Adrien couldn’t remember that vividly the last time he had felt truly content on his birthday and looking forward to what the rest of the day had to offer. Admittedly though even now his uncharacteristically good spirits had little to do with the practical prospect of getting older. Even a few of his colleagues had remarked that the man had been appearing more enthusiastic than normal, perhaps at times somewhat distracted and lost in thought, yet his usual matter-of-fact demeanour laced with certain attentiveness to the moods of those around him. The day had been filled up mostly with routine paperwork, sorting through criminal files and drafting reports based on pieces of evidence they had collected so far, though a particular case that seemed to be moving forward, slowly but surely, involving a possible contract killer on the loose piqued his interest. While he didn’t stay overtime as much lately as he used to, nor did he pursue the bad habit of taking work home with him anymore, nonetheless he knew that he would ponder over the case in his limited spare time as well.
After work, he made a quick drive back home to freshen up, then left the car in the parking lot of the apartment complex, aware that he might have something to drink later in the evening. The sun was nearing the horizon and painting the sky in golden and pink hues by the time Adrien walked the distance to the bar on foot. Pushing open the door, he scanned the room, brows furrowed in thought. His gaze soared right past the dimly lit faces of the various strangers scattered around the bar until it landed on the familiar profile of the one and only person he was looking for. Immediately, a light smile pulled the corners of his mouth upwards and his heartbeat picked up speed ever so slightly as he sauntered towards the counter and sat down on the stool closest to the bartender. Barely a glance was spared at the couple engaged in a deep discussion a bit further away from them, and his eyes focused on the young man in front of him, the expression tender.
“Hey,” he settled for a simple greeting, his voice quiet and soft. If not for the counter separating the two of them, he would have probably wrapped his arms around Rome in a tight embrace by then, any potential audience, the fact that Rome’s shift was still going on for a good twenty minutes and his own wariness towards public displays of affection be damned. They had really been apart only since that morning when both of them, unfortunately, had to leave for work, and besides that, they had seen a whole lot more of each other over the course of the last few weeks since moving in together. Yet the excited spark in his chest made Adrien wonder just when he had managed to become so sentimental. He placed his hands on the sleek surface of the counter and slightly leaned forward, his posture finally relaxed. Indeed, it was far too easy to feel at ease whenever he was in the same room as Romir, to put any doubts he had on the back burner. The crease between his eyebrows that seemed almost like a permanent, trademark feature of his now smoothened. “How’s it going? Having a busy day?” His eyes scanned his boyfriend’s face curiously.
Romir was in trouble. Not the literal, urgent, life-threatening kind like usual. He was in trouble because he had let himself feel. Not only had he let himself feel, he had let himself act on his feelings. Now, Rome was certainly no celibate priest - he'd been with many men, and he always thought he would continue to be with many men probably until he died. He flirted like there was no tomorrow and he enjoyed it, too. He didn't see the harm. No, the harm came when it became more than flirting or sex. The harm came when he found himself with an entire boyfriend, and when he found himself waking up with said boyfriend on said boyfriend's birthday, and actually being excited to celebrate with him. Of course, all of this would already be a problem regardless of who his boyfriend actually was. So, when the boyfriend was, in fact, a detective, then Romir was in a lot of trouble.
The longer they dated, the more stressed Rome got. But at the same time, God, he was happy. He liked Adrien, a lot. He liked what they had and he didn't feel the need to go to any other men, which was very new for him. But the longer the secrecy went on, the less likely that Romir could continue to lie and deceive his boyfriend. Although he didn't necessarily classify omission of the truth as lying. Adrien had never asked if Romir was hitman, so of course, Romir had never said he was. He'd been honest in saying that he worked at a bar, he'd been honest in saying that he'd never been convicted of any crimes - a question which came early on in their relationship. Rome was smart, a lot smarter than he seemed, but he could also be a complete idiot. He didn't want to end what he and Adrien had, so he just... didn't.
At work, he could distract himself with the process of making cocktails and serving customers; turning on the charm but not flirting, not anymore, because now it made him feel like he was doing something wrong. The day dragged on, and he tried very hard not to think of why it felt that way. When evening rolled around, he found himself constantly looking over at the entrance, and this, he could admit, was because he was waiting for Adrien. Anticipating his arrival. Romir would hate himself for it if the butterflies in his stomach weren't so persistent. He was wiping down the area where a couple had just left when his boyfriend came in, and Romir didn't even bother to hide his smile. He grinned as Adrien came over, and barely hesitated before leaning forward and kissing Adrien over the counter as soon as he'd finished with his greeting. "Hi," he mumbled as he pulled away, throwing the hand towel over his shoulder. "Is not bad. Busy earlier, happy hour rush, you know." He grabbed a glass from under the counter and wiped it down with his towel.
"I make birthday drink for birthday boy. Well, birthday old man," he teased, reaching out to squeeze Adrien's hand as if to soften the blow. "Tell me your day. Co-workers bring you cake? You catch birthday-criminal?" Romir pulled out some tequily, a jug of orange juice and some geradine syrup. He went through the entire cocktail-making process very quickly - it was practically second-nature to him by now. By the time he was finished, he'd made a drink for Adrien that had three layers of red, orange and yellow, with an orange slice balanced precariously on the rim. "Tequila sunrise," he announced as he slid the glass forward, looking proud of himself for pronouncing the name somewhat correctly. "You tell me if you like."
