John turns up at Adam's house.
A first time story.
Written: April 2007. Word count: 3,000.
As he paused, ready to swing right into the driveway leading to the house, Adam glanced ahead and noticed a car parked outside. He sighed and cursed under his breath and considered, rather irrationally, just driving on, as he really did not wish to see anyone.
However, bound by too many years of duty, he did turn the wheel and drive up the house. As he drew nearer to the stationary car, but not close enough to enable him to read the number plate, he thought he recognised it. However, he dismissed the thought; it was fairly dark and one Rover is much the same shape as another.
Reaching the house he turned off the lights and the engine; the silence filtered around him, matching the blackness. It was one reason he had chosen to come here; one reason he loved being here. As much as he liked the city, enjoyed his flat above the Thames, there was something about the complete darkness and silence of nature that moved him. Except of course it wasn't silent, not really. In many ways, nature was far noisier than the busy city, but it wasn't as intense, as demanding, as tiring a clamour.
He sat for just a moment longer, enjoying the peace and the darkness, before climbing out of his car. As he did, a figure emerged from the Rover and walked across to him. It was a man, head and shoulders shorter than Adam himself, and at once Adam recognised him, he was, however, more than a little surprised at his presence.
"John?" He made the single word a question.
"Yes, sir," the younger man replied, answering the literal question, rather than the one Adam had implied.
Adam frowned. It was unlike his assistant to be so oblique. "What are you doing here?"
For a moment John did not answer. Then he said, "The Commissioner thought it would be a good time for me to have a few days off. I was passing, on my way to stay with friends, and I thought I'd drop in and . . ." John broke off. "I'm sorry, sir. I'll go."
"No, John. You've clearly been waiting to see me. Come inside." Adam opened the door and led the younger man into the house. "Now would you like a drink? Wine? Whisky? Coffee?"
"Actually, sir, could I use the bathroom, please?"
"Certainly. Come with me." The layout of the house was more than a little quirky, and as such, it was far easier for him to show John the way, rather than try to explain. "In here," he said, opening a door and turning on the light.
"Thank you, sir." John moved past him. Adam was about to go back down stairs as John spoke again. "I am sorry, sir, about just turning up. It was unthinking of me to intrude. I'll go."
To his partial surprise, Adam found himself saying, "No, John. Not at all. I am pleased to se you. Do stay and have a drink. In fact," he added, "why do you not phone your friends and say you'll be delayed. Stay and have dinner with me, as well. I could even put you up for the night. Then you won't have to worry about drinking."
John reappeared from the bathroom. "I couldn't intrude to that extent, sir."
"You wouldn't be. I would like some company, actually. And," he added frankly, "I cannot think of anyone else's I would rather have." As he spoke the words, Adam realised that they were true. He hadn't had a chance to speak to John, before he'd left, not really. Thus, this was an ideal opportunity for him. After all, they had been partnered for a number of years; it was only fair that he be the one to tell John.
"In that case, sir. Thank you. I'd like that."
"Good. And, John, please call me Adam. Neither of us is at work, and I really do not wish to sit through an evening with you calling me 'sir' every time you speak to me."
"Yes, si . . . Er, I'll try." John smiled ruefully.
The two men looked at one another for a few moments. Finally, Adam broke the silence, "Come along, let's go back downstairs and have that drink."
Back downstairs his chief led him into the sitting room. John looked around him, cataloguing the room as any good detective, on or off duty, tended to do. It was tastefully furnished, in a way that quite clearly said comfort rather than elegance had been the main consideration of the owner. It could almost, but not quite, have been furnished by a single man. The only hint of femininity was the cushion covers and the . . . John couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was an air that a woman had had a hand in the room. The chairs were larger than was fashionable, yet to John they looked very inviting.
Dalgliesh waved him to a seat. Then as if almost reading his mind, a habit that John found most disconcerting, said, "She was a very tall woman, almost as tall as I am. She enjoyed being comfortable; style never mattered to her." Then with frank honesty that both surprised and concerned John, he added, "I miss her."
"Adam." John spoke his chief's name for the first time, quietly with respect, concern and friendship. Speaking his chief's forename didn't come easily to him; far too many years of calling him 'sir', wanted to intervene. Yet, in one way it came almost too naturally. Too easily. "I . . ." He trailed off as the other man raised his hand.
"I know, John. Thank you. Now how about that drink? And I'll go and start supper whilst you call your friends." He offered a faint smile and left the room.
John moved to the phone.
