Put Out the Light

By C. J. Jefferson


"There it is," Malcolm Leight proclaims with a dispassionate shrug.

In that moment, Peter Grayson knows the ritual has begun. He doesn't wait for the nod Leight throws his way to head toward the door and grab their coats. He doesn't acknowledge the Captain, the Lieutenant, or the suspect whose wrists now reside in shiny silver handcuffs. He can't do anything but follow all of the preparatory steps and pray it's enough. He helps Leight into his black trench coat before putting on his own decidedly less eccentric pea coat. As they walk out the door of the house and into the cool, Leight slings an arm around his waist. There's a bright yellow taxi waiting—of course Leight knew, once he solved the case, that the wrap-up and arrest would be speedily executed—and they slide in. From the way Leight's thigh presses against his, Peter knows he hasn't screwed up yet.

The lights of the city blur together, swirling, whirling, twirling in a brilliant blaze of red, green, blue, and white. Peter's heart hammers in his chest, his lungs stutter, his blood burns through his veins, his breaths are ragged. He's hot all over, the city's raging all around him, but he doesn't care. The broken traffic lights, boarded-up family businesses, and whistling whores don't matter in the least. The sum of his anticipation and tension is directed toward the places where Leight is touching him. Leight's thigh against his; Leight's arm around the small of his back. There are too many layers of clothing between them.

The taxi slams to a halt before Peter realizes that they have arrived. He sits still for a moment, trying to regain his composure. The struggle is futile, the battle long lost. Leight pinches his bicep, and he pulls out his wallet to pay the driver. He fumbles through the wrinkled bills, grabs a few, hands them over without counting or thinking or caring in the slightest. He lets Leight pull him out of the cab and drag him through the door of their apartment building. He stumbles up the steps, barely able to keep his balance but for the knowledge that the ritual can't continue if he falls down the stairs and requires medical attention. He doesn't know why his coordination has vanished—he isn't drunk on anything but desire—but he doesn't let it bother him. This has happened before, and he has learned not to question unusual or dizzying occurrences where Malcolm Leight is concerned.

They've reached the door. Peter struggles to extract the key from his pocket and then tries to get it into the lock. His fingers are impossibly fat, shaking, and resistant to his simple mental commands. Then he feels the warmth of Leight's larger hand over his, steadying it; the key goes in, twist, click, and the door falls open. They fall in, and the ritual begins in earnest.

Their mouths collide. Peter's lips part instantly, allowing Leight full access. He doesn't fight for dominance, doesn't want to. He conceded—willingly—long ago. He relishes the cacophony of sensations: Leight's arms around him, Leight's tongue claiming his, Leight's teeth snagging and biting, Leight's breath everywhere, an infusion of bitter espresso, spearmint mouthwash, and something rich and thick that may or may not be opium. Peter believes he could stay like this forever, submitting to Leight's brutal, fierce, bloody wonderful kiss. And then he registers a new sensation: Leight's cock hardening against his leg.

There are too many layers of clothing between them.

But it's Leight, of course, who moves the proceedings forward, clawing at Peter's coat, his sweater, belt, pants, briefs, and one by one they fall to the ground. He stands back and waits for Leight to undress himself (as he always does). He kicks off his shoes and socks, eyes never once leaving Leight, never giving a thought to the landmine they've set off in the apartment. As soon as Leight has freed himself of his left sock, they slam together again, flesh on flesh, and Peter moans. It's been far too long.

Somehow, they arrive at Leight's bed, having managed to only knock over one lamp and two stacks of books on their way. Peter sinks onto the lumpy mattress, and his skin scratches against the ratty wool bedspread, but he doesn't care. Leight is straddling him, and that's all that matters; Leight is the sun, luminous in this dingy, war-torn rat hole of an apartment. Peter is irradiated, full of such warmth that he's burning, writhing, totally out of control. Someday, he'll probably develop cancer from too much exposure to Leight. It's a risk he's more than willing to take.

Leight is everywhere at once, his hands, his mouth seem to cover all of Peter's body simultaneously. Everything seems to happen all at once: Leight scratching down his back, Leight sucking and biting where his neck meets his shoulder, Leight teasing and twisting and torturing his nipples. And then the shock of Leight's cock grinding against his. Peter can't be held responsible for the wanton sounds he's making; this is ecstasy. And once again, he'd be happy to let this go on forever, if it wasn't for the way Leight's hand suddenly discovers his ass.

