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Brant and Nash, they fuck sometimes.

Just worked out that way. Now and then Brant thinks back to how it started and still doesn't quite believe it. Surely it wasn't as simple as he remembers it: at Nash's of an evening, bit tipsy but hardly smashed, and it felt like—like they'd just sort of looked at each other, locked eyes, and then Nash had been half-naked, Brant ignoring the way his heart was hammering and yanking Nash's trousers impatiently off him, with far too few steps from one to the other.

Easy enough, though, since then. Convenient, isn't it? Works out well for them both, hours they keep; probably nobody else would put up with it but them anyhow. Been long enough now that they've settled into it, that they both know exactly how it's going to go.

End of the day, one way or another—whether they're still at the station, or they're just getting a bite, or passing each other in a corridor. End of the day, and Nash'll look at Brant and pause a moment, and say quietly, "Mine, then?" And Brant'll pretend to think about it, maybe nod or maybe just let his eyes drop. Acknowledge it, one way or another, and Nash'll see and carry on, and they'll both end up right here: at Nash's flat, fucking.

It would've been easier to stop after the first few times if it didn't feel so goddamn good, is the thing. It shouldn't still, Brant sometimes thinks. It's the same every time, really. Brant gripping Nash's hips tight, fucking into him with quick hard rolls of his hips; watching the narrow muscles shift in Nash's back, Nash bent over and spread open and straining, gasping—the sounds he makes, quiet and bitten-off, like he doesn't mean to but he just can't help it.

Nothing new, by now. But Brant's not complaining.

No grounds for it, is there? Nash likes to get fucked, and it turns out Brant doesn't mind fucking him. Hasn't messed them up at work, at least not yet. If anything, Brant's actually got less disciplinary citations these past six months.

So it's fine.

And once they've both come, they catch their breath a minute, like always. Brant pulls out, lets Nash's hips go, and cleans himself up like always—leaves Nash to do whatever it is he does for himself after, like always. He tugs his pants, his trousers, back up and wanders out; fills himself a glass of water, more often than not, and if he sits down in that chair of Nash's for more than about a minute, he's asleep before he knows it, and waking up first thing to Nash stumbling into the kitchen to put a kettle on.

Simple enough routine, and it seems to work out all right. Normal, if you can call it that when they're fucking all the time.

Except this once, Brant drinks his water standing in Nash's dark little kitchen, and then splashes some on his face, goes out to sit in the chair, and finds himself staring up at the dim ceiling, listening to himself breathe.

Because nothing was off about tonight, it was fine. But tomorrow—

Tomorrow, everything's going to be different, and Brant doesn't know what the hell to do about it.

 

 

 

Brant's seen plenty of bashing cases. Used to half love them, he did, if only because the blokes who pulled that sort of thing—and it was mostly blokes, especially the violent stuff—tended not to care he was a copper. They'd look right at him and put their fists up anyway, and he had even more excuse than usual to knock them around for it. Satisfying, deep down, to hit back at people who'd never imagined anybody would; who dished it out so easy because they didn't ever think they'd have to take it.

But it got tiring, always hearing the same shit about what they'd done, why they'd done it. Brant liked to have a variety of reasons not to care whether his fists happened to meet somebody's face. Spice of life and all.

So when one cropped up, getting traction after several victims in a row end up in hospital giving about the same description, Brant had sighed a little through his nose, ready to get briefed on it for about twenty minutes more than he needed and file it away again so he could keep working this other murder he and Nash had just got.

Except then he happened to look at Nash. Nash, who'd gone a little tense, a little quiet. Eyes down, carefully not looking round the station, and everybody else carefully not looking at him either.

Everybody except Brant, of course, who listened to Singh lay out how they were planning to run the investigation, the station guidelines for community outreach during, how they were supposed to answer any questions about the case if they happened to be in the area round the half-dozen pubs where it was happening—listened, and watched the muscles in Nash's jaw go tight. And when it was over, he went up and caught Singh by the arm and got a copy of the list of pubs, the times and the locations of the assaults.

