your little cop gun and your scary partner? You could have – should have died! It’s a miracle you survived, I was not worth taking this risk you moron! What were you thinking?!” He was breathing heavily suddenly. His ribs were stabbing in pain with every breath he took and his heart was racing. He did not understand the sudden, retroactive fear for this man that flooded his veins. Despite his precarious situation, it made him lash out, desperate not to see him hurt.

Roman leaned forward worriedly, gently rubbing his bare back. “It’s okay, little raven. We are all safe now.” His touch felt good. Virgil blushed shamefully at how needy he was. What kind of slut would enjoy being touched considering the things he was about to do?! He tried to play it off. “I’m not a – don’t call me that!”

“Oh right! Not a bird!” He exclaimed sheepishly, before growing more serious. “I’m sorry for scaring you, but we knew what we were doing. You know how humans learn to associate certain facial expressions with certain situations and match their emotional responses accordingly? Like a closed fist or micro-expressions of aggression make our fight and flight instinct kick in. We heavily rely on those markers to unconsciously judge the right course of action. If the markers for expected behavior and emotional responses does not match the situation, this leads to an incongruence that causes confusion and insecurity. An unarmed cop cheerfully waltzing into the middle of a gang about to commit murder leads to such an incongruence and causes confusion. Such reactions are a natural protection from psychopaths out for our blood, because they fail to display the correct emotional markers like compassion, fear or empathy and could do anything at any given time. Those guys are scary.”

“Which is why you behaved like one of them to gain time.” Virgil murmured. He found himself completely taken in by the explanation, fascinated by the unexpected intelligence behind this harebrained rescue mission. He had not realized how much he had missed talking to smart, educated people. His estimation of Roman rose considerably as he considered how brave he had been, and how well this compassionate man had repressed his emotions in order to save him.

Roman beamed at him upon being admired. “Well I was captain of the drama club!” He puffed up his chest, looking like a pleased cat. There was a tension around his eyes though. Virgil felt he could read him better now. After a moment, his smile indeed turned soft, his eyes sad. He gently took hold of Virgil’s hand again, contemplating it in silence.

“You know, I studied quite a bit of criminal psychology during my training. I had a talent for profiling. I can see that you had to bear a lot of terrible experiences while you were taking care of your mother and that those experiences made you see yourself in a certain light.”

Upon hearing his prostitution addressed so openly, Virgil hunched further under the blanket and turned his face away. He felt his fair skin flush hotly with shame. The mere mention made him feel filthy. Like he had never really been able to wash the traces of their demanding hands off his body. He tried to pull his hand out of the careful grip, but Roman held on gently.

“Wait, please.” He leaned in and took hold of the delinquent’s chin, titling his face towards him. “I know you are ashamed, and that you don’t like to be seen the way you see yourself, but please, try looking at yourself through my eyes. Let me help you?” He implored, looking deeply into Virgil’s eyes. The younger man swallowed with difficulty, swallowed back tears. Something about those green eyes made him unable to look away, even though the humiliation he felt made him want to curl up under the blanket and make himself as small as possible. Roman took his silence as permission and tried to put his appreciation into words.

“When I look at you, I see a young man who is talented, brilliant and resourceful. A man who has survived anything life has thrown at him. A man who has put his mother first no matter what. Who did not give up, no matter how bad things became. I can see that you would have done anything in your power to make her comfortable, even hide your pain and bear everything alone. Even things who would have broken anyone else. I see a man who is passionate and caring despite the circumstances. A man who is selfless and brave, and risked everything the moment he had the chance to do the right thing. A man who even now is trying to protect me from my own recklessness despite being bruised and scared. I see awe inspiring potential. I see a young man who is worth protecting. And I will, as long as you let me.”

Roman never broke eye contact with him, gazing into Virgil’s eyes openly and full of emotion. Like he was looking at something amazing.

Virgil felt like he was falling. He could see it, just for a moment. The man Roman saw in him, reflected in his green eyes.

The detective’s hand was gentle where it held his chin, loose now, so he could escape. His touch felt reverent. Virgil latched onto the feeling, trying to draw courage from it. He could do this. Roman did not see him as something to be used and cast away. It would be different.

Virgil did not try to escape the hand holding him. Instead he grasped it tentatively, and led it to his cheek to cup his face. Safe and devoted. He leaned in.

Roman’s breath hitched as their lips touched. His world rocked to a halt.

Virgil was kissing him.

The contact was careful at first, unsure. Their lips brushed for the shortest moment, softly. The only thought Roman managed to grasp was that his lips were indeed as soft as rose petals. He was completely and utterly lost in him.

Emboldened, Virgil leaned closer, arching into the contact with the taller man like a cat stretching towards the rays of the sun. the taller man’s hand was warm on his cheek, cupping him safely, like a tiny bird in his palm.

Roman felt him arch closer, titling his chin up. His breath was warm, inviting. Their lips brushed again, like the wings of a butterfly brushing his skin. Roman felt a wave of emotion crash over him, pull him under. Protectiveness, care, desire.

Virgil felt the taller man’s breath quicken. His pulse quickened in response. He changed the angle, offering more. Inviting Roman to take what he wanted.

Roman felt him shift. Open his lips. Offering the warmth of his mouth. Felt his pulse under his hand. Frantic like a hummingbird.

The younger man allowed the covers to slide down his slender, almost naked form, pooling around his hips, so the detective could look, could touch. Goosebumps broke out on his pale skin.

Roman felt the shiver under his hand, the shaking of his breath as he kissed the corner of his lips, resisting the temptation to plunder his mouth. He deserved better. He deserved rose petals and presents, love letters and dates and to be courted reverently.

The corner of his mouth was kissed with such tenderness. It felt like Roman would be infinitely gentle with him. He pressed closer, kissing him harder. Trying to chase away the constricting feeling in his chest. The panicked flutter of his heart. This was not right. He was not supposed to be kissed this way.

Startled, he felt a sudden urgency. Feeling worried, he brought his other hand up to Virgil’s shoulder, trying to steady him as his mouth was attacked so impatiently. His skin was cold to the touch. He frowned, trying to gentle the kiss once again.

Virgil felt like screaming, like sobbing as Roman tried to soothe him, tried to be tender with him. Did he not know how to touch a whore?! A tremor rocked his body.

Feeling the slender form tremble under his touch, Roman tried to pull away. Something felt wrong!

Virgil felt the detective attempt to lean back. No! Could he not even do this right? Desperately, he yanked him back, kissed him hard. He had seen what Roman wanted. He would yield to his desire, make it good for him. He had to.

He was kissed hard suddenly, frantically. Everything stuttered to a halt. Roman tasted blood.

Devastated, he pulled away, grasping his slender arms to keep the delinquent from following. His heart fell right through his chest at the sight before him. Virgil was trembling. Not from desire but from cold and terror. His eyes were wild and wet with unspilled tears. Blood ran down his chin from his lip. The scabbed over cut had split open under the force of the kiss. It felt like ice in his heart, to see him like this. Like its sharp pieces ran him right through from the inside. What had he done?!

Virgil saw horror dawn on the handsome face of the detective. It felt like missing a step on his way down, like he was crashing. Fear washed over him, icy cold. This was his only chance, he could not mess this up! With terror closing up his throat, he could see that Roman finally saw him for what he was. How disgusting he was. He would cast him out. Virgil had to convince him!

Roman saw panic flood those dark eyes. Virgil tried to crowd closer, ran shaking hands down his chest. “Please – I know I’m not – I can still make you feel good, I swear! Let me show you!” Frantic hands grasped the buckle of his belt, offering – himself. Roman felt tears rise in his eyes and bile in his throat. He captured the pleading hands.

“Virgil, what are you talking about? I don’t – why would you -” He broke off, trying to make sense of what was happening. The world was spinning.

The younger man wrenched his hands free viciously, suddenly feeling helpless anger rise in him. “Why are we doing this dance now? I know why you brought me here, so let’s get it over with!” He snarled, frustrated tears streaming down his bruised cheeks. “You don’t need to play coy with me, I’m just a whore. Now do you want me or not?!”

“No!”

Virgil stopped in his tracks. He finally looked at Roman. He looked – devastated.

The young man fell back on the bed, baffled. What the hell? Roman did not want him after all? But he had thought – he had nothing else to offer but his body. What was he supposed to do now? Helplessness flooded him.

Roman saw his face crumble. It hurt like the shards of ice in his heart were driven right through his rib cage. It left him frozen. He had no idea how to make it better.

He would later thank all the stars for the blessing that was his partner. Logan had heard the commotion, the pain in Virgil’s voice, and had rushed to the guestroom. Taking in the sight before him, Roman’s ruffled state, his kiss swollen lips, painted ruby red with Virgil’s blood, his utter devastation, Virgil’s exposed state, his bleeding lips, his lost expression, he thankfully came to the right conclusion. Usually, he would hope for Roman’s help in a situation like this, feeling insecure. This time, he had to manage alone. Thinking quickly, he asked himself what Patton would do, and combined it with his logical approach.

He crossed the room and calmed his partner, while he grabbed the soft, warm sweater he had chosen for Virgil. “Breathe Roman. I am here.” He ordered. Roman tried, looking at him like a thankful puppy. Like he would make everything right.

No pressure.

He turned to Virgil, holding out the pullover he had arranged so he could slip into it and addressed him curtly. “Put this on, you will feel less exposed.” The young delinquent seemed too confused to protest and allowed Logan to slip the wool sweater over his head and arms. The older detective settled on the side of the bed and used his handkerchief to gently wipe away tears and blood from the pale face. “There you go.” He mumbled. He knew his approach was much less empathic and sensitive than Roman’s, but he tried his best. Shaken, Virgil allowed the other to manhandle him in a docile manner. That would not do. “You are distressed.” Logan observed. “Take this rat. He will calm you.” He gently placed the rodent from his shoulder in the trembling hands and closed them around the curious creature. After looking him over critically, he started to run his long fingers through Virgil’s tangled, purple hair, grooming him. He always felt better when he was tidy and the sensation apparently reassured Roman and Patton, so the assumption that it might prove effective once again was feasible.

Indeed, after a long startled moment of feeling the sweater warm his body, the rat lick his fingers and the gentle hands run through his hair in a soothing motion, Virgil felt his panic lessen. Looking at the clinical approach to his comfort this usually so scary detective used, he saw the stress the situation clearly put the detective under. He tried hard to soothe him, but was clearly out of his element. The idea that this man, whose best solution to distress was shoving a rat into his hands, would want to use him like he had feared, suddenly seemed utterly ridiculous. With some surprise, he noticed that he actually felt comforted. Detective Sanders could apparently be quite the gentle dork.

Being done with his grooming, Logan looked at his charge seriously and addressed him clearly. “I am not good at handling emotional emergencies, but I believe I can clear some things up. I need you to listen, understood?” His voice was firm, but there was warmth to it. Virgil nodded. He still felt frightened and helpless, but the sheer hope Roman placed in this man made him want to give him a chance. It was a childish, pathetic wish, but he desperately wanted detective Sanders to make everything right. He was so tired.

“I was led to believe you are intelligent, so bear with me please. I would like you to consider the kind of men you have almost exclusively interacted with in the past few years. Assess them in terms of their treatment of you and the emotional responses you have been forced to assimilate.” Virgil’s brow furrowed. What the hell – did he want to do a fucking social experiment with him now?! He felt like giving up immediately. The thought of going through the interactions with these men – the men who had only cared for the pleasure they could get through his body, who had pushed him to his knees and used him, the Scorpions that had envied and feared his position in equal measures, who had been waiting for a weakness to exploit, Hector, who had kept him around to use him in a different way, who had turned out just like the men grabbing and pulling at him in the end. The thought made him feel drained. But he did it – was already doing it. They blurred together before his eyes, leering at him and threatening him with their desires and aggressions. He shivered.

The little rat squeaked suddenly, trying to climb his chest. With a little hop, it managed to hold onto his sweater and climb to his neck, where it was soft and ticklish. He felt some of the bitterness in his throat ease. He nodded to the detective, clenching his jaw hard.

“Good. You are doing well, Virgil. Now, I would like you to establish a hypothesis about the effects of a continued exposure to such individuals would have on your expectations and perceptions of the motives of other men concerning you.” He instructed clearly. The young man had been a gifted engineer, so Logan hoped a scientific approach would help him dissociate the situation from his feelings and take a more rational point of view.

It felt like he could see the gears turning in Virgil’s head.

After a long, tense moment, he groaned deeply and hid his face in his hands. Nicodemus chirped in his ear and cuddled close to his neck. Virgil pulled his knees up and buried his face deeper in his arms, trying to make sense of the revelations his quick mind were offering and his feeling of utter humiliation. His whole perception of Roman shifted drastically and it made him dizzy. His head hurt.

He wished the world would just go away and let him sleep. At the same time, his mind was racing, eagerly latching onto a concept that might protected him.

The detectives waited quietly. Logan clasped Roman’s hand firmly, mutely trying to calm him. He wanted to tell Virgil what his frightened mind was doing to him. How it reduced himself to nothing but a body to use, because that was all men had wanted from him for years. How he had come to expect nothing else from them, especially after the only man who had not wanted to fuck him had betrayed him and actually tried to rape him just hours ago. But this insight would work much better if it came from him. He would not usually expect such a cognitive leap from a victim of abuse, but Virgil was a genius. He believed in him.

Finally, they could hear a muffled voice from under his arms. “You’re – you’re saying I generalized my expectations on the basis of my experiences and -” He groaned in mortification, hiding his face deeper under his sweater clad arms. The detectives leaned closer to understand him. “- and I judged Roman’s motivations based on them, even though...” He fell quiet, apparently completely drained.

Tentatively, Roman reached out, announcing his movements. “I’ll put a hand on your back, okay?” Hearing no objection, he tenderly started rubbing the skin through the comfortingly soft fabric. He felt the knobs of his spine under his hands.

“Your reaction was perfectly normal Virgil. Please don’t be ashamed. This is all my fault.” He could not believe he was apologizing for wrecking this poor creature again. In this moment, Roman hated himself.

The delinquent growled from the safety of his arms. “STOP trying to take the blame!” He rumbled, voice muffled.

“It is though! Virgil, please look at me. Just this once so I can clear this up once and for all and you never have to be afraid of me again.” His voice sounded so anguished, so pained, that the former gang member reluctantly raised his head so he could look over his arms, just barely. Roman had hurt enough because of him.

“Let me make this clear.” Roman implored. “I do not expect anything from you. No compensation, no favors, nothing. I want to help you. Because I like you. But I can promise you now that I will never demand anything from you at all. You probably – you probably saw that I had – fanciful, romantic ideas about you – because – because you are smart and fierce and beautiful and I was fascinated. But I will never ask you for anything or pursue those foolish feelings I had in any way, ever, again.” It hurt badly to say those words, but the pain he had caused hurt far worse. In this moment, he buried his romantic notions. He’d keep his feelings to himself, and never burden Virgil with them again. “I should have never let you get the impression that I wanted something from you at all, all of this is – is so unethical, because you are dependent on me, so I completely understand why you would think that I -” He broke off, looking away first.

This hurt. Virgil had thought such horrible things about him. Roman tried to breathe through the pain.

“Then – what do you want from me? I get that you need a testimony, but why not dump me at a hospital?” He asked weakly.

Roman bravely tried to smile. “Like I said, I want to help. And maybe – maybe be your friend.” Virgil scoffed. “Seriously?”

Upon hearing this blatant disregard for the concept that connected him with his Logan, Roman puffed up indignantly despite the tears in his eyes. “Hey! I’ll have you know that the most valued person in my life is my friend!” He cried, ruthlessly wrapping an arm around his partner’s neck and yanking him close. And almost off the bed. Roman ignored his annoyed spluttering. “I love this nerd more than my life and I would die for him! Being the friend of this noble protector of the law is a great honor that should not be scoffed at!”

Nicodemus started squeaking in a way that unmistakeably sounded like sniggering. Roman glared.

Yet, as a little, breathy sound escaped Virgil that was almost a laugh, he forgave the insufferable pest instantly. Seeing his guest’s tiredness, Logan freed himself from his friend and took charge. “In order to avoid confusion, I should let you know that I am exclusively interested in friendship as well, and that I apparently display the unfortunate habit of taking in strays.” Hilariously, he did not look at the rat as he spoke those words, but at Roman. “ME?!” He wailed indignantly. “Indeed.” His partner answered drily.

Their bickering seemed to calm Virgil somewhat, so Logan used his mellow mood. “The medic Roman called should be here shortly. He shall examine you and decide whether you require professional treatment. If you do not, I invite you to stay in my guestroom for as long as you need. You are safe here from any Scorpions who may have managed to escape and more than welcome to keep us company.” With gentle hands, he pushed the young man flat on his back and pulled the blanket over him. Virgil let him. The cool rat settled on the pillow next to his head, close enough so he could feel warm fur brush his cheek. It curled into a little ball, settling its head on its curled up tail like a pillow. Then, something utterly unexpected happened. Detective Sanders leaned down and kissed his forehead. The imposing man flushed a little, but still took the time to brush his bangs from his eyes. It felt – nice. The uptight, yet loving manners of this man somehow appeared nonthreatening to Virgil. He felt like he would rather adopt than grope him. Not a feeling he was used to, but one he had missed so much more than he had allowed himself to admit.

The doorbell interrupted the quiet mood that had finally settled over them. Virgil groaned. He wanted to sleep, not be examined. And he would rather die than leave this warm bed with a rat next to his cheek, planted shaped lights and lots of books. And those emotional dorks.

Roman left wordlessly to get the door. Virgil’s gaze followed the tall detective. “Don’t feel bad. Your reactions are shaped by your experiences. The only way they can change is with time and patience.” Logan told him gently.

Virgil felt his throat close up at the unexpected kindness. This man had a calmness and care about him that made him feel – accepted. Looked after even. He felt like a fucking child as he dared to make the request, but he could not help himself. He just could not be alone with strangers now. Especially if they touched him. “Would you stay?” He blurted out, feeling his face burn.

Logan appeared surprised by the request. His gaze softened. “Certainly.”

A moment later, Roman entered the room, followed by a lanky young man with orange-red hair pulled up in a ponytail. He was carrying a battered suitcase and a paper box decorated with a flowery pastel print. Not what he had expected.

The man gave him a lopsided grin, which broadened as Logan started to splutter. “This is the medic you were referring to?” The older detective growled incredulously. Roman shrugged apologetically.

“Hey, I went to med school, actually.” The man piped up. “I’m Redmond, fully trained doctor currently working as a barista because of reasons.” He exclaimed cheerfully, thoroughly ignoring Logan’s rather intimidating anger.

“Patton told me about him during our trip to the flea market. He swears he’s reliable.” Roman commented meekly. Virgil spoke up before they could continue bickering.

“Wait – Patton, as in – the Patton whose place we trashed?” Guilt stared flooding him. He tried to push himself up, suddenly feeling like the pain in his ribs was the least he deserved at he recalled the terrified young man. Logan resolutely pushed him back down. His own anger would not quite come, as he saw how much Virgil blamed himself for the actions he himself did not even take part in.

“You trashed that place? Great!” Redmond the doctor/barista exclaimed sarcastically. He looked amused though. “Listen dude, I don’t know what happened, but you don’t look happy about it. I know all about bad decisions and desperate situations, trust me. I put myself through med school by stripping. It was a blast.” Though his voice had ramped up the sarcasm even more, he winked at the delinquent cheerfully. “How about we’ll get this examination over with and then you get to eat the stuff Pat made me bring you and pass out finally. You look like you need it.”

“What? Why did he make you bring me something?” Virgil asked, wearily eying the colorful box.

“Well, Roman called him and explained who you were, I guess, and that you were hurt. He said if those guys here took you in and if you are hurting you must deserve some comfort food. And he made me promise to make you promise to make him eat or he would come and do it himself.” Redmond elaborated and leveled Logan with a strict look. The detective appeared surprised at those decisive words, but found himself warmed by the pattisier’s care. It did sound like him to want to nourish and help, even when it was about a person who had scared him. He marveled at the depth of Patton’s kindness.

Redmond made sure to examine his patient quickly and carefully, cleaning cuts, asking questions about his head and his ribs, and listening to his breathing. Logan stayed with him though it all. Virgil hissed with pain as his ribs were examined. The gentle detective captured his hand and let him hold on tight while he was touched so unpleasantly. Thankfully, the doctor/barista kept it short. After a few minutes, he pulled Virgil’s sweater down and diagnosed him with two cracked and one broken rib, as well as a concussion and a lot of bruising. There was little to do about it except for a lot of sleep and pain medication. “And pastries!” he exclaimed. The redhead was gone as soon as he had appeared, like a sarcastic redheaded hurricane, feeling the need to let his patient rest.

Suddenly, Virgil was alone with the two men who had saved him. He felt very shy.

So did Roman apparently. His broad shoulders were hunched uncharacteristically. He appeared to be at a loss about what to say. Helpfully, Logan nodded to the box on the bedside table. It was a little piece of Patton, here in his flat. There could never be a situation that could not be made better by Patton’s presence, in Logan’s estimation.

Roman perked up. “I’ll get you a fork! You have to taste Pat’s baking!” He chirped.

Feeling himself blush, Virgil nonetheless attempted to put Roman at ease. “Just one? You expect me to eat all that alone?” He complained softly. Maybe this would work. He would not have to talk and could therefor not say anything stupid.

The detective paused in the doorway, looking him over. Apparently he saw how important it was for Virgil to put this situation behind them, how he was reaching out. He grinned brightly, trying to help him out. “Awesome!” There was no need to fake his glee at getting some of Pat’s pastries.

Logan helped Virgil sit up from his position on the other side of the bed, where he had settled during the examination. Experiencing a similar feeling like when Patton wanted a hug, but was too shy to ask for it, the detective gently wrapped an arm around Virgil, settling them against the headboard. The young man was tense at first, expecting to be hurt. But then he sank against Logan thankfully. Nicodemus had not been pleased to be moved, but now he climbed up the delinquent’s chest and curled up against his neck, close to Logan.

The detective felt unexpected warmth flood his chest. He would have never expected to feel such protectiveness for this insufferable little creature. But he was so small at his side, so cautiously needy. Logan wanted to feed him and tug him in bed and look after him. He gently rubbed his arm through the sweater. Something told him these shows of affection would not be so easily possible once Virgil was more recovered, he would likely become shy and defensive, and feel embarrassed of needing to be cared for. Logan would have to be a little more patient then, so he decided to enjoy being able to comfort the young man now. He pulled him close and kissed his hair. Virgil breathed out shakily, burying his hands in his too long sleeves and sinking against him more firmly.

For a moment, Logan missed Patton dearly. So much had happened, it felt like he had not seen the lovely baker in ages. He resolved to visit him as soon as possible. He felt frazzled from all the stress. Having Patton’s warm, soft body in his arms would make everything better.

As Roman returned with the cutlery and some hot tea for Virgil, he was treated with a very soothing picture. His – Virgil – he reminded himself strictly, had curled up under Logan’s arm, the infernal plague tucked under his jaw. He finally looked more at ease. He had known his partner could do it! It hurt a little to be on the outside of this loving scene, but he would not be selfish.

However, Virgil had looked up as he entered and apparently read him correctly. Taking a breath to gather his courage, he indicated to the empty space next to him and invited Roman politely. “What are you waiting for, dude?” Or as politely as he was going to become. Virgil was torn between wanting his space and wanting to be held tight, so he took a chance. As a beaming smile broke out on Roman’s face and he settled on the bed next to them, Virgil found he had made the right decision. He examined Roman properly in the light of his new found revelation and found no trace of aggression or desire in the way he nested next to him. He was safe, and being held between the two taller men felt good.

Roman placed the box in Virgil’s lap and opened the lid. All three took a moment to simply admire the beauty of Patton’s work.

Inside the large carton sat enough little cakes and pastries to feed three hungry men easily. They found round, delicate cinnamon apple rose tarts, with apple slices cut so thin and wrapped around each other so delicately that they created the look of actual roses. Next to them sat delicately made chocolate hazelnut crunch cakes, with creamy chocolate mousse on top. A fruity contrast was created by fresh lime berry tars, with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries carefully piled on top and delicately dusted with powdered sugar. Chocolate mousse domes covered with shining ganache sitting on flaky, buttery cookies reflected the colorful berries next to them. There were also tiny donuts filled with grapefruit curd and dusted with lemon sugar, as well as little square cheese cakes with caramelized apricots and crunchy bits of almond on top of them. In the corners between the pastries, Patton had crammed tiny petty fours glazed with a vivid pink or lavender finish or topped with fresh fruit or glazed flowers. He seemed to have been determined to feed them as much as possible.

Awed silence fell over the room, as the three men admired the pattisier’s creations. The smell filling the air was beyond delicious – sugar, cinnamon, caramel, lemon, fruit and chocolate all rolled into a heavenly aroma. They ate in reverent silence, completely absorbed in their enjoyment of this lovingly made gift. There was no room for fear or awkwardness as warmth, sugar and love filled their bellies. Virgil finally found himself tired in a pleasant way as they scraped the leftover crumbs from the corner of the box. Roman gently took carton and fork from his hands and Logan helped him settle down under the covers. Virgil fell asleep to the feeling of gentle hands smoothing back his hair.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Virgil awoke to rainbow-colored sunlight hitting his face. He groaned slightly and rolled over, hiding his face in the soft cotton pillow. The pain in his chest and the acing bruises on his face and torso were a stark reminder of what happened the day before. He curled up as tightly as his battered body allowed. His cursed brain rarely allowed him to forget anything, so the day – had it really only been one day? - was still clear in his memory. The way Hector had beaten him, held him down, the way he had tried to – his mind shied away from the thought. He was fine. Nothing had happened. He desperately tried to tell himself. Roman had saved him.

Roman. Only this thought properly pierced the nauseating memories of helplessly being pinned to the floor, of the Scorpions leaning over him like grinning beasts, their mouths gaping and ready to tear him apart with their lust for violence and his flesh. Roman had not been afraid of them. Even after everything he had done to the man, he had literally swooped in and carried him to safety in his arms. Keeping his eyes closed, he considered the word. Safety. It was a long time since he had last felt anything like it. But, what he had felt yesterday, when Roman had sat on one side, almost purring with contentment, and detective Sanders had sat on his other side, reverently eating the pastries of this too kind pattisier, it had felt a lot like safety. It had felt good. And yet.

His face heated with shame as he recalled how he had thrown himself at Roman, how detective Sanders must have seen him, half naked, bruised and desperately trying to seduce his partner like a bitch in heat. Virgil groaned softly, feeling utterly humiliated. However, he had been very kind and understanding, quite unlike what he had expected. He had even comforted him and – kissed his forehead. Had he really not imagined it? It felt like an impossible gesture, considering how cold and terrifying he had been at that cafe and at the precinct. Yesterday he had been so gentle and caring. Both of them. It felt unbelievable. Something like this did not happen to him.

They would surely turn on him, like Hector had eventually.

Feeling fear start to take root in his chest, making his heart beat frantically under his battered ribs, Virgil finally opened his eyes. He was a fool for lying here, at the mercy of strangers. He needed to get out of here!

The first thing he saw was the fur of a brown-gray rat, curled up tightly next to his face, bathed in rainbow-colored light. His thoughts stuttered to a halt. He had not felt such innocent wonder uncurl in his chest since he had been a teenager, eager to explore and lean new things. Virgil had always wanted a pet, but his mother had been allergic and they could not afford a hypoallergenic animal. And now there was a rat sleeping next to him. It was – so fucking adorable.

A new thought took hold in his confused mind. Detective Sanders clearly loved this rat, and he had still left it here with him – a worthless criminal. The sight steered his thoughts back to the revelation he had helped him gain. It was quite logical really, and Virgil could appreciate logic. His view of the world was altered by trauma and emotion, so he needed to think logically. The two men had taken a considerable risk for him and apparently did not expect any compensation. The thought would not sit right with Virgil, but evidence suggested it was the case. There were genuinely kind people in the world. He had used to know this, tried to remember it. They were kind men. They had trusted him with an innocent pet, just to make him feel better. He must not let his anxiety get the best of him.

Instead, Virgil tried to distract himself. Feeling curiosity for something once again was a good feeling. Like a part of him came back to life. He wanted to know where the rainbow-light painting the cool rat came from.

Gently, so not to frighten it, he climbed out of bed and padded to the window. The sweater the detective had dressed him in was comfortable and warm and fell down to his tights. Soft, mid-morning light fell through the crack in the galaxy themed curtains. He pulled them apart cautiously, and came upon a collection of large, pastel colored crystals sitting on the windowsill between the lush plants in the corners. The more he pulled the curtains aside, the more the light they broke into violet, blue, green, yellow and red fell on his sweater and the room behind him. With careful hands, he picked up the one in the center, turning it in the light. It was a large crystal, shaped roughly like a pillar with uneven edges. It displayed different shades of violet and purple, darker at the bottom and lighter at the top. A Kunzite, his mind supplied, remembering a time when he had enthusiastically read about minerals and crystals as a kid. He felt himself smiling suddenly. He had not done that in a long time. Well. Logan had cool stuff. He would certainly not be brave enough to call him by his first name to his face, but after sleeping with his rat and finding his awesome collection, “detective Sanders” felt too formal in his head. He allowed himself a few minutes of running his fingers over the smooth, cool surface of the lovely crystal and to let the sun warm his face, before he set it back down between the others. Contemplating the minerals with their fascinating, crystalline structures calmed him. He spotted a delicately pale pink colored Mangano Calcite, which had formed thin, rose petal like structures. Close to it sat a gorgeous Tanzanite Fluorite. Unlike the charmingly messy light rose mineral, this one displayed a clear, clean blue coloring with straight lines and glowing surfaces. Its tidy, light blue crystalline structures were clear as water. Beside the violet crystal he had held sat a polished Tourmaline section – a mineral cut into a thin slice, dark red, almost pink on the outside, brighter and warmer on the inside. It filled the room with pink and scarlet light as he held it into the sun. He spotted another mineral, hidden half under the leafs of a citrus geranium. Virgil paused and touched the slightly grainy, feathered leafs between his fingers. A fresh, citrus smell filled the room. He closed his eyes and breathed it in. His mother used to grow this plant on the windowsill as well. He had not smelled this particular scent in a long time. It brought back good memories he had thought lost.

The delinquent gave himself another moment to enjoy the familiar plant, and the sweet, melancholy pain it brought with it, before he contemplated the mineral hidden half under it. He did not recall its name, but found the look curious – like crystallized, sulfur yellow bubbles.

Virgil turned away to explore more of the room he had been left in. The door was closed and he was alone. He appreciated the privacy. He tried to push the frightening idea aside that the door might be locked from the outside, and focused on exploring.

First, he dressed in the clothes Roman had given him. Fresh underwear, thick wool socks and black sweat pants. He felt better finally being dressed. Less exposed. By now, the cool rat had started to stir and curiously stretched his nose in his direction, whiskers twitching. Virgil carefully reached out and offered his hand. The rat didn’t bother sniffing him, but immediately traveled up his arm and settled on his shoulder, where it tried to sniff his ear. A startled giggly escaped him. Shocked at his own audacity, delinquent instinctively clasped a hand over his mouth to muffle it. Such sweet sounds had been dangerous among the Scorpions. The rat sniffed his fingers curiously and licked them. He was not with them anymore, Virgil reminded himself. He was alone in a room with awesome crystals and a cool rat. He was allowed to laugh and like nerdy, pretty things while he was alone.

Pulling the other curtain aside, he found the next windowsill stuffed with even more plants. An orchid with white, delicately pink spotted flowers stretched towards the sun. Never in a million years would he have expected something like this in the scary detective’s flat. It somehow made the imposing man seem – softer. More gentle. It made Virgil feel like he knew him a little better and had to be less intimidated by him. Hector had never shown any gentle sides, or allowed him to see his home, even though he had called him son. Virgil hugged himself close, hating how his dark thoughts always permeated every cheerful moment, like ink poured in water, they spread in his mind and darkened every last corner with their swirling blackness.

The feeling of tiny paws on his neck pulled him back. The cool rat was still there. It squeaked at him as he turned to look, and stretched to brush its soft little nose against Virgil’s. It was like the contact chased the inky blackness away. He could not hold on to a dark thought like this. Cautiously petting the rat, he turned to the opposite wall to examine the bookcase running along the wall. The door, which might or might not be locked, was ignored for now.

Virgil had missed books. He had not had the chance to read in years. He reverently ran his fingertips over the spines, dark and bright, pale and colorful, glossy and worn, new and shining as well as old and dusty. They were ordered alphabetically. He felt a grin tuck on the corner of his lips. For a moment, he allowed himself to get lost in the titles, pulling out books at random and examining them, feeling them. The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Bees by Laline Paull, The Handmaid’s Tail by Margret Atwood, The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, The Cursed Childby J.K. Rowling, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, Golden Slumbers, Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection, Powerless, The Importance of Being Earnest. Again, Virgil found himself smiling. His chest was swelling with his love for books, as he held a lovingly illustrated children’s book by William Joyce in one hand, admiring the bright, colorful cover, and a cute paperback novel called Princess, with a patchy dog and a young man on the cover. He could not hold back a laugh. As he took in the eccentric mix of books, most of them from female authors and lots of them adorable, he felt some more of his residual fear of Logan melt away. He pushed the books back where they belonged and reverently straightened a fantasy novel with a dark cover. And laughed out loud once again. It was called Within the Shadows of the Soul, there is Beauty. Suddenly he could clearly imagine it. Logan the hard-ass detective who scared everyone, curling up with a romance, sci-fi or fantasy novel, Roman at his side, lovingly mocking him for his choice, while he leafed thought glossy magazines. Logan would scowl at him, feeling embarrassed, but not hiding his book. He would never let his colleagues see him like this, but here, in his home, he could enjoy his novels.

Without warning, Virgil was overwhelmed by a longing so strong, he was forced to sit on the bed heavily. He wanted nothing more than to curl up with them, half hidden under a blanket, and read in silence, while they bickered with each other. He had not allowed himself to wish for things like that – impossible, unattainable things – in a long time. But these wishes felt so much more fitting than any goals he had worked towards in the past years. Like slipping on a favorite sweater after a cold day, Virgil felt like coming home to himself. Here, alone in this living, enthusiastically nerdy room, with a cool rat on his shoulder and nothing but quiet and books and sunlight warming his back, Virgil felt like he was finally uncovering a part of himself again that he had hidden away to protect it – and himself.

He ran a gentle hand over the rat’s fur, liking how soft and alive it was on his shoulder. A tiny, warm weight. He was just a guest in this marvelous apartment, and could very well end up in jail anyway, but those thoughts felt far away now. Logan had trusted him to see this intimate part of himself, even though it probably embarrassed him. And Roman – Roman had forgiven him and protected him and soothed him even after he had lied and probably embarrassed him with his needy and pathetic behavior. Even after he had pawed at him and assaulted him with his kisses and hands, and painted him red with his blood, Roman had not thrown him out or even looked at him like he was disgusting. He had sat beside him and eaten pastries and offered his friendship. He felt like he had fallen through a rabbit hole where things were upside down.

But – maybe not as much as he hoped. He still had not tried the door.

He knew he should, but he could not make himself move. He feared it had all been a dream his concussed mind had come up with. That they were keeping him here to – to use him after all. Try as he might, the thought would not go away. Things were too good to be true. His acing bruises seemed to hurt even more as those painful thoughts tortured him. A stab, close to his heart, made him curl around his cracked and broken torso helplessly. He clenched his jaw, trying to suppressed the pained whimper attempting to escape his bruised throat. The cool rat squeaked and pressed closer to his neck. He tried to breathe. Breathe through the agony and helplessness.

After the pain had subsided to manageable levels, he spotted something on the bedside table. A note. How had he managed to miss it? Oh right, rat and rainbow-light had distracted him. He picked it up and found thick, off-white paper under his fingertips. The handwriting was very tidy and the words had been written by an actual fountain pen. Definitely Logan.

Salutations Virgil,
I hope you have experienced a restful night
. Virgil scoffed in amusement. Yes, definitely Logan.

Roman and I have chosen do stay home today, to endeavor to support you and complete some work regarding your case. You will be pleased to learn that we are confident to have made some progress last night. Since we stayed up past our usual routine, we may “sleep in”, in order to gain the amount of rest required for an adult. Should you wake up before us, please be advised to take your pain medication to ensure your comfort. Feel free to call if you need any assistance at all.
Should you choose to leave your room, I would like to inform you that everything you need is at your disposal. The bathroom is down the hall and the kitchen is on the left through the living room. Please do not hesitate to ask for assistance and attempt not to overexert yourself. We will be pleased to support you in any way you require
.

Virgil let the letter sink into his lap and brushed his fingertips over the paper where the detective had signed his name and Roman had scrawled his in cheerful, loopy letters as well. This was – much kinder than he had anticipated. So he was not locked in after all? They treated him like a guest? He could not wrap his head around their reasoning.

Since his chest was protesting sharply with every breath, he picked up the painkillers and the glass of water they had indeed left for him and drowned both. He could not sit in this comfortable room forever, so he decided to see if his saviors were up. He was shaking a little as he reached for the door. What if it was locked after all? What if it wasn’t, and he would have to face Logan and Roman? He did not feel steady enough for human contact yet. Being in here had felt safe, but out there, anything could happen to him.

He scolded himself harshly. How pathetic he was. He had faced much worse with bared teeth and a snarl. Decisively, he pushed down the handle. The door swung open. Virgil shakily released a breath he had been holding. He was no prisoner and no one was waiting to hurt him on the other side. An unassuming corridor awaited him in a silent flat. It was painted a light green, with wood paneling that came up to his hips. Colorful pictures lined the walls and several more bookcases and cabinets were put up here and there. And to his right, next to hooks tidily holding dark blue, black and one or two red or brown coats, was the front door. He felt like an idiot.

They were cops, of course they could let him roam around in the flat, it was not like he could really hurt them. Roman had shown that very clearly. All they needed to do was lock the fucking front door. Disheartened, he crept closer and examined it. It looked like ordinary wood, but the talented engineer spotted steel enforcement and special, heavy duty steel bolt locks. Logan was not fucking around. Virgil’s narrow shoulders fell. He turned away, feeling quite hopeless suddenly, and spotted the small hooks next to the door. Two sets of keys hung there. One no-nonsense keyring, and one with a cheerful key-chain of a silvery model of the Disney palace, as well as colorful wooden balloons attached to a little figure of the house from the movie “up”.

Virgil stared. He could see the keys belonging to the door from where he stood, attached to both key-chains each. They had just left them hanging there. What the hell? He felt a sudden urgency rise in him. This was his chance. He could slip out, get a train ticket somehow and disappear forever. Escape the threats of the Scorpions and the demands of people he was forced to depend on. He could make it alone, he knew it.

Making up his mind fast, he grabbed the colorful key-chain and inserted the key, unlocked the door and prepared to make a dash for it.

A stain on his sleeve made him pause. Powdered sugar.

He recalled the way Roman had grinned at him as they ate the pastries that had been sent to him, just because he had been hurt. He remembered how the detective’s bright green eyes had sparkled, how loving he had been. There had been powdered sugar smudged on his nose. He remembered Logan’s steady, calm voice, the gentle hands pushing him down – not to hurt him but to make him rest. He remembered how Logan had kissed his forehead. If he left now, all of this would be lost forever. He was too weak, couldn’t give it up. Slowly, he allowed the door to fall closed again. If this decision ended with him in jail, he would certainly hate his sorry ass, but what he had experienced here had been the best thing that had happened to him since – since his mother had been healthy and happy. He could not leave.

A cheery squeak interrupted his thoughts. He startled visibly. Right, he still had the cool rat on his shoulder. For a baffled moment he marveled at the nativity of those idiots. He could have just walked out with this awesome creature and not even have done it intentionally. They could really use a realist in this household. The thought warmed him a little. It was fanciful and stupid, but to feel like he could actually contribute in some small way was a nice fantasy.

He turned away from the door, from freedom and loneliness, and towards the bathroom. He was thankful that Roman had washed the blood from his face, but we wanted to be properly clean again. Locking the bathroom door gave him some small measure of security. It was very clean and decently sized. Large windows covered with light curtains let in lots of light for the plants at the window. There was a shower and a bathtub on his right side, and a counter with a sink and a large mirror above it on the other. On the left side of the counter, he found some basic care products. On the right, there was a mess of make-up, skin and hair products, perfume and nail polish. Huh. Had Roman not said this was Logan’s apartment? What the hell kind of relationship did they have? He was so glad once again that they had promised not to demand sexual favors from him, and hoped they would keep their promise. As he started pulling the borrowed clothes of, setting the rat on the counter and avoiding looking at the mirror, he tried to make sense of them. They did not feel like they were in a relationship. Maybe they were just really close friends and Roman had nested here in this nice flat? He could certainly understand the urge.

The rat squeaked as he turned on the shower. He was pathetically thankful for its undemanding presence. Even though human contact scared the heck out of him right now, he still yearned not to be alone and felt crippling loneliness at the mere thought. Why did he have to be such a contrary mess?

Right now, the little one was not so undemanding though. It wanted down? Gently, he set it one the floor, where it gleefully started playing with the soft carpet. A smile curled Virgil’s lips. His naked form shivered from the cool air a moment later. He had always grown cold quickly, and had become very thin in the last years, which really wasn’t helping. He just hadn’t seen the point in feeding himself properly.

He let out a thankful sigh as he stepped under the warm spray, which turned into a surprised shriek. Clasping a hand over his mouth again, he hoped no one had heard him. The flat stayed silent. He looked down at the source of his surprise. Just as he had been about to close the door, the cool rat had shot into the shower with him and was now grooming itself contently under the spray. What the hell?

Virgil had only really known this rat for a day, but he already loved it in unhealthy measures. However having it sit at his feet while he was in the shower – naked, was really fucking -

The rat looked up at him and sent him a series of cheery squeaks, brushing its little paws over its nose and whiskers. Awww fuck.

Grabbing a random shampoo, he tried to resign himself to his fate. The young delinquent hissed in pain as he had to raise his arms to wash his hair. He didn’t care. He felt filthy and disgusting and would get clean now even if it killed him! Considering how much his chest was hurting, it felt quite possible. Damn he was feeling dramatic today.

