It's times like these that make me say
Lord, if you see me please come my way
Ooh Aah (My Life Be Like) (Grits)
If Tom were to honestly speak his mind about that morning, he would have said it was the worst bloody morning of his entire, pathetic, little life.
He was thirty seven years old, which wasn’t too old, thank you very much, but he felt the weight of a thousand years on his shoulders every time he woke up to go to work. It’s not like he didn’t like his job – he did. He chose to do this job. But it was a difficult one. He saw death and sorrow every day, and what certainly didn’t help was the fact that he had had to arrest and lock up his own stepfather at the very beginning of his career in the police force. It had undermined his ascension in the hierarchy of the precinct, obviously, and thus he had remained in the same position for many years. But then the captain had retired, a new one had arrived, much more lenient, and with an obvious soft spot for Tom, and so his career finally hit off. He loved the work – solving puzzles, thinking for himself, and the rush of adrenaline every time he chased someone or took out his gun.
So, all come together, he really liked his job, even if it wasn’t the easiest one in the world.
Well, his mother had always wanted him to become a lawyer. Something more respectable. But it’s not like her opinion ever mattered to him. He hadn’t seen her in many years.
That fated Monday morning, he woke up after his usual couple hours of sleep, having reviewed his ongoing case for hours the evening before. He took his time drinking his morning tea, sitting in his small kitchen, the only moment of the day during which he relaxed and did basically... Nothing for a few minutes. He took a quick shower and carefully avoided looking at himself in the mirror. He knew he wouldn’t like what he found there.
When he arrived to the precinct after a trip in the busy New York subway, he found it full of people and lively as always. He greeted a couple of persons and made his way to the third floor. There seemed to be a commotion ongoing in the breakroom there, but he didn’t have the time to check what was happening because Matt, a young, aspiring, and flamboyantly gay detective who had started to work with them maybe half a year ago, pulled him aside.
“Hey Tom” he whispered excitedly.
Tom pressed his lips together and raised one eyebrow.
“Matt” he nodded curtly. “What is going on here?”
“The captain wants to see you” replied Matt, eyeing him with his round, blue eyes.
Tom raised his second eyebrow, but obediently followed Matt to captain Renner’s office. He knocked at the glass door and the captain made a sign for him to come in. Tom closed the door behind him, noticing that Matt stayed to wait for him just outside.
Tom frowned a little and turned to the captain. He was a fairly short man, especially compared to Tom, had a big nose and graying hair that seemed to have been of a light brown colour some time ago.
“Hiddleston” the captain greeted him.
“Captain” said Tom, and wasted no time to start asking questions to satisfy his growing curiosity and frustration. “What is it about, sir? Is it about the Larrington case? I know it’s been some time since we made progress, but I assure you, sir, me and my partner are working on a new lead, and…”
“No, no, nothing about the case, Hiddleston” answered the captain, cutting his speculations short. “I trust your judgement, don’t worry. You’re one of my best detectives. But talking about your partner… Well, it does concern him.”
Tom frowned a little.
“Benedict? Did something happen?”
The captain sighed loudly.
“Well, it seems detective Cumberbatch had an unfortunate accident this weekend and broke his leg. You will have a new partner assigned to you. Detective Christopher Hemsworth. He is… He is new here” said the captain, looking a lot like he just swallowed something very sour, and Tom felt the blood drain from his face. “But he is a very capable young man. He was transferred from the 103rd. He will assist you with your case until detective Cumberbatch is able to resume his work.”
Tom couldn’t believe his ears. This had to be a bloody joke. Benedict didn’t even breathe a word of this to him, and he had talked with him on the phone the day before.
He took a deep breath, feeling his patience slipping away from him.
“Captain, with all due respect, I don’t think…” He chuckled nervously, gathering his words. “I mean, I am perfectly capable of continuing this case alone, I mean…”
“Hiddleston” the captain interrupted him. “I know you and Cumberbatch are good friends, and I know you don’t deal very well with new people, but this is not a matter for discussion. The order comes from above.”
Tom gritted his teeth, and pressed his lips tight together to prevent a snarl.
“You are to show him all your materials and leads on the Larrington case, and I expect full cooperation from you” continued the captain in a stern tone.
“Of course, sir” croaked Tom, finding his voice with difficulty.
The captain eyed him for a moment, his eyes sharp, then relaxed a bit, sighing.
“You can go now” he said. “I believe he’s in the breakroom, judging by the commotion there.”
Tom only nodded and turned around, heading for the door. He was about to open it when the captain’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
Tom turned around, surprised. It was the first time the captain had called him by his first name – or anyone, for that matter.