As Adrien felt the soft brush of Rome’s lips against his own, he wondered if he would ever get used to this, truly used to this. Then again, maybe the sensation in the pit of his stomach had more to do with his lingering awareness of the fact that they were in a public place, even more, at Rome’s workplace, so some sort of alertness was only natural. Once Romir pulled away, Adrien had to mentally stop himself from flickering his eyes around the bar in a habitual cursory glance just to be on the safe side.
The ‘old man’ comment made him chuckle lightly. ”Hey, no one’s getting any younger here,” he exclaimed good-naturedly and brushed his thumb against Rome’s palm. ”Besides, maturity usually only increases attractiveness in guys, no?” A sly twinkle sparkled in his eyes and his grin became a bit lopsided as he spoke.
In response to the inquiry about his day, he gave a small shrug. ”There was cake, yeah.” During the last several years he had worked in the police force, his coworkers had had the chance to learn that he’d prefer his birthday not to be acknowledged at all, yet there was nothing that brought a sense of normalcy to the office more effectively than dessert, so why not let the rest of the team have that? ”No birthday criminal-catching though, unfortunately. Had a pretty slow day, just a bunch of documents to go through. Maybe that’s supposed to be a birthday favour from above or something like that. I think we’ll get a lot busier in the next few days or so though.” Some of the previous seriousness returned to his eyes and his smile subsided a bit as his thoughts wandered back to the police headquarters. Unless further prompted, Adrien would gladly drop the subject of work for the time being lest he started reflecting too thoroughly and ruined the jovial mood.
Perhaps he was guilty of wanting to keep his professional life and Romir as far from each other as possible, though as they spent more time together and most of his usual caution dropped, he didn’t mind letting some information slip here and there, particularly when something that had occurred at work was bothering him. However, his reluctance to share the reasoning behind his newfound contentment with anyone else in his life remained unbudging nonetheless. This approach might have been unfair, whether to his boyfriend or the discreet nature of his job was hard to tell, and it was possible that he had let his guard down too early in their relationship. In all honesty, he revelled in the sense that, for a change, the relationship he was pursuing was, truly, just pleasant, loving and surprisingly normal for him. The effortless comfort he felt around Rome distracted him from the perturbing thought pushed to the more cynical part of his mind, now just slightly further out of reach than usual, that, maybe, once the novelty wore off, boredom with what they had might creep into the hearts of either of them. He watched with interest as Rome prepared the cocktail, unsure whether he was following the smooth movements of his hands or his features, quite a captivating sight as the younger man concentrated on the task at hand.
Carefully, as if not to disturb the layers of the drink or cause the citrus slice to fall off the rim with some clumsy gesture, he took the glass which was slid in his direction. ”Thank you,” he said with a grateful smile and took a slow sip of the cocktail. ”It’s quite sweet. And refreshing. I like it.” Maybe a tequila sunrise wasn’t exactly what he’d order at a bar alone, but it seemed fitting for the occasion and his company. ”I’ll have to make sure to leave a generous tip for the talented… and, I must say, very good-looking bartender.” He winked and looked around behind his back briefly. ”So, what do you have left to do here today?”
Romir certainly did not share Adrien’s concerns with public displays of affection. At all. He liked affection and he loved attention, so a mix of the two was pretty perfect for him. Of course, he always tried to respect Adrien and his wishes, but he was prone to a pretty big amount of PDA. He could read a room, and he knew when it was appropriate and when it wasn’t - most of the time, at least. And sure, maybe other patrons at the bar didn’t need to see the two of them kiss, especially the ones Rome had been trying to butter up for a tip, but there was no way that Rome was not going to let himself kiss his boyfriend on his boyfriend’s birthday, after having not seen him all day.
He grinned at Adrien’s teasing, relieved that he was relaxed enough to flirt with Rome even if they were at his workplace. Really, he worked at a bar, so it wasn’t like it was totally inappropriate. “Da, well, might just be you,” he agreed, and he did actually mean it. Then again, Rome thought he’d find Adrien attractive no matter what, which only showed that his feelings ran much deeper than pure physical attraction.
It was so conflicting, hearing about Adrien’s work. Rome wanted to hear about it, because this was his boyfriend, and he liked to hear about Adrien’s day. He wanted things to go well for him. He wanted Adrien to catch criminals, to feel like he was doing the right thing, to get along with his co-workers. But it was so hard to listen to Adrien, to want to support him, without being reminded of Rome’s own secret occupation. How could Rome say he hoped that Adrien caught whoever he was after, and then go off and commit a crime which Adrien might very well end up investigating? He’d caught on very early in their relationship that Adrien did not like to talk about work - Rome was nothing if not observant - and he definitely took advantage of that. If he didn’t ask for details, Adrien wouldn’t give them, and Rome wouldn’t have to know if he was after someone he knew or even after Rome himself. Rome knew it wasn’t sustainable, much like their relationship. It pained him so much to think that one day he wouldn’t have Adrien. He knew he’d probably have to end it some way or another, to keep himself safe and out of prison.
Despite the fact that they’d not been dating for too long, and certainly not living together long, Romir had grown so accustomed to Adrien just being there. To going to sleep and waking up with him. To visits at work and walks home. Talking in bed until four in the morning, sitting in silence in the living room because sometimes they didn’t need to say anything to be together. Rome loved to ask about Adrien’s work friends because he liked to know that he had them, because Rome wanted so desperately for Adrien to be happy. He wanted to make him happy. Rome was intense and he was full-on, and Adrien was so much quieter and level-headed, but Rome liked that about him. He felt calmer around Adrien and he hoped that Adrien had fun with him. Rome could never depend on anyone, he knew that, but God, he could so vividly see himself growing to depend on Adrien.
