Turning Page

Author's Note: Look what I found in my WIP folder! It was almost done, so I finished it, hoping that the long time since I watched the series doesn't show... 🙂

***

It had felt like a fresh start.

Kent had been so bloody miserable for what felt like forever, even dragging Erica, the one person he’d always been able to count on, down with him. (And Mansell, but really, who would have thought the blighter had an actual heart?) He deserved the punch as well as Chandler’s cold dismissal, even if both hurt, made him bleed, literally and figuratively. Somehow, the pain cut through the fog of misery surrounding him, and Kent was able to actually see himself again, not the twisted, bitter version of himself that had taunted him in every reflective surface.

He managed to fix things between Erica and Mansell, although he’d have to do some more groveling to get his twin’s complete forgiveness. (He still didn’t properly care about Mansell’s emotional state, not unless it pertained to Erica, except that he was glad his team mate wasn’t about to step off the edge of a roof anymore.) He found the girl’s body in the crypt, and Chandler told him “well done”, the compliment all the more precious because of what had come before. Kent had let the team down, his family, himself - but now he was finally back on track.

The feeling was almost exhilarating, even more so when it looked as if this time they’d managed to capture the killers alive and before they managed to murder another innocent. Buoyed by excitement, his guard down, Kent blurted out his invitation to Chandler - and slipped up. Although he tried to cover it up immediately, there was no way Chandler could not notice that his DC had just invited him on a date. The DI was somewhat slow on the uptake when it came to personal issues, but he was a trained detective and far from stupid. However, to top it all off, the miracle happened and Chandler accepted without hesitation.

Kent wasn’t sure whether his slip had escaped notice after all or whether the man he’d had a badly concealed crush on since he’d first set foot onto their patch had actually agreed to go out with him. He didn’t have time to decide which option he’d prefer - there was history (the Krays, Morgan) as well as rank separating them - when the call came in that fate had played another cruel trick on Joseph Chandler and his team. All eight killers were dead, as was the constable who’d driven the van.

It was enough to make Kent want to scream in anger and frustration - were they ever going to get out from under that black cloud? Was there ever going to be a fresh start for any of them? Especially for Chandler, whose name and face were what ended up in the papers and who the other coppers talked about in hushed voices, half pity, half scorn. Automatically Kent’s eyes went to the boss’ office, concern overruling everything else.

It was as bad as he’d feared, Miles leaning against the doorway, slumped forward despondently while Chandler was completely, totally falling apart. Inexplicably, bits of paper were drifting in the air like so much white confetti, but it was the look on the DI’s face that held Kent’s attention to the exclusion of everything else. There was despair there, and anger, and utter, utter hopelessness, before elegant hands came up to claw at skin, leaving red marks on cheeks and neck. The noise that escaped Chandler was something between a wail and a scream, and out of the corner of his eye Kent noticed Riley talking loudly while she ushered everyone except the team out. She was good like that, protective of those she considered her own, as Kent had recently learned, and he felt grateful on behalf of their boss. Having unsympathetic witnesses to his breakdown was the last thing Chandler needed.

Kent himself was rooted to the spot, caught between feeling like an intruder and the urge to rush forward and do… what he didn’t know, just something to make it all somehow okay, or at least bearable. It was Miles who took a couple of steps forward and firmly took Chandler’s hands in his, restraining him gently while talking urgently, quietly enough for the team not to hear what it was he said. Kent firmly stomped down the first embers of jealousy when Chandler finally stopped rocking back and forth and fell silent. Instead he finally moved, his eyes surveying the mess of a desk until he spotted what he was looking for on the ground. Quickly he leaned down and grabbed the pot of tiger balm, wiping it on his shirt before offering it to Chandler.

The DI looked up and their eyes met for a moment before the red-rimmed gaze was averted in obvious embarrassment and shame. He did accept the pot, however, and Miles let go of his arms with an awkward pat on the shoulder. Kent averted his eyes as the familiar smell pervaded the air. In the background he heard the others in the ready room start talking again in low voices, probably exchanging their own feelings about the horrible accident that had prompted all of this. Instead of joining them Kent focused his eyes on the mess that was Chandler’s office, and after glancing at Miles for permission, which the Sergeant gave with a quirk of his lips, he started clearing up.

As he put stuff back into their proper order he could hear Chandler’s breath, still going too fast, too shallow, but he forced himself not to look up, no matter how much he wanted to reach out. He’d have given Chandler - and Miles - privacy and joined the others, but he wanted to make sure nothing was out of place. The boss had enough on his plate, Kent could at least do this for him if nothing else.

