Title: The Crash
Disclaimer: The creative rights to the characters and plotlines in "Foyle's War" belong to Anthony Horowitz, but no infringement is intended and I in no way profit from the story I've written.
Rating: K+ for now
Pairing: Samantha Stewart and Christopher Foyle
A/N: This A/U story of Sam and Mr Foyle is based on scenes in "The French Drop." It's my first about the couple, and I'm still not altogether sure where it will go, so I welcome your feedback.
It happened just after Sam had proudly told her boss about the packet and map she had found hidden in the phone box, and they passed Marion Greenwood in a car en route to Hill House. Suddenly Sam said nervously to DCS Foyle, "Do you know… there's something wrong with—uh—"
"Sam," Foyle said questioningly, his face growing tense as he sensed her mounting panic, "what's going on?"
"The wheel," she blurted, at the same time that he spoke. It's steering—"
She struggled to remain calm, but was seized with fear. Her foot upon the brake pedal was not slowing the car, and the steering was completely out of her control.
"I can't get it… Sir!"
Immediately after they very nearly collided with an oncoming lorry, Sam employed a tremendous desperate yank of the steering wheel to the right, swearing as they plunged straight into a wooden garden shed. At last the car came to a stop with its bonnet partially penetrating the small building, which peeled some of its slats from the shock of the impact.
She raised her head slowly, aware of a horrendous pain in her face where she had sustained a hard bump of her brow line and the side of her nose on the steering wheel. Removing her cap and rubbing her throbbing head she could see a scarlet streak glisten on the fingers of her glove. Then she looked to her left and her heart was gripped with terror.
Foyle was leaning crumpled against the passenger door with his head against the window, bleeding profusely from his nose and from an ugly gash across his brow, and evidently unconscious.
"Mr Foyle! Sam cried, then said under her breath, "Oh dear Lord," as she moved closer and patted his right hand. "Mr Foyle?" No response. Sam's eyes widened in horror as she wondered if he were alive, and she fumbled to remove her gloves and feel for his pulse, but her own heart was thundering and she could not seem to find one. Fighting back tears she twisted about, glancing desperately all around. Foyle's hat had been partly crushed by his head's impact on the dashboard, and she picked it up from the floor as she tried to slow down her racing brain and decide what to do.
Her side of the car was wedged in such a way against the wood of the structure that she could not open her door, but should she open the passenger door, Mr Foyle might fall out of the car. She examined him for some sign that it would not be a good idea to move him, not quite knowing what that would be. His body appeared unhurt, so gingerly she tested the state of his neck, gently pressing into the area below his ears and the lower edge of his hair. Even in this crisis she was aware of the strangeness of touching him so much. She had daydreamed about it often enough, but in the dreams he was always—
Oh Sam, pull yourself together! She hissed at herself.
When she had satisfied herself that his neck was unbroken she began to try pulling him away from the door so that he would lean back against his seat enough to allow her to climb over him. It took her several tries to pull his shoulders forward and toward her as he was…
Don't think of the term "dead weight…"
But she managed to tug until he cleared the door.
Samantha winced and could not suppress a terrified sob at the thick, dark blood obscuring the lower part of his face, but the only thing she could think of to do was leave the car and go for some kind of help—the owner of the shed, a car making its way along the road, anything. She clambered awkwardly over him and opened the passenger-side door. Once perched on its seat she removed her handkerchief and cleared some of the coagulating blood from Foyle's nose, whereupon she felt the faintest hint of an exhalation and went limp with relief.
"Hang on a mo, Sir and I'll be back with help," she told the insensible man, and rose, wiping her tears with another corner of the cloth as she ran around the farm building.
Within three minutes she and the owner of the property returned to the car. Alderson had no telephone, but he and his wife offered to help the distraught young woman in any way that they could. She had apologized for the damage but explained how she had completely lost control of her automobile. Despite her own slight facial injuries and her frightened tears, her uniform and her determination to help her companion as quickly and efficiently as possible gave her an air of self-control that earned their admiration.
Mrs Alderson rushed to the house of a neighbour to solicit his help and send his youngster for the doctor, while her husband accompanied Sam back to the car to assess how best to remove Foyle from it.
"Steady, now." Neighbour Mr MacDougal and Mr Alderson pulled Mr Foyle from the car onto a blanket close to the roadside, where Mrs Alderson and Sam watched for cars in each direction.
"Let's see if we can make a stretcher of it," MacDougal suggested, and with a rough approximation fashioned, the men carried Foyle into the house.
Dr Halstead glanced at the young woman who sat beside the man's bed, fidgeting and letting her knees bounce with anxiety. She had explained as he bathed the patient's bloodied face that this man was her boss, a policeman, but it seemed obvious to him that she cared deeply for him and was half out of her head with worry.
