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Peeping Thomas

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Tom doesn’t realize at first that he’s been asked a question. When he does, he straightens in his seat, his knee knocking into the conference table, metal chair legs screeching over the Precinct floor. 

His fellow officers look at him, ready for a show.

Tom won’t give it to them. “Ma’am?” he asks, slow and measured.  

Chief Inspector Fitzgerald scowls, her weathered face reminding him of his old gran.  His new CI is a veteran of the Troubles, but only two weeks new to her post here in Serious Crimes.  She doesn’t like excuses, and she doesn't like sloppy work.

She doesn't like him, either.  He thinks he knows why.

At the thought, Tom shifts again in his chair, the damp weather playing hell with his healing injuries.  His elbow aches where he was shot, and his shoulder surgery stitches itch from where Paul Spector attacked him, and he realizes, now, that he should have taken his pain medication, because he can barely focus for how much he wants to-

“Detective Sergeant Anderson,” his Chief Inspector says, her voice cutting through Tom's thoughts.  “If you are unable to-“

“I'm fine, ma’am,” Tom interrupts.

It's too emotional and too fast, and she notices, of course she does.  For several uncomfortable seconds, she scrutinizes him across the table, as if he's a homicide suspect in their Interview Rooms.

Tom holds her gaze, emotionless and unblinking.  He’s stared down psychopaths before.  

When she speaks again, it's about her next topic.  She’s skipped her original question to him entirely.  Apparently it doesn’t matter enough to repeat.

Or he doesn’t matter, maybe.

 

***

 

He finds out which when he's called into her office that afternoon.

“I’m transferring you,” she tells him. 

Tom’s hand clenches on the doorknob, shock stopping him in the threshold.  He's not even yet fully into her office. 

His Chief Inspector is sitting at her desk at military attention, her dark police uniform jacket and white shirt buttoned so tight that he wonders how she can breathe.  It’s an odd thing to think, really.  But Tom's head is full of noise.  He can't get past the word 'transferred'. 

“Operational Support needs an offer,” she continues.  “For a surveillance operation.”

“They’re working a homicide?”

“An illegal goods trafficking case.”

“Not a homicide,” Tom repeats, and dammit, he needs to get back in the game.  "Is this not an assignment better suited to another officer?  My involvement on the Paul Spector murders-“

“I am familiar with your involvement in the Spector case, under the direction of DSU Stella Gibson.”

It’s a gut punch, no warning and no regret.  It's also not fair- he did far more than just take Stella’s direction- but he can't argue without looking like a primadona.  He can only stand speechless, arguments tangling in his head, unable to defend himself.

“DS Anderson," she says, "you are, in my opinion, unfit to return to duty from Medical Leave.  How you were discharged prematurely, I have no idea.  Rest assured I will be having a word with your Discharging Medical Officer on that lapse in judgment.”

Tom flushes, guilty, because she's right. He had bullied his doctor into letting him come back to work.  But he was going crazy on Medical Leave, constantly irritable and simmering with anger, from being sidelined by a psychopath.  "I can do my job," Tom insists.

“Not in this branch.  You're useless as you are.  I'll not have good officers dying because of one broken man who doesn’t know his limits.”  She shoves a paper toward him.  "Your transfer is for three months.  Effective immediately.”

Tom's name is printed atop the paper.  Her signature is already written at the bottom. 

“You are dismissed, Detective Sergeant.”

She goes back to work without another word.  She doesn't look up as he leaves.

 

***

 

His friends at the station take him out for drinks that night.

They tell him it’s temporary. 

They tell him he’ll be back soon.

No one tells him it’s a mistake, though.

  

***

 

At 3 a.m., Tom stumbles through the front door of his flat.  He doesn't remember how he got there, but he does remember to lock the door behind him.  He's a policeman after all.  Or maybe he isn't.  He doesn't know anymore.

He knocks over a lamp as he staggers to the kitchen.  When he tries to sit at the table, he winds up on the floor.

In a wretched moment of self pity, he drunk dials Stella in London.  A man’s voice answers instead of hers.  In the background Tom hears her, sleepy and soft.

