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kilter chapter 2

divingforstones

A Journal of Lewis Fanfic - divingforstones


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kilter chapter 2
divingforstones

Giftfic: Fair Wear and Tear

Title: Fair Wear and Tear
Rating: Gen
Wordcount: 2,944

Summary:
And James swallows, his eyes widening, but then a rare flame of sheer mischievous joy flickers straight up in them.

Notes:
To wish a Happy Birthday to paperscribe
And with many thanks to wendymr for such efficient and encouraging beta-reading.


Work TextLewis keeps eyeing him. And each time James will realise that he’s doing it again. Drumming his fingers rather desperately on his own thigh. Any otear and Tear

Fair Wear and Tear


Lewis keeps eyeing him. And each time James will realise that he’s doing it again. Drumming his fingers rather desperately on his own thigh. Any other Friday evening he’d be grumbled at to Give it a rest. Post-pub easy companionable glow or not.

But this morning Lewis had eyed James in rather pleased surprise and: “Two weeks, eh, sergeant?” was all he’d said. And if James had got the distinct feeling that hot on the heels of that thought had been another one along the lines of Thank Christ I wasn’t around for that, thenwell, Lewis had kept that to himself.

It had been a good idea to confine this latest attempt to give up smoking to the fortnight away on the training course. The worst of that bloody awful irritability is past—or so James sincerely hopes. And if Lewis thinks this is the worst of the agitated restlessness that James has been left with —well, he’d be wrong. In general, tonight has been easier than any night so far. James would like to fancy he’s been earthed again, now that he’s back on Lewis’s couch, with that familiar comforting awareness running warmly right through his being, of Lewis’s solidity, so close beside him.

It’s just unfortunate that, as the evening has progressed, and they’ve reached the stage where they’d normally be sinking back against the couch, with James slouching down and Lewis relaxing his whole posture as he starts to make dry observations on their evening’s viewing; tonight, James’s traitorous hands are refusing to register either the calming effect of his surroundings or any waning effects from this nicotine patch. His traitorous fingers are itching for the thin cylinder of a cigarette. He’s lost all the reliable props that have accompanied him since his late teens: the cardboard and cellophane of the packet and the neater, smaller heavier rectangle of a brushed steel lighter, either of which could be turned over and over in his hands as he talked at a pub table, anticipating a quick break outside at the next round, or had provided a reassuring presence in his pocket at stressful moments with their promise of a release to come.

James jams one hand almost under his thigh, as he adjusts position yet again, focusing on the cold grip of the beer bottle in his other palm. Lewis is too finely attuned to each of James’s movements not to be repeatedly pulled from his seeming-absorption in this documentary by James’s mounting inability to keep a semblance of calm. A painful ache alerts him that the raw side of his thumb is starting to rub a rhythmic friction against his steepled fingers again, and his wrist is pressing an indent against the material of his suit trousers as he tries to keep his elbow from jostling Lewis’s. He needs his guitar, he needs the keyboard of his laptop keeping his fingers occupied while he tries to focus, he needs—

“Ah, Christ,” mutters that gruff voice and suddenly James’s fingers are appropriated, taken by larger, rougher, slightly shorter ones. “Settle down now, all right?” And James’s hand is placed, palm down, lying in the gap between them. His fingers are spread, starfish-like. Lewis jams his own fingers firmly through James’s, into the couch, staking James’s fingers apart. Lewis’s palm, at an angle, presses heavily, pushing James’s hand down against the limited yield of the seat-cushion.    

James very effectively does settle. Outwardly at least. His whole body stills at first. Even when his mind catches up with this new reality that he’s now sitting on Lewis’s couch with Lewis having just shoved the fingers of his own warm, life-toughened hand between James’s thinner, paler ones, to splint them out straight, to help James past this, to quell his restless yearnings into astonished submission—James stays decidedly still at first.

It’s only when the world apparently decides to resume turning, despite the quietly-seismic events taking place on one small couch-shaped island in Oxford, the  television continues to cheerily display its images of somewhere in the Serengeti and Lewis—Lewis continues to gaze at it, peaceably—that James slowly begins to relax. As documentary yields to Scandinavian crime drama, as Lewis’s heating on his timer clicks on to its evening setting, as Lewis himself starts up his mild grumbling about ruddy subtitles—and yet also seems to have watched the series in James’s absence, thus unfortunately denying James the opportunity of being two episodes ahead in piecing together clues—all seems otherwise like a normal Friday evening. James even flexes and restraightens his fingers a bit, despite himself. Lewis glances at him but doesn't seem to mind.

When events take a sharp turn for the dramatic onscreen, he clenches his hand momentarily, which prompts a chuckle from Lewis.

James feels his own fretful inhales and exhales slow, and deepen. He curls his knuckles just a little to the side and then lets his hand lie there, curled under the cover of Lewis’s, fossil-like within a shell. And he leaves his hand like that long beyond the cessation of his fretful need for movement, long beyond the need for Lewis to tether James’s restlessness through the anchor of his own touch, as Lewis’s hand becomes more and more relaxed over his, and as something inside James that rarely makes itself known finds ease and finally settles.

