He didn't love her and he wasn't happy but he could pretend to be normal this way and noone would question him or presume he was in love with his boss and everything would be fine. So he didn't feel like a complete charlatan stood in Miles' kitchen with his arm draped loosely around Chloe's waist, trying to smile and not look awkward whilst chatting to Riley and her husband.
When Meg comented on how it was nice to see him with someone and how good they looked together, Kent suddenly felt a sharp stab of guilt, which he quickly brushed away when he saw DI Chandler appear in the hall. He was fine, just happily attending a collegue's party with his new girlfriend and he didn't have a crush on his boss, who was looking partucularly dapper this evening in a blue cashmere jumper, and it wasn't weird.
Except that it was and when Chandler stepped through to the kitchen a short while later, Kent was pretty sure his heart might explode. Was that a look of disappointment on his face? No, no, just curiosity surely. Kent hadn't been particularly forthcoming with information surrounding his new relationship down at the station, merely asking Miles for a plus one with his invitation. Miles had inquired about her and Kent had told him the least he could get away with. Mansell and Riley had done nothing but pester and tease him about her until she'd met him that night after work and they saw how gorgeous she was and they'd shut up. Because she was gorgeous, all blonde hair and blue eyes, tall and slim. Not even one joke about him and the boss had been brought up since. If only Kent had thought of this charade years ago, he would have avoided so much nonsense from the two of them. Though he must admit, right now he'd wished Riley had stayed with the two of them in the kitchen for a little longer but she'd gone to hunt down Mansell for a gossip, no doubt.
Chandler politely introduced himself and Chloe smiled shyly. Yes, she saw it too. Chandler's easy elegance that shone through even when he felt awkward. His blue eyes beguiling her as they had him years before. Chandler must have noticed the way she was looking at him and cleared his throat quickly looking to Kent and asking a bland question of how they met. Kent thought for a second that he obviously didn't want to know the answer but he shook that off as wishful thinking.
"My flatmate introduced us. Apparently he thought we'd be a good match." That wasn't strictly true either, Matt was sick to death of his moping around and looking lovesick so took it upon himself to hook the pair up. Chloe was looking at his with gooey eyes and he looked from her soft expression to Chandler's blank face. Chandler nodded, smiled rather stiffly and politely excused himself, claiming his need to seek out Judy before she'd gotten angry he'd not found her earlier.
As he was leaving, Kent saw Erica glaring at him from the back door where she'd popped out for a cigarette. "Alright Em." She drawled. His twin had made it quite clear that she hated what he was trying to do. She's talked herself hoarse on the phone the other night, laying out exactly why it was a dispicable thing to do and he should just grow a pair and deal with his boss. Kent had, like usual when she had tried to give him relationship advice, completely ignored her and he thought it was working exceptionally well.
"Well Chloe, I think it's time I got to know my twin brother's beloved, don't you?" Erica had taken Chloe by the arm with a wide grin and left Kent trailing behind her as she began to chat her arm off about how they were now both police wags and they should be best of friends. This was Erica's way of trying to scare her off, Kent had seen her do this before when he'd brought home his first girlfriend when instead, Erica insisted, he should have brought home the boy he fancied in their form. It had worked too well, Erica's supposed overprotective nature had terrified a lot of girls over the years. Well not a lot, but the few that he'd been with for any length of time.
Kent paused just outside the living room door, watched Erica thread her arm around the now frightened looking woman. He shook his head in half amusement and turned to the dining room instead where he'd seen Mansell duck into before. He was about to make his presence known to him and Riley who were hunched in the corner, obviously gossiping when he caught his own name in the hushed speech.
"I don't know who Kent thinks he's fooling. I mean, it's quite clear he doesn't actually fancy the poor lass."
"I know, but Erica thinks it's his way to get over the boss. Y'know like sweeping it under the carpet and making himself completely miserable at the same time."
"Poor love. I do feel sorry for him. And did you see he boss' face?" Meg humphed. "He looked gutted."
What? No he didn't. Kent was stood there looking between the pair, who were completely oblivious to his near presence. Chandler didn't look gutted, he looked bored. Kent's life was not anything for him to be interested in and it wasn't. No, there's no way that he'd ever be interested in him. Even if he had accepted to go for that drink. Which didn't happen due to the van accident incidentally. And it wouldn't happen. Would it?
