"A dating site, sir?" Hathaway said, leaning over his shoulder.
Lewis jumped. "Damn it, Hathaway," he snapped. "Do you have to creep up on people like that?"
"I'll try to walk more noisily in future," Hathaway said agreeably.
"You do that."
"So, what's this about?" Hathaway asked, a nice open ended question, obviously designed to get the suspect to volunteer information.
"None of your business." Lewis peered at the screen. "What are you still doing here anyway? I thought you'd left hours ago."
"I thought the same thing about you, sir. But when there was no answer at your flat I came back here."
Lewis frowned. "I might have just been out; did you ever think about that?"
"I did think of it. But then I dismissed the possibility."
"You think you know everything about me, don't you?"
"Not everything, sir. For example, I didn't know you frequented internet dating sites."
Lewis sighed in mingled exasperation and embarrassment. "I don't," he said. "It was my daughter's idea. She thinks it's been long enough since…you know… She doesn't believe me when I tell her I'm happy enough."
"She's worried about me being all alone."
"Well, you're not alone, are you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've got me, sir."
"It's hardly the same thing, is it?"
"I don't know. Are you lonely?"
"Sometimes," Lewis sighed. He probably wouldn't have admitted that to anyone else, but Hathaway wasn't anyone else.
Hathaway didn't say anything. Lewis's confession hung in the air. He pretended to be absorbed in reading the words on the screen. After a few moments Hathaway just said, "Hence the dating site."
Lewis poked at the tab key and sighed loudly in frustration. "I can't even navigate around the site properly. Why do these things have to be so bloody complicated, anyway?"
"Let me have a look," Hathaway suggested, reaching over Lewis's shoulder and taking control of the mouse. This close he smelt faintly of some no doubt expensive cologne. Lewis realised the scent was familiar; he associated it with Hathaway, even though he'd never consciously taken note of it.
"Ah, see, you have to provide a log in, first," Hathaway said.
"And how exactly do I do that?"
"Well first you have to fill in a form with your personal details, probably so they can find someone who is a match for you."
"What's wrong with doing things the old fashioned way?"
"Got to move with the times, sir."
"Who says?" Lewis grumbled, but he obediently, if reluctantly, started entering his details, conscious that Hathaway was hovering over his shoulder. "Haven't you got anywhere better to be?" he said, looking up at Hathaway.
Hathaway looked back blandly. "Nope," he said, pursing his lips and shaking his head solemnly.
"It's Christmas Eve, man!"
"I'm aware of that."
"Shouldn't you be with family about now?"
Hathaway didn't answer. When Lewis looked up at him again, Hathaway was smiling down at him in that irritatingly enigmatic way he sometimes had.
"Well, stop looming like that," he snapped. "Pull up a chair if you're helping."
"It's late, sir, we've had a long day, and as you said, it's Christmas Eve. Why don't I take you home and if you like, I can help you finish setting up your account there?"
"Yes sir. Usually you have to pay to use these sites."
"How do you know so much about it?"
"I don't know much about the specifics, sir. Just what's general knowledge."
"It can't be that general," Lewis grumbled. "I didn't know it."
Lewis looked at Hathaway out of the corner of his eye. Hathaway's face was a picture of innocence. "You're not fooling anyone, you know."
"No, sir." Hathaway shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. He hadn't taken his coat off when he arrived; his cheeks were flushed in the warmth of the room, and there was a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. It made him look…human. Hathaway quite often looked like he'd just stepped out of some religious text that preached asceticism.
"Come on, then," Lewis said, standing up and grabbing his coat. He had to reach past Hathaway to do so, as Hathaway didn't step out of the way, merely continued to watch Lewis inscrutably.
The light dusting of snow that had heralded the start of the day had turned to sludge, and a light, steady rain began to fall just as they reached Hathaway's car.
Hathaway didn't have much to say on the trip back to Lewis's place. It seemed to be understood that Hathaway would be coming in with him, to help with the website. Neither of them mentioned that Lewis could probably finish up himself, now that Hathaway had got him started, or that it wasn't something that necessarily had to get done tonight. Or at all, really. Lewis had only been checking out sites so that he could tell his daughter that he had, so that they could both feel that he had tried. Lewis stared unseeingly out of the window at the light from street lamps reflecting off the wet roads, the occasional splashes of colour from traffic lights and neon signs. He looked at his reflection in the car mirror. The reflection looked haggard. Worn out.
