“Batteries, man, where the fuck did we put batteries?” Zeke mutters to himself with one hand on his hip and the other raking back through his hair.
Did they even own batteries? A lot of meager shit was sacrificed when he ditched his old apartment; not necessarily due to a hectic and panicked move, but rather due to the careless haze he was still staggering around in at the time.
With his father dead, the entire building felt like it had shifted to a different frequency, buzzing at a grating level that Zeke could always hear. He could hardly manage to make the journey up three flights of stairs in order to take keepsakes from his old man’s penthouse. Lisa came around several times to help Zeke clean and herd him into showering and eating properly, and some guys from the precinct came around to look for clues or pay Zeke stilted respects, but Zeke was in a fog through it all.
The funeral, holding Brian as he cried for the loss of a grandfather that barely spent time with him, the awkward glances from peers, the mandatory PTO. All of it happened around Zeke as he struggled with an inner conflict that only he knew about, because he sure as shit couldn’t go to anyone for fucking advice.
‘Hey, I got way too fuckin’ close to a partner I didn’t even want to begin with, and then he strung up my dad for a SWAT team, and now my hands never stop fucking itching because the weird thing is that I don’t even want to kill him. Is that normal?’ There isn’t a shrink in the entire country that could handle that can of worms, Zeke’s certain. So he processed the best he could, and he thought a hole in the ground, and he turned not-Schenk over and over again in his head until he finally untangled some threads. And this went on for several weeks until he finally got a text from an unknown number.
‘Would you like to talk about it?’
Understatement of the fucking century. But yeah. They talked about it.
Which is why Zeke is currently trying to make heads or tails of their new apartment on the outskirts of the county, just a month after...everything. Zeke offers a quiet apology to Marcus, who’s probably rolling over in his casket, and fights the urge to go interrupt Will’s shower so he can ask about fucking batteries for the TV remote.
Zeke groans and looks around the open floor plan. He’s checked the kitchen drawers, the storage racks in the entry hall, and even the emergency box on top of the fridge. Batteries are just one of those things new home owners don’t think of until they need them. Right up there with fucking ladles and bathroom mats.
Listening to the faint sounds of the running shower and the Law & Order rerun that he can’t switch off, Zeke works his jaw and shuffles back into the living room. If he has to make a late run to the CVS, he’s gonna be pissed. He’s not unwilling, since Will still can’t afford to go outside much, but it’d be a wrench in his lazy plans. He still gets to milk the ‘everyone died and the Spiral Killer got away from me’ cow for weekends off, and by God is he going to use them to do absolutely nothing.
On a whim, Zeke yanks open a closet door not far from the entertainment center. He’s not even sure he knows what’s inside—he hasn’t had a reason to use it. Will did most of the move-in sorting, being the more methodical one, and the way he’s planned their space sure as shit can’t be called something like a ‘woman’s touch.’
Oddly enough, Will seems to be a minimalist. If Zeke wants to do some armchair psychology, he could wager that Will never invested in a lot of material possessions in order to prepare himself for a life on the run. Always prepared, always ten steps ahead, never having time to collect books or movies or useless knickknacks.
Zeke throws dirty clothes into a pile and leaves dishes in the drying rack, and Will comes up behind him and tidies without a complaint. It could just be that Will needs something to occupy himself with while he’s stuck at home (when he isn’t working) but that tidiness could also just be in his nature. They haven’t lived together long enough for Zeke to parse it yet.
Humming in thought, Zeke examines some coats hanging up in the closet; one is certainly his, but there are three others that must belong to Will. It’s weird to think that Zeke hasn’t seen him wear any—it’s still mid-summer. It gives Zeke pause, because he wonders which one is Will’s favorite. Does he have scarves, too? Hats? Does Will prefer cooler weather? Jesus, does he even celebrate Christmas?
During times like this, the gravity of what Zeke’s life has become threatens to swallow him up. This kind of thinking makes him pace until he swears a hole will be worn into the fucking carpet. He and Lisa dated for a long time—got to know each other for a long time—before they ever moved in together. And now here Zeke is, in the mother of all midlife crises, sleeping in the same apartment as...Will. The guy that killed his fucking father. The Spiral Killer, yeah. But in Zeke’s mind, first and foremost, he’s just William. Try as he might, he can’t make himself think otherwise.
