Title: A Late Hour
Characters: Christopher Foyle and Samantha Stewart
Summary: Two genuine offers made by Sam Stewart and Christopher Foyle suddenly open up a path neither had anticipated. When bombed out of her billet, Sam searches for a place to stay, while Foyle wishes only to be rescued from a dinner engagement. At a late hour, could they possibly provide an answer for one another?
A/N: This story takes place during the episode Fifty Ships (S02E01) when we see more layers of Foyle revealed. Another HUGE thank you to dancesabove for her kind and useful beta work. Any mistakes, therefore, are our own.
Reviews and comments are always greatly appreciated.
Disclaimer: All characters from Foyle's War belong to Anthony Horowitz. No copyright infringement intended.
He had been quiet the entire drive, which had made Sam Stewart wonder in half-concerned puzzlement; Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle was normally quiet, true, but this silence was different from his usual reserve. He seemed almost nervous, and she couldn't help but glance at him from time to time as they drove along the now still and empty streets of Hastings. Foyle was dressed smartly in black tie attire, a white silk scarf draped elegantly around his neck. He certainly looked the part for a dinner party, which was all the information he'd given her about this evening.
The silence felt oppressive, so Sam launched into a stream of chatter, discussing their recent case involving stolen items from her bombed-out house. Her landlady, Mrs Harrison, had found her late husband's coin collection and some jewellery missing after returning to what was left of the house after the bombing. Sam then mentioned a story she had heard about a woman in London who had been knocked out from a bomb blast and awakened to find a policeman - a policeman, if one could believe it - fiddling with her hand and trying to pinch her rings.
Foyle didn't seem entirely shocked or even interested; he gave only a non-committal grunt.
The road narrowed as they wound along the coast towards Romney Point, and Sam changed down carefully, frowning slightly as she looked through the gloom. The blackout covers on the headlamps only made it more difficult to see. Gear safely changed, she glanced at Foyle again, taking in his dinner clothes and thinking he looked quite smart. It was strange to see him out of his usual grey suit that he wore for work. In fact, it felt rather odd to be out after dark with him, when they only ever seemed to see one another during the day. It felt... well, different somehow, here in the car, enveloped in the darkness and closeness of the car interior. He wore a different aftershave, perhaps in accordance with his attire. She wasn't entirely sure how men faced these sorts of things. 'Black tie' had always sounded rather daunting to her, but she was just a vicar's daughter. What did she know of important dinners? Dinner. She hadn't had hers yet.
"So, who are you having dinner with?"
"A man called Arthur Lewes. He's a barrister. A very good barrister. I knew him from years ago." He turned his face away, and she sensed a change come over him. A sort of sadness, perhaps?
"I see." Sam gave Foyle another sidelong glance. "You've never mentioned him."
She heard him take a small breath. "Nnno."
And there it was again - that subtle anxiety that she had detected in him since starting off from Steep Lane. It puzzled her and a flood of questions rose in her mind as a sudden curiosity caught hold of her.
They had driven up to the point by now, and Sam steered them onto a long curving drive. The hedges were high and close to the gravel, making the darkness seem even thicker and all-consuming. All at once, a figure appeared in front of the car as they rounded a curve in the drive and Sam slammed on the brakes. The figure, more a grey shadow than a clearly defined person, edged around her side of the car, looking in at them through the glass with a troubled face. She could just make out his features, but didn't recognise him.
"Was that him?" she asked, in a feeble attempt to make light of what might have been a nasty accident. Her heart was pounding in her chest, making the blood sound loud in her ears.
"No," said Foyle, craning around to see the man.
"Well, I hope it wasn't the cook," Sam said brightly, taking a deep breath to calm herself before putting the car back into gear and moving away.
Pulling up smartly in front of the large house, Sam turned to look at Foyle, giving him her best grin. He looked as if he needed a bit of encouragement, poor man.
"What time shall I collect you, sir?"
"You needn't do that, Sam. I'll ring for a taxi. It will be quite late, I imagine."
"I don't mind, sir. Besides, if it's really grim, I can ring the bell and say you're needed." She flashed him another grin, eyes dancing slightly in mischief, and the corners of his mouth turned down in his upside-down smile.
"Hmm, yes. Ten-thirty?"
"Right you are, sir."
He gave a short nod and stepped out, fingering his scarf absent-mindedly.
