A Dream of Thee:
A Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Fic
Disclaimer: These estimable personages are not mine but belong to the incomparable Dorothy L. Sayers and her estate. This is not intended for infringement or profit but for the love of piffle.
Spoilers: Gaudy Night / Busman's Honeymoon
Summary: "apparently it all happened quite late on Sunday evening and they sat up half the night, kissing one another madly in a punt, poor things, and then he had to go, making no arrangements for anything, and if it hadn't been for his signet-ring that he put on her hand all in a hurry at the last moment it might have been all a dream."
~ the Dowager Duchess of Denver, "Busman's Honeymoon" DLS.
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Harriet removed herself ever so slightly from Peter's embrace. Still clutching his lapels, she self-consciously craned her head over her shoulder, struck by the prerequisite prickling sensation at the back of the neck that heralds an unwanted observer. "Peter- perhaps we should find someplace less conspicuous to carry on," she managed somewhat breathlessly. "I could have sworn I saw a Proctor go by."
She suppressed a blush, temporarily remembering her previous late night encounter with Mr. Pomfret. Undergraduate or no, it still wouldn't do to get seen in the embraces of man within Shrewsbury, even if that man happened to be one's fiancé.
"What care I for Proctors in times as these?" he countered gleefully and continued an exploratory traverse of her jawline. "Let him try to oust me from the courtyard- my strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure!" He stopped momentarily and gave her a wry smile that bespoke of further mischief. "Though, heart's lady, I think you're right- this looks not like a betrothal."
"Not bang under the Dean's windows, no," she agreed.
He tilted his head back and fixed a sardonic eye on the building façade. He lowered his gaze, stepped backwards and extended his arm gallantly, the impish grin spreading wider by the second. "Shall we shed our robes and frolic elsewhere?" he suggested, waggling his eyebrows at her.
She nodded her head solemnly in reply, and took his arm. Peter kept their pace at a leisurely stroll, as if he were walking down a promenade in broad daylight. Let him preen his feathers, thought Harriet, he deserves to crow a little after five years worth of toil.
Suddenly he stopped short and gave her arm a squeeze. "Let's go on the river!"
"Smelly but picturesque. And as suitable a cliché as any," she added, batting her eyelashes affectedly.
"My darling by my side and me without my gramophone," Peter nodded his head in reply, the grin still in situ.
"I shall have to hum Love in Bloom for you then," Harriet returned with a chuckle.
They strolled along in amiable silence, their hands intertwined, fingers and robes overlapping one another. Harriet wondered how she could have ever held out against him for so long, feeling both terribly happy and terribly exposed. All the walls of Jericho had tumbled down, she thought, and I'll dance on the rubble without any scruples God! after all that fuss and I've done it, all of a sudden what he must think I can't imagine he's too happy to be otherwise and why shouldn't he? I've got what I want too giddy as a schoolgirl for the dear idiot with that grin true house of joy and bliss and potty if he thinks of marriage on equal terms I'm potty for waiting so long so it must even out
After a while, she began to oblige him with the aforementioned accompaniment to their stroll but it was indicative of his frame of mind that he barely noticed it, restraining more overwhelming urges to whoop loudly and run off in all directions at once. I did it I finally did it Five years, almost six for I have loved you for so long Helen will have a fit let her, dammit, a man's entitled to marry who he likes kissing her was like heaven da mihi basia mille and to think a mere few weeks ago she might have died and all would have been lost I would have been lost, that's for sure but that beastly time is over and there's nothing but wonderful things to look forward to day and night
He helped her into the punt and stayed up in the bows, setting a leisurely pace and whistling a French ditty. Harriet smiled up at him from her seat, complacent and content.
He noticed her smiling and commented on it, querying again, "Placetne?"
"Yes," she replied simply, with no hesitation.
It really isn't a dream, he thought. She said the word. "Who knew one could get such a kick out of such a trite and tiny word? Say it again at your peril, Cythera, or we shall both end up in the river."
"For safety's sake, then, I shall keep dissention on all points."
"Safety's sake, bah! I dislike wearing wet robes, and they're very unfashionable this year," he fooled, looking down his nose at her as she struggled for composure.
She failed miserably, belatedly wondering why she had thought it necessary to maintain solemnity and surrendered herself to laughter. It delighted him to hear and the grin grew wider. She's happy, by God! after all this time, I make her happy.
They moored on the far banks of the Cherwell and after stowing the oars, Peter took his place at her side.
"Well, Harriet, we've crossed the Rubicon. Any qualms?"
"None at all, Peter," she said with all seriousness.
"In it for the long haul? Come here then- alea iacta est."
