On the 28th of October, a party has been announced at the house of some Inspector to much rejoicing.
On the 29th of October, the theme was announced as Sherlock Holmes to generally less enthusiasm. ("We're policemen, who wants to dress up as more bloody policemen?" Mansell had complained), but it stood none the less.
Kent, however, had secretly held a small celebration in his head and then started to freak out about what to wear. (He would admit to no-one that he owned the BBC box set. Or that he could quote large chunks (read: most of the script) by heart and occasionally re-enacted scenes when he was alone and bored. Or had a special blue scarf. Or once booked tickets to Frankenstein to see Benedict Cumberbatch naked and cancelled last minute because that just felt too creepy.)
His first choice was Watson. He was good with jumpers. Jumpers were slowly but surely taking over all of his wardrobe, like woolly Triffids. But had a horrible feeling that Chandler would go as Sherlock and that was just the last thing that he needed right now. Moriarty was way out, he'd thought Lestrade and discounted it immediately, briefly considered going as a draggy Irene and then wondered what the hell he was doing, thought Moriarty again then realised his cheekbones where nowhere near as good as Andrew Scott's, despaired and eaten half a pie and returned dubiously to John in the space of about an hour. Come on, it was unlikely Joe was even going to turn up. People were not his division. So he decided 'John', just to stop himself from worrying and picked out a jumper roughly the same colour as Chandler's favourite tie.
And now he stood at the edge of an unfamiliar living room wearing a jumper with a hole in it and a t-shirt his sister had made him that said "AIN'T NO PARTY LIKE A MORIPARTY", which he was ready to crack out at a moment's notice.
And now no-one was here that he knew.
Out of about eleven uniforms dressed as Sherlock (bloody delusions of grandeur), he managed to discern various members of his own team. Riley looked like an Adler (either that of she'd just forgotten to put clothes on), Miles a particularly pissed off looking Lestrade, and Buchan had completely missed the point and come as a devil. (But a specific devil, as he was trying to explain to Mansell. Hastur, a Duke of Hell. He gave up talking through the process of summoning Hastur, which was known as 'Hastur baiting' when Mansell started laughing so hard he shot Kronenbourg out of his nose).
He sidled up to Miles.
"You look cheerful."
"Fancy dress." Miles swigged beer darkly. "Can't stand 'em".
"Why did you come?"
Miles shook the beer can at him. "That, and the wife thinks I should get out. It ought to be good for
"How's your daughter?" Kent asked politely, scanning the heads for any sign of Chandler's familiar tallness.
"She can't talk yet, but she can scream the house down like you've never heard it. Not one to love something any less regarding its relative noisiness, though. Else I wouldn't have married my wife."
"Biscuit, lads?" Riley called over his shoulder from one of the food tables. "They're jammy this time, none of them plain bastards."
"Already had to dig Mansell's eyes out of her cleavage twice." Miles muttered under his breath "None for me, love!"
He put his can down. "'Scuse me, lad, need the loo."
There was a distinct lack of Chandler. He hadn't really expected him to come (this was, after all, Joseph Chandler), but he'd only actually expected that because things often worked out the polar opposite of what he hoped. And expectation seems so much worse when it's confirmed by reality. So all in all, it was a pointless exercise. Kent didn't like thinking of Chandler being alone. With the exception of Miles' retreating back, the room had not changed at all. He always felt a bit on edge if Joe wasn't around.
Come on, he silently willed. I'll even keep my jumper on, if you want. I don't mind them laughing. I can be John for you.
Riley arrived at his side. "I couldn't stop at one so I bought the plate. Miles buggered off already, has he?"
"Erm, loo. Have you seen Sir?"
"Miss him, do you?" She asked though a mouthful of jam and spraying crumbs. "God, you know I don't think they'll ever be a word to describe how much I love Dodgers." She swallowed. "He did say he was coming. You look cosy."
"Thanks. You look…." nice? freezing? less clothed than usual? "…different."
She looked down at her lingerie. "I bloody do, don't I? And all that's happened so far is that I spill cider and stain my favourite bra."
This was mercifully followed by "I won't make you look, pet, you look ready to pass out from awkwardness at a minute's warning. Have a biscuit."
"He's probably tiding the Incident Room, you know what he's like."
He opened his mouth, honest to God, to say 'I'm not actually looking for him, I'm just wondering where he is' in a cool and aloof way, and the words "No, I've already done that today" came out by accident.
And then Meg's eyebrows disappeared, Joe walked in (in a deerstalker) and Kent knocked the remains of Miles' beer onto his foot, which didn't really matter because his mind had just gone ;nf.
But not necessarily in that order.
Joe stood on his toes nervously and scanned the room. He looks a bit like Bambi when he's nervous. But that was a treacherous thought and was pushed to the back of his mind immediately. He raised an arm and waved at Joe.
"Emerson." Joe smiled at him. "I didn't think any of you were here."
"It's a bit crowded." He nibbled the edge of his biscuit for a distraction and hoped secretly that Chandler didn't have a problem with jam when the words "Joe, I'm going to have to love you and leave you, Ed looks like a bit unbalanced." drifted into Kent's ears in Riley's voice. He turned around to ask her how she could tell (Buchan always looked a bit unbalanced), but she just bloody winked at him instead.
He turned back to Joe, blushing.
"I, er, see you're wearing a hat."
Joe touched it self-consciously. "Do you like it?"
Deerstalkers (Deers-stalker? Deerstalkii?) had always freaked Kent out a bit after the Ripper.( He hadn't actually seen the suspect, but the description had left him cold, and the idea of them even more so.) He longed to reach up and take it off Chandler, but judging by how dizzy and inept he managed to become around his DI, that would inevitably end badly.
Instead he settled for "I, erm, wouldn't wear it myself."
He tried smiling up at Joe.
"You've got a hole."
"You've got a hole," Joe repeated. "In your sleeve. Look." His fingers caught it lightly from where Emerson was resting his hand on the window ledge and looked at it gently. "It's quite big."
And everything Emerson was trying to reply with was wiped out of his mind when Joe's finger brushed his wrist.
Joe raised his eyes to meet Emerson's, whose were opium-wide with shock. There was a pulse, like a steady tattoo there, a pulse that was stronger than in most people and his breath caught and the area of skin he was touching on Emerson was searing, even though Joe's fingers were cool and long and all Emerson wanted to do was feel them in his hair and now it was so close to happening -
and then Mansell fell through the coffee table.
Kent jumped -almost quite literally- out of his skin and landed close enough to Joe to smell him. Then again, this might not have been accidental. Because Joe was already reaching his other arm around Emerson's waist anyway.