Sam watched him go up the steps, thinking he looked more like a man headed to the gallows than one attending a mere dinner engagement. She gave a sigh as her stomach growled at the thought of dinner. It must be near to eight o'clock. Perhaps there was something left over at the station? A sandwich in the kitchen, perhaps, or a bit of spam...
She began the drive back, slowly and guardedly making her way down the gravel drive. It had been a trying day, to say the very least. Only last night she had been bombed out of her billet. It seemed unreal to her still; how could she be suddenly without a home? Well, there was the vicarage, of course, so she wasn't entirely homeless...Sam wrinkled her nose at the thought of her childhood home. She had been very glad for the war to come along and get her out of there - that was certain. It wasn't really Father's fault, but being a vicar's daughter wasn't entirely fun.
Sam sighed heavily again; she really must find a place to stay until the Billeting Office found her one. She'd been on to them already, of course, but it seemed as if there just wasn't anything. Troop movements and the like were clogging up guest houses and hotels. Perhaps she'd try to telephone a few friends to see if they had something for her, at least for tonight. And, there were always Sergeant Rivers' cells, she supposed.
For the next two hours Sam sat behind the telephone at Sergeant Milner's desk in Hastings Police station, ringing around frantically, the list of places becoming smaller and smaller. It seemed an impossible task. She gave a small start as she noticed the time, then gave up her endeavour. A night in the cells seemed more and more likely. She sniffed wryly. Father always said I'd end up behind bars...
During the drive back out to the Lewes' house on Romney Point, Sam worried her bottom lip, thinking this was just the sort of situation her father would likely be furious about. Trust her to be without a place to stay at ten o'clock at night, he would say with a click of his tongue. He didn't mean to be impatient with her, but Sam supposed she did find herself in the most peculiar situations. Why, only last month he had come down to Hastings, fully intending to take her back to the vicarage with him. Thank goodness for Mr Foyle and Sergeant Milner; they had shown Reverend Stewart that perhaps being with the police was not such an unsuitable position for a young lady.
By the time she arrived in front of the Lewes' house again, she was no further in her ideas about what to do. Maybe Mr Foyle would have a suggestion? He was bound to know someone who had space for her. It was rather late though...
Her thoughts were interrupted as she saw Foyle coming down the steps. He slipped into the car noiselessly, closing the door softly before turning to her. He gave her a small smile.
"Am I glad to see you."
"Was it very awful, sir?"
"Well…" he made a small quirk with his lips. Sam smiled to herself, recognising the expression. She slipped the car into gear and they pulled away from the house.
"Was the food nice, at least?"
He gave a small huff of laughter, but conceded, "It was. Three courses, would you believe."
Sam groaned. "Better than mine. A rather weak cup of tea and some stale biscuits."
Foyle turned bodily to look at her. "You haven't had anything more than that?"
"No, sir. I've been ringing around trying to find a place to stay…" she paused, feeling suddenly very foolish. "It seems there just isn't anything. I should take priority, of course, but everything is full."
"No one else can put you up?"
"I have asked, sir," she said a bit more forcefully than she'd meant to, feeling slightly defensive.
Wanting to change the subject for the moment, Sam gave him a fleeting look, and noticed that he looked quite tired. "What did you talk about during the dinner?"
"The war. There is an American staying; he had, er, rather interesting opinions on the war."
"I'm sure he did." She arched her eyebrows at him, and they both smiled, the atmosphere between them suddenly relaxed again.
"It wasn't all bad," Foyle admitted. "It just isn't something I particularly enjoy."
He added quietly, "I hadn't seen Arthur and Elizabeth in years."
"Elizabeth?" Sam inquired curiously.
"Umm, yes…" He fiddled with his scarf, rubbing the soft material between his thumb and forefinger. "Arthur's wife. I knew her before they were married."
His voice had a slight edge to it, and Sam observed that he had begun to chew his cheek. She tactfully said no more and left the subject there.
As they came through Hastings again, heading carefully towards Steep Lane, Sam glanced at Foyle and suddenly felt she should say something. She really ought to ask if he knew of someone who might have space for her. He looked so thoughtful and far off though. It seemed almost a shame to break into his thoughts and risk sounding foolish.
Concluding there was nothing for it, Sam said hesitantly, "I hate to ask, sir, but do you know of anyone with a spare room or a sofa? I haven't been able to find anywhere to stay, though I must have rung at least a dozen places this evening."
Foyle frowned slightly. "I didn't realise Hastings was so busy."
"No, neither did I."
