The day Charlie comes back to work isn't the first time Tom's seen him since the attack. He's been there the whole time, through the whole journey, from holding Charlie's arm as he takes his first few steps on his reconstructed knee to taking all the abuse Charlie can dish out when he's having a shitty day and doesn't want to take it out on anyone else. They were friends even before the incident, already more than just colleagues, but it's leagues beyond that now.
Tom isn't sure what it is anymore, actually.
"Strictly desk duty," says Jack, and Charlie scowls at him but Tom breathes a sigh of relief.
"I'm ready," protests Charlie. "I passed all the fitness tests."
"There isn't a test for the work we do here," says Jack, "and what I say goes. Desk duty. Three days. TomTom will show you the ropes."
Tom hadn't been sure Charlie was going to come back. To the police, sure—Charlie was made to be a policeman, right from the ground up, and if Tom's ever had any doubt that was a real thing it was put to rest during his time with Charlie during his recovery—but not to the team. Not to the place that had done this to him.
But here he is.
"I don't need you to show me the ropes," says Charlie, slumping into the chair next to him and letting his knee rest against Tom's.
"By 'showing the ropes' I'm pretty sure Jack means 'childminding'," says Tom, shooting Jack a look, "which I've got no intention of doing. If there were literal ropes involved, maybe."
"TomTom!" says Jess. "The mouth on you!"
"Not appropriate, mate," says Jack, looking warily at Charlie, which Charlie doesn't appreciate one bit. Tom doesn't even have to look at him to know that, to know that the last thing Charlie wants is to be coddled.
"No," says Tom firmly, staking his claim. "You left him in my care. Hands off. Don't you have a meeting to get to?"
Jack looks at his watch and grimaces. "Be good."
"I think you've forgotten who you're talking to," says Jess, stretching her legs out in front of her before planting them on the floor and hoisting herself off the settee.
Tom crosses his arms over his chest and waits and Jack finally does grab his coat. "Three days," he says, directly to Charlie. "Then you're back in the field."
"Three days," repeats Charlie. "All right."
Jack's been there for Charlie, too, Tom's not saying he hasn't. Tom's never seen him get so riled up about anything, ever, as he was after Charlie was attacked. But he wasn't there every day, he didn't see the process like Tom did. Jack still thinks of Charlie as broken, so they'll give Jack those three days to get used to the idea of Charlie being back with the team, but Tom's going to hold him to that timeline. And so, he's sure, is Charlie.
Jack takes the stairs two at a time on his way out, and Jess comes over to plant a kiss on Charlie's forehead, holding his face between her hands.
"It's good to have you back," she says. "Tom will fill you in on our latest project. I'm late to meet a friend, but I didn't want to miss you."
"You'll be sick of my face again before long," says Charlie.
"Never," says Jess, and kisses the top of his head and then she's off, too. It occurs to Tom that he's never met any of her friends, and he wonders if that was meant to be a euphemism.
"All right then," says Charlie, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands in his lap. "Show me what we're up to."
Tom reaches out and twists a monitor in his direction, showing a dim bedroom and a faintly restless body beneath the rumpled sheets of a very large bed.
"Surveillance on someone who's going to be out for at least the next four hours," says Tom. He's got about five other things going on in the background, too, but that's just to keep himself entertained. That's not, strictly speaking, work. (And also not, strictly speaking, legal.)
"We've got cameras in some bloke's bedroom?"
"It's okay, I'm pretty sure he hasn't had sex since the nineties," says Tom.
His knee is still resting against Charlie's, even though they've both changed position several times since he sat down. It's not the first time, and yet Tom is still not entirely sure how to read it.
"How's the leg feeling?
"Bionic," says Charlie, flexing the knee just for show. "They've put it under just about every stress test they could think of. I'm not going to fall apart."
"I know that," says Tom. If anyone knew that, aside from Charlie, it was him. "Sometimes it's not all about the physical stuff, though."
"So you're saying I'm mental, now."
"You know what I mean," says Tom.
"And you know I passed all the psych tests, too," says Charlie. When you're almost beaten to death, they actually take it pretty seriously before putting you back to work; Charlie might be chafing to get back to it but Tom's not sorry there were hoops to jump through first.
"Yeah, but this is me," says Tom, and Charlie rubs his leg very slowly and very deliberately against Tom's.
Tom actually has to stare at their legs for a little while before he manages to say anything. "Weeks of time alone together," he says, "and now, the day we're back at work, that's when you go there? Now?"
Charlie ducks his head and has the grace to look chagrined, but he doesn't back off. "Wanted to make sure I was ready."
"Are you kidding?" says Tom. "You know I would've crawled up on your hospital bed and blown you right there, right? No effort necessary on your part. You do know that, right?"
"I would've freaked out if you had."
"I would've given you fair warning."
"I could barely handle the doctors touching me at first," says Charlie. "Once I knew what was what, anyway. Wanting it was not the problem."
