Set just before Miles and Chandler interview Antoni Pricha.
The rolled up ball of paper hit Kent on the head and took him so much by surprise that he jolted and spilt his coffee over his trousers.
'Sanders!' he yelled without looking up trying to rub at the coffee spill with his hands. He didn't need to look up; there was only one person in the office that juvenile.
'You coming?' was the reply.
'Interview room. The boss and Skip have brought in Pritchard.'
'Pricha,' Kent corrected, because the details mattered … and because Pritchard sounded more like the name of a Welsh Sheep Farmer than a Kosovan Morgue Man.
'Pricha, Pritchard it all means the same in the end … ripper,' Sanders grinned. 'You coming or what?'
'Good. Bring snacks. I think this is a popcorn and crisps kind of interview.'
Kent brought whole meal biscuits and fruit because that was all that was available in their food store. Sanders shook his head in sickening disapproval but he still munched his way through half the biscuit packet as they watched the interview through the glass.
Things were very different from the last time they'd all sat there waiting for a confession. That had been Lee's interview; Miles had been leading it, Fitz had stolen Kent's seat, and Sanders had been scoffing a bag of crisps. Now it was Antoni Pricha, Chandler was leading it, Fitz was long gone, and Sanders was scoffing a packet of biscuits. Very different.
The ending was similarly frustrating, however. No confession, no admission, nothing to even hint that he understood what he was being charged with. But despite that, watching Chandler work had been something of a thrill for Kent, and he was oddly cheery when he spoke to McCormack about the importance of witnesses - something McCormack chose to hold against him for the entire car ride to the bank.
Set on the way to the bank, when Kent and McCormack go to question a witness about the "man who sent the kidney".
'What's wrong with you?' McCormack demanded; eyes-narrowed and suspicious.
'You're so … upbeat.'
'You say it like it's a bad thing.'
'It is,' McCormack insisted, indicating right. 'We're up to our eyes in an unsolvable case, about to talk to another boss-eyed dead-end and you're acting like we're on a wee daytrip to the zoo.'
Kent just pulled a disagreeing face and ignored him because what can you really say to someone who's angry at you for being happy? Instead, he fiddled with a fraying thread on the passenger seat cover.
McCormack's car was a mess. The man was so preoccupied with saving up for his "pub in the country" or to pay off some of his mortgage, that his car was left to fall to ruin. Sanders liked to suggest that the old, first generation Ford Taurus was older than Kent. It wasn't, but it was close enough for Sanders (and Miles) to find it funny. The car smelt strange too, like it had been gathering dust, dirt and memories for the past 20 years and the smell had never really dissipated.
It was a million miles from Chandler's brand new, top-of-the-range vehicle with heated seats and built in satnav. Chandler probably wouldn't even be able to bring himself to sit in this car, with the princess toys scattered across the backseats and the lashings of glitter everywhere. Chandler was a perfectionist … and he was perfect. His face was perfect, his eyes were perfect, his chest, his stomach, his legs, his….
'What are you grinning at now?' McCormack demanded.
'Shouldn't you be watching the road?' he muttered, blushing at having been caught thinking about the DI and grumpy because McCormack's suspicions were making him behave like a grunting teenager.
'You're distracting me with all your smiling.'
'It's not a crime to smile, you know.'
'Aye, but you don't smile,' the older man accused him. 'You're the brooding, miserable one, who takes everything seriously all the time and now, you're grinning like you…' the remainder of the sentence disappeared and was placed with a drawn out 'Ooooooh' as though McCormack had just had a personal "eureka moment".
'Oooooh,' he mimicked the Scotsman perfectly, 'what?'
'You've got yourself a wee girl,' he grinned smugly.
'You don't know what you're talking about,' Kent replied coolly, reaching forward and flicking on the radio station. He'd meant it to put a full stop to the conversation, but it didn't work. His aloofness just convinced McCormack that he was right and the rest of the drive was taken up with him demanding to know who the girl was and did he know them; followed by an exhaustive list of "guesses" which included naming every single female officer at the station.
He was more pleased than ever that his colleagues were unaware of his preferences for men, and one man in particular.
Set before Buchan retires dramatically from Ripper Tours because someone had to make sense of why Kent was filming the moment from a car!? I mean he has neither a car nor any pre-explained reason to be there so…. (I've tried my best here.)
The office was quiet apart from the rustling of paper from the DI's office. Kent could hear the frantic movements. They'd reached almost as many dead-ends in their investigations as the police in 1888 had and Chandler was clearly desperate to find a clue in the history. He wanted to stop history from repeating itself.
Kent knocked gently on the open door, whispering: 'Sir.'
Chandler didn't look up. He just dug his fingers harder into his temples and stared at an artist's impression of Jack the Ripper from 1888, muttering something low and impossible to decipher under his breath.
