|Dream a Little Dream
Author: Lanu Tavol PM
A case of apparent suicide prompts Hastings to consider his relationship with Poirot. WARNING: Contains mention of child abuse.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Hurt/Comfort - Captain Hastings & Hercule Poirot - Chapters: 4 - Words: 13,922 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-03-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7141847
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The next morning was a little uncomfortable for us both. We shared breakfast, but when Miss Lemon arrived, I excused myself from his company. He smiled up at me with such a mix of trust and trepidation that I almost wished I could stay, but it wasn't a betrayal, I would be coming back. I had meant what I said; I wouldn't leave him.
I spent much of the day in Hyde Park enjoying the unseasonal good weather. As I watched the steady stream of happy families, I thought back over what Poirot had told me. This new information, rather than making me wish to leave as Poirot feared, had served only to increase my respect for him. To have come through that and to have achieved all the things that he had done was remarkable. I only hoped that George Keith and David McLennan would do even half as well.
He hadn't pressed me on Douglas, but then he had been more than a little distracted. I expected that once his innate curiosity had a chance to reassert itself he would ask. And I would answer. I would answer any question he asked me just as I would do anything he asked of me. It was ludicrous to think of me leaving him. I would only do that if he demanded it of me and even then with the greatest reluctance.
It was late afternoon by the time I returned to the flat. I went first into Miss Lemon's office.
"Afternoon," I said brightly.
"Good afternoon, Captain," she said, looking up at me.
"Any letters for me?"
"Two," she said, handing them over to me. As I reached over for them, she pulled her hand back, eyebrows knotted into a frown.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
"You're up to something, aren't you?"
I stood straighter. "I don't know what you mean, Miss Lemon."
One eyebrow arched upwards. "I'm sure." She reached out the letters again.
Cautiously I took them. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." She looked at me for a moment longer. "Whatever it is, I hope it cheers Mr Poirot up."
I turned away from my study of the letters. "Oh?"
She glanced at the connecting glass then turned back to me. "He hasn't been himself today. Very quiet. Something's worrying him."
"I'll see what I can do," I said, before going into the sitting room.
Poirot was at the window looking out into the street.
"Looking for new clients?" I asked jokingly.
He half turned, but otherwise didn't acknowledge me.
"I didn't mean to be away so long," I said, taking a step closer. "I got caught up in some things."
He nodded curtly.
I took another step so that I was stood just behind his shoulder. Conscious that we were not alone, I dropped my voice to a whisper. "I meant what I said, Poirot. I'm afraid you're stuck with me. Come hell or high water."
A certain tension went out of him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," I said, giving his hand a surreptitious squeeze. I moved to the other side of the window and leant against the wall. "I don't know if you're feeling up to it, but I got us reservations."
He looked across at me. "Reservations?"
"Don't you remember?" I asked, allowing a certain teasing to enter my tone. "I promised we'd go to that new French place."
A smile of pure delight crossed his features. "But, Hastings, that is most wonderful news."
I smiled back at him. "I thought you might say that."
Chez Nous was an intimate little bistro in Soho. When we arrived the host, seeing in Poirot if not a fellow countryman at least someone with the same mother tongue, sat us at a table in the window and proceeded to find what he assured us was his best wine. He and Poirot talked a little before we ordered and then as our meal arrived he retreated gracefully to allow us privacy.
Poirot looked down at a plate loaded with what I should not care to say and smiled. "Ah, Hastings, is this not the life? Fine wine, good food, and most excellent company." At the last he tipped his glass in my direction.
"It is pleasant," I said with a smile.
"Once again you exhibit a talent for understatement," he said, but the tone was affectionate.
"Well, you would hardly expect effusive praise from an English gentleman, now would you."
His face fell in such a comic manner that I couldn't help but laugh. "You English," he said, "Are all the same. Cold, unsympathetic." He glanced up and I caught the mischief in his eyes.
"And what about you Continentals?" I asked, trying for serious, but falling short. "Always so passionate and volatile?"
"And yet we make a match, do we not?"
"That we do," I said, clinking my glass against his. "That we do."
It wasn't until after dinner a few nights later that Poirot asked about my past. He handed me a drink, then settled himself in an armchair.
"I will understand, my dear Hastings, if you do not wish to speak of it, but I find that I should like to know what it was you meant. You had an affair with a man?"
"Yes," I said quietly.
"Forgive me, but why then do you live here and not with him?"
I studied my whisky. "He died. Though I don't know if it would have continued, or even if it could have." Finally I looked up at Poirot. "It was during the war, you see."
Poirot nodded sagely. "I understand. In war a man may act out of his nature."
"Perhaps," I said carefully. "I think it was like that for him." I suppose that was confession through omission. If it had surprised Poirot, he didn't show it.