"He was lucky—no broken bones," the doctor assured Sam. "He stood a good chance of breaking his nose, but he hit his head a bit above it. That is why he is so soundly out, but he should come to, quite soon. Try not to worry." He shook his head grimly, slightly more worried about Foyle than he wanted to admit to Sam just yet. This is why I still believe we should put restraining belts in motorcars, as they do in Sweden.
The chief superintendent lay motionless, breathing shallowly. Sam tried to down the cup of tea Mrs Alderson had brought her, but was too agitated to do much more than sit at Foyle's bedside fretting. The doctor at length left for another call but said he would check back in an hour or so.
"Let us know, dear, when he wakes, and if there is anything you should need," Mrs Alderson said sympathetically. She found Sam's concern for her employer touching, and she and Mr Alderson had more than once had to stop the young woman from apologizing to them again.
Sam thanked their kind neighbour as he and Mr Alderson exited to work out removing the car from the shed.
Alone with Mr Foyle and her fears for him, Sam shamelessly broke down and wept; her own face stung sharply, but nothing was hurting as much as her terror that he wouldn't wake up, or would not be the same when he did. She left the chair beside the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress, looking down at Foyle's face.
He looks like he's asleep, though slightly less peaceful, as if he were having a tense dream…
Nervously, finding herself atremble to be doing so, she smoothed three fingers over the creases on his forehead as if to iron them out, and very lightly over the injured spot between his eyebrows.
She hadn't even worked with him a full year yet, but had cared about him for so long—really only about a week after meeting him she had begun to look forward to her job much more than she'd ever anticipated anything, and it wasn't just the excitement of working with him on cases. He was almost as old as her father, and not exactly youthful in mien, but there was something about his treatment of her and his quiet charm and his intense eyes that crept into her thoughts and made her wonder if he could possibly wish to be anything other than a paternal figure toward her. And the unbidden dream she had had one night last week—Sam blushed to think of it and stole a quick glance at his face again.
Would it be as lovely to be kissed by him as it had been in the dream?
Sam stood and paced the room, wringing her hands. This is why it just hadn't felt right to keep walking out with his son last autumn. The moment Andrew kissed her after their first real date, she had known. Nothing improper; Andrew had been very gentlemanly. Still, surely one would feel a spark even in that chaste sort of kiss, if that were what was meant to be.
I feel more electricity when Mr Foyle so much as looks into my eyes a certain way. When he wakes from this, I am going to tell him. It might be embarrassing; he may laugh at me for having a childish crush…
But she had to find out whether his unmistakably admiring glances and his sweetness to her (and maybe even his occasional gruffness toward her) were in any way indicative of any similar sentiment on his part.
Weary and nursing a badly aching head, Sam pulled the straight-backed chair to the side of the high bed and rested her head on her folded arms just beside DCS Foyle's shoulder. She was careful not to touch him—if he did awake she didn't want to disconcert him—but she had to be near. It was very important to be almost touching.
About half an hour ticked by after she fell into a deep sleep, so she was unaware that her boss was struggling through searing pain to consciousness. He came to so gradually that at first he thought he was dreaming; he was in a cottage he'd never seen before, asleep in a strange bed. And Sam had her head bent beside his arm, nestled on her forearms as she slept in what looked like an uncomfortable position. Foyle took stock of everything in the oddly comforting dream again; then the memory of the accident seeped back into his mind. Finally, hardly having moved, he realized that he truly was in a bed in a stranger's house.
Maccoby. He must have done something to the car. Hmm. Just as Stafford so obliquely warned.
Even as he figured out what had likely happened, he remembered that Sam might also have been hurt. That she didn't also have to lie down was a good sign, at least.
He raised his left hand to try to touch her shoulder, but his whole body ached with the effort and he instead only slid it toward her until he could lightly brush her forearm with his fingers.
He had to say it twice, and push his fingers into her arm with slightly more pressure, before she raised her head. She looked peculiar with the red marks of her injuries lining her brow and a bit of her nose; nevertheless her smile made her radiantly beautiful and from her eyes shone something stronger than mere relief. He swallowed hard, feeling tears spring into his own eyes.
She looks overjoyed. I must have scared her.
He squinted with concern. "You all right?"
"Am I all right!" There was sunny laughter in her voice. "That is the question I was just about to ask you!" Her face was still lit with happiness. He was the same Christopher Foyle; she could tell even after only these few words because he'd already let so many expressions cross his face, and now his lips and eyes were smiling, too.
Christopher was almost forgetting the pain it cost him to smile, he was so busy drinking in how lovely Sam was. And there was something more making his heart take flight—the way she was looking at him was beyond polite gladness, it was quite plain.
Could she possibly—?
