Joseph finds Sebastian slumped over his desk on a Friday evening, his head hanging with exhaustion. Sebastian’s shoulders are tense, and his expression is grimly determined as he stares at the computer screen, his fingers moving slowly over the keyboard.
It’s his private investigation again, and Joseph sighs internally as he watches Sebastian squint at the screen, blinking away the sleepiness that is already taking hold. There’s only one reason to find him here this late at night in the dark, deserted office. The length of Myra’s disappearance had ticked from days, to weeks, to months. But Sebastian has not let himself rest for a single day, chasing up every lead he can find on her whereabouts.
On duty, he’s still a dedicated detective whose work is impeccable. Yet off hours…
Joseph steps forward from the shadows, letting his coat fall onto his desk with a quiet thump. His eyes are on Sebastian as his partner starts to attention, and stares at Joseph with owlish eyes reddened from exhaustion.
“Jojo? I didn’t hear you come in,” Sebastian says, his gaze skimming over Joseph’s body as though to make sure he’s real, “What are you doing here so late?”
His disapproval must be written on his face, because in the next second, Sebastian's gaze flits back to the screen.
The sound of typing starts up again, and Joseph considers turning the question on Sebastian. But then, he thinks better. Why poke at something they both know the answer to? It’s only going to push Sebastian even further away.
“I came in to pick up some files.”
Sebastian barely reacts, answering with only a vague hum. Joseph steps around the desk towards the shelves by wall, his gaze lingers on Sebastian as he moves, but Sebastian’s focus doesn’t waver.
At least he’s not drinking, Joseph thinks as he looks for the documents relating to their current cases. Finding him at the office is marginally better than being called to a bar.
With the files in hand, Joseph turns around. Then he stops, considering the man sitting in front of him.
It’s hard to ignore the tension in Sebastian’s back and shoulders. He’s been so tightly wound ever since the accident and the disappearance Joseph can barely remember the easygoing man Sebastian used to be. Long nights and unexplained disappearances are such a casual occurrence nowadays. After the first few panicked phone-calls and awkward meetings on Sebastian’s doorstep, he’s learnt to dial back the overt concern that is clearly being treated as an annoyance.
Sometimes, Joseph worries if one day Sebastian will disappear for good and it will take him too long to notice.
The yellow light of the desk lamp casts a warm halo around Sebastian’s frame, and Joseph thinks back to the morning, when he’d caught himself staring at Sebastian in the exact same way. His partner has been sitting there since the early a.m., and judging from his posture, his back has to be killing him.
The thought of Sebastian hurting has Joseph deciding on an impulse.
He doesn’t let himself think too hard about the whats and whys, knowing he will lose his courage if he did. Instead of returning to his own space, he walks forward to put his files on Sebastian’s desk. The movement distracts the other detective, who looks towards the stack of folders in confusion. His mouth opens to speak.
“What are you working on?” Joseph says before Sebastian can get a word in, catching the tip of one glove between his teeth and pulling it from his hand.
The question shuts down any burgeoning questions his partner has. Immediately, Sebastian is on the defensive.
“Just some leftover stuff,” his partner says, his hand moving to the mouse as he switches windows to something less incriminating. “Nothing serious.”
The nonchalance in Sebastian’s voice is clearly forced, but Joseph doesn’t concern himself with the obvious lies. Ever since the IA incident, this has been their default mode of communication. Short, clipped sentences, Sebastian’s attempts to hide his activities and his ongoing investigation as Joseph poked and prodded at the edges. He would be lying if he said it doesn’t hurt, if he does’t spend every day wishing he can do something to return things back to the way they were before.
But he tells himself he hurt Sebastian far more with the betrayal than what Sebastian is doing to him now.
Joseph pulls his other hand free of the leather glove, and raises his fingers to the curve of Sebastian’s neck.
The first touch has Sebastian shifting in surprise, before he almost immediately leans back into his chair, and closer to Joseph. The action feels almost instinctive, an Joseph doesn’t let himself dwell on the unfamiliar strangeness of Sebastian voluntarily drawing nearer.
