"Can I help you?" Chandler asked the man loitering at the entrance of the office.
"No, thanks I'm just waiting for someone", he gave him a friendly smile.
"Maybe I can -"
"John?" Kent looked surprised and happy to see the other man. With a quick side-glance at Chandler he asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I finished early on the Silk case and thought I'd get you from work and take you out for dinner."
"Sure", Kent looked positively radiant at the idea of dinner," Give me a minute. I mean, unless there is something coming up, sir?" He looked at Chandler.
"No, of course not", Chandler replied, feeling a bit uneasy at the looks that passed between Kent and "John".
"You're DI Chandler then? Emerson talked about you. Just good things, I promise", he winked and held out his hand," DI John Acheson, Metropolitan police."
"Nice to meet you", Chandler replied, shaking Acheson's hand. "Which division are you?"
"Fraud, nothing exciting I'm afraid. Emerson told me all about the gruesome murders you get here all the time." Chandler was about to point out that most of them were ordinary Friday night stabbings but Kent had already come back.
"Good night, sir", he said, giving Chandler one of his quick, bright smiles.
"Good night," Chandler answered automatically, a bit distracted by how easily Acheson's arm slipped over Kent's shoulders. He smiled when Kent said something to him that was too low for Chandler to catch but then Acheson turned his head to nod at Chandler and it seemed as if his arm tightened around Kent's shoulders to pull him closer. An almost possessive display like a mark of ownership. It only strengthened the uneasiness Chandler was feeling in his chest.
"So, who is he?" Mansell leered at Kent the following morning.
"Who?" Kent fooled no one, especially not with the blush on his face.
"The guy who kidnapped you last night, remember: tall, blonde, ridiculously attractive and I'm saying this as a straight man, memory coming back now?"
"Well, you certainly got a type," Riley said and for some reason, winked at Chandler. Kent blushed. "Where did you meet him?"
"He gave the talk at the Met about Europol two weeks ago."
"What do I hear, Kent?" Miles barged in, "Scotland Yard? Fraternizing with the enemy, aren't we?"
"He's in Fraud, got nothing to do with us," Kent defended his boyfriend. Miles clapped his shoulder, "Good one for you. Tell him that if he hurts you I've got a nice pond to hide his body in."
Much like Judy, Evan and Mansell's fiancée Eva DI John Acheson became quickly part of the team's social circle. Predictably they all loved him, helped by the fact that the Fraud Division seemed to have a never-ending history of hilarious cases or if he ever ran out there was always Lestrade and the infamous Sherlock Holmes. Kent was apparently a fan of the blog.
The first fight happened five months later. Kent had been quiet all morning, speaking only when asked something and only if it related to their current case.
"What's up with you?" Mansell asked him finally.
"Nothing", Kent replied sharply.
"Trouble at home, huh?" Mansell grinned. "Honeymoon's finally over?"
"Nothing is over", Kent snapped.
"Poor baby", Mansell laughed.
"Kent!" Miles barked, saving Chandler from calling Kent out on his tone.
"Sorry", Kent muttered, going back to the file he was studying.
"So, what happened?" Riley asked, her tone much more sympathetic than Mansell's.
"It was stupid. He was on me for forgetting to call a couple times. When we had the Armstrong case. As if he didn't just spend two weeks in France over an insurance scam." Kent scoffed.
"It'll be alright", Riley assured him. "He'll come around soon enough."
She was proven right three hours later when the text-message Kent received was obviously apologetic enough to make him smile.
The second fight was apparently Kent's fault because he asked Chandler if he could please leave two hours early? After spending the whole day either brooding or starting to write texts that he only deleted but never sent.
Chandler let him go even though it made him feel uneasy.
When Kent came in the next morning with a smile as bright as the sun that feeling only grew stronger.
The much dreaded Christmas party saw all the women fawning over Kent's boyfriend. Chandler, in an attempt to avoid similar attention, hid in a corner and watched him closely, feeling suspicious. After all if Mansell was flirting when Eva wasn't looking then who said that Acheson wouldn't do the same?
"You're hiding, too?" Acheson appeared beside him. "No girlfriend to fend them off?"
"Em mentioned that you're not a fan of crowds." Part of Chandler knew that Acheson was only trying to make conversation but he found it irritating.
"You lost him?"
"Emerson? No, he's just getting us something to drink." Chandler watched him scanning the crowd. "Just back from France. I need to get used to drinking beer instead of wine again", he laughed.