He smiled when Adrien confirmed that he did, in fact, like the drink, and reached over to the people on either side of Adrien to collect empty glasses while still listening to his boyfriend talk. He clicked his tongue as if disapproving of Adrien, but the smile on his face told a different story. “Sir, I am taken man,” he teased. He placed the glasses on the back counter where they would later be taken to be washed up, and glanced up to check the clock above him. “My shift pr...” He paused, the word ‘practically’ being a difficult one with his accent, and then shook his head. “My shift basically over. I’m just wait for next girl.” He knew she’d be at the bar shortly to take over, so he folded his elbows on the bar and leaned in close to Adrien, fingertips grazing the other man’s forearm. “What are plans for birthday night? We go out dinner, fancy restaurant, we go home, get take-away...” He grinned, and gestures to himself with the hand that wasn’t touching Adrien. “Your wish, my command.”
”Ah, must be one lucky guy you’ve got waiting home then,” he commented with what had to be a mock dejected sigh and lowered his head to continue sipping the orange-hued drink. He had to admit that the overall sweetness with a sour, fruity tang from the orange juice was growing on him.
He was tempted to offer an extremely impractical and clichéd response along the lines of ‘don’t care, I’ll go anywhere if we get to spend time together’. Still reoccurring was the constant battle between Adrien’s two sides: one that enjoyed staying at home with takeaway or some quick makeshift meal and the other one which craved for some of the more refined indulgences in life and was arguably satisfied less often. A dilemma that wasn’t alleviated much by having a partner, as both activities were equally diverting to engage in with his boyfriend, at least to Adrien. He knew Rome was likely to feel a bit differently. Practicality and a slightly more serious note resurfaced in his tone. ”What about that Italian place we talked about? The one that’s near here. It seemed fancy enough from the pictures, plus I don’t think they ask you to make reservations beforehand. And I’m pretty sure there isn’t some unofficial black-tie dress code either.” Just so they didn’t have to worry about making a detour back home and bringing out their most sophisticated outfits for the outing.
”Unless you’re feeling tired though? I mean, it’s probably been a long day, for both of us.” Although he could typically recognise when Rome seemed too worn-out after work and it didn’t seem to be the case now, it never hurt to check. ”You know I love spending time alone with you, just the two of us far away from prying eyes and all...” Once he got into the right mindset, the light-hearted flirtation which might have become just a bit too straightforward by then came naturally. However, there was little he allowed himself to do with his hands for added emphasis in the middle of the bar or ways in which to use their increased proximity as Romir leaned forward. Then another thought swiftly occurred to him, aimed at his own predictability. ”But we do that all the time already, don’t we?” So much for not being an old man.
At last, Adrien noticed a young woman with a determined gait and similar attire to that of his boyfriend heading in, he supposed, their direction. ”Hmm, is that? …” The question trailed off as his guess turned out to be correct and this was indeed the colleague whose arrival they had been expecting. Finishing up his drink, he waited until Rome had left the bartending duties to the girl and prepared to leave. ”All set?” Once the other man was beside him again, though without the counter separating them this time, as they headed for the door for a brief moment Adrien put his hand on the small of his boyfriend’s back. The smile in his face was unwavering as his eyes once again easily locked with Rome's for a second.
Romir had to admit, he thought the way Adrien stressed about little details was adorable. The way he thought about every single thing - whether somewhere was fancy enough, if they'd been before, if it was close enough, if they'd have to make a reservation, if there was a dress code. If Rome was tired or wanted to do something else, as if Rome didn't feel like spending time with Adrien was all he ever wanted to do for the rest of his life. He grinned at his boyfriend as he spoke, aware that he was probably unresponsive for way too long, but he couldn't help it. He felt sometimes like he'd struck gold. Romir himself was very not details-oriented. Not when it came to his daily life, anyway. He was disorganized, and often left a mess wherever he went. Except for work, both types, but he was prone to leaving clothes lying around his and Adrien's apartment.
He opened his mouth to assure Adrien that he was genuinely happy with whatever the other man wanted, but his eyes drifted over to the girl who'd come to take over his shift as she walked through the bar. He sent a quick wink to Adrien and moved to meet her as she moved behind the bar. He gave the girl a quick rundown on who he'd served, where the regulars were, any specials and everything that she needed to know for the night. He removed his small apron and went into the back storeroom to get changed, opting for jeans and a little button-up that he'd bought in case they ended up going out. He figured he'd put it on now, and if they ended up going home it didn't matter because he was likely to end up with it off anyway. He made sure he had everything before heading back out to meet Adrien, smiling at him and standing probably unnecessarily close, but he was just glad to not have the bar counter between them. "Yeah," he muttered, and lead the way for them to leave. At the feeling of Adrien's hand on his back, Romir turned to glance at his boyfriend, and smoothly reached behind him to grab Adrien's hand and interlock their fingers.
He pulled Adrien through the crowds and out of the bar, and a little ways down the street until they reached a private enough area. At which point, Romir promptly turned to Adrien, and wrapped his arms around Adrien's neck to pull him into a kiss that wasn't entirely public-appropriate. Still, he seemed very satisfied with himself as he pulled away with a grin, resting his forehead against his boyfriend's. "Adrien. Is your birthday. We do what you want. I only want be with you. Da?" He raised his eyebrows as if daring Adrien to disagree, but there was only affection and teasing in his gaze.