'Sir,' Kent tried again, slightly louder.
Chandler still didn't notice as he placed a witness report on top of his pile and stared blankly at that instead.
'Joe!' Kent called.
This time he got the man's attention. He blinked a bit as though coming out of a trance and looked up giving Kent the fragments of a weak smile.
'Sorry,' he mumbled, like someone fresh out of sleep. 'Have you been there long?'
'Long enough,' Kent replied in the same hushed tone. 'I think you should go home now. You're not going to gain anything from staring at old documents.'
'I can't. I'm waiting for a "eureka moment".'
'That will come tomorrow, with fresh eyes.'
Chandler looked down at the mess of papers, photos, and old case files ahead of him.
'Maybe you're right,' he sighed, running his hand down his face. 'I don't even know what time it is.'
'The ripper tour,' Chandler jumped to his feet sending his chair wheeling a few foot across the floor.
'Buchan's ripper tour,' Chandler said, pulling on his jacket. 'I wanted to follow him, see what he's up to, find out if there are any more clues … Buchan is his mentor and he's not contacting him through the website anymore so maybe he'll be at the ripper tour. I need to investigate.'
'I'll go,' Kent said determinedly, pushing the older man in the chest to stop him. 'You need rest. I can follow him and report back.'
'But what if you miss something?'
'What if you do?' Kent replied angrily. He was young, and more junior, but he wasn't bloody incompetent. Still Chandler hadn't slept in about 36 hours so he was willing to let it go. 'And I'll take a camera so you can review the footage,' he suggested because practical solutions were better than domestic rows when it came to getting things done in a case.
'But how are you going to go unnoticed?'
'I'll take your car,' Kent beamed. Just because he didn't have a car didn't mean he couldn't drive one. 'I'll drop you home, and then follow Buchan on his tour. Just, you make sure that when I get back to yours, you've got some food waiting for me.'
Chandler seemed to consider this for a long time. He kept looking over at his desk with its uncharacteristic clutter, then he'd look at Kent, long and possibly longing.
'Alright,' he agreed eventually. And glancing quickly around the office to check they were alone, he pressed his lips briefly to Kent's.
DC Kent reports back on what he's seen at the Ripper Tour.
'In the middle of the tour?' Chandler asked, placing the home cooked paella on the tablemat in front of Kent as he asked the younger man to explain what he'd seen for the fourth time.
'Yes,' Kent sounded exasperated. 'He started spouting all these facts about Annie Chapman's kids. The crowd became restless…'
'Exactly,' Kent agreed stabbing his folk through a prawn, 'because all they want to hear about is the murders. And then he just sort of lost the plot,' Kent popped the crustacean into his mouth and chewed. 'He gave this dramatic look and was all "I can't do this anymore",' Kent tried (and probably failed) to do Buchan's melodrama justice. 'And then he walked off. I didn't follow him after that. It's all on camera, if you want to see it.' He swallowed his mouthful and pointed to the plate with his folk saying: 'This is delicious, did you make this?'
'Mm,' Chandler nodded the affirmative. 'It was one of the only things my mother cooked well.'
'Well, it's great,' Kent assured him tucking in to a second mouthful, and a third, and a forth. Chandler could only nibble absent-mindedly at a chunk of chorizo. He didn't end up eating much at all, something Kent commented on when he offered to wash up.
'M'not hungry,' was Chandler's vague response.
He wasn't feeling very chatty either, which was something else Kent commented on in passing, but Chandler barely noticed it. They were on the sofa, the TV was on some mind-numbing rerun of a panel show (something Kent had assured him wouldn't mention the ripper murders), and Chandler was glad to have the younger man led half-next-to him, half-on-top-of him but that didn't mean his mind was really there. He couldn't take his mind off the investigation. There had to be a clue somewhere; a hint at the killer's identity; something … anything.
It was only because Kent had dug his elbow into Chandler's ribs and was staring up at him that Chandler realised the younger man had spoken.
'Sorry?' he invited the sentence to be repeated.
'It wasn't important. You're a million miles away.'
'It's the case,' Chandler sighed. 'I feel like I'm staring right at something, some major clue, but I'm just not seeing it.'
'You'll figure it out,' Kent said with misplaced confidence as he rested his curly head back on Chandler's chest. Chandler was struck by how weird he must look from Kent's current angle; mostly chin, with a little nose and a glimpse of cheek. He was pleased for the thought because for a fleeting moment, he wasn't thinking about Jack or the next victim. He played a little with Kent's hair, trying to lose himself in the feel of him, and the smell of him. It worked for a while, but the case still loomed in his periphery. It was always looming.
