Sid can hear the wedding reception in the house in front of him and occasionally someone dances across the windows. But he isn’t here as a guest, only a chauffeur. So he leans against the Rolls Royce and watches the building, bored and smoking a cigarette. He’s putting it out by stamping it into the gravel when he notices someone exit the main doors.
He looks up and his mood brightens when he sees that it’s Inspector Sullivan. He’s not seen him in a while, not since Sullivan’s whole arrested-for-murder thing, he never got the chance to thank him for letting him off his theft charge. Not that he need thank him- it was only fair, a tit-for-tat type of situation.
Nonetheless it’s been a few weeks since he’s really seen him, and he’s rather thrilled at the prospect of needling him a bit, irritating him. Sullivan catches his eye from where he leans against the building wall. He nods once over at Sid then pushes him away from the wall and heads sound the side of the building. Sid watches for a moment. He’s sure the nod was anything but an invitation to follow. So he follows.
When he catches up with the Inspector he’s leaning against a tree in an empty garden. The party’s distant, all the windows hidden from view, only the roof of the building looking down on them. Sullivan stares up at the branches almost as if wishing they’d take him away.
Sid steps slowly forward, “Not your scene?”
Sullivan jumps a little and looks at once over at him. “Probably more yours.” Sullivan replies before turning away again. Sid edges closer and leans against the side of the tree.
“We could swap.” he offers.
Sullivan looks at him with a raised eyebrow, “Somehow I don’t think any of the guests would buy it.”
Sid grins and looks away, out at the garden, the large bushes, the fountain. “You’re probably right.” he admits.
They fall quiet. Just as Sid thinks Sullivan isn’t going to speak to him again, he says, quite suddenly, “It’s just that… I won’t get any of this.”
Sid frowns, “Wot? A garden?”
“What? No.” Sullivan gestures his head back a little, “I mean that.”
Sid still looks bemused, “A party?”
“A wedding.” Sullivan snaps back, then at once looks at his shoes.
“Oh.” Sid says, feeling awkward. Is the Inspector lonely? He’s not really prepared for this kind of conversation, “I’m… sure you’ll… find someone. I mean as an Inspector you can hardly be short of options.”
“You’d be surprised.” Sullivan retorts.
“How? Do you know how many women ‘ave talked about you in the Red Lion?”
Sullivan pulls a face and looks over at Sid, “Well they aren’t exactly… options, for me.” when Sid still looks blank he continues, “It’s just that the options that I’d like… aren’t really options at all. Especially not for marriage.”
“You wot?” Sid says, completely and totally lost. How much has Sullivan drunk? It can’t be Sid that’s drunk, he’s driving, not had a drop. It’s Sullivan that makes no sense, right?
Sullivan turns to him fully, “I’m saying that… I have people who… interest me. But I shouldn’t pursue them. Can’t, in a way.”
Sid looks completely bemused, looking back at Sullivan’s frustrated expression, “I don’t follow.” Sid tells him.
“You don’t?” Sullivan asks, a little disdainful.
Sullivan sighs exasperatedly at the sky, as if begging the stars to help him out. Only the stars do nothing so Sullivan shakes his head, mutters, “Christ you’re as thick as it gets.” and grabs Sid’s face in both hands, kissing him.
For a slim part of a moment Sid is frozen. But he registers the warmth in Sullivan’s touch, and the dull kind of explosion in his chest, and doesn't think twice before kissing him back.
He’s still not quite following Sullivan’s point though. And he reminds himself, as he pulls Sullivan closer that he doesn’t even like this man. Hell, Sullivan doesn’t even like him, does he? He certainly never showed it, not up until dropping his theft charge.
But he stops wondering about all of that because it’s hard to concentrate on anything else but Sullivan’s mouth, Sullivan’s hand in his hair, his own fingers slipping into Sullivan’s belt loop to hold him closer. This is nothing like any kiss he’s ever had before. Nothing like Deliah, the girl he was with in Upcott Seminary, nothing like anyone.
