Where the Heart Is
The day after Valentine's Day, 1941. Sam is feeling shut out of Foyle's plans. A sequel to Fire and Ice. Set directly after The French Drop (S3E1).
The creative rights to the characters and plotlines in "Foyle's War" belong to Anthony Horowitz. This story is a not-for-profit homage to the television series, to the talented actors who bring its characters to life, and to a fascinating era.
I consulted canon for the timeline. February 1941 puts us slap bang in the middle of the Messinger/Facteur fiasco in The French Drop. Foyle's hopes of moving jobs are dashed when he takes the rap to protect Miss Pierce's Special Operations Executive.
Still, there's so much more to life than work, isn't there...?
Another little something for my ladies all around the world in different time zones.
dancesabove gave this a polish, then suggested some delicious improvements. And then... let's just say she iced the cake. Read on.
Where the Heart Is
Saturday evening, 15th February 1941
"You coming in?" Foyle cocked an eyebrow across at Sam. She'd been unusually silent after they had dropped Milner at his door on their way back from Leavenham.
"Well, actually, no." She stared ahead. "I'm rather miffed at you."
"Better come in and tell me why, then."
"Is that an order, Sir?"
Ah, he deduced. Like that, is it? Sam hadn't called him 'Sir' in private for a full six weeks. But seeing as she'd done so now, Foyle thought he might just turn the opportunity to his advantage. Still smarting from the collateral damage of the "favour" he had done Miss Pierce, he needed all the clout that he could muster.
"Yep. It's an order." He jammed his hat onto his head and climbed out of the car.
Given that she was still in uniform, Sam had little choice but to follow; but she jolly well wasn't going to hurry, mind you. When she did eventually join him, he was already in the kitchen in his shirt-sleeves, putting on the kettle.
"You, um, took your time," he told the sink. "If I'd known you planned to linger out there, mmight have closed the front door to. It lets the heat out."
Sam pulled her gauntlets off, ignoring him.
Foyle gestured with a flourish toward the chairs around the kitchen table,
"Why don't you have a seat and spit it out?"
He lit the hob, and busied himself with tea preparations while Sam sat, breathing deeply and exhaling heavily, eyes darting sideways in suppressed annoyance.
"Making quite a noise with all that huffing, Miss Stewart," he observed with irony, en route to the pantry for the milk.
"Well pardon me," said Sam pointedly, "for wondering what's going on. I heard, you know: my Uncle Aubrey talking to you about your work plans. Thought at least—at very least you might've shared your plans with me and Paul. With me, particularly.
"But oh, no," she went on, her indignation mounting. "Not with me. All I get is: 'End of conversation. Subject's off limits. Thank you!' And thank you, Christopher."
Foyle set the milk bottle down on the table, and took up position behind her, resting his hands on her shoulders. Then he leant down so that his lips were next to her ear.
"Samantha, Sweetheart," he began calmly, "do you believe me when I say I love you?"
"I do," she told him earnestly. "At least I did. But what's the good of... I don't know... plucking me from the jaws of death the way you did, and being a perfect angel so I fall for you, only to exclude me from your plans? And not even discuss taking me with you? And I was so good on that Hill House cloak-and-dagger thing. I even found that map for you."
"Yes, you were splendid," he confirmed, a small smile forming, though she couldn't see it.
"A week ago you thought that I was splendid, too..." she angled for a compliment.
"I did. You were," he agreed, and pressed his lips lingeringly to her neck.
"And the week before, and the one before that, and the one before, and..."
"You were still ill, then," he prompted.
"Not ill, exactly," she corrected him. "Just not strong enough to persuade you."
"Rrright," he smiled. "But then you got your strength back."
"You were hard work to persuade," she reminded him, "but an utter joy to convert," she grinned.
"Joy was mutual," he assured her, and leant round to help himself to a kiss.