He knew Kent had fallen asleep. His breathing was shallow and even and the only movements were his lips as he babbled sleepy nonsense ('quick, the broom's moved; now the man can steal the balloon.'). It was a nightly habit which Chandler had thought would prove annoying, but he actually quite enjoyed the glimpses into the younger man's subconscious. It was apparently a place fraught with danger … if the danger was designed by Warner Brothers.
What was annoying was that Kent had managed to wrap himself around Chandler before falling asleep, meaning he could not leave without waking the younger man. He'd planned to sneak back to the office without a discussion about excessive work hours. Luckily, the younger man was so tired that he only really stirred when Chandler disentangled their limbs and slipped out from the bed. He'd be in trouble later but it didn't matter. He wasn't exactly getting any sleep and if he wasn't sleeping, he might as well be working.
Besides, "Buchan Watch" suddenly seemed like a good idea. He should probably draw up a rota for that.
Set in and around the scene when ALL the Jack wannabes are handing themselves in at the station.
The leads were becoming less and less likely by the minute. Every cape-wearing, top-hat-donning freak in London had emerged from the shadows to confess to the murders and it was wasting time and resources talking to them. They were clearly all hacks but the law stated they had to take all these weirdos seriously.
Chandler was spending less and less time at his home, something Kent had mentioned to him several times. Chandler kept ignoring him and last night he hadn't gone home. It was getting too much and, as this was a work matter, Kent decided to pass his concerns onto Miles.
'DI seems to be living here at the moment. Do you think he's alright?'
That had been all it had taken. Within minutes, Miles was virtually dragging Chandler out of the office and away for a break … and hopefully some kind of sustenance. The boss needed it, he was just hours from passing out completely.
They'd been gone seconds when Kent's phone rang. He half expected it to be Chandler giving him an earful about getting Miles involved but it wasn't. It was Sanders.
'Buchan is the most boring man alive,' Sanders groaned down the line and Kent just smirked. Sanders wasn't exactly the most patient man and staking someone out wasn't really high-thrills. 'Do you know he measures the amount of sugar he puts in his tea using a thimble?'
'No, I didn't know that.'
'No, I didn't know that, didn't want to know it either but now I do. I now know Buchan's weird tea habits. How long do you reckon the boss is gonna have us doing this for?'
'Until we know Buchan's not connected,' Kent shrugged, reading over some of the files that had some back from interview with Mary Bousefields friends.
'I might die of boredom before then. You know when you hear spying, you think James Bond. Reality is, it's following some loser about. He's been at his mother's house for four hours now. Four hours! No middle-aged man should be that close to his mother. It's not natural.'
Kent just chuckled and said: 'Bye, Sanders.'
'Don't you dare hang up you little sh-' and whilst Kent had a fair idea what Sander's had been trying to say, the phone was off before the insult could be completed. He had far too much crap to sort through from the Ripper interviews and the family statements to listen to Sanders moan. He ignored the immediate call back and the five texts with varying degrees of curse words that he apparently was.
Kent was at home when the call came. His flat mates were all out and he was enjoying the peace for a change.
'DC Kent,' he said, not checking the caller ID.
'Emmerson,' Chandler's voice was immediately recognisable. 'Can you let me in? I've brought you a present.'
Immediately curious, Emmerson grabbed a key, shoved his feet into some trainers crushing the backs with his heel and jogged down the stairs to the building's front door.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected a gift from Chandler to look like, but it certainly wasn't this. The man was stood, still suited up and in leather gloves, holding a smallish round goldfish bowl with a luminous green plastic rim and stand. The tank was half-full with water, had coloured pebbles across the ground, and swimming amongst the castle and the plastic deep-sea diver was a small black and gold fish.
'What are you…?' Kent chuckled.
'I'll explain in a minute, but I need to put it down first. It's much heavier than it looks.'
Kent stepped aside to let Chandler into the building and followed him up the stairs to Kent's first floor apartment. Chandler almost dropped the fishbowl onto the kitchen counter and began massaging his strained bicep muscles. All Kent could think was that he should have tidied more. There were dirty dishes on the side next to the sink and a knife still just sitting on the counter from where Aly had buttered a slice of toast on her way out of the door. Luckily, Chandler didn't seem too concerned; he just set about filling the tank up a little higher.
'So, er, why the fish?' Kent asked, when Chandler was happy with the water level.
'Something Miles' said,' he smiled, reaching out a hand towards Kent and pulling him in to a half hug. 'He said that he takes his mind off work by feeding his fish.'
'Yes, but he's got carp … in a pond. Not a goldfish … in a bowl.'
'It's the same thing really,' Chandler dismissed. 'Besides, I don't want you crying in restrooms and carparks anymore.'
Kent felt the blood drain from his cheeks. 'Who told you about that?'
