Robbie sighed and rolled one sweaty shoulder under his suitcoat, discreetly trying to ease the knot in his back while James interviewed their last contact of the day. They were between cases, the lingering and sultry heat apparently making even would-be murderers take a holiday to get away from the steamy weather. Petty crime was on the rise though, and they were lending a hand to the effort to find the person suspected of assaulting a pair of young women who were sharing an affectionate moment while picnicking in the Botanic Garden.
Maddox had volunteered to pair up with another sergeant in order to cover more ground, correctly assuming that three people weren't needed to cover the list of people that remained.
"There's nothing you can add to our investigation, Mr Oram?" Robbie came back to himself at the sound of James' voice. Yes, he was very glad that this was their last interview of the day. He couldn't wait to get home and get his shoes off, his feet up on the coffee table, and a cold pint in his hand. Idly he pondered what variety of take away he and James would be ordering that evening. Indian again? It was too hot for Italian. Maybe Thai this time. No, wait, they'd had that just a few days ago. He'd heard good things about a Caribbean jerk shop that had opened over on Merton. Perhaps he could convince James to try some of his favourites from his time in the BVI.
Of course, he shouldn't assume that James would be making his way over to Robbie's latest flat after he put in his usual extra hour or two at work. Since Robbie's return from New Zealand without Laura, though, more often than not at the end of the work day, a knock at the door announced James' arrival and they would spend a companionable few hours together before James returned to his home for the night.
Robbie was always rather sad to see him go. He'd returned from his trip to the southern hemisphere to a more serene Hathaway. James had settled fully into his Inspector role and he and Maddox worked together flawlessly, but they both made room for Robbie when he consulted on their cases. Together, the three of them made a very formidable team indeed. It was quite nice, Robbie had decided long ago, that he and James were now on equal footing in terms of rank. James was more forthright and insistent when he felt they were heading in the wrong direction on a case, and Robbie felt he was able to compromise more gracefully with his former subordinate. They were true partners, and with Maddox as their unflagging and incredibly competent support, their solve rate was better than ever.
Robbie did miss having James with him all day every day at work, but having him come over to relax with dinner and some bad telly a few days a week helped soothe the ache of loss.
"I'm afraid not, Inspector," Oram replied. "I was nearby in another part of the garden when I heard shouting, and then screaming, but by the time I arrived to see if I could help, the situation was well in hand. I rendered what aid I could, but truthfully, aside from lending my handkerchief to help stem some bleeding, I really just stayed out of the way." Robbie studied the man who had answered their knock on the weathered farmhouse door. He was older, silvered hair and beard trim, neatly dressed, and relaxed in the face of James' questions. He moved with a languid sort of grace, slouching against the doorframe, hands using slow, nearly hypnotizing movements to emphasise whatever he was saying to James. Robbie wouldn't say he'd taken an instant dislike to the man, but there was just something about him that set a warning bell tinkling at the back of his mind.
As he watched Oram's eyes take a long, leisurely journey over James' body for the third time, he suddenly realized that the emotion making his guts churn was good old-fashioned jealousy.
Robbie couldn't blame the man. James looked particularly stunning in the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the orchard. His only concession to the heat had been to loosen his tie just a touch, and Robbie couldn't figure out how he wasn't sweating through his waistcoat. The summer-weight suit fabric clinging to James' legs made them look impossibly long, and the jacket clearly outlined the muscles in his back and arms. Maybe it had been the time away, but seeing James waiting for him at the airport upon his return from the antipodes, he'd been struck by how handsome his friend had become. No longer the gangly, slightly awkward young officer he'd first met, but a solid, confident, commanding man in the prime of his life.
It had been a bit unsettling, and Robbie had kept sneaking glances at James the whole trip home from London, trying to adjust to seeing his friend through this new lens. He'd been caught staring one too many times, apparently, as James had frowned at the road and said, "Do I have something on my face? I told Maddox we shouldn't have had the curry chips with lunch."
Robbie had grinned at James' scowl. "Nah, man. I just missed the unfortunate shape of your face is all."
James had grinned, a bright, happy, uncomplicated kind of grin, and continued filling him in on the latest from the station. Robbie had settled back against his seat with a sigh, struggling to come to terms with how appealing he suddenly found that face, and everything that went with it.
James was completely oblivious to his own appeal though, as he continued through a few final questions, apparently unaware of the blatant approval radiating from Mr Oram. "Is Ophi Oram your full name? Just for our records."