"You like it then, France?"
"It has its beauties", his smile widened when he found Kent carrying two pints, "as does England."
"Hi, hello sir", Kent smiled. "Sorry it took so long. Didn't see you here at first."
"That's the idea, isn't it?" He gave Chandler a friendly look, his free hand resting on the small of Kent's back.
"Excuse me", Chandler said, fleeing the scene but not quick enough to miss the hurt and confused look Kent was giving him.
He didn't sleep very well that night, the memory of Kent and Acheson dancing turning into Acheson strangling Kent with a twisted, sadistic smile on his lips and Chandler unable to do anything.
However he wasn't the only one who had had a rough night.
Mansell was snoring on his desk in last night's clothes, Riley came in late, Miles looked even more disgruntled than usually and Kent gave him a rather clipped "Good morning, sir" while looking at Chandler's left shoulder.
"Good morning", Chandler replied, trying unsuccessfully to catch Kent's eyes. It made him wonder for a moment if Acheson and Kent had had an argument last night after he had left but Kent's tone was perfectly normal with the rest of the team.
Chandler decided to ignore it or would have if Miles hadn't come in as soon as he had settled in his office.
"You know what your problem is?" He asked casually but answered before Chandler could say anything, "you combine being obvious about your emotions with complete obliviousness in anything regarding personal matters."
"What are you talking about?"
"You're jealous of Kent's boyfriend!" Miles told exasperatedly.
"What? No, of course not. Don't be ridiculous", Chandler protested. Miles rolled his eyes.
"And I'm the bloody queen of England. Look, just because he's got someone doesn't mean he isn't still smitten with you. But I reckon he's happy so don't ruin it for him."
"What did I do?"
"You're being cold, brushing him off whenever he tries to talk to you. You glare at him every time he touches Kent." Miles sounded as if he couldn't believe that he actually had to spell this out for Chandler.
"I don't mean to-"
"Doesn't matter", Miles cut him off, "just stop doing it."
He tried to. Being made aware of his subconscious animosity towards John helped but it did nothing to change his feelings. There was something wrong about the way he touched Kent, called him "Emerson", about Kent seeming to lighten up around him.
"He's very handsome", Riley sighed dreamily. "Maybe I should try to get transferred to the Met if they all look like that."
"You're already married", Mansell pointed out. Riley laughed and swatted at him.
"I don't want to marry them, I just want to look at them, maybe run my hands over them now and then."
"You can run your hands over me if you'd like", Miles grinned.
"Two, three hours a week in the gym and I might in a couple months", Riley bantered back.
Chandler was the only one who was still looking out of the window down to the car park where Acheson had put Kent's face in his hands and was kissing him rather passionately. That was not a simple goodbye kiss. And again it seemed to unashamedly public, as if Acheson wanted to make sure everyone saw that Kent was his. That Kent didn't seem to mind made it only worse.
"Ah, I remember being that young", Miles stood next to Chandler, "me and Judy we would have quit our jobs if we could have only to keep doing that all day long."
"Do you think it's serious?" Chandler asked carefully. Miles gave him a shrewd look that he didn't know how to interpret.
"They're still at it like this after ten months and three fights? I'd say it is." The trouble was Chandler didn't feel like this was a good thing. He felt like he should be more, he should feel happier for them than he was.
"What are you smiling about?" Mansell wanted to know, bumping his elbow against Kent's shoulder.
"We're talking about moving in together", Kent could barely contain the radiant smile on his face.
"Well done", Mansell gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder. "You're a lucky guy."
"Thanks", Kent's smile became wider if that was even possible.
"Next thing we'll know the boss will be the only one who's not married." Kent hid his face at the implication.
"We haven't…it's not that…"
"Believe me, love, if you manage to live together then the rest is just paperwork", Riley said, backed up by Miles nodding.
Chandler felt like he should contribute something especially when Kent looked at him but he couldn't find the words.
"Congratulations", he said finally but it felt like he was lying.
"Thanks, sir" Kent answered, something undecipherable in his tone.
The end of it came two days before Mansell's wedding. Kent came in with unkempt hair and red-rimmed eyes surrounded by dark circles as if he had spent all night crying instead of sleeping.
Riley caught him first.
"What's up, love?"
"It's over" Kent told her hollowly staring at the ground. "We're over."
"Oh but you thought that last time, too." She laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Just give him more time to come around."