'Apparently they all do.' Kent must have looked as horrified and sickened as he felt, because Chandler just pulled him against his chest with a low chuckle. 'No one holds it against you, we all understand but now you have another option.' He gestured grandly towards his gift as though he was presenting an expensive therapist rather than a fairground prize but Kent still smiled, because it was a gift, and it was for him from Chandler … and that was special.
'It's great,' Kent said honestly.
'What are you going to call him?'
'Well,' Kent looked more carefully at the fish as it swam about carefree, 'he's got quite bulgy eyes so … Buchan?'
Chandler laughed a little at the suggestion and it was a warm, happy sound that Kent hadn't heard for a while. It wasn't a long laugh, it didn't even have much conviction behind it, but it was better than nothing and it proved that whatever Miles had said had worked.
'Can you stay for a beer?' Kent asked, moving to the fridge automatically.
'Yes. I'd like to talk to you about tomorrow actually: Miles' party.'
'Riight,' Kent drawled taking to beers from the fridge and uncapping both before handing one to Chandler.
'Well … I've been thinking about what you said … about the BBQ.'
'What about it?' It was clear from the way Chandler was turning the bottle in his hand that he wasn't prepared to offer this information without some deal of encouragement.
'You said that the women, Judy and Jeanie and Sander's wife….'
'... were asking you about a date.'
'Mm, so?' Kent took a long swing of his beer. He felt like he might need it too.
'Well, I'm worried that if both you and I turn up without a date people might become suspicious.'
'People don't assume the only two single people at a party are going to hook up, Joe,' Kent scorned.
'Yes they do. They always do. Married people like setting single people up.'
'Well, no one there knows I'm gay,' Kent said.
'They don't know I am either!'
'But they think you are,' Kent pointed out.
'No they don't,' Chandler dismissed too confidently. The man had no idea about the rumours that circled the office about him. 'Anyway, this isn't about who thinks what; this is about self-preservation. I shouldn't need to remind you how important it is that this relationship doesn't get found out by anyone, it'll cost us both our careers and our reputations.'
'I know,' Kent felt a little sullen at the lecture. He understood all that but it didn't mean he liked it.
'So, I think we need to make a statement, something bold to throw them off the scent.'
'What do you have planned?'
'I think you should take a girlfriend to Miles' birthday.'
'What? No. If I can't go with you, I'd rather go alone.'
'Don't be so unreasonable.'
'You take one if it's so important to you.'
'I….' Chandler blushed a furious shade of red thinking of his lack of female acquaintances. That probably spoke volumes about inequality in the workplace but that wasn't his battle right now. 'There's no one I could take,' he admitted quietly. Then more confidently: 'It's easy for you, ask one of your flat mates.'
'Florian?' Kent suggested, sarcasm dripping from every germanic vowel.
'Please Emmerson, be serious. This is important.'
There was something about the way his eyes were staring that made Kent back down quicker that he would have liked. There was something about Chandler's eyes, there was something about Chandler's everything, which made him weak at the knees … and weak in the brain. He hadn't felt as foolish around someone since he was in comprehensive school and back then it had been unrequited love and endless rejection. Now it was standing in a kitchen next to the gift of a goldfish … it was certainly a step up and it was that moment of joyful realisation that probably led him to say:
'Okay. I'll ask Rachel.'
'Sorry, hun, I'm working the late shift tomorrow night,' Rachel said when Kent broached the subject of Skip's party with her. 'Why don't you ask Aly to go with you? I'm sure she said she had to cancel plans with her sister for tomorrow. She's probably itching for something to do.'
'Yes, but she's Aly,' Kent groaned, 'and these are my colleagues. She's bound to say something controversial. She'll probably get me fired.'
'Don't be so melodramatic,' Rachel laughed. 'But if Aly's not your type, take … who was that nice guy you used to hang around with? Dougie?'
'Dougie!' Kent laughed. Dougie had been a relationship which had lasted about three weeks almost eighteen months ago. He doubted Rachel had even met Dougie, it was just a name she plucked out of the air because Kent had mentioned him a few times during drinking games. Dougie had been the cause of a few well-earned, very-drunken victories in "Never Have I Ever".
'I don't know,' she shrugged, tying up her reddish hair into a long ponytail. 'Has there been anyone significant since Dougie?'
'No,' Kent lied. He didn't want to fuel the flames of his flat mate's suspicions about Chandler. When he looked up again, Rachel had her head cocked slightly to the side like she was trying to see through him into his brain. 'What?' he asked, folding his arms like the action might provide him with some shield from her intrusive gaze.
'I don't know why you're taking anyone at all,' she thought aloud. 'You've never worried about it before.'
'It's different now.'
Kent shook his head just slightly. He didn't want to talk about it and, unlike his other flat mates, Rachel would respect that.