A finger slips into him easily, then another, and another. It burns, of course, because it's been far too long (and Leight has never been one for excessive preparation). Peter doesn't care, of course, for the same reason. It's been far too long, and the sensations bring pleasure so bright, white hot that the sting is inconsequential. He's making a whole new set of incoherent noises now. He can't think, can't see, can't breathe; everything is Leight, white hot, so bright. He doesn't realize that he's saying something until he hears, "Please," in something that vaguely resembles his own breathless voice.

"Please what?" and he can hear the smirk in Leight's voice. He sounds deeper, rougher than usual, but not anywhere near as lost as Peter sounds.

Peter gasps as Leight's fingers brush his prostate and his cock throbs. "Please fuck me," he begs.

Leight laughs, striking a low, rumbling resonance. But he doesn't object. He rearranges them, hooks Peter's ankles over his shoulders. He slams in and, without waiting for Peter to adjust, he begins the fucking. He sets a brutal pace.

It burns, of course, but Peter doesn't object. It's been far too long, and god, he's missed this. The sting is inconsequential because Leight has angled so that he hits Peter's prostate with each thrust. He's blinded by the bright white pleasure, by the rhythmic pulsing. It's this, he tells himself, (this and not the kissing or the grinding) that he wants to go on forever. But he knows, from the impossible hardness in his cock, from the tremors coursing through him, that this ecstasy can't last much longer. It's been far too long, and he's suffocating in Leight's omnipresence. He can't breathe, can't see, can't think; he can't feel. He knows Leight's cock is in his ass, knows Leight's hand is around his cock, but the sensations are too strong. He's short-circuiting, drowning, suffocating—and then he's coming, explosively, barely aware of Leight's orgasm, which begins immediately after his.

They slump together, tangled, atop the scratchy wool blanket.

This is their ritual. Peter and Leight are roommates, friends, but not lovers. They live together, but they sleep in separate beds. They work together, but they perform separate jobs. This only changes on the nights Leight solves a case. On those nights, Leight fucks Peter. There is nothing gentle about their coupling; there is nothing loving about their affair. There is nothing sacred about the ritual, though Peter wishes there was.


That night Peter dreams they have a new case. The Captain has sent them to an apartment in the city's historic district. It's a nice place, with a view of a refreshingly green park. The three rooms look as if they've been cut out of an upper-class home and gardens magazine. Everything is picturesque, from the way the light cuts in through the living room skylight to the glazed lobster sitting on the granite counter. Everything except the body lying on the floor in the bedroom, bathed in the mid-morning light. The Captain and the Lieutenant stand off to the side, letting Peter and Leight do their jobs in peace. They approach the body. It rests on its side, one arm stretched above its head, the other resting on the hilt of the steak knife buried in its abdomen. A puddle of crimson blood surrounds it. It looks small, fragile—like a limp doll.

Leight stands over the body, staring steadily at it. His hands are clasped behind his back. He stands tall, his black trench coat hanging loosely off his frame. His blonde hair is tousled, but his blue-gray eyes are hard, diamond-like, as he examines the scene. He looks imposing like this, unstoppable. But then he laughs, coldly and utterly without humor. "This has to be a joke," he announces. "This is too easy."

Peter puts on a pair of rubber gloves, crouches down, and, carefully, pushes the body onto its back. Only then does he see it fully; his breath catches in his throat. It is thin, of medium height and medium build. Its skin is pale, ghost-like; clearly it didn't spend enough time outdoors. It wears an olive green cashmere sweater and black rectangular glasses in front of glassy green eyes. Its hair is short and curled tightly against the scalp. The expression on the narrow face is—something that Peter has never before scene in the mirror. Peter has never seen himself so at peace as in death.


The next morning, Peter awakes to the shrill ring of the telephone. The lights are off and the curtains are closed; the room is almost pitch-black although the neon clock reads 8:30. He staggers out of bed (where Leight is still snoring). He stumbles over three stacks of files, two piles of clothing, and one end table in pursuit of the phone. By some miracle, he finds it on the last ring. He picks up, not entirely surprised to hear the Captain's tenor. He listens silently. His eyes have begun to adjust to the darkness, and he notes with distaste the apartment is more of a mess than usual. He blames himself; he should be more conscientious and stop expecting Leight to change. The pale green walls glow in the dim light. He's on edge, especially when the Captain gives him the address of the crime scene. He hangs up and opens the curtains, knowing that's enough to wake Leight.

They don't speak to each other as they shower (separately) and dress.