It's not a confession, not at this point. Tom knows all about it already, all about what Charlie went through just dealing with the trauma part of the whole ordeal, on top of the physical stress and injuries. But this is a whole new context for that conversation.
"You're over that now."
"Yes, I am," says Charlie pointedly.
Tom just breathes for a few moments. "Okay, I saw you last night," he blurts out finally when he can't hold that thought in any longer. "You couldn't have done this then?"
Charlie shrugs, and when he looks up he's grinning. "Something about this place, I guess," he says. "Maybe later, we can—"
"No," says Tom, and surges on before Charlie can even begin to interpret that as a rejection. "Hell no. We have hours right here, right now."
"At least an hour," says Tom. "And if it takes us longer than that, we don't deserve opportunities to get quickies at the office."
"Some office," says Charlie, taking a look around the old place before fixing his eyes on Tom again. "This isn't coming out of nowhere—"
"Oh, believe me, I know that," says Tom. A few quick keypresses and he'll be alerted if anything important happens while he's doing something much more important than watching an old guy sleep.
He practically flings himself up out of his chair, disrupting their point of contact for the first time since Charlie sat down beside him, to flip a switch across the room. He has a monitor outside their front door, too, he just doesn't need to turn it on very often.
When he comes back, practically skidding along the floor in his haste, Charlie flinches the moment he approaches too close.
Tom suddenly understands what people mean when they say something feels like they've had ice water thrown on them.
"Right," he says, staying a good two feet back of him and to the side. "Well, Mr. Johnson could wake up at any moment and it's always fun watching him try to find his trousers, so at least there's that."
"No," says Charlie, and he reaches out and grabs Tom's wrist, pulling him closer. "It's fine."
"It ought to be more than fine."
"It's just..." says Charlie, then he closes his eyes and pulls Tom closer still and Tom would've had to have had much more willpower than he does to pull away once Charlie starts kissing him because it's pretty much exactly how he'd imagined it would be, right down to the ratio of hard to soft, wet to dry.
Charlie's eyes are still closed when Tom finally does pull away again.
"Is that how you need it?" he asks quietly, a little scared of the moment going away again as quickly as it had the first time.
"Maybe," admits Charlie, probably something he wasn't planning to admit to anyone else right now (in this or any other context). He slowly opens his eyes and blinks a couple of times. "It's just things coming at me in my peripheral vision...even when I know what they are, if I can't see them."
"And you don't think that's going to be a problem on the job? Really?"
"It doesn't affect my reaction time," says Charlie, in a way that Tom understands it's been tested. "I just flinch."
"And flinching isn't fun or sexy," says Tom, summing up. "If that's the whole truth...I have an idea. If you trust me."
"You know I do."
"And if you want this, for real."
"You know—" he starts, but no, they don't know that part, this is all new. "I do. I'm ready."
"Then it's a good thing for both of us I'm ready too," says Tom, scrambling around his desk to find what he's looking for. He has absolutely nothing that's good for anything, but Jess's left her scarf draped over the railing and he makes a dash for it.
He comes back much more slowly than he left, and stretches the scarf between his hands, about a foot from Charlie's eyes. "Will this make things better or worse?"
"Do it," says Charlie.
Tom doesn't give him time to second guess himself, and trusts that Charlie knows his own mind and if he doesn't want this, at any point, he's going to be pretty clear about it. Once the blindfold's on, though, he hasn't a clue what he plans to do next.
"Uh, this idea of yours involved touching me after, right?" says Charlie. "I'm ready for the touching now."
"Aren't we all," says Tom under his breath, and reaches out and pushes Charlie's shirt up at the hem so he can touch bare skin. There are scars now, not a lot but Tom can find them with his fingertips if he looks, and he knows where to look. Not right here, though; his fingers brush over bare skin and Charlie's lips part a bit as he does.
"And you're sure they'd not coming back?"
"We'll know if they do," says Tom. And hopefully with enough warning that they can make themselves presentable again. Tom barely looks presentable as it is, so it shouldn't take much. "And I'm not really going to tie you up."
"I'd probably let you," says Charlie, and Tom definitely files that one away for future reference. "Maybe not just right now, though."
"Yeah, I've got other ideas," says Tom, and starts undoing Charlie's trousers right where he sits.
They've been on the edge of this for so long that it's almost surreal to take that final step; Tom's pretty sure he actually did have a dream like this once, and a wave of déjà vu washes over him as he lets Charlie's trousers fall open and goes back to pushing his shirt up again.
There's nothing to do for it, he's going to have to kneel on the floor to get what he wants and maybe it's he-of-the-bionic-knee who should be doing that but Tom has a vague sense that doing this is helping Charlie get past something and so he's happy to be of service. So to speak.
"All right?" he says, and Charlie just reaches out blindly and manages to run a thumb over Tom's lower lip and that's plenty answer enough.
