In The Bleak Midwinter
Disclaimer:All characters are not mine and belong to Colin Dexter and/or ITV.
Rating: As the show. People will die, it will not be especially grizzly, there may be occasional swearing but nothing out of character and nothing too strong.
Author's Note: This is my first Lewis fic so all feedback gratefully received. I'll do my best to get it all written and uploaded fairly promptly. Its unbeta-ed so all cock ups are mine. All feedback gratefully received particularly if you think someone is out of character (or in character – makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside!)
The Cricketer's Arms had very much entered into the spirit of the festive season, decked out as it was in garlands and fairy lights. A chalk board propped up at the bar advertised the sale of mulled wine and cider, with the obligatory accompanying mince pie while a Christmas tree that had seen one too many drunken revellers teetered precariously in one corner.
The clientele changed around Christmas, as the students decamped and returned home for a month's worth of home cooking, and instead were replaced by an endless parade of office partygoers, all complete with requisite crackers, paper hats and a sprinkling of reindeer antlers.
The beer garden was no longer the domain of cheery, drinking, sun-seekers lazily watching passing oarsmen and instead had become home only to those smokers brave, or desperate, enough to face the biting chill of winter in England. It was from this quiet vantage point that James Hathaway, cigarette in one hand, pint in the other, dispassionately viewed the crowd, paying particular attention to the table in the centre of the room filled with his colleagues. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy parties per se, but he had discovered that after a couple of glasses of wine Chief Superintendant Innocent had a tendency to lose all sense of propriety and recount stories from her policing past that Hathaway had no particular desire to have seared into his memory.
"Alright, Jim?" the soft, Geordie accent of his boss drew him out of his thoughts, and he turned to greet Lewis, failing to repress a smile at the sight of a Santa hat perched jauntily on his boss's head. "What you doing freezing out here when you could be enjoying some enforced entertainment inside?" A gale of laughter from their table interrupted him briefly as he ruefully shook his head, "she'll have us all playing party games next..."
Hathaway raised his half smoked cigarette in answer, "It's alright Sir, I haven't quite got to the stage where I feel the need to create a fictitious emergency. I'm good for at least another couple of pints yet."
Lewis smiled at the younger man's desultory tone, and raised the pint glasses he carried in each hand, earning another smile from the sergeant.
"You must be Santa come early," Hathaway remarked as he took the glass, "My boss would never have forked out for a pint!"
"And he hasn't yet," retorted Lewis, "compliments of the Super, Merry Christmas, lad."
"Merry Christmas, Sir," Hathaway glanced at his watch, "although it is only the... fourteenth of December."
"Sergeant," reproved Lewis, his tone of voice conveying far more than should be possible for a single word, which prompted the younger man to school his features into a picture of innocence, leaving behind only the faintest smirk, which may or may not, be caused merely by the shape of his face.
They stood side by side in companionable silence for a few moments, broken only by an off-key rendition of "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" from a group within the pub. As his thoughts wandered, Lewis suddenly realised he had no idea where his enigmatic bagman spent the holiday if, of course, they were actually able to take some time off. Buoyed by a few beers Lewis decided to broach the subject with his taciturn sergeant.
"Any plans for Christmas, James?"
Hathaway remained silent, and took a deep drag of his cigarette clearly thinking about his answer.
"Not a great deal, Sir. I have a couple of unshakeable commitments but nothing exciting."
"Well, I like to go to Midnight Mass," Hathaway explained.
"And the other?" asked Lewis, curiously.
"Well Sir, I do really like the Muppet's Christmas Film. How about you?"
Lewis sighed, almost sadly.
"Well, my lad's still in Australia and Lyn and the family are at the in-laws on Christmas Day so I imagine the day will involve me, the TV and some beers," he paused in thought for a moment, then with a courage borne of beer offered, "If you fancy popping over I'll let you have control of the remote for the Muppets."
James looked up in almost boyish surprise, then a shy grin spread across his features.
"I'd like that, Sir. Can't do with leaving you on your own at Christmas."
"Well, that's sorted then. Right, as I see it we have two choices here."
Hathaway quirked a querying eyebrow.
"Well," Lewis elaborated, "We can make a desperate bid for freedom now. Or..."
"Or," Hathaway drained the remains of his second pint, "If we can't beat them, join them?"
Lewis copied his actions, then resolutely straightened his shoulders. "Exactly, Sergeant."
The next morning, the offices of Oxforshire Police CID were decidedly quiet as Lewis made his way into the building quarter of an hour late. In their shared office Hathaway sat morosely at his desk, head resting in one hand, glass of water in the other.
"You look like you could do with a smoke," Lewis commented, and was rewarded by a faint green tinge appearing across the younger man's face, "For a man talking about escaping you were having a remarkably good time when I left."
Hathaway groaned in response, and tentatively sipped his water. Before he could reply, or Lewis could tease any further, the shrill ring tone of the sergeant's phone started up, causing him to wince dramatically at the assault on his ears.
"Hathaway," he answered, glumly. There was a long paused as he listened intently to the caller, "Yes. Whereabouts?" There was another pause. "Thank you. See you shortly."
He hung up with another misery filled groan and turned to face Lewis once more.
"Where?" asked the inspector, knowing instinctively what his sergeant was about to report.
"Summer Meadows Retirement Bungalows. Number twenty six."
Lewis nodded and plucked the keys deftly out of Hathaway's hands.
"I think I'd better drive today, don't you?" he suggested, softening the rebuke with a smile and an almost fatherly shake of the head.
James started to nod then realised that the movement was sending shooting pains through his head, causing him to abort the movement swiftly. Lewis stifled a smile at the expression on the younger man's face.
"Come on," he suggested, "Let's get this over with."