When he had finished he looked up and realised with a start that Chandler was watching him, his face quiet and slightly inquisitive, his long fingers rubbing circles against his temples. Kent forgot to turn away and their eyes locked for an endless moment, making it hard for Kent to breathe as he realised his emotions were probably laid bare for all to see. It was Miles who broke the silence with a cough that was much too casual to be real, and Kent quickly turned away, feeling his cheeks begin to burn.

Chandler’s voice followed him out of the room, subdued but calm. “Thank you... Emerson.”

“No problem, sir,” Kent mumbled and felt warmth spread from the back of his neck where he was sure he could still feel Chandler’s thoughtful eyes on him, but when he glanced back they were focused on the objects Kent had aligned so carefully while listening to Miles say something that was probably the perfect mix of bruskness and caring. Still, something hot coiled in the pit of his stomach, and Kent wasn’t sure whether it was pleasure over Chandler using his first name or embarrassment that this simple thing could affect him so much. It was an all too familiar mix of sensations, one he’d almost grown used to in the years since the DI had joined them.

Sitting down at his desk Kent glanced up, eyes sliding easily past his co-workers and their still-quiet voices, past Miles, who was once more hovering in the doorway, until they found Chandler. He was still radiating tension, probably would for days, but he was straightening his shirt and tie and the crisis had obviously passed. Nodding to himself Kent decided that for once it was okay to allow himself the pleasure of having done a little something to ease this man’s burden. His world had been so dark and lonely in the past weeks, months even, it felt lighter for knowing he had done something good for a change.

Of course the day did not end there - the deaths meant reams of paperwork that the higher-ups wanted yesterday in order to prove that they themselves had not contributed to the unfortunate end of this highly-publicised case. The whole team knuckled down, cups of strong tea replacing the booze from their interrupted celebration, and it was late before first Riley, grabbing Ed on her way out, then Mansell, who mentioned going to see Erica with a baleful look in Kent’s direction, and finally Miles took their leave. The latter stopped by Kent’s desk and ordered in his usual short tone: “Make sure his nibs leaves when you do. And by this I mean you walk him to his car and see him drive off.” Looking at his watch the DS added, “At this time the reporters will have gone, but make sure no one bothers him. They’ll have their pound of flesh, but not today. Understood, Kent?”

Kent nodded and his face must have been suitably serious, because he was rewarded with a “Good lad” thrown over Miles’ shoulder as he left the ready room. Stretching, his aching shoulders and neck reminded him how long he’d been sitting at his desk with only the occasional trip for another cup of tea. He looked over to where Chandler was working with his back hunched over, eyes fixed on the paper in front of him, and realised that the boss had not even done that. It was not something he kept track of consciously, more like a reflex, this awareness of Chandler’s presence.

Determined Kent walked to the door of the DI’s office, left ajar by Miles on his way out. For a moment he hovered there before clearing his throat, “Sir, maybe it’s time to head home?” It sounded more like a question than he’d have liked, but at least it made Chandler look up, so he forged ahead, “I mean, it’s late, everyone’s already gone, and you haven’t taken a break in hours. You’ll work better after a bit of sleep. Sir.”

He added the honorific because Chandler’s brow was drawn, giving him an almost angry appearance, and Kent remembered why it was usually Miles who did this sort of thing. He really had no business ordering his boss around like that. But there was fatigue in every line of Chandler’s body, so Kent stood his ground, meeting the clouded gaze head-on.

“Is that what you think, Constable?” The DI’s voice was tight, sounding annoyed and too controlled by half, as if he was holding on to his composure by a thread. Kent had witnessed enough to know that this was probably exactly how it was, although it was not anger he feared. It made something inside of Kent hurt, seeing Chandler like this, and he was determined not to be sent away and leave the other man to face his demons by himself.

It helped him keep his voice even: “Yes, sir, I do. I would even if Miles hadn’t told me to make sure you went home. Or, if that’s not an option,” here he paused, taking a deep breath before plowing on, “we could go somewhere, have a drink, just not think for a while. But I’m not leaving you alone.”

This time he very deliberately did not tack on the “sir”, forcing himself not to fidget. This was twice in one night that he’d left himself wide open emotionally, and it’d be all too easy for Chandler, not good with people and relationships to begin with, to really hit him where it hurt in his current state.

