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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.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The next night is just like the one before: Claire working overnight in the surveillance vehicle; Tom scaling the Sherman fence.

Tonight, though, Tom is determined to be professional. Tonight, when he climbs the oak tree, he’s reciting past successes and past failures that made him the Detective he is.  By the time he reaches his leafy oak enclosure, he’s completely focused.  A model officer.

It all goes to hell in five minutes.

The Sherman Brothers have placed a gymnastic mat over their living room floor, and are wrestling each other upon it, wearing skin-tight blue spandex grappling uniforms.

Through the binoculars, Tom can see sweat shining on their bare arms.  Can see dark stains of it soaking the taut material across their muscled backs.  Though they must have been at it a while already, Webb shows no sign of tiring, as he grabs Keegan from behind and drops himself and his brother to the mat.

Keegan flails in Webb’s choke hold, his legs spread wide and his back arching, the thick shape of his cock on lurid display.

Yield, brother,” Webb growls into Keegan’s ear.

Keegan twists in Webb’s arms, then scrambles to straddle Webb’s hips.  “Ha!” he says, once he pins Webb’s wrists to the floor.

“Very good,” Webb says through laughter.  “Congratulations on your victory.”

Keegan shoves himself up. “You let me pin you!”

“No, really, you had me-”

“Don’t let me win!”

Webb surges up, grabs Keegan around the waist, and flips him onto his back. “Is this better?” he asks, as he climbs astride Keegan’s thighs.

“Very funny.”

“Yes, I rather thought it was.”

“Always playing games,” Keegan huffs, and looks away.

Webb bends forward, his muscled backside flexing beneath the tight fabric, on glorious display from Tom’s viewpoint in the tree. “I thought you liked games.  One game in particular, hmm?”

Keegan goes very still.  “Really?”

“Really,” Webb says, and when Keegan breathes a shaky “yes” in reply, Webb leans down and shows his approval with a filthy open-mouthed kiss.

Tom ducks his head and thumps his forehead, hard, with his binoculars.

You’re an officer, he thinks. You’re working surveillance.  You shouldn’t be getting off on this.  Stop fucking getting off on this!

“Well someone’s certainly hard,” Webb purrs, his sex-soaked voice curling into Tom’s ear, shredding the tatters of his morality, crumbling the rotting walls of his restraint.

Damn it to hell, Tom thinks angrily. Damn this case and damn Spector and damn all of it-

It’s wrong to look, but what Tom sees through his binoculars makes him feel like he’s being rewarded.  In the living room, Webb Sherman is on his feet and undressing; peeling his spandex garment slowly down like an exotic dancer, revealing a muscled back, a narrow waist, and the most perfect backside Tom’s seen in his entire life.

Webb kicks his clothes away, and stands there like a god.  “Strip,” he orders, and the word has Keegan scrambling to obey, and Tom twitching to do the same.

This is a problem, Tom thinks, as he shifts to try and ease the pressure on his thickening cock.  This is a real, real, fucking problem.

For years he’s known that he’s had a thing for blondes and power dynamics. He’d had some of that with Stella, though she’d been far less domineering than he’d hoped for in bed.  He’d had it with men before as well, though most of them had only wanted to put Tom on his knees and stick their cocks where they wanted, with no thought to what Tom needed at all.

Webb, though… Webb is a different fucking creature completely.  Tom has never seen someone show such a mixture of dominance and tenderness and love.  Never imagined such things to coexist so easily. 

“Lay down,” Webb commands, and Tom tenses, barely catching himself, because his damned knees are ready to go weak.

“I’m ready,” Keegan says breathlessly, as he stretches out naked on his back. He's shaking, his hands clenching and unclenching, as if trying to keep from grabbing his own erection.

Webb steps over him, then sinks to his knees. “Focus, now. Remember the techniques I taught you?"

I’m going to stop, Tom tells himself, as he watches Webb grab Keegan’s cock, lining himself up.   I’m going to stop- I am- Right now-

“Take cleansing breaths,” Keegan says shakily.

“Yes, that’s right,” Webb says, and starts to lower himself down.

“Oh fuck,” Tom chokes out, as Keegan's erection presses its way into Webb’s body, only sweat to ease the stretch of skin and the slide of flesh.  “Shit,” Tom whispers, then repeats it again, as Webb takes inch after inch.

“Be still,” Webb says, because Keegan is squirming, his toes curling and flexing.

“You’re so tight,” Keegan groans. “I can’t- Webb- I can’t-“

“Count backwards from a hundred.”

“One hundred, ninety-nine-“

“By twelves,” Webb sighs, and fully seats himself.

“One hundred,” Keegan says, his voice breaking.  “Eighty eight… Seventy f-  oh, oh, that’s- Mmm-”

"Seventy six," Webb prompts, his gluteal muscles clenching and relaxing, as if to savor the girth of what’s inside him.

“Sixty four,” Keegan groans. “Forty- no- fifty two- oh- oh- do that again-“

“Patience, my sweet,” Webb says. “After all, the game has only just begun.”

 

*****

 

That night Tom doesn’t learn much about the case.

He does learn, however, that Webb and Keegan have a favorite game.  They call it ‘Let’s Ride the Edge’, and they can play it for hours. 

The next morning back in his flat, Tom also learns how fast he can come, with his back pressed to his slammed shut front door, and his hand shoved down the front of his jeans.

 

*****

 

Tom manages a couple hours of sleep before checking in at the precinct.  After giving Donal his report, he grabs a coffee and wanders into the conference room.

Claire is adding her own report to one of the many Sherman case boxes. “So how was it?” she asks.  “Did you hear anything good last night?”

Tom chokes on his coffee.

“Too hot?” she asks.

Tom chokes again- though he knows she means his drink- because his brain is torturing him with Webb and Keegan naked and sweating and fucking and- stop, damn it- you’re at workstop-

“Take deep breaths,” Claire urges, which is so familiar from the night before that Tom chokes even more. 

“I’m all right,” Tom finally manages, when she starts fussing.  “Just tired.”

“Yeah, me too.  Hopefully you heard some good intel though. All I heard was hours of Beyonce.”

“I got two new names.  Delacroix and Heurot.”

“Those are pretty unique... Maybe we’ll get more on them than we did Flannery.”

“Did nothing come back on him?”

“Not on him or Antoine or Malone.”

“Not even in the international databases?”

“Probably?” Claire asks, tentative.  “I mean, Justin didn’t mention in his report that he’d run those databases, but I guess he did?  I’d run the names myself but it’s all password protected. I’m still too new for them to trust me, I guess. I’m sure Donal will give it to you, though, if you ask.”

Tom nods, though he isn’t so sure himself. 

 

*****

 

That evening it’s tricky to sneak onto the Sherman property. A dozen expensive cars line the driveway, with chauffeurs and security milling around them.  Finally, though, Tom spots his opportunity, scaling the fence and climbing the tree, a figure all in black, hidden by the moonless night.

From his perch Tom locates Webb and Keegan in their dining room, still dressed rather formally in dark business suits.  A dozen men stand gathered with them, all of them shouting at one another.

Malone and Flannery have apparently found out about the Shermans’ plans.  They’re now banding together, to demand more money.

Webb slams his palms to the table.  “The responsible party must be found!”

“And found tonight!” Keegan yells.

“Now get out!”

“All of you!”

The men knock into each other in their rush to leave, hurrying to their cars and speeding away into the dark Belfast night.

"I finished rechecking the surveillance jammers," Keegan says, when he returns to the dining room.

“And?”

“They’re still working.”

“What are we jamming the signal with tonight?”

Le Nozze di Figaro.”

“Change it to Justin Bieber,” Webb snaps.  “On repeat.  Those officers are a constant irritation.”

“But it’s that nice young woman on duty.”

A frustrated huff. “Fine, but no more taking her caviar.”  Webb grabs a chair and jerks it out from under the table.  “Now sit down so we can review the dossiers of our so-called loyal employees.”

For the next several hours, Webb and Keegan discuss every person in their organization.  And every contact they have.  And every interaction they’ve had with them. 

In detail.  At length. 

For the first time, Tom feels like he’s doing police work.  He’s making enormous strides forward in ending the case.

He should be happy about that, and relieved as well.

He’s not, though, and he’s not sure he wants to know why.

 

*****

 

“My god this is a lot of information,” Donal says the next afternoon, as he reads through Tom’s messy handwritten notes.

“It’s not even a quarter of what I heard.  I’m still transcribing the full thing, but wanted to get you this today.  There’s some major players mentioned.”

“I’ll be wanting those audio recordings,” Donal murmurs as he reads.

“Can I have the password to your criminal databases?” Tom says, instead of answering.

Donal’s gaze snaps to Tom. “What are you needing that for?”

“I’d like to run a check on LaRonde.  See if he has a connection to Delacroix.“

“I’ll have Justin do that.”

“It’s just that it sounded like-”

“We can handle it, Tommy.”

“I honestly don’t mind-“

“As tired as you are,” Donal interrupts, “you’re likely to hurt yourself.  You don’t want me to put you back on Medical Leave because you didn’t follow your CI’s orders, do you?”

The threat hits Tom like cold water.  “No, sir,” he says.  “I do not.”

“The recordings, don’t forget,” Donal says, as Tom leaves.

 

*****

 

On his way out, Tom visits Claire in the conference room. “Anything come back on those names from yesterday?  Delacroix and Heurot?”

“Not a thing, Tom.” She yawns out his name, a hand pressed to her mouth.  “Sorry.  Not cut out for night shifts, I guess.”

“You’re not on overnight again tonight, are you?”

“Permanently assigned for the duration of the case,” she sighs, which makes no sense at all. Anyone can sit in the car while he does the real work.  There’s no reason she should be the only one in the precinct sharing that burden. 

Tom looks through the conference room windows, back into the station.