Virgil sighed in relieve once he was able to lower his arms and let the water wash away the soap. He should have waited longer after taking the painkillers. As he tried to breathe through the pain, a quite adorable sight distracted him unexpectedly. The rat was hopping around on the shower floor, chasing the bubbles that washed down his legs and popping them. It was the cutest fucking thing.

While he watched, he felt the medication finally kick in and allow him to move again. He grabbed a shower-gel and a washcloth and started scrubbing, suddenly unable to wait another minute. He wanted it washed off. All of it. He was not even sure what it was, but the needed to feel clean again.

After he had worked on the street, he had often stood under scalding hot water and scrubbed at his skin until it was red and raw, sometimes until he bled. So it was no surprise to see a thin trail of blood mix with the water running down his body and color it pink. He stopped scrubbing. He had apparently rubbed too hard over a scabbed over scratch at his hip. Usually he would just be getting started, but now? Now there was a sogging wet, cheerful rodent playing at his feet. He could not taint the cool rat with his filth. He washed his pale skin more gently this time, trying not to hurt himself, for the rat’s sake.

Once he was done, he wrapped himself into a fluffy blue towel and let his new friend climb on his hand. Apparently used to it, the little animal let him dry its fur with a smaller towel he found next to the counter. Now dry and clean, it looked quite pleased with itself. A toothbrush in its original package was left on the counter on a pink piece of paper with his name scrawled on it. After brushing his teeth properly, he finally felt clean again and could relate to the rat’s feeling a little bit. He was thankful they were so considerate.

Having scrubbed his hair dry and dressed, Virgil and the rat once again ventured into the corridor. He figured the kitchen would be his next destination. He was used to going longer without food, but the rat must be hungry. The pictures on the walls drew his attention for a moment. They were hung in wooden frames and apparently hand-painted, sporting bright colors and showing marvelous fantasy landscapes or flowers. He allowed himself a moment to admire a bright painting of a steampunk like castle with golden turrets and delicate aeronautic constructions carried by colorful balloons circling them. The next picture displayed a scene of a beautiful pastel sunset, filled with cotton-candy clouds. Large blue whales appeared to swim weightlessly through the picture, floating dreamily through the clouds. Kitsch. But kinda cool.

Moving on, he estimated the door to his right must be the bedroom. He cautiously crept closer to listen. A loud noise made him jerk back. A snore? He heard shuffling and mumbling in response, from a different voice, before the room fell quiet again. Huh?

Confused, he tiptoed to the large double doors that were left. The upper parts were inlaid with colored glass displaying wildflowers, which made pink, yellow and green light spill into the corridor, and not closed all the way. He pushed one open slowly and peeked in. Damn, Logan’s living room was large. The opposite wall was covered in windows with a curved top, that went almost all the way down and overlooked the crowns of lush trees. A wooden desk stood before one, filled with tidy stacks of paper, one of those classic, green glass lamps and a Laptop. The others had low bookshelves built along the length of the windowsill, allowing for space to put one row of books inside and plants or pillows to sit in front of the windows on top of them. Ferns hung suspended in front of the glass, giving the place a lush, alive atmosphere, together with all of the other plants placed around the room. A white, L-shaped sofa stood in the center of the space, separated from part of the room by wooden beams supporting similar ones that ran along the ceiling. The back of one side of the sofa stood against the right wall, while the other faced the doors, giving the sitting space a closed off, safe feeling. Two mismatched, comfortable armchairs sat close to it, creating a loose circle around a low coffee table. Green, turquoise and blue pillows of various shades gave the setting a comfortable atmosphere. The beams visually cut the room in two parts. The smaller section close to Virgil was filled with bookcases. An overstuffed blue recliner sat in the corner near the shelves, with a little table next to it. It was stacked with more books. Along the walls of the larger section of the room, additional colorful, larger paintings were displayed on crème walls. He spotted swirling stars in vast universes and rainbows showering everything in shimmering light, flowers and detailed butterflies, so well painted it looked like they would start to flutter their wings at any moment. The coloring and brushstrokes were so similar, apparently Logan had a favorite artist? He would not have expected him to have chosen any of those paintings for himself though.

How the hell did he even afford such a flat?

Well, a scathing, cruel voice in Virgil’s head taunted, the most simple explanation would be that he is just another a dirty cop.

He shied away from the thought fearfully. He could just sell him to the remaining Scorpions if it were the case. It would not take hold in his mind. Somehow, he could not imagine the uptight detective doing something like this. Maybe Virgil was simply a paranoid and broken mess. He stepped further into the room, trying to distract himself.

The sofa was pulled out. A scarlet comforter lay rumpled on the couch, abandoned. Had Roman actually left in the middle of the night to crawl into bed with Logan? He stood, dumbfounded. The thoughts the Scorpions had impressed on him forcefully tried to creep in on his mind. Pathetic, weak, faggot. They felt hollow though. Wrong. What he felt instead was – warmth. He pushed those poisonous impressions away. He did not need them anymore. A smile tugged at his lips as he imagined Logan grumpily pulling back the covers to let Roman curl up with him. There was no matching scarlet pillow in sight. Maybe he had even taken it with him? The thought was nonthreatening – adorable even.

He turned towards the kitchen, and stopped. On the floor of the living room, a large canvass was leaning next to a wooden box, probably containing art supplies. It was a dashing graphite drawing of a lion’s head, adorned with a mane of lush, filled flowers – roses, peonies, ranunculus, dahlias and lilac. Someone had started to color the drawing with deep pink, scarlet, crimson, sunset orange, sunflower yellow and gold. Awed, Virgil stepped closer and examined the picture. The brush strokes were bold where they followed the lines of the flower petals, delicate where the fur of the lion was painted. Its eyes were dark and warm and felt like they were looking right at him. He knew, without a doubt, that Roman had painted this masterpiece. It was just like him, bold, brave, romantic and gorgeous.

Virgil flushed hotly at the thought and immediately tried to bury it deep. Such notions were dangerous and invited things he was not ready for. The fear would not really come though, as he gazed at those vibrant colors. He had lived in the shadows for so long, where the sickly sulfur yellow of the crude scorpion patch had been the only splash of color in his life. He had felt like he was fading with the brightness that had used to be his world. Like he was growing pale and paper thin. Dyeing his hair purple had been a sad attempt at holding on to what he used to be. The favorite blanket of his childhood had been the exact same shade of purple. His mother’s favorite color. He spotted it now with some surprise. Just the right shade, poured over a lovely dahlia close to the lion’s ear. The paint looked fresh. Had Roman sat here last night, thinking of him while he created something so innocent and beautiful? He could hardly see how he could have come up with the comparison. But – he had said he found him beautiful.

The thought scared Virgil. Being looked at, even being admired was dangerous. However, as he gazed at the gorgeous, vibrant flower painted on a creature as strong and majestic as this lion, he could not believe that there was anything in the gentle detective that wanted to break him. He had never looked down at him, or treated him as less, or weak. A blush crept up his cheeks as he recalled those ridiculous nicknames this moron had insisted on calling him. Kitten, thundercloud, lion cub – so fucking impossible! None of them had been used in a belittling way though. If he could believe his words, Roman did not see him that way. He saw him more like this. Like a flower on a lion’s mane.

No! This was ridiculous. Virgil immediately revised his estimation of the detective again. He was a romantic, naive idiot after all. He was nothing like that. Abruptly, he rose and turned away. On his way to the kitchen, he could not help but turn back one last time, just to get a glimpse.

Though he dearly hoped Roman would keep his promise and demand nothing but friendship he shuddered at the thought. He had NO idea how to be someone’s friend. He knew he would mess it up. Roman would realize he had nothing to offer. The thought hurt. To comfort himself, he brushed a hand over the cool rat, feeling it nuzzle his palm. There was nothing he could do about the wreck that was his character. However, he might be able to make himself useful.

All the reminiscing about the past had brought out a desire to do another thing he had not indulged in in a long time. Maybe, hopefully, he could do this right and postpone their regret at taking him in for a while. Through another set of colored glass and wood doors set between more wooden beams inlaid in the walls, he entered the kitchen. And found his second favorite room in this flat.

It was larger than he had anticipated, with a tall doors at one side, leading to a medium sized balcony. It filled up almost the complete wall and was curved at the top like the windows. The walls were painted a vivid bottle green and set off the white counters nicely. The tops were made of dark wood and gave the room a comfortable feeling. A kitchen island with the stove was set in the middle of the room, with pots and pans hanging above it. A wooden table surrounded by matching, comfortable looking chairs stood in the sunlight streaming through the doors. Many of the cabinets hung along the walls were open and allowed for easy access to the dishes. Cups hung on little hooks under them. One of them was bright pink and gold. The space was very clean and inviting, but less personal than the other rooms. Though there was a bowl of fresh fruit sitting on the counter, the rest of the room looked like it was barely used. Gazing around cautiously, still feeling afraid of being punished for his curiosity, Virgil found that Logan had all the necessary appliances. Maybe he did not have a lot of time to cook?

Well, Virgil was a great cook. It was the one thing that had not cost a lot and had made his mother happy until the end. It was also one of the activities that actually relaxed him. Feeling his heart beat fast in fear of being caught doing something that would anger the imposing man at him again, he figured he needed the relaxation. Virgil knew taking liberties with Logan’s kitchen was risky, and could very well invite his wrath, but he felt the irresistible urge to do something. To make himself useful for being allowed to stay here. So. He would cook them breakfast.

His ribs aced fiercely as he bend down to look for ingredients, quietly trying to get an overview over what he could do. Logan did not have a lot of food stocked up, but there was fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, potatoes and yoghurt. He could work with this. He even found canned baked beans, which gave him an idea. He pushed the sleeves of his sweater up and got to work. Soundlessly, he prayed the older man would not be mad at him.

***

With an annoyed groan, Logan untangled himself from Roman. He was snoring quite badly today. He refused to consider the worried itch between his shoulder blades could be the reason for his restlessness. The little delinquent had no business getting under his skin like this. Grabbing his loose, dark blue wool cardigan, he wrapped it around his body. He kept his steps light, in case Virgil was still asleep. The poor thing needed the rest. To help him heal. Which was only important because he was a good host. He nodded firmly to himself, as if he could make the words more true.

Stepping into the corridor, he heard rustling from the kitchen. And smelled – he raised his nose into the air, sniffing curiously. Breakfast? Quietly, he padded through the living room, past the picture Roman had mournfully continued to color in a specific shade of purple. They had chosen to sleep in, since they had gotten a text from detective Frey and had to head out late at night. The mute detective had helped gather some more evidence against the Scorpions, so he was not complaining.
He stretched his spine and padded through the living room. The double door to the kitchen was cracked open.

***

Virgil straightened with a pained wince. The oven was not growing as hot as it should, he itched to take it apart. However, the bell peppers filled with the egg and herb mixture were almost finished anyway. He looked up to check on the tomatoes roasting in the pan, and froze.

Logan stood in the doorway. He was clad in black pajama pants, a white t-shirt and a blue wool cardigan. His feet were bare, his glasses askew and his hair ruffled. To Virgil, he could not look more intimidating.

For a moment, fear blinded him. How could he have thought this would be a good idea?!

Logan’s sharp gaze traveled the room, taking in the baked beans bubbling in the pot, the grated potatoes becoming golden brown on the stove, the hum of the oven beneath the counter, the roasting tomatoes and the cut fruit mixed with fresh yogurt. Nicodemus sat on the counter, contently munching on a piece of apple. He also saw the raw fear on the pale face of his little guest.

“Good morning Virgil. I hope you are well rested this morning?” He asked gently. Virgil’s hands were clenched tightly in his sweater. He tried to hide their trembling.

“Um, I – I’m fine.” He mumbled, letting his purple bangs fall over his bruised face. He felt jittery and torn. The urge to apologize felt almost overpowering, but the last years had impressed the need to keep up his guard, to never show any weakness. He wanted Logan’s forgiveness for – for whatever he could have done wrong. But he feared the imposing detective could sense his vulnerability. People pounced the moment he showed fear, and Logan had all the advantages. He was pulled thin between fearing him and wanting his approval. Against his better judgment, he lowered his head further, feeling ashamed of his neediness.

Logan contemplated the situation for a moment. His attempts to distance himself from this unreliable little criminal went right out of the window, pushed by the powerful urge to soothe and protect. Virgil clearly was afraid of him. Understandably so. He had been through a lot and was all alone with an unknown man now. A man who had been quite harsh with him just yesterday. Suddenly, he wished Patton were here. He would know exactly how to deal with the situation. Well, his logical approach would have to do. The young man needed to get off his feet as soon as possible. He must be in pain. Even though he was hurt, he had cooked enough to feed an army. Logan guessed it was another unconscious attempt to prove his worth. Against his will, his chest started to swell with emotion, pushing against his cool, logical thinking. Warmth, affection, protectiveness, melancholy. He allowed a small smile to show.

“You have cooked breakfast.” He observed, letting his eyes wander over the impressive offering. This young man was full of surprises indeed.

Virgil looked up briefly, not hearing any anger yet. “Y-yeah. I just – I wanted to – you know, do something for – because you stayed up so late I wanted -” He broke off, frustrated and stressed.

Logan smiled at him. “You chose to feed us in order to support us?” Virgil nodded, clenching his jaw and waiting for the fallout. He had learned how little a smile could mean. The detective wandered closer. Leaned into his space. Virgil tensed.

He leaned around him and turned off the stove, saving the grated potatoes and roasting tomatoes from burning. Up close, Virgil got a proper look at his expression. It was warm, lost in thought. The taller man stepped back to give him more space.

“I appreciate your efforts very much, Virgil.” He told him honestly.

What?

The taller man gazed at the rat sitting next to the cut fruit, not really seeing it. “It has been a long time since somebody cooked for me.” An amused smile curled his lips as a thought seemed to break through his musings. “Roman does try sometimes but, well – he tries his best.”

Remembering the chaos of the desk adjoining Logan’s, Virgil could imagine what it would look like. He imagined Roman would cheerfully leave an awful mess in this painfully tidy kitchen, probably singing and dancing in some ridiculous way while he did it. There was a pink, frilly apron hanging next to the door, almost unused. He had guessed it was not Logan’s. The delinquent’s shoulders relaxed fractionally. He was very glad he had kept the kitchen obsessively clean while he worked.

Logan turned back to him and addressed him with his deep, warm voice. “Why don’t you take a seat while I set the table? You have already done much more than advisable in your condition. I am very grateful for your efforts, but I would prefer you put your recovery first.” While he spoke, he placed the rat on his shoulder and took a gentle hold of his arm, steering him to the cushioned seats.

Bewildered by the kind treatment, Virgil went where he was directed. Logan turned away to gather plates and cutlery and heat water for tea. And that was it. No insults, no anger, no reprimands. The older man seemed relaxed, moved even. Had he actually made the right decision for once?

He startled as Logan addressed him gently. “Would you like tea or coffee, Virgil?” He spoke his name in such a kind, deliberate way. He had not been addressed like that in a long time. It felt like Logan was somehow reassuring him. He was really here. There was no need to act, to be tough, to be a gang member, or even a whore. He had been called so many names in the past. He had hated all of them. Well … most of them. Here, he was just Virgil.

“Um. Tea … please?” He asked meekly. Logan hummed in response and pulled three mugs from the hook – two white, one pink. Then he turned to the door and hollered “Breakfast is ready!”

A loud thump, followed by a curse cut through the apartment. Unconcerned, Logan started placing the food and plates on the table. A moment later, Roman skidded to a halt in the doorway. Virgil had never seen him like this. He stared.

He was wearing bright scarlet pajamas, with little golden crowns printed all over them. His eyes were barely open, but his nose was raised in the air like a hopeful golden retriever’s. His thick hair resembled a rat’s nest. A laugh bubbled out of Virgil’s chest before he could stop it. His terror at laughing at one of the men he depended on was held as bay by the chuckle that escaped Logan at the sight. Also, Roman did not look angry, but indignant. Immediately, the prince his shoulders to start ranting passionately, and was promptly interrupted by his growling stomach. Virgil laughed harder. His face hurt. He could hardly remember laughing like this. The intensity of the feeling was almost shocking. He felt so light suddenly.

Logan made sure to interrupt the speech that would certainly follow his partner’s sheepish expression before it began. “Virgil made us breakfast. Sit.” Short commands were always best suited before Roman was fed. Nothing but drama had come online before he had had food. He placed tea, milk and sugar before his little guest and sat down. His smile still had not fallen away. His father had been the last person who had cooked for him. Sitting down for a meal prepared with so much care felt – like home. He smiled at Virgil once again, hoping to show his gratitude, even though he had trouble finding the right words. He seemed more relaxed. Especially as Roman fell down across from them and tackled the food like a starved dog. He was very vocal in his half asleep appreciation, even though he was not exactly coherent yet. But he looked so happy. Cautiously, Virgil began to eat.

The only sound the group made during breakfast were Roman’s delighted mumblings, and his outraged squeak at Nicodemus darted across the table to steal a bit of egg. The silence actually felt comfortable. Afterwards, Logan grabbed a little brush and directed guest and rat to the couch with the instruction to brush the little animal. He had the feeling Virgil would try to make himself useful until he dropped, so giving him safe, relaxing assignments would provide him with security and aid his recovery. He could not really stop himself from draping a blanket over his shoulders though, and smoothing it out over too pronounced shoulder-blades. He looked so small. Considering the way he almost hid in its folds, his instincts did not appear to be too far off. He felt Roman’s desire to look after the little delinquent, to make sure he was alright and shower him with care and affection, but held him back. They would clean up the kitchen and then take a shower. Virgil needed his space. His partner complied reluctantly.

Virgil borrowed into the safety of the blue blanket, watching them cautiously. He was warm and the food was making him sleepy. However, his nerves were still jittery. Human contact seemed to drain him. And yet the presence of those detectives just through the colored-glass doors made him feel less alone – less lonely. He was glad they ignored him and allowed him to gather his strength. The cool rat had apparently spotted the brush in his hands and started to rub itself against it. He got the message and started brushing. It was a soothing task. His world narrowed down to the cool rat and the soft fur. Quiet words spoken by deep voices and the clinking of china faded into the background.

He startled a little as Logan set a mug down on the little side table next to the arm of he sofa he had pressed himself against, unconsciously trying not to take up too much space. The detective sat down in the armchair across from him, while Roman settled next to Virgil with some distance. Logan’s back was straight. Roman slouched with his legs pulled under himself. Both were dressed for the day, Logan in black slacks, a dark blue shirt and his ever present blue tie, while Roman had opted for dark red trousers, fluffy socks and a white t-shirt. His hair was damp and fell into his green eyes as he moved. Virgil blushed helplessly as his warm gaze was directed at him and grabbed the mug to distract himself. The tea was perfectly made, with milk and sugar, like he had fixed it during breakfast.

“You must have questions.” The older detective stated.

Virgil straightened his shoulders, trying to look less – less like he felt. Suddenly scared and feeling very small at the thought of an uncertain future where he was all alone and without purpose. Where he had delivered himself to the police to help and to be judged. He tried to keep his voice nonchalant and steady.

“Yeah. What’s gonna happen to me now? What do you want?” Roman shifted next to him, looking sad. He left the talking to his partner.

“The most pressing issues we ought to deal with now would be the persecution of the Scorpions and your recovery. The SWAT team has managed to apprehend most of the gang members, including Hector Jenkins.” Logan broke off, cleared his throat. He looked worried. “However, Mr. Victor Adams has managed to escape apprehension.”

A freezing shiver ran down Virgil’s spine. The man who had hated him most was out there. He tried to be tough, he really did, but the thought of him waiting beyond those walls terrified the young man beyond words. The steel enforced door felt welcome all of sudden.

Roman made a distressed noise as he perceived Virgil’s terror. He moved closer to him and laid a gentle hand on his back. In his fear, Virgil immediately reacted defensively and snarled at the man touching him. He was scared, but he would not go down easily.

Roman snatched his hand back, but stayed close. “It is alright – Virgil.” He promised warmly, stumbling over the loving name that Virgil did not need from him, locking it away in his chest, with the feelings that were warm and soft and painful. “You are safe here. I promised to protect you and I will. He will not get to you as long as I am living to stand between you and him. We’ll put him away, where he can’t hurt you.”

“What a great plan.” Virgil growled sarcastically, falling back on his trusted defense system. “You’ll catch him and throw him in jail – where I’ll be. We can be a happy family then, Hector, Victor and I.”

“You will not go to prison.” Logan interrupted firmly. Despite his best intentions to be professional, he rose and settled on the arm of the couch Virgil was cowering on, effectively boxing him in between the taller men. Shielding him from the world. He looked him in the eye, making sure he understood. “You came to us on your own volition to take down the Scorpions, despite the risk against your life. This makes you our most valuable witness. Roman has called judge Joan last night-” An incredulous noise escaped Virgil. He could not repress it even in his vulnerable position, he was too nervous. Thankfully, Logan smiled. “It is a rather eccentric name they demand we use. Despite their – unusual character, they are one of the best, I assure you. They are also partial to Roman, which is why they only screamed at him for ten minutes when he called after midnight.”

“They adore me.” Roman preened next to him, eyes sparkling with pride.

“Indeed. Judge Joan conferred with the prosecutor of the Scorpion case and chose to offer you a deal. You will get protection and impunity if you are able to provide valuable information on the gang.”

Virgil stared at the detective, feeling absolutely stumped. He would not go to jail? He did not know how to feel about this revelation. He knew he ought to feel happy, but all he felt was confusion and – he felt untethered. This time, he did not fight as he felt the cup being taken from his suddenly loose hold and gentle hands reach for him. Roman drew him against his side, careful of sharp teeth and a fierce temper. Despite the risk of his fiery anger, he tugged the young man against his chest and under his chin. His embrace was warm and safe. Virgil latched onto his shirt, unable to stop himself. He would pull up his walls again, he swore it to himself. As soon as he stopped shaking. “Hush, I’ve got you.” Roman rumbled into his ear, deep and comforting. His arms were strong around his narrow frame. For once, it did not feel threatening to be cradled close by a stronger man. Roman smelled good, clean and sweet from his shower. Virgil closed his eyes and burrowed in deeper, looking for that smell he remembered from the car, after Roman had fought for him, scooped him up like an injured bird and carried him to safety. Leather and cologne and the scent of the man holding him. Roman shivered slightly as Virgil found it as he buried his face in his neck, breathing warm air against vulnerable skin. It tasted like safety. The tightly strung muscles in Virgil’s bruised back eased, allowing his heart beat to slow, allowing him to think.

He may not have to go to jail, but he knew he was far from safe. As the key witness, Victor would certainly try to get rid of him. He could not hide here forever, eventually he would have to face this alone. Instead of helplessness, he finally felt welcome heat uncurl in his chest. A spark, igniting his anger. He fed into it, made the fire grow and roar. Here he was, cowering in the arms of a detective like a small child, just because one man was out to get him. Victor had always hated him, and Virgil had always met him head on, teeth and claws bared. He was responsible for the pain they had caused, he had helped. He would not cower any longer. Suddenly furious, he wrenched himself from the safe embrace and pushed Roman back.

“Get off me you loaf!” He growled.

“LOAF?!” Roman cried, placing a hand over his heart with a wounded expression. Virgil fought the blanket off his shoulders, but made sure not to upset the rat on his lap or the older detective perched next to him.

“Yes! I don’t need your protection. Victor will get me eventually, and when he does I’ll kick his sorry ass or die trying.” He snarled furiously. Eyes flashing, he grabbed Roman’s shirt and yanked him forward, making sure he had the man’s attention. His ribs groaned with pain, ignored in favor of making himself heard, of chasing away the feeling of weakness. “I will tell you everything I know and I want you to take them down, got it?!” He ordered fiercely.

Despite his best intentions, in the face of such passion and courage, Roman’s resolve to bury his feelings crashed and burned. Though Virgil’s face and throat had been bruised and cut by cruel hands, his midnight eyes were alight with fierce resolve. It burned away at the sensitive man’s walls. He was so beautiful. Roman’s heart was in his throat. He felt like he had that first day, magnified by the knowledge of selflessness, suffering and brilliance. He nodded. He would give him anything he asked for.

He nodded. His voice was soft. “I promise.”

Virgil softened upon not being opposed. Had he never been given anything without having to fight for it? “Well, what do you need from me?” He growled, trying to hold on to his anger. It helped him keep up his facade of strength. But it felt heavy in his tired hands. Sinking into Roman’s embrace had been so much easier. He could not give in though, he had to be strong! He had to -

A firm had settled on his shoulder. “Take a deep breath, Virgil.” Logan’s voice was calming, his grip grounding. He rubbed gentle circles over his shoulder with his thumb. “Anything about the way they organized their business will aid us. Whoever was in charge of their finances either did everything on paper or did not operate from their headquarters. Unfortunately, they burned down their office as the SWAT team stormed the building, and I have so far been unable to figure out their strategy, so we have next to nothing concerning their trading. Whoever handled their paperwork knows their business.” He sounded a tad frustrated upon admitting his failure. Virgil’s courage abruptly crumbled. He did not want to be faced with the anger of the formidable detective again. He was far more terrifying than the gang when he was furious.

“Um.” He clutched the cool rat in his lap for courage. It licked his thumb. Both men turned curious eyes on him upon hearing him suddenly hesitate. “So, um – that’s – that’s a funny story.” He inched away from the tall detective. “That person with the business...” He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, wincing as it made his ribs protest sharply. “Thwsme.” Virgil mumbled quickly. Logan’s brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to figure out what the delinquent had uttered. Roman manged it before him and clasped a hand over his mouth to stifle his giggles.

Suddenly, disbelieve spread over the detective’s face. His jaw worked soundlessly as he tired to comprehend the fact that the little criminal huddled next to him was the one who had had him stumped for weeks. An undefinable noise escaped him. Virgil leaned further back, well into the personal space of the gleeful man next to him. He would rather be close to the weirdo than to the time bomb on his other side. Nicodemus watched his human curiously as he apparently had to do a full reboot.

After a long moment, Logan snapped his jaw shut and straightened his back. “Well. That is – fortunate.” He fixed his tie primly, trying to regain his composure. “It is advantageous that you have chosen to confide in us, since we, that is – since I have unfortunately failed to decipher your methods.” He rose abruptly, driven by embarrassment at his failure. “I should prepare the necessary paperwork for your statement.”

Virgil took a moment too long to realize Logan was not reacting with anger. He reached out and almost toppled off the couch as he grabbed the man’s wrist. The cool rat held on tight and squeaked with outrage. “Detective, wait please! I’m sorry!” He did not know exactly what he was apologizing for – helping the Scorpions? Doing it so well they could not catch him? Embarrassing the detective? Hurting his partner? Being a burden and a failure? He had done so much and deserved his forgiveness so little.

Logan stopped and faced the young man despite his embarrassment. There was fear and misery in his voice. It brought him up short. Though he was quick to feel inadequate when he could not mange to solve a puzzle, his protectiveness far outweighed his shame. His emotionless mask fell. He sat down again and wrapped a gentle hand around the back of Virgil’s neck, making him look up at the man above him. “There is no need to apologize. You bravely made up for your mistakes by risking your life for our investigation. And please, call me Logan.” He carefully brushed his thumb through the downy hair at the base of Virgil’s neck. “And this is Nicodemus.” As if knowing to dispel the tension, the rat sat back on its hind legs and squeaked.

The young delinquent held very still as the large hand closed around the back of his neck. It was a vulnerable spot and made him immediately tense up. However, as he did not get dragged up or grabbed harder, the touch started to feel less threatening and more warm and grounding. Logan had a way to secure him in his skin. He dropped his head, feeling something drain from him upon finally having everything out in the open and – unbelievably – being forgiven. Again. “I remember everything I did for them, I’ll testify to all of it.” He promised.

“Good.” Logan muttered warmly. “We will figure out how to go from here. You are welcome to stay until we have. Unless you would like us to call somebody for you?”

“No.” He mumbled. “There’s no one. I’m fine by myself.”

Roman playfully bumped his shoulder against Virgil’s, chirping cheerfully “Not true! There’s me and detective Terribledetective over there!” Logan groaned and got up.

“I shall thank Patton for his generosity. You will take Virgil’s statement and make sure he rests and eats, understood?” He ordered. Roman beamed at him, looking perfectly innocent. “Bring pastries!”

“Certainly. When I return we should discuss a plan for your recovery.” He addressed the young man while he slung his dark suit jacket over his shoulders. “I would like you to talk to a professional.”

“Like a shrink? No way! I neither have the time or the money or the patience for that shit.” Virgil growled, crossing his arms defensively. The thought of laying everything that he had done – that had been done to him – bare for some stranger to pick apart just to tell him how fucked up he was made bile rise in his throat. He would rather die than relive all that.

Logan frowned. “I will not force you, Virgil. However I believe it would benefit your recovery to see a psychologist. There is no need to pay for the sessions either. I know someone who still owes me a favor. I will certainly not utilize a psychologist whom I know personally, so you should benefit from it. I believe she is competent enough.”

Virgil immediately prepared to refuse, when he noticed Roman’s large, sad puppy eyes turned on him. “NO!” He growled instantly. Roman somehow managed to look even more sad. What the hell? “I won’t see a shrink!” The detective’s shoulders dropped, making him look like a kicked puppy left in a thunderstorm. To his own bafflement the delinquent felt his resolve weaken. What kind of sorcery was this?!

Logan chuckled and pulled on his navy trench-coat. His partner would have softened Virgil up by the time he got back. He would look up Rebecca Harris’ address later.

His steps felt lighter, grew quicker as he walked down the stairs. He could not wait to see Patton.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

Logan pushed his hands deep into his pockets as he walked. Even though the sunny sky had grown overcast during breakfast, the day was still pleasantly warm, considering sprig had just arrived. He allowed his gaze to wander over slate gray clouds. They turned feathery and soft white farther up, where the blue sky peeked through the canopy, allowing bright light to illuminate his path.

He rounded a corner and was finally there. The entrance of the Pat-isserie was cheerfully decorated and illuminated by an opening in the clouds, bathing the new, bright blue pots Patton had placed on both sides in golden light. He had planted spring flowers in various shades of pink in them, giving the place a playful and cute look. The detective laughed under his breath. It was not a color he had expected to appreciate so much, but he did, because Patton had chosen it.

The scent of cinnamon, caramel and sugar greeted him as he pushed open the door. He felt something unwind in his chest as he finally stepped into Patton’s world and was surrounded by warmth, pastel colors, sweet smells and laughing children. However, as he let his gaze wander over the cafe, he only spotted Redmond rushing to serve the group of children demanding to be fed. A few red strands had escaped his ponytail as he tried to serve two kids, while trying to understand what a third was enthusiastically telling him. As he spotted Logan, a look of relieve overcame his face. “Get your handsome ass in the bakery, detective!” He hollered. The kids started giggling immediately. He sent them a lopsided smirk.

Logan huffed at being ordered around in such a manner, but still rounded the counter and entered the lavender painted bakery through the cheery yellow door. He did wish to see his friend very much after all.

There he was. For a moment, he felt like he could not breathe. The last few days had felt like weeks to him. He had missed Patton more than he could put into words. Everything about him drew the detective in. His slender form rushing between the counters, clumsily stumbling over his own feet as he moved, his tousled hair, soft, slightly curled and dusted with flour, his gentle hands, capable of creating delicate and delicious pastries as well as butchering his own knitting.

He let out the breath he had been holding and felt like coming home. Suddenly, he felt weightless. He was finally here.

Patton had yet to notice him though. He was busy creating what looked to be at least a million pastel colored macarons. Light blue, pink, pale yellow, lilac, pastel orange and pale red little spheres held together by colorful creamy filling, skillfully created by mixing powdered sugar, ground almond and egg-white covered every surface like lovely Easter eggs.

Despite being surrounded by his perfect creations, he seemed – stressed. Logan observed with growing worry how the pattisier rushed between the oven and his ingredients, attempting to be everywhere at once, while frantically mumbling to himself. His eyebrows were pulled together, the corners of his mouth were tense. Still, every batch turned out perfectly. His skills somehow did not fail him.

Did he have an important delivery to make? A little frazzled, Logan realized he had no idea how to help with baking. He felt a little overwhelmed.

Redmond pushed the door open with his elbow and stuck his head in, right before Logan could clumsily offer his support (and probably be terribly in the way). The ginger barista/doctor looked rushed and ruffled. More hair had come loose from his ponytail. “We do NOT need any more macarons!” He hissed at Logan. “Fix him!” He was gone as soon as he had appeared, leaving Logan with this rather confusing demand.

He turned back to Patton. Who had not even noticed the interruption. Fix him? What was wrong?! Logan decided he needed to stop this baking frenzy before his friend burned himself on the oven and snap him out of his concentration to gather more data. He seemed quite lost in his baking. Tentatively, he called his name. “Patton?”

And got ignored. The pattisier only increased the volume of his mumblings about passion-fruit flavors and the consistency of his candy. Logan rubbed the back of neck a little helplessly. After taking care of Virgil, he was weary of overstepping boundaries. However, Patton was a very different person. Evidence suggested that he reacted favorably to him taking charge of the situation in moments of stress. The sweet baker sometimes appeared to need someone to tell him what to do and take care of him. For his own good. The thought sat a little strangely with the detective, but if it was what Patton needed, he would be strict with him.

Steeling himself, the taller man stepped into his friend’s path, trying to get his attention. The baker huffed slightly and simply sidestepped him, not even looking at who was in his way. Logan blew out a breath he had been holding. Okay then. He grabbed Patton’s upper arms and crowded him against the counter with his greater bulk, trapping him. Patton squeaked a little, like a small mouse being snatched up by a cat. Logan was quick to rub soothing circled over his arm, hushing him gently. Making sure he knew who had caught him, he grabbed the shorter man’s chin and titled it up. “It’s just me, Patton. You seemed stressed and distracted, so I intended to calm you.”

Upon being forced to look up and finding the attractive detective over him, a pink blush dusted Patton’s cheeks as he found himself so close to the other man. “Oh! Logan – I didn’t see you there!” He chirped.

A smile pulled at the corners of his lips as he took in the warmth and care on the detective’s face. He was always so glad to see him. Since the detective had made it a habit to make everything right and make him feel safe when he showed up, Patton already felt the world and his worries fall away. Logan always tried to take care of him. Even though he had startled and grabbed him, he did not mind being manhandled as long as it was done by a man that held such concern and affection for him. Pat felt he was lucky to be the object of the affection of such a good man at all, so he would easily accept being a little frightened. It was a normal part of a relationship for him, because he was so easily startled and so very emotional, as he had been told.

He felt his shoulders relax as Logan’s fingers gently brushed over his arms. He truly was lucky. Logan always knew what to do to soothe him. However, he felt a little exposed while his chin was raised for the detective’s attentive examination. His hands were so strong, Patton knew he could not escape his grip if he did not want to let him go, so he did not even try. Though those dark, intelligent eyes made him feel undressed as they roamed over his features, he found he did not want to escape either. Somehow being looked at like this felt – exciting. Logan’s dark eyes and firm hands on him made heat rise in his body, made him feel naughty. He felt his flush grow hotter. Logan only wanted to be his friend, so his feelings did not feel so frightening and more playful, since nothing would come of them anyway. Still, he was at a loss about what to do with his hands suddenly. After an awkward moment, he daringly settled them on the detective’s hips. The expensive material felt smooth and cool under his fingers.

The taller man unintentionally saved him from further embarrassment by suddenly blushing as well. He released Patton’s pretty face and ducked his head. The baker almost squealed. Logan usually was so tough and serious, but when he got flustered like that he looked so young and harmless. It made Patton feel less intimidated. Instead, it made his chest swell with care and affection and feel safe.

The remaining stress drained out of him as he saw this display of softness. It encouraged him. Feeling brave and mischievous, he stood on his tiptoes and leaned closer. Logan’s breath hitched, but the hand on his arm did not tighten to restrain him. Patton’s grin grew as he realized the detective now was the one who did not know where to put his free hand. Boldly, he leaned in a planted a kiss on the heated cheek like he had seen Roman do multiple times. A high pitched, strangled noise escaped the detective. AWWWW!!!!

Patton abruptly felt giddiness rise in him, fluttering and alive and fun. No one could blame him this time as his delighted squeal broke free, bright and happy. He threw his arms around his tall friend’s neck, giggling. He was so tall, Pat clumsily lost his balance and stumbled against the firm body crowding him against his own counter, plastering them together. Oh.

Being hugged by Logan always felt so very good. But this time, it felt even more intense, more exciting. He shivered with pleasure as his friend finally got the message and wrapped those strong arms around his waist, pulling him flush against his body. He had been a nervous mess just a few minutes ago, but when this man held him close, nothing else mattered. No one hugged him quite like Logan did. Like their touch was something to be savored. He pressed Patton against his broad chest so he felt every breath, even the heart beating fast and steady against him. The detective’s breath was warm against the vulnerable skin of his neck. The pattisier buried his face in this navy, professional trench-coat and hid his endeared smile in its fabric. Logan just did not do anything casually.

Patton finally pulled away, grinning brightly at his friend, who stepped back to give him some space. He was still flushed and adorable, but bravely straightened his spine and tie and looked at him. “Good morning, Patton. I hope nothing is amiss?” He inquired politely, as if Pat had not just hugged him like a limpet.

The question caught the pattisier off guard. His smile fell. Spotting Logan’s worried frown, he quickly plastered it on his face again, brighter and sweeter, to make up for worrying him. Outside the circle of his friend’s arms, the rest of the world made its demands known again. He turned his face away and busied himself with checking the oven to hide the shameful blush rising into his cheeks. He had done it again. Trevor had been right to worry. Whenever he was with Logan, he forgot what he was supposed to feel. It was like he couldn’t help it! He was so strong and kind and gentle. Even though he intimidated him sometimes, he always took care of Patton and made him feel like everything would be well, as long as he was held by him. Mortified, he felt an unwelcome smile tug at his lips at the thought. This wasn’t right! He was allowed to have friends, but he could not allow himself to – to like their touch this way! Only his boyfriend should make him respond like that! He felt like the worst kind of traitor.

A little gasp escaped him, as a firm hand closed around his narrow shoulder. He couldn’t hide the little whine of distress as Logan turned him around to face him. He could not be seen like this! He was too embarrassed of being so shamefully wanton!

But Logan did not make Patton face him or force his chin up. He tugged him close and wrapped a gentle hand around the back of his neck, encouraging him to hide his face in the taller man’s neck. The baker was so relieved by this unexpected mercy that he sagged against the detective helplessly. Unconsciously, he had expected his faults to be dragged in the open and painfully, cruelly exposed. Just so he could lean to do better! He must not forget that and be ungrateful! When he was behaving badly, he needed to learn, Patton reminded himself quickly. Logan really was too kind with him and spoiled him too much.

He did not pull away though.

Again, the detective was too good to him, and started running a hand though his flour covered locks tenderly. The smaller man was helpless to stop enjoying his caress. “What’s wrong, Patton? How can I help you?” He asked with his deep, dark voice, soothing and calm. He was being a caring friend. Nothing more. Patton suddenly felt too tired to fight his gratitude any longer. Logan was doing his best to help him and he was making things difficult. He should enjoy the blessing of a loving friend while he had it! You can only control your actions. He reminded himself. He would behave, then he would not hurt his beloved Trevor and everything would be fine.

Resolved and relieved, Patton titled his face up – willingly this time – and grinned at the detective. “It’s all good, Logan! I was just trying to get some things done so I could get home on time and cook dinner for Trevor, so he would not have to wait for me. Things have been a teensy tiny bit hectic since Valerie left to prepare for her kiddo. I might have gotten a little lost in my baking and put too many maca-rounds in the oven.” He chirped. Allowing his gaze to finally take in how much he had made, he giggled at himself. “Ops?” He grinned up at Logan, helpless to stop his pleasure and happiness at being close again and allowed to joke. The detective was trying not to roll his eyes at the word pun, he could tell. But he did not make him stop, so Pat didn’t! “Looks like I made egg-stra many macarons. Perhaps almonds too many!” He squeaked giddily as his friend finally groaned and hid his face in Patton’s hair. “I’ll make su-gar to make less next time!”

“Must you butcher the English language in such a fashion?” Logan complained. He could not fool Patton though. He had seen the smile he tried to hide. The pattisier hummed cheerfully, once again feeling like everything was right in his world. Logan had come and taken his problems into his capable hands, like he always did. He wished everybody could be this lucky. Which reminded him.

 

Logan reluctantly let Patton pull away. He would have liked to hide his face in those silky, sweet smelling locks for longer – just so he could hide his unprofessional blush! But alas, his friend looked serious, and Logan would always put his needs first.

“What happened to this gang member you asked Redmond to help? Is he alright?” Patton asked worriedly, twisting his light blue tunic in his slender hands anxiously. His warm, brown eyes were filled with care. Logan felt himself fall even harder at being faced with such selfless compassion. Patton truly was an innocent angel. He wondered at so much loveliness. Damn, he was an emotional fool for this man.

The memory of Virgil made the detective soften, as he recalled how brave, and how bruised and hurt he had been, how thin and small he had looked, tucked into the corner of his couch, clutching Nicodemus for safety. How he had needed Roman’s reassurance so badly, but had been too insecure and defensive to permit it. He felt way too protective of this little criminal and did not know what to do about it.

“He is -” Logan sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose, well aware of just how much the attentive baker could read on his face. “He is recovering. I am afraid the trauma he has had to endure is hindering the process though, since it is making it harder for him to invest his trust in us. Yet despite the less than ideal circumstances, he has proven himself to be very resilient.” Patton’s eyes softened as he listened. His undemanding attention made it easier to accept his feelings for the little delinquent who had caused them so much trouble and was now turning his life upside down. He tried to put at least some of his gratitude into words. “Your pastries were very welcome, Patton. We are grateful for your generosity.”

The pattisier’s face lit up at the compliment, so happy to have supported them. “The poor thing sounds like he could use a hug! I would like to help. There is no situation a proper cuddling with good old Patton can’t improve!” He chirped, swinging his arms enthusiastically.