Kent swallowed, hard, as seconds went by without a reply from his superior, who was looking at him as if he was a puzzle he was unable to solve. Or maybe he was just thinking of a way to politely tell Kent to fuck off, that he’d crossed a line. What did Kent know, after all, since all he’d been doing recently was being eaten up with envy and hurting other people because of it. Still, years of observing his DI closely, maybe a bit too much so, made him stay instead of bolt from the room.

It paid off when Chandler put down the pot of tiger balm he’d been turning between his fingers absentmindedly and levered himself out of his seat with the ill grace of someone who’d been hunched over in one position for much too long.

“Alright, Kent, if you insist.” The smile on his face was faint and obviously forced, but Kent appreciated the effort, not so much for his own sake but for Chandler’s, because it meant he was regaining some of his balance. “Drinks it is. After all, I did agree to it earlier.”

So much for Kent’s hope that Chandler hadn’t noticed his Freudian slip. No matter that this was something he had wished for, dreamed of, now that it was about to become real he felt completely out of his depth and wished Miles hadn’t left. Hell, he’d take Ed or Riley, even Mansell, to serve as a buffer and make this more of a normal after-work round at the pub. But they were all comfortable at home (or at Erica’s, but that was not something Kent wanted to consider right now), so there was nothing to it but put on a brave face and do his best not to make this too awkward.

He realised his boss was looking at him expectantly, coat in hand, and blushed even harder. In his haste to grab his own jacket he knocked his chair into his desk and, without considering it, paused to rearrange the dislodged pen, pencil sharpener and notebook, taking his watch and phone from their places next in the neatly arranged line. When he had shrugged into his coat he looked up and caught a strange look on Chandler’s face, fleeting but definitely there. Instantly his own face heated up again and he prayed the DI didn’t think he was mocking him. But before he could attempt an explanation or apology, Chandler nodded brusquely and gestured to the door. “Ready?”

Kent bit back another “yes, sir” and settled for a nod and the suggestion of a pub a couple of streets away where they were less likely to encounter anyone from the station. Chandler hummed in agreement but was obviously lost somewhere in his head, and Kent fought the urge to keep checking whether he was still walking next to him. In one of his sidelong glances he did notice that one of the DI’s hands was in his coat pocket where he was doubtlessly fondling the tiger balm stashed there, but other than that Chandler seemed calm. They walked the short distance to the pub in silence, but Kent was quite sure it was a comfortable one.

Once there they secured a spot at a table and Kent got the first round. He had a beer, figuring he needed a clear head if he didn’t want to embarrass himself (further, that was), but Chandler chose vodka, something fancy, or at least not Smirnoff, the only vodka Kent had ever tried. They settled into their seats and sipped in silence for a while, letting the hum of voices and background music wash over them. After a while Kent became much too aware of Chandler’s elbow next to his, the warmth of his body, the line of his neck, slightly bowed as he intently watched his hands cupping his drink. It was too easy to imagine those elegant fingers drawing lines on Kent’s skin instead of into the condensation of the cold glass.

The next sip of beer went down the wrong end and Kent coughed, eyes tearing up. He’d gotten quite good at keeping that kind of thought at bay, but it was hard with Chandler so close, lost in his head but without most of his usual reserve, his defences probably still depleted from his earlier melt-down. Still, Kent almost jumped out of his skin when the hands he’d just been fantasising about patted him on the back. Chandler was not usually prone to touching his subordinates (or anyone, really), but there he was, one hand on Kent’s back, the other at his elbow, inquiring with a worried look in his eyes, “Emerson?”

Again his first name, and even wheezing and with watering eyes, Kent couldn’t stop the way his stomach did a funny little flip at the sound. He turned towards Chandler, the motion seemingly unavoidable, like a flower turning towards the sun, and swore he could feel the fingers on his arm tighten. He attempted some words of reassurance, feeble as they were in the face of the insistent bouts of coughing, “Sorry, sorry - ‘m fine.”

Still Chandler remained where he was, right in Kent’s space, one hand now rubbing small circles on Kent’s back, heat seeping through three layers of fabric. His eyes were creased uncertainly, as if he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing, but he didn’t stop, and Kent could feel himself sway ever closer, although there already was hardly any space between them. His mind must have still been befuddled, too, because the first thing he heard himself say, once he was mostly recovered and had wiped his eyes, couldn’t possibly have come from him in a sane state of mind. “You called me ‘Emerson’.”

