by Quiet Daydream
''Good morning, Sir!'' Kent had a wide and genuine smile on his face. It was a pleasant sight.
''Good morning, Kent!'' Chandler answered. He was nervous, and he could feel that nervousness in his stomach. It's like his insides were doing back flips. His palms were sweaty. 'Get a grip!' He shouted at himself in his head.
''How are you, Sir?''
''I am really fine, thank you for asking!''
''I am glad to hear that because we have a new witness. She is coming here today, and also, I made a list of all the possible suspects. Everything is on the board, Sir.''
''That's excellent!'' He nodded his head in affirmation.
''Miles is driving his boys to school today, because Judy is visiting her mother with Lily.''
''Oh, I got it, thank you. Let's see the board.''
They were professional and polite, as it was expected, but the change was obvious. Chandler was overly nice with his: 'Thank you, Kent!', 'Good work!','Excellent, Kent!' and 'Brilliant!'. Kent did not call him Joe, but Sir, as he always did, however he behaved as if he regained his freedom. At moments he would be uncomfortable, but then it would dawn on him that everything was all right. He will keep his job, and Chandler had nothing against him. He was actually, very kind and supportive. Then he was really supportive. Then he was too supportive. Then it was utterly strange. At the end of the day, Miles paid Chandler a visit.
''What the hell is wrong with you?''
''What are you talking about?''
''It's great that you apologized to Kent, you were in the wrong, but, aren't you now exaggerating a bit?''
''How am I exaggerating?''
''I think you've said 'Thank you!' and 'Excellent work!' after his every bloody sentence.''
''I did not.''
''Really? You did not just congratulate him on going to the loo? 'That's a great idea!'?''
''OK, boss, but it was downright ridiculous.''
''I am just trying to mend things between us. I was an outright heel to that man.''
''Aren't you inflating the whole situation a bit?''
''Did you know, Miles?''
''Did I know what?''
'Did you know how Kent feels about me?''
The room was silent for a moment.
''Ah. That. Well, of course.''
''WELL, OF COURSE?! What's wrong with you, Miles?'' He shouted, and after momentarily realizing where they were he whispered: ''What is wrong with you?''
''Nothing's wrong with me. It was not my place to tell you that.''
''You don't think that a proper warning, would have, somehow, be in order? I should have tried to correct my behaviour and... Well, it would have been nice to know the whole situation. We would have avoided many things.''
''I don't know. I'd be more decent towards him.''
''Which means you would be acting, as you did the whole bloody day today.''
''I wasn't acting!''
''Of course you did! You're uncomfortable and burdened by everything! You are a decent man, Joe, but you are not an overly polite man towards us. That is one of the things that keeps everybody efficient around here. You needed, no, you need to treat Kent as everyone else. And you were doing that. What you did today was foolish and unnatural to you.''
''I can't treat him badly.''
''Who mentioned anything about treating him badly? You should treat him as you treat the rest of us. Honestly, Joe, you should ask yourself why did you feel so comfortable to get pissed at him so often, and with such ease, in the first place.''
''I mean, we all experienced how it feels to be the object of your dissatisfaction, but with Kent it became more common than with anybody else. It's like you knew, subconsciously, that you could act that way with him, that you don't have to control yourself, because there isn't a thing that he wouldn't forgive you.''
''Well, Miles, thank you for that thorough psychoanalyses.''
''Everybody knows, Joe! Everybody!'' Chandler's mouth opened in horror.
''It's a public secret around here. Kent is so obvious. Since you came, his devotion to work became even more admirable, but it wasn't just that. Are you trying to tell me that you didn't notice the looks? His clumsiness in your presence? He would overstep his rank, forgetting about the rules, and rush to you for every, single, bloody thing. For God's sake Joe, he would smile at you, like a fool. At first I did think that you couldn't notice. Then I thought nobody can be that oblivious. Finally, I figured that you chose not to notice, that it was your way of coping with the situation.''
''I had no idea, Miles! I just thought that he was looking up to me. That he wanted to learn. That he is ambitious about the job. I thought he wanted to impress me as a boss.''
''I am positive that you're correct. But it's so much more than that.''