Logan however, blanched at the idea. “Your providence honors you, Patton. However I am afraid Virgil’s company is currently not safe for you. The Scorpions will be pursuing him, which makes everyone affiliated with him a possible target.” The protective detective explained gently, hoping Patton would not be too disappointed.

He failed to receive an answer though. The baker’s face had closed off. Worried, he tried to explain his reasoning in greater detail. “You have already been targeted once, I only wish to keep you from further harm.”

Patton’s face continued to be impassive. He crossed his arms. Logan felt like he was missing something. He shifted awkwardly, trying to fill the silence and make himself understood. “I can see that you wish to support Virgil, but the danger of your involvement would be too great for you. I cannot allow you to put yourself at risk like this.”

Finally, Patton released a deep breath and uncrossed his arms.

And balled his fists.

“Well you don’t have a say in what I do and don’t do!” Patton informed him. His voice was – strict. It accepted no protest.

What? The confused detective suddenly found the tables turned on them, as sweet, helpless, innocent Patton started ranting at him angrily. “You don’t get to decide who I help! This kiddo needs me and I will not cower here when I could be there for him!” He declared. Logan had never seen him like this before. He viciously resisted the urge to clean his glasses to make sense of this unusual picture. Patton’s hazel eyes were flashing furiously. Though tiny, he reminded him of an angry momma cat, defending her kitten. Before Logan could gather his whits, he turned away and left him gaping after the pattisier. Grabbing a large box, he started placing colorful macarons, pastries, tarts and little cakes inside. His movements were precise and firm. Logan actually flinched a little as he forcefully closed the box.

He attempted to calm the angry man, opened his mouth, and got cut off. “I was scared of them, of course I was!” He grabbed the box and approached Logan. Suddenly they were face to face. The fact that he had to look down somehow did not make the smaller man less intimidating in his anger. “I am no dangerous detective, but I am not helpless either! I can make my own decisions. And I am deciding to help!”

Suddenly the little, angry whirlwind of powered sugar and flour was storming out, ripping open the yellow door forcefully. Startled and helpless, Logan followed. He was still ranting. “I may not be able to save people every day, but when someone needs me and I am able to help a kiddo, that makes him my responsibility! You said yourself that he is still intimidated by you so you need me!”

He rounded the counter swiftly, grabbing his flowery shawl on the way. Though it made him more lovely, it still made him appear no less fierce. Redmond looked alarmed as Patton stormed though the cafe. He sent Logan a scathing look as if to say You call that fixed?

Guilty and a tad overwhelmed, Logan tried to intervene. “Patton, please wait. Let us talk about this. What about your cafe?”

Patton actually scoffed at him. “Redmond can handle it, right?” He turned to his frazzled employee.

“Aahhhh – sure?” He uttered hesitantly. “I mean – yeah, I love being in charge of the baking, the costumers, the orders, the money, basically everything. Who wouldn’t love having all this sweet sweet responsibility all alone by themselves?”

Absolutely ignoring the sarcasm dripping from the words, Patton turned to Logan. “See? Fine. Let’s go.” The order confidently given by the man he had such deep and tender feelings for awoke something in Logan. It did not even occur to him to refuse. Stunned, he followed the pattisier outside. He stared at Patton’s narrow shoulders and saw him in a completely different light. Suddenly, this slender back looked like it could carry the world. Had this determination always been there, waiting to come forth to the defense of someone who needed him?

Logan felt like he was struck dumb and mute in the face of this strength of such a lovely creature. Without warning, Patton had become determined and fearless. He had stood up to him when he had usually demurred. His protectiveness had made him fight. And Logan fall.

The world dropped away and focused on this bright point of dedication and care. He felt like he would burst. Every step made his feelings grow. How could he – how could he love this man even more? He stumbled, overwhelmed. Everything he saw, everything he felt was Patton. It was like he met him for the first time, and he was so much more than he had believed. More than an angel, innocent and in need of his strong arms to catch him. He was fierce and tenacious and capable of standing up to Logan. His heart was beating hard, as if it wanted to escape from his chest, fall into the dirt of this selfless caregiver, beg him to pick it up in his gentle hands.

“Logan?”

Only when the pattisier called his name did he notice that he had stopped. He looked worried. His little hands were clutching the box tightly. He could see now that he was starting to grow uneasy about the detective’s reaction to his demands, though it was clear he would accept whatever may happen. It made Logan realize abruptly what he had done.

Shame crashed over him hard as he recalled the reason Patton had had to fight him so hard. He had treated him like a child. He dropped his head. Looking at this man he had wronged so badly felt impossible. He needed to be strict with Patton? Tell him what to do? How could he have allowed himself to think something so – so primitive? It was true that Patton had felt safe when he had taken charge, but Logan had interpreted the situation like a damned caveman, believing he could make decisions for the gentle man in order to protect him. Just because Patton had needed him in the past, had curled into his embrace and trusted him to make things right, just because he was soft and pretty and devoted and did not fear showing his sensitive sides, Logan had allowed his protective instincts to run away with him. He was no child! Patton was so very strong. He may be insecure, but a person in need was all it took to make him fight like a mother bear. He felt like the worst man on earth.

He did not deserve to even look at Patton.

After a long, silent moment, the baker’s shoes appeared in his line of sight. He saw them shuffling slightly while we tried to swallow the urge to let all of his embarrassing and love-sick thoughts spill forth.

Suddenly, a soft fingers gripped his chin and titled it up. How the tables had turned. Patton seemed to feel it too, and smiled slightly at their reversed situation. His pale skin, his warm eyes, his soft lips, set in a determined way, it was all drawing Logan in helplessly. He was like the sun.

He was also looking apologetic. “Did I upset you? I’m so sorry! I just want to help and not be pushed aside, not even because you worry about me! I’m really very thankful that you do, but-”

Before he could take more of the blame that had no business being on his shoulders, Logan took a hold of his hand, tentatively intertwining their fingers. He felt more shy than he had when they had met and he had felt so insecure around his bubbly affection. The intensity of his devotion made him feel clumsy, but he owed it to Patton to beg for his forgiveness. His friend did not pull his hand away.

“You have nothing to apologize for, Patton. Everything you said was the truth.” He admitted earnestly. Surprise washed over the baker’s soft features. “I did not treat you with the respect you deserve. I presumed to know what is best for you and I do not have the right to make those decisions. No one does. I underestimated your considerable strength and thus have made myself guilty of the worst form of arrogance. I am deeply ashamed of my behavior and I promise to never take liberties with your life again. From now on, I shall listen to your choices and respect them as an intelligent and brave man such as yourself deserves. I hope you can forgive me for this unpardonable slight.”

Patton’s breath hitched as Logan apologized so ardently. No one had ever spoken to him with such utmost respect. He felt tears fill his eyes. Logan’s eyes widened in response, terrified of having hurt him somehow. The attentive pattisier read his thoughts correctly and could not hide an endeared, watery laugh. How could Logan think he had done something wrong after giving him something so beautiful – something of such immeasurable value? His faith in Patton. It meant so much to him to be believed in. By a man as brilliant and strong as Logan no less. He felt words would not express the depth of his gratefulness, and he preferred to be held anyway. Impatiently setting the box down, he almost jumped into the taller man’s arms. Logan grunted in surprise at the cuddle attack, but obediently embraced his friend. Patton could not suppress the guilty thought that he could spend all of his life in those arms and miss very little, if anything at all. Still, the shame that would surely plague him later would not quite take root in his heart. Not while he was high on the kindness and admiration of Logan’s words. He giggled cheerfully, while his friend held him in his arms again. “AWWW you say such nice things to me!” He gushed happily. Logan ducked his head adorably, making Patton want to hold him tighter, so he did. He felt like he was drunk on elation. Looking back, he would have never spoken to the imposing, powerful man like this had he not been filled with protectiveness for this young man he had noticed only briefly, pale and skinny and shameful. He could hardly believe Logan’s reaction. He had apologized! Had even promised to respect him. He would have expected anything else, cold anger, screaming, a slap in the face. He would have accepted it, if he had just been able to help this once, but Logan had not hurt him at all. He had given him beautiful words and confidence. He could hardly believe a man like this existed and wanted to be his friend.

Filled with new energy, Patton finally drew away, and grabbed his box, skipping down the sidewalk. “What are we waiting for Slow-gan?” He sing-songed. Logan made an outraged noise that sounded very much like a squeak, but quickly caught himself.

“Actually, I live the other way.”

***

The detective felt the pattisier almost shake with nervous energy and anticipation as he unlocked the door. To be quite honest, he felt nervous as well. His apartment was an intimate reflection of all the things he hid from view, but that were part of him. His flowers, novels, Roman’s pictures, the night lights in his bedroom and nerdy toys and collectibles he had placed on the windowsill in his living room and around his bedroom. He was shy about it. At the same time, he had been itching to bring Patton here. He felt like he would be safe in his apartment, like the rooms had just been waiting for his presence and to be filled with his laughter. The flat truly was too large for him. It felt more lived in since Roman was spreading his things around. Placing Virgil in his guest room had, even though he had protested, felt right. Meeting him in the kitchen, where he had made himself comfortable had enforced the feeling. Warm and like home. And now he was pushing open the door and stepping aside to let Patton in. He held his breath as the smaller man passed him.

An awed noise escaped the pattisier as he stepped through the corridor and cautiously peeked into the living room. His eyes were wide as he took in the unexpectedly large and lovingly decorated space. Though everything was kept painfully clean, the room felt alive and curious and like it had just been waiting to welcome him. He stood and breathed it in, feeling a calmness settle over his shoulders like a blanket. He had expected something modern and sleek, glass and metal and dark leather maybe. It was how men lived in his imagination. But this was – it was perfect! Patton wanted to run his fingers over the plants, loose himself in those wonderfully colorful pictures and curl up on this plush couch with some hot cocoa and a movie. All that was missing was a cat to cuddle. And maybe a friend. Patton felt hyper aware of Logan’s form coming to a stop next to him, tall and still, yet nervous. Endearingly so.

“Heckity Heck, Logan, your apartment is a delight!” He chirped ecstatically, turning to the detective and bouncing on the balls of his feet excitedly. A startled smile appeared on his handsome face. However, a high pitched whine interrupted their moment. Both turned towards the kitchen.

“AHHH DON’T TOUCH THAT YOU’LL HURT YOURSELF WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME?? AM I INVISIBLE??? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Roman wailed.

A scathing voice answered him. “I wish I couldn’t.” Roman gasped in outrage, most likely clutching his shirt in his fist.

Logan headed into his kitchen to find chaos awaiting him. Roman stood in the middle of the room, thick hair sticking into every direction from running his fingers through it in exasperation. He looked stressed and helpless. Virgil was cowering on the floor in front of him, nothing more than a skinny pile of black fabric and purple locks.

Logan hated chaos.

Yet the moment Logan took in the hunched, narrow shoulders and the obvious stress on his pale face, he forgave him for the mess spread around him.

He had apparently noticed the defect of his oven Logan had neglected to fix and had busted out his tool kit from the closet in the hallway. The whole oven was pulled out from under the wooden counter and partway dismantled. Parts and tools were spread around him on his clean floors. Virgil looked up in surprise as he rounded the counter with Patton. His eyes widened as he took in not only the imposing detective towering over him, but also the baker he had helped frighten.

Logan saw how he hunched his shoulders, his beaten face pale with shock and pain, as well as the fear in his eyes before he could hide behind his careless facade. He should have known he would still be too insecure and defensive to rest. Of course he could not allow Roman to stop him, since it would make him feel weak and defenseless after the young detective had seen his helplessness and carried him in his arms.

In his moment of distraction, the poor thing cut his finger on a sharp wire. Hissing, he yanked it back and put it into his mouth to avoid straining the floor even more with his filth. A pitiful noise escaped Roman at the sight. Virgil sent a dirty look his way to keep him from hugging him or some shit. If he was touched now, he would certainly loose it.

He had really wanted to be finished before Logan got back. He was such a fucking idiot, he was right to throw him out. Stuttering, he tried to justify his idiotic idea. “I just – your oven wasn’t working right so I wanted to fix it, I - I’ll have it cleaned up in a moment. I s-swear it’ll be as good as new!” He hurried to reassure him. Virgil kept his eyes trained on the wire he had been working on, but even so he felt the gaze of the baker burn a hole between his shoulder-blades. Logan was holding him back. He shouldn’t, this poor dude had every right to kick the crap out of him. He tensed even further as the detective crouched down next to him.

“I can see that. Thank you, Virgil. I hadn’t gotten around to taking care of it, and I am afraid I am not as knowledgeable as you either.” He answered calmly. Cautiously, the young delinquent dared to look at him through his bangs. Logan’s face was friendly and open as he returned the look evenly. “Why don’t you guide me through finishing the task, so I can improve? Meanwhile Roman can prepare us some tea and Patton could acquire the first aid kit from the bathroom in order to take care of your finger.” Virgil gaped at him. Seriously? Had this dude forgotten how to get angry? He remembered he used to be quite good at it. He could not spot any anger now though. From the corner of his eyes he could see Roman guide the baker out of the room gently. It made him relax a little. He waited with baited breath for another moment, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but Logan remained calm and patient. He carefully eased the pliers out of his hands, wrapped his fucking handkerchief around his bleeding finger, and turned to the dismantled oven. “Would you explain the problem to me?”

*

“What’s wrong with him the poor kiddo looks so pale and he is so hurt did someone choke him is he in pain whyishenotinbed?” Patton cried once they had reached the safety of the bathroom. He looked terribly frightened. Roman rubbed soothing circled over his back, trying to calm him even though his own face was drawn with worry.

“Virgil is-” He sighed, running a hand over his face. “The Scorpions have put him through a lot. He would not want me to talk about it in detain, but he has been on his own for a very long time. Virgil is such a brave warrior, he is used to having to appear strong and fearless, so it is difficult for him to trust us enough to let down his guard and rest, and to trust us not to want anything in return for taking care of him. Which is why he is trying to do – um – things for us. To repay us.” Roman looked absolutely miserable as he said those words. His broad shoulders were hunched and his lovely, green eyes bright with tears. The gentle detective clearly cared deeply for the little one. Patton made a sad, undefinable noise and launched himself at his tall friend. Though Roman had to lean down to hide his face in his neck, he immediately felt so much better. Patton’s hug was long overdue. The small baker held him like a loving father would, safe and warm and so comforting. I twas not a feeling the young detective was used to from a parental figure – this feeling of being utterly accepted and loved. Roman sagged against him, feeling the fight drain out of his body. His friend hummed for him, filling the small room with a loving melody. God, he was glad Patton was here.

Once they returned to the kitchen, Logan was just pushing the oven back into place. He had taken his jacket off and rolled his sleeves up, exposing the attractive lines of his forearms. The lean muscles under his shirt were contracting as he moved the large object. Patton could not help staring at the sight, the arms, the shoulder-blades, the outlines of well defined muscles under his shirt. A blush dusted his cheeks. He could not help it! Logan’s well trained body doing hard, manual labor made such an enticing picture! He escaped into the living-room before he was caught staring.

Virgil had somehow worked the heavy oven free despite his cracked ribs. He must be in agony. Roman’s heart twisted in sympathetic pain as he saw how Virgil was punishing himself and how badly his fear made him want to prove himself. The sweat on his brow and the drawn face spoke volumes, even though he did not make a sound.

Logan got up to return the tool kit and inconspicuously made room for Roman, who immediately fell to his knees next to the delinquent. Who apparently read his mind.

“Don’t you dare touch me you fucking imbecile, I am not a damn kitten to be lugged around!” He hissed at him, leaning back. His ribs were on fire, stabbing him with every breath. Scathingly, he wondered if he had managed to break them properly, as he had inced the oven forwards behind Roman’s back. He felt cold sweat dampen his hairline.

The handsome face fell at the demand. He once again looked like a goddamned kicked puppy. Like a fucking golden retriever or something. He hated that look. Virgil braced his hands on his chest to push him away to make himself very clear.

He stopped in distraction as his palm made contact. Damn his chest was hard! He was very close and very handsome. Virgil had to blink a couple of times. Real people didn’t look this good. They just didn’t. Despite the lines of worry around his eyes and the mess that was his hair he looked, well, frustratingly attractive would be accurate.

He was dimly aware of the fact that a man so close to him, in his defenseless state no less, would have usually sent him into an aggressive panic, lashing out not only verbally. But Roman’s puppy eyes were large and pleading and so very kind.

“I am not going to touch you against your will, Virgil. But I have the feeling that you are not going anywhere without a little help. I only want to support you, I promise. Just let me carry you to the couch and you will not have to deal with my distractingly handsome presence anymore.” He promised earnestly. “I know it can be a bit overwhelming at times, I really am quite magnificent.”
Though his blush deepened at having his thought parroted back at him in such a playful manner, an amused snort escaped the little delinquent. “You are an entitled fucking dork, you know that?”

“On the contrary, I am a prince!” Roman boasted, chest swelling and eyes sparkling. Virgil groaned. He wondered if this fucker was using some form of advanced interrogation techniques on him to change his mind, as he felt his resolve waiver. If he was quite honest, he truly was unsure if he could get up on his own. He was already feeling nauseous with pain. If he puked all over his nice wooden floors, Logan might just murder him. Puking on Roman however might just be entertaining.

Roman seemed to take his frustrated silence as permission. He was glad he did not make him ask. “I’m going to pick you up now, okay?” Virgil growled at him, annoyed at everything, but did not protest. The moron smiled at him as if he was something precious. Once again, the young man wondered if the detective had suffered some kind of brain injury. He really was as far from something sweet and precious as possible after all.

He clenched his jaw hard as Roman leaned in. This was going to hurt. However, the taller man was infinitely patient and gentle with him. He wrapped an arm around his back and carefully helped him uncurl from his kneeling position, and even gave him a moment to stretch his cramped legs. He made sure to hold him close to his chest, so he could lean against him. The tan skin of his neck was very close. Virgil meant to turn his head and breathe him in only for a second, his scent was just so nice. Yet, the moment he hid his face and was enveloped in warmth and this smell he associated with safety, he could not bring himself to pull away. Roman did not make him. Instead, he wrapped an arm under his knees and got up easily.

Once he had started prostituting himself, he had firmly waved goodbye to his fetish for strong arms and broad shoulders, but now, being cradled safely in such arms, it unexpectedly reared its head again. Virgil huffed in disbelieve at himself, but still burrowed in tighter. He really was fucked up.

The moment Roman carried him into the living room, where Logan and the baker were, his unwelcome, pleasant feelings were drowned out by anxiety. He hated being this helpless. Resented it with every fiber of his being. His fight or flight reflex kicked in hard. He twisted Roman’s shirt in his fists to stop himself from squirming out of his arms and probably crumbling to the floor like a fucking newborn kitten. You brought this on yourself, he scolded himself. Stop being pathetic.

Roman appeared to feel his apprehensive thoughts. He set him down very gently on the couch and dared to drop a playful kiss on top of his head as he withdrew his arms, being obviously obnoxious about it so not to scare the young man. It never failed to get a rise out of Logan and it did not fail him now. Thoroughly annoyed at the little provocation, Virgil furiously took a swipe at him, hissing fiercely. Roman only narrowly escaped being scratched. His heart beat fast at the passionate fire burning in those dark eyes. He was hit hard by how much he wanted to engage Virgil in playful games, turn this passion to pleasure. They would be formidable together, he knew it. He could see it in vibrant colors in his fanciful mind, how they would meet in a wild kiss, how Roman would grab him firmly, reverently. How Virgil would pull his hair and bite at his lips. He would let him win their loving fight if his fierce kitten wished to, allowing him to do whatever he wanted, or Roman would overpower him, pin him to the sheets and spoil him thoroughly instead until his growls turned into cries of pleasure. He would give his passionate wildcat whatever he desired.

But Virgil did not want him this way and he did not get to think about him in such a fashion either. He shut those heated images down guiltily and dropped his head. He knew the attentive young man had probably read his thoughts clearly on his face, might even get scared by them. He needed to get a grip. “I’ll make that tea.” He mumbled, giving him an apologetic look, before he escaped to the kitchen, metaphorical tail between his legs.

Virgil watched him go, his feelings warring between relieve and disappointment. He had not imagined it after all. Roman liked it when he was wild and bold with him. Even when he was a rude little shit and others would have long turned away, his eyes softened for him. He did not know what to do with those feelings. He was at his mercy still and could not upset the man. He could very easily change his mind and come to his room during the night, making demands. But somehow, Virgil did not think that he would. He – dare he say it? He seemed to genuinely like and respect him. He had not inspired such feelings in anyone in a long time. It warmed him. He decided to table this issue for later, when his chest wasn’t feeling like someone tried to fit a crowbar between his ribs and break them open. And when he was not about to have to deal with whatever this dude that had just sat down way too close to him was about to do to him. He steeled himself and met his hazel eyes head on.

Patton gave the young man his sweetest smile, which saddened a little as he saw how tense and defensive he was. This would not do! No one needed to fear good old Pat! Especially not this poor little nugget who was all bruised and broken.

“Let’s have a look at that hand, kiddo. I know all about patching up cuts, you have no idea how clumsy I am.” He laughed brightly at himself, hoping to put the skittish young man at ease. His hands were very gentle as he cradled the tense, cool hand in his warm ones. He was so thin! Patton wanted to feed him badly. Had he brought enough pastries?

The poor darling looked terribly weary of him, so Patton kept up a light stream of chatter to soothe him. “There we go! Your own hands are so difficult to patch up by yourself, aren’t they? And we should have a look at those bruises! How about we make some hot compresses for your face tomorrow, they heal much quicker when you heat them after two days. Oh! And we can make compresses with parsley! Those ribs should be iced as well, to reduce the pain and swelling. We’ll have you fixed up in no time kiddo!”

Virgil’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. This guy sure knew a lot about home-made remedies and first aid for a baker. He was also much gentler than Virgil deserved. Even though he could have been done much faster, he took the time to rub soothing circles over his wrist. The moment he was finished, Virgil yanked his hand back. “Why are you doing this? Don’t you know who I am?”

The baker looked at him in surprise. “Sure I do! You were there when those ill-mannered fellows tried to scare me.” Virgil hunched his shoulders shamefully, clearly remembering the terror of this poor man. He startled when a warm hand carefully cradled his bruised cheek. “Roman also told me that you risked your life to turn against them. That is the bravest thing I have ever heard! I’m so proud of you kiddo! You stood up to those scary men all by yourself. You should not be so hard on yourself.” His eyes were very earnest and very kind. “Of course I wanted to come and help you after you were so selfless and got hurt by those horrible bullies. I don’t care if it’s dangerous, you deserve all the support I can give you.”

Virgil felt as if cold water had been poured over his spine. Of course it was dangerous to help him! Victor and whoever had escaped with him would not be afraid to go after anyone who helped him as soon as they found him. This stupidly kind dude was going to get himself hurt just because of him. He did not deserve such astonishing kindness and this man certainly did not deserve even more pain! Incensed, he lashed out, his worry making him angry.

“Then you are a fucking idiot! You’re stupid to come here and you should be scared!” Terrified for this naive fool, he turned accusing eyes on Logan. He should have more sense than this. “How could you let him come here, man?!”

He was in for a surprise though. Astonishingly, Logan looked panicked at the accusation, like a particularly tall deer caught in the headlights. He looked at Patton in alarm. Virgil had never seen him this intimidated. And sure enough, the tiny baker started chirping like an angry, puffed up sparrow.

“You watch your language young man! And he doesn’t decide who I help! I am an adult and I make my own decisions. I may not be as scary as those detectives, but when I am needed, you do not tell me to stay home, got it?”

Damn, this little dude was scary when he got mad. His cheeks got flushed and he looked like he would lecture you with his fists braced against his waist until you felt as small as a baby rabbit. He reminded him of his mom when she had become angry.

“Sorry.” Baffled, Virgil heard the meek apology leave his own lips, for swearing no less! He did not apologize for his foul mouth, ever. This guy somehow made him feel like a kid when he glowered at him like that. He took some small comfort from the fact that even the terrifying detective Logan Sanders mumbled a docile apology. He had not even done anything!

The scary mom-dude softened immediately, grinning at him lovingly and making his pretty, hazel eyes crinkle in the corners. His smile was like sunshine. “It’s all fine kiddo!” He giggle slightly, hunching his shoulders adorably. Virgil had not heard something this cute in a long time. “You probably got confused because you don’t know what to call me. The name’s Patton or Pat for short. Which is really useful if I forget what my job is called!” He grinned at Virgil’s blank face. “Because I am a Pat-issier!” He exclaimed, raising his arms happily. “I even run a Pat-isserie! Get it?”

Virgil stared at him. Seriously? His amused snort escaped him quite without his consent. It made Patton cheer. “There really is no reason to worry, kiddo! My cafe is the wellest protested place in the city, I always have a cop or a detective there to detect any danger! They even have a rotation.” He exclaimed cheerily. Logan huffed a little at the butchered superlative, but apparently did not dare to speak up.

“Oh you – you noticed that?” Roman asked meekly from the entrance of the kitchen, holding their mugs in a precarious grip. “Sure I did!” Patton exclaimed cheerfully. “I even have the plan! Scully caved immediately when I bribed him with donuts. I am not as silly as I look!”

He did not look insulted at being underestimated, like he thought it was a normal thing to do to him. The detectives looked guilty.

“Now there is no need for those long faces when there are friends and pastries! You need to take your meds and then we’ll have cream puffs with chocolate sauce and nectarine pavlovas and lemon cheesecake with rhubarb and banana and chocolate cream pie parfaits and lots of macarons! Get over here into our cuddle pile!” He chirped and wrapped a gentle arm around Virgil’s narrow shoulders. The delinquent tensed immediately at being touched without warning. Patton kept his arm there while the detectives scurried to set up the food and medication. He smiled lovingly at the young man and carefully pulled him against his warm side.

Virgil went stiffly. He did not know what to do. This – Patton, clearly had a lot of sway over those detectives. It would not do to refuse such a person. However, nothing about him appeared demanding or vindictive. Even his touch did not feel like Roman’s. Though the detective handled him with perfect care and respect, there was an undercurrent of desire about him when he held Virgil close. He was starting to believe it would not get him into trouble, especially considering how guilty the big guy was about it, but it was still there. This man however, felt like he was hugging a child. His embrace was perfectly sweet and innocent. He turned his attention to the detectives, chatting with them enthusiastically and leaving Virgil to figure out what to do in his arms. After a long moment, he cautiously relaxed.

This was actually quite nice.

The pleasant atmosphere was broken abruptly as Roman yelped and jumped back from something between his feet. “RAT!!!” He screeched.

Patton immediately clutched Virgil closer and pulled his feet up with a startled shriek. Logan hurried over and dropped the drugs on the coffee-table as he fell to his knees on the carpet. Protectively, he cradled the rodent to his chest in his big hands. “I apologize. He should not be on the floor unsupervised.” The little creature trustingly curled against his chest, examining his tie with a curious pink nose.

Silence reigned for a long moment. Patton’s jaw dropped as he took in the well dressed detective holding a tame rat to his chest. Somehow the strict, serious man was the last person he would have expected to have a pet. And such an adorable and small one at that. Usually he was scared of rats, but this one was just too cute! And Logan was so gentle and loving with it. The sight softened something in Patton. He had never seen the other man like that, so loving and a little shy, but still proud of his little one. How caring and protective he could be!

“This infernal pest is a filthy stray that nested in Lo’s candy drawer because I unwittingly and tragically attracted it for him! My soft hearted partner caved under the might of its manipulative schemes! It has been a thorn in this noble knights side ever since! Look at its cunning little eyes!” Roman exclaimed accusingly, grandly waving his arms to encompass the tiny rat dwarfed by large hands. It looked up at him innocently and twitched its whiskers. “DON’T allow it to spin its web around you!” Roman cried.

No one heeded his well meant warning.

“OHHHHH!!!! It is the cutest thing I have ever seen!” Patton gushed. He was absolutely enamored by the idea that Logan had adopted an animal in need. How sweet he was! He wanted to hold it desperately! Though he petted every cat on his way to and from work he still missed cuddling animals very badly. He dearly wished to have a pet to love, but Trevor did not like animals, he thought they’d make the flat filthy. For some reason cats did not seem to like his poor boyfriend either, so Patton could understand he reluctance and accepted his wish. He wanted to make him comfortable after all. But surely, if he washed his hands very thoroughly before he felt, petting the little rat would not hurt him? Logan probably kept very clean pets. He gathered his courage and asked softly “Can I pet it?” Roman groaned in acute misery. Was he really invisible? Why did nobody listen his warnings?!

Logan smiled in relieve. He had been very worried Patton would not like his beloved pet. “Certainly. His name is Nicodemus and he is most certainly neither filthy not a pest.” He groused at his partner. “He is a registered therapy animal in the service of the department.”

“Really? He’s good at that.” Virgil mumbled. He was still cradled against Patton’s side and was starting to burrow in as the pattisier was now running his hand up and down his arm comfortingly.

Roman sighed loudly and flopped down next to Virgil. If they would not listen to his great advise he would let them walk headfirst into misery! Before they’d know it, this little spy would have them wrapped around its paw. Was he the only one immune?! Such a tragic tale. He glared at the ratty traitor. It squeaked smugly at him.

Patton of course was delighted. “He is? Ohhhhh aren’t you the bravest little soldier! Look at you, with your itty bitty tiny little paws. AWWWWW you are such a good little rat, aren’t you? Yes you are!” He cooed. Logan huffed a laugh as he places the rodent on Patton’s lap so he could pet it one-handed. The small creature seemed to sense a friend and quickly climbed up the baker’s tunic and settled on his shoulder, close to where Virgil was cuddled. He took a moment to ruffle soft purple hair, before he stood on his hind-legs and sniffed the newcomer’s ear. He smelled nice. The man giggled in delight and squirmed, clearly ticklish. This was a good place to be, the little rat decided, settling in to cuddle next to his new friend, on the shoulder of the new sweet smelling, bright human.

The four men divided the delicious pastries between each other, making sure to take proper care of Virgil, feeling him, wrapping him up in a soft blanket and making him drink tea and take his meds. He fell asleep to a sweet taste on his tongue and the giddily told story about the cats Patton got to pat on his way to work. Roman was a solid warmth at his back and Logan felt calm and safe on his other side. The cool rat was snuffling around his hair where he leaned his head on Patton’s shoulder. Not much later, Pat’s head leaned on the young man’s head, as he fell asleep as well, feeling happier than he could remember feeling in a long time, and perfectly at home in this clean, comfy flat, surrounded by friends and with an actual rat cuddled under his neck! How wonderful.

Chapter Text

Roman slammed the phone down hard, fuming. While Logan usually was the one who made colleagues avoid their desk with his ire, this time the dorky detective was furious enough to clear a wide circle around them. Only Hitchcock was foolish enough to inch his rolling chair closer to them with a hungry expression.

“I cannot believe the lack of evidence this – this frigging – this ghost has left behind. Surely no detective has ever had to face an adversary this terrible!” Roman’s attractive face had reddened in anger. He had been hunting this filthy, slimy jewelery thieve for weeks now. Yesterday, Logan and he had spent only half a day at the precinct, worried about leaving Virgil alone for too long so suddenly, but the little time had sufficed for his brilliant mind to spot a pattern in the robberies and a subsequent target. Logan had helped. A little.

The trap he had set up at the auction house had been a thing of beauty, even - dare he say it? A work of art! He had the security personnel install a second, undocumented layer of precautions inside the vault. Pressure sensors, motion detectors, a locking mechanism that could only be disengaged from the outside, effectively locking the despicable criminal in. They had gotten everything done subtly and quickly and Roman had been so proud. Finally he would get to laugh in the face of this villain who had dared to mock him! And yet.

The trap had been sprung over night and Logan and he had raced there first thing in the morning in order to revel in the defeated expression of his adversary. Roman had looked especially good today. After all, it was only right the last thing this deplorable criminal would get to see in his free life would be the radiant features of the man who had beaten him!

The vault door had opened slowly. Everybody had held their breaths. It had been perfect.

Until the door had swung open all the way and revealed – nothing.

And when he said nothing, he meant nothing at all. The whole vault had been swept bare, the gold, the jewelery, the artifacts and the precious stones kept there – all gone and no robber in sight. The cameras showed nothing, the floor and walls were completely undisturbed, the guards were clueless and the computer showed no evidence of interference. None of those things were the worst of it though.

The worst – the truly horrendous, terrible, despicable thing – was the single, brightly glazed yellow donut sitting in the middle of the vault. It was decorated with dark chocolate stripes and had a glittering, diamond encrusted diadem perched on top of it. And it was not any old diadem. The gosh darn thing was encrusted with 1,333 diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant in the center of the front cross. A piece belonging to the British Royal collection, created in 1820. The most valuable piece of the collection. Left behind.

“He wanted you to know. He wanted to show you he didn’t even need to steal it, the bastard.” Jake croaked in a comically deep voice, which was supposed to be dramatic, like the actors in old movies, as he rolled in on his office chair.

“You are right! This wretched criminal intended to show me he did not need the money!” Roman gasped theatrically. “He is doing it for fun. This monster!”

Jake rolled closer, leaning over Roman’s right shoulder to whisper in his ear like the metaphorical devil on his shoulder. Logan furrowed his brow in irritation, but was distracted by the voice on the other end of the phone. “Självklart, jag hänger kvar.” He responded in nearly flawless Swedish, confirming he would hold the line. This actually rather interesting development had allowed them to connect their robberies to a series of break-ins in Sweden, whose police he was currently contacting. Jake meanwhile used his distraction to rile up his partner.

“Imagine this corrupt scoundrel sitting at a beach, draped in stolen jewelery, laughing at you!” He croaked, waving his arms in front of Roman, who was eating it all up.

Mocking me!” The young detective cried.

“Preening with pride over defeating one of our brightest -”

“And most handsome!” Roman added, brushing his hair back flamboyantly.

“Sure, that too.” Jake laughed, falling out of his role for a moment. “Anyway, this dude is boasting with his meticulously planned, devilish schemes while slurping a margarita!”

Logan rolled his eyes and straightened in his seat as he was finally connected to the precinct that had handled the case. “Vi behöver filerna på rånet av Walters Art Museet för sju månader sen.” He kept a sharp eye on his partner, while the requested file was searching for. “Ja, självklart.” He confirmed.

Meanwhile, Roman was in full dramatic daydream mode. “He’s probably British, with his showy British accent.” He growled, looking into the middle distance.

Jake leaned closer, mimicking a dark, narrating voice. “And he wears a bowler hat!”

“And a cape! Like a proper super villain!” Roman exclaimed, balling his fist and waving it. Hitchcock narrowly avoided getting hit. He clearly was after the glossy donut encased in an evidence bag on the detective’s desk.

“Now this is just poor cultural profiling based on stereotypes.” Logan complained, nearly fed up with his childish colleague’s antics. Both looked at him and then proceeded to ignore his input.

“I bet he wears like, a yellow suit!” Jake rasped, pretending to straighten his non-existent suit jacket.

“And carries a white cat, like a bond villain fitting this fabulous agent of the law!” Roman proclaimed. Logan groaned in annoyance at both of them as well as the Swedish officer who was too timid to wake the responsible investigator to get him his file. “Du skulle vilja väcka utredaren, det är fruktansvärt bråttom.” He growled mercilessly. His patience was wearing thin. He wished he had Nicodemus with him. Or Patton. The drama on the other side of the desk was gaining steam as his partner “improved” his own idea.

“BUT NO! Not even cats would tolerate the stench of so despicable a creature! A snake! Representing the original sin.”

“YES!” Jake crooned delightedly. “He is probably stroking its yellow head right now, cackling evilly.” Jake imitated a villainous cackling rather badly, patting an imaginary snake. He looked demented. “Surely he tells it about the detective whose brilliant plan he thwarted, calling you a fool!”

“But this detective will not be stopped, I shall catch him and drag him to justice with my bare hands!” Roman hollered, slamming his fist down right on the evidence bag containing the yellow donut, reducing it to mush. Hitchcock, who had finally wheeled himself within reach whimpered in distress.

“Eran inkompetens är inte mitt problem, få det gjort.” Logan hissed into the phone, letting the foreign colleague know exactly what he thought about his incompetence. He slammed the phone down just as Jake dramatically proclaimed “You have met your nemesis!”

Thoroughly fed up, Logan slipped down in his chair and gave Jake’s rolling chair a firm kick, sending him careening away. He screeched, waving his arms, trying to regain his balance, before crashing with a yelp.

Do not aggravate my partner.” Logan growled.

Jake gave a dreamy sigh from the floor. “I wish I had a partner as strong and determined to protect me as you, man. It’s kinda romantic, in a platonic, manly bromance kinda way.” He informed Roman wistfully.

“I got your back, Jake-the-hammer!” Boyle chirped enthusiastically. Though he was neither as strong, nor as intimidating as Logan, or at all in fact, Jake was too kind to roll his eyes at the slightly chubby detective.

“Thanks, Charles.” He exclaimed from his spot on the floor. Boyle was plenty determined after all.

Terry stopped his track back to his desk in confusion upon encountering Jake on the floor. With a long suffering sigh, the huge black man bent down and grabbed his subordinate by the back of his jacket, lifting him up one-handed. “Get back to work.”

“Your wish is my command!” Jake pompously stated, saluting obnoxiously.

“No, my command is my command. Now go or I’ll carry you there like a kitten.” Terry scolded, like he would his baby girls. Then again, he would never speak to his little angels like that. He only treated his work babies this way. Jake scurried back to his desk.

Though distracted by the display of rough protectiveness, the thought of having a nemesis had burned itself deeply into the mind of the creative detective.

Finally.

He took a deep breath to regal his partner with his heroic plans to catch his greatest adversary yet, as he was rudely cut off by said partner. “Call the Police Nationale and ask about cases with a similar modus operandi. Your french is much superior to mine.”

Roman harrumphed in indignation. Did Logan not know what a monumental step in the career of a detective the gaining of an arch nemesis constituted? He was constantly suppressing his passion!

He jumped and squeaked in shock as the trashcan next to his desk was kicked hard. Rosa Diaz was hovering over him in all of her stoic, terrifying glory. “I’ll pick up your criminal.”

“My Virgil!” Roman retorted before he could stop himself. Virgil had finally agreed to see a therapist, thanks to Roman’s downright pleading. Since they were still tied up at work, and he needed protection, they had convinced him to let a trustworthy officer pick him up. He had not quite envisioned Rosa for this sensitive task though.

“Whatever.” She drawled, clearly careless about the virtues of his brave – of Virgil. That would not do!

“He is not a criminal but a brave, enchanting creature of the light, cruelly ensnared by those foul creatures whose regime of terror he fought valiantly to -”

Whatever.” The word was spoken with a growling undertone, silencing the gentle detective. He could not quite hide his worried frown though. The young man was clearly frightened of the session and needed a gentle approach. Rosa seemed to notice his doubts.

“I know how to handle mushy, emotional crap. Trust me.”

After contemplating the situation for a long moment, he nodded. “Alright, I trust you with this very important matter.”

“Great.” She drawled dryly. Oh dear. Roman sure hoped Virgil would not be too stressed when Rosa arrived.

***

Virgil sank to the cold bathroom floor weakly, ribs screaming. He was drenched in cold sweat, trembling like a newborn foal. After throwing up for the third time, there was nothing left in his stomach and his throat felt raw. The young delinquent curled up tightly, pulling his hood over his purple head. He was so afraid.

Logically, he knew he had faced worse, but even the prospect of being forced to talk about -

He felt nausea make his stomach turn. He clasped a hand over his mouth, desperately trying to breathe through the terror. Pictures flashed before his eyes he had thought he had represses for good. A frightened whine escaped him, as he felt their hands on him suddenly. He remembered the first time with startling, cruel clarity. The grip on his wrist. The breath on his face – too close – a kiss being forced onto his lips that was more like an assault, eager and hungry, trying to devour him whole.

Virgil pulled on his hair hard, gasps turning to sobs. The first time he had bled – as if it happened right now. The first time someone cut him. He clenched his jaw hard, tasting blood, curling up tighter around a scar at his side. He felt them all in moments like these, hot and searing, pulling at his skin. He felt pulled taunt, thin. If that therapist started prodding at him he knew he could rip open along the fragile lines of his scars. Everything tainted and used and dirty would come spilling out and he would be left scrambling to hold the pieces of himself inside with bloody, helpless hands. He couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t hecouldn’t!

Frantic desperation washed over him suddenly. No no no NO! He couldn’t stand this feeling, why had he agreed to this?! Feeling unbearably filthy suddenly, he started pulling at his clothes, carelessly ripping the seam of his old t-shirt as he tore it off his skinny body. Roman had been kind enough to have an officer pack his meager belongings of his former room above the garage and bring them here. The feeling had started the moment he had opened the box containing his clothes. A tightness in his chest, a stabbing that had nothing to do with the cracked bones. He had torn it open and yanked out all the black leather and fabric besmirched with a sulfur yellow scorpion. He could not look at it anymore, did not want it close to him a second longer. Logan had wordlessly handed him a trash-bag and taken it with him as he left for work.

He did not care that he was ripping apart one of the few shirts that remained. It felt constricting around his neck, like it was suffocating him. Stumbling, he tried to make it to the shower. Why was his vision so blurry?! Finally feeling the controls under his fingers, he turned the water on hot, hotter than the scars burning on his body. It hurt to step under the spray, but not as much as the invading phantom touches he still felt. This time there was no rat to stop him. He had left it in the cage in the living-room. He scrubbed and scrubbed at his disgusting, filthy skin until it was red and raw and his breathing was labored because of the pain. He needed to wash them off. His gasps were loud in the tiled, steam filled room, his ears were ringing.

Somehow, it was hard to draw air into his lungs because of the steam, as if the heated, moist air was too thick to breathe. He sank to the floor. The high pitched noise got louder. It was – fucking annoying. A scratching joined the noise. Virgil let his head fall hard against the wall of the shower. Could he not even panic in peace?