'Okay,' she placed her hand on his forearm and squeezed a little. 'Just, I hope you know what you're doing. Secrets, lies, faking things; it's not a good precedent to set for a relationship.' Before he could reply, she'd pressed her lips to his cheek and said: 'I'm running late, I'll see you later okay.'
And as a parting comment: 'Ask Florian to go with you.'
Kent promised he'd think about it, but he knew that the moment Chandler realised that Kent had brought a male friend to Miles' party would be the moment that their relationship (or whatever this was) ended.
In the end, he was forced – through lack of good friends in the area, and the fact most people he knew already had plans – to ask Aly. She was thrilled by the idea.
'I'd love to. Does this make me your beard? Do I need to play a character? Will I meet Detective Dreamboat that Florian was talking about?'
He said "no" to those three questions as well as all the others she threw at him. It was true that he might have been lying at some point, but it was better than battling inane follow up questions or requests for descriptions about DI Dreamboat.
Set just before Buchan burns all his life's work in Miter Square.
Kent was on Buchan-watch, which was boring. But Buchan did do something that was out-of-character enough to warrant a call to the boss, which was nice. ('Sir, are you busy?' 'What is it?' 'It's Buchan, sir, he's acting strange.' 'Where are you?' 'Miter Square. He's gathered some journalists. I…. I think you should come and see it for yourself.')
Chandler had offered Buchan a coffee - a thank-you for his efforts.
'Kent, where's the nearest good coffee place?'
'Well, sir, there's one just down….'
'I was rather hoping you'd take us there,' Chandler interrupted and Kent nodded back with a bit of a smile.
It made a refreshing change to be out in public during the day with Chandler, even if it was whilst they were on duty and had Buchan sat with them. Chandler still sat close enough so that their knees could touch under the table and bit of quiet contact was enough for now.
They'd moved onto a conversation about who the original ripper really was. Buchan had theories, buckets of them. He could name every suspect, every single witness but for every one he believed had committed the crime, he had ironclad proof that they hadn't.
'What do you think, Kent?' Chandler had asked sipping on peppermint tea and being incredibly candid with his own thoughts.
'I don't know anymore,' Kent answered honestly. 'I've read so many books and so many theories, it's impossible to split the fact from the fiction. It all just feels like a myth now.'
'Therein lies the problem,' Buchan agreed grandly. 'Too many people allow their imaginations to run wild. The Whitechapel Vampire. Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper. Jack has ascended into legend, myth, fantasy. And as such, people have added to his story, added nonsense and ludicrousness into the mix. If you want to catch the real Jack, you need to take a step back. Forget the opinions of experts and look at the facts Abberline had. They'll be a clue somewhere … Jack will have slipped up somehow. All serial killers do in the end.
'And I said it earlier,' Buchan continued. 'Your Jack is copying one specific version of Jack – the Jack he believes is the real one. You can't get the next step until you work out who that is.'
Kent could see Chandler's mind whirring. He clearly believed Buchan had a point here and his fingers twitched with a need to get back to his office and pour through the old files again. It was barely even a minute before Chandler had decided to that he and Kent needed to get back.
'No more Buchan-watch then?' Kent asked as they walked towards Chandler's car.
'No, I think he's proved himself enough now.'
Set in the lead-up to Miles' birthday party.
Aly looked weird. Not weird for the average person, but weird for Aly. She seemed to be treating the Skip's party like a drama-experiment and had taken it upon herself to dress like the wife of a police officer. She's forgone a scarf tied around messy mousy curls for long straight hair. The harem pants and baggy t-shirts had taken a back seat in favour of a simple, sophisticated black dress.
'I wore it to my uncle's funeral,' she said when Kent had questioned where she'd gt something like that from. 'Dreary old bastard. I'd wanted to wear red as a celebration but mum said it was inappropriate.'
'That is inappropriate.'
'He was a wrong 'un,' Aly shrugged. 'Drank too much and beat up his kids. I'm surprised anyone turned up at all, but you know what it's like. People forgive you everything once you're dead.'
'You know later, when we're at skip's house...'
'Mm,' she confirmed.
'… don't say anything like that.'
Aly laughed good-naturedly and linked her arm in his with a comment of: 'Mm, you smell nice.' Before assuring Kent that, 'I will be on my best behaviour, I promise. I don't want to you show up in front of your workmates. Besides, I need to bag myself a hunky copper. The only one I know is a great big gay.'
'They're married,' Kent frowned, 'and before you say it doesn't matter, it does. Don't even think about it okay?' Then for his own amusement, he added: 'I know you'll be tempted, they're exactly your type.'
Kent thought Aly might actually kill him when they arrived at Miles' house and he opened the door to them.
'Ah Kent, come in. Come in. Sanders and McCormack are already here. Who's this?'