''Now, I know, Miles! Oh, God, I am ridiculous!'' He grabbed his tiger balm, and started rubbing his forehead like a maniac.
''I can't stop thinking about his words.''
''He told me how he feels about me, because I pushed him into it. He said how he feels, and then he quit!''
''He did what?''
''I am so glad that we solved it, Miles.''
''Blimey! That kid grew a pair, that's for sure.''
At that moment, there was a knock at the door. Kent's face was on the other side.
The young man came in quietly and looked at Miles apologetically. ''Sorry, Skip, I didn't mean to interrupt.''
''No, no, it's fine.'' Miles answered with a smile.
Kent raised his eyebrows, because he felt like there was something more behind that smile. Or maybe it was all in his head.
''Sir, the Stevensons have an alibi. And Skip was right. The victim's cousin lied about his whereabouts.''
''I knew it!'', said Miles. ''Everything about that fella was fishy.''
''Well, you were right, Skip.''
''Miles and I will go see him immediately. Kent, as always...''
''I know, 'great work'. Sir, can we have a word before you go? It'll be only a minute.''
''I'll wait outside.'' Miles disappeared in a matter of seconds.
''Sir, I am really glad that we are all right now, but I noticed that you're uncomfortable.''
''I'm not uncomfortable.''
''Well, you are, kind of. You really don't have to praise me gazillion times in a day. I mean, it's great when you do it, don't misinterpret what I'm trying to say. Just, don't get out of your comfort zone for my sake. Everything is fine. Just be yourself.''
Chandler was staring at him. His tongue was tied in knots. He has to stop with his foolishness, and he has to that immediately.
''Fine, Kent. I know what you mean. Let's not speak of it anymore. Will you come with me and Miles?''
''Of course, Sir.''
It's been almost a year after the cursed van accident, and five months have passed after the row between Kent and Chandler. Their relationship has never been better. Actually, the two of them have never been closer. Chandler would stay up late, and Kent would too, but instead of being separate, as it was the case in the past, they would sit together in Chandler's office and talk about the cases they had to solve. Miles was pleased with the situation. There was less need to act like a nanny, and survey Chandler's actions. There was no self-medicating. Not even once did he find him drunk. And the situation was pleasing for everyone. There was no tension, or unusual stress. The stress wasn't absent, of course, that would be impossible considering the nature of their work, but everything seemed more promising and nothing seemed unsolvable. Nobody was fannying about, but no one was over stressing either. That was a pleasant change indeed.
Kent's behaviour has changed drastically. He wasn't stuttering around Chandler. He didn't look at him like an eager teenager. There were no strange pauses in the conversation and he didn't blush. But he has never been more in love with the man. He was professional, and kind. He was polite and even warm in his approach, and he did not show his woe. But woe was there. It was exceptionally present when he would go to sleep. He wanted Chandler next to him. He still had the wild images of them, together, entangled in the sheets, lost in their desires for each other, blind and deaf for everything else except themselves, their friction, zeal, fire, sweat and sighs in the darkness of the room. After admitting his feelings to Chandler, everything became easier for him. It's like he got a permission to feel what he feels from Chandler himself. It's not like he really needed it, but it was important because he felt accepted. Chandler was not disgusted by him. He had nothing against his nature. It meant the world to him. Erika was fine with his sexual life. She was acceptant and supportive. Riley, Skip, Buchan, even Mansell, showed tolerance. But it was a problem for many people, unfortunately. He just wanted to keep Chandler in his life. Maybe Chandler can't reciprocate the same way, but that is nobody's fault. He accepts Kent, his nature, his life. He is respectful and kind. That's all that he wants. Apart from the fact that he wants to see Chandler happy.