===

It’s been a bloody awful case and a bugger of a week. Seems a lot longer than a week since they sat like this last Friday. They’ve given the pub a miss tonight and taken themselves and a decent supply of beer back here instead. James had only nodded earlier when Robbie had half-suggested, as their day finally wore to a close, “You want to just pick up takeaway—”

But there had also been a certain expression that had flitted briefly across his face before he had turned his attention back to his computer screen, and it had made Robbie narrow an assessing gaze at his sergeant across their office, feeling a slight quickening of interest that he may have made some progress here after all.

Because, bloody hell, it’s not half hard to get his intentions across to James. He’d have thought last week would’ve done it.

You bring a bloke back to your flat, Friday night after Friday night, and drop down beside him, sitting right slap bang in the middle of your couch. You land up sitting so close that you both instinctively shift to accommodate every gesture the other one makes—just as close as you often seem to be throughout the week when he’s always looming at your shoulder in such undemanding but now accustomed fashion that it’s almost become disconcerting when you absently glance for him to share something and find he isn’t actually there…but because that bloke is your unassuming sergeant, he won’t seem to grasp what message you’re sending him.

And because that bloke is your sergeant, you can’t bloody well make the first move with him either.

And then you find yourself reaching, despite yourself, to settle him in all his nicotine-craving fretfulness—well, maybe that would’ve led to more progress this week if this case hadn’t then frustratingly risen up, in all its chaotic urgency, too early on Saturday morning while James had still been sleeping on the couch. Its demands on them both had simply overtaken that easy comfort they’d seemed to find the night before.

And now they’ve reached the far side of it, and find themselves here again, both a little dazed by this welcome domestic quiet that’s starting to take hold after the turbulence of the past few days. James’s arm brushes against Robbie’s, as he sinks down a little further, smiling to himself at some retort in this highbrow quiz show that Robbie’s not really watching. That very welcome post-takeaway second beer is finally starting to take hold too. He’s just not sure if they’re back at stage one here; James’s casual cheerfulness as he starts to properly relax is just too ruddy hard to read.

It’s getting to the stage where Robbie’s beginning to consider resorting to the time-honoured ploy of stretching, yawning and dropping his arm along the back of the couch to give James a clue, and James’d never bloody well let him forget it later if Robbie uses a move on him that he last used to good effect in his teenage years, in the dark and dusty back row of a cinema in Newcastle.

James would've been good at that sort of move—those long limbs. And all that languid stretching when he does relax, that always puts Robbie in mind of a cat. Speaking of which—Robbie eyes Monty, currently curled almost under the radiator. He’d better not come over here tonight, and leap into James’s lap, better not luxuriate in James’s restless hands petting and stroking him and in the process let James find his distraction and ease there. He’ll ruin the best pretext Robbie’s got going now if he does.

Robbie’s had enough of waiting. And it’s not even that seemingly-casual proximity of James’s that’s driven him over the edge in the end. It’s that last week he’d felt, somewhere deep within the core of him, that his own touch had answered and settled the pull of James’s restlessness and that had felt right, too right, had felt like the final critical brick placed on top of a tower of blocks that can only take so many of them, irrevocably tipping its momentum, making the last of Robbie’s defences tumble.

James’s hand is resting lightly against his grey suit-trousered thigh now, the position of his arm a bit odd. Huh. His loosely curled fingertips have slid down so that his knuckles are almost brushing against a loose crease of Robbie’s trousers too. Robbie shifts his leg, experimentally, a little further over, so that the warmth of that hand, now gently trapped between their legs, is palpable through the material. And as he risks a sideways glance to see how that’s gone down, he seems to catch the tail-end of a movement as James turns back to face front. James tilts his head, frowning, to further consider the merits of what someone is saying onscreen.

And James’s other hand starts up a gentle tattoo against the arm rest.

Robbie immediately reaches across him to capture it and return it to James’s thigh. “Thought I got the message across to you last week. Can’t have you wearing out the furniture or they’ll be keeping my deposit the next time I move. It’s only fair wear and tear they allow for, you know. Not all your fidgetin’.”

That’s how they’ve somehow found themselves at this point, isn’t it? James’s presence has just worn and torn at the objections that Robbie has tried to hold fast to, any time that those unruly thoughts of his sergeant had quietly but stubbornly reasserted themselves, making him wonder…Those thoughts had just kept right on asserting themselves in just as quiet and stubborn a fashion as James tends to do, come to think of it.

And as he’d taken brief hold of James’s wrist in the loose circle of his fingers there, James had turned his head to properly return his gaze at last. And now, as Robbie withdraws his own hand, there’s a soft exhale from James, half-wistful and half-amused.

“This couch doesn’t belong to you?” he asks with an air of betrayal. But his eyes are fixing on Robbie’s, a question beginning to rise up in them that’s giving Robbie definite hope. “And here was me thinking you’d chosen it specifically for the purpose of letting overworked sergeants kip on it for the night, as you so graciously put it, sir.”