Zeke pushes the thoughts aside just as easily he pushes the coats, making the hangers slide, smooth and metallic across the top rod. He pauses and tilts his head as a pea coat settles and reveals a stack of nondescript, old-looking boxes pressed into the dark nook of the closet. Some shit that Lisa packed up for him, maybe, and Will didn’t know what to do with while Zeke was still getting his bearings.
Batteries or no batteries, it can’t hurt to figure out what’s inside. Zeke settles down onto his knees and ignores the way they creak in protest. He hauls a box off the top of the stack and drags it into the dim evening light of the living room. The box leaves a trail in the carpet’s pattern.
The lid comes off easily, and inside the box, Zeke finds binders that he doesn’t recognize. His father’s old paperwork? He wasn’t much of a photo guy, and Zeke already has the few that he did own on display on the entertainment center. He tries not to think about what the younger, smiling Marcus thinks when he looks out from his frame and sees his son dozing on the sofa with a serial killer.
When Zeke lifts the front cover of a binder and the papers inside fall open, so does Zeke’s mouth. His throat goes dry, and the calming ambiance of his new home is replaced with dull white noise.
The binder is full of newspaper clippings, all neatly organized and safely pressed inside laminated slips. Some are slightly yellowed and wrinkled with time, but are otherwise clearly cared for. They date back decades, and Zeke’s analytical eye knows what their deal is almost immediately. They’re all about him.
The hairs on his forearms stand on end even though what he’s struggling with isn’t fear. Curiosity with a twinge of apprehension, knowing that these are Will’s belongings and that his partner will be stepping out of the shower soon. Knowing that he may not have permission to look.
But Zeke has to look, he wants to know. He figures he’s owed that much. If he and Will are going to be fucking living together, then they need to be on the same page. He’s already had a wife lie to his face and keep shit from him, and he’s too old to put up with that kind of treatment again. Much less from someone that...well, someone like Will. Whatever the fuck that means. They’re not married.
Zeke swallows past a dry throat, tugs at the collar of his t-shirt, and leans forward to flip through the binder.
The articles all detail the trials involving Pete, and Zeke’s testimony. It was a juicy scoop for news outlets, so there are plenty of clippings that span the months in which the case was dragged out. After the jury reached a verdict, the sensationalism died down, but the Banks name was still worth writing about for a while. Zeke getting his medal, fluffy gossip about whether or not his dad would be stepping down as Chief, Zeke eventually becoming a detective in Homicide.
That’s just the first binder.
The next one is much thinner, but it’s full of photographs—all of which could be taken from public records or social media pages. Everything from Zeke’s wedding to his fucking high school graduation. If it’s something that could be found on Boz’s Facebook profile, Will has it in this goddamn binder.
“Fuck me.” Zeke breathes, feeling sweat beginning to bead at his temples. His hands have a minute tremor that he can only see if he concentrates hard enough. His heart hammers against his rib cage, mesmerized. Excited. Strange.
Is this stalking? Zeke’s brain flips some unknowable switch and immediately begins to come up with all sorts of flowery language to justify what he’s seeing. He has to ask Will about this. He cannot ask Will about this. How is he supposed to live like this? Maybe he can’t imagine not living like this.
One photo in particular catches Zeke’s eye, and the pull he feels is strong enough to make him pry it out of its slip and examine it closer. It looks and feels newer than the rest, and it probably is since in it, Zeke looks his age. It’s a candid shot of him sitting on a park bench—he knows the one, it’s not far from the history museum downtown—with his head turned to the side and an at-ease sort of smile on his face. Zeke doesn’t remember what he was doing at the time or what he was looking at, but he’s fairly certain that he wasn’t with Brian or Boz.
“If it makes you feel any better, that’s the only one I took myself.”
