A/N: This story is actually based on my first Foyle's War fanfiction that I ever wrote years and years ago. I never dared to share it, and only a few months ago when I found it again on an old external hard drive did I decide to do something with it. I rewrote it, and this was the result.
Thanks to MKsBeautiful for the encouragement and first reading.
No copyright infringement intended. All characters from Foyle's War belong to Anthony Horowitz.
Historical note: The last air raid went off in November 1944 in Hastings and lasted 25 minutes. Though the last bombs fell on Hastings in August 1944, I've taken a few liberties here.
The low whine of the engine hummed up comfortably through the seats as DCS Christopher Foyle relaxed against the leather. Snapshots of Hastings Old Town went past the window, familiar and unchanged even in this time of war. The car turned up the lane and he felt the need to change gear vibrating subtly under his feet. He turned slightly to watch his driver shift gear. The movement was precisely timed and done without thought. Her gauntleted hand moved back to grip the wheel and he felt a corner of his mouth lift upwards for no real reason other than the appreciation of a well-executed move. The Wolseley was an old beast to drive, yet Samantha Stewart had made it into an art form.
Sam had been seconded from the MTC in May 1940, and had arrived at the station in a flurry of khaki and endless chatter. Now, four years on, Foyle could not imagine going about his work without her. She had the gift of intimacy, this clergyman's daughter. She was able to talk of inconsequential things and put others at their ease. Whether it had come from being dutifully accommodating to the people of her father's parish — helping to serve endless cups of tea, smiling prettily at the end of chapel, manning the flower stall at each fete, or just trying to make up for something she felt she had not done — Foyle could not know. It often seemed as if her eagerness was an attempt to overcome shortcomings that had no doubt been criticised by the stern father he had met just the once. In between the moments of bright chatter from his driver, he had felt the uncertainty the oppressive vicarage had created.
The old adage, "little girls should be seen and not heard," came to mind, and he was grateful that she felt able to put aside any stifling bonds when with him. She was no little girl; she was a woman who knew her own mind, and he respected that. Her chatter was another assurance, if he needed one, of her trust in him. She felt she could be herself: to say what she thought and not worry about being on her best behaviour — there was no fear of his disappointment in her. This glowed within him.
Sam was incapable of deceit on any level and her face was as open as a book to him. She engendered immediate trust, and she was one of the few people Foyle felt truly able to be at ease with. She, too, made him feel useful; that he could serve a purpose at a time when he'd felt less than needed. He supposed after so many years working together and sharing the subtle emotions of each day it was only natural. It had come as a shock to him, one lonely Saturday when he'd been fishing, to realise that this young woman knew more about him than anyone.
He'd always been careful to keep himself on the fringes of her life as best he could. To not involve himself or interfere. That was not his place; she'd had enough of that from her own family. However, it was not for a lack of wanting to. He'd stood quietly to the side as young men tried their hand with her and ultimately failed. If she wanted advice, she would ask — he knew that. Foyle gave Andrew advice whether he wanted it or not, but that was different. Andrew was his son. While the urge to fix things for her was also strong, he refrained because he felt it was not his place.
But what was his place? Boss, certainly; but after all these years weren't they a bit more than colleagues?
He had reasoned with himself that his attention was first that of a concerned boss — when she had things on her mind it was only natural to ask and to offer help, if he could. Then, as the years went on and the hardships of war grew, he credited his attentiveness as avuncular. He was keeping an eye on her well-being, that was all. This had satisfied him until she had come into real danger, and on his watch, too. She had contracted anthrax at an infected farm all because he'd been so damned stubborn about procedure and had made her stay by the car.
He'd realised then that what he felt was affection. She was no longer just his driver, foisted on him because there was a war on, but a person he cared about. He cared about her and felt an overwhelming protectiveness that made him wonder at times.
And she had allowed him this, remarkably. She had let him stand up for her and defend her against the thoughtlessness of others. True, he did it in such an unassuming manner as possible, but he saw that she knew. How nice it felt to be a man someone could rely on! She had given him so much in that respect.
But had he given her much in return? He still hid behind inner walls, not sharing his thoughts nearly as readily as she did hers. He trusted her, of course, but why should he burden her with his thoughts? She was kind to ask about Andrew; kind to ask him to attend church with her or to drive him to his late wife, Rosalind's, grave each year on the anniversary of her death. But open himself up in personal revelation — no, that he would not do. It was not that he felt unable, precisely, as talking with Sam was always a pleasant thing, and she could listen beautifully when she wanted to. There was, instead, a fear of if he were to begin, that he might never stop.
