As soon as he stepped out of the rain and into the half-empty pub, Boyd spotted Tanner sitting at the bar, having a pint of beer. He even felt a momentary rush of displeasure until he remembered that, oh yeah, not the problem after all, and in any case it was none of his business anymore.
He walked up to the bar and sat down on a shiny metal stool next to his former superior. ”Tanner.”
Tanner looked over at him, frowning slightly. ”Yeah?”
”It’s Boyd,” Boyd said testily. It was quite a blow to his ego that Tanner didn’t even remember him... and then he caught on. ”Oh. Sorry.” It was probably beyond rude, but he couldn’t stop himself from saying, ”Jesus, you really can’t...”
”Dim lights. Bad day.”
”Sorry,” he said again, feeling like the world’s biggest oaf.
Tanner smirked. ”And too much to drink.”
Boyd laughed. ”You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” But at least that gentle tease meant that Tanner forgave him the faux pas.
”Just paying you back for being such an insufferable busybody back in the day,” Tanner said.
He spoke in good humour, and yet his comment instantly got Boyd serious again. Maybe he *had* been an insufferable busybody, but he knew he couldn’t have done things differently.
”I’m not about to apologise,” he said. ”If I’d been right, and you had put the men in danger...”
”I wouldn’t do that.”
Boyd gave a thin-lipped smile at the far too familiar words. ”It wouldn’t be you doing it.”
Tanner looked away for a moment, and then gave a deep sigh, returning his gaze to Boyd. As always, it was so steadfast that it was hard to believe anything wrong with his eyes. ”I’m sorry.”
Boyd shrugged. ”As they say, that was in another country, and the wench is most definitely dead.” The bitterness crept into his voice even as he tried to avoid it.
Tanner smiled wryly and raised his glass. ”Since we’ve now trampled all over each other’s issues and had it over with, will you have a drink with me?” When Boyd hesitated, he asked, ”Or was that an unforgivable thing to ask?”
”No. Not at all. And yeah, I’ll have a drink with you.” Boyd called upon the bartender’s attention and glanced at Tanner’s bottle before ordering the same kind. He felt a bit odd mimicking Tanner’s choice, but he didn’t know what else to drink. Types of beer were to him only words; most of them he had never even tasted. But his urge now wasn’t to drink something tasty, just to have an excuse to remain seated where he was.
Tanner spun his own glass slowly between his fingertips. ”So, how are things at the station?”
”Pretty good,” Boyd said, which was the closest he could get to the truth without falling into embarrassing thank yous for the opportunity to work with something he liked so much.
Tanner raised his eyebrows as if expecting more.
”What? You want the full report?”
”Wouldn’t mind it.”
Boyd wondered if this was Tanner’s idea of retirement, listening to the case reports in taverns instead of offices, but then again, if it had been him, he’d probably have asked the same thing. And so he told his former boss the outlines of the newest case, nothing classified of course, but a bit more than the papers said, perhaps. Enough to make this a bit more than just small talk, if still less than police work.
By the end of the evening, Boyd had a few more clues to a tricky murder case and a fluttery feeling in his stomach that had nothing to do with the beer.
”Thanks,” he said, rising from his stool. ”I’ll do what you suggested and hear the kid again.” He shook his head in awe. ”I never would have paid much attention to the bread crumbs without you.”
Tanner shrugged. ”I’ve got a kid of my own. He even eats sandwiches in the loo.”
”Makes cleaning up a chore, I can tell you.” Tanner emptied his drink and stood up as well, leaving a twice folded bank note below his beer glass. ”You’ll tell me how it turns out, yeah?”
”Come by my flat. I’ll most likely be there.”
”Uh, yeah,” Boyd said, fumbling with his jacket. ”I’ll do that.”
He walked away, stopping only once he’d left the pub to look through the window at the man left inside. From this distance, and with the glass between them, he was certain Tanner wouldn’t notice.
He’d never expected to find approval with Tanner, who had been so reserved and disdainful towards him. But now he had his job, and he had an invitation to his *home*...
His fingers briefly touched the glass before he drew them away and from the pub. Best to leave as soon as possible.
Maybe Tanner hadn’t been sincere in his invitation. Boyd didn’t know. But once the case was solved, he found himself searching out that flat. He hesitated with his hand hovering over the entry telephone and then pressed the buttons fast, before he could change his mind.
The voice made him jump. ”Uh... It’s Boyd. We solved the case.”
”I know. You were on the news.”
”Right.” Somehow he hadn’t made the connection between the reporters asking questions, the nine o’clock news, and Tanner watching the news. ”I just thought you’d want to know. If this is a bad time...”
”No, it’s fine.” The door buzzed. ”Come on up.”
Boyd stared at the door for a moment and then hurried to open it before it locked again. He walked up the stairs and found Tanner standing in the doorway, waiting for him.
”The sister, was it?”
”Yes.” He took the last few steps. ”And you were right about the boy – he witnessed the whole thing.”
”Poor lad.” Tanner gestured inside. ”It seems to me like you could use a cup of coffee.”
”Oh, god yes,” Boyd said, the sentiment coming from the bottom of his heart. The thought of sitting down for a while and have a cup of coffee without any worries about missed clues or horrific murders was blissful to him. And that was before he’d even thrown Tanner’s company into the bargain.