Adrien had been looking forward to a moment like this all day, which only intensified once they locked eyes back in the bar. Perhaps at some point in time, he wouldn’t even have considered taking the initiative to kiss Rome in some place of dubious privacy. However, as of late he had been feeling reckless enough, likely some of his boyfriend’s more lively spirit and boldness rubbing off on him, so he was almost certain that one way or another they would have ended up in an embrace in some half-way secluded street corner. As their lips met rapidly, there was no hesitation on Adrien’s side when he parted his lips and put his hands on Rome’s waist, in a gentle motion sliding his palms towards the other man’s spine, to pull him a bit closer.
A little hum resonated in his throat once the touch of the other man’s lips was gone. For a moment, it seemed as if the wind had been knocked out of his lungs. Being sometimes left a bit breathless apparently was on the list of things that didn’t seem to fade away as they continued dating, and so he took a sharper inhale. With their foreheads pressed together, he smiled and softly brushed his nose against Rome’s. Even though they were technically only making dinner plans for that evening which inevitably and wholly had to involve each other, being told that he only wanted to be with Adrien felt like it perhaps meant more than just that. His eyelids had lowered, but as he looked up he saw a gaze that mirrored his own. ”Well… I guess we can at least agree on the main points then.” Although he focused on the latter and hadn’t paid that much attention to the part related to ‘doing what he wants’, he figured the remark might come across as more playful and brazen than intended. On the other hand, if he thought about it more carefully, doing what he wants for the evening did sound tempting. One of the hands previously on his boyfriend’s back now reached up so he could cup his cheek and gently run a finger across his jaw.
As if with some urgency, he pressed his lips against Rome’s once more, savouring the brief moment of intimacy between them. ”So, fancy dinner? We haven’t done one of those in a while.” The decision came slower than he would care to admit – their close proximity truly was a distraction, one he adored, and he was glad to know that it wouldn’t, couldn’t backfire on him. In truth, he had to put some effort into directing his mind towards the restaurant, visualising an elaborate and probably overpriced meal accompanied by a glass of wine or champagne, rather than continuing this pursuit that had his heart thrumming in ways it never did when they were apart. ”And afterwards...“ Well, they didn’t quite need a concrete plan of action for whatever would follow; he wasn’t certain why he had said that. He supposed he was positively dazed.
Some commotion in the distance that nonetheless seemed to his ears closer than he would like it to be finally got his brain back into gear. The soft thud of approaching footsteps, several voices engaged in bubbling chatter, cars passing by, none of which Adrien appreciated too much. ”We should get going,” he spoke with determination, the usual thoughtfulness creasing his eyebrows again. Yet he lingered and his hand still lightly caressed Rome’s face. ”But I’d very much like to continue this conversation later. At home.” Definitely only once they would have returned to their apartment. He had done enough that evening – and probably still would until arriving home – so that extreme shock would be unwarranted if a colleague or someone else involved with the police force encountered him lovingly staring at or getting handsy with Romir out in public.
Rome laughed as Adrien brushed their noses together and assured him that they could agree on the key parts of what they wanted to do for the evening. Rome was a touchy person, but he'd never been particularly romantic. He liked touch when he was with someone intimately, sure, but he was a one-night-stand kind of guy. Until Adrien, that was. And now he found himself craving his boyfriend, almost all the time. Not even in a sexual way, even if that was certainly part of it. He liked to hold Adrien's hand. Touch his arm. Bump his shoulder. Just be around him. Rome tried not to think about what it meant too much, but he knew, deep down, he knew that Adrien had probably ruined Romir for other men. After their inevitable break up, Rome would have to remain by himself for the rest of his life.
Rome grinned into the second kiss, making it a little bit messy, but he didn't mind. "Fancy dinner sound perfect," he agreed in a whisper. He couldn't even be bothered to wonder if people were walking past them, looking at them. They weren't exactly in a private area, but then again, at this point all they were really doing was hugging. Romir hadn't moved his arms from around Adrien's shoulder, keeping them in close proximity to one another. "Afterwards," he repeated teasingly, in almost a sing-song voice, raising his eyebrows suggestively. Rome knew that he didn't need to say anything else for Adrien to know what he was, well, suggesting.
And even if Adrien was implying that they should move apart, Rome thought the way he became so serious and focused was hilarious. He leaned in for a quick, close-mouthed peck, and reached up to grab Adrien's hand from his face so that he could hold it. Detaching himself from his boyfriend, apart from their locked hands, he moved to stand beside him, leaning in close. He moved both of them forward, wrapping his free hand around Adrien‘s bicep as if he was keeping Romir upright. "To fancy restaurant," he announced, giving Adrien’s hand a gentle squeeze.
Adrien could have considered more carefully why the spark, as if electric, that he still felt with such clarity on his skin remained unwavering even as comforting familiarity settled between them and despite getting to see and touch his boyfriend every day. The exact reason had to be located in the same realm as that for why a grin slid onto his face so easily around Rome but would likely seem downright hilarious to practically every other person in his professional or personal life. Although he tried his best not to show the uneasiness he felt about the depth of his affection, which would perhaps be just as much a weakness, a vulnerability as the feelings themselves, Adrien didn’t mind having an external reason to let his caution return now. Once Rome took his hands off Adrien’s shoulders and they turned to go to the restaurant, he caught himself wanting to blurt out something more, guided by a strange impulse. Yet, he merely squeezed Rome’s hand and walked forward towards their new destination, casting one last look around.