He mentally shook that thought out of his head, as he had so many times before.
She was worried because you were unconscious. You're awake and she is glad of it. You both came out of what could have been fatal. That is why she glows that way.
His expression began to mirror hers, and she too was aware of a new look in his eyes that she could not remember experiencing before. It was rather like the look of fond amusement he sometimes had for her, as when he knew perfectly well that she had raced to arrive before his bus after misplacing the car's distributor cap. But mixed in there was a look of tenderness that made her heart skip a few beats. She looked down and noticed that his hand still rested against her arm, rather as it sometimes rested near or right beside her shoulder when he'd casually lay his arm along the seatback.
Did he notice it when he did that? Would he believe me if I told him how I'm affected by that merest touch? How I have to concentrate to keep the road if I can feel his fingers move?
Foyle looked down at their contact, too, and unobtrusively moved his hand away, though he felt like taking her hand in his. She rolled her bottom lip slightly in disappointment, but didn't lose her joyful relief in knowing that he would be all right.
"Even overdoing the Glenlivet never gave me a headache like this one," he told her, "but otherwise I think I'll survive." He peered at the inverted C of damaged skin curving around her right eye. "How do you feel?"
Just then Mrs Alderson knocked softly at the door and entered the bedroom. "Your boss is awake, Miss Stewart?" She beamed at the sleepy-eyed Foyle. "How are you?"
"This is Mrs Alderson—it was her shed we took a header into," Sam explained quickly.
Foyle twinkled at their hostess. "Hardly seems a fair exchange for all this fine care." They all laughed together.
The older lady assured them that no great harm was done, and updated them that thankfully, even the Wolseley had not sustained too much damage. It still was running, albeit with a few dents in its front wing and bonnet. "But you are welcome to stay here as long as you need to. This is a spare room, and you both—"
Mrs Alderson was suddenly quite flustered.
Now, why was I forgetting that these two aren't married? Perhaps because they look at each other as if they'd like to be…
"—er, and the living room sofa is quite comfortable."
Foyle's eyes met Sam's. "I think as long as I don't keel over when I attempt to stand, we shall be able to finish our business this afternoon—that is, if you feel up to it, Sam." She nodded. "But if we stay another night," he explained, "it can be with Sam's uncle at the vicarage."
Sam felt a spring of hope that they might be a pair of houseguests for a little while longer, whether in this cozy place or back at Uncle Aubrey's. Being under the same roof with her boss allowed her to pretend, as she had the time she had stayed in his spare room, that they were…
Uncle Aubrey was in fact now in the Aldersons' living room, chatting with Paul Milner as Foyle walked slowly toward one of the chairs, Sam lending him support at one arm.
Oh, splendid. I must seem more an old man to her than ever, he mused grumpily as she and Milner helped him sit. He answered the men's inquiries as to how he was feeling.
Christopher smiled at Mrs Alderson as she brought in a vast tray of tea things. "Except for moving like a man of 80 and having quite the headache, I'm fine, thank you." He smiled at Uncle Aubrey. "I'm sorry you had to be alarmed about your niece."
The vicar sputtered humourously. "I do believe she came out of the bang-up the better for wear than you did, but I wanted to be quite sure you both were in one piece. And Sergeant Milner came down…" he nodded toward Milner.
"I'm glad to see you're all right, Sir," Milner nodded, with the warm concern often present in his eyes. "Came down by train. And I wasn't alone; I was following Marion Greenwood."
Foyle was listening carefully, already back on duty. "Know where she went?"
"She jumped in a taxi at the station, and guess where it took her…" Paul looked wryly amused.
Milner gave a slight nod.
They all enjoyed the generous tea and Foyle insisted that the Hastings Police Department would reimburse the Aldersons so that they could replace their storage building. He didn't add that he intended to bill the Special Operations Executive for it in turn, as he was certain that one of its mysterious inhabitants had tried to kill him, and it was the very least the shady (if necessary) operation could do.
"Is this any help, Sir?" Sam asked, at last able to show Foyle the map and letter she had taken from the out-of-order phone box near Beeches Lane.
He examined it, massaging his aching brow and squinting hard for a moment. "Yes."
"A map of Rouen?"
"Well, it seems it's a copy of a map of Rouen used by an agent, according to this letter."
"Ten-ten-forty—that's a map reference, isn't it?"
"Is it?" Foyle asked her, looking thoughtful. "Did you see who left this?"
"Uhm—I didn't see his face, but it wasn't a bald man," said Sam, referring to the description Uncle Aubrey had earlier given her of a loiterer around the churchyard.
Foyle looked admiringly at Sam's expression of concentration. Although she had seemed just a bit smug in the car earlier when she triumphantly told him how she had made away with the map, she was never one to play at being more knowledgeable about cases or detecting than she really was. Yet she was a straightforward solver, sometimes even brilliant in the way she observed and considered evidence.