"Who was he?"
In spite of myself I smiled. "Douglas James. We were lieutenants in the same company: The Honourable Artillery Company Infantry, B Company. We were Territorials, and when war came, most of us signed up for service overseas. As a lieutenant, I was given command of B Company's 2 Platoon. Douglas was 3 Platoon's subaltern. Douglas and I, well, it started after Bellewaarde in 1915. He died in 1917 at Miraumont. Not long after that I was wounded at Arras and sent home."
"Mon pauvre Hastings." He didn't need to say it - the sympathy was clear on his face.
I shrugged awkwardly. "I sometimes think it was better that way. I didn't remember much after Arras. The doctors said it was a form of amnesia. I didn't forget Douglas though. I don't think I would have gotten through without him." I paused for a moment, wondering if I should continue the story.
"There is something more?" asked Poirot gently.
I nodded, not meeting his eyes. "I started to remember through my dreams. Some things I knew, but didn't remember; by 1916 we had lost so many men that there weren't enough officers. I'd been with the Territorials since 1913 and that made me an 'experienced officer' so I was given command of B Company. At Miraumont, I sent Douglas out on a night run." I looked across at Poirot. "He never came back."
"And you blame yourself."
"Of course I do," I said harshly. "It was my fault."
Poirot shook his head. "It was war, my friend, you had your orders. What else could you have done?"
"I could have gone myself."
"And leave the rest of your men without a commander? That would not do, Hastings, and you know it."
I sighed. "I suppose you're right, and I do know it, but that doesn't make it any easier. I sometimes wish I had forgotten everything, but that wouldn't be right either. Those of us who came back have to remember."
He continued to watch me, but he didn't say anything, for there was nothing to say.
It was exactly two weeks later that the letter arrived. I had been out most of the day working on one of Poirot's lesser known and to the man himself less interesting cases. I got back to the flat just as Miss Lemon was leaving. She told me about the letter then bade me good night.
I opened it without looking at the postmark and started to read.
"Well, I'll be!"
Poirot came out from the sitting room. "Hastings?"
"It's from George Keith."
"Eh bien? What does it say?"
We went back into the room. "He says that he spoke to his friend," I said excitedly, "And that he, the friend that is, felt the same way."
Poirot positively beamed. "Magnifique!"
"I'll say! I never imagined he speak to the other fellow."
"But why not?"
"Well, I don't imagine that I'd ever have the courage to do it. What if the man had turned him down? And then told everyone?"
"But have you not done this before?"
"Douglas?" I couldn't help but blush. "Well, actually, he came on to me."
Poirot walked away from me. "So you would rather stand back then take the risk? I expected more from you."
I frowned, "What do you mean?"
He had his back to me now. "What if there was something so close that you could reach out and touch it? Would you stay your hand?"
I stood for a long moment without moving, just watching the stiffness in his back. Did he mean what I thought he did? "Poirot?"
Somewhat reluctantly he turned to face me. "It is only in asking that one can know," he said softly.
I shut my eyes. Strange behaviour was nothing new where Poirot was concerned, but this was different. He knew who I was, what I was. Could it be possible that he knew what I wanted? And wanted it himself?
I crossed to him and with my heart pounding in my chest, leant down to kiss him. It was a gentle kiss, undemanding, but there could be no mistaking it for anything other than the kiss of a lover.
As I pulled away, Poirot's hand snaked up and caught hold of my lapel.
I looked down at him and saw the tears in his eyes.
Carefully, gently, his hand moved higher and came to rest on my cheek.
"Oh, Hastings," he breathed.
Without another thought, I gathered the little man in my arms.
"It's all right," I whispered. "It'll be all right."
It took far less time to adjust to this new aspect of our relationship than I had thought. We were discreet of course, though I think Miss Lemon might have guessed something. Not perhaps the whole truth, but even that wouldn't surprise me. We had already shared so many secrets that the new ones slipped almost unnoticed into our lives. Not that there weren't problems and the dreams kept on for both of us.
One evening as we sat quietly reading, I put my arm around Poirot's shoulders and pulled him closer. He came willingly and we continued to read. Absently I rubbed my thumb over his cheek and then without thinking slipped it under his collar. Poirot had jumped away and it took quite some time for me to persuade him to accept even the most innocent of touches.
He had asked about Douglas too and about what we had done. Though embarrassed beyond belief I had answered as best I could. It seemed to me that Poirot had set his mind to this and would not be dissuaded.
It was into this tense, but not entirely uncomfortable atmosphere that the invitation arrived.
"Amazing really," I said, standing at the window behind Poirot's desk, "It seems to have worked out for all of them: Keith and his young man and now McLennan and Miss Burnet getting married."
