The damn coat is the problem. Or not the coat so much as the way Hathaway looked wearing it, striding across that wet field with the collar turned up and his shoulders squared as if he were heading into battle, one hand in his pocket and the other holding his umbrella above him like a pair of great black wings. I didn’t let myself fully take it in at the time, I was focused on the case, on Connelly and what he did and didn’t have to say once we made it out to his little tent. Standing next to James as we questioned Connelly, he smelled of wet wool and smoke from the fag he’d snuck between the car and the tent. That and something headier, something spicy and warm despite the chill.
And now—lying in the bed in Laura’s spare room, knowing that James is lying on the pull-out sofa in the room directly below me, trying not to think about the details of the case in hope of snatching what sleep I can after the last few days we’ve had—the image of James in the coat, the long dark silhouette of him, is all I can think about. As if the image was waiting there, dormant, until the least opportune moment. I can’t stop picturing the way the coat seemed to change his bearing, that slouch of his nowhere in evidence, making him seem taller even than his usual giraffe self.
It’s not like he’s never worn the coat before, but it’s never stuck in my head quite like this. The weather has cleared and I haven’t seen him in it since. I want to though. I want to watch him pull it on and then I want to take it off him, run my fingers over the lapel and undo the buttons one by one. Then start in on his jacket, his shirt, loosen his tie. Peel off all those layers and see if the skin on his shoulders is as golden as the skin on his neck when we were sitting on the car waiting for Peterson’s raid. I want to touch the spot at the back of his head where his hair is shortest and find out if it’s as soft as it looks. None of these are thoughts I should be having about my sergeant, but that doesn’t stop them materialising.
Here I am, lying in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar house that’s making unfamiliar settling noises around me, thinking about the very familiar shape of my sergeant. About how much more familiar I’d like to get with his shape. It’s not crossing a line if it stays in my own head, right? Not if I never act on it. Not if he never knows.
There are familiar footsteps on the stairs. Is it odd that I can recognise my sergeant’s footfalls as he walks tentatively up the stairs in someone else’s house in the middle of the night? It’s true that it couldn’t be anyone else, but I’d recognize the specific cadence of his steps anywhere. I’m a good detective, it’s my job to notice things. Sometimes those things are going to be about the person I end up spending most of my days with.
There’s a thump and the footsteps stop on the landing. He’s bumped into the small table in the hall, I’d wager. I can picture him stopped there, listening to see if he’s woken me, bare toes curling on the hardwood. But I’m already awake. I resist the urge to call out, to let him know that he hasn’t bothered me. The last thing I was thinking about before he stopped outside my door was him. I’m still thinking about him and not in a way he’d be keen to know about, I’m sure. I keep silent. After a moment he moves on, the bathroom door shutting with a quiet click.
My brain continues right on down the track it was on, with no regard for the object of my thoughts being so close by and in such danger of detection. Or maybe that’s the problem. James is in the bathroom right across the hall, his hand on his cock, but not for the same reason I’m considering taking hold of my own. As soon as I’ve had the thought it’s all I want. To take myself in hand and imagine him in that coat, and not in that coat, peeling off all the layers, leaving his tie on, stark black against pink skin. I stifle a gasp as the toilet flushes and the bathroom door opens again. I am hard and I’m thinking of him and he’s standing right outside the door. Did he hear me? I hope to God he didn’t. I kind of wish he had. That he’d throw open the door and catch me stroking myself, that he’d know from the look on my face that I was thinking of him. Christ.
The quiet footsteps move away again, back down the stairs and I’m coming before I hear his footfalls reach the ground floor.
Remarkably, I am able to keep my composure over breakfast the next morning and through the rest of the case. We close the case, we have a couple of pints in front of the Vault & Gardens while James reads Shakespeare. I try not to think about him when I’m remarking about Miranda and Connelly and missed chances. I try not to think about how I barely managed not to say his name out loud when I came. He’s talking about me and Laura when he says, “Who does that remind me of?”
I try not to think about how beautiful he is when he smiles. I try not to wish that smile was for me alone, not the idea of Laura and I getting together. He is my sergeant, my male sergeant, but somehow none of that matters to my treacherous brain. Somewhere along the way he stopped being Hathaway or even just James and became my James. I’ll finish my beer, go home, have another wank in the privacy of my own flat, and get it out of my system for good.
But we don’t go home. There are still a suspicious number of loiterers on the pavement in front of both our flats. Innocent offers to put us up in a hotel and I’m ready to accept the offer and remove myself from temptation, when I catch the fleeting look that crosses James’ face. He looks gutted. I don’t ask why the prospect of staying at a hotel in his own room instead of sharing space with me at Laura’s put that look on his face. I can’t ask because I know why I want it to. I tell Innocent there’s no need. After all, Laura said she’s understaffed at the morgue on top of being on call. She won’t be around at the weekend except to sleep. We won’t be bothering her.
Which leaves James and me in Laura’s house on a Saturday with nothing to do. A Saturday off should be a blessing and it is, it will be, as long as I can keep my thoughts under control.