Zeke turns his head, only now registering that there’s no longer any noise coming from the bathroom. Will stands in the hallway, a dark silhouette that looms, making Zeke feel somewhat small from where he kneels on the floor. Will's expression isn’t visible—the back lighting swallowing him up, turning him into a void or a slasher from a horror film. But Zeke’s unafraid. A bit anxious about being caught red-handed, sure. But Will, murderer though he is, does not make him feel the need to reach for a makeshift weapon. The apartment is safe. Zeke is safe.
“If it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t snooping through your shit on purpose.” Zeke mutters, aiming for wry but probably landing in unsure territory anyway.
“I know. It’s okay.” Will steps into the light, a small smile on his cherubic fucking face. His hair is curling, damp and ruffled by a towel. He’s wearing a pair of black sweatpants and nothing else, which makes Zeke’s jaw shift for reasons he still doesn’t want to look into. He doesn’t know how much more bullshit he can try to process in one month.
“You’re a detective, this is what you do,” Will teases, making himself at home on the carpet, “And I would’ve shown this to you eventually. I just...didn’t want to throw you into the deep end of the pool.”
“You’ve already done that.” Zeke replies, raising his eyebrows and averting his gaze. He pretends that he’s busy; he moves to put the photo back into the binder, but Will reaches out and stops him with a gentle touch to his wrist. Zeke drags his gaze up and finds that Will is looking at him earnestly. He doesn’t appear to be ashamed, but there is a hint of an apology.
“I’d never followed you in public or anything. I kept my distance. Like uh, like a kid at an art exhibit.” Will chuckles. If his cheeks are flushing, Zeke can’t tell due to the sun waning beyond the gaps in the curtains. “But I saw you one day after I finished doing an interview with one of Garza’s trainers, and I couldn’t help myself. After years of only ever seeing you on a TV screen, this was proof that all of my hard work was close to paying off.”
Zeke can feel his own expression fall. He tightens his grip on the photo and slowly pulls his hand out of Will’s grasp. He shakes his head and sucks his teeth.
“Will,” he tries gently, “this could be anybody, man.”
“What do you mean?” Will’s thick eyebrows dip, a confused crease forming between them.
“I mean; why me? Couldn’t anybody, hypothetically, be your partner? What if someone else had been in my shoes on the day Pete shot your dad? Would it be some other cop sitting here right now?” Zeke gestures at the floor. Will chuckles humorlessly.
“There isn’t a single pig in your precinct that could have ever made it here, Zeke.” Will runs a hand over his mouth and turns his head away. He’s quiet for a few seconds before he makes eye contact again. “It’s you because nobody else would have stood their ground the way you did. The begging from the lawyers, the pressure from the news stations, the bribing, the threats—everyone else would have folded at some point. If they’d even had the balls to question Dunleavy in the first place.”
Zeke considers this, rubbing his thumb over his photo a few times before finally placing it back in the binder.
“I work well on my own.” Will continues, possibly unable to interpret Zeke’s silence. “I don’t need a partner in order to do this. But I did want you.”
“What does that fucking mean, though, William?” Zeke presses with a sudden fervor, his nerves a bit frayed. He moves to sit with his legs crossed, just so he has an excuse to fidget. “You just said you don’t need a partner. And you’re right! I’m not gonna help you dice up my goddamn coworkers, and I’m not gonna pass you the wrench when you’re working on your little Jigsaw play sets! I could lose my son forever just by talking to you right now. So what the fuck do you…?” Zeke trails off before he can finish the question, his eyes widening as he double takes. He resists the strong fucking urge to reach out and snatch Will by the collar of a shirt he isn’t even wearing. “Am I your fall guy?”
Credit where it’s due, Will looks openly horrified at the suggestion. He reels back as though he’s been smacked across the cheek. Zeke’s incredulous frustration ebbs away just as quickly as it had appeared.
“No! Jesus, Zeke!” Will exclaims, looking away and moving his arms as though he can’t decide where or how he should position them. “I would never...” Will mutters, an added, quiet thought.