All of the clues accumulated from the crime scenes were leading nowhere. Whoever was responsible for providing their forensic pathologists with these particular bodies to examine lately had done a thorough job, whether they were an undoubtedly lucky rookie accidentally sending investigators on a futile chase or, an option which seemed more plausible, a more experienced criminal. While there were no clear patterns marking the skin of victims that could help to prove without a reasonable doubt that it was the work of the same person without loads of additional evidence regarding each killing that they simply didn’t have, for the time being, they were operating with the hypothesis in mind that they were dealing with one killer. Each job was clean and precise, though not sterile enough to suggest that excessive cleanliness was a key characteristic of the killer caused by some neurosis. Furthermore, the inspections hadn’t revealed any signs of it being a delusional passion project, symbolism or a marking system – any distinction to separate the bodies from every other person who had, with bone-chilling precision, been murdered in cold blood before them.
The aspect that aroused the most curiosity was the fact that data on some of the identified victims was already accessible in police databases due to both minor offences and certain crimes which might be characterised as particularly heinous. While a concrete pattern in the murder methods used by the killer might be irrelevant if they weren’t dealing with a serial killer, if at least a pattern in the choice of the victims could be established and if the elusive killer on the hands of the police was indeed someone paid to exterminate people, the interest of the local police might extend beyond simply making sure to put the criminal behind the bars after trial until they rot away.
However, if at least most of the guesses they had made so far were correct, in all likelihood the police were running out of time before another body would surface. The time pressure was almost like a visible shadow looming over everyone working in the homicide unit, it seemed, particularly as the hopelessness of their efforts and the number of dead ends started to sink in. So, that evening Adrien drove home a few hours later than usual, through dark streets already illuminated by street lamps. Roughly aware of his boyfriend’s work schedule and therefore knowing that he wasn’t working that evening, Adrien reckoned that Rome was more likely to be home than not, though he obviously couldn’t blame him for any impromptu plans that involved wandering outside.
Nonetheless, when he got to the door to the apartment, he didn’t ring the bell but opted for a quieter entrance and simply unlocked the door himself. Once inside, immediately, he noticed that the lights were switched on, and before going any farther and searching for Rome he took off and hung up his coat and removed his shoes. Maybe it was some of his cop intuition coming into play, or simply just how used to him and acutely aware of him he had become, but he recognised Rome’s presence once the other man was approaching the entryway even before focusing a pair of weary eyes in his direction. Adrien ran a hand through his hair and immediately addressed Rome, giving a vague explanation as to why he was home untypically late and looking like he was ready either to drop himself on the bed for a good twelve hours or punch a wall in frustration – neither of which he could afford to do or would even consider as decently effective. ”Hi... Work was pretty hectic today, I lost track of time a bit there.”
Rome was running out of time. This, he knew. It was like a gut feeling; something awful that churned his insides. Something he couldn't really do anything about. He thought about this often when he stood out on the balcony of his and Adrien's apartment, lit cigarette dangling between his fingers. Sometimes he wondered if it was the nicotine that influenced his thoughts, but he didn't know anything about chemical substances, so he never considered it too hard. Recently, that feeling of finality had been getting stronger and stronger. Rome wasn't sure if it had anything to do with Adrien. He thought he'd probably be caught soon, or at the very least, he was starting to near the end of his rope; he wondered if he should sort of retire. The detectives looking for him, whoever they were, wouldn't stop just because Rome did, he knew that, but soon they'd run out of evidence and time. Realistically, he'd rather not go to prison if he could help it, but he'd always known it was a possibility.
He brought his cigarette between his lips and inhaled, elbows resting on the railing of the balcony. As he blew out smoke, he looked down at the city. He'd killed people in this city. Men. People who - as far as Rome was concerned - deserved it. He didn't have regrets. He'd do it all again and again and again because he knew, he knew he was doing the right thing. Maybe his moral compass was skewed, but the world was hardly black and white. Rome knew that firsthand. He imagined Adrien knew that as well. He often had to stop himself from asking if Adrien knew the detectives working on his case. He wouldn't phrase it like that, of course, he'd use something he'd heard from the news. He never ended up asking, never ended up saying anything. He wasn't sure he actually wanted to know how close Adrien might have been to the case.
He still had hits planned, of course. His time was running out, but not that quickly. He'd keep going until he couldn't keep going anymore. If asked what was more important to him, out of his living or Adrien, Rome wouldn't be sure how to answer. He'd been living like the two could be mutually exclusive; like two different lives. He knew it was a risky way to live. He knew it wouldn't be sustainable. He thought both his worlds would probably come crashing down at around the same time - it'd be fitting, really. Probably karma. Recently, he'd been trying to think of ways to end his relationship with Adrien without hurting the other man; or, at least, hurting him as little as possible. Maybe if Rome claimed to have cheated or done something equally as awful, Adrien would be too angry to feel any kind of loss. But Rome just couldn't bite the bullet, and the idea of Adrien hating him made him so physically ill that he refused to think about it for longer than a few minutes at a time.
He might not have noticed Adrien's arrival home, considering the balcony door was closed, but he was attuned to the slightest of sounds, the slightest shift in the air. He dropped what was left of his cigarette on the ground and squashed it with his shoe before making his way inside. He hadn't thought much of Adrien being late - he was a detective, so it made perfect sense for him to be stuck at work afterhours. Rome wandered into the living area, lingering for a moment in the entry way just to kind of gauge his mood. His heart squeezed at the sight of Adrien, so exhausted, so defeated. Rome wasted no time in making his way over and pulling Adrien into his arms. Rome was a little shorter, but that didn't mean he couldn't give his boyfriend a comforting hug. "Sorry, I'm smell like smoke," he muttered, realising too late, but not willing to pull away from the hug. "Everything is okay?"
