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kilter chapter 2

divingforstones

A Journal of Lewis Fanfic - divingforstones


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kilter chapter 2
divingforstones

Lewis Fic: Impossibilties

Story: Impossibilties
Pairing: James Hathaway/Robbie Lewis
Rating: Teen
Wordcount: 4,878

Summary: They lie there for a while. Side by side. Silent in the waiting darkness.

Notes: With many thanks to wendymr for asking such necessary and very helpful questions and for all her help and thorough beta-reading in general with this fic. As always, much appreciated.

This is set shortly after Season 6.



Impossibilties:



Afterwards, Robbie couldn’t have said what had roused him so abruptly. It certainly wasn’t any sound from James. But he wakes as suddenly and completely as if his phone had called him urgently to the body of some poor soul found in the worst dark hours of a winter’s night. And he’s sitting upright on the side of his bed, clicking on his bedside lamp, feeling with one foot for his slippers, before reason catches up with instinct, before he has any clear memory that his sergeant is here tonight, sleeping on Robbie’s couch.

Or rather, as Robbie sees, leaving his bedroom for the dimmer transition of his interior hall, not sleeping.

There’s a beckoning line of brightness under the closed door to Robbie’s living room, its footprint reaching across the wooden floor. And when Robbie shoulders the door open, the overhead light is shining, making an oasis of the couch and the coffee table amid the darker shadows of the kitchen and the rest of his open-plan space. Making a mockery, with its soft domestic touch, of the crime scene photographs and the papers with their stark descriptions, in his own hand and in James’s, spread out across the table’s wooden surface.

And in the midst of that detritus is James, sitting with the blanket that he should be sleeping under draped around his shoulders, like a stunned survivor of some disaster.

“James.” He shouldn’t need to say it. James knows he’s there. Even if he hasn’t acknowledged it yet. Even if he just continues to gaze at the array in front of him. As if there’s still something there he can’t quite make sense of. Or something he can still do anything about. “Come on.”

It’s that touch of bewilderment, evident now even in his half-averted gaze, that Robbie can never quite handle seeing on his sergeant’s features. As the dust begins to settle in the aftermath of an arrest. As James, unfailingly diligent and driven, and having put too much of himself into this bugger of a case just as he’s prone to do, finds that he has few of his own defence shields left intact in the wake of it. As he battles to make sense of things going so wrong, with thoughts of his own culpability, unable to handle the thought that something he’d missed or something he’d done could have contributed to further misery.

It always seems best to find some pretext to keep him near you when he’s like this. Just to keep an eye.

Robbie holds the door open now and gestures with his head. James looks up at him, pulling the blanket tighter as if retreating further into himself. And even though his gaze doesn’t leave Robbie’s, there’s not much coming back at Robbie there.

Seems like he’s been hunched into himself, one way or another, ever since the second crime scene, back one long day and one hellishly short night ago. That poor young lass, a friend of the first girl. And having to relive the worst of the last few days through the bluntly-posed questions of their paperwork tonight has only made it worse for him. They’d documented everything while it was still fresh in their minds, bearing witness, just as they always did. Gone over all the details to ensure a watertight case for the prosecution.

Robbie had had a strong instinct that it was best to just get this one over with as soon as possible and mentally mark it “Closed.” And, suspecting that he was about to be turned down if he angled for a pint or offered a bite to eat at his, he hadn’t had many qualms about making his suggestion work-related either. But it was the rehashing of those details that had given James pause and then made that desolate look start to descend, the look that was always hard to shift even as he responded amiably to your attempts to distract him.

Robbie had dispatched his sergeant off for a shower in the end in the hope that that might relax him, take the chilled look off him at least. He’d been compliant about staying here tonight, in that he hadn’t seemed to care much one way or the other. He’d simply shrugged and thanked Robbie without much animation when it’d been pointed out to him that he was over the limit now and why didn’t he just kip here, skip the hassle of a taxi.