Tom ends the call without speaking, then grabs his kitchen bin and throws up.

Stella doesn’t call him back, though she must recognize his number.   

He’s thankful she spares him that humiliation.

 

***

 

This is my reward, Tom thinks, as he lays on the cold kitchen tile.

This is what he gets, for putting away a serial killer, for saving lives.

Shot and attacked. Transferred and forgotten. Thrown away like so much rubbish. 

It hurts worse than Stella’s rejection, because with her at least he knew what he was getting into.

No, this hurts as badly as when his father rejected him, after he discovered Tom liked both girls and lads.

It hurts deep, deep, down inside, in the very core of who he thought he was, down into the very marrow of his still-mending bones.

 

***

 

The next day he spends bent over his toilet, his gut twisting into knots, his head beating like a bodhran drum. 

Even as he's retching, he’s not sure what's worse:  The consequences of a liquor soaked stomach, or the idea of spending his career trapped in a police surveillance car.

 

***

 

His new commander is Chief Inspector Moinahan, a red-cheeked, middle-aged, overly-friendly man who insists that Tom call him Donal.  It's a shocking breach of police protocol, but then, so is everything in Operational Support.  The precinct interior is all bright primary colors and open floor plan, filled with IKEA desks and silver Mac laptops.

It feels like a damned internet startup.  Tom is easily the oldest by a decade, with the rest of the officers- no more than Junior Police Constables, surely- looking like just-graduated University Students.  It's such a jarring shift from Serious Crimes with its somber precinct and weathered Detectives that Tom doesn't just feel like he's switched branches.  He feels like he's switched careers.  

"Here's you," Donal says, and cheerfully gestures to a desk in the middle of everyone.  Upon it is a nameplate that reads: ‘Tommy Anderson’.  

“When you’ve settled, Tommy,” Donal says, and Tom can't suppress a flinch, “you can join us in the conference room. We’ll catch you up on the investigation.  Oh, and if you’re peckish, Justin brought in donuts.  Vegan and gluten free!”

Tom doesn’t speak as Donal wanders off. 

He's too busy wondering if he can beat himself to death with his shiny new laptop.

 

***

 

It takes an hour for Donal and his two just-out-of-university Police Constables to catch him up on the history of the case.  They do it while standing at a conference room table that’s piled high with boxes, case files, and photos.

It’s an orgy of information.  Tom has seen murderers convicted for less. 

“How long has this investigation been going on?” Tom asks.

Donal stuffs half a donut in his mouth and talks around it. “How long now, Claire?”

The ginger haired woman fidgets as she opens a case file. She’s as painfully young as the other Police Constable, a young man named Justin who has been side-eyeing Tom since he stepped in the precinct.

“It’s, ehm, five years,” Claire says.  "Well, just about."

“Five years?” Tom repeats. “With how many arrests?”

“None so far, but-”

"It’s those Sherman bastards," Justin tells him, talking over Claire.  "We request warrants, and the courts reject them. We take cases to judicial, and they're thrown out.  The Shermans have more power than the Holy Church, they do.  And more money than all the banks in Switzerland.”

Tom picks up a candid photo of the two identical twin brothers who are their subjects of interest.  They’re standing on the lawn of their grey stone Belfast manor, dressed in matching white tennis outfits.  

“That’s Webb Sherman there,” Donal says, tapping the man on the left.  “And that’s his brother Keegan on the right.”

Tom peers at the photo.  “How can you tell who is who?”

“The way they part their hair,” Claire says.  “Webb parts it on the left.  Keegan on the right.”

“Clever," Tom says.  "Dressing like this, it’s easier to maintain alibis.”

“They've dressed like that all their lives," she says.  "I think they do it because they enjoy it."

Justin chokes on a laugh and leers at her, an eyebrow arched.

“I didn't mean- Oh shut your gob."

Tom picks up another photo, this one taken for the press. The twins are wearing dark business suits, and are staring into the camera with an arrogance that suggests they know full well what a striking pair they present.