They had neared Steep Lane by now with the onset of evening inching its way across the sky. He realised he had been studying her as they drove, one forefinger over his top lip, other arm outstretched along the back of the Wolseley's bench seat. He cleared his throat and looked away, feeling slightly self-conscious.
"Penny for them?" she asked softly, not taking her eyes off the road.
He glanced back at her in surprise, unaware she had noticed his gaze. "Oh, er…well, only thinking that it has been a long day."
She turned to him then, arching amused eyebrows over sparkling eyes. "I see."
Pulling carefully to a halt, she tugged the hand brake upwards with an accustomed movement.
"Here we are. Have a nice evening, sir," she said, as she did at the end of every day together.
"You as well." He eased out of the car, and no sooner had he put a foot on the bottom step, he heard an awful high pitched sound. Air raid siren!
Pivoting on his heel to turn back to Sam, Foyle said swiftly and without preamble, "Leave the car there."
He nodded with his head to indicate she should follow him, and went up the steps to unlock his front door. The pitch of the siren careened around the houses of the lane and another, lower sound was behind it, sounding awful and frightening.
Standing to one side he ushered her in. "Quick now, this way."
"Do you have a shelter?" she asked in some surprise, having never seen one before on her previous visits.
"Pantry will have to do — local shelter isn't nearly close enough now."
He chivvied her towards the kitchen, grabbing, as an afterthought, his khaki haversack with gas mask inside which had lain mercifully unused so far in this war. The sound of the siren was no less loud now they were indoors, and the low pitched sound of an aeroplane engine rumbled and growled after it.
"Quick now, Sam," he said again, voice sharp with concern.
Foyle followed her down the two steps into the pantry, which was about a foot and a half below the rest of the kitchen, with a stone floor set into the earth to keep food cold. He threw the door shut behind him, and switched on the light, the lone bulb crackling above them, swinging slightly in the pressure from the slammed door.
Her eyes were wide in the shadows, and he realised his heart was beating loudly in his ears. Their eyes met across the small space. What now?
Sam had been aware of him staring at her in the car; he did it more often now, though she doubted he realised that she knew. It didn't bother her, but it left her feeling somewhat exposed, as if he could read her thoughts. Yet, it also made her feel appreciated. Sam knew that he thought she did her job well, and that gave her a great sense of pride. Each evening after she dropped him off as part of their daily routine, the car always felt rather empty and forlorn. As did she; without him, it seemed that she was merely waiting until the next moment they were together again.
Life outside work was dull and things were always being expected of her by her family. At work, Foyle expected her only to do her job, and her loyalty. These were easily done, whereas the expectations of her father left her wondering if any young woman caught up in the war was up to the task of complying. Don't be seen out and about with men; don't be out after dark; be demur, polite; remain unassuming. One day at the police station struck most of that off. It crossed her mind, somewhat morbidly, that her father would be outraged if she and Foyle were found together in the rubble if the house were bombed…there would be explaining to do, and that was always so tiresome…
With the air raid siren going off like a drowned banshee, contending with the possibility of a bomb, and being jammed in Foyle's pantry, Sam conceded that it really wasn't the best of situations. However, she was suddenly more concerned about their forced proximity than the raid overhead.
In the low light her senses seemed to be on a knife-edge and she was aware of everything in detail. Aware, for instance, that the feeling in her middle was nothing to do with the possible danger from the skies, but something else entirely. It warmed her, yet set her shivering with a sort of anxiousness.
Foyle was an upright, severely moral man whom she respected, but there were times when her thoughts got the better of her and she rather wished he wasn't. There were times, such as this evening when they drove through Hastings towards Steep Lane, when his hand rested just behind her shoulder, that her body ached for him to touch her. Just a pat on the arm or swift touch of acknowledgement, not necessarily anything untoward. There had been brief and rare moments of such contact — the GI dance two years ago, for example, when he had ushered her in with a light touch at the small of her back — and it left her curious for more. He was such a reserved man, that she was desperate to know more of him. He never would say what he was thinking, but instead went over all quiet, much as he had done this evening. She had begun to learn how to read him, however, and knew somehow that his mild observation of her in the Wolseley had been both appreciative and wistful.