Robbie’s been telling himself that this added restlessness that’s assailed him recently, the closer watch he’s been keeping over his sergeant, has nothing to do with that recent moment of horror. Realising that James was alone, apparently oblivious, facing down Andrew Lipton, who’d killed once already and then once more to cover his tracks. He tells himself it has nothing to do with the thought that had accosted him, in the midst of his panicked focus on getting to James, that time could have run out for them. A thought inexplicable at the time and suppressed a few times since, unexamined. It’s hard to figure, and best not to question, the strength of that pull when it’s towards your much younger junior officer.

All the agitated energy that James had put into this case pared down to something emptier now that the suspect was in custody and a confession taken. And two victims in the morgue where James feels there would have been one. If he hadn’t missed an earlier clue. That just hadn’t seemed like a clue. Robbie’s still not sure it even was. Nothing that could’ve pointed them in the right direction in time. James is convinced he should have noticed and read more into one small remark he hadn’t noted down when interviewing the ex-boyfriend of the first girl.

Robbie had stowed that file safely away in the end, once James had disappeared into the bathroom—although not safely enough, it turns out. Then he’d looked out something for him to wear. James had come back in a dark T-shirt of Robbie’s that was slightly too short and definitely more loose-fitting than anything Robbie’d ever seen him in before. And in Robbie’s dark-checked, brushed cotton pyjama trousers, all he’d been able to find with a drawstring waist that’d hold to his sergeant’s thin frame. They’d have been much too short for him, exposing more of those bony ankles, if they hadn’t sat absurdly low on his hips.

He’d looked endearingly ridiculous but it had proved impossible to tease him tonight. When he’d returned and his eyes had searched Robbie’s face briefly and then seemed to move onwards without lingering to see if they could find what they needed.

There are always a lot of impossibilities when it comes to James.

But he responds to Robbie’s instruction now from sheer force of habit, if nothing else. Because he gets up and comes over, passing very close as he goes through the door, then stops, right in front of Robbie in the unlit hall.

“I don’t want a smoke—” He thinks Robbie is prompting him outside to get him away from the case notes. From the narrative of what James now feels is his failure.

“All right.” Robbie clicks off the light behind him and shuts the door with a final click, too, while he’s at it. It’s harder to see James now, the only light coming from Robbie’s bedside lamp, casting a lighthouse-flare path of illumination down the hall. “Bed,” Robbie says and places a hand on the small of James’s back. The folds of the blanket part-muffle his touch and obscure most of the feel of James from him; he doesn’t seem able to get the grip on him that he needs to.

But James is obligingly heading straight down the hall, preceding Robbie to his bedroom, even if he is turning his head, trying to read Robbie in the dark.

“I’m not taking your bed.”

“No, you’re not taking anything.” You never do, somehow, do you? “Come on, though.”

But as Robbie sits down on the side of his bed again, he’s aware of a tall, still presence. James has stopped and is standing a step or two from the bed, barefoot on Robbie’s bedroom carpet, a vulnerable stretch of bare flat stomach showing above the pyjama trousers. Well, all right. Robbie settles himself back and then reaches over to the far side, raising the duvet. “In,” he advises. “You’ll freeze.”

“D’you sleep with your window open?”

“Just a gap. James. If you don’t want to—”

Actually, he doesn’t know what he’ll do if James doesn’t want to. He’s not about to let him head back into that little incident room that he had going on. And, Christ, he just shouldn’t be confined to making the best of things on Robbie’s couch that can’t aid a good night’s rest half as well as James always casually claims it does. Not when he’s in this state.

But Robbie also finds, even as he says the words, that he wants James to settle into this bed with Robbie as surely as if it’s his right.

Sometimes it’s dead hard to know where the line you shouldn’t cross lies with James. Largely because, whenever Robbie allows himself to give it any thought, he becomes uncomfortably aware that he may have already crossed it. It’s generally easier just to accept that those little unquestioned everyday intimacies tend to happen between them, unremarked upon. And that James, whose personal boundaries seem to have comprehensively disappeared from fairly early on when it comes to proximity to Robbie—well, James certainly seems to have no objection. Sometimes Robbie wonders if James is the one who simply keeps erasing those lines until it becomes harder to see where they’ve moved to now. But taking him into Robbie’s bed—that’s another level entirely.