Chandler’s eyes were wide, whether in confusion or mortification Kent wasn’t certain. Since this was apparently the day where he dug himself a hole to China, he realised that at some point he’d trapped the hand Chandler was still resting on his arm beneath his own. He snatched his fingers away as if he’d burned them, not all of the red colouring his face stemming from the coughing. Staring at the collar of Chandler’s shirt, he mumbled, “Um, sorry, sir. For everything.”

Something in the DI’s face slid shut and the reply was clipped, short, “No, no, you did nothing wrong, I’m sure. I apologise for overstepping, Constable.”

With that the hand on Kent’s back vanished as he moved away, putting some distance between them. It was barely a few inches, but the intent was clear, and Kent suddenly felt as if he’d somehow messed up. Again, that was.

His rank had never sounded quite so formal, and suddenly Kent hated it. There’d been a moment where they hadn’t been DI and DC, boss and subordinate, and with one sentence he’d managed to put all the tension back into the lines of Chandler’s face and body. Before he could think better of it, he curled his fingers around the hand with which Chandler was again cradling his glass and loosened its tight grip.

“You didn’t. Not at all. No one calls me ‘Emerson’, that’s all, not even my mum - but I like it when you do...” He trailed off, because he didn’t know what to call Chandler - certainly not ‘sir’, which would defeat the purpose. Not that he was sure what exactly his purpose was except to make sure Chandler knew that, where Kent was concerned, there was no line to overstep. Therefore, seeing the man next to him swallowing hard while glancing back and forth between their hands and Kent’s face, he figured in for a penny, in for a pound - and in a worst case scenario he could always put in for a transfer.

“Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I pretty much like everything you do. Have for ages. You can ask Skip - or anyone, really.” He shrugged deprecatingly and (unable to look the other man in the eyes) fixed on the sight of his fingers still holding Chandler’s. Only the fact that Chandler hadn’t pulled away gave him the courage to stay seated and continue, “I’m sorry if this is completely inappropriate, but I figured you should know, especially after today. I don’t care what the papers write or what the rumour mill says, sir, I’m proud you’re my DI.”

He wasn’t sure what to expect after his outburst, but it certainly wasn’t for Chandler to get up abruptly, dislodging Kent’s grip. His face was unreadable and his eyes fixed somewhere in the middle distance, usually a sign that he was teetering close to the edge. With a sinking heart Kent figured he’d gone too far and was about to be publicly reprimanded - or worse. Instead, Chandler’s quiet, stumbling words, barely audible over the din of the pub, came out sounding almost like a question, “Come outside with me, Const… Kent… Emerson.”

Without waiting for a reply, he turned and moved purposefully towards the exit. Kent got up so quickly, he toppled his chair and had to fumble hastily for his coat before it ended up on the dirty floor. He managed to catch up to Chandler just as the other man hesitated outside of the door before heading in the opposite direction to the station. Kent hurried to keep up, still shrugging into his coat and completely in the dark as to what the DI’s goal was.

They’d turned two corners, and Kent was just about to ask where they might be going when Chandler stopped walking as suddenly as he’d started. Surprised, Kent collided with the taller man, stumbled and swore under his breath, but Chandler’s hands were there to steady him. He was let go again almost immediately, but something in the way Chandler had reacted started a low burn in his stomach and he looked up at the other man inquiringly, with less trepidation than he’d felt just seconds before. “Sir?”

Suddenly there were lips on his, a hasty, inelegant kiss that was more pain than pleasure and lasted only a second before Chandler pulled away, rubbing his reddening cheeks violently. He swallowed visibly, obviously fighting with himself, and as always Kent wished he could make things easier for him. He’d almost decided to take yet another risk and reach out when Chandler finally spoke, his voice low and again almost a question, “Joe. Call me Joe.”

Hearing this, one kind of tension left Kent’s body only to be replaced with an altogether different kind, and he couldn’t suppress a probably ridiculously giddy smile as he repeated the name, savouring it on his tongue, “Joe.”

He tried to catch Chandler’s (Joe’s) eyes, but they were fixed on the tub of tiger balm Chandler was once again turning with tense fingers. Impulsively Kent repeated his earlier motion and caught the restless hand in one of his, “It’s alright. Whatever it is, it’s alright, I promise.”