Donal is standing by his office, amid a group of his young, male Police Constables.  At his side is Justin, standing at attention, like a second lieutenant.  His gaze is fixed upon the conference room as if on active surveillance.

“Is something wrong?” Claire asks him, worried.

“Just tired,” Tom lies.

 

*****

 

Things feel off. Not just with the investigation. Not just with Sherman brothers.

With the the entire damn precinct. 

Tom’s bothered so much by it that he can’t sleep when he gets home.  Instead, he sits down in his kitchen and transcribes the hours of audio from the night the Shermans described their organization.  It takes him right up until his shift, robbing him of the chance to sleep, but it gives him twenty handwritten pages of leads.

For a while he sits staring at his handwriting.  Tapping his pen on the papers.

Then he gets out a clean sheet of paper, and copies over only the first page.

But on this copy, he makes certain changes.

He secures his full transcript in the wall safe behind his bed.  It joins the Sherman audio files, his personal observations about the case, and his digital photos of the paper files stored in the precinct conference room.

He’ll take the single page to Donal tomorrow. 

Then he’ll know, for sure, if his suspicions are right.

 

*****

 

His lack of sleep nearly gets him caught that night.  When he scales the Sherman fence, he lands in a sprawl, jarring his shoulder so painfully that he yelps. 

His rush to the tree is hurried and awkward; his climb clumsy with his boots digging divots into the bark.   

When he climbs onto his branch, he’s sweating and panting and doesn’t dare stand because he’s so dizzy from pain and exhaustion.

After all that, the Shermans aren’t even home.

 

*****

 

“You look like hell,” Justin says, the next afternoon at the precinct.

“Thanks,” Tom mutters, staring down at his desk. He’s so tired he can’t remember why he walked over here.  He delivered his page of notes, left Donal’s office, and now he’s standing here- why?

“So you forgot the audio recordings,” Justin says. “Again.”

“Tomorrow,” Tom mumbles, and pokes at a stack of folders.

“Sure.  Tomorrow.”

Jacket, Tom remembers.  That’s why he’s here.  To get his jacket and go home and sleep, god, he needs to sleep-

“It’s educational, isn’t it, Tommy.  Listening to those Sherman brothers.”

Tom grunts and starts for the exit.

Justin blocks his path. “Really educational,” he says, and belatedly, Tom catches it, the filthiness of Justin’s tone.  The thin man’s eyes have gone narrow, one corner of his mouth pinched up in a mirthless smile.

“The hell are you on about?” Tom says, trying to get his thoughts in some semblance of focus, because his instincts are telling him to pay the fuck attention-

“I’m talking about what those Sherman boys do to each other.” Justin moves close, his voice lowering, full of contempt.  “You must have heard them at it by now, eh?  The two of them…  brothers…  Fucking each other like dogs…”

“Don’t have time for this,” Tom growls, and tries to walk past. 

Justin steps in his way.  “Is that why you keep forgetting the recordings, Tommy? You having a good time listening to those sick bastards during your late night wanking?’

Tom shoves past, sending Justin stumbling back to sit on a desk.

“Yeah, I thought so,” Justin calls across the precinct, and Tom doesn’t know which has his gut twisting worse:  Justin’s mocking laughter, or the fact that at least in part, he’s right.

 

*****

 

Tom’s sleep that afternoon is uneven and full of dreams.

The only one he remembers involved him beating Justin senseless, with Webb and Keegan watching; a naked, appreciative audience.  They’d praised Tom’s technique each time his fist made contact.  And then they’d fucked him when he’d won, both of them pressing together inside his body, complimenting him on how beautiful he was with each slow, deep thrust.

Tom wakes from his dream gasping, wet heat spilling into his briefs.

He barely has time to change clothes and shower before he has to rush out the door.

 

*****

 

Things at the Sherman mansion are worse than the night before.

Webb is shouting and throwing glassware, which has Tom cringing and reaching for the audio volume.

“Webb, please,“ Keegan begs, and steps into view in the downstairs office window.  He stands in profile, a stark contrast to the dark oak walls in his white shirt and trousers.  He’s distraught, his hands clasped in front of him, as if preventing himself from reaching out. 

There’s another crash that has him and Tom both flinching. 

“Webb, please, you need to calm down-“

“Treacherous cretins!” Webb shouts.  “We trusted them!”

“We don’t know it was our organization-”

“They’re all working together- They have to be-”

“It’s not possible,” Keegan says tightly.  “We have half of them following the other half- there’s no way they could have conspired to-“

“Five orders cancelled!   Ten more at twice the cost!   And now this new organization- Ballycastle- wanting their share!”

Tom drops his binoculars to his chest, gut punched and gasping.  Oh no, he thinks.  Oh shit, oh shit-

“You’ll figure it out,” Keegan is urging, inside the house.

“Everything I’ve tried so far hasn’t worked.”

“I have faith in you, brother.  It never wavers, and never will.”

Silence answers.  For a long time. 

Tom lifts the binoculars, and what he sees makes him feel sick with regret. 

Keegan has his arms around Webb’s shoulders, and is soothing his hair.  Webb is clinging to him, his face pressed to Keegan’s neck, his back sharply raising and falling. 

“We will see a way through,” Keegan says, and presses a kiss to Webb’s temple.

Webb’s hands tighten on Keegan’s jacket.  “What would I do without you?”

“You will never need to know.   Come now, brother. Let’s go upstairs.  I’ll help you relax, and then we can both get some sleep.  It will all be clearer in the morning.”

This time it’s Keegan who guides Webb to their bedroom.  This time it’s Keegan who strips Webb naked and settles him into their bed.

When the lights go out, Tom hears the shuffling of sheets, and whispered reassurances, and declarations of love.

For an hour Tom listens to them making love, aching with loneliness and sick with guilt. He’s got his audio on the highest levels, and has his earbuds pressed deep into his ears, savoring every whispered word of love, relishing every gentle hum of pleasure. 

When, Tom wonders, did he start thinking of Webb and Keegan as if they were truly lovers?  When did this sexual deviance turn into enviable lovemaking?

Tom’s fading morality is no match for his anguished jumble of contradicting emotions. His sense of duty is no help either, far too silent after being cast off into a cesspool of police corruption.

All night Tom tries to puzzle through the mess that has become his life.

The sun rises without any success; without any answers.

 

*****

 

When Tom checks in at his precinct that afternoon, he gives Donal a fictional report.

It lists two names and two locations, each of them unique enough to be traced.

Donal is openly belligerent today, especially when Tom says he’s once again forgotten the recordings.  Donal wants them, and badly, enough so that he breaks his friendly CI character in front of the entire staring precinct of officers.

“What’s going on?” Claire asks, when Tom joins her at the conference room table. 

“Made a mistake,” Tom says, his head aching from sleep deprivation.  “I’m to go through my week’s files.  Rewrite my notes.  Only neater.”

Neater,” she repeats, astonished.  She knows, as he does, that this is punishment and nothing more.  “But that- It will take you all afternoon. You’ll barely have any time to sleep for tonight-“

“Claire,” he says, because her voice was getting louder, and the last thing he wants is for her to get pulled into this mess.

Something in his expression or his voice must reach her, because she glances out at the officers at work in the precinct.  Smart woman, Tom thinks, as she gets up from the table. 

When she speaks, she keeps her back turned to the precinct. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Keep your distance from me,” he tells her, which is probably good advice no matter what.

She hesitates, then puts on her jacket and leaves.

He’s relieved when she doesn’t give him her usual cheerful goodbye.  But he feels even more alone, after she’s gone.

 

*****

 

It’s nearly supper by the time Tom’s done rewriting his files.  He falls asleep on the bus, missing his stop and needing to walk to the building where he has his flat.

In his building’s hallway, shock and adrenaline slap him awake.

His door lock is broken.  His door is ajar.  And there’s a boot print dug into the wood.

Tom draws his firearm and moves silently into his home, heart pounding as he realizes how violently his place has been tossed.  There’s dumped out drawers, broken chairs, smashed electronics, and- worst of all- hacked apart cushions and slashed open pillows.

Someone was looking for something.  Or looking for him.  And was angry when they didn’t find what they wanted.

When Tom is sure he’s alone, he rushes into his bedroom.  He pulls his bed from his wall- thank god they didn’t move it thank god- and he opens up his wall safe, then empties it. 

He stuffs his laptop and the memory cards and his notes and files into a plastic takeaway bag. 

He leaves everything else behind, and powers down his mobile once he reaches the street.

 

*****

 

For an hour Tom walks through every crowded tourist area he knows. 

He doesn’t think he’s being followed, but that’s no guarantee of safety.  Not with CCTV cameras and facial recognition available to people with the right clearances. 

Another hour later, he reaches Serious Crime Branch offices. He enters the building through a side entrance, moving swiftly through grey cinder block hallways lined with Interview rooms and Observation offices.

Tom finds an empty one with a desk, a printer, and a computer that recognizes his authorizations. 

After locking the door, he sits down and gets to work.

 

*****

 

The situation is worse than Tom had suspected.   The corruption is deep, and broad, and has been going on a long, long fucking time.

Despite what he’s been told, there’s been no warrants. No cases in court.  No actions by the Shermans’ representatives.  

The reports that Justin has been filing makes it seem like the investigation is stalled.  Tom’s recent reports never made it into the computers. Justin filed fictional versions of his own instead. Everything signed by Donal.

Donal probably thinks he’s being clever, keeping printouts of the accurate information at the precinct for his own illegal uses. Files can be burned, after all. 

Tom thinks Donal is an idiot who has no grasp of technology.  Because on his first day at the precinct, he’d used his mobile to photograph every single fucking scrap of paper.

 

*****

 

Tom leaves Serious Crimes wishing he could sneak into the kitchen for a cup of their lousy coffee.  He’s aching for rest, dizzy from too many days without sleep, an odd lullaby stuck on repeat in his head.

