followed the piper ();
Whitechapel | series: 37 stitches to keep the pain in;
(pre) Joseph Chandler/Emerson Kent;
Coda: 2.03: After Chandler’s apology, Kent finds himself confessing to being in the incident room that night.
Kent didn’t know what to think when the call came in. He’d been expecting one after finding out about McCormack’s betrayal and subsequent suicide. He just hadn’t expected for it to come from Miles, or that he’d be asking for Kent to meet everyone at Buchan’s place instead of back at the precinct.
It made sense once he got there, of course. They were on lockdown, as it were. Nowhere was safe and if they wanted to finish this investigation without anyone else getting hurt then they had to do it from the secrecy of Buchan’s house, and within the next three days if that secrecy was to be guaranteed.
He tried to ignore the way Chandler smiled at him when he first entered the room. How he kept flashing smiles at him even as Commander Anderson explained the situation, but it was hard. Chandler never smiled, at least not so openly, so hopefully, and he found himself smiling back despite himself, before ducking his head to hide it from everyone else.
It’s not as though he was holding a grudge, or anything, against his DI for suspending him. He’d had time, between the nightmares and the paranoia, to think over Chandler’s choice and he could admit that if he were in the position of power, he too would have found Kent’s denial of anything (else) happening to him a cause for concern.
He didn’t think he’d have believed Chandler capable of that kind of betrayal, though it was easy to rationalise that the pressure of knowing someone inside his team had betrayed them, coupled with the suspect circumstances surrounding Kent, had left Chandler with little choice but to act. The suspension, pending the investigation that would have cleared him, was the only thing he could have done.
“Out of everyone, I really wish it hadn’t been you.”
When Commander Anderson finished, Buchan stood and offered to make everyone some tea before they got started. His fellow DC’s started to push to their feel, moving around the room to collect files or take bathroom breaks. Chandler didn’t move, and neither did he. He kept his eyes downcast, watching the curl and flex of his fingers as he fisted them till his knuckles whitened. He could feel Chandler’s eyes on him, watching him, assessing him. Kent tried not to shift under the scrutiny. (Tried not to picture that wide-mouthed smile he’d thrown Kent’s way). He could all but hear Chandler thinking about what to say now that they were in a position to talk.
“Kent?” Chandler called after a long pause.
He looked up quickly, his gaze hesitant. He wondered if Chandler was going to apologise now, or pretend as though nothing had happened. He didn’t know which one he was hoping for, if he was honest with himself.
Chandler’s smile was softer now, sadder. He tilted his head towards a side room as he stood. “May I have a word?”
“Of course, sir.” Kent said, pushing up carefully. His heart began to thud.
Chandler gestured for him to proceed him and Kent went, stopping just inside the room. He watched guardedly as Chandler stepped in behind him and closed the door before moving to take a seat at the side table set up against one of the walls.
“Won’t you sit?” Chandler asked, ever polite.
“You’ll understand if I don’t.” Kent declined, looking at everything and anything that wasn’t his DI.
The silence lingered. He could feel Chandler watching him again as he awkwardly leant himself against the wall.
“I’m sorry,” Chandler said, unexpectedly. Kent looked up, eyes wide, but Chandler hurried on.
“I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did. You know the situation we were in and for a while there I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t trust Miles, I didn’t trust the commander, and… and I didn’t trust you.” He looked down at the glass he’d brought in with him, his fingers tapping nervously against the rim, and Kent found his eyes drawn there too.
“Kent,” Chandler called, drawing his attention back up. “I was wrong,” he said, sincerely. “I’m sorry.”
Kent looked away again, feeling suddenly and overwhelmingly guilty. He wasn’t entirely faultless, after all. He’d made his own mistakes over the course of this investigation, for fear and shame and the humiliation of having those he worked with see him so wretched and weak.
“I was there,” he blurted, shifting his weight. He wished he’d taken that seat now. “The night the incident room was burgled,” he pressed on, “I was there.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Chandler asked, his voice just an octave away from demanding.
“I couldn’t stop them,” he said, wanting to get this over and done with as quickly as possible. “I didn’t want you to know.”
The moment dragged on, till Kent began to worry that Chandler was reconsidering suspending him.
“Well,” Chandler began, his voice a sigh. “From now on leave your ego out of it. All that matters to me is the truth.”
Kent sucked in a breath. “My ego?” He demanded, unable to stop himself. “You think my ego is what stopped me from telling you what happened?”
“I didn’t mean-,” Chandler tried, his voice placating enough but Kent felt himself bristle under the implication that he thought too highly of himself, that this was why he’d refused to confess the truth and not because, because-
“There were six of them!” He bit out, defensive, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of the jacket he’d yet to remove- every layer worn was another layer of protection between him and the next knife as far as he was concerned.
“They started by just watching me through the glass. At first I thought I was imagining things. I’d look up and someone would be standing there. When I looked again they would be gone. Until suddenly they were all there, just standing there and watching me and then they were in the room and-,”
“Hey, hey,” Chandler stood quickly, responding to his distress. He reached out, gripping at his shoulders, offering what little comfort he could in the face of Kent’s story. “It’s okay, Kent. You’re okay.”
“No, I’m not.” He shook his head. “I can’t stop thinking about it. About all of it. One of them came up to me from behind. He had a knife on him and he… he told me what he’d do to me if I said anything and… and I was scared. They were police, sir. How was I supposed to fight against that? Tell me how?”
He looked up then, meeting Chandler’s gaze with a desperate sort of need for Chandler to see him and believe him.
“I… I didn’t know.” Chandler said, looking almost as upset as Kent felt.
“You didn’t ask,” Kent whispered, voice tight. “I’d have told you if you asked.”
Chandler’s fingers tightened against his arms, drawing him slowly closer and Kent, as always, followed where Chandler led without question. This time right into Chandler’s embrace; his arms encircling Kent in a hold so tight it should have felt restricting, but all Kent could think was that it felt safe. That it felt safe in a way he hadn’t been able to feel since that first night in the hospital.
He was powerless to stop himself from pressing closer, burying his head against Chandler’s neck, his own arms slipping around his DI’s waist to cling to him with the sort of desperation he’d usually be ashamed of. But what was there to feel shamed by now? He’d been living with nothing but shame and fear for weeks, he didn’t think he could feel any worse about things than he already did, and all he wanted- if only for a minute- was the chance to just stop. To stop thinking and remembering and worrying and just… just have this. This moment.
Chandler’s arms tightened impossibly further and Kent responded by strengthening his own grip.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know,” Chandler breathed, one hand lifting to stroke at the back of his neck, before adding: “I should have known.”
Kent tried to shake his head. He couldn’t have known. And Kent had never said. And no matter what he’d implied, he didn’t want Chandler to blame himself for this.
“It’s like you said, sir, you didn’t trust anyone.” His words were muttered against Chandler’s neck, his lips pressed so close he’d all but mouthed them against his skin. He felt Chandler swallow, and closed his eyes as he began to turn his head. He needn’t have feared being released however, as Chandler turned only enough to press his cheek to Kent’s forehead.
“But I should have trusted you.” Chandler breathed.
“And I should have trusted you.” Kent returned. “I’m sorry I didn’t.”
He felt the huff of breath Chandler let out at his words, an almost-laugh if there’d been anything about this situation worth laughing at.
“I think we both messed up on this one, Emerson.” He said, turning his face a little more to press his lips against Kent’s temple. Kent’s arms tightened a little further, a little more desperately, but Chandler didn’t move. He left his mouth pressed against his temple and didn’t let go.