"That’s from a charity event at their Belfast home last year," Donal says.  "But make no mistake, these Sherman boys are dirtier than the River Lagan.  Cagey bastards, too.  They keep finding our bugs, no matter where we put them.  Which is why I sent for help.  Can't imagine why they’d send me a homicide detective like you.”

Tom can imagine, all too well.

He tries not to think about it, though.

 

 

***

 

They leave Tom to dig into the paperwork.  He spends all day going through every box.

He digitizes each document on his mobile after he reviews it. He'll be needing to study them at home to figure out how to get this investigation unstalled. 

Claire is kind enough to offer him some of her lunch.  They eat together, discussing the case, and the precinct, and her role on the investigation.  She's the newest Police Constable by far, only six months into active service.  She's enthusiastic and she's smart and she's vastly underutilized in Tom’s opinion.  He makes a mental note to help her wherever he can.

By the end of the day, Tom has ten pages of handwritten notes. 

Nine of them list worrying issues of incompetence: Blatant omissions, information contradictions, and glaring police mishandling.

The last page details Tom’s recommendations for the investigation.  That’s the only one he’ll hand over to Donal.

The rest he tucks away into a folder he takes home.

 

***

 

“The Sherman brothers are only middlemen,” Tom reports the next morning.

Donal leans back in his office chair.  “And?”

“It’s better to leave them at large.  They can lead us to the bigger traffickers and the larger crime syndicate.  Crime Operations monitors many such grey area individuals like these brothers.  We’ve used them to prevent the bombing of Waterfront Hall, and to capture the Cathedral Square Murderer.”

“You’re saying we shouldn’t try and arrest them?”

“I'm saying we should use them.  That’s all men like these are good for."

"I've always thought so," Donal says, with a strange smile.  "Very good, Tommy.  That'll be all for now.  Head home and rest.  You'll start taking the overnight shift starting tonight."

"Overnight?  At the precinct?"

Donal looks at him as if he's slow.  "No.  In the surveillance car."

"Right," Tom says, feeling sick.  "The surveillance car."

 

***

 

“You’re fucking late,” Justin says that night, when Tom approaches the car. 

“You’re fucking obvious,” Tom tells him in return, because Justin has parked the surveillance vehicle– and how the precinct can afford a new BMW Tom has no idea- directly across from the Sherman Mansion front gates.  Justin has the engine off and the interior lights on, as if he’s actually trying to be recorded by the Sherman CCTV cameras.

Socraigh síos, leathcheann,” Justin mutters, and yanks his headphones off.

Socraigh síos tú féin,” Tom says in response, and enjoys Justin's flash of irritation.

“The Shermans always fucking find us.” Justin grabs a box from the passenger’s seat and flips open the lid, displaying a dozen cupcakes, each decorated with the PSNI logo.  “Tonight a delivery service brought me these.  Last night a guy delivered fish and chips.  It doesn't matter where I park, the Shermans always find me."

“Have you tried changing vehicles?” Tom asks, because there’s giving in and there’s giving up, and he knows which this is. 

“Changing vehicles, what an amazing suggestion, I never thought of that.”  Justin throws the headphones on top of the cupcakes, getting icing all over them.  “Tell you what, Tommy, if you have a better idea, then you have at it, you do.  Then tomorrow afternoon, when you check in at the station, you can tell us what kind of treats the Shermans send you.”

Such blatant disrespect of a Detective Sergeant by a junior officer should earn Justin an official reprimand. 

Tom just stares him down, cold and unblinking, the way he does murderers.  He waits until he sees Justin realize how far he's overstepped.  Then keeps waiting some more, until Justin breaks eye contact.  

“Status report,” Tom says.

Justin mumbles his way through the locations of the bugs in the Sherman house, and mutters through the way they’ve been keeping case notes.  When he gets out of the car, handing Tom the surveillance docket, Justin adds:  “I hope you like Lady Gaga.”

Tom gets himself settled behind the wheel of the car.  He really cannot take one more second of this arsehole. 

"And I mean a lot," Justin adds.

Tom finally looks up, and notices Justin's vicious little smile.  "What does that mean?”

“You’ll see,” Justin says, and slams the driver's door loud enough for all of Belfast to hear.