He leaves the police offices without being seen, leaving only an image on their surveillance video and a data access record on their servers.

It’s reassuring, oddly, that he leaves this digital footprint. 

That way his fellow homicide detectives will have good leads, if he shows up dead in the Lagan river tomorrow.

 

*****

 

He spends the final hour before his shift in the back of a loud, dark, crowded pub.  He drinks four coffees, fast, one after the other.

He knows that information is being leaked- and probably sold. So far he has a list of suspected officers, copies of falsified records, and his own conclusions.

He’s missing the paper trail, the proof of payment for information, and buyer names.  Without that, he’ll never get the criminal conviction.  It’ll be mismanagement, maybe, which could even get swept under the rug.

No, he needs proof.  And there’s only one way he can think of getting it.  One way to avoid all the rats scurrying for cover.

Fuck it, Tom thinks, and stands up, swaying from exhaustion.

He’s got no options.  He’s got no allies. 

He's only got them.

 

***

 

Tom lurks in the shadows of the Sherman neighborhood until he sees Claire pull up in the surveillance BMW.  When she parks it, he hurries to the driver’s side and knocks on the window.

"Christ almighty-" she begins, once she rolls down the window.

“Go home, Police Constable,” he tells her.  "That's an order." 

She hesitates, bless her, and starts to protest.

"Claire, please," Tom adds, desperate, because he has to get her out of there.

She's not happy but she starts the car-  and damn she’s going to be a successful officer-  then wishes him a worried ‘be careful”, and drives away down the block.

The second she’s out of sight, Tom marches over to the Shermans’ gate.

“Webb and Keegan Sherman,” he says, looking straight right into their CCTV camera lens.  “I have information for you that-”

A car engine revs nearby.  Tom glances sharply down the road, heart pounding.  Headlights flash over the façade of a house and are gone.

“It’s about Ballycastle,” Tom says, stepping closer to the lens.  “I can tell you exactly what it is.  I can tell you why you’ve heard about it.”

The night wind catches Tom’s hair.  Down the street, there’s a metal banging.  He jolts, and reaches for his weapon, but it’s only some bins falling over.  No sniper that he can see. Not yet.

“Can you hear me?” Tom demands.  “I know what Ballycastle is-“

With a grinding of gears, the front metal gate screeches open.

Tom doesn’t hesitate to hurry through.

 

*****

 

The front doors of the Sherman manor house stand open.  Tom doesn’t see anyone beyond them in the marble vestibule filled with palm trees and statues.

Tom is three steps over the threshold when someone grabs the back of his neck and shoves him face first against the wall, pinning him there with the weight of their body.

 “How do you know that name?” a familiar voice growls in his ear.

“Easy, brother,” drawls another voice.  “We need him conscious so he can answer.”

The pressure eases, and Tom wheezes in a breath, his laptop jammed into his gut because he’s clutching his bag of evidence to his chest. 

Webb Sherman steps into view at Tom’s right, arms crossed over his blue suit.  “Well now,” he drawls out, his gaze sliding down and up Tom's body. “Who might you be?”

“Detective Sergeant Tom Anderson, Police Service of Northern Ireland, assigned to your surveillance.”

Webb quirks a blond eyebrow.  “Aren’t you supposed to… I don’t know...  Make up a story or something?  You’re being remarkably forthcoming.”

“There is no Ballycastle Crime Syndicate,” Tom says, because he needs to win the brothers’ confidence if any of this is going to work.  “Ballycastle is a beach on the Causeway Coast Route in County Antrim.  My mother took me there as a child. I put the name in my surveillance report to trace an information leak out of the department.”

“He’s lying,” Keegan growls in Tom’s ear.

“It’s the truth,” Tom insists.  “I can prove it.”

Webb nods at his brother. “Let him go.”

“Why should we believe him?”

“He’s clinging to a plastic bag as if it’s his life, unwilling to risk dropping it to fight you off.  Also, his Glock is tucked into his belt right by his fingertips, yet his hand hasn’t so much as twitched in that direction.”

Keegan grunts and shoves a hand between Tom’s body and the wall, to pull his weapon free of his waistband.

Webb takes it from Keegan with obvious distaste, his face screwed up as he sets the gun upon a nearby pedestal.  “Are you satisfied now, brother?”

Keegan shoves once more at Tom’s back, but steps away.

When Tom turns, he has his first close-up look at both Sherman brothers.  And his first thought- because he’s punch drunk and exhausted- is that they’re more breathtakingly beautiful than they were through his binoculars. 

“I have files,” Tom tells them, before his self control can fray any further. “And paperwork.  In this bag.  I can show you.  Right now.”

Webb tilts his head, his full lips quirking.  “An Irishman with a bag of tricks, is it?   Well.  Who could possibly resist?”

 

*****

 

The Sherman brothers are displeased with Tom’s report. 

They don’t like people spying on them; they’re even less happy that Tom’s been doing it himself.  That sin is forgiven, though, when Tom starts sharing evidence.  He shows them everything- police reports and handwritten notes and even his personal laptop and police surveillance equipment.

“But this isn’t enough,” Tom tells them, gesturing at the papers and technology spread all over their dining room table.  "I need buyer names.  Proof of transactions.”

Webb holds up one of Tom’s case files. PSNI Confidential is stamped on its cover.  “This can't possibly be legal.  You sharing this with us."

“It’s not,” Tom agrees.

“You’re risking arrest- and your career- to show it to us.  Why?”

“I don’t have much choice.”

“Come now, Detective,” Webb says.  “Of course you do.”

“You could have sent an anonymous letter,” Keegan suggests. 

“Yes, or ignored it entirely.”

“True, true.  But instead, you came here in person.”

Webb steps forward, eyes narrowing, uncompromising.  “So I must ask you once again, Detective.  Why?”

Because I understand, Tom thinks.  

He does, all too well, from years of his own painful experience.  It happens to him over and over- being used and judged and thrown away- just like Donal is doing to them both.  

“It’s wrong,” Tom says, voice cracking with emotion.  “It’s wrong and it has to stop and-“ Tom clenches his teeth against the words that want to follow.  They hurt too much.  Reveal too much.  He can't say them.

“Rather curious, isn’t he,” Webb says to Keegan.

“Especially for a police officer."

“Hmm, yes, brother, I agree.”

Tom doesn’t understand what they mean, but doesn’t have the energy to press. He’s dead on his feet; not sure how much longer he can keep going. “If you could both-  I just- I need a few names-“

“You need more than that.”  Webb pulls out a chair.  “Now do sit down, Detective.  You look on the verge of collapse.”

“I don’t need to-“

Webb thumps the chair on the floor. “Sit.”

And Tom’s body- traitorous and exhausted- obeys without hesitation.

 

*****

 

It takes an hour for the three of them to map the flow of information from the precinct to the hands of buyers.  As they piece it together, Keegan and Webb make calls to their contacts, speaking in hushed voices Tom tries not to hear.

He shrugs off his leather jacket, strangely relaxed as he sits at the table writing up his conclusions.  He’s oddly comfortable here in the Sherman manor, and he really shouldn’t be.  Not considering he’s breaking half a dozen laws. 

When a hand settles gently upon his shoulder, Tom finds Webb standing by his right side.  His suit jacket is off, and the sleeves of his white shirt are rolled up, exposing strong forearms. 

“Twelve officers,” Tom says, dragging his gaze away from the flex of Webb’s muscles.

“Not the young woman?” Webb asks, peering at Tom’s list of names. 

“No,” Tom sighs out, relieved.  “Not Claire.”

“Well that’s good to hear,” Keegan says, as he steps to Tom’s left. “I always liked that young woman.  She’s so friendly.  Especially for a police officer.”

“Not the sort to fall into a corruption ring, is she,” Webb says.

"It’s so hard to tell, though, isn’t it, brother.”

"It is.  Which makes one wonder how far things go beyond this Donal person.  Opinions, Thomas?”

“Not far," Tom says, more on gut instinct than facts.  "I'm not sure though.  I could make inquiries, but-"

“That could alert the wrong people," Webb says.

“Not only that," Keegan says.  "It could also put Tom’s life at risk.”

“True, brother.  And Thomas has risked himself quite enough.”

Strange, Tom thinks, that two men so identical should call him by different names.  But then again, Webb and Keegan aren’t really the same, are they. He’s seen their differences through his binoculars, in intimate sordid detail, all those long hours that he’d watched, and he’d listened, and he’d ached-

“Internal Affairs,” Tom says, pushing those thoughts away. “Or MI-5.  One of those agencies.  They could help."

“MI-5,” Webb scoffs.  “Ridiculous name for an intelligence organization.”

“Hmm, yes.  Sounds like some sort of cleaning product.”

“We should handle this ourselves, don’t you think, brother?”

“Yes, absolutely, brother.”

“Wait,” Tom says, and looks from Webb to Keegan and back. “I only came here for leads.  I didn’t intend to involve either of you.”

“Oh but we are involved, Detective,” Webb tells him.

“Yes, we are,” Keegan says.  “And now, thanks to you, we now know how to solve our mutual problem.”

“What do you mean?” Tom presses, because he’s still a police officer, or at least he is until this catastrophe of a situation hits the courts.

“We have powerful friends,” Webb informs him, with all the proud arrogance Tom knows so well.

Judges, for example,” Keegan adds, proudly.

“Yes, as well as government officials-”

“Plus scores and scores of lawyers-”

Barristers, Keegan-”

“That’s right, barristers, they wear those strange-“

“Wigs, yes, quite odd, just like some sort of-”

“Baroque French mural-”

“Or Neoclassical revolutionary.”

Tom is dizzy from looking back and forth between the two of them.  Or maybe he’s dizzy from days of sleep deprivation.   Can a person die from lack of rest?  He definitely feels sick, and his head is pounding, and- Wait. What were they discussing?

“Shall I call Derreson in Cambridge?” Keegan is asking.