These five months did not pass so smoothly for Chandler, either. He decided to solve the situation between him and Kent by being the best man that he could be. And he knew that he had to treat others with equal respect. It was hard not to get pissed (especially at Mansell). Of course, he did yell, from time to time (mostly at Mansell) and he and Miles had their usual arguments, but he felt more at peace (even with Mansell). His OCD was there, but it wasn't so extreme. He didn't look at vodka as his salvation. He didn't change ten shirts a day (it was mostly two). And he liked the presence of Kent. He liked his acceptance. He appreciated his feelings. He liked their conversations, the time they shared. It was hard to accept how much he liked all of that. Mostly because he felt that he didn't deserve the type of acceptance that he got from Kent. Or the depth of love that Kent felt. He didn't understand Kent's admiration, but he did understand Kent's feelings. And his own. And they were changing, slowly, and growing, day by day. Until one morning happened to both of them.
He liked the fact that Kent knows exactly how he prefers his tea. And he learned that Kent likes to drink Latte Macchiato (he smiled every time when he thought of his DC drinking it, because it was a funny name for a coffee) and he would surprise him with one from time to time. One morning, he bought a hot, grande coffee, and put it on Kent's desk. He went to his office. Next thing he knew, Kent rushed in followed by Mansell. They were joking about something because they were laughing outloud. Kent reached his desk when Mansell yelled: ''Oi! Kent! Your sister sent you this.'' He sent him a kiss.
''Charming.'', said Kent. He looked at his desk and saw his favourite coffee there. His chest became warm. He lifted it and looked at Chandler's office. Chandler nodded and returned to his papers. He was glad about that moment. It made him unusually happy. Kent was holding his coffee and right as he was turning back he and Mansell bumped into each other. Kent screamed. Chandler jumped from his seat and rushed through the door. Mansel was flustered: ''Sorry, mate! I didn't want to bump into you! I didn't see the coffee. Where did you get the effen coffee?'' Chandler appeared next to Kent: ''Kent, are you OK?!''
''Oh, crap! Oh, Jesus Christ, it hurts.'' yelled Kent. Chandler grabbed his shoulders and lead him towards bathroom. They could hear Mansell's 'Sorry, mate!' echoing behind them.
''Cold water, we'll put some cold water.'' Chandler was holding Kent as they were rushing to the bathroom. He grabbed the first tap with cold water and placed Kent's hands under it. They were so red, and he could see Kent's face in pain.
''Oh, God, are you all right, Emerson?'' Emerson kept his watery eyes tightly shut, but when he opened them, he could see Chandler's blue eyes.
''Oh, my God, Joe, how can the coffee be so fucken hot?''
''I told them to make it hot, because I had no idea when you'll come exactly, and I didn't want it to cool down. Oh, God! Are you OK?''
''I'm OK, Joe, it's fine, it's fine, it'll be all right!''
Chandler was holding Kents wrists under the cold stream, and the pain was subsiding. He got burned, and his mind was briefly in pain, but now, his temperature was rising from a completely different reason. Chandler was holding him. His hands were holding his arms, and his face was three inches away. Chandler was flustered and worried, and his eyes seemed scared.
Kent came to himself: ''Joe!''
He looked directly at Kent's eyes.
''I'm all right. Calm down.''
''Mansell is a twit.'' Chandler muttered angrily.
''Yes he is, but this was an accident. He didn't see the coffee.''
''I don't care. He's still a twit.''
''Hey, I am not arguing about that.'' Kent smiled. ''It passed.''
He heard a sigh of relief from the older man.
''I mean, it hurts a bit, but, it'll be OK.''
''Can we go to a doctor, now?'' Chandler asked.
''No need, Joe. It's... No, I'll just go to Llewellyn. She'll check it and prescribe an ointment or something. I'll go now. OK?''
''OK.'' said Chandler.
''I can't go if you don't let go of my hands.''
''Oh, sorry.'' Chandler moved back suddenly, as if he got burned himself.
Kent smiled. ''You are really cute when you're flustered.'' Then he froze. 'Oh, my God did I just say that out loud?' He thought. 'I didn't want to say that to him.' ''Sorry! I don't know why I said that.''
''Kent!'' He interrupted him. ''Don't apologize. Please go see Llewellyn.''
Kent nodded apologetically and walked out of the bathroom quietly.
Chandler stared at the door that were slowly closing behind him. And then came a thought. A loud and clear thought: 'I am not the cute one Kent. You are.'
