Walk Like A Man (1/1 complete)
Rating: PG-15 for language/themes, whatevs.
Summary: Hathaway has a cold. He's driving Lewis mad. Six months into a happy - if secret - relationship, Lewis finds himself saying something he regrets.
A/N: I wrote this on the back of an epically rubbish weekend as the fic equivalent of hot chocolate and cake! I don't think I've ever written anything so fluffy and ridiculous so far, but I enjoyed it and I hope you do too (my beta-of-sorts did, anyway). H/C, slight angst and Innocent (whom I adore) abound. Feedback of all sorts is absolutely lived for.
Even after six months of baffling happiness, reflected Inspector Lewis, there were times when it was unaccountably difficult to remember that Hathaway was his boyfriend and the light of his life, as opposed to merely his lanky and facetious sergeant. One of these occasions was the first time - together or single - that Lewis had ever seen him ill. The previous evening (spent at Lewis's), Hathaway had been as grumpy as a bear with a sore head, refusing all suggestions of sex (which was actually something of a relief - the sex was spectacular and Lewis enjoyed it, but he did occasionally worry that Hathaway's enthusiasm might kill him off mid-coitus) in favour of sprawling across the sofa and keeping up a constant stream of whinge, about everything from the banality of BBC television programming to his (repeated) claim that Lewis's tap water "tasted funny" . Eventually, boiling forehead pressed miserably against Lewis's chest, he'd suffered himself to be conducted to bed and given painkillers. Lewis's depleted store of patience was worn still thinner by the prospect of listening to Hathaway snoring congestedly all night. Which he did, leaving Lewis helplessly awake at the side of a human furnace.
By three o'clock, Hathaway had stolen all the bedcovers and Lewis was still awake. Torn between the promised good of sleep and the certain evil of back pain, he dragged himself to the sofa, only to be woken again by Hathaway at five. James stood in the doorway wrapped in a bedsheet and doing his best Jacob Marley impression, his stifled insistence that Lewis was being "so unfair" delivered entirely without normal vowel sounds. Then he whinged, shuffled back off and - as the snoring indicated - was asleep again as soon as he hit the pillow.
In the morning, Hathaway looked so genuinely awful that Lewis - bruised and exhausted as he was - felt a tender compassion, rubbing the boy's back and even making the token suggestion that he ring in sick. With his best public school stoicism, however, Hathaway resisted (he was back to calling Lewis sir , a habit he'd never entirely lost in the mornings), unfortunately destroying the impression of noble endurance by complaining loudly about the lack of free-range eggs and wholemeal toast (the only kind that Hathaway would eat). By ten o'clock, Hathaway was whinging constantly about his stuffed nose and head, attracting such a cacophonous flutter of female sympathy throughout the office that Lewis (who, it must be admitted, hated to see anyone else with their hands on Hathaway) lost his temper. Slamming a wad of paperwork down in an arc through a gap in the crowd gathered to condole with the newly pale-and-interesting Boy Wonder, he told Hathaway to for god's sake get on with some work, it was only a bloody cold. And then, in a fatal postscript he was to instantly regret , Lewis added (perhaps provoked by the accusing stares, or the manicured hand on Hathaway's shoulder), "Try being a man, for a change" .
And so Hathaway said nothing. Not a word, either of complaint or accusation, passed his lips; and, two hours later, he passed out on Innocent's carpet.
Lewis barked his shin on the edge of a desk in getting there, getting through the sudden crowd. It was all over relatively quickly; Innocent shouting to everyone to get back even as Lewis barged through; Innocent calling James's name, cradling his head in her lap. An instant after Lewis arrived, Jim's eyelids began to flicker, stirring where he'd fainted. He was pale, but his eyes opened, and after glancing up at Innocent to confirm where he was, he seemed to start recovering. It was all over relatively quickly; but in that first instant, hearing the thud and seeing Jim so still, Lewis had known terror; and when Innocent cried "He's burning up," and glared up at Lewis like the world was his fault, Lewis was wretchedly inclined to agree.
Registering his surroundings, Hathaway first gave Innocent an attempt at a smile, but his eyes were seeking someone else; as his hand came up to touch Innocent's on his cheek, his head turned, and Lewis forced himself to stay still and not drop down onto the floor beside him. When Hathaway spotted him and murmured, "Isn't this your job, sir?" Lewis would have sworn he meant to cause no pang, only make a joke that could have meant anything; but his heart hurt, and James's eyes were soft and forgiving and Lewis wanted to start apologising (and yank Hathaway firmly out of everybody else's arms). The crowd, relieved if mildly bored, began to disperse.