A shriek that sounded particularly angry jolted him out of his thoughts. Wait – was that the cool rat? Curiosity overshadowed the cloying feeling hindering his breathing. He knew he had left that fucking rat in its cage. With shaking fingers, he stretched up and turned off the water. A shiver immediately wracked his thin form. Still, he got up unsteadily and padded to the door. On second thought – he grabbed the bathrobe hanging behind the door. Virgil still wasn’t too fond of being naked around the cool rat.

Wrapped in the surprisingly fluffy robe, he dared to open the door. A gray streak shot in and sat down right on his foot, bracing itself on his shin. He had never seen an insulted rat, but damn was this rat insulted. It squeaked at him in outrage, clearly feeling left out. Virgil groaned in disbelieve. Was he honestly feeling guilty about locking the rat out while he showered? He needed to turn this guilt off ASAP. After all it was what had gotten him into this trouble in the first place. Though in pain, terrified, scalded and confused, he knew one thing with absolute certainty. It was all Roman’s fault. The detective and his fucking innocent, hopeful puppy eyes had made him agree to meet this Dr. Harris. He had made him cave, somehow, and promise he would go to one session and only go again if it was anything but unbearable to Virgil. But it wasn’t. It was unbearable to him before it had even started. And now he had an angry rat on his foot. Just fucking awesome.

With some trouble, he dried off and pulled his clothes on again, at least the ones he had not ruined. His oversized black hoody had thankfully survived. Though his skin was red and sensitive, he had had much worse. The cool rat had distracted him in time. The rat which was still inconsolably insulted. He picked it up and examined it for a moment. It sat on its hind-legs, basically ranting at him. He imagined it would shake its fist at him if it knew how. The thought made his lips twitch weakly. “You’re a damned good therapy rat, buddy.” It squeaked at him, long and outraged. “Wow, okay dude, I get it.” He sat it down and turned on the tap, filling the sink with lukewarm water. With a splash, the rat dove in and started cheerily paddling in circles.

Virgil stood for a long moment and watched the cool rat. What was his life?

He threw open the window and let the cool spring air ruffle his damp locks. Unconsciously, his senses were trained on the rodent behind him, on the happy squeaks and energetic splashes. It calmed him. He settled on the counter next to it and started brushing his teeth with non-rat-infested water from the shower. His hands were shaking. Roman’s fault, all of it.

Making a split second decision, he grabbed the old smart-phone Logan had been considerate enough to give him and shot a text to the detective before he lost his nerve. “Can I take the rat?

He felt pathetic and weak and immediately regretted sending it. Of course Logan would not want him to leave the house with his precious pet and risk loosing it! Why was there no function for deleting stupid stupid messages?

A buzzing interrupted his anxious, racing thoughts. “Certainly. I left him in your care in order to assist you. Please insure he does not escape or come to harm.” Huh. He stared at the message for a long moment, then let his gaze travel to the rat. Okay. If Logan trusted him with his pet, then he would somehow get through this. Not having to go alone made the situation marginally less terrifying.

It was almost time to go. He pulled the rodent from the sink to dry it off (and got squeaked at angrily in the process, seriously, this rat had an attitude) and headed to the guest-room to find a new shirt. Virgil tried hard not to think about some random cop coming to pick him up to take him to fucking therapy. It made him feel all kinds of exposed and humiliated.

Right as he had settled the rat into his hood, where it rolled up contently, a knock shook him to the core. He ran a shaking hand though his cooling, damp hair. The delinquent was weary of cops even on a good day, but this was ridiculous. Pull yourself together, for fucks sake! He took a deep breath and pulled the door open, expecting the worst.

“Kiddo!!! So happy to see you! Are you ready for your big day?”

Patton. Patton was standing in the corridor, beaming at him like an actual ray of sunshine. He was cradling a box in his slender hands, his hair was falling in a sugary disarray and he looked absolutely loving. Something in Virgil loosened. If felt like the constricting fabric around his neck was pulled away by the force of Patton’s smile. He took a deep breath.

“Um, hey Pat. What are you doing here? I though a cop was supposed to escort me?” He mumbled, looking past the baker into the corridor.

“Oh yes! Rosa asked me to come as moral support, because I told her how much I care for you, kiddo! She is waiting in the car. Now why don’t we put those away?” He gently rattled the box his logo was printed on – a white glazed donut with colorful sprinkles on a pastel pink background. “You can enjoy them when we get back. We’ll have snacks and cuddle a little before I have to go home. You’ll have earned all the sugar! I added extra sprinkles and decorations.” He whispered conspiratorially.

Virgil stepped back and let him enter, noting the appreciative way he looked at the details of the flat with soft eyes. His eyebrows drew together as he notices that Patton was walking differently than usual. He seemed – stiff, tense maybe? He even limped slightly. Worry swept away his anxiety. He followed the baker to the kitchen where he stored the box. Yet, before the could work up the courage to inquire after his health, Pat turned and demanded a proper greeting, beaming at him and opening his arms wide. “C’mere my dark, strange child!”

“Really not a child, Patton – oh, okay, looks like we’re doing this.” He mumbled, as the bubbly pattisier pulled him in. He wasn’t a particularly big man at all, and did not envelop him like Roman did, who shielded him from the world with his massive body, but he somehow felt like nothing could get past him anyway. Everything about his embrace was sweet and caring. He nuzzled his soft cheek against Virgil’s and ran a comforting hand through his damp locks. He could feel Patton’s smile against his face. I was as if it warmed him like actual sunshine. He had not felt affection that strong for a human being in a long time. The cool rat stuck its nose out of his hood and sniffed the hand at his neck curiously. “AWWWW hey there little buddy!” Patton cooed over Virgil’s shoulder.

Finally, Virgil remembered how hugs were supposed to work and brought his arms around the soft form. He was careful, his anxiety making his touch light and hesitant, but as his palms settled on his back, Patton still stiffened noticeably. Though he had been humming and cooing all the time, not a single sound escaped him now. Virgil felt him clench his teeth hard. He yanked his hands away.

“Fuck, Patton, what the hell happened?!” He exclaimed. Protectiveness crashed over him hard. Who the fuck had hurt this sweet dude?!

The baker’s eyes were suspiciously, painfully bright as he allowed Virgil to pull away. He smiled at him, sunshiny and innocently. “Oh don’t you worry about your clumsy Patton my dear kiddo! I just got home late the other night and did not want to wake Trevor, so I left the lights off and tripped. You know me, always falling over my own feet!” He giggled cheerfully. Virgil wasn’t buying it.

He remembered waking up two days ago, the cool rat snuffling around his hair, his head on Patton’s shoulder, the way he had slept peacefully almost curled around him. He had not felt this warm and safe in a very long time. Roman had been snoring at his other side, his long limbs sprawling. He had mumbled something about vanquishing dragons, before Logan had placed a blanket over him. The older detective had been quietly cleaning the flat, apparently unable to sit comfortably while dirty dishes stood on the coffee table. The noise had woken Patton. He remembered the moment clearly because he had been on high alert, fearing to be pushed away. The baker had noticed him in his arms and had briefly pulled him closer, burying his nose in his hair, before he spotted the darkness falling outside the window. A look of raw panic had crossed his face for a very short moment, before he schooled it into his usual, happy expression. He had kissed Virgil’s head and lovingly but quickly said his goodbyes, almost stumbling as his feet tangled in the blanket Logan (the sap) had placed over them. The detective had worriedly offered to drive him home, but Pat had insisted on taking the bus. Logan had obviously not liked it at all, and had insisted to at least accompany him to the bus stop.

And now he was here, obviously hurting. Virgil steeled himself to hunt down the truth then and there. He had seen too many women, and some men as well, hide injuries while he had worked on the streets. He also remembered the kind lady next door to his childhood flat, who had always smiled and promised she was fine. They had heard the way her husband had yelled at her at night, the plates crashing against the walls. They had moved out eventually. Not this time! He remembered the lesson Logan had taught him, knew it might be the trauma talking, that he was likely overreacting, projecting his own experiences perhaps, but he would prefer to be safe than sorry.

“You tripped?” He asked suspiciously. “In your own flat?”

“Oh – sure! I – I do that, silly me. You can’t leave me out of your sight. I’ll bruise like a peach!” He giggled, looking slightly flustered. It was very believable, especially as he had seen Patton’s clumsiness. He was still not buying it.

“Hmmm. Must have been pretty bad, considering that felt like bandages on your back.” Virgil commented. Though clearly skeptical, he kept his voice kind and patient. Patton’s smile faltered only for a second. Then he dropped his head, hiding his flush behind his bangs as if embarrassed by his clumsiness. Again, really believable.

“Oh well, that - that is a funny story! My bad luck really is legendary, I must have crossed a black kitty somewhere! I was walking through the living room on my tippy toes and lost my balance and tumbled into the coffee table. I got cut just a tiny little bit by the glass, but I patched myself up and now I’m as good as new and ready to go!” He peeked up at Virgil, hoping to have put him at ease, but found the delinquent looking horrified.

“You – wait a fucking minute!”

“Language!” Patton threw in, bracing his fists against his hips strictly. Oh no, he was not distracting Virgil with his dad vibes!

“Who cares?!” The strict look intensified. “Sorry. Just – you cut yourself on a glass table and – and then you patched up your own back? By yourself?”

Patton faltered a little bit. “Well, of course. It was fine, I didn’t want to annoy Trevor further.” Virgil scoffed in sheer disbelieve. Annoy him? What he actually wanted to do was scream and shake Patton.

“Now don’t you scoff at me, young man!” Patton scolded him. “I was already really late, he had every right to be angry at me. I -” His breath hitched a little. Virgil seized up in fear of the possibility of a crying Patton. “I was supposed to cook dinner for him that evening and I – I forgot. I fell asleep and he was waiting for me all this time, not knowing what was wrong, why I wasn’t there. He was so disappointed in me and really should have been much angrier, I deserved it!” His eyes were bright again. He turned away, hiding his face and hugging his slender body.

Virgil felt like somebody had kicked him in the stomach. He was not sure how much to believe of this story, but the parts Patton had revealed were already bad enough. He had fallen and hurt his back and this dude had not only failed to help him, but had made him feel bad for falling asleep as well. And Pat seemed to think that was okay.

Fuck.

He – he did not know what to do. Helplessness overwhelmed him. He once again thought of his neighbor, this sweet woman who had always given him cookies, claiming to be fine, she had just tripped, she had stumbled against the counter, she was just clumsy and refusing help for years and years.

No.

He could not give up. But he could not do this alone. He would keep his eyes open and gather evidence. Logan valued facts, he could be reasoned with, even if it was a criminal who provided the information, he would listen if he noticed more details. He would start writing down his observations the moment he got back. And Roman? Virgil realized with some relieve that he would probably listen to him even if he only voiced his fears. He was not alone in this. They adored Patton. He would come to them as soon as he had more to go on than old fears and suspicions. For now he could see that Patton was stonewalling. He was hurt and trying hard to keep up the happy facade, but Virgil’s accusations were making him defensive. He would not get anywhere today. However, there was one more thing he could do. It would hurt though.

“Hey Pat?” The pattisier turned to him, smiling at him gently. He had already mostly composed himself. “What is it, kiddo?”

“You know you can always talk to me, right? I know I’m not the most, um, the most - approachable person, but if there is something you want to talk about, I may understand some of it, and I can listen without judgment.” His voice was not as steady as he would have liked it to be.

Patton’s brows instantly furrowed with selfless worry. “Understand? What would you understand?”

Virgil lowered his head and raised a shaking hand, clutching the fabric covering his shoulder. “Um. I – I understand feeling – being – getting hurt and having no one to – to talk to, who understands. I know what it feels like to hide things you think make you – um – things you are – are ashamed of-” He broke off, unable to form coherent sentences. His thoughts felt muddled with fear, his heart was pounding hard. He swallowed down his terror, for Patton, and pulled his shirt and hoody over his shoulder, exposing his prominent bones and white skin. And the ugliest part of himself. Once again, he found himself begging the universe to have made Roman overlook it as he had undressed him. He could not handle the thought of this gentle, pure idiot having seen, or even touched this -

Patton gasped in horror as he finally spotted the marks on his pale skin. Two imperfect half circles marked the curve of his thin shoulder, seared into his skin with permanently imprinted scar tissue where someone had brutally sunk their teeth into his body.

Virgil pulled the fabric up quickly. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t – he -

Tender hands grasped the sides of his face. Patton pulled him down the few inches he had on him and rested his forehead against Virgil’s. “It’s okay, kiddo. I’m here. You are safe now, I’ve got you. I’ll take care of you, everything will be alright. You are so brave. I am so proud of you!”

Virgil listened to him, trying to focus on his voice. He wondered how Patton could stand to touch him. If he knew- “Hush now, It’s okay, kiddo.” His gentle voice interrupted his thoughts. Pat held him close for long moments, thankful that Rosa had planned time for “emotional crap” as she had called it. “What can I do? Would you like to talk about it?” He asked carefully, while he petted the young man’s hair. Virgil shook his head hard, not looking at Patton. “Okay, that’s fine, little one.” He pulled him in again and just held him, subtly wiping away a few tears that escaped him at the memory of this cruel scar. The poor baby! He never wanted to let him go again. How badly he wanted to take his suffering away!

Virgil was not one for emotional displays. He pulled away sooner than Patton wanted to release him, but allowed him to escape the safety of his arms reluctantly. The compassionate pattisier had a hard time swallowing back his tears as Virgil brushed past him. “I’m fine. Let’s get this over with.” He rumbled, not looking at Patton. His heart broke as he realized the younger man was ashamed. Catching up with him, he intertwined their fingers, hoping to convey his affection.

He tried very much not to think about why Virgil had shown his scar to him. He could not bear the thought of him getting hurt. The pattisier feverishly hope this poor kiddo did not understand his situation. It was completely different. Virgil was brave and strong and a great person! He did not deserve to be hurt.

Surely Roman and Logan would not hurt him? He could not imagine they would. Virgil was precious and deserved nothing but care, Patton was sure the smart men saw this.

They made their way downstairs together, where Rosa was waiting in her car. Patton made sure they both got into the back seat so he could offer subtle cuddles. His own pain felt muted compared to the acing of his heart. It was difficult to let Virgil go for even a moment.

“Hey.” Rosa greeted them in her monotonous voice. “Detective Diaz. Direct your mushy, emotional crap at him.” She added, nodding to Patton.

Virgil scoffed. “I don’t do mushy, emotional crap.”

“Cool.” She remarked, pulling into traffic. Patton repressed a long suffering sigh at the two of them. They did not say another word to each other. However, they both seemed comfortable with this arrangement, so who was he to complain? He cuddled close to Virgil’s side.

The delinquent felt his frazzled nerves calm slightly as his new friend curled close. He was warm and accepting and radiated affection. He released the tense breath he had been holding and tried to distract himself with the view as Patton started to draw circles on the back of his hand. His touch was impossibly innocent. Virgil perked up slightly as they passed a planetarium he had often visited as a kid. He fondly remembered the nerd running it and couldn’t help but wonder if Logan would enjoy a place like this. He was caught by this ridiculous longing again, for something stupid and domestic and unattainable like a family trip with Logan, Roman and Patton. Pat would have his arm curled around Logan’s while Roman would excitedly try to tell Virgil silly stories he would have made up.

Virgil shook himself. He needed to get a grip. The young man wondered what his future therapist would say about fantasies like those. He guessed he was about to find out.

*

Rosa stayed in the car once again. “I hate therapists.” She growled. Virgil could understand her feelings quite well and actually wished he could sit in the car with her in silence instead, even though she was kind of scary. Patton mercifully accompanied him to the office. As they walked up the two flights of stairs, Virgil’s feet started dragging. He really did not want to go. Pat seemed to notice his reluctance and wrapped an arm around his encouragingly. He was so brave and kind, even after everything he had learned. The delinquent did not want to disappoint this man. Patton even opened the door to the office when the younger man hesitated. “It’ll be okay, kiddo. I’ll wait right here for you.” He promised kindly. His warm, brown eyes gave Virgil the courage to step into the waiting room. It was all sleek, modern design, expensive art and glass walls. At least there were no dark wood panelings and leather recliners. Yet.

“You may head right in, Mr. Raine. Dr. Harris should be expecting you.” The professional looking secretary informed him from behind her desk. Her black hair was pulled into a thick bun and the bright red bindi painted to the middle of her forehead matched her blouse perfectly. He clenched his jaw, fighting the spasm of fear and nausea, and crept past her. Patton’s hand remained between his shoulder blades for a moment longer. Though it was comforting, he was still feeling jittery and out of place in the modern setting.

The handle was cool under his fingers. He clutched it tight, feeling the expectant and hopeful gazes respectively behind his back. The room felt oppressively silent as he tried to make himself push down the handle.

He couldn’t do it.

A little movement at his back made him aware of the animal he was smuggling in. Maybe the therapist would throw him right out again if the dramatic little bugger made a ruckus? The thought was almost amusing. In any case, he was not going in alone. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door and stepped into the office. Into the empty office. Where the fuck was this chick?! Had he gone through all the mental drama just to wait like an idiot?

Annoyed at himself for his fear and at Rebecca, he crossed his arms and examined the room, like he always did. Only one door, the windows were too high up to jump without injury, since there was nothing in reach to jump onto. He knew there was no need to look for an escape route. Diaz was guarding the only entrance and he had not come here to fight. It just felt like he was fighting for his life. Though admittedly, the place did not look particularly scary. There wasn’t a lot of furniture, like the owner was too lazy to decorate. A large desk stood close to the window, which looked pretty much unused. A plant, which was drooping sadly, sat on top of it. On the wall to his left however, sat a gray couch with two chairs placed close at an angle facing it. It was … not what he had expected. The whole thing looked terribly comfy, it was fluffy and huge, stuffed with colorful pillows and blankets and gave the feeling of being slept on regularly. The chairs were just as wide and comfy.

He jumped as the door behind him was carelessly flung open and a man barged in loudly. He was wearing jeans, a leather jacket and a white shirt with a messenger bag thrown over his shoulder. He was also adorned with sunglasses. Inside. Virgil immediately labeled him as a douche. Especially as he saw the plastic Starbucks cup he was lugging along. Virgil hated those.

“Heey, S’up Gurl! Sorry I’m late.” He exclaimed, looking into his general direction. He flung the bag next to the armchair further from Virgil and noisily slurped his drink through a plastic straw. The delinquent instantly felt his hackles rising, but was too tongue tied to start ranting.
The man lowered his sunglasses enough to gaze at him over their rim disinterestedly, while balancing the drink in one hand and the smart-phone he had wiped out in the other.

Who exactly was this dude now? “Ahm – I was supposed to meet Rebecca Harris here?” Virgil mumbled awkwardly.

“Rebecca is dead.” The man told him, dead serious.

What the fuck? Virgil thought about backing away slowly, when the newcomer suddenly threw his head back in annoyance, executing a rather flamboyant wrist flick. “I did not call myself Rebecca since I was like, fourteen. Honestly, Logan’s got to go with the time! He is, like, such a stick in the mud, AND I did not even get a “Congrats on your sex-change, doll” card. Im-possible! I can not deal with a friend like that, like, I deserve better, you know? I don’t need this. I blocked him on Insta. He does not deserve my selfies or my post. They are a gift to the world.” With a dramatic sigh, he flopped into the chair next to the sofa.

In his defense, Virgil was still rattled by this dude’s entrance, the sheer pace of his speech and the fact that the uptight Dr. Rebecca Harris he had expected was apparently a dude with issues, so his mind latched on a quite random detail. “Logan is on Instagram?”

The weird “therapist” paused his typing to look over his shades, apparently scandalized. “Are you saying he isn’t?” Contemplatively, he added, “Who did I block then?”

Virgil took a moment to sort through his thoughts incredulously. The image of Logan on Instagram was a hard one to shake. “Dude, I don’t think he knows about your - um.”

“Well, clearly, if he’s not on Insta. Like, where does he get his news? The poor girl lives under a rock. How am I supposed to be friends with someone who is not on Insta? Can you imagine what he puts me though? Like, he wouldn’t even party with me when we met.” He heaved another frustrated sigh, as if the world rested on his shoulders. “That is what I put up with. I wish I could block him again. At all. Whatever.”

Okay. Virgil waited awkwardly for the session to start, for that dude to do his thing and force him to escape to Patton like the pathetic child that he was, but the guy was just typing on his phone with a bored expression. Okaaaay? After a minute or two, curiosity overwhelmed his fear. “So you are…”

Fabulous. Don’t label me girl.”

Okay. Sure. He got ignored again. Virgil uncrossed his arms, then crossed them again, his feelings warring between terror and annoyance – and curiosity. Where did an uptight dude like Logan find – this? “Sooo, um - where did you meet him?”

Scrolling through his phone idly, the “therapist” took his sweet time to answer. “Hmmm… don’t know. When I was, like, twelve I guess or whatever. At that booooring gifted camp. That was, like, the last time we met too. Not that he deserved my attention!”

Virgil snorted in actual amusement. The guy sounded annoyed, like he had actually wanted Logan’s attention and was still miffed over not getting it. “So if you didn’t meet or chat all this time, how’d know you’d become a psychologist?” The delinquent inquired.

Looking at Virgil over rim of his sunglasses, leather-jacket-and-attitude answered condescendingly. “Doll, cause I told him I would.” As if it would be obvious. “Now I guess you should sit your cute ass down, gurl. Let’s talk about your issues an’ stuff or whatever.” He mumbled, slumping down farther in his plush chair, still scrolling through his phone.

“No way.” Virgil immediately bristled at the demand. Fear made him stiffen up painfully. He could not talk about the things he helped the Scorpions do, Hector’s betrayal, his prostitution to a complete stranger. The mere thought of opening up this way made a sour taste rise in his throat once again. His terror came back with a vengeance.

His “therapist” lowered his glasses, giving him an unimpressed stare. “Are you kidding me right now?! I cannot work like that! How am I supposed to work like that? It’s not like it’s my job to make you talk about, like, your feelings and stuff. This is fricking seriously a preposterous work environment!”

“Actually it is your job.” Virgil mumbled. Confusion warred with fear. This dude sure was a weirdo. Was he not supposed to pressure him to open up? The fact that he did not act like he expected a psychologist to behave at all put him at ease a bit though. He was sassy and disinterested instead of sympathetic and focused on him. It made Virgil breathe more easily.

“Wow, Ruuude!” The young man complained. “That’s it! I cannot work with you! I do not get paid enough to put up with this!”

“You do not get paid at all.” Virgil reminded him. The dude groaned at the deep unfairness of the world.

“You. Be quiet. Just – sit. Here.” He tossed a piece of paper in Virgil’s direction.

“What the fuck is this?” the question gained him another look a particularly stupid first-grader would have deserved. “The wi-fi password?” He drawled, as if it was obvious. Shaking his head, he went back to typing and slurping his coffee.

Cautiously, Virgil settled on the couch, watching the feared psychologist like a hawk. He was still waiting for him to make his move and attack him with his intrusive questions or understanding looks. Even the thought of being watched by a man whose job it was to dig around in people’s minds felt unbearable. But this dude blissfully ignored him. He kept typing on his phone and sipping from this fucking disposable cup. It was – the best thing that could have happened to Virgil. He felt something loosen in his chest very slowly. Carefully, as if he were afraid of drawing the man’s attention to himself, Virgil sat more comfortably. Nothing happened. The rat that had obediently hidden in his hoody apparently felt the change in atmosphere and climbed onto his shoulder, squeaking and settling there.

Hold the f- up, Gurl! What the f- is this – thing?” For the first time, the “therapist” lowered his glasses and focused on Virgil completely, looking bewildered.

“My therapy rat, Gurl.” Virgil shot back, sounding as sarcastic as possible. Instinctively, he felt he could not show weakness. And he would not let anyone get between him and the cool rat.

“Seriously? A - a therapy rat? How could you? Like - I’m right here and you’re replacing me? This is, like, a serious fricking outrage! You don’t appreciate my efforts, I’m feeling so attacked right now, after everything I have invested in you! I’m out, I don’t need this.” He got up, waving his cup in Virgil’s face, looking offended.

“It’s your office, dude!” Virgil exclaimed, baffled. Incredibly, he felt amusement rise in his chest.

The “therapist” stopped in his tracks, looking around, and then at Virgil, and finally at the rat, as if it was its fault. “THIS - THIS IS IT! Don’t talk to me! You are, like, really rude to me, gurl. I am not gonna put up with this! No ma’am, no MA’AM! Have a cookie for this imposter and be, like, be quiet. You’re bumming out my area with your – like – emo-vibes.”

There were actual cookies on the table next to the couch. “Emo-vibes? At least I don’t wear shades inside like some wannabe villain, or fuck up the environment with my garbage.”

The dude spluttered in outrage. “My – like -” He broke off, pulling his sunglasses down to glare over them. “Gurl, you are obviously jealous of my style. It’s not a good look on you, missy.”

They actually spent the next few minutes bickering over clothes and garbage until the “therapist” settled into his chair with his phone and an annoyed “Whatever.” He did not throw Virgil out. Eventually, he chose to actually take out his phone, since his adversary apparently was too lazy to fight. The conversation had distracted him. This dude was outrageous and dramatic and mildly reminded him of Roman. Now however, he felt his anxiety creep in again. Would he try something now? He waited, watching apprehensively out of the corner of his eye, but nothing happened.

After a few minutes of pretending to look at his phone, he actually dared to relax enough to open tumblr. Might as well see what royallyanxious had been up to. They usually posted about some dramatic dude he reluctantly found attractive. He had not had time to just look at silly posts in a long time. Eventually, he settled back into the cushions.

The former gang member cursed himself colorfully for how obviously he startled as the man spoke after all. “Gurl, this reminds me! Do tell Logan to address his card to Remy. And make sure he better picks a good one. Seriously. I deserve, like, the best card. After everything he puts me though. He is, like, the worst friend. But I don’t care. I don’t. Whatever.”

And that was it. Remy did not acknowledge to him for the rest of the session, except to push the cookies closer after he snatched one for himself. Virgil contemplated the situation while he scrolled through his apps. Time was ticking and he would be out of here soon and never have to come back. Maybe he would not have to murder Roman after all. This was actually bearable.

Aw shit!

He groaned, letting his head fall back against the couch. He would have to come back. Remy sent him a glance over the rim of tinted glass, rolling his eyes. “Dramatic much, darling?” Virgil growled.

Once the clock stuck three, he shot off the couch, jolting the cool rat sleeping in his hoody. It squeaked in annoyance. “So – what happens now?”

Remy was lazy to answer, taking his time. It looked like he was taking selfies. With his glasses on.

“Hmmmm, I guess you come back, like, this week or whatever? Shanti made you an appointment on … you know what? I don’t know, don’t care, Wednesday or something?”

“Tuesday and Thursday at two o’clock.” Shanti hollered through the door she had pushed open. She did not sound so professional now. “Don’t be late.” The secretary added strictly, looking past Virgil at her boss.

“Yeeeaaahhhh, whatever.” He drawled, though he looked a little chastised. Virgil escaped before he had to hear more, trying to get over the fact that he would have to come back. Patton received him with worried, gentle eyes and followed him into the corridor. Before the door fell closed, they heard Shanti threaten “If you don’t start giving a shit I will throw you out and work for that therapy rat this man told me about instead.”

Again, Virgil felt this pesky, reluctant amusement warm his insides as he heard Remy’s petulant complains. A hand taking his own distracted him.

“So, how was it, kiddo? Are you okay? Do you need something? Chocolate? A hug?” Virgil would have rolled his eyes, but he found that he indeed wanted a hug. Patton seemed to sense it and wrapped him into his loving embrace. The delinquent hugged him back carefully, burrowing his face in the baker’s shoulder. He smelled sweet and felt much older and safer than he should. Like a father hugging his child. The only thing out of place was the fierce desire to wrap Patton up in blankets and protect him.

The pattisier waited for Virgil to pull away first. He brushed his hair out of his face gently and started untangling some of the locks as he spoke. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Sure.”

Patton gave him a look. Not buying it. Damn. Virgil realized that he would have to open up if he expected his new friend to do the same. He hated opening up. He wished Diaz was here to save him from this situation. He related to her.

“Um, it was -” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “It was okay I guess. Just – I don’t know why I should keep doing this. I don’t see the point.”

Patton looked worried. “The point is to get better!” He chirped.

“Yeah, but to what end? I’m a criminal with no formal education living in the guest-room of two cops with a messiah complex. I have a gang member after me who is out for my blood and Roman can’t even look at me without feeling guilty. I’m nothing but a burden and a nuisance. What’s the point? I can’t live Logan’s flat like a fucking parasite forever, so – what am I supposed to do with this?” Virgil realized only after his rant that he was breathing hard and agitated. His heart was in his throat and his eyes were burning. Patton squeaked in distress and threw his arms around him again, even though the sudden movement seemed to cause him pain. Virgil made sure to steady him quickly. The baker let the curse go without complaint, he was so worried.

“Oh kiddo, It’s going to be okay! Logan and Roman obviously care for you! They’ll help you figure everything out and I think they really like heaving you there. I’ve never seen Logan as content as he was when we were all together. He seems to like taking care of you.” His voice was very soft as he spoke about Logan. He pulled back to look at Virgil earnestly. “And you have me! I want to be your friend and make sure nothing bad ever happens to you again, kiddo! I know!” He hastened to reassure Virgil as he started shaking his head, not wanting to pull the kind man into his mess any further. “I know you don’t like accepting help, but you know what? You can help me too! I really need some support in the Pat-isserie very badly. My barista left and I have so many officers to serve their donuts, I donut know how to handle the place without more personnel. You should come and work with me! Just until you have figured out what you want to do, or forever! We would have such fun together, like a family!” Patton positively beamed at him, truly, honestly happy with the idea. He really wanted Virgil there. He felt his eyes burn. No one had wanted him in their lives like this since he had met Roman. He swallowed hard, tried to swallow his pesky emotions.

“Pat, that’s very nice of you, man. But I can’t work for you.”

With me!” Patton cried. “Why? Don’t you want to?” He looked heartbroken. The sight was like kryptonite. Virgil scrambled to reassure him.

“NO! No I would love to work for – with you, but Victor is after me. He might try to find me and get revenge or keep me from testifying. I can’t pull you into my mess. It’s not safe.”

Patton drew back. His lovely face, soft and sweet and innocent, suddenly hardened in determination. Oh shit. Virgil took a step back.

“Well I don’t care! You boys need to stop telling me not to help! I was targeted by them before I properly met you and I was fine! I’m not afraid of threats or of getting hurt!” Virgil could see how much he meant those words. It twisted something painful and sharp in his chest as he thought about the cuts on his back he endured so bravely. “Besides, I am as safe as I possibly could be with all those cops cop-ed in my cafe. I want you there, Virgil!” He grabbed his hands and gazed at the young man imploringly. “Please say yes, kiddo.” He begged.

Virgil couldn’t. I would never put Patton in harm’s way. He clutched his soft hands in his thin, rougher ones, preparing to refuse. It was hard though. He remembered the cafe, the pastel colors, the sweet smells, the flowers on the tables. Imagined Patton behind the counter, happy and close, so he could look after him. He opened his mouth, ready to decline the offer, when he felt it. A scar on Patton’s palm. He furrowed his brow in concentration, subtly feeling the baker’s hands. He found more scars. One close to his wrist, another on the back of his fingers, some on the inside of them, where they were harder to spot. With the history he had, he was more likely to notice hints like these.

“Okay.”

An ecstatic smile appeared on the baker’s pretty face. He cheered, so happy to have Virgil with him. “AWWW YES KIDDO, WORKING TOGETHER IS GOING TO BE SO WONDERFUL, WE WILL HAVE SO MUCH FUN TOGETHER C’MERE!!!” He hugged Virgil. Again.

The delinquent hugged him back, trying to decide if he had made the right choice. With him, we was threatened by Victor. Without him? Who knew what was going on in his life to make him so scarred and hurt? At least this way, he would be close enough to find out. And he would get to be hugged this way again. He selfishly curled closer, allowing himself to enjoy the warmth and simple happiness Patton radiated. He felt a kiss being pressed to his cheek and a giggle vibrate in his arms.

***

Remy closed the door to his study, finally escaping the unfair accusations of his secretary – honestly, why did everybody attack him? He settled into his chair and scrolled through the notes he had taken on Virgil.

Anxiety disorder, signs of post traumatic stress and physical abuse, tendency for mild(?) self harm, chronic underweight – eating disorder - anorexia nervosa? - unlikely, patient responded positively to cookies (of course he did, they are delicious) only remembered to eat after feeding the rat (preposterous, honestly) → low self esteem, trouble with taking care of himself mentally and physically. Defensive aggression (sarcasm, possibly violence if pushed?) Protective of personal space – trauma caused by sexual abuse??? (Defensive, closed off body language). Suicide risk? Likely minor, as long as support system does not fail.

Result of first session: tentative equilibrium established. Step two: establish trust.

Looks like Logan had at least sent him an interesting one. It really was, like, the least he could do!

**

Patton accompanied Virgil to the flat for half an hour of pastries and cuddles, as he called it. To the baker’s pleasure, his favorite detectives in the whole wide world were already there. Logan was cleaning up the flat, while Roman was following him around, complaining noisily. “I do not understand how you could be so calm about this – this provocation! My pride – I mean – the precinct’s pride was wounded grievously by this despicable, slimy-” Roman interrupted his ranting upon spotting them. He lit up like a child on Christmas. Logan looked up from the orchid’s leaf he was cleaning as Roman broke off mid-sentence. All nervousness Patton had had about appearing in Logan’s home unannounced vanished at the way the detective looked at him. His eyes were warm and filled with pleasure. “Salutations, Patton. I did not know you would accompany Virgil to his appointment.”

“Oh, I didn’t either, Rosa picked me up!” Patton chirped cheerfully, wandering towards Roman and Logan in hopes of maybe getting a hug from them. It would be worth the pain to be embraced by his friends again. His heart skipped a beat as Logan tentatively reached for him after hesitating for a moment, obviously feeling shy.

“Careful, man. He hurt his back.” Virgil informed the detective hastily.

Logan’s hands halted in midair. “What happened?” He inquired worriedly. The delinquent was reassured by the alarm he saw on the man’s face. Patton however pouted at not getting cuddled.

“I was just my usual clumsy self, you know me! But do you know what could make it better?” He goaded Logan, playfully rocking on his heels. His back was actually burning with pain. He wanted a hug before he had to – before he got to go home!

“What can I do, Patton?” The tall detective asked earnestly. He was so caring.

“You could give me a hug!!!” Pat exclaimed happily, spreading his arms wide. Roman snorted. He had settled on the arm of the couch next to Virgil, thankfully not pressuring him, but not getting too close either. The young man was unsure how to feel about the distance between them. He was grateful for the respect the dork showed him, but he might actually miss the way he used to look at him a little bit. Bite him! It had been – nice – to be regarded with so much hope and devotion.

Logan laughed softly at the baker’s antics, clearly endeared, and carefully drew him into his arms. Virgil watched the man like a hawk as he hugged his friend. Feeling the scrutiny and generally being awkward around the pretty pattisier, the detective immediately flushed brightly. Still, his hands settled on Patton so gently, like he was a delicate piece of art made of spun sugar, precious and fragile to the touch. The smaller man sighed contently and leaned against the detective’s chest trustingly. Even Virgil found no reason to complain about his friend’s treatment. Actually, all of his protective rage drained out of him as he watched the display of affection. Pity for Logan replaced it as he saw the way the man was clearly pining over the baker. Fuck, this dude had it bad.

He cuddled Patton until he pulled back with a grateful smile and demanded hugs from Roman, who held him just as gently and peppered his face with kisses. Pat’s laughter was bright as bells. Virgil reluctantly admitted that being hugged like that looked nice. He wished he could be more like Patton. More pure and trusting.

As those dark and lonely thoughts threatened to pull him under, Logan broke his bubble of solitude and placed a hand on his shoulder with a small smile. “You must be tired, Virgil. Why don’t you take a seat and tell us about your session, if you like. Roman will prepare tea.”

“And I’ll get the pastries!” Patton cried and raced the detective to the kitchen. They were back in no time with warm drinks and comfort food. Virgil had curled up on the couch, expecting to be questioned, but Logan had not uttered another word. Instead he had retrieved the cool rat from his hoody and placed it in the delinquent’s hands, before wrapping him in a blanket. Virgil wondered what about him made the detective want to wrap him up in a fucking blanket burrito all the time. Did he look like a damn baby duck or something? Admittedly, this was nice though. He was cold so often, burrowing in sounded like a good idea.

Like the last time, Roman settled on one side, while Patton and Logan sat on the other. The baker immediately cuddled close and cooed at the cool rat, while he ran his hand over Virgil’s back soothingly. The atmosphere was calm and relaxing, except for Roman shifting next to him, being obviously very curious.

“What?” Virgil asked eventually, letting his annoyance bleed into his voice. Roman was not deterred.

“Would you finally tell us about the session?! I am dying of curiosity over here!” He cried, throwing an arm over his eyes. “This is torture. TORTURE! Such treatment after the day I’ve had to endure!”

The delinquent groaned at the silly display. He had had enough drama for one day. “It was – it was actually – okay. I still hate it and you for making me go!” He added hastily, glaring. “But it was bearable I guess. Not sure how he’s going to help me though. We just surfed the internet and bickered over his duchy sunglasses. That dude is a weirdo.”

“Wait, he? Who did you meet with? The secretary I spoke to assured me you would be meeting Dr. Harris.” Logan complained distractedly. Virgil could not blame the guy. Patton had leaned against his side contently.

“I did. He wants a card from you.”

“A – a card? I do not understand.” The detective sounded affronted. He did not like being out of the loop at all.

“Yeah man. For his sex change. Remy says you better pick a good one.” Virgil explained, feeling mirth rise in his chest. Roman had started giggling next to him. It was contagious. Patton was squealing in amusement.

Logan’s jaw worked silently for a moment. He seemed to test the name on his lips, trying to reconcile the picture he had had of a sassy and extra barely-teenage Rebecca, with a man who apparently called himself Remy. He was not fond of such sudden changes.

After a few long minutes, an annoyed noise escaped him. “Where does she – I mean – he expect me to find such a card? This is a wholly unrealistic demand.” Patton giggled in delight at the detective’s irked expression. Roman chose to tease his friend over the issue until he started mixing up Remy’s pronouns and became flustered, awkwardly insulting his partner. Rat, Patton and Virgil curled up between them, enjoying the closeness and domesticity of the moment. Both wished the moment would never end.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

“Why do all those people insist on following me?” Logan grumbled, glaring at his laptop.

“Because they follow me, obviously, and I keep gushing about your merits!” Roman exclaimed, directing a blinding smile at the camera of his phone. “You also show up in the background of plenty of my marvelous selfies. I guess my fans noticed your brooding attractiveness and started asking about you.”

Logan indeed found himself in the frame of the picture Roman was currently taking of himself while he flirted with the camera. He growled at his partner fiercely. The fabulous detective squealed in delight upon spotting the stormy expression behind him through his screen. “Perfect! Just like that! My followers are crazy about your sexy scowling look!”

“Excuse me?!”

Roman giggled at his partner’s outrage. A gasp heralded the arrival of a new idea. Enthusiastically, he turned to his friend, bouncing in his seat like an overexcited puppy. “Would you like to know what they call you?!”

“MOST definitely not!” Logan growled.

“Detective Sexy McThunderface!” Roman crooned ecstatically. And jumped up with a yelp upon spotting the detective’s deadly expression. He decided he would rather sit over there, thank you very much.

Upon being confronted with the story of Remy’s sulking, even after all those years, Logan had chosen to do everything in his power to make amends. He had started with reluctantly asking Roman to introduce him to Instagram. He was not pleased with the outcome.

While he did not only fail to see the point of this platform, he kept receiving strange messages from Roman’s followers, who were addressing him in a quite preposterous fashion. His partner was over the moon however. He had cheerfully shown him everything and had immediately introduced him to the “delights” of Roman’s own Instagram page. While Logan may love his partner to bits, he failed to understand why so many people chose to entertain themselves by looking at the images the young detective had taken of himself. Such an unproductive way to spend valuable time. However, the undignified nickname really took this a step too far. He reevaluated the importance of renewing his friendship with Rebecca – aw verdammt! With Remy. He had not even responded to his well worded apology. Logan suspected she enjoyed letting him wait. It did sound like her – him!

Scowling, the detective wondered why he had such a hard time reconciling the change with the image of his friend in his head. Roman’s teasing was decidedly not helpful! He needed to work this out!

The young detective started squealing from his curled up position on one of Patton’s comfortable armchairs. “I have a new follower, I love those! Hello new friend, have you come to admire me?” Logan rolled his eyes at him. He truly was as entitled as a cat! Roman ignored him and resumed raving about his new fan.

“And Looks_can_be_deceiving_. is so charming too! He’s right of course, my eyes do sparkle like garnets! He is clearly blessed with excellent taste!”

Logan scoffed and turned back to his report. They had chosen to do their paperwork at the Pat-isserie, which of course had nothing to do with the fact that today, Virgil had come to work for the first time. Captain Holt had approved of their request, clearly seeing the wisdom in allowing a change of scenery for the purpose of supporting work-morale. This was certainly unrelated to the fact that he nursed a soft spot for Patton, he was a true professional after all.

Logan appreciated the uncharacteristic leniency, he only wished he would get distracted less often.

“Say Gorgeous, where can us confused old ladies find you on the Instagram?” One of said distractions hollered across the cafe. Logan ducked his head, glaring at his paperwork and trying to ignore the gaggle of the harpies sitting a few tables over. They tried to look innocent, with their flowery blouses and knitting, but they were fooling no one.

Roman beamed and hurried over, all to willing to show Mrs Van der Beek and her delightful friends his lovely selfies. They fawned over the handsome detective for a while, pinching his cheek, and his butt as he left. He jumped and started giggling, winking at them. They tittered like a bunch of birds. Birds of prey, with huge talons in Logan’s opinion. The moment they were left alone, they started swiping across the screens expertly, having no trouble navigating “the Instagram”. The detective growled angrily. They caught his look and cheered.