Now Chandler did look up, his eyes reflecting the light of the streetlamps. His voice was still tight, but there was the hint of a smile in the corner of his mouth. “I… I must confess I’m not sure how we got here. You must know that relationships are not easy for me. Yet there you are, nothing like anything I ever imagined - my subordinate, a… a man, someone who’s seen me at my worst.” He hesitated again, and Kent fought the urge to embrace him. He needed to be sure, and he suspected Chandler needed to say the words, spell things out. “Today… today has been difficult, but you’re still here. You’re always here, I don’t know how I never noticed before. I think I must have, even if it wasn’t consciously done. In any case, I do now. Emerson. And I want to apologise - and thank you.”

Chandler’s chest heaving with the effort, the words died away. Kent’s pulse was hammering in his ears, he felt almost faint, only the sensation of Chandler’s hand in his anchoring him. Realising he needed to respond or risk spooking the other man again, he roused himself and impulsively touched Chandler’s cheek, skin slightly rough against his palm, saying firmly, “I can’t say I ever thought you would - notice, I mean. But I’m glad you have, Joe.” Releasing the smile he’d been keeping in check he finished, “And now I’d like to kiss you properly, if that’s alright with you.”

He sensed Chandler’s shaky nod rather than seeing it, since he didn’t wait for a reply and simply closed the space separating them. He could feel tension in the lips touching his, but it lasted only a second before a sigh escaped and Chandler relaxed against him - not just his mouth, opening for Kent’s tentative tongue, but his whole body, which seemed to want to wrap itself around Kent’s smaller frame.

Kent had never considered how they might fit together, had never allowed himself more than the occasional guilty fantasy that had him shudder and come over his hand all too soon. But now he quickly learned how to angle his head upwards in order to allow Chandler full access to his mouth, how to slide one hand inside his coat and around his waist while his other hand trailed along the back of the taller man’s neck. All the while Joe’s arms were enveloping him, long fingers trailing up and down his back, leaving sparks of pleasure in their wake even through the fabric of his clothes.

It made him impatient for more, and after what felt like hours of them kissing, bodies pressed together as if they were teenagers, Kent broke away, albeit only a few inches. His hands slid around, tracing Joe’s jaw, the kiss-swollen curve of his lips, and he could barely believe how utterly undone the DI looked. It sent blood rushing to Kent’s cock, knowing that he was the cause of it, and his voice sounded hoarse and hungry to his own ears as he whispered, “Come home with me.”

Joe swallowed, and Kent could feel his fingers twist against the small of his back. His eyes, pupils blown, flicked down to Kent’s mouth, his tongue snuck out to wet his lips nervously. Kent realised he could read Joe as if he was speaking, and the thought made him grin widely, probably worrying Joe in its incongruity with his previous mood, so he said quickly, “I’d also be more than happy to come home with you instead.”

He was still smiling and leaned in to kiss Joe, who kissed him back without hesitation despite the surprised look on his face. When they parted, Kent added more quietly, “Joe, I know you. And it’s obvious you’d feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings, not in my digs. Just for the record, though, they are clean and absolutely would pass inspection.” Joe was still staring at him with wide eyes, shaking his head slightly in wonderment, but his arms had tightened their hold on Kent, so he wasn’t really worried that he’d gone too far. He continued anyway, “If you’d rather, though, we could also go our separate ways. Could take it slow. Could even pretend this never happened. It’s up to you.”

It felt strange to be the one with the answers for a change, the one taking charge, when it was usually the other way around with them, but it also felt deeply and utterly right, the same way it felt right to stand on this street corner in the middle of the night with Joe’s arms around him, his mouth still tingling from kissing. Without thinking, Kent traced Joe’s lips with a thumb and was rewarded with a shuddering intake of breath and a touch of tongue. Kent’s eyes slid shut involuntarily, so he was taken by surprise when Joe captured his mouth for a kiss so down and dirty, it was all Kent could do to hold on to Joe’s broad shoulders and respond in kind.

Both of them were panting when they broke for air, and Kent could clearly feel the outline of Joe’s erection against his hip. He was just as hard and knew they were only a couple of kisses away from public indecency. Chandler seemed to realise the same, releasing Kent from his embrace and settling his hands instead against the front of Kent’s coat, unconsciously beginning to smooth its creases.

His voice sounded as wrecked as he looked, “You... I don’t think I could pretend this never happened, even if I wanted to. Although as your superior officer it would certainly be the right course of action.” A tendril of uncertainty snaked through the haze of Kent’s bliss, but this time it was Joe who appeared to be able to read Kent’s mind, reassuring him instantly, “But I don’t want to. What I want is indeed to take you to my place. You can show me yours another time. Alright, Emerson?”