The two sit together for a moment, the conversation grinding to a halt. Will is staring at the back of the sofa, and Zeke steals glances at him as he tries to decide whether or not he should apologize. Ice-T’s voice is muffled from the television before his dialogue cuts to a commercial break. The blue glow of the screen peeks over the sofa and mixes with the sunlight-orange casting over Will’s troubled frown.
Zeke doesn’t know how he got here; staring at a Jigsaw copycat but trying not to be obvious about it. Feeling a pang of guilt at having possibly hurt his fucking feelings. A month ago, he was wondering how things could change for the better. He was brainstorming, struggling to see a future in which he was happy with being a divorced dad with joint custody. A future in which maybe his own dad would actually spend more time with him, or a future in which he had more than one friend. If he was lucky, he’d get a weary path to retirement that didn’t consist of jaded buzzards loathing his guts day in and day out.
What was Zeke going to do, really, before Will carved a way into his life? Move to another state—another precinct in which his reputation didn’t somehow precede him? Find another job altogether—one that he would be pretty fucking useless at? Finish off the divorce papers and eventually die alone because he’s too fucking old to be downloading Tinder?
As fucked up as this is, it’s...something. Something to tackle, something to hold onto. Someone to actually come home to.
That last thought startles Zeke into pointedly looking away from Will. He’s about to say something—he doesn’t know what, he just has to fill this silence—but Will suddenly makes a frustrated noise in the back of his throat and leans over to pull something out of the bottom of his box.
It’s a tattered notebook, dog-eared all to hell with the spine taped together. It’s decidedly less preserved than the binders and their contents.
“Like I said, I was going to show you this stuff eventually. But I figured you’d have more time to adjust to...well.” Will’s thumb teases the seam of the pages, a tender touch with a sentimental sort of look on his face. “Not that there’s any use in putting it off.” He sighs, accepting the gravity of whatever it is he’s offering Zeke, and holds out the book for him to take. Zeke handles it gently, signaling to Will that he understands that he’s being given something important. Will nods, but it looks like he’s trying to steel himself more than anything.
“I have a mile-long list of contingency plans, Zeke. None of them involve you getting burned. Even if you no longer want to be partners after this, that’s not going to change. Believe me.”
Eye contact is maintained for a beat. Zeke’s heart picks up the pace again due to nerves he still can’t entirely make sense of. The Will sitting in front of him now is bare—physically exposed and emotionally vulnerable in a way that neither faux-friendly Schenk nor haughty Emmerson were. He’s maybe a mix of the two, some amalgamation of chameleon-like traits that he’s picked up over the course of a clumsy life.
Zeke is anxious about what he may find within this notebook, and he recognizes that anxiety mirrored in Will. It dawns on Zeke that he has no clue what Will’s fears are—he can’t fear losing a family he doesn’t have. He certainly doesn’t fear being caught; isn’t scared of prison or death. But perhaps he’s scared of Zeke turning his nose up at their partnership. Scared of oh-so-carefully catching a butterfly in his hands only to watch it flutter away as soon as he opens his fingers to marvel at it.
“Open it.” Will finally commands, throwing a shield up once he finds that Zeke won’t stop staring. The anxiety is beaten back by the stern facade that Will has mastered.
Zeke opens the notebook and it crinkles, the papers thin and fragile with age. What greets him is Will’s teenage handwriting—too messy to recent, but too neat to be from childhood.
They have a suspect, so his name’s been released to the press. Preston Harris. He’s on borrowed time.
Zeke remembers the name; Harris was the one that shot him when nobody answered his call for backup. He already had a criminal record, so his mugshot was plastered around and Zeke’s dad was on the war path, but nobody from the station ever found him. Eventually, Zeke figured the son of a bitch just fled town.
Detective work can generally only function under two factors. One; the detective has to give a shit about the case, and two; the detective can’t be buried underneath sixteen other cases that may or may not be more important. Given that the detectives in Banks’ precinct probably don’t give a shit about Harris, and that they get a high volume of calls from civilians every day, I think it’s safe to say that Harris is mine.
Zeke’s eyes skim over the words, drinking them in as fast as he can, trying to get to the meat of whatever it is Will needs him to find. A hunch forms, knotting in Zeke’s gut, but he has to keep reading.