They stepped inside, and Boyd frowned at the sound of voices coming from a room further in. ”Do you have visitors?”
”Oh, no, I’m just watching the telly,” Tanner said. ”There’s a film with Demi Moore.”
”Oh.” He followed Tanner into the kitchen and watched him prepare the coffee. Now and then, Tanner’s fingers brushed a surface, searching its edges, but there was none of the awkward fumblings that had caught Boyd’s attention when they first met.
”Do you want me to help out?” he asked.
”No, it’s faster if I do it alone. Tell me about the sister.”
”She did it alone. Slipped out while her boyfriend was asleep. We’re guessing she slipped him something, though she denies it. I doubt it will make much of a difference for the trial.”
Tanner grunted and asked a few more questions. There was a longing in his voice that smarted to hear. A good policeman quitting always seemed a waste to Boyd, and doubly so when it happened at this early age, for such an unnecessary, cruel reason.
They went into the living room with their coffee cups and sat down. Tanner searched out the remote control and asked Boyd, ”Do you want me to turn the telly off?”
”No, keep it on,” Boyd said, seeing uniform-clad actors discussing legal matters. He remembered vaguely seeing this film before. ”It’s relaxing.”
”Are you sure? It’s another murder, after all.”
”Accident, unless I’m mistaken,” he said with a smile. ”And yes, I’m sure.”
”All right, then.” Tanner leaned back, sipping his coffee.
Boyd tried his cup of coffee as well – it was a bit weak, but a lot better than the instant kind they served at the station.
For a while, they both sat there in silence, then Tanner scowled a little and asked, ”Has she changed her clothes?”
”Who?” Somewhat belatedly, Boyd caught on and threw a glance at the telly. ”Oh. Yes.”
”She’s still in uniform though, yeah?”
”Yeah. A khaki one.”
”Right.” There was a moment’s pause, and then Tanner asked in a reluctant tone, ”So what does it look like?”
Boyd gave him a startled glance. The thought of describing a woman’s clothes to another man – and *this* man! –was too strange for words. Still, it had to have cost Tanner to even ask, and so he started tentatively, ”Uh... it’s got short sleeves, and big pockets. Like the other one, but khaki.”
”Uh-huh,” Tanner said dryly.
”I’m not very good at this.”
Tanner clicked his tongue. ”Strange confession from a police detective.”
”That’s a completely different situation.”
”True.” Tanner regarded him in silence briefly, and his gaze, even half-blind, was hard to meet. ”Does this make you uncomfortable?”
”It does, rather. Not the describing things, I’ll be happy to do that, but describing her clothes – it just feels a bit too much like phone sex by proxy.”
”Ah.” Tanner bent his head down. ”I didn’t think of it like that.”
No, I can bet you didn’t, Boyd thought with sudden heat. No reason Tanner would give it a thought; it wasn’t *his* mind that was filled with ideas of proxy-less phone sex. Not since his adolescent years had he even held a wish to describe his clothing to anyone, but now he got a strong urge to do so. Which was completely ridiculous, because he was close enough for Tanner to look for himself, presuming he even cared one way or the other, which he of course didn’t.
Tanner gulped down the last of his coffee and reached out for the remote control. ”Sorry.”
”Don’t.” He reached out himself, not in time to stop Tanner from turning off the telly, but in time to catch his hand on the remote and close around it.
For a moment, there was only those two hands touching, an overwhelming sensation that blanked out the world around them. Then Boyd came to his senses and pulled back, looking away from Tanner so he didn’t have to see his expression.
”I should probably leave,” he said, standing up.
”You don’t have to.”
Tanner’s tone was soft and a bit sad, and it got Boyd’s shackles up. ”I’m not asking for *sympathy*.”
”Fine,” Tanner said with a slight smile, and only then did Boyd realise the full implications of what he’d just said. ”Neither am I.”
Boyd stared at him, unable to even form a coherent thought.
Tanner patted the spot on the sofa next to him. ”Sit down. Have your coffee. And cut out the dramatics – I’m better at it than you are, anyway.”
Boyd bit down the obvious reply - that Tanner had been better at *everything* than he was. Cutting out the dramatics. Right.
”So,” he asked, sitting down, ”does this make *you* uncomfortable?”
Tanner scoffed. ”You’re hardly the first man who ever took a fancy to me.” He twirled his empty coffee cup between his fingers. ”Actually, it explains a lot.”
”Such as?” Boyd asked, aghast. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing he wanted spread around the station.
”Such as why you were so aggravating while we were working together.”
”I was aggravating, as you call it, because I thought I *had to*,” Boyd said sharply, raising his voice. ”We were working on murder investigations. If I had been right, and someone had died... You know, even though I *wasn’t* right, it was a hell of a risk you put us through!”
Tanner nodded slowly. ”I see.”
”You fancy me, but you don’t *like* me very much.”
Boyd clenched his jaw and breathed out hard through his nose, forcing himself to keep quiet. Somehow, he doubted Tanner would be pleased to hear, ’Right now, I could fuck you so hard, keep fucking you and never stop, ever.’
No matter how true it was.