With his thoughts still wandering elsewhere, Adrien didn’t quite detect the incoming hug until his boyfriend’s arms were wrapped around him in a way that fit just right, even despite his less than pleasant mood. In an instant, his chest filled up with a comforting warmth. At about the same time as Rome mentioned something about cigarette smoke, Adrien leaned forward until he could bury his face in the crook of his boyfriend’s neck and let his eyelids fall shut for a moment. ”It’s fine, I don’t mind,” he reassured by murmuring into Rome’s shoulder before standing up a bit straighter again. ”Yeah, I’m fine. It’s mostly just this one case that… well, there’s a lot of pressure not to screw up, let’s put it like that.” Any previous thoughts about going to shower and heading straight for the bed without as much as a substantial conversation disappeared as soon as Romir greeted him.
On another day, or perhaps when referring to an entirely different case, he likely wouldn’t have gone any further in his explanation, sticking closely to work confidentiality as well as the personal, both practical but also more selfish desire to keep the two most important things in his life separate from each other. It was probably decision fatigue after a long day or a general sense of despondence mixed up with the soothing presence of his boyfriend that came into play. Certain details about ongoing investigations he simply wasn’t allowed to share, though he supposed he was already far too cautious and his coworkers, especially if prompted, likely revealed to their partners, families and friends a fair share more than Adrien had told Rome during the course of their relationship.
Was one of the factors an insufficient trust in his boyfriend? After all, they hadn’t been together for that long. If so, it was as good of a time as any to change that a little bit, and so he continued to talk, trying not to speed through his words too quickly. ”Several killings in the area recently, assumed to be done by the same person, you’ll probably see most of it on the news at some point anyway if you haven’t seen some headlines already. We’re kind of biding our time until the press catches on but whether we get a bad public perception is not even the most important part obviously. And… yeah, I’d be lying if I said that we have a suspect tucked away in a holding cell right now.” At that point, their few former suspects had already been released after their uneventful twenty-four hours in custody ran out. With how little evidence the police detectives had at their disposal, they couldn’t completely rule out a gang or several unrelated criminals either, yet such technicalities were too exasperating to mention.
He figured there could be some irony to be found, so his frustrated words took on a slightly more bitter edge. ”You know, actually for a while, I did hope to have a case like this just materialise on my desk. Right now it seems like it could turn out to be the kind of thing that makes or breaks a career, but in that case, we better hope to find… well, anything of use really,” he sighed, perhaps sidetracking a bit and realising that sulking wasn’t going to help any more than simply getting on with it again tomorrow morning. ”But that’s a pretty grim topic, I don’t want to bore you with my moping and a long-winded rant about work. I haven’t even asked how you are doing.” When they were not holding each other as tightly anymore, he looked intently into Rome’s eyes.
Rome, even after hearing that Adrien was okay, kept him held tightly. He pulled back just a bit, keeping a tight grip on Adrien's biceps as his boyfriend spoke. Even if he was a criminal, Rome still felt a bit of a hatred toward whoever was making Adrien's job so hard that he'd get so stressed about the pressure to do well, to get the job done. Rome understood that pressure, of course he did, but that was a pressure that he put on himself. The idea of someone else stressing Adrien out, whether because they were the criminal he was chasing or because the department which Adrien worked for was putting that pressure on him, was one which made Rome feel weirdly... protective.
When Adrien started talking about the case, Rome was a little surprised, since they never really spoke much to each other in detail about the work. Rome never had much to say, and Adrien just... never talked about his cases. Rome didn't ask, either, because he didn't see the need to, and it wasn't the kind of thing that they liked to talk about. Of course, he listened intently, because he did genuinely care, but his heart beat faster at the mention of several killings in the area. Of course, that could be anything, anyone. Adrien was barely giving him any information; as he should, because it wasn't for someone like Rome, who Adrien thought to be an average citizen, to know. But Rome had this awful, awful gut feeling, especially when Adrien admitted that they didn't have a suspect. Of course they wouldn't have a suspect if it were Rome. He was meticulous and would leave absolutely no trace of himself behind.
Rome was almost surprised to be asked about his own day, having found himself almost invested in the information. "Oh, um. Yes, fine," he nodded, acting as if he was a little confused, a little curious. Rome was a bit of a master of masks; hiding his emotions, changing how they seemed. He hated to use it on Adrien, and he barely ever did, but he felt like it was necessary at this moment. "How... How you know they connected? The, um, killings." He attempted a sort of sheepish, almost uncomfortable tone - like he was disturbed by the idea of killings around them. If Adrien could tell him what connected all the victims, then Rome would know if he was being investigated by his boyfriend or not.
Although Adrien hadn’t been expecting for Rome to actually be interested in the case, he had to remind himself that it only made sense. After all, he could attest to the fact that murders, particularly ones not that far away from where they resided, were not a common occurrence and certainly not a topic that popped up for most couples when discussing how their day went. ”Well, technically we don’t know for sure whether everything is linked but…” Adrien realised that they were stepping into uncharted territory at that point, even if he didn’t intend to do anything more than paint a vague picture for Rome. The hesitance had little to do with the question itself or Rome being the one asking it, but some inner doubt. As if explaining the situation to an outsider in simpler terms might somehow diminish the sensitivity of the case he was dealing with, the fact that, even though this was much the same at work among other detectives, real people, real suffering and tragedies became mere objects in his story. Of course, he had to remain ambiguous, for simplicity’s sake and because he couldn’t reveal personal data or specific characteristics of the murder, the victims and the findings of the police.