He kissed her and her senses swam. She began to think that all her previous notions about the nature of lovers were all wrong. Philip had never kissed her like that. But it was not the time for thinking of him. Only one heart, only one man, and it was Peter, dear sweet Peter
He put his chin atop her head and breathed her name into her bushy curls as she burrowed deeper into his arms, nestled in his embrace that smelled of expensive cigarettes and masculine musk. As her weight shifted the punt rocked precariously, causing them both to sit up straight.
"Hoops-a-daisy! You alright, my dear?"
"Oh, I'm fine, Peter. I'm just glad you didn't end up in the soup. It's rather reassuring somehow, I was ready to believe this was all just a dream."
"No phantom, I. And here is the proof careful, there goes the punt again warm lips sink ships I suppose we could act all proper and dignified but where's the fun in that? if we go overboard, so be it- I'll have died a happy man. 'Accident Befalls Lord who Perishes with a Smile' that sort of thing "
"Idiot!" she countered playfully.
Some time later, he turned to her with a sober face. "Seriously, Harriet, I know that puttin' up with me has been no picnic and my family's even worse"
"Am I sure I know what I'm getting into?" she asked. "Peter, I'm not marrying your family- I'm marrying you." Odd, saying that for the first time. Almost as if she hadn't faced the fact until she had said it aloud. "St. George practically considers me an aunt already. Do you assume they won't approve?"
"I know that Helen won't."
"Does it even matter then?"
He laughed then, and drew her closer. "That's what I love about you, Harriet. When you resolve to do a thing, you don't hold back. Of course it doesn't matter, except for my dear old mater, who I'm sure will adore you. She's already a fan of your books Speaking of which, how is Wilfrid getting along?"
"Becoming more and more the tortured soul daily. I shall have to do some more research before I can continue, but it's shaping up to be something quite different than I had expected it to be. Less painful somehow and more intriguing. And I have you to thank for it."
"Me? No, Harriet. It's your own mettle, I just merely pointed out a general direction- I never expected you to follow it through. That day on the tower It taught me to hope, as I had scarcely ever hoped before--"
"Oh, Mr. Darcy, really?" Harriet interrupted, unable to stop herself, and collapsed into ripples of laughter. "Oh Peter, should anything else make sense again?"
"Never! If this be non-sense, then I shall never want a speck of sense again! I am sated on the ridiculous."
"No room for the mind- only the heart?"
"And its overflow of joy."
They sat in content silence for awhile, before Harriet heard the distant tolling of clock bells.
"Four o'clock! Is it really that late?"
Peter sat up straight. "And it's Monday- oh God! Harriet, I promised the Foreign Office I'd fly back to Rome-"
"What, today? Can't you tell them something's come up? Oh hell. I suppose not. Will Bunter be terribly worried?"
"Silly woman, don't you know that Bunter is imperturbable? Though, dash it all! I'm afraid I'll have to cut our evening short."
"We'll punt together back," she said, reaching for the oars.
And so they did, Peter singing all the while until they again came to Magdalen Bridge. Harriet requested he leave her there, not wanting to chance the Proctor again and similarly unwilling to let him depart without one last farewell embrace.
"I'll write to the mater today," he said after they had climbed up the banks. "Though I have such a reputation for silliness, I wonder if she'll believe it."
The request for evaluation, thought Harriet as she nodded in reply. "Peter, I hardly believe it- everything's happened so quickly"
"Harriet! here, give me your hand," he requested, taking off his signet ring. He placed it on her finger and kissed her hand. "Just something to remind you of a dream of me."
"A dream come true?"
"Admirable woman! She be/ One that loves me! A bientot, dearest, sweetest Harriet."
"A bientot, Peter," she replied softly, as he drew out of her arms. She stood affixed to the spot, watching his retreating back fade into the night, his fair head ghostly pale and disembodied in the darkness.
It was odd, she thought, remembering faintly a few weeks prior, waking up at such an hour of the morning from a dream of Peter's embrace. She pinched her arm with no effect. The bridge did not melt away into her nightstand and the cold and damp robes wrapped around her did not transform into her warm sheets.
It must be true, then. I am engaged. Perhaps psychologists are all wrong. Maybe one doesn't need to dream of toothbrushes or bats or other arcane things to reveal a secret desire to the self. Maybe one just needs the thing itself, unadulterated and exposed and without pretense, to understand its worth.
She glanced down at the ring on her finger and felt reassured. I have found what's real.
And that night, she experienced the profoundest slumber, being wakened neither by Poisen-Pens nor dreams of any kind.
A/N: The title is derived from (where else but?) John Donne, from the first stanza of "The Good-Morrow":
"I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved. Were we not wean'd till then
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleeper's den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be,
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee."