Summary: Some changes sneak up on you gradually, until one day you realise that something new began long ago without you noticing: acceptance, forgiving, boredom, growing old. Robbie hadn't thought relationships could work like that as well, but he thinks he might like it.
A/N: Idek. It sneaked up on me, hit me in the back of my head and wrote itself.
Warnings: Slash, so don't read if you don't like. Nothing remotely graphic, rated T just to be safe.
Spoilers: None, really. This was written at a point in the show when Lewis and Hobson was at "off" in their "on-again-off-again-flirtation-or-whatever-it-is".
Disclaimers: They don't belong to me.
PS: Thanks to anon "LewisFan" for pointing out my non-canon use of names once I steered away from the last names. I hope it's better now. (I did send this to a beta, but he never returned it so I published it anyway ... shows what you get for being impatient, I guess.)
Love without Fanfare
When Robert Lewis first met Detective Sergeant James Hathaway, he did, to be honest, think that the young man was a right little smartass. He is not sure he has entirely changed his mind yet. He has, however, widened his view of the man. There is more to Hathaway than meets the eye, more than just a brain created to solve The Sunday Times' crossword. There is that odd taste of music he has and the shadows in his past, there is the crisis of faith that he claims is a thing of the past but that Lewis suspects is a constantly ongoing thing, and there is that personality full of quirks and contradictions that Lewis thinks he could spend a lifetime trying to figure out and still never get more than halfway.
Differences and mysteries aside, he and Hathaway have apparently developed some kind of symbiosis. They complement each other, sometimes through their similarities – when it comes to basic values they are actually pretty similar, even if Hathaway jumps on every chance to call Lewis old-fashioned or close-minded with a teasing smile – and sometimes through their differences – for instance in their areas of knowledge, which overlap in few other areas than what is strictly police-work related. Lewis finds he has adapted to Hathaway's dry wit a lot quicker than he had thought himself capable of, and he believes Hathaway has learnt to follow the way Lewis thinks and talks as well, leading to a continuous and surprisingly enjoyable banter between them that is noticeable to everyone around them.
What they let fewer people know – and do not really talk about between themselves, either – is how much time Hathaway is beginning to spend at Lewis' flat.
It starts out as a way to grab dinner while discussing a case without having to put up with the cost of constantly eating at the pub. The practice of grabbing a beer and perhaps watch a game after a case has been solved is soon added to that. Then beers after a long day at work, or even just a cup of tea.
After a while – well, actually, it is more like "after a year" – Robbie realises that James is at his flat nearly every evening of the week.
"Don't you have some girl you could go to?" Robbie has asked him once.
James just smiled with a beer in his hand, spread out on Robbie's sofa with those long legs of his taking up almost all the space. There was football on the telly, like it often was these evenings.
"What a suggestion! Why would I want to spend the evening chatting up some lovely girl at a fancy restaurant when I can be drinking cheap beer in my boss' living room?"
Lewis scoffed, and Hathaway laughed. Then they changed the subject.
That is really all the talking they have done. From then on it has just been a slow but steady progression, carried out uncommented. They stop feeling awkward when they do not sit at opposite ends of the couch. James puts his feet in Robbies' lap, and Robbie lets him. Robbie falls asleep in front of the telly and wakes up covered by a blanket and with James leaning towards him, snoring lightly. Several weekday evenings get so late that it just seems sensible to offer James to sleep over on the couch. During one particularly tricky case, this happens so often that afterwards they do not even discuss it anymore – James just settles on the sofa when Robbie goes to bed. If they are increasingly standing in each other's personal space at work as well during this period, then at least no one on the department mentions it.
One morning Robbie wakes up, still sitting on the couch, and finds that James has cuddled up to him in his sleep and is practically nuzzling his neck. When he shakes James awake the younger man simply yawns and stretches – like a giant cat – and offers to cook breakfast. Robbie shakes off the strange tingling feeling in his chest as James walks off to the kitchen. He doesn't have to follow; James knows where everything is. Come to think of it, half of the stuff in the fridge has probably been put there by James.
It becomes a habit with James, to make breakfast. Maybe this is why when, after a particularly beer-soaked evening, Robbie wakes up in his double bed and finds that the pillow beside him smells of the other man, he does not panic completely – because at least the smell of bacon wafting in through the half-open bedroom door is something comforting and familiar by now.
He gets dressed – finding items of clothing scattered over the bedroom floor – while memories of the past night begins to resurface in his head. He wonders if he has gone insane.
In the kitchen, James is frying bacon wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and a shirt.
"I'm afraid we're out of eggs," the young man says. "Sorry I didn't notice yesterday, I would have bought some."
Robbie does not know what to say. He is frozen to the floor. James looks up at him, walks over, and plants a kiss on his lips that is gentle but decisive. Then he goes back to stirring the bacon and moving through Robbie's kitchen like he belongs there.
"I think I might have found a connection between Parkins and our victim," he says.
"Oh, yeah?" Robbie replies, suddenly feeling back in the game. "What's that?"
"Well, I remembered that he talked about his daughter and 'the education she deserved', so I thought ..."
"... that if they went to the same school, that could be our connection," Robbie finishes.
"But that also means the daughter lied to us."
"We'll have to ask Innocent to get us another chance to interrogate her."
And just like that, they are eating breakfast and discussing a case, and there seems to be nothing weird at all about the fact that they just had sex tonight.
It only becomes awkward once this day too is coming to a close and Robbie does not know what they are supposed to do. But James kisses him and though Robbie thinks he probably should not like it, he finds that he does.
After a while, it just becomes another part of their pattern.
Of course eventually, after several months, they get discovered. It is not until then that they actually have to put a word on what they are doing.
They are not caught "in flagrante" – they keep those things strictly as night-time activities, although recently Robbie has found that he can look at Hathaway during work hours and with a bit of imagination make his body react in a way he had not thought it could anymore. Nevertheless, when they are caught, it is pretty hard to explain away. And pretty embarrassing, at that.
It is Friday morning, and the doorbell rings. Robbie is in the shower, and just assumes that it is the mailman or something, so he shouts for James to open. When he comes out of the shower, Lyn is standing in the living room, eyebrows raised. The expression on James's face is some odd mixture of amusement and mortification. James is still wearing nothing but boxers and a t-shirt. Robbie stands there in his bathrobe.
"I'd like to ask what the bloody hell is going on here", Lyn says. "Although if it had been anyone else I would have found it pretty bloody obvious."
"I'll just leave you two alone for a moment," James says.
Oh don't you dare! Robbie thinks, but does not have the presence of mind to speak.
"The eggs are getting burnt", James adds apologetically, so maybe he can see Robbie's panic. Then he's gone, and Lewis is left face to face with his daughter.
"Isn't he your sergeant?" she says.
"So ... late night case, he slept over on the sofa?" she says sounding sceptical.
What was he going to do? He did not want to lie to his only daughter, but he was not particularly keen on telling her the truth, either. More importantly, he wasn't sure she would want him too.
"Something like that."
"And now he's cooking you breakfast in his underpants?"
Lewis opens his mouth, nut nothing comes out.
"Dad? Is there something you'd like to tell me?"
"Well ... he's been staying over for a while."
"And perhaps not slept on the couch?"
"Dad! He's my age! And he's a bloke! And he's my age!"
"What? No! I mean ... he's hardly a kid, is he?"
"But you're old enough to be his father!"
"Actually, my father is almost ten years older," James says. Robbie did not see him return, but he's fully dressed now. Lyn glares at him.
"Yeah? And what does he say about you sleeping with your boss?" she asks.
"Technically, Chief Superintendent Innocent is my boss, and my father has no idea who I sleep with because that's none of his business."
Robbie blushes. Lyn is apparently getting the hint, though, because she blushes too. And then, as if it could get more awkward, Lyn's husband walks in.
"Hello Mr Lewis! We had a bit of a trouble finding a place to park ..."
He stops and looks at the scene in front of him: James, Lyn's red face and Lewis in his bath robe.
"What's going on?" he asks.
"Dad's got a boyfriend."
Robbie nearly chokes.
"What? Hang on ..."
Lyn's husband begins to laugh. So does James.
"What's so funny?" Robbie asks, and his daughter looks like she's about to ask the same thing.
James replies by kissing his cheek.
"Go get dressed, darling," he says with that voice he uses sometimes when he wants to tease Robbie – especially about how uncomfortable he was and still is with having suddenly realised at his age that he might, in fact, be bisexual.