It wasn't until Hathaway was poking through his cds with easy familiarity while Lewis unearthed a bottle of red and got out the plate of home made mince pies Hobson had presented him with a few days ago, that Lewis remembered that Hathaway had said he'd stopped by Lewis's flat earlier. Apparently he really didn't have anything better to do, which Lewis couldn't decide whether to be grateful or sorry for, so he settled on both.
The music started up. Hathaway had chosen a compilation of soothing classical violin pieces, nothing Christmas themed, thankfully, and was sitting on the couch poking at his Blackberry. Lewis put the mince pies and the bottle on the coffee table, then joined him on the couch and handed him a glass of the wine.
Hathaway looked up. "Yum," he said, and helped himself to a mince pie, then went back to whatever he was doing on his Blackberry. Lewis stared into his wine. He hadn't so much as put up a piece of tinsel in five years – he hadn't had anything to celebrate. Nevertheless, he couldn't help dwelling on what he was missing.
"I am not."
Lewis sighed. "Maybe a little," he admitted.
"Right, sir," Hathaway said. "Why don't we finish setting you up? That'll either take your mind off it, or depress you even further."
"Oh, good," Lewis said dryly.
"I've finished entering your details. You are a 6'2" Clive Owen look alike who likes surfing and long romantic walks on the beach."
Was he serious? "Give me that," Lewis said exasperatedly, reaching for the Blackberry.
Hathaway held it out of his reach easily with his long gangly arm. He was laughing. "I'm joking," he said. Lewis scowled at him. He abandoned his attempt to grab the infernal device and poured himself another glass. He topped up Hathaway's while he was at it.
"Male or female?"
"You have to specify whether you're looking for a man or a woman."
"Isn't that discriminatory?"
"What if someone's looking for both?"
Hathaway raised his eyebrows at him. He didn't need to say anything. Lewis grimaced. "I mean either. Looking for either. If they were, you know…?"
"If they were what?"
"Don't start that again," Lewis said, vividly reminded of that embarrassing and uncomfortable conversation in the car. "If they were, you know, bi-sexual."
"Well, I guess they could fill out two profiles," Hathaway said, his voice oddly neutral. "Is that what they want me to do for them?"
Lewis nearly choked on his wine. "What?"
Hathaway was looking at him, his mouth quirked downwards. Lewis suddenly got the sinking feeling that they were about to have that conversation again; in fact, looking at Hathaway's completely blank expression, Lewis was beginning to suspect that they'd never stopped having it.
But why? Why was Hathaway bringing it up now, after all these months? When Lewis had told Hathaway it was none of his business, he'd meant it – had never given it another thought.
Well, not never given it another thought. It had crossed his mind occasionally, the way Hathaway looked at him sometimes, as though Lewis were the only person in the room, even when they were in a crowd. The fact that Hathaway seemed content to spend most of his time off in Lewis's company. Sought him out, even.
And since he was thinking it about now, if he was honest, it wasn't just Hathaway. Since that conversation Lewis had found himself noticing the way Hathaway's hair shone gold when the sun came out, creating a halo effect; noticing the fine bones of his wrists when he handed something to Lewis; watching his elegant hands on a keyboard. Even the way he slouched casually against whatever vertical surface was handy at the time – well, Lewis was way too old to be thinking that was in any way cool or, god help him, sexy.
Lewis had quite firmly decided to ignore the whole thing; it was a bit late in life to be having that sort of epiphany, thank you very much, and whatever Hathaway was feeling – what Lewis suspected he was feeling, well, he was young, it wouldn't last. He'd get over it soon enough. As would Lewis.
"No, thank you," he said finally, aware that he'd taken too long to respond. Hathaway was staring at him narrowly.
"Look, let's forget all this," he said, waving his hand in the direction of the Blackberry Hathaway was still holding. "We both know I'm not going to meet someone through the computer. It was a stupid idea. I have no idea why I agreed to even try it."
Because you're lonely.
The words hung in the air between them, unspoken.
Well, so what? It wasn't the end of the world. He'd meet someone when the time was right.
