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Set during That Scene in Victory of Eagles, lines in italics are from the book.

Laurence covered his face with his hands a moment, and shut his eyes against the filtered reddish light. There was movement behind him and then a hand touched his shoulder.

“Forgive me,” Tharkay said, “I did not meant to…”

“Upset me?” Laurence breathed a damp huff of laughter.

“No, I suppose I did mean to do that.” The bitter irony was not quite gone from his voice. A rustle of cloth, as he crouched down by Laurence’s chair. Laurence held his breath, hardly knowing why, and then felt lips brush light as a moth’s wing against his wet cheek.

The last barrier broke within him: keeping his eyes shut, he reached blindly for the back of Tharkay’s neck and angled their mouths together, letting the heat of the kiss chase out the jagged frozen thing he had spent the last weeks cultivating in place of his heart. Choice, he thought, all the terrifying liberty…

It was Tharkay who first broke away, leaning their foreheads together and then sitting back entirely and rising to his feet. Laurence opened his eyes reluctantly, braced for scorn, and blinked at what he saw in the other man’s usually-composed face.

“I would be taking advantage, I think,” Tharkay said, and Laurence could hardly argue with him. He hesitated, then seemed to add despite himself: “Only I wish you’d promise that you shall not value yourself so lightly, Laurence, letting them destroy you at their pleasure…”

Laurence gazed up at him, still trembling with newly-awakened sensation, like a man called back from the dead. After a moment, “Very well,” he said, and went out, leaving the orders upon the table.

--

Prompt: Laurence/Tharkay + handjobs, Tharkay receiving

Laurence's hand was clumsy but his eyes were utterly intent and it was their expression that left Tharkay undone; that and the tiny smile of triumph when Laurence succeeded at wringing a moan from him. He let his head drop back in wanton invitation, eyes sliding shut as he felt warm lips at his throat, almost chaste.

Was it mere moments ago that they had been arguing about the morality of transportation? Tharkay had become used by now to how irresistible he found Laurence when he grew heated and shed some of his ironclad English reserve, and used, so he'd thought, to hiding it; so nothing could have surprised him more than in midsentence to find himself pushed back against the bulkhead with Laurence's body hard against him. Laurence seemed almost as surprised -- nearly panicked -- but he was not moving away.

From somewhere within himself, Tharkay had summoned up his last reserves of challenge and lifted an eyebrow. "Well?" It was the last full word he managed from some time.

Laurence's callused fingers once more dragged sweetly against his skin and then he was falling, drowning in pleasure, sagging back in the bulkhead. Somehow his shirt was open as well as his breeches, while Laurence looked almost as neatly pressed as ever. Almost.

"Give me a moment," Tharkay gasped, "and I gladly shall return the favour." And Laurence actually ducked his head and blushed, murmuring some polite demurral.

God help me, Tharkay thought, reaching for him, but I belong to this man now, body and soul, just as though it had not already been true.

 

Chapter Text

4.01 "People don't know how you feel unless you tell them."

"...And he said that he wanted to quit, of all things, and I told him that between us we make one half-decent policeman."

Laura Hobson put her head in her hands. "And you think that’s sorted it."

"He wasn’t talking about leaving after that. We went for breakfast."

"Of course you did." She’d had several cocktails in quick succession – having insisted that Lewis pay for them – and looked flushed and pretty in the dim light. "Look, this really isn’t in my remit, but you do realise that if the two of you had ever managed to talk it through, your Sargeant would never have been off fraternising with the poor man’s Julia Flyte?"

It took him a moment to attempt to untangle that. "Because?"

"Because," Laura said, "he’d have been fraternising with you. You silly man."

Lewis blinked at her. "I think I need another drink."

"And then you’ll go talk to Hathaway? Properly?"

In lieu of answer, he picked up his wallet and went over to the bar.

"I’ll bankrupt you in cocktails if you don’t!" Laura called after him.

--

4.02 - "Robbie will sort him out."

They don’t go so far as to actually talk about it, of course – they’ve both been policemen long enough to know that it’s no use, no point saying you did your best or at least you saved her. The murders are solved and they’ve both come out of it in one piece, and tomorrow, that will be enough.

For now there’s the laughter getting gradually easier, and Lewis’s hand on Hathaway’s back as he brings in the pints, his neck straightening from its miserable hunch. Later, they go back to Lewis’s flat to watch whatever’s on the telly, and Robbie looks over to see that James has fallen asleep against the sofa cushions, his mouth half-open, and feels a wave of fondness that he can neither define nor express.