"This is all Hill House, isn't it?" Uncle Aubrey said of the clues, in a resigned sort of way. "That's what it all comes down to."
Foyle's eyes shifted before he spoke. "That and your church, Sir."
When Uncle Aubrey expressed curiosity, Foyle told them of his suspicions concerning the body of the young builder who had died, and broke it to Reverend Stewart that they could prove his theory only by disturbing the peace of his churchyard. Waiting for the grave to be re-opened, the chief detective began to fear that he had not fully recovered from his blow to the head; even the wan February sunlight stung his eyes and he wished mightily that he could lie down.
Nevertheless Foyle, upon finding Ted Harper's coffin empty as he had suspected, returned to Hill House to arrest Maccoby again and set Lieutenant Colonel Wintringham straight on a spy in the midst of his spies. Most taxing for Foyle was the decision to comply with Hilda Pierce's plea that he not reveal to the Sir Giles Messingers how their son truly died. His chief concern was that Sir Giles and Lady Anne not be left believing that their son had committed suicide when he had actually died in action, but Hilda had convinced him only to wait before revealing the truth.
The final strain of the day was the worst, he found. When he withheld the information from the Messingers as Hilda had asked, Sir Giles concluded that he was inept and told him he could forget any hopes he had had of working with the intelligence service.
The DCS was still brooding about this later as the team at last drove toward Hastings. Sam and Milner animatedly planned how they would make the most of the huge onion Paul had won in the raffle, but found their boss uncharacteristically distant and silent.
At least none of this can take away that beautiful expression I saw earlier today on Sam's face. If there could possibly be any hope for me… if her breaking up with Andrew after a month could have been because she cares for me, instead… He shook his head. "You're being ridiculous, Foyle," Christopher mumbled under his breath.
Milner's eyes met Sam's in the rear view mirror. "Sir? Are you feeling quite well?"
Foyle blinked slowly. Wait, what did I just say? Or did I say…?
"I—I'm afraid the headache has worsened a bit," he said, de-emphasising the reality, which involved something that felt like pincers applied to the brain. The pain was worst just above his eyes, which were practically watering from it. He rubbed his forehead and tightly shut eyelids, finding momentary relief from the massaging pressure.
They drove in silence for a time; then Sam glanced at him to find that he was asleep. But something was off. It wasn't that he had never slept while she drove before, but normally it was a light doze, his hat pulled down slightly over his eyes. Now he looked as absent from her, as deep under as he had looked when knocked out. Suddenly alarmed, Sam touched his right arm, even shook it slightly. "Sir?"
"Sergeant—Paul—I'm worried about Mr Foyle," she told Milner, who already had moved forward on the back seat to tap Foyle's shoulder. He furrowed his brow in thought.
"Sam, how much further have we to go?"
She checked the odometer. "I would say about an hour, maybe less."
Milner glanced out the window, but their landscape was rural and pitch dark at the moment. Part of what had slowed them down this past hour was the snail's pace it took to drive an automobile with shuttered headlamps through a blackout.
"I think we'd best just plough on through, then," he advised, though his face plainly showed indecisive worry.
Sam nodded, throwing another anxious look at Mr Foyle. "He looks so pale."
Milner felt for the older man's pulse. "His heartbeat's rather fast. Feels a bit as if his temperature is elevated, too. As soon as we reach his home, I'll telephone for a doctor."
No one-hour trip ever felt longer to Sam, and she was just as much on pins and needles awaiting the arrival of a physician once she and Milner had placed the DCS in his bed.
At long last Dr Dougherty arrived and carefully lifted each of Foyle's eyelids to examine his eyes with a light, took his temperature, and tested his reflexes.
"He's not in a coma," he told Sam and Milner, "but close to. If he is not conscious by morning, or gains any temperature, I'll have him taken to hospital. But I want to wait and see. I believe that hard rap on his head, together with an exhausting day, has made him a bit feverish and above all, in need of a long rest." He paused, glancing around. "Andrew is not at home now?"
Samantha and Paul shook their heads.
"Hmm. Can one of you stay here with him? I'd rather he not be left alone."
The police department colleagues looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. How proper would it be, really, for Sam to stay there? Milner would be far too busy wrapping up the loose ends of the Hill House shenanigans, and then there was the Danvers case. But after all, she had stayed with Mr Foyle before, when bombed out of her house. In a way it made perfect sense for her to be his companion for a day or two, just as she would be if driving him around. They discussed all this, and Sam endeavored not to blush as she guiltily thought how glad she was that she would get to stay here alone with this man again, though she hardly would wish upon him the reason.