The thrill of being here now with him was severely dampened by the immediate danger of the enemy's bombs, but the feeling was there nonetheless. Perhaps she was wrong to feel this way towards him; maybe it was a naive fancy towards a man of authority and conscience. But unlike some men, these were attractive and complementary to his nature; he could be cold and demanding, but there was, at times, a boyish charm that softened his edges and revealed to her that he was a man like any other, equally susceptible to her wheedling and charm.
Acquiescing to her, however, had never seemed to overly put him out; giving her dinner at Carlo's, or tea at the Pavilion; or going undercover at the petrol depot, or being allowed to help out the Land Girl's at the farm: these he had agreed to, and never once had he held them over her for something in return. He treated her with respect and never belittled her; he saw past her uniform and her misfortune of being a girl in a world of war and men, and allowed her to make her own choices. He remained always present in the background, there to help should she want him. This unassuming manner endeared him to her like nothing else. It allowed her to feel self-assured as well as graceful, somehow.
He was brilliant like that. Never pushing in when he wasn't wanted, or giving advice when it wasn't needed, or making decisions for her; he spoke to her like an equal and quite clearly had her best interest at heart. Her father, the Reverend Stewart, was the just the opposite. When she became angry with her father for presuming, he often claimed that he was just thinking of her best interest. Not that Mr Foyle was like a father… what was he like?
Mr Foyle was her boss, of course, and she would like to say he was a friend. But there were times when the connection between them was far more than anything else she had ever experienced with the male sex. It went deeper, calling up something altogether ancient within her. It made her wonder at herself, and she often prayed fervently at night, hoping it would go away and leave her in peace. But it hadn't. It kept her awake with a longing that she wasn't sure she understood. Why did she long for him? She should be falling head over heels for some dashing serviceman; or for someone who was a close friend, like Brookie, the desk sergeant at the station.
Now, they stood in the confined space of his pantry, the light swinging to and fro above them, casting bouncing shadows on the shelves and stone floor, and catching at the brightness of his eyes. Revealed there was fear, concern, and a softness that she hadn't expected. He was tense and clearly thinking of what to do.
Trying to think too, hoping together they might come up with some idea, Sam suddenly exclaimed, "I've left the key in the ignition." She moved towards the door in a panic.
"Couldn't matter less, Sam," he said in exasperation, pulling at her arm and steering her towards the back of the pantry.
"But if the car is pinched, I won't be able to drive you," she protested, her 'Sam logic' making him smile slightly.
"Can you not hear the siren?" He gestured with his hand. "You'll stay put, thank you very much."
Pushing his hat up on his forehead, Foyle scratched just above his right eyebrow for a moment before whipping his hat off and tossing it onto the shelf in front of him.
"Oh, forget the car, Sam," he said with a huff of impatience.
He looked around him once more, as if trying to find a clue to what they could do to better protect themselves. The pantry itself was well built, with cold stone tiles over a dirt floor to keep food stuffs preserved and situated towards the back of the house under the stairwell. As long as there wasn't a direct hit or an incendiary bomb, they stood a good chance. In a pinch this was, in fact, the safest place.
Seemingly, Foyle had made up his mind, and he began to move heavy things off the lower shelves to safety. Then he pulled a sack of potatoes from the back to make a sort of seat for her. He shrugged off his long overcoat, folding it to pad out the seat a bit, and motioned with his chin for her to sit down.
"Keep your head down," he murmured.
Just then a terrific boom sounded, shaking the ground, rattling the jars on the pantry shelves, and making them both jump out of their skins. Something had hit a bit further down the street, it would seem. The light above them suddenly flickered before it went out completely.
Foyle muttered an oath and began rummaging along one shelf. "Torch here somewhere… or at least there was…" He moved and then swore loudly as his shin hit a box of some sort.
Sam reached into the tunic of her uniform, pulled out her lighter and clicked it, the flame flickering from the tremor in her hand.
"Well done, Sam," he said quietly, looking around the shelves as she held it higher.
He couldn't seem to find the torch and when another rumble began through the hideous wail of the air raid siren, Sam said in shaky voice, "If you wouldn't mind awfully, sir, would you come sit down, please?"
He looked over at her softly. "Won't the dark bother you?" The glow from her lighter was already beginning to fade.
"Not really. If you don't mind."
"Not at all," he said kindly. With his easy grace, he moved swiftly across the stone floor to sit beside her on the makeshift seat on top of the sack of potatoes. Sam snapped her lighter closed and they were thrown into pitch darkness.