He looked over at her softly, biting his lip. "Look, Sam, it's rather too late to be knocking on people's doors. Why don't you use the back room at my house? If you like."
Sam beamed at him, gripping the steering wheel slightly harder than necessary as her stomach swooped. "Really, sir? Could I?"
He smiled back, seemingly pleased at being able to solve at least one problem today. "Of course. Though I wouldn't mention it to the others. I wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea."
Her insides gave another leap at that. "Of course, sir. Absolutely." She grinned from ear to ear, relief sinking through her.
Foyle gave a small chuckle. "And I'm sure I've got some eggs and bread for you. Can't have you going hungry."
Sam parked the Wolseley across the narrow street outside Foyle's house in Steep Lane. She had been inside a few times, but felt a sudden thrill slip through her at the thought of staying overnight. It surprised her, but it was not an unpleasant feeling. Sam followed him up the steps and watched as he unlocked his front door. Her stomach swooped again. Foyle said over his shoulder, "I'm sorry about all this."
"It's the war, sir."
Foyle ushered her inside, then reached past her to switch on the small lamp on the hall table. He wore a black overcoat that matched his suit and a different hat. She watched him from the corner of her eye as he shrugged these off. He looked so different in this formal attire; almost as if he were another man altogether. The sudden warm smile he gave her made her start. She hadn't realised she'd been staring.
"Let's find something for you to eat."
"It's very kind of you, sir."
"Not at all."
Sam followed him across the sitting room into the dining room alcove and through to the small kitchen. She had never been this far into his house before and she looked around her in interest. It was typically tidy; there was no evidence of a hurried breakfast or discarded tea towel. Everything was where it should be.
Foyle went into the larder, pulling out a few eggs and half a loaf of bread. Slipping off her uniform tunic and slinging it across the back of a chair, Sam set to lighting the stove. They worked in accordance, as if they had cooked together in the small kitchen many times before instead of it actually being the first time. Sam cracked the eggs expertly and began to scramble them; Foyle cut slices of bread. They were silent, but a sort of humming communion seemed to fill the air between them. It was both easy and companionable.
Together, they soon had a small meal put together. They sat at the kitchen table, throwing any sort of precedence aside. She tucked in gratefully, the scrambled eggs and thinly buttered toast disappearing quickly. She looked up to find him smiling in amusement, glad to see her taking pleasure in the simple comfort of warm food. Sam thought it must look rather odd: Foyle sitting there in his best suit; she in her uniform. He had followed her lead and removed his suit jacket, as had she, and they sat comfortably in one another's company, the need for words long gone.
He drank a cup of tea as she ate, and a sudden sense of calm came over her. She hadn't realised just how tense she had been since the bombing, just twenty-four hours before. Foyle was staring off into space now, mind quite obviously occupied. She watched him, careful not to stare this time and be discovered doing so. He truly looked troubled, and she wondered what had been said at the dinner to fill his mind so. Or had it perhaps been the people there? How mysterious he had been in the car. She didn't like to ask, but it did seem altogether strange how nervous he had been beforehand.
Mr Foyle was her boss, of course, but he was also a friend. They had worked together closely, day in and day out, for more than five months. True, he was naturally reserved and reticent, but there were times when he would speak to her quite openly. She rather hoped this might be one of them. He looked to her as if a decent chat would ease his mind a bit.
As she swallowed the last bite and pushed her plate away, Sam said softly, "What is it, sir?"
"Hmm?" He looked around at her, startled from his thoughts.
"I don't like to pry, sir, you know I don't, but... if I could help at all?"
He smiled kindly at her and sighed. "Just thinking about the past too much, that's all."
"Elizabeth?" she asked tentatively.
Foyle glanced up in surprise. "Er, well…" He bit his lip and nudged his teacup absentmindedly. He looked slightly uncomfortable, as if he had been found out, but then gave a small facial shrug, quirking his lips in a rueful grimace. "Well, yes. I hadn't seen her for nearly twenty years."
Something in his voice had changed, and Sam asked without thinking, "Was she someone you knew quite well?"
His left eyebrow shot up, making her blush at her boldness. "I'm sorry, sir."
"No, it's all right." Foyle sighed again, shifting in his chair to cross one leg over the other. "She was. I, uh, asked her to marry me once."
Sam gasped audibly and Foyle raised his other eyebrow.
"And she refused you?"
Sam sounded so incredulous that Foyle laughed.
"I don't think I was quite the, um, match her father had in mind."