Even if it seems even more impossible to leave him alone in his pain.

He may not even realise the restless pull of concern that he stirs in Robbie’s tough old heart whenever it hits Robbie that his sergeant is really struggling. Even if James obviously knows, on some level, that he can get away with far more than anyone else when it comes to his own DI.

And James must now think that the invitation that he’s wavering over accepting may be rescinded because he releases the blanket in one sudden movement, letting it slide to the floor with the softest thump, and he crosses to the bed as if, now that he’s made up his mind, his own trajectory is moving him resolutely forward. He slides in, under the duvet, and lies on his back, carefully, shifting to get comfortable.

Robbie clicks off his bedside lamp.

They lie there for a while. Side by side, silent in the waiting darkness. It’s not all that different from certain moments sitting across a pub table from him. Suddenly finding yourself more aware of him when he makes a particular gesture. When his leg shifts underneath the table as he reaches for his pint glass, and comes to rest for a while against your own, warm and firm and steady and seemingly unacknowledged by either of them. When he starts to tap a cigarette out of his packet in such a familiar movement, his sleeve riding up to expose the fine bones of his wrist, as he contemplates a chance remark that Robbie’s made, as seriously as if he feels the need to give due consideration to anything Robbie offers. Not too different, Robbie assures himself. Except this time there’s an awareness of James’s breathing, quickening slightly in the darkness that builds around them now.

“If we’d gone after Matthews like we first thought, instead of Connors—” comes his voice eventually.

It’s the mental array of pictures in his mind that Robbie can’t take him away from, can’t wrench out of his grasp.

“Like you first thought,” Robbie acknowledges. “And your instincts were spot-on.”

“I should’ve pushed it harder with you. I should’ve remembered what he’d said and seen the significance—you’d have seen it if I’d remembered and told you.”

“No, I wouldn’t. I’m still not sure it was significant. Just you fixating on it now that we know what it meant. And you pushed, all right, lad.”

“Not hard enough—” Only by James’s standards could that possibly be not hard enough. He hadn’t just made his own case for Matthews and then slipped in further remarks as the first couple of days wore on. There were all those odd frowns and reluctant twists of his mouth as Robbie had delivered instructions in the early part of this case. There had been brief sideways glances at his inspector in dubious resignation as Robbie had followed the path that had just seemed the right one at first. If anyone’s at fault here, it’s Robbie for just liking Connors for it better. But, all the same—

“We’ll go through it all again tomorrow, then. See if there’s anything we missed.” Not that Robbie privately thinks that’ll do any good. Even if they had missed anything, what good will it do to rake over it all again? Second-guessing their decisions after all the facts are in place. Every case is different, after all.  But if the thought of it helps James let go of it for now—

“You don’t think that’ll be any use.”

He’s always too sharp, even now, when he’s in this lost state. “No. I don’t,” Robbie admits. “But we still can. If it’ll help.”

James gives a deep sigh, his body resettling slightly on the mattress. “How do you do it—year after year?”

“I had help. On the home front. I had backup.” And, it occurs to Robbie, that in a somehow not-too-different way, he does again now. He has an undemanding presence, after a case that’s stirred him up a bit, someone to have a quiet pint with. Someone who gives him a distraction, a bit of a lift, with gentle teasing and wry remarks, amusing Robbie and easing the worst of the day from his mind. But James needs, and should have, more than that, and that’s what Robbie needs to get across to him, what Robbie knows would really help him here. If James would only listen.

“Val—she was a refuge from all of that. And the kids. It forces you to put all that aside when you come home to someone. Helps you keep things in perspective. You need that. You need it more than I do now. Someone outside the job who can ground you a bit and get you out of your head.”

“That’s why you told me I needed a partner?” But the tone is far too carefully casual. There could be a multitude of hurts under there.