He makes some kind of discontented noise in his throat when Sullivan suddenly pulls away. He looks about a thousand times more stressed as he had been before, and Sid goes to tell him not to worry but he still barely knows how to think let alone speak. Before he can gather together any coherent string of words, Sullivan is muttering an apology and storming off back round the side of the building.
Sid doesn’t go after him, feels dizzy and out of breath, leans his shoulder back against the tree. He looks up the stars, but they’re as silent for him as they had been for Sullivan. His heart’s still beating heavily, like a drum. His lips still tingle, he can’t help but lightly brush a finger against them.
Sid has tried. He’s tried to forget all about the kiss. The trouble is, it feels somewhat akin to sitting in a burning building, and trying not to think about the flames dancing around you. So he keeps thinking and thinking and thinking and he doesn’t get it .
The thing is, he has kissed blokes before. Eddie when they were younger, and he vaguely remembers going home, drunk, with Alfred Turner once but those times didn’t mean anything, did they? He still likes girls, always has.
But the way Sullivan kissed him. Or the way it felt, even. The way Sid kissed him back. The way it felt . No matter what he does he can’t stop remembering the stars and the exasperation on Sullivan’s face, the warmth of his lips. Even when he’s driving he’s found himself missing the odd turning or simply going the wrong way.
Eventually someone is going to ask what’s wrong. He won’t know what to say.
At the presbytery kitchen table one afternoon, Bunty is recalling her night at the ball. She’d been dancing with someone, Sid doesn’t know who, he’d not been paying attention. Although he looks up when he hears Bunty say
“...I wish I’d kissed her.” Sid must have made some kind of face because Bunty looks at him quizzically, “What?”
“Nothin’.” he says, sitting back in the chair. All eyes have fallen on him, the Father, Lady Felicia, Mrs M who’s standing at the oven.
“No, go on, say it.” Bunty pushes.
“I just… I thought you liked men.” he says eventually, confused and awkward. Has it suddenly gotten hotter in here?
“I do like men.” Bunty replies, “I just like women too.”
Sid frowns, “That’s a thing?” he asks, heart beating all weird.
“Of course!” Bunty replies, “I thought you knew that.”
Sid shrugs. He hasn’t touched his scone. He doesn’t feel like it, but he lifts up his tea for something to do and takes a sip.
“You know I kissed a woman once.” Lady Felicia says, beside him.
He abruptly chokes on the sip of tea and places the mug down. The group look at him quizzically again. He feels weird and nervous. Like he’s unlocked a whole knew part of him that he never even knew there had been a keyhole for in the first place. Suddenly, he stands.
“I just… need some air, I think.”
Unfortunately the air outside is rather stifling. He crosses the road to the church and sits on the bench outside. It’s slightly shaded. He closes his eyes.
The kiss comes into his mind again, like a cool and continuous gentle breeze. It makes sense, he supposes, that he likes men and women. He just… he just thought that, men thought those things about other men all the time. And with Eddie they’d just been bored teenagers. With Alfred he’d been completely drunk and he barely remembers a thing. Of course other men didn’t kiss men when they were bored, probably not really when they’re drunk, either. And definitely when they were neither of those things (although he had been a tiny bit bored at the Wedding Reception, to be fair).
“Penny for your thoughts, Sid?” It’s Father Brown’s voice, somewhere beside him, “You’ve been strangely quiet for weeks.”
Sid opens his eyes and looks up at him. The sun’s bright and he has to squint while his eyes adjust. Father Brown sits down beside him and grins widely. Sid doesn’t know what to say so for a while he just sits there, staring at the gravestones the other side of the path.
“Sullivan kissed me.” he admits eventually, feeling his chest twinge and pull and tingle. Should he even say this? Then again it’s not like the Father would tell anyone, if he was asked not to, “I kissed him back. I didn’t know why.”
“But you know now?” Father Brown asks.
Sid pouts slightly, thinking, “Sort of. More than before, anyway.”
Father Brown smiles softly and lightly rests a hand on Sid’s shoulder, “It’s okay, Sid.”