“No,” Robbie tells him ably. “Rented this place part-furnished, I’ll have you know.”

“Well, best not to take any chances, certainly. Could take me years to reimburse you—in pints—” But Robbie reckons there was a hitch of breath or two in there that those words wouldn’t account for, but the way that James is increasingly starting to look now maybe could…

“Aye,” he agrees. “That’s the spirit. In fact—rather than you shufflin’ that restless head of yours around, too, slouching down against the back of the cushions…” And there’s a pause while Robbie turns his head to casually contemplate the television screen.  Although unluckily it’s moved to an ad break.

James is motionless, irresolute, but still slouched down enough beside Robbie that it’d really only take the smallest tip of a decision—

A head subsides slowly onto Robbie’s shoulder. It’s warm and heavy and somehow trusting despite that moment of hesitancy, and there’s a tug from deep within Robbie in return. “S’important to protect couches,” mumbles James, “from wear and tear—”

“That’s right,” Robbie tells him. He reaches to stroke his thumb, slowly, against the side of James’s hand.

James’s head tilts right back up off his shoulder in a movement that brings his face very close to Robbie’s. Robbie turns his head against the back of the couch. And James swallows, his eyes widening, but then a rare flame of sheer mischievous joy flickers straight up in them.

“It’s not really my fingers missing the feel of it, now, though,” he murmurs, without breaking his gaze. “Smoking, I mean. I think it’s more my mouth…”

“That so,” murmurs Robbie back, his focus flickering helplessly straight to James’s mouth in response. That unrelenting gaze from those suddenly very-blue eyes is causing a pulse of heat to course through Robbie’s veins.

“Apparently,” enunciates James all-too-slowly, and Robbie can only watch as James’s lips form each teasing word, “it’s people with an oral fixation who are more likely to become smokers in the first place. Freudians would say that in terms of my erogenous zones and psychosexual—”

Bloody hell. Robbie brushes a finger against those lips to still those relentless sounds. “Let’s see if I’ve got one of those fixations,” he murmurs, and lets his hand rest against the side of James’s evening-stubbled cheek, to pull him in that last bit…

===

“Well, that definitely didn’t protect your couch from friction,” James says with satisfaction.

He’s lying back with his head on Robbie’s chest, half on top of Robbie. His shirt seems to have been cast on the floor, and that must have been Robbie’s doing. Because then Robbie had slid his hand up under his sergeant’s close-fitting undershirt, as James had leaned over him, pressing him back against the couch, his mouth seeking and taking Robbie’s, and if Robbie had known that this is what people with this oral fixation are like when it comes to kissing, then he would’ve sought one of them out years ago.

It’s turned out that once James had actually gathered he had full clearance to proceed, he hadn’t hung about. Unassuming is not a word Robbie will be associating with his sergeant again any time soon. Robbie’s a bit stunned, lying back against the arm of his couch, with an arm anchoring James against him. Not that he’s complaining.

“I’ve been waiting a while for the chance to do that,” James explains, slanting a grin upwards at him. Cheshire-Cat like, maybe that would be the best way to describe him now. The size of the grin that mouth is forming.

“Aye,” says Robbie, as reprovingly as he can manage in the circumstances. “Much more of that and there’ll be no hope of saving this sofa. I’ll land up buyin’ them a new one when I move out of here and you’ll land up having to get rid of this one on one of your illicit skip-dumping excursions.”

“Yes. It is a risk. Maybe I shouldn’t sleep on it any more,” James says seriously.

“Maybe, sergeant. Don’t know what to be doing about you and your sleeping arrangements now.” But James grins up at him again as if he has a fair few ideas. And he gives a happy sigh, his rib-cage lifting and subsiding against Robbie.

“I read a lot about smoking cessation techniques this time around,” he informs Robbie.

“You do surprise me.”

“Mmm-hmm. Particularly about how I’ll need to find alternative coping strategies to use for those moments when I would’ve reached for a cigarette and used that to calm my nerves. And the overwhelming consensus from all the information I’ve read is that an increase in physical activity is very beneficial for addressing the stress of the situation…”

“Let me hazard a guess. Stressed to the hilt right now, are you?”

“Very,” James nods lazily against him, his head pressing against Robbie’s shoulder, a languid length of a warm body weighing down Robbie’s own. He’s still putting Robbie in mind of a cat. But it’s not the Cheshire Cat at all. The cat that got the cream, that’s what he is. His demeanour is certainly putting to rest any of Robbie’s residual fears about taking advantage of a junior officer.

Robbie heaves a sigh, and then heaves his hopeful sergeant off him without ceremony while he’s at it too, as he levers himself up off the couch. James, having slid onto the carpet in undignified fashion, turns a very indignant expression up at him.

“Only one thing for it, then,” Robbie says equably, extending a hand to him. “We’re just going to have to keep the rest of your activities restricted to furnishings I own.”

Just as well, he reflects, with a feeling of anticipatory satisfaction that's almost fit to rival the delighted smirk that’s overtaking James’s features once again, that that orthopaedic mattress is definitely his own.



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