“Ah—I was just—I worry. I could’ve put it better, though. I told someone else that once, too. Another copper I was working with out on that case in Australia. Turned out it was all a bit more complicated for him than I knew, what was going on for him.”

“Sounds familiar,” James mutters.

“You’ve got—something going on with someone, then?” Robbie’s voice emerges overly-brusque to his own ears in his surprise. It’s not the relief it should be, finding that James already is, unbeknownst to Robbie, involved with someone now.

“No.”

And the silence deepens again in the shadows of Robbie’s bedroom. James is carefully still, right beside him. Until he’s rolling over, in one movement, planting his face in Robbie's pillow, in that space between Robbie’s shoulder and his head.  An arm drops down onto Robbie’s chest, making no demands beyond its presence. There are warm, slightly ragged breaths approaching Robbie's neck.

It’s James. Doubts regardless, knowing that he shouldn’t be damned, despite the boundaries that Robbie should be enforcing here—it still proves impossible not to hold him.

Robbie turns on his side and drops an arm loosely around him, getting a hand firmly against the small of his back, finding warmth through the material of his own donated T-shirt on a familiar slim body.

It feels so natural to bring him closer in his hour of need. It must be all those years of simply ignoring that the physical boundaries aren’t where they should be with James. Sitting in such close proximity even when interviewing on a case that Robbie will find that his sergeant, protectively wary or purely providing staunch backup, is brushing right against him as they stand, detaching himself again.

It’s Robbie’s defence shields that have been thoroughly breached. Turns out James has simply bypassed them, maybe years back, unnoticed as he did so.

And James makes a soft noise and lets his head tip sideways, towards Robbie, in the dimness of the room.

A clumsy kiss brushes against Robbie’s lips, a mouth searching against his in the darkness.

But it’s the one step that Robbie can’t let him take, in all of James’s turmoil, he can’t let James do something that he could regret afterwards. Robbie can’t take this from James, who’s in no fit state to know his own mind right now, who's just reaching for any comfort and warmth, seeking touch in his desperation to be drawn out from the torments of his own mind.

Robbie pulls back from his grasp. “James…”

There’s a sound of pure despair. James starts to push himself away, pushing hard against Robbie’s chest with the palm of his hand. And Robbie reaches past his own doubts and confusion with a sheer urgency that comes from some unexamined place deep inside himself, to get hold of James in his distress.

“James. James, listen to me. You’re in no state to be making decisions like this. I can’t give you all you need, you can’t go shutting down your options when you should have more than—”

“Shutting down my options? ” He’s practically derisive in his disbelief.

Robbie takes hold of his shoulder, an arm’s length away now, the better to repudiate that tone. Because he's not letting James start denying he has options, start running himself down.

“Listen to me—”

“No. I’m choosing what I want. You’re the one shutting down my options.”

Robbie loses hold of him. “What d’you mean I’m—”

“I want you.” The blunt admission falls between them, wrenched out of his sergeant in the dark. There’s a silence.

“James. You can’t—you’d need to be sure—”

“Sure?” comes James’s voice, incredulous. “Oh, Jesus Christ,” he mutters to himself, “I am sure. It’s not about tonight. It’s every night. Any night that I let myself think—why are you trying to—if you don’t want me, say so, don’t—Just say so.”

It’s the vehemence of it, the long-suppressed almost-anger that startles Robbie past his other reservations, reducing them to something small. Making him suddenly see that his protests, his views about what James needs and should look for, should just already have—are equally not his to decide. The reality of James, lying right beside him here, in a near-fury at Robbie giving his own assumptions precedence over what James is trying to tell him he wants, hits home to him on some level that’s deeper than his own carefully reasoned objections. Objections which have just maybe have been more of a cover for Robbie’s own personal reservations about this than he’s been willing to face. But if James can bring himself to the point where he can do this… And if what he’s saying is that he believes Robbie is the one who has it in him to sate James’s sharp, undeniable needs, to soothe him—that unshakeable trust that he has in Robbie—

“C’mere back to me,” Robbie says hoarsely.