Kent figured he’d never nodded quite so enthusiastically. Chandler was smiling, too, and when they set off for the station, they walked side by side, arms brushing, and Kent could feel anticipation bubble up in him, making him feel almost giddy. They reluctantly separated at Joe’s car, Kent taking his vespa. It wouldn’t do, after all, to arrive at work together. Still, the cool night air helped clear his head, and when he reached the DI’s address he was no longer quite so overwhelmed.

Joe was waiting in front of his block of flats, and they wordlessly went in together. Once inside, there was a short moment of awkwardness when Chandler went through what was obviously a routine of locking the door again, twice, setting down his keys into a small bowl and removing his coat and shoes, carefully placing them in precise alignment. Noticing Kent hovering uncertainly in the hallway, the DI blushed and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before saying hoarsely, “I’m sorry. I… don’t have a lot of visitors. You’ll have to be patient with me, I’m afraid.”

The pained embarrassment in Joe’s eyes was enough to override Kent’s discomfort, and he quickly stepped closer, wrapping his arms around the other man. A part of him felt elated at the ease with which Joe responded to his embrace, the rest was filled with tenderness, which he hoped showed in his voice. “Don’t worry. Remember, there’s nothing you can do could put me off.” Embarrassed by the gratitude that lit up Joe’s face at his words, he quickly added much more lightly, “Now, tell me where to put my shoes and jacket, and then maybe you could show me your bedroom?”

Joe’s smile somehow managed to be both relieved and wicked as he helped Kent out of his coat, hands lingering on his shoulders for just a moment. Kent deposited his shoes where indicated, making sure they stood neatly parallel to Chandler’s, a gesture that was acknowledged with a grateful smile, and then followed him down the hall. Passing the kitchen, Joe asked, voice betraying his nerves, “I could offer you some tea, if you like. I only have green, though.”

Kent gave in to an impulse and took Joe’s hand in his, squeezing it lightly. He shook his head with a grin. “Thanks, but I’m really much more interested in the bedroom right now. Maybe in the morning, yeah?”

Joe tightened his grip on Kent’s hand and smiled back, then opened the next door and ushered him inside. The room was just as orderly as Kent had imagined, no knick-knacks anywhere, almost like a hotel, but he did not get the chance for longer scrutiny, Chandler’s tall form blocking his view. Then urgent lips were on his and he found himself being pushed back against the wall. Pleased surprise rushing through him, he let his hands slide over Joe’s back, their kiss deepening until they were both achingly hard and rutting impatiently against one another.

Chandler had inserted a strong thigh between Kent’s legs, and the friction was both too much and not enough. Kent tore his mouth away for long enough to pant, “Joe. Bed. Now.”

Apparently words with more than one syllable were as impossible as sentences, but Joe grasped his meaning and reluctantly stepped away. He was in complete disarray, hair mussed from Kent’s fingers, shirt rumpled and halfway out of his trousers, lips swollen, cheeks bright red and eyes dark with arousal. It was a sight that left Kent dry-mouthed, and he quickly tore his own shirt over his head before pouncing, pushing Joe onto the mattress and straddling him.

For a moment they just stared at one another, then Chandler licked his lips and Kent was lost. At least he managed to retain enough of his wits to begin to unbutton Joe’s waistcoat and shirt even as they sank into another hungry kiss. Finally, his hands met the warm flesh and muscle of Joe’s chest, and he let his mouth wander downwards, licking and nibbling the flushed skin, delighting in the small sounds that escaped Chandler, wordless noises mixed with curses and what might be his name.

Scooting back, Kent slid somewhat inelegantly off the bed, coming to kneel between Joe’s spread thighs, and Joe’s eyes widened when it became obvious to him what Kent intended. Before he removed the once neatly-pressed trousers and white boxer-briefs, however, Kent allowed himself to nuzzle along the hard line of Chandler’s erection, pressing his cheek against it and inhaling the dark musk.

He had imagined this, but never had he considered it might actually come true, and his heart beat a quick, excited staccato. Taking another deep breath, this one more to steady himself, he finally removed the last of Joe’s clothes, socks falling to the ground alongside the rest. Just when Kent had started peppering teasing kisses everywhere except where they were most wanted, however, although his arousal was unflagging, Joe made a small noise that Kent immediately recognised.

Looking up, he took in the small unhappy line between Joe’s eyes and the tenseness in his hands, which were fisting the sheets. Not to stop himself from touching Kent, but something altogether different and much more familiar. Only for a split second did Kent feel disappointed, then he shook his head slightly and smiled reassuringly. “Shh, don’t worry. Do you want to put your clothes away or shall I?”