”Very clean crime scenes, a single precise gunshot in the… same location on the body, details like that, as if it was all carefully planned ahead and impersonal, just doing a job quickly and leaving without a trace. Which it might very well be, a job. And the victims… they could've been picked for a reason, some of them have been involved in… quite serious, sensitive crimes themselves.” While he was choosing his words carefully, he supposed he could speak with more precision if there were some particular details that aroused Rome’s curiosity. ”There is probably not much to worry about for the general public though, it doesn’t seem like, let’s say, a serial killer who could target anyone at all or some specific demographic.” His voice sounded stilted and the chosen wording a bit too formal to his own ears, he might as well have been rehearsing for a press conference or some impromptu attack from journalists.
At that point, he partially let go of Rome and ran a hand through his hair again, a nervous habit which certainly was enhanced by tiredness and ruminating on the causes for said exhaustion. The expression in his eyes softened a bit as he let some of the apprehension drop from his tone. ”I’m sorry for talking to you as if you were a reporter or something. I guess I’m just not used to my work being a part of our conversations.” Maybe deep down he did think that speaking about the things, particularly the violence, he had witnessed in work, not to mention his personal feelings, would somehow taint their relationship, though the logic was probably flawed and emotion-driven or based on less than stellar experiences in his previous relationships where letting discussion of work seep into personal life had indeed become problematic. Still, he couldn't help but think that any comparison was pointless because this situation was different, Rome was different and there was ultimately very little for Adrien to worry about even if Rome wished to know more.
Rome regretted asking about the details of the killings almost immediately. Although it was a slight relief to hear that the police weren't one hundred percent certain of the connection between the murders, Rome knew that they likely had enough evidence to prove it if they were to find a suspect. He was also all too aware of the risk he was putting to their relationship by asking about the case, both because of any suspicions that Adrien might develop and because it was something that they'd never spoken about before. Rome figured that if he feigned curiosity, it would come across more as genuine care for what Adrien was doing in his life and less like he was trying to learn information that would serve his own interests.
Foolishly, he thought that the fact that the crime scenes Adrien had investigated were clean didn't necessarily mean they were the crime scenes which Rome had created. Of course, when Adrien described them as seemingly impersonal, his stomach sunk a little, and it sunk all the way at the confirmation that the victims had been involved in serious crimes. Rome found himself unable to look at Adrien's face any longer, swallowing as if fighting the urge to vomit. "That's is a relief," he muttered, as if there was any risk of him being murdered by the same serial killer who Adrien found himself going after.
At Adrien's apology, Rome's eyes flickered back to his boyfriend's face, and he quickly shook his head. "Is okay," he assured him, desperate now to change the topic. "I'm sorry I ask." He grabbed Adrien's hands and pulled him out into the living room, leading him to the couch. "We relax now, yes? You sit, I make drink, we watch movie." He moved his hands to Adrien's shoulders and gently pushed downwards, urging him to sit on the couch. Rome had mastered a fake smile by this point, and he sent one Adrien's way, despite the churning in his gut and the undisguisable abnormal speed of his heartbeat.
Adrien was about to ask whether Rome was truly fine when he figured that excess pestering would be futile and seem like deflection, which would be true. As if he himself wasn’t ready to drop the topic and focus on something, anything else instead of planning a pity party for himself or jumping through hoops trying not to tell too much. There was something just slightly off in the other man’s expression, in the unusual way that his eyes shifted. As soon as the sneaking suspicion – of what exactly, that he didn’t know – had entered his mind, he had to push it away with a mental sigh. Certainly, if by evening he was beginning to analyse his boyfriend as if in some feeble attempt at profiling him, he had done enough investigation for the day. ”That’s alright,” he assured. Still, Adrien was relieved to get away from the subject of his work that smoothly. He would probably think back to their conversation later, wondering whether he hadn’t let slip some details that technically shouldn’t have left the police headquarters at all.
”Yeah, let’s do that. I could probably use a drink. A movie too.” He let Rome guide him to the couch, and he couldn’t help the softness that sneaked its way into his heart once again, as mundane and tranquil as he was expecting the evening to be. When was the last time he lived together with someone and never got the craving to spend a night after a long day of work on his own nonetheless? Right, there was a reason why he hadn’t pursued a committed relationship – or anything extending beyond one or a few nights really – in a long time. Multiple reasons, in truth, but how he still felt satisfied with Rome’s presence despite his own downcast mood had to be the most obvious one at the moment.
Despite the smile flashed in his direction, some doubt nagged at the back of Adrien’s mind. Probably thanks to some innate attentiveness to Rome’s moods that he had acquired throughout their relationship. ”Are you sure there’s nothing bothering you?” Right before sitting down, he let the palm of his hand stroke the other man’s shoulder. Though the question was more of an afterthought. Complying with the gentle nudge downwards, he positioned himself on the couch and let some of the physical tension dissipate from his body. ”Something at work?” As good of a guess as any, though he had to remind himself that it was just Adrien who had been desensitised to such undoubtedly grim topics as the one they had just talked about.
Romir, for one ridiculous moment, considered telling Adrian everything. Considered telling him that he’d been lying, that, yes, there was something bothering him because he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep the charade up, not while also sustaining this relationship. But he couldn’t, because he was a coward and he was weak and he couldn’t risk losing Adrien, not yet. So he just smiled and placed his hands on Adrien’s shoulders, leaning down to kiss him gently. “I’m fine,” he assured him. “I’m just… hate to think you are suffer.” He looked Adrien in the eyes for a few more moments - a tactic he had learnt that made someone more likely to believe that he was telling the truth - and kissed him once more before standing up straight and heading back into the kitchen.