--

4.03 "It's only because I care."

"Oh, my darling," Hathaway was saying tenderly, "never leave me again."

Lewis hung up his coat behind the door. "I was only gone for dinner."

Hathaway looked up from his guitar, smirking up at him. "With Laura?"

"Yes. And before you ask, she did book two rooms."

"She’s a clever woman, Dr. Hobson." He played a note, adjusted the tuning, stretched his fingers into a chord.

Lewis fetched a beer from the kitchen and dropped down onto the sofa next to him, sighing. "Look, I would have told her, if she had got the wrong idea. It’s just – it’s early days."

"We’re not attached at the hip," Hathaway agreed.

"And I’m allowed to have friends."

"Of course you are, sir."

Lewis debated leaning over, though it was encouraging bad behaviour, but Hathaway beat him to it. He pulled back before the instrument could be crushed between them. "You found my guitar," he murmured, with a smile that wasn’t mocking at all. "I’d say that deserves a reward."

"I imagine it does," Lewis said, heart speeding up despite himself.

By way of answer, James adjusted the guitar in his arms, half-shut his eyes, and began picking out a Purcell motif. After a moment, Lewis resigned himself to finishing his drink and listened, not feeling lonely at all.

--

4.04 - "Falling Darkness"

The three of them stayed at the Trout through dinner and until last orders, talking idly about work gossip and the latest Sunday-night period drama; then Laura called herself a taxi, refusing their offers of a ride home.

“I’ll have to fend for myself eventually,” she said. “I’m a big girl; I know how to ask for help if I need it.” She kissed them both on the cheek and left, with something near her usual confident stride.

Lewis and Hathaway fell silent after she’d gone, nursing the remains of their last pints. “I like Dr. Hobson,” Hathaway said abruptly. “I’m sorry I thought—”

“Yeah,” Lewis said, “me, too.”

“And if the two of you ever,” he added, staring down into the depths of his glass, “I mean, that would be...”

“It isn’t like that,” Lewis interrupted. “We’re friends, old friends. And hold on a minute, are you giving us your blessing?”

“No. I’m not.” James looked up: his face was carefully blank, but his eyes were bright and focused. “I was going to say, if you did, I’d try and be happy for you, because I do think that you need someone. But I don't think it should be Dr. Hobson.”

Lewis snorted, to cover his confusion. “Laura can do better.”

“She could,” Hathaway agreed, turning the empty glass in his hands. “She was the one who first saw it, actually. After the Monkford case. She told me, you’re in love with him, aren’t you, and I couldn’t think of any way to deny it, so I knew it had to be true.”

He looked up to find Lewis watching him with that familiar look of puzzled fondness. “That was over a year ago.”

“Oh. Right.” The lights came on abruptly; beside them, the barman was turning chairs upside-down. “The pub’s closing, sir,” Hathaway said, a little desperately. “We came in separate cars.” Then Lewis touched his arm, just above the wrist where he'd rolled his sleeves up, and all the breath went out of him.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t drive them both over to mine,” Lewis said evenly. “To talk. If that’s what you want.”

“I, yes.” And then, rallying a little, “I mean, that isn’t exclusively...”

The fondness shaded from puzzled to exasperated, and that was familiar, too. “Get your coat. And, no, don’t say it.”

“If you promise not to use the phrase setting your cap at, sir,” Hathaway said, giddy, and followed him out into the night.

--

5.02 - "Wild Justice"

Long after the sun had set, Hathaway followed him to his doorstep. He’d been silent on the walk, hunched into himself with his hands in his pockets; Lewis wondered if he was trying to quit smoking again.

“You know,” James said abruptly. “If I took that fellowship. At St. Gerard’s.”

Lewis frowned, turning back from the door. “I thought you’d decided—”

“I meant what I said.” He sounded as though every phrase was being pulled out of him with pincers. “But if I were to take it, this...If we were to...It wouldn’t be inappropriate.”

Lewis sucked in a breath. It wasn’t something they talked about – the way Hathaway’s looks sometimes lingered too long or too warmly, the way his own heart sped up when he noticed, how the anticipation of a bone-dry remark might help him get out of bed in the morning. It lay between them, unspoken and unacknowledged, and he’d never had the guts to confront it head-on.

“Is that why you never—”

Hathaway shrugged, a movement that seemed to involve his entire body. “You’re my boss. I’m meant to be an improving influence on you.”

He was surprised into smiling. “I’m not sure that’s exactly how it works.”