The relief flooding Joe’s features soothed even the tiny petulant voice in the back of Kent’s head that had imagined all the DI needed was his kiss and everything would be sunshine and roses. This was no fairy tale, and Kent would much rather have this Chandler, real and flawed, than any perfect fantasy. Resigned, Kent sat back on his heels and watched as Joe sat up. Instead of instantly beginning to tidy, however, he took Kent’s face in his hands and leaned down, kissing him slow and sweet. Finally breaking away, his voice was low and full of a warmth that immediately flowed into Kent and settled in his stomach. “I’ll do it. Please, make yourself comfortable on the bed, if you like.”

Holding back a small sigh, Kent complied, climbing back onto the mattress and leaning against the headboard to take in the strange scene of his boss picking up and folding clothes while completely naked. Kent’s cock twitched a bit at the sight of all that skin, reminding him that his lower body was still completely clothed. He quickly shed trousers, boxers and socks, but took care to fold them neatly before settling back down. He was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath when Joe glanced up from his task and noticed Kent’s new state of undress.

With a grin, Kent offered up his bundle of clothes, gratified by the way Joe’s eyes roamed his body hungrily as he attempted to put them onto a chair without looking away. Teasing, Kent trailed a hand down his chest but had to suppress a gasp of his own when he reached his nipples, his skin feeling hypersensitive under Chandler’s scrutiny. His cock was already at half-mast, and he fisted it loosely, eyes sliding shut with pleasure.

However, the next moment the bed dipped and a hand with long, elegant fingers joined his own, and a pair of hungry lips attached themselves to first one nipple, then the other. This time there was no suppressing the groan that built deep in Kent’s chest, and he ran his fingers into Joe’s hair, holding him to his chest. Not that Joe seemed in any hurry to move away, swirling his tongue around the hard nubs and then catching them gently between his teeth, making Kent buck and dig his fingers deeper into Joe’s scalp.

Their entwined hands were jerking Kent’s cock just this side of too gently, and it was a while before Kent even noticed the way Chandler was pushing his own hard erection against his hip, obviously seeking friction. It reminded him of what he’d been about to do before the cleanup break, and he finally managed to pull Joe’s head up, catching his mouth in a deep kiss. Already the taste of him was almost familiar, with the slight tang of vodka from the pub clinging to every corner Kent could reach with his tongue. He only indulged for a little while, however, then he pushed Joe gently onto his back with a firm hand on his chest.

“Let me,” he smiled when Chandler made to protest, and scooted off the bed, settling onto his knees on the smooth parquet floor. His knees wouldn’t thank him for this, but the heat in Joe’s eyes was all the incentive he needed, and without further hesitation he wrapped a hand around the base of the hard cock curving upwards in front of his face. The skin was hot and silky beneath his touch, and Kent’s mouth began to water in anticipation. After licking his lips one last time, he leaned in and took Joe deep inside his mouth. No playing around, just long, hard sucks, and almost instantly he was rewarded with a drawn-out groan from Chandler that sounded as if it was torn from his chest.

Kent looked up through his lashes and felt his own dick twitch at the sight of Joe with his head thrown back, his body almost arching off the mattress, his fists seemingly the only thing anchoring him. His flush spread halfway down his chest, and if Kent hadn’t had his mouth already full he would have loved to taste it, see whether the skin was hotter there. A plan for another time, and Kent smiled around the thick cock, the head of which was nudging the back of his throat. It wasn’t particularly long, but that only meant Kent was actually able to swallow most of it without gagging, leaving his right hand free to fondle Joe’s balls. His other hand was tight around his own erection, propelling Kent ever closer to climax.

“Emerson!” The gasp of his name was accompanied by urgent hands tugging at his hair, sending spikes to pain-pleasure from Kent’s scalp down his spine. Not stopping his ministration, he shook his head slightly and hummed in encouragement. With another gasp and an involuntary bucking of his hips, Chandler erupted down his throat, and Kent’s eyes watered a little. Still, he managed to swallow everything, keeping his mouth lax around Joe’s cock until a breathless voice ordered, “Come here. You didn’t have to do that…”

Climbing onto his feet and suppressing a wince when his knees protested slightly, Kent grinned down into Chandler’s flushed face and teased, “Much tidier this way, yeah?”