"They are young, my friend, not old like you and I," he said, half in jest, half in earnest.
I smiled down at him fondly. "Are we going?"
"But of course. And we shall meet there perhaps George Keith and his young man."
"I hadn't really thought about that."
It was his turn to smile fondly. "He has much to thank you for, M. Keith."
"Yes, well, I have one or two things to thank him for." I glanced at the connecting glass and seeing that Miss Lemon was hard at work reached out and touched his cheek.
He leaned in for a moment before I had to take my hand back. "Then we shall go, Hastings, and you and I may pay our respects."
The wedding was a relatively quiet affair; I suppose they had wanted it that way. Miss Burnet – the future Mrs McLennan – looked spectacular in her dress. McLennan himself looked rather dashing in all his wedding finery.
After the service we repaired to a country house hotel just outside of the town. Poirot and I waited patiently for our turn at the receiving line.
"M. Poirot! Captain Hastings!"
Mrs McLennan seemed genuinely pleased to see us.
"Madame," said Poirot with a grave bow. "You have made good your promise."
She smiled softly. "Yes, I have, haven't I? I really am grateful to you," her smile widened to include me, "To both of you, for all that you've done."
"Pas du tout."
As we turned to McLennan and it struck me that she had wanted us here, not him. I suppose given what we knew about him that shouldn't have been a surprise.
We made our congratulations and headed to find our table. I thought then that it was serendipity, though I did wonder later if it had been planned, but Poirot and I were sat at the same table as George Keith and his young man.
"Captain Hastings," said Keith as he stood to greet us.
"How are you?" I asked as we shook hands.
"Never better," he said and I think he meant it. "This is my friend Sidney Yates," he said, turning towards his companion. "This is the gentleman I told you about."
Yates smiled. "Thank you, Captain, for everything."
"Yes, well, you're welcome, I'm sure." I blustered on, "And thank you. You are both very brave. I hope that you see that."
The two smiled at each other.
"We see it, Captain," said Keith. "Don't worry about that."
Poirot and I excused ourselves rather early. It seemed easier that way; we were after all a reminder of all that had happened. We went back to our own hotel. Poirot went up to his room and I paid a visit to the bar.
When I went up to the room, Poirot was waiting for me. He took the drinks and set them down before pulling me close. Quick as a flash he undid my tie.
"It is has been crooked all evening, Hastings," he said in mild reproach. "How I have longed to set it straight."
I smiled down at him. "You are a queer little man, Poirot."
He puffed up comically. "I am." He took hold of my lapels then kissed me.
"Poirot," I said warningly, but he seemed not to notice.
He began by putting his hands under my jacket and then pushing it off. As he looked up at me, I saw determination writ clear upon his face. I was elated, but wished whole-heartedly that he had chosen a better time.
Before I had time to think, he had pulled me down into another kiss.
I caught his hands in my own and drew them up to my lips. I was loath to stop him, but there was nothing else I could do.
"We can't," I said, "Not here."
He looked up at me, then turned away sharply.
I reached out to him, but he didn't turn. "I want this," I said, voice dangerously low. "I do, but here the risk is too high." I stepped closer and wrapped him in an embrace. "It will have to wait," I whispered, "Until we are home and safe."
He turned in the embrace. "Toujours practique," he murmured.
I kissed him on the forehead. "Toujours, mon cher."
When we returned to London the next day we went straight to the flat. Immediately we were there Poirot locked the door behind us.
"We are safe now, and home," he said, turning to face me in the hall.
I looked down at him and saw that he was trembling. I took his hands in mine. "We needn't, Poirot, not so soon. Not if you aren't ready."
"I do not know that I will ever be 'ready'," he said quietly. "I do know that I want this."
"All right," I said with a smile. "But you're in control. I am entirely at your disposal."
He returned the smile, "My good Hastings."
"Let me make a suggestion first. Why don't we unpack, then we can order some food up and see where it goes from there? How does that sound?"
"Bon," he said, yet he made no move. Indeed he seemed most reluctant to do so.
"I'm not going anywhere, Poirot. I'll still be here when you get back."
He smiled again and after only a moment's hesitation went into his room.
I suppose that the dinner sent up to us was more than adequate, but even the normally fussy Poirot paid it little attention.
After we had finished, Poirot cleared away. When he came back in, he moved across to me before drawing me close.
It seemed to be a very long time before he kissed me. Even in that the tone was different: demanding, expectant.
He pulled away and I felt the lack of his closeness.
"I don't know if . . . I don't know that . . ."
I took a half step towards him. "It's all right, old man. If ever you want to stop, all you have to do is say."
He smiled up at me. "Thank you, Hastings." As I watched that same determined look came into his eyes. Suddenly he removed his jacket and in response I did the same. As he started on the buttons of his waistcoat, I moved to stop him.