Hathaway sobered. “I want it to work. I don’t care if there’s nothing else, I’d rather... That’s why I decided to stay if you stayed.”

Before he’d fully thought it through, Lewis found himself asking, “And if it was both?”

“Sir...” he said quietly, and stopped, staring down at his shoes. Lewis looked at him in the light of the street-lamp, the lanky length of him, awkwardly lovely. The tips of his ears had gone pink.

“Come in,” Lewis offered, pushing open the door. “Have a night-cap, or a cuppa, or...”

Hathaway’s head came up, looking honestly surprised. There was some satisfaction in that, at least. “I’d like that,” he said, with almost no breath behind it, and followed him in.

Lewis didn’t bother turning the light on, but he still fussed in the kitchen with mugs and tea-bags, until James took the box out of his hands and set it aside. His kisses were light and exploratory, hands hovering before settling at Lewis’s waist: dipping down and then pulling back, amazed and bright-eyed. When he said Lewis’s name, it was a startling intimacy and a question both.

“Yes,” Lewis said, tugging him down again, surprised by the rightness of it, all the colours of the sunset blooming against his closed eyes.

--

2.04 – The Great and the Good

“I’m not going to stand by and watch you do this to yourself.”

It was nearly dawn by the time he managed to persuade Lewis to leave that miserable basement, and only because he couldn’t keep his eyes open as he shuffled through the papers. They hadn’t found anything.

Lewis winced audibly, getting to his feet, and Hathaway kept a hand on his elbow, guiding out of the house and into the car. Lewis was too wrung-out to shake him off. “Do you need to take your tablets?” Hathaway asked, but there was no response.

The ten-minute drive was long enough for Lewis to fall asleep, huddled miserably in the passenger seat. Hathaway had to nearly carry him to the door, stopping to fish the keys out of his coat pocket, and deposit him in the bedroom. Lewis woke up enough to sit up on the bed, half out of his jacket, murmuring something in annoyance; James found himself kneeling in front of him, untying his shoes. Feeling profoundly foolish, he got up and retreated to the door: watched Lewis curl in on himself, taking up one side of the bed in which Valerie Lewis had never slept, neatly made up with blue-and-white sheets. Oswald Cooper had been right about one thing: this wasn’t a home. There was no one to lie in the empty space by him, to touch and to comfort.

Hathaway shut the door behind himself softly and detoured into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of beer from the fridge, taking that liberty at least. As he hunted in the drawer for the bottle-opener, he found that his own hands were shaking.

He felt helpless and useless – worse than useless, like the eunuch in the harem. There wasn’t anything he could offer that might be accepted.

The bedroom door opened behind him, spilling a rectangle of dim light into the hall. Lewis stood there, rumpled and soft-eyed, his voice gone gravelly with exhaustion. “I never said thank you.”

“Oh God, sir, don’t thank me,” James said desperately. “Try and get some rest.”

One side of his mouth curved up, with a ghost of humour. “What a mother hen you are.”

He put down the beer bottle and took the few steps into the hall, taking Lewis by the shoulders. Here, in the darkness, it seemed possible to do this – impossible not to do it. “I want to take care of you,” he said, his head down, talking fast. “You need someone to take care of you.” And she’s gone. And I don’t know how. “I wish you’d let me.”

He bent down and kissed him hard, over too soon to register much but his own urgency. They could forget about it in the morning. This was unbearable. Releasing Lewis, he nearly ran out of the house, and did not stop to think until his car passed the skip still parked at the end of the road.

Chapter Text

"When I care about someone"

Finch is asleep at his desk when John gets to the library, awkwardly contorted with his head pillowed on his arms next to the keyboard. He’s been asleep long enough that the computers have locked and the monitors shut down, so John can’t see what he was working on all night, but he would bet that Finch is still trying to figure out the purpose of the virus targeting the Machine. His glasses are off, neatly folded on the desk beside him.

John has been waiting for this – even before Stanton, before the rooftop, ever since Root took Harold and threatened to return for him. He’s been waiting, but there hasn’t been the opportunity – Finch has always been alert around him, first watching for any hints of coddling and then just his usual guardedness, as much a part of him as the exquisitely-tailored suits. Which isn’t to say that sometimes – increasingly often, if he’s honest – John hasn’t entertained fantasies of how he might manage to get that guard down, long enough to plant the bug and more besides. But if the worst happens, if Root returns, fantasy won't be enough.

Moving carefully, he picks up the glasses from the table, opens them, takes out the little box he always carries in his jacket pocket. It takes less than a minute before he’s able to set the glasses down again, impossibly gently, the metal joins momentarily warmed with his touch.