 

***

 

For ten excruciating hours, Tom sits in the parked surveillance vehicle.

For ten hours, he hears nothing on the headphones and sees nothing on the street.

At seven in the morning, a black Mercedes approaches the Sherman front gate.

Five minutes later, Tom is making notes.

  

***

 

‘20:04 through 7:00: Nothing to report.

7:01: Black Mercedes CLS, Northern Irish plates BGZ 7150, unknown driver, approached the Sherman front gate.

7:02:  Mercedes paused next to the police surveillance vehicle.  The back driver’s window was rolled down, and one of the Sherman brothers (poss. Keegan) waved at the officer on duty.

7:03: Mercedes proceeded through the gates.

7:05: Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ began playing at high volume through the audio bugs.  The song continued, on repeat, for the remaining 2 hours of this officer’s shift.

Summary:  Surveillance strategy ineffective.  Must be altered immediately.’

 

***

 

“What do you have in mind?” Donal asks Tom the next afternoon, when he and Justin and Claire are gathered in the conference room.

“We need to add surveillance devices,” Tom says, “to supplement the ones the Sherman brothers have discovered.  They'll be positioned-“

“What good will more bugs do?" Justin interrupts.  "They’ll just find those too.”

“They'll be positioned," Tom says again, this time slower, "on the exterior walls.  Near the windows.  Since the warm weather is predicted to continue for the next several weeks, that will mean open windows.  We can listen from the outside."

“Planning on scaling the walls, are you, Tommy?” Justin asks.

“Each device is a half centimeter," Tom says to Donal, putting his back to Justin. "They'll be deployed by micro drones the size of my palm.  Audio is monitored at short range via remote equipment, by an officer on foot.  I’ve done this before.  I can handle equipment and logistics."

“And our existing surveillance?” Donal asks, cutting off Justin’s protest.

“That continues on as usual.”

“So there'll be the surveillance the Shermans know about,” Donal says, “plus the new surveillance, that they don’t.  You know, that might work.”

Tom nods.  He knows it will.

When the meeting adjourns, Justin hangs back until Donal and Claire are out of the room. 

"Fucking show off," Justin tells Tom, as he leaves.

Tom doesn’t bother replying. He doesn’t give a shit what Justin thinks.

All he wants is out of this IKEA nightmare.

 

***

 

It takes three days for Tom to get his bugs in place.  He works at night, walking openly through the posh neighborhood, dressed in black jeans, black t-shirt, black leather jacket.  He's young and pale and thin and looks like a drug dealer.  The neighborhood residents mistake him for one, frequently, which is just as Tom wants it.

On the fourth night, Claire is parked in the surveillance vehicle by the Sherman gates, waiting for their nightly gift package. Tom is loitering nearby, once again disappointing yet another resident with his diminished supply of drugs.

When his mobile hums in his pocket, he gives an apologetic smile to the bleary eyed businessman looking for Ritalin.  "Sorry, mate. I have to take this."

"Quite all right," the man tells him, posh and refined even though he's strung out.  "Though do get in touch if you get more supply.  I have a board meeting in Hong Kong the day after tomorrow. Absolutely no room for failure."

"I understand," Tom tells him, then walks away to check his message.

It's from Claire, who texts: ‘2nite I got fresh baked bread and caviar from Keegan Sherman himself!' 

'What do you hear through your surveillance audio?’ he texts back.

It’s ABBA, but nothing on repeat -- They must like me!!  ;) ;) ;)’

"Fuck's sake," Tom mutters, and gets to work.

 

***

 

Tom heads straight for the CCTV blind spot he's identified in the Sherman perimeter security.  After checking he's unobserved, he quickly scales the fence.

When he lands, he hurries across the well manicured lawn, to a massive oak tree that should afford a view of a house.  It's easy business climbing the low, old branches, all of them so thick that his ascent doesn't even shake the leaves. 

Twenty feet up, Tom locates a branch the width of his body.  He can stand steadily upon it, his back braced by the thick trunk, his left arm slung over another branch to keep balance.