"Don't you 'darling' me," Robbie mutters, but does as he says.
In his room, getting dressed, he has time to think about just what the hell he is doing. He has become the lover of his young sergeant. Who happens to be male. And super-intelligent. And far too good-looking to be spending his time with an old man. And his daughter just found out about them. She said he was her age, but Robbie believes he is actually a couple of years younger – there is a reason he has never asked. What would his wife have said if she could see him now? What would Innocent say if she found out?
When he comes out into the kitchen, the other three are sitting quietly at the table, eating scrambled eggs. Lyn looks slightly less appalled and her husband is laughing at something James said.
"There's more in the pan," James says when he sees him.
"I think James knows your kitchen better than you do, dad," Lyn says. There's still a bitter tone in her voice, but there's amusement there as well.
"I'm sure he does, 'cause he moves it all around."
"I do the dishes, you mean," James says through a mouthful of eggs.
"Alright, clever clogs," Robbie replies.
Lyn smiles at that.
They stay for the weekend – and so does James. They don't kiss in front of Lyn and Andrew, but one evening at the telly James takes his hand. For a moment Robbie thinks he does it to spite Lyn, but James's not looking at her, nor at Robbie. He almost seems to have done it without thinking. Robbie squeezes his hand slightly and sees James smile. Suddenly he feels warm and content.
The first day, Lyn takes him aside and asks if this is some kind of mid-life crisis. Robbie answers that he is not sure. If it was, would he know? She wonders if he thinks he is gay now. Robbie is struck by the realisation that perhaps she is frightened that he will say he never loved her mother. But that idea is absurd. Surely she has to see that?
He tells her just that: "Don't be absurd. I love James. I'm as surprised by it as you are. That doesn't mean I've suddenly come to some big changing point in my life or that I regard anything that has happened up until now any differently. I just ... learnt something new about myself. It's like opening a door to a room you didn't know existed. The room is new, but that doesn't change the rest of the building."
He knows he was on to something when she begins to cry and hugs him. When she has cried for a moment, and then wiped her eyes in embarrassment, she asks: "Do you really love him?" and Robbie is a bit shocked when he realises that he has just said as much.
"Yeah," he says, "I suppose I do. God knows why. He's handsome enough but he's an awful show-off and a patronising little know-it-all sometimes."
By the end of the weekend when they say goodbye, Lyn gives him a final suspicious look, and says:
"At least I know someone's looking after you."
She shakes James's hand and says it was nice to meet him. He returns the sentiment.
When they have left, James looks at him.
"Seems I just became your 'boyfriend'."
It's the first time either of them puts a word on what they are doing, even a borrowed one. Robbie looks at the man who just lived down three days of having Lyn-née-Lewis treating him like a suspected criminal, and yet is still here.
"Seems you did."
"Do you want a beer?"
Maybe after that it is really not such a big deal when a couple of weeks later James asks if he can bring some more of his things around, and Robbie replies by offering him to move in. But it is unexpected enough to make James whirl around on his chair – they are having this conversation at work, for Pete's sake – and stare at him.
"Well, I can't see why you should be paying for that flat if you're never going to be there."
And it is true, James hardly goes to his flat for any other reason than to pick things up any more. And with Oxfordshire housing prices being what they are, then really ... why not?
"Good point, sir."
"Oh, for God's sake! Don't call me that!"
James smiles impishly.
"But we're at work, sir. Are you asking me to behave unprofessionally?"
The way James winks at him makes Robbie consider changing their unspoken no-intimacy-at-work-rule. But then Innocent turns up and they both quickly go back to business. Before she leaves, however, she gives the two of them a look that says that while she might not know what is going on, she is damn well going to find out.
"Do you think Innocent would have you fired it she knew?" James asks one day.
Robbie scoffs. James does not know Innocent like he does.
"She'd give us the shouting-to of a century, no doubt about that. But fire me? Don't be silly."
"Someone could argue that it's sexual harassment."
"It's not sexual harassment if you happen to fall in love with someone."
James's eyebrows practically take flight.
"You're in love with me?"
"Of course I am! Do you really think I'd just jump into bed with someone I didn't feel for?"
"Well, to be fair, you were rather drunk that night."
"I was the one who asked you to move in with me for God's sake!"
James grabs his face and kisses him.
"Me too," he says, and that is that.