"Hathaway, you're going home. You silly boy, what were you doing here? You're not so indispensible and Lewis and I aren't so senile that we can't manage without you," Innocent had by now graduated to worriedly stroking his hair, while Hathaway gazed up at her, unfocused but trusting. Lewis, put him in a car, find a DC to drive him.
Grateful for any opportunity to touch him, Lewis got - clumsily - down to the floor, his anxious eyes meeting Hathaway's in a few seconds of private - but total - relief. "I'll take him, ma'am."
Innocent frowned. "Are you sure - no, sit him up slowly, it might come back - oh, you poor idiot, you're boiling - " At any other time, Lewis would have smiled to see Innocent unwittingly make a pet of Hathaway, but there was no thought of that now; his hands were shaking. Wobbly, Jim sat up and leant (more-or-less necessarily) against him, Lewis still fighting to keep from wrapping the younger man in his arms.
"I can take a taxi," Hathaway murmured, sounding dreadful. A thought struck him, and he reached into his jacket. "Actually, I've got my keys.."
"Don't be ridiculous, man," Lewis snapped, giving in to impulse and wrapping a warm, strong, supportive arm around his shoulders. "You just sit there for a second and we'll go. It's on the way over to the crime scene, anyway," he added loudly, as much for Innocent's benefit as anybody else. The Superintendent, now hoisting herself to her feet and trying to regain some dignity (really, she told herself, she had to stop treating Hathaway as though he was some sort of baby), nodded and turned away, brushing down her skirt as she headed out of her office. Unable to help it, Lewis squeezed Jim's shoulders and pressed his lips to the younger man's brow for a second. "I'm sorry, pet."
If Innocent heard, she gave no sign of it.
Lewis got Hathaway down and into his car about ten minutes later, having first nagged Hobson to look him over. " I prefer them dead, Lewis, your Sergeant's still alive," she murmured, raising an eyebrow before making the distinctly arm's-length diagnosis that Hathaway had a nasty bug and she didn't want to catch it. " And stop fussing, Lewis, you're like an old mother hen. Fell at Innocent's feet, eh?"
Hathaway gave her a crooked smile, although Lewis could see he was trying hard to stay awake. "Had to get her to notice me somehow."
Once strapped into Lewis's passenger seat, Hathaway fell asleep almost at once. To Robbie's surprise, and groggily, he lifted his head again about ten minutes later. "I don't live down here."
"I do," said Lewis, a little too quickly. "I'm taking you to mine. There's food there," he added, setting his jaw and trying to seem magisterial despite the redness in his cheeks. Hathaway didn't contest this, smiling slightly before closing his eyes again. There were dark circles beneath them, still; Lewis, who had mentally been calling himself every name he could think of, checked his rear view mirror, and sighed.
He couldn't stop worrying, either. James was unusually docile, once in the flat; he let Lewis press painkillers and a cold compress upon him, but he was swaying where he stood. Between them, they got Hathaway undressed almost in silence, Lewis longing to apologise but not knowing where to begin. The only emotion coming from Hathaway (apart from pain) was mute relief; he let Lewis do everything, silent with thankfulness at letting someone else take over. Lewis didn't like to think what the two hours before he collapsed but have been like. His skin, where Lewis touched it, was hot and feverishly clammy; he seemed too tired and listless even to mind borrowing Lewis's pyjamas ( Time you kept your own things here, Lewis murmured, and was rewarded with a weary smile).
Only when Lewis guided him towards the bedroom did he start to protest, fastidiously appalled at the idea of putting his sweat-damp body into Lewis's clean sheets.
"As if it matters," Lewis chided, attempting to propel him, but Hathaway started to argue head slumping onto Lewis's shoulder. Faced with the prospect of another round of swooning, mewling complaint, Lewis reluctantly agreed to a shower; Hathaway, he had to observe, wasn't too sick to quirk a smile at that.
