The Key

DI Chandler knocked at the door to DC Kent's apartment. It was late evening and he could see the light from a telly in a downstairs window. Soon enough the door opened and the young DC blinked up at him in surprise.

"Sir! Is there something wrong?" he asked.

"No, nothing. I'm looking for the key to Buchan's garage," the detective smiled reassuringly. "It turns out there was one more file he wanted us to get. Did you have it?"

"Oh!" Kent reached for his jeans pocket, patting at himself distractedly. He was dressed casual for home and Chandler regarded his t-shirt with interest (it had a print of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' on it, Joe hadn't realised Kent was a fan of the Expressionist Movement). "Um, I was going to drop it off tomorrow on my way to work. It must be in my coat pocket still – I'll go get it. Come in," he added over his shoulder as he turned and dashed into the house, sprinting up the stairs to his room.

Chandler hesitated a moment before cautiously moving into the entry and shutting the door behind him. From the room where the TV was he could see the huge appliance, as well as the large lounge in front of it with three nearly identical young women in it, all turned to regard him with wide eyes and dropped jaws.

"That's the hot boss?" one said in a sotto voice that never-the-less travelled clearly to Chandlers burning ears.

"Those are the most kissable lips I've ever seen!" another whisper/squealed, "No wonder Em …"

"Here it is Sir!" Kent called, trotting down the stairs, key in hand.

"Thank you." Chandler reached to take the key with the hand he had self-consciously touched to his lips.

"Um," Kent said, shifting from foot to foot as he noticed Chandler was pinned under the fascinated looks from the TV room. "DI Chandler – my sisters and cousin, um Nancy, Tandy and Carol. Um." He wasn't sure if he really wanted his boss to meet his family, but it was too late now.

"Hi ya!" the girls chorused.

"Hello." Chandler nodded at them politely. The Kent genes had definitely favoured the males, he privately thought. While Emerson was pale and interesting his close female relatives looked consumptive and hollow eyed. "I see you are watching ball room dancing," he added, glancing over at the big TV set. It appeared to be showing some rather showy amateurs being put through their paces. "I did a little of that when I was younger. The club was short of males so I was strong armed into it by a friend. Do you dance?"

The question was aimed at Kent and he froze, not used to personal questions from his idol. "I, uh, I just go to the night clubs," he said, then nearly kicked himself – night clubbing was not the same as professional dancing. What was he thinking?

Chandler smiled at him anyway. "Yes, I know – I've seen you, remember?"

Kent paled some more – oh yes, the infamous dancing he'd done at Mansell's wedding. Oh god – his boss remembered that?

Chandler watched as his youngest officer turn red and decided it was probably time to be going. Personally he couldn't see why Kent's dancing would embarrass him, he had rather enjoyed watching him on the dance floor. "I, ah, thank you for the key, I will return it. Good to meet you all," he smiled at the room in general and let Kent show him to the door.

"Do you want me to come with you sir?" Kent asked shyly, after having a savage debate with himself over whether asking the question would make him look sad.

"No, enjoy your night. See you tomorrow Emerson."

"Good night sir."

The last thing Chandler heard as the door was closed was one of the girls saying "What a dreamboat!" then he was alone in the street, duty and a late night before him.

. . .

Joe Chandler had always been vaguely aware of Emerson Kent's regard. It had started on day one, as a kind of deference that Joe had not entirely trusted. Hardly anyone liked him much when they first met him, so it had to be some kind of put on. Sucking up, as the rest of the detective team had called it.

After a while he began to realise that it wasn't posturing, Emerson really did like him – wanted to be like him. Such poor judgement. After all, Joe didn't want to be like himself. He'd have given anything to be more like Miles, for instance.

Hero worship, especially what Joe considered undeserved hero worship, made the detective extremely uncomfortable. For a little while it had even made him dislike the younger man – who was he to ask Joe to be strong for him, to always have the right answers? It put him on edge.

'No wonder Em …' what? What had that woman meant? No wonder he … Fancied the boss? Joe couldn't know, Kent had never made a 'move' or sexual advance on him (not one that he had recognised, anyway).

The words started to echo round and round in his head as he drove to Buchan's garage and retrieved the last of the files.

No wonder Em … so many possible endings. No wonder he – liked him? Hated him? Wanted to emulate him?

Chandler remembered the time he saw Kent arranging the things on his desk the way the DI did. He'd been hurt, shocked that the DC was making fun of him, then bewildered as he became aware that the young man thought his actions would make him more like Chandler. The last thing the world needed was another him.

But it showed that Kent wanted to change himself, and Chandler had been tempted to take him under his wing, as Miles was doing for him. Tempted, but not convinced, Joe was under no illusions – he would have to sort himself out before taking on the problems of anyone else.

Unless … unless they worked on their problems together.

What if … what if Kent liked him? Liked the look of him? Joe was not an unattractive man, he had been told this more often than he was comfortable with. He had an excellent income and unless he did something stupid again (best not to think about it) was destined for great things in the policing bureaucracy.

He thought that Emerson Kent was presentable and was going to have a good, solid career. They could match up.

DI Joseph Chandler wasn't gay, of course – but he had been attracted to other men on occasion and was sure he could satisfy whatever needs Emerson might have in that direction. There were books he could look up, if needed.

The thought made the DI shiver as he climber the steps of the hospital to see Buchan, the folder tucked under his arm.

He and Ed were going to read files all night in the hopes of finding a clue to the strangling's that had been going on in Whitechapel recently.

Then afterwards, when the case was closed perhaps – Chandler would find a way to signal to Emerson that he was open to being persuaded into a relationship, if that was what Kent wanted.

Yes, that would work. But for now he had a serial killer to put to bed.

First things first …