It’s a sergeant’s job to watch his or her DI closely in order to learn on the job. It comes with the territory that a good sergeant will not only observe the professional idiosyncrasies about their DI, but also the personal ones. Lizzie Maddox was a very good sergeant.
It’s true, the first few weeks serving as DI Hathaway’s sergeant were a trial and she’d been more than ready to throw in the towel when their first murder case came along.
It was really only due to DI Lewis’ timely arrival that she had rescinded her decision to ask for a transfer. Even during their initial, awkward introductions after Lewis joined the investigation, she’d noticed that there was an undercurrent, a relationship, between these two men that she couldn’t quite parse yet.
At first she’d thought that their past as Inspector and bagman explained it, but she soon realised there was more to it. Lewis’ comment about ‘bad parenting’ made it clear that he was much more relaxed than her boss about staying professional with a subordinate; and also that he really must like James Hathaway. It was something that, at that point, had been hard for Lizzie to understand.
After Lewis returned to work, things got easier. He seemed able to smooth down DI Hathaway’s edges, smudge his corners a little, make him appear more human. It took Lizzie a while to work out that it wasn’t just an impression she had, but an actual change in Hathaway’s behaviour.
At first, she put it down to Lewis’ presence being a safety net for the newly minted DI, something to calm his nerves. Later on, she thought it was simply them being good friends that made them work so well together. And even later, she started wondering if there was something more to it than just friendship.
Her first real clue came when, one evening, the three of them were working late to follow leads on the most recent murder-of-the-week. Hathaway was on the computer, looking something up, Lewis was paging through paper files and Lizzie went to check something with another department.
When she returned, Lewis was standing behind Hathaway, peering at the monitor over her boss’ shoulder. Lizzie stopped in main area before they noticed her and just watched the two men for a moment through the open office door.
Lewis had one hand braced on the desk, leaning close over Hathaway’s shoulder. His other hand was resting on the other man’s opposite shoulder. While Lizzie watched, that hand moved closer to Hathaway’s neck and then he started absently stroking his thumb over the skin above Hathaway’s collar. A small smile played around the corners of the younger man’s mouth. Neither of them ever broke their concentration from the screen in front of them, talking quietly about whatever it was that Hathaway had unearthed.
Lizzie quietly moved backwards down the hall and then made sure to be noisy as she walked back into their shared office, not wanting them to know what she’d just witnessed.
Although she wasn’t really sure what to make of the gesture of intimacy, she filed it away in the back of her mind as something to be looked at later. It definitely was interesting.
A few days later Lewis was flirty with Dr Hobson over Rose Anderson’s corpse and Lizzie couldn’t help but wonder how the good Doctor would have reacted had she seen the way Lewis had been with Hathaway in the office that evening.
As Lewis and Hathaway walked away a few minutes later - Hathaway with one of his trademark smartarse quips - and Laura asked her how she found her new boss, Lizzie couldn’t help but notice the fond look on Laura Hobson’s face. A look that was clearly directed at both men, not just the one she was ostensibly dating.
In that moment, Lizzie collected another mental puzzle piece to be filed away for later review.
Innocent complimented her on her decision to stay and Lizzie was tempted to tell her that - as any good detective - she couldn’t resist the challenge of a good puzzle. That puzzle being the odd relationship between DI Lewis, DI Hathaway and Dr Hobson. But she didn’t know Innocent that well yet and she didn’t want to stir up trouble for anyone, so she restricted herself to a comment about ‘chuckle brothers’ and left it at that.
It seemed that Innocent had her own curious opinions about the two men in any case and Lizzie couldn’t help but wonder if the woman new something she didn’t.
Maddox and Hathaway were sitting in their office going over paperwork when Dr Hobson walked in. She walked over to Hathaway’s desk and held a file out to him.
“Here’s the report you asked for,” she said in lieu of a proper greeting.
“Thanks, love,” Hathaway answered absentmindedly as he reached out to grab the file without even looking up.
Then he froze midway through the move and his head shot up, eyes wide with what Lizzie recognised as the beginnings of panic.
Dr Hobson snorted. “You’re welcome, darling,” she answered, putting so much emphasis on the ‘darling’ that it became ridiculous.
Lizzie lowered her head to her own desk to hide her amused smile.
Hathaway blew out an audible breath, then shook his head at himself. Hobson gave him a cheeky wink, waved a goodbye at both of them and left.
Hathaway went back to the paperwork on his desk after a quick glance in her direction and Lizzie pretended to do the same. In truth, her mind was busy slotting puzzle pieces into place.
She was on her way home and making a quick detour into Sainsbury’s to grab something for dinner when she saw them. DI Lewis and Dr Hobson doing their shopping.
Lewis was bending over the freezer, digging for something in its depth. Whatever it was, he must’ve found it, because he turned around with a triumphant smile and Dr Hobson leaned up to press a quick kiss to his cheek.