And James moves back into his arms and lies on his side, right against him, warmer now, muscle and sinew and bone, the thin cotton of T-shirt and worn-soft pyjama trousers, smelling of Robbie’s own shower gel, and underneath that purely of his own scent.

His head is that close now, waiting, right on Robbie’s pillow, so Robbie knows that if he just makes the smallest movement—

James’s hand comes up to frame Robbie’s face in the dark.

And Robbie’s tipping over the edge. All those objections that should be springing to his lips are drowning this time under the feel of James’s warm, seeking mouth on his.



===



Whatever Robbie might have expected, any time he’d let some errant part of his mind wonder about what it might feel like if—well, it wasn’t this. He hadn’t thought he’d feel like this, that he’d become so lost in James’s presence, James’s scent and touch, James taking over and—Robbie’s rather dazed, truth be told, lying here now, with James having subsided against him. He wonders if James is falling asleep, but doubts it. He rubs a reassuring palm briefly against that bare back, just in case.

There’s a hazy memory of letting his hands roam up under that T-shirt, and then just lifting it off James, yanking it up impatiently, and discarding it somewhere to turn his full attention back to James, who had dropped down, bracing himself briefly on bare, firm arms, one on each side of Robbie…And now they’re left comfortably slumped together, skin-to-skin contact as James lies against Robbie’s own bare chest.

“If you’re still not sure—You can pretend this never happened, you know. Leave it at just for tonight.” A voice cuts through the darkness.

And despite it all—despite James’s desire seeming every bit as urgent as Robbie’s once they’d become lost in seeking each other in the warm darkness—now that they’re no longer caught up in that, James is the one falling prey to doubt about what happens in the aftermath.

“James. No. Of course not. Why would I want to do that?”

“I know you were trying to help tonight. I mean—If I talked you into it—” The tone is quite resolved. He’s pushing himself to say this. He wants to know where he stands. He lies in Robbie’s arms and yet he thinks Robbie may still want an out. Christ, after that

“That was persuasive, lad, but you’re not that ruddy persuasive. I’ve not been seduced against me better judgement, you know. I wouldn’t have given in to it just for the one night, James—wouldn’t do that to us.”

Nor would he. He can hazard a guess at what it would be like trying to get back on an even keel with James if that’d been the case and it’s not a task he reckons he could have managed successfully. James would’ve felt that exposed he’d have been unable to let Robbie anywhere near him. Even as he’d have continued to work efficiently with Robbie, remained fiercely loyal, bantered half-heartedly and distractedly—and politely and casually avoided all advances for an after-work pint and everything that stood for. It would have been a flaming disaster.

“Given in?” James interrupts, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Aye.”

“Oh.” That’s given him pause. But it’s not enough. Now that he seems to have been thoroughly brought out of that state where he was in enough pain to finally speak his mind, the pendulum-swing of James’s certainty that he wants this is now tipping him back into doubting that Robbie wants it too. Or doubting how much Robbie really wants when what James wants to offer is his whole self. “But—I know that—well, aside from what you thought about it being best for me not to—” His voice swells in indignant disbelief on the last few words.

Robbie indulges himself in a grin, the signs of his amusement safely hidden. “Aye. Well. You’ve made your views well clear on that now,” he says gravely. “Won’t be making that mistake again in a hurry.”

“Should think not,” says a still-disgruntled voice. Then there’s a sigh before he ventures, more tentatively, “But—I know you’re not sure if you want—”

“D’you reckon you could let me be the judge of that?”

There’s a fraught pause while James struggles with the idea of actually being given what he’s really asked for. While he realises that having, finally, in his desperation, taken steps to convince Robbie of what James believed was there between them, having named it and made a damn persuasive argument by his actions about what he thinks they should do about it—he now finds that he has to get used to the idea that he was right. About what’s there for him to claim too.

“Tell me about tomorrow,” he suggests abruptly.