"Ah, no. My full first name is Ophiuchus," the man replied, laughing a bit at James' raised eyebrow. "Yes, you can see why I go by Ophi. I think my parents must have gone through a Greek phase around the time I was born."
"Understandable," James murmured. "I believe that's everything. Thank you for your time, and if you do recall anything else that could help us, please don't hesitate to contact me," James said, handing over one of his cards, and collecting Robbie with a glance. They both turned away, ready to head back down the orchard lane to where they'd parked the car.
"Oh! Detectives?" They turned back to see Oram holding out one of the baskets that had been neatly lined up on a bench by the door. "Won't you take some apples? We're absolutely swimming in them at this time of year, and my partner has been so busy we haven't had a chance to do much with them. I'd really rather see someone enjoy them before they go to waste."
James glanced at Robbie, who shrugged. "No different than accepting a cuppa, I think," he murmured. James nodded thoughtfully, and strode back to take the basket.
"The crop is absolutely stupendous this year," Oram enthused, and Robbie's eyes narrowed as the man's fingers lingered against James' as he handed the basket over. "I really don't think you'll be disappointed."
"I'm sure we'll enjoy them," James said politely, freeing the basket handle from the man's grip and turning to go. "Cheers."
Robbie nodded at Oram, who smiled broadly, showing some very pointed canine teeth before closing the door to the farmhouse with a rattle. "Wonder what that's about," he mused out loud as they strode through the dappled sunlight. He could hear birds calling to one another as they walked, a light breeze teasing the sweaty hair at his temples and rustling the leaves of the apple trees that lined the lane. The drone of bees in the background lent a soporific element to the heat of the day, dust raised by their feet settled lazily in the wake of their passing, and Robbie could feel the tension draining from his body as they cleared the trees and emerged into the full sun of the early evening. The orchard was spectacularly beautiful, but even with the heat he was glad to be back out in the light.
"Hmm?" James said, idly polishing one perfectly plump, beautifully round apple against the fabric of his waistcoat. He'd investigated the contents of the basket once they were safely out of view of the house and selected a brightly blushing specimen from the fruit nestled inside. "Oh, Oram? A bit odd, but this is Oxford." He swung the basket lightly as they approached the car. "Feel a little like Red Riding Hood, carrying this," he joked.
"My what big teeth you have," Robbie murmured.
"Me? Hardly," James snorted, grinning and showing off his own teeth before bringing the apple to his lips and taking a large bite. His eyes grew wide as he chewed. "He wasn't kidding. This is a really good apple. You should try this," he said, holding the apple out to Robbie, offering to share.
James stood facing Robbie, hair painted bright gold in the autumn sunlight, face alight with pleasure, and lips wet and shining with the juice of the apple. It was just too much to bear. Robbie took a deep, albeit shaky breath, and gave in to the feelings that had been steadily growing in his heart. He gently grasped the wrist holding the apple and moved it aside so he could step into James' personal space. James' eyes widened with surprise, lips parting on gasp.
"Don't mind if I do," Robbie whispered before leaning in and licking the juice off James' lower lip. He took the low moan from James as permission to continue, settling his mouth firmly against James', and kissed him the way he'd been thinking about for months.
The apple was sweet, and a little bit tart, but as far as Robbie was concerned nothing could be as delicious as taste of James' mouth. He couldn't get enough of it, tongue delving deeply and tangling with James' as their first kiss progressed rapidly into full on snogging. While the crisp crunch James had made biting into the apple had been appealing, the broken little noises James was making as they tasted each other were incendiary. The pleasure from eating a good piece of fruit had nothing on the way James was clutching at his waist, or how fucking good it felt when they stumbled backward, James pinning him against the car, cock rigid in his suit trousers and grinding against Robbie's matching hardness.
Robbie lost himself in the wonder of James, and only came back to himself when he felt at touch at his belt buckle. "Wait," he panted, pulling back from that luscious mouth reluctantly, tempted to dive back in as James made a noise of protest and tried to recapture his mouth. Determined fingers stroked the length of his zipper, and Robbie moaned loudly, helplessly drawn back into the kiss as clever hand undid his belt and the button on his trousers, and slithered into his waistband. Rather than head straight for his aching cock though, James surprised him by running a hand along his hip around to his back, trailing teasingly down his crack before firmly cupping and squeezing one of his arse cheeks.
