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Words are Over-rated

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Words are over-rated

'I'm fine. Really.' Hathaway turned his back, sharp, the set of his shoulders betraying his lie. The word echoed between them for a moment that passed too fast.

Lewis sighed. He'd tried again the previous evening. Tried to hint. By telling James to go home, by taking the long night and giving him a rest. He'd tried to check in with him later, but he had either not been in or steadfastly ignored the knock. Lewis gave either option a fifty-fifty chance.

He did understand, though, to a degree, what this was about, and it wasn't the first time someone he knew had felt that kind of strain and had been close to breaking point. This job could take a lot out of you. Hathaway was bright, sometimes too much so for his own good, but he was also given to brooding, to thinking too much. That probably tied into that damned sharp mind of his. But he was also young and bright in another way, the fresh, kind. Bright young things. He hadn't seen as much as Lewis had, hadn't yet hardened, an enviable position in some ways, and he didn't have that ability to let it slide and let it be someone else's problem when he saw the deep injustices humans did to each other. Lewis himself could handle that with a good curry and a pint, Hathaway could not. It would take a lot more to restore his faith in humanity.

But then, finding a ten-year-old girl dead in a water cistern would make anyone's blood curdl, and having to relive the moment, facing her killer, at the trial... well, Lewis suspected he'd have needed a very big curry and a few pints at the least – and still have lost sleep. So he rather suspected Hathaway hadn't slept at all that night when he ignored or didn't hear the knock.

So he really couldn't blame James for snapping just now and biting at that DC who always derided James' for being too posh. Not that he was and growing up here would have made him painfully aware of that. Some people are more equal than others.But no matter that it was understandable it didn't mean he was fine, not by a long shot. Lewis sighed. On with it, then. People to see, things to do.

The mystery that was James Hathaway didn't stop churning in his mind, though. No matter how many clues he tracked down, how much he thought about this case. It didn't help that it tied in with James' past in those ways things sometimes do. Especially in bloody Oxford, for some reason. He had a hard time imagining James as a child, small, carefree, playing with the other kids at that amazing estate. That thought recurred over the next days, perhaps because it was a tough one to imagine, so he felt he had to. Young James playing with the Lady of the house and the servants' kids, the girl he'd found – same age as the James he imagined, the killer whose mind James so expertly unwound... He rather agreed with their sharp-minded pathologist that James might need to see someone about it. But of course, that wouldn't make James go and to be frank, Lewis wouldn't have had it been him, so he could hardly tell the man off for it. He did wish James wouldn't cut him off when he tried to ask. He knew he was clumsy about it, but he at least tried.

Some days he thought James would have been better off if he'd stayed in theology. Father James Hathaway would have been able to help people, would have been brilliant at it, in fact. At listening, understanding, guiding people on. But he was also very grateful that James had hit a crisis of faith.

What he wasn't grateful for the next day was James' stupidity at getting himself involved with one of the bleeding suspects! And despite what he told himself, it wasn't just that it was stupid and put James' career in danger and all that crap. Even though it was the crap he yelled at James when he found out. Lewis sighed as he let Monty steal his tea again that night. Damned cat, why did he even take it home? A dead man's cat. How fitting. It was more than just that. A lot more than an inspector's concern for his sergeant. There was a certain green beast lurking behind his eyes that hated the thought of James curled up in bed with her beautiful young ladyship. It had been a proper row and he knew it had ended with him sending James home on leave because this was yet another crisis of faith in a career and this one was one he wanted resolved with a very different outcome. At the same time, he had been married, he knew why James might want something more out of life than mucking about in other people's sorry messes. He'd had that, why couldn't James find something or someone that were at least compatible with the job? Why did it have to be all or nothing with that man? Why does it even have to be something other than the job?

'I told him to think it over, come tell me what he wants,' he told the pathologist when he took her out – explicitly so he could talk this over with someone. After all he did think best when talking to someone. Usually that was Hathaway, but he couldn't really talk to him, now could he?

'So what do you want him to do?' she asked and he had to think.

He admitted as much as not wanting another sergeant. He even managed to say it out loud, even if he had to cloak it in a quib about not wanting to house-train another one. 'He's an awkward sod at the best of times, dear god. But he's my awkward sod,' he added. If only he were. Dear god in heaven, if only... That mad thought that brewed in him and wouldn't go away, that wouldn't let him stop thinking about his sergeant and his troubles, that made Lewis want to heal them for him, fix him the way Hathaway wanted to fix other people.

'People don't know how you feel unless you tell them,' she said, so damned wise he wanted to curse her for it.

Later on it was himself he was cursing, after biting that same DC's head off for his usual sarcastic remarks about Hathaway and his ways. The intelligence and choice of words James used always put some people off. Small mind and big mouth, he'd snapped. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. Not having James around made it harder to think and knowing how he struggled right now made Lewis want, no need, to protect him and his honour. Bloody hell, he sounded like something out of a story book and if he'd had time this would have been when he'd gone for a drink. But there wasn't time.

Everything always happened so fast at the end of a case. Before he knew of it, it all came together and they were both in the middle of it. Him at gunpoint, James dragging the whole damned marquess family along to understand and ultimately to help him. And yet, when the shots flew the world stood still. When James doubled over it stopped. Stopped completely for a few seconds till he knew it was just a flesh wound to the shoulder. Only then did he realise someone else was hurt too.

Tell them. Dr. Hobson's words echoed in his mind when he and James stood next to each other on the grass the following day, after watching the excavation of a woman who'd been dead ten years and now finally got her revenge.

'I'm going to hand in my papers.' The tears lurking in James' eyes proved how painful those words were to say.

'Resign?' Lewis' shock wasn't feigned.

'I compromised the investigation.' His crisis of faith clearly wasn't in the job any more, it was in himself. Lewis was half relieved; this kind of crisis he knew, understood, could handle.

'You made a mistake.' Lewis shrugged. 'You're human!' He also genuinely sympathised with it.

'Not good enough.' Hathaway's burden of guilt never seemed to lessen, just take different forms.

'Why do you have to be better?'

'What happened here...' He nodded to the fields, meaning the whole mess here, the spot where he'd met a girl he once knew, who was involved in a case, and had fallen for a childhood crush. 'You're not to blame. Not then, not now.' That sympathy and understanding, and the thought that Hathaway might leave, was enough to make Lewis tell. Sort of. It wasn't like he'd shout to the skies full of bloody geese that Hathaway couldn't just leave him like this.

'As for handing in your papers,' Lewis continued, 'if it's all the same to you...Between us be make a not-bad detective.' Hathaway turned his head, met Lewis' eyes, and the look was enough. 'I'm the brains, obviously,' Lewis continued, defusing that moment of a shared understanding so deep it was frightening by making a stupid quib.

'Obviously.' James nodded, a smile playing in the corners of his mouth. A smile that turned to a short huff of amusement.

Lewis could feel the eyes on him and once again knew that James understood. There never had been many words between them. Never needed to. The sudden soft smile and the change in the colour of his eyes was enough.

Monty didn't steal his tea that night because he had it in the middle of the night, shirt ruffled and open, with James quietly stirring milk into his tea next to him at the table, tie askew, trousers somewhere across the floor. There wasn't a whisker of Monty in sight, probably scared off by the noise of the knocked-over chair. Neither of them commented at the stupidity of getting involved with your partner, which might arguably be even bigger than that of going on a date with a suspect. Lewis smoothed out a few wrinkles in the tablecloth where hands had clutched while bodies ground together. This kind of thing wouldn't come out, wouldn't ever be public. Partners do spend more time together than most men do with their wives.