"Tell me you're not serious." Hathaway was leaning on the doorframe of the bedroom, sending him that look he saved for when Lewis had done something especially moronic. "You really want to discuss this now?"
"Well, when would you like to discuss it?" Lewis countered. "On the flight in front of a load of strangers? Or perhaps in the pew while we're watching Maggie do her vows?"
"I don't see why we have to discuss it at all." Hathaway began sifting through the case-files piled on the kitchen counter, stopping only when he located a mobile charger between an arson from '82 and a kidnapping from '91. "Why can't you just introduce me as my name?"
"You think that's going to satisfy them?" Lewis shuddered. "Those buzzards have been trying to match me up with every parson's daughter and local postmistress they could get their hands on for eight years now! They are going to want to know every single detail about you, and not introducing you as anything gives them just the opportunity they need."
"You know, I never realized it before," Hathaway said, abandoning the charger to sit beside Lewis on the couch, "But you're quite paranoid."
"Please, James," Lewis said, placing a hand on Hathaway's thigh, "Do it for me, eh?"
Hathaway sighed and rolled his eyes. "That's distinctly unfair. Fine. Ten minutes, and then you're finishing your packing, or so help me I will introduce myself to your aged Aunt Edith as your boytoy."
Lewis gave his leg a squeeze. "Thanks, lad. It's a load off my mind."
The corners of Hathaway's mouth quirked up, just a little, before levelling out into his concentrating expression. "Partner. It's completely accurate, with the added bonus of being politically correct."
Lewis shook his head vigorously. "A vague description's worse than none at all. Say something like that and we'll have them buzzing 'round us all night, trying to get at the real story."
Hathaway shook his head, clearly trying not to laugh. "What about companion?"
"Oh no, I draw the line at companion. Doddering old ladies in nursing homes have companions, not me."
Hathaway sighed wistfully. "Too many sponge bath jokes, not enough time."
He dodged Lewis's halfhearted punch to the arm. "How about sweetie pie? My first and only girlfriend used to call me that. Then again, she also used to eat paste, so perhaps not the best role model."
"Look, if you don't have any proper suggestions..." Lewis began, but Hathaway cut him off.
"Well, give me a minute," Hathaway protested. "It's hardly something I have to think about terribly often, is it?" He tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. "What about paramour?"
"Look, I know we're grasping at straws a bit, but surely we don't have to resort to French."
"Al right, no French, what about Italian? Hathaway ventured. "I've always rather fancied inamorato."
"Inamorato?" Lewis only just resisted the impulse to smack himself in the forehead. "Say that a few times and you'll have them thinking you're some kind of fancy Italian prostitute."
"Still not English enough, got it." Hathaway looked thoughtful for a moment before his face was transformed by a beatific smile as he announced, "Swain!"
"Damn it, James, this is a serious inquiry!" Lewis insisted. "If you're just going to make things up..."
"To the dear mistress of my love sick mind, her swain a pretty present has designed," Hathaway interjected. "Dryden translating Vergil."
"Who does that make me, then?" Lewis demanded, "Your dear mistress? I'm sure they'd love that down the station.
"Oh come on, what's that old American saying? You know the one - you can call me anything you like, as long as you call me."
"For a man who has to face down a battalion of potentially angry relatives, I must say you're in an awfully fey mood," Lewis observed.
Hathaway swung his feet up onto Lewis's lap and grinned when they were batted back down again. "Surely it's appropriate for a man who gets to spend a long weekend in the Lake District ensconced in a cottage with his...boyfriend?"
"I'm not a boy," Lewis objected, "And more to the point, neither are you. Well, unless people are comparing you to me."
"Oh, stop it." Hathaway leaned over to give him a quick peck on the lips. "You know I hate it when you talk like that."
Lewis couldn't suppress a smile. "You have to admit, it's a bit ridiculous. Lad like you and an old codger like me. People are bound to talk."
"What's ridiculous," Hathaway retorted, "Is that we are leaving for this wedding in..." He checked his watch, "forty -five minutes, and instead of finishing your packing, you are actually forcing me to debate this with you."
He tilted his head to the side, as he always did when a new angle on a problem occurred to him. "Hang on, is that your master plan, then? Force people to talk about how you missed the wedding instead of who you went to it with?"
"No!" Lewis said defensively, before muttering, "But only because I didn't think of it first..."
Hathaway threw up his hands and flung himself off the couch and down the hall, presumably, judging by the sounds of rustling fabric, to work on the aforementioned packing.
"Beloved!" Hathaway shouted from the other room.
"Oh for Christ's sake, we're not in Ancient Greece!" Lewis shouted in return.
"If we were, we wouldn't be having this problem." Hathaway returned with two button -down shirts. "Now, the meet -and -greet: blue or green?"
Lewis considered. "Green. Goes with your eyes."