Kent's head was spinning and all if a sudden there wasn't enough air in the room and he needed to get out and not keel over. He staggered back to the kitchen and through the back door. He slumped over, hands leaning heavily on his knees as he sucked in as much air as he could. His heart was still racing and he clenched his eyes shut and leant against the wall, his head back against brick, trying to clear all thought. He felt woozy and a bit shaky. He spied a bench near the fish pond when he opened his eyes, attempting to stop his head from spinning. Quickly and on wobbly legs he all but collapsed onto the wood. A sigh rushing out of him as he calmed. He felt a familiar burning at the back of his eyes as the guilt caught up with him. Who was he kidding? Apparently only himself and Chloe. Poor Chloe, the woman actually liked him, god knows why and all he'd done is lie to her and force her into his world of pretending. He was a terrible person. The tears came slowly but surely.
"Kent?" A voice called in the dark. Oh god no. "Kent are you ok?" Chandler's silhouette crossed his field of vision in the fading light of the autumn evening. It was getting dark quickly, and cold now Kent thought about it and he shivered slightly in his light hoody, wishing he'd grabbed his coat.
He was drawn out of his thoughts by the bench sinking beneath Chandler's weight and he scrubbed at his eyes and cheeks with a sleeve. "Just needed some air, sir." Kent winced at how feeble he sounded and it made him feel thoroughly miserable all over again.
Kent could feel Chandler's eyes on him as if they weighed heavily. "Kent?" He sounded unsure and awkward and suddenly Kent felt responisble for him feeling that way as if it was another thing to be guilty about. He was going to drown in a sea of his own self reproach any minute now. "Won't Chloe be wondering where you are?" A laugh that was more of a choked sob than anything clawed it's way out of Kent's throat. The sound bitter and grating.
"No sir, I think Erica's scaring her away."
"Shouldn't you try and stop her?" Kent looked up at that, wondering if there it was meant to be laced with sarcasm. He didn't think it was.
"No. We shouldn't really be together."
"Why? I thought you looked happy together."
Another laugh. Bitter, twisted. "We're not. I'm not..." He wondered how he could sound quite so pathetic. He didn't mean to, god knows he tried to appear as an adult, appear as an equal to the others, responsible and normal.
"Oh." Chandler was quiet as if in contemplation. Kent wiped his hands down his face, feeling well and truly wrung out. "Why did you ask her out?" The question was soft and without accusation.
"I wanted to seem normal for once." Kent was scared about how truthful he was being at this moment and hoped Chandler wouldn't pry too much.
Chandler made a noise that could have been agreement. "I can understand that. Sometimes I'd like to be normal too." Kent knew Chandler was talking about his demons, his perculiar ways of dealing with things. Miles had had a quiet word with the team when he first noticed them, but by that point Kent was well aware of the odd behaviour and found Chandler's ways of coping with things intriguing.
"I think we're doomed to never be quite normal sir." Kent hadn't taken his eyes off his boss, he looked far too good in the soft dusk, his eyes beautiful and his face calm. "We work in Whitechapel. Nothing's normal." That brought a small smile to Chandler's face and that alone lifted Kent's heart.
"We'll just have to pretend to be normal together." Chandler's gaze met his own and his use of 'we' and 'together' made his heart leap to his throat. The small smile widening to a rarely seen true smile, one that Kent wanted to memorise forever. The air didn't seem too cold now, sat here next to Chandler, fish swimming happily at their feet as their knees met and rested against one another. Either Chandler hadn't noticed, which seemed unlikely, or he didn't mind this small bit of contact between them. Kent wasn't sure which he preferred and allowed himself to relax minutely.
The pair sat like that, side by side, until it grew properly dark. It was peaceful and quiet, the sound of their soft breathing and the fish moving a symphony to Kent. He wasn't sure when or what possessed him to do it but he found his head softly resting on Chandler's shoulder, the cashmere of his jumper was body warm, and when Chandler didn't make a move to shove him off he sagged into the contact, eyes closing contently.
He felt Chandler's shoulders move slightly as a huff of a laugh brushed his hair. "Comfy?" A trace of a smile teased the edges of the question. Kent nearly squirmed with joy as he hummed a happy reply. Another laugh sounded from Chandler and Kent nearly jumped out of his skin as an arm tentatively wound around him, gently settling on the back of the bench. It would look nonchalant if one didn't know Chandler and didn't know he over thought every move he made.
"Think skip'll have a heart attack if he sees us like this." Kent mumbled. Chandler froze for a second and Kent was worried he'd spooked the man.
"I'm pretty sure money will change hands if any of them see us like this." There was still a laugh in his voice and Kent joined in. His head came back up and he looked at Chandler. He looked calm enough, but there was a tension in the corner of his eyes. He was worried. He was always worried about something it seemed. Kent smiled softly amd straightened where he sat.