Sam's mind drifted back to the first time he had kissed her. Properly kissed her. How she had survived the embarrassment of his seeing her in so abject a state during her illness, she hardly knew. She had been no oil painting to be sure: hair matted to her scalp, brow gleaming with perspiration, and barely able to convey herself to the bathroom in the day after that awful fever crisis was behind them.
Through all of this, he had nursed her caringly and patiently: warm milk, Bovril, dry toast, hot water bottles. That first day, he had warmed her, mopped her brow and neck with a damp flannel, drawn the eiderdown up to her chin and thrown the window open in the bedroom to "change the air"—she blushed now to think why. The second day, he had come home from the shops with a precious lemon, and made her quenching drinks, sweetened with what she knew must have been his own sugar ration.
The barrier crossed that first day, when she had found his head resting on the eiderdown near her hip, and stroked his hair, and called him by his name—that barrier had vanished, never to return; and in the weeks that followed, she had watched him with the large eyes of a woman witnessing the agent of her future happiness.
Sam had remained in his house until her landlady returned from London. When she was able to resume her work—it took a week before she felt her strength seep back—he'd done his utmost to shield her from unnecessary discomfort. When she drove him anywhere, he'd seen to it that she had somewhere warm to wait while he addressed his business. At the station, he had brought her inside his office, where it was warmer, and given her small jobs to do, filing and recategorising things.
And she had watched him. Every spare moment, she had watched him. Watched the way he walked. The gestures of his hands. His face when he was concentrating on his papers. Every movement, every stillness in him kept her rapt. And he had borne it. Seemingly unconscious of her gaze. Oh, he would look up periodically, and smile at her, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes deepening; that eloquent way he had of bending his lips down to show amusement. The way he dipped his knees to make a quiet joke.
And slowly, surely, she was falling for him. Falling hard. He'd kissed her palm, yes, in that moment of relief when he had realised that she was through the crisis. But after that, there had been no repeat of such a tender gesture. Though she had caught him on occasion giving her a searching look—one that held, she thought, a question—it was never voiced. He treated her with kindness and concern, and accepted without comment that she now presumed to call him Christopher when they were quite alone together. But apart from that, he made no move to recreate that sweet intimacy of contact when he'd pressed his lips into her hand. And two weeks on, Sam found that she was aching to renew the moment. Aching for some gesture, some proof he remembered that sweet interlude between them, and would want to recreate it.
"Can't thank you enough," she'd said one day, splayed fingers resting on his desk as she waited for him to sort his papers before leaving, "for how you looked after me."
"You don't owe me anything, Sam," he told her—bizarrely, she thought. "And your mother mustn't send me any more biscuits," he added. "She must be depriving your father of his rations."
"Oh, let her send them," Sam countered miserably, smarting from his first remark. "Daddy's got a bit of a paunch anyway, and I can always eat them if you don't want any."
At that, his face had stretched into a beaming smile, the like of which she'd never witnessed in the whole eight months of conveying him across the South of England. It split his face from ear to ear, and warmed the sadness from his eyes. Made him look—yes, Sam thought—made him look younger by a decade.
"You're quite recovered, then?" he teased her gently. "The old Sam. Ninety percent hungry and ten percent thirsty."
She'd shot him such a look of admonition, that his smile had melted.
"Am I a joke to you?"
His eyes grew wide. "Far from it. Didn't mean to..."
"Good," she huffed, "because you need to understand I can be serious about other things than food. And one of them, as it happens, Christopher," she paused, "is you."
At that, his frank gaze had pulled away from her and locked onto his papers. "I don't think..." he said.
"No? Good," continued Sam, "because thinking isn't going to do the trick. What do you feel?I'll tell you what I feel, if you're interested."
"I don't really think..." he began again, shuffling the documents before him.
"My feeling is, I'd like to feel your lips on me again. And not just in my palm, actually, Christopher. But of course," her hands balled into fists at her sides, "not if it's too much of a chore."
He lifted his head and sent her a defeated look. "It would be an imposition," he offered with a quiet air of finality.