Logan groaned, despairing of this day. He wanted to fling his laptop across the room as it suddenly started beeping in quick succession, as he was messaged on this infernal page. He dared to glance down, finding his in-box spammed with unseemly messages by Beek-A-Boo and other preposterous user-names. He directed a truly frosty glare in their direction.

Roman meanwhile was hugging a pillow to his chest, hiding his rapidly reddening face in it and using it to muffle his laughter. He quieted as he was once again distracted by the sight which had had him gaping and almost drooling all morning.

Virgil placed a coffee on a table next to the ladies, mumbling softly to the woman, who immediately cooed at him, looking ready to adopt him on the spot. He had been getting those reactions all day, no matter how much he glared.

As he turned, he caught a glance at Mrs Van der Beek’s phone and did a double take upon seeing the comment she was leaving under a selfie Roman had taken with Logan in the background. “Damn, I want to be like you when I’m your age.” He murmured, amused and baffled at how hilariously shameless they were. The ladies squealed ecstatically and drew the unsuspecting young man on an unoccupied chair.

Roman returned to his spot next to Logan, risking his wrath for the chance to talk about the lovely young man. The sight of him had shoved all restraint out of the window, even though he would still be careful to keep his feelings from him. He would never harass Virgil like that again. There was no harm in mooning over him though!

“Isn’t he a delight? So exquisite and innocent?” Roman whispered, leaning his head on his partner’s shoulder. Logan slammed his laptop shut. If he would have to endure one more message, he would twist Roman off him and pin him to the floor in retaliation. Instead, he ran a quick hand through his partner’s hair, only pulling his ear a little.

Personally, he did not think Virgil looked innocent at all. The harpies were huddled around him, showing him pictures of Roman and meticulously pointing out his most attractive features. Especially the topless pictures earned their attention. He looked a little overwhelmed, but quite entertained.

Great, they had their claws in him too! He had hoped at least Virgil would have some common sense. He could certainly not count on his partner. Roman was lost in the image of their little delinquent, sighing dreamily. Thankfully Logan possessed more self control than his friend!

The file about a riot including a cowgirl he had been handling slipped through his suddenly clumsy fingers as the yellow door burst open and Patton danced into the room, carrying a delightfully smelling tray filled with heart shaped strawberry tarts. He was beaming like actual sunshine, lighting up the room with his sheer joy.

He gave a loving smile to everyone in the room, making even the perverted hyenas stop to look. Oblivious to the attention, he started placing his pastries inside the glass counter, humming a cheery tune. Logan did not bother picking up his papers, or closing his mouth that had fallen open for that matter. No matter how often the patissier entered the room today, his reaction was the same. He was helpless to stop it, Patton was so desperately lovely, entirely happy and at ease, the decoration in his soft brown hair making him look elfin.

Roman started giggling next to him, snapping a picture of his expression. Logan mercilessly drove his elbow into his side. All of this was his fault!

*

Logan had meant to be perfectly practical in his support of Patton’s business. It had started with his efforts to placate Reb- Remy, gottverdammt! Patton had told him about a shop that produced custom made pun-cards, called Home again, Card-igan. Logan was not particularly impressed with the name, but went anyway, in order to commission a card he could let Virgil deliver the next day.

Upon placing the order with the bubbly shop-owner, he stepped outside, only to be confronted with a rather fetching floral decoration in front of the flower shop next door. Roman was crouched in front of a collections of peonies, dreamily gazing at a lady-bug climbing over the delicate petals.

His partner’s happiness reminded him of the feeling the Pat-isserie gave him, and the complaint Patton had uttered softly the last time they had met. He had noted that he had so little time to visit the florist for his decorations at the moment, since he tried to be home as early as possible. The gentle man had cheered up immediately again, claiming things would surely be much easier as soon as Virgil had learned everything. He could surely do without flowers for a few days.

Logan had fought himself hard on the decision. He really wanted to support Patton in any way he could, however, buying flowers was considered a romantic gesture. Surely the sweet man would not appreciate such a gesture from Logan, especially since he was in a relationship with a man he apparently loved. He did not wish to offend his friend or imply that he would try to steal him away. Patton was far too loyal to appreciate such advances. Which he was not making!

And still, he could not shake the memory of Patton’s dejected face as he thought about the empty vases on his little tables. The matter was not that intimate, was it? He only wished to support his business – the business that employed Virgil, who he felt responsible for. Nothing else. Surely Patton would see it the same way?

Logan tried his best to repress his foolish emotions, his hope, affection, his care and attraction, as he gently pulled Roman from his crouching position and into the shop. None of those played a role in this logical decision!

Roman of course had been delighted by the prospect of buying flowers and bringing them to the Pat-isserie before their shift. Logan had done his best to ignore his soft, knowing look.

Thankfully the shop owner was a professional who knew his business. He helped them pick long lasting spring flowers for the cafe – sweet smelling hyacinths, pastel tulips, narcissus, peonies of bright, plush pink, bluebells, feathery coralroot blossoms and graceful lily-of-the-valley with their white, hanging bells. Logan bought a large, loosely bound bouquet Patton could distribute in his cafe. Roman was vibrating with happiness at the sweet gesture. Just as they were about to leave the shop, a special display had caught the romantic detective’s gaze. He had not been able to resist.

Logan had been blushing rather badly when they had arrived at the Pat-isserie. He had been careful not to crush the sensitive stems wrapped in paper, but his strong hands had been shaking rather badly with nerves. No matter how often he got to see Patton, his heart was always racing with anticipation when he approached his cafe.

The detectives passed by the little, pink haired street musician who had set up shop in front of the cafe with her guitar. Roman gave her a blinding smile, making her blush crimson.

The detective pushed the door open with his elbow, Roman trailing behind him, gleefully cradling two boxes to his chest. They were hit by the smell of vanilla, colorful lights and the feeling of coming come. Due to the early hour, the cafe was mostly empty. Virgil was behind the counter, dressed in the most cheerful clothes he owned, which were black skinny jeans and a purple t-shirt. Roman had carefully objected to his usual, thick and too large hoodies, so Logan had chosen one of his black cardigans that had been too snug on his large frame, and gifted it to Virgil. The soft, expensive fabric had hugged the slender body just right and fell down over his hands, so he could hide them inside the sleeves. The young man had been very reluctant about accepting the gift. Logan’s logical argumentation and Roman’s sweet compliments had convinced him though. Maybe the way the older detective had gently tugged the garment in place and had fixed the young man’s hair had helped reassure him as well.

At the moment, the former gang member appeared busy fixing the large industrial coffee maker Patton had placed on a counter along the wall. It had been malfunctioning a bit for a while. He looked utterly delightful in the pale pink apron with Patton’s logo on it, in Roman’s opinion. He also looked up like a spooked cat as he heard the bell indicating customers. Oh boy. They had known he was nervous about dealing with people, but had not thought it would be that bad. Perhaps Roman’s gift would help make him appear a little more approachable. The only thing Logan knew for certain was that Virgil would utterly hate it.

“Oh, it’s only you guys.” He had mumbled, relaxing fractionally, but still looking like he wanted his hoodie rather badly and preferably hide inside like a large, cranky hermit crab.

Immediately, Roman took offense at the greeting. “ONLY?! We are only the most important customers you will have the pleasure of serving!” He boasted, squaring his shoulders and raising his chin regally, in order to present his well cut jaw in the perfect light.

Virgil scoffed, crossing his arms and hunching his shoulders. Logan fought the irrational urge to put a hand between his shoulder-blades to improve his posture. And perhaps rub it over his spine to soothe the young man. If he had his hand there anyway.

“Have you come to make sure I would not make a run for it, or a mess?” Virgil growled irritably. Though he appeared aggressive to the untrained eye, he was clearly insecure and hurt by them checking up on him so soon. Logan hurried to fix his impression.

“I assure you, we have absolute faith in your competence and reliability. For a man of your intelligence, this job should present few challenges.” He intentionally failed to mention his fear about Virgil scaring people away with his defensive anger. It was a problem he had encountered frequently himself. He did not want the young man to have to go through the experience.

For now, Virgil’s ruffled feathers seemed soothed enough. He softened, before turning and calling for Patton.

The pretty baker rushed into the main room, grinning at all of them. “Logan, Roman, I am so happy to see you! Have you come to support our kiddo on his big day? See sweetheart, everyone is here to dough what they can to cheer you on, we believe in you!” He chirped, wrapping his arms around the delinquent and hugging him tightly. His embrace was a sweet thing to watch. He had to stand a little on his tiptoes, though not as much as when he hugged the detectives, and rubbed his cheek along Virgil’s tenderly, letting his eyelashes brush along Virgil’s pale skin with a giggle. After running a loving hand through his hair, he stepped back, looking at the young man with a gaze filled with warmth. “I told you, we are all proud of you, kiddo.” He muttered softly. “However, we butter tell you as often as possible!” Virgil blushed and ducked his head, clearly unsure about how to handle all the pun-filled affection.

Patton placed a little kiss on the tip of his reddened nose and jumped back playfully as Virgil swiped at him with metaphorically soft paws.

Finally, the patissier turned to Logan, looking so happy to see him. He stepped in to hug the tall man, before he noticed the paper wrapped bundle in his arms. His strict, attractive features always distracted Patton when they soften in this particular fashion he liked so very much. Still, the change in their traditional dynamic made him feel a little shy. He wanted a hug, but did not wish to inconvenience the detective. Looking up a little insecurely, he asked, “Did you bring very important evidence into my little cafe?”

Logan cleared his throat, knowing his blush must be painfully obvious. He felt the irrational urge to pray for Patton not to think he was pathetically trying to impress or woo him. He was not even sure whether he wasn’t, which was a horrible thing to do! He had sworn to respect Patton’s choices, it would be an insult to attempt to seduce him away from his partner.

Awkwardly, he cleared his throat once again, feeling the warm, loving eyes on him like a physical thing. Holding out the wrapped bundle, he stammered a rather less eloquent explanation than he had so carefully prepared in his head.

“I – I could not fail to remember that you mentioned that you had little time to procure decorations for your cafe, due to the return of your partner – not that I wish to judge your admirable focus on your relationship, I would never – what I am trying to say is that I merely wished to offer my humble support in helping you reconcile the management of your cafe with the demands of your personal life, especially since you have chosen to support Virgil, which I am very grateful for. Knowing he is in good hands is of great importance to Roman and me, and we would certainly trust no one above you, so, when I came across the establishment next to the store you so kindly recommended, I decided to attempt to support your business, since the atmosphere you have created so expertly contributes to your income in great quantities -” He grunted as Roman elbowed him.

Despite the throbbing ache he felt like hugging his partner for stopping him. Since when did he talk so much?! Patton must think him a bumbling fool.

Even Virgil looked sympathetic behind Patton. The baker’s face was kind and patient though.

“You wanted to support me? That is so nice of you! I’m sure whatever you planned will be just perfect!” He gave the detective a loving smile, rocking on the balls of his feet and twisting his sleeves in his hands to distract himself from the urge to crush the blushing man in a hug. He was so weak for Logan when he showed this innocent, soft side. His heart fluttered with affection. How kind this strong man was!

Feeling a subtle nudge between his shoulder-blades, Logan chose to trust his partners silent cues and kept his mouth shut tightly, nervously handing over the wrapped bouquet. Patton took it with curious, careful hands, gently unwrapping the top to peek inside. His expression froze for a long moment. Logan felt his heart fail to beat for a second, illogical as it was. Fear gripped his chest and squeezed. Would Patton blame him for overstepping the boundaries of their friendship? Would he call him out for his obvious, pathetic feelings?

The patissier took his time unwrapping the delicate blossoms. His slender fingers were a little unsteady. He exposed the bright colors to the light, just looking at them for a long moment. Logan held his breath. He was not the only one.

Virgil grasped the ridiculous apron in his pale hands tightly, hoping so very much this would not go badly. Patton deserved a man who stuttered when he smiled at him and brought him presents and looked at him like he had hung all of the stars himself, like he was the brightest of them all. Logan looked at him this way.

Finally, Patton’s quiet voice filled the cafe with its gentle notes.

“You – you brought me flowers?” He looked up at Logan, eyes wide and bright. “I haven’t – I don’t usually get something so -” He stopped on a shaking breath, looking down at the colorful tulips and peonies, tracing the petals with the softest touch. A slow, lovely smile was spreading on his pink lips.

Roman breathed out audibly in relief.

He looked up at Logan again, and suddenly he was beaming, tears of joy in his eyes. A laugh escaped him that was light as bells. Logan was staggered at how beautiful he was.

“You did not have to! But they are so pretty! This is the best gift I have ever gotten, ever! This bakery really needed some more flour! Don’t you worry, there is no need to back-petal, they are perfect!!! You really are my best bud!” He squealed, suddenly vibrating with joyful energy. His smile was so bright it hurt. Even his puns seemed unable to encompass his happiness at getting something bought with so much consideration from Logan. It meant so much to him that this gift had come from the imposing man. He could not hold back his giddiness!

Logan was finally able to breathe again as he saw Patton’s happiness. Relief crashed over him hard, making him weak. The baker was unpacking the bouquet, laughing and spinning them around his cafe with him. He had been happy to the point of Logan worrying about his enthusiastic little heart giving out. The baker hopped back to the three men, all bright enthusiasm. He had not forgotten Logan’s adorable shyness and would not fail to reassure him. The fact that the confident detective was so awkward around him gave him strange, warm feelings.

Floral intents and purposes, this gift was a blooming success, you can petal yourself on the back!” He chirped, his beloved puns coming more easily that ever in his happiness. He felt cared for and appreciated and precious, like he was worth being paid attention to and spoiled. It still was a novel feeling for him, and felt so good. He wanted to hug Logan. NOW!

After gently placing the flowers on the counter, he launched himself at the man, finally secure in the knowledge that he would be caught and held. And Logan did. He wrapped those strong arms around his waist and brought them close, in full contact with each other, so close Patton could feel his quick heartbeat where their chests were pressed together. He sank into this secure embrace, sure the detective would hold him up, keep him safe and sound.

A long breath escaped him, taking all of his tension with him and leaving behind only the feeling of Logan caring for him enough to give him something so beautiful. Only his bubbly happiness remained, and so much affection for the quiet man.

Patton was not naive when it came to Virgil. He knew he would struggle in a job where he had to deal with so many people, and had planned to teach him to help with the baking, so he could escape into the backroom whenever he felt overwhelmed. What worries him most was that his customers could misunderstand his rough manners attributed to his shyness and hurt him. But now, Logan and Roman were here. They would figure out how to support his poor kiddo. They saw Patton’s struggles, paid attention to his needs and helped solve his problems, just because they wanted to. It made him feel so safe, like he got held tightly.

He buried his face in the taller man’s neck, where his clean, pleasant smell was stronger, and breathed him in, enjoying the strong arms wrapped around his back and waist. The poor detective still seemed too nervous to speak. Patton giggled. Why would anyone be nervous because of him?!

It was nice though, to elicit those feelings in someone. To not be taken for granted.

Feeling loved and unusually confident, he stretched up on his tiptoes and kissed Logan’s cheek. It was very warm against his lips. He laughed in elation, feeling bashful and playful, and hid his face again. “Thank you.” He whispered.

Logan’s hand reached up and ran through his hair briefly in response. It felt very nice, so Patton pressed his head into his palm, asking for more. The detective carefully indulged him.

Everything felt far away while Logan held and caressed him. He could not stop smiling.

The world intruded on their peaceful bubble, as Virgil complained very distinctly “NO way, what the hell is wrong with you?!”

They broke apart to see the newly recruited barista back away from Roman, keeping his hands raised defensively. He looked ready to grab one of the knives behind the counter to defend himself from the vicious threat of the object Roman was cradling in his large hands, looking hopeful.

Patton lit up impossibly brighter. Logan feared he would faint from all the emotion. How could such a small form contain so much? He released the young man, feeling him practically vibrate in his arms. He could not resist brushing his hands over his slender back one more time though. Patton arched under his touch, blushing.

Logan reached for the box Roman had left on the counter, opening it for Patton’s examination. The baker gasped in awe.

“Roman chose to gift you with something as well. I believe his presents are much more flamboyant and enjoyable than my practical ones. I was told he has good taste.” He mumbled.

“Stop it now, I love your flowers so much!” Patton scolded fiercely. He was small and cute and impressive when he braced his fists against his hips like that. Logan smiled.

“Would you like me to help you put it on?” He asked tentatively. Patton nodded hard, looking awed. Virgil was hissing behind them.

Ignoring Roman’s whining, Logan gently pulled the fresh flower crown from the box. It was wrought with long-living evergreens and flowers in pale rose and light blue, delicate and magical. Patton held very still as his friend placed it on his downy hair.

Logan’s breath caught as he examined the patissier. The flowers complimented his complexion and matched the shade of his thin sweater perfectly. It made him look unbelievably innocent and lovely, as if he had climbed straight out of Logan’s most flattering fantasies. Logan was hit hard by the urge pull him close, tilt his face up and kiss him.

Patton beamed at him, oblivious to the detective’s desires. He spread his arms wide, carefully twirling for the man’s appreciative eyes. “Sooooo? Let me know what you think!!!! I’m already feeling light headed and daisy with anticipation!” He giggled, making Logan smile helplessly.

He reached up, gently straightening the crown on Patton’s head. Somehow, words came easily to him suddenly. “You look exquisite. I believe you deserve to wear a crown every day, the flowers are lucky to compliment your smile.” He uttered softly, the works slipping out without his consent. The pattsier blushed brightly, his breath catching at the heartfelt compliment. Logan had spoken it with such perfect sincerity. Patton swayed towards him unconsciously, leaning into the hand fixing his locks around the blossoms. They looked at each other for a long time.

*

Eventually, Roman had managed to convince Virgil to allow him to place the crown of full, purple and violet flowers on his head, despite the threat of sharp teeth and a quick temper. Patton had helped with his pleading eyes. Even Logan had to admit that Virgil looked unusually attractive with it, despite his ever present scowl. It softened his angry expression, making him far too pretty and adorable to be intimidating, like an angry kitten. Every customer was smitten with him, without fail, no matter how curt he was with them. Many stayed to eat their pastries in the cafe, in order to admire the pretty picture the two men presented. Logan had to eventually drag Roman outside to get to their shift, the poor man was absolutely lost whenever he looked at the delinquent, at the way his pale skin seemed to glow like moonlight when combined with his crown, and the way it made him look like a delicate creature straight out of fairy-tales.

Logan refused to believe he looked this silly when he looked at Patton! He was far more dignified than that!

Neither had been able to stay away for long though. A few hours later, they had shown up with their paperwork, pretending to check in on Virgil. Which they really wanted to, even though the sight offered additional incentive.

The young barista in training appeared both annoyed and soothed by their presence and snarked at the men good naturedly. Patton on the other hand was all too happy to see them and report on Virgil’s progress.

“Our kiddo was a little embarrassed, but he I’m sure he rose above it!” He told them cheerfully, making Virgil groan. “He will surely blossom with all the praise.” He added, giggling at them.

The rest of the day passed quickly enough. The detectives had to return to the precinct eventually, which was fine. They loved their job. However, both found themselves looking forward to the quiet comfort that had spread in the flat over the weekend. Roman had stayed and camped on the couch, spending his days with painting and writing poetry, while Logan had mostly been reading and working. Virgil had been in his room at first, but had finally dared to venture outside to cook for them, after carefully asking Logan if he could. The activity appeared to soothe him. Eventually, he had stayed with them in the living room, small and silent, curled up on the corner of the couch with Nicodemus and a book called A Sky full of Stars. There had been constellations on the cover, okay? Roman tried to tease him for it and promptly got kicked. It had been domestic and calm and nice. Logan had very much enjoyed not being alone.

Both detectives were glad to finally be able to pick up Virgil and take him home. They knew he still was frequently insecure and had a long way to go, but they were willing to invest the effort.

Virgil was exhausted at the end of his shift. Though he had scoffed as Patton had told him to come in late and take it easy, he was now grateful for the consideration. He felt tired to the bone. Roman had looked at him like a sad golden retriever as he trudged towards the car, clearly wanting to carry him. Virgil had hissed at him as he had inched closer, just to make sure he did not try anything. The exasperating idiot had done enough already with his fucking flower crown, making him look like some hippie idiot. He was too tired to fight the benevolent thought that he did not actually need to look intimidating in a cafe, and that his idea might have actually saved him from scaring away Pat’s customers with his scowl. He was not made for a job where he needed to be friendly, or be liked. He just wasn’t a person people liked easily, he did not know how to make them accept him, no matter how hard he tried. But Roman had fixed it for him, making his glares look adorable. He wanted to hate him for the flower crown, but could not quite repress his gratitude.

Not that he was going to show it. He glared at the moron.

A groan escaped him as they finally stepped off the elevator. The corridor was stuffed with boxes labeled with his careless scrawling handwriting. Roman had threatened to take him shopping, as he had realized how few clothes had survived his angry outburst. Though he had avoided looking at those boxes since the death of his mother, he would have probably done anything to escape this horrifying fate. He had told the detective about the storage where he kept his old things only to get him off his back. How could he have known he would have them delivered here immediately??? He did not feel like dealing with this right now. There were far too many memories inside those boxes that made his insides twist bitterly with longing and sadness. He wanted a hug from Patton suddenly. Hunching his shoulders and wrapping his arms around himself, he tried to comfort himself.

Where would they even keep all this stuff? Virgil tried hard not to think about the fact that the more space he took up, the more annoyed a neat freak like Logan was bound to become by his presence. He would have preferred to stay small and quiet and hopefully be overlooked a little longer.

One of the boxes stacked before them toppled over as they approached them, spreading books and tools all over the corridor. Virgil winched as he felt the older detective itch to clean up the mess immediately. No chance of being overlooked now.

The delinquent turned to the frigging idiot who had caused all this ruckus to rip him a new one. Anger usually was his only form of avoiding breaking into fucking tears out of grief and fear. Roman looked so hopeful though. His green eyes were very big and pretty. Virgil felt the fight drain out of him as the detective bit his lip nervously, awaiting his judgment submissively. “Thanks, man.” He mumbled. A little part of him acknowledged that he really was fucking lucky Roman was so kind to him. He tried so hard to take care of him and asked for nothing in return. Virgil wished he could understand this confusing behavior better. Maybe it would help him accept his generosity more easily. Devastatingly handsome detectives did not usually go for used criminals like him. The confusion made him defensive and he did not like it.

Meanwhile Roman lit up like a child on Christmas, beaming at Virgil lovingly. “Oh please! There is no need to thank me, your comfort is of the highest importance to me! I would do anything to make you happy.” He crooned, looking giddy and cheerful and very tender.

Quite a bit shocked at the loving answer, the delinquent blushed helplessly, turning his face away to hide under his hair. Who the fuck just said stuff like that? He did not know how to handle all of that sweetness. Especially because the dramatic man went to great lengths to show him that he expected nothing from Virgil and kept his distance carefully.

Logan on the other hand looked contemplative. He had bent down to repack the box that had toppled over, handling the books with care. Virgil felt fear tighten his throat and make his heart race. Was the detective finally realizing the amount of physical and emotional baggage Virgil came with? He stiffened when the taller man lifted the heavy box with little difficulty and turned to him.

“Considering the long day you have had, I propose we unpack the most important objects today and take care of the rest tomorrow. Would that be satisfactory for you?”

“Um – sure, I guess.” Virgil mumbled, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck. And that was it. Roman cheerfully grabbed two full boxes (Virgil was definitely not looking at his arms as he lifted them) and dashed into the flat cheerfully. “I’ll make dinner!” He cried. Logan looked like he had seen something dreadful. Still, he focused his attention on Virgil, speaking to him in his kind, slightly stiff way.

“Allow me to handle the heavy lifting. You may assist by feeding Nicodemus.” He proposed gently. Though he really wanted to clean his own mess and not be in the way, his ribs were actually hurting pretty badly now. He better take his meds soon. Nodding thankfully, he coaxed the cool rat out of the kangaroo pocket of his hoodie and went to feed it. And escaped the kitchen as quickly as possible. He reluctantly admitted that the dorky detective looked kind of silly and adorable in his pink apron, humming and twirling through the room, but he did not want to be there when whatever he was mixing together caught on fire. He suddenly understood what Logan had meant when he had said Roman “tried”.

The serious detective had just finished placing the last box down and was looking at the bookshelves contemplatively. “We would be well advised to consider which of my books you would like to read. I will surely be able to find room for the others in the living-room so you could use the remaining space.” He muttered.

“Why?” Virgil snapped. He could not help himself. Knowing the damage had already been done, he hunched his shoulders defensively and soldiered on. “Why would you move your own stuff? It’s not like this is my room, why are you treating me like I’m living here?!” Mortified, he felt his eyes burn. Oh my fucking god Virgil you pathetic weakling, you are not going to cry now, are you?!

Logan looked a little panicked, clearly out of his element when confronted with his tears. Roman was singing loudly in the kitchen though, and he did not dare call him for fear of him burning his flat to the ground, so he settled Virgil onto the bed, carefully directing him by a gentle grip on his upper arms, and pulled his blanket over him. Rat, hugs and blankets really were his first and only ideas when confronted with tears. Hugs appeared to work well with Patton, but he did not think Virgil would appreciate being pulled close right now. At least not immediately. He needed to soothe him first and gain his trust.

“I would like you to feel comfortable here, Virgil. As I promised, you may remain with us as long as you like.” He explained, tentatively settling his hand on the young man’s back and rubbing soothing circles over it.

“Why though?!” Virgil asked. His voice was shaking. He felt untethered and insecure and – it was childish and pitiful, but he really wanted a hug. At the same time, he was scared of getting it, scared of the implications of allowing the touch, scared Logan would ask to hug him, scared Logan would not hug him – he was a confusing mess and had no idea why the detective bothered.

“I’m only in the way and make a mess. I eat your food and cost you effort and monopolize your rat - I don’t get it.” Virgil ran a frustrated hand through his purple locks roughly, winching as his still sore ribs protested. A few remaining flower petals fluttered into his lap. The cool rat immediately pounced and started playing with them.

Logan hummed softly as he considered his next words. He rummaged in the bedside table and handed Virgil his painkillers and the glass of water. The young delinquent drowned both gratefully and sighed in relief as Logan’s hand settled back between his shoulder blades despite the reminder of how the older man had to look after him. Though he was still scared of being touched and wanted to be touched more at the same time, this contact made him feel better. It was so warm and undemanding. Logan’s touch felt like a protector’s – like a parent’s touch.

“I don’t think I have told you often enough how much I enjoy your presence in our apartment.” The detective mused. Huh? Virgil looked up in surprise. “You are not in the way at all. On the contrary, I found that the flat feels less vacant when you are here. You fit into a space that was previously empty. The kitchen when you cook, the corner of the couch when you read, the seat at the table – those places feel like they were too empty before you arrived. In addition, I believe we agree on many matters and have similar interests I would like to explore more, once you feel more comfortable. I never had someone to discuss astronomy or Mineralogy with, and Nicodemus enjoys your presence.” With a jolt, Virgil realized that Logan was rambling. A slight blush colored his usually severe face, making him look young and shy.

“I must admit that I find your presence much less demanding than Roman’s, no matter how much I care about him. Your presence appears to provide a certain balance to our cohabitation. Evidence suggests that he appears comforted by your company as well, considering he has been spending much more time here than usual.” At Virgil’s blank look, he added, “Yes, I consider Roman’s continued presence a positive thing, despite the chaos that appears to constantly surround him. I prefer having him here than at his own flat.”

The younger man blankly watched the cool rat in his lap, trying to make sense of those kind words. Logan wanted him here? “Wouldn’t he better have this room then? He spent all this time on the couch while I take up all this space.” He hunched his shoulders guiltily.

“That would be illogical. Your injuries are still healing and I believe you benefit from the possibility of a door you may lock whenever you feel like it. Roman does not value his privacy like you do. I considered making this room his when I moved in, however he always preferred to sleep on the couch. I believe he likes to be the center of attention.” Logan explained wryly.

Virgil struggled to take in all this information. Roman’s presence was obvious in every aspect of this place, he had thought the dramatic weirdo had just snuck in here despite Logan’s protests, but he actually seemed to want him here. “Why did he not just move in anyway? Wouldn’t it be easier to afford the place then?” He asked quietly. Immediately, he hunched down further after this intrusive question escaped him. He had not meant to ask about the price of this place, not wanting to pry, but it just slipped out now, he was so curious. They had often struggled to pay the bills as he had grown up, so he still marveled at all of this space. “How do you manage to pay for this flat anyway?” He bust out, feeling guiltily even as he spoke.

“I don’t.” Logan answered easily. “I did not pay for it.”

At Virgil’s obvious confusion, he elaborated. “I believe I need to start this story at the beginning of Roman’s and my partnership. I used to live in a small, one-room apartment, which generally sufficed my needs and was the fiscally responsible choice. After our professional relationship had turned into a tentative friendship, Roman started taking offense at my choice of a home, even though it was a perfectly logical decision for a man of my income.” He still looked retroactively offended. “Of course, I informed him to mind his own business.” Virgil snorted.

The reaction made Logan’s lips curl up at one side. Cautiously, he shuffled closer and wrapped a tentative arm around the young man’s shoulder. Both waited a little anxiously for Virgil’s reaction. Even he did not know how his frazzled nerves would take the contact he so feared and craved at the same time.

It was okay though. Virgil breathed evenly, consciously, to control his reaction. He felt a little jittery, but as Logan ran a gentle hand up and down his arm and drew him against his tall body, Virgil started to relax. The loosening of his muscles surprised even him. Apparently he had needed this quiet reassurance more than he had thought, after his long day. He was still a little stiff though, fearful of asking too much. Logan seemed to feel his fear and gently cupped the back of his neck and drew him against his shoulder, so he could hide his face in the expensive material. He sagged against him helplessly, suddenly feeling bone deep tiredness seep into him. Logan felt safe and strong and somehow smelled so different from the male scents that usually triggered his defensive reactions. He smelled clean and dark, like black tea. Virgil breathed him in, relaxing further with every breath. Logan’s voice rumbled against his chest as he continued his explanation in a quiet, deep voice.

“Roman eventually approached me with the idea to invest a considerable inheritance into real estate and asked for my assistance in finding a flat which would constitute a sensible investment. I researched the topic with him and we considered options, until he asked me to inspect a place he had chosen himself. He believed my choices lacked ‘charisma’.” Logan growled a little, annoyed at his friend’s unreasonableness.

“He showed me a surprisingly tasteful two bedroom apartment with a balcony and exposed wooden beams in decent condition that was really too large for one person, yet I figured it would be suitable for Roman’s needs. I had not seen his flat yet, but I assumed he would live as extravagantly as he behaved. I examined the place with him and supported him through-ought the negotiations and paperwork, and he bought the apartment.” Logan fell silent, looking into the middle distance with unseeing eyes for a long moment. His fingers had started rhythmically running through Virgil’s hair. Even his tenderness was predictable and tidy. It soothed the little delinquent. He still listened attentively.

“Once the contract was finalized, Roman brought me to the apartment – here – and handed me the keys.”

A surprised noise escaped Virgil. “You let him buy you a flat?!” He asked incredulously, sitting up.

Logan huffed in annoyance, turning his nose up at the thought. “Certainly not!” Gently, he drew the young man back against his shoulder. “I informed him about how preposterous his proposition was and that he ought to behave in a more professional manner. Though my reaction was perfectly proper, he was – dejected. Unreasonably so.” Logan still seemed a little baffled as he told the story. And a little guilty for making Roman sad. The sap.

“You’re here now though.” Virgil reminded him, wanting to hear the rest of it.

“Indeed. I left the keys and Romans preposterous idea behind and ordered him to move in himself and to cease being ridiculous. However, he started pestering me about the issue quite obnoxiously.” Virgil turned his face closer to the tall detective, hiding a smile. He could clearly imagine the high pitched, dramatic and incessant whining the older man had had to endure. He wondered how Roman had survived so long despite his partner’s temper.

“I had no intention of changing my mind of course. Irrationally, he refused to move into the flat himself, despite of how much closer to the precinct than his own it was. After a particularly grueling case, we chose to borrow some gear from the station and camp in the apartment. This exception soon became a common occurrence, at which point I began to feel fed up by Roman’s irrational behavior.”

Nicodemus was crawling between the two men, looking for attention. Virgil cupped him in his thin hands, letting the warm little body warm them like Logan warmed his side.

“I chose to confront him after work and went to his apartment, so he could not distract me from the discussion with his dramatic antics. His home was … not what I anticipated. I should not go into detail as they are of a private nature. Considering how fond of you he is, he will certainly invite you eventually, if you ask him. The situation made me reevaluate my choice concerning the apartment. I doubled my efforts to make him see reason, however he can be quite annoyingly stubborn. I had noticed he enjoyed spending time with me in the apartment, no matter how uncomfortable and empty it was, even though he could have afforded a hotel room. So I chose the logical course of action and eventually accepted his offer. I had hoped he would move in with me, where I could – um.” He flushed brightly, clearing his throat. “Where I could look after him.” He mumbled.

Virgil felt an unexpected warmth flood his chest upon hearing this admission. He just now realized how much Logan loved his partner. It was utterly heartwarming, even the hardened former gang member had to admit it. With acing clarity, he understood just how badly he wanted Logan to take care of him this way too. It was weak and pathetic, but he wanted to be loved and looked after again. To simply trust somebody to be there when he needed them and have everything under control. Someone strong and reliable like Logan. He was like a pillar of solid marble in the stormy ocean that was Virgil’s life. He felt like no matter how bad the storm became, he would be able to hold onto him as the wind and rain whipped at his clothes, Logan would keep him from drowning with his steady arm around him.

The older man appeared quite embarrassed, but he still held onto Virgil, petting him lovingly. Holding him like he awkwardly was willing to give him everything he dreamed of so weakly - care, protection, belonging. Virgil felt very young suddenly.

“Despite my best efforts to make this flat comfortable for him, unreasonably, he refused my offer.” The detective’s voice sounded perfectly even, but he felt dejected, like the refusal still hurt and worried him. “He accepted my invitations often enough though, so I made sure to extend them several times a week. We would cook together – or more accurately, I would cook for him and we would watch movies together, or work in as much silence as a partnership with Roman afforded. He eventually allowed me to buy the large pull-out couch in the living-room for him and left some of his things with me, so he could sleep here more easily, and even helped decorate the place. However he never stayed as long as he has now, since you are here.” He pulled Virgil closer carefully, tugging him more firmly against his side. “I can see that you are insecure about the effect you have on Roman, but I believe you are good for him. Your presence helps balance this group.”

The delinquent wasn’t so sure about that. Logan was clearly grateful that Roman spent more time under his watchful gaze, but he was not happy in Virgil’s company. Though the thought made fear churn in his stomach, he knew he had to tell the older man about it, he could not deceive him.

“That’s where you’re wrong though.” He mumbled. He could not seem to figure out how to speak more loudly, terror of being abandoned made his throat close up. “He is not happier with me, don’t you see how he tiptoes around me?!” Why was his voice so scratchy? Logan handed him the glass of water again and he drowned the rest, feeling his eyes burn.

“He keeps hunching in on himself when he gets close, so he does not look too big so not to scare the poor fucking whore he took in out of pity. He is constantly worried about how he talks to me, about not startling me or saying something that my fucked up mind could interpret as a demand, because he’s afraid I would break or panic. Newsflash, I am already broken!” His voice was too loud suddenly. “He is wasting his time and he should not have to be so goddamn careful around a burden like me in a place he should be comfortable with you, he-” A gasp broke his monologue. Was he honestly crying now?!

Logan appeared to make a split second decision. Using the break in Virgil’s rant, he moved the cool rat and pulled the little delinquent into his lap. The young man was stunned into silence. He had been pulled into the lap of men before, but it had never felt anything like this. The arms around him were gentle and he could feel Logan’s nervousness radiate through him. He was clearly scared of having messed up.

As Virgil did not panic or try to pull away, the detective tightened his arms and let the pale boy hide against his neck. “Stop now. I know Roman, and I see what he is doing. He cares for you deeply, more deeply than I have ever seen him feel for anybody. The nature of your relationship is yet undecided, but I know he will be happy as long as you are. At the moment, you are suffering, and so is he. But since you came here, I observed that he has become calmer and more content than I have ever seen him. You will get better and figure out how to deal with each other in your own time. Things will improve. Once you have found our place with us, you will see what I saw. You have a home here, if you want it. Allow yourself the time to recover, and you shall see how good you are for him. And for me.” He added reluctantly. Virgil could feel the heat of his blush from his hiding-place.

He let the words wash over him, let the deep, slightly stiff voice carry away his fear and loneliness. It was too good to be true. But Logan felt so solid, so reliable under his cheek, in his mind. Tension flowed from his thin form. The detective held him safely and lovingly for a long time. Virgil marveled at the feeling of being surrounded and protected like this. No man had ever held him like this, or spoken to him in a voice that was both loving and strict enough to make him believe his words. Logan continued to run his hand over the slender back, careful of healing bruises. He rocked him slightly – it felt a little like he did not know why he was supposed to do it, but imitated the movement anyway, because he wanted to indulge those weird urges for comfort. He was so awkward and yet so good at this. Virgil realized with surprise that he was smiling. He was warm, not only from the outside, but from the inside as well. With startling clarity, he was hit by the realization that he loved Logan. He loved him so much for what he had done for him, for how he had taken him in, for how gentle he was with Patton and for how he wanted to adopt Roman and spoil him even more than he already was. He loved Logan so much, it felt like his chest could not contain the feeling, like he was bursting with it. He clutched the taller man tightly, trying to hold himself together lest he bust with affection for this terrifying, strict, loving and adorably awkward nerd.

He remembered how terribly afraid he had been of Logan. How long ago it felt like. And now he never wanted to leave this embrace again that enveloped him so completely. He did not know what he felt for Roman yet, or how to help Patton, but for the first time since the diagnosis had pulled every safety he had ever known out from under his feet, he felt like he had a home. Like he had made it, like he had arrived where it was warm and bright and where he was wanted. He sighed deeply as he felt Logan press a shy, slightly unsure kiss to his purple locks.

Both jumped in shock as a screeching alarm pierced the air. Virgil’s fight or flight instinct kicked in instantly. His heart started racing. He wanted to jump up, find the danger, fight, run, find Roman – where was Roman?!

Logan held him firmly, pulling him back against his chest with a long suffering sigh. “It is merely the fire alarm in the kitchen.” He groused, looking annoyed.

“It’s all good, I’ve got this! Just a slight mishap, I swear, art is not created without a few creative detours after all!” Roman hollered through the apartment, sounding forcefully cheerful and slightly hectic. Logan growled.

He gently placed a stressed rat in Virgil’s hands and deposited him on the bed. “Do not worry, he knows how to use the fire-extinguisher. I shall be right back.”

Was he kidding?! No way Virgil was missing Logan tearing Roman a new one! He jumped up and followed the detective gleefully.

Smoke filled the kitchen as he entered. The older man had just thrown the balcony doors open and was now turning the oven off. Whatever food the dramatic detective was burning was far from a creative detour now and had apparently wandered into the seventh plains of hell, having become black and vile. Roman looked terribly dejected, with his adorable pink apron and messy hair. Virgil knew he should feel bad for him, be understanding and shit, especially considering the way Logan was glaring. The delinquent started laughing. He had been through so many emotions in the last few minutes, suddenly he did not know how to stop. His sides were acing and his cheeks were hurting, his mending ribs twinging, but he was so happy suddenly.

Roman was there immediately, looking slightly worried, his eyes filled with care and affection, his large hands gentle on his upper arms. Virgil could see it. The effect Logan had spoken about – he could see it for a moment, the calmness that washed over the usually so energetic, dramatic detective. He looked like he could finally be still when he looked at Virgil. Time seemed to slow as they looked at each other, in this smoke filled kitchen, an alarm screeching overhead and a detective next to them that looked like he was ready to pull his hair out. For a moment, they just saw each other. Virgil’s smile became softer, his dark eyes warmer.

Roman’s breath caught. His large body felt weak. It was like music was filling the room as Virgil smiled at him, like the air smelled sweet instead of burnt. Like the stars aligning over them. He was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Emotion made his heart swell to twice its size. This smile was worth all the fear and suffering. It was everything for the detective.

He yelped as the back of his shirt was suddenly grabbed and he was yanked backwards, suddenly facing a furious Logan. “Fix this mess.” He growled at him. Roman hunched his shoulders, trying to look small and innocent to placate his scary friend. Virgil was laughing in the background.

While Roman cleaned up, Logan ordered pizza for them. It was a new concept for Virgil, since Logan usually demanded they eat healthy and sit at the table, like civilized people. This time however, he let them curl up on the couch with blankets, rat and pizza and watch a movie. He pretended to be mad at Roman, but to Virgil it felt a lot like he as indulging his friend to comfort him after his failure. He snuggled deeper into his cocoon and teased the weirdo for his atrocious cooking skills. Roman flushed with anger and ranted right back, clearly insulted by Virgil not appreciating his efforts and general greatness. The teasing felt good, like he could talk to Roman without him fearing he’d fall apart at the slightest provocation. As Logan returned from the kitchen and sat closer to him, Virgil dared to lean closer, letting their shoulders touch. It felt safe, all of it. The only thing missing was Patton.

It was still early though, and they were not tired enough to go to sleep, so Logan eventually excused himself to go running. Virgil had the suspicion he was trying to distract himself. He had caught him looking at Patton’s spot like a sad puppy. He could relate.

Though he felt a little more unsure now that Logan was gone, he decided to man up and be brave. Ever since the interruption, he had been burning with curiosity. What kind of man bought his friend a flat?! Who even had that kind of money? Had Roman robbed a bank or something? It couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Actually it could hurt a lot, but he would stop being so pathetic, he would never feel completely safe as long as his messed up mind still had room to come up with theories about a dark past or a dangerous secret – or he might just be curious, okay?

Roman had stayed behind and had started painting his nails with clear nail polish, while a fashion magazine lay open in his lap. Virgil stared for a long moment. He had never seen a man that large and strong be so casual about such feminine activities. It was weirdly – nice. Adorable even. He could not say any of it took away Roman’s masculinity, he was still strong, broad shouldered and obviously muscular, not that Virgil was looking at those well defined arms or large hands or anything.