In the kitchen, Adam poured two glasses of wine from an already open bottle and thought ruefully to himself that if he were honest, John Massingham turning up only complicated matters. On reflection maybe he had been foolish to ask the younger man to stay; however, it was rather too late for 'maybes'.
He took a glass of wine to John and returned to the kitchen to finish supper.
The two men ate an enjoyable meal. His chief was a good cook, John reflected, in fact a very good cook. They conversed in much the same way as they did whilst at work. They had always had a fairly close, relatively relaxed, relationship; one in which in some ways transcended the rank difference, and in others didn't. John had a great deal of admiration and respect for his chief, and given that Dalgliesh hadn't asked for another assistant, he assumed that his chief was happy with his work.
As they sat sipping coffee, the atmosphere appeared to change, and both men seemed less at ease.
Finally, John decided that it was time to speak. "Um," he cleared his throat. Apart from calling his boss 'Adam' once, when the latter had been talking about his aunt, John had managed to get through the rest of the evening without having to resort to any kind of name or title.
He swallowed some more coffee and pressed on. "The Commissioner saw me after you'd left." He paused. It was clear that his companion was not going to help him, as all he did was to raise his eyebrows and wait politely for John to continue.
"Yes," John said. "He told me, well, that is, he mentioned, he knew he shouldn't have, but he was concerned. After all," John added, "you are his blue-eyed boy." He winced at his attempt to lighten the situation and reduce the tension that had now increased ten-fold.
Still his chief didn't respond, and his impassive look gave nothing away. Thus, John was forced to continue. "He told me that you'd, that you'd resigned," he said the last few words quickly, forcing them out.
For several moments the other man just sat and looked at him. Still his face gave nothing away; gave John no hint as to what he might be thinking.
When he finally spoke, his tone was flat; it too told John very little. "I see. So he sent you to try to change my mind, did he?" Although his voice was quiet, his tone level, John thought he detected a hint of sadness even hurt in it. But he told himself that it couldn't be so.
Nonetheless, he hastened to explain and found himself saying defensively, "No, not exactly. I wanted to come."
The steady blue gaze widened slightly. "Why?"
"Because you're a damn fine detective. You're a good man, well respected, highly regarded in your work and highly thought of." John spoke forcefully.
"I'm also a perfectionist, with others as well as myself. A hard task master, demanding, and often thoughtless of other people's commitments." Dalgliesh's tone was low.
"No, sir." John spoke with greater force. "You're fair, bloody fair. Even if you dislike a subordinate, you won't stand in their way of promotion, if they deserve it. And you're cared about," he added with passion.
"Really? By whom?" Dalgliesh's tone was still quiet.
John paused and silently cursed himself. He'd said more than he'd intended to say. He sidestepped his chief's question. "So, sir, the Commissioner didn't just send me. He believed that I might be able to persuade you to change your mind. I don't want you to resign," he added.
The blue eyes continued to stare at him, penetrating deeper and deeper. Suddenly, Dalgliesh rose, his glass in his hand. "You want to know why I've resigned? What did the Commissioner tell you?"
"He said that you felt you had nothing more to offer the Yard, that the job no longer satisfied you. Nor did you feel the same degree of dedication. I didn't believe him," John added.
Once again his boss appraised him. Then turning his back on John, he said, "I did say that."
"I didn't mean that the Commissioner made it up. I meant I didn't believe you," John said. Then he too rose and confronted Dalgliesh's back, "There is some other reason." He deliberately made it a statement.
After a moment his chief turned slowly to face him. "What makes you so sure?" he asked quietly.
John swallowed and decided he had little left to lose. If Dalgliesh was intent on resigning, what did it matter? "Sir, I believe I know you better than anyone at the Yard. Damn it, I probably know you better than anyone anywhere."
Once again the two men just stared at one another.
Then Dalgliesh finally turned away. "You're probably right, John. So you feel that I owe you an explanation, do you?" There was no hint of anger in the calm voice; instead the merest hint of curiosity was evident.
"Not owe, sir. No. But," for a second he paused. Then again throwing caution to the wind, he added, "I care. I want to know."
"Do you? Do you really?" Dalgliesh asked, his back still turned.
John moved across, touched him on the shoulder and said simply, quietly, "Yes."
For what seemed like an age, they stood in that position: Dalgliesh his hand on the mantelpiece, his head slightly bent. John's hand on his shoulder.
He wanted to scream.
Wanted to be five years old again.
Wanted to demand that Dalgliesh told him.
Wanted to break the tableau.
But Dalgliesh neither moved nor spoke.