It’s nice, to hear that, after all of the mess and static in his mind lately, and when he turns to the priest, he finds his eyes fill with tears. He’s not entirely sure why he’s crying. He’s just… it’s been a lot. A good chunk of his past suddenly holds brand new meanings and it’s good because he understands himself. But at the same time he hates that he didn’t understand before. All of this time where he never even gave it a second thought.
Father Brown pulls him close to him, making Sid’s head rest on his shoulder, “It’s okay.” he says again, quieter, before kissing the man’s head.
As it turns out, Sid likes men. And, as it turns out, Sid really likes Sullivan, for some reason. There’s still a slight question mark there but he knows it must be true because he knows that kiss was different, made even his fingers tingle, left his lips buzzing for what felt like hours.
Only thing is, Sullivan keeps avoiding him.
He can barely even make eye contact with him across a crime scene, like the man won’t even glance at him. And he knocked on the door of the police cottage once and he knew Sullivan was in, but the man never answered the door. He considered visiting the police station but he doesn’t think Sullivan would appreciate such an ambush.
In the end he pleads with Lady Felicia until she succumbs and invites the Inspector to her upcoming soiree. But even then, he spends half the evening desperately trying to get him alone, and he has to have Father Brown’s help in the end.
The priest leads Sullivan across the house, to the back living room that isn’t being used.
“Whatever this is for, Father, are you sure it can’t wait? I was having a rather interesting discussion with Mr Richardson about Charlotte Bronte’s work on-”
“Sounds riveting.” Sid’s voice says from where he leans against the arm of one of the two sofas in the room.
Sullivan stops and his breath catches quite against his will. He looks back at the Father, who grins innocently.
“I see.” Sullivan says, looking back at Sid, “You set this up.”
Sid pushes himself from the sofa and begins to amble towards him. Father Brown, behind him, backs away,
“I’ll leave you to it.” he says with a grin that neither of the two men spare a glance at. Father Brown slips out the door, clicks it shut behind him.
“Carter…” Sullivan says, swallowing slightly when the man moves closer, “What do you want I…” he pauses and swallows thickly a second time, “I apologised. It won’t happen again. I left you alone didn’t I? I shouldn’t have… I should have just told you outright instead of… beating around the bush-”
Sid’s reached him, and a grin gently spreads across his face, “Sullivan…” he starts, “do you ever stop talking?”
Sullivan can’t decide whether or not to back away. Sid’s so close and his mind is screaming about it but his body simply won’t drag him away. He stops talking, watches Sid carefully. His eyes are deep green and God it does nothing to calm the beating in Sullivan’s chest.
Slowly, one by one, Sid slips his hands onto Sullivan’s face.
“Can I speak now?” Sid asks. And well, Sullivan can barely force himself to nod, let alone speak over him. He searches the man’s face and tries to work out what is about to happen, but his brain won’t process it properly. He takes in every inch of Sid’s face and thinks, only, beautiful .
“You confused me.” Sid manages eventually, “You… I…” he tries again, takes a breath, “I didn’t know .”
Sullivan isn’t entirely following, but he’s glad to know he’s not the only one to ramble in riddles.
“And then when I did know you didn’t- I’ve been trying to talk to you for ages.”
“I… know.” Sullivan manages, remembering Sid hammering at his door last week.
Sid looks at him, trying to gather the words but he gets it now, Sullivan’s fluster, tangle of words at the wedding, because, well, are there the right words? He can’t find them. Can only find Sullivan’s face, blue eyes, thin, pink lips.
He leans in slowly. Sullivan jerks back at first and Sid moves away too, eyes dancing over the Inspector’s face, confused. But he tries again and Sullivan can’t help but draw closer, melts, feels completely weak and entirely undone, when Sid kisses him.
He brushes his thumb down Sid’s collar bone before moving his hand to the man’s hair, holding him closer. And Sid keeps kissing him. And kissing him.
A strange kind of paradise burns inside of both of them.
Finally, the stars feel right, bright, and briefly Sid’s mind suddenly finds the words- I love you - and swiftly loses them again, as Sullivan bites at his lip.