Ahead of him is the two story Sherman estate.  Between his leafy enclosure and the house, there’s an broad opening in the foliage.

Through it, Tom can see into every single window in the house.

It’s too soon to get cocky, but his body doesn't know that, because he's already shaking with adrenaline.  This looks good- very good- though complications could happen any moment.  The bugs could fail, or there could be interference, or he could even fall and break his neck.

Tom heaves in several lungfulls of warm night air.  Waits until his nerves calm to start working with the equipment.

He pulls his binoculars from his leather jacket and drops them on their strap to his chest. After checking his footing once more, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out his wireless earbuds, and shoves one in each ear.

“He wants payment in cash upon delivery,” says a deep male voice, so clear and so close that Tom looks around the dark shadows out of reflex.

“Of course,” drawls another voice, unnervingly similar.  “Just as we agreed.”

Tom lifts his binoculars and scans each window of the house, until he spots movement in the second story corner bedroom.  There's a blond man wearing a black tuxedo, standing beside the enormous white bed, tugging off his bowtie.  Tom's binocular lenses are powerful enough to show where his hair is parted, and he IDs the man as Webb Sherman. 

Webb is even more handsome than his photo, and more fit as well.  He moves like a dancer, all haughty elegance and grace, and when he speaks, he drawls his words, as if savoring every syllable.  “What’s wrong? Is there a complication?” 

“Yes,” says the second voice. “It’s that awful man, Flannery.  He’s demanding more than the contract.”

The bugs are so sensitive that Tom can even hear Webb's sigh.  "Why must people be so unreliable? It's so disappointing, honestly...”

“Mmm, such greed in this younger generation.”

“You can’t trust anyone, it seems.”

The second speaker saunters into view, and as Tom suspected, it’s Keegan.  He's wearing an identical black tuxedo, and is alike in every way, save for the opposite part of his hair.

“Well,” Keegan says, as he approaches Webb, “there is at least one person we know we can both trust implicitly.”

“Yes, brother.  There is."

The brothers are facing each other so that Tom sees them both in profile.  It’s disorienting, how much they look like mirror images of each other.  Tom wonders, now, if they part their hair opposite to one another for exactly that reason.  So that when they look at one another, it really is like looking at their own reflection.

“How much does Flannery want?” Webb asks.

“Fifty thousand more.”

“Ugh, the gall of that man.  And after all we’ve done for him.  That contemptible matter-”

“At the docks, yes, and the-”

“Messy issue at the cathedral, I know.” Webb yanks viciously at the tangle he's made of his bowtie.  “And not even a single word of thanks-”

“You’re going to hurt yourself,” Keegan says, and nudges Webb’s fingers away from his neck, to take over undoing the knot.

Webb huffs a protest but lifts his chin to let Keegan work at the silken strand.  “We can’t allow them to get away with this. If we let this pass-”

“Others will do the same.” Keegan drops the bowtie to the floor, and takes hold of Webb’s tuxedo jacket, easing it up and over his shoulders, revealing a brilliant white button-down dress shirt.

“We need to deal with these troublemakers,” Webb says. “And swiftly.”

Keegan hums agreement, and begins unbuttoning Webb’s shirt.

In the oak tree, Tom lowers his binoculars, frowns, then raises them again to his eyes.

He watches Keegan’s fingers moving with practiced ease, guiding open button after button, until Webb’s shirt hangs open.

Once it does, Keegan drags his fingertips over Webb's bare skin; at first over fine blond chest hair, and then, lower, over sculpted abdominal muscles.

Tom shifts, unnerved and uneasy.  

Because Keegan's touch isn't brotherly in the least.

"We need to be calculated in how we deal with them," Webb murmurs.  "I need to think this through..."

Keegan's fingers slide lower, to rest upon Webb's belt.  "I could help you relax.  Make it easier for you to come up with the answer.”

“You want to?”

“Don't I always?”

Webb smiles and lifts a hand to cup Keegan's cheek.  "Whenever you're ready."

Keegan nods and drops to his knees.

Tom slips on his branch, his binoculars dropping to his chest on their strap as he flails at the branches around him.