In no time at all, they're in a taxi, headed straight for the historic district. It stops in front of a posh apartment building located across the street from one of the city's largest parks. The bellman nods at them without questioning their presence. They take the lift up to the penthouse on the eighth floor. The Captain and the Lieutenant usher them in, and Peter momentarily forgets to breathe.

The three rooms look as if they've been cut out of an upper-class home and gardens magazine. Everything is picturesque, from the way the light cuts in through the living room skylight to the glazed lobster sitting on the granite counter. Everything except the body lying on the floor in the bedroom, bathed in the mid-morning light. The Captain and the Lieutenant stand off to the side, letting Peter and Leight do their jobs in peace. They approach the body. It rests on its side, one arm stretched above its head, the other resting on the hilt of the steak knife buried in its abdomen. A puddle of crimson blood surrounds it. It looks small, fragile—like a limp doll.

Leight stands over the body, staring steadily at it. His hands are clasped behind his back. He stands tall, his black trench coat hanging loosely off his frame. His blonde hair is tousled, but his blue-gray eyes are hard, diamond-like, as he examines the scene. He looks imposing like this, unstoppable. But then he laughs, coldly and utterly without humor. "This has to be a joke," he announces. "This is too easy."

Peter puts on a pair of rubber gloves, crouches down, and, carefully, pushes the body onto its back. Only then does he realize this is not his dream; his breath catches in his throat. He is not the copse. It is a woman. She is approximately the same height as Peter, but at least twenty pounds lighter and fifteen years older. She wears a floral purple dress with matching violet high heels. Her red hair falls to her shoulders in loose curls. Her eyes are shut; she is at peace. Peter struggles to compose himself. Eventually, he says, "She's been dead twelve to fourteen hours." He turns to the Captain, waiting for the story.

"Her name is Lynnette Wilson, age 37, nutritionist," the Captain obliges. "Her husband Dennis Wilson says he found her this morning."

"You don't believe him," Leight observes with an expressionless nod.

The Lieutenant adds, "He didn't call it in until this morning."

"Surely he had an explanation?" Peter asks. "An alibi?"

"Says he didn't come home last night," the Captain clarifies.

"You don't believe him," Leight repeats. The corner of his mouth quirks in a small smile.

Peter sighs, well aware that Leight has probably already solved the case. "Where does he say he was?"

The Captain smirks straight at Leight, and Leight smirks back. He says, "Says he fell asleep at his office. The security feeds suggest otherwise. Want to check it out?"

"Of course!" Leight slaps his hands together in excitement that may or may not be feigned. He has already turned away from the body when he calls, "Bag the lobster, will you, Peter?"

Peter, still crouching by the body, has only just removed his rubber gloves. "Why?"

"Because I'm hungry, of course."

Peter sincerely hopes that Leight is joking—he doesn't want to be the one cleaning up the mess if Leight develops food poisoning—but he complies all the same. He goes to the kitchen, searches for a Ziploc bag, and seals the lobster in. As he's staring at it, cooked and glazed and would-have-been-ready-to-eat twelve to fourteen hours ago, he's struck by a thought. Lynnette Wilson cooked dinner, and no one ate it. He turns to the Captain and asks, "Where exactly is Mr. Wilson now?"

The Captain gestures to the glass doors facing the park. "Said he needed some fresh air."

Peter is drawn to the window, a moth to flame. Through the cobwebs of leaves, he sees a bench, on which a man is seated. Prominently placed on the man's skull is a black bowler cap. The man's hands are clasped loosely in his lap, and Peter can only assume that he is simply sitting and staring and thinking opaque thoughts.


Peter whirls around. Leight is standing by the door.

"We're leaving," Leight states. "Don't forget the lobster."

Peter returns to the granite counter and grabs the Ziploc bag in which the bacteria-ridden carcass is housed.

As they stand in the descending lift, Peter asks, "Are you going to talk to Mr. Wilson?"

"Mr. Wilson?"

"The victim's husband." Peter does not know how Leight manages to be brilliant and obtuse simultaneously; the paradox is painful, exasperating and borders on irreconcilable.

Leight's expression sours. "God, no."

"Mal." Peter sighs. It's so rare he says Leight's name, and when he does, it's always followed by a sigh. "The Captain thinks he did it. Shouldn't we at least talk to the primary suspect?"

"No," Leight shakes his head. They walk out of the lift, out of the dull building, and into the brilliant spring morning. "He isn't clever."

"Do you mean the Captain or the husband?"

Leight smirks, "Both," as he slides into the first taxi in the queue.