“We should start more local.  But not too local.  Judge McGrory in Lisburn-”

“And Judge Brennan in Ballymena?”

“Yes, yes… Then we can move on to the Barristers.”

“What about our associates in Derry?”

“As a last resort, only.”

Tom closes his eyes as the two men debate, their deep voices reminding him of rustling leaves and warm Belfast nights.  Of their love declarations and their ragged moans.  And of his own selfish fantasies to be here with them, right where he is, with them both wanting him, to keep, for their very own-

“-and in any case, Thomas has fallen asleep.”

Tom jolts and sits upright.

“How long since you’ve slept?” Webb asks.

Tom blinks blearily up at him, trying and failing to do maths. “Tuesday?”

“Three days,” Keegan gasps.

“A truly impressive display of willpower.”

“My god, though, just think of the damage to his cells!"

“To say nothing of his higher cognitive functions.”

Tom’s brain latches onto the phrase ‘cognitive functions’. He tries to repeat it, and when it comes out garbled, he laughs like a drunk.

“He needs rest immediately,” Keegan says. 

“Agreed, brother.  Let’s stand him up.”

Hands close around Tom’s biceps, urging him to his feet.  A thick arm slides around his back, steadying him as he walks.

“Towards me, around the chair.  And be careful of his injuries.”

“There’s more than the bullet scar here at his elbow?”

“His shoulder appears to have been injured as well.”

“He’s a brave one then.”

“Even before tonight, yes, indeed.”

“I can walk,” Tom says, but trips over even those words. He’d probably fall on his face if he didn’t have Keegan and Webb helping him. “Fucking Donal and Justin,” Tom mumbles.  “And fucking Paul Spector, may the Devil spit on his bones.”

“They use such colorful language in this country,” Keegan notes. 

“And just listen to his accent.  It’s like music."

"Quite beautiful, yes."

“Just like the rest of him, wouldn’t you say?”

“Oh my yes.  Good lord, have you ever seen such a perfect zygomatic arch?  You could carve marble with those cheekbones.”

“And the exquisite rounding of his ears, like a Renaissance cherub."

The words ‘exquisite’ and ‘ears’ grab Tom's attention.  He’s never heard his features described as anything but ridiculous. Tom forces his eyes open, and looks over at Webb.  This close, Webb’s full lips are stupidly tempting, all pink and perfect with mischief lurking at the corners.   

Tom wants to lick along the elegant slope of them. Wants to swallow Webb’s clever words as he speaks.  Wants to know if the brothers taste differently from one another.  Wants so many things, and wants it from both of them.

Tom turns his attentions to Keegan, staring too hungrily at his lips, but he can’t help himself.  Keegan’s mouth parts in a startled breath, and Tom licks his lips.  He wants to taste; can barely hold himself back.

“Look at that,” Keegan says to his brother. “So he wants-“

“Yes,” Webb says, sly.  “I believe he does."

"Well, that’s-”               

“Yes, it is, don’t you agree?“

“I do, very much, and I would be willing to-“

“As would I, brother.  It’s been quite a long time, since we-“

“Years, in fact.  Though I think-“

“That this time will be ever so much better, yes.  But sadly, business first.”

“Must we?”

“I’m afraid we must.  Things must be put in motion tonight.  I’ll be back to assist you, after I tuck Thomas into bed.”

“You mean the bed in-“

“Of course.”

"Wonderful," Keegan sighs, and lets go of Tom’s arm.

Tom can’t understand what they’re discussing, too focused on preventing his own knees from buckling as he walks.  Before he can ask about it, the tip of his shoe knocks against something hard.  When he blinks open his eyes, he sees that he and Webb are standing in the entrance hall, at the foot of the curving staircase. 

He doesn't remember walking through the house to get there.

“Up the stairs, Thomas,” Webb urges.

“Tom,” he says absently, distracted by the beautiful gold chandelier above them. 

Tom," Webb scoffs.  "Such a banal name for such an extraordinary person.  Thomas suits someone of your caliber much better.   It's your choice, of course, but I know which I prefer."

"Both.  I like both of you.  Both of them, I mean."

Webb's nose brushes against Tom's ear. "I know what you mean, Thomas. We both do.  And we both feel the same.  But first, you need to sleep.  So come along.  One foot in front of the other.”

Tom does as he’s asked, content to follow Webb’s lead. He’s wanted to do it since the first time Webb’s voice rumbled into his earpiece.  That’s clear to him, now, with so much stripped away.  He has no idea why he fought it so long.

“I wonder,” Webb says, “if you could find our bedroom on your own.  You did all that intensive surveillance of us, after all.”

“They told me you were criminals."

“Hmm, yes.  Well.  Strictly speaking, we are."

Tom looks at Webb, stunned.

“My brother and I preserve the legacy of human civilization,” Webb tells him, as he hauls Tom up another step. “We protect works of art from the ignorant and destructive.  The law should be on our side in our pursuits… but sadly, it often isn’t.”

“You’re criminals,” Tom repeats.

“Only by very narrow definition.  Nietzsche said, after all, that there is no true good or evil.  There’s just what’s good according to you.  Since my brother and I are the world’s leading experts in rare antiquities, we are the best judges of what is right and what is not.”

They take the final step to the upstairs hallway.  It's filled with paintings and sculptures, and Tom wonders exactly how the Sherman brothers acquired their collection. 

“Do you kill people?” Tom hears himself ask. 

“Of course not,” Webb tells him, affronted.

“Oh.  All right.”

“However,” Webb continues, “in our experience, unsavory individuals do sometimes meet untimely ends.  But their fates are the result of their own choices.  I'm sure it's the same in your own line of work.  These things happen, in the grey areas of society."

How grey am I now? Tom wonders, as Webb leads him down a hall full of possibly stolen antiquities.  

"Perhaps just a shade," Webb says, because apparently Tom said that out loud.  “Certainly your spying takes you into a nebulous area, due to the..."  

Webb trails off and stops walking.  When Tom glances over, their faces are so close he can see the hallway lighting reflecting in Webb's blue eyes.

"You mentioned audio,” Webb says. “Was it only that?  Or was there more?”

Shame heats Tom’s face, but he doesn’t avoid Webb’s gaze.  He wants Webb to know the truth.  Webb and Keegan too.  He took something special from them that wasn’t his to take.  He took it and he used it for his own needs, and for that, he’s no better than Donal or the others.

"I'm so sorry,” Tom whispers, hoarse.

It’s not at all what Webb expects, judging by his shocked expression.  "You don’t…  disapprove?”

“You love each other more than anyone I’ve ever seen. Why should I disapprove?”

Webb stares at him, blue eyes rounded in their wonder. “You really are one of a kind.”

Tom shakes his head, because no, that’s the opposite of what he is.  He’s awful and he’s broken and he’s useless and he’s wrong-

“You don’t see it," Webb says, bewildered.  "No... I can see that you don’t.”  He brushes the backs of his fingers along Tom’s cheek, as if touching something precious.  “When you’re more awake, we will be having a long talk about the importance of self-worth.  Keegan and I have given entire conferences on the subject.”

When they reach the bedroom, Tom's gaze locks on the Shermans’ enormous white bed.  It looks so inviting that he wants to weep.

“You can sleep while Keegan and I finish downstairs.  Then we’ll be up to join you later.”

Tom tears his attention away from the soft, soft pillows.  “Join me?”

“We are both quite looking forward it, in case you hadn't noticed.”

“You want to take me to bed?”

“Isn’t that what you want?” Webb asks, and cups Tom’s cheek with a tender hand.  “It’s your choice, Thomas.  In this area, my brother and I don’t take what isn’t freely offered.”

Tom leans into the heat of Webb’s palm, relishing the press of skin to skin. It’s been so long since anyone touched him so gently...  So long since anyone touched him at all...

“Thomas?” Webb asks, a whisper against Tom's lips.

Yes,” Tom sighs out. “Yes, fuck, yes- I want- I need-“

“I know,” Webb says, and kisses him.

Tom clutches handfuls of Webb's shirt, feverish with the hot press of Webb's mouth to his own.  Swiftly Webb’s kisses turn ravenous, his tongue slipping past Tom's lips like a thief, stealing taste after taste of his mouth.  Tom shudders when Webb pulls their chests tight together, Webb’s hands just as greedy on Tom’s body.  He squeezes the flesh of Tom’s backside over his jeans, then slides his hands up, under Tom’s t-shirt, to paw at his skin.

“You’re perfect,” Webb sighs, and licks a long wet stripe along Tom's cheek.  “Oh yes, you’re-” Webb returns his attention to Tom’s mouth, defiling it with leisurely thrusts of his tongue until Tom shudders. “God, the way you respond… You’re such a temptation.” Webb leans away, clears his throat, and collects himself.   “But you’ll be even sweeter, I think, for the wait in the claiming.”

When Webb steps away, Tom’s knees finally do give out.

Webb catches him, and steadies him easily with just one arm. "Just a bit longer, Thomas,” he urges. “I need to undress you so you can climb into bed.”

The thought of being undressed by Webb is motivation enough to stay on his feet.  Tom summons his strength, and even manages to keep still, as Webb’s fingers slip beneath the hem of his t-shirt.

“Three days in the same clothes,” Webb says, sounding horrified. “We should file charges against those corrupt officers for cruel and inhuman punishment, as well.” 

Tom draws in a stuttering breath as Webb’s hands slide up his chest, fingers dragging over muscles and hair and nipples before curiously tracing along Tom’s collarbones.  He pauses to trace the shape of Tom’s surgery scar, curious, then carefully urges Tom to lift his arms, so Webb can pull off his t-shirt.

“Beautiful,” Webb murmurs, watching Tom’s chest rising and falling with his speeding breaths. "But mustn’t get distracted, hmm?  Next is the belt.”