Robbie felt his balls draw up and with a Herculean effort managed to tear his lips from James' and pull his hands up from where they'd been unbuttoning that sinfully snug waistcoat to push against his partner's chest. "Oh god, you have to stop."
James stilled, forehead leaning against Robbie's, eyes dark and his voice a low rumble as he asked, "Why?"
Robbie shuddered hard, hands clenching in James' shirt. He ground out, "Because I'm far too old to come in me pants, and we'll get arrested if I bend you over the bonnet the way I'd really like to right now."
James trembled, and he kissed his way across Robbie's jaw to nip at his earlobe. "What makes you think you'll be the one topping?" He punctuated his question by firmly kneading Robbie's arse cheek in his palm, fingers once again wandering towards the centre of his cleft.
Honestly, Robbie had never considered being on the receiving end of things, as it were, but he felt his cock throb and his knees turn to water at the idea of being split open and pounded into the mattress, relentlessly possessed, taken and claimed by this beautiful, complicated, wonderful man. "Yes," he breathed, tilting his head back and shivering as James' teeth grazed against the pulse point in his neck.
Robbie thought in any other circumstance he'd be embarrassed by the whine he let out when James gently pulled his hand out from the back of his trousers, but he knew it was for the best. They leaned against each other, shaking with desire, but slowly backing away from the point of no return. Eventually, James stepped back even further, and brought a hand up to run it through his hair.
A hand that, inexplicably, was still holding the apple. It was a little worse for wear, having been clenched in James' fist, but still intact. James looked at it, looked at Robbie, and the two of them burst into slightly hysterical laughter. One more brief peck on the lips, a promise for later, and Robbie pushed off the car to walk around to passenger side. "Your place or mine?" he asked James.
"Oh, mine for sure," James replied a bit absently, still staring at the apple. He shook his head briefly, then chucked it into the nearby field with a negligent flick of his wrist. "Thicker walls, and both of my neighbours are away on holiday," he said as he brought fingers wet with juice to his lips, holding Robbie's eyes as he slowly licked them clean before sucking them into his mouth all the way up to where his fingers met his palm.
Robbie bit his lip at the implied promise that things were going to get loud, and had to reach down and tug sharply at his balls to stave off the orgasm that was still threatening, watching James' display. The thought of that hot, wet mouth, and those soft lips stretched wide around his cock as James hummed in delight at the taste of him made it difficult to move, but he forced himself to open the car door instead of marching right back around to James to pick up where they left off. He got in and buckled up, hoping the physical restraint would remind him that getting arrested for sex in public by one of their co-workers was not in their best interest. No matter how good it would feel right now, he really did not want to be interrupted again.
He looked over at the driver's side to see why James hadn't moved, only to get a view through the window of James adjusting himself in his trousers. Robbie's fingernails left bloody crescents in his palms, and the sound of the car door opening mostly covered his pained groan.
Silence reigned as James started the car and headed home. The air was thick with anticipation, the silence growing longer and more charged the closer they got to James' flat with it's very big bed and very thick walls. Robbie was concentrating so hard on not jumping his partner, to hell with their jobs or reputations, that he jerked hard, startled, when James suddenly spoke.
"Ophiuchus. His name was Ophiuchus." James shook his head. "Fitting."
"How?" Robbie queried, honestly confused.
"Ophiuchus is the Greek name for a constellation around the celestial equator. He's holding the Serpens, or the snake," James explained.
"I don't follow," Robbie said.
"The snake, the apple… like Adam and Eve," James mused.
Robbie snorted. "More like Adam and Steve, canny lad," he said affectionately as James pulled into his parking spot and turned off the motor. He got out of the car, but hesitated before closing the door. "Still think it's a sin?" he asked, gesturing between the two of them.
James rested his hands on the car and briefly closed his eyes. Robbie was glad he was taking a moment to really consider the question, and while his libido protested at the delay and the potential of being cock blocked by theology, he knew he needed to hear the answer before they moved forward.
With profound relief, he saw that James' eyes were clear, and bright, and nothing but honest when he opened them again and met Robbie's own. "No. I don't. This feeling, what we have between us? It's beautiful, and glorious, and a gift from God." James pushed off the car and held out a hand to Robbie.
Robbie closed his door and moved to take James' hand. Together they walked towards James' door, fingers tangling and the tension that had been simmering rising towards the boiling point once more. "Well then. Let's get biblical."
The sound of James' delighted laughter lingered in the air long after the door had firmly shut behind them.