Title: Free Running
Part One: Stumble
by magique
: The Bill
Pairing(s): Neil/James, past James/Ruth.
Genre/Rating: Angst, Romance/T
Word Count: 750
Summary: James Tennant finds a way to distract himself from missing Amy. AUish Amy Tennant storyline.
Warnings: None.
Notes: Part one of the Free Running series.
Neil/James is so canon it kills me. In a good way. Obviously.
This is a two part series of one-shots that can be read separately. I've already posted part two (Collapse).
Please review!

Stumble verb 1 trip or momentarily lose one's balance.

Amy Tennant went missing on the fifteenth of February 2006.

For the first few months of her disappearance, the country was on high alert. The public raked their memories for anything of use, people on the streets kept an eye out and the police dragged in every possible suspect they could find. But all of it was for nothing. Amy was gone without a trace and would stay that way for almost a year.

The small seven-year-old would capture the hearts of thousands and her father would lose one and gain another before she was finally found safe.

The fifteenth of February 2006 was a significant date for Detective Inspector Neil Manson. The fifteenth of February 2006 would change his life.

He just didn't know it then.

And, pounding a fist against the front door after pulling into the Tennant's driveway six months later, he was about to find out.

James Tennant hadn't looked healthy since Amy disappeared, but he appeared worse than ever in the doorway of his home that morning. He was exhausted, his skin pallid with dark bags under his bleary, red-rimmed eyes. His hair was sticking up at odd angles and Neil was utterly positive the hand resting on the doorknob was shaking.

"I've been expecting you to show up," he said through a yawn and walked away down the hall.

Neil shut the door behind him and followed, expecting to be led into the kitchen, but James went up the stairs and returned to his room. He sat on the end of his bed and pushed a hand through his short curls. "So?"

"What did you think you were doing?"

A shrug was the only response.

"I was called half an hour ago because you punched someone in the face. Why?"

James looked away sadly. "I miss her, Neil. I really miss her."

Neil sighed and stepped forward, seating himself beside the distraught father. "I know you do, but this isn't helping. We are doing everything we can to get your daughter back. We are."

"You're stepping down the investigation. How is that everything?"

"Look, we – James, there might be fewer officers on it now but it's just as important as before. I'll still tell you about every lead, but there haven't been any lately. We can't work with nothing."

"She could be out there. She could be hurt and scared. Someone could have her and you're stepping down the investigation! She's not dead, Neil. I can feel it!"

Neil had never been good with emotional situations. Sure, he wasn't as bad as Suzie, but James burying his head in his hands and beginning to sob made him so impossibly awkward he didn't know quite how to handle it. It didn't seem to matter how many times James broke down in front of him, it was never any easier.

So he took a deep breath and did what he thought most, emotionally healthy, people would do in this situation; he placed a careful, comforting arm around James shoulder. "Then you need to stay strong for her, don't you? You need to move on – get a job, a distraction, anything. This can't keep happening. Amy couldn't come back to you with you like this. You know she can't."

James stayed quiet for a few minutes and then lifted his head slightly, watching Neil with an indescribable glint in his wet eyes. "A … distraction?"

"Yes," Neil replied warily in the suddenly intense silence. "I could help. There's bound to be some sort of odd job at the – the station that, uh…"

He didn't move away as James' face grew nearer until they were inches apart, so close the stale pub smell on the other man's breath was almost overpowering. His eyes flitted between the two opposite and it was impossible not to know what was about to happen. But he didn't back away. He could have left, but … he didn't want to.

Maybe it was because it had been so long since he'd had intimate contact with anyone. Maybe he was lonely. Maybe he was just being selfless. Whatever it was, Neil let James press their lips together, let a tongue slip between his teeth, let James push him down onto the bed, and let himself return it.

"Do you mind?" James whispered, breath ghosting across his face.

His lips were chapped, his stubble itched, he tasted like whiskey and salty tears and misery, and Neil closed his eyes and sighed, "No."

And he didn't.