I’ve read every book about John Kramer that I can get my hands on at the nearest libraries. I could maybe order more, but the old women behind the counters frown enough at my choices.
The traps are good. They make sense to me. I could maybe replicate them, but I don’t have any money for supplies. I’m also worried that I won’t have enough time to make one before I lose Harris’ trail. I’m winging it.
I’ve found him. I’m not second guessing anything. He tried to kill Banks. Friday after school, maybe. Should burn this stupid thing; if I get caught, they’d get me for premeditation.
Zeke’s breath hitches. He slowly turns the page.
I went overboard. I was just going to stab him in the throat but I just kept going. Killers on TV talk about how excited they’d get, but I didn’t get excited. I was just angry. Maybe Banks would be disappointed in me; that’s what makes me feel like I’m gonna be sick. But I think I’d do it again.
When Zeke tilts his head up to look at Will again, it feels as though he’s trying to move inside of a jar of molasses. It takes him years to meet Will’s gaze, but when he does, all he finds is a firm, dark look that’s completely lacking in remorse or regret.
“You...you killed Harris?” Zeke can barely get the words out, his voice sounding small and dry.
“Cops thought he vanished. I guess he technically did, since they never found his body.” Will says, steady, as though he’s reciting tonight’s weather forecast.
“How old were you?” Asks Zeke, pitch increasing with disbelief.
“That was Junior year.”
The enormity of it all is unsettling, because the reality is that Will’s life hasn’t just revolved around enacting revenge (or justice, whatever he wants to call it). The police academy and the plan itself weren’t the only reasons Will got out of bed in the morning. Zeke was an integral motivational key—he was a monumental piece of Will’s life, and Zeke was none the wiser.
While Zeke was being doted on with flowers from Lisa and Boz, he had an obsessive little fucking shadow lingering in the filthiest corners of town, waiting to butcher some unlucky nobody for daring to have a fucked up run-in with one Officer Ezekiel Banks.
A really, really grotesque, fucked up avenging angel inhabiting the body of a gangly teenager that probably had chemistry homework due that same weekend. The idea makes Zeke let out a hysterical little laugh.
“Who else? You gonna waterboard any barista that gets my goddamn order wrong at Starbucks?” It’s supposed to sound harsh, he’s supposed to be chastising. But it falls flat and sounds more like a joke. Will doesn’t laugh and that’s fine.
“I never killed anyone in the time between Harris and Boswick. I didn’t have a reason.”
“Okay...okay.” Zeke thinks it over, rubbing at his jaw, trying to collect himself. “Would you kill someone if I asked you to—someone that isn’t a cop?”
Will tilts his head and seems to mull it over for a second before he snorts.
“No. We’re partners, Zeke.”
Will hasn’t once lied about that. The implication is that neither of them can be in charge; one can’t hold power over the other or give orders. Will’s made it clear that he doesn’t want Zeke to feel as though he’s being held captive, or that he’s being pressured into helping him. On the flip side, Zeke can’t bully Will into stopping his work with the precinct, because regardless of his respect for Zeke, he still has a very firm goal. But that kind of symbiosis carries other implications. Because if Zeke isn’t really doing much to actively help Will’s cause, then that means Will gets some kind of fulfillment from just existing in Zeke’s orbit.
Zeke swallows and slowly turns a few pages in Will’s notebook. There are plenty of lines of script that have been scribbled out furiously—some with such clear aggression that the pen ripped through the paper. Some have been left untouched by the shameful denials of youth.
Girls keep asking me to prom. I’ve been telling them that I don’t want to go. That’s a lie, but the truth would hurt their feelings.
My GPA is perfect. Teachers say any college would accept my application. I tell them I don’t have the money for it. That’s true, but I have other plans anyway.
I don’t have much to write about anymore. Going to save up some money before I enter the Police Academy. Starting to draw up blueprints and get some basic info. I’ll get a badge and oink for the cameras.