Peter slides in beside him, keenly aware of the fat cushion of air between them. "What's that supposed to mean?" He sincerely hopes Leight solves this case soon.

"333 South Street," Leight instructs the driver before shifting his attention back to Peter. "If the Captain was clever, he wouldn't need to call me. If the husband was clever, he would have told a better lie. Now, the person who did kill Lynnette Wilson was clever—very clever. Not cleverer than me, of course, but clever compared to the average above-average bloke."

"You're saying it wasn't the husband?" Peter hugs the lobster close to his chest. It squishes unpleasantly.

"Of course it wasn't." He frowns. "Please don't tell me you honestly thought it was the husband."

"It's difficult to know what to think, Mal." Yet again, he sighs. "We spent less than ten minutes at the scene. We didn't even talk to Mr. Wilson. You can't—"

Cool and confident, Leight interjects, "I can."

Peter knows, intellectually, that he should be put off by Leight's arrogance. He should find him insufferable, as does the rest of humanity. He should no longer be hopelessly impressed by Leight's uncanny insight into the criminal mind. He should hate the way Leight treats him—dismisses him, belittles him. God knows he's tried, but Peter can't bring himself to hate anything about Leight.


The building marked "333" on South Street is not Mr. Wilson's place of work. It can't be, Peter reasons, because directly above the street number, there is a neon pink sign that reads, "The Pleasure Factory." It's as he stares obliquely at this sign that he realizes that the Captain never gave them the name or address of the office where Mr. Wilson supposedly slept; it's then he remembers that Leight indirectly called that story a lie. He stares at the sign, thinking he's not terribly surprised, but incredibly naïve for thinking Leight wouldn't pull some sort of stunt. He is standing outside of a strip club in the city's riverside red light district, holding a bag full of lobster, wondering if is possible to feel more ridiculous than he already does. He's sighing even before he says, "Mal. Why are we here?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Leight's question is purely rhetorical because to Leight these connections are instinctual, simpler than breathing or eating or sleeping (but maybe not fucking). "This is where the husband was last night."

"And how do you figure that?"

"Didn't you see his coat hanging on the door to the closet?"

Of course Peter had not paid any attention to the coat hanging on the door to the closet.

Leight doesn't mind; he appreciates every opportunity to flaunt his skills. "There was a lipstick stain on the lapel. Lynnette Wilson wasn't wearing lipstick."

"All right," Peter plays along. "Are we going to go to every strip club until we strike gold? How do we know he went to a strip club? Couldn't he have been sleeping with his secretary or something?"

"You didn't smell anything unusual?"

Once more, Peter gives him the stink eye.

"Oh, Peter," Leight claps a hand on his shoulder, "you have so much to learn."

They open the door of the establishment only to be greeted by a dense cloud of smoke. Suddenly, Peter understands. This is not normal tobacco. This is not marijuana. This is the mysterious aroma he breathes when Leight kisses him. This may or may not be opium, but it is most definitely illegal. He understands all too well, and his stomach churns.

"Only one left in the city," Leight is saying.

Peter's insides are all mixed up. His stomach and his heart and his lungs don't seem to remember what they're supposed to be doing. He coughs, hugs the lobster bag a little closer, suppresses the instinct to turn and run.

There's a man standing just beyond the threshold. It's difficult to make out the details of his features, but Peter gets the gist of it. He's short, wide, and thoroughly mustached. There's a thin gold chain draped around his neck. His suit is cheap and the shade of green that can pass for black in just the right light. He smiles (hideously) and says, "Mr. Malcolm! We weren't expecting you again so soon! But it's no trouble, of course. If you're willing to wait half an hour, Saffron will be available. But if you'd rather not, I'm sure we can find someone else satisfactory—and someone for your friend, of course."

"No need, Larry," Leight replies with a smile of his own. "I'm here on business today, not for pleasure."

The man—Larry—looks confused. "But here pleasure is business, Mr. Malcolm!"

"Let's start there. Today, it's Leight, Mr. Malcolm Leight, private consultant to the police, homicide division." He ignores Larry's horrified expression and pushes into the interior of the building. The smoke only gets thicker as it cloaks tacky bright-colored furnishings. There's a bar and a stage, but nothing is happening at this (ungodly) hour. Leight leads them to a crescent-shaped booth in the back corner, slides in. He waits a moment, then continues to address Larry while pointing to Peter. "This is Dr. Peter Grayson, my—" Leight breaks off, and Peter hopes beyond hope that he isn't about to say— "assistant."

