When a knock came at the door to Tallis' office, he didn't look up from the report he was reading, reclining in the chair behind his cluttered desk. He called out "Enter!" from where he sat; what he didn't expect was a familiar, dark voice in reply.


He didn't uncross his legs or start forward, however much he felt he should, though his eyes froze in place on the page he was reading, his mind refusing to take in any more. This was due not only to Craddock's sudden appearance, but to the fact that he had never said Tallis' name in a tone quite so inquiring and insecure.

"Yes, Commander Craddock?" he said, attempting at authority.

There was no reply, but the click of the key in the lock echoed, quiet and unassuming, through the room. Craddock approached the desk, his footsteps distractingly firm.

"Tallis, would you put down the report?" he said, hints of frustration and, strangely, weariness showing through in his voice. Tallis very purposefully closed the folder and placed it on the desk before him, uncrossing his legs and sitting up. He was rather taken aback by the subtle worn-out look Craddock wore – there were shadows beneath his eyes, and his skin seemed paler than usual.

"Was there something you wanted, Craddock?" Tallis asked stiffly.

Surprisingly, Craddock didn't speak at first, instead removing his hat and placing it on Tallis' desk with great deliberation. He breathed, drawing himself up, and raised his eyes to meet Tallis'.

"I am afraid to say that I am still in love with you," he announced firmly. Tallis forced himself not to fall from his chair. "I am grateful beyond words for your forgiveness of – past indiscretions, and am glad that we have been able to bring our two departments to work together with the levels amity so far achieved. I can only hope that, if you do not return my affections, you may at least bear them without reproach."

Silence fell, neither man looking away. After a very long moment, Tallis cleared his throat and shifted in his seat, glancing down as he absently shuffled papers.

"Why are you telling me this?" he asked, his voice just touching on a growl. If possible, Craddock paled even further. He swallowed.

"Last… time," he said evasively, "you expressed a wish that I had consulted you and confessed myself before seeking a magical solution to my problem."


Craddock shifted uncomfortably. "And when the problem came once more to a head," he said, determinedly not looking down, "I opted to learn from the past rather than repeat it."

Tallis said nothing. Eventually, Craddock sighed and dropped his gaze.

"I can see that this visit was pointless," he said, a curious strength behind the soft intonation. He picked up his hat and made to leave. "Until next time, Commander Tallis."


He froze in his tracks, his shoulders tensing visibly.

"For goodness' sake, Pompey, come here," Tallis grumbled, voice caught somewhere between frustration and good-naturedness.

Craddock turned slowly and stepped back across the room on tentative feet. He made his way around the side of the desk as Tallis stood. When they were finally facing each other with nothing but twelve inches of air between them, Tallis sighed through his nose and took Craddock's hat from his hand, returning it to the desk.

"Let's do this properly this time, shall we?" he said softly, almost all of the usual gruffness in his voice vanishing.

"Do what properly?" Pompey asked.

Tallis snorted. "Don't be a twit, Pompey," he said lightly, and all of a sudden, he was no longer Commander Tallis of the Special Services, but just Tallis, practicing combat and complaining about essays and holding a tall, thin magician in his arms as they slept. Pompey stepped closer, bringing both hands up to cradle Tallis' neck as Tallis took hold of his waist and jaw – and all of a sudden, they were kissing.

It wasn't slack with brandy or greedily, desperately angry this time. Instead, Pompey's lips were soft and Tallis was slow as they figured out the placement of noses and fingers and hearts, eyes closed and breaths loud in their ears. When they broke apart, they did not pull away, keeping themselves close. Pompey nosed gently against Tallis' cheek.

"Westley," he whispered, then stopped, opening his eyes. "May I call you Westley?" he asked, reprimanding himself so silently that Tallis heard it loud and clear, and smirked.

"No you most certainly may not," he said. "It's an awful name."

Pompey's mouth twisted with amusement, not quite smiling, and the expression was so beloved and so dearly missed that Tallis immediately swooped up to kiss it away, lest he find his heart breaking again at the sight.