Someone appropriate, he thought, as he realised that they'd nearly finished the bottle between them and that Hathaway had at some point changed his position so that his body was completely angled towards Lewis.
Then Hathaway kissed him. Was kissing him. Was pressing wet, wine-flavoured lips to Lewis's.
God, it had been too long if a simple kiss could cause such a tumult of sensation. It was tempting to just go with it, kiss back, blame the wine and his mood, and Hathaway for starting it.
But he was too old to give in to impulse, to just take what he wanted and make excuses later, so he turned his face from the kiss and said, "No, Jim."
Hathaway didn't try to push the issue. Lewis had known he wouldn't. Hathaway always did the right thing. The correct thing. Except when he didn't.
He was tempted to just get up and go to bed. Hathaway knew where the blankets were kept – he had an open invitation to sleep on the couch when he'd had too much to drink. He knew that if he did that Hathaway would never mention it again. He should do that.
Lewis made the mistake of looking at Hathaway. Hathaway was biting his thumbnail, but when Lewis looked at him, he dropped his hand to his lap.
"I'm sure you have a list of very important reasons why we shouldn't do this," Hathaway said quickly, as though he'd been waiting a long time to say it, and was afraid he wouldn't be allowed to finish. "Just so you know, I have been thinking about this for ages and I'm not going to accept any excuse that involves age, wisdom or experience."
"Oh, you're not," Lewis said.
"No," Hathaway said calmly.
"What about our respective positions – we're police officers, partners and I'm your superior officer."
Hathaway nodded. "You're right," he said, solemnly.
Lewis was surprised at how disappointed he was that Hathaway conceded the point so easily.
"I'll request a transfer, if necessary."
"I've thought about it and thought about it, and in the end it's very simple. I care about you. I want you, more than I want to work with you. So if it comes down to a choice, I choose you."
Lewis stared at him, open-mouthed. Hathaway had spoken calmly, rationally, but with a note of such repressed passion that Lewis was left speechless.
"I think before we make any drastic decisions we should know for sure, don't you?" Hathaway said.
Hathaway kissed him again.
Lewis opened up to Hathaway, let Hathaway go for it. Hathaway was clearly desperate for it, for him, and Lewis discovered, not entirely to his surprise, that he was responding to that passion, getting hard. Hathaway had somehow got his shirt buttons undone already and was stroking his chest, his nipples, his throat. Lewis tilted his head back – god, he'd always been sensitive there – and Hathaway responded, breaking the kiss, mouthing across his jaw, kissing his throat, and Lewis groaned because there was a hand stroking his erection through his trousers. Lewis didn't even make the decision to let his legs fall open to give that hand more access. He felt, more than heard, the pleased laugh Hathaway gave, and then Hathaway was moving away. Lewis gasped in protest, opening eyes that he hadn't even realised he'd closed and it was okay, Hathaway wasn't leaving. Hathaway was shifting up. Hathaway was swinging one long leg over Lewis and sliding onto his lap. His hands were on Lewis's chest, his arse resting firmly on Lewis's erection.
Lewis reached up with both hands and caught hold of Hathaway's head. He pulled him down and kissed him. Hathaway melted into him. Hathaway was letting Lewis plunder his mouth, little gasps escaping him and it should have been impossible for such a tall man to fit in his lap but Hathaway seemed to have become boneless, except the part of him that rubbed against Lewis's stomach. Lewis hadn't felt this sense of urgency, this power, for years, and god, Hathaway was right, this was worth it, they were worth it.
Hathaway was pawing at his zipper. Lewis let go of Hathaway's head so he could help him and together they fumbled their trousers open. Hathaway wrapped his long elegant fingers around both their dicks and jerked them both off.
Hathaway came first, groaning heavily, gasping into Lewis's neck, his hand faltering for a minute, then, still with his face pushed into Lewis's neck, he took up the rhythm again, and it didn't take long for Lewis to follow him over the brink, and god, yes, absolutely, he wanted this again, and again, and again.
"I told you so," Hathaway muttered.
"Yes, you did," Lewis said, sliding his arms around Hathaway's back when it became apparent Hathaway wasn't planning on moving any time soon. "You were right."
"Happy Christmas, sir."
"Happy Christmas, Jim."