Peter tries to hide his disappointment. He should be used to this by now. He should know not to expect anything from Leight. He should realize that he didn't spend decades of his life training to be a doctor to end up as a lovesick fanboy—but that's what he is.

"I don't understand what business the police could possibly have with my humble establishment." Larry's laugh is nervous, tinny; it echoes through the empty room.

"Don't worry, Larry, they're not after you. You're just the prime suspect's alibi."

Larry doesn't seem reassured.

"You have a regular client named Will Dennison, I believe."

Peter frowns. That isn't the husband's name, and he's about to object but doesn't get the chance.

"Fellow with the funny cap?"

An image of the bowler cap on the head of the man on the bench flashes in his mind.

"That would be him," Leight confirms.

Larry blanches. "I don't know him."

Leight raises an eyebrow.

"Client confidentiality, you know? I would never tell anyone about your habits, Mr. Malcolm, and you can't expect—"

"If Mr. Dennison goes to prison for murder, you'll lose his business, Larry."

A bead of sweat appears on Larry's abnormally small forehead. The effort he exerts in simple concentration is painfully obvious. "Fine," he concedes. "He's a customer."


"Once or twice a week, but never the same days."

"He was in last night?"

"From opening to closing, in one of the rooms upstairs."

"With whom?"


"She can confirm this?"

"Off the record, yes."

"Good enough," Leight shrugs before turning to Peter, smug. "Satisfied?"

Peter is not satisfied. He is nauseous and wants nothing more than to vomit. No, that isn't right. There is something he wants more, but he knows full well that Leight isn't about to undergo the major personality shift necessary for him to explain this away and whisper sweet nothings. He knows full well that Leight will never tell him that he loves him. Peter swallows the bile so thick in his throat. "We have to confirm time of death. My initial estimate still leaves a small window before opening. It's possible he left work, went home, stabbed her, and then came here."

"And that," Leight grinned, "is why we have the lobster."

That signals the end of the conversation. Leight is already getting up, and Peter can't do anything but follow him through the maze of tables and chairs. Just as they're about to leave, Leight turns back to face Larry, who is only a few steps behind them. "Thanks for the help, Larry. Tell Saffron I'll see him Tuesday, will you?"


"Well," Leight crosses arms over his chest, looking far too pleased with himself, "isn't it time you killed it?"

They are standing in the kitchen of their apartment. There is a large pot of boiling water on the stove. The Ziploc-sealed lobster from the Wilson residence sits on the table. There is another lobster in a cardboard box on the floor. It is alive, and Leight is waiting for Peter to kill it. He swallows around the lump in his throat. "Can you explain to me, just one more time, why this is necessary?"

Leight rolls his eyes but obliges all the same; he's far too fond of the sound of his own voice. "You said yourself that we need to confirm the timeline. And we're going to do that by comparing the bacterial reproduction on our lobster to the original. But first, we need to kill and cook it."

"And why do I have to be the one to kill it?"

Leight doesn't dignify the question with a response.

Peter sighs. His fingers twitch in the industrial strength rubber glove he's wearing on his right hand. He does not want to do this. He does not want to do this, but Leight has asked him to do it. He does not want to do this, but Leight has asked him to do it, and god knows he can't refuse Leight. He takes a deep breath, plunges his hand into the cardboard box, and grabs the lobster. He tries not to think about the way it squirms in his hand as he drops it into the boiling water. There's a hissing noise as he slams the lid on top. Quickly, he takes a step backwards. He takes a few deep breaths in quick succession.

Then the lid flies off the pot.

Peter does not scream; he does, however, jump backwards in thinly repressed fear. Somehow, he backs straight into Leight, into Leight's open arms, which close around him in a tight embrace. Peter is shaking, but the lobster does not emerge from the pot. It must be dead by now. The steam darts upward in angry bursts. The lid lies on the floor, but Peter doesn't move to replace it. He is keenly aware of the feel of Leight's arms around him. Leight whispers, "Shh," in his ear, and slowly the shaking begins to subside. He lets Leight hold him.

Without warning, Leight turns him around. They are face to face (or perhaps nose to chin). Peter looks up at Leight, whose blue-gray eyes have lost their diamond hardness. He doesn't dare to breathe because the slightest breath could wake him from this too perfect dream. This is all he has ever wanted—for Leight to hold him and look at him with something other than lustful antipathy.