With careful fingers Webb works loose the buckle at Tom’s waist.  He’s slow and he’s attentive and never in Tom’s whole life has someone undressed him like this.

He’s been hastily stripped, and he’s stripped himself too.  But never has he been so meticulously unwrapped.  Webb clearly enjoys the process, smiling when he eases Tom's belt out of its loops, even dangling it in the air a moment, before dropping it to the carpet with a metallic clatter. 

“Look at all these ridiculous freckles,” Webb says, and brushes his fingertips over Tom’s chest, familiar and intimate.

“You have just as many,” Tom challenges.

“My, but you have been watching,” Webb says, wicked and smiling, and eases open the button of Tom’s jeans. 

Yes, Tom thinks. Fuck, yes, I have-

"Pardon me a moment," Webb says, and drops to his knees.

Tom presses his lips tight to hold in a frustrated groan, because Webb is teasing him, only kneeling so he can remove Tom’s socks and shoes.  He takes his time as he does it, too, his nose and mouth tantalizingly close to Tom’s groin. 

When Webb stands, he looks even more smug than before.  He’s clearly enjoying Tom’s mounting frustration. “Let’s take care of this zipper, shall we?” Webb asks, and drags it down halfway.  “But not all the way, I think,” he adds, and eases down Tom’s jeans.

The drag of denim against Tom’s aching erection feels amazing.  He can’t help it, his hips twitch forward, chasing the sensation.  "Fuck,” he breathes, and tips back his head.  "Fuck…"

“People here do love that word,” Webb muses, bending down again to free Tom’s feet of his jeans. "Back home in America, we..." 

Tom looks down at Webb’s face, and this time can’t stop his groan, because Webb’s mouth is so close to where Tom’s cock is tenting his briefs.

“Look at that,” Webb murmurs. "And just from a kiss…  Just from some touches… Oh yes, that’s promising indeed…”

Touch me, Tom thinks desperately, and then Webb actually does.  But it’s just to tug at Tom’s briefs, until they slide to the floor.

When Webb stands, Tom is naked.

“I had plans,” Webb murmurs, his gaze fixed upon Tom’s erection, thick and hard and jutting between their bodies. “Plans of punishing you for all your spying.  Of making you so desperate that you were begging for release.  But just look at you. You’re already there, aren’t you, my sweet.”

Tom watches Webb reach for him, but stop just short of touching.  His fingers are trembling.  Tom can see it.  Trembling because Webb wants this too-

"Please," Tom chokes out, because if Webb wants him to beg then he'll beg.  He'll do anything to have this beautiful man touch him, kiss him, fuck him, anything, everything-

“Just this once,” Webb whispers.  "Just this once..."

Tom jolts when Webb's fingers wrap tight around his cock, pumping him rough and dry and fast and perfect.  It has Tom clutching at Webb's shoulders, hips shoving into each motion, chasing sharp stabs of pleasure.

He's close- he’s so fucking close- and he's wanted this so long-  It doesn’t take much- just a few more drags of Webb’s hand- and Tom’s coming, his entire body lighting up with it, shuddering and moaning as Webb jerks him through it.

“Almost there,” Webb purrs, and shoves his slick hand between Tom’s legs.

Tom shudders as Webb’s fingers thrust inside, then groans, wanton, as Webb begins fucking him into mindless oblivion. 

“Look at you,” Webb says, after a shift in angle has Tom whimpering. “You’re so beautiful when you’re desperate.  So beautiful when you’re wanting… Shall I keep you like this, hmm?  Keep you riding the edge, just like this, on my fingers?”

Tom keens and thrashes, mindless and wanting-

“Next time then,” Webb sighs, and crooks his fingers.

Tom arches and comes again, wide-eyed and shocked.

"There you are," Webb says, and gathers Tom, shivering wildly, into his arms. “You see?  Don’t you feel better now, my sweet?”

Yes yes yes yes, Tom thinks on repeat, as he heaves in breath after breath.  His head is empty and his legs are liquid and the world is tilting- or- no- he’s tilting- he’s being eased down to a bed.

Tom sprawls heavily upon it, boneless and sated. He must drift off- or pass out- because he startles when a warm, wet, cloth touches his bare hip; his groin; his limp exhausted cock.

“Keegan will be disappointed he couldn’t do this,” Webb says, as he wipes Tom clean. “Not with a cloth of course.  A bit orally fixated, my dear brother.  But you would know all about that, wouldn’t you.”

Keegan and his cock-warming, Tom thinks, and smiles.  

When Webb is done cleaning him up, Tom feels heavy blankets slide like clouds up and over his bare skin.

“Rest now, Thomas,” Webb whispers, and kisses Tom’s forehead.

Tom reaches out blindly, grabs a handful of silken hair, and pulls.  His mouth finds Webb’s, and he licks into it, his tongue making promises he’ll keep in the morning.

Webb is breathless when Tom releases him, which is a pretty satisfying, to be honest. 

“Thank you,” Tom sighs, and turns his face, and his smile, into the pillow.

“One of a kind,” Webb muses, and turns out the lights.

Maybe I am, Tom thinks, as he slides into sleep.

Chapter Text

An unfamiliar ringtone startles Tom awake. 

Silken sheets slide over his bare shoulder as he tries to stretch out, only to discover he can’t.  He’s being spooned from behind, a bare chest pressed sweaty against his back, hairy legs tucked up under his thighs, a muscular arm wrapped around him, possessive. 

When the mobile rings again, the mattress shifts in front of him.  "Get the phone."

A hot huff of breath against the nape of Tom’s neck.  "It's your phone.”

“It’s on your table."

Again the mobile rings, and this time, the man behind Tom rolls away.  "What is it?” he demands, sleep-rough but commanding.

Webb, Tom thinks.  That’s got to be Webb.

“I told you not to initiate contact."

“Brother?”

“I’ll handle this.”

“But-“

“Go back to sleep.”

There's footsteps on carpet, and then the bedroom door closes. 

Tom opens his eyes to the dark Sherman bedroom, to shadowy carved furniture and indistinct oil paintings.  Weak light glows around the tall window draperies, either pre-dawn or nighttime security, he can’t tell.

He doesn't think too long upon it, distracted by Keegan laying stretched out on his stomach beside him.  Keegan is naked, the sheets slung low across his muscular back, draped over the rising swell of his arse.  He seems deceptively young in the soft shadow, without the armor of his suit or his arrogance, his hair messy like a child, his cheek squashed into his pillow. 

"Well hello there," Keegan drawls out, filthy and playful.

Tom can't help but smile.  "Hullo Keegan." 

“Well now, there’s a lucky guess.  Though I suppose the odds were fifty-fifty."

"Not a guess."

“Oh? And how exactly could you tell it was me?"

“Webb’s bossier." 

"I can be bossy too, I'll have you know."

"Mm mm.”

“No?”

“No.  You're more passionate.”

It's not the answer that Keegan expects, going on how he studies Tom in the silence. Tom lets it drag on, too tired to speak, too distracted by the fact that he’s laying naked in bed with Keegan Sherman.

This is a dream he’s having, surely. 

This couldn’t possibly be happening.  Not to him.

"It’s fascinating to watch you try and stay awake," Keegan muses.  "The way your dark lashes flutter.  As though sending secret signals."

"Mmm."

"You really are quite tempting like this. But clearly you still need sleep. Although this time, do try not to snore so loudly."

“I snore?” 

”Has no one ever broken the unfortunate news to you?”

“Never had anyone around to tell me."

“Don’t lie."

Tom blinks his eyes open to watch Keegan shove himself up to an elbow. His vulnerability has fled; his jaw tight and his neck muscles flexing.  He looks, in his anger, very much like Webb.

“We investigated you," Keegan informs him haughtily.  "After my brother so intimately put you to bed, we felt it best to run a full background checkYou’re clean, by the way, according to the blood draw prior to your recent shoulder surgery.”

Tom isn’t bothered by Webb sharing what happened between them, and- oddly enough- he’s not even bothered by them investigating him either. “You got access to my medical records?” he asks, strangely impressed.

“We got access to everything.  Your government education, your professional record, even your family associations and social circles, both of which, curiously enough, stand entirely separate from your frequent male and female sexual partners.  So don't tell me there hasn't been anyone.  I know for a fact you've had multiple partners."

“Partners,” Tom sighs out. "Yeah. Sure.”

“Not what you’d call them?"

“Back alley fucks and bathroom blow jobs, more like.”

Keegan wrinkles up his nose.  “Distasteful.”

“Yeah."

“Then why do you do it?"

“It’s all they want.”

“Oh come now.”

“It is. All they want from me, anyway.   It’s all I'm good for, seems like."

It sounds like self-pity, but it’s true.  It hurts to admit, but laying here in the dark with Keegan in this strange art museum of a mansion, it's somehow easier to face than before.  

His entire life he’s tried to get people to want him- not just for what he can do, but for who he is-  and his entire life he's been used and abandoned and forgotten-

Tom startles when Keegan touches his cheek. 

"I'm sorry," Keegan says, and eases his fingers through Tom’s thick black hair.

Tom isn’t sure why Keegan is apologizing, but he doesn’t bother asking.  Not since his childhood has anyone soothed his hair like Keegan is doing, with careful fingers that don’t catch and don’t pull.   It has Tom’s scalp tingling each time Keegan repeats the motion.  The hair on the back of his neck stands up; pleasure washing through him.

“I shouldn't have accused you of lying," Keegan whispers, as if it’s a secret just between the two of them. “You've been nothing but honest, at great risk to yourself."

A shudder tries to work its way through his body.  Tom only barely suppresses it.  

“I’m quite protective of my brother, you know.”

“Mm hmm.”

“It makes me rash.  Overly hasty to take action.”

"Mmm."

"I was always impulsive, even as a child, as Webb is so fond of reminding me.”

When Keegan drags his nails lightly over Tom's scalp, he shivers from head to foot, a pathetic whimper escaping.