"I think I've been an idiot sir."
"I think you have too." Chandler teased. "But I have been too, a bit."
"A bit?" Kent laughed, which may have been more of a giggle but he was fine with that.
"We never did have that drink." The comment was light but the promise behind it made Kent's chest ache and his heart pound.
"Would you still like to go, sir?" Kent's tooth caught his grin before it could spread too much.
"I'd still love to." Chandler ducked his head slightly, if a bit embarrassed. "But only if you promise you'll call me Joe."
Kent giggled again, there was no way he could claim it was anything but a giggle. "I think I can manage that, Joe." He grinned with the emphasis on his name before something passed across his face.
"You might also have to talk to Chloe. I don't fancy being two-timed." Chandler, Joe, gave him the cheekiest look Kent had ever seen grace his features and he grinned. Two-timed. That was a promise of things Kent had never even allowed himself to dream about. Joy bubbled through him and he pulled Joe softly into a swift hug. Joe laughed again, it was a happy sound, one Kent wanted to make happen again and again. Kent stood, Chandler followed his lead.
"I'll go and take Chloe home and have a chat with her." He smiled. He knew he probably shouldn't be too happy about a breakup but my god if he didn't feel like the happiest man alive. Chandler nodded and just before they reached the back door, grasped Kent by the shoulder and drew he towards his arms. A press of lips against his own and Kent was certain his heart had stopped entirely. When Chandler pulled back, a sloppy happy grin was slapped across Kent's face. Joe leant his forehead against his and seemed to breath him in. Kent's hands gripped tightly on the soft jumper and a soft sigh alighted his body. Joe smelt of something beautiful and right now looked and felt like nothing else on the planet. They parted with shy smiles and brief promises before disappearing into the throngs.
It had been a painful twenty minutes but after leaving Chloe's flat, Kent felt lighter than he had in years. He'd apologised, citing himself and his confusion anout himself as the reasons for their split and she hadn't cried nor shouted, Erica must have done well in her mission to put her off him. All in all they'd not been together nearly long enough for true affection to grow. He was sorry he'd gotten her caught up in his car crash of a life but they were over now and the future called. The furture that contained Joseph Chandler.
Kent had tried to suppress a grin as he shuffled through a few files. He was nervous and excited. He was waiting for Mansell and Meg to clear out, Miles had left ten minutes earlier, grumbling about still needing to tidy up after them all from last night. Chandler was in his office, Ed had cornered him and he had seemingly been lecturing him about something. They weren't in the middle of any big cases at the moment so it really could be about anything.
"You need to clock off soon, you'll make us look bad." Riley teased him and he just grinned.
"Yeah right, like you two actually care." She smiled and ruffled his hair.
"Don't work too hard, mate." Mansell called from across the room.
Kent was starting to think they knew about his and Chandler's plans for the evening and had teamed up with Ed to get in their way. Rolling his eyes he turned back to faffing about with the papers on his desk and could hear Riley cackling her way out of the station, Mansell stomping after her. He chanced a look to Chandler's office and caught his eye through the glass. He grinned at the exasperation on his face and laughed. He watched Joe turn back to Ed who seemed to be winding down.
He wasn't sure why, perhaps it was bias on his part but he though Chandler looked partucularly good today. He was wearing one of Kent's favourite suits, the cut slightly tighter in the chest than some of his others and the shirt was fresh as of half an hour ago, Kent was sure. Kent himself had worried himself sick about what to wear, changing his mind entirely this morning from the grey suit he'd picked out last night to the black one he sported now, the purple shirt Riley had once told him Llwelyn had mentioned she'd fancied him in and a black tie. He always felt underdressed when it came to Chandler and his Savile Row suits but tonight made it worse. He drifted a bit in his thoughts and the opening of the office door made him jump out of skin. Thankfully Ed was too preoccupied to notice.
"Just think on it Joe, I could be twice as efficient in my endeavours if you were to hire an assistant for me." Chandler was quick to assure him he would, from his place by his open door. As soon as Ed had left the incident room and the door shut, Chandler strode across to Kent's desk. He'd stood to collect his coat when a firm hand touched his face and soft lips met his own. He may have made a stifled noise of surprise that couldn't have been becoming of him, yet Chandler didn't seem to mind.
"Shall we?" Kent could only nod and smile and felt for the first time as if he didn't need to pretend to be normal. He and Joe were going for a drink and he didn't have to pretend to be happy, he simply was.