Every day I wonder what he’ll see in me. Makes me feel like I’m on pins and needles. Just want to get it over with and find out. In my pipe dreams, he understands what I’m trying to show him; he takes my hand.
“It sounds like you were in love with me.” Says Zeke with a disbelieving chuckle. He continues to read for a few seconds until Will’s silence screams at him to look up. His breath hitches because when he sees Will’s blank expression, it’s like being handed the final, missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
Zeke inhales sharply and drops the notebook as if he’s been stung. Will’s dark eyes don’t waver from where they bore into Zeke, making him feel flayed open and scrutinized beyond measure. Will is looking for something, and all at once Zeke is petrified that he’ll fuck this up. But he can’t sit here, he can’t stay still. He clambers to his feet and rakes his hands back through his hair.
William is in love with him. Present tense.
It’s not the endearing hero worship of a kid; it’s not a teenager with KISS posters plastered around their bedroom. It’s not formative in the way that one’s first celebrity crush is. No, rather, it’s foundational. It’s a part of Will’s core. It’s a part of the very thing that drives him. Will gets out of bed, he stirs too much creamer into his coffee, he thinks about making claw machines filled with cop skulls as prizes, and he prays at the altar of Ezekiel Banks.
The thought is even more jarring as Zeke looks over from where he now stands to see Will, still on the floor, with his head tilted back. He watches Zeke with a serene brand of acceptance, and he rests his hands on his knees; a position that sends a shiver down Zeke’s spine.
“Fuck. Are you serious right now?” Zeke mutters, mostly to himself as he begins to pace. He has to turn away for a moment even if it makes him look like a coward. He tries to focus on how it feels to alternate between the carpet of the living room and the tile of the kitchen. He steps back and forth over the border before he settles on standing in the kitchen. It serves as some pitiful form of separation even though he’s still only a couple meters away from Will.
“I can move out. Tonight, even.” Will says evenly, giving away nothing. Zeke can hear him stand up.
“Shut up, man! Just give me a fuckin’ minute here.” Zeke’s eyes flicker over the island and the stove top. He sees a six pack of Will’s Fresca on the counter, and he tries not to snicker hysterically again because all he can think about is how he’d looked over Will’s shoulder as he was placing their grocery order and asked, “Who the fuck drinks Fresca? You going to play bingo after this, grandma?” Will’s subsequent laughter lit up his entire face.
When one of Zeke’s hands rests on his hip and the other rubs at his mouth, he thinks about how he was in this same spot twenty minutes ago looking for motherfucking batteries. He’s once again trying to make heads or tails of this apartment that he shares with a butcher. The guy that killed his father. The guy that lifted a gloved finger to his bleeding mouth as if to say, “our little secret.”
The guy that’s apparently in love with him.
Zeke reminds himself that he has balls and turns back around to reassess whatever he finds in Will’s visage. Will stands in the alternating shadows of the ever-dimming living room, and Zeke feels too easy to read in comparison, as he now basks beneath the overhead kitchen lights.
Back in that elevator, Will never really fought back. Zeke went fucking ballistic, throwing all of his weight into every single one of his punches, but Will mostly just deflected. Tried to push him away, tried to buy time. He took what Zeke gave him as penance, maybe. Like he knew that it was justified, and he was fine with it. Zeke’s unsure of how far Will would’ve allowed him to go if the SWAT never showed up.
“Okay.” Zeke sighs deeply, dipping his head in allowance. “When did you decide you wanted me to be your partner?” He crosses his arms over his chest. Will’s mouth twists in a funny way and he cuts his eyes to the side briefly before making eye contact again. Zeke tries not to stare at his still-drying shoulders.
“That depends on what you mean.” Will replies, clearly not trying to come off as coy. He drags his toes over the carpet, probably for stimulation—Zeke’s seen him do that kind of shit before.
“Let me put it this way; what did you mean when you first made the offer? At the soap factory.”
“A companion...someone to share my work with. Someone to help do some tangible good, and to...see that what I was doing actually meant something.”
“But that’s kind of a bullshit, nothing position, isn’t it?” Zeke posits. “That’s just what you came up with when you knew you’d have to convince me somehow. So what do you really mean?”