"Just look at you,” Keegan murmurs. “Webb told me you’re touch starved... But I had no idea it was this severe. It’s not just sexual touch, is it. It’s everything.”

Is there anything else?  He can’t remember. All he knows is hands slapping his arse while a cock shoves inside; thick fingers pulling at his hair  with each vicious thrust.

Keegan leans close, his stubbled cheek scratching against Tom’s face. “Why don’t you roll onto your stomach.”

Disappointment settles cold and hard into Tom’s gut, dragging humiliation with it.  Of course.  Of course this is what Keegan wants.  

When Keegan pulls the silken sheets away, Tom does what he asks. If this is all that's on offer, he'll take it, and greedily.

Keegan swings a leg over Tom’s hips, and sits heavily upon his thighs.  “Ready?”

Tom braces his hands against the headboard. "Yeah.”

"This may hurt at first. Do try to relax."

“All right.”

“Here we go," Keegan says merrily, and then shoves his hands, hard, into Tom's lower back.

Tom chokes out a breath- and then another- as Keegan kneads and massages the muscles of his back.

“Just look at all this pent up tension!” Keegan scolds.

"Mwuh-?"

"Particularly right here-  In the rhomboid majorus-" 

“Mffff!”

"Your back is a mess,” Keegan says, knuckles digging into a knot of muscle.  “It’s going to take at least a half hour to massage it out.”

Tom raises his head, dazed. "Massage?” 

“No, no, you’re quite right, I’ll need to do the alignment first.”

Before Tom can ask what that means, Keegan slides backward, cock and bollocks dragging over Tom’s skin, warm and heavy but most definitely soft-

“Inhale deeply,” Keegan instructs. “Then blow out your breath. Hard and fast.”

“What?“

Now, Tom.”

When Tom does it, Keegan drives his palm hard into Tom’s spine, shaking the bed and cracking Tom’s back loud enough to be terrifying, if it hadn’t wound up feeling so unspeakably good-

“That's better,” Keegan says.  "Your chiropractor should be ashamed, the state you're in.”

“Chiropractor?” Tom asks, and peers over his shoulder.

“Lay still,” Keegan scolds, and slaps his arse.

Tom flushes and drops his head to the pillow.

”All this squirming... You must drive your regular masseuse to insanity.”

Tom doesn’t reply, weirdly embarrassed that he doesn’t have a regular masseuse, which is ridiculous considering how intimately Keegan's bare bollocks are dragging against Tom's arse cheeks every time he rocks forward.

“You're clearly overdue for a session."

"Session?" 

“A massage session.”  Keegan stops moving.  "You have had one before.”

“Yeah,” Tom says, thinking back to this one girlfriend at university.  She’d massaged his back a couple of times.  Or once, anyway.  After he'd asked. 

“You have?”

"Sure."

“Did it last more than two minutes?”

“Well…”

“Was there sex immediately afterward?”

“Yes?”

Honestly," Keegan says, and shoves his palms along Tom’s spine, only to drag them slowly back down. "There are so many things my brother and I need to teach you.”

Tom doesn’t know what they are, but holy hell does he want to learn, starting with the amazing things Webb and Keegan can do with their hands.

“Massage isn’t just foreplay, you know, Tom.”

“Mmm?”

“Touch is a very primal physical need.  Essential for the calming of the amygdala."

”Mmm.”

"It’s also an excellent way to get to know another person's body."

Tom thinks of the way Keegan is straddling him, and nods. 

"You can appreciate so much through massage,” Keegan says, thoughtful.  “The swooping hollow of the lower back, for example. Or the delicate ladder of the vertebrae.  Even the elegant angle of shoulder blades."

Tom sighs as Keegan’s fingertips drift over every feature he describes, meticulous and careful, as if inspecting one of his beloved statues.

“It’s been quite a number of years, you know.”

“Mmm?”

“Since my brother and I have taken another man to our bed.  Over a decade, in fact.”

Tom wonders why now, why him, but he doesn’t dare ask.  He's already terrified the brothers will change their minds.  

“His name was Renauldo. He was very beautiful, but very jealous.  A fact we didn't discover until the three of us went to bed together. He became possessive of Webb, trying to exclude me completely.”

“Frgn mrrnn,”

“Are you speaking Irish?"

Tom lifts his head from the pillow.  “Fecking moron.”

Keegan’s soft laughter is entirely missing his usual arrogance. “Yes, I rather thought so myself."

Tom scoffs into his pillow, incredulous that anyone would reject being with Webb and Keegan together

“So I assume,” Keegan says, tentative, "that you, yourself, would have no problem if the three of us were to-"

Fuck no." 

"You want both of us.  You’re sure."

When Tom looks over his shoulder, he wants to strangle this Renauldo arsehole, because Keegan’s rounded blue eyes are shining with insecurity. "Very sure,” Tom tells him. 

"And what about just the two of us?"  Keegan's chin tips up, defiant.  "Webb and I?  Without you?”

“What about it?"

"Most people tend to have a problem with the nature of my relationship with my brother."

”Most people wouldn't know real love if it bit them on the arse,” Tom says, so swiftly and so sharp that he shocks himself.

Keegan tilts his head, his blond hair shifting over his curious eyes. “You really believe that, don’t you.”

“Don’t you?”

“Well, yes, but…“

“It’s all that matters,” Tom says. “Finding someone to love you.  All of you.  No matter what you-“ 

He presses his lips together on the words that want to follow, closing his eyes on the memories that come with them. 

When Keegan starts massaging again, his touch is light and tender; a silent thanks that lulls Tom easily back to sleep.

 

*****

 

“What’s this, hmm?”

Tom stirs at the sound, but a warm palm settles upon his back, and he relaxes, sighing.

"See what you’ve done?” a voice whispers harshly.  “And I’d only just got him to sleep!”

“Is that what you were doing, hmm?”

“Yes, it was, because unlike some people with their impatient fingers I’ve actually controlled myself!“

“Shh, Keegan-“

You shh-”

“All right, all right. Just climb off of Thomas so we can all get some sleep. We’ll need to be rested for our unexpected errands tomorrow morning.”

“Errands?  But we-”

“I know, but it’s unavoidable.”

Keegan’s weight vanishes, to resettle along Tom’s side. “I want to be the big spoon this time.”

“Very well.  Just help me-“

“No, do it like this-“

Strong hands roll Tom onto his side, tilting him backward until he leans pleasantly against a bare muscled chest.

“There we are,” Keegan whispers into Tom’s hair, as he curls around his body, arm wrapping tight around his middle, possessive.  “That’s better, hmm?”

Oh yes, Tom thinks sleepily, and then thinks it again as Webb slides close on his other side, leg and hip and shoulder pressing against him.

“You were right," Keegan whispers into the silence.  “It won’t be like before.”

"No, I don’t think so.”

"He’s so beautiful, too, just look at him."

“You’re beautiful together, my love. His dark to your light... A masterwork in chiaroscuro.”

“And he understands us.  Just like you said.”

“Quite unique, our Thomas.”

“Yes, he is.”

As they whisper together, Tom slides into pleasant dreams of wandering into the mystical forest of the blond fairy folk, where he’s captured, and seduced, and kept with them for all his long happy life.

 

*****

 

In the morning, Tom wakes with eyes sticky and thoughts sluggish and muscles stiff from long, heavy sleep.  When he stretches, silk sheets slide over bare skin. 

For a second, he thinks he’s in a posh hotel. 

When he remembers, Tom sits up so fast that he gets dizzy, wincing at the sunlight shining through the tall windows.  It glows upon the white plaster ceilings, and lights up enormous renaissance paintings towering above hand carved furniture.

Never has he woken up in such luxury.

He’s woken up alone on cold mattresses though. 

That's not new.

After gathering the sheets around him, Tom climbs from the bed and pads barefoot to the table by the window.  Breakfast dishes and drinks sit waiting by empty place setting.

Upon his plate, there’s a note.

‘Apologies for our early departure. There is an errand we must attend to, in order to put this unpleasant situation behind us. Please recuperate here until our return. According to our sources, your flat is being watched.’

It’s polite and it’s generous and it has Tom's stomach twisting into a knot. Because it reminds him- quite a lot- of departing alleyway calls of: ‘It’s been fun, mate, have a good life’.

Feeling dizzy, Tom sits heavily in the chair by the table, and stares out the window.

On the manor green he sees his oak tree— tall and beautiful— but all alone.

 

*****

 

Tom does as the brothers ask, because he has no other choice.  So he eats their breakfast, and uses their ensuite, and dresses in his- apparently- freshly laundered clothes.

For an hour, he wanders the mansion like a lost child in a museum, inspecting marble statues and oil paintings and antique furniture.  He's alone except for the occasional kitchen staff preparing lunch, or the odd private security officer outside on a ladder, removing Tom's surveillance devices.

After visiting each room three times over, Tom is so restless that he starts pacing the upstairs hallway.   When voices echo up the stairwell, he hurries down the stairs, heading for the Shermans’ dining room. 

Webb and Keegan are standing by the oval table, sorting paperwork into piles upon it.  They’re distractingly attractive in their black suits and blue shirts, and it’s all Tom can do to keep his thoughts on the case.

Keegan smiles, delighted, as he approaches.  “Well, someone’s looking much better today.”

“What’s all this?” Tom asks, as Webb removes several photos from a folder.

“We’ve been assured that one of these men is your Chief Inspector,” Webb tells him.

Tom takes the photo, and sure enough, it’s of Donal and Justin at the docks, standing amid a group of unsavory persons. “Assured by whom?"

“By business associates of ours.”

“Business associates?”

Legal ones.”

“All given freely, Tom,” Keegan adds.

“This is…” Tom begins, staring down at the feast of incriminating evidence.  There’s purchase orders and bank statements and even handwritten witness accounts, signed by Malone, Delacroix, Heurot and Flannery. 