So far, since putting the blindfold on, Charlie hasn't flinched at all. Whatever's going on in his head, it's got nothing to do with touch. Thank god.
"So if I wanted to blow you, would you be into that?"
"Is that a question?" says Charlie. "Is that seriously a question?"
"There are a lot of other things I want to do to you too, but, uh—"
"Not on a dirty floor?"
"Something like that," says Tom, and Charlie shifts his hips so Tom can pull his trousers down, just enough. "Next time."
It's not a question. They both know this is the start of something. It's not even the start, really.
Charlie looks relaxed, resting back against the chair, tilting his head back so that the blindfold rests neatly over his eyes. Tom kind of wants to drag his fingernails over his abdomen, leave his mark, but that's something for another day too. Instead he kisses the spot he wants to mark then leans in and sucks the head of Charlie's cock into his mouth.
He's pretty good at this, actually, or so he's been told. But every body is different and he wants to learn Charlie's body, not which pin has been surgically implanted where but the ways Charlie's body responds to his. He already knows some of them, just from casual touching. Now he wants to learn the rest.
"So it's been a while," says Charlie, all casually, like he's making conversation. Tom isn't sure why he's saying that, since Tom actually knows exactly how long it's been, nearly down to the hour (there's a lot of time to talk when you're in hospital), until he realises Charlie's trying to say that he might have a little less stamina than he might have otherwise.
Well, that's all right with Tom. The floor's actually really hard, though finally getting to go down on Charlie is distracting him from that quite a bit, and if he gets up from it sooner rather than later he's not going to complain. He hasn't been with anyone since before Charlie was put in hospital either, and he wouldn't say he's out of practice, but really it's a skill you need to keep on top of.
Tom is good at this because he likes it, he likes the stretch of his lips, he likes the taste, he likes the way he can make boys' toes curl. He loves the way something so simple can make two people feel so good. And the two of them are definitely both feeling good right now. He'd put a hand down his own trousers if he could, but both are occupied with Charlie's body, and even though Charlie hasn't said so he feels like as long as Charlie is blindfolded he shouldn't lose contact entirely.
"Fuck, you're good at that," breathes Charlie, and Tom smiles around his cock even as he swallows it deeper. Charlie's hand lands on his head but he doesn't tug on Tom's hair, he curls his hand around the back of his head and just cradles it, and Tom really wants to shove a hand down his trousers now.
Charlie doesn't give the signals Tom is used to, he doesn't let out a string of profanity or take a fistful of Tom's hair or even tense up and cry out. When he comes, it takes Tom by surprises. It seems to take Charlie by surprise too, from his gasp that seems to come out of nowhere. Tom is a champion swallower, and that's a skill he definitely hasn't lost.
"I just need a minute to—" he starts after a moment, and that's when Charlie does take hold of him.
"Are you kidding?" he says. "No, you're going to let me..."
And even though he's clearly the one in control now with Tom staying more or less motionless, he still leaves the blindfold on. He leaves the blindfold on and he leans forward and he finds Tom by touch alone, letting go of his hair to trace the contours of his face and pushing two fingers into his mouth, which Tom sucks on almost as eagerly as Charlie's cock.
"Lean back," says Charlie, and Tom is doing it without even thinking about it. "I'll follow you."
He leans back slow as he can, bracing himself on one hand and using the other to help guide Charlie out of the chair and onto the floor with him. Onto him on the floor. He touches the blindfold, runs his finger along the edge of it, but he doesn't move it from Charlie's eyes.
Once they're stable Charlie's hands are all over him, tracing him, touching him in places Tom didn't even think about, the strip of skin behind his ear, the hollow of his throat, the plane of his back from shoulder to waist. Charlie touches him like he's never seen him before and is learning him entirely by touch, and only once he's done Tom's entire body, from top to bottom, does he even begin pushing clothing out of the way.
Tom's so ready to go off by this point he almost came in his pants just from Charlie cupping him through them. So once Charlie's actually in his pants, it's practically game over.
Charlie could just touch him now and that would be enough, but instead Charlie kisses all the way down, over Tom's shirt and then over the strip of skin showing below that, then kisses his cock and swallows him right down. Tom pretty much comes on the spot. He feels like he should apologize for being such a quick trigger, except he's pretty sure that Charlie knew exactly what he was doing and timed it all perfectly.
"Is it too soon to tell you I love you?" he says, and Charlie laughs and moves up to rest his head against Tom's shoulder and finally pushes the blindfold off.
A few moments later, when Charlie lifts his head and leans in to finally kiss him, he looks Tom squarely in the eye first.
"You're sure they're not coming back?" says Charlie one last time, the entire length of his body pressed against Charlie's now, right there on the floor.
"Not yet," says Tom. "Not just yet."
They can enjoy the afterglow for a little while and later...well, later they can have everything else, whatever that turns out to be.