In my pipe dreams, he understands what I’m trying to show him; he takes my hand.
The words from Will’s journal ring inside Zeke’s head. Christ, but for some reason he has to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Will bristles defensively. Now Zeke has to carefully inch out onto the ice so as not to break through and drown in the freezing water below.
“You know what I mean.” Will puts his foot down. They push and pull. Now that Zeke isn’t a vet shackled with some rookie. Now that Will’s allowed to show himself.
“What the fuck could you possibly see in me, man?” Zeke exclaims, pacing the border of the kitchen again as though he’s visiting Will in a jail cell and cannot pass through the bars. “We don’t—you barely know me! You like the idea of me.”
“You’re everything to me!” Will’s voice rises, his shoulders tense up, but he keeps himself from shouting. He gestures uselessly with his hand. “You’re—you’re principled, your conviction is unmatched. You’re driven. You want your son to have a good life; you want to be a better father than yours was. And your entire worthless precinct can turn its back on you, but I won’t, and I never will!” Will’s voice wavers, catches. For a second, if Zeke squints, he can see the horrified kid tucked away in a closet, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Zeke, you looked at me on the worst day of my life and you kept me safe. And the best day of my life was the day you picked up the phone and decided to hear me out, against all odds. And you listened.”
“And now we’re here.” Zeke finishes quietly.
“Yeah. Now we’re here.” Will nods once, his fists closed down by his sides. There’s a pregnant pause.
“You’re gonna be happy if we carry on like this? If this is as close as we get? What if I’m never gonna be the partner from your—what did you call them? Fuckin’ pipe dreams.”
“I’m happy with you no matter what.” Says Will, plain and honest. “And I’ll be content with the time you’ve given me, even if you want us to go our separate ways.”
“And if I get 12 on the line and turn you in tonight?” Zeke challenges, jerking his chin with the first little grin he’s felt form since he started looking for those motherfucking batteries. Will smirks back, sincere, and Zeke has to fight to keep his own mouth from curving further.
“I’ll run and they won’t catch me. But I’ll understand. No hard feelings.” Will crosses a finger over his bare chest, and Zeke’s dam forms a yawning crack that splits immediately and violently; he can no longer pretend that he doesn’t want to reach out and touch, so he stops pretending.
“That’s some bullshit.” Zeke rolls his eyes and crosses the threshold in two broad steps, letting the dark of the living room envelope him as he frames Will’s face in his hands and presses their bodies together. Will’s eyes widening in disbelief is the last thing Zeke sees before his own eyes flutter closed. Zeke chuckles, celebrating his little victory by kissing Will and stealing his surprised gasp.
Will’s hands fly up quickly, his fingers gripping Zeke’s arms hard enough to make him wince. He sways, off kilter, but Zeke steadies him by curling one hand around the back of his neck and the other over the bony slope of his shoulder. His skin is smooth, his mouth is warm, his hair is damp.
Zeke feels as though a match was lit the day he turned the corner in that soap factory and saw his decidedly not-dead rookie standing there, legs crossed. Patiently waiting. For him. Hindsight lets Zeke see that there may as well have been a trail of rose petals leading him to the big reveal.
The match’s flame is no longer docile and tamable; it’s kissed a pile of tinder and now it spreads, threatening to consume everyone and everything, and Zeke’s standing in the center of it, but he hasn’t been burned. The fire laps at him, delighted by his cohabitation.
Zeke presses forward and guides Will back until his knees hit the arm of the sofa. Will eases down, sitting so that he doesn’t fall over, and their kiss doesn’t end. Will tilts his head back and welcomes Zeke in. He groans, deep from behind his ribs.
Zeke’s never known a feeling like this. What he had with Lisa seemed to be that thing that most people stumble into; genuine happiness, don’t get him wrong. There was a long period of their relationship in which they were content, and they functioned like a well-oiled machine. A good team for years. But this?
Lisa wouldn’t have ever killed someone for Zeke. He can’t wrap his head around that, can’t picture it. He imagines Lisa’s arms coated in blood and he just feels nauseated. It doesn’t work. William?