Immersed in the steam and spray, Robbie finally relaxed. He'd hated this, the first few times, but James's unconcern about the disparity in their bodies had persisted, and sometimes - when everything was at once so intimate and so casual - Lewis now found it easier to say (or do) things here, in the shower, than he would anywhere else. Now, chest soothed, aching muscles warmed, James leaned back against him in luxury, eyes closed as Lewis gently wrapped an arm around his waist, slid a hand up into his hair.
"God, that feels good," he groaned, pressing his head further into Lewis's hand. Relieved to be getting something right, Lewis cautiously pressed a kiss into James's smooth shoulder; sometimes, too, he found that it was easier to be tender with Hathaway when Hathaway couldn't see. The younger man sighed. "You okay?"
"Me? Yeah. ....listen, Jim, I'm sorry about earlier. I was a total git."
The problem with having these sort of conversations like this was that neither man could disguise it when his body tensed and flinched. James kept his voice careful. "About being a man, you mean?" He paused, and Lewis hated himself. They might as well have been back on New College Lane. "Doesn't matter."
Lewis frowned. "It does matter. Regretted it as soon as I said it.... Jim. Please."
He felt Hathaway deliberating for a moment before the younger man sighed and sank back, turning his face up towards the spray. "Still said it."
I" know. But... you are a man, you're a good man and a brave policeman and I'm a grumpy old arse. I'd - you know I'd never think less of you for what we have, right? I mean. " He was failing at this, he'd always failed at this - six months in and he'd never said I love you , serve him right if Hathaway wanted different, "I should have seen you were ill and taken better care of you, for god's sake, Jim, you're my -" The word 'world' was hovering, it would be the gayest thing he'd ever said, but it was true and Lewis accepted his doom, "- world, and I don't ever want to hurt you. You're everything. You can say anything to me, I'm sorry I upset -"
"- I just I didn't want to make a fuss -"
"I know, love, I know. I know I upset you."
Hathaway turned in Lewis's embrace, arms resting on the older man's shoulders. "You sound as though you want me to be upset." He raised an eyebrow, the hint of a smirk appearing on his face. He pressed his hips closer to Lewis.
Kissing his nose (it was a ridiculous impulse, but Lewis had learned over the past six months that ridiculous impulses could sometimes be appreciated), Lewis tried to look firm. "I want you to get better, which you won't do by any - " he searched for the word, face flushing, and Hathaway's grin turned wide, easily delighted "- shennanigans in the shower. Now turn that thing off - the tap, Sergeant, how old are you - and let's get you into bed. And shut up."
Hathaway did manage several witty remarks on the way to the bedroom, but if his chest had been cleared by the shower, his head was thoroughly befuddled, and he sank with some relief into the nearest side of the bed. This sinking did not include waiting for Lewis to draw back the bedcovers, which meant further prodding and negotiating on Lewis's part, until Hathaway was something like properly installed. Lewis, his own mind less than clear at the sight of Hathaway nestled there with his hair damp and his eyes fixed tiredly and mournfully on himself, found himself loading every piece of fruit and every painkiller (as well as, in an unromantic afterthought, a large bucket and a roll of tissue) into a tribal pyramid on the bedside table. Hathaway blinked up at him and coughed. It was a piteous sound.
"I really do have to go, y'know."
"...for God's sake, don't look like that, you're not the bloody Andrex puppy."
Hathaway said something wordless.
Hathaway lifted his head and spoke into the air as opposed to Lewis's duvet. "Turn my pillows?"
Exasperated (at least two of his kids had been less trouble), Lewis complied, giving James's shoulder a reassuring pat when he was done. "I've got my mobile."
"Noooooooooooooooooooooo, " Hathaway said, or something similar, and in any case, it was more of a mewl-slash-whine. "Stay for a bit. You're always off with those dead people, it's sick and anyway, I'm dying here."
"You are not," said Robert firmly, but he took off his shoes, sitting down on the bed and loosening his tie with one hand. "Bloody hell, Sergeant." Hathaway burrowed into his side, and Lewis knew he was lost. Very gently, he ran his hand over Hathaway's hair and down his back, hoping the gesture would serve for the words he still couldn't say.
"Close your eyes, love, I'm here." Grateful, Hathaway moved enough to press his forehead against the blissful comfort of Lewis's chest; Lewis woke up three hours later when Innocent rang his mobile.
If Innocent heard his "sorry, pet" on answering, or the rustle of bedsheets as Hathaway curled tighter against him, she gave no sign of that either.