She looked at him a little funny when he asked for it. But then she looked past him at Nash, still sitting there staring at the floor, and gave it to him anyway.

He didn't know exactly what he meant to do with it. They weren't even on the investigation themselves, not officially. But he walked back over to Nash with it, and Nash looked up at him, and somehow he found himself saying, "Well, want to get this done or not?"

And now they're—they are. They will be.

Nash went over the list of pubs, and together they went out and walked round a bit in the general area. Whoever this arsehole is, he's not done them the favor of going to the same place every time; seems he goes out with his own group of lads and gets drunk himself, and then wanders about looking for the right sort of pub to have the wrong sort of fun. And Nash had a guess as to which direction he was coming from—that that's why he'd got someone coming out of the Royal three times, and almost all the other pubs only once, because the Royal was closest and easiest.

Which meant if they wanted to catch him in the act, the Royal was their best shot.

Brant can dress up like a regular bloke and everything, or so Nash had assured him. Just his own shirt and trousers will do fine; he doesn't need to do any—glitter or eyeliner, doesn't need to be pink or rainbow or any such shit. Because regular blokes are poofters now, sometimes. Ones like Nash, at least.

Getting inside won't be any trouble, either. Almost normal, really, because they go for a pint all the time, him and Nash. Except when they do, they don't go places like that. They don't go places like that, and they—they don't—

But tomorrow, they'll have to. The whole point is to blend in, and at a place like the Royal, that means being seen. Being seen, and looking to everybody who sees as though—

Brant blows out a slow breath, and sits there and makes his arms, his hands, relax against his thighs until his knuckles have stopped aching.

It's going to be different. And there's nothing for it but to try to be ready.

 

 

 

It's for the case, and they'd better catch this bastard, and that's all.

Brant repeats this to himself all day, and by the evening—by the time he's walking down the street with Nash, the Royal coming into view ahead of them and Brant steadfastly ignoring the clench of his gut at the sight of it—he's got a handle on it.

It's for the case, and they'd better catch this bastard; so Brant reaches out as they come toward the door, puts his hand to the small of Nash's back and keeps it there even though his skin's prickling up everywhere like a warning. He keeps close to Nash as they shoulder their way in, not quite touching but always just about to. He leans up beside Nash when they get to the bar, waiting to order, with the front of his shoulder pressed blunt against the blade of Nash's, crowding as near as he can stand—like they do this all the time, like he's used to it. Like he wants to.

Does a pretty good job of it, too, if he says so himself. If either of them's off, it's Nash.

Not far off. Not so's anyone but Brant would notice, probably. It's just he hitched a little in the doorway back there with Brant's hand on him. Turned to look at Brant over his shoulder for a long strange second, lips parted, face unreadable. And here at the bar, too, he's glancing at Brant sidelong through the dimness.

But then, just when Brant's about to give up and ask him what his problem is, he shifts his weight a little. Shifts his weight, and all at once he's leaning into Brant like Brant's leaning into him. Just enough that they really—that it's like they're together, probably, to anyone looking at them.

It's like if they were together, and liked going places like this, and didn't care if people knew.

But it's just for the case, Brant reminds himself, so he doesn't move away.

 

 

 

Takes a while for anything to happen.

Of course they don't even know if their suspect'll show at all. Likes a Friday night pint, as best they can tell, but that doesn't mean he will do this week, or that they're right in thinking he'll end up looking for a face to smash in outside the Royal again.

Brant hopes he does, though. Not because anybody in here particularly wants a face-smashing as such. Just because it would make all this easier, bit of a punch-up. Clear his head of things that don't matter.

Things like the way Nash feels against him—which is stupid, when he gets to fuck Nash whenever he likes already. As if it makes so big a difference as all that to have Nash pressed against Brant with their clothes on instead of off; or to have his face turned toward Brant in the pub, eyes steady on Brant's, instead of pushed down and away against the sheets.