Lizzie was just debating whether she should walk over and say hello or ignore them and continue with her own shopping, when a familiar lanky figure came around the far corner of their isle.
Hathaway walked up to Lewis and Hobson’s shopping cart and unceremoniously dropped the bag of fresh tomatoes he was carrying into it. He then squinted at the box of frozen stuff Lewis was still holding - too far away for Lizzie to make out what it was - and shook his head in fond exasperation. Lewis lifted his chin in a friendly challenge and dropped the box in the cart. Then he grabbed the handlebar and started walking away with it with the air of someone having won a battle.
Hobson wrapped her arm around Hathaway’s, pulled him down and pressed the same kind of kiss to his cheek that she’d just given to Lewis. Then she proceeded to pull him after her partner - or should that be their partner? Was Laura Hobson dating both men simultaneously or were they all dating each other? Did that even make sense?
Lizzie sighed and added this little scene to the others she was keeping in her mind, hoping that one day the puzzle of her colleagues’ relationship would form a coherent picture.
When Lizzie arrived at Lewis and Hobson’s house for dinner, Hathaway was already there, nursing a glass of wine. He looked more relaxed than she had ever seen him, slouching in an armchair as if it was his customary place.
The four of them bantered back and forth amicably until the pizza arrived. Lizzie was secretly glad she wouldn’t have to pretend to like a culinary experiment gone wrong. It sounded like Lewis wasn’t the best of cooks even on his good days.
Hathway seemed a bit gloomy at first, but once they were seated around the table and tucking in, he brightened visibly and held forth on the history and local variations of pizza dough until Lewis leaned over and stuffed some left-over crust into his mouth to shut him up.
Lizzie must’ve had a bit too much wine, because the gesture and Hathaway’s momentary look of shock before he grinned cheekily around the bread in his mouth made her giggle. A glance at Laura revealed her shaking her head in fond exasperation.
Once they were done eating, Hathaway declared himself lord of the dishes for the evening and shooed the rest of them back to the living room. Laura pulled Lewis down on the sofa next to her and Lizzie took the armchair that Hathaway had occupied earlier.
Lewis stretched his arm behind Laura and rested his hand on her shoulder. Lizzie couldn’t help but smile at their obvious affection. She missed Tony already, but he’d be back in a couple days and then she could snog him as much as she wanted.
They kept the conversation flowing, as well as the wine and Hathaway joined them once he was done in the kitchen. Lizzie expected him to either join Laura on her end of the sofa - there was definitely enough space for three - or to pull up another chair, but to her surprise he settled himself on the armrest closest to Lewis.
She was even more surprised when Lewis, instead of moving away a bit to give him space, snaked his arm around Hathaway’s hips. The picture of her mental puzzle came into even clearer focus.
Laura had obviously noticed where Lizzie was looking because she gave an audible sigh and said, “I guess it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room.”
“None of my business, really,” Lizzie quickly answered, tearing her eyes away from the sight of her two bosses basically snuggling with each other.
“No, Laura’s right. You’ve a right to the truth,” Lewis said, “Considering you have to work with us every day.”
Lizzie swallowed. He did have a point and besides, she was also bloody curious as to what kind of arrangement these three had.
Despite their declaration, silence settled over the room for a while. Before it could become terribly uncomfortable, though, Laura spoke up.
“We’re in a polyamorous relationship were all three parties share each other equally.”
The three of them were watching her quietly after this revelation. It was obvious that none of them were terribly comfortable at talking about themselves, despite seemingly having no problem with being physically affectionate with each other.
Lizzie decided that if they were happy, she had no place to question the workability of such an arrangement. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t suspected something along those lines all along. She nodded and said, “Makes sense.”
“It does?” This from Hathaway.
“Well, I mean, it wasn’t obvious, but… there’ve been a few slip-ups… I guess? I couldn’t help but notice… well. Like I said, it’s not my business.” She could feel herself blush and was glad that her teint and make-up would probably hide it from them.
Hathaway snorted. “So much for being discreet while at work.”
“Does Innocent know?” Lizzie asked trying to shift the focus off herself.
“Ay,” Lewis answered, “Had to tell her in case it impacted our working together, didn’t we. She’s okay with it for now.”
“Good.” Lizzie was glad she wouldn’t have to keep this secret from the Chief.
She raised her glass in a toast. “Congratulations to the three of you. And thanks for trusting me with this.”
Laura returned her gesture with her own glass. “It’s only fair. Thank you, for putting up with the madness of us three every day.”
“Oi,” Hathaway started to protest, but Lewis tightened the arm around his hips and pulled him backwards until Hathaway practically tumbled in his lap, his upper body landing across Laura’s legs. Whatever he was about to say turned into a yelp of surprise that was quickly smothered by Laura bending down and giving him a peck on the lips.
Maybe it was madness to some, Lizzie thought, but from where she was sitting, the puzzle of their relationship formed a perfectly reasonable and inherently beautiful picture.