Leight kisses him, and it's different (and not just because this is the first time such an event has not been preceded by the solving of a case). It's not gentle, but it isn't brutal either. It's passion Leight demands, not submission. There's lust, to be sure, but it's tempered by something else, something unnamable, something fragile. It ends as suddenly as it started. Leight pulls back before resting his forehead against Peter's. "You're shaking again," he observes in a rough whisper.

Peter can feel Leight's breath hot against his skin. He inhales deeply—espresso, spearmint, opium—the scent so uniquely Leight. He is shaking again, yes, but it has nothing to do with the renegade lobster. In a whisper of his own, he insists, "I'm fine."

"Really, now?" Leight raises an eyebrow. "You shouldn't lie to me, Peter. I am the best detective this side of the Atlantic, you know." He raises a hand to cup Peter's cheek. "I can tell when you're lying."

"Mal," Peter sighs. His eyes are shining, burning, but he doesn't dare to hope because he knows he couldn't bear the heartbreak of being wrong.

"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Peter asks, the slightest trace of tease in his tone. "Or do I have to guess?"

Peter shakes his head. He can't speak; he can't even meet Leight's eyes.

"All right, I'll guess. Was it how I introduced you to Larry? As my 'assistant?'"

For a world-renowned private investigator, Malcolm Leight is truly an idiot. But Peter isn't about to tell him that. He isn't about to point out all the clues Leight has missed. He isn't about to say anything about his dream, his envy of a whore named after a spice, his hatred of shellfish, his desire to make their ritual something sacred—the festering wound of unrequited love. He wants to cry, but he won't cry in front of Leight. He struggles to compose himself. He raises his (dry) eyes. It's difficult, but he manages to stutter, "I don't care what you call me, Mal."

Leight stares back at him, nonplussed.

Peter clarifies, "I care how you treat me."


They are sitting on the couch, and their lobster still has at least five hours of rotting to do. They haven't spoken to each other since earlier that afternoon, but neither of them is willing to cede the apartment. So while Leight sits just inches away, studying a particularly mystifying water spot on the wall, Peter reads a recent medical journal and tries very hard to forget that Leight exists at all. He isn't succeeding. The word is out of his mouth before he can stop himself. "Mal?"

"Peter?" Leight's tone would be a perfect facsimile of Peter's, if it weren't for the subtle overtones of derision.

Neither of them looks at the other.

"Have you already solved the case?" Peter holds his breath. He doesn't want to Leight say it, even if he already knows the answer.

"Of course," Leight confirms. "Do you want the wrap-up now? Normally we wait for the Captain, but if you really want to know—"

"Is that why you did it?"

"Did what?"

"Why you kissed me earlier. You'd already solved the case, and you didn't want to wait."

"Peter, don't be an idiot," Leight frowns, frustrated. "You're chasing lightning."

"Am I?" Peter asks faintly. "Then who exactly is Saffron?"

"Less of an idiot than you, clearly." Leight stands up abruptly. "I'm going out."

Peter watches as Leight walks out the door.


Peter does not sleep that night. He can't sleep because every quarter hour he has to study a strip of lobster flesh under his microscope and compare it to his notes regarding the Wilsons' lobster. He can't sleep because Leight hasn't come home. He can't sleep because he can't stop berating himself.

Even after he analyzes a tissue sample with exactly the same level of bacterial growth as the original lobster (thirteen and a half hours past time of lobster execution), he can't sleep. He can't help but hate himself. He drove Leight away; he can't forgive himself for that. If he truly loves Leight as much as he believes he does, he shouldn't expect anything. He shouldn't be jealous. He shouldn't ask for more than Leight can give. And he hates himself because it's so hard—so hard to put Leight's needs above his own when Leight doesn't give a shit about him. So hard to love unconditionally.

The room goes dark after Peter switches off the halogen lamp beside his microscope. It hurts to look at the light. His trusty alarm clock informs him that it is 2:30 in the morning. He should sleep, but he can't. He could call Leight, but he shouldn't. He shouldn't, but here he is in the dark, holding the phone in his hand. He sits cross-legged on the carpet (whose color is indeterminable even in broad daylight) beside a stack of newspapers (from February, two years ago). He cradles the phone in his lap. He shouldn't do this. He shouldn't, but he knows he can't help it.

He dials each number with a violent stab of his index finger. He holds his breath as he waits.

First ring.

Second ring.

Third ring.


"Peter, is that you?"

Peter doesn't release the breath he's holding. He doesn't speak.

"Come on, Peter," Leight's voice echoes in his ear, "I know it's you. Caller ID, remember?"

More silence.

"If you have something to say to me—"

"Thirteen and a half hours," Peter spits out in one breath.