Even if Brant were the sort for idle chat, the way Nash is looking at him's knocked all the words from his head. He drinks instead, like maybe that'll ease the tightness closing up his throat. He drinks and he keeps his hand on Nash, his arm and side and hip against Nash, and fuck, it's fucking hot in here.

All told, he's finished his first beer well before Nash. The bartender's off at the far end, by then, and Brant manages to give Nash a glance and tilt his head.

"Sure," Nash says, acknowledging, and only then does Brant let himself step away.

If there's anything Brant knows how to do, it's order a drink. He feels almost on an even keel again, giving the bartender a flat sort of stare and watching the bloke clock it and hop to.

And then he turns round, fresh beer in hand, and finds the rug's been pulled out all over again. Because yeah, this is a gay pub, and sure, gay blokes probably—pull here, or whatever, unless it's called something else when you're a poofter. And he'd thought they'd need to blend in and all; he wouldn't have had his hands all over Nash this whole time otherwise.

But somehow he still hadn't thought there was a chance anybody'd walk up to Nash and try it on.

And, funnily enough, the first thing he feels is almost frustration. He's off the edge of the map, sticking his neck out—standing with Nash like that, and looking at him, and Nash looking back; it's deliberate and obvious, and one hell of a fucking risk, and still somehow not enough? Fuck that.

He gets close enough to hear "—buy you another, if you like?" and then he's there, and to his credit the poof doesn't flinch from having a bloke who looks like Brant come up on the two of them so quick. Brant gives him a bit of a glance, up-down-up, settling into place again against Nash, hand finding the curve between Nash's neck and shoulder, thumb against the soft skin just under Nash's ear.

"He's already got one," Brant says, sharp enough to be heard over chatter and music alike.

He means—he just means a drink. One in Nash's hand already, that's all. No other way to mean it.

"Sure, sure," the poof says, raising a hand, palm-out. "No harm in asking, is there?"

Brant tosses him another glance, and smiles enough to make his teeth show. "And you got your answer: he's already got one," he repeats, a little lower, a little slower, and the poof backs off a step further and then eels away into the crowd.

Brant watches him go, and for that moment it's simple enough, wordless heady satisfaction filling him up.

And then he turns back round to Nash—Nash, who's staring at him, and that funny look back on his face, the one Brant can't quite name. "So I do," Nash agrees after a moment, quiet, though the other bloke's long gone; and he doesn't look away from Brant as he tips the drink he's still got in his hand back for a swallow.

 

 

 

When the bastard does show at last, it's Nash who spots him.

Same MO every time, and lucky for them: this bloke likes to come inside, lurk and simmer and work himself up into a right disgusted froth before he follows whoever he's picked outside and starts slinging filth and throwing punches. Half the reason so many of the victims had been so clear in their descriptions was because they'd noticed him inside first—looking at them, watching.

By the time it happens, they're not at the bar anymore. Moved off toward one wall instead, to give themselves the best view of the whole pub they can get. There are tables, yeah, but sitting down would cut off their lines of sight one way or another, no matter how they arranged themselves. But by the wall—

By the wall, Brant can cage Nash in a bit, crowd him, and Nash looking back at him is only natural; back at him, and past his shoulder now and then for a look at the rest of the place, and nobody else the wiser.

And if Brant finds himself drunker on that than he is on the beer, hot greedy pleasure welling up at having Nash so—so obviously, so physically, to himself, a border marked out and Brant's own body holding the line—well. No impact on the case. Hardly matters.

Nash leans up to murmur it right in Brant's ear, when he makes the ID. He's got an arm round Brant's shoulders and he pulls himself in close by it, and Brant's got a hand to his waist without thinking, just to steady him as he moves. Takes Brant a moment to actually hear what he's saying: "Think I've got him. Far side of the entrance—just looking round the tables."

"Picking who's next," Brant murmurs back against Nash's temple, and he can feel it when Nash nods a bit.

And in the end they only have to wait round for maybe another half an hour before he makes his move. Following some poofter—hardly more than a lad himself—who's got up to head out alone; and Brant does get to punch him after all.

Not appropriate police conduct, of course. But then they're not precisely on duty, are they? And it's what Brant would do if he were who he looks like tonight: just any pillow-biter whose pub this is, catching some arsehole shouting things like that, chasing down a lad who hasn't done a thing to him. Practically part of the cover.

But Nash catches up and pulls him off before he can do more than bloody the bloke's nose. Didn't exactly have the chance to resist arrest, but Brant figures he would've if he'd known that was what it was; and Brant finds, looking at Nash's face right then, that he's not much inclined to make any apologies for it.

Nash calls it in, and when a car arrives, flashing lights and all, they get the bastard packed away right quick. Of course there'll be a load of paperwork to do tomorrow, and probably more than a few questions to answer, but it'll all keep. For the moment, they're left standing there outside the Royal: Nash, Brant, a couple dozen gawkers—and, Brant realises belatedly, the fellow who'd been about to get his pansy arse kicked.

Who's staring at Brant, kind of wide-eyed. "Thanks," he says. "You, er. That was—thanks."

"Sure," Brant says, and shrugs. "If you're going to be a poofter," he adds thoughtfully, "you should know how to throw a punch."

For some reason, Nash has covered his eyes with his hand. But the fellow just laughs, a little shakily, and says, "Words to live by, eh?" before he nods at them both and turns round, phone in hand—calling somebody to come get him, Brant hopes, because if he still plans to walk alone to wherever he was going, his pansy arse will probably get kicked even after all Brant's hard work.

And then—

Then it's just him and Nash.

Done what they came for, Brant thinks. No reason to hang about. Except he doesn't leave, and neither does Nash. And after they've stood there like idiots for a minute, Nash clears his throat and shoves his hands in his pockets, and says quietly, "Well—mine, then?"

Brant looks at him. And then away, quick, biting the inside of his cheek, pit opening up deep in his stomach.

Because that's what Nash says every time, and that's fine. But Brant's not, suddenly. The thing is that what was hard about this, tonight, was that it wasn't hard at all: that hanging off Nash like that hadn't taken half the work or effort or thought that it should have. And that means that he should—he'd better say no. He'd better get somewhere off away from Nash and make sure his head's on the right way round, or he's going to—he might—

"Yeah," he hears himself say, hoarse, scraping a little on its way out. "Yeah, sure."

 

 

 

No reason it should be a problem.

Nash asked like he does every time. Brant said yes like he does every time. And fuck, Brant really fucking wants to—but then he really fucking wants it every time. So maybe that's all right, too.

Except he doesn't usually feel quite this hard up for it. Especially since they just fucked yesterday. It's only that after all that, after standing in there with his hands all over Nash and Nash's on him, and men all round them; poofs, yeah, but poofs who'd been—who'd been kissing, sometimes. Kissing and laughing, dancing, grinding on each other when the bass throbbed hard enough, everywhere Brant turned. The only safe place to look had been at Nash, except that in its own way that had been more dangerous than anything.

They stumble into Nash's flat, practically treading on each other's heels. And it's just like every other time, except it isn't at all. Because Brant's just spent hours, hours and hours, making himself touch Nash every which way and then some, and now he—he can't stop.

He tells himself it won't be a problem, and for a while he even manages to believe it. He shrugs his jacket off, goes for Nash's shirt and yanks it up and over Nash's head, and Nash lets him, helps him. That's fine. Nash is the one who grabs for Brant's belt, undoes it with a quick movement of his wrist and jerks Brant's trousers open, wraps his hand round Brant's cock, and that's fine too.

It gets so Brant's almost started to think this is exactly what he needed after all, to remind himself how it's meant to work with the two of them. Reassuring, kind of, to find himself back in Nash's bedroom, over Nash again just like yesterday, hands on Nash's hips, watching his own cock slide full and heavy between the pale cheeks of Nash's arse. He doesn't even bother starting to work it inside just yet; he stays like that and grinds a bit, palming Nash's arse and listening to Nash's hitching little gasps.