“Sir?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.
“Good luck” the captain sighed, and Tom swallowed audibly. He left the office, carefully closing the door behind him.
Matt was still there, waiting for him. He was opening his mouth to say something, but Tom was faster than him.
“You knew about this” he rasped, turning his murderous gaze to Matt. It wasn't a question.
The young man recoiled under his stare.
“I… Yes, I did. I mean, the captain told me when he asked me to bring you to his office as soon as you arrived” admitted Matt.
Tom’s eyes narrowed to thin slits, and his face twisted into an angry scowl.
“And?” he inquired.
“And… And what?” stammered Matt, wringing his hands nervously.
“My new partner” seethed Tom. “How is he?”
Matt’s eyes became even rounder than usual, the fear painted clearly in the pools of light blue.
“Oh, I… I haven’t seen him yet. I was, uhm… I was waiting for you by the elevator, so… So I haven’t had the chance.”
Tom cast him one last dark look, turned around and headed to the breakroom in long strides. He was being unfair to Matt, he knew that, but he was simply fuming and he had no mercy for anyone.
The lively breakroom quieted down a bit when Tom entered it, Matt on his heels. Tom quickly eyed everyone, searching for a new face, and he finally spotted him – leaning against the counter, chatting to three women, was a very tall, athletic man. His skin tan, as well as his shaggy blond hair, shone golden in the dull office lights. His clothes were extremely well-fitting, dark jeans showing muscular thighs and a black leather jacket hugging his wide shoulders and strong arms. And he was wearing sunglasses. Bloody sunglasses. On a gray, clouded day. Inside a bloody room.
Tom almost forgot where he was, recovering from the shock, but Matt’s voice brought him back to reality.
“Shit! That’s your new partner?” he squealed excitedly.
“Apparently” answered Tom through gritted teeth.
“So fine! So, so fine” continued Matt and Tom couldn’t resist the urge to roll his eyes. “I should go say hi. Can you notice my under-eye bags?” he added in a frantic whisper, his elbow connecting with Tom’s ribs.
Tom winced a bit, throwing a dark look first to Matt, and then to the new guy.
“Sorry” he grumbled, massaging his sore side, “all I can see now is a douchebag.”
As if sensing his disapproving stare, the guy stopped talking and turned his face towards him. His lips immediately stretched into a wide, flirty smile. It took him two long strides to stand directly in front of Tom. He was even more imposing up close, although he must have been only an inch or two taller than Tom. He was much wider, though, his whole body made of powerful muscles.
He took his glasses off in one, practiced motion, revealing the most striking pair of eyes Tom had ever seen. They were blue, blue like the most exotic waters and like the clearest of summer skies, and if it wasn’t for the urge to snort at the whole procedural cop show vibe the sunglasses gave off, Tom would have probably lost himself in those pools of ocean blue.
The guy – Christopher – let his blue eyes roam Tom’s body, not even bothering to hide the indecency of his heated gaze.
Tom was just opening his mouth to snap at him, to ask if he was quite finished with his little show, but Christopher beat him to it.
“You must be Thomas” he said in a deep, honey-like voice, the thick Australian accent obvious, extending a hand to him. “We finally meet. The girls were just telling me all about you” he added, winking to the three women still standing near the counter.
Tom resisted the urge to wince at his full name. No one ever called him like that. The only person to ever address him like that had been his mother.
“Tom, please” replied Tom, shaking Christopher’s hand. It was big, bigger than his, but soft and warm. “And you must be Christopher.”
“Just call me Chris” the blonde told him, licking his lips, his eyes darkening a bit.
Tom was not a man who got nervous easily, but the scrutiny of his new partner certainly agitated him a bit.
He was saved by Matt, who proceeded to introduce himself, grinning like a fool, and Chris finally let go of Tom’s hand to greet Matt.
Tom discreetly wiped his hands on his trousers.
“So, Tom” grinned Chris, turning to Tom once again. “I gather we’ll be partnering from now on, right?”
“Yes” answered Tom, making his voice carefully neutral. “Come with me, I’ll show you to your desk and we can find an empty conference room to review together the case I’m currently working on.”
“An empty conference room?” chuckled Chris, following him out of the breakroom that was beginning to empty. “Oh, honey, you shouldn’t tempt me.”
Tom nearly tripped at that, his face heating up a notch, and turned to Chris with a snarl plastered on his face.
This was going to be a very long day, and Tom swore to himself he wouldn’t let Benedict hear the end of it once he got ahold of his bloody arse.