On a sunny spring day Morse let himself into Max Debryn’s house with his own key. Months of impromptu after-work drinks had led to dinners accompanying those drinks. Home cooked meal invitations followed and soon those evenings whiled away into late night chats. The pair of men would indulge with wine and cigarettes, becoming engrossed in whatever conversation topic they’d settled upon. Eventually there were quiet nights of staying in and they each discovered the simple comfort of just having someone there . More often than not it was quiet reading while a record played until one or the both of them dozed off.
The positions they found themselves in were not easy, intertwined as they were professionally, but the good came with the bad. In those times that Morse broke, when he needed someone, anyone, to just be there and listen it had been Max. When Max himself found his days were a bit more than he could handle, rare as it was, Morse was quiet and respectful company. When things cut a little too close to home, when neither wanted to talk but they needed someone there, they were. When it was needed they each offered words, advice or admonishment, and neither were the type to mince them. They both stuck by through rough cases, rough relationships, and Morse’s much too common brushes with death. The men didn’t always agree, both too stubborn for their own good, but even their clashes were essential. They helped one another as much as they could and discovered over time which boundaries could and couldn’t be tested.
Morse and Debryn had built a valued friendship.
One evening after a sprint from the car in the rain that left them both soaked to the bone, Morse had plucked Max’s foggy glasses off of his nose right inside the front door and kissed him. They were both wet to the skin with dripping hair and water sliding down to hang in heavy droplets off of their noses. It wasn’t glamorous or even comfortable but both men flushed with a radiant heat when their bodies pressed close. For all it seemed like a long time coming, Morse’s kiss was shy and tentative and Max seemed caught off guard by it. He gasped lightly against Morse’s lips and braced himself against the man’s chest. As his fingers spread over Morse’s sternum he felt the other’s heartbeat pounding just as hard and fast as his own and Max was undone. When they finally parted minutes later Morse could only smile because he was sure it was the first and only time he’d ever seen the doctor speechless.
And now on this beautiful off-day Morse was letting himself in with a key that he’d been given for that express purpose. The neat little house was all splotches of rich color as sunlight dappled through the open windows with a fragrant breeze. Morse dropped his keys in the bowl as second nature now and the bottle he’d brought was left on the hall table as he moved deeper into the home. Silence on the first floor told him that Max was elsewhere and Morse pursued the distant sounds of the doctor’s voice coming from the back yard.
The garden was larger than you’d expect for a house this size and enclosed with high shrubs that gave it near complete privacy. There was a modest sized Hawthorn in one corner giving partial shade to a well curated plot of medicinal flowers and herbs. Max currently occupied the other side. Wearing white coveralls and a net veil, he hunched and murmured over a single bee hive. Morse couldn’t hear what he was saying and he daren’t approach so he simply observed from the back door, content to do so, until Max felt eyes on him and finally made his way back.
“Bees?” Morse smiled and his eyes slid over Max as he approached as he searched for any sign of lingering winged friends. He straightened from where he slouched into the door frame and extended an arm to the other man without thinking about it.
“Don’t tempt me into a lecture on the long and interesting history of honey and uses, Morse,” Max smirked as he tugged his gloves off and tossed them onto a bench beside the door.
Morse moved to lift the beekeeping veil from Max’s face when the man was close enough and as he tucked it up and over the helmet he leaned in to murmur, “ It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”
Max tilted his head in return and smiled small. His eyes flashed in that clever way but he didn’t close the gap between them, “Although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.”
Morse turned a very fetching shade of pink and couldn’t suppress a grin. The look in his eyes was enough to make Max’s ears flush in response. Morse had eyes that could be weaponized, wide and earnest and adoring. The anticipation hung just a moment more as they silently searched each other’s faces, eyes eventually always settling on lips before meeting again, and their arms slowly encircled one another and they finally pressed close.
They kissed that afternoon under the arch of the kitchen door until Morse began to laugh against Max’s mouth. He nipped lightly as they broke apart and shook his head, “I can’t believe you quoted Winnie the Pooh at me.”
“Who else to wax wise about honey but an expert?” Max grinned, hands dragging along the other man’s slim waist before he turned and steered Morse into the house without further ado.
“You know, I am actually a bit interested in a lecture on the history of honey..” Morse clarified with a chuckle as he was guided. Finally inside the kitchen, he began unfastening the white coveralls from around Max’s neck in an attempt to get the shapeless fabric off of him as quickly as possible. The veil and helmet were already gone.
“Could take all night,” Max warned with a lift of chin to allow the coveralls to be undone and shed, “The history of apiculture is rather long.”
“It just so happens I’ve the evening off,” Morse said with a casual smile.
“Oh do you?” Max returned the look and played along, “It just so happens that so do I.”