“Is it enough, Tom?” Keegan asks.

“Aye,” Tom says, accent thick in his surprise.  “Aye, it is that.”

“Lovely,” Webb tells him.  “Then shall we start making calls?”

“No calls.” 

“No?”

“I need to take it from here,” Tom tells them both.  “Trust me,” he adds, when he sees Webb start to protest.

The brothers look at one another, having one of their wordless conversations.

“All right, Thomas,” Webb says finally.  “If that’s what you want.”

“We trust you, Tom,” Keegan assures him. 

Tom can barely speak through his gratitude.

 

*****

 

Chief Inspector Fitzgerald isn’t thrilled to see Tom walk into her office.  

That changes once he starts laying out evidence.

Rain beats down upon the skylight as he gives her details.  It’s damp inside the concrete building, and his shoulder aches, and he’s pretty sure his career is ending. 

But he doesn’t care, because finally- finally- he’s the one making choices about his life.

When he’s done reporting, Fitzgerald glares at the orgy of evidence, face red and lips thin.  Then she pounds her fist on the desk, swears a shocking blue streak, and grabs her phone. 

 

***** 

  

The Director of PSNI Internal Affairs shows up within fifteen minutes; three Chief Inspectors and the Senior Press Affairs Director soon after.  

Tom stays well out of the ensuing strategy discussion, awaiting his fate in a corner by her water cooler.  He hasn’t yet been suspended for misconduct- how he got the evidence from the Sherman brothers hasn't yet been discussed in detail- but he's sure it will, eventually.

“Christ almighty, Tom,” Fitzgerald says, when she leaves the group to grab a cup of water. “They warned me you were Peck’s Bad Boy, but I had no fecking idea.”

Fitzgerald’s informal tone is starling; her use of his first name even more so. “Ma’am?” 

“Don’t ma’am me.”  She yanks loose her collar, then tugs open her police jacket.  “God’s sakes, boy, I send you to Moinahan’s playground precinct to keep you out of trouble, and you go uncovering a scandal. I should have known an officer your caliber couldn’t stay out of trouble. The good ones never know when to stop.”

It takes Tom a minute to realize what she’s saying, and another to radically realign the meaning of the past weeks' events in his head.  “You told me I was broken.

”Were you not?” Fitzgerald challenges, unyielding as always.

Tom nods, not about to deny it.  He’s done lying to himself about how brutalized and traumatized he’d been.  He’s done lying to himself about everything.

“I don’t envy your next few months,” Fitzgerald says, sounding weary.  “Things are going to be tough for you until this settles down.”

He'd suspected as much, but it's still unpleasant to hear.  "And the other officers?  The innocent ones in Operations Support?”

Fitzgerald’s grimace is answer enough.

“There’s a Police Constable,” Tom tells her.  “A woman named Claire Houghton. She’s a good person, and a good officer, with a promising career ahead of her. She doesn’t deserve to be caught up in this scandal. Especially not after how Donal treated her.”

"Claire Houghton," the older woman repeats.  "All right.  I’ll see what I can do.”

When the office door opens, three uniformed officers file in carrying arrest warrants.

"Donal is a coward,” Tom tells Fitzgerald. "When he’s read his rights, he’ll run.”

"Good advice for you to keep in mind when you arrest him.”

“Me?  Am I not suspended?”

"Suspended?  Fecking hell, boy, no!  You’re going to get your hands dirty cleaning up this mess with the rest of us."

 

*****

 

Tom returns to Operational Support that afternoon as the Lead Arresting Officer. Not since Paul Spector has he had that honor, or that responsibility.

Ten Police Constables follow him into the offices, flanked by six more armed Detective Sergeants.  The flood of uniforms captures everyone’s attention- even Claire’s in the conference room.  She moves at once to its doorway, as the startled- or guilty- Operations officers get to their feet.

Donal strides out of his office into the chaos, Justin close on his heels.“The hell is going on here?”

Tom’s heart is pounding, but his emotionless game face is on.  “Chief Inspector Donal Moinahan, I am hereby arresting you for trafficking government intelligence, for falsification of legal records, for illegal surveillance of foreign nationals, and for the coordination of a criminal organization, all within the County Court Division of Belfast.”

For a stunned moment, there is silence.

“You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so,” Tom recites, “but whatever you say-“

Two Police Constables bolt for the exits, triggering chaos, people shoving over desks and falling over one other as they try to escape. 

Amid the frantic cries and crashing laptops Tom sprints after Donal, who is shoving aside his own people to get to the door.

When Tom grabs Donal’s shirt, Donal spins to face him with his arm drawn back and fist clenched. 

Tom’s punch is painful but solid, and knocks Donal flat to the floor.

 

*****

 

When it’s done, Operations Support is in shambles, desks overturned and lamps shattered and laptops broken on the floor.  All the innocent officers have been gathered by the new Chief Constable into Donal’s old office, getting caught up on the situation, and being given new instructions.

Tom pulls Claire aside in the conference room and talks to her there. She deserves more than just a rote PSNI speech, and also needs to know her unique options, arranged by Fitzgerald.

“Transfer to Internal Affairs?” Claire repeats, once again the uncertain young officer Tom remembers from his first day.

“You’ll have to start over,” Tom tells her.  “But it’s a good opportunity.  Talk it over with Chief Inspector Fitzgerald.  She’s agreed to help get you sorted.”

“Thank you so much,” she says, sounding exhausted.  “I can’t begin to-“

“I know,” Tom says, and offers a smile.  “And you’re welcome.”

She leans heavily against the wall, staring bleary eyed at all Sherman case boxes and files. “All this surveillance… Poor Webb and Keegan…”

“Poor Webb and Keegan?” Tom teases, though he has little room to talk.

"Oh shut your gob," Claire says, and swats him with a folder, startling a laugh out of him.  “You know what I mean. And they were always nice to me.  I know they’re not exactly upstanding citizens, but I liked them. They didn’t deserve what happened, and they’re not going to deserve all this stuff being handed over to the…”

“What is it?” Tom asks, because she’s gone pale.

“It’ll go to the press, won’t it.  The files and the notes and the- the- recordings…”

Tom straightens, realizing what she means. “You know, don’t you.”

“Know?”

“About how they are together.  How they really are.”

Claire flushes pink but nods. 

“There are recordings of it?” Tom presses.

“In Evidence Lockup.  In a separate box.  Behind a bunch of old computer monitors.  They’re not listed in the official police inventory.  Justin kept them separate.  Looking back, I think maybe…“

“For blackmail.”

“Or insurance.”

“Fucking Justin.”

“Such a douchebag,” Claire says, vicious.

It’s so unexpected that Tom chokes on his laughter, and can’t seem to stop for long minutes afterward. Claire falls into it too, half crying when she recovers.

"It's all right," Tom assures her, when a Detective Sergeant comes in to get her statement.

"But-" she says, glancing back towards lockup.

"Police Constable," he says, firmly, and that gets her attention.  "It'll be all right."

Relief passes over her expression, then concern, probably because she suspects what he's suggesting. 

"Best be going," Tom says, and urges her towards the waiting officer. 

She hesitates, then gives him a fierce hug, before leaving the room.

Tom waits until she's gone to head for Evidence Lockup.  

 

***** 

 

It’s illegal to remove property from an active investigation.  It doesn’t matter if the missing evidence won’t hurt the case. 

As Tom grabs for the box of recordings, he takes a moment to ponder the ethics of his situation. 

Then he does what feels right, and fills up his backpack.

 

*****

 

After he’s stowed his things into his car, Tom walks among the many PSNI squad cars and trucks lining the narrow streets around the precinct building.

There’s officers everywhere, most of them escorting police constables in handcuffs.  No one spares Tom a glance as he strides toward the officer who is guiding Justin into her squad car’s open door.

“Is he giving you any trouble?” Tom shouts.

When Justin spots him, he does exactly what Tom wants; he yanks away from the woman, and rushes towards him.

The crack of Tom’s left handed punch against Justin’s nose is unspeakably gratifying-- but not as much as the sight of Justin knocked back against the squad car, blood streaming down his face.

“You all right?” the Detective calls to Tom, as she and another man haul Justin roughly to his feet.

“Yeah,” Tom says.  “I am.”

And he means far fucking more than just his throbbing knuckles.

 

*****

 

It’s dinner by the time Tom arrives back at the Sherman mansion.  One of the security staff lets him in, and leads him to the diningroom where the brothers are eating.  They’re both still in their button down shirts and dress slacks but without their jackets, and their eyes are strikingly blue as they look up at his approach.

Keegan nearly knocks over his wine glass in his haste to stand up.  “You’re back,” he says, sounding breathless.

“With gifts,” Tom says, and upturns his backpack over the table. 

Cassettes and hard drives and USB sticks scatter everywhere.  Webb stands to select a hard drive and inspect it.  “And what are these?”

“Recordings,” Tom tells him. 

“Recordings of…”

“Of you and Keegan.  Together.”

Webb’s expression hardens.  “You mean-“

“Yes.”

“These are all…” Webb begins, then trails off, so shocked that Keegan rounds the table to set a hand on his brother’s shoulder, steadying him.  “But this… It’s countless hours.  Days’ worth of hours.  Of our most private moments…”

"How dare they!" Keegan spits out, his face scarlet with anger.  “Who did this? I'm going to punch them in the face!”

"Already done,” Tom says.

Keegan’s gaze snaps to Tom’s uplifted hand. “What?”

“I broke Donal’s jaw and Justin’s nose,” Tom says, showing off his bruised knuckles, far too proud and far too satisfied.

Brutality is wrong, he knows that, he does.

But in this case, he just doesn’t care.

If he’s honest, he enjoyed landing those punches.  Pieces of himself snapped back into place when he’d seen Justin sprawled out bloody on the ground.  Strength had flowed back into Tom’s chest when he’d cuffed Donal like a dog on the floor.  He’d felt good, taking the recordings, and ensuring justice was really served.