"May I?" I asked softly.
A brief flash of fear struck him, but he was quick to suppress it. He nodded wordlessly.
With careful deliberation I unbuttoned his waistcoat. As he slipped it over his shoulders, I put a hand on either side of his face and kissed him.
When he pulled away this time it was to set his clothes neatly. I don't suppose I could have expected him to be happy with leaving them all over the place, not that I would have minded.
He came back and immediately set to work on my own waistcoat. His nimble fingers soon found their way to my shirt and with no more hesitation he removed them both. That left me with only a thin white vest. His hands found their way under the cloth and onto my bare skin.
"Tu le permets?"
"Oh, yes," I said, far beyond protestation.
With only a little help, he managed to remove the vest. After he had set it aside, he stood watching me for so long that I blushed under his open scrutiny. Hesitantly, he reached out and set his hand on my chest. I shivered at the feather light touch. He traced the faint scars that ran across my abdomen and I hissed.
"It pains you still?" he demanded.
I drew a breath. "No." I smiled at him, "It isn't pain."
His eyes widened comically, "Oh." A mischievous light came into his eyes. "Then I should continue?"
"It would be the only decent thing to do," I said gravely.
He kissed me then and I responded with an ardour that rather surprised him.
"When I said I wanted this, I meant with you, Poirot. I meant that I wanted you."
"Oui, je sais, mais c'est difficile de comprendre."
"Well, you bloody well better get on and comprends," I said softly.
"Yes," he said, hands coming to rest on the waistband of my trousers.
"Hold a minute, Poirot, I'm still wearing shoes."
He looked more than a little abashed, so I set to reassuring him.
"It's all right, old boy, it's not really something one thinks of." I sat down on the edge of the couch and took off my shoes and socks. "How about we even the score?" I asked, gesturing towards his shirt.
"Hastings," he said, the discomfort plain.
I took his hand. "It's all right, Poirot. Just as far as you are able. But," I said, standing, "May we at least take this somewhere better suited."
"Yes," he said with a sweet smile. "Yes."
He led me through to his room and I shut the door behind us.
"Safe," I whispered, leaning back against the door and pulling him towards me.
He smiled into the kiss. Unerringly he went back to my trousers and it was my turn to be hesitant.
"Look here, Poirot," I said, laying my hands atop his. "I'm not pretty. My leg's badly scarred – it's not very pleasant."
"That does not deter me, mon cher. Poirot too is scarred."
"If you're sure."
His only response was to unfasten my trousers and push them and my underwear to the floor.
I stood naked before him, my desire plain.
"Mon cher ami," he said, running a distracting hand over my wounded flank. "Say not that you are unpleasant to look upon, for it is not true."
"Come off it, old boy."
"It is as I say. Such fine lines," he said almost absently, continuing to explore the contours of my back and thighs before brushing his palm very gently across me.
I am not at all ashamed to admit that it took me some little time before I could respond coherently. "Let me see you," I said hoarsely. "Please, Poirot."
He stared at me before finally nodded. "Bon, but you must let me do it myself."
I nodded. "Would you like me to wait outside?"
I smiled warmly.
He turned away from me and began to undress. I tried not to watch, but it was impossible. His skin was so pale and looked so soft that I longed to reach out and touch it, but only if he would let me. The scarring he had mentioned was slight, though I knew the wound troubled him still.
He glanced over his shoulder then after only a moment's further hesitation turned to face me. I couldn't help but let my eyes range over him and was pleased to discover that he wanted this as much as I did.
Finally I rested my eyes back to his. "Thank you," I said softly, meaning it most fervently. I held out my hand to him and cautiously he took it, binding us together in touch.
A faint whimper escaped his lips, but as I made to release my grip he returned it with such a force that there could be no doubt as to his desires.
"Thank you," he murmured before leaning forward to kiss me.
As evening turned into night, we did as lovers do. Afterwards, as we lay together, Poirot wept, head buried in my shoulder. I stroked his hair soothingly and he calmed. He insisted that we wash, not that I was entirely opposed to the idea, but I would gladly have stayed there, arms around him, murmuring sweet nonsense.
He went first of course, and when I came out he stood in the corridor nervously waiting for me. I took his hand and waited for him to speak.
"You . . . you will stay with me?"
"I already said I would," I said softly.
"No, that is not what I mean." He looked down at the floor, then finally up at me. "I should like very much to wake up next to you."
My breath caught in my throat. "Oh, Poirot." I kissed him chastely. "So would I."
He smiled shyly then led us back into his room and his bed.
We lay there together the whole night through, and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity neither of us where visited by demons in our sleep and what dreams we dreamt were wholly pleasant ones.