As he prepared Adrien’s drink, he wondered if the end of their relationship was fast approaching. Well, faster than he had originally thought, anyway. He had to admit, it upset him. As close as the end felt, Rome wasn’t sure how it would come around. Would he have to end things? Would he have to stage some kind of fight, or perhaps an affair? He threw the ingredients that he’d chosen for Adrien’s cocktail into a blender, letting the loud noise interrupt his thoughts. He’d think more deeply on it when he was alone, but for now, he’d savour whatever time he and Adrien had left together.
Rome found that he slept more consistently when he was with Adrien.
He was a light sleeper, always had been, and in his line of work, found it to be necessary. However, as his and Adrien’s relationship had developed and they’d begun the habit of sleeping over at each other’s places, and then moving in together so they were sleeping together all of the time, Rome found that he wasn’t as light of a sleeper.
He know slept through almost the whole night without waking, and he couldn’t work out if it was a good thing or not. On the night when Adrien came home frustrated about his case. Rome was startled awake by the ringing of a phone - he jolted, arm around Adrien’s waist and head on his chest, and sat up. In the first few moments of half-awake, half-asleep, he couldn’t figure out what the sound was.
And then it all seemed to dawn on him very quickly, and he ran a hand down Adrien’s arm to wake him. “Adrien. Your phone is ring,” he told him, voice rough from sleep.
The sheer speed with which any newly ignited doubt vanished from Adrien’s mind could have been considered almost impressive and with no more than a simple kiss. Once Rome pulled back, Adrien did scan his face, eyes in particular, for a trace of some indication that he might not have truly been fine one more time but there was none. Just his own nagging, baseless paranoia that had to be swiftly put on the back burner. Not that Adrien was in the right headspace to make rational judgments, not clouded by his own feelings or tiredness, related to the man in front of him, of all people. The second kiss definitely didn’t help him concentrate on contemplating or voicing the sneaking suspicion either.
Adrien wasn’t entirely sure what woke him up that night: the shifting of the familiar weight on his torso, Rome’s raspy voice and nudging touch, or the persistent noise blaring through the room. That he was a heavier sleeper than his boyfriend Adrien had figured out pretty early, and even in general sudden noises such as footsteps or creaking floorboards were unlikely to wake him up. The loud phone signal surely had to be an exception, but it was probably because of the events of the previous day having worn him out that he didn’t rise immediately.
There weren’t many people who would call him in the middle of the night, yet the fact remained that there were some calls it wouldn’t be wise to miss, and not even related to some family emergency. ”Oh, yeah, I’ll get it.” After being nudged he finally sat up in bed and with an almost automatic motion reached for the nightstand. He had almost forgotten what his phone ringing in such an ungodly hour was like. At least he didn’t need to wonder for long whether whoever was calling would be in for a treat or make him curse at himself for not putting his phone on the silent mode in the first place. The practice of having the ringtone on full volume he hadn’t yet abandoned now that he wasn’t living alone anymore. At least up until now, there hadn’t been the need, but he might have to figure out a way to remain reachable at all hours without waking up the man sleeping next to him.
The name that flashed on the bright screen with a blinding ferocity was one he recognised immediately, and there was no hesitation as he picked up the call. ”Morales speaking.” His voice sounded irritated and wary, borderline hostile even, and had a sleepy rasp to it despite the thought of sleep dissolving in his mind by the second. ”Do you know…””...what time is it? Yes,” the amiably jaded voice on the other end, that of his partner at work, finished the sentence for him and quickly filled him in with the developments of the last few hours.
Another body. All details pointing to a similarly precise and cold-blooded person behind the homicide, the location perhaps even closer to their own police station than that of any of the other victims. What almost made a muscle in his jaw twitch though was the amount of time that the body, for logical reasons assuming that the murder had occurred right there, had, as far as they could tell without the official post-mortem examination, been lying there. ”No more than a few hours? Fucking hell.” Adrien muttered under his breath softly and rubbed his eyes. ”You sure it’s our guy? Well, yeah, that’s not what I meant, of course, you’re not sure, not necessarily a guy- why is this what we’re arguing about?” While he was being told to just shut up and listen and firmly assured that the scene was already being investigated by the, admittedly, very few poor souls stuck on night shift, and, according to his partner, everything was under control for the time being, the cogwheels in his mind slowly but surely started to grind. There was no way that he could simply get back to bed after such news, not at that point in the case.
”Look, I know that you’re off-duty, you’ll get to take over in the morning, I’m just telling you all of this because I figured you might want to know right away-””I’m coming. Thank you for calling.” He interrupted his colleague and took the phone away from his ear to glance at the tiny numbers at the corner indicating the time. Barely past 2 am. So much for a rejuvenating good night’s sleep to make sense of the jumbled mess in both his mind and the evidence at their disposal. ”I’ll be there in…” Adrien paused to make a mental calculation but ultimately didn’t bother with the estimation and just sighed. ”I’ll get there. See you later.” There wasn’t a rush for him either way technically. The stubborn reality was that he simply couldn’t let his colleagues – not even the main detectives investigating this specific case, just whoever happened to be at work right then – and certainly not the culprit get ahead of him, even if it cost him a few hours of precious sleep. Especially if it cost him just a few hours of sleep.
But his involvement in the situation wasn’t urgent and he had some minutes to spare. Still holding the phone absentmindedly in his hand and tapping the back of the phone case, Adrien turned his head to Rome and touched the other man’s arm with his free palm. ”I’m sorry you woke up because of me.” Without any real effort, his voice now took on a much softer tone as he apologised and proceeded to explain. ”I have to get to work. We’ve got a new victim. Could be part of the same case I was telling you about earlier, well, most probably is, too early to tell for sure though”