He’d liked it all, though not as much he likes what he’s seeing now-- Webb and Keegan staring at him, blue eyes wide and amazed, as if he’s one of their marble statues come to life.

“You… punched them?” Keegan asks, voice shaking.

“Aye,” Tom tells him.  “I did.”

“And you did it-“  Keegan licks his lips.  “For us?”

“Yes," Tom says.  "All three of us.”

Keegan whimpers and surges forward.

Webb catches his arm.  “No.”

“Webb-!”

“Thomas has broken the law for us, brother.“

“It was legal,” Tom says.  “They were resisting arrest.  I did what was needed.”

“And what about stealing all this police evidence?”

“I’ve already stolen evidence before.“

“Evidence which you’ve given back.“

“Evidence which I shared with both of you.“

“We've already told you," Webb interrupts, "that we’re going to testify that we contacted you first with our own information.  No, Thomas.  Giving us these recordings will cross a line.  We cannot let-”

“It’s not your choice, Webb,” Tom says sharply.

Webb is stunned into silence, which is a beautiful fucking sight.

“It’s my choice,” Tom insists, and oh god do those words feel good. “My choice, my career, and my life.”  He heaves in a deep breath, feeling dizzy, feeling lighter, feeling like himself.  “My decision,” he says, softer, and nods.

“Thomas...“

“I’m not changing my mind.”

“It’s against the law.”

“You said yourself that sometimes you have to break the law to do what’s right.”

Webb crosses his arms, his blue eyes narrowing. “Stubborn.”

Tom tips up his chin. “You have no fucking idea."

“And more defiant than I suspected, apparently.”

That knocks the breath from him, fear stabbing through him that he’s gone too far, pushed too hard-

“Interesting,” Webb murmurs, studying Tom’s reactions.  “You’ll be an interesting challenge.  Won’t he brother.”

"Oh my yes," Keegan agrees.

Tom looks from one of them to the other.  “Then you both still-“ he begins, but stops when he sees Keegan roll his eyes.

“Ugh, these self-esteem issues of his,” Keegan says.

“Indeed, brother.  We should set to work on them at once.”

“Mmm, yes.  And I can think of a perfectly good bed that would suit the purpose.”

“Yes, able to fit three, if I recall.”

“Unless Tom would like some dinner first?” Keegan asks, playful.

“I’m good,” Tom says, breathless, as the brothers approach.  And he is good, he is so very good, though he suspects- very soon- he’ll be even better.

 

*****

 

Tom can’t stop shaking as he stands by the Shermans' bedside, and though he's still fully dressed, he feels nervous as a virgin.

“Breathe, Thomas,” Keegan tells him, as he guides Tom’s leather jacket off his shoulders.

Webb catches it, and drapes it over a nearby chair. “You haven’t changed your mind, have you, my sweet?”

“Fuck no,” Tom says, breathless.

“What a filthy mouth you have,” Keegan murmurs, hands sliding up under Tom’s shirt.  “I wonder how it tastes.”

When Keegan kisses Tom, it’s open-mouthed and playful, his tongue flicking and teasing, though not enough to distract Tom from Webb’s hands sliding around his waist from behind, to work open the zip of his jeans.

Tom moans into Keegan’s mouth, one arm wrapped  around Keegan’s shoulders, the other grabbing at Webb's hips.  He can’t believe how good it feels to be sandwiched between their bodies- Webb so hard along his back and Keegan against his front, Webb's hand working into his pants.  Tom's legs are shaking, as Keegan sucks on his tongue and Webb noses against his ear, and- oh god- he’s- they're- the three of them are really going to do this-

“Feel how hard you are,” Webb murmurs, once he pulls Tom’s cock free.

Tom remembers those moments in the tree, longing for this, yearning for it, and now it's his-

“Let me feel too,” Keegan says, and Tom feels a second hand wrapping around him, identical fingers stroking him tightly, making him shudder, as he grinds his hips back and forth against both their bodies.

"Fuck," Tom chokes out, "Oh- oh fuck-"

“He’s not going to last if you keep doing that,” Webb murmurs, his voice rumbling next to Tom’s ear.

“Of course he's not," Keegan says, and Tom blinks his eyes open, flushed and dizzy and a little offended.

"I just want to take the edge off, for later," Keegan says, and smiles, playful.   

“An excellent idea, brother,” Webb says.  "Though is this really the way you'd prefer to do it?"

“You know me too well, brother," Keegan says happily, and drops to his knees.

 

*****

 

“Take your time, Thomas,” Webb says later, as Tom lays naked on the bed between the two brothers.  They've removed their clothes, and are gloriously naked, their skin shining with sweat and their cocks hard against his hips, because neither of them have come yet.

It's all Tom can do to recover from his most recent orgasm.  He can still feel the echo of Keegan’s mouth on his cock, and Webb’s clever fingers inside his body.

“A promising beginning,” Keegan says, and when he shifts to soothe Tom’s hair, his erection drags, hard and eager, against Tom’s skin.

“Very promising,” Webb agrees, and presses a tender kiss to Tom’s shoulder, clearly in a similar state of arousal.

“Oh, before I forget, brother, do remind me to have the kitchen staff order more pineapple juice.”

Tom lifts his head, blinking blearily, wondering if he missed something.

Webb’s nose is wrinkled up.  "A trifle bitter, was it?”

“Just a tad.”

“Mmm, how unfortunate.”

"It wasn't a hardship, I assure you."

“Oi,” Tom chokes out, realizing the bad taste they’re discussing is him.

“Don’t worry, Tom,” Keegan tells him. “A glass of pineapple juice every day will set things right.”

“I drink mine with breakfast every day," Webb says.

Tom chokes on a laugh and drops his head back to the mattress.

“But now,” Webb drawls out, fingertips trailing down Tom’s body, "what to do with you next. Quite a difficult decision, isn't it."

“Quite difficult, brother. Rather like being faced with a gourmet desert table.”

“Perhaps we should start with the eclaire," Keegan says, and slides his hand down between Tom’s legs.

Tom arches under Keegan's playful touch, twitching at the teasing of his fingertips.  It has his body thinking thoughts that are far too ambitious- although- maybe not, because- holy hell- is that Webb's hand too-?

“Just look at that,” Keegan says.

“Well.  Isn't that just lovely.”

“A very impressive refractory period."

"Yes,” Webb says, and guides his hand lower between thighs Tom parts eagerly for him.  "He’s a man of many hidden wonders.  Like this one, here..."

Tom whimpers and clutches the sheets.

“He's so beautiful when he’s desperate, isn’t he just?” Webb asks.

“Yes, our very own irish work of art.“

“Fit for a very special collection.”

"Mmm, yes, a very special private collection."

“Shall we give our new acquisition a proper review, brother?"

“Absolutely," Keegan says.  "We mustn't forget our initial inspection."

“A very thorough inspection is called for, with this rare work of art."

"Would you like that, Tom?” 

"Yes," Tom says, voice breaking.  "Fuck- yes.”

"Really?" Keegan asks. "Without even knowing the rules of the game?"

“That doesn't matter, brother,” Webb says.  “Do you know why?”

“Why is that?”

“It's because our Thomas wants everything that we have to offer.”

“Is that true, Tom?  Is that what you want?”

"God, yes," Tom says, and reaches for them both.

 

*****

 

It’s midnight before they settle down to sleep. 

Tom lays on his back between the brothers, wearing one of Webb’s silk pajama tops, and one of Keegan’s silk pajama bottoms.  For five minutes the brothers had bickered before they’d come upon this compromise of whose clothing he was going to wear and in what way, Tom smiling as they fought over him, feeling like the most desired man in the world.

Webb is stretched out along his left side, and Keegan lays at his right, both men too heavy and too warm and just perfect against Tom’s body.  Tom’s arms are draped around them, fingers playing at their golden hair.  It feels like the silk of their sheets; of their clothes, and of the skin Tom has tasted between their thighs.

“Rest, Thomas,” Webb murmurs against Tom’s shoulder.  “You’ll need your strength for tomorrow.” 

“What’s tomorrow?” Tom asks.

“More of this,” Keegan murmurs, wriggling closer.

After we tend to business,” Webb points out.

“Ah yes, the reorganizing of-“

“No details,” Tom reminds them. He knows the brothers are changing their business structure to move anything illegal off of his island.  But he doesn’t want to know more than that.

“My mistake,” Keegan says.  “I’ll be more careful.”

“Should I-“  It pains Tom to ask it.  “I could leave for a few days, until you’re done.”

“Do you want to leave?” Webb asks.

“God, no.”

“Then stay.”

“Yes, please stay,” Keegan says. “You said we can keep you.  So let us keep you.”

“How long?” Tom asks, lingering doubts forcing out the words.

Keegan slaps his chest. 

“Right,” Tom laughs, and brushes his fingers through Keegan’s hair.  “Sorry.”

“You’re going to be so much work,” Keegan informs him.

“Several years,” Webb agrees.  “At the very least.”

Tom can’t speak through the tightness of his throat, and has to blink to clear his blurry vision.  He presses a kiss to the top of Webb’s golden hair, and then another to Keegan’s. 

It's unnatural and it's wrong and they should all probably be in therapy.  But Tom doesn't give a fuck.  He's happy, and he thinks this might just work, for all their dysfunction.

"Much better than sitting in our oak tree, isn't it," Keegan murmurs, sounding half asleep.

"Mmm, yes," Webb sighs out.  "Our very own Peeping Thomas."

Tom laughs so hard that he nearly jostles them both out of his arms.  Keegan pokes him and Webb lectures him but that only makes it worse. 

Finally the brothers figure out more creative ways to silence his chuckles. 

It's a while, after that, before any of them get any sleep.

 

 

*******

The adventures of Tom Anderson continue in Doubting Thomas