And it isn't even anything. He's—he's thinking of the pub a bit, maybe. Moving his hips against Nash like this, remembering all those gay blokes dancing back there. Thinking about the person Brant isn't, that just-some-pillow-biter who liked to go to the Royal with Nash; whether that person and Nash would've fucked after, if he were real.

As if this isn't real enough, Nash under him like this. Brant shakes himself, presses one of Nash's thighs a bit further, wider, and Nash slicked himself up already so it's a single sweet thrust to get in him, holding him there and sliding deep, and Brant's—

Brant's got a hand on Nash's back.

Not on Nash's hip where it belongs, where he always keeps them. On Nash's back, the naked small of it, the curve of his spine tense under Brant's fingers. Brant stares down at it, thrusts into Nash again almost absently and watches it—watches it move, sliding up all the long line of Nash's body to his shoulders, one blunt clumsy stroke, until his thumb's almost brushing the soft nape of Nash's neck.

Nash makes a quiet startled sound and goes still under Brant. And that's a red flag up if ever there were one, except Brant can't fucking stop.

He's leaned in close over Nash, reaching this way, and when he fucks into Nash again it's—it only plasters him closer. His fingers are in Nash's hair, now, half a grip he can't seem to talk himself out of, and then his mouth's on Nash, too, pressed desperately to the base of Nash's shoulder blade—wet and half-open with the way Brant is gasping, raw and much too loud in the dark, and he's fucking Nash in short uneven jerks because he can't—he can't—

Christ, he can't fucking stand this. He can't fucking stand this.

He pulls out and grabs at Nash, frantic, heart pounding, to turn him over—and they don't do this, they don't do this, except Nash is only helping him, twisting round beneath his hands and biting his lip, clutching at Brant's arms, wrapping those long knobby legs of his round Brant's waist. "Yes, yes, come on—oh, fuck, fuck, Brant," he's saying, tugging Brant in close, murmuring in Brant's ear, cheek scraping against Brant's jaw.

Brant pushes back in too fast, reaching round blindly with one hand to feel where he's going; and Nash's breath catches, Brant's too, and then he sinks in a little way and Nash's fingers are digging into his shoulders, a harsh sound half-caught in Nash's throat. And fuck, it's like they've never fucked at all, awkward as teenagers, rhythm utterly lost.

"God, yes, please—come on," and Brant finds himself dimly grateful Nash is saying it; that it doesn't have to go unsaid just because Brant can't. He comes in Nash just like that, as deep as he can get at this angle, with Nash's mouth hot against his jaw—so close to a kiss Brant's chest feels tied in a knot.

 

 

 

He doesn't get up, after.

He should. Of course he should. He gets up after every time. Doesn't lie in Nash's bed, doesn't—

Doesn't make Nash ask him to go.

"Brant," Nash says quietly. And then, more quietly still, "Tom."

Brant squeezes his eyes shut. He doesn't know which thought to hate more, that Nash'll want him to get up or that he won't—and if all Nash wants to know is why, or whether Brant wants it like that, whether Brant wishes they were that way, then he's—he'll have to say no. Only answer to a question like that. Or at least the only one Brant will be able to give.

Except Nash doesn't ask. "Tom," Nash says again, very low, and Brant's not opened his eyes or looked round in the dimness; he doesn't know what Nash is doing until he feels Nash touch him.

The breath all leaves Brant in a rush, and there's an unfamiliar pricking at the corners of his eyes. Nash is touching him, that's all. Not asking, just doing it: as if he's allowed, as if he's got every right to, and Brant only lying there letting him. Doesn't make him anything he isn't, letting Nash settle a hand against his chest, and smooth it up his collarbone, skim the side of his throat—till it catches at last against Brant's jaw, and then Nash is tipping his face around.

Doesn't make him anything he isn't, none of it; it's Nash who's leaning over him, Nash who's kissing him. It's Nash who's a poof, who bends over for Brant every time, who'd kiss men if he could—not Brant.

Except maybe it doesn't make him anything he isn't, either, that at last he reaches up clumsily to grip Nash by the shoulders, and kisses back.