James volunteers to go out for provisions. He’s by far the more recognisable of the two of us but there’s no dissuading him. He says he’s going to cook us dinner and make some extra meals to freeze for Laura as thank you. He has been giving her stove lustful looks since we got here. Apparently, it’s a high-end model, near restaurant quality. I didn’t realise Laura was that much of a cook. I didn’t realise James was either.
I try not to let my eyes linger too long on his shoulders as he shrugs on his coat. I try not to pay too much attention to how slim his waist is in comparison when he does up the buttons against the sudden return of cold drizzly weather.
It’s bucketing down by the time he gets back, coat now buttoned all the way to the top button and collar up against the wind. Rain is coming off him in rivulets when he clatters through the kitchen door negotiating his umbrella—which doesn’t seem to have done him much good with how wet he is—and soaking wet carrier bags. He deposits the bags on the floor and half folds the umbrella, turning to shake water off it into the solarium. And there are those shoulders again, those rower’s shoulders, outlined in wet wool. I abandon my half made tea with the intention of helping with the bags but instead find myself staring at the movement of his shoulder blades, thinking about how that motion would look without the fabric in the way, imagining the subtle shift of those muscles under bare skin, how they would feel under my fingers. All the things I should never have been thinking that had me taking myself in hand in the middle of the night.
When James turns around, wiping his feet on the mat, I don’t manage a neutral expression in time. My thoughts must be plain as day on my face.
“Sir?” He says, his tone both hopeful and uncertain. He rocks forward on his toes, his mouth twitching up at the corners until it settles into an amazed smile. There is an electric charge in the air between us.
I take two steps across the kitchen toward him until we’re only a foot apart. He smells of rain and wet wool and cigarette smoke and that heady, spicy scent that must be his aftershave. It’s intoxicating.
“Do you have any idea what you look like in that coat?”
James shakes his head gazing down at me with that purse-lipped questioning look of his. The look that is so often followed by him saying, what, with incredulity that I would take an interest in whatever obscure fact he has gifted me with. He’s very nearly looming above me and I find I like it. I like it very much.
I reach out my hand, brushing water of his shoulder, then give in and run my fingers down along the fabric and across his chest, to the button at his throat. He gives a small nod and I slip the button through the hole. He takes a sharp inhale as I pull back the lapel, smoothing my hand over dry wool where it was buttoned up against the rain, my fingers brushing his neck. He nods again and I undo the next button, then the next, and the next until he’s standing in front of me with his coat open, collar still up. I’m almost disappointed to see the jeans and band t-shirt over long-sleeved shirt I knew he was wearing. I want to do this again when he’s dressed for work, when there are more layers to slowly peel back.
And then he is closing the space between us, pulling me into a kiss. The rainwater that hasn’t quite soaked into the coat soaks through my shirt as he pulls me to him, cold in counterpoint to the heat of his lips and tongue, his hands pulling my shirt out of the back of my trousers. I want to feel the warmth of all him, not only his lips.
He groans when I reach under the coat and tug at his shirt in turn, stepping forward and crowding me up against the worktop. There is a clunk and the rustle of plastic. One of us has trod on the shopping, but James doesn’t seem any more bothered about it than I am. He leans into me more when I manage to get around his shirt and t-shirt to run my hands up the planes of his back, my hands finally smoothing over those muscles I’ve been unable to stop thinking about for days. I want to see them too, someday, if this doesn’t turn out to be a horrible mistake that we a both enthusiastically making. I want to lay him out on my bed and take in every inch of him, catalogue every twitch of muscle, every plane and subtle curve. Then James’ hands are on my belt. Christ. He hesitates for a moment, the tips of his fingers hooked over the waistband.
“Yes,” I gasp and he makes quick work of opening my trousers, cupping my already hard cock through my pants. I can’t help but rock forward into his touch.
There is a thump from behind him, a sound like the door opening or shutting. Had he not shut it all the way? The wind must have caught it. It matters even less than the shopping with James’ hands on me. I slide my hands down over his bum and pull him closer, rock up into his hand as he kneads my cock through the fabric. I could come just like this, a few more moments and I will, before he’s even got his hands properly on me. From the way James is panting in my ear and grinding himself against my hip, he’s not far off either. God, that is one hell of a turn on.
James slips his hand up over the top of my pants, pushing them down just enough to get his long fingers around my cock and that’s it, I’m coming all over his hand and my shirt and he captures my mouth and lets out a shuddering moan. Christ, I didn’t even touch him.
There’s a noise from behind James again, we really ought to shut the door before the blowing rain gets into Laura’s kitchen. I shift to look behind him and shit.
“Laura.” I’m sure she said she had a full day of work today but it’s barely noon. How long has she been standing there? How much did she see?
She looks like the cat who got the cream. “Hello boys, that was quite a show.”
James turns beet red and backs away from me, pulling his coat around him but not before I catch sight of the unmistakable wet spot on his jeans. I scramble to do up my trousers and put my shirt back into some sort of order despite the splatters of come.
“Laura, I—” James starts.
“How long have you—” I say right over him.
“I’m so sorry,” James continues. “We should never have—”
“Don’t you dare apologise,” Laura says. We both turn to stare at her. “Is there a possibility of a second showing?”