“You… are impossible,” Joe snorted, and the next moment Kent was on his back, with Joe’s amused face looming over him, before he leaned down and kissed the living daylights out of him. Kent’s arousal skyrocketed again the moment their tongues tangled, becoming almost unbearable when one of Chandler’s elegant hands (long since an object of fascination for Kent) wrapped firmly around his leaking erection.

He slid his own hands around Joe’s middle, felt the muscles in his back flex under his touch as he moved them upwards, his fingers digging sharply into broad shoulders when Chandler caught his lower lip with his teeth and pulled gently. Gasping for breath, Kent threw his head back, cursing when Joe immediately latched onto his neck, although he was careful not to leave a mark. All the while his fist was tight around Kent’s cock, using his precum to smooth the way, and Kent only realized he was begging when Joe stopped, only long enough to grab some lotion from the bedside table.

“Oh, fuck me,” he groaned when, in addition to coating his cock, Joe slicked himself before rolling them over. Kent ended up on top, his erection slipping easily between Joe’s strong thighs. It felt like heaven, being cradled by Chandler’s body, and Kent thrust down, felt Chandler meet him with a hoarse moan, his spent cock twitching against Kent’s stomach. It was too much, and Kent tumbled over the edge so abruptly his arms collapsed under him. Luckily Joe was there, holding him securely, murmuring words into Kent’s hair that he was too preoccupied to understand.

When he finally gathered his wits again, he lifted his head and found Chandler watching him intently, eyes soft with something so close to awe, Kent felt himself melt. Smiling sleepily, he pressed a kiss to Chandler’s lips and whispered, “Thank you. That was fucking brilliant.”

“Was it? I wasn’t sure whether you… whether you’d expect more,” Joe responded with more uncertainty than Kent could take, and he shook his head (whispering “of course not, you stupid man!”, for once completely unselfconscious) and kissed him until Chandler relaxed again. He still continued talking, though, obviously needing to get it out, “When it comes to men, I’ve only experimented a little in school, like everyone. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for anything more than this.” He swallowed and added almost defiantly, as if Kent needed to have it spelled out, “Penetration, I mean.”

Kent has to hold back a laugh, afraid that it’d be taken the wrong way. His heart was so light, filled with so much affection, he felt as if he might float away. “That doesn’t matter. A lot of blokes don’t like it, there’s so many other things we can do.”

“I’m glad,” Joe replied softly, his arms snaking around Kent and holding him close. Kent’s entire body was heavy with contentment, and he curled himself around Joe, head on his chest. Just for a moment, until he felt Joe begin to twitch slightly.

Making sure to keep his voice light, Kent lifted himself to his elbows and smiled. “Go and wash up. If you want me to be clean you better bring a washcloth, though; I don’t plan on moving any time soon.”

Catching himself, he wondered for a second if he’d gone too far, assumed too much, but Chandler’s smile was soft with pleasure, even as he slid out of bed. Instead of leaving immediately, however, he paused and looked down at Kent, who felt himself begin to blush under the scrutiny. Finally, he leaned down, hands cupping Kent’s face gently, and said, “I don’t want you to move. I like having you here.”

Then he finally went to the loo, after a kiss that was all tenderness, leaving Kent curled up in Chandler’s spacious bed, smiling to himself (doubtlessly looking like a fool but not caring). He heard the water turn on, and a part of him wanted to put a lie to his earlier words, because the image of Chandler in the shower was rather enticing. But maybe that would be a bit presumptuous, at least until he’d figured out what Joe needed to feel comfortable after something as unavoidably messy as sex.

By the time Chandler returned, Kent was half-asleep, but not too sleepy to feel the warm, wet cloth that cleaned him, thoroughly but gently. When those big hands trailed over his back, Kent remembered his scars for the first time and held his breath a little. Joe continued his task without hesitation, however, before putting the cloth away and sliding back into bed, turning off the light. Sighing contentedly, Kent relaxed into the darkness, enjoying the warmth of Chandler’s body against his own.

“I’m not good at bedsharing,” Joe admitted in a low voice, pulling Kent back from the edge of sleep. “I’ll probably need to move away to sleep.”

Humming sleepily, he pressed a kiss to Joe’s chest, above his heart. “That’s fine, Joe. Just… hold me a while longer?”

“For as long as you like, Emerson.” It was too dark to make out Chandler’s features, but he could hear the smile in his voice and felt his arms tighten around him.

Kent smiled into the darkness, feeling more at home in his own skin than he had in a long, long time. So this was what a fresh start felt like.

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