For ninety seconds further, he stands there looking down at Harold – the faint frown on his sleeping face, the shallow rise and fall of his breathing. He’ll be in pain when he wakes up. John’s own limbs ache with longing and inaction; before he leaves to buy tea and donuts, he touches the glasses again, just once, and tells himself that that’s enough.

Chapter Text

She wanted Laurent of Vere. His nerves flinching from the first stir of disaster, Nikandros was beginning to understand the Vaskian ambassador at last.

“We hear he is a small man,” Lady Orvit was continuing blithely, “but that is no matter. The Empress’s granddaughter is big and strong; she will breed him fine children.” She had the voice of a staff sergeant; her Akielon paid a complete disregard to any rules of pronunciation but was otherwise quite fluent. Nikandros could not seek refuge in incomprehension.

“My lady,” he began, scrupulously polite, “I do not think it likely…”

“Of course,” Orvit went on, taking a pomegranate from a decorative bowl and splitting it between her hands, “your own new King too is unwed. For him also, we can get a good Vaskian bride. Broad chest, broad hips.” She motioned expressively with the pomegranate halves. “But it is with Vere that we require an alliance.”

A barely-remembered fragment of prayer, something from Nikandros’s childhood, rose up in his mind. “I fear,” he said. “While the friendship of the Empire would be most welcome, I fear that neither the King of Akielos nor the King of Vere has any intention of marriage at present.” 

“On the contrary,” said a light voice from the door, because it had clearly been far too long since Nikandros’s last hecatomb, and he was being punished accordingly. The newcomer greeted Orvit in the Vaskian manner before coming to sit on one of the newly-installed thrones, a leg extended casually before him. He looked perfectly composed, dark laced clothing making no concessions to the summer heat; only his face was still a little pale. He had probably come directly from the sickroom, where Damianos was loudly protesting that he was fine even as he winced whenever his stitches pulled.

“On the contrary,” said Laurent of Vere, “I believe that we will see a wedding very soon.”

Chapter Text

“You took,” David Cyprian said, with what he considered admirable calm, “the infant. To White’s.”

“We weren’t there for very long,” Mr. Harry put in helpfully, “not after she bit Freddy Featherstonehaugh. She hasn’t any teeth yet, so I really don’t see why he took such umbrage.”

Whereupon David was really forced to let them know what he thought of their entire string of conduct. No one objected to his un-servantlike tone; they looked, in fact, about as chastened as it was possible for a group of very well-dressed gentlemen to look. Primarily well-dressed: Mr. Norreys had a stain of lurid yellow-green hue on his new coat for which David could not be sorry.

“But no thanks to any of you,” he concluded, “the situation has been brought under control. The child’s parents are in a coach home from Scotland, and a nursemaid from the Cirencester household will tend to it until they arrive. Where is it now?”

“Upstairs, sleeping. I think,” Lord Gabriel volunteered.

“You aren’t certain?”

“When it isn’t asleep,” Mr. Webster said drily, “it generally has ways of letting us know.” All of them had the somewhat drawn appearance that David usually associated with the morning after a rout.

He went upstairs, mentally reassembling himself into the image of a valet. No harm had been done that couldn’t be smoothed over: perhaps they might need to decamp to Arrandene for a while, but Lady Sarah was safely – if retroactively – married, and White’s could hardly refuse entry permanently to some of the brightest sparks of the ton. Passing the first-floor bedrooms on his way to the servants’ quarters where he assumed the infant was being housed, David heard something: a faint low murmur, and then a baritone voice raised in song. Lord Richard’s dressing room: Richard’s voice.

He slipped through the door silently, drawn as though by a magnet, and stood listening. It was, in truth, dreadful singing, wavering in and out of tune: “I gave my love a cherry that had no stone. I gave my love a chicken that had no bone. I gave my love…some other gift for which he had no use whatsoever, lullay lullay.”

David knew, of course, that suckling infants were not large, and yet he felt utterly unprepared for how diminutive one might look cradled in Richard’s powerful arms. He was sitting in an armchair with his shoulders slightly hunched, ruining the line of his coat, as though to better protect her, and her fist was wrapped around his smallest finger. She seemed to be asleep but Richard did not stop singing, a soft wordless hum.

Any moment now, he would stop, and look up, and David would need to compose himself and tell his master everything he’s done – nearly everything -- and the arrangements that had been made. Any moment now. He stood there waiting while the light dimmed, and thought that perhaps he owed Lord Gabriel an apology.