“You’re always there for me, aren’t you,” Webb sighs, as Tom gets his balance.  "Open for me now, precious one.  There you are… Yes..."

Tom’s heart is pounding as he listens to soft, wet- familiar- sounds.  No, he thinks.  It can’t be.  He’s got to be wrong.

“Oh yes,” Webb groans.  “That’s wonderful... just like that..."

Wind catches Tom’s hair, rustling the leaves and cooling his sudden sweat.  He shouldn’t be listening, not to something so wrong.  So unnatural.  He should take out his earbuds, right now, and shut off the recording. 

“Malone,” Webb murmurs. “That’s who we’ll use.”

A wet slurp, and then Keegan’s curious voice.  “A bidding war?”

“Not quite. Do keep going, darling.  Your tongue is working its usual wonders.  Lean closer… There, yes, just like that.  You're so good to me.  So very good.  Whatever would I do without you? I can’t bear to think on it.  My love, my soul’s true echo, my radiant shining sun…”

Webb’s praises keep flowing, each more tender than the last.

Tom has never heard anything like it.  No one’s ever spoken to him with such devotion.  Not his family, not his friends, and certainly not his lovers. The words make envy squirm past Tom's disgust and morality, fueled by the aching part of him that's been so empty so long.

“I know," Webb says, breathless. “We'll place all five items for sale.  And then...  No?   Ah… yes, yes… That’s an excellent idea.  We will withhold the one piece that Flannery desires most.”

Tom has no idea how they're communicating.  Unless- maybe they're not doing what he thinks?  Maybe he’s wrong about what he’s imagining?  

He really should look through the binoculars again to be sure.

He needs to look, doesn’t he? 

He has to.  Yes. For the investigation. 

Through the powerful lenses, Tom sees Webb still standing in his black tuxedo, his shirt open, his chest bare, his trousers open, and- oh holy fucking hell- with Keegan kneeling before him, his face buried in the blond thatch of hair at Webb’s groin. 

“The Renoir?” Webb asks casually, fingers playing absently with Keegan's hair.

Keegan’s head moves from side to side.

“The Monet, then?"

Keegan bobs his head, lips revealing a filthy peek of Webb’s swollen cock. 

"The Monet," Webb repeats, and cups the back of Keegan's head. 

And this- here- is something Tom knows.  Tom's been in this situation himself, and more than once.  He’s stood in a back alley, with a stranger knelt before him.  And he's knelt on the men’s room floor, with someone’s cock in his mouth.   

From here, he knows how it will go.

Which is why it's so confusing when it doesn’t.

There's none of the forceful domination that Tom has experienced himself.  None of the degrading subservience that usually plays out.  There's only Webb, standing calmly with his palm cupping Keegan's head.  There's only Keegan, kneeling still and silent at Webb's feet, mouth stuffed full but eyes sweetly closed.

Tom stares at them both, fascination crowding out morality.

He shouldn't be watching.  He should stop right now.

He increases the zoom instead.

If he looks carefully- and fuck, he is looking- he can just see Keegan’s jaw muscles moving.  His neck muscles are flexing and relaxing.  Flexing and relaxing.  Slow and rhythmic.

He's suckling, Tom thinks, blood surging hot between his legs, because god help him, he can imagine how that feels, to have a warm mouth enclosing him and a soft tongue lapping at him, and- what is he thinking- fuck-

“We shall sell Flannery's favorite Renoir to Malone,” Webb says. “At a seventy thousand dollar loss.”

Keegan hums a question.

“It pains me as well.  But it will ensure Antoine will go running to Flannery to tell him of the transaction.”

Another hum, this one lower.

“Exactly. Flannery will assume that Malone is undercutting him, and that will keep the hounds barking at each other instead of us.”

Keegan leans back, and Tom doesn’t miss the way that Webb’s cock slides, shining and spit-slick, out of Keegan's mouth.

Webb stands with his erection on lurid display, an inch from Keegan’s lips, and Tom can't look away, doesn't even want to, because oh god it’s been a long time since he's had his mouth on something as thick and beautiful as that- longer still since he’s felt that stretch and press inside-

“You’re brilliant,” Keegan says, as he gazes up at Webb.