"Oh, sorry to impose," Sam deliberately misinterpreted him.
"Nnnot on me, on you. A breach of trust." His blue eyes regarded her with steady concern.
Sam planted her knuckles on his desktop and leaned over so her face was inches from his own. "Am I allowed a vote? I find you very trustworthy. Point of fact, you're erring on the annoying side of proper. It's not as if I didn't see the way you looked at me when you thought I was expiring of the fever. Was it just pity, or...?"
His voice dropped to a whisper. "You know full well it wasn't, but I can't... you work for me."
"Eight hours a day, I work for you." Sam pushed her wrist before his nose so he could read her watch. "It's now six-thirty. I came on duty at eight this morning. By my calculation, I knocked off work at least two hours ago. So now it would be very nice to forget I work for you."
Foyle drew away from her. "I have..." he struggled for the word, "responsibilities. And those include things that I mustn't do. Nothing that I feel for you should be allowed to interfere with that." His eyes pleaded for her understanding.
Sam stared at him for a long moment. "Then I can't stay working for you," she told him dully. "Because it would be torture. Best thing you can do is sack me. Get another driver."
"If that would make you happier."
"It absolutely wouldn't make me happier. What would is these," she reached across and placed an index finger on his lips, "on these," she brought the finger back to touch her own. "Is it too much to ask?"
He lowered his eyes in misery.
"Too much?" persisted Sam. "You know, I'd even settle for another one of these." She opened up her hand and pushed her palm unceremoniously towards his mouth.
For several seconds he didn't move, but to Sam it felt like minutes. Then he took her outstretched hand and, rising, pressed a gentle kiss into its centre.
"Happy now?" he asked. His brows were puckered in an imploring gesture of capitulation.
Sam swallowed back her instinctual sob of relief, and nodded mutely.
"More?" His head tilted in inquiry.
Blinking through her welling tears, she nodded. "Whatever you feel able..." she ventured.
But already he had walked around the desk and stood before her, pressing yet another kiss into her palm.
"God's sake, tell me to stop," he pleaded.
"Not me," she breathed. "I'm not the boss of you."
"How wrong you are," he answered earnestly, his blue eyes sparkling into hers.
Then, before she knew it, Sam was folded in his arms and kissed until her hat fell off.
She had only relived this moment in her mind about a hundred times in the last few weeks. It hadn't been their last kiss by a long chalk, but by virtue of being their first 'lip-on-lip' intimacy, it occupied the prime position in her memory.
The first two things that came as a surprise to Sam had been the strength of the arms that held her so tightly, and the lovely tension of restrained passion she felt in the kiss itself… some part of her had imagined that the first time their lips met, it would be a very gentle and chaste prelude to more. But the hazy memory of being lifted in his arms and carried to the bathroom came back to her; the sense of reassurance communicated in his strong, solid physical support of her at that most vulnerable time.
Accordingly, as soft as his lips were as they warmed hers, there was a firmness, a sense of resolve in the caress, and as he turned his head she could feel the slightest opening of his mouth against hers, the lightest flick of his tongue. His seemingly effortless ability to sustain her as she melted into him was challenged by the sudden weakness in her limbs.
But, at the very moment that her collapse against his body made it obvious to her what a strong effect she in turn had on him, he pulled slowly away and looked into her eyes.
"My splendid girl," he whispered, his eyebrows drawn up in a look that teetered on the edge of pain, "more than that, we can't do here, as much as I might want to."
More than that. Sam reflected on their many delicious interludes since then. There was no doubt that he was a man who understood the art of giving and receiving pleasure, but frustratingly, his restraint—not hers—had always put a cap on their caresses before they tipped over into what might be called 'dangerous territory'. Sam found herself a little saddened by it, though she understood full well it was a mark of his respect for her. It was also, she supposed, a generational thing. Christopher Foyle was not a fresh young man—indeed he leant towards her parents' generation, though Sam preferred not to dwell on commonalities with her father.