Will is a force of nature that’s far too clever for his own good. Zeke is—is something. Hypnotized is the wrong word; he’s fully aware of what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. He’s taken Will’s hand and he’s willing to see where it leads him with little to no objection.
“Oh my God.” Will gasps, soft and wet and reverent when they pull away from each other for a second, both breathing heavily. “This is all I’ve ever wanted.” He confesses. His eyes examine Zeke’s face as if this isn’t real—as if any second now he could wake up.
“I didn’t think I could have this.” Will’s voice breaks again, and he may as well have thrust a knife into Zeke’s gut, because Christ, does that hurt. In a bittersweet way, maybe, but the ache is contagious. It’s passed back and forth between Zeke and Will with their kiss.
“You can have it. You’ve got me.” Zeke assures, carding a gentle hand through Will’s hair and pressing kisses to his cheek as Will tries to rein himself in. He takes a few, deep, shuddering breaths and clings to Zeke as if he never plans on letting go. The vulnerability that he isn’t used to expressing or displaying is at war with the violence and the possessiveness that’s as integral to his body as his spinal cord.
“I...” Zeke falters when Will deliberately rolls his hips forward. He groans and drops his head, resting his forehead on Will’s shoulder. “Motherfucker.” He reaches down and grips Will’s knee to keep him from inching even closer. Blunt fingernails dig into his back through the fabric of his shirt, petulant as hell.
“It’s probably...smart to not fucking do this tonight.” Zeke grits out like he’s having teeth pulled. But one of them has to be level-headed and it should probably be him because he’s fifty-fucking-six, for Christ’s sake.
“Ezekiel!” Will exclaims. He pushes—not too hard—at Zeke’s shoulders and it sends him falling back onto the sofa with a dramatic ‘thump.’ He covers his face with his hands, and Zeke barks out a laugh because the pleading exasperation shows Will’s age, and he still sounds a little nasally from where he was trying not to cry.
“I’m not getting cold feet, I just. I need a minute.” Zeke mutters, rubbing his thumb along Will’s calf from where it hangs over the side of the couch. “Alright? But I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.”
“I want to believe you.” Will says from behind his hands. Those words now lack the cocksure attitude that they had back when he first uttered them at the soap factory.
“Then believe me.” Zeke says simply, reaching down and prying Will’s hands away so he can get a better look at his face. Will rumbles a sort of half-growl and yanks Zeke in closer by the collar of his shirt. He sinks his teeth into Zeke’s lower lip and tugs in a final, valiant effort to get Zeke to cave.
“Ow, asshole! You want my divorce lawyer to have a field day?” Zeke smacks Will’s hand away and steps back so Will can roll off the sofa. “You’re young, go walk it off!” Zeke laughs at Will’s mild glare. He’s fighting a thousand-watt grin, too.
“I’ll head out to a Pilates class.” Will throws over his shoulder as he shuffles down the hall.
“The fuck did you just say to me?” Zeke tries so hard to sound pissed, but the barb startles a laugh out of him. “And I better not walk onto a goddamn crime scene tomorrow and see Drury’s been offed by some blue balls guillotine—I can take a fucking hint!” He shouts in the general direction of Will’s bedroom. He can hear loud and sincere laughter, even as it’s muffled by the television. Zeke smiles like a dumbstruck moron before double-taking and glaring at the screen.
“I swear to God it’s taken Ice-T all day to convict this clown!”
The next morning, Zeke finds Will’s ratty journal sitting on the kitchen island. After they both took a stand and unplugged the TV, they exchanged goodnight texts like giddy fucking teenagers, but they never put Will’s box back in the closet.
Zeke hums drowsily, inhales the rich scent of brewing coffee, and grabs the notebook so that he can return it to its proper home. His mouth quirks up at the corner and he flips to the last page on a whim as he walks. At the very bottom, there’s fresh, pitch-black ink that stands out from the faded page. When he reads the neat script, warmth blossoms in Zeke’s chest.
Not a pipe dream, kid.