“Because of you, my beautiful Muse.  Now tell me. What do you want as your reward?”

Keegan shuffles forward on his knees, mouth open.

“Of course,” Webb says, taking his cock in hand and easing it between Keegan’s lips. “Whatever you want, my sweet."

Keegan groans as he leans in, swallowing and swallowing until his mouth presses hard against Webb’s groin.

“Oh fuck,” Tom whispers, as Keegan grabs onto Webb's hips, moving Webb's body away and back. Keegan's throat flexes every time he pulls Webb close, and when he pushes Webb away, Tom can see exactly how much he's swallowing.

Tom drops his binoculars and tips back his head, because it's just too fucking much.  But staring up at the leaves only makes things worse.  Without the sight of it, the sounds are even more pornographic.

“Your mouth, god, your mouth," Webb groans. “Look how much you love this... You're hard for me, aren’t you, my sweet..."

Fuck yes I am, Tom thinks.

And then he angrily thumps his head back against the tree trunk.

There’s no excuse for him listening.  There’s nothing for the case he could hear.  He should turn off the audio, climb down from the tree, and call it a night.  

He turns the volume up instead.

Webb is vocal and expressive, his moans the stuff of fantasy, amid the wettest, sloppiest sounds Tom has ever heard.  It goes on for a while- longer than Tom has experienced or would have thought possible- and by the time Webb calls an end to it, Tom is shaking with frustrated desire.

“Now,” Webb chokes out, “touch yourself…”

Tom digs his fingernails into his palms as Keegan groans, because- fuck- he wants to- he needs to- but no, fuck fuck- he can't, he shouldn't-

“That’s it,” Webb urges.  “Oh yes, like that-“

High pitched whimpering follows, and then a deep groan, followed by more whimpers, each one getting softer.

“All right,” Webb says, breathless and gentle.  “All right, come here now, my sweet one.”

The tremor in Webb’s voice has Tom-  damn it to fucking hell-  lifting the binoculars to his eyes. His hand is shaking, and he knows what he’s doing is wrong, but he doesn't fucking care anymore

In the bedroom, he sees Webb guide Keegan to his feet, and pull him into a tight embrace.

Keegan clings to Webb’s body, hands clutching the back of Webb's jacket, face buried against Webb's neck. “I love you so much…” Keegan says, through a choked sob.

“I know, sweet one, I know-”

“When they treat you like that-!“

“We shall deal with them.  Thanks to you."

"Thanks to you," Keegan murmurs, as Webb rocks him side to side, hands running up and down Keegan's back.

“Come with me to bed," Webb says, and when Keegan nods, they move together to the bedside.  Webb undresses Keegan efficiently but with care, then pulls the bedcovers back so Keegan can climb under them, naked and unashamed. 

Webb strips his clothing off as well, Tom watching hungrily as each piece falls away, before Webb plunges the room into darkness.  

There is the shuffling of sheets, and soft voices whispering words of love, before silence descends on the room.

Tom spends the night listening to Webb and Keegan sweetly sleeping, wondering what in the hell happened to his morals, because even now, he can't bring himself to turn the audio off.

 

*****

 

“This is amazing,” Donal tells Tom the next afternoon, when he scans through Tom’s surveillance notes. “Do you have the audio recording?”

“Not with me,” Tom says, the lie surprising him as he says it.

Donal is too interested in Tom's papers to notice.  “We’ll focus on this central figure.  Flannery.  I’ll have Justin follow up on him and Antoine.  I’ll check out this Malone person myself.”

“I want to take look at our records before I go.  At least one of those names is familiar.  I’ll see if I can figure out from where.”

“I’ll take care of that, Tommy.  You go home and get some rest.  You have another long night ahead.”

 

*****

 

But when Tom gets home, he can’t sleep.

For an hour he resists temptation. 

Then he gets out the audio recording from the previous night, and lays in bed listening.

He tells himself it’s for the case.

He knows he’s lying to himself long before his hand is down his pants.

He knows he has a problem when he comes, hard, at Webb’s command.