Thus, six weeks on from the first chaste touch of lips to palm, and four weeks on from their first intimate embrace, Sam hovered in uncertainty about her place in his affections. And in recent days, this talk of Liverpool and leaving Hastings had done much to undermine her confidence.
More than anything, she wanted reassurance now, but sensed he had been holding back from her.
"Christopher, this won't do," she told him sternly, hauling herself back into the present. "I need to know your plans."
"Might we have dinner first?" he bargained. "Promise we'll discuss things afterwards."
Sam swivelled in her chair and regarded him critically. He wore that soulful look that always melted her, and so she softened, reaching up to stroke his cheek.
"All right. What's in the pantry?"
Foyle squinted while he recollected. "Potatoes... um, carrots... and..." he winked, "a tin of cottage."
"All right." She mentally transformed the 'tin of cottage' into corned beef. "Just need to fetch a thing in from the car, and we can have a proper cottage pie."
"Leave you to it, then. I'll go and build up the fire." He ran his hands affectionately down the outside of her arms, kissed the top of her hat, and took off into the living room.
Onions, Sam reflected, were funny things. Quite uniform all the way through, and when you got to the heart of one... well, the middle—there wasn't truly anything one could call a heart—that was it. Just layers upon layers. One, and then another, and another, and another.
Sam sniffed and raised the knuckles of her left hand to stem the welling tears.
"Waterworks?" Foyle asked, sticking his head into the kitchen. "Not on account of me, I hope?"
"Don't flatter yourself," she told him airily. "I'm peeling Sergeant Rivers' onion—the one Paul won, that he and I are going halves on. Paul's let me have first whack at it, and in return I said I'd dice his half and put it in a dish. You won't mind if I borrow an old dish of yours?"
"Be my guest."
Foyle stepped up to the sink and turned her to him, bringing out his handkerchief to dab the wetness from her cheeks. "You mustn't put your fingers near your eyes then," he told her softly. "Didn't anybody ever teach you to peel onions under water?"
"Sounds like a recipe for a cut finger to me," declared Sam with stubborn scepticism.
"I'll teach you in a minute." He steadied her by the shoulder and tilted her chin upwards.
"It isn't easy for Paul, now Jane's gone and left," Sam went on, blinking at the ceiling while Christopher dried her eyes. "Oh, I don't know," she sighed disconsolately. "Everybody seems so eager to get out of Hastings these days."
Releasing her, Foyle took her hand in his and brought her knuckles to his lips.
"That's quite a pungent onion," he grinned, holding on firmly to her fingers.
"Oh don't make fun..." Sam sighed, and tried to pull her hand away, but his stronger grasp defeated her, and so she cast her eyes to one side in frustration.
"Sam, listen," he began, "I know you've been worried about your job, in case I left."
"My job? You think my job's the main thing on my mind?" She tried to tug her hand away and failed again.
"I'm sorry. No. I realise it wasn't just that," he told her honestly. "But it just so happens that the opportunity of working elsewhere isn't going to come about, now."
She looked up at him hopefully. "You mean you're really staying here in Hastings, then?"
"Mmwell, it looks that way," his eyes crinkled reassuringly.
The strength of Sam's anticipation meant she couldn't tear her gaze from his, but she could feel his fingers rubbing firmly up then down the length of every finger of her hand, starting with her index finger, moving to the middle finger, then on to the next. Eventually, her curiosity got the better of her, and she angled her gaze downwards, interested to see what he was up to. As she did so, Christopher released his grip on her left hand, and Sam felt an unaccustomed weight upon her third finger.
"What's tha...?" she couldn't finish. "This is... is this...?" She looked up at him, shocked, then down again at her hand. A single diamond in a white gold square-claw setting, with three smaller stones embedded in the shank on each side of the mount. It had every appearance of an engagement ring.