"The lobster?"

"Adjusted time of death," Peter corrects. "The husband couldn't have done it."

"Of course he didn't," Leight says. For once, he doesn't sound smug. The words are flat; he is merely stating a fact that he believes to be obvious. He derives no pleasure from its recitation.

"Do you want me to call the Captain?"

"Have him meet us at the Wilsons' apartment tomorrow morning, 9:00." Leight falls silent, but the line isn't quiet. There is a noise, something steady, something rhythmic, something wrong—it may be snoring.

And Peter may be chasing lightning, asking to be struck, but he can't stop himself. "Mal," he half-sighs, half-sobs, "where are you?"

"In the eye of the storm," Leight answers, wholly emotionless. "I'll see you tomorrow, Peter."

The line goes dead.


Leight reeks of opium and saffron. His clothing (same as yesterday) is wrinkled. He's just the slightest bit too perky—running on adrenaline and endorphins, certainly, and most likely something stronger. His sleepless night seems to have served him better than Peter's. Peter is stiff from sitting and falling in and out of sleep on the floor, against a stack of newspapers. He knows he's paler than usual, and thin ghost-like wisps of purple paint the space beneath his eyes. Behind his glasses, his eyes itch from the not-quite-crying he did last night. He hasn't eaten. He did shower, but he still can't wash away the scent of rancid shellfish.

Of course, none of this matters to the Captain, the Lieutenant, or Dennis Wilson. The five of them are seated around the Wilsons' dining room table. Leight sits at the head, with Peter and Wilson to his right, the Captain and the Lieutenant to his left. It's the Captain who speaks, breaking the not-so-companionable silence, "So what happened, Leight? Who murdered Lynnette Wilson?"

For the first time this morning, Leight smiles, cruel and harsh. "No one killed Lynnette Wilson."

"But—but—you saw the body!" the Lieutenant sputters. "Someone has to have killed her?"

"Yes, but no one murdered her," Leight's smile intensifies. "Thin line, that." He waits, reading the faces around the table from left to right. His eyes rest on Peter.

And Peter gets it, though his roiling stomach wishes he didn't. He sounds small and lost, when he answers, "Suicide."

"You're saying she stabbed herself with a steak knife," the Captain states drolly. "That isn't exactly a common standard suicide method, Leight."

"Of course it isn't," Leight replies. "She was clever. She knew it would look like murder; that's what she wanted."

The Captain drawls, "What are you trying to say, Leight?"

"She wanted you to think her husband murdered her."

"But why?" Dennis Wilson has finally spoken. He clutches his bowler cap against his chest. There's something broken in his voice, and it hurts as much to hear as to speak. "Why would Lynnette have killed herself? And why would she have wanted me to go to prison for it?"

With a casual shrug, Leight says, "For revenge." And with those two words, Leight brings down Dennis Wilson's entire universe. "She knew, didn't she? About your frequent visits to the Pleasure Factory?"

Dennis Wilson doesn't answer. He can't. White knuckles clench the rims of the black hat.

Leight continues, "She knew. She was jealous, yes, but more than anything, she was angry. She wanted you to suffer, as you had made her suffer. She thought she found a way to end her own suffering at the same time. She'd kill herself and be free of you, but you would never be able to escape the ghost of your guilt. It was all very clever."

"Leight," the Captain cuts in when he gets the chance, "you don't have any proof. I agree that we can eliminate Mr. Wilson as a suspect, but that doesn't mean she killed herself. Anyone else could have done it. There were plenty—"

"No one else could have done it. Do you remember what this apartment looked like yesterday, Captain? No furniture was over-turned. Nothing was out of place; everything was immaculate, except for the corpse on the floor. And even the corpse was pristine, with the exception of the knife wound. There were no bruises, her dress wasn't wrinkled, and she didn't have so much as a hair out of place. And that knife in her chest? It was a steak knife. It wasn't the knife she'd put out on the lobster platter, which would have been the most convenient knife for an intruder to grab. The door wasn't forced. There were no signs of a struggle."

"But if she knew her attacker—"

"There would have been signs. There were none. Ergo, she didn't want to struggle. She knew what she was doing. She was clever—but not as clever as me."

"Mr. Wilson," the Captain turns, with a deep sigh, to the widower, "do you believe your wife was capable of something like this? If we rule this a suicide, the investigation stops."