It was a realization. He looked down on the floor tiles of the bathroom where he came to many awarenesses. He figured out many things as he washed his face and looked himself in the mirror. He was naked in front of the truth. Literally and metaphorically. He washed his sins away in this bathroom. He changed his sweat soaked, dirty shirts. He cursed his reflection. He bathed in guilt. Many things happened in here. And now, after all these years, after all these things, came a realization. About Kent. He realized that he loves Emerson Kent.
''Come on Kent.''
''I thought I could drive you home tonight.''
Kent forgot his name for a second. ''Aww.''
The place was almost empty. Miles and Riley were still there.
''Emerson, you shouldn't drive your moped tonight.'' Said Riley. ''I know that your hands don't hurt that badly, but still, why don't you get home safely?''
Kent looked at Chandler. ''Yeah, Meg. That's a good idea.''
''Of course, it is.'' She added. ''We'll see each other tomorrow. The two of us will go to the pub. Mansell's there. We could put a laxative in his beer as a punishment. What do you say, Ray?''
''Now, that's an idea, Riley!''
''Good night, Kent! Good night, boss.'' They both said as they were leaving.
''Good night!'' Said Kent and Chandler at the same time.
When they stayed alone, they spent a moment looking at each other. Kent, dazed by his DI, and Chandler mesmerized by his cute DC.
''So, are we going?'' Asked Chandler.
Kent smiled. ''I'd love to.''
Then Chandler smiled. It was an homage to his words when Kent asked him to go with him to the pub. Then they never went. He remembered his words: ''Would you like to join ME? US?'' He really was blind, wasn't he?
''Let's go.'' Said Chandler.
They didn't speak during the ride, but they did smile at each other a couple of times. Chandler drove slowly, and he was trying to collect his thoughts. Kent was just savouring the moment.
When they arrived Kent wanted to say thank you, but instead, he said:
''Would you like to come in?''
Chandler was surprised by the offer. But he wanted to come in.
He nodded at him, turned the engine off, and got out of the car.
Kent's mind was racing. 'Did his roommate wash the dishes? What was the state of the living room?' He really didn't think this through. When they entered, Kent realized that the place was decent, which was a relief.
''I'll put the cattle on. Please, Joe, sit.''
Chandler walked through the apartment without noticing anything around him. Half-present he sat on the sofa that Kent showed at with his hand, but he was quiet an completely focused on the speech that he's been preparing.
Then, finally, and in a heartbeat, he said: ''Kenthowareyourhands?''
''Sorry?'' Kent asked.
Chandler said it so fast that it made no sense.
''I was wondering about your hands.'' He said again in a calm voice. ''Do they hurt?''
''A bit. On touch. But I was really lucky. Joe?''
''Yes?'' Chandler huffed.
''Why are you nervous? And don't say that you're not nervous, because you've just spoken gibberish. You never speak gibberish.''
''There is something I'd like to ask you.''
''If this is about what happened in the bathroom...'' Kent began.
''No, no, it's not about that. Well, in a way it is. But it's nothing bad. At least I think it isn't.''
''Sir?'' Kent was confused.
''Kent. Please. Don't call me 'Sir' now. I know why you do it at the station. But, don't call me 'Sir' at your own home. Or when we're alone.''
''Sorry, Joe.'' Kent sounded confused. He was nervous. And butterflies in his stomach were making him sick in a way. It's like there was a private party in his insides.
''Kent, I... I realised something today.''
''Yes?'' Kent swallowed heavily.
''I don't like to see you hurt. I don't want to see you hurt.''
''I told you I am all right, Joe.''
''I understand that you are, it's just I really hate the fact that something bad can happen to you, that you can be injured, and that you can be in pain.''
''Joe, what's the matter?''
Joseph Chandler lost his words, and that does not happen that often. It was mind blowing.
''Today, when you were injured, I felt helpless. And terrified.''
Chandler lifted his eyes and looked Kent straight into his beautiful, brown ones.
Kent looked at him, as well. Something happened. It became tense, and it seemed like the air between them was charged with electricity. There was a storm inside each of them. A twister of emotions. And heat. Heat that was burning the skin.