Sam swallowed. Fire crept to her cheeks. "You wanted to leave Hastings," she accused. "And now it's fallen through, and suddenly..." Sam stamped her foot in frustration, narrowly missing his.
"I never know what's in your mind," she complained bitterly. "What on earth am I to make of this? One minute, making plans to move to Liverpool, for heaven's sake, and now...?"
"I bought the ring a month ago," he told her quietly. "Just didn't have the courage then to deploy it... here," he stroked her finger, "where it belongs."
"You mean to tell me, all that time we were in Leavenham, and before... you knew that you were planning this, and kept it to yourself?"
"Yeah, well." He fidgeted, his hands now deep inside his pockets. "It isn't usual to ask somebody whether you can ask them," he told her reasonably.
"In any case," he twinkled at her winningly, "you scared me off in Leavenham, with tales of being chased around the village by some farmer. Made me believe I had a scarlet woman on my hands. And then your Uncle Aubrey tried to poison me with some revolting green concoction. Soon after which you drove the car into a shed and nearly killed me. So I began to think you weren't quite... suitable material to be a policeman's wife."
Sam's expression froze there, blinking in annoyance at his cheek.
As she watched, Christopher's brow rose, and his lip took on an almost imperceptible declining curve. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, and sure enough, she caught him out suppressing yet another twitch of humour.
"Oh, you... you... Christopher!" she cried, and launched herself hard at him, feeding greedy fingers through his cropped curls and covering his cheeks and lips with kisses.
"My hair is going to reek of onion," he mumbled gruffly past her lips.
"Jolly... well... serves... you... right... for... teasing," she told him, garnishing each word with its own separate kiss. "Whatever made you change your mind?"
"...about my suitability."
"Don't know that I have," he told her with an arch of one brow, struggling unsuccessfully to veil his pleasure, "but when I saw you kissing Milner for an onion, I decided that you needed to be rescued."
Sam searched his eyes with tenderness. "Always rescuing me, aren't you?"
He gave a solemn nod. "Turning into something of a habit."
"I do so love you." She laid an ear against his chest and slid her hands under his armpits, hooking up over his shoulders.
"So… will you have me then, Sam?" he pressed her softly.
"Hush a bit," she whispered. "I'm listening for where your heart is."
Foyle tucked his chin into his neck and peered down at her, utterly charmed. "You need evidence?"
She shook her head against his waistcoat. "Not need. Like."
"Ah," he observed wryly. "Good thing you're listening now instead of six weeks ago. You wouldn't have heard much going on inside there prior to then."
It wasn't that he hadn't told her this already in a lot of ways, but today of all days, he wanted to be sure she understood. "And where the heart is," he continued, "any sign of life you hear is you."
"Gosh, it's racing," she marvelled. "If it is me, I must be quite excited."
"Sam," he tilted her chin upwards, "will you have me, then?"
She raised her lips to brush his. "I kissed Paul Milner for a heartless onion," she answered. "What wouldn't I do for a heart of gold?"
"As long as I can take that as a 'yes'," he told her gently, "I wish you'd show me…"
And Sam proceeded to show him, weaving her fingers through his hair again and holding him fast with a purposefulness which, in earlier caresses, would have led him to apply the brakes.
For the first time, he allowed his fiancée's fervent kiss to sweep him along into a swift-flowing current of abandon. For the first time too, Sam learnt the measure of her man without restraint. Vanished were the sweet, firm kisses she had known from their earlier encounters. Gone the tentative flick of a tongue between her lips. This time his tongue was questing hungrily for her own and Sam surrendered herself to an ardour she had only dreamed of till this moment. Hands that had earlier lingered carefully to clasp her waist, and softly stroke her face and neck, were now tenderly exploring fresh, yielding curves of her body, and showed no sign of halting there.
The questing turned into demand. Demand became determination to possess and, crushed against him, Sam felt a thundering in his chest that matched her own and told her unambiguously where the heart is.
*** FIN ***
If you liked the kisses, thank dances!
Happy Valentine's Day!