'Aly,' his flat mate had smiled shaking his hand politely. She'd been willing to accept that the Sergeant would be an older man, but on being introduced to Sanders and McCormack her face dropped and she muttered in his ear: 'There is not a single piece of eye-candy in this room.'
'Is that all you think about?' he hissed back.
'No,' she shot back. 'But I really thought you fancied one of these guys and well you're hardly likely to be drooling over any of these. That one,' she gestured to McCormack with an over-filled glass of cheap wine, 'literally looks like he might be your dad.'
As much as he'd have liked to pretend he wasn't amused, Kent couldn't stop the smile that flashed across his face, but that didn't stop him trying to assert that "love" was 'all about the personality.'
'Get lost!' Aly scoffed loudly. 'You like to think you're better than me, Emmerson Kent, because you're a police officer and I lack morals, but you are just as shallow as I am. Besides,' she took a long swig of her drink, 'you have a type: tall, blondish, pale-eyed … in short, the polar opposite of you.'
Amazingly, the worst part about bringing Aly to Skip's party actually had nothing to do with the girl herself or her two-bit psycho-analyst routine. The worst part was the enormous effort everyone at the party made to accommodate her. Aly was never left begging for a drink; she wasn't once alone with no one to talk to; she was welcomed with open-arms like she'd always been there and would always be welcome.
Sanders in particular seemingly thrilled by her arrival and he kept telling Kent, and Aly how great they were together.
'You should both come over,' he'd insisted. 'Kat'll cook, we'll make a couple's night of it.'
'Maybe,' Kent had sighed because this conversation made his gut clench and his stomach drop. He felt guilty like he was deceiving the people he called friends. He was deceiving the man he'd worked closest with over the last few years and it hurt.
'I'm really happy for you, Kent. Really,' Sanders grinned. 'Let me get you another beer.'
Chandler arrived what he liked to think was fashionably late but was actually just late. He'd lost track of time at the office, then he'd hesitated over the correct outfit for longer that was strictly appropriate and finally, his thoughts had distracted him as he drove causing him to lose his way in the dark. In short, he'd dawdled and now he was last there and the presents had already been opened. No one seemed to mind though, and Miles just seemed pleased he'd turned up at all.
'Let me introduce to everyone,' Miles said. 'You remember Judy,' he gestured to his own wife who Chandler had met briefly during the "kidney-incident". 'And this is Jeanie, McCormack's wife. Kat, Sanders' wife, and Aly … Kent's friend.'
Chandler smiled a "hello" to all of them, but his ears tuned into Aly as she leant closer to Kent and he couldn't miss her whisper: 'now that is more like it.' Chandler hoped to god he was the only one who'd heard her.
Miles certainly hadn't, he just showed of his gift of fish-food to the group and they all smiled appreciatively at the thought. All except Sanders who nodding to his own gift, saying:
'It's got to be time for the game now, Skip. The boss is here, we're bound to solve the mystery.'
'What game?' Chandler asked. McCormack passed him the Jack the Ripper board game and Chandler actually smiled. 'Where did you find a thing like that, Sanders?'
'It's Whitechapel, Sir,' he shrugged. 'Things like that are everywhere.'
'Of course,' he nodded. 'Well, a game of this might be good. We might actually be able to solve this mystery.'
'I'll set it up,' Sanders insisted, taking the box and heading into the sitting room. 'Who's playing?' It seemed that only the men had any interest in playing a board game, the women took more interest in a second bottle of Rose which Judy had just taken out of the fridge.
'Kent grab me a beer will you,' Miles asked.
'Me too,' McCormack added and from the sitting room, he heard Sanders' call:
'What about you, Sir?' Kent asked trying so hard not to act weird around Chandler that he was probably acting weird. 'Beer?'
'There's other stuff too, if you prefer. Cocktails and whatnot, help yourself,' Miles said before listing things that certainly were not cocktails like Gin and Tonic. Chandler didn't know why he was surprised. Miles lived solely on beer and whiskey, anything else was the drink of a pansy. He'd have been happy with a beer, but deciding to make himself a Gin and Tonic gave him a moment or two alone with Kent whilst the women took their bottle of wine into the garden to view Judy's new fire pit and the men went to the sitting room to set up the game.
'You look good,' Chandler mumbled when he was sure they were alone.
'You too,' Kent beamed back. 'You should leave home without a tie more often.'
'I'll certainly consider it,' he chuckled. Then glancing around to be sure they were out of view, he reached across and squeezed Kent's hand in his own mumbling: 'I wish I could kiss you.'
'I wish you could too.'
'I want to.'
'But it wouldn't….'
'It's okay, I understand.'
'Oi,' the Skip's bark from the other room saw them leap apart like warring cats who'd just had a bucket of water thrown over them. 'Are you having a mother's meeting in there? What's taking you so bloody long?'