Hathaway's gaze flicked up in surprise. Then he smiled, and Lewis felt his stomach flip. Christ, he was beautiful. Occasionally they would spend so much time together that he would forget to notice for a little while, before it would strike him anew all over again.
"Lover," Hathaway suggested, retreating back into the bedroom. "Certainly not for little old ladies in nursing homes."
"I'm a grown man!" Lewis exclaimed, "If I say that, I'm liable to go as red as my carnation!"
Hathaway let out a frustrated shout. "Honestly, is there even a right answer to this question in your mind?" Lewis could feel the change in the room - that sudden drop in barometric pressure right before the thunder hits. "I've given you several reasonable suggestions and, failing that, several more absurd ones, and you seem equally disinclined to accept any of them."
"All right, then," Lewis challenged. Turning things around seemed much easier than acknowledging he might, indeed, have been over-reacting. "We're popping away for a weekend with your family; how do you introduce me?"
Lewis could see all the muscles in Hathaway's jaw tighten. When he finally spoke, his voice was dangerously quiet. "I wouldn't. Because...we wouldn't. Or are we supposing for the sake of this exercise that I'm you, and I have the luxury of being able to introduce my family to the person I love?"
Shit. The first rumblings of thunder. "Look, James, you don't have to..."
"Oh no, let's keep playing. It's such an enjoyable game. Let me see, I could say, 'Hello again, Cousin So -And -So, this is James Hathaway, my sergeant with whom I am engaged in a monogamous relationship, emotionally and sexually, we are very happy, can I get you some more punch?' "
Lewis attempted to interject, but Hathaway would not be stopped.
"I know - why don't you just go on your own? It'll save you having to explain anything about our apparently utterly inexplicable relationship." His peace said, Hathaway stormed into the bedroom and slammed the door before Lewis could say another word.
Shit, shit, shit. He'd really done it this time. "Good going, Robbie," he muttered to himself, "Make the best thing you've got going think that your bloody insecurities are his fault. Expertly done, as always."
Lewis took a deep breath for courage before approaching the door. "Come on, lad," he shouted. He confirmed his assumption that the door was, in fact, locked before continuing, "I shan't have even a moment's fun if you're not there, and we both know it. Don't deprive yourself of a weekend with Wordsworth just because I'm a bloody fool."
The door swung open with a suddenness that made Lewis jump back a pace. "You don't think I'm worried about it?" It churned Lewis' stomach to see the fear on his partner's face. "That your family's going to get one look at me and think 'Well, I wonder what he's in it for?' Frankly, I find it a little terrifying. I just...didn't think you did."
"I don't!" Lewis protested instinctively. Upon seeing the look Hathaway sent him, he amended it to, "I mean, not really. Not in any way that means anything."
"Look." He reached for Hathaway's hand - he vaguely remembered this to be protocol for romantic speeches - and was relieved that the other man gave it without protest.
"I know I'm a querulous old sod - don't know why you put up with me most of the time - but the fact of the matter is that you make me happier than I've been in a long time. As far as I'm concerned, so as long as I've got you with me this weekend, nothing else matters. Period."
Hathaway stared at him unblinkingly for a few beats. Then his lips were on Lewis's and Lewis felt the knot in his stomach untie itself, to be replaced by an entirely different sensation.
"I'll go," Hathaway said breathily, pulling back with a smirk. "But only because you said querulous."
"You're a strange one, you are," Lewis marveled, both at Hathaway's words and the fact that he had somehow managed to finish packing all of their bags in the middle of their tiff.
"But that's what you love about me," Hathaway said, the smirk having metamorphosed into a grin, as he hauled the bags into the foyer.
"I shan't deny it," Lewis said, grasping his bag with his right hand and winding his left around Hathaway's waist. "Are we ready, then?"
"That depends." Hathaway's grin dimmed just a little. "Have you decided how you're introducing me?"
"Yes," Lewis said. He realized with surprise that somewhere in all that a decision had been made. "I have, actually."
"Don't keep me in suspense." With his typical grace, Hathaway managed to pick up the other bags one-handed and maneuver them both out the door as he spoke.
"Date," Lewis said proudly, opening the trunk. "Clean and simple."
"Works for me," Hathaway said. "And if someone asks you when we're not conveniently at a wedding?"
"I'll tell them that what I am to you or you to me is nobody's bloody business but ours. We're each other's, and that's all there is to it."
"You know," Hathaway said, turning from the car to wrap both arms around Lewis' neck, "If you keep saying things that make me want to kiss you, we'll miss our flight, and this whole thing will have been for naught."
"I find myself strangely all right with that," Lewis said, tugging him down for a kiss. It's not like there wouldn't be another flight to Newcastle in a few hours. Perhaps they'd best take one in the morning, just to be on the safe side.