“You look tense,” Joseph says, both his hands now resting on Sebastian’s shoulders. He lets his thumb trace the soft surface of Sebastian’s skin for just a moment, before he gently presses into the muscle, letting his fingers rub in a small circle.
With a soft exhale, Sebastian melts into Joseph’s touch, and Joseph can feel his partner relaxing beneath his hands.
A small grin comes to his lips.
“Oh God,” Sebastian breathes.
Joseph’s hands move along the curve of Sebastian’s broad shoulders, slowly and gently unworking the knots in that has developed over days and weeks of tireless work. When his fingers dig into just the right spot, Sebastian lets out a long moan.
“Wow, okay,” Sebastian manages to say, a breath later.
“Is that better?” says Joseph, cocking his head.
His hands gravitate down the groove of Sebastian’s spine, soothing the tense muscles along Sebastian’s back with precise and measured movements. He can feel Sebastian’s body coming loose beneath his hands with each new pain that Joseph finds and gradually unravels.
The sight of Sebastian so pliant and relaxed before him is intoxicating, and Joseph swallows down the lump in his throat, tries not to let his hand stray, to resist following the lines of Sebastian’s musculature to foreign, forbidden territories, hopes that Sebastian does not notice how Joseph’s breath has quickened.
He hits another tender spot, and Sebastian yelps slightly, before the sound melts into a long groan.
Joseph presses his lips together, and focuses on the motion of his hands.
“How are you so good at this?” mumbles Sebastian, his voice a low rumble to Joseph’s ears.
“There’s a lot about me you have yet to find out,” Joseph replies lightly. There’s a challenge to his words Sebastian doesn’t hear.
“Mm,” Sebastian says, his breath hitching as Joseph finds another knot. “I’m starting to see that.”
Joseph can’t resist dragging out the process for as long as he can, carefully working away at the tense strands of muscle until there is not a single hint of tension in the pieces of Sebastian he’s allowed to touch.
On some days, the gloves he's taken to wearing feel like a part of him, and somewhere along the blur of routine Joseph had almost forgotten the sensation of what it’s like to touch freely. The rhythm of Sebastian’s pulse, the texture of Sebastian’s skin, the worn fabric of his shirt. Without a layer of leather to dull his senses, each new point of contact is thrown into sharp relief.
He misses this. He misses Sebastian, Joseph realises all over again, even though he’s not sure how he can miss something he’s never really had.
Soon, Sebastian is relaxed in his chair, eyes closed and head drooping like a sleepy lion.
Joseph’s movements slow, then still, and he finds he can’t bring himself to move away. So he stays there, for just a while, rubbing small circles into the nape of Sebastian’s neck.
He thinks about how easy it would be to nudge Sebastian for a kiss, a teasing tap to the chin, and Sebastian’s head would turn. His eyes would be hazy, bright. Every part of Sebastian is pliant beneath him. It would be so simple to close that distance between them, and let their lips meet in a lazy, lingering kiss.
So he leans in as close as he dares, and murmurs into Sebastian’s ear.
“Go home, Sebastian, you should get some rest.”
The feelings have been there for as long as he can remember, buried beneath layers of case files and forgotten ashes, hidden behind sharply pressed suits, the printed lines of a notebook, the black leather of his favourite gloves.
He lets his hand linger a moment against the warmth of Sebastian’s skin, before he steps away.
Slumped in his chair, Sebastian stares blankly at his computer screen, his features illuminated by the pale glow.
Joseph doesn’t know what Sebastian’s thinking, he rarely does these days. One after the other, he carefully pulls his gloves back on, and picks up the files which sat forgotten on Sebastian’s desk.
“I think you’re right,” says Sebastian suddenly, his voice cutting through the silence.
Joseph allows himself a tiny smile. He walks back to his own workspace, and gathers his coat and belongings to leave.
“Then I’ll see you on Monday.”
This time, Sebastian meets Joseph’s eyes, and Joseph thinks he’s not imagining the gratitude he sees there, maybe even affection, and something more he can’t quite place.
Sebastian nods, and then there is only the sound of Joseph’s footsteps as he walks away.