'Sorry, Skip,' Kent called back picking up the bottles of beer and practically running into the sitting room. Chandler followed at a more leisurely pace and when he arrived in the room, he noticed that they'd left him an arm chair to sit in.
There would have been a time, just a few months ago when he would have been left to sit on the floor, but they had their places now. Chandler in an arm chair, Miles on the sofa. As the most senior of the DC's, McCormack had taken the other one chair and Sander and Kent were cross-legged on the floor, but – most noticeably for Chandler – Kent was at his side. It didn't matter how, or where they were both sat as long as they were sat together.
END OF THE PARTY.
'Do you need a lift, Kent?' Chandler asked. They'd all been leaving at the same time and Aly had just groaned about how they were going to have get on the tube with all the "yobbos". It wasn't an out of the blue request and it would have been fine if Sanders hadn't also taken it upon himself to offer:
'I'll take you back if you like, it's on our way.'
It was logical that Kent and Aly should go with Sanders. Chandler lived almost in the opposite direction and if he insisted that would only raise red flags. He'd resigned himself to going home alone, when Aly suddenly transformed from Kent's lovely girlfriend with a quirky, artsy job, to Aly: Eco-Warrior and borderline nutter.
'Is that your car?' she asked, pointing at Sander's Toyota.
'Yeah, hop in.'
'In that?' she asked, as though he was holding the door open to a cage of lions rather than an inoffensive hatchback. 'In a Mitsubishi.'
'Toyota,' Kent muttered.
'Toyota,' she corrected immediately. 'You must be joking. Have you heard about the ethical issues surrounding the way they make cars? It's disgusting. I would rather stroll through the streets of Whitechapel and take my chances with the ripper than sit in that thing.' She stared Sanders right in the eye: 'I don't know how you can live with yourself driving a thing like that.'
Sanders just glanced at Kent as though all his initial comments about how happy he was for Kent had just burned up to be replaced by: "Your bird's a loony."
'Well, then,' Sanders frowned raising an eyebrow towards Kent. 'You better both go with the boss than.'
'Better had,' Aly beamed, resting her bonkers, unhinged head on Kent's shoulder.
Kent knew from the way she hummed a silly tune and virtually bounced down the pavement beside him towards Chandler's car that she had everything worked out in her brain but she kept quiet until they were in the relative sound-proof safety of the car and even then she just made stupid vague comments, only ever hinting at what she knew. Until eventually she said:
'So what's your wife like, Joe?'
'He's not married!' Kent exclaimed.
'Isn't he?' Aly questioned.
'You've made it perfectly clear over the last five minutes that you know perfectly well what's going on here,' Chandler snapped. 'Why would you ask if I'm married?'
'Because of the enforced secrecy, because you asked Kent to bring me to the party.'
'That's not because I'm married,' Chandler groaned.
'It's because of work,' Kent explained.
'Yeah, because office romances are illegal now,' Aly scorned, arms crossed playing up to the sulky teenage attitude she'd somehow adopted.
'Sleeping with someone of a different rank is really frowned upon,' Kent muttered in hushed tones as thought Commander Anderson might just appear to reprimand them. 'Joe might face suspension for abuse of power.'
'And Emmerson would lose all respect,' Chandler cut in. 'They'd stop seeing all the great work he'd done, forget about his talents as a detective and make assumptions about trading position for sexual favours.'
'Really?' She directed that question directly to Kent.
'Yes,' he nodded.
She was silent for the rest of the journey except to occasionally sing along with the radio, but the tension in the car was at breaking point now and Kent was ready to kill her when they finally arrived at the flat and it was time to say goodbye. He needed her to leave now.
Chandler was looking at him with the expression Kent had grown to love; a little flash of passion in his eyes, a slightly flick of his tongue over his lips. He was thinking about kissing him, but Chandler was a private man, and he wouldn't consider such a thing with a loud-mouth like Aly in the back. Luckily, she read the situation too, and said:
'Well, thanks for the lift, Joseph. I better rush on up. Someone has to feed Buchan the Fish.'
'You actually called the fish Buchan?' Chandler asked.
'It's a good name,' Kent shrugged, but the words had barely past his lips when Chandler had leant over and captured them in the sweetest of goodnight kisses.
When Kent finally entered the flat, he could hear Aly filling the other two in on the events of the night. He groaned internally and closed his eyes. He didn't need their interrogating and their judgement at his secret relationship, but what he did need was a glass of water, and the only way to the kitchen was through the sitting room.
'You took your time,' Aly grinned. He ignored her and focused on the tap. He was expecting the slight teasing, he'd become used to it since Buchan the Fish had arrived, but he hadn't expected, Aly to say: 'You know, I think I like him and he clearly cares for you.'