The gentle detective noticed his stare and sent a smile his way. His hair fell into his green eyes, more casual than he usually allowed it to be, and a little bit of soot from his murdered dinner had made it to his cheek. It was hard to be afraid of him this way, even for a trauma victim like Virgil. He gathered all of his courage and scooted a little closer, just within reach of those strong, well cared for hands. A sign of trust. Upon seeing Roman’s eyes light up, he knew he had caught on to Virgil’s efforts.

 

He felt his face heat, but soldiered on. “Hey, um – would – would it be cool if I asked you a question? You can say no, It’s all cool.” He rushed, knowing he spoke too quickly but being unable to help himself.

Roman smiled kindly at him though, titling his head in this ridiculous, curious fashion Virgil reluctantly found adorable. His eyes were bright and pretty, giving him all of his attention. “Of course! I shall do my best to satisfy your curiosity-.”

It felt like he had wanted to add something, but swallowed it down. Virgil pulled his sleeves over his pale, thin hands and decided to spit it out. How bad could the story be, if he even wanted to share it. “Logan told me that you - that you bought this place for him. I know it’s none of my business and I don’t want to pry, but-” He huffed in frustration, feeling his courage leave him. He needed to get it together or he would get defensive and snap at this poor idiot again.

“But you are curious about the fascinating origin story of this handsome hero and his adoring sidekick!” Roman boasted and struck a pose, polished nails shining. He looked ridiculous and indeed terribly handsome. Virgil snorted in amusement, appreciating the detective’s effort to lighten the mood. He wondered suddenly how much of his flamboyant drama and bravado was for other people’s sake. It was always timed so perfectly.

“Yeah, I guess.” He murmured, slouching a little upon not being confronted with anger.

Roman turned to his magazine and closed it carefully, mindful of his painted nails. He swallowed, his smile looking a little forced. “Of course! I cannot begrudge you the curiosity, I would want to know everything about myself as well!” His words were as confident as always, he was not looking at Virgil though. His hands tightened on the glossy pages.

“I supposed it would be difficult for someone so strong and independent to understand why Logan means so much to me, I must appear so clingy to you.” He mumbled softly.

As if he had any right to look down on somebody for needing Logan, Virgil thought wryly. He worried a little. The dramatic man usually lived for attention and presented the perfect picture of chivalry and bravery. His mask was cracking very obviously now though, eyes bright and shoulders hunched. Virgil regretted asking.

“No! Dude, I – I get wanting to be close to Logan. He’s – he’s really, um -” Virgil stammered self-consciously, recalling how he had been in the mans fucking lap, getting cuddled and feeling like the world stopped turning outside of his embrace.

“Yes, he is.” Roman agreed softly, a small smile warming his face.

The young delinquent breathed out a sigh of relief, feeling that Roman understood the feeling of safety he had tried to convey. He wondered – did Roman crave this feeling too? He was so well put together and successful though, the man looked like he had everything about himself figured out – at least when Virgil wasn’t fucking shit up for him.

“I’ll have to start at the beginning if you want to understand our dynamic, so you’ll have to settle in for a long tale of woe and adventure if you want to hear it.” Roman muttered, taking up the story again. Virgil nodded, waiting. He did not want to hurt the dramatic moron, but his curiosity burned a hole in his stomach. He had always wanted to know things, to understand. With the Scorpions, he had buried those feelings, but the theatrical detective seemed to bring those urges out in him again. He could not resist wanting to know more about him.

Chapter Text

“This might surprise you, since it fits me so perfectly,” Roman started his tale, “but “Prince” is not my original last name. It is actually - you might have heard of them. Originally I was named Roman Morgan.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “As in Morgan Industries.”

Virgil stared for a long moment, until the pieces fell in place.

“WHAT?!” The detective jumped slightly, startled at the violent reaction. Honestly, he should have seen it coming, what had he expected when he dropped such a bomb on him?! “THE Morgan Industries?! One of the largest energy corporations in the state? THOSE Morgans?!? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!” Virgil knew he was overreacting, but to a kid from a poor family, always just scraping by, Roman could as well have told him he was actual royalty.

Nicodemus clambered onto his shoulder and cuddled close to his neck, hiding in the folds of his hoodie. He tried to calm down, the detective looked – he looked worried, dejected. Virgil found it hard to pity him though. Contempt welled up in him. The Morgans traded in oil and coal, lobbying against renewable energy and buying politicians left and right. They were well known republicans and filthy rich. To Virgil, they were everything that was wrong with the world. He had protested against scum like them in high school. Entitled, rich families who were born with everything, who took everything for granted and believed they could take whatever they wanted – people, resources, power. He hated people like them with a passion. All of his resentment swelled in his chest, spreading bitterness on his tongue. He had known it when he had seen Roman for the first time! He was an arrogant, rich -

- hurt puppy. The devastated, injured look the gentle detective gave him pierced through his anger. He did not look like the pretentious offspring of a powerful dynasty. His hair was disheveled, he was wearing a rumpled t-shirt and sweats and holding tightly onto the magazine in his lap. His tall frame was hunched, looking small and vulnerable suddenly. He had seen Virgil’s thoughts reflected on his face and looked utterly sad and hurt.

Before Virgil could sort out his thoughts, Roman straightened and plastered a handsome, cheerful mask onto his face, smiling brightly at the former gang member. His sparkling eyes were filled with pain. He started to speak, probably trying to make light of the situation. Virgil suddenly knew he could not allow that.

“No! Stop, please!” Virgil begged. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t – I just get so angry at all the things that go wrong in this world, I can’t help it! But I shouldn’t take it out on you, man. You don’t deserve that, you’re not your family. Please don’t – don’t be hurt-”

Gentle hands gripped his shoulders. Roman’s green eyes immediately melted and warmed. “It’s okay, little cosmic cloud. I get having those feelings for my family. I’m not mad, please calm down.” His voice was steady and deep, hypnotic. The endearment slipped out without his consent. Virgil did not correct him. He focused on the warmth of those large hands on his thin shoulders, closing around them, on his breathing.

He had hurt Roman. Again.

“It’s all good, I can take it.” The detective promised bravely, sensing his guilt. His thumbs rubbed soothing circles over prominent bones.

He shouldn’t have to.

Virgil could not spot any of the things that had connected Roman to those despicable capitalists in his mind anymore. He was kind and protective and endlessly caring. Something untied in his chest. Roman had already forgiven him.

“Would you still like to hear my dramatic tales?” The taller man asked carefully. Virgil nodded, not trusting his voice. He lowered his head, ashamed of hurting the gentle giant. “Hey, none of that.” Roman murmured softly. His manicured hand gently tilted the pale face up with a finger under his chin. They were so close suddenly. Roman smiled at him for a long moment, soft and endlessly loving. A shiver wracked Virgil’s slender body as he was stroked under the chin like a cat. His breath caught. The detective drew back after a long moment, placing his magazine on the table to give himself time to think.

“So, my epic origin story!” Roman exclaimed, more quietly than usual. Though he had released the young man, stayed close. “As you can probably tell, my parents hold very different views from this guardian of tolerance and rainbows!” He painted an imaginary one into the air before him with a graceful sweep of his hand. Though still feeling sad, Virgil felt him get into the mindset for telling a story.

“They were conservatives and believed in traditional, christian values, including the classic gender roles. Father used to take me to the shooting range once I turned eleven. He believed a man ought to be able to defend himself and his family. Which is true of course! I would go to the end of the world and fight the vilest demons for those I hold dear.”

He directed a look at Virgil that was so tender, it made the young man flush, his heart beat fast. He did not know what to do with such a look. Attention and attraction were bad, this was ingrained in him like a reflex. But at the same time, beside of the adrenaline cursing through him, he felt a fluttering, close to his heart. Why was he so fucking sentimental, what the hell?! And who in their right mind took a child to a shooting range? Fucking republicans!

Unaware of his struggles, the detective continued his story with an unexpected revelation.

“I hated it so much.” He confessed softly. “The loud noises scared me. The people were so harsh and crass. The guns were heavy and cold and the recoil hurt my hands and I did not want to shoot a target, let alone an innocent animal like Bambi’s mother in the Disney movies. I did not understand why I had to. Father was not pleased.” He added quietly. His eyes were distant.

Virgil felt his heart figuratively break in two. The image of tiny Roman, sensitive and soft, crying on the shooting range wrecked him. He had no idea what to do. He related to Logan’s insecurity much more suddenly. Helplessly, he scooped up the cool rat and followed the older man’s example, placing it on Roman’s shoulder. The detective looked surprised, but touched nonetheless. Virgil’s clumsy attempts at comfort meant much more to him than the little menace could. It was really soft though, all downy fur and tiny paws. It made him smile. The combination of rat and Virgil’s care gave him courage and comfort. He chose to focus on a sweeter memory.

“My older sister was much better at it than I ever was. Octavia was the toughest warrior princess ever. She could shoot with the older boys without trouble, nothing scared her.” Roman’s eyes lit up with joy and love as he got to talk about his beloved sister. “I suppose it must have been hard for our parents. They just wanted a brave boy and a lovely girl. She never was one for skirts and tea-parties though, no matter how often mother would dress her up and bring her to sit with her friends, she would always escape and play in the dirt.” Roman drew his legs up, folding himself up to take up less space. Virgil had never seen him look so small. He started biting at his thumbnail nervously.

“I thought it looked really nice. The tea-parties I mean. They always dressed up so prettily and set the table with flowers and nice china. I remember how they would always talk in soft voices and wear those flowing skirts. I used to think they looked like actual painted dolls. To me, mother was the most beautiful of all of them. Her hair was always perfect and she would spent hours taking care of herself and making sure she smelled good. I loved hugging her. Everything was flowery and soft.” The detective dropped his head, turning his face away as if residual shame filled him even after all those years.

“I would have much rather been with them. My father wanted to go fishing or shooting, but I never liked any of it. Most of the things he did scared me. But mother and her friends – they would do each others make-up and sit in the garden, talking about how beautiful the others looked. I just wanted to sit with them and listen. I did not even want to wear their flowery dresses or be a girl, even though I would surely have looked perfectly precious! I just – I guess-” He sighed in frustration, running a hand though his hair roughly. “I guess I was just bad at being a boy.” He whispered.

Virgil’s head was spinning. He was learning so much right now, most of all that he hated seeing Roman like this. So small and shameful, even after all those years. “Bullshit!” He growled. “Who says a boy has to like shooting helpless animals, those stereotypes are a horrible fucking thing and really damn stupid on top of it.”

Roman’s lips quirked up gratefully. “You are right, of course. The memories just take me back sometimes, and I feel like a child again. That’s all. Don’t worry about your brave protector!” He boasted, raising his handsome face to the light, trying to take away Virgil’s worry.

His voice was forcefully brighter as he continued, as if the memory meant little to him. “I remember quite clearly when I asked mother and her friends if I could stay with them instead of with father and the other boys. Mother looked – she tried to play it off before her friends, make light of the situation, like I did not understand or something. But I did. She was – ashamed. Of me. I never asked again. It was fine though!” He exclaimed, striking a pose. “I did not need to be included to entertain myself, when I had a quite vivid imagination, as well as my brave and fierce sister to play with! We would explore the grounds and play knight and prince/princess in all sorts of constellations, saving dragons and damsels and princes and commoners or little animals in need, creating fabulous worlds with words and thoughts alone! It was a marvelous, magical time! Father and mother lost interest in us when we failed to fulfill their expectations, but being ignored was – it was fine! I just dreamed a little more, I was very creative. It was a perfectly fine childhood, filled with adventure!”

Virgil swallowed hard, swallowed down an urge he had never experienced before. He wanted to hug Roman. The large man had frequently scared Virgil, just by being as tall and powerful as he was, and annoyed him even more often. But those attempts at being positive for him and his own sake just wrecked him more than he could explain. Virgil’s mother had always loved him. He missed her hard in that moment, but at least he had known her love. To imagine how sad and abandoned they must have felt – and for such stupid reasons! Roman did not even sound angry, he just tried desperately to see the best in this truly shitty situation. Virgil wanted to strangle someone. Someone very specific.

“It was fine for the next few years, until father decided that it was time I stopped hiding and grew into a man. He made me come to the shooting range again and demanded I learn, so I could come hunting with them and not – not humiliate him with my – anyway! So it was not easy, I was thirteen I believe, and still not very tough outside of my fantasies. I know it is hard to imagine, considering how magnificent I look today, but I grew into this impressive size quite late. I was a pale, small child for a long time. Father had always planned to have me inherit the company eventually. He wanted to prepare me for that role and believed I needed to gain a sense of ruthlessness – a killer instinct as he called it. So he started being a lot harsher with me.” He laughed softly. Virgil had never heard a sound that sad.

Roman’s smile dimmed. He heaved a deep sigh, like the memory of his struggles still used up all of his strength and left him entirely drained and empty. “I cried a lot during that time. Octavia however, she was livid. She like a warrior princess, always looking after me - she got into a lot of fights with father. She never backed down. She was also the one who called Nana for help. Our grandmother did not use to live with us, since she did not get along with father, but when she heard about our troubles, she moved all the way to us.”

Finally, a real smile lit up the attractive features of the young detective. His eyes were distant as he spoke about his grandmother, like he was with her in his memory. “We never used to have much contact, outside of family celebrations, but when she moved closer, things changed for us. Nana was just like Octavia, brash and strong and not willing to back down from anything. She had built the company with her husband and helped run it, before mother got married and father took over. I never saw him respect anyone like that. She also still owned a lot of shares of the company, so that helped.” He giggled slightly at the thought. The sound was so sweet and pure, Virgil wondered at how much kindness and innocence Roman had kept despite his neglectful parents. He had always believed he was a spoiled brat, but now he needed to reconsider.

“She saw my struggles and took me on a trip that shaped my whole life and helped turn me into the hero you see today!”

Virgil snorted, earning a soft, loving smile from Roman. He clearly was trying very hard to cheer the little delinquent up during his sad story.

“She just took my hand and father’s favorite car one day and drove us straight to a police precinct. I remember how she just walked in like she owned the place. I was very and sheltered and naive at that point, since we were both mostly home-schooled. She was so impressive to me.” Roman ducked his head again, smiling fondly. There was so much love in his expression. Virgil scooted closer, helplessly drawn in by the affection the tall detective radiated. He was like sunshine, warm and comforting. The young man found himself yearning to be near him. It was an entirely new feeling for him. His pale cheeks heated at the thought.

“She just grabbed a random officer, or maybe it was the biggest and meanest looking one she could find. Nana had had something about herself that made people respect her though, so he stayed and answered all of her questions politely, all ‘Yes Ma’am, of course Ma’am’. He told us about his job, about why he became an officer, about all of the people he was protecting, about why he needed a gun and how he tried to never shoot it without a reason. He even let me hold it. I remember not being afraid of a weapon for the first time. Finally, I knew what I wanted to become – a modern knight, a guardian of the innocent! And I thought I understood father better. Perhaps he had just wanted me to become a protector, like the brave officer. I tried very hard to please him from that moment. Octavia snuck out with me and helped me practice - she was so good. I tried to act more like him, learn about the things a man was supposed to like. And I improved, I trained hard and became stronger and better. Father finally started to acknowledge me. I was so proud when he called me ‘son’ in front of his friends. And it was all good. Octavia was finally allowed to come to the range as well. She was two years older than me and started to show a talent for the family business. It caught father’s interest and he let her tag along. The business was the one thing he valued above his ideas about our roles. Our parents even let us go to a private school instead of keeping us home with tutors. I guess they thought we wouldn’t embarrass them any more.”

Roman laughed mirthlessly, leaning his cheek closer to the soft fur at his neck. “He didn’t know me as well as he thought, apparently. I met a boy in private school. He was sixteen and I was fifteen and he was so charming. He liked me and told me so, he was so open about being affectionate, so honest with his compliments. I had never been treated that way. He made me feel good about myself for the first time. I wanted to learn to become like that, so effortlessly kind and positive and unafraid of telling people they are beautiful. I had the most massive crush on him!”

Once again, Roman managed to find something in his story that turned his sad mockery of a smile into a real one. He always seemed to focus on the positive things. His green eyes sparkled, his face looked dreamy as he remembered the teen. “He had the coolest hair – a pitch black Afro he would tie back for school, and a super adorable stub of a nose!” Roman giggled at the memory. “I tried getting more tan to match his pretty, black skin for a while. I got horribly sunburned, of course! I am only a sunshine child at heart, apparently. My magnificent mother in the sky would not spare my fair skin!”

Virgil groaned as the detective sentimentally raised his hands to the setting sun outside the window. He clasped his hands in front of his face, trying to hide the feelings he was suddenly battling. An ugly emotion reared its head as the handsome man spoke about his teenage crush. Virgil pulled his hair in anger at himself, disbelieving at his stupid stupid messy feelings. He could not believe it, but he actually was jealous. Oh fuck. He tried to kick those pathetic emotions to the curb, but he could not help mourn the fact that he had pushed Roman away. Did he actually regret not skipping through a fucking field of poppies with this idiot?! It would have never worked, Roman was an exasperating moron and Virgil would have only made him miserable. The thought of a sexual relationship still frightened him. He was the idiot! Still, a little part of him wondered if Roman had called this dude “darling” or “little bird” as well.

He had little time to reign in his jealousy, since the detective seemed determined to make it worse.

“Caleb laughed at me of course. He told me I was perfect the way I was. I remember how he cupped my burned face in his cool hands so gently. I was glad I was already to red, so he could not see my blush. I had no idea what was happening, we never talked about things like sex, or god forbid, homosexuality at home, but I knew it was everything I ever wanted. And then he kissed me.” Roman sighed softly, a lovely smile lighting up his features. He was lost deeply in the pleasant memory, oblivious to the ludicrous urges Virgil was battling beside him.

He suddenly wanted to climb into the man’s lap and show him that the kiss of some rich teen had nothing on the way Virgil could kiss him. He would push the detective into the cushions, grind against him sinuously and kiss his mouth open. He would ravish him until he gasped his name, whimpered those ridiculous endearments like a prayer while Virgil pulled his luxurious hair, until he forgot the touch of this kid, until his strong hands grasped Virgil’s hips firmly – woah wait, this was going too far, too quickly! A mix of fear and arousal catapulted the traumatized delinquent back into the present. What was he thinking?! Terror made his breath stutter as he remembered the last time a man had kissed him, grabbed him. Roman was far too strong and passionate, he couldn’t – it wasn’t safe! He tried to freak out quietly, so as not to alert the other man, but no such luck. The detective was always attentive to him.

“What’s wrong! Did I say something that scared you?! Can I aid you in some way?” He cried, turning wide, worried eyes on the young man.

Virgil took a deep breath, remembering who was sitting next to him. Roman looked like a scared puppy, gently cradling the cool rat on his shoulder. This was the man that followed Logan around like a duckling, who had just almost burned down the kitchen in a pink apron. It was fine. He was fine. He breathed more easily.

“No – I’m okay, don’t worry. It – I was just thinking about something, it doesn’t matter, continue your story.” He mumbled, pulling his thumbnail to his lips again to nibble on it nervously. Roman did not look convinced.

“Are you certain my – um – are you certain? I have surely bored you enough, you must be tired of my tales. We could watch a movie instead?” He offered kindly. More fear drained from Virgil. He had caught it clearly – the fucking nickname that had almost escaped him. Roman still thought about them. The realization should anger and scare him, but for some selfish reason it gave him warmth and safety. Roman still felt something for him. His foolish heart fluttered at the thought.

He would still kick him for them though!

“No, it’s fine. I wanna hear the rest, if that’s cool. Please?” He added, unsure about the polite wording he was not used to anymore. Roman perked up though. “Of course! I shall tell you whatever you wish to know. It is not a happy tale though. Are you sure?”

Yes, don’t make me repeat myself!” Virgil growled. This felt more comfortable to him.

Roman nodded and gathered his thoughts. “Being with Caleb was magical.” He finally mumbled. “He was so sweet and gentle with me, accepting me the way I was. I did not have to pretend with him. It was such an amazing feeling, like steel bands falling from my chest. I could finally breathe. He let me talk about Disney movies and the love songs I liked and he held my hand and kissed me in secluded corners of the school. I was the happiest I had ever been.” He sighed softly. “I never wanted to hide again, but it turned out I had already revealed too much. One day I got home from school to find a van parked in front of the house. I did not know then that it would be the last time I’d see Caleb. Father was waiting in the lobby. He -” Roman broke off, just breathing for a moment.

To Virgil’s shock, he saw tears gathered in his eyes. The detective wiped them away roughly and continued bravely. “He had found out about us. Somebody must have seen us and told him. It was – it was pretty bad. I knew little about homosexuality, only that I had to hide it from father. He screamed at me for a long time, told me he was ashamed of me, that I had disgraced the family, that I was disgusting and all that. I was not feeling very majestic.” He smiled wryly, trying to make light of the situation. Virgil was frozen with horror beside him, feeling cold with fear for helpless, innocent little Roman who had just wanted to be loved.

“He informed me I would have to change my ways if I wanted to be part of this family. I’d have to be normal or he would disinherit me and throw me out. He was decisive like that. Turns out the van belonged to a fundamentally christian camp that specialized in conversion therapy. Pray-the-Gay-Away camps they are colloquially called.”

Roman trailed off as he noticed Virgil’s pale, horrified face. He could not believe that disgusting bastard had put little teenage Roman in one of those psychotic, pseudoscientific madhouses! He had read about how they used to humiliate and brainwash kids there – how could his own father -

“No! No, it’s all good, I promise!” Roman interrupted his thoughts, sitting up on his knees on the couch before Virgil, daring to grasp his narrow shoulder gently. He looked like he was praying, begging. He was unfairly pretty like that, which was not helpful! The young man’s head was spinning. He wanted to hug the detective so badly but did not dare to lean forwards. How could he say it was all good?! Did he always have to be so fucking brave for everyone else?!?

“Trust me, it was fine!” Roman soothed again, gently rubbing Virgil’s shoulder though the material of his shirt. “I mean, of course the place was scary and horrible and I cried myself to sleep every night, but I wasn’t there long.” A surprising smile curled his lips. “Nana picked me up after a week.”

Virgil was starting to really like that old chick.

“It was-” Roman looked up at him, eyes alight with elated pride and tears both. “It was amazing! She just drove right in, grabbed the director and started screaming at him and insulting him so badly, I did not hear anyone curse that way until Logan stepped into some dog shit and lost it in German. She was just so terrifying, like an angry warrior queen! Nana was so frightening, the director that had scared the heck out of all of us just hunkered down and took it. The things she said, that we all heard, they were so wonderful. Granted, she called all of ‘fabulous boys’, she was an old lady after all, but I think her words stayed with us more than anything else. She taught us not to ‘take shit’ from anyone - her words, not mine of course! And then she took my hand and drove me home. I was pretty afraid of father, but she just got into his face and told him he was – well, she told him if he did not behave she would take all the shares of the company and give them to the next democratic candidate running for the White House. That shut him up. He never forgave either of us and basically ignored me completely, but it was okay. It hurt of course. However, Nana moved into the house and took over raising me and Octavia completely. It was a good time.” He flushed brightly suddenly.

Virgil felt a little better after hearing somebody had done what he wanted to do desperately. Had this metal grandma not shown up, he would have had to find one of the fuckers from this story and commit murder. Multiple murders. Roman’s flush piqued his interest though. “What is it, dude?” He asked, too curious to be sensitive. The detective did not seem to mind, though. Uncharacteristically, he buried his face in his hands, mumbling something. He was adorable.

“What was that?” Virgil asked. Roman sighed and raised his head, repeating himself.

“I said, when I got home from the camp, she grabbed Octavia and me and sat us both down. She thought our parents had criminally neglected part of our education, since I was apparently so clueless. First she complained about what a prude her daughter had become and that she had married a – ahm – let’s say she married a prick. Anyway, she decided to give us both The Talk, at the same time mind you, since she only needed to talk about how it works with men anyway.”

Virgil stared at the flushed face of the detective for a long moment, until he burst out laughing. How was he still laughing after all this?! It must be Roman’s presence, so strong and brave and inherently focused on the bright parts of his horrible childhood. “That sounds fucking horrible!” Virgil cackled gleefully.

“Oh it was! It was perfectly embarrassing. She had no mercy, no matter how much we begged. Turns out she was quite outgoing in her time. Apparently she had a ‘fabulous boy’ as a best friend as well. He told her all about – you know.” Roman started giggling, actually doing the air quotes. “She said we better listen properly. She claimed her late husband actually sent a thank you letter to her friend, for showing her how to – um – how to-” The detective curled up on the couch, giggling uncontrollably.

Virgil found himself laughing. He scooted closer and shoved at Roman’s shoulder, making him topple to the side. “Do tell!!!” He demanded.

“Alright, alright!” He wiped tears from his eyes, his smile so big it was blinding. “He apparently wrote that letter to thank him for explaining how to -” He giggled again. Virgil glared ineffectually through his amusement. “How to give really good blow-jobs.” Roman finally burst out.

This time, Roman laughed at Virgil’s expression. The delinquent snorted in baffled amusement.

“Seriously?!”

“Oh yes, and she told us all about it in great detail. How to work the – ahm – the Crown Jewels -”

Seriously?!

“Yes! A prince shall not be crude!” Roman cried. “Anyway, she told us all the details about the handling and what to do with your fingers and – Jesus it was so embarrassing! Octavia and I wanted to die! When she finally left the room, we thought it was over, but then she came back with a cucumber!” Dramatically, Roman flopped back on the couch, enduring Virgil’s howling laughter gracefully. He tried to commit the sound to memory. It was so pretty, he was so pretty, it was worth all of the embarrassment.

“Octavia loved me like the charming prince I was deserved, but she never quite forgave me for putting her through that. I cannot even hold it against her!” He chuckled at the memory of his sister’s glare. “In retrospect, Nana’s lessons were worth it though, she gave great tips!” He boasted, winking at Virgil from his spot sprawled on the couch, all muscles and long lines and cheeky grin. The delinquent pushed Roman’s feet to the ground in retaliation, actually flushing at the harmless insinuation. He did not think he still had it in him to become flustered, after all of the things he had done with strangers.

They sat in comfortable silence for a few moments, until Virgil mumbled softly “You think you’ve had it bad, but at least you only had to go through that whole thing once.” Roman perked up at the chance to hear a funny story. He looked so curious, even tilting his head like a Golden Retriever. Virgil caved.

“Well, my mom always meant well, you see.” He muttered, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “Once I turned thirteen she grabbed me and gave me the whole talk about the flowers and the bees and the condoms and how to talk to a girl and how to – look after one, I guess?” Roman smiled sweetly, appreciating his attempts at politeness. “It was really fucking horrible, and I could not look at her for a week. She didn’t give a fuck and just went through with it, telling me much more than I wanted to know, honestly. Then, when I turned, I guess fourteen or fifteen, I started looking at boys as well – I mean, I know I was late, but I mostly wanted to study and build things and go to my gymnastics classes and shit. Mom immediately noticed. And sat me down again.”

Virgil could not take it anymore. He pulled his hoodie over his head, hiding. Even the memory made him blush. Was it even okay to speak about how easily his mom had accepted his bi-sexuality after hearing this story? Roman’s warm laugh reassured him though. Blindly, he reached out and swatted at him. The detective yelped and grabbed a pillow to shield himself. He never hit Virgil back.

“Well, anyway, she meant well. A little too well, as it turned out. She had done research and printed out pictures and graphs and everything. AND she brought a banana. Again.” He added miserably. Roman squealed gleefully, hugging the pillow close to his chest.

“She sounds like an utter delight!” He exclaimed. “Nana and her would have surely made a terrifying duo! The Educators! Striking terror in all the hearts of shy and awkward teenagers in the States!” The detective rose to his knees and struck an outrageous superhero pose, grabbing a blanket and throwing it over his broad shoulders like a cape. Virgil did not feel bad about hitting him with another pillow. Roman squeaked and tried to wrestle it from the slighter man, making sure not to tug too hard or lean into his space. Playing with Virgil like this was the most amazing thing, the delinquent was so at ease around him. He felt light and happy, like he could fly.

Virgil’s cheeks were hurting from smiling. He had not had so much fun in such a long time, even though he was talking about his mom. He had had so little chance to focus on positive memories, he had not expected them to hold the power to make him happy. Also Roman was impossible and sweet and hilarious and utterly gorgeous and made sure to give him space. He deserved, like, a hug or some shit for being so kind. Virgil whacked him in the face with a pillow instead. Much better.

They settled down, breathing hard and disheveled. Some naughty part of Virgil could not help thinking it was a good look on Roman, all flushed and ruffled and happy. “What happened after your grandma gave you The Talk?” He asked in order to distract himself from such thoughts. They could only lead to heartbreak and panic and misery, after all. The distraction worked a little too well though. The sweet detective’s smile faltered.

“She died.”

Virgil literally choked on air. What the actual fuck?! He knew old ladies died eventually, but did Roman have to spring the death of his new hero on him like that?! The idea of little teen Roman losing his Nana made his stomach turn hard. The older man seemed to sense his mistake.

“I am so sorry, my little doe!” He scrambled to apologize for the name as well, seeing Virgil’s look despite his shock. “Sorry, I know – that just slipped out! She did not die immediately. We had some wonderful years where she and Octavia kicked butt together and I got to take theater lessons and all that! Just – when I was seventeen, she became ill and – and died a few days later. I apologize for springing the news at you like that, it was a shock for all of us and still creeps up on me I guess.” He muttered, looking guilty and mournful. Like a sad whelp. He had to stop doing that to Virgil!

“It’s fine.” He grumbled. Fear for the man before him made him anxious though. The hilarity of a few seconds ago was blown away like smoke. He felt the same sensation of terror creeping up his spine, cold and harsh, as he had when the Scorpions had lurked behind him. “You – you wanna – um – talk? About it?” He asked nervously.

Roman gave him a loving smile, so tender and soft. “Are you sure you want to hear about it-” He broke off again, looking sheepish. Virgil scowled at him.

“Yes.” He bit off, scooting a little closer once again. He had the feeling Roman would benefit from talking. That was what people that gave a shit about each other did, right? Listen, even if it made their heart hurt with sympathy.

Roman indeed looked touched and grateful, no matter how harsh Virgil sounded. “Alright. Well, so – Nana died on an October morning. Mother was with us, holding our hands for once, but father never showed. The funeral was a week later. We didn’t talk during that time. Octavia, who was still on decent terms with father due to her business interests, never left my side. She had postponed going to Warthon Business School for a year, so she could support me at home. After the funeral, father took me aside and gave me another choice. Change my ways and be a decent person, or get out.” Virgil sucked in a sharp breath. Oh fuck no. No!

Roman had always been emotional during his storytelling, adorable and happy or smiling bitter-sweetly or looking sad or ashamed. Now his voice and face were void of emotion.

“I considered it for a moment. Staying and just not being the problem of the family for once. Not ripping it apart this time. I wanted a family so badly and he was giving me another chance, despite me ruining everything. I wanted everything to be okay.” He muttered, hanging his head.

He looked up in utter surprise as tentative arms were wrapped around his shoulders. Virgil was there. He was hugging him. His face was burning and he was clearly awkward and insecure, but he had scooted close and leaned against his side and brought their bodies in contact on his own volition, trying to comfort Roman. It was so important, so monumental for Roman that he forgot about his agony for a moment.

Virgil was hugging him.

He was so slender and lovely and so close. His lashes were dark and his skin pale and perfect, like moonlight, his lips the color of pale roses. Roman could see a wayward violet petal stuck in his silken, purple locks. He held very still, trying not to scare this wild, marvelous creature away from him. His touch meant the world to Roman.

Virgil meanwhile glared at him fiercely. “Not a word about his.” He growled, flushing.

“Okay.” Roman uttered obediently. Tentatively, he brought an arm up. Virgil ducked his head, not pulling away. He allowed the detective to wrap his limb around his back and loosely hug him to his side.

He was warm and slim under his arm, fitting against his larger frame like he belonged there. Roman forgot about everything else as Virgil settled in slowly, curling his legs up at his side, like a shy cat testing the waters. This brave wildcat had dared to come close and allowed him to touch in order to comfort him. The young detective squared his shoulders (carefully, so as not to disturb his precious, slender cat). He could get through this story without breaking down and making a mess. It had not been pretty when he had told Logan. There had been lots and lots of tears. His partner had been overwhelmed and terrified and overprotective and furious and had awkwardly held him close, patting his head. It had been perfect.

Like this. This was perfect.

He dared to run a hand through the downy hair at the base of the delinquent’s neck, marveling at how soft it was. Virgil allowed it. It felt like touching a rare, shy animal. A once in a lifetime experience. He could hardly believe he was allowed to put his hands on the beautiful young man. Roman’s heart stuttered as he saw a slight, pleasurable shiver ghost over the pale skin.

Trying not to make things awkward, Roman started running his mouth, since it was what he did best. It was so much easier suddenly.

“So, I was tempted to take father up on the offer, but Nana had raised me better. She would have been proud of me: I stood up straight and told him no. He threw me out the same day, told me I was not his son anymore and that I was disowned.”

Virgil growled audibly. His anger gave Roman strength, like Logan’s protective rage had. Despite the story to come, despite the tears gathering, he felt blessed.

“It was – well, it was very bad, but the disowning was no problem. It turned out Nana had left everything to us, the money, her shares, everything. We had way more than we needed. What really mattered to me though, was that she urged us in her will to take her name. She had always said we were true Princes.” He smiled, letting soft strands slip through his fingers.

“She used to call me ‘little prince’. Octavia of course made fun of it and called me ‘baby prince’. I secretly like it though. She had it so much better at home, being brave and smart in a way father could reluctantly respect. She would have had it easy, especially when I left. I caused nothing but tension. She didn’t leave me though. No, she was a true hero. Just I was walking down the driveway, still dressed in black and feeling like I weighed a million pounds, she stormed out and caught up with me.”

Roman’s expression was hard to read. It made Virgil worry. “That’s pretty great of her, right?” He asked anxiously. He leaned a little closer, refusing to consider that the hard lines of Roman’s muscular torso and his gentle embrace brought him comfort and enjoyment too.

“Yes, it was. I wish she hadn’t done it.” He whispered. The detective swallowed hard, deciding the sob story had gone on for way too long. He would much rather focus on the pleasure of holding Virgil, which was more than he had dared to dream about. He would not even see him properly through his blurred vision, which was a shame!

“We were not used to having much freedom, or the chance to do whatever we wanted. Octavia especially had suffered from those restrictions ... she was such a wild, free spirit. She got a place for us and made me promise to finish school and go to the academy, so I wouldn’t become one of those ‘entitled, rich assholes’ as she had called them.” Virgil’s lips curled at the phrase. Roman ached with how much he wished his favorite wild-cards could have met.

“She decided to explore a little, do extreme sports, go to parties. She became a little too curious and reckless I guess. While I started throwing myself into painting to deal with the grief, she started experimenting with drugs.”

“Oh shit, no.” Virgil muttered. His throat felt tight, his eyes burning. He could guess now why he had never heard of this kick-ass sister. He felt Roman’s anguish like his own suddenly. His defensiveness did not stand a chance as he was crushed with grief for the detective’s loss. He threw his arms around him more firmly, drawing his face into his neck.

Roman stiffened in surprise for a moment, before he just melted in Virgil’s arms. His breath turned ragged and shallow, as he tried to hold back his sobs. He had not meant to cry on Virgil! The tender touch just made his walls crumble, he was helpless to stop it! Being close to Virgil was everything his heart had ever wanted.

The young delinquent did not mind holding him tight. There was no room for fear or annoyance as his chest swelled with compassion and protectiveness. He was in awe of Roman’s – Roman’s everything! There was so much more depth to him than he had known. After all of the misery and sadness and loss, he was still so incredibly kind and selfless. Virgil had seen it in the way he had tried so hard to comfort him while he had told his story. He appeared so shallow and selfish at first glance, but after what he had learned, he understood that everything he did was in some way done for the benefit of others. Sure, he was loud and obnoxious, but he kept putting up a show to make light of his suffering and to put others at ease. Virgil held on tightly to the large man curled up against his chest like a child, trying not to get overwhelmed by emotion. Roman’s breath was warm against his neck and he smelled so very good, his hair soft and thick under his hands. The young man tried to focus on those feelings, trying not to actually start crying. He ignored the fact that his vision was blurry and his throat felt tight.

Roman sunk further into his arms, slowly becoming more pliant and heavy, like a large cat. Virgil made sure to give him all the time he needed. He had always been secretly nurturing, but had not had the chance to indulge this part of his personality in so long. He actually enjoyed holding the other man.

Eventually, Roman cautiously spoke up, testing the waters to see if he would be pushed away, now that the moment had ended. He could never know, with the moods of his little lynx. “So, I think you can guess the rest. Octavia suffered from an overdose eventually, and I was left alone.” With the knowledge that the death of his sister was on his hands. He did not say those words. Virgil’s fingers tightened in his hair briefly. He did not make him leave. Roman was more grateful than he could put into words.

“I only had one thing to do: go to the academy and not become an entitle, rich asshole like I promised. I was holding it together of course. A prince must always make the best impression. I was not sure what I was doing it for though.” I had already killed my sister, why would anyone want me protecting them? “I went through the motions, trying to do well. I had become very strong, and was the best shot in my class, thanks to Octavia. However, my quest felt empty without a purpose.” He dared nuzzling his cheek against Virgil’s shoulder, looking for comfort he did not deserve. The fierce little angel indulged him. Even that ratty traitor cuddled close to his cheek, now that the pillow fight was over. Virgil was very quiet as he listened.

“Then, close to the end of my first year, something changed. It was not much... I guess my creative mind ran away with me a bit. It meant everything to me.” Virgil stilled his ministrations, curiously listening. He needed some good news ASAP. Roman whined softly, nudging his hand with his head. The former gang member huffed, but continued petting the man-cat. In retaliation, he pulled his hair a little though, as Roman sank against him again, melting in a puddle of pleasure.

“Hey! Watch the hair!” He grumbled, playfully tickling his side. Virgil jumped a little, cursing lightly. Roman lit up immediately upon spotting the fact that the emo-kitten was ticklish. Virgil would have none of it though. He gave his hair a firm tug, glaring the large man into submission. Obediently, the detective pulled his hands back, wanting to keep them, now that his nail-polish was just right. He did not mind getting his hair pulled by those clever hands though. Not at all.

Delightedly, he found that he was allowed to return to cuddling close to Virgil’s side. He had never imagined he would be held like that by him. In his fantasies, he had been the one to sweep the pretty delinquent off his feet and hold him close. He tried to commit the feeling to memory. It was easier to talk like that. Especially since his favorite topic was coming up finally.

“As I was trying to say, before getting interrupted so viciously-” Another, harsher tug made his head tip back and his breath catch. He tried to hide his reaction until he was released. Clearing his throat and hiding his heated cheeks and dilated pupils in Virgil’s neck, he continued his narration.

“As I was saying, something changed for me, my destiny had finally found me! We had a self-defense class with a really great instructor. Sargent Mitchell was so cool, let me tell you! Like in the movies, kicking butt and looking splendid doing it! We were all a little afraid of her. That day, she brought in this nerdy looking recruit to help her demonstration. He wore glasses and had his hair combed to the side and everything. We all though he would be toast.” Virgil’s lips curled up. He could imagine where this was going. Roman already sounded a little love struck.

“It was my brave partner Logan of course! Though he lacked the dramatic flair, he was smooth and cool and amazing!” Virgil chuckled at how ridiculous the detective was. Seriously, like a duckling. It even sounded like he had imprinted on Logan that day.

“I’m not sure why I liked him so much. Perhaps it was because he was as strong as I wanted to be, without becoming harsh and cold like father, or the fact that he was so adorably awkward. I think – I think it was because he looked lonely, like me. He thought he hid it well, but this brilliant detective was able to read his friend from the first moment! I chose to become his partner, so we would not have to be lonely anymore! He graduated soon after, with the highest marks and all that of course, and I never saw him again, but I was tenacious! I graduated just as successfully as him – shut up, you darkling, I did! And found out where he worked. From that moment, it was only a matter of calling his chief again and again and again, until my brilliantly worded reasoning -”

“Wore him down.”

“-CONVINCED HIM!” Roman cried. Such unfairness!

“Anyway, I finally became Logan’s partner, and I knew it had to be perfect! I know I was expecting way too much of him, he told me all about how foolish that was later, but I was not feeling very glittery at that time, so I put all of my hopes into the image I had of him. I was looking for a family I guess, or maybe even someone who would take care of me when I felt so alone. I used to have Octavia and Nana. They were always so strong and in control, Nana especially. She would tell you to shut up and that you were an idiot and take you in her arms, and I guess I saw him and was hit so hard by my memory of her, because he was so much like her. I just wanted him to hold me and tell me to stop being an idiot.”

He trailed off, feeling a shameful flush climb his cheeks. He did not have a problem with being open anymore, like he had used to. However, something about Virgil made him spill even his weakest and darkest fears and desires. He was so strong and hardened though, surely he would see what a mess Roman was now. But Virgil just held him close. He always helped him find the courage to keep speaking, just by being there. So he did.

“When I finally saw him sitting in that precinct, spine straight and face strict, I lost my courage I guess. Nana had taught me to be myself, no matter what people said, and I had tried, even though I had not felt like myself since her death. But when I saw him, I remembered what being me had put everyone through, how it had ripped apart our family. So I caved, like a coward, and pretended to be the straight and narrow cop I thought he would want me to be, like the ones I had seen in movies. I could not go through being abandoned again, even though I was ashamed because I knew Nana would be disappointed, but I was so lonely.” He knew he was begging Virgil to understand, that he sounded small and childish, but he could not help himself. He curled in tighter, clutching the dark shirt in his first to stop the trembling. He had not meant to expose himself so much!

A shuddering sigh lifted the thin chest under his cheek. Virgil’s hand tightened in his hair, steadying this time, instead of pulling. “I know man.” He mumbled, his slightly rough voice sounding small. “I know what it’s like to look for a place to belong. You found a good spot, you should be proud, or whatever.” He trailed off. Roman felt his breath ruffle his caramel locks as Virgil turned his face closer.