Finally, he turned, put a hand on each of John's shoulders, and said, "Very well, John. I'll tell you." He broke off and crossed the room. "The reason I resigned is because of you."
"Me?" Of all the things his chief could have said, of all things that John had considered, this stunned him completely. It was as much as he could do to speak the single word.
"Yes." Adam stared at him for another moment. Then he shrugged. "You wanted the truth, John. Well, here it is. I've fallen in love with you. And I cannot stand being with you every day, being close to you, sharing the odd touch. I want more than that. I want to take you in my arms, hold you and kiss you, oh, and take you to bed. Are you sure you want me to go on?"
However, he didn't wait for John to answer, not that John actually had one, he simply continued. As he listened to the words, John wondered if he was asleep and dreaming. However, that wasn't possible because not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined Adam Dalgliesh saying the words he was saying. And as Adam talked about how he felt, John suddenly realised with a startling clarity that he was deliberately being as overt as he could be, because he was certain, indeed was trying to make certain, that he'd never see John again.
After a moment, the passion in the words calmed, and the man John was used to hearing began to speak again. "I want you as a lover, John, as well as a friend. I always thought the latter was enough; indeed for years it was. Then the day came when you touched my arm, and expressed sympathy over Aunt Jane's death. The touch was so natural, so normal, the gesture one that I suddenly realised none of our other colleagues, even those of my own rank or higher, had made. And it was then that I knew that having your friendship, working with you, wasn't enough. I considered asking the Commissioner to move you, preferably out of the Met, and I could have done that. It would have been difficult; you are very highly regarded. Nevertheless, in the end, the Commissioner would have agreed. However, that would have been unfair to you. You'll go far, John, Commandership at the very least. So this option was better, for everyone, and easier. I no longer need to work; Aunt Jane has made sure of that."
He finally finished speaking.
The silence in the room was deafening.
After a second or two, he turned and crossed to the telephone and picked it up.
The movement shook John from his stupor and he asked, "What are you doing?"
"Ringing for a taxi for you. You are well over the limit, and you certainly will not wish to spend the night here, not now. It can take you to your friends, as planned. I shall of course cover the cost for the journey, as well as for the one back in the morning to collect your car. You needn't worry, I'll make sure that I am not here." He began to dial.
Moving quickly, John crossed the room, took the receiver from his hand, and replaced it. "There are no friends," he said quietly.
For a moment the blue eyes widened. Then Dalgliesh simply picked the phone back up, and said, "There is an inn in the village. I'm sure they will be able to put you up for the night."
This time John stopped him by pushing his hand back down. "I don't want to go anywhere, Adam," he said firmly, deliberately using his chief's forename. "I want to stay here with you." He held the steady gaze for a moment, before moving away himself.
He took a moment or two to compose himself before he began to speak. He was aware that he was about to say the most important thing he had ever said. Silently he ordered himself not to mess it up. "All the way down here I tried to think of how I could get you to stay. I thought of appealing to your sense of duty. But really I had absolutely no idea how I could do it. Until now, that is. Now I know exactly how to make you stay."
"Yes. By telling you the truth. The truth I never dared to hope I would be able to tell you." John turned and looked directly at the other man; even though the distance between them was a reasonable one, he had to tilt his head back slightly in order to maintain eye contact.
"Adam Dalgliesh, I love you." He held up his hand, preventing his boss from speaking. "I've been in love with you for a long time now and like you, I didn't say. I couldn't say. I never intended to say anything. However, unlike you, I thought that at least being friends was better than nothing. I found myself thinking of you all the time. At home, at work, everywhere. I love you," he repeated.
He saw the look of stunned shock and surprise pass over the face he'd seen so often in his dreams. Then Adam said softly, "John, do you mean what you're saying?" He took a tentative step towards John.
"Yes," John said firmly, beginning to move forwards himself.
When he was close enough, Adam stretched out his hand and tentatively took John's, and for a moment neither man moved; they just stared at one another. Then Adam gently pulled John towards him and embraced him, pulling him nearer to him. The movement was hesitant, uncertain, as though anything else might have shattered the mood.
After a moment of just standing there, his head against Adam's shoulder, his own arms around Adam's, John moved back a little, reached up and pulled Adam's head down towards his own. The first kiss was brief, no more than lips brushing over lips. But never in his life had John known such electricity, such emotion, such desire, from a simple kiss.
"Adam?" he whispered, pulling back again.
It was with a moan that Adam tugged him back and again put his mouth to John's, this time crushing his lips with abandonment.
Finally, he broke away, let his fingers lightly caress John's cheek, before taking his hand and leading him towards the door and up the stairs.
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