"No, not this time. This is permanent. It's over." Kent smiled, but he looked like he was about to cry, the pain so evident it was clawing its way out from inside.
"I'm sorry", Riley hugged him tightly.
Chandler was about to go and give Kent the day off but Miles shook his head at him. Instead Kent spent the day at his desk, filling out paperwork and checking up on cold cases.
Everyone pretended not to see the tears he was wiping away every now and then and Chandler fought the impulse to go to Kent's desk and embrace him as Riley had done.
That wouldn't have been appropriate at all.
The fallout happened at the wedding reception. For most of the day Kent had managed to fake more or less convincing smiles and even a heartfelt one when he had offered his congratulations to Mansell and Eva. At the reception, however, alcohol flowed freely. No one was particularly surprised that Kent was absolutely smashed.
Riley and her husband had left earlier since it was a school night and Miles was drunk to the point of not caring about dignity as well or so Chandler hoped because there was no other explanation for his participation in the polonaise.
So it was his job to make sure Kent got home unharmed.
"Come on, I'll drive you home", Chandler said, taking Kent by the arm.
"Don't touch me!" Kent snarled, yanking away from Chandler.
"Kent-"Chandler started but Kent didn't let him go on.
"It should have been you. I wanted it to be you." Kent slurred angrily, waving on his feet. "And then John turned up and I thought it'd be okay. It'd be over. And it was okay. But it wasn't over. It didn't stop. You didn't stop. Why can't you stop?" His fist hit Chandler on the chest. It didn't hurt physically but the idea behind it that his presence hurt Kent enough to lash out at him, did.
"I'm sorry."He said automatically. "I didn't know."
"I know. That's what made it worse." Kent laughed at him, a broken, painful sound. "Three fucking years and you never notice. You just don't see me."
"I've been told I can be oblivious."
"Best fucking excuse for everything, isn't it?" Kent was laughing that horrible laugh again. Chandler just wanted to stop him making that sound. He would tell himself, later, that that was why he kissed Kent, pushing at his hands every time they lifted to stop him, following every step back until Kent was pressed into the wall, until it was too hard and too rough and almost not a kiss at all.
He had never kissed anyone else like that.
It wasn't until someone whistled that he realised where he was, what he was doing and with whom.
"Excuse me." He practically ran out, not looking back once.
He was anxious to face work the next morning. His suits usually felt like an armour he put up against the world but today they felt like the pieces of cloth they really were. He couldn't quite look at himself in the mirror.
Six hours ago he kissed Kent. In front of their colleagues while Kent was drunk, hurting from his recent break-up and after confessing to having feelings for Chandler.
And then Chandler had run out on him.
Part of him wanted to call in sick. He needed more time to deal with this.
He had fifteen minutes from his flat to the office.
Thankfully Kent wasn't there yet but Miles was giving him a look he didn't know how to interpret while Riley's was openly disapproving so Miles had told her what had happened last night.
To be honest he didn't expect Kent to turn up for work but he did. In last night's clothes and still reeking of alcohol and pub but undeniably present.
For a moment Chandler remembered the kiss, Kent's body against his, his hands running through Kent's hair to pull him closer-
What he wanted to do was to go over and kiss him again to see if it would be same as last night, the same intoxicating feeling unleashing in his chest.
What happened was that he got a call about a multiple homicide at a tailor shop last night.
"Here", everyone else had already left when Miles came into his office, holding out a piece of paper for him. Chandler took it.
"What is it?" He asked, unfolding it.
"Kent's address. I believe after last night you have a bit of explaining to do."
Chandler looked down.
"Don't mess this one up", Miles warned him. "I don't think I could hold off Riley and Mansell permanently if Kent's hurt any more. Was bad enough to keep them from plotting Acheson's murder."
It was probably not a good sign that Chandler didn't think Miles was kidding.
"Was there a murder again?" Kent asked sullenly when he saw Chandler standing in front of the door.
"Then, with all due respect sir, leave."
"I…I believe we had a bad start. I'd like to try again if you'd let me."
"Try again?" Kent gave him a surprised look.
"Hi, I'm Joe", Chandler held out his hand.
"Emerson", Kent took it, his expression softening when he understood what Chandler was trying to do.
"Would you like to go out on a coffee with me?" Chandler asked, not letting go of Kent's hand yet.
"Yes", it wasn't exactly day that broke out over Kent's face but it could be a careful dawn.