Sam shook her head. "Well, if you don't mind me saying so, sir, she was silly to have let her father influence such a decision. Why shouldn't she marry you? You were perfectly eligible, surely? If I wanted to marry you I wouldn't let my father forbid it. Not for all the tea in China."
She gave him a pointed look and then saw that his eyes crinkled softly at the corners, a sudden fire burning there; his lips lifted almost imperceptibly in an understated smile. Sam blushed deeply, all at once aware of her words.
In a sudden panic, she began rambling. "I mean...I suppose it was different then, of course, and being from such a family...and perhaps her father had someone else in mind...that does happen, of course…and well, I suppose it worked out for the best, sir, as you met your wife and had Andrew… and…" Sam ran out of steam and ended lamely with, "Well."
If Foyle was at all shocked, he didn't show it. He sat very still, eyes not leaving her face. It unnerved her and she scrambled wildly for any topic that would take them away from this. Oh, what a fool she'd been to say all that…
At last Foyle said quietly, "It did work out for the best in the end. You're absolutely right." He twitched his lips into a fond smile, and Sam let out the breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding.
"And I'm glad to hear that you would follow your heart."
He spoke so softly that she wasn't sure she had heard him correctly. She went red again and looked away. She had come this far, however, so she answered quietly, but firmly, "I should always, sir. How could I not?"
There was a small pause and she glanced back up at him bravely, jutting out her chin slightly. Her hands shook as she clasped them in her lap. His eyes hadn't left her face, and she met them now with a determined stare, feeling her stomach contract uncomfortably.
"Good." He gave a small nod and stood. "Let's get this cleared away, and then I'll show you where you'll be sleeping."
The moment was gone and Sam felt a small wave of disappointment wash over her. She wasn't sure why, but there had been something more in his face in that brief moment. Something she wasn't sure she understood, though it filled her with an exciting thrill.
Foyle fiddled with his cuff links, frowning slightly with the effort. They were old ones; Rosalind had given them to him before Andrew was born and he always wore them with this suit. They were both fiddly and stiff, and he couldn't seem to make them budge.
"Let me, sir."
And suddenly Sam was beside him, deft fingers moving across his cuff, head bent over his wrist as she concentrated on her task. The cuff links didn't seem to want to budge and the side of her hand rested lightly on his wrist as she pushed and pulled. At last it came free, and she looked up triumphantly.
Her grin faded quickly as she saw the look on his face. It was like nothing she had ever seen before and his look seemed to go right through her. Her insides soared and she was suddenly very aware of how close the two of them stood; of the heat radiating from his skin against her own. She felt she should step back; she should remove her hand from where it rested against his wrist; she should look away before she melted into the soft look radiating in his blue eyes.
But he was so vulnerable in this moment. He seemed unlike the Foyle she had known, as if barriers that had once been there had broken down entirely, showing the true spirit of the man beside her. It was both overwhelming and beautiful. Here was a man so full of kindness, gentleness, and love, and yet some of it had all been hidden away, lain dormant for too long. How much hurt had he experienced? More than she knew, obviously, and it touched her to see it written there so plainly on his features. Perhaps he hadn't meant for it to show, but it filled her with such purpose. As if somehow, in this moment, only she could soothe the turmoil visible in his face.
She hadn't meant to intrude; hadn't meant to say the things she had done about marriage and standing up to her father; hadn't, in fact, even meant to force herself upon his hospitality. But here she was, standing beside him, with only one path clear to her.
As if reading her mind, he opened his arms to her and she stepped in closely to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She had thought to comfort him, but instead she found herself comforted by the strength of his embrace and the solidness of his frame against her own. Perhaps they comforted each other. Tears rose to her eyes, though she couldn't explain why. She had been bombed out of her billet and lost a friend in the process, but it hadn't seemed to truly hit her until now. To be here in his arms was to know peace and security. She felt completely safe for the first time in ages, and she melted against him with a sigh of relief.
"It's been a bit much, hasn't it?" he murmured softly, then said more strongly, "Oh, Sam, dear girl, you've been so brave."
The tears came then, flooding out from beneath her eyelids to soak his best white shirt. He pulled her even closer. "What a day we've had, eh?"
She gave a muffled choke, laughter getting stuck somewhere inside her.
He stroked her hair and nuzzled against her ear. "Glad you came to rescue me…"
They clung to one another, each finding solace in the other in the gentle light of his kitchen. It was the end to a trying day, but the start of something that was sure to be wonderful.