All right. That’s better. Because Innocent had encountered them when Robbie was shepherding James out to the car earlier that evening, glanced at them both dubiously and mildly suggested that if they tried to set foot in her station the next day she might just be driven to instigate a training exercise in reasonable restraint techniques for the new PCs .

Robbie knows what he’s really asking, in any case.

“We don’t have to get up. Don’t have to go in until later.” And then only to drop that damn file off if Robbie’s got any say in the matter. But he makes his tone as gentle as possible, hoping it’ll lull James into accepting what’s really happening here, if nothing else does. “There’s nothing we have to do—”

“Nothing we can do,” James clarifies, automatically. But it’s possible that he may sound a tinge more philosophical than pure resigned.

“That’s it. You can stay here.”

“Yes.” And that’s what seems to do the trick. It’s that simple. Hearing aloud the confirmation that this will still be here waiting for him in the morning. It quells his agitation, sending him slowly into a silence that feels quite different now.

And he must doze off eventually, because Robbie stays awake only long enough to hear his breathing start to deepen, and steady itself out, before he, too, succumbs.



===



When he wakes, in the dim-shadowed light of what sounds like a morning of heavy rain somewhere beyond his bedroom curtains, it’s to find that he’s being regarded so intently, and yet with such thoughtfulness, that he wonders he didn’t feel the force of that gaze lifting him from his sleep.

Robbie blinks at him. “How’re you this morning then? You feelin’ any better?”

James, head propped up on one elbow, continues to gaze at him. “Yes,” he says eventually.

“A decent night’s sleep never does anyone any harm, lad.”

“Wasn’t the sleep.”

There’s a half-remembered impression of the weight of a warm arm across Robbie’s chest, holding him in place, any time he’d drowsily become half-aware during the last few hours of darkness. Robbie feels his features relax into a grin. “How long have you been awake, then? D’you want some breakfast?”

“No.”

“You didn’t eat much last night,” Robbie observes mildly.

“’Mm not—”

“—Hungry. I know.” Deal with that one later. Small steps. Maybe this is enough for now. “You hear that?” James frowns, tuning in to the soft clicks that signal Robbie’s heating on its weekday timer is starting to rouse into life. “Know what that means?”

He gives every appearance of bringing the full force of his intellect to bear on this question. “That you need to bleed your radiators?” he suggests, nodding seriously.

Robbie gives him a long-suffering look. “Aye. And not what I meant. Time for the rest of the world to get up and go about their business. But not us. Put your head back down now. Or—give it here. Let’s see if I can find your off switch.”

“Not sure there is one,” James objects. But he settles himself back over with Robbie, all the same, coming close enough for another experimental kiss. Kissing him into loose-limbed pliancy in response is pretty much its own reward.

“Back to sleep now,” Robbie tells him eventually.

“Don’t think I could fall asleep at this hour—”

“Have to kiss you till you do.”

“Then I definitely won’t—”

“C’mere.” And he brings James down to rest some place closer to his heart.

It must be an unrelentingly overcast day looming outside, with little promise of any let-up, because the shadows in the bedroom are lightening but not shifting. And it’s comfortably warm enough to surely keep even James relaxed now. The distant noises of car doors slamming outside, as the neighbours head off about their routines, only make their own hard-earned respite more of a space apart. Which is exactly what Robbie reckons they both need for now.

“Just pretend it’s still night. We’ve both lost enough sleep this week we couldn’t make up for it in a month of Sundays. That’s right. You get some more rest.” As James eases himself down with a sigh that seems to surrender more than just his resistance to the idea of sleep. Robbie settles him in further.

“That’s right,” he says again, mainly to himself now.

Because the last of Robbie’s own doubts seem to have fallen away, dispersed themselves into insubstantial shadows sometime during their long night together. So that all that he’s left with now is the deep-seated recognition that that’s just exactly how it feels.




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This is really, really lovely, and it rings so true to their characters! Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Love it!

Thank you very much - I'm always just delighted when they feel IC to someone. But I really love that you enjoyed reading it like that! Thanks :)

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