Mr. Wilson is deathly pale. "I didn't know." He wrings his hat in his hands. "I didn't realize. I thought—I don't know what I thought. But—you know, don't you?" His eyes dart wildly, ferret-like around the table, searching for something, anything. He stops at Leight, holds the blue-gray eyes in a vice-like grip. "It wasn't that I didn't love her. I did. I swear I did. I just—I couldn't not. This place—her floral dresses, lobster dinners, immaculate—stifling. But she—she lived for this place. I didn't think—I never thought. I didn't love her any less." His protests grew softer and softer, and his eyes resumed their darting.

The Captain and the Lieutenant look at each other; then the Captain throws his hands in the air. Surrender is so simple.

"There it is," Leight concludes. He shrugs, so agonizingly indifferent, even in the face of such inane absurdity.

This is when the ritual is supposed to begin, Peter realizes. They are supposed to leave and take a taxi back to their apartment. Leight is supposed to fuck him. Peter is supposed to fall asleep in Leight's bed and wake up alone. He is supposed to relish this, but for once—the thought leaves him cold. He can't get the image of the body lying on the floor yesterday morning out of his head. He sees Lynnette Wilson's blood spilling from her abdomen, staining her purple floral dress because she stabbed herself with a steak knife. She stabbed herself. The man she loved was fucking a whore, and she was hurting, so she stabbed herself. The images fades, only to be replaced by a new one. It's his dream. He sees himself in Lynnette Wilson's place, the knife in his own abdomen. And it isn't so difficult to imagine doing what she did because he already feels what she felt. The man he loves is fucking a whore, and he is hurting. It's even worse for him, really, because at least Dennis Wilson pretends to love his dead wife; Malcolm Leight does not pretend to love Peter, and he wouldn't even try, not even if Peter was dying or dead. But Peter knows he would never, could never kill himself.


The images shatter. He is back in the Wilson's dining room, which everyone has vacated except Leight and himself.

"We're leaving."

Numbly, Peter nods.


This is not their ritual. Leight does not put his arm around Peter's waist as they exit the building. Leight does not press against Peter in the cab. Leight does not help Peter with the key to their apartment. They don't fall in; they simply walk.

Leight does, however, pin Peter against the closed door. He captures Peter's wrists with one hand, raises them above Peter's head. He leans in close until their noses are almost (but not quite) touching. He stares down into Peter's confused, frightened, blighted eyes. His voice is soft, almost (but not quite) a caress, "How do you want me to treat you, Peter?"

Peter's eyes flutter shut. This is not their ritual, and he does not know to expect. This is too much. He shakes his head. His voice is lost in his throat.

"You weren't terribly pleased the last time I guessed," Leight reminds him.

Peter shakes his head. He is not responding to Leight's words so much as his inability to process what is happening.

"I understand now," Leight murmurs. Suddenly he releases Peter's wrists. He runs a hand through Peter's hair. "You don't want to be Lynnette Wilson."

Peter tries to gasp, but Leight snatches his breath away with his lips. He's gentle and passionate, and everything about their embrace hints at romance. The kiss is everything Peter has dreamed of, and yet—it still isn't enough. Maybe it's the insomnia talking, but this doesn't feel real.

Leight pulls back, just barely. Against Peter's lips he whispers, "You're not her."

Peter wishes this was easy, a sunny, breezy summer day, but it isn't. This is too much. It is hard and heavy, and he's lost at the eye of the storm. The images are flashing like lightning all around him—Leight fucking him on a scratchy wool blanket, Lynnette lying bloody on her bedroom floor, Larry standing in a smoke-cloaked room, himself murdering a lobster—and the revelation comes, a thunderclap, a heartbeat later. "No," he whispers, burning with epiphany. "I'm not." As he utters those universe-shattering words, he extricates himself from Leight's loose embrace.

Peter is tired. He is tired of living a life not sacred. He is tired of his not sacred love, of his not sacred lobsters. He is tired of performing rituals to appease an indifferent deity. He is tired, and he wants nothing more than to sleep a dreamless, lightless sleep.

He goes to his bed—not Leight's, not the couch, not floor—sits down, kicks off his shoes. He will sleep, and he may snap, but he will never be that woman. When he wakes, he'll learn to control his all-consuming parasitic love. Because he loves Leight too much to ever leave him alone.

Leight is still standing by the door, dumbstruck, when he calls, "Peter?"

"Please, Mal" he sighs. "Put out the light."


Hey everyone, please review if you read this. I'd particularly like the feedback on the opening smut scene. Also, I might be amenable to expanding this story (writing other cases and such) if anyone is interested. (So please tell me if you are!)