'I guess it's just a case of whether you can live with the secrecy,' Rachel reflected.
'Shut up, Rach,' Aly dismissed. 'Secrecy is fun. It adds a little spice to a relationship.'
'For you, maybe, but Em's cut from a different cloth.'
'I'm okay with it,' Kent said confidently and he really, really was. God knew he'd made bigger sacrifices for less deserving people and Chandler was the first man he'd known who got him at every level. It was just great to have someone who understood him so deeply … everything else was just detail.
Post the end of the episode.
'Skip okay?' Kent asked, as Chandler arrived home. The younger man was lying on the cream couch as though he lived there, which since the case had closed, he sort of did.
'Well he's grumpy, and he's told the doctor three times to discharge him.'
'He's better then?'
'Much,' Chandler nodded going to the fridge and getting himself a bottle of beer. 'Has Anderson called the house?'
'No. Buchan left a message earlier but not Anderson. Why? Is he trying to get hold of you?'
'He's hounding me,' Chandler corrected, lifting Kent's legs up so that he could sit on the sofa, before replacing the younger man's feet in his lap. 'All he wants to do is tell me I've failed and that I'll never make Chief Super.'
'It's been a week since you stopped the last murder,' Kent said, with his predisposition to focus on the positives. 'Maybe it's time to answer his call.'
'I just want one more day,' Chandler pleaded, pushing up the cuff of Kent's trousers and resting his hand on his shin, 'before he ruins my dreams.'
'Okay,' Kent whispered, picking up the remote and flicking through the channels. 'What do you want to watch? There's a Jack the Ripper documentary on the Horror Channel.'
'No!' Chandler said immediately, which made Kent smile.
'Aww, Buchan will be devastated. That's what he called about,' he nodded to the flashing light on the answer phone machine. 'I think he's got a starring role as the resident Ripper Expert. I was making a brew at the time it was difficult to hear.'
'No Jack the Ripper,' Chandler repeated.
'Alright, you choose then.'
Chandler took the remote and flicked steadily through the channels, occasionally stopping on a title which looked promising and reading the write up. He kept glancing to Kent, but the younger man seemed lost in his own train of thought.
With one hand on Kent's leg, the weight of his feet in Chandler's lap acting as a constant comfort as he skimmed the next synopsis, Chandler felt happy. Of course, the peace couldn't last, and eventually Kent's thoughts manifested themselves as a question:
'Are you okay, about remaining a DI I mean?'
Chandler sighed. It was question he'd been thinking about all week and, if he was honest, he'd only in the last moment or two really come to an answer.
'Being Chief Super is something I've wanted since I was five years old.'
'I know,' Kent hummed sympathetically.
'Apart from for a brief time when I was seven, and I decided I wanted to be a train.'
Kent snorted with laughter as Chandler clarified: 'Not a train driver, a train.'
'Well, I'm sorry to tell you this but I think your train days are behind you.'
'I know,' Chandler smiled, putting down the remote and turning to smile at the man next to him. 'What I'm trying to say is … I've based my whole life on an idea I had when Thomas the Tank Engine was my biggest hero. Things change, circumstances change, people change, and you know, I used to think I couldn't possibly be happy until I was sitting behind a desk running the whole of Scotland Yard just like my father,' he smiled at his boyfriend. 'But I was wrong. Because I'm happy right now.'
'Good,' Kent smiled back. 'Good.'
Chandler finally settled on a programme about a gang in New York and Kent wriggled his legs free so that he could swap ends and lean his head against Chandler's chest instead. It was a few minutes before he spoke, but eventually he said:
'I wished I'd known you when you were a kid. I think we'd have got on well.'
'Well, you clearly wanted to be Thomas the Tank Engine and I always wanted to be the Fat Controller.'
'Who wants to be the Fat Controller?'
'I used to wear all black and shove a cushion under my shirt to give me a big belly. I'd make Erica - she's my sister - dress up like a train so I could boss her about.'
'You are a very strange man, Emmerson Kent,' Chandler chuckled.
'Ah, you love me really.' It had been meant as off-hand and humourous; it was obvious from the way it had been said, but that particularly four letter word had never been uttered between them before. He could almost feel the burn of Kent's embarrassment through his own shirt, and he didn't want that. So he pushed Kent upwards so that he could kiss him gently and as they broke apart he whispered:
'I think I just might.'
So I've been horrifically (uncomfortably) busy recently, but I'm managed to carve out a little me-time and get back to some good old writing! If there's any interest at all, I'm considering continuing this through out the four seasons? I have some ideas for each season - things that I think will work really well alongside the cannon - but there are some really difficult parts that might require a little encouragement from any possible interested parties.
Anyway, thanks for reading this far and sorry about the enormity of the wait between chapter 2 and 3.