Roman understood what me meant, suddenly. “That’s not the same! You did not have a choice about joining the Scoffing Squids!” He chided gently. Virgil was quiet, clearly not inclined to talk feelings with Roman. His own feelings at least. The detective sighed. Taking a leap of faith, he wrapped both arms around the skinny young man and brought him close, so they were in each others arms. Virgil’s breath caught and he stiffened.

Roman was very strong and very warm. He also buried his face back in Virgil’s neck and demurely waited to be allowed to stay or told to leave. The delinquent let him stay.

The clear devotion Roman radiated did not feel deserved, but so very good. Also he had been getting cold, okay?! Logan kept the flat cool, that was all.

Not liking the scrutiny placed on him, he started poking Roman until the large man started whining pathetically.

“WHY ARE YOU POKING ME?!” He wailed. Ugh, loud, too close to his ear. He poked him again.

“Keep talking.” He demanded. Roman pouted excessively. Virgil sighed. “Please?”

The detective cheered up immediately. He placed his cheek on the thin shoulder again, so he could talk more comfortably. “Of course I shall indulge your wishes! Where was I? Right! So – I was lonely and wanted him to like me. The slight problem was however, that I had spent most of my life home with family and tutors and had shut myself off during the academy. At home, I had been raised by women. Caleb had to leave school after the incident and the other kids avoided me. Therefore, I had no real idea how a straight man was supposed to behave. I only knew that I wanted to please Logan, so I tried my best. I am a marvelous actor after all, how hard could it be? I only had movies and such as reference. I could have watched our colleagues of course, but they were so bland, I did not feel like being so boring! There were limits to my dedication after all!” The chest under him moved with what could be silent laughter. He was glad for the sensation.

“It was – um – not my greatest performance I’m afraid. For lack of references, not skill! And I could feel it grating on Logan’s nerves. I knew it was not going well, even though I really really needed it to, but I did not know how to fix it! I tried hard to be what I thought he expected of me, because that was what men were supposed to act like, even though it never fit. The voice in my head was never butch, or cursed or spoke like I tried to. I always felt off, even to myself. Like Logan would have to call me out, even though I tried so hard. I was constantly insecure. It was very tiring. I felt like I was lying to him, so I had to confess. He deserved better.”

Something in Virgil was aching again. Fuck this, why did Roman have to be so utterly sweet and earnest?! The detective had quieted, apparently contemplating something.

The surprised delinquent battled the urge to hit Roman over the head as the oaf suddenly freed the arm he had wrapped around his front and grabbed one of his sock clad feet he had pulled close on the couch. What the fuck did he think he was doing, grabbing people’s feet?!

His large hand simply closed around his cold toes though, warming them up. It felt pretty damn great if he was honest. Which he wasn’t. The farthest he managed to go was ignore the whole thing, and secretly enjoying the warmth and care. He wondered when it had become easier to be a bitch to people than accept their affection.

Being affectionate came to Roman so much more easily. He was entirely comfortable holding onto those cold toes and warming them lovingly, while taking up his story, as if their fucking cuddle pile was something utterly normal. Virgil felt a little hysterical when he thought about the position he was in.

“My chance came when Logan actually invited me over. He had always tried to keep his distance from me, so I was spectacularly happy! I might have gotten a little tipsy and become louder than anticipated. I noticed that the louder I became, the quieter he was. It was all falling apart around me. So I chose to confess it all. I did not want to mislead him or force him into being my partner if he hated me, not even if I needed him.”

A sweet smile bloomed on his lips as he remembered the night. He giggled cheerfully. “It was the weirdest, most wonderful thing to learn he was gay as well. I grew up so sheltered in a way, that I could not imagine a man like him to be like me in any way. I was a little drunk that night, and a lot boisterous, because I was so elated. The next day, I started getting insecure again. I mean, I know now that I am a blessing to be around, but back then, I foolishly feared my unrestrained, magnificent presence would be too much for him, and tried to reign myself in again. However, the floodgates were open now, and my fabulous nature refused to be tamed. Lo did not throw me out when I was loud or dramatic though. It was fine. I tried to keep my glamorous nature contained to manageable doses for him. It was a small sacrifice to make, to dress in those drab, professional clothes and avoid certain topics. It would not last of course, fate would not allow a shining beacon like me to be suffocated!”

Roman released Virgil’s toes to dramatically place a hand on his chest. He yelped a little, as he promptly got poked again. Virgil wiggled his cool, neglected feet petulantly, hoping Roman would stop the antics and give him more attention. Now that he had it, he felt like he could not do without it anymore. The detective cooed happily as he realized what his moody little damsel wanted. He settled back in, grabbing a hold of his feet. He felt like the luckiest man on earth.

“One night, I felt particularity colorful and put on a little bit of makeup, just for myself, to feel pretty. I must have fallen asleep like that, and had to get up quickly when we were called to the precinct. I had forgotten all about my mascara until Logan grabbed me at our desks and complained about my unprofessional getup. He did not want an apology or explanation though, he just wanted to rant - I was - I was quite shocked to realize I had forgotten about it, and tried to keep quiet, so as not to make it worse. Lo didn’t notice my anxiety of course, there was a lot I still had to teach him.” Roman explained, sounding fond at the memory of the cluelessness of his partner. Virgil could easily imagine Logan not getting it, but trying his best.

“He grabbed his handkerchief and wet it with some bottled water and took a hold of my chin, wiping away the mascara that had smeared over my cheek overnight, leaving the rest nice and tidy. And that was that. He just let it go, accepting it as another oddity he failed to understand. I tried experimenting more from that moment, telling him about the things I liked, or putting on some subtle eye shadow or nail polish. He complained a little if he thought it was too flashy, or if I annoyed him, but he never turned me away or demanded I don’t do it again. Eventually I grew confident enough to wear this really cute lipstick I always wore at home. It compliments my complexion perfectly. In fact, I just dazzled you with it the other day!”

Roman sounded so proud. The moron.

Virgil absolutely refused to confess that he had indeed noticed it, and how full and pretty it had made his lips look. Of course, with Roman’s story, the high wouldn’t last long. He did not sound too bothered this time though.

“An officer noticed and called me out in front of the squad. We were working at a different precinct then, which had been much less tolerant. Event though I had grown tall and strong and much more confident, I felt like a child immediately. It must have been a pitiful sight, I just hunched my shoulders and took it. Lo watched for a moment, I never saw his face so closed off. He rose from his chair and the officer just stopped immediately, so did the laughter of our colleagues. But Lo didn’t do anything, he just asked the dude if he wanted to spar with him after the shift. He did that with a lot of colleagues, so no one thought anything about it. The rest of the shift was... not very glittery I’m afraid. I just wanted to go home afterwards, but Lo dragged me along. Lots of others came too. I was the entertainment of the day, I guess. Logan never addressed the issue, but he found the officer and wiped the floor with him so badly, he did not come into work the next day or the day after. It was frigging terrifying and the most amazing thing ever!”

Roman’s voice took on a distinctly gleeful tone as he spoke. He actually looked a little starstruck as he spoke about the way his strict partner had defended him. Virgil shuddered, thinking about how fucking scary and mad as hell Logan must have been. However, he could relate to Roman’s gratefulness. He would feel the same way if the uptight detective protected him like that. His affection for the clueless nerd reared its head again. A little part of Virgil was starting to believe Logan would defend him too.

Roman took up his story again, looking happy at the memory. “Talking about emotions was not easy for him at that time, so he showed me his support in a different way. I remember how he took my arm afterwards and led me outside. We went for hot chocolate after, and the next day, he requested a transfer for both of us, to the precinct we are at now, which had a black and gay police chief.” He smiled lovingly, cuddling closer to Virgil’s slender shoulder. He sounded dreamy as he continued.

“My life has become like a fairytale since that day. Colorful and magical and loving. Lo tried to put more effort into reassuring me. He did the most adorable thing!” Roman sat up suddenly and beamed at Virgil like a child at Christmas. “He took me shopping!” He exclaimed, spreading his arms wide to encompass his happiness.

“What, seriously? Logan went shopping? With you?” Virgil asked dubiously. The detective completely ignored his tone.
“Yes! It was the most awkward thing ever, he was so uncomfortable, but it was the happiest I was in my life. He was making an effort to help me become confident enough to be my dazzling self and thus gave this invaluable gift to the world!” He gestured to himself grandly, giving Virgil a perfect princy smile. The delinquent face-palmed. He was not hiding an endeared smile!

“You know, the way he dresses now is all thanks to my selfless endeavors, you should have seen his atrocious sense of fashion! It was a disgrace! I truly did the city a favor! But does anyone ever thank me? NO!” Theatrically, he threw an arm over his face, waiting for someone, Virgil perhaps, to thank him. Well, he could keep waiting.

Even though the young man had to admit that Logan looked damn fine in those tailored slacks which hugged his long, muscular legs just right, as well as those tight shirts highlighting his arms and elegant vests. Roman huffed upon being ignored, dropping his arm and glaring.

Virgil has fucking glad he was not so dejected anymore. His side was a little cold though. And his feet. Sue him! He had not gotten held at all for a real fucking long time! He had missed being touched and itched to feel the sensation again, now that first Patton and now Logan and Roman had found a way to get close without making him fear wandering hands or sexual demands.

With a defeated groan, which sounded like his fate was the worst in the world, Roman flopped back down, landing next to Virgil. He sheepishly looked up at him through his silky bangs from his slouched position, before he slid sideways in an overly casual fashion. Virgil wanted to snark at him, the reaction ingrained in him, but he also really wanted more of this innocent affection. When had he started craving it like that?! He settled for being a little shit and pinching the moron’s ear, before he settled his arm around him. Roman wailed about the unfair treatment immediately, but tugged himself under the offered limb anyway, grabbing a hold of both feet this time and pulling them into his lap, so Virgil sat sideways with his back leaning against the corner of the couch and Roman leaning against his chest.

“How does all of this relate to getting Logan a flat, anyway?” Virgil asked, finally interrupting Roman’s complaining. He had almost forgotten about that with all of that emotional crap.

“Oh, that! Well, you see, Logan always accepted me, even though plenty of things just annoyed the heck out of him, BECAUSE he has such spectacularly bad taste! But he always supported me, no matter how outrageous my behavior unfairly seemed to him. I expected him to turn me away for a long time. But one night, after a very tough day, in which I did not feel like my usual, glamorous self at all, he took me home with him again – to his atrocious box of a flat, mind you, and awkwardly held me in his arms until I fell asleep. We had slept together once before, but we were both kinda drunk that night. This time, he had surely examined the decision from several angles and probably even made a spreadsheet on Excel and various posters or something. He grumbled about how impossible I was the whole time, but he just kept running his hands through my hair anyway. It was then that I knew he would stay. And that I would have to buy him a better flat! This poor excuse for an abode would not do for my beloved partner! I had more than enough money after all. I gave most of it away, to several charities, so it could do some good, but it still easily sufficed to buy this adorable little place for him.”

Virgil gave him a deadpan look. He thought this place was little?

His insides gave a funny twist though. He had given it away? It was hard not to show just how much the casual remark meant to Virgil, which was really fucking much. He had always believed rich people could do so much to change the world, if they only wanted, but all they ever did was hoard their money and power and exploit people and the environment to get even more. And Roman had done it just like that, not expecting praise or boasting with it. He swallowed hard. Virgil did not appreciate feeling this much. He had no idea how to judge Roman anymore.

The dramatic man was apparently oblivious to his thoughts, being much too busy praising his partner. “He is the reason I am the way I am now, the flamboyant, royal, glittery gift to men, women and non binary darlings everywhere! He made me believe in myself again! I don’t want to hide or hold back anymore. If Lo could accept me, everyone else who is worth my attention can as well! Being respected the way you are is the best feeling in the world!” He had tears in his lovely eyes as he spoke, looking so fucking grateful – about as grateful as Virgil felt to the both of them. Was this why they had saved him? Because they had previously saved each other?

Roman sighed contently, slipping down suddenly and laying his head on Virgil’s thigh, making him blush helplessly. “And this is it!” He exclaimed, waving a hand in a way that was supposed to encompass the whole story he had just told. “This is my origin story and the reason I love Lo as much as I do, despite how clueless and exasperating he can be. I would pick the very stars from the sky for him. But most of all, I wanted to somehow replicate the feeling he keeps giving me. The feeling of being home. He saved me, and he is my whole family. Well-” He looked at Virgil with such warmth in his eyes, such unashamed adoration. “Maybe my family will grow a little more, if Patton and you feel like joining us.”

Virgil ducked his head, trying to hide his flaming face under his hoodie. He did not know what to do with his hands, how to react. This was all too much!

From his position in his lap, Roman caught the sweet, hopeful smile though. It was the prettiest and purest thing he had ever seen.

The ratty pest broke their moment as it started squeaking in a shrill pitch, right next to his ear. “Yes, yes for God’s sake, you are part of the family too!” Roman cried, covering his ears. Virgil laughed. He decided the cool rat had the right idea and broke up the sickly sweetness of the moment. He was starting to gag on all the sugary love and acceptance! So he pinched Roman’s side. The reaction was immediate.

The detective jumped in shock and started wailing immediately. “WHY ARE YOU PINCHING ME WHY ARE YOU THIS WAY?!?!”

“Don’t just grab my feet, you weirdo!” Virgil growled, trying to fight his smile. Roman saw it though, judging by the amused glint in his eyes as he flopped back down on Virgil’s curled up legs, pulling a blanket over his face to depict his acute misery. The delinquent allowed himself a bright smile, now that Roman was hiding under the fabric that muffled his high pitched complaining.

Chapter Text

Logan moodily cleaned his hands on the sterile wipes he always carried in his jacket when they inspected a crime scene, as he stepped over yet another box in the hallway. He hated door duty with a passion! His day had already gotten off to a bad start as he had realized he was wearing his Wednesday socks on a Tuesday, like a barbarian! What if somebody saw the writing stitched on the hem?!

He self-consciously pulled at his trousers to make sure they had not slipped up his leg. He was not usually this untidy! Roman gave him an amused look as he knocked at the next door, perfectly unconcerned about the state of the strained varnish. Usually, Logan handled the dirt that came with the job better – meaning it put him into an epically foul mood until he was able to wash it off very thoroughly, while Roman would wail and screech at every bit of dust that fluttered onto his loudly patterned shirts or expensive jackets. However, dirt as well as any cause for complaints seemed to slip off the younger detective at the moment, like Teflon, Logan thought enviously. He was glad for the apparent reason though.

Roman had been in a good mood since yesterday, when Logan had found Virgil and him playfully wrestling on the couch. The older detective was calmed by the memory. Their comfort was a priority for him - seeing them flushed and smiling had shaken something loose in his chest. Whatever interaction they may have had appeared to have soothed Virgil and given him security. Logan had chosen to escort him to his second session with Reb- Remy! And had picked up the card with him before dropping him off at the entrance. Remembering Virgil laughing about the bad puns and compare them to Patton’s own almost made Logan forget about his misery. Almost.

Him, wearing the wrong socks, though, like a heathen!

The door swung open finally, making Roman turn on his most charming smile. And ducked under a flying plate which shattered behind him on the wall. Logan yanked him away, shielding the yelping man with his body and clasping his holstered service weapon.

"Ma PERCHÈ ti ho sposato, pigrone ingrato! Fuori dalla mia cucina, o ti strangolo con la tua stessa biancheria sporca!"

A female voice hollered in furious Italian, smashing another plate.

"Vorrei che tu lo facessi, così non dovrò più vedere la tua faccia, arpia!" A man yelled back passionately.

Though more insults were shouted, Logan released his gun again. It did not sound like they had any interest in attacking his partner. However, he was a little worried for – he was not sure who he worried for more, both lovers seemed to be a force to be reckoned with. Exchanging a look, the detectives crept forwards, ready to intervene.

A particularly loud thump made them rush around the corner, ready to save the woman – or the man, who knew at this point?

Both froze in the doorway at the sight.

The flat was littered with broken china, in the middle of which a couple was kissing rather passionately. They had apparently resolved their differences already.

Roman cooed at them. “Such fierce lovers, how romantic! Though perhaps we should-”

“Yes, definitely!” Logan screeched, slamming the door. The woman had just picked up her smaller, happy boyfriend and slung him over her shoulder – he did not want to see anything else!

"Godetevi il vostro meraviglioso amore, miei passionali piccioncini!" Roman cheered them on happily.

Furiously, Logan wiped his hands again after touching the door – who knew what they had been in contact with it?! He hated door duty!

With a groan, as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders, Logan pulled out his badge and the picture of the victim, determined to get the information they wanted efficiently and quickly at the next door! The man had been found in his flat this morning, with no discernible cause of death to be spotted. Logan believed in natural causes, while Roman insisted on spinning a far fetched tale of poison and conspiracies based on the pattern on the shower curtain. Ridiculous.

He knocked firmly, making sure his voice brooked no argument. “Police! Open the door, we have some inquiries.” And waited.

He growled as he listened to the shuffling behind the door and Roman’s cheerful, quiet singing in Italian over his shoulder. Finally, the door opened, after wasting far too much of his valuable time. Both men did certainly not shriek as an orange blur went up Logan’s leg, clawed itself into his shoulder and launched itself at Roman.

Alright, so Roman did shriek. Especially as the orange monster tried to climb his head and messed up his hair. Logan gaped at the shrill, orange cat that appeared determined to settle on his partner, losing fur all over his lovely shirt. After a long moment of observing his beloved friend’s struggles, the detective did something very uncharacteristic. He took out his phone to snap a picture. So this was what Instagram was for? Mercilessly, he wondered what his partner’s followers would have to say about this.

“Oh, Sir Orton the Orange, where are you going, dearie? Have you made a new friend?” A really ancient lady asked, squinting at the proudly throned cat and the miserable detective. Logan groaned. Lonely cat ladies. They always forced them to stay and listen to how none of their grandchildren ever came to visit. But he would not cave this time, they were on a schedule!

A few minutes later, both men found themselves sitting on an old couch, being haired over and regaled with stories about the ladies’ honeymoon. Apparently the lady was not lonely, but recently married to her former girlfriend of thirty years, who had brought her three cats as she moved in, racking up the count to five in total, roaming around inside the flat and around the neighborhood. Roman was torn between being delighted and horrified by the cuddles and all of the hair on his expensive slacks. Logan firmly put himself into the latter category! This whole thing was beyond unsanitary. He was not softening over their wedding pictures either! Even though the idea of growing old together made something warm inside of his chest.

Still, both breathed a sigh of relief as they escaped the flat. With a box of cookies. Logan tried his best to tune out the wailing of his partner, who tried to brush the fur from his thighs. Orange apparently clashed badly with his maroon trousers.

He could not wait to get home and hopefully spend some time with his companion animal. Nicodemus truly was the only pet he could tolerate on a daily basis, he was such a tidy, well behaved, civilized animal. He vowed to never allow a beast like the orange menace into this flat as he thought about how much he missed the small weight on his shoulder. Or the soft whiskers tickling him, the little nose at his ear and the intelligent eyes. He sighed. Logan suspected Patton had applied for a permit to allow animals into his cafe, at least into the public area, so Virgil could take him to work with him, where the little rat could calm him in moments of anxiety. He would let him have his friend of course, despite the amount of security the little creature provided him with. Virgil’s comfort was of the utmost importance to the detective, he would deal with the empty feeling on his shoulder.

Meanwhile, Roman appeared to have turned to his favorite follower to gain comfort. Looks_can-be_deceiving_. had apparently gained his attention with his charming compliments – which Logan found utterly outrageous and ridiculous.

“Ohhh, look a this, my hair does shine like gold in radiant sunlight, he is so right! And I DO deserve to be crowned with precious jewels. Finally someone appreciates me!” He huffed accusingly. Logan glared, but still started brushing hair from his partners broad back. After pinching his ear to get him back on track, Logan turned to the next door. He wished he had a more professional partner, that he had dressed in the correct socks, that he had his pet with him – that this ridiculous investigation would just end. This was a waste of time!

A scream tore through his self pity – high and terrified, like the cry of a woman in terror. Roman was in front of him suddenly, silent and sleek, his growl of anger rather being felt by its vibrations than heard. He moved through the messy corridor like a panther, his long legs eating up the distance to the flat at the end of the hall. He never hesitated – his shoulder broke the door almost off its hinges as he rammed it against the wood with a powerful thrust and stormed the apartment. Logan was a step behind him, gun drawn and on high alert.

The powerful detective caught sight of a man cowering in surprise and grabbed him by the front of his shirt, while Logan covered his back and searched the flat. Roman never bothered to draw his weapon, he just lifted the man up, snarling in his face. “Where is she?” The bald man squawked in terror.

Logan meanwhile was prowling through the rooms, gun ready, taking in the broken glass on the floor, the stink, the mess – and following the mewling, crying sound. The flat was a maze of stacked boxes and garbage. He could not see anyone!

“Ma’am, can you tell me where you are, I am with the police.” He called, sounding calmer than he felt. His heart was thundering in his ear, adrenalin making him alert to every detail. The undefinable sound intensified.

Horrified, Logan bent down and pushed a stack of papers off a crate. There was an animal inside!

He felt like ice water flooded his veins. There was little room for relief as he realized that the poor creature had been crying out instead of a human victim. Through the bars at the front, he spotted an animal that was mattered with dirt and old fur, so filthy he could hardly tell what color it was. He could only guess that it was a large cat with a formerly fluffy tail and sharp teeth. It was hissing at him in terror or anger, fierce and very ugly. Between its legs however, sat a tiny, thin baby cat. It was soft and gray and perfectly clean, as if its mother had taken pains to lick it clean every day. Its eyes were light blue and very large in its tiny face. Logan’s heart broke in two. He could hear Roman roar at the man, deep and loud as an angry lion, but made no move to stop him. The man deserved the detective’s fearsome rage.

He pulled on his gloves and picked up the crate with utter gentleness, grimacing at the dirt, and carried it into the living room. Roman deflated as he glimpsed the poor creatures. They made sure there was no other animal trapped inside the flat, before leaving the man to their colleagues. They would personally make sure he was charged with animal abuse!

The detectives paused as they found themselves in the corridor with a crate in which sat a little cat and an ugly, defensive one. It did not appear to he hurt, just dirty and angry and hungry. They should really give it to animal control. But. The small cat was mewling at Roman over the screeching of its momma, looking at him with pleading eyes.

The young detective turned equally huge and sad eyes on his partner.

“No!”

Roman’s look intensified. The cats needed a home! At least the little one, he was not so sure about the monster perched above it.

“There is no way we can take care of two more pets, we will give them to professionals!” Logan’s voice sounded final. His day had been long and he was ready to head home. Without the cats!

A particular pitiful, tiny mewing cry emerged from the baby cat. Roman’s eyes filled with tears.

***

Virgil’s clammy hands were shaking as he grasped the door-handle to Remy’s office. Logan had been called away, so he had not been able to accompany him up. He suspected the man was glad not to have to face the apparently insulted therapist. Virgil could relate. He pushed his free hand deep into his pocket, trying not to think about the things Remy could demand they talk about. The thought alone made him feel nauseous. He was too tired to deal with the chaos that was his life - he had hardly slept with his anxiety making him a nervous mess. The first session may have been bearable, but he knew it might just have been the therapist’s efforts to make him comfortable. The cool rat snuffled close to his neck. The regular movements and wet noises told him that the little one was grooming itself. It seemed at ease. It was awfully nice of Logan to let him take his pet again, he could tell the man missed it. Virgil could not depend on him like that any longer, he could not disappoint the man! With a deep breath, he pushed the door open.

A startled noise greeted him, sounding like the mixture between a snore and a gasp. Remy shot upright in his plush seat, his phone slipping from his chest and hitting the carpet with a dull thud. His hair was a mess and his sunglasses had slipped halfway down his face. Virgil had apparently woken him up.

“Hmn, sorry guuuurl!” He slurred after a moment of disorientation. “I was downtown with friends last night, like, all night! It was wild and I was fab-u-lous! C-come’n take a ssseat, sugar.” He yawned.

Virgil settled on the couch, once again feeling somewhat put at ease by the casual weirdness Remy was displaying. He had forgotten how strange the man really was. The young man perked up as he saw something sitting next to the messenger bag on the ground. “Hey – is that-”

“A stylish reusable travel mug adorned with sexy glow-in-the-dark glitter? Sure is, gurl! You-” He jabbed a finger at Virgil while fumbling for his phone with the other hand, “were being a nag, I did not deserve that and it’s not a good look on you! How are you gonna find a cute bf or whatever with that frown? Such a dow-ner!”

Virgil snorted. He knew he ought to be annoyed, but he thought Remy sounded like a granny, asking whether he had a girlfriend yet. He knew the man had been annoyed into getting the new mug, but it meant a lot to him that he tried to produce less garbage. Every little bit counted after all. He was hopeless at showing his gratefulness though, so he fumbled in his hoodie for the card Logan had gotten him. “I’m supposed to give this to you. From Logan – he says sorry for not being able to come along, but I guess you already got his message and ignored it.” He snarked.

“Chica, I so did! He deserves to wait!” Remy crooned, snatching up the card eagerly. He even lowered his phone for it. “He so deserves to wait for me, babe, you know how long I waited to hear from the brat? I didn’t! Not at all! But if I had, it would have been – like – forever!”

The man stilled as he looked at hand painted card, clearly surprised. It showed a cheerful man adorned with sunglasses and holding a coffee cup in one hand and a pair of basketballs in his free arm. He opened the card and promptly started giggling hysterically. Virgil chucked at the reaction. He had been certain his therapist would either love or hate the card. After an obviously exasperated and embarrassed Logan had signed it in his perfectly tidy way, he thought it was even more hilarious. On the inside, so not to give away the surprise too quickly as they had been told, several balls of different sizes and colors were painted around the letters ‘Congratulations on the sex change. It’s a tough thing to do, and you’ve got the big balls to prove it.

In painfully orderly letters, Logan had written:

‘Dear Dr. Remy Harris,
I would like to offer my sincerest apologies for my prolonged lack of contact and hereby congratulate you most warmly on your successful transition.
Sincerely, Logan Sanders.’

The moron just could not do casual in any fashion. It was fucking endearing.

Remy was now wiping tears from his eyes, trying to control his giggles. “He is such a stick in the mud!” He giggled. The sound made him more approachable, adorable even. Virgil relaxed.

“Sooooo gurl, you wanna, like, talk about problems and stuff today or you wanna put some filters and glitter and shit on that imposter therapist rat? We’ll make you an adorable chick, pest-princess!” He exclaimed, addressing the cool rat for a moment. “Or a super-villain with a big gun and an ugly coat. Gurl, you could do his eyeshadow, though I gotta tell you, the black is not the right color for your complexion, it makes you pale – you should go for, like – lilac!” The proposition was accompanied with a dramatic flip of the wrist. Virgil rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, I’d rather eat broken glass.”

“You sound like you did, darling.” Remy snarked, looking at him oven the rim of his shades with sparkling eyes. “Sooo what’s it gonna be, luv?”

“I’ll go with the filters, dude!” Virgil hastened. If he was given a choice? Hell, he knew what he’d pick every time! With the distraction of photographing the rat and editing pics, he hardly noticed Remy settling on the couch with him, much closer than he would have previously been able to tolerate him. Also, he noticed a truly ridiculous detail as they tried to create a darker picture of the exasperated rat – Remy had had to pull down his glasses and - was squinting.

“Are those prescription sunglasses, dude?!” Virgil asked delightedly.

The other man turned his nose up at him in a truly insulted fashion. It was turning pink. “Nooo? Gurl, you are spreading lies about me, I do not deserve that! This is, like, a serious fricking-”

Virgil’s look showed just how much he thought Remy was full of shit, yet his lips were curling in fond amusement. It made his thin face softer. The therapist deflated.

“Well, so what? I can pull it off! Besides, y’all are clearly fashionably challenged, you better listen to the grownups here!”

He was clearly trying to distract Virgil, but he was on to him like a bloodhound. “Do you have actual prescription glasses somewhere?” He asked, trying not to laugh about Remy’s insulted and slightly panicked expression.

“NO! Now keep your cute nose out of my personal business, sweet-cheeks! I do not need glasses, I am not a nerd or whatever! Did Logan set you up to this?! He is such a traitor, even though I loooove his card.”

Virgil hid a laugh behind his phone as he snapped another picture which made the rat’s butt look big. The men were mutuals on Tumblr by the time the session ended.

***

The detectives entered the flat shortly after the barista and baker, who had stuck around a little longer to make sure his kiddo was feeling alright – and perhaps to catch a glimpse of the handsome, patient detective.

Though indeed handsome, the hopefully awaited detective felt anything but patient. They had left instructions to their colleagues and called it a day, since it was late already and felt even later after all of the adventures door duty had ‘blessed’ them with. They had borrowed a cat carrier and some cat-food from the ladies, once again leaving with even more cookies and a bag full of cat treats and toys, and had headed home eagerly. Well, more or less so, since Logan had had to be dragged out of the elevator towards his tidy flat, after a particularly dirty paw had swiped at him through the bars. So unhygienic!

Both men perked up as they heard a cheerful, chirping voice through the door, followed by a darker, softer answer. Coming home to this made everything better.

Shoving the door open, Logan made sure to hold the crate as far from himself as possible. The stressful thumping of his heart eased as he spotted Patton curled up on the floor, holding Virgil close to his side and examining the painted lion Roman was working on with awed, adoring eyes. The younger of the two however blushed upon being caught looking at the artwork by his dramatic admirer, trying to hide under his purple bangs.

Patton immediately jumped up upon spotting them, rewarding them with a beaming smile. He did not get far though, since he appeared to be determined to bring Virgil along to greet the two men together. The young delinquent seemed to be uncooperative though, and instead grumbled and hid under his hoodie stubbornly.

“Come on kiddo, let’s greet our brave heroes!” Pat exclaimed cheerfully. “Let’s see what they brought! I’m sure it’s something crate!”

“Wouldn’t be so sure about that...” Roman mumbled, half in dread and half in amusement, glancing at the dreadfully large, clawed cat above the precious kitten. At least the comment gained Virgil’s interest and he allowed himself to be pulled up and along. Patton wasted no time giving Roman a big hug and a loud kiss on the cheek, before he endeavored to wrap his arms around the older detective. Logan’s anxious, stressed face softened the moment the patissier stepped into his space, soft and sweet smelling and smiling.

However a grunting, snarling sound rivaling even Virgil’s most angry noises made Patton startle and jump to the side with a yelp. Logan thought it sounded much cuter than when Roman did it. He caught the startled man in his free arm and placed the cat carrier down carefully. Nicodemus primly squeaked from his position on Virgil’s shoulder. Logan absolutely agreed with the sentiment.

“It is alright, Patton. Those are merely some neglected felines we chose to cleanse and feed before handing them over to professionals.” Logan explained formally. His silly heart leaped at the utter delight and amazement dawning on the pretty face of the baker in his arms. He had conveniently neglected to release him and now almost felt him vibrate with enthusiasm under the palm cupping the curve of his waist. The cotton sweater and petite form were far too warm and tempting under his hand.

“You saved poor kitties?!” Patton cried. “That is the most heroic thing I have ever heard, you are so sweet!” He hugged Logan hard around the neck, making him splutter and gasp for a moment. The enthusiastic man appeared too excited to be still. He bounced on his feet with an adoring expression, before he dropped to the floor to examine the creatures.

“Kiddo, look at this, there is an itty bitty little kitty in there, with its momma, the poor things really need a bath though! Yeees, yes you do, my miau friends! Our brave detectives truly saved you from a catastrophe!” He cooed softly as he settled on the carpet. The small cat mewed softly, creeping forward and trustingly extending a tiny, clumsy paw and pink nose between the bars. A strangled, loving sound escaped Patton at the sight. He clasped his hands tightly to his chest, trying hard not to reach out and startle the protective momma kitty.

Warmth flooded Logan helplessly as his friend wrapped an arm around his calf, leaning against his leg as he made room for Virgil. The patissier was a solid presence at his feet, alive and trusting. It felt like his heart was dropping out if his chest, making him as weak as the small cat and flooding him with protective feelings. The position made the detective flush quite badly. He had thought seeing him kneel at his feet had been bad, but this – seeing him so at ease, so happy and seeking contact to easily? Logan had no idea how to deal with this feeling. Roman quietly laughing at him was not helping, he was definitely posting those pictures of him and Sir Orton the Orange!

Virgil thankfully distracted them, as he cautiously crouched down in front of the crate. Since all of them were used to being attentive to him, they curiously awaited his reaction, which made the way his face became completely expressionless all the more noticeable. Even Nicodemus quietly stared at the new creatures.

After a long, tense moment, Virgil rose and clasped a hand over his face, heaving a world-weary sigh. He looked utterly exasperated.

“I cannot believe the two of you are cops. How are you morons even still alive? It is a miracle you didn’t shoot yourself with your service weapon.” He growled. Roman immediately bristled. Virgil was far from done though.

“Seriously, the fact that you idiots are supposed to protect the city makes me despair.” He added, unimpressed with the detectives’ insulted expressions and even ignoring Patton’s reproachful look.

“The depth of your idiocy baffles me.” Virgil said, concluding his rant, out of spite and because they deserved to hear it.

Logan frowned and crossed his arms. This certainly was uncalled for and also highly inaccurate!

“Why are you saying such mean things about us?!” Roman complained childishly, visibly pouting. He had saved innocent captives today, he deserved to be lauded for his gallant bravery! The least his moody thundercloud could do was swoon in his strong arms, like Patton!

Virgil looked like he wanted to knock their heads together. Pointing at the fur filled crate, he slowly, exasperatedly explained, “Because that is not a cat, you unbelievable moron! That is a raccoon.”

Deafening silence fell over the flat.

“Impossible.” Logan exclaimed with finality.

He was perfectly capable of identifying a cat and a smaller cat! Crouching down close to the gaping baker and looking over his shoulder, he examined the creature, ready to defend his qualified assessment. Taking stock, he spotted a pointy muzzle filled with sharp little teeth, large, rounded ears, a bushy, mattered tail which was possibly striped, paws that were very visibly adorned by finger like claws, and a dark, mask-like pattern around the eyes.

Roman was crowding close to him, almost making him topple over and making the older man growl at him. The sound mixed with the angry noises of the – cat? Both detectives stared at the defensive creature for a long moment, trying desperately to find cat-like features to defend their assessment. Were cats not large and shaggy all the time? And oddly skillful with their paws?

A gasp broke their concentration. “It is a raccoon! That looks like Mr. Stripey, who eats my leftovers behind the shop! Kiddo, you are so smart!” Patton exclaimed delightedly, clasping his hands under his chin.

Logan groaned, letting his forehead fall against the back of Patton’s slender shoulder in devastation. He had not seriously brought a wild animal predominantly living off raiding trash cans into his flat? What did Nicodemus think of him now?! Such a terrible influence - it was the Wednesday socks! He knew he should have gone home and changed, they were interfering with his concentration!

The raccoon had arched its back impossibly high at the sound of Patton’s exclamation though, and had started the small cat. The pitiful cry was enough to melt even his heart. It looked up with them through heartbroken, blue eyes, wobbling on weak paws.

“Oh no, I scared it!” Patton lamented quietly, looking stricken.

“You guys should give it some space.” Virgil mumbled softly. He clasped the cat carrier and set it down in the darkened corridor, away from prying eyes and spoke to the creatures soothingly.

The rat on his shoulder huffed in an offended fashion and scrambled off his hoodie and over to his human. There were no dirty invaders in sight on the clean shirt and dark vest. He snuffled close to his human’s neck and throned proudly on his shoulder, sending an impervious stare into the direction of the corridor.

Patton hardly managed to wait 30 seconds before he snatched the cat food and inched toward corridor and cats (and raccoon). “I’ll make sure our kiddo and kitties have everything! And I think you are very smart detectives!” He added warmly, as if he were talking to a child, before he snuck around the corner eagerly.

“Motherf-”

“They shall never let us forget this, will they?” Logan interrupted his partner, feeling his ears heat. Roman huddled next to him on the carpet, raising his chin primly in an attempt to preserve some dignity. He was not feeling up to putting on a show though. After last night, it felt like he could do without once in a while. Instead, he slumped sideways against his best friend and pushed his head close obnoxiously. It would not do to give all of the pleasant attention to the forest critters! A prince deserved to be treated with some affection – Virgil had not even greeted him properly! Tension drained from Roman as Logan’s nimble fingers started running through his hair. It helped him think. Perhaps Virgil had been shy? He had blushed as he had caught the barista’s eye. A smile filled him with affection and lightness as he recalled the expression adorning the pale features. He snuggled closer as they listened to the soft voices, muffled through the bathroom door where they were now apparently trying to coax the animals into a bathe. Both were sounding so gentle.

He grumbled as Logan nudged him, growing displeased with his position on the floor – the square! A happy squeal escaped him as his partner settled on the couch instead. He did not invite him, but kept his posture open, which was more than enough for Roman. He dove in.

***

“That’s it, buddy. Gotta build up your strength.” Virgil mumbled as they observed the raccoon wolf down the food they had offered it through the opened hatch. Patton and he had retreated across the room and curled up together on the bathroom-carpet. Well, he had sat down in a dark and brooding manner and had been assaulted by cuddles. He wasn’t complaining though.

The animal appeared calmer in their presence, the morons clearly had not clue about what to do with it. It clearly wasn’t angry, just – defensive. And scared. It had something to protect after all. The mammal had even tasted the food before letting the kitten eat, which was currently being licked clean thoroughly. It’s purrs were resonating in the tiled room, sounding even louder now.

With some patience, they managed to gain its trust enough to get close enough to sniff their cautiously extended fingers. To Patton’s utter delight, the tiny, adorably kitty immediately ambled towards him on its teeny tiny legs to cuddle, while the raccoon cautiously watched them. It was clearly protective of the little one. How pure and precious!

“I know the feeling, buddy.” Virgil mumbled from his spot next to Patton. He knew better than to crowd the creatures and rather allowed the excited baker to play with the animals. To his utter surprise, the raccoon cautiously crept towards him to examine his torn jeans. It really was filthy and rather disgusting with all the dirt and matted fur clinging to it. Its eyes were dark and intelligent though. Curiously, it extended its little, clever paws and examined the fabric over his knees. Virgil was holding his breath as the animal looked him over. He felt humbled by its trust.

“Awwww look at how cute it is!” Patton cooed. He gulped as the creature bared sharp fangs at him the moment he got too close. No touching, okey-dokey. Contact seemed to be a touchy subject!

Virgil’s unmoving presence appeared to be acceptable though. He held as still as possible as the animal climbed all over his lap while keeping a cautious eye on the kitten and occasionally glowering at Patton. The baker seemed fine with it. He was in raptures about the gray baby. It was currently trying hard to rub itself over every inch on his hands and face it could reach and even licked his fingers joyfully with a rough, pink tongue. Its little body sent lovely vibrations through his hands – how much he loved it already! It was so tiny and soft and innocent and sweet and adorable and cuddly and he never wanted to let it go again! He wished he had a pouch like a kangaroo, so he could carry it around with him every day! He had missed this simple affection so badly. Tears were making his vision blurry. He blinked them away, trying to commit everything about this precious moment to memory. His cheeks hurt from smiling, but he did not want to change a thing! Unbelievable that Roman and Logan had saved those poor, neglected creatures! He could not begin to understand how anyone could treat them so cruelly, he was so grateful they had taken charge and rescued them! He tugged the little kitty against his cheek and giggled as it licked his face. It was so fluffy! He adored soft things!

His thoughts circled back to Logan, who had not only taken in Roman as a friend, but also rescued his beloved kiddo and now those helpless animals. His stomach felt funny as he thought about the man. He was clearly not happy with the unsanitary guests, but had brought them anyway. No matter how uncomfortable, he always appeared to want to take care of everyone. Patton closed his eyes and hid his face in downy fur, hiding his realization. So this was what butterflies in ones stomach felt like.

The thought brought him back to reality with the unpleasant sensation of falling into a dark pit of guilt. He would be late if he did not hurry up! Thankfully they had left a little early, letting Redmond take care of the last hour. He had not wanted to overwork Virgil so soon. But now he really needed to go!

Setting the kitten down was hard, so hard! Patton whimpered as it mewed pitifully and unsteadily jumped onto his lap again, trying to curl up against his stomach, begging for his attention. One of its little ears was crooked to the side, he noticed absentmindedly. Its little tail looked like a tiny triangle, too short for its body. It was trying to burrow into the wool of his sweater now, hiding its little face and kneading the fabric with its itty bitty paws.

But he had to go! Bravely, Patton closed his hands around the baby, curling his fingers under its belly to lift it up. It intensified the volume of its purrs and pushed its back into the touch, wanting to be held safely. Patton’s gentle heart broke it two. He was nearly overwhelmed with longing. This flat had never seemed more inviting to him. Even before the detectives had brought these innocent babies, he had been grasping any chance to spend time with them here. Virgil was so at ease within these walls, so different from when he was around customers who still made him anxious. Roman was different as well. He would take off his expensive boots and curl up with tousled hair and socked feet, letting his guard down and looking so soft and comfortable, looking to Logan to provide those feelings. The man was so safe and steady when he got to take them in. Granted, he was still adorably awkward sometimes, but he radiated a reliable warmth and security. It did strange things to Patton, made him feel like the tight feeling in his throat was easing up and he could draw breath again. The clean, green smell of his living-room turned his nervous restlessness which often made him clumsy and confused into giddiness, and then, quiet security. His yearning to be held tight in Logan’s arms grew more intense every day. It had been hard enough to leave all of this behind – the feeling of belonging, the tender hugs and loving cuddles, the wood and pillows and happy friends, and the gentle detective who touched him with careful hands and made his heart beat fast. Now that he had those marvelous darlings with him, curling close and making Virgil look so awed?

Patton sighed, reminding himself of his clean, sleek flat, of his beloved boyfriend waiting for him. He should be making dinner, then listen to Trevor’s retelling of his day, soothe his tense shoulders with a massage, offer his support in any way he could, he should be there! His growing guilt had almost made him lift the kitty – the poor thing looked half asleep already – when Virgil spoke up, his dark voice soft and tentative.