''Joe, what do you want to say?'' Kent tried to ask in a normal voice, but the sound that came out was hoarse. He barely spoke, it was like his vocal cords were covered with humidity of his lungs. He was drowning in his emotions.
''Emerson. God. I love that name. I love your name, Emerson. I love your voice. It's so vibrant. And your warm, brown eyes. They really do make me feel sane. Your smile makes your whole face glow. I love your hands. They are so gentle and firm. And your unruly hair makes you look so innocent. I love your laugh. It emits the warmth that crawls into me, and spreads everywhere. I love the way you walk. Your solid but playful step. I love the things you do, the way you do them, and how you look at me. I... I love everything about you. I...''
It was now or never.
''I love you, Emerson.''
Something broke inside of Emerson Kent. Maybe he lost his mind. Joseph Chandler was sitting in his living room, and he just told him that he loved him. That was definitely a hallucination. It couldn't be real. That couldn't be real. He's gone mad.
Chandler was breathing heavily, waiting for some response.
''Joe... Joseph...'' Kent gasped his name.
''I think I've gone mad.''
Chandler was gazing at him. ''Maybe we've both gone mad, but I know that the only sane thing in my life is my love for you.''
Kent looked at him, incapable to express the overpowering sensations. He moved towards him, and Chandler stood up. Then Kent raised his right hand towards Chandler's face. His hand was hovering above his cheek for a moment, and then he touched it. Chandler exhaled sharply and his breath touched Kent's forehead.
''You are real, aren't you?'' Kent uttered at the end of his strength.
''I'm real, Emerson.'' Then he raised his left hand and placed it gently over Kent's.
''I had no idea I could feel like this. It's like there is nothing in this whole wide world except you. I'm overwhelmed.'' Then he laughed. It was a joyful, but nervous sound.
Kent lost it. He threw himself at Chandler and claimed his lips. He kissed him fervently, feverishly, as a man who is kissing for the last time, right before he'll die. He grabbed Chandler's collar tightly, with both hands and although there was a pulsating pain in his hands, it was unregistered by his stunned mind, which acknowledged only Chandler, the scent of him, his warmth and pliant softness.
And Chandler was surprised by that kiss and he stood, dumbfounded for a moment, but then everything became Kent. He felt only Kent's touch and Kent's heat, he could only hear Kent's breathing and the rush of his own blood. Kent was everywhere, Kent was everything. Kent was all that he wanted.
They kissed as if there was no tomorrow, and there was pain in that kiss. The pain of two men who did not see this tonight. And there was a relief, and happiness. And pleasure. Pleasure that seemed endless, unstoppable.
Kent parted Chandler's lips, and it was like he found the gate of heaven itself. Joe's tongue was sweet and restless. He moaned loudly and that ignited Kent's desire even more. ''Joe.'' He whispered. ''Joseph.''
Chandler lost himself in that call. He was holding Kent tightly, as if they were on the edge of a precipice. He was pulling him closer and closer, and although there was no more space between them, it didn't seem enough. He wanted to feel what Emerson was feeling. To melt with him, like wax, until it became impossible to separate them, or to discern them as separate beings.
''Joe.'' Kent gasped. ''I can't breathe, wait...''
Chandler came around with those words and relaxed his grip.
''Sorry, I was rough.''
''No, it's not that.''
''Kent, are you all right?''
''I'm just. My heart is beating so fast, I can't...'' And Chandler felt it.
His own heart was beating like crazy, so he didn't notice, but Kent wasn't able to bread properly.
''Em, slow down, breathe''. He took him in his arms and placed him on the sofa.
''Em, look at me.''
Now Emerson was completely overwhelmed. It's like his body got an overdose.
He turned his look away from Chandler, because the sight of him, and the smell of him didn't calm him down.
He looked down at the floor, trying to slow down his breathing.
Then he dared to look at Chandler, again, and say the words that were hidden behind his deep, brown eyes: ''Stay. Stay with me.''
The blue eyes smiled at him.
''I'm not going anywhere.''
Joe hugged him tightly, breathing in his scent deeply.
''I love you, Joe. I love you so much.''
''I know, Em. I know. I love you, too.''