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Investigating

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"Tell me you were investigating, and I'll believe you."

Peter, seated in an uncomfortable interrogation-room chair and pressing a bit of ice wrapped in a handkerchief to his forehead, reflected briefly upon the advantage of being good friends with the police.

"You're drunk," Charles Parker said.

"Only a little," Peter replied, "And not enough to have me arrested for disorderly conduct."

"Peter," Charles sighed, sitting across the table. "Listen, I've stuck out my neck for you. I got your name off the arrests list, didn't I? Didn't I find you a quiet private place to lick your wounds?"

"The irony of the phraseology is not lost on me, Parker-bird," Peter replied. Parker couldn't help but grin.

"All right, then. Tell me you were investigating."

Peter set the handkerchief down. There was a nasty bruise on his forehead, but no bleeding. "Out of curiousity, Charles, what would you do if I said I wasn't?"

Parker rubbed his eyes. "You're not the first nobleman ever to get caught in a night-club with morally ambiguous staff, Peter."

"No, just one of the few to be caught slipping out the back of this particular club into the waiting arms of the constabulary. I don't believe the peerage has ever graced a nightclub for homosexuals before, have they? Not publicly, not since poor old Wilde," Peter said.

"Listen, everyone knows you put your overlarge proboscis in where you have no personal interest -- "

"It is rather prominent," Peter sighed. "I reiterate my inquiry, Charles. Out of idle curiousity, say. What would be done?"

"You'd be imprisoned for the night and arraigned on charges of unlawful solicitation and sodomy."

"My goodness. I had better be investigating then, hadn't I?"

They watched each other for a few minutes; it was unusual for Parker to be so wary of his friend, even though his incomprehension was not unheard-of.

"There are certain...requirements I have, for a balanced and healthy life," Peter said quietly. "Requirements unfulfilled by Viennese singers and Parisian actresses. You don't like many parts of the world I travel in, and that's all right; but know that I was there as an escort to someone of considerably higher standing than a serving-boy to be bought for a few coins. He, however, seems to have escaped your clutches."

"Who?"

"If I tell you, are you going to arrest him for sodomy?" Peter asked, with a quirk of the lips. "Even you would not chase after royalty in such a tactless fashion, Charles."

Parker's eyes blazed. "I'd arrest who I had to -- "

"Oh?" Peter asked, delicately.

"If he took you to a place like that, Peter, he's no safe company for you, whatever his rank."

Peter leaned back, one eyebrow rising. "You sound almost jealous, Charles."

Parker opened his mouth, then shut it again.

"I'll take you to my flat for the night," he said gruffly.

"Will you, now," Peter asked, in a low voice.

"If you're caught at that club again, I can't promise to protect you."

"Believe me, having experienced such an arrest once is quite enough deterrence. Well done; the Police Prevent Crime."

Parker grumbled as he found his coat and hat. They hailed a late-night cab outside the police station, and sat in more-or-less companionable silence, Peter pale and grave, Charles businesslike and brisk, until they reached his flat.

"Would you really arrest a prince for homosexuality, Charles?" Peter asked.

"It's my duty to uphold the law, not just bits of it," Parker answered, lighting the lamps in the sitting room.

"Do you approve of the laws?"

"I do not, but it's not my job to make them," he replied.

"But you do think they're wrong?"

Charles shrugged out of his coat, and Peter struggled out of his own. "I don't see what business of mine it is where a man puts his....nose," he finished with a grin, and Peter laughed.

"You don't object to it in any way?"

The police detective fixed his friend with a curious look. "You're my friend, Peter."

"And if I weren't your friend?"

"You wouldn't be kipping on my couch."

"You're avoiding my carefully put questions. I'm offended."

"Are you hungry?"

"Yes," Peter said, and hooked two fingers in the collar of his shirt, and kissed him.