“Um – you know, I could – I could use some help with this.” He nodded to the raccoon on his lap. It had risen onto weak hind-legs and was currently gnawing on the laces of his hoodie, bracing itself on his shirt with dirty paws. “They could really use, like, a bath, I guess? And that kitten needs some attention. I’m sure Logan wouldn’t mind if you s-stayed over. You – you could have my bed, I don’t mind. It’s cool with me, I don’t care. Just – the cat would probably dig it if – if you slept over.”

Patton sighed at the idea. It sounded utterly lovely! Of course he would not shoo Virgil from his bed, but perhaps he or Roman would like to share? The detective would surely wrap his large body around Patton and cuddle and laugh with him, perhaps even tell bedtime stories! He seemed like the type. Or he could stay with his kiddo! Virgil could curl up in his arms, safe in his embrace, with the kitty between them and the raccoon curled up on the pillow. He could run his fingers through the tangled locks and hum a melody until the young man fell asleep, tugged under his chin. He wondered if Logan would look after them during the night. If he would pull the covers over them and smooth his hair back, his eyes warm and dark. A pleasant feeling settled over him as he imagined the detective watching over them. And yet. He could not forget where he belonged.

“I … I can’t. I have to get home.” Patton mumbled regretfully.

Virgil seemed contemplative as he observed him with his intelligent eyes. The raccoon had started gnawing on his fingers, grunting softly and leaning its body against his stomach. “Okay.” He said softly. “I just thought I’d ask, you know. I would have liked to have you here to support me, I guess, and the kitten looked like it really needs your cuddles. I thought maybe he would be okay, that he’d understand if you, um, if you texted him - or something.”

He felt a little bad for his blatant use of Patton’s protective instincts towards small things (and him), but nevertheless lowered his head in apparent shyness, looking dejected. He hoped Patton would be brave enough to start standing up for what he wanted. Being there for others seemed to give him strength, so he made his shoulders look extra small. He knew well how to use his body after all. He felt dirty at the reminder.

Patton was silent for a moment, helplessly trying to decide what to do. His yearning to stay was like a physical thing in his chest, alive and strong and beckoning. The kitten was so small in his palms, so warm and alive, he could hold it in one hand, feel all of the bones. So thin! And Virgil really did need help bathing the wild animal. Still…

A quiet knock pulled him from his concentration. Logan’s soothing, formal voice filled the room with its deep baritone as he spoke through the closed door. “Please excuse the interruption. We were wondering if you needed any assistance or additional animal care products perhaps? We would be entirely willing to procure any items you may require.”

A little, breathy laugh escaped Virgil at the stiff wording. Only Logan could stretch a simple ‘you guys need anything?’ into a three sentence monologue.

The image of Virgil’s amusement, paired with the care and attention Logan gifted them with, suddenly helped Patton come to an unexpected decision. Swallowing down the rush of emotion – anxiety as well as elation and relief, he called out softly. “Well, actually there is a little thing I wanted to ask you?”

Logan cautiously cracked open the door, peeking in as if he was at risk of catching one of them in a compromising situation. Surprise registered on his handsome features as he took in the animals contently making a home in their respective laps. The raccoon sent a gurgling hiss his way and grasped the folds of Virgil’s previously clean hoodie. Logan looked a little (a lot) uncomfortable at the sight. Patton took a deep, steadying breath.

“I wanted to ask if I could maybe stay over tonight to help with the kitties? If that’s okay with you? I promise I won’t be in the way at all!! You won’t even know I’m there, I’ll be quiet as a mouse and I don’t take up much space at all, I am tiny after all and Virgil asked if I could help and I would like to. Please? If it doesn’t bother you?” He fell silent abruptly, realizing how much of Logan’s time he had wasted with his chatter. His pale face flushed like it had when they had first met and he had been ashamed of his clumsy, cuddly nature.

The taller man was silent for a moment, clearly taken aback. Virgil gave him a pointed look that was more a glare than anything else. The raccoon chittered in agreement, clearly on board with any kind of grumpiness.

Catching himself, the detective metaphorically fell over himself to agree, fumbling with his hands. “Of course you are entirely welcome to stay. I would – I mean – we would be most pleased to entertain you as a guest. Roman would certainly not mind sharing the bed with me, so you may use the couch. Please let us know if there is anything I – we can do to accommodate you and ensure your comfort.” He felt his damning flush climb his cheeks, his heart thundering in his ears, making his skin heat. Patton would sleep in his flat (where he belonged). The thought seemed to circle around his mind, drowning out any other. It felt incredibly right. Finally.

A rush of feelings made Patton laugh in delight. Relief made him feel ten pounds lighter, like a feather. Logan was so sweet! Having made the decision, he felt infinitely better. This felt right! He had a cat in his hands and would get to stay with them, fall asleep with them, instead of closing the door behind himself as he left, being left on the outside of their loving circle. He would send a text to Trevor, explaining that his friends needed help with their stray kitties. He could even send a picture to prove it, so he would not have to worry. He was a grown man after all and had no trouble looking after himself when he was away. Patton always tried so hard to anticipate his moods, to entertain him when he felt down or be unnoticeable when he was irritated, to make his favorite food and make him feel loved and pleased, he liked doing all of those things of course! But sometimes it just felt like the task was eating him up, like he could never do well enough! He was not sure he could even make a difference, like he was just trying to keep up with Trevor’s mood swings. But here, he could really make a difference - this was important too! Pushing his worry aside was easy when everyone looked so happy to have him here. It felt so good to be wanted.

He sent a long, loving text to Trevor, reminding him of the food he had already cooked in case he was held up, which he would only have to heat up, and of how much he loved him, along with some pictures and finally got to work on the raccoon. His boyfriend would surely understand. This was obviously important, what kind of person would ignore an animal in need?!

Bathing the kitties was a task that took both of them and some swearing even Patton could not begrudge Virgil for. The larger animal was clearly displeased at first and hissed and gurgled at them, chittering so loudly that Logan and Roman became worried and looked after them. However, it seemed to understand what they were up to after a while and tolerated the treatment with some complains (and after they had flooded the whole bathroom - Logan had looked moments away from an aneurysm).

Both men sank down on the thick, obsessively clean carpet with a sigh of exhaustion as the animal was finally clean and the matted fur was removed. Both had some scratches to show for it. Patton cuddled and dried the kitten while they waited for a convenient moment to remove the wet, grumpy beast. However, now that it was surrounded by clean water and no one was attempting to wash it, it seemed to discover its enjoyment of the bathtub which it had previously hated with a fiery passion.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” Virgil mumbled tiredly as the observe the raccoon energetically push around the bar of soap with its nimble fingers, hopping around joyfully.

“Watch your language, kiddo! There are innocent cat-ears around!” Patton reprimanded him jokingly, covering the little ears with his slender hands and getting them licked. They leaned against each other as the larger animal tried to grasp hold of the open faucet to bite at the running water. They felt entirely content.

The smell of food finally made both of them perk up curiously. The bundled the clean animals into towels and set them into a box Roman had brought them, where they could feel safe in the shadows behind the couch. Logan had apparently cooked for them. Judging by the unevenly chopped vegetables which he glared at disdainfully, Roman had helped. Virgil may have been the better cook, but the older detective was not helpless in the kitchen. He had tried extra hard tonight to be perfectly honest. He was anxious about making Patton enjoy his night here, everything had to be ideal! He had even changed his socks. Seeing the slighter man surrounded by friends, sitting in his kitchen and laughing at Roman’s obnoxious retelling of their day reimbursed him for all the troubles.

Unfortunately, after dinner there was still a matter to discuss in which his roommates were behaving quite unreasonably!

 

***

 

“We shall not keep a pet raccoon! The small cat might be worth consideration, however raccoons are animals of the forest, they do not belong in a flat!” Logan argued, crossing his arms. With his tall, slim built, his strict expression and his crossed arms, he looked like an unmovable wall.

“Actually we could.” Roman muttered. He immediately shrunk under the frosty glare of his strict partner.

“All I’m saying is that it’s legal in our state, so we could – not not!” He squeaked as the stormy look intensified.

Logan could not believe they were even having this discussion! Raccoons were wild animals, they raided trash cans and gnawed on everything! He would not keep such a beast in his home! Exasperation and annoyance darkened his features. The creature growled and grumbled from its box as if to prove his point. Virgil clearly did not understand the warning and quietly left his corner of the couch to look after it. Logan felt a headache form behind his temples as he returned with the raccoon climbing his shoulders. Yet, the sight of Patton following with the kitten cradled against his chest drove away some of his brewing anger.

“They seem to be quite taken with Virgil and Patton.” Roman offered carefully. And got hissed at for his efforts.

Backing away from couch, Virgil and monster, he wondered once again why he was defending it. He was really not a fan of this vile, vicious creature, and quite certain he would come to regret bringing it here, but the pair was so cute, his usually so defensive wildcat appeared to at ease around the clean, but still ruffled and ungroomed horror-story in his arms, they were clearly meant to be! Probably. He was allowing it to perch on him so carefully, with such wonder in his eyes. They were usually cast down insecurely, or flashing with anger, but now they looked soft and filled with warmth, like the animal soothed him. Roman ached to see this look more often!

“This one looks like it has been in a cage for a long time. I’m not so sure it could survive in the wild.” Virgil uttered tentatively. His voice was quiet and not as firm as he would like it to be. Honestly, he was scared Logan would lash out at him. He had never disobeyed the man since he had moved in with him but had always miraculously gotten along well with him. They had similar interests and Logan appeared fond of him for some unfathomable reason. Unlike the way he felt for the raccoon. Fear made his stomach turn painfully. Yet the small creature was a warm weight against his chest. It was looking for protection – from him. It trusted him! How could he give it away? No one else would want it, considering how battered and aggressive it was, and no one would understand it the way he did! He felt an inexplicable kinship with the untidy, angry creature that only wanted to be safe – and protect the ones that needed it. His gaze fell on Patton curled up on the couch beside him. The baker was tenderly scratching the downy fur on top of the kitten’s head, ignored by the fierce raccoon and making the thin ball of fluff purr loudly. The baker was just as soft and in need of protection in Virgil’s eyes. If he were separated from his friend – he did not know how he could handle it. Frightened by the mere thought, he carefully coached the animal closer to his chest. They could not let that happen to them! Thankfully, Patton shared his worries.

Unbeknownst to the young, distracted barista, Patton was fighting fears even stronger than Virgil’s. Though he had calmed quickly. Logan had looked stressed and harassed the moment he had entered the flat and his previous mood had not improved with this discussion. He clearly cared for its tidy state very much and was near the end of his patience already. And now Roman and Virgil were both annoying him with their questions, ganging up on him. So far, he had remained remarkably patient though. Patton could see why Logan did not want to keep the raccoon, he really could! It was loud and angry and messy and a lot of people would say it was more work than it was worth, and he was right about everything he had said, but the kind man saw past that – he saw that it was scared. The poor creature! Yes, Logan had been unbelievably kind to him in the past and really deserved his support, and yes, Patton could clearly see the tense shoulders, the clenched jaw, that Logan was on the edge of snapping at them – he really did not want to see that, the thought made him feel small and helpless and scared – but he had to try! Virgil cared about this creature so much, just because it was defensive and unapproachable it did not deserve a home any less than the little kitten!

Squaring his narrow shoulders and holding on to Virgil’s arm for safety, he cleared his throat. Fear made him fall mute as Logan’s dark, keen eyes focused on him. He always did when Patton needed something. A suffocating wave of guilt threatened to crash over him. Logan had taken pains to make them feel welcome in his lovely home and now they all tried to make him do something against his will, it was not right, how could they?! He would be right to yell and – he would be right to do all that. He just couldn’t do it! Standing up to the imposing man and speaking up against him when he was angry and exasperated already felt impossible. This was not about protecting Virgil after all, it was about pushing him to take a pet he did not want. How could he even consider asking for something like this? His palms were sweating suddenly, his heart hammering in his chest, as if he had actually spoken up. Logan seemed terribly tall and very angry all of sudden, like a shadow rising before him and casting him in darkness.

In reality, every ounce of anger had already drained from Logan’s face and been replaced by gentleness. Patton had fallen silent again, perhaps too shy to speak up? Remembering Roman’s lessons in ‘not being a scary nag’, he uncrossed his arms and approached his timid guest slowly. The patissier turned his pretty face away, perhaps feeling insecure, and let his hair fall into his eyes. He looked very small. Had he done something wrong again? He remembered the incident in the cafe with perfect clarity, the day he had found out about him. The day he had scared the man he cared about so deeply. Logan resolved to make his voice as gentle and non threatening as possible, wanting to hear the baker’s opinion and to put him at ease, even though he had the bad feeling he knew where this was going. He could not allow him to be so shy in his presence though, making him comfortable was his responsibility as a host after all. The image of his timidness made his heart twist in his chest and left a sour taste on his tongue.

“Patton, you have not yet offered your opinion on the matter. I would like to hear your position as well, please. You have as much a right to weigh in as the rest of us.” He spoke gently, keeping his deep voice low and soft.

The patissier looked up in surprise, blinking his dark lashes. A flush spread across his features as he noticed how attentively he was being watched. “W-why would you want to hear my opinion, I don’t live here.” He muttered, wide eyed and so pretty. How could Logan not want to hear it? The pathetically emotional thought made Logan embarrassed and awkward faster than anything that had happened to him today. Suddenly, he had no idea where to look or what to do with his hands. Since when did he make claims like those without writing down a well thought out answer beforehand?!

“Because I care about what you want.” Logan finally answered simply, insufficiently. It appeared to have been the right choice of words though. Awe lit up the pale features before him, warm and comfortable like sunshine. Of course he had to ruin the moment.

“Considering your aptitude for managing the diverse challenges of a profitable establishment such as your cafe, as well as your talent for the gratification of the culinary and social needs of both your clients and your friends, it would be wise to credit you with the ability to gauge the approximate needs and amount of work which would likely have to be invested into the care of a domestically held creature such as the raccoon and the small cat.” He added. Unnecessarily.

Patton blinked at him. Logan felt his ears heat up in mortification. Would he ever get over making a fool of himself in front of this man?! Roman was giggling next to him and leaned a tousled head on his shoulder, showing his amused affection. It soothed the detective’s embarrassment somewhat. He tried to fix the flow of words that had escaped him … with more words.

“Additionally, I care about your opinion because you are my friend, and … I would like to see you happy.” He added cautiously, feeling like an idiot. The words felt too short, too simple in his mind. He had no idea how people could convey meaning in such simple structures, they were nowhere near close to what he wanted to express. Nicodemus sagged against his neck with a tiny huff as if he was giving up on him. He could not blame the rat.

For Patton, his statement was enough though. The simple one – though the rest was adorable too! He wondered at how kind the man could be, even in his anger. Moods could shift very easily of course, blue skies and sunshine could turn into terrible lighting and cracking, terrifying thunder very easily, but he would cross that bridge when he got to it. Right now, he felt warmed and soothed by the awkward declaration of friendship. He cleared his throat again and dared to speak up.

“Would - would the little baby not have to be separated from its – its momma raccoon if we set it free? If you – um – if you kept it here, you could raise the little kitty together, maybe? Virgil could take care of it, if he likes?” He asked with wide, soft brown eyes.

Logan visibly swallowed as they turned on him, big and pleading. This was a problem, because he still found it unwise and illogical to keep the creature, however he had also never encountered a situation where he had not wanted to give Patton everything he wished for. Utterly helpless to stop it, he saw his defenses crumbling before his very eyes. He could see it clearly now – Patton, Virgil and Roman huddled on the floor, the former gang member hugging the hissing beast to his chest while the others lovingly played with the good natured small cat, their faces alight with happiness. He would sit on the couch with a book (like and adult), Nicodemus back on his rightful spot on his shoulder, watching over them together.

He was rudely ripped from his daydream as Roman, clearly reading his partner easily, whooped joyfully and threw his arms around him, throwing his full weight into the hug and almost making them crash to the floor. Nicodemus loudly voiced the outrage Logan was too startled to utter. Such an eloquent pet.

The rodent’s support did not make the situation any better though. With dread curling in his stomach, he realized that he was going to agree. He was actually going to allow his little delinquent to keep a wild forest-creature and an additional small cat in his tidy flat. He must be losing his mind! This was all Roman’s fault! It had started with him – his life might have been lonely before he showed up, but at least it had lacked fur and claw marks on the furniture! In retaliation, he pettily pinched his partner’s side. The large man yelped and danced out of his reach, grinning like a madman.

Logan knew full well why he was so elated. Knowing Roman, he did not much care for a beast stealing his attention, though he was clearly smitten with the small cat already. It was the attachment Virgil had developed that made him happy. Logan had to concede that having responsibility for his own creatures would probably aid Virgil’s recovery, since he was still feeling insecure more often than not and still looked for things to do to unnecessarily gain the right to be here. He was also suffering from vicious nightmares. Roman often heard him whimper and trash around at night and had told Logan about it. It was hard for the gentle man not to step in. Virgil would most likely not appreciate being confronted with what he perceived as weakness. A larger companion to hold and care for might soothe his night-terrors more efficiently than a small animal like Nicodemus. Also Logan would finally be able to take him with him again.

“The moment any of those mammals endanger Nicodemus in any fashion I demand they will be removed.” He growled strictly. “I will not take responsibility for them, the three of you wanted them, so it is up to you to ensure their optimal care.”

Roman hugged him joyfully, again disturbing his perfect posture and making his partner swat at him. He had never doubted Logan!

Patton and Virgil looked equally taken aback be his concession. They could keep the animals? Seriously? They shared a baffled look, before focusing on the pets in their laps. A laugh escaped Virgil that was almost a gasp, a desperate, muffled sound. He had tried not to allow himself to hope, but this creature had grown on him so quickly! Protectiveness crashed over him as the raccoon stopped gnawing on his thumb to look up at him. He had hardly noticed how adorable it was with its pointy, black nose, its dark markings and rounded ears. Its fur was patchy where they had cut out the matted bits, making it look scruffy and a little pitiful. It reached up and pawed at his damp cheeks, sniffing his tears. Virgil sniffed and wiped his eyes, slowly so not to startle the cautious creature. He was helpless to stop more tears from flowing though. Did Logan know what this meant to him? That he was giving him – trusting him – with such responsibility? That he was including him in his home in such a permanent fashion? Adopting an animal was not something he would do without considering the long term commitment, he was not the type. Logan meant it, he wanted him here. All this time, he had secretly been waiting for Logan to decide he was ready to move out, for him to come to the conclusion that he had done his duty and turn to another stray. Virgil had tried hard not to be noticed too much, not to leave any traces of his presence, not to do anything that could disagree with the man, even after his reassurances. Roman was the one who was firmly adopted, who could leave the couch pulled out and the scarlet bedding scattered until Logan would glare him into taking care of it. Virgil was the one who was merely tolerated as long as he did not cause any inconveniences. This animal however, it was a huge disruption of Logan’s tidy, well organized life. He must be aware of that, and he still chose to accept it, for Patton and for him. It felt like they were becoming a real family suddenly and Virgil could not deal with it! A sob escaped his chest. Mortified, he clasped his hands over his face. He wanted to escape into – into his room, but at the same time he wanted – he was not sure what he wanted, he was confused and overwhelmed and he actually had an animal in his lap that liked him and that he would get to take care of.

Strong arms being wrapped around his shaking shoulders startled him at first, however the scent and deep voice announcing his presence soothed him immediately. Logan settled next to him and simply held him, staying quiet and drawing his face against his shoulder. The detective was not feeling quite as comfortable as usual, since the raccoon was chittering at him from his position on Virgil’s lap, however it appeared to tolerate him. Patton on the other side was lucky to be ignored as he curled close to Virgil, perhaps currently being considered a kitten seat and therefore useful. Roman settled on his knees in front of the distraught delinquent and reached out to settle a hand on his knee - and snatched it back quickly as territorial jaws snapped at him. The approximately cat sized pet glared at him. He glared back.

The magnificent guardian of the innocent refused to consider that he had been intimidated by the sharp toothed beast, he had simply changed his mind! Instead, he wrapped warm hands around his hissing nightingale’s cool toes and pulled his feet into his lap where his nimble fingers could rub some warmth into them. Virgil’s blush was visible even from the limited amount of skin they could see, but he was not pulling away. His thin shoulders stopped quivering after a few minutes as they mercifully turned their attention away from him without breaking contact. Patton was competent enough to start a cheerful conversation about pet names, coming up with the most ridiculous puns, like Jean-Jaques Raccoonsou, Raccoonsey Gordon or Fidel Catstro.

Nicodemus had taken up a comfortable, elevated position on Logan’s shoulder, where he could observe his kingdom and its new arrivals. Such untidy peasants. The gray one was bearable at least, though it appeared terribly clumsy, and so talkative!

Once Virgil had calmed down and his blush had retreated enough to allow him to peek out of his hiding place from Logan’s arms to glare at everyone who might consider talking to him, namely Roman, the group settled down more comfortably around their animals. Roman pulled out the couch and his pillows and blankets for nesting material so Patton and Virgil could settle down snugly in the middle. The raccoon was not too pleased about all of the people surrounding it, however it appeared used to being close to humans. Logan was content to settle next to Patton with his current novel and his ratty companion, while the baker tentatively tugged his feet close to his thigh. Roman however appeared quite insulted at the hostility and the territorial behavior of the cat imposter. Virgil had curled up in the middle of the couch, content to simply watch the shy creature and let it observe its surroundings from its safe perch on his lap, where he made sure not to touch or bother it too much. Unlike the kitten, which was wiggling, purring and mewling in a giggling Patton’s hands, the raccoon seemed insecure about being touched. He got that, not liking unsolicited contact either. Yet it seemed to want to be close at the same time, perhaps not entirely unused to human affection after all? He got that too, wanting to be close but being afraid everything would become too much or take a turn for the worse. So he stayed still and let his new pet decide how much contact it wanted. Roman however, just did not seem to get it.

He was loud and in motion and in need of attention next to him, torn between taking pictures and squeeing over how utterly precious Patton and the kitten were, and between wanting Virgil to stop ignoring him! He could not help himself! The usually so stormy little lynx looked so calm and serene now, so utterly at ease. It was hard not to want to be a part of it, to be close, to touch. He just did not really know how to be quiet when he was so elated, and he was! Virgil had gotten what he needed, what he wanted even! He knew no one who deserved it more. His happiness made him giddy and that in turn made the patchy, scratchy monster annoyed and defensive. It should be blessed by his magnificent presence instead, the ungrateful, uneducated critter!

Virgil heaved an annoyed sigh. Had he not learned as much about the gentle detective’s past, he would have already joined his furry friend in snapping at the attractive idiot. He could not quite work up the anger though. Not anymore. Soft warmth had filled up too much space inside his chest, where the image of tiny, tearful Roman trying his best to please his father was now sharing space with the image of the irritating detective.

“Just settle down already, you are making us antsy, you moron.” He growled finally, nodding to the space next to him. “You can tell me about the cat ladies without the flailing and theatrics.”

Roman looked affronted by the very idea of telling a story without the so called ‘flailing’, he was so under-appreciated! He was performing! However, he would certainly not turn down an invitation to get close. The phantom warmth of Virgil’s thin body close to him had accompanied him all day after all, he wanted more. He settled close slowly, making sure to voice his eloquent answers to the rude chittering. However, once he had settled in, he was blessedly, yet rudely ignored in favor of gnawing at the strings of Virgil’s hoodie once again. Roman dared to lean his cheek on the thin shoulder and breathe in the barista’s scent, mixed with the faint aroma of baking and coffee. The kitten’s purr filled the whole apartment, mixed with Patton’s soft exclamations of joy and pleasure and the turning of Logan’s pages.

As the group grew tired and pliant, Patton chose to break the quiet atmosphere that covered them like a warm blanket once more as he spoke up shyly. “Logan?” He asked softly, gaining the man’s attention. “I want you to be happy as well.” He uttered tentatively, looking up at him from beneath his tousled honey curls, soft and sweet and trusting. Logan instantly melted into a puddle of warm and happy goo, almost letting his book slip from suddenly clumsy fingers.

As the group fell asleep under the safety of Nicodemus’ and Logan’s watchful gaze, Patton’s phone remained forgotten on the table in the corridor, void of notifications. Unbeknownst to the gentle patissier, the recipient of his tender and reassuring words and explanations of his absence this night had shattered his phone against the wall the moment he had read his message.

Chapter Text

The light in the living-room was dimmed for the comfort of their new pets as Virgil and Roman settled down at the end of the day. Only the classical reading lamp on the desk and the gentle flickering of the TV shed light on the men herding their new pets towards the couch. The animals had been with them for a few short days only, sleeping in Virgil’s room and coming along to the cafe during the day, where they could either curl up in a basket under the counter, safely hidden away from all of the customers, or in the office upstairs if things became too much for them or they wanted to play. Unless they wanted to be close, of course. The raccoon sometimes liked to throne on Virgil’s shoulder, touch his face and hair with curious paws and tenderly gnaw at his ear. As long as it was mostly ignored and could come and go as it pleased, it seemed happy. Especially since it had found a special spot it liked very much, where it could sit and watch and only needed to interact when it had to. Virgil could relate well to the feeling of wanting to be included, but not overwhelmed. It liked to huddle into Virgil’s hood and snuffle its nose into the soft, dark hair at his neck. It awed the young man to have the animal close while he worked, a warm weight against his back, its breaths soft against his skin.

The kitten on the other hand could not get enough attention. It wanted to crawl into the baker’s shirt, rub itself all over his face or play with his hands. Its purrs and high pitched mewls were even heard above the chatter in the cafe. Patton had been in raptures about having it with him. All it had wanted was to be close and warm and be held and loved. The sweet baker had hardly been able to keep his happy tears at bay all day, telling everyone who would listen about their new kitties. Towards the end of the day, Virgil had found him huddled in the corner of the bakery, holding the kitten to his cheek and sniffling softly.

“I just love it so much.” He had mumbled tearfully.

Virgil had settled next to him with the tired and fed raccoon, wrapping a comforting arm around him, holding the pliant form close. The striped beast had settled in the barista’s lap and had cordially ignored the baker, who had bribed it with biscuits to buy its affection. Patton had appeared completely overwhelmed with the events of the last few days, snuffling in and kissing and praising the kitten with a choked, happy voice until it had licked his nose. He had wanted this so badly, Virgil was fucking grateful to those morons and their inability to tell apart basic species like even a kindergarten child could. Patton had appeared to be in need of reassurance and affection. Since the night of the sleepover, he had appeared more distracted and clumsy than usual. He appeared anxious to Virgil. He made sure to keep an eye on him and offer a shoulder to lean onto. He also noted down all of his observations in the back of an old notebook.

Now, with the work in the cafe and the attention he payed to his friend, Virgil and the kitties were worn out. The animals still needed a lot of care, though they were rapidly starting to grow comfortable in their new surroundings. The former delinquent felt tired but content. He could not remember spending a day feeling as loved and supported as he had today. This morning, Logan had casually handed him a coffee while he had checked the weather on his phone as the young man had entered the kitchen. The older detective did not even drink coffee, he preferred tea while Roman liked overly sweet cocoa in the morning. Not the expensive biological fair-trade stuff Logan had bought for him, but the sugary one with cartoons on the back marketed to children.

The detectives had their routine in the morning, moving around the flat in a sleepy dance of finding scattered clothing (in Roman’s case) and systematically getting ready for the day. Virgil had felt shy about intruding for a long time, getting up especially early to quietly use the bathroom before them and trying not to be in the way when they came to the kitchen. This morning, he had felt like he had become part of their routine for the first time. While Logan had went over his plan for the day and Roman had finished his extensive grooming, Virgil had cooked them breakfast, sipping the coffee his older protector had made him. All of them had been finished with their preparations in time for a shared breakfast, had cleaned up together, gathered raccoon, kitten and equipment and left for the precinct, dropping Virgil off at the cafe.

The new feeling of belonging had helped soothe the young man even this night. He even had the feeling of being able to support them in his own way, since they had only started having a proper breakfast since he had started taking care of it.

Now that the day was coming to an end, Logan had retreated to his room to organize the receipts he had gathered this month after category, sub-category and date, which had left Virgil and the dramatic moron to figure out what to do with their time. Often in such times, Roman would curl up on the floor and paint. Virgil liked those times. He liked settling onto the couch with a book. He liked the warmth and the peacefulness. He liked the way Roman became calm and quiet, lost in thought when he painted. He liked the way his hands moved and the way his expressive eyes softened. He liked the sure, elegant strokes of his brush, the colors, the pictures he created from nothing but paint and imagination. He liked watching Roman.

Lately however, the two men had had little time to focus on their various hobbies, since there were animals to play with. The raccoon liked to have some quiet time to itself after a long day, sitting on its bum and stretching its little legs before itself, only slowly coming out of its shell. The kitten on the other hand was filled with energy and playfulness. It mewled and jumped and hopped onto the furniture where it cried until somebody helped it down. It tried to catch their fingers and gnawed on their clothing and rolled around with them and was so fucking cute doing it, both men and even Logan had a hard time focusing on anything else. Kittens with their large eyes, tiny (crooked) ears, endless enthusiasm and fluffy paws had a magnetic appeal no one could escape from.

This night however, the little one was all played out. Patton had focused on it a lot since they had gotten them, almost constantly cuddling it. Virgil was worried about how much he appeared to need the tenderness and distraction. It was clearly hard for the pretty patisserie to part ways with the animal. The reluctant way he said goodbye every evening almost broke Virgil’s heart. However he had not been able to tempt the young man into accompanying him home again. The former gang member did not like the way Patton clung to the kitten, or the way he hurried home.

However, the attention had at least ensured that the kitten had grown tired enough to fall asleep early, which suited them fine. Both men were in the mood for a movie, which led them here, settled on the couch under a blanket, raccoon at Virgil’s side, kitten cuddled onto Roman’s broad chest. His large hands dwarfed the tiny animal. Only its tail and its pink nose peeked out from under the cover of the man’s palm. Virgil had a hard time looking away. The image did strange things to him. It looked so safe, like the detective could be trusted with something tiny and helpless. Something he could crush in his fist, but chose to keep safe instead. The masculine lines of Roman’s face were softened by the flickering lights of ‘Princess Mononoke’, which he was following with rapt attention. Virgil pulled the blanket, which had essentially become his due to Logan’s go-to comfort solution of wrapping sad people into a blanket burrito, closer around his narrow shoulders.

Though he was surrounded by affection and soft things on every side, this acidic, cold feeling was creeping up on him again. Like a shard of ice growing in his chest, loneliness and grief made him curl closer around his wretched heart. The memory of his loss, of his mother’s pain and the agony of her illness, the feeling of being abandoned in an uncaring world often crept up on him without warning. It made him feel small and lost and made tears burn in his eyes. He wrapped his arms around his middle tightly as if he had to keep his chest from breaking open and spilling all of the pain filling him like dark, thick smoke over the floor. He felt impossibly, terribly lonely and untethered in those moments. Curled up in an unused corner of the garage, alone and wracked by his mournful thoughts, he had used to feel like the smoke would suffocate him. Like it would eat him up and carry him away as if he weighed nothing, pull him out into the vastness of space, leave him all alone in the empty blackness, unable to connect with another human being ever again.

He had been so alone among the Scorpions, a grieving child by all means, the bruises left by grasping, invading hands only healed physically. The feeling was still the same. However, his situation had changed.

Virgil needed a moment to realize just how different it was. Had it only been a few weeks since his last breakdown in the garage? It felt impossible.

Here he was now, with his very own pet pressing its butt against his foot, a caring friend who had all but adopted him in the next room, and Roman at his side. He always seemed to be. His large body radiated warmth, even while Virgil was feeling cold and lonely. He was overwhelmed with the need to be held suddenly. He had always hugged himself sadly in those moments, desperate for human contact, but at the same time terrified of anyone getting close and not believing anyone would want to hold him anyway. But now? Perhaps he would not have to be alone with those feelings anymore?

Desperate times called for desperate measures, the delinquent thought as he took a deep breath. Shyly, he ducked his head and leaned closer to the other man’s side, bringing them into contact. His heart was beating anxiously. Would Roman even want him that close? Lowering his defenses and showing that much vulnerability was nerve-wracking, hissing and biting felt much safer. He did not know what he would do if the detective pushed him away.

Roman looked up in surprise, feeling his wildcat bridge the distance between them and leaning against his side. The kitten mewled and nudged its tiny head against his palm. He had not even noticed that his thumb had stopped petting it. He hoped his hand would not start sweating with nerves. Virgil was leaning against him! He was close enough to smell his hair, his scent sweet from the bakery with a hint of coffee flavored bitterness. This was monumental! They were not having a heart to heart after all, Virgil was leaning in just because he wanted to! Roman tried hard not to squeal. Here they were, almost cuddling on the couch, like a couple! Perhaps his dreams were not so far fetched after all.

Would it be alright to take things a step further? His distanced little lion cub was always so defensive of his personal space, Roman did not want to intrude. However, he badly wanted to wrap his arm around the thin body, warming him and making him feel safe. Would he break their moment if he tried? Virgil had coexisted peacefully with the raccoon because he gave it space and allowed it to come if it wanted attention, perhaps he should do the same? It was so hard though! His angelic little criminal had been through so much, Roman fell asleep every night holding Prince Sparkles close to his chest, wishing it was Virgil he was shielding from the world with his body and his love.

Nervously watching the young man out of the corner of his eye, he tried to decide what to do.

The slender form appeared smaller than usual, Roman noticed. He had his arms wrapped around his chest and his shoulders hunched, looking tiny and tense. His jaw was clenched, his eyes cast down. The detective was hit hard by his need to protect the young man. Something was not right! His kitten was looking for comfort, he was sure of it! His heart beat fast at the implication that he trusted him enough to ask for it. Still, his certainty did not manage to take away the well meaning man’s insecurity. He did not want to ruin the moment or make presumptions after all! Thankfully, inspiration struck! He just needed to be casual about it, perhaps even amusing to Virgil, so he could shrug him off without being frightened or offended. Yes, this was a genius idea! He never failed to impress himself!

Trying to act natural, Roman shook his hair from his face, before reaching up to brush it away.

Virgil quickly sat up straight as the arm he was leaning against moved. Was the detective pushing him away after all? Insecurely, he observed the man brush a fistful of thick, caramel colored hair from his face and behind his ear. The locks were getting long, curling against his neck and around his ears, reflecting golden light in warm hues. Absentmindedly, Virgil wondered if it was getting long enough to pull into a bun. That would not be good, he had a thing for that kind of style. Roman would surely look devastatingly handsome with is hair pulled back to expose his sharp cheekbones and elegant neck.

Before his distracted thoughts managed to spiral down a pit of rejection and humiliation, Roman extended his arm and laid it over the back of the couch in an overly casual fashion. His focus never left the screen, however, his tan cheeks were colored a barely visible pink in the low light. For a long, surprised moment, Virgil openly watched the older man, trying to understand what was going on. Had the confident detective honestly just used a variation of the ‘yawn and wrap your arm around her at the movies’ trick with him?! Like a fucking teenager? That …. was fucking endearing.

It also meant he got what he needed. Too touch starved to help himself, Virgil leaned back against the warm side, ready to scratch and growl at a moment’s notice, and hoped for the best. He felt a quick intake of air from the solid chest he was leaning against, before the strong arm he had felt behind him slipped around his shoulder like it was meant to hold him. Virgil sighed shakily, suddenly feeling a lot like the kitten – he could not get close enough!

The young man all but sprawled sideways, burying his face in the soft t-shirt and his fists in the fabric. The next breath he took smelled entirely of Roman, like his cologne, leather and spice, like a well groomed man after a long day of work. The scent made warmth pool in his stomach, driving away the acidic feeling spreading from his chest outward. The terrible sensation of falling apart was pushed away by the strength of Roman’s arm tightening around him. Somehow, he seemed to know exactly how tightly to hold him. Everything about the detective was solid. His chest was hard, his heart beating steadily, his breathing even. It was easy to focus on him and nothing else. He curled in tighter. There was no room for shame amidst his need for safety.

The raccoon grumbled softly as his foot moved away from its butt, severing their contact. It got up and grumpily ambled closer, settling down in the corner behind Virgil’s knees.

As the pale face buried against his chest almost completely, Roman dared to look down at the tangled, purple mop of hair. He understood why Patton always ran his fingers through it. He was certain now that he had been correct. Something had spooked Virgil and made him look for comfort. With him. Roman felt incredibly proud and touched at the trust that was extended to him. Virgil was so tiny in his arms, small like a mouse, made of bones as thin and breakable like a bird’s. And yet he was as deadly as a feral panther. Roman knew no one as utterly fascinating as this young man, so full of contradictions, strength and fear and fierce pride and crippling insecurity. He was breathtaking. The detective held the kitten under one hand and the wildcat under his arm until both turned pliant and heavy against him. The kitten was even snoring a little bit. Leaning his head back against the couch, Roman tried to commit the moment to memory, hoping he would never miss a moment of Virgil’s vulnerability again. He wanted to be there in those moments and hold him, cup his cheek and tell him everything would be alright. He would watch over him this night, like the gallant knight he was. A tireless guardian. An indefatigable...

***

Virgil woke up to the sound of the end credits softly playing in the background. Oh god, had he actually fallen asleep on Roman fucking Prince?! He squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to die of humiliation. Could somebody please assassinate him before he had to face the dramatic moron? Raccoon? Kitten? Anyone? Please? The idiot already thought he had to protect him like some fucking damsel in distress. This would make everything a million times worse!

There was nothing to it, time to face the music and establish that he was not in need of a fucking knight in shining armor! He would not be seen as weak!

Virgil raised his head and drew breath to start hissing.

Roman was asleep.

His head was leaning backwards against the back of the couch, his hair falling into his face. Virgil squinted at him. Was he drooling? That… was more adorable than it had any fucking right to be. The fact that he had seen the man who usually looked like a model for a swimsuit campaign or an advertisement for expensive suits look so rumpled and unguarded made Virgil’s aggressiveness melt. He was not the only one making himself vulnerable, he realized. Roman was investing a lot of trust into letting himself be seen this way. A rumbling snore made Virgil stifle a giggle and barely resisted the urge to take a picture.

Enough was enough though. He had humiliated himself too much already. Quietly, he tried to sit up to escape to his room where he could agonize about the way he had thrown himself as this moron in peace for the rest of the night.

There was only one slight problem. The arm around him would not budge.

Cursing quietly, Virgil tried harder to extract himself, pushing against the offending appendage. The man was like a fucking octopus, who was that strong even when they were asleep?! Roman snorted quietly, before sinking deeper into the couch and ruthlessly cuddling Virgil closer. The barista huffed in incredulity. Fucking unbelievable.

He tried again, eliciting a truly pitiful whine and a whimpering mewl. Fucking hell. This was deprivation of liberty! He eyed the man’s vulnerable side, considering poking him with his sharp little fingers. He would surely end up wailing and complaining loudly. Which would wake Logan. And result in grumpy Logan. Not ideal. The kitten stretched, spreading its tiny toes on all feet and rolled over on Roman’s chest until it rested just under Virgil’s chin.

Well, that was fucking precious.

With a sigh, he gave up. This was too nice to move. No one could expect him to put up his tough guy act in the face of this much comfort. If he was honest with himself, which he did not like being at all, he really needed this badly. Everything in him begged him to stay close. It felt like none of the dark thoughts circling through his mind would dare disturb him while he pressed his ear over Roman’s heart and listened to the kitten’s soft snoring.

He would just have to pay Roman back for forcing him to sleep on him like a fucking cat. Even while he imagined how he would establish his personal borders and make sure the detective would not get any ideas about trying to cuddle him, he knew the poor moron had it tough with him. Well, he’d have to deal with his mood swings if he wanted Virgil around. A part of him thought he might actually think the former gang member was worth the trouble.

***

Logan did not bother resisting the urge to document the scene as he entered the living-room in the morning. He took out his phone and snapped a picture. Patton surely would love to see this. There was little he would not do to paint a smile unto his lovely face. Even humiliate his beloved partner by photographing him with ruffled hair and drool on his cheek.

The satisfied, slightly sadistic chuckle woke the man in question with a jolt. Well honed warrior’s reflexes put him on high alert instantly.

“Hu? Whassit?” He mumbled incoherently, blinking sleep from his eyes. Logan snorted and took another picture, before retreating to the kitchen to make tea, coffee and cocoa. Virgil would need the caffeine when he woke up. Though the detective was certain his little delinquent had needed the physical affection, he was certain to be embarrassed by it. And therefore grumpy. He needed to prepare to stay in his good graces. Being liked by Virgil while Roman was being hissed at was proving to be one of his favorite ways to start a day.

Roman’s muddled mind meanwhile heroically tried to make sense of this surroundings. He had an unpleasant kink in his neck and tiny, sharp needles stuck in his chest from where a crooked eared kitten was kneading him with pleased purrs. The deep rumbling was interrupted in steady intervals as the tongue of the rumpled, striped beast was licking its tiny body as it cradled the gray baby in its clever paws. The beast’s hind-legs were digging into Roman’s sensitive and very precious parts as it groomed the little one. Not. Pleasant. And yet, Roman would not move for anything in the world.

His thunderous night was curled up against his side, pliant and soft with sleep, his purple hair like silk against the young detective’s chin. His back was rising and falling rhythmically with his deep, sleepy breaths. Roman’s arm was still wrapped around him, his palm resting on his side over prominent ribs. He was sleeping deeply. Safely. Without nightmares for the first time since Roman had lain his battered body down in the former guestroom.

Roman could do nothing but stare. Waking up this way, with Virgil trustingly curled close, willingly held in his arms? This was how he wanted to wake up for the rest of his life.

With a barely suppressed whimper, he realized the rest of his life with Virgil might include waking up to the sensation of having his precious family jewels stomped on by tiny, sharp feet. The raccoon glared at him fiercely for daring to move while kitten and wildcat were using him as a pillow. Maturely, he stuck his tongue out at the fil